No matter what type of energy you choose, no matter how much or how little energy you use, tools are most helpful items. If you have chosen to continue using lots of expensive energy, it is possible to purchase quite a variety of power tools and modern farm equipment. On the other hand, if you have chosen to use more tools powered by people and animals, it is possible to make many of your own tools.
LEVEL VII: Level seven is about making tools and other items that are truly needed and usually purchased. Even for the individual with extreme skill, energy and resources, there are things that can't be readily produced, but it is possible for most items to be made at home.
With a few blacksmith tools, some coal (or charcoal if coal is unavailable), steel and a measure of skill, most metal tools can be produced and repaired on the farm. With metal tools in hand, wooden handles and other much needed items of wood can be produced. The types and variety of tools you can make are endless, including garden tools, wood working tools, cutlery and even horse drawn farm equipment.
Obviously, metal can not be produced on the average farm or by the average individual, nor can coal, thus making metal tools is not truly self-sufficient. There is, however, something very satisfying about working with tools you made with your own hands.
While on the subject of things produced with one's own hands, it bears mentioning that if you raise livestock for meat, there are also skins available for making leather and furs. The main requirements are raw materials and the necessary skills. Depending on the type of tanning and the desired end result, you may or may not need to obtain some products from others. Proper tanning is a smelly process and a lot of hard work, but the end result can be more than worth it.
With some types of animals (sheep, angora goats, alpacas and angora rabbits to name a few) you have the raw materials for making clothing. Yarn for knitting, crocheting, or weaving can be easily made from the hair of such creatures. The process is simple. The tools for making yarn can be an elaborate spinning wheel, a simple drop spindle or anything between. This can be a truly self-sufficient process from start to finish. Even knitting needles and crochet hooks can be easily made by hand.
LEVEL VIII: In level eight, we reach a point of individual self-sufficiency. This level is not for the faint of heart or feeble of body. It is basically known as stone age, and for good reason. To be truly self-sufficient requires being able to find or make everything necessary for life. For water, one only needs to find a clean spring or stream (not easy but possible) and for food, there are wild plants. Shelter, warmth and clothing are another matter. Tools and weapons for hunting and defense, as well as for producing construction material will be needed, however, and the raw materials are plentiful in many areas.
Stone tools are the most ancient known on this planet, and are simple to make. A few properly placed impacts on even a low quality piece of flint or chert can produce a cutting edge sharper than any steel. with such a crude cutting tool, wood can be cut for fire, shelter or other tools (axe handles and spear shafts come to mind). Other plant material can be cut and stripped for cordage. Animals can be skinned for meat, clothing and rawhide for use as cordage and bow strings. Better quality flint or obsidian can be processed into very fine arrow heads and knives. In short, with knowledge and physical ability, one can quickly make the tools and weapons for hunting, planting crops, providing fuel and shelter, clothing and other necessities, using sticks and stones for material. There needs to be enough land to provide wildlife and the right general type of stone is needed, but beyond that, the limits of survival and comfort soon become only those imposed by ourselves and not by resources.
I am not saying anyone should go back to the stone age but to learn and practice these skills a bit can lend a new awareness and appreciation of what is really necessary. As an added bonus, in the unfortunate event that you are stranded in a vast wilderness, you will be prepared to provide for your needs and the needs of others.
Thank you for letting me share the levels of self-sufficiency as I see them. In the next and final installment, I will attempt to pull these five sections together with some, hopefully, valid points. I hope you will join me for part six.