Practical Self-Sufficiency

There is no getting away from it, a self-sufficient lifestyle requires you to be practical and hands on. There is no getting ‘a man who does’ , it’s down to you and your own skills and ingenuity, which if you have only ever changed a light bulb before can be a little scary. There are numerous books available, some better than others and of course if you have sorted your energy options then there is always the internet! again some sites are better than others, Not to mention attending a self-sufficiency course! The important thing to remember, we have all made mistakes! We just try not to repeat them too often!

There are a number of Self-Sufficiency projects that can improve your level of comfort, make life easier , increase productivity , reduce costs and improve biodiversity. Some require basic woodworking, plumbing or building skills, others require that you can understand simple instructions.

Solar Oven


A solar oven uses the direct heat of sunlight to cook and heat food, or liquids. Solar ovens are widely used in developing countries, for the very obvious reasons, no power is required and they are relatively cheap low-tech devices. Additional benefits are that they reduce the need to gather wood for fires, reduce the risk from fires, as well as reducing air pollution. There are many variations available, some more sophisticated than others, some made from using parabolic mirrors with tracking systems. However, a simple well insulated box, with a reflective interior and a glass lid will usually suffice.


  1. First decide what size your oven is to be, measure the largest pan or pot that is likely to be placed in it and allow a few extra centimetres to lift the pan in and out
  2. Make a simple box, (except the lid) with two layers containing insulation. Line the box with reflective material – tin foil, or we used an old windscreen reflector.
  3. Make the lid using glass – double glazed if possible, but not essential – make a frame and attach it to the box with hinges. Ensure that the lid fits snugly.
  4. Place the solar oven so that it receives direct sunlight for as long as possible
  5. The oven can be used to heat water, cook stews, macerate herbal oils and much more. Always check the temperature of cooked food, especially meat

Solar Dryer


Solar food drying is an effective and practical way to dry food, using solar radiation. Solar drying is distinct to ‘sun-dried’  foods, it dries at a higher temperature that can be better controlled, the food is more secure. The key to good food de-hydration is constant temperature and good air-flow.

A solar dryer consists of a solar collector, a store cupboard on a stand, with wire shelves to store the food. Ventilation holes at the base of the collector allow cool air into the collector that warms and rises . Ventilation holes in the base of the cupboard allow the warm air to rise through the cupboard. through the shelves drying the food and be ventilated out of the top of the cupboard.

 Depending on  the quantity and what food is being dried it can take several days for the food to be completely dried. The dried food is then stored in air tight jars.

Slow Sand Filter


A slow sand filter is a simple, practical way to treat raw water and make it potable. It is a method used throughout the developed world and has saved countless lives in being able to produce drinking water free on contaminants.

Slow sand filters do not require any chemicals or electrical power to operate, they rely on biological processes to clean the water. Slow sand filters work on two levels, firstly the mechanical removal of suspended solids in the water by the sand and secondly the removal of bacteria, with up to 90-99% removal rate. A layer known as the Schmutzdecke – a gelatinous slime – forms on the surface of the sand, as water passes through the filter, organic matter is adsorbed and metabolised by by the bacteria, fungi and protozoa, producing a water of surprisingly good quality. As the Schmutzdecke matures, it may need to be removed to prevent the sand filter blocking.

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