Victor Sergyenko, 35, is a former “IT” specialist in Kiev. At the peak of his career, working for a large company, he began to think about changing his life. In 2003 he bought an old house with a piece of land in a village in Kiev region, Ukraine, and in 2004 quit his job and moved in with his wife. That spring he planted his first garden, bought farm animals and took to establishing the household.
Victor Sergiyenko relates to his 7-year experience of autonomous self-sustainable living off the land in this voluminous piece of writing (in Russian): http://vicsrg.ho.com.ua/stat/ogorod2007.htm
Victor’s main goal, which as we shall see, he succesfully achieved, was to gain maximum autonomy in basic aspects of life support – food and household.
Victor Sergyenko predicts that the world is on the eve of major resource crisis, unprecedented in human history, which is due to neverbeforeseen tremendous levels of resource extraction and consumption, and general unsustainability of current economic system. The depletion of available resources, according to Sergyenko, will in short time from now, wreak all-encompassing global and termless financial and economic crisis, leading to wars and unrest. Crucial infrastructure will be inreversibly damaged, and life support systems broken down, making life in cities as we know it today virtually impossible.
Therefore, one has to achieve maximum autonomy from these life supporting systems. And this is possible only via individual and manual work on the land.
Victor Sergyenko has almost a hectare (7500 sq.meters) of land, with a vegetable garden, the house, other farm buildings for animals and maintainance. His plot of land is adjoining large forest.
They grow all the food they eat during the season, and also store food for winter. Of their 600 sq.meter vegetable garden, 400 sq.meters is planted with potatoes, and 200 sq. meters is for everything else, that is cabbage, carrots, garlic, beets, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, squash, pumpkins and melons.
In keeping with the self-sustainability principle, Victor relies only on his own manual and also on animal power to do all the work on his land. He says it is a popular false idea that living off the land must be necessarily a work to death. In most cases this is indeed so because villagers grow a lot more than they really need – to sell their produce for money (to buy a TV, or an old and ruined car or some such), or to feed farm animals. In the end, having beaten themselves to death on their 2000-3000 square meters of potatoes, most of their (villagers’) crop goes either to feed pigs ar to waste, because they dont manage to eat that much over winter. Now, asks Victor Sergyenko, does it need to be so?
His small garden’s produce is just enough to feed two people, with 10-15% excess.
“Koshasty”, as he calls himself, keeps couple of goats, chicken and 4 horses. He doesnt feed them corn or vegetables which take a lot of work to grow, - his farm animals eat what grows on the land – grass, and in winter – hay collected for this purpose. Victor discards the idea of keeping pigs, as they require a lot of food which humans could eat instead, and he doesnt keep cows – as they require a lot of food too, and fall sick often. Goats, instead, give him enough milk and meat, they can graze the field themselves, and are easy to manage. Chicken can roam freely on the territory, and one doesnt even need to bring them food - they find it themselves. Horses are needed for transportation (firewood, construction, hay etc).
Jerusalem artichoke (Heliantum tuberosus) is not even considered a crop by Victor, as it grows completely on its own, as he says “artichoke is grown by God”. But, in case of widespread famine, it would be an excellent supply.
The house is heated with firewood which Victor collects in the neighbouring forest – there’s always plenty of dead/windfall, one has only to go and pick it. He has a water well made of concrete “rings” which gives a sufficient supply of water.
As for materials, tools, clothes and other issues – here sustainability is the main guideline to follow too.
Victor uses hand tools only, which do not require constant electric power supply. He has made large supplies of those items which are irretrieavable and cannot be made with what is at hand, without industrial production available, that is: all kinds of nails and screws of different sizes, ropes, salt, candles, and all types of hand tools. Victor also has a strong disposition for items made from stainless steel (that type with high chromium content, which will NEVER rust).
His “homestead” is situated at 70 kilometers from the nearby big city, and 7 kilometers from the closest “dirt” road. That is, when marauding gangs will start to make “hunting” trips outside the city, they will be barely able to reach him – the distance and isolation of his property would make such trip nearly impossible.
However, this doesnt mean that Victor and his wife keep a distance from other people: they maintain contacts with local villagers, have many acquaintances and couple good friends who visit them from time to time.
And in March 2009 they had a baby born to them, a little daughter Zhenya, who lives with them in the village.
Victor is “fed up” with the existing schooling system and mass media, so he doesnt plan for his daughter to attend school. He has collected a vast library on all possible subjects – from natural sciences to child and medical care and intends to teach his child at home.
This was a brief story of a man in a Kievan village who shows all of us how insane and unhealthy our way of life is, and that it is fuly within the range of our possibility to provide a more inviting living arrangement for ourselves and our children.