Mine is 1/4 acre because that’s the size of my back yard, and because of some orthopedic problems it’s probably as much as I can manage. I do have chickens in an enclosed coop, and a goat in a pen, and they provide the animal input and eat up any prunings, and there’s abundant food for two people and fruit for winemaking. I’m glad that Zach writes about small-space food forests, because it’s really rewarding.
I greatly appreciate everyone's input and am reading with great interest about our native bumbles and how to encourage them. I do have one more question while I have the attention of people to know about bees. We have a lot of Carpenter bees in my area, a very large solid black bee that burrows in wood. Most of us here have exposed wood beams and so my neighbors consider the carpenter bees destructive, but they prefer cottonwood to hardwood and I wonder if a stack of cottonwood logs would suit them well enough to leave the house alone. Any thoughts, and are they good pollinators?
Chris Edwards, I greatly appreciate your suggestion regarding bumblebees. I wasn't even aware that they could be purchased, and they would be perfect since they do well in the wild in my area. (I have had poor luck with mason bees, for whatever reason.) I will set about establishing bumbles in my yard. Thanks!
I remain interested in more natural beekeeping, since it seems to me that cracking open hives regularly is pretty unnatural, but since I don't need honey I will leave that to people more expert with bees.
Hi all, I have a question about bees. I want to have a hive, but I do not eat any honey (or other sugars) and I am interested in pollination and the pure pleasure of watching the bees. I would like to interfere with them as little as possible. If I get a Warre hive, what is the minimum that I can safely do in the way of opening the hive/handling and interfering with the bees?
I never thought of being able to have a butcher come to my place. I'll look into that. I have access to some very good pork belly, and thought of grinding some of the meat half and half with pork belly to make sausage. Does that have possibilities?
I've also come across a Mexican recipe for grilled goat marinated in garlic, cumin, and oil, and that might be worth trying.
Recently I was gifted a Nubian buck kid, 5 months old, to breed my doe. He is very loud and the giver doesn't want him back😉. I was thinking of keeping him with the doe until December and then having him butchered at about 7 months. He doesn't have much bucky scent. Is the meat likely to be good? One local person has told me that no unneutered buck over 3-4 months old is edible.
Perennials that I'm currently eating include a wide assortment of wild and domestic greens including some tree leaves, a few nuts from my baby almond tree, fruits including blackberries, currants of various kinds, serviceberries, plums, peaches, and apples. Perennial/perennializing alliums are a steady thing. I eat a few sunchokes but don't care for them all that much. I am beginning to experiment with a few perennial tubers including groundnuts, but I'm just getting started and haven't tasted them yet. Would love to hear what experience others have had with them. This year I started growing Dioscorea batatas with the idea of using the arial bulbils as a perennial food source. I have no idea yet how it will turn out.
I know you excluded animals, but I'm able to feed my dairy goat largely off coppiced Siberian elms and perennial weeds. Plenty of perennials go to the chickens too.
Thanks Tyler, I do enjoy the green garlic ( or green leek, correctly) that they produce, but won't fool around with the bulb much further. I'm interested by your comments about their drought resistance. I'm in high-desert New Mexico where everything has to be irrigated, but they may not need all that much extra water. I'll start experimenting with cutting back.
I planted my first patch of elephant garlic last fall, and in late spring I loved it as green garlic sautéed in butter or olive oil. Now the bulbs are maturing, and I am alarmed by the taste, which seems acrid and bitter to me either raw or cooked. They also froth when cooked. I will happily keep it around to eat the greens, but does anybody really like the bulbs? Is it possible that they need to be stored a while before cooking?
I live in high-desert New Mexico, adore shaggymanes, and seldom find them. Is there any reasonable prospect of cultivating them in garden beds, maybe with shadecloth, or in fields? Any advice about this delicious mushroom is appreciated.
Thanks Tony! Although none of us really knows what we're doing😉. If you get a chance, stop by my blog at www.albuquerqueurbanhomestead.com. Your season is probably shorter and cooler than mine, but there might be some similarities.
Collin, I think your question is wonderful and has stimulated some really worthwhile discussion. I too am very suspicious of some of the claims that are routinely made. In my own case, I work off my property and will until I retire, and do not earn any money from my growing. It has taken five years to really get production going well. But at this point all our fruits and vegetables come off our 0.4 acre property, we grow all our own eggs and some of our meat and dairy, and have wonderful quality of life. The rate-limiting step at this point is my time and energy (my husband is endlessly tolerant but wants nothing to do with garden/yard work.) I could produce twice as much if I had time and if we had a use for it. But could I really earn even a minimal living off it? Nah, short of becoming a famous author😉. I also think that some of the claims made about yield are quite exaggerated, or may represent an ideal year but not an average year.
I think it comes down to what you want out of your life. We are about to put in a large solar array that would take 15 years to pay for itself, but we think it's the right thing to do and part of our quality of life.
Can only name three of the brands for sure! Generally agree with the above about the plants but I think that D is more likely to be a grape leaf, and in my area G would be a cottonwood leaf and H a sycomore leaf.
BTW, wild grapes on the ditch bank near me have tender leaves and I've developed a passion for their sorrel-like flavor.
I am a little lower than you and also very arid. In my experience purslane is horribly easy to start from seed😉. Just scatter the seed and supply some water. Dandelion seems to need more water to come up from seeds, and the soil needs a little prep if you want to get nice dandies in alkaline soil. Dandelions are tap-rooted and I wouldn't try to transplant. Just prepare the soil ( I use a little cottonseed meal) and scatter the seeds and cover lightly in the fall, and they should appear next spring.
I was never able to get nettles to come up from seed. Not even one. Root cuttings are the way to go. They are sold on EBay these days! They need shade from our high-altitude afternoon sun and need quite a bit (relatively) of water supplied to get them established, and again in spring if you want to get nice shoots.
Just my two cents.
Sergei, I am truly impressed. I do think that insects are probably the greenest form of meat that there is, and many cultures eat and enjoy them, but I can't bring myself to try. Just can't seem to do it(knowingly. I'm sure that I've eaten a number of them unknowingly.) What did you try first, and what are you eating now? I scoop up some squash bugs for my chickens, so I guess I'm a secondary consumer to a small degree. I will be quite fascinated to see what you do with this. Keep us posted!
Has anyone else tried entomophagy?
Alder, I'm suspicious of the apps too, especially when it comes to any brown gilled mushroom! Too many look-alikes to be remotely safe. If you want to forage mushrooms, accept that this is a very long-term study. I have always liked the saying "There are old mushroom hunters, and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old bold mushroom hunters..."
Sergei, you are so right. Sources of fat and protein have been prized through all cultures for millennia, and have been necessary for survival to live outside of tropical zones.
I'm curious: you say that you realized this even though you were a hardcore vegan. Do you eat meat now? Would love to know more about your current diet.
Sui-yu man, I like your view of "preventive" herbal medicine. In that sense I do use elderberry as a bulk medicinal. My own elderberry bushes are still infants, so I buy a couple of bottles of good concentrate in early fall and we drink it in sparkling water, sweetened a little, throughout the sniffle season. I get a flu shot too, but I haven't contracted any of the minor viruses for years. Placebo, maybe, but it's one that I really enjoy and so I intend to keep using it.
Don't know if anyone considers this a staple, but I am using my excess peaches and plums this year to brew mead and wine. One day when my elderberries are bearing, I hope to make elderberry wine. It won't be real "wild wine," since I planted the bushes, but pretty close.
Good point, Alder. I don't think of acorns much because they are a source of frustration for me: the only oaks anywhere near my home are in the Sandia National Forest, where of course it is illegal to forage. For those who have access to them, they are a great staple. I get protein and fat from my chickens and their eggs (and a lot of wild greens go through them before reaching me,) lots of fruit from my trees and bushes, and I am cultivating some almond trees for future use, but wild possibilities for protein and fat are fairly limited here. Sounds like you are very lucky in the acorn department. Anyone else using them as a bulk staple?
Sui-yu Man, your point about bulk medicinals is interesting. I realize that I have some medicinals in my garden but seldom use them just because my only medical needs in the last 20 years have been orthopedic surgeries. nothing else has needed treatment, other than an occasional poultice for an insect sting. What medicinals do others find useful enough to store in bulk?
And Nicole, I agree, we need to know more about those nettle chips.
Joseph, I think that your father was a wise man. For me it needs to be "If you pick it, you have to eat it (eventually.)" I am prone to trying new dishes with my foraged stuff, eating part, and sticking the rest in the refrigerator indefinitely, with poor outcomes. There is always some new dish that I want to try, which means that I have very little interest in the one I made last night, even if it came out perfectly. Becoming a more efficient eater would be a good idea. But then, cooking is such a relaxing pleasure at the end of a long day that I can't see giving it up. I am trying to convince my husband that keeping a pig is the answer to this dilemma, but he points out that we live in a city and it is unlikely that I could keep a pig concealed😉.
Regarding drying greens for bulk storage, do people blanch first or not? I have read that blanching for a minute is important to maintain the nutrient content of dried greens, but it seems like a lot of trouble.
Will, I think it's the best book for beginners to start with but, unfortunately, not very useful in the Southwest because most of the five ultra safe mushrooms don't occur there. Everywhere else it's fine.
Tony, "cultivation" of weeds is an old and honorable practice. After all, our distant ancestors did it, which is how we come to have agriculture😉. Five highly nutritious and useful weeds that I know will grow in your area, because they will grow anywhere, are amaranth, lambs-quarters, stinging nettle, dandelion, and dock. See if you have them already, and if you don't, four of them are easily introduced from seed and the nettle is best started from root cuttings, which you can get on EBay. I don't know how arid your location is, so you may need to supply some water, at least to get things started. Once you have them, though, you tend to go on having them. I live in a very dry area at high elevation and I have them in abundance. I do have to supply some water on an ongoing basis or the only "weed" I would have would be prickly pear, which is certainly edible but which I don't like that much.
Matu, you are killing me! I love New Mexico and hate cold dark winters, but the idea of harvesting fresh oysters has me reconsidering.
The most delicious wild thing I ever ate was meat from a feral pig that someone I knew hunted in Texas. If I were ever to take up hunting, I would go after feral pigs. That would really be bulk harvesting, since ai think that one pig would last us awhile.
Sorry Su Ba, I'll live on bark before I'll eat people's pets! I'm too Westernized for that. But then, I'm lucky enough to have a lot of other choices.
I am trying to think of anything that I might be able to harvest in bulk in my area besides greens. No berries or fruit grow wild here; too arid. Few to no mushrooms either, for the same reason. There are lots of prickly pears but I don't like either the fruits or the pads very much, and they are troublesome to prepare. If any desert-dwellers have ideas I'd love to hear them.
Sounds great, Joseph. I think I will try the same thing with lambs-quarters. And speaking of staples, wanted to let you know that the C. moschata squash I got from you is growing nicely. One of the vines fell victim to my goat, so I pulled off the half-grown squash and cooked them as summer squash and they were terrific, quite a bit more flavorful than zucchini.
Any hunters in the forum? I am wondering if it's generally possible for hunted meat to be a " bulk staple" from the wild. My hunting neighbor says no because you almost never get anything, but maybe his aim is bad😉
Joseph Lofthouse, you are hard-core! I don't honestly know whether I will try the snails, although I do look at them and think about it.
In what form do people preserve their main hauls? I rely on freezing a fair amount because I don't like canned veggies very much, but do want to try some fermenting. The sites provided by Meganjoy earlier in the thread have interesting info. Has anyone tried the leaf concentrate described in Eat Your Greens?
We have a feral peach tree that bore heavily this year, and we are low-carb so didn't eat that many, so currently I'm brewing five gallons of peach mead. It's one way to preserve the harvest.
Great point, D. Logan. It seems that this should be particularly possible with wild edibles that are found nearly everywhere in large quantities, like lambsquarters and amaranth. They are prime candidates for being "just food," eaten without remark, as in fact they are by the Hispanic and Native American population here in the Southwest
Joseph Lofthouse, I agree with the overall spirit of your answer, and there are a lot of weedy plants around that I can't eat myself but "process" through my chickens into meat and eggs. I am also interested in the kitchen specifics of your reply. 250 degrees for 6 hours? Can you cook older birds this way or just young roasters? Does the skin brown and crisp? When I'm working in the yard for long periods of time, I'd love to have something in a low oven that I could run in and serve.
D. Logan, your wild meal sounds ambitious and delicious. I guess that in my kitchen there is not a lot of distinction between wildlings and the deliberately grown stuff, because I have so many introduced wild things around my property. I had to introduce nettles for example, they don't occur naturally in my area, but they are plenty wild now.
Rebecca Norman, I am extremely interested to learn of Lepidium latifolium, which I have literally never heard of. I don't think I have ever seen it along New Mexico waterways, but I wasn't looking for it, so I will have to look some more.
Anyone else have ideas about gathering in bulk?
Mary, I honestly think that it became a class indicator. Poorer people had to be seen picking weeds and wealthier people didn't. There seems to be a touch of subversion about foraging too. My neighbors are very supportive of my permaculture property but become oddly disturbed when they encounter me foraging in a large open field in our neighborhood. They let me know earnestly that "you are going to poison yourself" and "you have no way of knowing what you're eating," as though all of nature were unknowable black magic and white magic was confined to the grocery store.
And, uh, if I didn't know exactly what I was picking, why would I eat it?
Richard, it is harder to start without an experienced guide but not impossible. I learned from books myself; as a child I kept nibbling stuff around the yard, and for my twelfth birthday my mother gave me a complete set of Euell Gibbons books so that I wouldn't poison myself. Sounds like you have made a wonderful start with dandelions, and there are some other very safe choices like lambs-quarters and amaranth that almost certainly grow in your area, because they grow everywhere.
Meganjoy, are you doing any fermenting?
Nettles don't grow naturally in the high desert where I live, and I was not able to start them from seed. I finally bought 6 plants from Richter's Herbs and now have a flourishing nettle patch. The shipping was expensive since they are in Canada, but every spring when I eat nettles I'm glad I did it.
Carbs are not essential. I have been on a very low-carb diet for three years to control my blood sugar (which it does beautifully) and, more to the point of your plan, many long-distance and endurance athletes use this ketogenic diet to keep their energy supply steady through prolonged exertion. The top researchers in the field are Phinney and Volek, and their book "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance" might be relevant to your plan. You would, however, need to have a plan for obtaining protein and fat.