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Feasibility of food self reliance.

 
Jesus Martinez
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I just came across this article:

http://www.patternliteracy.com/107-the-myth-of-self-reliance by toby hemenway claiming that it is exceedingly difficult to cultivate even 70% of your calories unless essentially you are eating mostly potatoes and grains.

After reading about various yields of temperate fruits and grains, and legumes and starches, it seems very reasonable to be able to meet greater than 70% of your caloric needs. Let's assume your goal is to meet 100% of your caloric needs via a vegan diet.

For me, I consume around 3000 calories a day, so I will need to produce 1 million calories a year.

I have 5 acres of land.

An apple tree will produce between 50 and 300lbs of apples depending on age and size, I think most fruit trees will bear similarly to this, 50 lbs of apples is around 12k calories. Eating only apples I would need about 83 apple trees yielding 50 lbs each, at the spacing I suggest, we could use full size trees and get 300lbs per tree and get 6.6 million calories. So lets assume 83 apple trees is roughly 1/4 an acre of dwarf trees planted, but let's spread those out over a whole acre so I can grow some more things, like various berries which produce 10k lbs per acre at about 200 calories per lb, a naive guess is that I could plant 100 berry bushes and get 6-15 lbs per bush, or sy 600 lbs of berries at 200 calories per pound average, or 120k calories. I can also grow beans through each of the berry bushes, although they might get shaded out, and beans up each of the trees. Lets say 4 plants per tree and 1 plant per bush. The yield of dry beans is 1-2oz per plant, so we can get 420oz of beans or 26 lbs of beans which is 55k calories.

We can also choose to grow some grains, corn, squash and some tubers such as potatoes and sun chokes and without doing any calculation, we can probably get 250k calories from these.

So now we have a naive planting of things and we have about 1.5 million calories from what we are assuming to be yields on the low end of the spectrum. We also assume that the majority of food is either consumed fresh or stores well and is eaten later. We can also get a lot more creative and swap out a few apple trees for some nut trees, a few more for some pears, a few more for peaches, etc etc. We would use more of the understory of the orchard to produce regular vegetables, our grains and our squash, etc and we may remove some trees to make room for more annuals so that we have a larger variety of food.

Also, we can throw animals into the mix and get a decent amount of calories for free as the forest floor (alfalfa, clover, grasses, insects, etc) would be edible for animals but not edible for us, here I'm thinking mostly chickens and ducks, a small amount wouldn't leave a large footprint if any.

Anyone have feedback on what they think is a feasible yield for an acre of land?
 
Jonathan Byron
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Can one be largely or entirely food self-sufficient? Sure. People have done that through history. Modern examples include Helen and Scott Nearing, and friends of mine who are raw food permaculture vegans - they buy a bit of olive oil, bananas, and apples, but otherwise live off of their 1/4 acre suburban lot. This is in line with the John Jeavon research that half an acre can support a family of 4 with organic vegetable production.

It is true that potatoes and corn are on the high end of the scale in terms of calories per acre. For a person who has access to only a small plot of land that is to supply all or most of their food, corn and potatoes have advantages. But if you have a bit more space, there are plenty of other options.

An acre of pecan trees that are well into bearing might yield 1000 to 2500 pounds, and each pounds is around 3000 calories, which is what you identified as your caloric intake... that meets the caloric needs of 3 to 7 people per acre, more if some of them eat a bit less. That is also around 3 Million to 7 Million calories per acre, less than corn at 12 Million, but it requires less work, fewer costs. The energy input needed is much less - trees don't need annual plowing, weed control can be done with grazing animals, fertilizer needs are modest and can be done organically. Deep rooted trees are less dependent on irrigation when there is short term drought (but could be in peril with prolonged drought) and deep rooted trees have access to nutrients that shallow rooted plants do not. On 3 or 5 acres of trees, one can run a few sheep, let chickens forage, and fence in a garden for other foods. And one can trade for other foods, or sell the nuts and buy food.

The big factors for most people are time and effort, fossil fuel inputs, and economics. Should everyone try to be self-sufficient, or is it ok to produce more of a few crops and exchange that with other people? What about non-food needs ... is everyone going to produce all their own shelter, clothing, medical services, energy, education, etc. etc? Or does it make more sense to be more independent but remain interdependent through trade?


Here is an approximate part of a table on caloric yields per acre (from http://peakoil.com/forums/us-crop-acreage-per-food-type-t56856.html)

Carrots - 6 Million
Winter Squash - 3 Million
Summer Squash - 1.5 Million
Apples - 7 Million
Citrus - 24 Million
Bananas - 12 Million
Pears - 10 Million

These seem reasonable, possibly on the low side. I did some independent digging and found commercial yields for high density apple orchards in North Carolina are routinely 1000 bushels per year. Assuming 800 bushels (38,400 pounds at 48 lbs/bu), and 290 calories per pound of fresh apples ...apples can yield 11 Million calories per acre at a medium level of production, at higher levels of productivity they exceed corn's typical 12 Million calories.

So yes, tree crops are a sane way of meeting our needs - without destroying the soil, they require fewer inputs than corn or potatoes.

Beans are going to yield fewer calories per acre (2 to 4 million) but they supply good protein, and they fix nitrogen that is available to other plants in a polyculture... they are worth more than a simple look at calories indicates. Adding beans will lower per acre calorie yields but will reduce the need for external inputs and result in a healthier diet.

I haven't done a detailed analysis, but berries are generally not a high calorie crop per acre. They are valuable for other things (anthocyanins for blood vessel health, cancer prevention, etc) ... but per acre, most berries are on the low end I believe.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Jonathan mentions Ecology Action has done research on the topic of how much land it takes to feed a person, they've been researching this for 30 years or so: http://growbiointensive.org/

Book about smallest-space diets: http://www.bountifulgardens.org/prodinfo.asp?number=BEA-0370

Book on how to grow in the smallest space: http://www.bountifulgardens.org/prodinfo.asp?number=BEA-0300

Depending on where you're trying to grow the diet, nuts or high-calorie fruits (tropical) might be a much better choice than potatoes and grains. Also of course depends on the individual metabolism. There's evidence diets based on grains or potatoes might not be good for some people.
 
Matt Walker
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I hear people say they are growing 30%, 50%, even 70% of their own food. What they usually mean is that they are growing fruits and vegetables that make up some percentage of the total cost or weight—but not calories—of their food. Vegetables are high in wet weight, but low in calories. If you are growing 100% of your own vegetables, they provide about 15-20% of your daily calories, unless you are living mostly on potatoes or other starchy veggies. Most daily calories come from grains, meat, or dairy products. So if you’re not raising large-scale grains or animals, it’s unlikely that you are growing more than one-quarter of your own food, measured honestly by nutritional content. In that case, it’s not accurate to claim you are “70% food self-sufficient.” If you are getting most of your calories from your land, you’re almost certainly a full-time farmer, and I salute you for your hard work. Now we begin to see how difficult, and even undesirable, self sufficiency is. You won’t have time for much else if you are truly food self-sufficient, even in a permaculture system.


I strongly disagree with this. I do concede that if you include seed purchase, tools, etc. it changes this picture quite a bit. However,. if we are just talking about producing our own food, I feel it's way easier to provide for ourselves then the author makes it seem. While it may not be a perfect, permaculture, closed loop, my little farm here produces basically all I need to eat. And I do have a full time job that is not farming, and I do it alone. I think the article is discouraging, and I'd like to put out there that if living off your land is your goal, it's very possible.

Edit: I want to add that I understand the article is discussing a much broader topic. My comment is a response to the title of this thread, and the section of the article that deals with food.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Matt Walker wrote:my little farm here produces basically all I need to eat. And I do have a full time job that is not farming, and I do it alone. I think the article is discouraging, and I'd like to put out there that if living off your land is your goal, it's very possible. .


I think it depends a lot on where you live. Here in Central Texas, you would have a much harder time producing all your own food than you do there in "North Olympic Peninsula."

During the growing season this year we got about 6 inches of rain, I think......

 
Tyler Ludens
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Jonathan Byron wrote: On 3 or 5 acres of trees, one can run a few sheep, let chickens forage, and fence in a garden for other foods.


I need to mention this again, depends on where you are what the carrying capacity is. Here in my region, "a few sheep" (say, 5) may require 20 acres or more of pasture land. In fact, my 20 acres will not support my 5 sheep, as it is mostly wooded. Though these are goat-like sheep who browse as well as graze, our trees are mostly too large for them to browse from, though they do girdle a few (as in, kill them dead).

"One" may or may not be able to do all those things on 3 or 5 acres. Maybe, after a decade or more of careful preparation of planting the proper forage trees etc, "one" might be able to achieve that.

I've been trying to grow food here for a decade, and am just now possibly maybe beginning to know how. But most of that decade has been failure. If "one" is in a difficult location or has a brown thumb, "one" may encounter a great deal of discouragement in trying to be food self reliant.

Personally, I would probably starve to death.
 
Matt Walker
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:

I think it depends a lot on where you live. Here in Central Texas, you would have a much harder time producing all your own food than you do there in "North Olympic Peninsula."

During the growing season this year we got about 6 inches of rain, I think......



Absolutely. If one's goals are to provide as much food as possible from a small holding, location is everything.
 
Jesus Martinez
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
I think it depends a lot on where you live. Here in Central Texas, you would have a much harder time producing all your own food than you do there in "North Olympic Peninsula."

During the growing season this year we got about 6 inches of rain, I think......



At the same time in the tropics or sub tropics, you can plant 3 jackfruit or durian trees and feed 100 people =)
 
Cj Sloane
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Jonathan Byron wrote:...So yes, tree crops are a sane way of meeting our needs - without destroying the soil, they require fewer inputs than corn or potatoes.

...I haven't done a detailed analysis, but berries are generally not a high calorie crop per acre. They are valuable for other things (anthocyanins for blood vessel health, cancer prevention, etc) ... but per acre, most berries are on the low end I believe.


Don't forget, with permaculture the yield of individual crops can be less than traditional agriculture, but properly designed the area can yield more. So if you plant some berries/shrubs with the trees the total yield can be more than a monocrop orchard. Then of course if you can add chicken, sheep, or pigs, your increasing your yield even more!
 
Jesus Martinez
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CJin VT wrote:

Don't forget, with permaculture the yield of individual crops can be less than traditional agriculture, but properly designed the area can yield more. So if you plant some berries/shrubs with the trees the total yield can be more than a monocrop orchard. Then of course if you can add chicken, sheep, or pigs, your increasing your yield even more!


That was my thinking too, which is why I was so puzzled by Toby's claims that it is too hard. This is my 2nd year gardening and I was able to produce more than 15 lbs of greens a week and I still have quite a large amount of brassicas still alive and I believe they will still be alive by the time spring rolls around too, of course they aren't high calorie, but they are something and I'm just a beginner, an expert should have no problem producing all the root crops and grains they would need for the winter.
 
Ken Peavey
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The nature of this thread offers a glimpse of how far we as a society has moved away from the land and our ability to provide for ourselves.

Can an acre support a family? Yes...kinda.

There are numerous examples of people producing tremendous yields from small spaces. This week I've been poking around the Dervaes Family website urbanhomestead.org. Lots of folks here in the forums would be proud to have the level of production this family achieves.

Our modern diets have changed over the past century. My great-grandmother grew up so far out in the sticks there was no electricity until 1949. Growing up for her in 1911 (when she was 15) did not include cheese puffs, TV dinners, pizza, or extra virgin olive oil. Her diet was surely organic in nature, local for the most part, and definitely seasonal. These were the days before canning jars. The root cellar was stocked up for the winter: lots of root crops, hard squashes, potatoes, and beans, beans, beans. It helped that back then there were not so many people and a lot more wildlife. She used to tell stories about growing up. Most of what they ate they grew, raised, hunted or fished. They had flour and sugar, but it was expensive so they ate lots of potatoes and berries when they were up. It may be that her garden provided the seed for me to do my thing.

Grains need a lot of room and take a lot of work. Same with oil, be it from cottonseed, soy or sunflowers. Meat needs either space to graze or someone to feed the critters, plus the feed. If grain, oil and meat was removed from the diet or simply reduced, then the amount of land required to support a human can be very small indeed. The issue then becomes one of increasing/diversifying performance rather than increasing area.

The small-plot-self-sufficiency-model ignores another key feature found way back in the day: community. You have apple trees, I have berry plants, down the road they have a stream full of trout. Sharing was a way of life. The Third Ethic has its importance, but has been displaced. Our modern litigious society has driven us behind fences and property lines. You might know your neighbor, but have no idea who lives in the next house down. Go borrow a cup of sugar from him. In the absence of community bonds, self-reliance becomes all the more restrictive.

World War II saw the destruction of massive amounts of shipping across the Atlantic by U-boats. England was in a bind, being reliant on that shipping for arms as well as food. In order to focus more on the needs of shipping for wartime necessities, the Victory Garden was promoted. Within a few years, Great Britain was producing 40% of its food in tiny backyard gardens.

Pardon me for getting off track, but take the last 2 points together: The sense of community, in regards to food production, works better when much of the population is involved. Suburbia has the advantage of everyone with a decent back yard, but much of the population sets up BBQ grills and trampolines. Fruit trees are few and far between. Chickens will see the city zoning and ordinance people making a visit. The idea of even trying to be self-sufficient will draw such negative criticism that few people make the attempt. This social stigma suppresses the practice and sends it into the fringe of mainstream behavior. There are a few brave souls who will look at the yard and wonder "Can it be done?"

It can surely be done. Whats more, as the practice grows in popularity, the easier it will be for all of us.

 
Cj Sloane
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raindog Hatfield wrote:Anyone have feedback on what they think is a feasible yield for an acre of land?


Bill Mollison has said the yield is infinite but I think he really means the limit is unknowable.

The article is worth a read and comes down to this:
A good permaculture design is one that provides for the inhabitants' needs in a responsible and ecologically sound manner. But there's nothing in permaculture that says that it's important for all yields to come from the owner's site! If I can accomplish one thing in this essay, it is to smash that myth.


So, consider this. If you consider yourself to be part of your site, then you will be (food) self reliant as long as you don't go into debt. Any money you earn (off site or on site) should be considered your yield. If you consume beyond what you can produce (earn) you're not self reliant, and will ultimately wind up in trouble, one way or another.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Matt Walker wrote:
H Ludi Tyler wrote:

I think it depends a lot on where you live. Here in Central Texas, you would have a much harder time producing all your own food than you do there in "North Olympic Peninsula."

During the growing season this year we got about 6 inches of rain, I think......



Absolutely. If one's goals are to provide as much food as possible from a small holding, location is everything.


On the other hand, I don't think permaculture is being very helpful if all it can tell people is "location is everything." That is, permaculture as a design system is failing if it can't help people in less than ideal locations. So for every person living in a lush location who can complacently say "it's easy to grow my own food" I would hope there would be someone in a less than ideal or even a poor location who can say "I can grow my own food even though it might not be as easy as it is in a lush location." And those are the examples I'd like to see, not the easy examples, but the challenging ones.

Of course it would be helpful if even the easy examples would tell us what they're growing, how they grow it, how much they produce, etc etc.
 
Tyler Ludens
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CJin VT wrote: If you consider yourself to be part of your site, then you will be (food) self reliant as long as you don't go into debt.


So being food self-reliant in that case just means having a decent job so you can buy food at the store. Personally, I don't think that's what most people mean by being food self-reliant. I don't think a good permaculture design means having a decent job, say, working in an office or whatever.

 
Michael Newby
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
CJin VT wrote: If you consider yourself to be part of your site, then you will be (food) self reliant as long as you don't go into debt.


So being food self-reliant in that case just means having a decent job so you can buy food at the store. Personally, I don't think that's what most people mean by being food self-reliant. I don't think a good permaculture design means having a decent job, say, working in an office or whatever.



The way that I interpret being 'part of your site' and being self reliant by not going into debt is to figure out a product that your property (and yourself) can produce sustainably and develop a market for it.

Now that we have the internet, we truly do have the largest market in the world to hawk our wares. Instead of taking the extra yearling calfs to the village market, you can post your product on e-bay, or amazon, or your own site. Is that not being self sufficient - using your land and what you can gather from it to provide for yourself, either directly or indirectly by trading for what you need, whether cash or direct barter? I sure hope so, because where I live, I'll never be able to provide everything that I desire in this life myself. Everything I need to survive, maybe - what I want for my idea of a decent life, never.
 
Tyler Ludens
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mnewby McCoy wrote:
The way that I interpret being 'part of your site' and being self reliant by not going into debt is to figure out a product that your property (and yourself) can produce sustainably and develop a market for it.


I hope to see more examples of how folks here at permies.com are doing that.

 
Cj Sloane
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
CJin VT wrote: If you consider yourself to be part of your site, then you will be (food) self reliant as long as you don't go into debt.


So being food self-reliant in that case just means having a decent job so you can buy food at the store. Personally, I don't think that's what most people mean by being food self-reliant. I don't think a good permaculture design means having a decent job, say, working in an office or whatever.



This is from Bill Mollison:
I have spoken to many persons who have said, "I wish I could do what you are doing. Can you employ me?" I would have to say, "No, I can't, because what I am in isn't employment."
Increasingly, though, I have been able to say, "While I cannot employ you, I can give you a job in which you can earn your way, and you can leave your present job right now." We have been able to do that lately.
So we provide an alternative. But I know of few cases where the alternative isn't struggling just to look after itself. In most cases, it is not even feeding itself. Our action, if it is vigorous, completely changes that.
We ask, "What is your present employment?"
He answers, "I'm in this travel agency."
"Great! You can earn your money with us as a travel agent."
You might also earn your money with us as an accountant, or something else.


So a great permaculture designer will look at the whole picture. I think a person working in a cubicle shouldn't toss their job to try to live off the land to be food self reliant. If they can do their office job according to "permaculture ethics" then they are doing their bit to make the world better. Maybe they are purchasing their food from a "permaculture type farmer." The point being everyone can't live off the land and those people who can't can still be part of a well designed society.
 
Jesus Martinez
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I disagree with you CJin, I think Bill's point wasn't that you can live permaculture as an accountant so much as his organization needs more than just laborers around the farm, it needs other skills to keep the business afloat and instead of having people earn their way in his organization via manual labor, it sounds like he would have them earn their way via their particular trade.
 
hannah ransom
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I plan to be food self-sustainable, and I'm on 3/4 of an acre (lots of it un-plantable due to things like a huge driveway, big house, garage, carport, pool, shaded out area, etc.). I moved here in mid May and first thing I did was plant fruit trees. I attempted, and am still working on, to get ones that fruit at different times. I live in Lakeside, CA (which is east San Diego county), so I have quite a good deal to choose from. So far I have had terrible success with veggies, so I hope to figure something out with those. I will probably end up doing a lot in pots eventually. I have chickens, which I currently feed fruit scraps, meat scraps, bugs, they eat greens that are growing and inedible for us humans, and feed them organic (bought) feed. I plan of grow grains just for chicken feed.

I think eating seasonally and basing your diet on perennials is KEY. My diet is based on fruit, sweet potatoes, veggies, eggs, and meat. I don't eat grains or beans, I don't eat oils, I don't worry about spices. That stuff is unnecessary. I can understand why people want it, but I think that if your goal is being food self-sustainable you have to learn to go without.

So far, I have 15 fruit trees planted, 7 sitting in my "nursery" area waiting to be planted (they are tropicals/subtropicals that I am waiting until the spring to plant), and more that I will be buying. My yard still has space (and that's not to mention the 4 pre-existing orange trees on site).
I focus on edible nitrogen fixers: carob, goumi, ice cream bean, palo verde, fairy dusters, tipu (edible as fodder, not for humans).
I have a pool that does not get used much, and I hope to convert it to a pond for fish.

I am trying to use only things on site, which is SUPER difficult, truth be told, but it's cheap, which is great. I am obviously buying fruit trees, but I'm not using any synthetic fertilizers. I hope to accomplish much of the fertility needs with decomposing plants, food scraps, manure, and bones/blood. I am also hoping most of my water can be gotten through rainwater harvesting in the soil and (hopefully) the pool/pond eventually.

Though I don't plan on being able to do nothing to it, I don't imagine it will take up all of my time to be self-reliant when it comes to food. I can't imagine it would take tons more of my time than I currently spend driving to people's houses and picking fruit off of THEIR trees.

I Think the biggest road block most have when it comes to this is wondering how they can produce some certain type of food when they should just thing about how they can make what they can produce into a viable diet for them.

I am sure that I will be learning lots and lots over the coming years on my journey to food self-reliance, but I'm sure things will get better and better with that knowledge and not worse and worse.
 
Honora Holmes
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Well, I agree with Hemingway. And I didn't see anyone here really disprove his point. There is a world of difference between calculating calories in crops and talking about how much of it you can theoretically grow vs actually doing it. I think it's silly to try and counteract his argument with theories and not actual circumstances. One person mentioned someone they know who does most of it? That little bit of olive oil is not small potatoes when it comes to considered calories used daily. It just sort of proves his point...this is a permies board and no one here can honestly claim any real major let alone complete self sufficiency. There is a world of difference between having X amount of trees on your property and then those trees actually being mature and truly providing you with the theoretically calories you can get from them.

I no longer truly think I can be self sufficient. I do want to grow as much as I can. I love it. I love gardening. I love growing my own food. It's almost a compulsion for me. I could never not garden. But I know my soil still needs large amounts of amendments to not only provide more food but provide truly nutrient dense food. I'll never be able to grow my own iodine source though. And though I have chickens I do have to buy feed. I also don't have enough land to support my goats to provide enough milk for my whole family. And I'm not just working on the theory that if I throw some chickens out there in my food forest then I'll have eggs and meat. I've tried. My chickens will not lay eggs well no matter how many tons of food scraps I give them or how much free ranging they get. They just don't. It's not that simple. Also the more freedom you give your chickens to forage and provide the needed calories exclusively from your land the more exposure to predators. I'm sorry if I sound rude here. I know I'm new and don't know where everyone is coming from but I really hate it when people pontificate based on a theory and one or two people they've read about vs actually proving that theory in practice. They aren't the same things.

And I don't think it really helps attract people by exaggerating what can be done based not on real experience but more theory. It's been a long time since any of us actually had any truly self sufficient ancestors and it requires a lot of land to even come close to that. I don't think the article was discouraging. Realism and pointing out our need to work together shouldn't really be discouraging. I'm glad I can buy my coconut oil from a farmer who can grow coconuts!
 
Thelma McGowan
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Honora says it very well.

Hemenway is a realist. even lawton has talked about how being self sustaining is not the ultimate goal. we need to have community and networks of people that can be part of the whole system. a traditional small village is sustainable only because there are groups of people with different skills that can be traded and combined to create all that everyone needs from food to clothing and shelter. An amish community is another example. the whole community works together. One farmer can not provide his family with everything they need.....he does not have all the skills or resources to provide everything.

so hemenway wants to see people work together, not be isolated xenophobes.
 
David Glenn
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In this thread some good questions, speculations on what permaculture is, and some very limiting beliefs out of Texas on what it takes to be food self-sufficient.
I live on 27 acres in southern California my soil is sandy extremely alkali and holds water like a sieve, I'm lucky in that I have a good water supply.
It has taken a lot of work and innovative thinking but after just six months of mixing soils and building raised beds (out of scavenged or scrap material) drip watering and good mulching, my vegetable gardens and fruit trees were able supply most of my food needs, add in a chicken coop and a few goats (Eggs, meat and milk) and I'm fully able to be self sufficient as far as food goes.
The amount of time and personal energy invested is large and I would not be as far along without the help of friends and neighbors (who help harvest and consume some of the extra)
My point is that true permaculture and sustainability is the product of "Thinking" and ingenuity to utilize your surrounding conditions including vocation and community.
If you wish to play victim to your surroundings, become a hunter gatherer and follow your food sources, your only a few hundred years too late here in the U.S.
We live in an age of information, I live extremely rustic off the grid and have no problems actively seeking out better information and knowledge to make my situation more permanently sustainable and comfortable.
For food production check out Batholomew's "Square foot gardening" book for ideas, I don't agree with or practice all of his ideas but find his concepts helpful, and there are many books on desert climate gardening and farming.
If a man argues he can or cannot, he is right.
No matter, any self production of food is better than none and helps loosen the dependence on industrialized foods.
Do the best you can with what you've got and make it better if you can.
Good luck to all of us
David
 
Cj Sloane
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Honora Holmes wrote:I know I'm new and don't know where everyone is coming from but I really hate it when people pontificate based on a theory and one or two people they've read about vs actually proving that theory in practice. They aren't the same things.


I hear ya and agree. It's come up quite a bit in the short time I've been here.

My chickens will not lay eggs well no matter how many tons of food scraps I give them or how much free ranging they get. They just don't. It's not that simple. Also the more freedom you give your chickens to forage and provide the needed calories exclusively from your land the more exposure to predators.


I do sort of disagree with this though. It probably depends on the breed of chicken and on your land. I have lots of land and mostly Chanteclers which are good foragers. They are also a dual purpose bird so I don't expect them to lay as well as layers. For 3 seasons I barely give them any grain and the yolks are crazy orange. I have 3 livestock guard dogs so my losses have been minimal.
 
Cj Sloane
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Tarkus McCoy wrote:
My point is that true permaculture and sustainability is the product of "Thinking" and ingenuity to utilize your surrounding conditions including vocation and community.


Yes! That was my point a few posts back!
 
John Sizemore
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Location: West Virginia/ Dominican Republic
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One of the issues with live stock is to convert calories we as humans cannot digest into calories we can. Mushrooms can replace animals in that chain.. If you are doing anything like a food forest you can take all the others wise chop and drop mulch and bring it into your control and grow mushrooms with it then return it to the system. Roughly one pound of dry material such as straw or wood chips will give you one pound of mushrooms.
Let the mushrooms replace the livestock portion of your homestead.
A chestnut tree as a grain replacement is another way to stretch out the food. Sun chokes, Sweet potatoes and mangle beets are all high energy crops that can be utilized in the winter.
You can construct a heated greenhouse using compost as the heat source. Kudzu is high in nitrogen and could be used as a replacement for animal manure in the pile. I am sure many people would love to let you harvest all the kudzu you wanted. With a heated greenhouse you could easily grow some taro and water chestnuts in an indoor water garden. and ivy gourds over top for a high protein pot herb. When eating pumpkin verities, remember that the seeds are edible and a good source of fats.
The calories are not the issue in a temperate zone but rather the fresh vegetables. So the planning for that is more important. Cole slaw was a favorite because cabbage kept longer than lettuce in a root cellar.
 
Honora Holmes
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CJin VT wrote:
Honora Holmes wrote:I know I'm new and don't know where everyone is coming from but I really hate it when people pontificate based on a theory and one or two people they've read about vs actually proving that theory in practice. They aren't the same things.


I hear ya and agree. It's come up quite a bit in the short time I've been here.

My chickens will not lay eggs well no matter how many tons of food scraps I give them or how much free ranging they get. They just don't. It's not that simple. Also the more freedom you give your chickens to forage and provide the needed calories exclusively from your land the more exposure to predators.


I do sort of disagree with this though. It probably depends on the breed of chicken and on your land. I have lots of land and mostly Chanteclers which are good foragers. They are also a dual purpose bird so I don't expect them to lay as well as layers. For 3 seasons I barely give them any grain and the yolks are crazy orange. I have 3 livestock guard dogs so my losses have been minimal.


Thanks. The more my chickens are able to forage the better their yolks are for sure! To be clear my chickens certainly will lay eggs with little no extra feed. The problem is we get far less eggs that way and that means less calories raised on our land in the form of eggs so more calories come from off the land to make that up. And part of our problem is the more freedom I give them then the more predator problems I end up with and then lose a large chunk of my flock. It's been 11 years so far and unless my birds are very tightly locked up in a very very secure enclosure and bird run we only have a period of peace before another massacre. I keep a motley crew of birds. Many different breeds we have bought and some our chickens have hatched. The home grown birds are our best foragers and best able to protect themselves and most likely to decide to live in a tree top and hide their ages around the yard during the day! My kids enjoy the surprises though.

I am ok with not being totally self sufficient right now. We do eat our own eggs and some of our chicken is grown here. I also buy most of our pork and beef from a small farmer who raises their cattle on grass. And I buy all our cows milk from another farmer. I like supporting local farmers. One day when there is only 2 of us here it will probably be easier to produce more of our own. Meanwhile I am hoping to get bees in the next year or two and more goats.
 
John Sizemore
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When the saying in permaculture is everything it is not doing a disservice it is pointing out the limitations and benefits of the area needs to be addressed. I lived in the Dominican Republic and had a year round growing season. I grew tilapia on my roof out doors with only 100 watts of power as my energy inputs and table scraps was the only food source. I fed tilapia to me neighbor chickens to thin down the population and he gave us eggs.
I picked mangos from my roof from three different trees in the neighboring yards. The trees were spaced out that I had three months of Harvest. My wife’s uncle had access to other mangos in the area that stretched the harvest time to five months.
That was the rules for that location. If I tried to bring the same knowledge to zone 6 central Ohio River valleys would be screwed.
On supplemental feeding of chickens you need to remember to return the excess. Worm farms are a great source of free chicken food. In Taiwan there was extensive study of feeding the spent mushroom media to poultry. There has been a great deal of research showing that the saw dust that was used to grow mushrooms is digestible and high in protein for livestock.
http://www.allaboutfeed.net/news/spent-mushroom-substrate-as-animal-feed-additive-id2878.html
 
                            
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Climate is one of the biggest factors in food self reliance. Someone living in Thailand could live off 1/2 acre with established fruit trees like Avocados, Banana/Plantains, Papaya, etc. Someone living in Canada needs more then 5 acres, preservation, and storage to live off the land. Personally I would find it way to much work to live off the land in any location below a zone 8.
 
John Sizemore
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With judicious use of aquaponics and roof top gardening I would think it could be down to about 1500 square feet per person in the tropics to maintain health, Cycling banana residue into the fish and the fish into poultry feed and so forth would do quite well. I have ¾ of an acre that I bought in the Dominican Republic before I moved back the US and it was used for cooking bananas. The place had roughly 400 plants on it and with a crop of 3 per year per planting that is 1200 bunches per year. Each bunch has several dozen fruits per bunch.
I am going to be planting the place as a food forest over the next few years. Then in a decade or so when it is time to return I can just put on a shipping container up on blocks and be ready to start living. What is sad is mangos, sapote all go for about a $0.75 a piece there. A plantain goes for $0.10 cents each. The Small limes about the size of a quarter run 5 cents each whole sale. Eggs whole sale for a dollar a dozen.
As soon as a finish college I may take my family back as the idea of homesteading in the tropics is getting more and more tempting. As it is down to 18 degrees where I am and the weather for the area I have my little banana farm is showing a low of 70 tonight with a high of 81 tomorrow.
 
Honora Holmes
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I'm just curious, John but could you explain more how roof top gardening would play a part in it being about 1,500 sq ft per person to maintain health? Does it make a difference there whether the food is grown in the ground vs the roof? Where I live I think roof top gardening would be extremely water intensive.
 
Victor Johanson
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Honora Holmes wrote:I'll never be able to grow my own iodine source though.


Six apple seeds supposedly contain a daily dose of iodine. Or is that an internet myth?
 
Ding Fod
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We have worked up a rough sketch of our needs for the year. (2 people)

We have a very basic diet with not alot of meat but some. There is an emphasis on grains and stir frys. But we try to focus on storeable staples and dry goods. Processed foods are almost completely out which has simplified this. We dont use any sugars and our primary fat is olive oil which unfortunately we have to buy. Rice and oats are a good staple for us that we are unable to grow feasibly but have mitigated by stocking up as they both store well. Garden seeds store fairly well also depending on type but seedsaving saves time and money to populate your garden in perpetuity. Excess broccoli and kale seed provides good winter sprouts. We are getting close on much if not most of this but the deficiencies listed are not easily attainable for our area.

Annual food production needs

Staples
300 lbs potatoes
Tomatoes 20 quarts
Buckwheat 40/150lbs food/fodder
Wheat 50/300lbs food/fodder
Corn 25 lbs
Onions 300
Garlic 50
Apples/Applesauce 7-8boxes
Quinoa 30lbs

Garden crops
Asparagus 9lbs
Beans 60qts/
Beets 12lbs
Blueberries 6lbs
Brocolli 12 heads
Cabbage 15-20 heads
Carrots 40lbs
Eggplant 20
Green onions
Horseradish 3
Kale unlimited
Leeks 20
Lettuce Unlimited
Peas 10lbs
Squash 10-15
Peppers 10 plants
Zuchinni Unlimited 3 months (4 plants 30 zucs)

Extra Misc Fruits/Vegetable crops Limited quantities
Apricots
Brussels
Cherries
Collards
Currents
Cucumbers
Huckleberries 3 gal
Melons 5
Okra
Parsnips
Pears
Peaches
Prunes
Raspberries
Spinach
Strawberries
Swiss Chard

Herbs
Basil
Dill
Thyme
Chives
Sage
Oregano

Proteins
Venison 2
Chickens 40
Fish 100 servings
Eggs 70 dozen
Goatmilk/kiefer/cheese (150gals)

Deficiencies
Mushrooms
Hard beans/Lentils 30lbs
Salt
Vinegar
Honey 8gal
Tea 20lbs
Wine
Lemons
Misc spices
Musturd/Mayo
Oats 50lbs
Olive Oil 10 gal year
Olives 6qts
Nuts
Banannas
Rice 60lbs
Dog food 400lbs
Hay 45 bales
Chicken grain 1200lbs $250


 
Honora Holmes
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I think it's part truth and party myth regarding the apple seeds. Some plant material contains iodine but the levels are entirely dependent on the level of iodine on the soil so there can't be any guaranteed level of iodine from apple seeds. Iodine is rare in most/many soils. High or low soil iodine it's way lower than sea sources. The toxins in our food and water also cause much greater levels of iodine needed because the toxins clog the iodine receptors. I hope I explained that accurately. I'm hypothyroid and have been experimenting with increasing my personal intake of iodine. I need a lot and am still increasing the levels.
 
Victor Johanson
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I've never been able to nail down anything definitive on the iodine/appleseed thing, so I did stock up on a bunch of seaweed recently. Not too self-sufficient there; but I'm about 350 miles from the ocean. I do hope to gather some myself next time I'm down that way, though.
 
Ronald Greek
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Location: Outside Yuma, Arizona
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Notes from numbers I looked up a while ago…

For more of the notes see http://www.scribd.com/doc/38915649/Micro-Environment-Subsistence-System-Sustainable-Civilization

Assume incoming solar, when 90 degrees to the receiving surface, is about 1 kw.

Plants have limits on their rate of converting light to stored energy. Remember that plant biological processes continue at night, and that this uses up some of the energy accumulated in the presence of light. I've read that the overall theoretical efficiency of photosynthesis may be 4.5%. At 6 hour exposure, and if you could eat the entire plant, this would be an area 9 feet on a side. I've no idea what the crop would be, but you would probably be able to watch it grow…

In various sources I find that overall photosynthesis efficiency in open nature and for typical food crops (corn,wheat,rice) is .1% to .2%. For 1/10% efficiency, each of us requires 21,600 sq. ft. /hours per day. With an average of 6 hours solar exposure per day this requires a fully productive food crop area of 3,600 sq. ft., 1,800 for 2/10% This is an area much less than the 1/4 acre per person typically available for manual farming (see information on farming in Cuba post-USSR), yet higher than the 1,000 sq. ft. information from Ecology Action. More (concentrated) sun is not the answer. C3 crops (wheat, barley rice, sugar beet, potatoes) all have FALLING conversion efficiency rates as light intensity goes above 20% of full sunlight.

Potato efficiency goes up to .4%, so with 6 hours exposure you need a minimum of 900 sq. ft. In various places, I've read the most "efficient" crop is claimed to be spirulina, with production of between 5 and 15 gram per sq. yd. per day. If each gram is around 5 calories, we get somewhere between 243 ft. sq. to 720 ft. sq. per person. At the upper level of production, is we're still assuming an average of 6 hours good sun exposure, we're looking at just under 2% efficiency on converting sunlight to food energy.

While I do not really expect to find a more efficient crop than algae, perhaps hydroponic or aeroponic methods can bring up the efficiency of more traditional foods. For those with a sweet tooth, Sugar cane (a C4 crop) comes in at a yearly average of 1%, requiring 360 sq. ft. with 6 hours sunlight, and with crops such as corn and sorghum can utilize higher sun intensity.
 
John Sizemore
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Location: West Virginia/ Dominican Republic
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Honora Holmes wrote:I'm just curious, John but could you explain more how roof top gardening would play a part in it being about 1,500 sq ft per person to maintain health? Does it make a difference there whether the food is grown in the ground vs the roof? Where I live I think roof top gardening would be extremely water intensive.

With the use of aquaponics for production of tilapia, the yield is for one gallon of water there is one pound of fish every four months.
The roof would be the best place for hydroponic beds and the ground better for soil plants and that is the only thing.
Tilapia are a wonderful fish in that they area 2nd level tropic level species, they actually behave in the same manner as a level one species. Tilapia will actually gain more weight than the amount of feed your give them because their own waste causes algae blooms and they filter out algae with gill rakes for food. The fish will eat table scrap and anything else you give them. They will eat worm and I used a bug-o-matic when I was there.
To maintain the PH all is needed is to put egg shells in the system for the water to flow around, If the PH is below 7.5 then the egg shells dissolve and bring it back up. At 7.5 the egg shells are inert. The system always tries to drop ph due to the natural process so it is self-regulating. The other outside nutrient is iron. A simple scattering of red clay every few weeks will put iron into the system or chelated iron cost about $15 for about a two year supply
The filter system can be floating bed hydroponic beds or gravel bed systems. They can also be a mixture of the two. In Australian they are putting red wiggler earth worms in the gravel beds to keep the beds from clogging up with too much organic material.
A 12 inch deep gravel bed will support an equal surface area of tank that is three feet deep. So 100 square foot of surface area is roughly 2100 gallons of water. That would be more than 100 pounds of fish a week. The problem with tilapia is they breed like crazy and they breed extremely small. The easiest way to deal with that is to net them out and throw back the largest ones. Eat the medium ones that you need to and feed as many as the tiny ones to the chickens as you can.
Bananas produce on a constant basis with the daughter plants. If you have a banana and you are taking care of the planting you can get 4 harvests a year out of the one group. The trees prefer to be sheltered and planted close together at about 3 feet spacing. So 16-20 bananas would give you one bunch or more per week. The banana leaves can be dried and used as paddy straw mushroom substrate or they make great mulch. Peppers need shade in the tropics and bananas plants make great natural shade houses. There are a great variety of crops that produce under bananas well. Utilizing vertical spacing and it would be so much better.
I have read that aquaponics produces roughly 4-8 pounds of vegetation per pound of fish. Based on what I had seen with lettuce, basil and yard long beans I think that is probably correct. SO salad greens and such would be easily covered through the aquaponics on a constant harvest basis.
I am just basing my ideas on some observation and small goofing around when I lived there. Some day when I move back I plan on designing a very compact backyard model and keep records for about two years just to see how I could fair with the idea.
By the reality is using an ARTI institute biogas digester it could also be somewhat energy independent.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuRP0fpyIh4
The slurry from the digester would keep the ground very rich as well as the chicken manure.
The people that made the wood stove fan using the sterling engine in Georgia were working on a 1kw 12vdc sterling generator when they shut down and I was hoping to be able to set one up for biogas and run my system with.
Friendly aquaponics raises taro root on floating bed systems in Hawaii.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rc8NdR7LwtU&feature=related
I could go on and on but the reality is in the Dominican Republic there is only 75% of the fish market satisfied. I had my family set up with a fish business selling live fish out of the house and every one preferred that. A small city self-contained house could easily home stead in the tropic on a ¼ acre lot and make a living easier than being out in the country if they set themselves up correctly. The market would be out through the front porch. They of course did not bother to take care of it after I left the country to go to school. I am just a crazy gringo and that is not the way things are done.
 
Honora Holmes
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Fascinating, John. Was this system of yours expensive to set up? I read an article recently of someone who had a fish farming set up in the Northern US recently. It was really interesting but it didn't seem like they were getting out of it what they'd put into it. The set up cost was very expensive and they didn't seem to be raising near the amount of fish you were raising. I think a large part of the expense was them setting up a shed that was heated during the winter. They'd initially grown the fish inside but quickly outgrew that. That would be unnecessary presumably in the tropics. How quickly could you recoup your costs with the kind of set up you had?
 
John Sizemore
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Location: West Virginia/ Dominican Republic
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My original system was a pond liner laid on the ground with a double row of stack cinder blocks holding it all together. I spent about $200 for the pumps and everything. I paid fishermen for 8 live tilapia caught of the river and just put them in. They started breeding right away. I bought some Styrofoam and heated a tin can on the stove and cut my round holes for the floating raft with a hot can.
I just planted the seeds in the pots lined with newspaper and potting soil.
Two weeks later entered the plants in the system. I scrounged plastic system and cut the top off them for the floating bed tanks.
On a side note the basil went to seed and then sprouted directly in the Styrofoam.
I nice pretty system can cost but in the end it is just a tank for water. A barrel to hold gravel for a bio filter and the grow beds of whatever you want. My original system was just old garden hoses for the plumbing. When I moved to another house I just bought a Wal-Mart swimming pool and put that on my roof.
When I move back in my old age I will build another one a little more permanent as a part of my whole system. I will use a food forest for my zone two and three. I will have my zone one integrated in my household itself with aquaponics. I plan on building the main fish tanks into the walls of my house with acrylic windows into the tanks so my fish tank is like a large aquarium in the house. Vegetable beds on the roof would give me a great deal of natural air conditioning and so forth.
I just tracked down a company in Pakistan that build a sterling engine that can be hooked up to a 12vdc 500 watt alternator, so when the time comes between an ARTI biogas unit hooked up to an open flame gas lite as the burner to run a sterling engine as well as letting the waste heat travel though under the water on a solar still I could get enough power to run my aquaponics and purify drinking water all off of waste.
I could run a 500 pound of fish per week system from less than 200 watts.
 
John Sizemore
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Location: West Virginia/ Dominican Republic
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This is an extreme case of what is possible but it is inspiring anyway.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jV9CCxdkOng
 
Acetylsalicylic acid is aspirin. This could be handy too:
Quality Hand Tools for the Garden, Homestead and Small Farm.
https://permies.com/t/58443/Quality-Hand-Tools-Garden-Homestead
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