Jan White wrote:
Tomatoes might be one of these. They definitely are for me. Yields vary so wildly depending on type, though... Might be a tough one.
Noelle Landauer II wrote:Hello,
I just stumbled upon this discussion and your excellent project. I’ve been thinking about the calorie issue for years now, so it's great to see someone put together calorie-based modeling tool. One resource that I highly recommend is John Jeavon’s “How to Grow More Vegetables.” The title makes it sound like an ordinary gardening book, but is actually the published results of an outfit in California called Ecology Action, which has been working on this exact same project for decades: trying to design subsistence calorie diets that can be grown by hand on the smallest amount of land possible. They have compiled several model diets (I’ve got One Circle: Mexico and One Circle: Kenya floating around my bookshelves somewhere), but most usefully they provide quantified yield data for a wide variety of foodstuffs, both per weight and per area. The per-weight data is taken from the USDA Standard Reference, but combined with per-area data allows you to calculate both the amount of food to grow and how much space it will take up. The area data is expressed in high-intensity 100 square foot beds, which I think makes it easier for the would-be mini farmer to calculate how much to grow, as opposed to factors like per-plant or per-acre yield.
They also provide three yield levels for each plant (low, medium and high). I’ve been measuring my own yields (weight/area) to compare, to see if their numbers are in the ballpark to my own garden. Generally the “low” yield has been accurate for a new-to-me crops, or results under crappy weather, or pushing a plant out of its ideal climate. The “medium” yields were accurate for crops I have experience with, know which varieties to grow and know will do well here. “High” yields were only obtained under exceptional circumstances. (For example, dry peas, the thing you all were discussing upthread, usually comes in at 8-12 lbs per 100 square feet, but my best ever variety was a whopping 21 lbs/100 sf. Jeavons lists the medium yield for dry peas at 10lbs/100sf, and high yield at 24lbs/100sf.) For your purposes, the low yields are probably sufficient, since it seems you want to establish a comfortable floor to plan from.
Some other high density calorie crops to consider adding, that I don’t already see on the calculator: barley, buckwheat, chestnuts, chickpeas, flax, hazelnuts, hempseed, lentils, oats, quinoa, rapeseed, rye, safflower seed, walnuts, wheat. All of these grow well in the PNW and come in at over 1500 calories/lb, so there’s no good reason to exclude them...
Anyway, combining together all the data allows you to put together many different of models for potential diets. It’s a fun and informative exercise to think about different combinations, and how much to grow of each staple. One of my models had apples, favas, common beans, corn, garlic, hazelnut, kale, leeks, parsnips, peas, potatoes, quinoa, rutabaga, squash, and sunflower seeds as the caloric staples. Some of these were picked solely for the calorie density, others for the calorie density AND yield. For instance, you can cram more leeks into a small space than bulb onions, so the calories/sf for leeks is higher. Other models worked in enough wheat to grow a loaf of bread per week, or estimating how much space for grains and greens needs to be allocated to keep a few chickens for eggs. Other people will undoubtedly pick different sets. But its nice to have a model on hand, and then be able to go out there and plant and measure results from real gardens, to see how close to reality the model can get.
Jan White wrote:I still think tomatoes fit, but I'm probably biased given that I eat only two or three onions a year; however, if you averaged out my tomato consumption over the whole year, it would be at least half a kilo a day 😄
If you pick green tomatoes at the end of the season and keep them cool, they can last for a few months, so I think they can squeak in as suitable for low tech storage.
I also have to mention that I grow tomatoes in truly abysmal soil - silty sand - dont water them, and get only slightly lower yields than I did in my last garden with good soil and regular watering. But it's your calculator and your call!
Skandi Rogers wrote:Reading the last couple of posts reminded me of a section in the book "know and grow vegetables" it is to do with yield and spacing, the addressing where the tipping point is and why we sometimes sacrifice yield for convenience, one of the examples given is onions, to get the maximum yield for a given area of ground the onions are planted very densely and the size of the individual onion is tiny, so yield per acre is sacrificed to get larger onions that are easier to deal with. (and sell) Sometimes yield can be sacrificed to get a better storing product as well. Larger carrots for example store better but you get a higher yield per acre growing smaller carrots closer together.
Stacy Witscher wrote:Very interesting thread. As someone who also lives in Oregon zone 8b, it looks like we have very different climates. Our summers, which last 5-6 months are wicked hot, our winters mild compared to much of the country.
I always find these threads very interesting, but they have little regard to the way most people eat. Most people want cooking fats, which are easier from a homesteader perspective to derive from animal products. How would one combine your calorie choices to make an actual meal?
I, for one, have always struggled with enough protein and it has effected my health. This idea that all Americans eat too much protein is a myth, we are not a monolithic nation. I track my food, and know my dietary issues.
To my mind, one should also keep in mind the land you are working with. I purposely bought marginal land inundated with wildlife, which is better suited to animal husbandry than to plant crops. The wildlife eats everything, if allowed.
But, I do really enjoy reading about others endeavors and their priorities.
Mark Reed wrote:
In my new no-till method of gardening I have been keeping the paths completely clear, no mulch or anything. When they do get a little weedy I shave them down with a very sharp hoe, scrape that up and pitch it between rows in the beds. I adopted that practice largely to hinder the movement of moles. A mole can go unnoticed in one of my beds but it can't cross the surrounding perimeter or one of those paths without me knowing it. An unintended effect is that the paths have gradually become depressions. When a fast downpour comes on super dry ground it tends to run off rather than soak in. I've noticed more and more the paths are becoming long puddles when that happens. A little later the water is all gone but it had no place to go except down. Deep in the ground where it then has no place to go except to soak under the beds. I guess it is acting a little like those swales I've read about, although the surface of the beds is dry as a bone again in a couple of days the plants look happy for a good long time.
Stacy Witscher wrote:Mathew Trotter - It isn't that I don't eat vegetables or staple foods, but rather that most of the things people eat that contain these items also contain animal products and/or oils. Potato gnocchi contains eggs and flour, we serve ours with a parmesan white sauce. Potato pancakes contain eggs, and flour and are fried in copious amounts of oil. Pupusas and tamales contain lard, often meat or cheese or both. Animal products and fats are highly caloric and can dramatically reduce the amount of food that needs to be produced to sustain oneself. As far as my diet and what agrees with me, I have no problem digesting dairy or wheat. I am very fortunate in that way. Dried beans, high fiber foods, and spicy foods can cause gastric distress in me. So I limit them. I don't worry about weight, there have been traditionally shaped people from the beginning of time. You are what you are. This last year I have been grieving, my moods, energy etc. are not related to my diet, but rather my grief. I have not been as active on here because of it. Some days the clouds clear, some days they don't.
But more importantly to my mind, is planning around your land. I have acres and acres of oak trees, while the acorns can be processed directly, feeding them to pigs is easier. While we haven't been here long, and haven't gotten pigs yet, it is the plan. The hunters that cross my land give me venison and elk meat, it costs me nothing. I also have acres of shrubs that goats will eat, so we are getting dairy goats in the spring.
Mark Reed wrote:I don't quite get the food forest and perennial vegetable thing at least as it relates to my garden and situation. I'm not aware of all that many perennial vegetables that will grow here, or that many at all really. Asparagus, I reckon maybe rhubarb, sunroots, can't really think of many others right off. Of course there are the various weeds like dandelions, burdock, nettle and so no but would be hard to accumulate many calories from them. Then the various fruits like blackberries, raspberries also grapes. Wild grapes are the most productive and I have attempted to get them to cross with domestic types, don't know yet how successful that will be. I suppose food forest refers to anything growing, not just specifically the trees.
Unfortunately in my experience no domesticated fruit tree reliably produces much of anything around here without significant artificial coddling. Every time I drive by the only local apple orchard I know of, some one is out there with an atv pulling a little cart with a sprayer of some type, they do market pretty apples though. There is that occasional old oddball tree here and there that seems to reliably produce lots of quite good, although ugly fruit. I have several seed grown youngsters from some of them, apple, pear and peach but they are not producing much yet and I don't really expect them to for some time. The only fruit trees that more often that not produce an abundance is wild black cherry but the tiny fruits are not easy to get, man I love them though. And ya got your persimmons and your papaws, both nice treats but not much more than that. I haven't seen a wild American plum tree in years, I don't know what happened to them.
Walnut and hickory are the most common wild nut trees and I'm lucky to have lots of them on my land and in the general area. Hickory does not produce anywhere near the way they used to but walnuts still put on pretty good in most years.
I don't think pecan is really native here but it by far the most productive. Like I mentioned before I have occasionally completely filled my truck bed with pecans but that takes a couple days of driving around at least 100 miles round trip to all my favorite trees. They are mostly in the little towns along the river, in church yards, grave yards and private yards. I theorize that in this neighborhood they were popular to plant, maybe as a novelty at the time. Nuts range in size and shape but all are smaller and taste better than the ones they sell from down south. Some of them are really huge trees but they went wild so there are also lots of younger ones. Some of my favorites form childhood are gone now, murdered by morons because of the mess all the nuts made, afraid they might dent or make stains on their automobiles. One guy, I call him Saruman, murdered three giant ones. They were far from his house not hurting anything, well that's not really relevant here, so I'll shut up.
For years I have been collecting and planting the pecans on my property and all around me along the roads and all over the state owned hunting land next door. Some of mine are about twenty years old and starting to produce some, so hopefully in another few years I won't have to drive to get them anymore. I'll still do it though so as to continue spreading them around in my immediate vicinity. I'll also keep cloning my domestic grapes and planting them out among the wild ones. Maybe some day one will show up with the vigor and production of the wild but with bigger fruit and maybe some day someone will find it and enjoy it and if they don't some thing will, I'd be OK with that too.
Sorry if I wondered too far off the actual topic of the thread.
Mathew Trotter wrote:
Admittedly, there's a larger quantity of roots and tubers that I can grow as quasi-perennials in my region, but there are still some that should perform in most places. Chestnuts and hazels have been staples for many people in times past, as have acorns with a bit of processing. They did a study on a village in... I want to say Germany? The staple crop there had been hazels, and they determined that their hazel orchard would have provided 50% of the diet for 300-400 people with only 2-3 weeks of work a year.
Mathew Trotter wrote:
As far as perennial vegetables in general, have you read Eric Toesneier's book? Or seen any of the tours of his property? It does mean shifting the diet towards some pretty radically different foods, but there's definitely a lot of options out there, and even more stuff that's gained traction since his book was published. There are even some fruits that can be picked green and used as vegetables, though only tropical species are coming to mind at the moment.
Robin Katz wrote:Matthew, I've always been interested in how people used to do everyday things before electricity. My interest is from a nutritional and self-preservation standpoint - if there was another Carrington-level event (look it up, it's really interesting) that knocked out our grid, what would I do?
I've collected several cookbooks from the late 1800s to early 1900s and the description of the way people ate then may be of interest to you. Below are the main points from the book, keeping in mind I'm not a historian and have not thoroughly examined this topic. I'm a casual investigator in this instance.
Michael Moreken wrote:Square foot gardening is an example of how many plants fit in a square foot. This is a productive tool too to look at.
Eric Hammond wrote:I watched a documentary where people were trying to survive on a dollar a day in a 3rd world country and were losing weight. The locals taught them to fry everything in lard for calories.
Fat could be rendered from one pig and stored for a long time to supplement calories for crops grown. Lard fried potatoes....yum.
My father raises bees, we got 600 lbs of honey last year. Not sure how many calories are in that, but I've put away a few 5 gallon buckets just to have the calories
Paul Wheaton wrote:Well fuck off then! Don't look at it! It's not for you because you're stupid. It's for good and decent people, not fuckheads like you!
Robin Katz wrote:Matthew,
I'm intrigued by the hugelpath concept. I can see the water storage aspect but keep thinking that the path would end up with more growth than the area around it due to a higher moisture content. Is your idea that the path would be similar to the old irrigation troughs between rows of crops? I look forward to your results from this year. Our area has the same summer drought and there is no way that I can/will water all the garden beds that I plan to put in place. We've been going the hugel mound route since our soil is rocky as hell and I won't be digging those buggers up.
Robin Katz wrote:Matthew, thank you for the clear explanation of your Hugelpath concept. I didn't know that the fired clay was so important in terra preta but it makes sense now.
This all sounds like a nice book in the making. A new(ish) or updated concept that you're testing and documenting yourself. You're a very good writer and what you're doing could be of great value to a lot of people who have to deal with seasonal drought.
Mark Reed wrote:Hot beds work very well although mine look little like that one. I just as in minutes ago, finished planting tomatoes in one. It is nothing more than a frame of locust logs laid on the ground. I hoed the top soil down to maybe 3 inches deep. Added some saved grass clippings from last fall and some fairly fresh chicken manure and mixed it all up good with the loosened soil. The logs are about 6 inches and the finished mix comes up the top so the loosened root zone is about 9 inches but will settle probably to half that.
Some junk pvc pipe and a cheap piece of plastic finishes it off. With the heat from the manure working with the grass along with the sun will probably make it necessary to vent it before too long. I've grown tomatoes like this for decades, it works very well at least for me. Time to transplant I just dampen the ground and pull the plants. I think they, well actually I know, they do as well or better than plants started in those little cells or pots.
It is early here to start tomatoes but I think they will be fine and are for sale anyway, I'll start my own a little later as I don't care about having the neighborhood's first tomato anyway.