If you were designing a homestead in a way to save money as the costs of groceries increase, what would you focus on? I know that certain items, like eggs, are cheap enough in the store that you can buy them about as easily as you can produce them. What are the animals and vegetables that can be produces on a homestead that will actually make the process make the most sense from an economic perspective?
If you know why does this inflation happen, you can do something about it.
In my opinion, our predicament is the depletion of cheap fossil fuels, so anything that is dependent on fossil fuels is going to rise in price more than the rest.
For example, out-of-season tomatoes need lots of fertilizers, plus irrigation, plus plastics for greenhouses. That's pretty intensive in energy. Thus, skipping out-of-season fresh food might help. But maybe it's not the most energy intensive stuff. Since we don't know in advance where inflation is going to hit most, my strategy is to be prepared to adapt.
Diversity is the key to resilience. If you have a wide range of crops in your garden, some will thrive in draught, some will thrive in flood. The same applies to any complex system. If you have just one source of income, it may fail, but if you have several ways of making a life, you can pick whatever job suits the occasion.
The more critical a resource is for you, the more backups (and savings) you might like to have.
- Fresh water.
- Staple / nutritious food.
- Herbs / medicines.
- Heat source (cold climates)
- For electric appliances that might be vital for you: batteries, a generator, solar panels, etc. But be ready to find substitutes for your electric stuff if electricity comes to be excessively expensive.
I'd say it depends on the source of the inflation and also upon your likelihood of being better at it than your current supply chain.
If you think the inflation is caused by transportation costs, then you might want to focus on foods that travel farther to get to your grocery store.
If you think it's caused by a supply chain disruption (wheat from Ukraine?) you might want to attempt to supply those yourself or find local sources. For instance, bulk local wheat is super cheap if you grind it yourself.
Eggs might be affordable from the store but if you have a small flock they can make more chickens all by themselves. You can eat the cockerels and old hens. Maybe the eggs won't stay cheap at the store when a bird flu comes through and commercial flocks are liquidated.
Start by designing the house. Go heavy on the insulation and waterproofing. Maybe even look into heat exchangers for the ventilation system. Position outlets so they don't create a hole in the insulation. Run the plumbing in such a way that hot water going down the drain gives back at least part of its heat before it really leaves the house (not sure I'm phrasing that the right way). Add lots of thermal mass to help keep things warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Have multiple storage areas for foods, keeping in mind that some need slightly different storage conditions. Make sure you have a few difference ways to cook, in case one type of fuel becomes hard to get. If you can develop a fuel source on your own property, even better. The standard is wood, but something like corn cobs would also work. More fuel options than I can summarize, really.
Try to position things with an eye toward efficiency and safety. An example would be adding a trellis or grow-tunnel between the house and the barn, so that it shelters the walkway in bad weather. Or positioning the fridge so that it takes fewer steps to bring in groceries.
When deciding what foods to produce for yourself, there are lots of factors to consider, and price is only one of them. Eggs are a good example. In my area, eggs are cheap, when they're available. But they're also one of the first things to sell out if anything happens, and they're a huge part of my family's diet, so I feel better having my own chickens. Many times in the last two years, those chickens kept us supplied when eggs were nowhere to be found in the stores. If you choose the right breed, chickens can raise their own replacements, with any extras being used for meat. Choose a breed that fits your climate, temperament, and farming style.
The same factors apply to plants. Herbs, spices, and greens are probably a good start, since they can be both expensive and easy to grow. But by weight, the bulk of your food is probably going to be carbohydrates, which means things like potatoes, squash, carrots, etc. Those can be cheap, when they're available, but growing your own still helps. Dry beans and grains can take a lot of room for the amount harvested, but they're easy to store.
I wish I had a formula on what order to prioritize everything in. But there are too many factors to consider, and everyone is a little different. The only thing that's certain is that the more you're able to provide for yourself, the less things like inflation will hurt you.
Wow! Some very interesting thoughts about perspective and causes of one's local inflation. If I had a place outside city limits (city ordinance: 4 hens) I would have them for myself AND to sell at the farmers market... where they sell for $7 doz. Perhaps I would have quite a flock and have a CSA and sell them for $5 lol As for produce, perhaps the following would be helpful:
Square Foot Gardening High-Value Veggies: Homegrown Produce Ranked by Value
by Mel Bartholomew
Mar 15, 2016
In my opinion too many people concentrate on things they have no influence over and dont concentrate on what they can do.
I would do the following;
- write to my representatives with ideas and advice.
- take action to improve things around myself.
- create work for myself
- build with earth adobe bricks that only cost my time, no cement additives.
You have gotten many really good practical ideas. From a philosophical level, inflation only matters if you are using that money. If you have a truly self sufficient flock of chickens where the food is grown on your property, the new chickens are hatched on your property, and there is no outside input. Your time to take care of them does not change, regardless of inflation. You can keep chickens and get the same amount of eggs for the same inputs of time for 50 years. People seem to think that everything gets more expensive over time, but that is not always true. This only matters at the store because they buy the effs from the big chicken companies which are buying in grain, grown by farmers who buy in seed and diesel to run the equipment, etc. I like what Ellendra said.
The only thing that's certain is that the more you're able to provide for yourself, the less things like inflation will hurt you.
On the other hand, I don't think anyone could just up and make the leap to being 100% self sufficient in everything overnight. I'd bet most people couldn't do it completely no matter what. That is why there is so much talk of communities. I can calculate my time with chickens and trade for the equivalent amount worth of time in beef from a neighbor. It doesn't matter if economics and government say my time is worth $20 an hour, or $200 an hour or 10 cents an hour. It's an hour of my time spent doing something I think is worth doing for an hour, trading with someone who did something they think is worth an hour of their time. I have hope the US will turn around economically, but I believe bartering, trading, and community need to be a big part of any culture or that economy will overextend and fail.
So one strategy may be to focus on producing the items that have gone up the most in cost, e.g. beef, chicken, eggs. Some math would be needed to figure out actual Return on Investment.
A second strategy is substitution. Perhaps one doesn't have space or time or pasture for a cow, but one has plenty of shrubberies and weeds and fencing for a few goat perhaps? Taking it a step further, maybe one forgoes meat more frequently and begins planting and cooking dry beans.
Additionally time gets a vote in your design. Even if inflation ends up being transitory, I think it's a good idea to have not just short term wins, but long term goals started for production, too (i.e. trees and perennials and long term cost savers). So perhaps one swaps store bought apples for foraging and canning in the short term, while also planting mulberries, persimmons, and thornless blackberries for long term wins.
(Personally, my gut says fuelwood might provide the best return, but I know you mentioned animals and groceries, specifically.)
Really, I think *any* permaculture homestead is going to be a benefit, regardless of inflation. But the underlying strategy is to grow what you *enjoy* eating, and grow or raise the things you can't live without --- bacon, anyone?
P.s. A note of caution: Emphasis on the word "focus" might be counterproductive. Permaculture design is very much about widening the ecological aperture so to speak, and not being laser-focused on just a few elements or products. That could become a quick path to a monoculture and dependence on outside inputs. Instead, it's about understanding and designing all the connections between a multitude of elements, and having good fundamental "mainframe" design, with as many of those elements supporting one another as possible.
Have the smallest square footage of home to heat/cool as possible. Look at passive systems as much as possible to reduce;/eliminate purchased fuels. Reduce all utility useage as much as possible, eliminate unnecessary appliances and services.
Raise ducks and rabbits. Both can easily reproduce, are winter hardy, easy to feed and process.
Have somewhere clean to fish. Learn to smoke meat. Fish, eggs, rabbit and duck meat would go a long way. Eggs from the store are super gross and clean/organic is not cheap anymore.
Dump as much organic material as possible into food growing areas. Learn intensive planting systems, and succession planting for longest harvest.
if space, forage/graze, and skill allow, I'd keep katahdin sheep again. Maybe 3 ewes and a ram. Ideally a new ram lamb every year, if trade and barter is possible, so not feeding a ram overwinter, but that might not be possible in an "extreme" situation. That's probably 6 lamb a year on the table. Fat healthy katahdin can be out of season breeders and lamb 3x in two years if you manage them right, so that could be a bit higher.
"Amid a world of noisy shallow actors, it is noble to stand aside and say, 'I will simply be." ~HDThoreau
Well I suppose there are different strategies for being abundant through inflation. You could focus on growing more rare crops and nutrient rich crops that you can sell, like mushrooms or asparagus.
But personally, I feel the most safe knowing that I have all my own bases covered. I totally second the notion that diversity is important. You will have insurance that something will be successful but also companion planting in the garden encourages diversity that tends to keep common garden issues in check.
In terms of providing everything for yourself the Three Sister is a great solution.
The main crop for the indigenous people of turtle island//north America was//is the three sisters.
This is like the OG companion planting set up that, you know, worked to feed the population of most of North America pre-industrial agriculture.
it is......beans, corn and squash
planted all together.
Super simply the magic of the three sisters works like this:
You plant all three seeds at the same time and first up comes the corn. The beans, after sending their roots into a deeper layer of the soil, create shade around the base of the corn before they start to grow upward using the cornstalks for stability. Around this time the squash seeds have germinated and grow densely outward, providing a green mulch which holds water in the soil so that all three can grow. The beans also fix nitrogen from the atmosphere benefiting all three.
In terms of working effectively with timing, space, sunlight and nutrient sharing these three are the dream team.
Nutritionally corn provides starches, beans are rich in protein and the carotenes in squash provide ample vitamins.
I try to keep my focus on the things I use most, and the things I know I'm able to do, while still working toward increasing what that encompasses. When you produce the things you can in higher quantity than you need, the extras can be used for bartering, gifting, and creating/ strengthening community ties.
If (like us) your home & outbuildings are already built, there are almost always modifications that can be done to improve your expenditures. Harvesting water, using lower energy-use appliances, moving your thermostat as close to the outdoor temps as you can stand, limiting electricity use, etc.
Raise/ grow the things you consume the most, if at all possible. If you're raising animals, choosing multipurpose livestock over single purpose is a great idea. So things like poultry, that give both eggs and meat, as well as pest control (if they free range, which also makes feed far less expensive). If you feed them via compost piles and bsf larvae that you grow yourself, their feed needs can easily be met, without buying it. As far as larger livestock, we've chosen a small, multipurpose breed of goat, that provides dairy, a lovely fiber for textiles, meat, (if needed - these particular goats have too much to offer, to just harvest them for that, unnecessarily), brush control (which then also saves on fuel &/or the labor of doing it yourself - and in our case, it just might save my husband's life), and as pack animals. If you keep good quality, pure-bred males around, their stud services can go a long way toward bartering, to hire out. Many people and companies will hire goats for brush clearing/ control, which means they eat free, and bring in $$ at the same time. Many of these qualities can also come in the form of small cattle, like Dexters or Highland Coo. Using those critters (goats and sheep, too), nose-to-tail will give you many products.
Shopping for good quality groceries is easier and often less expensive if you're near a Simple-Folk community (Amish, Mennonite, PA Dutch, etc), because they're not shipping as many things in, as the big box stores. That helps me keep my footprint- and bills smaller. Sticking to the outside of the regular stores, and staying out of the big aisles full of processed stuff will go a long way toward improving your health, empowering your budget, and lessening the time spent in actual shopping.
Shopping for home items can be greatly reduced, if you make what you need (knit a sweater from your own pet's or livestock's fiber, instead of buying one, carve or build wooden items from trees you've harvested from your own place or rescued from a trip to the dump...), recovering a bit of furniture in your own animal hides, instead of replacing the furniture, etc. Shopping as much as possible from resale shops (instead of retail) can greatly shrink an expenditure for almost anything, often with the proceeds going to a worthy cause - and I've found many brand new items with the price tags still attached. Make quilts from anything fabric you have on hand, including using old, worn blankets as the batting, sheets for the backing, and even the tiniest scraps for the top.
Start living as if you're dirt-poor, now. That will allow you to save whatever you do have, as well as getting you ready to live that way, if it becomes an actuality.
The only thing...more expensive than education is ignorance.~Ben Franklin
I see trees as a good hedge against inflation (pun intended). My grandfather was an economist, and he told me if any investment “claims” over 9% growth annually, its probably a Ponzi scheme. In the tropics, polyculture tree plantings have shown an average of 9% annual growth with the first large yields coming at about 15-20yrs with the culling of n-fixating support trees (that are also valuable hardwoods) as the canopy closes. Coastal temperate rainforests of the western US can grow just as fast or faster than their tropical counterparts (with upwards of 10x the biomass). Eastern forests can also grow valuable hardwoods quite quickly before the canopy closes with chestnuts or other climax food forest trees. This also works with the fact that forests and their byproducts are not likely to become over-abundant any time soon. Their value will only grow. So I guess Papa might say I am proposing a tree growing program that is also somehow a ponzi scheme.
This is all just my opinion based on a flawed memory
How do they get the deer to cross at the signs? Or to read this tiny ad?
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