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Ideas about growing all your own food  RSS feed

 
Posts: 9
Location: geraldton, ontario
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We’ve just recently completed/survived our week of self-reliance and have learned a whole lot. In hindsight, most of what we learned could have been figured out on paper without this ordeal but it would still have been only theoretical.

Some things that we learned:
-that we can survive on under 1000 calories each, per day
-that we can’t eat/stomach enough potatoes to increase those calories
-the more crab apples you eat, the more sour they taste, and that they can’t replace regular apples
-how to successfully roast vegetables without oil
-the importance of not wasting any food
-the large amount of time it takes to prepare fresh foods for three meals a day
-how much plastic/waste store-bought food items create and what little to no waste we created this week
-that we really need to have more grains and energy-dense foods for next year’s “two week challenge”
-that any maple syrup we can generate for next year would be a game-changer
-why people keep telling us this would be easier if we weren’t vegans
-how to make delicious Naan bread with three ingredients:  any flour, any squash/potato, sea salt
-variety is important in order to maintain a productive digestive system and to keep the bowels moving
-we love coffee

In conclusion, we can now say that we can (barely) feed ourselves about 2% of the year. With the rest of our yield from this season, we have about 5% of our annual caloric needs met. With our fruit trees and shrubs gradually coming into maturity, this should hopefully keep pace with the annual doubling of our future self-reliance challenges. We only had 1.5 cups of buckwheat flour to work with all week, so if we can get some serious grain production next year we’ll have an easier go of it.
 
pollinator
Posts: 350
Location: Montana
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I started this thread by referencing the famous book on Hidatsa gardening "Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden". Since then I read another book "Uses of Plants by the Hidatsa of the Northern plains" written/edited using Gilbert Wilson's original notes.

The Hidatsa only grew a relatively few staple crops. Corn, squash, beans, sunflowers, and watermelons.

They foraged for fruit, other culinary plants, and they hunted and ate a lot of meat. So they didn't grow all their own food- and as such perhaps aren't the best model system for doing so.

Their material culture required a lot of wild plants especially wood to build the things they needed.

I got to visit the Knife River Villages historic site in North Dakota this summer. Interesting. Though I think the river there is dammed so the cottonwood forests aren't regenerating naturally.

Still all told, I am still very impressed by how much food can be generated by the specific crops and sometimes the same varieties or crosses thereof used by the Hidatsa in my garden in Montana.

I myself had a very messy unweeded garden this year focusing more on work and family. Biggest success may have been March planted fava beans planted land race style for the second year in a row. Mine are now a genetic mix of early windsor from the defunct garden city seeds, Iantos return, another windsor strain, lofthouse landrace, and frog island nation. I think fava beans grown this way could be a major contributor towards growing all of one's own food. I suspect they can be dry farmed here if planted in March. Not sure if I ever watered them. Also I planted them on the base of two old piles, one of sawdust, the other bark. So they could work very well in a deep mulch Ruth Stout style system using those. I just scattered the seeds, some of them still in last years pods, and rototilled them in.
 
pollinator
Posts: 146
Location: SW Ohio
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Buckwheat is awesome, but the variety I grew produced very few seeds for the amount of space it took up in the garden. There are probably varieties that have a lot bigger yield than what I was working with, but it definitely changed my ideas of what it would take to feed myself by gardening. I think if I had to, I'd end up with my biggest staple being sweet potatoes since they're easy to grow in volume and I like them better than winter squash or white potatoes. I'm grateful that I love most beans, so between black beans, blackeye peas and the big white soup beans I imagine I could do alright. I also love all tree nuts, so adding a lot of those could help since they're calorie dense and, once, mature, some varieties are super productive. I'm also very interested in the low-tannin varieties of acorn as an alternative source for flour. Thoughts specially tailored for your vegan considerations, though I myself am a ferocious omnivore.
 
William Schlegel
pollinator
Posts: 350
Location: Montana
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Anyone considering acorns as a food source should in my opinion read Samuel Thayer's account starting on page 146 of his book "Nature's Garden". The low tannin varieties might be useful, but he made me realize something I hadn't previously. Most authors of edible acorn accounts aren't experienced enough to know that the tannin levels in many of the two main groups of oaks red and white, are about equal in leaching time despite starting with more in the former. So a low tannin white oak strain, unless you just don't have to leach it at all, could potentially take awhile to properly leach.

Many authors, and I used to be guilty of repeating this maintain erroneously that higher tannin acorns are less desirable as food and harder to leach, this is not true. Julia F. Parker author of "It Will Live Forever" with Beverly Ortiz uses California Black Oak and has been doing acorn leaching demonstrations for many many years. From what Samuel has found the leaching time will be about the same.

Oaks don't grow here naturally, the burr oak I planted twenty years ago is just starting to produce well.  I am slowly planting more oaks, often just using the acorns from my eldest. I think two more will be above the browse line of deer soon. I'd like to have more oak diversity but it is hard to justify expensive seedlings from fancy oaks when I can scrounge for free acorns from tried and true trees like my oldest or some squirrel isolated traffic islands I know of.  I do have a burr-gamble hybrid though.
 
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At different times in my life I have fed my family mostly from my own place, although rabbit, chicken, eggs and milk were produced mainly with purchased feeds because of the small size area I was working with. That said, here are some things I"ve learned over the years, some of which have also been pointed out by others.

Growing, eating, preserving your own food dramatically reduces your garbage. Once you buy enough canning jars your yearly expense is in new lids. If you have your own dairy animal and use glass jars for storing milk and making yogurt you don't have a bunch of milk jugs in the trash. If you stop eating food out of boxes, then you don't have boxes in the garbage and you get more nutrition.

Drying is a easier way to keep food than canning and the food is just as delicious and versatile.

Learn to can meat, eliminating a lot of plastic waste and freezer space.

Learn to use everything. Vegetable peelings, even the dry skins of garlic and onions can be tossed in the soup pot when you are makiing stock,. along with water from cooking veggies, that last dab of potato that wasn't enough to save, ect. . ditto chicken feet and necks, parts not everyone uses.

Now that I am a single person I have had to work at cutting back on canning and such. I tend to can more convenience foods like soup and chili base. I don't really eat jelly so quit makiing it. I do like pickled eggs so can those when I have a glut. While I do like green beans I really don't need 2 dozen pints of them. I'll mostly eat them fresh and *maybe* I'll do one canner run.

I can grow *something* all year long and have now made my goal to eat fresh from the garden each day, rather than growing / canning/ freezing/ drying enough of everything for the year. For instance I adore really fresh homegrown tomatoes. Canned, dried homegrown ones are OK but don't really thrill me. I refuse to buy those fake ones at the grocery store, ever. So in tomato season I gorge on tomatoes. 3-4 days a week lunch consists of a giant bowl of chopped tomatoes, fresh basil and cubes of mozzarella with a drizzel of balsam vinegar and olive oil. If I'm really burning calories I might have a couple of slices of toasted sourdough.  

When the other summer fruits come in, same deal, I gorge.

When the seasons change, so does what's on my plate. In winter It might be sweet potatoes or winter squash. Or big pots of soup made with whatever is handy. Tonights soup is chicken foot broth with leeks and kale. There's a dab of leftover rice from another day I'll toss in. There will probably be some leftover soup so tomorrow I might reheat it with chunks of winter squash.  A never ending pot of soup is a great way to reduce food waste.

Remember to rotate your stock. No point putting up 2 dozen jars of something if half never get eaten and you end up tossing them down the road..

learn to forage your local wild foods. Even here in the desert there are things to eat, like nopales, their fruits, mesquite beans, amaranth, lambsquarters, berries of different sorts. I am still learning to use these foods.

If you think about the foods that are available at different times of the year, they have different nutritional values, which generally coincide with our bodies needs. For instance, spring brings the first flush of greens, when we are so hungry for fresh crunchy green stuff, loaded with beta carotene and other things we need. In summer a lot of food has a high water content, perfectly timed when it is hot and dry and we need the extra water and minerals in them. Fall brings foods that store and most have higher calorie loads, like winter squash and root crops, just when we need those calories to stay warm. I think it's a perfectly designed system.
 
William Schlegel
pollinator
Posts: 350
Location: Montana
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I've been looking at my "How to Grow More Vegetables" book. We have a whole bio intensive forum here, but it seems to me that of all the books I have or have looked at, it is one that would be somewhat essential to this topic. Precisely because it is a complete system for resilient sustainable food production. It is the book I would want to have if suddenly my whole town had to grow its own food.

I just got a copy of Carol Deppe's "The Tao of Vegetable gardening" and like many books it seems to be a good read relevant to this topic.

So that got me searching through my book shelves thinking about which books are essential to growing your own food and or gathering it. I would place them in two categories. Essential reference that I would actually like to own in hard times, and good to read but could check out from the library.

So essential to own and pack with me:

How to grow more vegetables
Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden
And for me a regional foraging guide "Foraging the Mountain West"

If I had to put a few of my gardening books in a bag with some seeds and go be a refugee those are the three gardening books I would want.

Books I think it would be useful to read but that could be checked out from the library:

Square Foot Gardening
Ruth Stout's no work gardening book
Chicken Tractor
Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties
Seed to Seed
The Seed Garden
The Tao of vegetable Gardening
The Resilient Gardener
The Resilient Farm and Homestead
Gardening when it Counts
Growing food in a hotter drier land
Small Scale Grain Raising
Extreme Simplicity
Edible Wild Plants - Kallas
The Foragers Harvest
Natures Garden
Incredible Wild Edibles
The New Wildcrafted Cuisine
Anything by Euell Gibbons

My Region Montana, rockies, Missoula:

Uses of Plants by the Hidatsas of the Northern Plains
Eating Wild Plants-Kim Williams
Montana Native Plants and Early Peoples

Foraging the Mountain West and Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden are also both appropriate to my region. However they are in my must have list.

Will Bonsall has a book out in this genre, I looked at it in a book store and somehow decided it was non-essential at one time. I keep going back to this topic though so I should probably give it a closer look.

Your book list and regional book list might vary considerably from this depending on where you are. I think ethnobotanies of local peoples are important, local wild food guides, and local gardening guides- a local orientation is important so it need not be the finest book ever written in the genre if it cues you in to local eccentricities of gardening and eating where you live. I just glanced through my shelves and found at least twenty more books relevant to growing or foraging food but neglected to mention. Just about any book on ethnobotany, foraging, gardening, medicinal herbs, or primitive skills has something to offer someone searching for self sufficiency or resilient solutions. Most though could be comfortably checked out once from the library. Many are redundant or have redundancies with other books. I would be curious to know what books you think are essential to this topic?

Ultimately I think rather than packing a reference library with me, I think the more straightforward way is to practice the essential skills learned from these books when gardening and foraging. So maybe that is part of next year's garden plan! Spend more time with my three most essential gardening books.
 
William Schlegel
pollinator
Posts: 350
Location: Montana
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So I went to a book store in Missoula today with my son. He ran around and ran around but I ended up buying a book called "High Value Veggies" by Mel Bartholemew.

So I had already been compiling a number of lists of veggies based on the books in the last post.

Here are my top crops and a couple I want to try based on advice from various sources:

Corn
Potatoes
Squash
Favas
Sunflowers
Parsnip
Garlic
Tomatoes
Onion
Carrot
Turnip
Siberian Kale
Jerusalem artichoke

To try:
Salsify
Leeks and Elephant Garlic

Volunteers that survived for four years without me:

Parsnip
Turnip
Siberian Kale
Rhubarb
Daikon Radish
Bee balm
Showy Milkweed
Anise Hyssop

Volunteer as long as I am around year to year (some of these might be able to join the former group with trials):

Dill
Lettuce
Orach
Leafy Mustard
Tomatillo
Ground Cherry
California Chia
Sunflowers
Mint
Amaranth
Cilantro

Potential to volunteer but still Working on establishing for sure:

Fennel
Yerba buena
Miners lettuce
Rye
Asparagus
Tomatoes
Calindrinia
Corn salad
Garlic
Potatoes
Bread seed poppies
Carrots

No Irrigation needed:

Wheat
Barley
Rye
Garbanzo
Lentil
Fava?
Fenugreek
Culinary Mustard
Peas
Sunflowers?
Garlic?
Tomatoes?
Potatoes?
Wide spaced corn?
Tepary Beans?

Truly Wild plants that grow on my land that I actually eat:

Yellow Salsify
Purslane
Prickly Lettuce (but not much)
Dandy lions (if I can eat only the yellow portion of the flower)
Chenopodium album
Sisymbrium species (tumble mustard)
Some of my Bee Balm is truly wild

Wild Plants that grow on my land that I might learn to eat soon:

Black Nightshade
Amaranthus retroflexus red root amaranth
Edit: Looking through Foraging the Mountain West there are lots of others I may learn to eat soon, or at least get around to trying. There are also some I won't eat unless they start to increase, or I can figure out how to grow more of them- because they are rare edible natives on my land!

Plants I grow that I don't currently eat yet: I am still in the process of trying these I reckon!

Jerusalem Artichoke
Favas
French sorrel
Showy milkweed- this is native, but wasn't on my land originally. I planted it and it's doing well, but it's hard to shift my mindset to eating it.


Fruit shrubs actually producing on my land:

Currents
Gooseberries
Buffaloberry
Seaberry
Haskap or Blue fruited lonicera
Carmine Jewel Cherry (one fruit so far)

In progress fruit and nuts:

Apple
Plum
Raspberry
One live blueberry plant
Oak
Pinon to be planted
One sand cherry
Choke cherry
Hawthorn

In town we have productive raspberries, serviceberries, apples, crabapples, oaks, cherry, elderberry, nanking cherry, pin cherry, choke cherry, thimble berry, wild grapes, and hawthorn. I suspect eventually we will get all of these amd more established and productive on the land especially since we have a seed source. We have an area with a bit of a ponderosa pine forest that we planted and is now getting big out on the land that might provide some windbreak and microclimate help. I also notice a fruiting tree- apple perhaps starting to overtop a hedge out there. I think vigorous shrubs like Buffaloberry might make good nurse plants for other food forest shrubs and trees.

So source lists:

Carol Deppe:

Potatoes
Corn
Squash
Beans
Tomatoes
Green's
Eggs

John Jeavons high calorie roots

Jerusalem artichoke
Leeks
Garlic
Parsnip
Salsify
Potatoes
Sweet potato (won't grow here yet, but Joseph is working on it)

John Jeavons carbon and calorie

Corn
Small grains
Fava beans
Sunflowers

John Jeavons 10% veg

Beans
Onions
Rutabaga
Turnips
Carrots
Beets Radish

Hidatsa:

Corn
Squash
Beans
Sunflowers
Watermelon
Hunted meat
Foraged vegetabled and herbs

Irish after potatoes well established and before the blight:

Potatoes
Milk
(I bet they at least added some herbs and flavorings on occasion like onion/leek/garlic). They also grew other foods- just for cash crops though to pay rent.

Joseph Lofthouse crops from seed bank article that seemed the most essential to me based on the seed counts plus my own experience:

Dry Bean (includes favas, lentils and garbanzo etc as well as common)
Beet
Carrot
Sweet corn
Flour corn
Onion
Parsnip
Peas
Potato (true seed)
Squash
Tomato
Turnip

Mel Bartholemew High ROI:

Parsnip
Tomato
Garlic
Turnip
Leek
Winter squash and summer squash
Onion
Watermelon

Mel's low ROI:

Fennel
Carrot
Corn
Pea
Sweet potato (won't grow here yet)

Mel's negative ROI:

Potatoes
Beans


So what does this all mean?
To me it means I should try growing leeks, elephant garlic (botanically the same as leeks), and domestic salsify.

It means I shouldnt devote a lot of garden space to cheap vegetables as long as I don't grow every last bit of my own food. That doesn't mean a small bean and potato patch isn't in order, but really just enough for a small seed crop every few years is fine. Maybe my fennel, carrot, corn, and pea patches should be smaller at first.

Oddly some veggies that have a lot of caloric potential, and are ridiculously easy to by grow for me have a good ROI according to Mel like Parsnip, Turnip, and squash.

Tomatoes aren't a bad deal.

True survival crops vary from crops that might save us the most money now.

Anything I can grow with minimal effort is great because I am not space limited. So establishing more perennial vegetables like showy milkweed, asparagus, and rhubarb is a great idea- especially if it isn't in my prime deer fenced growing space. Similarly fully or partially volunteering vegetables have a lot of potential for producing food. I planted some of these outside my garden fence in 2018. I plan to move those volunteering populations that the deer leave alone to unfenced areas. This should leave more fenced garden space for important crops that don't practically grow themselves.

It might be wise to have a sort of keep it simple seed stash in place. My seed stash is basically completely out of control. So a simpler stash might include just enough top survival crops to garden in a really bad year when it's necessary to grow more of your own food. So maybe that simple stash could go in the freezer. I think mine would look at Josephs quantities and include: TPS, flour corn, squash, favas, dry beans, and tomatoes.

Parsnips and Sunflowers could be good additions, though I currently have them volunteer so reliably I think I'll be able to get them back. That list might change in a few years if say garden salsify or leeks pans out.

Carol Deppe's Tao of Gardening has a nice survival seed stash section.

I think it's important to encourage volunteering and unirrigated crops. They have the potential to produce food for me if I don't have time to do much or if I don't have water to irrigate with. I think with volunteering crops the minimum effort might be something like a single rototilling each year. Or a single spading. Or perhaps saving seed, cutting and piling some brush, burning the brush, and then scattering the seed on the burned spot.

Some individual crops:

Parsnips: have been volunteering reliably for me since 2011 or 2012 when I first decided to try them. They survived a four year absence of mine. Mel lists them as high ROI, John lists them as a high calorie root, Joseph includes them in his seed stash list. Guess I won't weed them all out! Actually my plan for this crop is to try to add more diversity to it and create a grex. I planted an older packet of Turga Parsnip this year to try to do that. Would prefer to add diversity by seed trading than buying packets. No rush though.

Corn: I've been seed saving this since the 90s have a couple nice grex for flour and sweet corns. It may be low ROI but it's easy.

Squash: high ROI and easy for me: My maxima grex seems really good. I have quite the seed stash for pepo and moschata also afterms my 2017 grow outs. I would never grow squash using the square foot gardening or grow biointensive methods with my land area available. It grows to we'll with my current methods.

Tomato: very in love with tomato growing and breeding right now. High ROI. That's encouraging.

Common Beans: I need to do a small grow out soon.

Fava Beans: very happy with my grex. Will grow in sawdust mulch- Neat trick. Now that I've learned to plant favas in March. Must actually start eating soon...

Potatoes: I want to produce some of my own TPS. I should grow a few plants from TPS again next year, but just a few. It may be negative ROI but I will keep growing a few just to keep them around.
 
steward
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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William: I grow two varieties of fennel. I realized this fall that one of them is perennial. I have tried tilling it under the past few years, and it just keeps returning.

I harvested around 30 sweet potato seeds this summer. Woot!!!
 
William Schlegel
pollinator
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Location: Montana
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:William: I grow two varieties of fennel. I realized this fall that one of them is perennial. I have tried tilling it under the past few years, and it just keeps returning.

I harvested around 30 sweet potato seeds this summer. Woot!!!



My fennel is actually wild fennel from California. I just picked some seed a few years back and brought it home. So far it has survived a winter and reseeded itself! So the patch has grown a little. I would like to add a few more varieties to the patch to make it a grex sometime but am not in a rush.

I'm following you and your collaborators sweet potato breeding exploits closely, but choosing to wait and focus on tomato breeding right now. It seems like a potentially pretty important vegetable if it can be adapted to the north.
 
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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My biggest thing to add would be that 10 hazelnut trees (2,250sqft) will provide all the calories an adult needs for a full year.
Maybe you want to mix in some other nut trees, maybe due to other variables you need twice as much land (5,000sqft/adult)

I like to look at my food in a couple of different ways.
A)Bulk Calories
B)Minerals
C)Vitamins
D)Protein

and

1)Seeds/Nuts
2)Tubers
3)Vegetables/Mushroom/Herbs
4)Fruits
5)Animals

Most people like to grow their own vegetables for their minerals. And its the best bang for their buck/space after herbs.
I think that it isn't too hard to grow our own vegetables even on a small lot. I would also add wine cap and oyster mushroom to that list too.
Next would be fruits, we don't eat that much fruits and we could get a solar dehydrator to 'process' them in bulk.
I don't see myself ever processing wheat/flour seeds, but I love the idea that 10 hazelnut trees will provide all my calories for a year.
Nuts will provide bulk calories, and alot of minerals just like mushrooms/vegetables.
Tubers+Squash are so-so but they are ready in a season so they serve some purpose.
Animals are the hardest of them all, but with bees being so easy and taking up so little space everyone could do it.
Followed by fish, they could be pretty hands off, after you do the hard work of building a pond.
But in reality chicken/egg does seem easier than a fish+pond if w are going to import feed like everyone else.
Milk+Meat from cows/goats just moves this from the manageable sub-acre (1acre plot) that most could to to the multi-acre in the forest arena. And taking vacations, growing old just makes it so much more demanding/inconvenient.
 
pollinator
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Location: Colville, WA Zone 5b
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I love this thread. This is something I think about a lot - mostly in the back of my head, but still.

I think that growing and producing all of your own food is something that might not be completely necessary in today's day and age BUT is an important skill or something to be set up for. I'll never want to go without chocolate, coffee, watermelon, and many other foods that I really just can't efficiently produce where I'm at, but at the same time I think there's huge value in producing enough so that if needed, you could feed yourself without getting too bored of the same two foods over and over.

Now - most of what I eat is meat. I eat about 90% meat & animal foods at the moment, with mostly nonstarchy veg and occasional treats being most of the rest. I'm actually surprised I haven't heard more people talking about the meat here. Because as I adapt to my meat-heavy diet (for health reasons, and I don't think I'll always eat this much) I've come to realize that depending on your land, meat may actually be a fairly good ROI food to produce.

For example, I have brushy woods, 20 acres of it. This is ideal forage for goats and I could very easily forage meat goats all summer and "harvest" them in the fall or early winter, with little work and extra "inputs" on my part other than the fencing and rotation. I could cut the brush and dry it for winter food as "Tree hay." Calorie for calorie, that would be a very efficient use of my time and energy. Granted, to be sustainable you'd have to keep some of them over the winter and there would be work involved to feed them, but I think it would be more efficient to do that than a lot of vegetable crops.

I figured out that between meat rabbits and their amazing feed-to-meat conversion ratio, goats I could forage, and POSSIBLY pigs for the additional fat I'd need, it may actually be more efficient food-wise to raise them rather than trying to get all my calories out of plant foods that I grow and hunted meat. This is all conjecture, though, because I have no idea how much work it would end up being to actually grow/produce/harvest food for these animals in the off-season. Someone who had a lot of nice grassy pasture (I do not) would probably do well with grazers like beef or sheep, especially the hardier breeds that might be able to get more calories out of winter forage.

The other thing about animal foods is that they are able to glean calories from foods that would take a lot more processing on our part, or they can even sometimes harvest their own. Like if you turned out pigs in an acre of sunchokes or a wood full of oaks (acorns). Or setting up rotational pastures with perennial foods that they can harvest and glean themselves. I accidentally might have discovered that the deer in this area don't readily eat a certain type of sorghum which will grow without irrigation, so I'll test grow some next year to see but that's the sort of thing you could grow, cut the stalks, and toss them whole to the chickens.

Other than that, I do want to echo the other posters who stated that this is very much a gradual, work in process where you gradually adapt HOW you eat. Learning to eat seasonally, focusing on producing all of your own of fewer crops to start with - looking at the proverbial low-hanging-fruit and getting in the swing of producing all of your own of something, while you gradually add more and more to the table. If that makes sense. Doing what's efficient.  

Like starting with the things that grow in your garden that maybe grow a lot easier with less work... or perhaps the things you like to grow more. This is kinda the phase where I'm at. I actually don't even have a production garden yet - I JUST got the deer fenced out a few months ago so am hoping to get some done next year... but what my plan is, is that next year will be the experimental year where I test out to see what grows easily here with the least amount of work and the kinds of things that I (and specifically my kids as well) enjoy growing and eating. That will be the starting point.

And - at the same time as we're adapting and learning and setting up systems in our gardens to grow more food, we're also adapting how we eat, and what we eat when, to closer align with what we could produce ourselves.
 
pollinator
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Bethany - I'm with you. My diet is largely dairy, instead of meat, but very much animal based. When evaluating properties to purchase, grazing/foraging possibilities are near the top of my list. I'm hoping for a property with both pasture, and wooded portions, and some water. While I want fruit and nut trees, harvesting is always a lot of work, and having animals do the clean up sounds like a win-win to me, and in heavy pest years, some fruit and nuts won't be good to save, but will be fine for livestock.
 
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There are some data collected on this link about the size of a garden to feed one person (probably without meat and milk). These are:

John Jeavons says 404m2
Eliot Coleman says 101m2
Norman Myers says 687m2
S. Silverstone says 202m2


On average, around 350 square meters.

Another variable on this equation is the knowledge required to be able to grow food densely in 350 square meters. And that knowledge is mostly free on the internet these days.

Adding a food forest with chickens and a pond (or an aquaponics) would significantly increase the diversity of proteins.

I live in Australia, and the water is the biggest problem here. I think in-ground or container wicking beds or in-ground hügelkultur beds would suit most here. So, finding the style of growing food that matches your geographical and climatic conditions is also essential.

Another thing is the type of seeds. If we are aiming for a nutrient dense crop, heirloom or landrace varieties would be my choice.

Soil quality, microbiology, mycorrhiza, adding depleted minerals, mulching, watering are the other things I would consider to do correctly.



 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Corn is near the top of calories per acre, therefore, lets do some math...

Yield is about 1 Kg of dried corn per square meter. 3/4 Kg would provide me with the 2700 calories I need for a day. So I'd need 273 square meters to grow enough calories for myself for a year. (About 2900 square feet, or 0.07 acres). I can only grow one crop per year due to my climate. Other gardeners might could grow several crops per year of various species.

 
S Bengi
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Given that 2,500sqft provide all the bulk calories+minerals+vitamins+protiens/etc that an adult needs for an entire year, Why does it seem like very few of us here on permies is growing most of our food. And a good portion if not most of us live on a plot of land that is 10x bigger aka a half an acre lot

For me it is because I love tropical sugar (cane), high fructose corn syrup, GMO corn, bleached flour and GMO soy bases modified protein, and I don't want to have to open nuts, or solar dehydrate fruits and herbs and greens or do any type of food processing.
 
William Schlegel
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Interestingly these area estimates get to about the size of garden I have.

Last year things went pretty well. I had way too much squash and tomatoes.

This year things didn't go so well. But I got some squash and tomatoes. The weeds got away from me.

With wide beds I end up hand weeding, that's how I set up the 1/10 acre fenced garden. I can handle that much area with hand weeding if I occasionally rototill the paths.

I set up the outside the fence garden this year so I could plant rows and rototill between them. Then my rototiller broke and I prioritized work and school over having it fixed right away. My outside the fence garden might be a little less than 2/10 of an acre this year, but was more last year.

One semi famous food growing estimate is on the cover of "Mini Farming Self Sufficiency on 1/4 acre" and the similar book "The backyard homestead: produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre".

I definitely didn't manage to grow all my food this year in my close to 1/4 acre garden. However, I was more focused on doing a generation of interesting tomatoes.

If I used the space efficiently, weeded, fertilized with organic fertilizer, and planted the appropriate crops I am certain I can grow a lot of food in this size garden.

The mini farming book has an interesting section on the value of doing this. The author suggests that a family of three can save $8000 a year by growing 85% of their food. Also suggested that's the same as $12000 in pretax income. Using 2100 square feet and 240 hours of work. This is on page twenty.

These figures really intrigue me. If even somewhat true it would be a pretty nice raise requiring working 10 hours each Saturday for 24 weeks. I'm also not convinced this number includes food preserving.

The crops I am best at growing are probably squash, corn, favas (since Joseph sent me a packet that said to plant them in March), parsnips, potatoes, and tomatoes

Wonder how much money I could save by planting big patches of each of the above? I do much of the cooking so would need a good cornbread recipe. I make pie and baked squash from winter squash. My wife eats baked vegetables well.
 
Stacy Witscher
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Well, I do a lot of food processing, and I plan on mostly growing my own food. But, for me, a large part is it, is growing food that I want to eat, and not feel deprived. That's largely why animals are a must. It's fairly difficult to get enough homegrown and processed fat without animals.

Currently, I'm urban, on a 1/10 acre property. The issue anyone around here would have trying to grow all their own food, is it's not allowed. No livestock of any kind, bees aren't even allowed. No vegetable or fruit trees(they just added this) in the front yard. So I'm left with about 600 sq ft. garden, but I still grew all the squash, winter and summer, and green beans that I need for a year. And that's just this year.
 
Bethany Dutch
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Stacy Witscher wrote:Well, I do a lot of food processing, and I plan on mostly growing my own food. But, for me, a large part is it, is growing food that I want to eat, and not feel deprived. That's largely why animals are a must. It's fairly difficult to get enough homegrown and processed fat without animals.

Currently, I'm urban, on a 1/10 acre property. The issue anyone around here would have trying to grow all their own food, is it's not allowed. No livestock of any kind, bees aren't even allowed. No vegetable or fruit trees(they just added this) in the front yard. So I'm left with about 600 sq ft. garden, but I still grew all the squash, winter and summer, and green beans that I need for a year. And that's just this year.



Can you have "pet" rabbits?
 
Stacy Witscher
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Bethany - rabbits and chickens are expressly forbidden in the CC&R's. We aren't even supposed to have as many dogs as we currently do, the limit is 2. When we first moved here, the CC&R's weren't enforced very much, but they are getting worse every year. And it's strange because it isn't a high end area, it's very blue collar. I'm so happy we are moving.
 
William Schlegel
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https://www.motherearthliving.com/gardening/backyard-farm-zmfz16mjzolc

Article from the author of mini farming.

I can't do animals yet. When and if I move out to my land I will. I had rabbits and chickens growing up. My favorite was chickens. Six hens produce a lot of eggs.

It would be interesting to have a small dairy animal or two and six hens again.

I think processing the food and actually eating it is a big question mark. I bake a lot with wheat flour. Make a lot of pasta- also wheat. Lots of cheese, yogurt, and milk. I make a lot of homemade pizza. We eat a fair amount of beef, some pork, some chicken, some fish.

I still have some flour corn kernels left in a big container from 2003. It's fairly easy to grind them in the blender a d add them to pizza dough, bread dough, pancakes and such. Carol Deppe makes all her baked goods from corn only. So I either need to grow mostly wheat and some corn, or adapt to Carols recipes!

I think it would be easier for me to grow enough calories than actually feed those calories to my family. I should try growing more flour corn though since its so easy to grow, then play the next winter with recipes since I am chief baker and pancake maker around here.
 
Stacy Witscher
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William Schlegel - I agree completely, getting one's family to eat only the food you produce or even cook is a challenge. Currently, being in the city, my adult children have so many options. They're young, have a little money finally, and they want what they want. If they aren't happy with dinner or sometimes even if they are, they Door Dash other stuff.

Being diabetic, I've had to change my eating habits, moving away from starchy carbs. I do eat wheat, and will not likely produce that, but my consumption has gone way down. I don't really see a reason to not have a few indulgences, coffee, chocolate, some spices, salt, etc. I don't have a problem with that, but I would like the bulk of my food to be stuff I'm producing. And I'm a foodie, it all has to taste good.

 
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Travis, how are you storing those apples?

We have racks built so that there is only one layer per rack and air space between each rack.
The racks themselves are made with slatted bottoms so air can go through each layer as well as all around it.
Potatoes we put into sand same as carrots and beets, this keeps them separated and nicely firm all winter long.

My new root cellar (not dug yet) will be large enough that I will need at least 4 air exchange tubes maybe as many as 10, just depends on what the wife wants for size, part of this will be doored off for charcuterie and another space for cheese curing and aging.



That sounds like a dream. I've been trying to convince my husband to do charcuterie.
 
William Schlegel
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I was looking through a used book store and I found a book called Zapotec Science, Farming and Food in The Northern Sierra of Oaxaca by Roberto J. Gonzalez

It is interesting because it provides another example of subsistence farming methodologies for comparison to Jeavons, Buffalo Bird Woman, Deppe and the like.

On page 145 there are some comparisons of land area needed with and without fertilization. A generation ago because of share cropping 16 almudes or 10 acres had to be farmed without fertilizer, 8 of that or 5 acres to feed the family. Now with artificial fertilizer (to be clear military industrial complex chemical fertilizer in this case) only 4 almudes or 2.5 acres was necessary. They practice fallowing too so the total land area needed over time is larger by 2 or 3 times. Also Oxen are used for tillage and fed both pasture and corn husks, requiring more land.

There tends to be an additional kitchen garden, some foraging, some hunting, and livestock including oxen and poultry. The oxen are used to plow the land, hoes to weed, and planting sticks to plant. The main fields are intercropped corn, squash, and beans.

The Hidatsa likewise hunted and did some foraging, This aspect of the Zapotec system is more similar to the suggestions of Christopher Nyerges in his book "Extreme Simplicity". Also there is cheap military industrial complex maize for sale and it has reduced food prices in the area- subsistence food is retained partly for deep cultural reasons.

The list of plants grown and used is similar to others like the Hidatsa ethnobotany for example, main crop list is corn, squash, and beans but then there are a lot of quality of life crops. This longer list includes a few that are staples for other cultures including potatoes and sweet potatoes. Compared to Deppe or Jeavons it would be more comparible to the complete seed listing of their catalogues for quality if life purposes.

Agriculture in the area relies on rainfall which has become less predictible but the culture has adapted (as of the publication date 2001). I briefly tried to calculate how much average rain the area gets using Google to look up things and it may be 60 inches or more though my estimate was pretty rough.

These land estimates are definitely at the high end of those we've previously discussed in this and other threads. This system would be most similar in some respects to the Amish/Mennonite system described in Eric Brende's book Better Off. Livestock increases the ability to till, but also increases land area needed. Eric discusses this a bit in the book in the form of a conversation during haying.

However, livestock also can allow the utilization of lands that are unsuitable or poorly suited for cropping.

The two main things I find notable here are the larger land area estimate and the hunting and foraging. If a person wanted to grow all their own food as I titled this thread they would be bucking a couple norms which include the fact that most subsistence societies seem to have some fishing, hunting, and foraging available. Then another norm is that people live in communities and have trade (Carol Deppe discusses trade in her Resilient Gardener book).

The larger land area is also interesting to me because I've often wondered about having oxen. My parents have a twenty acre hayfield that could work with an oxen system. Say 2.5 acres of garden, 17.5 acres of pasture and hay with the garden moved ocassionally if needed and the oxen's winter manure used as fertilizer.

I like the smaller resource use of the Jeavons system.

The Irish potato/ milk system was pretty land efficient at least as far as vegetable crops goes. it's interesting that the Zapotec have potatoes and sweet potatoes but not as field vegetables. Buffalo Bird Woman talks about forced potato introduction to her culture by reservation agents. Carol Deppe adds potatoes to her system and eggs.




 
William Schlegel
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I am not an advocate of growing all of ones own food. I live in a community. I'm sure glad that Willa milks a goat, and that Amber raises eggs, and that Troy hunts deer, and that Jeremy fishes. and that Faye wildcrafts fruits and medicinals, and that Jim keeps bees, and that Chantel makes pickles, and that Julie grows celery, etc, etc, etc. I am delighted that they share that food with me.  I could go on and on naming the human beings in my village that are raising food, and improving my life because of it. I am very good at growing corn, beans, and squash. My neighbors are very good at producing different foods.



I think a better paradigm or a good way to revise this or start a new thread would be "What can I grow to increase the self sufficiency of my community" Not just limited to food, or staple crops, but really reimagining the ethnobotany of self sufficiency.
 
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Great thread William, thanks for starting it!

I think Mel Bartholomew lost me when he instructed readers to carefully think about whether they really NEED more than four broccoli plants!

And here I am wondering how to grow the 400 cabbages that we eat in a year . . .

I really like Carol Deppe's books.
 
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With such a tiny piece of land I would definitely be looking into farming insects and aquatic invertebrates. They can be fed on plants and other stuff that is not suitable as food for humans and convert it into high quality food. Less appealing insects like roaches and maggots can be used to feed quails or something similar to produce eggs and meat.

Aquaponics has lots of benefits, but also lots of potential problems. There are lots of things that can cause large scale failures, especially if not monitored everyday. You can create much more resilient systems that incorporate aquaculture.
 
William Schlegel
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Reading Will Bonsall's book. Just finished a bit about terracing. He has about 7/8 of an acre in terraces and then an upper garden that didn't need terracing.

He is a little hard to pin down on garden size, but I get the impression that he grows most all of his own and his family and interns food. Certainly sounds food self sufficient.

Edit: Found an interview he has roughly 1.5 acres in total that he gardens to grow his and his families own food.
 
William Schlegel
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http://members.efn.org/~itech/

Found a couple of the same opensource instructions in a book on gardening. At the bottom of the page there is a list of root system sizes for various crops. 5.5 feet lateral for tomato by 5 feet deep for the variety John Bauer. This was in 1927.





Here is a video on Hopi Dry Farming.
 
William Schlegel
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Corn is near the top of calories per acre, therefore, lets do some math...

Yield is about 1 Kg of dried corn per square meter. 3/4 Kg would provide me with the 2700 calories I need for a day. So I'd need 273 square meters to grow enough calories for myself for a year. (About 2900 square feet, or 0.07 acres). I can only grow one crop per year due to my climate. Other gardeners might could grow several crops per year of various species.



I'm a bit fascinated right now by the 7 high calorie root crops on the biointensive website. Here is my half baked plan. A single 50 x 100 foot silage tarp is 5000 square feet. Lay that out first of march. Move it 8 weeks later in May. Plant the area with something that produces alot of calories. Corn might work better than root crops for a late start (you know starting when I used to). Still easy way maybe to expand the garden to about the size needed for a calorie production experiment.  

I think I would do flour corns. I have lots of seed.
 
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