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From my experience it will take 2.5 acres/adult to get the needed daily calories (15,000 calories/week)

assuming good soil , climate , and adequate water ...  no importing of nutrients ..  minimal fossil fuel inputs

no animals (requires more land) ...  Plant based Native American diet  ....  no refrigeration

We did this for over 13 years
 
Tyler Ludens
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2.5 acres per adult seems like a lot of land. 

John Jeavons and others have worked out how to grow complete diets on even smaller plots of land, as small as 4000 square feet per person.

http://growbiointensive.org/

"How to Grow More Vegetables" by John Jeavons

"One Circle" by David Duhon

 
tel jetson
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I would be willing to bet it would take a lot more than 2.5 acres of tundra.  substantially less than 2.5 acres of subtropical estuary.  point being: diff'rent strokes for diff'rent climates, geographies, and soil conditions.
 
Tyler Ludens
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But that is "assuming good soil , climate , and adequate water"  seems like a lot......
 
                  
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John Jeavons and others have worked out how to grow complete diets on even smaller plots of land, as small as 4000 square feet per person.



This was a mathematical extrapolation of test beds , but was really never done.

Been to Jeavons place many times
 
Tyler Ludens
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Do you have more details about what you grew, how much land for each crop, etc?  I think it would be really useful and helpful.  Really as much info as you can share would be helpful.

Thanks.   
 
                    
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A person who is very active and consumes 2700 calories a day needs a million calories a year. That's a nice, round number that is convenient for many calcs.

Growing potatoes with standard ag practices, one can harvest on the order of 16 to 18 million calories (let's say 16 to be conservative).  So on a potatoes only diet, that would be be 1/16th of an acre (2700 square feet, 52' x 52'. Boring, not nutritionally complete, but compact.

Conventional corn yields around 12 million calories per acre - requiring 3630 sq feet, or about 60' x 60'. Still boring, still pretty compact.

The next question is, is conventional farming always the most productive? Is it always far more productive than low input?

Intercropping systems like the 3 sisters (corn, squash, beans) can provide calories per square foot on par or above monoculture corn (along with more protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and a better amino acid profile).

Using urine and possibly humanure, using compost from the home and possibly gathered elsewhere, one can make a significant contribution to soil fertility. Using deep rooted perennials, it is possible to harvest water and nutrients in the soil that shallow rooted annuals cannot access. By not plowing the soil, it is possible to foster a complex web of fungi, earthworms, and other organisms that enrich the soil over time.   

If we double or triple the 1/12th acre per person number to add variety (using lower yielding crops) and account for variation in year to year harvests, we up to 1/6 or 1/4 acre. Lets double the required space again since things always cost at least twice what they are calculated to cost. That is still 2 or 3 people supported by an acre.

Will every one be able to do this? No, some areas require more, some require less. Producing high yields is a skill that takes time to learn. Nature tends to impose randomness that reduce yields. It is good to have a buffer where possible.

There is also place-specific questions to ask. In my climate, olive and avocado can provide abundant, healthy calories in a permaculture fashion. In colder climates, various nut trees might fill the same niche (but might yield less since the growing season is shorter). Apples or citrus or other perennial fruit trees can provide a very good yield in a small space. These can be worked into a permaculture design.


Here's a fairly detailed energy budget for one low input organic farm that concluded they can feed 2.5 people per acre (and have room to improve):

http://www.localharvest.org/blog/15945/entry/calories_produced_per_acre
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thanks for those details, Jonathan. 

 
                    
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Here's a link to a companion planting / 3 sisters page that cites historical documents that show that Wampanoag Indians could support a family on an acre or less. I don't know how big their families were (6? 8? More?) and I am assuming that they supplemented this with fish and game, but that they got most of their calories from a fraction of an acre.

http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/complant.html
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think a lot depends on what plants you choose as your calorie crops.  If you choose potatoes, you don't need much land, but you will have to eat a lot of potatoes per day if they are to be your main source of calories.  If you choose wheat, you'll need a lot of land but you won't have to eat as much to get enough energy.  Personally, I will probably not try to grow much in the way of grains, because they take so much room and are difficult to harvest and process.  When I grew wheat, the squirrels ate it!    For my calorie crops I'll probably try to grow a lot of different kinds of tubers, but I will also be eating animal products (eggs and meat) so I won't have to eat as many pounds of tubers to get my calories.  Eventually I hope to have some nuts, but some of my nut plantings have been failures.  Almonds seem to be doing ok, but I know they are subject to late frosts so won't be dependable here in our little valley.

I'd be interested to see what the rest of you are growing as your staples or calorie crops. 

 
                  
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I had been in FFA through out high school ... Ag College ... working in ag ...teaching high school ag .. 

Garden Project ..  ROP Small Farm Methods ... writing graduate thesis on growing your food ....

Met another Gardener who had some land

Mediterranean Climate (N.Cal)

from Feeds and Feeding classes and raising animals I learned that in the Americas ...  Corn is God ...

Entropy is important to simplicity and sustainability.

each person needs to raise 365 corn plants per year for daily corn calories, eaten with local supplemental foods.

This is not corn as you normally might think.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Can you give us some more details of your garden/farm than just corn?  What are you growing besides corn?  Do you grow any oil-producing crops?

Thanks.

I was in FFA also! 
 
                  
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Dry Field Corn

Olives

Dry Beans ...  Squash

Seasonal Greens/Vegetables



Jmy

CSUF  School of Agriculture class of 67
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thanks!

I would be worried to grow such a small number of species, personally.    But it seems to have worked well for you for a long time. 

Not really "permaculture" though. 
 
                  
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Ludi wrote:
Thanks!

I would be worried to grow such a small number of species, personally.     But it seems to have worked well for you for a long time. 

Not really "permaculture" though.   


What would you be worried about ? ...... going hungry ?  ......Importing and Depending on others for your food ?

In addition to above ....  10 of the following trees/vines  per person

Almond ... Fig .... Apple ....Apricots ... grapes


Oldfarmer Jmy 
 
Tyler Ludens
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ok, thanks 
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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I thought I'd add this to the discussion!

Theoretical milk production per acre: Can raise four tons alfalfa per acre with irrigation in this climate (some land here will produce six tons, but we’ll be conservative).  One ton of alfalfa will feed one dairy goat for a year.  One fairly decent dairy goat should produce an average of a gallon of milk per day for 305 days, or a total of approximately 305 gallons of milk.  This equals 4880 cups of milk, at 150 calories per cup, or 732,000 calories per year.  This goat also needs some grain in addition to the alfalfa hay: on the assumed production, she’ll need approximately six hundred pounds of grain (this figure includes some grain for her kids that you raise, also).  The kind of grain can vary. 

Yields of grains per acre vary widely depending on location, so I’m going to try to pull some kind of an average here – this year’s average corn yields for the United States appear to be around 150 bushels per acre, so we’ll go with that (intensive gardening techniques should actually produce higher yields than extensive field cultivation).  A bushel of corn weighs 56 lbs.

Average yields for oats in favorable climates appear to be around sixty to seventy bushels most years, so we’ll go with 65 bushels.  A bushel of oats weighs 32 lbs. 

I feed my goats half oats and half corn (with a little sunflower seeds, but we’ll leave those out for calculation purposes).  So I would need about five and a half bushels of shelled corn (ground, because goats can’t eat whole corn).  I’d need about nine and a half bushels of oats. 

This translates to about .04 of an acre for corn and .15 of an acre of oats.  So we’ve got .25 acres of alfalfa, plus .04 acres of corn, and .15 acres of oats, for a total of .44 acres to grow all the feed for one dairy goat.  This leaves .66 acres to grow fruits, veggies, a few chickens.  Oh, and you can add three or four rabbits to this mix at almost no extra cost, because they’ll eat the coarse alfalfa stems that the goats leave, most of the weeds you pull from the garden, some of the parts of vegetables that you don’t want in the kitchen, and so on.  In addition, you’ll have corn stalks and oat straw to find a use for. 

If you have a good-sized potato patch and a vegetable garden, a few fruit trees (and a couple of nut trees if your climate is suitable), and some berry plants, you can have a very good diet for several people on an acre of land.  Here where I live you'd need some irrigation -- people in the humid parts of the country might fare better, but then again, alfalfa doesn't grow well in most of the humid parts of the country.  You'd have to raise a different legume for feed.

Kathleen
 
Ak Dave
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Hello

Ludi is right on. Get the catalog from Ecology Action. And get and read the two books. (Be sure you get the NEW edition of 'How to Grow…', it was published this year and has a lot of refinements.) Then, read 'Backyard Homestead Mini-Farm'. I saved a bundle by getting mine through Amazon.com.

If you are going to garden REALLY intensively; I suspect that four foot wide beds might be more productive than the five foot ones recommended. I don't have any trouble reaching 32", but I sure have trouble working at that distance. I also suspect that Jeavons' version of "double digging" (I have called it 'one and a half digging' is superior to what others call "double digging". It doesn't invert the soil strata.

'Common Ground' is close to my home, and I have taken classes from John Jeavons there. How I envy Ludi's visiting 'The Farm' at Willits. However the workshops there are toooo pricey for me. I Read.

 
Kay Bee
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We worked on our 3/4 of a acre in the southeastern US for the past nine years to improve the soil and establish fruit/berry/nut trees and bushes and garden beds for annuals.  We never made it to raising all the calories for our family (2 adults and 3 kids), but we calculated that we raised enough for two adults at ~2000 cal/day.  This was using about half of the property for growing human food. 

Most of it came from the nuts, fruits and berries.  As such it really wasn't that much work to keep it going once it was established (2-3 hours a week on average).  The annual veggies are what take the most work. 

We also kept bees and raised meat rabbits using the weeds and other crops that we raised for their food.  If we had not had to move, a couple chickens or ducks for eggs and fish in their own tank connected to the pond were in the plan.

Again, just my opinion, but I have no doubt about an acre being able to support a family if there are enough layers being utilized and a diverse enough ecosystem is developed.
 
Tyler Ludens
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AkDave wrote:
How I envy Ludi's visiting 'The Farm' at Willits.


I never did, that was jmy.

 
jacque greenleaf
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I just finished reading Carol Deppe's new book, "The Resilient Gardener", and she also talks about gardening from the standpoint of providing a total diet. She is gluten-intolerant. Her mainstay crops are potatoes, ducks, squash and pumpkins, beans, and grain corn. She talks a bit about amount of land needed, but talks a lot more about growing, varieties, processing, storing, and cooking.

Very thought-provoking read. AFter reading it once, I am going to let it percolate a bit, and read it again. I can see that with her methods and additional veggies, nuts and fruits for variety and flavor, a person could live very well. These are of course temperate zone crops, but she explains how she settled on the crops she uses, and her thinking process could be applied in different climates.

She reminds me of Steve Solomon, not so much in her methods, but in her thinking outside the box. Don't miss this one.

 
Kathleen Sanderson
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jacqueg wrote:
I just finished reading Carol Deppe's new book, "The Resilient Gardener", and she also talks about gardening from the standpoint of providing a total diet. She is gluten-intolerant. Her mainstay crops are potatoes, ducks, squash and pumpkins, beans, and grain corn. She talks a bit about amount of land needed, but talks a lot more about growing, varieties, processing, storing, and cooking.

Very thought-provoking read. AFter reading it once, I am going to let it percolate a bit, and read it again. I can see that with her methods and additional veggies, nuts and fruits for variety and flavor, a person could live very well. These are of course temperate zone crops, but she explains how she settled on the crops she uses, and her thinking process could be applied in different climates.

She reminds me of Steve Solomon, not so much in her methods, but in her thinking outside the box. Don't miss this one.




Thank you for telling us about this book -- I've got to get a copy!

Kathleen
 
                    
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:
Thank you for telling us about this book -- I've got to get a copy!

Kathleen


Carol Deppe's book is on my list - there was a very good review of it in the last issue of Permaculture Activist.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Based on numbers like calories per acre, I'm a huge fan of leeks. I'm trying a particular sort here this winter: elephant "garlic". I already cook with it, and the cloves I planted a while back seem to have sprouted just fine.

I also have had good experiences with fava beans in my climate.

If I wanted to live off a small plot of land near my current location, I would try to spend the summers growing sorghum, mung beans (and/or black-eyed peas, soybeans, black beans), and squash together, and also grow sunflowers, nightshade crops, amaranth, sesame, and chia. Winters would see more production, because there's near zero precipitation over summer and no hard frost here: potatoes, fava beans, quinoa, and alliums all seem appropriate for winter growth here. Olives and nut trees would also be important, in the long term.

If I were really trying to subsist on a fixed plot, I would also keep rabbits or, if enough neighbors could participate, milk goats, plus a few laying fowl. The bulk of food calories produced this way would ultimately come from inedible plants, via either the stomach flora of ruminant or pseudo-ruminant digestion, or via detritovore species, and I would try to choose a number of layers that could be supported by available garden/kitchen waste and other undesirable food sources. At the limit of low supply of food, two quail would help a lot, for what they would require.

I'm not sure field corn would work that well here. Looking at rainfall & temperature, and assuming no irrigation, it looks like the best time to plant it would be toward the end of February. Rumor has it, that would be a complete disaster.
 
Brenda Groth
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when you say complete diet it has different meanings for different people..at one time a few years ago I planned on planting grains and a lot of root vegetables..and then I discovered that I had problems with blood sugar and I went on a very low carb diet..this totally changed the things that I plant in my garden..removing things from my garden like grains, roots, corn, potatoes, carrots, etc..from my garden and planting much more in the way of nuts, fruits, vegetables and greens..

also I am not able to raise domesticated animals (but do have wild on the property)..but I would love to be able to work out a way to have chickens for eggs as we eat several dozen eggs a week now, and I would also like to have meat..but am thinking if I do it might have to be wild meat such as wild turkey, deer, rabbits and such..if I can convince someone here to do the hunting..if not I plan to work my pond up ito a larger fresher water pond and plant it to proteins..to make up for the protein that is lacking on our property.
 
Tyler Ludens
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These are issues I'm working with too, Brenda.  My diet has changed drastically in the past month - no carbs to speak of.  I chose the paleo diet partly because it seems like a diet I can raise myself - I don't think I could raise grains, I've only had limited success with corn (Tohono O'odham 60 day field corn).  Sorghum grows here but I've never eaten it....So I am looking at a diet with tubers and roots as staples but most calories will need to come from meat.  I can raise poultry - only chickens have been moderately successful for me so far, turkeys not so much.  We have a LOT of deer but because I have mental illness I don't think I should learn to use a firearm, and my husband is not interested in killing animals unless we really need to.  He is having a lot of trouble getting interested in even learning how to shoot accurately, he's just not into guns.  So I might have to buy and learn to use a compound bow.  That would be the most sustainable thing to do, because the deer are really a plague upon the land - there aren't enough mountain lions to keep them down, and there are exotic Asian deer also - Axis Deer - which I think need to be eaten by tigers or something. 

So anyway, lots to think about.....
 
                  
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It comes down to soil and photosynthesis.

You have to have enough of each

raising animals is not growing your food if your are importing feed

I really feel some folks are not considering  how much is needed , not that it matters , those who want to grow all their food will try

but to say it only takes 1 acre  ??      What was the daily diet made up of ??

I would say the laws of Physics ...  Entropy are against you

At least Oldfarmermac agrees with me.

http://www.theoildrum.com/user/oldfarmermac/stories_with_comments
 
Tyler Ludens
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Believe it or not, jmy, most of us have considered these questions a great deal, and looked at a lot of information and examples. 

Small animals could be raised on materials produced in the garden - chickens eat bugs and vegetable "waste," rabbits eat vegetables and "weeds."  Space-efficient staple tubers could be grown instead of grains, with a few fruits and vegetables for nutrients.  The difficult thing to grow I think are oils for cooking.  I'm not sure if one or two olive trees could produce enough.

 
jacque greenleaf
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"The difficult thing to grow I think are oils for cooking."

What about sunflowers? Anyone experimented with them?
 
                  
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Ludi wrote:
I'm not sure if one or two olive trees could produce enough.


for one year per adult .........

10 olive trees

365 corn plants 
,
800' row of beans,

400' row of squash ,

10 trees/vines    of    Almond,fig,apricot,apple,grapes

Seasonal vegetables
 
Kay Bee
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Can you give us some idea of what your yields were like for each of these crops?  What did you do with the crop residue for each?  Did you succession plant for any of the annuals?  This can make a huge difference in how much growing space is required.

Vertical space can help as well.  While one of our winter squash would easily take up several hundred square feet when planted on the ground, a seminole pumpkin planted in a couple square feet of rich soil near a fence would produce a hundred pounds of squash by using 20 feet of the fence.

Depending on where you were/are at in NC, it's a 12 month growing season.  We always had something coming in with the mild southeast winters.  Both for us and the animals.  Japanese honeysuckle turned out to be a great four-season feed for the rabbits.  It runs 9-15% usable protein for them.  Chickweed was always available from Nov-April for them, and runs up to 20% protein.  Both of these are considered "weeds" by most people.  don't get me started on bamboo. 
 
Tyler Ludens
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10 fruit trees per adult seems like a lot.  Are they dwarf or standard? 
 
Tyler Ludens
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Has anyone here read "A Survival Acre" by Linda Runyon?  She apparently was able to live for years on wild food collected on one acre in the Adirondacks.  I'm thinking of getting this book or more probably the next version "The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide."
 
                  
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Ludi wrote:
Has anyone here read "A Survival Acre" by Linda Runyon?  She apparently was able to live for years on wild food collected on one acre in the Adirondacks.  I'm thinking of getting this book or more probably the next version "The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide."


well lets just ask her ....

Hot Clover and Rice

1 cup milk or water
2 cups washed clover leaves
4 cups fluffy cooked rice

Add rice to a greased baking dish. Stir in clover and water (or milk). Stir again and serve hot. A protein delight. Serves 4.

Clover Sprout Muffins

3/4 cup partly cooked clover sprouts
1-1/4 cup whole wheat flour
5 teaspoons baking powder (optional)
1 tablespoon sugar (or honey)
1 cup milk or water
1 egg (optional)
2 tablespoons melted shortening (author uses water, no baking powder or egg, and sesame oil)

Stir flour, baking powder and honey together. Add milk or water and egg. Mix well. Add sprouts and melted shortening. Bake in a well-greased muffin tin at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Serves 3.


http://ofthefield.com/html/ongoing_information.html
 
Tyler Ludens
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Not sure how that's relevant, jmy. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Ludi wrote:Sorghum grows here but I've never eaten it.


I think I might've had some as breakfast cereal. I've read it makes really good pancakes, and good syrup. I'm fascinated by varieties bred to be inedible to humans or birds, for purposes of alcohol production. I think beer was a significant proportion of the diet of some of my ancestors.
 
travis laduke
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Don't make me thing about how much land my beer supply uses.
 
                    
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travis laduke wrote:
Don't make me thing about how much land my beer supply uses.


Yes, but it is source of calories, and is medicinal. Apple cider (the hard kind) was very important to the diet of colonial America - a pint a day or so can easily supply 10% of a person's caloric intake. Apples can produce as many or more calories per acre as corn, and cider stores pretty well, even if some calories are lost to the yeast during fermentation. The pomace left over from pressing cider can be fed to pigs to fatten them up; sugar calories are converted to essential fats.

Johnny Appleseed made his fame and fortune by starting apple orchards from seedlings, a practice that makes perfect sense to hard cider fans, but not to those who want dessert apples.

Here's a guy who calculates apples at up to 23 million calories per acre. Not sure about his figures for potatoes, I have seen much higher ... but if apples are anywhere close to corn, that seems to be significant.

http://www.localharvest.org/blog/15945/entry/calories_per_acre_with_apples

Ok, also, his figures for the per acre production are 6x more than for Wisconsin. Not sure if that is realistic or not.
 
Tyler Ludens
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The problem with calories in the form of apples and such is they are not what's called "kitchen efficient" - that is, you have to eat a large quantity of them to get your calories, compared to grain which is kitchen efficient, that is, a relatively small quantity contains a lot of calories.  Fatty animal products are of course even more calorie dense.  So it might make sense to grow kitchen-inefficient crops to feed to animals, and then eat the animals or their products (eggs, dairy), if one isn't a vegan. 

As Jonathan points out, alcoholic beverages are also a way of concentrating the calories from kitchen-inefficient crops, but I'm not sure it would be very healthy to get most of one's calories from alcohol.    Calories in the form of alcohol are also easy to store and protect from varmints.
 
Kay Bee
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One other thing to consider for high water fruits like apples and others that are good for juice/cider/perry/wine/etc is that when grown in large quantities, they provide a source of potable water that may become very important to the grower.  It's not hard to envision more and more water supplies becoming contaminated or dry up as climate change and pollution continue.

There was an excellent article in the Pomona (Nafex quarterly publication) several issues back that told the story of author's visit to a European village quite a few decades back where the main "water" supply for the village was provided by hard cider.  The whole village worked together at harvest time and the huge presses used draft horses to turn the cranks.  Imagining the size of the huge vats that they used to store a years worth of cider for the village was incredible.
 
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