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I Finally Read It

February 23, 2011

A friend loaned me her library copy of Carol Deppe’s latest book, The Resilient Gardener since my hold on a library copy seemed to be taking forever.  A lot of people left comments on the blog suggesting I should read this book, ( most likely since I recommend her book, Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties for getting your feet wet saving seeds.)  A very heady  book I might say for beginning gardeners, but it was very good.  I don’t think I will buy it, but I enjoyed reading it.  Since our farm is located in Oregon the same as Carol’s extensive gardens are, I was curious about her big 5 things to grow in the coming years of unrest and resource depletion.  I wanted to see how much her ideas echoed our thoughts on our farm and what the future holds for us here as far as feeding ourselves.  I found similarities and differences.  On our farm we also consider potatoes and winter squash at the top of our staple food stores for winter, growing  about 500 pounds of each to take us through the winter, both  are high calorie foods grown in a relatively small area of our garden.  Where we differed though were the other two sisters, corn and beans.  In my area, and much of Western Oregon they are marginal crops that require a lot of attention to get a harvestable crop reliably.  Carol happens to live in the middle of the Willamette Valley, which is nestled between two mountain ranges and is the terminus of the Oregon Trail.  Many people came here in the mid 1800’s to farm that valley, and they were successful.  The valley floor is warmer and drier because of its geography.  My cousins farm in the central valley, the difference in their growing conditions and ours are remarkable.  Heat units are everything to a warm weather crop and if you don’t have them, you spend all your growing season cheering on those crops that need them, hoping for a win.

Another difference was her choice of ducks for eggs.  Ducks have a longer egg producing season, and are excellent at eating slugs which are a huge problem in the Pacific Northwest due to our moist conditions.  We keep chickens for eggs and while I enjoy my chicken eggs, poultry of any kind would be the first livestock to go at our house, if times got tougher.  Due to housing and feeding requirements, poultry would be off of our list because they consume grain, another hard to grow crop in my area.  Ideally I could grow enough grain to sustain chickens, and in a best case scenario they could free range and scavenge for all their diet.  But keeping them safe enough to do that would be hard in my area.   But the premise of the book is not feeding yourself during an ideal time, it is feeding yourself during times of strife.    All that being said I would still recommend that people read this book, it is very good.  Everyone writes from their own experience, as they should, but each and every food provider has to find out what is best for their area.  Whether is be crops and/or animals.

For us, this book and Steve Solomon’s Gardening When it Counts, Growing Food in Hard Times are reminders to stay on the path we began in earnest in the early 90’s when the hubbub du jour was Y2K.  Things have been on a steady decline since then.  We have for the most part stuck with changes we made in our lifestyle at that time.  We have water,  and heat and can grow and store enough food using dry land techniques to get us through until the next growing season.  But we have luxuries too, right now I have some contraband in my pantry, namely – olive oil, coconut oil and some white flour and sugar, freezer luxuries include chicken and pork.  In the barn pantry I have Icelandic kelp, milk replacer, some expensive minerals and a couple of bags of grain.  If times were tough – all that would go.  And we would have to stick to our master plan and hope our hard work would see us through.

I can’t narrow our list down to 5 unless I lump some things into a category, but here goes:

1)  Milk cow – provides milk, butter, cheese,  beef, tallow, leather and fertilizer enough for a large garden, and possibly could work as a draught animal if necessary.  I can grow all a cow needs right here to thrive.  A cow is less predator prone than smaller dairy animals and worth the risk of guarding compared to a small flock of poultry.  Second choice for me would be a dairy sheep.  Goats would be a good choice if your farmstead lends itself to more woody type plants than pasture.  Breeding of course would be a sticking point for many, and speaks volumes for forming community.  Not everyone is comfortable having a bull or ram in their backyard but cultivating friendships with people who do would be a worthwhile cause.

2)  Winter squash – specifically for me it would be  the Sweet Meat that I have grown for decades.  Winter squash is easily stored for months without processing and is high in vitamins.

3) Potatoes – again a staple that is easily grown and stored until needed.

4) Root crops – carrots, parsnips, beets, celeriac and rutabagas.  I counting root crops as one item because in my garden these all fit the bill of being crops that don’t take a lot of fertility, making them invaluable in a crop rotation, and they are easy to store, and are a staple in the milk cows diet during the winter months.  Plus I think if the ne’er-do- wells show up at your doorstep demanding food, they will want corn, not rutabagas. 😉

5)  Hardy greens – kale, chicory, plantain, mache and possibly chard.  All easy to grow, again crops that don’t require much more than medium fertility, and many can survive winters with a minimum of cover depending on your area.  Not to mention there are many hardy greens that can be foraged.

6)  Potato onions, and garlic to season all that food we’re growing.

7)  Cereal rye mainly for the massive amounts of carbon it produces in the form of straw and because it would be the one grain that grows here without fail and makes a great sourdough if  I were to admit I am nothing, if not a good German who loves dark rye bread.  Oats would be second, but don’t put out near the biomass that rye does.

It’s hard to narrow it down to just 5 for us, we would be scaling back, whereas if you’re just starting you would be needing to scale up.  And for that reason alone I think Carol’s book is a worthwhile read because it makes you think about your own situation and what you may need to do for your future as far as providing your own food and possibly food for others.

What are your 5  – 10  reliable things you would grow/are growing for resiliency?   I think regional differences and community will be telling here.  Results may vary…

49 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2011 12:56 pm

    We live a short drive from Carol’s place, know her and got one of our duck flocks from her. And we have a copy of the book.

    Corn does okay at our place but not every year. Beans do okay at our place but not every year. Winter squash does okay at our place but not every year. In fact, last summer, our worst year here in the 35 we’ve gardened in these parts, all three failed, or close to it.

    The potatoes, however, came through. As did the kale, collards and chard, though nobody made seed. We do like having chickens around, but Carol definitely has a point about ducks for where we are. There are several useful varieties and her recommendation of Anconas is proving out; a) they go broody and b) they forage so well that in a grainless emergency they just might pull through.

    As for a cow, well, we’re on one acre. But we could go to goats, maybe; we’ve raised bummer lambs.

    • February 23, 2011 5:35 pm

      Risa, last year was one for the record for sure, I didn’t even plant my corn or dry beans, it would have been a waste of my seed. Green beans did OK, but not enough to can – luckily with OCD (obsessive canning disorder) I have green beans still from the previous year.

      I think the ducks would be great for small acreages, a world renowned horticulturist lived near here on one acre, he grew up on an English estate and was a master gardener (not the academic kind.) He and his wife passed away many years ago, but they were practicing permaculture before Mollison came along and they had ducks for eggs and pest control and the most amazing garden. With ducks they were ensured an egg a day and I don’t believe they supplemented their ducks with anything except maybe some occasional scraps. However their fence was a fortress to keep deer and duck predators out and ducks in. But it worked wonderfully.

      As for the cow thing, that’s just me 🙂

      • February 25, 2011 8:16 pm

        Yes, we went with the fortress fence thingy. There is an outer deer/coyote fence and an inner poultry fence; poultry can be shut out of the garden, in which case they are patrolling the orchard instead. So far so good!

  2. February 23, 2011 1:05 pm

    I’m glad you read it because I thought it was a great book too, but it doesn’t surprise me in the least that you wouldn’t buy it because you don’t need it; you know what you’re doing. Would you consider keeping ducks though? Because they do forage for themselves, so feeding them would be less problematic.

    I was interested to read what you had to say about cereal rye, though. I would like to grow grains, but my soil is the same clay crap that everyone else has. I’ve given up on corn until I can get my soil in shape, and have wondered about wheat but I’m still concerned about fertility. I’ve read that cereal rye has incredibly long roots and is great for breaking up clay soil, but I’m curious whether it needs a great deal of fertility to make grain and not lodge. What do you think, and where do you get your rye seed?

    • February 23, 2011 5:44 pm

      Paula, is your soil clay because of fill from house construction? I would hope you might have some good soils in your area. Rye is easy to grow and will make grain, too much fertility of the wrong kind can make it lodge, but that’s hard to do unless you’re pouring on the 16-16-16, which I doubt you would do. Any feedstore should carry cover crop rye, although they may not carry it until late summer at the traditional planting time.

      I think poultry of any kind would be out for me, just due to predator issues. I already have to lock up my chickens to keep them alive – if I didn’t I would be shepherding them while they ranged. My thinking (which may seem silly to some) is that I could shepherd a cow for the same amount of time per day and gain a lot more than eggs. But I have the space and feed capacity for a cow.

  3. February 23, 2011 1:10 pm

    I would have to sit down and really think about it, but the first two things that come to mind are cows and peppers!

    By the way, I found your blog looking for some info on sweet meats before I bought seeds 🙂 I should have been a little quicker about it because by the time I placed my order the company I bought from was already sold out! I guess they are as good as you say!

    • February 23, 2011 5:49 pm

      Jenna, lots of places carry them now, which didn’t use to be the case. Even with a shipping and handling fee you couldn’t go wrong if you have the conditions and space to grow them. My yield from two dozen plants (36 seeds) is right around 500 pounds. Azure Standard is selling it for $3.93 per pound, so that makes my squash stash worth about 2K.

      I almost put peppers on the list, because we sure eat a lot of them, but more in the condiment category and not possible here without a hoophouse. 🙂

  4. February 23, 2011 2:11 pm

    Great, MORE books for me to fit into my spring reading schedule. I don’t have to schedule reading time in the winter, but now… 15 minutes is a luxuary (the kids get 30 but I have school work to catch up on while they do their reading.) I’ll think about my list and either comment again or write a post (like I can find time for that…)

    • February 23, 2011 5:51 pm

      Alan, I hear you, we’ve had good weather off and on and the minute we have a good day, there are too many projects that need attention outside, and then I’m too tired to read much 😦

      If you post, link back here – it should be good!

  5. February 23, 2011 3:52 pm

    I live in western Massachusetts at elevation, supposedly zone 5 but perennials hardy to that zone don’t make it through the winter. We grow all of our fruit and veg though we buy most of our seed, and are still working on growing grain. Here is my list:

    1. flint corn. This grows well for us nearly every year, and the seeds keep for many years so a single year of failed crop isn’t a problem. The strain is an old New England, short-season variety sometimes known as Abenaki Calais.
    2. Potatoes. They grow well (or well enough) every year, and are a major staple in our diet.
    3. chard is my most reliable and bug-free green. I have had a few plants overwinter & set seed, so with some shelter might continue from one year to the next.
    4. Peas and beans are easy to save seed for, grow well here most years, and produce both abundant fresh food and dry food for winter. They are also a source of protein, albeit a small one.
    5. Garlic and shallots are easy to keep going one year to the next, and I can’t imagine life without them!
    6. We easily keep sheep on our property, so meat would be an option. If neighbors did not have milk cows, we would consider a small milking sheep or multipurpose breed – our pasture is too poor to support a cow & the hay she would need.
    7. seems to me you need fruit on this list, and since all our fruit is perennial and well established we would continue to enjoy them. That would be lumping raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, cherries, peaches, plums, apples. I also have a tomato (Matt’s wild cherry) that self seeds every year and is invariably the first tomato we enjoy. We dried them in the wood-fired oven last summer and have been enjoying them all winter.

    Somehow I couldn’t keep this down to 5 options either. This was a useful exercise for me to take stock of what we could continue to grow without seed catalogs. I agree that chickens are a luxury but I do enjoy eggs while we have them.

    I discovered your blog recently and really enjoy it. Thanks! Jen

    • February 23, 2011 5:59 pm

      Jen, good list! I didn’t include fruit just because I wanted to stick to Carol’s list as much as possible. I grow the Abenaki Flint too. Although I didn’t commit any seed last year to planting, it was too wet. I posted about our 2009 harvest here:

      For fruit I would have to add raspberries, blueberries, prunes, apples and pears which are our established fruit and feral blackberries grow here like kudzu and are easy to gather. I forgot to add on my contraband list are some California navel oranges. We buy a box for winter when they go on sale, and boy are they ever good!

      With rotational grazing I have cut our hay feeding time in half from 6 months to 3, so I think I could physically put up enough hay by hand to get a cow and calf through winter. Maybe.

  6. February 23, 2011 4:44 pm

    I will have to look for this book. This post makes me really think. Something to REALLY think about.

    • February 23, 2011 6:00 pm

      Buttons, it’s definitely worth a look and with the price of fuel going up, things are kind of teetering on the fence so to speak.

  7. February 23, 2011 5:04 pm

    I’d be up the proverbial creek if this was a reality anytime soon. I’m not used to thinking entirely along the lines of self sustenance but of profitability and efficiency.

    Maybe you assume to forage for berries & fruit, but they do seem to be lacking from the list.

    This is really interesting food for thought. I’m sure I’ll be looking at my routine in a new way tomorrow….

    • February 23, 2011 6:08 pm

      AMF, it doesn’t hurt to have a contingency plan for adapting what you’re doing now to be able to weather possible breaks in the supply chain. Fuel prices are a biggie in any kind of farming. It’s easier and cheaper to produce some products at home than it is to earn the money to buy the same products from the store.

      As for fruit, I left it out because the book didn’t take that into account in the 5 crops scenario. We grow quite a bit of fruit, and forage for some. But I was trying to stick to her list as much as possible.

      • February 24, 2011 3:31 am

        I do think often about training some of these cows and/or switching to using a team of horses. I’ll have to check this book out – very interesting food for thought. I waffle between finding survivalism an interesting personal challenge to a horror of hoping I never HAVE to find out.

        • February 24, 2011 6:11 am

          AMF, I’m not sure if reading this book we’re talking about would help you make changes or not – there are better ones out there that are not just about gardening and cooking the resulting food. One thing about her book is that since she is a celiac she shows how you can get by growing food, instead of just buying in highly processed nut flours and meals that come from faraway lands.

          I can’t say a team is the answer, keeping horses is a challenge in itself. Cows are much easier, and in reality, you may not need draft animals at all. Keeping a team busy is hard work and they eat all the time whether they are working or not. Small Farmers Journal is a good periodical to deal with all these issues. You should just try to recession proof your operation, ask yourself, where does your feed and minerals come from? How much fuel does it take to get your hay?

          I agree I hope we never have to find out either.

  8. February 23, 2011 7:13 pm

    I added this book to my list. You’ve given me alot to think about!

  9. February 23, 2011 7:29 pm

    I think her list of five is the minimum for surviving, and you have to keep in mind that she’s celiac, so wheat is off her list, as is rye.

    She also grows on a couple of acres that she leases; that would take some sort of transportation, both in terms of getting to the fields, and getting the produce home.

    But I think that everyone should be thinking along these lines. I keep saying hard times are coming and people have said to me, you mean they aren’t already here? referring to the recession of course. I think that they are going to get harder. A lot harder. The spreading unrest in the middle east isn’t going to stop soon, and oil will go up and up, and the price of everything dependent on it will too. Markets are already feeling the pressure all around the world; when stock markets plummet, money dries up, companies lay off, and people are without jobs. That’s on top of current unemployment. The only way around this is to make sure that you’re covered for the basics that would make things very difficult if you could no longer buy them.

    Folks with acreage are in the best shape- I wish I had some. As it is, I only have a quarter acre, but I’m turning over as much of it to food production as I can. Right now, I’m learning how to feed myself and my husband from the yard. I still have a long way to go. I’m also thinking in terms of how much feed can I raise right here so I don’t have to depend on buying it? Can I keep rabbits on the grass I grow? I don’t know, but I’m going to try.

    I really think that what’s important is not so much the big five; it would be different for everyone. What’s important (at least the really important things I gleaned from Deppe’s book) are diversity (so that you have other things to fall back on if something fails) and early varieties (so that you have time to replant, or succession plant, or in some cases, grow something to maturity in the space of your growing season). I also think that for a lot of people, animals that serve several purposes are going to be key. I understand your reasons for keeping a cow Nita; you’ve obviously thought about this. I’m still trying to figure out how to get fats out of a quarter acre. Can I grow olives in Oregon? If I keep ducks, can I keep them fed? Can I produce enough of them to produce the cooking fat I need?

    There’s a lot to think about. I think it’s easier the more room you have. I sure wish I had more.

    • February 24, 2011 6:00 am

      Paula, I think fat is the component that a lot of people don’t even consider in our fat-phobic society. What people don’t realize that a life lived by hand takes some calories and nutrient dense food. There is a common misconception that we are just going back to Grandpa’s day and they survived, so we will too. But Gpa wasn’t missing modern conveniences since many had not been invented yet, so life was hard but was not necessarily a hardship, and a big factor in their lives were the community ties. Modern day society lets us be unconnected. If I “talk” with like minded people on the internet I am not forced to go out and find some common ground with my neighbors.

      One thing that did bug me about the book was the reliance on microwaving, (I thought she followed the Weston Price stuff) and the importing butter from Ireland when they had a Dexter cow and live in an area where grass grows like crazy or can, if treated right. Many people I know would give their eyeteeth to be able to have a cow, it just didn’t make sense to have a cow that you milked and not make butter if you’re worried about peak oil and water. That is contradictory, IMO. I’m in the process of writing a post about having a milk cow and making sure you get healthy food from it.

      More on fat, yes you can grow olives – check out One Green World in Molalla, but the reality is that getting oil out of what you could grow would be a trial, and I don’t know how many ducks you could raise and harvest continously for eggs, meat and fat. Rabbits too are very lean and hard to keep in a natural type setting. Alfalfa is mostly GMO or will be possibly plus there again that’s a foodstuff that has to be propped up with heavy fertilization, irrigation and then processing and shipping. It does not grow well here on the west side. Your best bet is to align with someone near you that has more room and doesn’t necessarily have the skill set you do. I would happily grow food for my friends who would rather can for me – I am more comfortable outside working than chained to a stove. Or I would rather milk a cow and put up hay by hand than I would make meals, people need to find out what they are good at and mesh with others that bring other skills to the table.

      It’s a conundrum for sure, and it’s tough to be prepared for something that may or may not happen.

      • February 25, 2011 3:02 am

        Really good points about learning to form a community. Fortunately and unfortunately, we each have different skills and interests. Chores I hate, someone else loves and is good at so sharing and working together is key.

        What about pigs for fat? Don’t they thrive on our scraps and forage? Your climate is clearly different from mine, but we have plenty of acorns and such that they can root up themselves and won’t those root veggies feed pigs if you can’t grow grains?

        I have to laugh at how that Irish butter keeps popping up…..

        • February 25, 2011 5:29 am

          AMF, Yeah pigs can forage for a lot in theory, but there again you have an animal wandering for its food, and in 6 – 8 months you eat the pig and then you have to start again, that is if you can find someone who has young pigs to sell or trade. The other option is to keep a breeding pair and here we go again, feeding a breeding pair year around. Butter has been the easiest fat for us on our farm to “grow.” I freeze mine now, because it is convenient, but ghee is a long term – no energy, storage option.

          One thing I didn’t really mention here is that when you take into consideration the predator situation, animals that have to range into forested settings for their food they are more at risk, because the large predators (cougars in my case) prefer the cover, they are less likely to go out into the middle of grassy field to get their meal, they will, but it’s against their nature. Which in my case, makes a grazing animal easier to protect, either with a human or a LGD.

  10. February 24, 2011 6:05 am

    I’m wondering how you do harvesting the rye. We did a small patch of soft wheat a couple of years ago. Knowing when to harvest so that it can be hulled efficiently was tough. I’m hoping to try some dent corn this year as it was a staple here in the Southern Appalachians until about 50 years ago.

    • February 24, 2011 6:31 am

      Kristin, we never have harvested it for food, and I don’t know that I would actually, because we already are not eating bread. Most likely we would just be harvesting the seed for future planting instead of food for us – it’s much easier to grow, harvest and store vegetables for us. Here is a blog dealing with grain production on small acreages, the posts are informative as are the comments.

      The flint corn does well here, and I am concentrating on keeping the 8 row strain going since it more cold hardy. Here is a comment from a corn grower in Oregon, pretty interesting.

      The northern 8-row flints are grown in northern Italy, where they go by the name “otto file,” as well as in the northeastern US. The Italians also grow popcorn types, called pignoletto or variations of the word, but they grind them for polenta. The grain has a higher density, 65 lb per bushel versus the 56 lb per bushel for dent corn. The 8-row flints run about 63 lb per bushel. The pignoletto ears look like pinecones, and the kernels like pine nuts, hence the name. Amish Butter is not only a good popcorn, it also produces a very good white cornmeal. The pignolettos have a yellow endosperm, producing yellow cornmeal.

      In the foothills of the Alps, you can often predict the altitude where the maize was grown by the kernel color. I met a farmer who grew a dark red pignoletto at about 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) in the alpine region between France and Italy. It had small conical ears and very small kernels. The high anthocyanin content probably wards off fungal attack in cold soil; sweet corn breeders have seen a similar effect with red kernels. Lower down the valleys, there is a transition to orange, then yellow.

      Last winter, I tossed some culled flint kernels on the compost, and they germinated in 50-degree weather. The frost got them, but it still amazed me. This never happens with the dents; they turn moldy in short order. Kernels of the white Seneca Flint, as well as Roy’s Calais, probably in mouse caches, have over-wintered, germinated and grown in our field.

      Regarding germination, our staff suggested that we keep the kernels on the ear until we are ready to plant. Apparently, adherence to the cob protects the seed’s viability. We started following this practice last year. The seed emerged very quickly.

  11. February 24, 2011 6:36 am

    I’m glad you had a chance to read her book. Corn and beans would not be in my top 5 either and while I might switch out celery for celeriac and swap turnips for ruatabaga everything else you listed , minus the cow and rye, would be the same for us.

    Oh, and sunchokes to share with the hungry masses that might come calling.:):)

    • February 24, 2011 7:39 am

      Mike, it was a good read and I was glad for all the recommendations – I’ll probably end up getting it later when the price comes down. Our root crops really shine in the winter, I hope more people give them a go. Celeriac has really filled the bill here more than I would have thought the first year I grew it. It’s a pretty multi-purpose now, greens, roots and seeds. Are you bothered by root maggots in your location? I’m working on weaning myself off of row covers – so rutabagas and kohlrabi weather those pests better than turnips.

    • February 25, 2011 8:27 pm

      Yes, we have a permanent sunchoke patch and it’s nearest the road 😉 The way our soil adheres to the tubers, though, I’ve considered getting a washing machine for the harvest!

  12. kris permalink
    February 24, 2011 8:28 am

    sounds like a plan, but I’m not getting how it would be easier to keep a cow safe than a duck or chicken? a duck could be brought in the house if you where worried someone would eat it or take it, how could you do that with cow?

    • February 24, 2011 9:38 am

      kris, I guess for us it comes down to value and predator issues. A cow is worth more for all the products they could provide besides food and fertilizer, you could make candles, soap and clothing from the by-products, making keeping a cow safe in a family’s best interest. Whereas a fowl flock would just be providing needed food but not near as much. A cow is a little harder to pack off than a duck, and has a few less predators that would bother it. If you’re in a worst case scenario, it would be the same, you could carry off a duck or chicken in your shirt, a cow might be a little harder to steal. Although you could argue a cow might be more prone to being stolen because of the value, so hopefully it’s not something I ever have to find out!

    • February 24, 2011 10:25 am

      chickens and ducks are more susceptible to smaller predators such as foxes, weasels, raccoons, possums and hawks. chickens and ducks wander off, and chickens roost in trees at night making them easy prey. it’s easy to lose track of a chicken or duck because they are smaller and harder to watch.

      it is easier to keep larger livestock safe with good fencing and a few guns and/or traps to catch the errant coyote that may prey on them. also, cows are easier to spot and don’t tend to wander off into oblivion or squeeze through tiny holes in the fences.

      just my 2 cents…we raise chickens, turkeys, goats and sheep. we’ve lost no goats/sheep to predators and all of our turkeys to foxes plus about 50-100 chickens to foxes, weasels, owls, hawks, raccoons, etc.

  13. February 24, 2011 8:39 am

    If I plant my turnips (mostly Purple Top) in the very late summer, end of August or early September depending upon the weather, for a very late fall harvest I am able to avoid the root maggots that plague them and our rutabagas. Unfortunately, rutabagas grow much slower so we have to share them with the worms and thus don’t grow too many. Although I did add ash around the rutabagas this year and was actually able to grow enough that were maggot free to make it worth the effort. We use little squares of weed barrier protection to keep the maggots away from our broccoli, cabbage, and kohlrabi plants but it is not feasable for us to try this with the much more numerous turnips, rutabagas, or even radishes.

    I also had luck with the Gold Ball turnips this year and actually pulled a couple nice ones that I had left to grow out from under one of our row covers just last week…it always amazes me that turnips will continue to grow during the winter as long as I provide them with some protection. You should see our row covers…full of mouse traps this year, the voles are very hungry but I have been able to keep them in check, mostly, and our new dog is quite the expert at eliminating them from the field around our gardens…his favorite pastime. We also tried Gilfeather turnips last fall but they were too darn slow to put out a sizeable root.

    • February 24, 2011 9:32 am

      That’s interesting about the maggots, here if I plant rutabagas on the solstice I can ensure a maggot free crop, I might find an occasional tunnel in the skin, but I have never had any success with any kind of turnip without maggots even planting in late August. Rutabagas just seem to be trouble-free for me in my location, but I love turnips too. 🙂

  14. February 24, 2011 8:55 am

    Has anyone read Small Scale Grain Raising, by Gene Logsdon?

    My list would not be that different than Carol’s (I’ll just have to grow more of everything than I usually do) – perhaps I’ll try lentils this year and flint corn. A difficulty for me would be dog food.
    Plus I noticed fruit but no sweeteners in your lists.

    • February 24, 2011 9:29 am

      ej, yeah that’s a good book, I have the older version and he has now revised it. For us, grain just doesn’t make much sense, because we are relying on ruminants that don’t require grain and my DH is gluten sensitive. We can produce more calories just harvesting grass through a ruminant than we could if we broke the soil.

      We don’t use much in the way of sweeteners – unless we are eating something we aren’t supposed to 😦 Definitely sweets are a want, not a need item in our household. Although others feel differently. Alcohol is missing too…

  15. February 24, 2011 10:32 am

    that would be hard to just choose 5, especially since i grow herbs unless i could lump THAT into 1 category! 😉

    1. goats and sheep for meat, milk, leather, wool, fertilizer, etc….think small scale cow w/o all the yummy cream. we would have to take over the farmer’s land next door to us to convert to more pasture but i don’t think he’d be able to farm it anymore anyway if something drastic happened so that opens up at least another 40 acres at our disposal (unless the bar next door were to claim it which i don’t see happening….more likely WE’d be claiming the bar’s liquor, heh!)

    2. chickens for eggs, meat and fertilizer.

    3. oats and wheat – grains for flour and feed for animals, straw for bedding; wheat grown in fall/winter, oats grown in spring/summer

    4. bees for honey, pollination of plants

    5. herbs for food and medicine – complete vitamin and minerals at our disposal in just a few such as burdock, dandelion, chicory and nettles, all which grow abundantly in our yard and garden

    6. blackberries, apples, cherries, wild cherries, peaches, plums – in our orchard

    7. probably butternut squash or acorn squash

    having the advantage of knowing lots of wild foods is helpful too…and my kids are big into wild foraging for food so we learn more each year.

    what scares me the most is the subdivision on the one side of us….i don’t think we could ever have enough man or fire power to fight them off if things got ugly…

    • February 24, 2011 12:21 pm

      Kristine, I’m jealous of your herbs! We wildcraft a fair amount, mostly mushrooms and some greens, but our area is so picked over being so close to Portland that if the competition picked up any what’s there wouldn’t last too long. I don’t want to think of things getting ugly but it’s not inconceivable, unemployment is high, gas is inching towards $4 a gallon now, and food prices are climbing. 😦

  16. Teri Pittman permalink
    February 24, 2011 10:45 am

    I prefer Solomon’s book, having read them both. I was really surprised she didn’t include kale or cabbage as a necessity. Where does she plan to get her vitamin C? Potatoes and kale are supposed to provide a complete protein, in the same way that corn and beans do. And I prefer chickens, although I really loved raising geese.

    As for rabbits, I used to cut grass for mine, using a sickle. It’s easy to do and they do pretty well on it. Backwoods Home had some articles on raising rabbits in Eastern Europe that were interesting. They do colonies, keeping the bucks separate. And they cut grass and weeds from vacant lots for feed. You would run the risk of them escaping and taking over the neighborhood, which I have seen happen, with caged rabbits.

    My big five list are pole beans, collards, winter squash, potatoes and tomatoes. I just can’t imagine life without tomatoes 🙂

    • February 24, 2011 12:28 pm

      Teri, I prefer Solomon’s book too, and he goes into survivalist type amendments too. We eat lots brassicas and they overwinter here without much fuss – but the taste does turn off some people. Just like rutabagas, the peasant connotation is a little hard to take for some.

      I used to raise rabbits and loved the manure for the garden, I wonder how hard would a person have to look for breeding stock that would handle home grown forage as opposed to the rabbit chow diet that is so prevalent?

      I’m wondering about walnuts for oil too – both walnuts and filberts grow well here.

  17. Teri Pittman permalink
    February 24, 2011 10:52 am

    Forgot to mention, sunflowers are easy to grow and it’s not hard to get oil from them. See this article: Also I’ve gotten oil from running filberts through a hand cranked grinder. Might be something else to consider in the right climate.

  18. February 24, 2011 2:52 pm

    Both books you mentioned are on my bucket list. I know I wouldn’t be without squash and spuds either…..I haven’t thought of the eight other things.

    • February 24, 2011 6:58 pm

      Linda, I like thinking of my quilt bucket list instead of my reading list 🙂 Yeah, I would be up a “crick” without spuds and squash. 🙂

  19. Tami permalink
    February 24, 2011 4:57 pm

    I have Solomon’s book in my Amazon wish cart…not just list, the cart:) I also had Ashworth’s “Seed to Seed” in there til I was looking on my bookshelf and saw I already had it…how bad is that??? In my defense I guess I “borrowed” it since my MIL’s name is in the front! So that’s now in my “to read” pile. Things we could survive on here and that I know I could grow besides creeping jenny are: tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes!! Peppers (green) do okay, but are pretty susceptible to disease here, but I can grow jalapenos! Not sure what kind of life that would be…:) Melons do good, but are hard to keep. Sheep seem to thrive and goats…

    • February 24, 2011 6:57 pm

      Tami, OK now I can add your tomato prowess to Tansy’s herb prowess – I am really jealous 😀

      I saw a joke the other day…”right now I am having amnesia and deja vu, I think I have forgotten this before…” That’s me!!

  20. February 24, 2011 8:02 pm

    I just put both books you recommended (the first one and the Steve Solomon one) on hold at the library. I was shocked to see that there is no wait for them, other than transfer between libraries!

    My go-to crops, based on what actually works here in our climate are some that you also mentioned – carrots/turnips/beets/etc. because we get a lot of hail here and they weather it better since they are below ground. Same with potatoes, which do fabulously here. If we have a low hail year, pumpkins do grow really well, as do winter squashes. I am able to raise more than enough for us, so I supplement our hens with the extras.

    Green beans grow really, really well here, and I have dill-gone-wild, and I love green beans plain, fresh, raw, steamed, and I really enjoy my dilly beans in the winter, so even though they don’t provide heaps of calories, I’d grow them because it’s about like falling off a log. I get some dry beans from them at the end of season too.

    We grow a lot of other things too, some are hit and miss, but we always seem to have plenty of something.

    We keep some chickens, but with rising costs for grain and too short a season to grow the standard grains, I’m not sure how long they’d be here in a crisis. I’d like to try goats, but the rest of the family is not exactly on board just yet. Plus, I was raising rabbits and my Hubby developed allergies – so I’m uncertain about the goats for the same reason.

    I would like to add Honeybees back to our little place as well.

    -Laura at TenThingsFarm

  21. February 25, 2011 4:38 am

    I tried to order this book through our regional system, but there’s not a copy in the system. 😦 So I ordered Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties instead.

    Here we can store potatoes, but I can’t eat them, as they are nightshades and pain causers, as are peppers, eggplants and tomatoes. But I grow them for DH.

    I wish I had the land for grains, but even if I did, we would not have the ability to harvest, given our physical limitations.

    I am trying the squash this year. I’ve already incorporated the brassicas and chard.

    We already have the cows, strictly grass fed, but would have problems with winter feeding if push came to shove. Our winter season extends from November to May 1. As we usually have deep cold, garden storage is not possible.

    We have chickens and it’s been in the fore of my mind about their need for grains. We’ve not lost any to predators, but rely on electric fencing. We might be able to get by without it; it would depend on the predator pressure. Right now wild pressure is quite high, but if push came to shove, it might be of a different kind.

    Our hope would be to work with neighbors. One neighbor has Fjord horses, capable of harness work. We could barter meat for labor. Another has fruit trees. Others have land than could be turned to pasture, some of which we lease, close enough to us to be practical.

    After having read Alas Babylon decades ago, many of the ideas presented have been percolating in our minds, along with what to do about them.

    Slowly we are working our way to self sufficiency, to the extent we are able.

    • February 25, 2011 5:35 am

      Pam, the nightshade family gives my husband fits too, so I am able to grow less on that front. Definitely hay making would be an issue, we feed for three months, I would not physically be able to make enough hay for more than a pair. Both hubby and I have been in serious car accidents when we were younger, and those old injuries keep us a curtailed a little… . We’ll never be self-sufficient in this day and age without lots of changes. Sounds like you’re on your way though 🙂

  22. MsBetterhomes permalink
    February 25, 2011 3:23 pm

    Thanks for a really interesting post. I live in Australia, in a totally different climate, but I found Deppe’s book very thought-provoking & useful, too.

    I have a question re storage of fats: do you think it’s essential to have large volumes of oil/lard etc on hand in order to have sufficient fats in the diet? It strikes me that grinding nuts, seeds and olives into a paste is a much less labour-intensive way of consuming fats than pressing them for oil.

    • February 25, 2011 4:24 pm

      MBH, I agree just making a pesto type paste with nut meats would be much less work than pressing oil and it would be easier to keep the nuts from going rancid than the oil. Oil seed pumpkin seeds would be good too, and it would be easier to include them in your diet than trying to make oil too.

      As for storing animal fats, the reason they would be stored is because they only are available at certain times like butchering or the early lactation milking months.

  23. Lora permalink
    February 26, 2011 9:29 am

    Thanks for this post, I was looking for more of this type of reading.

    I am in sorta-eastern Massachusetts, 30 miles due west of Boston. Due to the lay of the land, I can grow most zone 7 things with a little bit of cover in early spring.

    I don’t really have a list per se. The best thing that works for me in terms of balanced diet and calorie output vs. effort input, was a big circular kind of system: I planted about 30 dwarf fruit trees and a bunch of berry bushes, then fenced that in securely. Attached to the fencing is a chicken coop, wherein there are several different breeds of chickens that are all excellent foragers. There is another pen along the fence that holds turkeys. Inside the fence is also a beehive (surrounded w/ poultry netting), and underneath the trees there are various seed producers and nitrogen fixers: buckwheat, millet, shorter kinds of amaranth, clover, sunflowers. What the birds mostly lack is minerals and protein, so I give them fish guts/heads from fishing trips, pumpkin seeds, kelp, mineral supplement. They have game bird crumbles available but generally only eat much of it in winter. Worms of any kind are a big hit, we have two worm bins.

    We get eggs, poultry, fruit and honey out of this system. Lots of calories, in exchange for about 1 hour/day of work, a few days of spraying dormant oil in winter, a few days of harvesting. Once in a while, I put some mint oil in the beehive to deal with mites, but they aren’t a huge problem. We have LGDs to deal with predators (including two-legged), and they do a very good job–to feed them post-zombie apocalypse, I would probably make a deal with the local fish-n-game club to take all the deer guts off their hands in exchange for help with sausage-making and hide-tanning.

    Other than that, the only things I am fussed about growing, that grow consistently for us: regular boring jack-o-lantern pumpkins, Blue Curled Scotch kale, and runner beans. I suppose I’d try to get goats and sheep for the apocalypse, but right now I hardly have time in the day to mind them.

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