30th September 2011 16:39
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Grow your own Food Self-sufficiency for you
I thought I'd make this thread offering a few suggestions about how to become self-sufficient in terms of food. There seems to be an idea that self-sufficiency means scrimping and scraping and having a thoroughly unpleasant experience, but there are many ways we can live abundantly without buying into the system.
I would be greatly pleased if this thread could turn into a place in which people share their ideas and experiences, and also where people propose new ideas and those with experience are able to guide those seeking it. If we pool our experiences and know-how, there is very little we can't do :-)
- Plant fruit trees. They might not fruit for the first few years (depending on the stage of development at which they're purchased). Fruit can be grown as plants like strawberries, raspberries, etc., but I find trees more efficient since they usually take no looking after. I have quite a few fruit trees of different types and a few nut trees as well. The harvest from them all is very large and so I'd recommend it highly. A little brewer's yeast is a very good way of dealing with the excess; just press out the juice and innoculate with the yeast. Vinegar can then be made from the country wine by innoculating with acetobacter bacteria.
- Grow bushes. Bushes which fruit are very useful. I grow blueberries, red, white and black currants, gooseberries, tayberries and gojiberries. I also have raspberries and blackberry bushes, but I tend to allow only a few stalks of them because of the way they propagate; they send large stalks upwards until they bend over and reach towards the ground, at which point they start growing roots into the ground. You can avoid this by allowing only a few stalks to grow and then using canes and strings to train them to grow in the right direction (i.e., to stop them touching the soil). They produce an awful lot for their size.
- Grow Vegetables. Vegetables are very easy to grow and given only a little care and attention they will produce large amounts. For things like beans, the plants can be harvested many times before they stop producing food. When they are approaching the end of their productivity, allow them to go to seed so that you have beans you can plant for next year. Be careful about 'choking' the soil with hay; it will prevent weeds but it will attract rats.
- Use your compost heap. Your compost heap is a very useful way of getting rid of all the uncooked garden waste and any uneaten (and uncooked) vegetables, fruit, etc.. The compost heap is also the perfect place to grow fennel, which requires no attention whatsoever. Throw a few fennel seeds on your compost heap and in no time at all you'll have huge fennel hearts ready to eat and what's more, any you don't eat are in the right place ;-)
- Use your walls. Many people forget about their walls when they are thinking of where to plant their crops, but many plants thrive when grown against a wall and their usefulness can be maximised. The elder is considered a weed, and in structure falls half way between a tree and a bush. It grows a few central stems which give it the appearance of a willow which has been copsed. These stalks can be trained to travel along trellises in such a way that they can be made to cover a wall the way ivy covers buildings. This flexibility makes it a very useful plant, since it can turn an otherwise unused wall space into fruiting canvas. The flowers can be used for making country wine and the berries can be used for wine, syrups, jams and jellies. The tree is poisonous, though, so the fruit should be heated before it is used (heat breaks down the poison). The berries are very good as a health tonic because they contain components which inhibit viral replication, so made into a syrup either on their own or with other tonics like Rowan berries (Americans, read Mountain Ash berries) or rosehips they are a great way of bolstering one's defences during the winter months. It has become a common thing now for me to make elderberry, rowan and rosehip syrup in the autumn and distribute it around my family and friends and it's the perfect way to sweeten and flavour porridge.
- Don't be afraid to be decorative. I often encounter the opinion that any space that isn't used for vegetables is wasted space, and so people will be disinclined to plant decorative flowers. If you are of this opinion, you can in fact have the best of both worlds. Plant sunflowers around the house and any other buildings on the land up against walls for the protection and support it provides. When they mature you can collect their seeds, set a few aside to grow more next year, and use the rest as a healthy snack. Try planting roses on trellises as archways over paths for both their decorative purposes and for their edible petals. They can brighten up a salad, be used in confectionery, or dried and used sprinkled amply in wardrobes and clothes draws for the natural smell.
- Don't be scared of weeds. Some weeds are only weeds because they're prolific. Others are only weeds because people have decided they don't like them. Do the lawns of your gardens really look better for being uniformly green? I enjoy looking out over the gardens of yellow during the summer when the dandelions are in full bloom. The flower heads can be used in salads or made into wine, the leaves can be used in salads, the roots can be roasted and ground into a coffee substitute and the stalks can be split open and wrapped soothingly on sore or burnt skin much more useful than grass. Nettles too provide quite a good array of vitamins and minerals. Held since ancient times to be a blood cleanser, it contains hefty amounts of iron and vitamin c, making it a great food for those with anaemia (the body can't absorb iron without vitamin c, making most 'just iron' supplements ineffective). They can be fried up with onions, shallots or garlic (or a combination) and purιed to make something which is great as a garnish, as an addition to soups and also just great spread on dry toast.
- Don't be scared of keeping animals. Most people aren't blessed with the space which I am lucky to have, but most people do have enough space to keep a few animals. Overlook this if you're offended by the thought of using animals for meat. Rabbits can be kept for their meat and over a few generations they can provide a great deal selectively breed those rabbits which mature the quickest and which fatten up the most and your rabbits will produce a lot of meat very quickly. If you do not think you could bring yourself to prepare the animal for food, reassure yourself that your rabbits will have had great lives with you and will have lived free-range lives. Never kill anything you intend to eat in front of the others they do notice and it's not fair to alarm them. Rabbits can be fed with vegetable surpluses (if you are gardening right, you'll run a surplus nearly all the time). Keep chickens for their eggs and also for their meat. Chickens can be fed on the seeds of whatever plants you are growing. Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds -- even the seeds of the dandelions come their time (they take little gathering). I haven't yet branched out into keeping my own animals, though my cousin has and I relay here his experience. When it comes to chickens, a single rooster is necessary to breed the next generation (he should be removed from the chickens for the rest of the time so that the eggs do not develop). Since a rooster's work is minimal, quite a few self-sufficient households can share a single rooster. If you make use of another's rooster, it might be nice to contribute towards his food. To get your chickens and rabbits, speak to somebody who already keeps them or buy them new and breed them yourself. Once you get into the swing of it, it won't seem half as hard. My cousin is considering also taking on ducks, but remember the larger the bird the more space you'll need. They will take an initial investment in terms of creating their enclosures just remember that any enclosure should be as good at keeping things out as in.
- Buy some good books. Buy books which talk about free food. There are many places in the country where you can get food for free. These books are obviously specialised to certain regions; what is good for the UK probably won't help an American and what is good for the US probably won't help a Briton, and so on. You can find many books online pointing out where to get food for free, such as what wild plants are edible (and which parts) and where to find them. Then there are books like the Vicomte de Mauduit's "They Can't Ration These" a WWI era book written by a French nobleman with a forward by the Prime Minister David Lloyd George which details various recipes using free food, talks about how to prepare caught animals for cooking (such as skinning and gutting), gives recipes for a few different country wines and even cosmetics such as making soap, shampoo.
- Make good use of fire. Fire is a useful way of reinvigorating soil with nutrients. When burning fires for the purpose of nutrients, make sure to burn only natural things logs, wood that's only been naturally treated, etc.. When the fire has burnt down the ashes can be mixed into soil or added to the compost heap as a way of raising the PH of the soil and increasing potassium content. You can also create tar by smoking wood and using this as a natural way of protecting your wooden fences against rot and rain.
Last edited by Seikou-Kishi; 30th September 2011 at 20:58.
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30th September 2011 18:43
Link to Post #2
Re:Grow your own Food Self-sufficiency for you
When it comes to planting seeds and bulbs for growing, people can find all the requirements daunting. They say plant your seeds so far apart and plant them so many inches beneath the soil. Water them so often and feed them every week or so. All of these different demands can mean that planting becomes as tricky and as intricate as brain surgery, but you know it really doesn't have to be that difficult and gardening doesn't have to become a full-time job.
There is one simple thought to keep in mind when planting seeds, etc., and that is that plants are living things; it is their nature to survive and they have a vested interest in surviving. They're not fussy celebrities who are going to storm off if you don't pander to them they want to live and will survive. I'm often surprised when people act as though they're great gardeners because their plants are growing so well and I think aren't they forgetting the tiny part the plants themselves played in it?
Plants survive and thrive perfectly well without human intervention. They're not babies that need constant attention or they'll wither up. If the weather is exceptionally dry, water them a little. If you've planted quite a bit in the same patch without leaving it fallow, give it a little food. Otherwise, though, put your confidence in the plants' own ability to survive. It's much easier to have a green thumb than people think. The trick is in not smothering them and letting them get on with it. I'm surprised by how often people manage to kill plants and most of the time it is because they water and feed excessively.
Now, very often plants will attract pests. You absolutely do not need to use pesticides to protect your crops. It should hardly need to be said at Avalon that pesticides are not good products. Many plants that you will grow have developed their own defences against pests. The most common are aphids, which break through the stems and drain the sap, starving the plants. There are quite a few ways to deal with such in ways that won't introduce unnatural chemicals into your garden.
Most gardens will grow onions, since they're a staple foodstuff and they have developed defences against pests. Other plants like chilli peppers and garlic have very obvious defences. Two herbs which are known for the ability to drive away pests are mint and lemon balm (commonly called balm; melissa officinalis).
To make a wash to deal with pests like aphids, finely dice a large onion or two, a handful of chilli peppers, a couple of garlic bulbs and a bunch of mint or lemon balm (or both). Bring some water to a rolling boil in a stew pan and add the ingredients. Put the lid on and allow the ingredients to macerate in the hot water for a few minutes, then sieve and bottle into a spray bottle. Spray the plants wherever the aphids collect and they will be driven away.
Another remedy is to finely dice a whole onion and to place it in a jar thinly layering diced onion with granulated sugar. Leave it over night and the sugar will have extracted all the liquid from the onion. Sieve the remnants of the onion from the syrup and using a paintbrush paint it lightly onto plants such as roses (which are prone to aphids) at the joints where stems branch (which is where aphids strike). The consistency of the syrup provides protection on a longer basis than the spray and the syrup is far too "oniony" to be an appetiser for the pests. Not only will the syrup keep for a very long time, a little goes a long way. I make a jar and keep it with a brush in case I ever need it, but I don't use it at all if it doesn't seem necessary but when something is necessary, one of these two will nearly always do the trick :-)
Last edited by Seikou-Kishi; 30th September 2011 at 21:33.
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30th September 2011 18:56
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