How much land does it take to be self-reliant?

my family survival How much land does it take to be self reliant?

By Marjory Wildcraft from www.GrowYourOwnGroceries.com

When thinking of becoming self-reliant, the question arises “how much land do I need to be able to sustainably grow enough food for my family?”  The exact answer to that question depends on several factors, but you can learn a lot, and make a pretty good estimate, by looking at the extremes of land use.

Lets start first off with the almost magical dream of the pure hunter/gatherer. The shit hits the fan and you take your rifle and a few supplies and head out to the wilderness to live off the land.  Just how much land does it take to support you without destroying all the wildlife and plant populations?  How much area do you need in order live sustainably as a hunter/gatherer?

Since there are so few actual hunter/gathers left alive on the planet we will turn to anthropological data.  The quick and easy answer is that traditional peoples used on average, about 10 square miles per person.  10 square miles is 6,400 acres – that is for one person.  There are numerous studies and authors that cite this number and one of the most accessible is Jared Diamond author of the popular title Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail or Succeed.  Another excellent source is Tending The Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources.  California’s lushest landscape was able to support up to 1.5 people per square mile on the rich coast of the Santa Barbara channel, and 1 person per 12.5 sq. miles in the desert regions.

OK, so you won’t be going that primitive.  What about you growing your own food in gardens, food plots, orchards, livestock, and perhaps a bit of hunting?  Small scale agriculture is definitely the way to go for most people.  So how much land are you going to need for that?

The research to the answer to that question was started back in the 70’s by a man named John Jeavons.  The “Bio-Intensive” method Jeavons developed has been implemented worldwide to alleviate hunger and malnutrition.  Jeavons has a model for a vegetarian diet and the short answer is summarized as approximately 8,000 sq.ft. for a complete diet for one person (you need 4,000 sq/ft. of actual growing space and at least 4,000 sq.ft. for pathways and access).  That is also assuming you have four growing seasons per year, and your harvest is 100% (no failures).

For reference, an acre is 43,560 sq.ft.  So in a more southern climate, you could theoretically support about 5 people per acre.  But life is never that perfect.  My personal experience is that 2 acres in a mild temperate region will completely wear you out and is enough room to comfortably support a family of four with a variety of food sources such as gardens, orchards, small livestock, and wild crafting.  You can still do a lot in less area, and of course, everyone always wants more.

The absolute best reference for the Bio-Intensive method is the book How To Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible On Less Land Than You Can Imagined.  This book is the bible of sustainably growing food and is on the bookshelf of all of the hundreds of organic farmers I have interviewed.

But don’t forget, even if you live in an apartment, there is a lot you can do.  The most important thing is to get started.

Marjory Wildcraft is a leader in the self-reliance / prepper movement.  She is a regular guest on national radio shows, televison, and print.  She is the creator of the video series “Grow Your Own Groceries” available at www.GrowYourOwnGroceries.com.

Comments

  1. Mystery guest says:

    Very good. Short, sweet and to the point. Thank you.

  2. If you intensively garden a small area, you will need to put manure and compost on it every year, even if you have no animals. You will need to get that from somewhere unless you plan to humanure, which might not go well in a city. That being said, diluted urine during the cold/dormant season is a decent fertilizer, it’s nowhere near as dangerous as poop, but maybe don’t get it from women on birth control if you don’t want a lot of estrogen in your food. But I don’t know what plants might take up that estrogen, maybe some will and some won’t.

    Rabbit poop can be put right in the garden with no aging. Rabbits are also quiet, so you might get away with having a couple rabbits (well, not just a couple for long if they breed!) and then putting their poop in your garden in a city. I am thinking about getting some rabbits in the spring.

    • we raised rabbits when I was growing up & just a couple of rabbits produces a lot of poop!! I have only one rabbit now & she is no trouble. If I could I would have more rabbits but I can’t bear the thought of eating them.

      • In a pinch, you can rely on composting only. I am into the worm composting and have been fairly successful with just the worm castings and no manure.

  3. Thanks, great article with good references, this is gonna help :)

  4. Thanks for this post- I’m sure it’s a topic many haven’t considered.
    Your basic premise is close to reality for most areas with moderate climates, as I’m sure you realize.
    A bunch of years ago a friend and I were discussing this topic due to a book he’d bought- ‘Five Acres and independance’, I think the title was. Its author was living off grid in some Eastern state (New Hampshire comes to mind). Here, too, his basic premise was close to spot on and my friend was enthusiastic about utilizing his five acres to live free (off grid). So he set up and began living it.
    But we live in MN and life is different here, to say the least.
    A person (or group/family) can definitely grow enough basic food on a couple of acres to keep themselves fed and have enough to barter for ‘things’ they don’t grow themselves.
    And then winter sets in.
    Food will only go so far in keeping a person warm. Heating fuel will be the biggest warmth factor and this is where I put my two cents into the plan. Being a user of wood for heat, we calculated how much wood would (pun) be required and how much land it would take to have a sustainable supply for real off grid freedom.
    Our conclusion: the minimal ‘sustainable’ woodland for us, supposing that it was all typical MN forest, useing one acre of trees per year, it will take 25 acres to maintain a yearly supply of heat with time for the forest to regenerate a useable supply. That is a minimum, to my thinking.
    One of my brother-in-laws family has 160 acres off which he provides fuel for three familes, and has for his lifetime. Ten years ago, a forest fire swept through the area and cut his forest in half, yet he’s not hurting for fuel due to the size of his property.
    My point to this rambling response is simply, ‘Don’t be thinking small if you don’t have to.’ You’ll never regret having more land but may regret not having enough.
    Those living in communities and larger cities… ouch. Be thinking of what you can do that will be barterable for what you need.

    • JSW,
      I don’t know the difference in the mix of woods from MN to OH; but back when we heated with wood (we now use mostly propane due to the DD’s smoke allergy), the rule of thumb was 1 vcord per acre per year. Even with this rule, we were almost always taking dead trees and falls, many of which are already partially seasoned.

    • HomeINsteader says:

      Have you taken a good look at rocket stoves? You might want to do that…lots of heat…little to no smoke…and uses the most minimal wood for burning (including just sticks and twigs).

  5. I grew up during WWII, one of eleven children and we had one square acre to live, raise a couple of pigs, chickens, rabbits, a milk cow and a horse besides raising large gardens. Dad only had a third grade formal education but made up for it in common practical knowledge. Mom was a high school graduate. We used the manure from the livestock on the gardens and a little patch of corn and oats. The cow and horse ate the grass alongside the 1/4 mile long lane up to our house and around the edges of the field much to the gratitude of the farmer who farmed them. He traded us corn and hay for the winter for fresh milk and garden produce. Government rationing would not allow us to slaughter our livestock as we had to sell it and then buy it back with ration coupons. Rabbits and chickens were exempt and we only raised one beef calf during this period of time since we had to do this and could not consume our own livestock. By using fencewire to grow tomatoes and some of the other crops like peas and green beans we were able to vertical garden and produce abundant garden produce. We never wanted for garden stuff since mom was an ardent canner. Where we fell short was flour and meats. We extensively hunted wild game with everything from a slingshot, blowgun, bow and arrow and what little ammunition for the 22 we were able to buy during the WWII. Times were quite hard but we survived and what we had to get elsewhere was mostly barter since the income from dad’s job went for taxes, gasoline, flour and other foodstuffs we could not produce ourself. I believe if we had it to do over again, we probably could still do it as I remember vividly everything we had to do back then. Pulling weeds from the garden on our hands and knees and then feeding the resulting weeds to the pigs who loved them and things like that. Now in these modern times, people generally just spray the weeds and kill them. Even the tomato worms and potato bugs were gathered in a glass jar and fed to the chickens who loved them. This is total farming with nothing wasted and what will have to happen if TSHTF again.

    • Harold, We all could learn a lot from you! I, too, pull garden weeds and feed them back to my chickens, ducks, and pigs. Waste not, want not, my Mama always said.

      • After our return to Illinois from California where we had lived for 25 years, we were mowing at my mother’s house and I was raking the tall grass (no bagger on the mower) into bushel baskets and dumping it into the chicken pen since that was the only livestock my mother had left. The youngest daughter who was nineteen at the time could not understand the joy the bantam chickens were getting out of the cut grass until I had her get a magnifying glass and she was able to see all the various bugs that were clinging to the grass cuttings. I told her the chickens would eventually eat about half of the grass clippings after they had harvested the bugs from them. Her husband is a total gardener and was amazed she had learned all of the things that he knew. Only difference between he and I is, I kill any snake I encounter and he catches and releases them elsewhere. ONe snake made the mistake of lying on the sidewalk at their house once on one of our visits and he got really upset when I stomped the snakes head flat. I told him I am too old to change my way of life and the snake had no collar or tags so I assumed he was wild and a stray.

        • Petticoat Prepper says:

          Harold I just love your stories! Having grown up on a farm I can remember giving the chickens the grass too. One of my fondest memories is shaking out the new straw in the just cleaned pig pens. The pigs would get all excited and run around and twirl, we always laughed at them saying, ‘it tickles their feet’!

          • One time when I was working as a farm hand (recession jobs were unavailable for a just released military veteran in the mid 60’s) it was below zero and the large hog farm I worked on had a lot of remote shelters for the young pigs. One morning after a blizzard the night before, I fired up the Cushman trackster and hooked it to a sled which we loaded with straw bales. We went down and started putting fresh straw down for the pigs and they just went wild burrowing under the straw and throwing it around. I explained to my son that the straw was to keep them warm in their beds since it had gotten so cold. Later that day I heard him tell his mother that he was glad he was not a hog. When she asked him why, he said because if I was I would eat my blankets and get cold like the stupid hogs were eating their straw blankets. He was about 5 years old then just before starting school. I thought it was comical because he would always remark on their behavior for years afterwards whenever he was around straw.

        • Southern Blonde says:

          LOL! Love your stories, Harold. Sounds like you had the kind of childhood I always dreamed of having! I do enjoy reading your posts so much.
          Take care,

          • SB, it really was not all fun and games, just existance level living through sheer necessity. Does not mean there were no humorous aspects to life as a child but our enjoyment came from different things back then. We were delighted to see newborn animals and when the hens would hatch out a clutch of eggs and some of the little chicks would not separate form the egg shell cleanly we would have to soak them gently in water to dissolve the albumen in the shell and free them. We would then have to dry them off before we placed them back with the mother hen. She would not appreciate what we done, just cackle and try to peck us when we would release the chick. Kids in modern times can not have fun without a gamboy, television Mp3 players, playstations, etc. They exclaim in wonderment when I tell them we did not have exercise equipment back when I was a kid and did not need it since we got all of the exercise and body building we needed with just chores. I can remember one time at 38 years old when the 17 year old boy next door who was on the track team in high school challenged me to first foot race where I had beat him to the end of the long block and was sitting on the fire plug waiting for him to arrive. Second time was a pushup contest and he wore out at 35 and I was at 62 when my wife made me quit so I would not humiliate him too bad. I told him it was because twenty one years after I had left the farm, I was still in pretty good shape. Wish I could do it now at 73.

        • HomeINsteader says:

          LOL! Harold, would you come get the yellow-belly water snake out from under my back deck? It has eaten all the frogs and lizards, as far as I can tell, so I don’t understand why the silly thing is hanging about…but I’m with you – a snake is a snake….why don’t you come and threaten to stomp on its head? Maybe it will move.

          • I know of only two ways to get them. One is powdered moth crystals sprinkled around where they gather. They can’t stand the smell either and will vacate and the other is to catch the little hoppy toads and dump them out on the walk. If a snake is around, he will come instantly when he sees them and you can hack him up then. I use a straight hoe and just chop until he is done for. As far as I am concerned they are all rattlesnakes and being of a religious nature, after what the snake done to Adam and Eve in the garden as far as I am concerned they are still the Devil’s creatures.

  6. HoarseWhisper says:
  7. This is the kind of information that I became a Pack member for! Thank you.

    I have always chuckled at those who’s “bug-out-plan” is grab a rifle, a fishing pole, and their backpack and head for the hills. Them and several million others. Game will scatter and disappear shortly (just look at deer the week before hunting season and the week after it opens). Plus with a lack of knowledge on how to preserve what they kill, they will waste more than they harvest.

    • It took my state in the midwest nearly 40 years to recover from the overhunting from the turn of the century and the hunting for food year round during the depression. They started the conservation department the late 30’s and it wasn’t until the md sixtys that they had built up the deer herd and turkey flocks to have any decent sustainable hunting seasons. If we truly go into a shtf end of the world scenario the game will be wiped out in a year and then take a long time to come back to any sustainable numbers after the 95% of the human population is gone.

    • HomeINsteader says:

      EXACTLY why we do not permit hunting on our BOL; we want the critters to view our property as a “safe haven”, and be there if and when WE need them; we don’t care about feeding people right now who COULD go buy their meat – they just like hunting it, instead. We’ll buy it while we can and hunt it when we can not buy it.

      • I agree wholeheartedly with you on this matter. My wife loves to see the pheasants strutting around and we had to eat a number of them when our family was young and times were hard. She tells them to go ahead and be pretty since they will be safe as long as she can buy hamburger but if it all comes down she still remembers what they taste like. By the way, she has five resident squirrels she feeds and tells them the same thing that they are considered an alternate food source since she well remembers the squirrel stews my mother used to make when we were first married fifty three years ago.

    • I especially hate those who state, I have a weapon so I will just take what I want from those who are not armed. Not a thought to the possibility that one who does not prepare by arming themselves doubtless will not prepare with anything else. I always tell them, you can have mine, after I run out of ammunition if you are still alive and crawling.

  8. Another way of looking at it is to find out what was considered nessecary for a family to support itself whn your area was opened to settlement. In my area, the standard was the 100acre farm. That was considered enough land, to thrive on, rather than just survive. In Saskatchewan, the basic unit was the section – 1 sq mile (640 acres), which was didvided into quarters.

  9. GoneWithTheWind says:

    I believe it may well take two acres to perfectly supply a family of four. But I think it is a mistake to even bring perfection into the discussion. The goal is survival not a perfect emulation of present day lifestyles and diet. I happen to like milk but I can live just fine if I never drink milk again. So suddenly no need for goats and cows. The list of things I could eliminate and still survive is long. What I need everyday is calories and a appropriate combination of proteins, fats and carbohydrates (and obviously vitamins and minerals). If TSHTF most people will not raise goats and cattle but could subsist just fine with a good garden and hunting and gathering. I emphasis “could” and I realize most won’t. But if they won’t grow a basic garden then they wouldn’t raise goats and cows either. The target should be to grow and store/can enough basic foods to get you through a year and to hunt, gather and trade for additional necessities. The good news is this task is doable. If you have some land (a lot less then two acres) you can grow a huge amount of food. That should be your goal not a perfect amount of food.

    • Thomas T. Tinker says:

      Nice! Sounds real. More in tune with the majority of us.

    • My experience with my children growing up is that raising rabbits, calves, pigs or chickens for consumption is a losing deal unless the children are actually adults with children who have actually been struggling to pay the bills. My children would not eat the meat from several of the White Rock layers I had that had gotten so heavy they were egg bound and had to be slaughtered. Their own fault for overfeeding them after we had to confine them. Free range chickens while a good idea is impractical since most of the predators are now on some fools endangered species list even here in Illinois where the placed the worst one, the red fox on the list. You will really have no recourse except to construct as solidly varmint proof as you can enclosures for all of your animals that are subject to predators in your area. We even had to copy the pheasant coop and place wire over the top of the chicken and duck pens in the high desert in our California years to prevent the ravens from making off with young chicks and ducklings.

    • One benefit of having a goat or cow (goat is best, IMO) and a healthy diet is the milk fats. Butter, cheese, and the milk itself is barterable. But especially the butter- solve the majority of your fat needs right there.

  10. Here in extreme NE Minnesota the wife and I have two lots….one where the house is and an empty one-except for a small garage and a 16 X 16 shed-and we have plenty of room for enough garden to supply us with plenty of veggies. I plant what we use the most of-carrots, beans spuds, peas-and then we do a bit of pumpkins and zucchini. Our lots total about half/three quarters of an acre, and if push comes to shove we will use as much as we can by expanding our tilled space. The few tomatoe plants I will be doing in the spring can be grown in containers on the deck, and cucumbers are the bush type and can be done the same. Lettuce I put in a 3 foot row and a couple/three weeks later another right alongside of it. Plenty as I don’t like it and there is just the two of us.

    As far as heat, we have electric baseboard with fuel oil back-up, but there is a wood stove in the shop(carpentry) that will heat the house push come to shove…..and there are thousands of acres of trees within sight…the closest about 200 feet from the front door….and up here we help each other and I won’t have a problem getting wood. One winter some years ago, when we had more snow and colder winters, I got our only heat source, wood, a couple days a week at a time….went out with the chain saw and a plastic sled and made three or four trips….kept us in heat and me in shape….I am a lot older now but I can still do it, and WTSHTF we will likely have our three sons-in their 30’s-here with the grandkins, etc. and I won’t have to do it…..thousands of acres of public forest here and in a do or die scenario I won’t be the only one harvesting there.

    I don’t know about many acres….when I was a kid with 5 siblings our vegetable garden was about 30 X 80 feet and the spud garden the same and we had plenty for eight year round. Just depends on what ya grow and what ya want…

    Lewis in MN

  11. If someone has never farmed or gardened its going to be a steep learning curve.
    Grow a garden now if you can or practice with potted plants at a minimum. also animals will want to share in your bounty so fencing is needed to keep them out, insects are another problem to contend with.
    good article.

  12. oh……..and about my sand point well….here in town we cannot use “mechanical” means, we have to pound it down….hit water at about 20 feet yesterday and ended up wi about a foot in the pipe….pounded down another 30 inches today and had 4 feet of water…..another two feet or so down and I will quit…..down 25 feet of pipe plus the sand point-28 feet all told….

    Lewis in MN

  13. Judy, another one says:

    One of my issues with Jeavons’ methodology is he assumes you have ready access to a lot of water. We have had drought conditions 2 years in a row here in Kansas. The next one is, people are finding out that over the long haul that Bio-intense gardening does exhaust the soil even though you have added all the amenities you can think of. (Some of those amenities are going to be very hard to come by when the SHTF.) The soil has to rest every so many years to remain viable.

    I think it would be prudent for a lot of folks to look at dry land farming/gardening, particularly those of us living in areas with limited rainfall. One book that covers that subject is Steve Solomon’s Gardening When It Counts. Those living in the Southwest might want to look at Waffle Gardening done by the Native Americans of that area. I would also suggest, if your state will allow it, you look into rain catchment systems for your watering needs.

    Here’s another book that might be of interest for making a very small space provide more, Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Harvest.

    • We had several pretty dry summers here in Illinois while growing up. The creek which was about 1000 feet from our property always seemed to have a little bit of water in it from the farm field tiles draining into it. We had a good well and used it for our use and for the livestock to drink but we had a hand operated force pump at the creek with some old fire hose that we would pump water a couple times a week from the creek to a large wooden tank dad had built to water the crops with. It was a lot of hard work but there were enough of us to get the job done. This is something that is going to be of a problem in a SHTF situation if it is only a couple or maybe only a small family with only a couple of kids. Children will be the salvation when willing from necessity and guided by competent adult hands for getting the job done and ensuring survival. Will be difficult to find with todays kids.

    • HomeINsteader says:

      Some say Permaculture is the answer to growing without depleting.

  14. In the 1890’s the Government of Canada suggested that a family needed a quarter section (160 acres) to feed themselves and there animals. This would also provide a safety margin in bad harvest years.

  15. I just ordered a copy of “How To Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible On Less Land Than You Can Imagined” and can’t wait to start reading and learning!! Thanks for that link!!

    Harold
    I used to sit and listen to my Grandpa talk about how things were done during WWII. He wanted to go fight but had a medical problem and they wouldn’t take him, so he stayed behind to help out the neighbors whose husbands were gone. Thank you for your post that brought back a lot of good memories!!!

  16. I recommend taking a look at the website of the Dervaes family in Pasadena – they grow 90% of their food on just 1/5 of an acre in the city and are a real inspriation! They have animals for milk, eggs and manure but eat a vegetarian diet. See http://urbanhomestead.org/

  17. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    Don’t forget the maintenance and TAXES on said property – it can really add up, especially as the years go by. Location will also dictate what the land will support – desert scrub will require extensive soil amendments and WATER – factor that in you land needs. Locations with dependable rainfall – thats a big help.

    Look up the topic POSSUM LIVING – there are a few interesting links. Dolly Freed wrote a book about it, consider it an ‘alternative lifestyle’ of sorts.

    No hard and fast rules here – but it generates great discussion and an opportunity to learn new ideas – thanks for bringing it up!

  18. recoveringidiot says:

    I was raised on a small farm where tobacco paid the bills and bought staples but the garden was what fed us nearly year round. I remember our neighbors hogs getting out and wiping the whole garden out in one night! My Mom cried over it but the same neighbor gave us half a hog that fall (Mom said she hoped it was one that got her garden) and other neighbors shared produce so we got by with only having to buy a small amount of store bought stuff. What you want to take from my story is this, no matter how great you are at raising food stuff some years can be a disaster so you will need family, neighbors or friends to help out. I’m storing long term now as I can’t even start a garden with my current job and I know I’ll need a couple years to get one halfway producing plus I’m getting old with back trouble to boot. I KNOW I’ll have to have family and friends to make it if/when things get bad.

    • RI, even with physical problems, your knowledge and expertise will be invaluable in a survival scenario. As far as plants failing and the hogs rooting up the garden, it has happened to us when I was a kid but my mother had an area in the breezeway that had tiers of bedded plants that caught daily sun except for the midday hours that pulled us through. She used it for her regular meals and the garden mostly for preserving and canning for the winter. Same pig learned to rub against the apple trees and dislodge the fruit and eat it so in spite of the rationing restrictions during WWII, that one got butchered on the sly with the aid of a nearly destitute neighbor with a large family that shared in the largesse for helping dad out with the dressing out of the hog.

    • You know, RI, you bring up a great point – sharing. I don’t see your story as a diaster, I see it as a triumph. Your neighbors shared what they had with a neighbor in need. They probably had no expectations of repayment, but they shared what they had knowing that one day they may need a little help.

      I saw a terrible story on Gold Rush the other day. Dakota Jack ( or whatever his name is) needed some help getting his equipment started. The young man, Justin, I think, came right over with his heavy equipment, dug the snow out so Jack could drive to his camp and then set up a generator to charge the batteries so Jack could dig gold.
      A few days later Justin needed an electrical panel and Jack had a spare. Jack indicated he’d sell the thing for double what it was worth and that Justin couldn’t borrow it either.
      Now Justin knows who his neighbors are!! He knows who’s living next to him, as well.!!!

      • Shades of Green says:

        RI,
        Loved your sharing story. I so hope that where I live we can do this with each other. I love watching ” Alaska, The Last Frontier” . It shows how they all work together to help each other and make sure everyone is okay. If I could move up that way I would but my DH can’t handle the cold so much. As humans we tend to complicate things more than they need to be. I so wish all of life was like it is in that show.

  19. Thomas T. Tinker says:

    This is a good one. We are an urban family and have been gardening for 3 seasons now. It is a steep learning curve indeed. Chickens and greens, chickens and greens! This one is very thought provoking MD. Question for you MD…. How long is your growing season that far south???

  20. I think the effeciency and output of the wood stove, the type of forest you have, the area you live in, plus the size of the house you are heating has a lot to do with how many cord wood and sustained acres it takes to heat in winter.

    To increase yield, One can be a “Johnny Appleseed” along roadsides (county, state, us lands). I planted wild concord grapeseed along county trails; rasperry, blueberry, blackberry, wild cherry on public lands along trails and roadways. I benefit, naturelovers benefits, and wildlife benefits and it expands your usery of acreage in a wild bountiful harvest. I found an apple tree in the middle of the national forest. Most hikers take the fruit as they pass on the trail. They don’t know about the highbush cranberries near it…

    • Sounds kind of like what I done when we lived in a place in LA county that only had a fireplace for heat. I had a little chainsaw behind the seat of the truck and everytime I saw a downed tree or limb alongside or in the road, if there was someone living near to get permission from, I would do so but if there was not one, I would quickly section it small enough to fit in the truck and then saw it to length when I got it home. At that time it was legal to gather it from along the roadside in the National Forest until the government dreamed up the permit business to gain some more money.

  21. We grow a whole lot of stuff in my corner suburban lot. Here in SE Texas we are indeed blessed with three and four seasons of growing, depending on how bad the winter is. Can I grow enough to survive here with just me and my wife? Probably not, but we’ve put a big dent in it! I’m not growing a garden this as I’m redoing my garden with plastic wood decking. I use the square foot gardening mix as my base. As for fertilizer we are now raising three Californian does and two New Zealand does as breeders for meat. The poop can go straight into the garden several times a year, add a couple of chickens and you can indeed make a dent in your food needs. Fresher food too. My site is gardenforyourlife.blogspot.com.

  22. Encourager says:

    Nice, short, to the point article. Thanks Marjory!

    You also have to take into consideration your soil. Ours is sand. It actually was called ‘sandy loam’ by the Extension Service when we had it tested…I think the loam part was the rocks. We have experimented with a raised bed this past summer and were pleased with the results. I planted too much too close together (forget the square foot gardening method!!) yet we had a fairly good harvest. We trenched our potato patch this summer, filling in the trench with composted manure, leaf mulch and a mix of blood meal, bone meal and some Epsom salts. Then the voles hit. We had spaces of 3 feet where there wasn’t one potato; some potatoes had gnaw marks and parts missing. We have talked to people who lost their entire potato crop to the voles, so we were happy we harvested some.

    My question to the pack ~ are voles small enough to get through chicken wire? I was thinking of building a cage with an open bottom and setting it into the potato trench. If/when SHTF, repellants and vole poison will be history.

    • Petticoat Prepper says:

      I do believe so, maybe hardware cloth?

      • j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

        I’ve personally witnessed a mouse (young one, about 3″ body) go ‘through’ hardware cloth, squeezing head through, then pulling the rest of the body. It took about 15 seconds – but it did that. Grid was 1/4″

        I would try 2 layers of same material, but offset so that the grid does not perfectly overlap the other.

    • Hunker-Down says:

      Encourager,

      In our area voles are the same size as mice and would easily go through chicken wire. Hardware wire has smaller holes but costs more.

      Our solution is a Rat Terrier dog. Allowing the dog to dig in the garden would be a problem, but we have 5-6 months of snow and the dog can go vole hunting then, not in the summer.

    • Thanks everyone! Looks like I will need to get the hardware cloth. We have never had problems with voles before in the 30 years of gardening here. Some are saying it was the dry summer and they were hunting for moisture as well as food.

      I need more owls and hawks!!

  23. I have read somewhere that you need at least an acre per person. With a minimum of 5 people. This will include a man made pond for fishing, an area for live stock think goats for milk not cows and chickens. Possibly rabbits and pigs if you are daring. Then you would have fruit and nut trees, a small portion for the house and herbs, and a larger section to grow food for the people and live stock.

    You likely would want trees around the border for privacy and possibly for wood for wood stoves. Which can heat a home and cook meals on. The model I studied was meant to have the crops planted in the next spot each year to replenish the nutrients the prior session took out. The animals also provide natural fertilizer so that it is truly a self substaining farm.

  24. Here is an idea for the city folks that don’t have access to a lot of trees. Around here, we can contact fencing companies. They will put you on list and call you when they have picket fence available. They will let you pick it all up for free, but you have to take it all. If you don’t take it all, they will put you on a “do not call” list. My friend’s husband owns a fencing company. He does a lot of his work out of town. He will have his men load the fence, and dump it in my backyard from the alley. This keeps him from having to pay a dump fee at the landfill. My husband and I cut it up and use it for heat. Because it stacks so easily, we can store a lot of wood in a small space. I wouldn’t recommend cooking over an open flame with it because it is treated. There are also a lot of companies that will give you pallets for free. We found a great one on Craig’s List. We picked up so many pallets from them that we built a fenced-in raised garden, and an out-building that I use to make and store paper bricks for burning.

  25. Uncle Charlie says:

    Thanks for the article Marjory. I was watching “WWII in Color” on PBS last night and they mentioned Victory Gardens. That is something we should all be doing instead of fussing over grass etc which is just a waste of water and one of the leading causes of water pollution in the U.S.

  26. I want to find a good spot with 10-25 acres to have enough room for food, fruit and nut trees and small animals. Plus at least 10 acres for wood production for fuel. Just hope I can hang on long enough to find the place and get it ready.

  27. Marjory –
    Thanks for the article; lots of really useful information.

    As I’ve posted here before (based on my personal experience of working my homestead for the past 40 years), I’d estimate you’ll need about 2.5 acres under food production to come close to completely feeding a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 kids). If you go with cows instead of goats, you’ll need a couple more acres due to the need to raise more animal feed.

    As for water, since vegetables need about an inch of water per week delivered by either rainfall or irrigation, that equates to around 29,000 gallons per acre per week that you have under actual vegetable cultivation. So, if you live in an area (like I do) that doesn’t get summer rain. you’ll need A LOT of storage capacity!

    I’m always AMAZED at the amount of food Jeavons’ methods can produce. As his place is just east of me over the coastal range, I’ve visited it a number of times since he moved there in the early 1980’s, but I guess I’m simply too lazy to follow his methods religiously. But having said that, I still highly recommend his books and feel anyone can profit from his research and practice.

  28. MountainSurvivor says:

    Ms. Wildcraft,
    I totally agree that anyone can live off a very small spot of land when they do things right. As I don’t need a whole lot of four-legged meat to survive and gardening depends on the weather where I live, never know what it is going to do from year to year, it’ll probably be wild plants and worms for me! Delicious with a little seasoning, oil, vinegar or whatever the taste buds are craving. And on way less than an 1/8th of an acre due to the ability to dig into a compost bin or directly from the ground where chemicals have not been used.

  29. This question has been scaring me since I did the math and concluded you need a lot more land than I had thought.
    Even in the example in the article…you need 8,000 sq. ft. per person if you have 4 growing seasons and no crop failures. Ummm…so if you only had two growing seasons you would need 16,000 sq ft per person. And here in the north where we can only count on one growing season we would need 32,000 sq ft per person – if you have no crop failures. To be safe, you would probably need to double that to 64,000 sq ft per person…and that is for a single year. To be more secure, you would probably want to try to grow/store at least 3 yrs. worth of food per year. So, 64,000 sq ft per person times 3 years equals 192,000 sq ft per person. For a family of 4 that would be 768,000 sq ft – which would be 17.86 acres! And that is for a vegetarian diet, which would be less than desirable for most. And with only allowing 8,000 sq ft per person, I doubt that includes any grains for breads, pizza crusts, cereal, etc. The LDS Food Storage calculator says you need to store 150 lbs of wheat & 50 lbs of flour per person per year – so lets say 200 lbs of wheat. We planted a small patch of winter wheat this year – 121’x56′ (6,720 sq ft). According to Gene Logsdon’s great book “Small Scale Grain Raising” that patch may yield approx. 5.5 bushels (avg. yield of 1 bushel per 10’x109′ space). At 60 lbs per bushel, that is about 330 lbs. With a need for 200 lbs.of wheat per person, per year, 330 lbs is only enough for one person for a year and not quite a half. I’m not even doing the math to find out just how much space you would need to grow enough for 4 people, as I can tell already I don’t have enough land!
    And if you don’t want to be a vegetarian, you have to have enough space to grow food for livestock. In “Small Scale Grain Raising” Mr. Logsdon says you need about 12 bushels of corn to fatten a feeder pig, a hen needs about a bushel, a milk cow need about 5-6 bushels (along with hay and pasture) and a beef steer about the same…so an acre of corn would provide for one pig, one milk cow, one steer and 30 chickens. Then you need to add pasture land…I don’t know how much, but Mother Earth News is running a contest giving away a cow amongst other things, but they won’t let you have the cow unless you have two acres fenced. Ok, so a cow can live on 2 acres – but if you want milk you also need a bull then the resulting calf. At 2 acres per animal, that is 6 acres – but that doesn’t include the land you need to grow hay for winter or housing.
    You know, I used to feel pretty good about having 23 acres – 4 open and 19 wooded. 50,000 sq ft under cultivation, 16,000 sq ft in orchard. Now I am pretty sure that if you hope to reliably feed your family you would need at a bare minimum about 40 acres, half open for growing and pastures and half in wood for heating and building materials.
    That is why we aren’t counting on being able to provide everything we need and are concentrating on growing the ingredients for “potent potables” to produce high-value trade goods, so we can trade for what we can’t produce ourselves.

  30. We can’t have “farm” animals in my town at the present….but WTSHTF I won’t really care what they say, if I can find some tame rabbits I will get them….I hate chickens, even ready for the pan….we have two apple trees here on the lot where we live so they can be watched just in case…I put Irish Spring on a cord and hang it all around our house lot and the garden and ain’t had nary one road rat(deer)in either since….there is a shed we can make habitable over next to the garden so sons can bunk there for the growing season to act as guards…..and we will continue canning as much as possible…..I ordered another 500$ worth of emergency food from Sam’s Club…we should be able to weather a year or so before we’d have to worry…and that is the wife’s thing…me I don’t worry….the Good Lord has always provideed what I NEED…..not aso much what I want…..

    Lewis in MN

  31. To grow enough food you will need a lot more manure and organic material than you think. It’s not an add once and done sort of thing…you need to add it copiously and every year. Just to keep my collection of 600 hosta growing steadily and to nourish our small fresh eating garden (32’x75′), I would bring in at least 3 tons of composted manure every year…and some years more! And every year I would run out before I was done for the year! Would mix it 50/50 with homemade leafmould, which added to our sandy loam made PRIME soil very quickly. These amounts were just for relatively small areas – one display garden 130’x31′, one 45’x55′, one 80’x24′, one 30’x20′ and a few scattered beds. You can add less manure/organic material, but your yields will be lower and your plants less robust and more susceptible to disease. When your entire food supply depends on how much you can grow, you want everything to grow as well as possible.
    You really need livestock because you really need manure. Even now, our neighbor raises replacement heifers…but he makes more money selling the killer compost he creates from their manure and bedding (in 100′ rows with a bulldozer)! After TSHTF, you will want your own source on site – unless you fancy transporting tons by the wheelbarrow, year after year, from who knows how far? And that is if anyone is willing to part with any! And aside from manure, livestock can provide meat, fat, milk, eggs, leather, fiber, fur, feathers, sinew, gelatin and glue – and breed to replace themselves. They can clear raw land – goats first to eat the brush, then pigs to eat plants & insects and root up the ground, then chickens to work the ground finer, eat insects, weeds and weed seeds – while all are depositing the manure you need right where needed. Goats can replace your weedwhacker and keep forests at bay, eating brush, brambles, poison ivy, etc. They can also be used as pack animals or even haul a small cart. Chickens can be rotated in portable pens through the orchard in spring and fall when insect load is highest, depositing manure right where you want it. Then rotate them through the garden paths in summer to eat insects, weeds and weed seeds while aerating the soil. In the fall they go onto the garden beds to work in plant residue, fertilize the beds, eat insects and weed seeds and loosen the soil. They can also work up your compost piles for you, saving you that heavy labor. Pigs can turn garden and orchard waste and kitchen scraps into bacon…need I say more? (hehe)
    You will need livestock to live well after TSHTF, so make sure you have enough land for them!

    • Plant Lady says:

      Please read the article at the following link. It is adapted and reprinted from Gene Logsdon’s book “Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind”. It explains far better than I could just how critical manure is, even right now, before TSHTF. Really drives home how important it will be after TSHTF.
      And it talks about…oh, boy, one more looming catastrophe concerning food supply that may well be the SHTF trigger – I’ll let you read about it in the article.
      http://www.cornucopia.org/2010/12/why-farmers-are-flocking-to-manure/

      • heh, that made me smile. We’ve been using manure from our cows to fertilize our corn for as long as we’ve grown it, and alfalfa to fix nitrogen on the rest. Manure is a lot cheaper than buying fertilizer. It’s not perfectthough, because there’s not enough stock manure to ffset all the chemical fertilizers. Unless we use humanure, but that would need to be treated to remove all the drug residues from our medications.

        and now, off to spread some sh’t!

  32. It seems to me that the answer to the question of how much land it takes to be self-sufficient is easily answered by looking at American history. If recall my 8th grade history correctly, back in the post-Civil War South the federal government decided that 40 acres and a mule was what it would take for a freedman, his wife and a passel of kids to clear and work enough land to feed the family plus have a wooded section to provide timber for building a cabin and providing firewood for cooking and heating. The expectation, as I recall, was that a substantial portion of the cleared land would be plowed with the mule and planted to grow maize and beans to feed the family and livestock (mule, chickens, hogs) plus cotton for a cash crop, and a portion of the cleared land would be meadow to graze the mule or provide hay for winter. The wife and kids were expected to cultivate a kitchen garden to supplement the diet of maize and beans and a hog or two, raised in a pen behind the cabin, would be butchered after the first frost and the resulting hams smoked in the smokehouse. The wife would be exected to sew the family clothes from store-bought fabric, boil the laundry on a wash pot over an outdoor fire, make soap from lard and wood ashes, and cook over fireplace coals. Births would occur at home, assisted by a neighbor woman, and any illnesses would be treated, hit-or-miss, with home remedies. If the family was lucky there would be a church and a school house within walking distance. I expect this was a very physically demanding life, required a variety of primative farming and carpentering and housekeeping skills that few people know today, and that disaster was just one crop failure or debilitating illness or injury away. I really doubt many modern American families have the acreage, the physical stamina and the know how to truely lead a self-sufficient lifestyle today.

    • This is true that most would not have the ability to provide for themselves. The only thing you are not taking into account is the proliferation of knowledge available on Youtube, these blogs and other media. Knowledge is far greater than it used to be in most any endeavor and the old hit and miss methods of yesteryear are relegated to the scrap heap with this abundance of knowledge and know how. Materials and tools alone are a far cry now than what they were when I was a child growing up during WWII and I am very grateful for that. During that period of time only the wealthy would have been able to own a power saw to fell a tree with and now such things are available for a mere pittance. Less effort will be required in creating and maintaining a survival lifestyle now than it was then with all of the improvements mentioned. All a person wll be lacking is the will to do so which our youth has been pretty well educated away from.

  33. Patty………..I don’t know where you live but here in MN it is illegal to burn treated wood and not only that but it releases toxins into the air and breathing it (you or neighbors) can be VERY harmful…..one reason I think the fencing guy is being so nice-if he were in MN-is because the “construction debris” goes in one pile to get recycled and costs less than “household garbage” to get rid of…..and treated wood is considered “household garbage”…..and the cost difference can be considerable…..when I was in business for myself and had to use treated wood I always hauled it away, just added 5 bucks or so to the bill for disposal….and when one of my customers would say “I’ll burn it” I took it anyway and explained to them why….

    Lewis in MN

  34. jefferson lisboa says:

    Last week Apple was granted a patent that will allow you to remotely disable the camera iPhones in certain places, sparking fears that such techniques may be used to prevent citizens from communicating with each other or record videos during protests or other events such as political conventions and meetings.The camera phone has revolutionized the flow of information in the digital age. Whenever there is a big event, news networks and video sites are immediately inundated with footage and photographs of the scene. However, this may change in the future with one push of a button, according to U.S. patent No. 8254902, published on TuesdayMonday, entitled “Apparatus and methods for imposing policies on wireless devices.” In the text of this patent we find the following:

    Apparatus and methods to alter one or more functional or operational aspects of a wireless device, such as upon the occurrence of a certain event. In one form of operation,occurs in the event of detection that the wireless device is within range of one or more devices. In another embodiment, the event comprises the wireless device to associate with a particular access point. Thus,various aspects of device functionality can be enabled or restricted (the “policies” of the device). This ability to policy enforcement is useful for a variety of situations, including, for example, to disable the sound and / or light from wireless devices (for example, a movie theater),for preventing wireless devices to communicate with other wireless devices (such as an academic mode), and to force certain electronic devices enter the “standby” (Stand By) when entering a sensitive area.
     In other words, a coded signal could be transmitted to all wireless devices, orderingthem to disable recording functions. Obviously, how this will be implemented will depend on what is defined as a “sensitive area” by the authorities. To be frank,those who really hold power could control what you can and can not document with their mobile devices according to their own whims. Given that large technology companies are set to make wireless connectivity an important feature of more advanced cameras,this development is not seen as a good omen for photographers and citizen journalists who are already experiencing a major crackdown on their rights and freedoms. Michael Zhang from tech sites Peta Pixel comments:
     “If this technology becomes widely adopted and implemented in cameras,photographs could be avoided by simply setting a “fence geographical” around a particular location, whether a movie theater, a place where they celebrities, a place of protest, or in secret rooms in the street Infinite Loop # 1 in Cupertino, California ( Local industry research and development of Apple) “—————————————-

     Never been a fan of Apple, and this “new” only increases my certainty of never owning an iphone.But will It will take a lot to see with something like google appear for android? Or a law by the (manipulated) government authorities requiring the suitability of all phones that support these geo-restrictions?

    Sources:
     – Patent No. 8254.902: Apparatus and methods for enforcement of policies upon a wireless device
    – Infowars: Apple Granted Patent To Disable Cameras According To Location
    – Peta Pixel: Apple Moves One Step Closer Toward Location-Based Camera Disabling