Getting into Hugelkultur Gardening for the Prepper

Today’s non-fiction writing contest entry was written by Chantal

Hugelkultur gardening makes perfect sense, it’s a permaculture based method that I’d like to share what I’ve learned and ask others what your experience on this method is.

The initial concept of the Hugelkulture garden is to use a entire fallen tree, or large branches and mound dirt over creating a three to six foot tall raised garden lump. I decided to build a Hugelkulture style garden for growing my food. After all this garden method makes sense as everything that is needed is within the vicinity of the garden which is important for both building the garden and ongoing maintenance of the plot.

However everything is open to adaption in my opinion, so my Hugelkulture style garden is being made from what I collect before mowing or slashing, garden waste, leaf litter, chicken and cow manure, pine needles, feathers, and anything biodegradable that I need to get rid of that might add to it’s permaculture abilities.

I’ve been adding to my Hugelkulture style garden bit by bit, one thing that stands out to me is that this is not a labor intensive job, a huge advantage is that there’s minimal digging and the selection of branches used are within my ability to move them easily and the beds can easily be extended raised or modified later as needed.

When the garden bed is to a height and shape your happy with, then add soil over the mound and compact it by what ever means is best (one YouTube clip shows a group of friends doing a conga line over their mound however I have just let the rain sort out the placement of the soil in mine).

The concept of Hugelkulture is to grow plants on a composting biomass which will provide a fertile growing medium and excellent water retention. The wood and plant materials as they break down provide the soil with nutrients and as the decomposition process occurs the air pockets formed in the bed also assist the plant growth.

People that have used this method advise that the results are excellent, the beds however do require topping up with more organic debris as the natural process of composting shrinks the beds. But my plan is to just keep on with adding fallen branches and other matter as i need to dispose of it.

There is no tilling required ever, this coupled with being a raised bed that you can access from all sides makes perfect sense for this to be of benefit to everyone, especially those with any mobility issues.

The long term goal for my Hugelkultur bed is for it to be as self seeding and maintenance free as possible. I want a garden that gardens itself and will produce all year round.
I’ve already added some seed potatoes to within the structure, which are just starting to shoot. I’d like to initially aim to have the garden all bolt to seed and do it’s own thing and let the plants take ownership of the bed.

These photos are of the bed so far, you can see the end that was started first as it is built up and covered in soil, then further down the bed it still needs adding to. So far the bed is about 15 feet long and 3 feet high.

It looks small but the nature of the mound means that if I were to only finish what’s there I would have 90 square feet of growing space. The footprint of the mound is about 15×2 feet or 30 square feet. So simple maths says that the higher you go the more grow space can be achieved (there are examples online of beds being supported by pallets or rocks), the other photo is how I collect the branches etc and my support crew.

There’s loads of info available on this method and I’m keen to get your opinion and suggestions.

Collecting items for hugelkultur

Collecting items for hugelkultur

Hugelkultur bed photo

Hugelkultur bed

Resources for this article:

Prizes for this round (ends April 23 2015 ) in our non fiction writing contest include… Please send your articles now!

  1. First place winner will receive –  A  case of six (6) #10 cans of Freeze Dried Military Pork Chops a $300 value courtesy of MRE Depot, and a  WonderMix Bread Mixer courtesy of FoodPrepper.com a $300 value and five bottles of the new Berkey BioFilm Drops a $150 value courtesy of LPC Survival – total prize value of over $750.
  2. Second place winner will receive –  A gift a gift certificate for $150 off of  Federal Ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo.
  3. Third Place winner will receive –  A copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of  TheSurvivalistBlog.net and copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy of www.doomandbloom.net.

Backyard Liberty – The Smart Easy Way To Food Independence

Survival Aquaponics - Backyard LibertyA few days ago, I asked readers of this blog to recommend a product to review, from a short list that I provided and Backyard Liberty – The Smart Easy Way To Food Independence, was at the top of the list when adding up the number of suggestions for each, and for good reason, we all have to eat and being food independent is after all one of the key concepts of prepping, homesteading and survival.

From the introduction:

Mainstream America may be unwilling to accept the inevitable possibility of a crisis situation, but the truth is, it will eventually take place. Whether it’s due to a national contamination of our food source, war, or other disruptions to “the norm”, crisis scenarios have occurred all throughout history and you need to be prepared in the event that you’re alive when it happens.

One of the most important things that you have to be aware of and prepared for in any type of crisis situation is how you will eat. As everyone will no doubt turn to looting, scavenging and any other possible means to get food, the available food supply will eventually be depleted and you will have to be able to create your own source of food. And this is where the practice of survival aquaponics comes into the picture.

We all know that a crisis is going to happen at some point, so most preppers store up a supply of water, food, medications and weapons for self-defense, but during consulting with clients (yes, I do that too – I just don’t advertise it) were I’ve seen the most short comings in their preps is in their resupply plan.

It’s a face… you can only store so much food, because of cost and space, and the more food that you store the more that you have to keep up with, via dating, and rotation. After you reach a certain point it can get overwhelming and unmanageable.

The only solution to all of this is to set up a renewable resupply chain – as in growing your own, on your own land or in hidden locations. As you know I’m a big fan of the small self-reliant homestead concept… I.E. raising a home vegetable garden, chickens for eggs and meat, rabbits for meat, bees for honey, a fruit orchard etc.

I do all of the above and have for years, but I’ll admit that I’ve never tried survival aquaponics, but after reading “Backyard Liberty – The Smart Easy Way To Food Independence” I think that I’ll give it a try.

It looks simple enough, and the plans detail a low-cost set-up that just about anyone can afford to put together, even me. It’s also well written with 97 pages including color photographs, with sections breaking each topic into easily digestible details.

The plans give several different recommendations for tanks, including swimming pools, plastic barrels, and IBC tanks, discarded bathtubs and hot tubs, to name a few, but I’m going to use the IBC tanks, because I already have several on hand and know where I can buy several more cheaply.

Survival Aquaponics - Backyard Liberty

IBC tank

 

It will probably be a couple of months before I can set this up, because I have so many other projects in the works, (isn’t prepping fun) but I think that survival aquaponics will be a great step forward to increase my personal food resupply chain.

Although I’ll be starting from scratch, I’m confident that I’ll have no trouble setting this up and running it effectively, using the instructions that are provided in the Backyard Liberty Plan.

Ah, I almost forgot… there are several bonus programs that you get free of charge when you download Backyard Liberty including – How to build a water biofilter, How to survive an economic collapse, and 27 Items to hoard before a crisis.

If you’re already a hands on expert and have your own survival aquaponics set-up, then please share your thoughts and tips in the comments below. Thank you.

Growing an Actual Survival Garden – Tips and Advice to Get You Started

This article was written by K Fields

Worked in my garden

This time of year, many folks are thinking about gardening and wondering about becoming more food self-sufficient. Some fear Government regulations, some fear Corporate controls on supply, some fear the additives used by producers to increase gains, some just fear everything and are searching for some corner of stability in a mostly unstable world. Whatever your driving force to become more food self-sufficient, my hat is off to you.

But where should you start? Since we’re survivalists, I feel you should start with garden products that will provide you with a good amount of nutrition, are easy to grow, can be prepared for storage with the least amount of work, and will offer you a diet that is not too radically different from what you are currently eating (this is especially important for the very young and the very old). Potatoes, dry beans and peas, hard (winter) squash, carrots, corn and wheat will be the basis and, to round out your diet, honey (and bees for pollination), black oil sunflowers for, well, oil of course and apples for their sugar, minerals and vitamins. Other than eating more (different) squash and substituting sunflower oil in those areas you currently use butter, this diet should be acceptable to most folks.

And what about livestock? The addition of livestock can enhance your life or it can be a nightmare depending on your situation. Chickens are normally thought of as a basic necessity and many people will start raising chickens before they ever begin to grow enough crops to feed themselves – thinking they will have eggs and meat available if nothing else. But if you take a step back and look at some realities, the storybook homestead scenario doesn’t hold up.

A hen egg will give you somewhere around 90 calories, but each hen will need to consume about 300 calories a day to produce that egg. If you are set-up where your chickens can fend for themselves, every day of the year, summer and winter, and still get enough nutrition to produce eggs, then fine, chickens will be a definite plus to your diet. But if you must feed them 300 calories worth of grain a day, even for part of the year, to produce a single 90 calorie egg, then you’re running a loss you can’t afford for long in a survival situation without other compensations.

Dairy animals are usually the next step in the fairy-tale self-sufficient homestead evolution. They will give you milk, cream, butter, cheeses and an offspring you can slaughter for meat. But boy-oh-boy, they will cost you. A basic fact you should keep in mind – you’ll never get the calories out to match the calories you are putting in. Even setting feed issues aside, dairy animals require a daily commitment and a lot of work and that requires you to expend a lot of calories that you otherwise would not need to do. We want to keep the work necessary to feed ourselves to a minimum as much as we can in a survival situation.

And large meat animals? Hogs will consume about 6 calories of feed for every calorie of meat, a steer closer to 11 to 1. And then there is the problem of processing and preserving that quantity of meat without refrigeration in a survival situation. Now don’t get me wrong, there are definite plusses to raising livestock, but my advice is to get your basic nutritional needs taken care of first and then, and only then, think about advancement to that next level.

So let’s forget the livestock for now and concentrate on the simple garden produce that will actually keep you alive. The items listed above will provide you with plenty of calories and protein, and most of the vitamins and minerals you’ll need to survive. They are easily grown and just as important, they are easy to store after harvest – requiring minimal preparation. Potatoes, hard squash, carrots and apples are simply stored whole in crates or on shelves, and will last 4 to 6 months with very little care necessary on your part – beans, peas, corn, wheat and sunflower seeds are allowed to dry “on the vine” if possible, threshed, and then placed in vermin proof bins until you wish to use them – next week, next month, next year, 5 years down the road – they will be fine. Honey, as most here know, will store virtually forever.

None of these foods require freezing, canning or dehydrating so the “screw-up” factor is about as minimal as you can get – and that is what you need if you’re looking to actually survive off your own land. Yes, freezing can preserve many foods and meats, but freezing requires a power source that may not always be available to you. Canning requires the proper equipment, a lot of energy in the form of stable heat, and a lot of labor on your part. Dehydrating also requires extra heat energy input (although that can be provided by the sun) but again, a good amount of labor on your part is necessary to prepare the foods to dehydrate properly. All these methods have their place, but I suggest using them only to enhance your diet and not depend on them for your basic survival.

So how much will you need to grow? It depends on many factors, but I can share with you what quantities I grow to maintain my diet and maybe from that, give you some basis for your own situation.

First some background – I doubt my everyday at-home life will be much different after a SHTF type event. For much of my life I have lived mostly on what my homestead could produce, I’ve always lived “off-the-grid” except for my time working for the military and have always tried to do most homestead tasks using manual and animal labor instead of power equipment to maintain the skills my great-grandfather taught me.

My diet provides me with an average of 2,600 to 2,800 calories a day and that has been enough to maintain my health (I’m 6’5″ and my weight stays in the 212 to 220 range) and this amount of calories gives me enough strength and stamina to operate this homestead single handedly – at least for now (I’m currently 64).

I give this information simply as background as I know there will be folks who’ll say an individual will need thousands more calories a day once they must start doing their own hand labor, but my lifetime of experience shows that not to be true.

So let’s look at the quantities of these basic garden products that would be necessary to maintain my needed 1 million calories a year and my survival.

Potatoes:

Potatoes offer you about 320 calories per pound and a good bit of protein. I suggest you grow 1,200 pounds of potatoes over the season, which will give you 384,000 total calories. I know that sounds like a lot of potatoes, but if you are like me and have them fried with apples for breakfast, mashed, baked, served in soups and grated into hash browns and pancakes, you’ll find they will disappear fast. And what kid doesn’t like French-fries? You do have to be a bit careful with potatoes due to their high glycemic index – basically your body digests them quickly and causes a quick release of sugar into your bloodstream – so in our survival scenario, frying them will actually be better for you during the day as the oil will slow this process and keep you from experiencing that energy spike followed by the lethargic feeling as your insulin levels overcompensate. You can’t afford to be “fuzzy-headed”.

I currently produce about 1 pound of potatoes per square foot of garden space but my area is perfect for growing potatoes. I’d say 80 pounds per 100 sq. ft. would be a safe estimate for most areas, so you should be able to grow this quantity in about 1,600 square feet of space. Most folks will plant seed potatoes (a sprouted piece of potato that will produce clones) but remember to also grow a few plants from actual seed so that you can harvest the potato seeds for storage and future crops. This is a survival garden so you don’t want to be growing all clones that could be wiped out by some form of blight or virus that could hang around and wipe out your next season’s crop also. Potato seeds will only produce small tubers so you’ll have to plant more, but their clones the following season will produce normal sized stock once again.

Hard (winter) squash:

Just in case you didn’t know, winter squash is not grown in the winter – the name refers to hard skin squash that can be stored (after harvest) for use throughout the winter.

One pound of hard squash will equal about 120 calories. If you harvest 450 pounds of squash, that will add an additional 54,000 calories to your diet. My plots produce about 50 pounds per 100 square feet so you should be able to grow this quantity in a space of about 900 square feet. How can you possibly eat 450 pounds of squash? There are so many varieties of winter squash, from butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and all the way up to pumpkins, that you’ll be using them in everything from soups to breads, but yes, this one will take a bit of research on your part to ferret out different recipes to use if your experience with winter squash in the past has stopped with a single pie at Thanksgiving.

Dry Beans:

Many see beans as the staple survival food, and rightly so. Baked, boiled, slow-cooked or refried, beans will provide the protein you’ll need to get through your day. And though it’s not a “complete” protein, most folks will tell you if you throw some grain in your soup, wrap some in a taco shell, or spoon them over cornbread, you’ll have everything you’ll need. The reality though, is that you don’t really have to be careful about combining foods to create the “correct” mix every time – your body is very good at storing nutrients over a day and combining them all by itself as it feels is necessary. A pound of dry beans gives about 1,500 calories, so a 70-pound harvest – about 2 (5 gallon) buckets worth – will give you 105,000 calories and could be grown within a 2,000 square foot plot in most areas even if you have to mix vetch (favas) and beans like I do due to the lack of hot summers here. Also, if your climate allows, be sure to plant some soybeans for homemade soymilk to get additional nutrients.

Peas:

Dry peas, like beans, will provide you protein and a good number of vitamins and minerals. From soups to hummus, peas are a great addition to your diet but I’ve found I don’t use them in as many recipes as beans, so I’m suggesting to only grow half as much.

Peas offer about 1,500 calories per pound and my plots produce an average of 6 pounds per 100 square feet. Let’s put back 1 (5 gallon) bucket’s worth (35 pounds) to give us 52,500 calories for the year. I need just under 600 square feet to grow that quantity.

Carrots:

Carrots offer about 186 calories per pound and I normally harvest a bit over 1 pound per square foot. I find them a good addition to soups, they can add a tang to bread and cakes, and are great to snack on – for a while, but like peas, (as opposed to potatoes); I tire of them fairly quickly. I suggest planting 150 square feet or so with the idea of harvesting 150 pounds worth. That much would add a nice dimension to your diet and 27,900 calories.

Corn:

King corn – everyone knows and loves corn. Corn comes in at around 1,600 calories per pound so it will provide more bang for your buck than any other vegetable / grain. Let’s shoot for 3 (5 gallon) buckets of dry corn (about 110 pounds), which would come in at around 176,000 calories. If I’m very lucky, I could grow that amount in a plot of about 1,600 square feet since my climate is not at all conducive to growing corn (days are too usually too cool). Your harvest from a plot that size will probably be higher and may allow you to keep and feed some chickens! Just remember, corn is normally wind pollinated so keep your plants bunched and be prepared to hand pollinate the outside most stalks in a group this small. If you want to add some sweet hybrids for direct to the table faire, that’s fine, just be sure to stagger the planting so your varieties don’t cross pollinate. Corn is very hard on your soil, so rotate the planting area every year.

Wheat:

Wheat, the staff of life, offers 1,400 calories per pound. Let’s grow enough to fill 4 (5 gallon) buckets or about 150 pounds. That amount would give us 210,000 calories and require a manageable space of around 1,600 square feet to grow. Now some people will tell you not to bother with wheat because it’s too hard to process, but I cut and process my own grains, about a 1/2 acre per year, by hand – so doing 1,600 square feet (a plot 40 X 40 feet) won’t be difficult for you (I actually find wheat easier to harvest and thresh than beans and peas). And having fresh bread, pancakes and pasta is definitely worth it. There are many types of wheat that can be grown in different climates so you’ll have to research what grows best for you.

But what if you’re gluten intolerant? Well, if you actually have celiac disease (a simple lab test will tell you), then you’ll need to grow more corn, but if you don’t, I suggest you try some home grown, home ground heritage wheat before accepting your intolerance – your allergy may simply be to the stuff offered at your local supermarket and not to actual naturally grown wheat.

Apples:

Apples are a bit tougher to categorize since most of us don’t eat the whole apple, but a reasonable estimate would be about 220 calories per pound. Although my trees are full-size, I keep them pruned to about 6 feet so I can harvest without ladders – living on my own I try to minimize the chance of accidents as much as possible – so they only produce about 40 pounds of apples each. Pruned in this way, 3 trees can be set in a 100 square foot plot, so let’s figure 6 trees of different varieties with ripening dates spread through the season taking up 200 square feet of space. That would result in an additional 52,800 calories in our larder. An apple a day, as the saying goes, whether raw, fried, made into butter or baked in a pie is good for you (and the cores can make a perfectly usable vinegar). Just be sure not to store them next to the potatoes.

Honey:

Honey is kind of a perfect food – it seems to appear magically, has numerous uses, and lasts virtually forever in storage. My Langstroth bee hives average 60 pounds of honey a year each and in many areas of the country, they would produce closer to 100. One pound of honey provides about 1,350 calories, so each hive gives me 81,000 calories. Let’s put one hive into our survival garden.

Black Oil Sunflowers:

Now this one may take a while for you to accept unless you currently eat what’s referred to as a Mediterranean diet. The frying in sunflower oil won’t seem strange (and you’ll want to be frying a lot of your food to gain these extra calories) but substituting sunflower oil for butter on your bread and pancakes takes a bit of getting used to.

I put in around 400 oil seed plants each year in an area 10 X 200′ and usually yield about 2 bushels of seed. Out of that, after pulling out my seed stock, I get around 3 gallons of oil. Since this will be your only source of oil (no butter, lard, etc.) though, I’d double that to 800 plants to press a potential 6 gallons. At 120 calories per tablespoon X 256 tablespoons per gallon X 6 gallons, the oil adds 184,320 calories to our total.

You should only press small quantities of oil at a time – although the seeds will last for years, the oil itself will break down comparatively quickly. You can also use these seeds to make sunflower seed butter (it’s kind of like peanut butter but sweeter), which, I’ve found, most kids love.

Other considerations:

Onions, garlic and herbs don’t have many calories but they fall into the same categories of easily grown and easily stored. Plant some to add variety to your survival diet.

Conclusions:

Growing these simple to store foods in the quantities listed could produce a yearly total exceeding 1 million, 300 thousand calories in a perfect world – almost enough for 1-1/2 people. But since our world is only wonderful (but not perfect) you WILL have losses – to wildlife, to accidents, to spoilage (and you’ll need to pull out seeds and clones for the following season) so you must overcompensate a bit. Again, your SURVIVAL depends on having nutritious food in sufficient quantities – you cannot take the chance that you’ll be able to squeak by with the bare minimum necessary!

Amazingly, this quantity of vegetables can be grown in a plot measuring about a quarter of an acre due to staggered harvests, sister planting, etc. One consideration though, is that you’ll probably need additional water and fertilizer (which you may not have available in an actual survival scenario) to do that, so to be safe, figure that you’ll need about 1/3 of an acre (a plot 120 X 120 feet) of garden PER PERSON to provide you with this basic diet.

But what about using intensive gardening methods? Yes, I’ve read the advertisements about growing enough food for a family of 4 on a quarter acre, but I can’t do that even with all my years of gardening experience and living in an area that lets me grow many crops year round. If you have the perfect climate, deep, rich soil, abundant fertilizer, abundant water and you have the energy and skill to do it, great, but I can only relate to you what has actually worked for me, year after year, for decades now.

Eating such a diet day in and day out can get boring, but think of it only as your basis. Were you lucky enough to trap some game or catch some fish yesterday? That’s great! Harvest some wild mushrooms and boring becomes something special. Maybe your garden will produce twice the quantity of corn as mine in the same space or your apple trees will offer a more abundant harvest, or the birds will leave your sunflowers in peace. Wonderful! Now you can “afford” to get some chickens and maybe even a milk goat to further vary your meals. And remember, the corn, wheat, peas, beans, sunflower seeds, and honey won’t go bad if you have some left over from last year.

Now you may ask, is this my current diet? No it is not, but this list DOES make up the basis of my diet just as I’m suggesting it should yours if you want to be prepared for a long-term SHTF event. I am lucky enough to have the space to grow the additional feed and forage to keep a dairy cow for milk, butter and cheese, chickens for eggs and I have a small “kitchen garden” for salad greens and perennials that are eaten in season – so my actual diet is more varied than this basic formula. But these are the items that I’ve always grown year in and year out to assure that I, and those I care for, never have to go hungry.

Post SHTF Eating After The Grid Goes Down

Today’s non-fiction writing contest entry was written by WVMike

Prizes for this round (ends Jan 13 2015 ) in our non fiction writing contest include… Please send your articles now!

  1. First place winner will receive –  A case of Yoder’s Bacon courtesy of MRE Depot, a Wonder Junior Deluxe grain mill courtesy of Kitchen Neads and a Survive2Thrive Organic Food Storage bucket courtesy of LPC Survival.
  2. Second place winner will receive –  A gift a gift certificate for $150 off of  Winchester Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo.
  3. Third Place winner will receive –  A copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of  TheSurvivalistBlog.net and copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy of www.doomandbloom.net.

I like to eat. I do it 2-3 times every day. If the Grid goes down, the SHTF, or we have TEOTWAWKI, I hope to keep doing it, and maybe even increase my calorie intake. So how do you do that?

I hear people say they will head for the hills, and live off nature. This is not a plan. This Is Not A Plan! THIS IS NOT A PLAN!!!!! I live in the hills and have most of my life. I know all the local plant life and have hunted all the local wild life. I even go on camping trips and eat just what nature provides. I would die if I tired to live out there just off nature. I know where the springs are, the wild fruit trees, the berry bushes, the nut trees, wild rose hips, where the game trails and feeding grounds are and what grows when.

If you were to come with me the right times of year, you would imagine I am a survival guru of the highest caliber and that living off the land is easy. Come back Nov-May and you will be eating the phloem off trees (if you even know which ones to eat). Also the hills tend to get a lot more rain/snow and the cold can come on a lot faster and more often then in other places. Mountain Men were know for being rough
and rugged in an already rough and rugged world for a reason, living in the hills is tough.

Now according to web MD I need 3000 calories a day to avoid loosing weight. Right now I do 500 pushups a day and walk 3 miles. This is takes me about 2 hours to complete. If I were to not work out at all I would need 2200. Using my math skills this means at an active pace I burn about 400 calories an hour. Assuming I am working for 10 hours I would need 4000 calories added to my 2200 to avoid loosing weight, or over 6000 calories a day.

Lets assume I don’t work any harder then I do now and get two-thirds my calories from animals and one third from the garden (other wise you will have to double all these numbers). Beef has 1250 calories a lb. (750 if it is lean), Chicken has about 750 calories a lb, a large egg has about 80 calories (130 in a Ducks), Pork has about 1000 calories per lb (650 if lean), Deer has a little over 700 calories per lb. (about the same as lean beef), milk has about 2500 calories a gallon, and cheese comes in around 1350-1800 calories per lb. depending on the type.

And for the garden. A tomato has about 25 calories, a potato has 110, a medium summer squash has 30, a zucchini has 20, butternut squash has 150, acorn squash has 230, eggplant has 135, cucumber has 45, onion has 40, brussel spouts have 8 each, green beans have 45 per cup, peas have 40 per cup, corn has 60 an ear and lettuce has about 100 per head. Assuming you are getting 2000 calories from
animal products and 1000 from plant life this would be the amounts of each of these you would need to grow each year.

Animal products
250 pounds of meat (6 deer, 10 goats, 60 rabbits, 80 chickens, 2 pigs, or half a cow)
2280 eggs (10 chickens)
80 gallons of milk (one goat will give 180 gallons a year, a cow will give 1825 gallons a year if you milk them year round)
120 lbs of cheese (about one gallon of milk per pound of cheese)

Plant life
975 tomatoes (34 plants)
225 potatoes (23 plants)
810 yellow squash (102 plants)
1220 zucchini (305 plants)
165 butternut squash (41 plants)
105 acorn squash (21 plants)
180 eggplant (60 plants)
540 cucumbers (40 plants)
485 broccoli (485 plants)
610 onions (610 plants)
3045 brussel sprouts (51 plants)
4865 green beans (700 plants)
8110 pea pods (300 plants)
405 ears of corn (102 plants)
245 heads of lettuce (245 plants)

The number of plants is based off my own gardening and I understand many people get very different results due to watering, soil, and fertilizer differences. I, myself, get dramatic differences year to year based on the style (raised bed vs flat ground) and weather (cold/warm nights, rainfall, cloud coverage, etc.), but this will give you a rough idea of what you will need. You also can play with the numbers such as eat 810 ears of corn and no onions, or 158 Acorn Squash and only 610 zucchini.

You must also figure in how fast a plant grows and how long your growing season is. Lettuce for instant is probably the fastest maturing plant because you eat it in the plant form not when it goes to seed. A head of lettuce can often be eaten 30 days after planting and if your growing season is from May to September you can do 4 plantings (although it really grows best in the spring and early summer). So instead of planting 245 plants you can plant 61 each month. If you have a heated green house and can do 12 plantings you only have to plant 21each month or two every three days where as tomatoes and cucumbers I plant about one every 2 weeks.

My squash, corn and beans I do the three sisters in raised beds. Plant your squash and wait for it to come up, as soon as it has leaves, put your corn in. When your corn is about 6 inches tall plant your beans and wrap them around the corn stalk as they grow. Tomatoes I grow in a 4 square foot wire cage with a bucket full of holes buried in the middle (one tomato plant in each corner). I put my compost in the bucket and each day fill it with water.

This gives great fertilization (especially chicken manure) and the tomatoes all the water they need. As they grow their branches go out the wire and harvesting is as easy as waking by and picking them off the fence. Potatoes I just grow in sacks in a kiddy pool with about 2 inches of water in it (but this year am going to try the build a box around them as they grow MD shared this summer). When you are ready to harvest just flip the sack over and pull them out.

That is all my summer planting. I have six garden towers in a green house with two 100 gallon fish tanks (the water helps keep the temperature stable and the fish waste is used for acquaponics). I grow my smaller plants in these and rotate them so as the plant get harvested new ones are growing in the holes next to them (otherwise it gets too crowed and they complete for sunlight).

I have two grow beds I run the fish water through and so far haven’t found any plants that don’t grow in the gravel (yep, even potatoes). This is all set up on a gravity feed and the beds are high enough that it aerates the water as it pours back into the fish tanks. I change out 15% of the water daily and pour it into the garden towers (5 gallons each) and replace it with fresh rain runoff I collect.

All in all the greenhouse can support 400 plants 12 months a year (although I rarely have that many in it). And if you build covers for your raised beds you can prolong
their use by 2 months a year. Mine are 4 feet by 8 feet and using square foot gardening can grow 48 plants (since I use 4 square feet for the three sisters and alternate with tomato cages I only get 44 with them).

Hopefully this can helps those with no gardening experience know a little bit more about just how much space, seeds, and animals they will need for their group if they choose to live off the land, just multiply it by the number of people in your group and remember anything you take out you will have to make up somewhere else.

A TISKET, A TASKET, A GARDEN IN A BASKET!

This article from the 39th (May 1976) issue of The Mother Earth NewsSurvival garden in a basket.
A TISKET, A TASKET, A GARDEN IN A BASKET!
Last spring, my wife and I were faced with a problem that I suppose most folks run into sooner or later: We wanted a garden—in fact, we desperately needed a garden—but we didn’t have any place to put one.At the time, I had just left the Army and was out of work, so the idea of spending my hard-to-come-by cash on overpriced supermarket produce wasn’t all that attractive. Unfortunately, our landlord didn’t like the notion of us digging a vegetable patch in the backyard any better . . . and even if he had, we would’ve hesitated.

You see, we hoped to move to a small farm sometime before the end of the growing season, and we didn’t want to have to leave a still-thriving garden behind. Besides, we’d already learned from experience that “we’d have to get up early in the morning” to protect a vegetable patch from our two mixed terriers. The “devilish duo” would get under or over any kind of fence we put in their way, and proceed to mangle whatever plants they could find.

So. We used a little ingenuity and came up with a different kind of garden that was portable and pet-proof and productive all at once. In short, we grew piles of tall-topped carrots, juicy tomatoes, and a bevy of other fresh fruits and vegetables … in baskets!

Now, I know that some dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists will turn their noses up at any garden not rooted deep in MotherEarth herself. But if your problems are similar to what ours were, or if you live in a small city apartment, or if you can’t do all the stooping and bending that ground-level planting and weeding requires . . . well, then a basket garden can be a pretty good way to go!

To start one, all you’ll need is several containers large enough to hold a sufficient amount of soil to support living vegetation. In our case, we couldn’t spend a fortune on over-sized ceramic pots, and we didn’t have any good “recyclables” (such as paint buckets or gallon-size plastic milk jugs). So we scouted a local discount store, where we discovered that ordinary clothesbaskets were just fine for our purposes (and inexpensive to boot). The bushel size cost only 57 cents apiece, and the half-bushel just 37 cents … so we brought home three large and seventeen small baskets for a total price of just $8.00!

Next, we lined the containers with plain old “Hefty type” trash bags, and then filled the bottom of each with two inches of coarse gravel for drainage. On top of that we placed a layer of newspaper to keep the soil from washing down into the stones.

Then we added the growing medium itself. Gardening books call for a 1:1:1 ratio of peat moss, loam, and sand . . . and advise that rotted manure, leaves, grass clippings, and other well-shredded vegetation can also be mixed in. We, however, simply used three parts slightly sandy (and rocky) soil from an empty field, combined with one part grass clippings. Judging from the way our plants thrived, I’d say just about any reasonably rich blend of natural materials that’s light and loose enough to provide good aeration will work OK.

Finally, we poked a few small holes in the base of the lined containers to allow extra drainage, and placed stakes in the baskets in which we intended to grow tomatoes and peas.

A friend of ours had access to a number of wooden pallets that some local factories wanted to dispose of … so he gave us two of the skids, from which we constructed a platform that kept our “garden” well above the reach of canine claws, but at just the right height for easy weeding. One of the discards made an “instant tabletop”, and a few minutes’ work with a crowbar and hammer gave us enough usable lumber from the other to build supporting legs and braces. (Incidentally, homesteaders might take note of the fact that throw-away pallets are a good source of free wood for rough construction. They can be used either disassembled or as whole “prefab” sections in any number of projects.)

The final step in establishing our vegetable patch, of course, was the actual planting . . . but before jumping in “seeds first”, we referred to three books which were especially helpful:

[1] Raise Vegetables Without a Garden by Doc and Katy Abraham (Countryside Books, 1974, $2.95); [2] All About Vegetables edited by Walter Doty (regionally oriented editions, published by Chevron Chemical Company, 1973, $2.95); and [3] The Mother Earth News® Almanac (THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS®, Inc., 1973, $1.95).

This information-particularly the guides to natural pest control and companion planting in MOTHER’S Almanac helped us choose the kinds of vegetables and fruits we felt would be most productive and best suited to our own needs and tastes.

We put two large-variety tomato plants (such as “Heinz” and “Country Fair”) in each bushel basket, and found that a half-bushel container could accommodate either a pair of small tomato vines (such as Burpee’s “Early Girl”) or four good-size pepper plants. Our remaining baskets were seeded with radishes, onions, carrots, peas, miniature corn, strawberries, and cucumbers. We planted relatively early in the season, kept the containers out in the sun on warm days, and simply carried them back into the house whenever a chill threatened. (My poor ole Dad lost two successive sets of tomatoes to late frosts in his regular garden . . . but our portable vegetables stayed cozy and warm-one/ healthy—the whole time.)

Obviously, there’s much less moisture-retaining soil in a “container garden” than in a conventional plot, so we did have to give our “babies” frequent waterings. (One possible solution might be to fold the tops of the trash bag liners over the soil, punch holes in the sacks, and then let the plants grow through. We haven’t tried it yet, but suspect the plastic would act as a good water-holding, weed-stifling mulch.) We also had to add extra dirt occasionally as the original material settled . . . but aside from those two minor measures and a little careful bug-watching and -squashing, and cultivating (none of which ever required bending our backs) our food practically grew by itself!

All that summer and fall, we enjoyed a vast and abundant variety of fresh produce straight from one table (the plants’) to another (ours). And we never so much as picked up a rake the whole year!

So … you say supermarket prices are killing your budget, but (moan, groan) you don’t have space to grow your own vegetables? Buy a bunch of baskets!

My Number One Survival Gardening Success Tip

Keyhole Garden – How to make an African style raised bed

And another video showing how to do it…

What You Should Know About Non-Hybrid Vegetable Seed

non hybrid garden seed

How does your garden grow?

At the beginning of the growing season most gardeners, simply head to their nearest garden center, and pickup whatever seed packets that are being displayed on the shelf that year, or they skip the seeds and their germination altogether by purchasing seedlings and transplanting those directly into their garden.

And why this works well (sometimes) during “good times” when you can still rely on going back and getting new seed for planting a new crop each year, if you’re thinking in terms of long-term survival or saving your own seed from year to year, then you need to consider buying and stockpiling Non-Hybrid (Heirloom) vegetable seeds.

According to the good folks at Heirloom Organics:

Non-Hybrid or Open-Pollinated seeds allow the gardener to collect seeds from a crop for future planting. Hybrid seeds do not. Heirloom Organics Seed Packs are 100% Non-Hybrid and Non-GMO (genetically modified) and specially sealed for long term storage. Use now AND save for emergency. All from the same hermetically sealed pack!

And while this is true in most cases, saving seed from year-to-year that grows true, without negative genetic changes is a little more complicated than that. Some plant species, such as corn, okra, and spinach for example must “cross-pollinate” each year to remain strong and to be productive.

Constant inbreeding of cross-pollinating plans, even if they are of the non-hybrid variety will result in weak, non-productive plans after the first couple of years. So even if you start with pure non-hybrid, heirloom seed you can’t save the seed of cross pollinating species, indefinitely without a negative change in the resulting offspring at some point, due to inbreeding of the plants.

The solution to this problem is to simply, buy enough seed to last several years, and store in optimal conditions to ensure germination, or buy several different Non-Hybrid, Non-GMO varieties and cross-pollinate each year.

And now the good news, self-pollinating plant species such as bean, pepper, tomato, eggplant, garlic and pea can be grown and the seeds saved year-after-year with little or no genetic change in growth, health or overall production. Allowing you to continually feed your family, now and during hard-times.

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of folks express concerns about the germination rate of seeds that have been packaged for long-term storage, such as the Non-Hybrid vegetable seeds that are packaged and sold by Heirloom Organics and other seed vendors.

The main concern seems to be that the process and conditions of storing the seed long-term will somehow cause the seed to not germinate (sprout) when planted. After having tested these seeds and their germination rates myself over the past several years, and others have done the same with similar results, I can assure you that germination rates remain just as good or better than seeds stored in a traditional fashion.

Putting back a supply of non-hybrid vegetable seed should be on the to-do-list of every, gardener and that applies ten-fold for the “prepper” because we don’t know what will happen, the result or how long the duration.  We can only store so much food, and after it’s gone you’ll have to produce your own or starve.

Just how important is storing seeds for your long-term survival?

If we consider the fact that Monsanto, Bill Gates and other super wealthy contributors have set-up a huge seed bank in what is known as the “Doomsday Seed Vault” who’s stated goal is to protect those seeds stored inside against pole-shifts, asteroid collisions, nuclear war, earthquakes, floods and cross-pollination from genetically modified plant life, then the need becomes obvious, because these people have all of the resources and probably inside sources that keep them informed about what is going to happen and how to prepare for it…

Doomsday Seed Vault, SkyNews

Controlling the seeds (and thus the world’s food) will allow them to control the world and you.

Further Reading

Growing Vegetables Indoors : Survival Gardening during a Worst Case Scenario

Growing Vegetables Indoors

Growing Vegetables Indoors for Beginners

Keeping your garden safe and out of sight, from hungry looters and refuges after the collapse could mean the difference between life and death for the survivor.

If your retreat can be seen from the street and anyone passing by, then having a traditional garden planted in rows is an open invitation to trouble, as every hungry unprepared person passing by will try to raid your garden, for an easy meal.

Sure you could just shoot them. But like I’ve said before, don’t draw attention to yourself or your location.

You want to look just as pathetic and unprepared as everyone else. If you can avoid a confrontation, by lying low and out of sight, you have won the fight already. Why risk a firefight that could lead to a family member being killed or wounded, if it can be avoided? We are not military planners and no one in our group is expendable.

General tips for outdoor survival gardens

Avoid planting in rows. The Three Sisters Garden works well to conceal your crop if planted in a way as to blend in with a stand of tall weeds. Don’t make trails leading to your garden, that could be followed by someone wondering by.

Don’t leave trash around the site, and cover any exposed dirt after digging with leaves or whatever was covering the site before you started digging. Try to make your garden blend into its surroundings as much as possible.

Growing vegetables indoors

Produce can be grown in sunny rooms using natural light. One way would be to take the roof off of an old shed, barn, garage or storage building and replacing it with corrugated fiberglass sheets used to build greenhouses, you can get the fiberglass sheets at any good hardware store.

The walls and floor of the building should be painted white or covered with aluminum foil, to reflect sun-light back onto the plants. The paint would work best, but the foil would work too.

Any windows should be covered with heavy plastic, to keep anyone from looking in. Window blinds are a good idea. They can be worked in such a way as to let light in, and at the same time make it difficult for a passerby to look in.

The grow room should also have vents covered with screen cut into the walls to let air circulate. The vents should be cut up high next to the roof to keep anyone from looking in. Four 6×12 inch vents, will be fine for a modest size grow room of say 15×20 feet.

Fluorescent lighting

You can set the containers with plants on a table, so they can be closer to the source of light, the more light you can give the growing plants the better they will grow. If electricity is available the light can be supplemented by adding fluorescent light fixtures affixed with grow bulbs, above the planting tables.

Keep the light fixture about 2-3 inches from the top of the plants, moving the lights up as the plants grow taller, while maintaining the 2-3 inch distance. Remember, the more light the better.

With a little work the secret garden will look like only an old out-building, from the outside, but have a thriving vegetable garden hidden inside. Granted, if would be difficult to grow enough produce to feed a family using this method, it works best when used to grow smaller plants like tomatoes and peppers.

This plan is best when used as a supplement to other gardening methods.

Note: I’ve not used this growing method myself but know another prepper who uses it pretty effectively, to grow tomatoes and peppers – growing leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach and kale would work even better.

This article is presented here for informational purposes only, and is intended to help the reader grow legal vegetable crops only. Read our full disclaimer here – if you decide to do something illegal it’s on you, and we take no responsibility for your actions…

Permaculture Gardening Tips for Food Production

Today’s non-fiction writing contest entry, “Permaculture gardening tips for Food Production” By Happy Camper

aquaponics grow bed with the cover off

Aquaponics grow bed with the cover off

WHAT IS PERMACULTURE
Permaculture practice is based on:

ü  creating a sustaining cycle that nourishes the environmental balance

ü  utilising nature to maximise the rewards from plants for food

ü  Waste products going back into feeding the system

The purpose of this article is to encourage you to give it a go;  you don’t need pre-planned garden maps drawn by experts with pretty pathways, grafted fruit trees and ponds.  Sure this is a nice idea, but getting back to reality and a working class budget, you can create mini permaculture systems in their own containers, and extend this out to be a part of a larger system.

Even the smallest system is going to get you motivated to do more within your garden; the sky is the limit when it comes to ideas and planning.  You can easily put your own traits into the system, for me I have enjoyed immensely the conversations that it has provoked in regards to raising rabbits for meat and pelts, as 99% of people in my area think meat comes in a package from the supermarket.

You do not need to jump in and spend loads of time or coin on this, I aim to keep the system maintained on a daily basis and add something to it on a weekly basis.

MY SIMPLE SYSTEM

Tomato growth in tote container with hydroponic method

Tomato growth in tote container with hydroponic method

I have created a very simple permaculture system within my urban environment, but specifically I have created it as a container based,  raised system that can be moved, even though I own this house, I plan on relocating in the next few years.

*Hands up who has moved house and had to leave an awesome garden behind !

My requirements are simple, cheap to establish, easy to extend, portable, can be neglected when necessary, high production and yield, I am aiming to provide 50% of my own produce this year, 75% by the end of next year and then onto 100%

This is how my simple system works:

1. Organic waste is fed to the rabbits or worm farm  (depending on the waste product)
2. Paper products go into the worm farm
3. The rabbit waste drops under the cage and feeds into a compost pile, wheat is growing in this compost pile
4. The purpose of the rabbits is to eat waste, create compost and breed for meat and pelts
5. Compost that is ready is added to a soil mixing container, as the compost is added, I add equal parts of saw dust and sand, also a sprinkle of water holding crystals (which get hydrated by organic worm tea)
6. Worm tea is used to fertilise the garden plants
7. The soil mixing container is hydrated by the run off from a vertical garden, which in itself is self-nourishing as there is a worm farm system built within the container, this within itself is a mini permaculture system, (see diagram and photo)
8. The soil mixture is used as needed in additional pots
9. Organic growth is utilised as food and organic waste is fed back into the system

RABBITS

Rabbits are eating and pooping machines.  They are great in a permaculture system, they demolish waste, produce fertiliser, have lots of babies in quick succession, grow up fast, are good to eat and have lovely pelts.  The only negative I have found with rabbits is the urine odour.

Rabbit hutch, wheat growing and compost underneath​

Rabbit hutch, wheat growing and compost underneath​

Where my system lacks is that I need to buy additional food for the rabbits, I intend on growing more wheat and extending my garden containers and garden beds to provide enough fresh fodder for them.  Even though there is only three adult rabbits (and five x week old kits) they get through a cup of pellets  a day each and roughly their own body size in fresh fodder each.

The ‘bunny berries’ can be used within the gardens without being processed.  If you don’t have rabbits, I hope that you consider getting some ! Time spent maintaining the rabbits once established (three rabbits): 10 minutes a day and 1 hour a week for cleaning

SMALL AQUAPONICS / HYDROPONICS EXPERIMENT

As an experiment I have two identical tote containers growing tomatoes in net pots containing hydroton. The tomatoes were bought within the same punnet, however two plants are growing in aquaponics and two plants are growing in hydroponics.

Note in a larger scale aquaponics system, the fish would be bred for food.  My intention is to assess plant growth rates.

Hydroponics Aquaponics
How does it work ? The plant is grown without soil and fed artificial nutrients The plant is grown without soil, the concept is that the fish waste fertilises the plants
Experiment growth @ 2 months 120cm 100cm
Cost to run Approx. $10 in nutrient Purchase cost of five gold fish $10, they are all thriving
Differences noticed Huge root growth into the water All the root growth has been eaten by the fish, probably explaining the smaller growth rate
Recommendation Not cost effective or organic.
I will not continue to use this method.
No ongoing cost if the fish don’t die off, totally organic.
Yes I will continue to use this method

Time spent maintaining these once established:  a few minutes every few weeks, very minimal

VERMICULTURE
Having an operating worm farm is great ! They eat so much waste and return it to you as rich organic matter for the garden.  A healthy worm farm should have no odour, the only upkeep required is feeding the worms your scraps and adding about 5L of water to it per week.  However I have left my worms unattended for up to three months and they have been fine.

I have three worm systems operating.
1: The ‘Can-O-Worms’, purchased for around $70 this is my primary system.

2: Rabbit area, the worms are great and fast at breaking down the rabbit waste, my main concern is odour control with keeping the rabbits.  By breaking down the waste fast and growing wheat grass, the odour is completely eliminated.

3: Vertical container garden: There central pipe in the container is essentially the worm area, there is no need to add fertalisers to this container garden. The worms do require a small weekly feed of scraps and water the container as normal.

Time spent maintaining the worms once established:  5-15 mins a week

HOW CAN THIS BE ADAPTED IN A SHTF SITUATION?

To increase output from a permaculture system such as this there needs to be a little forward planning.  This is what I would do with this particular system:
1: Use stockpiled seeds to sprout on a larger scale
2: Extend garden grow areas by utilising on ground space and prepare beds for seedlings
3: Increase rabbit breeding stock, hold back on dispatching younger rabbits to utilise for breeding
4: Find additional food source for rabbits, more breeding rabbits will require more fodder

SHARE

What sort of permaculture principals are you already using ?
How could you extend your system if you needed to in a SHTF situation?
Any feedback on my simple system appreciated
Remember the collective knowledge of this group is HUGE, share your information with others

Prizes for this round (ends August 11 2014) in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive –  A $150 gift certificate for Fiocchi Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner, and a Wonder Junior Deluxe grain mill courtesy of Kitchen Neads.
  2. Second place winner will receive – 15 Live Fire Original – Emergency Fire Starters courtesy of LPC Survival and a Survival Puck  courtesy of Innovation Industries.
  3. Third place winner will receive – a copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of  TheSurvivalistBlog.net and copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy of www.doomandbloom.net.

Well what are you waiting for – email your entries today. But please read the rules that are listed below first…