Growing Your Own Food

Does anybody here have any significant experience in growing their own food? Not only that, but preserving this from year to year?

I’ve been having private conversations off and on and the consensus is that the ability and means to grow your own food is not what many seem to think it is. The lack of energy inputs (primarily fuel and fertilizers) means that home gardening will be woefully short of the caloric requirements for a working adult. The EROEI (energy return on energy invested) is negative.

So rather then debate what isn’t actually experienced by most of us, including me, I’d like to hear from those who have:

a) grown all of their own food;

b) and if possible, have done so without petroleum inputs (fuel and fertilizer);

c) and have stored enough of this food to make it through winter and reseed and plant for next season.

Those that have actually lived off their own land like this will be extremely valuable people – but do they even exist? Or is all the hype I’ve seen about growing your own food without petroleum input mostly bogus claims?

Many of us, including myself, live in short growing season areas. I see this as a major problem, always have. This can be extended somewhat with greenhouses and cold frames, but being brutally honest here, I’ll never be able to grow enough of my own food and I know it.

It is not hard to see that my situation is going to be repeated hundreds of millions of times in this country alone. Either climate, soil, drought or the sheer lack of available land (city dwellers) are going to have a very hard, if not impossible time, in growing all of their own food.

Frankly, I have never once met a single person that actually does this, anywhere. But that is meaningless, because I don’t know every person in the country. I know farmers, who use tractors, combines and fertilizers (who have also all been put out of business), but I do not know of a single person that actually grows all of their own food, relying upon no outside inputs. Even these farmers have told me in years past that they could not do it if it wasn’t for oil.

So speak up – if you grow all of your own food, or even a significant amount of it (over 50% would qualify as significant), then let’s hear about it. I’m sure we could all learn a thing or two.

Excluded (please) are the primitivists and survivalists who have harvested food off the land (plants and animals). This isn’t the same thing and certainly not possible but for a very tiny few. This has long been known by serious survivalists, including myself.

So, anybody?


admin at survivalacres dot com

64 thoughts on “Growing Your Own Food

  • December 16, 2007 at 10:30 am

    This will be my first year at growing for full self-sufficiency. Most places that I have visited in researching how much to plant point to ~1/4 acre per person in order to have year-round, stored food.

    Here’s the plan that I am working:

    Raised-bed, square-foot gardens compacts the “stadard” garden plot space considerably, but, I am pushing for plenty of surplus. I’ve got four, 4’x16′ beds started. I’ll build some more starting in Mid-January.

    This year, my blog will be focusing on the entire process. From selecting, starting and saving heirloom seeds, through planting and harvest, and especially storage. I’ll keep you posted on how things work out.

    I hope that this post of yours gleans plenty of good comments– I am as curious as you. I remember as a kid, that my grandparents had a 1/2 acre garden that kept them self-sufficient and provided plenty of surplus.

    Cheers to you and yours– I’m glad to hear you’ve got water flowing again!

    The very best of the Holiday Season to you!


  • December 16, 2007 at 11:12 am

    I expect that many Amish farmers would qualify, but they aren’t online to reply!

  • December 16, 2007 at 11:33 am

    I would like to know what part of the country you are in. Climate, soil and water are huge factors. And whether or not you really are eating only your own raised food without outside energy inputs. I really do not know of anybody that actually survives on what they grow themselves, and ALL are requiring a tremendous amount of outside energy inputs.

    The “9 calories out of 10 are created by petroleum” is something that needs very serious examination. Without petroleum energy and product inputs (including the lumber we use for our cold frames or visqueen sheeting for example), we aren’t really producing what we think.

    I have been doing a lot of research lately and have come across some startling information – but I would like to know first if anybody is really producing all of what they eat, without outside energy inputs.

    Fern – the Amish do not raise all of their own food to my knowledge. They rely on quite a few energy inputs, including purchased bulk grains for human and animal consumption among many other things. But somebody could correct me on this.

  • December 16, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    Friends of mine in Los Angeles have been doing a lot of work in this area. A family of four adults, their peak years produced just under 4 tons of food on their 1/5th of an acre pasadena property. During Summer, they’re able to produce ~80% of their food on the 1/10th acre back garden. It’s a very intensive method.

    They are very much aware of their dependence on the energy intensive water supply.

    Here’s their site:

    and their journal page (with daily updates):

    They use NO fertilisers or pesticides, and use a minimum of electricity.

  • December 16, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    Thank you, that looks pretty interesting. I’m short of time right now, but I must admit, I see a LOT of petroleum inputs in those photographs and comments on that site. Admittedly, no more so then the rest of us, so I’m still wondering, who’s doing this without outside energy inputs? Anybody?

  • December 16, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    The Path to Freedom folks get their grains, many of their cheeses, and some other foods from a coop.

    Admin, I’ll check with my CSA folks – they know the local Amish better than I do. But are you ruling out raising their own animals totally, or just raising animals on store bought grain?

    My groups plans are to raise multi-purpose cattle, the steers are supposed to be relatively easy to train to plough, and browse feed almost as well as goats do. But our woodworker and master mechanics would need time and power to work out ploughs, yokes, etc. We just got the first our our chickens, come spring (the homestead start is in central Pennsylvania) they will free range with minimal food from us – they are heritage birds that do particularly well on bugs. We’re hoping that they will help reduce the tick problem.


  • December 16, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    Well – you (Admin) already know of my background and opinion on this topic.
    For those that don’t, I offer the sparsest of an outline:

    Vegetable gardening since a toddler (forced/slave labor)
    ‘organic’ vegetable gardener for decades (voluntary, for personal consumption and farmer’s market sales, not current).
    5 post-graduate degrees in Life Sciences and Ag-development (including Ph.Ds in Hort Sci and aquatic ecosystem management, IPM, CEA, etc.)
    International (first and third world) Ag development experience aka ‘ag expert’ (former USDA/USAID/FAO etc. consultant).

    Q: Is anyone in North America cultivating ALL of their food (energy) without any oil derived inputs? By “anyone” (here), I mean individual or extended family (not meaning a comprehensive/cohesive/integrated community).
    A: NO – not even close. I’ll wager that fewer than 100 people in North America could produce 25% of their caloric requirements for just one year even WITH oil-sourced inputs (after which they are fertilizer). Without oil, well, maybe 10 people/families could produce 10%, none of whom live North of the Mason-Dixon line. If they do (did), they may well not be the beneficiary of said efforts.

    Q: Is this even remotely possible?
    A: Theoretically, given an ideal and stable climate, vast skill/experience/resources, consistent luck and MASSIVE effort/work (over time), perhaps 50% of caloric/nutrient requirements could be realized – by a few. Obviously (to me), 50% does not ‘cut it’ for more than a week.

    Otherwise (absent any of above), NO BUSHING WAY JOSE, aka NEVER happen.
    I ‘don’t care’ how motivated one is, this premise is as delusional as Darth Cheney getting past St Peter and dining with Jesus. Mother Earth News, Rodale, “big- O heads” and permaculture acolytes be damned (are IMO willfully deluded).

    Without “cheap oil”, 50-plus % of humans starve (and/or succumb to disease). WIthout oil-driven infrastructure intact, 95-plus % of humans are dust.

    BTW, Murphy’s Law applies to/in agriculture (at each/every ‘step’) more than in any other human activity. So-called ‘pest management’ alone is a major hurdle (set of disciplines) NTM plant diseases. Absent petroleum derivatives, and esp with ‘heirloom’ seed (genes), this alone is a HUGE undertaking/task (science and art) and regardless an ever present ‘risk’ (threat) (genes) If you do grow it, ‘they’ will come. To say nothing of ‘threat’ (probability) of ‘mutant zombie biker hordes’ – meaning any/every ‘unprepared’ nairdowell aka virtually EVERYONE known and not.

    This entire topic is more than deserving’ of a book – or several – one nary a ‘soul’ would read but many would ‘trash’. Who ‘needs’ (wants. accepts, ) exponentially more pessimism, heightened cynicism, and a greater sense of hopelessness and despair at any time/point ntm in these daze [sic] and times? No one I can possibly think of. Everyone is fully vested in the fairy-tale playing on the movie screen of their minds and no one knowingly pulls the plug on the projector they’ve built/bought – especially when threatened by a foreign/novel reality. Everyone grasps/clings to their comfort zone (aka prejudice, delusion). Everyone, including yours truly, ‘religiously’ prefers/preserves their selected private illusions (and effort in maintenance of same) over the impersonal, indifference, harshness of physical Reality (‘capital R’). Those who choose growing their way to food ‘independence’/sufficiency do so at significant risk – every day/week/month/year.
    At least they attempt to fend of the grim reaper and will also likely outlast most of those that don’t have clue enough to even try (anything).

    “Ah, Humans! Arrogance and stupidity in one package. How efficient!” (Amb. Molari, Babylon 5)


  • December 16, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    This is such a huge subject, as Lonewolf indicates, deserving of a book, that for now I’ll report that we garden 100% organically and have for decades, and about 5 years ago gave up the tiller for muscle power, raised beds, year-round gardening, and planting more nut and fruit trees.
    The subject is so huge I’ll compose a sort of nutshell of our operation which might help someone wanting to begin feeding themselves with little or no outside inputs. Update to follow in day or two.

  • December 16, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    I’m really glad that you brought this up. I’m going to have to adjust some plans. Looking at calorie sources ahead of some other issues means I’ll have to scrounge money to put in nut trees as a priority. I had planned on trying to put in some fruit trees this spring, as well as my beloved blueberries.

    Those will still go in, but not as a high priority. I’ll work to identify the hickories and black walnuts already on the land, and build from there. My plan always was to get in one fruit tree and one nut tree per expected person. Probably going to have to increase that, just for calories.


  • December 16, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    I lived in east OR and west ID as a kid. The family always grew a kitchen garden (this was during WW2) and ate/canned everything grown, and we depended on it. Canâ’t grow everything, so were dependent on others for many staples. My uncle had a ranch and grew corn and wheat to feed his livestock and us too.

    After military service, I lived in southern CA, and could grow almost everything due to the long growing season. Ate stuff as it matured and canned the surplus. Gardening Paradise.

    In the 80â’s, I lived in the mountains of nw MT. The growing season was short, and frost could come at anytime (even the 4th of July!!) Had to grow fast maturing veggies and start them in the cabin early just to get a crop. Besides the weather, had competition from the deer, rabbits, crows, raccoons etc. Not enough left over to can. No way I could be more than subsistent. No way I could grow enough to live all year (had meat though!!) Gardening Hell.

    I now live in sw WA and try to grow a large garden every year. Some years are good; some are bad. Going to be slim pickinâ’s if I try to live completely off my little farm.

    My suggestion is to get large quantities of freeze-dried/dehydrated food, lots of grain – wheat, corn, rice; and lots of beans in all their variety while they are still available, as well as canned and boxed food from the grocery store etc. These foods, supplemented by what you can grow/glean may keep you alive. I can foresee a time when growing only the most successful crops for your area may be the only solution, and there wonâ’t be much variety in the menu. But maybe it will keep you alive. Gardening/farming is always a crap-shoot anyway — good luck to all of us!

  • December 16, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    You asked for details if it was “significant” – 50% or more. I’m probably at that mark.
    SW Missouri, McDonald county. Zone 6b.
    100×100 garden fenced with 2×4 welded wire to keep the chickens out. Dug by hand, soil prepped with a U-Bar. 5 foot wide beds. Irrigated with graywater – bike powered pumped from a catch basin.
    Half the seeds I planted last year were saved by hand, next years garden will be 90%. Last years items were tomato, bell pepper, hot pepper, topo topo, parsnip, turnip, rutabaga, carrot, beet, potato, green bean, pole bean, peas, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, lettuce, collard, mustard, cucumber, melon, squash, and the fabulous cow peas. Corn, milo, oats and peanuts. Perenials are asparagus, raspberry, blackberry and about twenty? herbs (wife’s domain). Our fruit trees got zapped by the frost so no crop this year. I miss the applesauce.

    But that fossil fuel free bit is kinda tricky. I sell eggs from my chickens and buy corn chops for them and the pig(s). If I didn’t try to generate a dozen eggs a day over what we use I wouldn’t have to buy corn – the eggs would just be smaller and fewer in number. I can grow the pig up to about 125# on weeds, kitchen scraps, and acorns raked out of the yard, but that last 125# requires supplemental feed. This year I took a job one shift a week at a restaurant washing dishes for minimum wage and all the scraps I could haul out of there. The year before that was dumpster diving. drive to work/dumpster = fossil fuel.

    The goats can provide for all our dairy and we are cheese junkies!

    Fertilizer. Well, thats kinda odd, too. I can have all the manure from the 4 pet horses friends of mine have free for the hauling. I grab a load if I am coming home with an empty truck now and then. I’d say 1/4 of the compost I make comes from the horses. The rest is goat, donkey, and chicken poop, along with the humanure. Leaves, bedding, raked up grass clippings (scott’s reel mower) make up the carbon for the heaps, And I have heaps everywhere. It is not a methodical operation around here. Oh yeah, the worm bin gets the coffee grounds, sink strainer gunk, and bones that don’t go to the dog.

    Pesticide: Mineral oil on the corn. Tobacco juice and other herb sprays. And pickin the damn tater bugs off every damn day. Companion planting is helping out now that I am getting a handle on what goes where.

    Preservation: Canning on the outdoor rocket stove. Sand for the root crops, hang onions and lime the potatoes. I’ve got to get off my ass and figure out a smokehouse so the deep freezer can go the way of the tiller.

    I’m probably exaggerating some things, and minimizing others. But if total collapse occurred tomorrow, we would not starve, be cold, or be to dirty. Might have to bag a deer when the pork runs out. I’ve got plenty of seed saved and while our diet may be pretty spartan on what I’ll grow, the woods around here harbor a lot of treats.

    We moved out here 4 years ago. The place was a mess – 20 plus years of total neglect. We are finally at the point where we can really focus on food production rather than infrastructure. Looking forward to spring!
    On a side note, our “crash stash” got to big to fit in the odd places. Had to make a “doom room!”

  • December 16, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    Growing ALL of your food in this day is difficult, if not impossible, to do, but only because there are such things as salt, spices, and various items that are either imported from other countries, or transported thousands of miles from one part of the country to another.
    One of the main reasons we don’t claim to grow all our food is because, FOR NOW, we have options such as buying walnuts, almonds, dates, raisins, etc., in bulk, like 10, 20, or 30 pounds, because we LIKE these foods. On the other hand, if Greenland’s ice sheet finally reached that point of sliding into the sea, causing massive tsunamis, earthquakes, etc., culminating in civilization going POOF, we would be able to survive for quite some time (possibly several years) on what we have grown and stored. We would then, if we wanted walnuts, have to harvest wild ones and spend hours cracking them open, etc., etc. , but if we continued growing beans, corn, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts, etc., etc., we would have a chance of surviving — depending on those mutant zombie bikers Lonewolf mentioned. Of course, it’s highly likely they wouldn’t know a collard plant from a ragweed, especially if those collards aren’t planted in rows, but stuck here and there for the purpose of being disguised.
    I’ve been gardening since I started helping mom in the garden at around age 7, and my husband acquired the habit in childhood as well, and we’ve been gardening most of our adult years except for the first few years of marriage in an apartment.
    Growing and learning to grow food sustainably is an ongoing endeavor and an ongoing learning process, that we constantly tweak. It was in the last decade that we have gradually replaced a plowed, then years later, tilled garden, with one that is mostly in raised beds and is dug or “tined” by hand. Although this is without petroleum products, the tools themselves were produced with the use of fossil fuels. I am looking for a bison shoulder for use in making a shovel, but for now will hang on to that steel shovel.
    The NPK lie that has been advocated for nearly a century has done nothing but help destroy this country’s agricultural soils, as I’m sure everyone reading this knows. Since plants contain more than nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, then the elements and other things in plant mass removed each year needs to be replaced–not just the N,P,K in conventional agriculture. One way is by mulching with grass clippings, hay, leaves, sawdust, etc., but knowing what proportions is important. Here’s where books come in handy.
    One of the best sources of nitrogen for the garden is urine. The easiest source is from humans, especially those doing the growing. As long as a person is not sick, his/her urine is sterile immediately before it leaves the body. A good way to use urine for fertilizer is diluted seven-to-one, or eight-to-one, with water, and spread on the garden when fresh. Urine contains many elements besides nitrogen, of course, which makes it even better than if it contained only nitrogen.
    Another excellent source of nutrients for the garden is well-made compost, and the subject has been covered so well in books, and by so many different authors, that I’ll just give compost the plug it deserves. My husband got into making our own compost (piles and piles of it) after reading a little book I picked up in a yard sale called “How To Make Compost in 14 Days” or something like that. He had read many, many different variations and this one seemed to enthuse him. Our garden has definitely improved since he began making compost. Compost is something we layer on, and dig into, each garden bed in late winter or early spring before planting. Like wise with diluted urine. I’ll admit he buys hay from a neighbor because it’s the EASY thing to do right now. If worse comes to worse, we will have to buckle down and learn how to use our scythe and make our own hay.
    When thinking about storage, think dry beans, dry corn, winter squash, sun-dried tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, sun-dried peppers, sun-dried watermelon, etc. Practically any time bean you grow can be allowed to mature into a “dry” bean, which requires no refrigeration and no canning. Winter squash, as opposed to summer squash, has much storage capability. Many varieties of corn, like beans, can be harvested after the kernels have dried. For example, we have found that a variety of bean called “Christmas Lima” has incredible bug resistance. I have noticed that while pinto beans grow like weeds for us and taste great, the bugs much more easily attack them, while I have a jar of Christmas Limas from 2005 that are still in good shape and the bugs cannot seem to, or don’t want to, penetrate their thicker skin.
    A very primitive hoophouse, dome, cloche, etc., can be used to grow fall, spring, and winter lettuce, cilantro, spinach, etc. in many climates, with enough covering for nighttime protection. I have two separate lettuce beds (for experimentation) which were planted in September and we’ve been eating on these lettuces for many weeks. One bed is covered with an array of tarps, with the top one being a very heavy rubber-lined drape found in a yard sale. On sunny days or above freezing days they are both uncovered. One helpful thing for short growing season areas is to start seedlings (destined for summer growth) early and have them well established before planting. I have planted tomato seedlings that were a foot tall with thick stems because I started them from seed in Jan. or Feb. and put them in a sunny window when possible. There are more variations to this than you can shake a stick at.
    As for seedsaving, I find it impossible not to save seed. I always save more than we’ll need. Keep it dry, cool, away from rodents and insects, but perfect conditions aren’t imperative.
    For someone who has never grown anything, I suggest start small. Think of one food you’d like to grow–something you already eat. There’s no time for experimenting with exotics now in my view. We all need dark green leafy vegetables for their folic acid, etc., so this might be a good project.
    I haven’t even scratched the surface, as every growing season is a lesson. For two examples, we grew black-eyed peas and garbanzos for some years, but the cardinals have discovered both. Each year the cardinals ate more, until summer of 2007 was the final straw and I will not grow either anymore because now we can sit on the porch and watch the cardinals pecking the unripe beans right out of the pods. Clever they are! These are the “little things” one has to learn from experience, and much of this relates to your locale and what wildlife you have there; other relates to climate.
    The good thing about fruit trees is you plant once and harvest every year if you’re lucky. Peach trees it seems often produce after 3 or 4 years, where some pears and apples may begin producing after 5-7 years. If you’re considering those hungry hordes, as we all should, you might consider planting a few fruit trees here, and a few “there”, a few more elsewhere, until you have an entire orchard, but it is so spread out that a know-nothing wouldn’t have a clue unless he/she happened along when the fruit is large and ripe. Another reason for not putting all those eggs in that same basket. BTW, fruit trees need full sun.
    Enough of this prattle and hopefully I’ve given beginner gardeners a few clues that you CAN grow a LOT of food without artificial fertilizer or synthetic chemicals. There is some physical labor involved, but it beats the alternative of going hungry.

  • December 16, 2007 at 10:46 pm


    My very first thought was: “grow all my own food with no outside inputs? Why would I want to do that?

    I’m working on my preps, not trying to prove some point…LOW input, yes, but no input? I have other things I need to be doing. When the SHTF, we’ll have the time we need to put into food production, and I’m sure there will be people begging to work for a share. I’m focusing on knowledge right now.

    I’ve been telling people for years…get going on your gardening…get the fruits in and your soil in shape…grow a few years so you know what you’ll have to deal with.

    Yeah, I like fruit trees and shrubs very much….brambles…strawberries… Fruits are easily preserved through jams or canning, or drying. I can a lot of tomatoes and yupp…got a couple hundred puonds of winter squash, and 400 pounds of potatoes down stairs. Deer ate my sweet potato vines, but I got enough harvest for slips next spring, hopefully.

    Seeds and nuts are excellent foods, also. I’m now looking into small grain production and will plant amaranth, quinoa and millet next season.

    I’m certain ‘growing all your food’ will entail a pretty radical change in diet as well as a tolerance for less variety.

    So…i’m still working my preps…I haven’t got THAT much time to grow all my food without inputs at all…I need to have the ability to do it, but my next project needs to be developing skill with an adze and broadaxe.

    Just get going if you want to grow food. It usually takes a few years to learn how or to learn you particular conditions.

    I say: “use whatever is at your disposal right now, just get ‘er done”.

    Good luck.

  • December 16, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    Fern – the problem IS calories, far more then anyone has realized. I have stumbled across some information regarding this issue that is deeply disturbing. Essentially, we are not capable of providing the essential calorie requirements to keep ourselves alive for very long without outside support.

    Even “home growers” remain very dependent upon outside calorie (and energy) inputs in a number of ways. And all of these inputs are dependent upon petroleum. In other words, petroleum = calories.

    It gets worse. So far, nobody is really petroleum independent, so our current production levels of home gardening would be cut by a factor of 2 or more as energy supplies disappear (and the inputs also disappear). When that happens, calorie requirements go up again because of the increased strenuous physical labor involved and crop losses, increasing the shortfall of calorie requirements.

    This is a hugely significant issue. If we can’t meet our calorie requirements now without petroleum, how can we ever hope to meet them in the future?

    Essentially it means that when the energy stops, the calorie inputs we need to survive as a civilization stop, and our own ability to meet these needs correspondingly diminishes dramatically – and most of us die.

    Now factor in pests, disease, climate change and drought and the ever-present mutant biker zombie hordes… and you get the picture.

    If there is a sure fire recipe for disaster, it has to be what our civilization has done and where we now find ourselves today.

    So far, nobody has admitted to a “petroleum free” food supply. The reason is probably because it’s really not possible as Lonewolf has said. I strongly suspect he is quite right – we are failing to count the actual inputs. The EROEI is negative when we rely on growing our own without these inputs.

    Obviously, this can’t last. Future survivors will resort to other methods, most likely the ancient methods of hunter / gatherer at that time. They won’t have any choice.

    I’m including everything that is petroleum derived, the trucks we drive, the equipment we use, the fencing we erect, the jobs that support us while we garden and the housing that shelters us.

    All of this and so much more is in reality, derived from petroleum. Without it, none of it would exist except what was found here about 150 years ago.

    For the next 50 years, we are going to ‘devolve’ by degrees (assuming a catastrophic crash doesn’t happen first which is probably what will happen), consuming the dredges of the world’s energy supplies and quite literally, living off of the leverage this provides us. But it is a leverage that will be diminishing every single day.

    We won’t be able to produce all those tools and toys and essentials ‘helps’ that permit us to do the things we are doing now, as we try to grow our own food. We will be reduced to bare, brute labor and basic implements. Our only advantage over our forefathers will be some knowledge and perhaps, if they survive, better food strains.

    We will probably turn to wild herds as a main food source, and wild foods again. This makes the most sense, because it does not require our management or labor and is “free” for the taking if we can take it.

    Jared Diamond and others have pointed out long ago that our agricultural forays have resulted in a net loss to our planet, our health and our ability to actually feed ourselves. Entropy rules and what goes around, comes around. We will return to hunter / gatherers sooner then anyone thinks.

    Also, nobody is storing enough food now either. Current levels of food storage are woefully short of actual calorie requirements and in the face of diminishing energy supplies. It’s as if everyone believes that this situation will somehow “get better” or reverse itself (which isn’t going to happen) somehow, or worse, believe that they will actually be able to raise enough of their own food. Not so.

    Without an adequate food supply from some source, then it is just a matter of (short) time before hunger will force people to act and respond in ways which right now, are difficult to comprehend or accept.

    The mutant zombie biker hordes of the future will be us.

  • December 17, 2007 at 5:26 am

    I watched a fascinating documentary on the BBC yesterday about the Kombai tribe in new Guinea. They were all very well fed yet living the most isolated and primitive lifestyle imaginable. They don’t farm at all; if they’re hungry, they just go and cacth a wild boar or spear some fish or hack down a tree and take whatever they need. Laying aside their cannibalistic heritage and their bizarre practice of inverting their penises into their torsos, their hunter-gatherer lifestyles are absolutely amazing:

    I can’t see too many westerners wanting to go down that route, however…

  • December 17, 2007 at 6:50 am

    During the late 70’s I lived on a farm where we did produce most of our food. We grew food organically but not without using diesel and gasoline. (We did however have draft horses and used them to do some things, more to learn how than out of need.)

    However, we were in a different situation than most. We were marijuana growers, smugglers and traffickers so this provided money to buy a prime piece of land with good soil, gravity flow irrigation, to pay taxes, etc. The problem for most isn’t so much whether this can be done, it’s whether it can be done in today’s climate (both the natural climate and the political/social/economic climate).

    We had a milk cow, beef cattle, hay fields, hogs, chickens. Game was plentiful. We grew wheat and corn and planted a huge garden. The area (near Halfway, Oregon) had tons of fruit which we harvested and dried. We canned fruits and vegetables, cooked on a woodstove.

    We traded with others for things we needed. A neighbor had bees, etc. Also traded goods for services, labor. (Marijuana was a pretty damn good source of currency at that time. A little bit went a long way. Just being honest.)

    So, can it be done? Maybe. But they (whoever they is) will probably put you in jail for it.

    Now I live in Texas. Growing things organically is much more difficult down here. Unlike Northern climates we can grow things year round. But the obstacles are numerous.

    I wrote a book about it. Ruminations for the Garden. I’m working on part II now.

    I think it bears remembering that oil won’t run out entirely during our lifetimes. The collapse is likely to be a long slow fall (not necessarily, but probably).

    I think it’s also important to remember that we are dealing with a changing environment and things that once worked will not necessarily work today. If you aren’t practicing, you won’t be ready. (And you may not be ready if you are.)

  • December 17, 2007 at 7:14 am

    The Path to Freedom family in California is an extreme example. In statistical terms, their agrigultural output for a standard 1/4 acre suburban lot is probably at least 6 sigma beyond the mean. They have almost perfect weather, significant investments in time and effort to improve their soil, and significant investments in time and education to get through the learning curves. Using them as an inspiration, I tried to see what I could do on a slightly larger suburban property in Virginia. At best, I was able to do 0.5% of our food needs (mostly squash and tomatoes). At worst (this drought year), I was only able to make enough for 3-4 batches of salsa. I did plant over a dozen fruit trees over the past three years, two of which started bearing fruit this year. I also lost several trees and all of my berry bushes to rabbits. At least I do have a source of meat from trapping (the local rabbits are easy to catch using snares and box traps).

    All this being said, I have learned a lot over the last three years. As long as we don’t have drought, I should be able to increase what I produce, particularly fruit as my orchard matures. However, I also recognize that I am not a farmer and that I need to have other useful skills / capabilities that can be bartered for food.

  • December 17, 2007 at 7:54 am

    Interesting thread.
    At this moment in time I am on the net. I’ll be here for at least an hour perusing all things doom. If the power was out and there were paper bags on all the gas pumps I’d be outside picking acorns off the forest floor to feed the pig. An hour’s worth of acorns is a lot of acorns. The wife will spend 1 1/2 hours getting dressed and prettied up for work, including commute time. About the same in reverse at the end of the day. That 3 hour block could hull the collected acorns and provide three days worth of calories for us.

    I don’t bother growing three acres of field corn ‘cuz it’s less than 12 bucks a hundredweight. Why plant macaroni when a five pound bag is 2.50? (hehehe) Post crash I won’t be eating macaroni. Course wheat egg noodles in a chicken pot with some sage and thyme will be a big deal. I like beans. It takes an hour to pick and a couple more hours to shell a couple of pounds of beans that, tossed in with a rabbit and some potatoes that took all of two minutes to plant and harvest, feeds the family for a day.

    We can’t grow all our own food when we are spending 3/4 of our time playing the civilization game. But when the power goes out there is nothing left to do but poke at the ground with a digging stick. Just for laughs this year I dug a shallow hole in the yard with a tree branch, took a dump in it and planted a cantaloupe seed. Didn’t do a thing to it and got six cantaloupes off of it. Breakfast and lunch for three minute’s work.

    Do not fear the MZB’s – they cannot exist. If we get to the point where there isn’t the resources to get a 50# sack of corn at the feed store for a half hour’s pay flipping burgers there won’t be any gasoline for the Mutant Zombie’s Bikes. And some poor marauder is gonna be pretty weak from that ten mile hike out of the city to where some guy like me is growing stuff to eat. When the guns come out the have-nots will suffer horribly from the hail of bullets generated by the haves. If it moves after dark – kill it. The neighbors will announce themselves if they have to come over in the dark – the “marauders” won’t. Bang! The attrition rate will be staggering.

    Generations will pass before steel tools become scarce. That ’56 Plymouth can be cold chiseled and hammered into a hell of a lot of shovels. Old tires burn hot enough to power up a nice forge. The city populations will gradually waste away and disburse throughout the countryside as energy inputs diminish. But that’s a long, drawn out process. In a couple more years I can be 100% self sufficient in the food, clothing shelter departments. But wouldn’t I look pretty weird dressed in a goatskin hide buying some TP at the Wal-Mart?

  • December 17, 2007 at 8:05 am

    As a side note to a question Admin posed early on in this thread, we have a sizable and thriving Mennonite community locally, but even they use diesel-powered tractors, combines, and similar mechanized agricultural methods. They use composted animal dung for fertilizer, though. No idea regarding pesticide usage/inputs.

  • December 17, 2007 at 9:01 am

    We have Amish communities and a large community of close to 70,000 Hmong immigrants here. Although the Amish use huge draft horses, no electricity and raise their own hay manually, I did see one buy Velveeta cheese once….. All of the first generation Hmong farmed without petroleum or electricity under pretty horrific circumstances with extremely poor soil.

    They ate dirt(literally),roots and lizards when they had to, not a lifestyle of choice. Nor would I imagine many people would choose to raise food right now without any convenience at all, though everyone has the capacity to subsist somehow, when it comes to that.

    So your question probably asking isn’t if we can subsist without petro, but maybe you are asking how much our lifestyle/knowledge we will take with us? or why don’t people choose to do this yet? or how many people forest agriculture could sustain? or what food we should be shifting to now that are zero petro(fruits, nuts, seeds, native chicken forage plantings rather than corn?, hunter gatherer fare)

    I was reading about ADHD this week and they seem to think that our petro-crop high carb diet is causing a lot of central nervous system problems for our biology. People may choose high protein nut diets for their own benefit, but not because they want to practice for a collapse.

    Personally, we are going backward in stages of lowered petro use and not one leap, so that we don’t lose our motivation because of the increased difficulty/time factor. With feet in both worlds, there just isn’t enough time.

    People I have met who are living sustainable agriculture/permaculture love what they do and aren’t practicing for a collapse, but creating something new and workable. That old general that said, plans are worthless, but planning is priceless. Maybe the value in permaculture, is not what they produce without petro, but the process they create and the learning that happens and how that will serve us later.

  • December 17, 2007 at 9:26 am

    My grandfather was born in 1901 on a homesteader farm out in Western Kansas. Later his parents moved back to NW Missouri, to be with their folks (who were also once-pioneers). My experience with him came from the 70’s and 80’s, but he still used some of the same old methods. He had bought a tractor some years before, but never used it…he liked his horses. I use to say that he was as good as the Amish, but with a radio and television.

    The old German style of homesteading was very animal intensive, not only in animals raised for food (cattle, pigs, chickens), but in animals to help support that work (i.e. horses). The cattle and horses were free-ranged all year round, with perhaps a some hay when snow covered the grass (most farmers back then had their own hay field). The chickens had a large pen outside their house where they could scratch for bugs and weeds. They had a garden and orchard as big as my back yard. The back field was planted in corn, beans, or wheat, depending on the year (for crop rotation). The chickens and pigs were fed scraps from the garden, scraps from canning and cooking, and whatever was left on the plates. Of course, like I said, its very animal intensive…breakfast was eggs and pork products, perhaps with a slice of toast with home-made jelly on it. Dinner had both chicken and ham, usually with fresh or canned tomatoes, corn, beans, beets, canned peaches, and mashed potatoes. Bread wasn’t a big thing for them. Most of the starches came from potatoes, although grandma did make noodles (usually dripping with chicken gravy).

    So yes, it is possible, but unfortunately, like I said, it is very animal intensive (sorry PETA members and vegetarians), with most starches coming from root crops. There is, of course, trade with the neighbors. One neighbor who grows mostly grain and beans would surely trade some of it for sausages and beef. Smaller-scale agriculture is very labor intensive, but it actually produces more food per acre than large-scale agriculture.

    Just a few things that I know of…crop rotation is very important. You could plant wheat in a field one year, turn the animals out into it the next (they’ll add fertilizer), and the third plant beans (to put nitrogen back into the soil). Then go back to grain. Composted chicken fertilizer is great for vegetable gardens and orchards.

    As for us…we only live on 7/8ths of an acre, and the last year was fairly bad for us with the late freeze…however, we still have mulberry jelly and tomato salsa in our cellar from two years ago. We’ve added a garden bed every year. Our oldest garden beds are the best producers so far. It can take about 7 years for an organic garden to match the output of a petroleum-based one, but it can be done. We’re hoping to eventually add some animals. We estimate that it will take a couple more years (cross our fingers and toes) and we’ll be getting all of our fruits and vegetables from our own land.

  • December 17, 2007 at 9:42 am

    I’m going to have to say it – I’m still seeing a logical disconnect between reality and wishful thinking here. There are several points to this:

    a) whatever natural food sources exist will be in extreme competition and will be swiftly overwhelmed except in remote areas, this has happened before, and will happen again, it always happens;

    b) we do not have an abundance of farm animals available to us to farm with anymore, nor do we know how to use them, the sheer competition for them, including meat, will be intense;

    c) the oil will run out (effectively) well within our lifetimes, as will every other energy resource including coal if you live 50 more years;

    d) the mutant zombie biker hordes already exist – they are found in every city of America and wear gang colors and are forming right now in preparation for the future; and they are well armed; they are found in starving countries now, and they will be very widespread in a severe food crisis, guaranteed, because this is exactly what humans do and have done all over the world when faced with catastrophic crisis;

    e) nobody is just going to lay down and die, gangs and thieves and very desperate people will do very desperate things. This is already evidenced in other starving countries around the world, such as Uganda, Zimbabwe and the Sudan;

    f) there are large (populated) segments of this country that has little to no wild foods, not enough to feed 100 unskilled people, yet are grossly overpopulated by millions and millions. I cannot hardly imagine what these millions might do; what this will be like if their food or water supply runs out, or even if just the lights go out;

    g) humans are quite capable of walking immense distances to survive, even temporarily fat humans. This has been proven over and over again with survivor stories. Those that insist that this cannot happen do not understand the will to survive or have never had to suffer much. I have, I know that suffering will change you immensely. Men have walked out of Siberian prison camps to China over thousands of miles, there are many, many real stories like this;

    Self-sufficiency, as far as this post was trying to focus, was meant to meet your actual, real calorie requirements from season to season without the use of outside energy inputs.

    So far, no modern human is actually doing this.  Update: I’ve had Amish order grains from me. They are “old school” Amish. In our discussions, they did in fact use quite a few petroleum inputs, including transportation (hired drivers), outside food sources such as mine, some even used generators to make electricity when needed, even telephones.  They purchased staples that either they didn’t or couldn’t grow themselves.  I don’t personally rate the Amish as being “energy independent” either for this reason.

    The tiny few tribes in the world don’t really “count” for self-evident reasons, their environment is much different, they are far fewer in number and have ranges to roam on making their impacts much different then 6 billion, and they have skills and experience we don’t. I’m not including them here because in reality, they are not relevant to the question.

    There is an underlying “point” to my original post and why I brought this up. I wanted to know if anybody was truly providing for themselves, being able to stop using energy inputs and start raising all of their own food.

    The answer is no. Only a portion of our food is actually being raised without energy inputs, but not enough to keep us alive. Nobody is doing this, nobody even knows how. This is a very sobering thought.

    I also wanted to know if anybody realized what this really means. The answer is still no to that question. We do not have the means like many claim to actually feed ourselves without petroleum or other energy inputs and have, in fact, been deluding ourselves that we will somehow “manage”.

    Since we cannot do this now – where do we get the idea that we will be able to do it in the future?

    Necessity is the mother of invention, but necessity doesn’t make acorns. Or squash, or beans or any number of things simply because we want it to happen.

    I believe that our environment will not support us like many seem to think. I’m absolutely certain our skills and experience will not. But since we are going to be so incredibly dependent upon the environmental conditions, assuming that we will somehow “manage” with our very poor skill set is basically ludicrous.

    Finally, I wanted people to start realizing what this means. Unless there is a massive and quick population correction (die-off, engineered or otherwise), we are facing global starvation on an unbelievable level, all within the next fifty years, but probably, much, much sooner for many reasons which I won’t go into right now.

    A die-off would accomplish several things, but I’ll leave this thought unaddressed too, because the thread is already drifting.

    One of the underlying assumptions that everyone seems to have is we are going to “fix” this problem by luck, skill and intervention. Using Cuba for example, they’ve demonstrated that they really could feed themselves when they had to. But even they did not do it without petroleum and energy inputs – not even close.

    Therefore, even with their far fewer numbers, abundance of draft animals (comparatively speaking) and agreeable climate, what makes any of us think we are going to avoid a massive global starvation?

    I think cognitive dissonance is our problem here. We do not want to face facts. We cannot, will not be able to feed ourselves as still being claimed even by the permaculturists and others.

    I stumbled upon this because I sat down and calculated calories. What we expend, what we consume. And where they came from.

    I’m not going to ask anybody to believe me, do you own due diligence and your own research. My conclusion is the result of that. And I really hate being lied to by all the propaganda people who keep on pretending that we can change the EROEI.

  • December 17, 2007 at 9:48 am

    On a lark, I planted some corn seeds out back in our yard when I was a kid. No fertilizer, no extra watering. Guess what happened. Nothing. No corn came up. I figured right then and there that farming was hard. Amazing what an eight year old can learn huh? Fortunately for me, I married a wife who grew up gardening and doing a little farming. But first, I have to get out of the city and get us to a place where we can even start practicing.

    Special thanks to everyone who’s posted here. I’m saving this thread and will use it as a beginning reference.

  • December 17, 2007 at 10:14 am

    “Therefore, even with their far fewer numbers, abundance of draft animals (comparatively speaking) and agreeable climate, what makes any of us think we are going to avoid a massive global starvation?”

    I don’t recall ANYone saying we are going to avoid massive global starvation.

    What WOULD you have us do? Lay down and die? Build a fortress and stock it up for 5 years survival?

    MASSIVE starvation…MOSTLY in other areas of the world. What makes you think Amerikkka isn’t going to comandeer all the oil it can possibly get with it’s hugely inflated military? Work camps and fascism- yupp! Despotism and genocide in other countries- check!

    Amerikka running out of oil any time soon? No way. Now rationing…sure. I guess people are going to have to prioritise where the oil is used now, aren’t they?

    But as in Germany under hitler….most of the atrocities the us commits will be out of sight…

    Don’t worry too much; Big Brother will take care of ‘us’.

  • December 17, 2007 at 10:20 am

    The keys to any chance for a sustainable food (energy) existence are knowledge, experience/skill, climate, resources, will, work, cooperation (integrated community) and ‘luck’. ALL of them. Not some, ALL. How many have or ever will have ALL of these requisites? NTM year after year for even one generation? I’d say “good luck to you” but luck is insufficient – aka wholly inadequate.

    In an ideal ‘world’, sure you might ‘make it’ given sufficient inputs, skill, effort, etc. This is not an ideal world and never will be.

    “Adapt of perish is natures inexorable imperative ” ~ HG wells

    found at PO, “We aren’t fundamentally different than any other species except that we make up stories about what it all means and complain a lot.”

  • December 17, 2007 at 10:27 am

    Tree – the cognitive dissonance of our plight is not only implying, but actually claiming we can solve this problem – without starvation. Government, permaculturists and homesteaders alike are all claiming that we can avoid this outcome if we “but try”.

    Try we must – but we need to start by stop lying to ourselves. That’s what I’d “have you to do”. Start by being deadly honest about the situation and what it is going to mean.

    We are not always going to be able to burn “old petroleum” by igniting tires and extracting energy from other sources. In relatively short order, they will all be gone, a single generation.

    We are facing a world that will be like the old world, except environmentally, it will be far worse off because we have done so much damage to it, and there are simply too many of us still alive to support.

    The second thing I’d have us do is those that intend to survive must learn to do it without external energy inputs. We will have to teach this essential life skill to our children, because they will teach it to their survivors.

    Pretending that we are doing ourselves a favor somehow by still leveraging energy sources to the final, nth degree in our desperation to avoid the irrefutable truth is actually doing a disservice to all future humanity, who not only will not have these energy sources available to them, but won’t be taught the skills they need to survive.

    That’s down the road. We can choose to keep squandering the world’s future, or we can choose to learn how to actually live with what is here.

    I’d like to see homesteads develop that are truly energy independent.

  • December 17, 2007 at 11:00 am

    @ admin – I only mentioned the tribe in New Guinea by way of illustrating the vast disparity between what they have and what we could possibly attain, particularly in terms of their skills and their integration into their environment. They viewed their visitor from England as though he were a helpless baby…

  • December 17, 2007 at 11:17 am

    I know, and meant no disrespect. It is applicable to make mention of indigenous tribes here and I’m glad you did, because many seem to feel we can simply make the switch-over and live like they do. I know otherwise, as you do too.

  • December 17, 2007 at 11:35 am

    Admin emailed me to say he’s received many private emails on this thread. I replied (attached below) and Admin asked me to post my response for all to read:

    “O1H it is fairly encouraging that there are some here (at the blog) that claim to be weaning themselves off the corporate oil tit. OTOH, IMO they willfully – even aggressively- ignore/discount (to their peril) ALL of the manifold inputs (e.g. infrastructure) that permits them to strive today.

    I rather blows me away to ‘think’ that those claiming and/or working hard to find solutions (those that think they ‘know better’) willfully engage in cognitive dissonance about what it is that actually allows them to engage in their efforts in the first place. Hence my comments about fairy-tale maintenance and movie projectors.

    Is it (full self-sufficiency) possible – in a theoretical sense- sure.

    Is it doable by those with every skill, resource, health, security, etc – short term maybe, long term – no.

    Is it achievable by even 1% of the US population even with concerted effort over a decade (we don’t have IMO) – No, not even close.

    Is it achievable by all those (99-plus % of the US) without ALL of the prerequisites (above)? – In your bushing dreams – aka nightmares.

    Could a comprehensive, cooperative, sustainable COMMUNITY do it – sure, in theory – given ample resources and effort over time.

    Self-sufficiency and sustainable community are NOT the same thing – at all – ever.
    I’ll add, going (growing) it alone is delusional. Just ask any member of any indigenous tribe that still (knows how to) live ‘sustainably’. Hence “cooperation” is one of the requisite ‘keys’. No man is an island. We’re all in this (world of shit) together. Die anyway.

    PS: I – nor Admin – in NO way intend to slight, demean, or minimize the efforts of those striving for increased ‘self- sufficiency’ – at all. However, IMO, community/cooperation is mandatory – especially for any subsequent generation(s).

    [bolded emphasis mine (Admin). Also, popping the “bubble” of delusional thinking is very painful for all of us.  This site is too painful for many to read (I’ve been told, repeatedly). But that still doesn’t make the problems we are facing go away, they’re still with us. Only by facing reality will anybody, even humanity stand even a remote chance of effectively dealing with reality. Side issue: One of the problems I’ve long had with ecovillages is this very issue – not dealing with reality. This thread had demonstrated that we too have a hard time accepting reality, despite our awareness and understanding.]

  • December 17, 2007 at 11:53 am

    ~Tree – the cognitive dissonance of our plight is not only implying, but actually claiming we can solve this problem – without starvation. Government, permaculturists and homesteaders alike are all claiming that we can avoid this outcome if we “but try”.~

    OIC….Yes, very delusional if you understand the world’s population has been artificially bloated to a minimum of 3x carrying capacity…by cheap oil.

    There WILL be massive starvation…AND we aren’t even addressing the even more pressing water shortages headed our way. Climate Chaos may well render even ‘the best laid plans…’ useless. We are not going to escape the consequences of our foolishness. BUT…I can’t save the world…I can only try to prepare me and mine.

    People must understand and be open to lifestyle changes….lack of flexibility will kill you! You, absolutely, can grow enough calories without FF inputs and on a relatively small area. R you willing to eat 3 pounds of potatoes every day? Most Americans can’t imagine that, but in many countries people eat the same staple foods every single day!

    Here’s a great article to perhaps consider if you live in the north:

    The Big Sleep

    “In 1900, The British Medical Journal reported that peasants of the Pskov region in northwestern Russia “adopt the economical expedient” of spending one-half of the year in sleep: “At the first fall of snow the whole family gathers round the stove, lies down, ceases to wrestle with the problems of human existence, and quietly goes to sleep. Once a day every one wakes up to eat a piece of hard bread. … The members of the family take it in turn to watch and keep the fire alight. After six months of this reposeful existence the family wakes up, shakes itself” and “goes out to see if the grass is growing.”

    Life as we know it is ending…how will people deal with that? Badly, I’m afraid….

  • December 17, 2007 at 11:57 am

    admin, lonewolf, et al:

    On the subject of the Dervaes family ( I’ve spoken with them many times – and will meet them twice this week – Jules (the Dad) is no fan of electricity. Although there are many petroleum inputs in their life, their ultimate goal is complete removal from the grid (an NO electrical use).

    I believe that Jules wants to create a de facto garden of eden. That’s an ideal that he’s striving for, however realistic or unrealistic it may be.


    They are all too aware of their dependence on the city of pasadena for H20, but I believe that they’re sticking it out in LA for reasons of community – moving to a log cabin in the woods on 100 acres would improve their chances of personal success, but at the cost of forming a community. I’d never have met them had they run for the hills.

    Those of us who know them would love to be able to form a nucleus of an intentional community. As nice as that sounds, I’d be fearful of my ability to keep pace. They work as hard, if not harder, than the Amish…rising at 6am, and working all day – on multiple projects, pretty fearlessly.

    Anyone with visions of adopting that lifestyle needs to get themselves in top physical shape, and top mental shape, and top spiritual shape.

    I do share your opinion that the belief in permaculture/etc. as a panacea is a well intentioned delusion. Permaculture is an excellent alternative to agriculture, but isn’t going to prevent a catastrophe – though it might soften the landing for a fortunate minority.

    I have linked to this video so many times that it’s a bit like “Groundhog Day” – professor Albert Bartlett’s classic 1 hour video presentation about the dangers of growth, “Arithmetic, Population and Energy”:

    It really is essential viewing for anyone who wants to understand the impact of “growth”, at least the mathematical implications. Take an hour, watch it. It’s what opened my eyes to the reality of our current path.

    As long as politicians commit themselve to policies based on “growth” (by which they mean the destruction of all non-human life and the drawing down of non-renewable resources), we are in deep sewage.


    I read Daniel Quinn’s “Ishmael” while riding the train from Portland to LA. He talks of our civilisation at a culture of “takers”, built on the theft of life from all other living creatures. Looking out the window of the train at endless rows of fertilised monocropped fields, to return to the book’s critique of agriculture was an interesting experience, to put it mildly.

  • December 17, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    That’s a pretty interesting article –

    In the mountains, the tradition of seasonal sloth was ancient and pervasive. “Seven months of winter, five months of hell,” they said in the Alps. When the “hell” of unremitting toil was over, the human beings settled in with their cows and pigs. They lowered their metabolic rate to prevent hunger from exhausting supplies. If someone died during the seven months of winter, the corpse was stored on the roof under a blanket of snow until spring thawed the ground, allowing a grave to be dug and a priest to reach the village.

  • December 17, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    Oh, yeah, there will be hellacious die-off. And it WILL take all of those factors to survive.

    I’m part of a small community – well, a part of a larger social/religious community I’m in sees and understands what’s coming. Two of those families have gotten land. I’ve provided the first animals, and am putting in permaculture this spring, as well as making the first storage food purchases. Even those of us who see what’s coming disagree on speed/intensity/approriate response. I think that one family’s ‘obsession’ with putting in geothermal heating/cooling is silly, since it will still depend on energy and won’t be able to be maintained, for one example.

    My original plans were to suppliment the nut trees already on the land by 1*population + 1*every fertile woman then add a tree for every birth, every marriage, and every time a girl hit puberty. Now I’m looking at the figures, as a few marriages, births, and pregnancies have occured, and I’m getting a better idea of what some trees/shrubs produce.

    American Filberts – great in the area, shrubby, can handle partial sun and easy to harvest but only give 7 pounds of nuts each!

    Black walnuts – great wood, great producers, how many calories to get thru’ that nasty outer stuff, let alone get into the meat?

    Some pecans that can grow that far north take a lot of petroleum upkeep to get pests away.

    Most of the nuts are going to take years to really give good harvests, too. Can’t assume we have years. Going to have to really identify EVERY nut tree on The Mountain, and get trees planted this spring. Going to rely on the tractor to get the trees, shovels/post hole diggers and water up The Dang Mountain.

    My plan is to not hesitate in using petroleum products to set up permaculture that will provide for the post oil future.
    Use a pick up truck to haul manure from the horse stable 2 miles away? Sure! Use the tractor to help haul the trees and such? Damn skippy! Use tractor or rototiller or whatever to add hauled woodchips or manure into the garden area? Absolutely!

  • December 17, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    It would be almost impossible to grow all your own food in the best of conditions. However, we are talking about the worst. Water shortages, climate change, oil depletion, government and society breakdown. I believe the only real solution is try to do lifetime buys on storable food and purchase the means to protect it and yourself.

  • December 17, 2007 at 1:30 pm


    LOL….NO thanks!

    For me…it’s not JUST about survival, but also about blazing a new(old) path.

    I can also think of several reasons that would not work- the chief one being: You Can’t take all that food with you should you need to leave your fortress, so if you figure: ‘Oh…all i need to do is stock up enough food and I’ll be ok’, and you don’t also learn how to do without that stored food, you are frucked. If you figure you’ll get help defending your supplies, well that means you will have less to go around. Some stored food is a good idea, but you are better off investing in knowledge, skills, and allies, also.

  • December 17, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Uh, Javelin – lifetime supplies for how many generations out? And, one member of our group is 2 years old, and another will be born in about 3 months. Admin sells great food, but will they really store for even a 50 year lifetime?

    The puzzle is both how to get thru’ the bottleneck of die off, AND how to help our community be set up to survive after die off. The bottle neck is addressed by stored food, the after die off time is addressed by …. what?

    Admin seems to be talking about having to go migratory and follow the herds. I think it will take more than one human generation for the herds to come back to that state after the MZB’s kill every animal they can to eat, so that’s not going to be effective ‘right after’ die off in my view. Today’s cattle, on the whole, are not going to survive being ‘left to go wild’. Following deer or elk, maybe – or just killing all in one area, then moving on to a new area. A different sort of slash-and-burn technique.

    “Traditionally” the inability to grow enough calories has been dealt with by having a two-tier society – the elite that eat enough regularly, the peasants/serfs/peons who only eat enough in good times. In a dedicated, tight community, maybe the food would be shared more equitably. But somehow, I don’t see that utopia being born of die off.

  • December 17, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Javelin – that would be nice (I’ll get you a quote right away, just need to know your age and family size and how long you hope to live…) but seriously, not poking fun here, food storage is a stop-gap measure. Essential, critical and necessary, but a stop-gap nonetheless.

    I’ve been unable on this thread to accurately articulate the problem with food storage and what I’ve discovered, but just be aware, you’re not storing anywhere near enough food, nor is anyone else.

    I’m looking down the road at the very next generation (our kids) and really wondering what the hell are they going to do? Especially since we continue to deny reality?

    If we don’t get it together and soon, then how in the world are they going to get it together? I’ve heard it said they’ll have to learn how to survive. Learn from who? They’ll all be dead.

    The question to this general topic – and the answers we’re finding give a lot of credibility to several things, such as a die-off, a planned collapse to preserve the remaining resources, secret underground bunkers stocked with decades of food, buying land over major aquifers and on and on. More dots, and they fit together indeed.

  • December 17, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    Fern – there are many sellers claiming that some foods will last 50 years, such as Mountain House products (but Mountain House doesn’t even remotely claim this), but these sellers are flat-out lying. I’m simply not willing to do that in the quest to make sales. I have more info on this subject, but I usually just leave it up to the customer to decide what is true what is bullshit. The manufacturers are not claiming this or anything even remotely close to 50 years, only some unscrupulous sellers.

    And I actually was not talking about going migratory for some time after the post-collapse period. Post-collapse will be when we “burn tires” to squeeze the downstream petroleum energy out.

    Eventually though, the reality of our calorie situation will bite us hard and migratory hunter / gatherer will return. It is in fact, the only truly sustainable lifestyle and the only truly self-sufficient lifestyle known to man.

    You did sum it up correctly in paragraph two: “The puzzle is both how to get thruâ’ the bottleneck of die off, AND how to help our community be set up to survive after die off. The bottle neck is addressed by stored food, the after die off time is addressed by …. what?”.

    And this is exactly what I’m trying to convey and contemplating, day and night right now. I do have some ideas on this, but I would probably be shot for expressing them.

  • December 17, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    Some areas of the country will be better at sustainability than others. Have you read “Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder? They ate a LOT better than in the later books where pa took his family west and they were always just squeeking by. In the Farmer Boy times they didn’t have petroleum products. Granted most people in this day and age don’t have the know how to live like that and most wouldn’t want to work that hard.

    Now is a good time as FernWise says to be using the ff we have left to get yourself set up to be self sufficient.

    I had my first garden this year in a new place and by the time I got it hand dug, it was a bit late to get my stuff in. Needless to say, I couldn’t live off what I grew this year. Next year should be better but there are always so many things that can go wrong.

    We have old apple trees on the place and have added new ones. Still need to get the berry bushes in and the beds of rhubarb & asparagus in. We have rabbits and chickens now and the shelters for them to live in. Given enough time, we should be able to live totally off our place.

    Being an old homestead, we still have a lot of the old timey equipment around for the old fashioned ways of doing things.

    There isn’t hope for everyone alive on the earth but some will survive.

  • December 17, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    There is a pretty large “earthship” community outside of Taos NM. Due to their location they will be swarmed but I lived out there for quite some time. The major concept that is relevant here is indoor planters utilizing graywater which is caught from the roof. It is the only place I ever lived where they shoveled snow onto their roof.
    I lived alone and had a 1000 gallon cistern. With training one can make that last quite a while. Wouldn’t let my city friends shower when they visited or my water would be gone in days instead of weeks. The trauma they suffered by not showering daily was amusing.
    Indoors was a small (by earthship standards) planter. All the grey water from the house went through this and watered the plants. I ate bananas from my bannana tree in December in the desert.
    This cannot be all ones food but the design of the buildings were such that the winter sun came in more than the summer sun.
    I have seen dwarf fruit trees for sale and these would be perfect in this situation.
    It seems the food thing is a lot of little things adding up to sustenance. This is one more helpful step.
    More info can be found at

  • December 17, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    Oh, but in Farmer Boy they DID have fossil fuels. Kerosine for lamps, coal stove for heat, steam engines using coal, etc. The books don’t address where the metal for the plows and tools came from – but coal was surely used in manufacturing that. The barrel of sugar the kids ate was no doubt produced by slaves then moved by steamship, too, for that matter.

  • December 17, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    On a similar note to the ‘seasonal sloth’ idea – I figure that the whole idea of ‘not working on the Sabbath’ was as a way to save some calories and let the body have a day of recovery from the hard work the rest of the week. Amazing, the idea that religious actions (or inactions) might have been adaptive at one time. Even if folks spent 2 periods of 3 hours in church on Sunday, it was far easier on the body than working on the farm.

  • December 17, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    The ‘masters’ figured out (determined) LONG ago that they could easily extract far more ‘productivity’ by selling the slaves on (in) religion even if that meant a day of sloth per week than was (is) wearing out (crushing) both body, mind and ‘spirit’ of their ‘flock’.

    This had (has) the added benefits of being able to ascribe cause of suffering and all evil to acts of the devil (not on themselves), of forming tolerance (even motivation) for suffering/subservience/subject-hood throughout the rank and file, and to keep all eyes/minds firmly focused on hope (the everlasting hereafter) rather than on their actual reality (life).

    “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” ~ Steven Weinberg

    “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” ~Voltaire

  • December 17, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Well, we could have several scenarios. At one end of the spectrum, we have some fat cat preacher leading the starving masses to city hall to hold a riot, and then the police would be “forced” to open fire, while we’re hiding our last bag of cheetos not from the starving masses, but from the military who comes to confiscate it. On the other end of the spectrum, we pull our heads out of our collective Polyanna behinds and do a Rosy-Posy version of Cuba after their own oil crises, but before ours smacks us too hard in the face.

    No matter what the future holds, if any of us plan on staying alive, we’re all better off learning how and practicing now. Even if we each succeed in hoarding 50 years worth of food, what then? Even if 99.9% of the population of the world goes away tomarrow, life will still go on, and someone will need to teach the next generation, even if that next generation is a lone and lonely child you found wandering in the woods.

  • December 17, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    My people came to Louisiana before the city of New Orleans was founded and proceeded to farm the fertile banks of the Mississippi. Many folks here still raise their garden veggies without the use of artificial fertilizers. We have abundant fresh water. My own well is free-flow artesian, the best water in creation. It is probably too moist here to raise grains other than rice, amaranth, etc.
    I resemble the characterization of Americans (by lonewolf) as “Ah, Humans! Arrogance and stupidity in one package. How efficient!” He sounds to be describing himself! (5 postgraduate degrees, organic veggie) Maybe he could’nt feed himself, but he doesn’t live HERE. There is so much food and water in Louisiana that you have to eat fast food on purpose in order to avoid natural caloric input.

  • December 17, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    The North American continent is one of the most fertile pieces of farm-land on the planet with a much lower population density than say a place like China.

    There’s plenty enough good soil, water and sunlight to feed us. All of us. Without oil, without artificial fertilizer.

    However… On our farm wild turkeys thrive. Across the road is a house full of turkeys that have been raised in a turkey house.

    The turkeys across the road are so dumb they’ll drown looking up at raindrops when they fall from the sky.

    If you opened the barn and forced them out into the pasture where their wild cousins thrive, they’d all die.

    Most people in this country are like the turkeys in that barn.

    They will die like flies. They won’t walk anywhere, but instead will huddle in packs, afraid of the dark, afraid of wildlife, afraid of everything, and die like flies.

  • December 17, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    I do not believe you Creole, or you either Don, your dreaming visions of lollipops and cotton candy. America is not the land of milk and honey some seem to think.  What exist here now is the direct result of former petroleum inputs. That will not last indefinitely.

    The reality is – nobody (that we know of) is actually doing it without downstream petroleum inputs.

    If there is that much food just lying around (and only in Louisiana?), why the starvation among the Katrina dead and survivors (for example)? Why the hordes of dirt poor who still don’t feed themselves? Why the levels of malnutrition in the South?

    Perhaps it is lack of skills and experience, but the reality remains – if it can be done, why is it that nobody is doing it? Why then is there already food shortages developing? Why then are farmers going bankrupt, unable to grow food because they can’t afford the fertilizer anymore? I know already that farmers are closing up shop for this reason alone.

    Do either of you guys have a clue how many calories are actually required for each and every adult human living an active lifestyle (such as farming) and why we cannot grow this without petroleum and picture perfect conditions as mentioned above?

    As for Lonewolf – you err greatly Creole, let this be the last time (that’s a hint). He has been ALL over the world more times then you can probably count, feeding tens of thousands of villagers with his background and skills. Be careful, you dare tread on what you do not know.

  • December 17, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    It is written by the garden club I belong to that you can grow enough vegetables to feed a family of 3 for a year in 10 square meters of garden.

    I don’t have the money to buy a property in the country yet so I am going to have to survive where I am. I live in a townhouse with a small garden approximately 10 square meters.

    My partner and I grow vegetables from seed in an old bath (the best greenhouse / cold frame ever invented) and recycle organic waste from the household into a compost bin. We garden organically using a “manure tea” for fertilizer which is just horse / cow manure in stocking in a bin of water, you just water it on every week or so and it works a treat.

    With companion planting and multi-cropping we manage to keep the pests down but simple techniques such as protecting seedlings with egg shells and plastic bottles cut up as shields for snails/slugs and garlic and basil spray for bugs, nets for possums and birds we manage to keep most of our plants safe.

    I live in a temperate region with lack of water supply going to be my issue and we have developed rainwater catchments, close planting, heavy mulching and watering by hand as some of the techniques we have developed so far to prepare for this obstacle.

    We buy and collect Heirloom seeds, not hybrid or GM and we are working on completing the sow, grow, harvest, seed saving cycle of sustainable vegetable gardening. Our enthusiasm has led to some of our friends asking for help to set up gardens in their backyards which we are only to happy to help out. In this way we and our friends not only eat better quality food but are saving money and our friends contribute to the preservation of our seeds.

    It has taken three years so far of trial and error and we are really starting to make progress with our learningâ’s and predict we may be self-sufficient in another 2 years. In the meantime I have just harvested a yearsâ’ supply of garlic and you should taste it, unbelievable, it is so good.

    At the end of the day your survival will come down to your attitude, you are going to have to roll with the punches. The best preparation can easily account for nothing if “something” happens in your area. I have my backpack ready to go should a local disaster come my way and it includes a container of seeds that I will take with me. I think that having stored food is a good idea, however it will run out one day or you may have to leave it. Raising vegetables is a great skill to learn whatever happens you will probably benefit from a closer understanding of food in nature. It also takes you into your garden where you can be close to your partner and nature and forget about the NWO for a while which is great for the soul.

    Keep up the good work everyone.

  • December 17, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    As some have said, in the end, humans will come full circle to evolve back into hunter-gatherer types and I tend to agree with that but not sure how long the process would take. So tools is/are something to think about and I’m not talking about steel shovels or pliers, or Black and Decker drills.
    Several years ago I attended a most fascinating old time skills demo in which one guy demonstrated his own craft of making stone axes. All kinds, all shapes and all sizes. He had been doing this for years and made them to match/mimic as closely as possible the original stone tools, as he was a collecter of same.

    What really blew my mind was when he picked up one of my favorites and mentioned how he had “cut down 3600 (yes, 3,600) trees with this one and of course it never needs sharpening because it sharpens itself with use”. It was then that the light bulb went on — that even the technology of making saw blades is a step backward. We buy these saw blades then have to either replace them, or buy new ones. Planned obsolescence anyway.
    He did mention that a stone axe is good for green wood, but not aged wood.
    Since that demo I’ve been collecting various rocks that look good, or perfect, for experimenting with stone ax making.
    Food for thought.

  • December 17, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    heya – Thank you. What you are doing is really great, and I like garlic, although one well-intentioned writer told me to stop eating it (still haven’t I’m afraid).

    Your efforts are admirable. But it’s still not without petroleum inputs. Really, I’m not nitpicking, I’m trying to make it very clear because it is soooo important for all of us that without energy inputs, we’re in pretty serious trouble.

    I have read the same type of garden info you mentioned (although I don’t know which club you were referring to). I thought, “great, now we can just go do this and survive”. Not so, not even close. And thus, the common conundrum I’m airing here.

    I really wish it were that simple. Growing enough vegetables to feed 3 for a year is definitely not the same thing as having enough calories to keep you alive and in reasonably good health. You didn’t state if that was what they said or implied, but most do in fact make this type of claim.

    Unfortunately, it is not true. These claims are taking into account several things that are no longer dependable, such as our existing infrastructure and the ability to take advantage of it. These are all downstream petroleum inputs.

    I firmly believe that growing our own is absolutely essential and long overdue, but my very real concern is the vast, vast majority of us will not be able to grow enough without outside energy inputs. Alternatively, without significant “help” (trade) like we have now, which in the future, is going to bring it’s own set of problems when the infrastructure crumbles.

    This isn’t an “immediate issue”, but it will certainly effect our later years and all of our children and “anytime” after the trigger points of collapse have fallen (any day now).

  • December 17, 2007 at 8:53 pm


    A man after my own heart. Realist, yet optimist.
    I do prefer the taste of WILD turkey, but will eat
    a city turkey if it comes to that.

  • December 17, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    Oh, admin thinks he should tell us about KATRINA! People were starving in the streets. Those were the city turkeys.
    I was raised together with them uptown many years ago.

    After evacuating 5 days, we were allowed to return (back roads) and found all the livestock OK (chickens & goats) but some fences had been leveled. The aquarium fish suffered a couple of casualties (no pumps working) and we lived without power for two months. My artesian well supplied neighbors and I barbequed or dried lots of food from the freezer. My wife had a harder time because she is still addicted to air conditioning. The kids were happy to be away from school so we home-schooled for the time.

    City turkeys are poorly fed on KFC and Mickey D’s. They show high mortality in excessive population densities. It seems as if admin believes the things he chooses to read and that he watches too much TV.

  • December 17, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    I’ve never suffered fools very well. Goodbye Creole, you’re not contributing anything here. Enjoy your turkey.

  • December 18, 2007 at 6:23 am

    Saw a weird sight yesterday…..Mennonites shopping in the local Wal-Mart.

  • December 18, 2007 at 6:43 am

    As a side note, Creole admitted to being a troll some time ago on the LATOC forum. A waste of space.

    My prediction: Future books that will be penned by CreoleGenius-
    “True Humility, and How I Eventually Achieved It”
    “I’m Better Than You, A Moron’s Guide”
    “Inferiority Complex and My Username”

  • December 18, 2007 at 8:37 am

    I think I mentioned somewhere upthread that oil will not completely disappear during our lifetimes. I live around oil wells and I guarantee you there will be oil in those wells when we’re all dead (a hundred years from now). (And by the way, my dad and two of my brothers are geologists. I know what I am talking about here.)

    Yes, the oil we produce domestically is a fraction of what we use and the amount domestic wells produce will continue to decline, but we currently waste coonsiderably over half the oil we use with senseless, incessant and unnecessary movement.

    And while no one currently produces food with zero oil inputs, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

    I have grown a garden with nothing but a grubbing hoe and a garden hoe and I know for a fact a single man can easily produce enough calories between potatoes, corn and beans to feed a large family and have leftovers, especially if you raise livestock, eat meat, milk and eggs. It’s absurd to think otherwise. Humans didn’t even begin using oil until 200 years ago.

    The amish for example use almost no oil. A percentage of Chinese people greater than the entire population of the United States feed themselves almost entirely without oil inputs.

    It can be done. The question is whether the people in the United States softened by a life of luxury can do this.

    A lot can’t or won’t. Consequently a lot of people will die, just like they do in Africa today. They won’t be storming the countryside in masses and raiding things–well fed people do that–they’ll huddle in groups and as their energy levels decline they’ll shrivel and die.

    The soil is there. The water is there. The sun shines, seeds grow when planted. But the work absent machines is brutally hard, fraught with surprizes and perils ranging from weather to insects and disease. You can’t wait until an emergency hits to begin doing this work, unless you have foresite to have stocked at least a half a years food supply away.

    Most people will find themselves lacking in knowlege and/or unwilling to work that hard.

    As for livestock, the sun still shines, the grass still grows. Animals will continue to eat this grass, reproduce themselves and store plenty of calories in their bodies.

    All the stuff in those packages of food you sell was produced by this process of photosythesis–oil and chemical fertilizers are optional inputs in the equation.

    Check out the Omnivore’s Dilemma (book) sometime, in particualar the section about Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm. He won’t have many changes to make to convert should he be denied access to oil.

    Like I said, the question isn’t whether growing food without oil can be done, the question is whether “we” can do it.

    And most of “we” I see are like the turkeys in the shed across the street.

  • December 18, 2007 at 11:04 am

    I had been thinking of Salatin too. But obviously uses his backhoe to bury the chicken guts, and machinery for the wood chips, getting around on his quad, etc. And I just read this article by Salatin: “Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal”So factor in, chickens, rabbits, even a clothesline, may be outlawed by your neighborHOOD association. Ain’t DeMOCKracy great?

  • December 18, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    I don’t ask anyone to believe me, I do hope everyone does their own due diligence and understand the issues involved for their own selves.

    However Don, I’ll have to decline your “guarantee” because what you propose does not agree with the results of my own research and that of many others.

    For example, I don’t believe for half a second that the remaining oil in those oil wells will be used to help keep me alive as supplies get increasingly scarce, or that people such as myself will be able to actually afford what little remains to be extracted in the future.

    Or that the majority of us, even with hard, brutal backbreaking work, can actually produce enough food from season to season where we live to keep us alive and healthy without the benefit of external energy inputs to make this possible – unless we ALL move to viable bioregions that permits this “brutal labor” and of course, work in community, sharing our efforts, labor and production.

    I know that I’ll burn a lot more calories then I can actually produce when I’m cold, hungry, overworked and doing everything manually. And I know I cannot exist very long on poor nutrition.

    Those that mention being able to grow all of their vegetables are probably correct – it is possible given consistent access to all nutrients and water requirements, and favorable soil/climate/weather (which rules out a lot of this country), hoping for the absence of significant pest and diseases, and much skill, work and a whole lot of luck.

    Past societies experienced starvation for exactly these reasons, there is no reason at all for us to believe that it will be any different for us. We exist now through poor crop seasons because we are leveraging the capacity of oil and mega-harvests and our ability to distribute food stuffs from all over the world. In time, this will utterly disappear, and then what?

    But “vegetables don’t make a meal”, i.e., proper nutrition over the long run, unless one consumes inordinately large amounts to make up for nutritional deficiencies (year round), which “ain’t going to happen” because we will not be producing the abundance many think will magically appear.

    BTW, long term, plant nutrition is NOT just N, P, K replacement. It’s the metals and and ‘trace elements’ that will be hardest to replenish (B, Ca, Co, Cu, Fe, Mg. Mn, Mo, S, Zn and even Na and Cl could (eventually will) become a deficit (or toxic). It always ‘amuses me’ to read people who claim that they’re nutrient sourcing problems are solved by composting (few if any recycle their own ‘wastes’ back into food growth – which helps but not totally solves nutrient recycling).

    Not saying it cannot be done but it takes much skill and effort. But even so-called ‘expert’ gardeners have little to no clue that ALL 16 elements are needed and must be available in proper form and concentrations (proportions) for viable plant growth/yields. The H comes from water, C and O from the atmosphere, all else must be externally sourced and replenished. The metals (esp, Co, Mg, Mn, Mo) and Boron are hardest to source, especially in chemical forms that plants can assimilate.

    If one eats “potato, corn and beans” every day, they may stay alive for awhile (e.g through winter) and as the link above points out, badly weakened in the spring. If supplemented with game animals or small animals they may even do ok (but this is actually beyond the scope of the topic and in reality, not possible for 300,000,000 people anyway). But growing grains is another matter.

    Without grains, forget much in the way of meat (unless this is hunted and/or trapped). How many have access to open-pollinated grain seed of any kind – DAMN few – even if they they have land, skill, tools, nutrient, etc. Also, yield/time for heirloom vegetable varieties is typically nowhere close to what people are accustomed to with ‘hybrid’ (F1) seed. Also, heirlooms are far more susceptible to pests and disease TMK which is why the F1 strains were developed in the first place. Also, try to acquire and maintain as many cultivars (varieties/ lines) of each species as possible, even the poorer performers because you won’t know which tolerates stresses best until one has significant real-world experience (aka failures). In a life support system – failure is NOT an option. Back-up to the max on every aspect. If something can go wrong, it will.

    A diet of “potato, corn and beans” isn’t going to yield vigor to work hard in the garden daily – ntm all the other daily/seasonal tasks of self-sufficiency. One killer frost, or drought, hurricane, storm, raid (bandits), one major pest infestation or disease outbreak (esp. w/ heirloom seed) is a show-stopper. Never put all of ones eggs in one basket. I’d suggest (for ‘seed-savers’) maintaining several years of each species (used in rotation) and stored in different locations if possible. Redundancy – aka back-up – will be critical as problems arise, which they definitely will.

    I still say that community – not self-sufficiency – will be the key in the post-crash world. And sustainability is not self-sufficiency. Sustainability presently relies upon external energy inputs in a big way.

    And all this is only possible in a limited number of viable regions. But certainly not here, not when our seasons are far too short. And for many others, when there isn’t enough water to keep a houseplant alive without water being pumped by petroleum energy from thousands of miles away either.

    I’m expecting and planning for a pre-industrial era of ‘production’. This will be like it was before, productive areas were naturally well-watered with good soils and most in the southern regions and some micro-climate areas. Unfortunately, this is only a fraction of the inhabited land of this country and nowhere close enough to feed me or a few hundred million other people who will simply be physically too far away to be kept alive (if it were even possible).

    I know from my own efforts that I certainly cannot grow enough food to feed a family up here, or even myself. I can supplment my diet, but not much else. Not yet, perhaps not ever, unless I leverage energy sources to enhance my productive capacity at significant time/energy and money, ALL which will make me dependent upon an external energy source that will become increasingly scarce and expensive. There is a valid reason why the pioneers couldn’t do it either and it wasn’t because they were stupid.

    It’s not “absurd to think otherwise” as you allege. It’s absurd to think that 300,000,000 people, many who occupy land that couldn’t support a single pine tree can magically create the conditions required to grow enough food to sustain themselves for a entire year, year in and year out, without external energy inputs. It’s also absurd to not realize that our explosive population growth is the direct result of petroleum inputs and the corresponding food production that made it all possible. Ignoring this fact just boggles the mind.

    It is absurd to think that Amish don’t use any oil (they use quite a lot in reality but less then the rest of us, especially considering that most Americans don’t actually produce anything) or that hungry hordes won’t simply tear your sustainable farm to pieces because you have something they don’t and need. This is human nature, exhibited all over the world.

    Polyface Farms is like every other claim I’ve seen so far, and no disrespect to their efforts or intentions. They exist on downstream petroleum inputs even now, and will undoubtedly leverage this as long as they can, like we all will. But when this stops, and it most certainly will, they will take down their electric fences, sawmill, visqueen and plastic greenhouses and drastically cut their actual production. Besides, they don’t ship food anyway, so this example is meaningless since it’s truly localized, which “is” the problem.

    Many believe that we can “localize everything”. This is not even remotely true. Although quite desirable, it’s not going to be possible for reasons already stated. Without a viable infrastructure to support long distance transportation and the distribution of goods, the available consumption of calories drops again. Localization only works for what is viable in that bioregion, period. The available resources you allege, such as sunshine, soil, water are not always suitable (and often not). Moreover, other essential resources such as lumber are not available either, yet these regions today are populated by millions of people who exist on energy inputs that have come from thousands of miles away.

    Despite your confident assertions, what you claim is simply untrue for the vast majority of people. But do your own due diligence, as everyone should.

  • December 18, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    There are plenty of people in the world who realize what famines and food shortages mean, they just aren’t middle class Americans. Those who have been there also have learned coping skills for dealing with unbounded trauma and catastrophe that we are going to need.

    Personally, I intend to be nice to all the immigrants and crazy ‘survivalists’ who won’t go deer in the headlights the first day Macy’s closes. I do doubt that anyone can really understand what famine means if they haven’t been through one.

    Concerning the zombie biker hordes, as a nation we consume over 150 million tons of just one neurotoxin (MSG) each year. There are so many central nervous system poisons in the processed food supply, the air, the vaccines, the water, the plastic containers, the toys, the soaps and cosmetics,etc. that it seems hard to believe that our population will be able to evade brain damage long enough to threaten the powers that be or anyone else.

    Please don’t rule out smaller options in food production.

    If everyone produces even 30% of their own food(as small as victory gardens even), this changes the entire dynamic; as fuel for food transport, packaging petro, electricity at stores, chemical fertilizer petro, gas to grocery store all decline too. Small changes may seem pointless, but can be very significant as they can buy us time by extending the petro window we do have.

  • December 18, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    I am not going to argue with the host of this site. It’s your arena, you’re entitled to your opinion and me, mine.

    I am going to continue to make preparations to survive as oil supplies dwindle.

    I have three hundred acres of wheat in the ground and growing. 230 cows eating grass, raising babies that someone will eat once they weigh a thousand pounds or so. I have 200 acres of land prepared for corn (white corn for tortillas). I hope to produce
    720,000 pounds of wheat and 1,440,000 pounds of corn.

    Cattle don’t need grain, they eat grass.

    I do all of this with a tractor but I have 40 head of horses (eveyone thinks I am crazy). I have worked draft animals, my Mexican hands grew up working the ground with oxen and in the event of a collapse, a whole lot of people will be out of a job and needing food. Come harvest time I will need them as much as they need me.

    Believe it or not. Makes me no difference.

    You don’t get to decide whether I am right. Time will.

  • December 18, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    Don is right, and admin is right at the same time. Some of us can grow and gather plenty to eat in the old ways, but it is that some of us who got the hell out of the cities, relocated to a moderate climate zones, and spend our time working our land intelligently with self sufficiency in mind.

    Admin is right that 90% of people are going to be really screwed WTSHTF. Another 4.5% are in positions of power, and they will be allocated resources to keep them in comfort on the backs of forced labor camps. So I’d say a million or so folks are going to make the transition into powerdown or energy descent without too many problems.

    I hope you get your backhoe so you can start your preps. I’m outta here.

  • December 18, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    Don, if you actually contributed to the discussion instead of simple assertions that “your right – the devil be damned” (which I assume is me), it would be helpful.

    But you’ve got a history here of being argumentative without cause and without any facts. Most of what you say is refuted by history itself, but hey, you’re the expert.

    So be it. Enjoy your ranch, I hope you’ve figured out how to make those calories of corn stretch, because they’re not even close enough to what you think they are.

    A few facts for you – the average American consumes 1500 pounds of corn per year. This means (I’ll do the math for you since you seem to lack certain cognitive abilities) that your proposed corn harvest (assuming 100% success, a rather ludicrous number) of 1,440,000 pounds will feed exactly 960 people. Not bad – but sorry, it’s not enough. Don’t forget, this is only the corn the average American eats each year, and nothing else.

    This also represents less then 50% of the calorie requirements for those 960 people (in a perfect world of sunshine, soil, water and harvests and zero crop loss at each stage of planting, harvest and production).

    From that harvest, you will lose a varying percentage each year as your land depletes itself of nutrients, pest and disease losses and production losses, not to mention drought. And by the way, just how much of your harvest is fertilizer based? You’re using a tractor which burns petroleum based fuels too. Do you honestly expect you’re going to continue this planned production levels with draft animals?

    Don’t like those figures? Well, golly gee, they came from the very book you mentioned, the Omnivore’s Dilemma.

    A few other uncomfortable facts. Cows do eat quite a lot of American corn, although they don’t have to (but they do). Not all cows are grass fed, the range simply isn’t there in many parts of the country and corn is used to add weight.

    It’s great your going to feed your cows grass, but not everyone can or will do this. Right now, we’re feeding some of our corn production into bioethanol, which has helped cause a huge spike in the price of corn, tortillas, and corn products – including beef, chickens and eggs and pork.

    And you never addressed how your going to get your corn or your wheat up here where I live, or how anybody is going to do that either. We’ve got trees, water and well, more trees. And I’m a long ways from you, perhaps you can loan me one of your horses to haul my food back and forth, but frankly, I’m not sure if I can feed it very long, let alone myself.

    Now I’m not so naive as to believe that we’ll always be able to eat 1500 lbs of corn per year, per American, but this does exemplify the problem we’ve got.

    You’re own production is petroleum based, localized and it will diminish dramatically when you stop using tractors and fertilizers (try it for a few seasons).

    I don’t know what your real productions numbers will be with draft animals down the road, and neither do you. But I do know that our present population (let alone the entire world’s population) exists as the direct result of massive petroleum inputs. This is an irrefutable fact, despite your assertions otherwise. There is zero possibility we are going to escape starvation when our energy supplies run out. ZERO.

    I know this is true, not because I assert it, but because this is both historical fact of every civilization that exceeds its resource base, and the assessment of world-class experts.

    You’re right – I don’t get to decide whether you are right or wrong, but I can point you to the facts whether you like it or not. And you can keep on asserting whatever you want, it makes no difference to me.

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