Growing Your Own – It May Not Be What You Think
Today I tore out my failing fruit trees and tossed them into the burn pile. The soil here is poor and not well suited for the location these trees were planted. I’m going to have to start over, someplace else, but I took the initiative (finally) so that I would not delay this any longer and lose more years of effort.
I’ve learned that 5 years, even 10 years it is really not enough time to learn how to grow your own food. There are still plenty of people who think their “Survival Seeds” in a can will save their sorry asses when the shtf, but I’m here to tell you – it’s never, ever going to work like that. You will die from starvation long before your very first crop comes in, before it’s eaten by pests and bugs and deer and rodents and killed by drought or too much rain or an early frost.
I’ve put in an enormous amount of effort to learn the startling truth – there is absolutely no way I can feed myself. Not even 1 person, let alone ten or whatever size group or family you have. All the harvests generally come in around the same time, which makes you a busy beaver. It’s also a dinner bell for the birds and pests and deer and rodents and whatever else can climb your fences.
You have to quickly process the crops to preserve them. I had corn, carrots, green beans, beets, kale, tomatoes, spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers and strawberries. No grains can be grown here. Oh, and potatoes of course. Automatic drip irrigation was also used – but these stupid timers generally last a single season then they fail, so it’s no longer “automatic”.
I also harvested tons and tons of WEEDS. Not the kind you would smoke either, but the nasty, toxic kind you don’t want. I’m an organic gardener and do not use any kind of chemicals on the soil or plants if it can be avoided. The weeds absolutely LOVED my garden and were even found in the greenhouse. These got dealt with the old-fashioned way – by hand.
Anyway, the crops come in, generally in the same period of time (all at once) and you have to move quickly to do something with the harvest. The only crops that I didn’t harvest were the apples, pears, plums and cherries. These trees were really suffering in the poor soil (dig down about 6″ and it’s literally decomposed granite and clay mix, very hard – totally useless). The trunks were stunted, the bark was falling off the trees and they never grew right. I uprooted them all today and will start a fruit orchard where there is much better, deeper soil – if I can solve the fencing requirement to keep out the four-legged rodents. So no fruit from my plantation this year (other then strawberries).
I’ve also had a miserable time trying to get the blueberry bushes to grow for the same reasons, poor soil. I use horse troughs for everything else (already covered on the blog) and greenhouse pots in the greenhouse. But the blueberry (and raspberry) bushes are planted directly in the soil, outside.
The total harvest was poor this year. Lots of rain this spring caused some issues, and usually a bad windstorm also does some damage (none so far). This year though, during the summer months, it’s been abnormally dry here (and a lot of smoke from fires). Overall, there is not enough food harvested for even 1 person for six months, probably not even 3. Too many issues came up this season. Lots of little things just didn’t go right.
I’ve long known that it takes a VERY long time to develop the skills, layout and gardening operation to produce adequate food – and it’s a LOT longer then many people seem to think.
If there was a collapse, the vast, vast majority of people would quite simply starve to death (after having looted all the stores and killed off the wildlife and eaten the dogs and horses). It’s also totally ludicrous to think that people are going to go off into the woods to survive – this has been soundly disproven as being a complete fantasy.
Nutritional requirements for even minimal activity will be 1500 to 2000 calories per day, with higher numbers then this required for strenuous work (like watching out for marauders while you’re trying to grow food and maintain your crops). It all boils down to the energy you’ve expended, the crops you bring to harvest and the losses you’ve undoubtedly experienced.
This year, my losses were pretty high. Higher then last year, and last year was worse then the year before that. Last year, I had a massive racoon eat every single grape. And my cat. I’ve also had wild turkeys come over the fence and snap off many of the limbs on the fruit trees as they tried to reach the fruit. Some were so damaged that the trees became useless. My fence is 9 or 10 feet high, but it doesn’t keep everything out and never can. Even birds will find a way under the netting and eat the fruit.
In essence, I’m sensing I’m at the bottom again, and will have to do things better to expect a modest harvest. The climate did not cooperate, but that was also to be expected.
The point of this post however is this – after nearly a dozen years of effort, I don’t have a good handle on this in this region. Poor soils, short seasons, erratic rainfall, problems with gophers, moles, deer and earwigs in the corn didn’t help either. Everything alive is out there ready to eat what you’re trying to grow. Surviving from your own garden is an enormous amount of work and the reality for many people in the same kind of climate and soil conditions I have (or equally as bad) is they are simply never, ever going to survive without massive and steady inputs from civilization (other people). This is one of those areas where myth and fantasy never seem to meet reality.
Our planet will reach 8 billion in the near future. The majority of these people, including you are here simply because someone else is growing your food. This is a lot harder then you may think, it takes an enormous amount of time, skill and decent luck to bring in a modest harvest. Although I have looked for years and years, I still have not found a single person that can (and actually does) grow all of their own food. Not even one.
I designed a score-card to test this some years back, nobody has achieved a passing score. I certainly didn’t. Neither did anyone take the Survivalist Challenge and survive (although one guy tried and died). The reality is food is the #1, most critical element for the human race (water can be found a lot easier). “Growing your own” at the level you need to sustain life, maintain health and get you and your family through winter to another harvest an entire year away is far, far, harder and even undoable then most think.
You might be one of the lucky green thumbs, unlike me. Or have perfect weather, soil, rainfall and temperature conditions. Maybe all your pests are friendly and cooperative, and will leave your budding plants alone. But even after looking, studying and reviewing the claims of others who say they “can” grow all their own – I seriously doubt it. They’re still buying supermarket food and supplies in reality. Everybody is.
It’s a disturbing conclusion, if you grasp the mechanics of collapse. We’re stuck with a system that is keeping us alive while also rapidly destroying the planet.