I wanted to type up some of the profound things I learned at the Organic Grower's School this year so I don't forget any little morsel. I hope these items help you when you are planning your garden or searching for more livestock for your yard. These are things that our grandparents grew up on, but much has been forgotten as people have become more urban in the last 50 years. Technology has traded places with our need to keep ourselves alive. Here's to hoping we don't have to go back to it exclusively, but I'm intelligent enough to know if we do have to, these things don't happen over night. Enjoy!
Permaculture is a coming together of all things in our garden and surroundings. It has been studied in America since the 1980's, but originated 40 years ago in Austrailia. To define it hard and fast isn't easy, but basically it's creating little or no waste, using everything in the garden that's produced to feed or sustain something else. Example: We eat veggies that came from our garden and save the peels for our goats, they eat them and poop them out into the straw, the chickens go through the poop and eat the fly larvae and scratch it around causing it to compost, we put the compost on the garden and plant more seeds, we catch rainwater and use it for the crops, harvest and eat the crops, and give the peelings to the goats. Waaalaaa! Permaculture:) There are thousands of aspects to it in every crevice you can think of. From getting a duck or two to eat the slugs out of your garden, and poop to give you great fertilizer to using old boxes to lay onto your yard to make a raised compost vegetable garden, lasagne style (no not the pasta and tomato sauce kind!). See Google - Lasagne style gardening:)
If we are going to be able to be self sufficient during hard times or disaster, we need to be thinking about the things that we wouldn't be able to get if something bad happens. Personally I don't like to go hungry, so food is the first thing I'm thinking of. We need this next list to survive. It is rich in vitimins and minerals, protein, suppliments, antioxiodents, etc.
Grains - wheat and oats
Nuts and seeds
animal protein: fish, chicken, ducks, and rabbits are some small ones that can be raised in your yard. And here's a new one to me - guinnea pig - thank you South Americans!!! Um...ur...OK...
fats and oils
and milk products from a goat who is compact enough to fit into your yard. From this goat you can make over 15 kinds of cheeses, yogurt, kefir, and of course: milk:)
Fun facts: Aronia berries are more nutrient rich than blue berries. Wild hazelnuts grow around here and are almost identical to olive oil in it's health benefits and make up. Sweet potatoes are the only single food that can be eaten every meal and give your body exactly what it needs to thrive. Purple or darker flesh is better for you. The next healthiest mix would be beans and rice together. Potatoes that have gone green need to be thrown out immediately! They are poisionous. This happens from exposure to light. You can't merely peel the green off and eat, it will make you sick. Hmmm...I thought if you peeled it....Oh well, that's why we continue to learn, right?
If you are planning to have a little garden patch, our region's best bets (NC) are:
Sweet Potatoes, potatoes, onions, beans, corn, pumpkin, squash, cabbage, greens, fruits, nuts, berries, tomatoes, and peppers (both sweet and hot). These make up a big bunch of what we eat and they all grow well in our zone. Throw in some wild game and eggs and you are ready for anything. Oh and also you can grow every kind of grain around here! Yes every one!
I found out you can usually get pork fat for free or cheap from a butcher, bring it home, cook it on low like frying bacon and render out the fat for lard. Now, I'm not a fan of cooking with lard, because I watch every calorie, but if you had to have something to cook in, here it is. One of the speakers said his momma use to cook every meal on a wood stove and there was always a pot of pork fat on the stove all liquidy. They would come home for an after school snack and smear some on a leftover bisquit. I could tell he was having a lip smacking out of body remembrance. It brought to mind my grandfather mashing up some butter and molasses with a fork and putting on my bisquits as a child. Fond memories. What kinds of stuff do you remember?
Other beautiful old time tricks are plant your beans with your corn and let the corn run up the beans to save space. Plant Kale and Collards in August so they grow up strong in the heat, but taste the best after they have been frosted on.
Cultivate more speciallized farm/orchard enterprises to close the loop and fill the niches that we have with standard gardening. Begin close and small. Overcome limiting factors like watering, fertility, and sunlight. You need 6 hours minimum of sunlight mid day to have a productive garden. Optimize use of space, fill the niches, stacking and packing or vertical farming. Gaia's Garden a book by Toby Hemingway kept coming up as a favorite organic gardening book. Create a place for fish and animals. Did you know you can grow eating sized talapia in a small pond in your yard??? Cool! Even cooler - you can grow 20 to 30 in a 55 gallon rain barrel, just grow some algae first so they have some starter nutrients. All this info is online. Don't ya just love the internet. It can be a wealth of information. If you make food your priority in your yard you don't just have grass to look at, you have beautiful yields of fruit, nuts, and veggies. You will be able to eat healthier and quicker cause you don't have to run to the store for dinner, just pick it;) If you don't want to do it then at least support othe small local and organic farms. Personally I find it much cheaper to do it myself.
I also found out it takes about an acre of fenced in land to have a family milk cow. The rule of thumb is 1 acre per 1,000 lbs of animal. You can get about 2 gallons of milk a day at the cow's peak and some darn good fertilizer;) A cow will cost $800 to $2,000 to purchase, $200 to breed, $500 a year in feed, $600 a year in hay, fencing, barn, vet, etc. Brings it to $1,400 + or - in costs per year. One lady was bootlegging milk to the tune of 100 gallons a week. That's like a $1,000 per week she was making. I'm not advocating it, just sayin;)
Shawn Jadrnicek is one of my permaculture heros! He is at Clemson University and has a 5 acre working farm that his students oversee and sell from. He is all about design principles and patterns. You should hear how much yield he gets out of his land! It's incredible. We are going to go tour his farm went we go to Steve's sister's house in Atlanta next time. He is experimenting with raising permanent crops like blueberry bushes, blackberry vines, and talapia ponds with the use of annuals inbetween his crops. He plants things all over the place and it looks beautiful. He uses 55 gallon drums of water on the South side of his greenhouse to capture heat that dispurses at night in the Winter. Way cool! He even planned his garden shed to open up South facing so it is lighted by the sun during the day and heated in the winter.
Patricia Allison lives at Earth Haven Eco Village where they practice permaculture and work together as a tribe of Native American Indians would to support each other. She profoundly stated that nature is a gift culture, not an exchange. Nature gives us everything. If we take care of the humans, the care of earth will just happen, hmmm now that's an interesting thought. You always think eco peeps are all about saving the earth, not the humans, but this chick is on to something. If we as humans are kinder, more skilled, healthier, helpful to those around us, and working daily on our intelligence then nature would naturally take care of itself. We wouldn't have to feel compelled to save this and that and the other. It would be something that just happens by us taking care of ourselves and our minds and teaching those values to the next generation. Her foundations of permaculture definition is 1- care of earth 2-care of humans 3-share the surplus and 4- all beings have intrinsic value. We need to create a regenerative culture, not whine in the one we have.
I will do a part two post about the Organic Grower's School soon. Stay tuned.