I’ve answered that question so many times I don’t remember. But the answer doesn’t really change much. If I am among hardcore preppers then I usually respond with, “As much as you possibly can.” If I am among newbies I am more subdued and respond with, “At least 90-days, more if you can.”
In the last couple of years I have been focusing a whole lot more on the long game. And just to be sure you understand what I mean by “long game” I am referring to well past a year, like 3 – 4 year time-frame.
Do I think you can store enough food for 3 – 4 years? Yes, of course I do. It isn’t really that hard. Yes, a little expensive, but not if you do it intelligently and understand what long-term staples are. But eventually your food will run out. And I hope the reason it runs out is due to the number of quality folks in your family and group. To maintain any kind of decent lifestyle, meaning other than caveman surviving, you will need to have a wide range of skills in the people around you. And having all those skills around you means a lot of people around you. And a lot of people around you means you need a lot of food to feed them.
The whole idea of a lot of food storage freaks most people out. And you know, I do understand that. Having boxes and buckets of food stored all over the house can be just a little freaky. And yes, the upfront costs can be a bit much, especially if you go about it unwisely. But feeding people goes far beyond simple food storage.
What I am talking about specifically in this article is food “production” vs. food “storage.” And I will tell you without any reservation or qualification, if you can’t produce food you, your family, and your group will starve to death. It will just be a matter of time.
Now the good thing is food production is not an impossible task. Maybe a hard thing, but not impossible if you do a little planning, a little purchasing, and a bunch of backbreaking work.
But let me be a little encouraging now, you can do it, the food will be far better tasting and a whole lot healthier. And, to make it even better, you can grow some kind of food all year if you do it correctly. But before I get into all that let’s talk about how soon to plant a survival garden after the grid goes down.
So, “the” event occurs. I am not going into specifics about what the “event” is, it doesn’t matter. Well, it doesn’t matter as long as it is something short of a nuclear blast in your backyard. OK, back to the event occurring…you should follow your priority task list making sure each item is completed. One of those tasks should be to plant food.
What food you plant will depend on a couple of things, primarily; 1) time of year, 2) geographic location, and 3) water availability. But the concept here is to plant something immediately. There are plenty of resources available via the Internet or in bookstores that can clue you into what you can plant in your particular area. Just don’t get locked into the “book answer,” make sure you talk to some local growers as well.
You can use cold frames for gardening in colder regions of the country during the non-normal planting season. You might have to plant indoors. But plant, plant something, start growing food!
Now, maybe you are thinking, “Why plant seeds to starting growing food when I might have to ‘bug-out’ leaving all that behind and wasting all that effort?”
Stop it! You have no idea if you will have to bug-out and chances are you probably won’t have to. But you know you will have to eat, that is a 100% surety, so plan for that not something that may not even happen.
What food to plant? That is a combination answer; 1) whatever will grow at that time of year under the conditions you are living in, 2) highest value food. And the “value” I am referring to is in terms of “calorie” and “energy” values. You want foods that can give you the most calories and the highest energy. Remember, “grid-down” is no picnic where you sit around the a fire talking about the good ole days and singing classic rock songs to your neighbor strumming it on his guitar.
Grid-down will be some of the hardest work, some of the busiest times you will have ever faced in your life. And to meet the physical challenges and the related stress you will have to have decent food to live on.
Think about it, the last time you had a real tomato grown in rich soil. How good did that taste? How about a cantaloupe fresh out of your garden, picked in the morning? These are the things that will mean whole lot to you and your family’s physical and mental health.
So this year’s growing season I set a goal to grow a year’s worth of carrots, beats, and peas. Yes, just these three garden crops. I wanted to see just how practical it was in the limited garden space that I have. Remember, I have only about 120 square feet of raised bed space for growing vegetables. There is another 20 or so square feet of raised bed but my wife uses that for her herbs.
I tried a couple different planting methods. I did a broadcast planting of carrots, mostly a failure. They grew together, wrapped around each other and generally didn’t do so well. The carrots I grew in regular rows did much better but I did plant them too close together, I should have spaced them out a whole lot more. For our normal eating habits of carrots I think I planted enough. So I will call the carrots a moderate success.
Growing the beets was generally successful as well. Beets will do much better in organized rows. but the rows don’t need to be spaced as widely as the package recommends. Same was true for the carrots. We didn’t plant near enough of them, fell short by about half.
We did really great with the peas. We got them in early, had a great growing season for them and they did really well. We put about 10 pounds of peas in the freezer which should be enough for all year. A bonus to the pea crop was the mornings that my wife and I sat on the back porch and “shucked” peas together. Gave us time to talk, enjoy each others company and be productive as well. It was enjoyable to say the least.
Then there was my mulch experience this year. I really hate to see anything go to waste. And in my part of the country you have to “make” dirt. We have plenty of sandy soil but very little, if anything else in it. So we buy peat moss, manure, etc. to mix in with the sand to create planting soil that goes into the raised beds. Well, this year I was determined to turn the plants into mulch once I pulled them out of the planting beds when they were done producing. The pea plants were the first to get pulled up. They are a very wet plant chocked full of sugar an energy just waiting to be returned to the soil. Yeah!
I don’t have a mulcher barrel, or mulch piles, or a mulch pit so I had to figure out a cheap and easy way to turn the plants into mulch. SteelSack plastic bags! They worked wonderfully and the plants were degrading nicely into a great looking much. I was thrilled. Well, I was thrilled until our Golden Retriever mutt dug into a bag of it, ate a bunch and then proceeded to have extreme diarrhea for the next four days. He crapped all over the house. Yeah, that went over real big with my wife. I thought I cured the access problem. But, nooooooooooooo. He got into it again, another three days of crapping. The bags went into the trash barrel for the next pick-up.
The mulching idea would have been just fine with a little more access control to the rotting plants. Given the necessity during grid-down to produce mulch and compost for the soil, I could make it work. And I learned some valuable lessons this year in my attempt.
So here are the “planting” questions that come to mind:
- What exactly do you plant?
- Where do you plant it?
- What do you plant it in?
- What “kind” of seeds do you plant?
- How much do you plant?
Great questions, some of the answers you are not going to like. On the other hand, some of the answers will be easy. But knowledge is power, and power will help make the difference between success and failure during “grid-down.”
I hope you enjoyed today’s installment on the heirloom seeds and a survival garden. Tomorrow’s article will answer each of the five questions in details, give you some easy to follow plans, and list some heirloom seed suppliers. So check back tomorrow for more information : Seeds – growing your own survival food is a must! (part #2)
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