Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Garden

This article is about food. A very basic commodity necessary for human life. Most of what we eat is not so good for us anymore. Some of us rejoiced when the fedgov set organic standards back in the Clinton administration. There was an enormous out pouring of emails to the Secretary of Agriculture and it seemed to get us what we wanted. But that is not the case. The lawyers went to work on the standards and it has been an uphill fight for clean food ever since. Money is at the root of this problem. We lovers of clean organic food made the market we have today. We were the ones who supported it and nurtured it. We were the ones who paid a premium for the right food, grown how we wanted it grown. And the market started taking off, rising to a higher level of consumer spending every year. And not by one or two percent but by ten and twenty percent. Every year! And the money boys started looking at these numbers and the profit looked irresistable. To make a long story short, we had to start growing our own food to assure the quality again.

Growing your own food is not without it's pleasures but it is surely not without it's work and sweat. And you haven't had a thrill if you haven't watched a herd of the neighbore cattle get into your garden and eat the plants you were growing for seed. My, my, my, how the blood doth boil. And don't think those cows didn't know what they were doing. We lease out most of our farmland to a share cropper for money to pay our land taxes. Those cows walked past two fields of modern corn, with no fences and no ditches to protect them, to get to my seed beans and corn. Clipped my plants off right next to the ground. They knew the good stuff.

So the garden has been promised a fence this Spring. Thank you God.

Growing food is most beneficial if you can preserve it for eating when there is no garden. To ease the effect of a SHTF type of event, you must have stored food. The grocery store is not going to be open anymore. It may be open but it probably won't have anything you can eat after you walk in the busted door or the busted window and look around. So you must grow it yourself and you must preserve it. Preserving food not only entails canning and drying and wrapping and storage bins and what not, but it also means that your food is relatively safe from thieves and vandals. But we covered guns earlier. The food gets saved for the women and the kids and yourself, and your shotgun sees to it that it remains for those particular people. We have a long concrete cellar that has some very strong Elm shelves already in place. For those who aren't familiar with the basic uses of woods, Elm will not be affected by moisture as much as some other woods. Cut the logs into 8/4 which is 2" to those of you among the uninitiated and you will have fine strong shelves. The front legs are angled out a little bit for more added stability. Wouldn't do to have some hapless female pull a wall of several tons of wood and glass and food down on herself.

But this cellar also has a very strong door with big homemade solid steel hinges. And it has a big homemade solid steel locking hasp that takes a big padlock. Not foolproof but very inconvenient for thieves and vandals. But security is paramount to warding off starvation. And if you are fighting to keep from starving, think of all those poor unfortunates who have nowhere near the preparation you have. Don't you think they might get a little greedy for that cellar of yours? You bet your ass they will. Security is vital to staying alive and protecting what you have. Don't fall short of the mark after you have done all the other work. This is why I am a strong advocate of not having a retreat but rather living in an isolated area full time. Its a lot easier to stay on top of a situation if it's where you live. It's a lot easier to build and maintain. It is a lot more comforting to know that you don't hve to run away if danger is near. Get out of Dodge while the getting is good. Find ten guys that feel like you do and everybody sell all they have and take the money and go to distant areas of the country. Try to get into the hills. Try to get where there are natural springs for a free water source. Get enough land to support some survival agriculture. You don't need a thousand acres of flat-as-a-pancake Iowa farm land. There is a guy out on the West coast that says he can grow enough food for a family on 5000 square feet and that includes grains. It seems like an acre per family would be a good food production site. Plenty for all.

So, you hve your fenced garden and your secure food cellar and you are living on your land with other like minded individuals. Sounds like a winner to me! Now, what are you going to grow? Can I interest you in some tomatoes? They are mighty fine nutrition. And here ain't anything better than a vine ripened eating tomato in the Summer. Just take a little salt shaker down to the garden patch and go fo it. You did the work and it's fine. But what kind of tomatoes will you grow? I have some suggestions in that area. For Summer eating I think big ol' juicy table tomatoes are wonderfull. The bigger the better. You can cut the slices about 3/4" thick and just piut them on a couple slices of bread with some mayo and you have a sandwich. Eat a couple of them. They're good for you. I try to hold down my carbohydrate intake so I might not use the bread but if you aren't battling the battle of the bulge, make the sandwich and eat the bread, When the SHTF then carbs won't be too much of a problem anymore. Your activity will pick up with the local conditions and you wil be moving around a lot more and the weight won't accumulate. But big ol' table tomatoes don't can too well. They are mostly water and that is not what you want to can, unless you wish to put up tomato juice, which is good too! But for canning mostly tomato solids I suggeest the Roma tomato. Not as juicy as your table tomato but they have some real meat to them. They make good tomato sauce and tomato puree. These are pretty essential to cooking. If you get some hog sausage with some of that good fennel in it you might want to make pizza and tomato sauce is the thing to have. Fennel is the key to transforming ground pork into Italian Sausage. There are other ingredients of course but you can surf around and get a recipe and start experimenting to make yourself a recipe to your supreme liking. May as well have some things you can enjoy as you make this trip through life.

After you have the tomatoes in the ground I would suggest that you plant beans. Beans are a wonderful food. Serve 'em with rice and you can have a complete protein package delivered to your system. I like Pinto beans because I was hooked on tacos years ago. Don't get 'em as much as I used to but I still enjoy 'em. But you can also plant regular green beans for canning. Pintos are what we called shell-outs when I was a kid. You let the beans finish on the plant and get dry then you split the pods and got the bean out for cooking or saving. If you have planted non-hybrid beans you have also created seed for next years crop. Hot damn. You have a renewable resource. But the green beans are the ones you can use to fill your food cellar with nutritious food for the hard times of Winter and early Spring. This is for staying alive. And beans are easy to can. Plant bush beans and you will have an easy time of harvesting. The trick to beans is to plant different times so that your crop doesn't hit all at once. Put your rows in 2 or 3 weeks apart. Plant double what you need. When a section comes do for picking just go pull up all the beans in that area and pluck the beans off at your leisure. Planting extra is so that the young beans who never made it to full maturity are not goingto hurt your harvest results. Check with your state agriculture people and they might have some figures as to how many pounds of beans it will take to feed your family for 6 months. Put those public servants to work, We pay for them. They will be gone one day but they can be used while they are still around. I reckon they are disposable.

The next crop I suggest is Cayenne pepper. Wonderful stuff. It stimulates your pancrease and it will warm your feet in the Winter is you pour it into your boots or socks. But it is an amazing spice for your Kitchen. You have heard the phrase "spice of life" I am sure. Well, some spice in your food can perk of your attitude real well. You need that when times are tough. You need a reward for all the planning and sweating and misgivings you suffered while you were making up your mind to survive. Try not to forget that.

My next suggestion is Rutabagas. I love rutabagas. Golden goodness if I ever tasted such a thing. And they store well. Just peel the damn things and chunk 'em up in some water and boil 'em awhile. Then you drain them and mash them and get to it. A little butter and salt is nice. Get on the Internet and check the nutritional value of rutabagas. They will knock your nutritional socks off! They are so much better than potatoes that any comparison is a waste of time. Surf around and find out how to store rutabagas. They aren't hard to keep. The ones we buy at the store have a thin coat of wax on them. Keeps 'em perfect.

Potatoes are another big favorite of those that don't appreciate rutabagas. They are easy to keep and all their nutrition is in their skins. They ae basically a great vehicle for salt, butter, and sourcream. They are almost total carbohydrates. My friend who is a diabetic says blood sugar spikes after eating potatoes. He likened it to throwing gasoline on an open fire. Grow them in hills with very loose dirt. Hard dirt will cause them to grow small and stunted.

Cabbage is another fine crop to grow. Some say that cabbage is a Super Food and I am inclined to believe them. I went 60 years without knowing how good cabbage was for you. It is NOT easy to grow. There are worms and flies that love cabbage as much as you do. They will riddle your plants with holes. Those little microscopic wasps are the best thing for the worms but they are pretty expensive and I don't now if there will be any microscopic wasp vendors around after the SHTF. But you can use diatomaceous earth relatively cheap. And you can even go back to picking the little wormy bastards off with your fingers if you have to. Some folks leave sorta flat bowls of wine out at night in the garden and it is amazing how many critters drink it and die. Alcohol is a poison, you know. That good sugar in the wine attracts them and the alcohol kills them.

Thats about all I need to say about gardens this morning. You can research the various crops yourself. But now is the time to start buying your garden seed. You can't order too early as far as I am concerned.

Stay fed and stay alive.


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