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Homesteading/Subsistence Living

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Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  Vash_the_Stampede on 3/19/2014, 4:18 pm

Hello all,

Wasn't sure i should post this here or in garden plans. If this doesn't belong here can a mod please move it.
 thanks 

Anyway, my wife and I plan on homesteading when I retire (at LEAST a decade down the road) which is why learning to garden is fairly important right now. Besides hunting and raising goats, rabbits and chickens the rest of our food is going to come from our garden and orchard.

I'd like to get opinions on whether SFG is efficient enough for this as we'd require fruits and vegetables for 4 adults daily plus storage for winter. I'd also appreciate people's opinions on how much of a particular crop they feel would be need (IE. 3 4x4 boxes of potatoes) so we can continue planning for the future.

We will have some form of electricity (probably solar) and a root cellar for storing (my wife already knows how to can foods) as well as sometime of greenhouse to extend the growing season (possibly a high-tunnel).

All comments are appreciated. If you need more info on what we plan to grow I have a list handy.

 thanks

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 3/19/2014, 4:30 pm

WELCOME to the forum - you are wise to spend the next ten years figuring out what you will need to know.

Yes, SFG is a great system for what you're planning.  If you haven't read the most recent book, there is information in there about how many squares you need per person depending on what you are wanting to accomplish.  I would encourage you to read it thoroughly then have it close at hand as the year(s) go by.  I refer to my copy often.

If you already have the property that you will be living on, you can expand a little each year and I would recommend spending a lot of time observing your sun/shade pattern, and lay out your garden's footprint based on what you learn.  

This forum has a massive amount of great past posts, I would encourage you to search based on your interests (search box in the top left corner) and read through all you can absorb.  That is what i did when I first came hear a couple years ago.  I'm still more or less a neophyte but I'm learning every year.

Most of all plant what you enjoy and enjoy what you plant!
Audrey

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  Vash_the_Stampede on 3/19/2014, 4:50 pm

Hello Audrey,

I do have the ANSFG book and read over the garden plan section, though I'm not sure if it used as an example of an average family that supplements their food with the garden or if the garden is their only source of produce.

I don't have the land yet, but that's also a topic I am thoroughly researching. It's not set in stone yet, but I think roughly we will be looking at an area between zone 3b and 5a.

Truth be told, we actually plan to co-op with another family that we are close friends with that have the same mentality about going off-grid. They will be on the same tract of land (though not literally right next door) and will raise their own animals (bees included!) and have their own garden as well, we will be helping each other out with regards to everything.
 thanks

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 3/19/2014, 5:07 pm

That's wonderful and smart.  The cost of tools and equipment alone can be shared between families and makes such a wise use of resources.  We live in the mountains and there are quite a few of us families that loan equipment around to each other.

Keep us posted on your progress,
Audrey

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  Vash_the_Stampede on 3/19/2014, 5:33 pm

Hello Audrey,

We figured this would be a good way to live off the land.

On a side note, as we are planning on having an orchard, is it possible or even necessary to utilize Mel's Mix for trees, bushes and brambles?

 thanks

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  sanderson on 3/19/2014, 5:45 pm

Vash, Since you have plenty of time before going off the grid, this is what I would do. For one year, I would record everything you buy in the way of fresh, canned and dehydrated fruits, veggies and herbs. Record it weekly for 52 weeks and you will have a good idea of how much you actually eat. Exclude tropicals like pineapple and bananas, since you will be going to a colder area with shorter growing season (I think you mentioned Zonse 3-5).

Trees, bushes, and bramble (berries?) are not my area of knowledge but someone else may be able to help.

Sounds very interesting.

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  Vash_the_Stampede on 3/19/2014, 6:00 pm

@sanderson wrote:Vash,  Since you have plenty of time before going off the grid, this is what I would do.  For one year, I would record everything you buy in the way of fresh, canned and dehydrated fruits, veggies and herbs.  Record it weekly for 52 weeks and you will have a good idea of how much you actually eat.  Exclude tropicals like pineapple and bananas, since you will be going to a colder area with shorter growing season (I think you mentioned Zonse 3-5).

Trees, bushes, and bramble (berries?) are not my area of knowledge but someone else may be able to help.

Sounds very interesting.

Hello Sanderson,

That's roughly what I have been doing with keeping track of produce intake. It varies right now given that we move every few years and my kids are still young.

 thanks

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Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  AtlantaMarie on 3/19/2014, 6:06 pm

Vash - I would recommend building a solar dehydrator as well.  That way you can store produce for a long period of time.  There are plenty of good plans available on the net or check Mother Earth News.

Until you have the time/$ to build one, an oven works just fine too.  If you'd like more info, just let me know.  We're big into dehydrating.  And there's a LOT of good books on the subject.

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 3/19/2014, 6:28 pm

For your orchard, I would look at the Back to Eden gardening method thread here on the board (you can find it here: http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t13233p735-back-to-eden#188747  It's a long thread, but buried in it are links to a feature length film where Paul Gautschi has an orchard and his discoveries there led to his gardening method.  You can also find it by googling "Back to Eden Gardening."

SFG would be impossibly expensive to even begin to think of for an orchard and I think it would also be unnecessary.  The principles you learn with SFG in terms of compost feeding your plants would definitely come into practice with your orchard.

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Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  GloriaG on 3/19/2014, 7:01 pm

Hi Vash, 

What a wonderful goal.  SFG should work well for you because it's so efficient. 

You might look at a post from February called: How much to plant per person of each veg...   It gave quite a few website references for how much you need per person of various vegetables. 

I think Sanderson's recommendation for keeping a food log is very valuable.  Every family's needs are different.  I have found the easiest websites to use are the ones that provide yields in pounds of produce.  

The USDA canning guide provides estimates of the number of pounds of vegetables needed to produce XX quarts/pints.  The book "Keeping the Harvest" by Nancy Chioffi and Gretchen Mead also provides estimates of yields for drying, canning and freezing vegetables and fruits.

Hope this helps,
Gloria

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  Vash_the_Stampede on 3/19/2014, 7:18 pm

Hello all,


Atalantamarie, we definitely plan on having a solar dehydrator at some point. We have a regular electric dehydrator that we use in the mean time. Razz 

Audrey, I'll keep going through that thread and take notes on the important to me stuff.   

GloriaG, those references look helpful and I'll check out the book when I get the chance.


 thanks

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  boffer on 3/19/2014, 7:27 pm

Last year was the first year that I attempted to eat garden veggies year round.  I came real close, but the variety of stored veggies is shrinking fast.  I finally gave in last month and bought some store veggies just for the change of pace.

Determine what veggies will be eaten fresh; what will be stored; what will be both.
It's easy to become fixated on the veggies that we'll be eating fresh from the garden; it's what we dream about when there's snow on the ground! However, it's important to focus on the veggies that will be stored, because depending on your climate, you may spend many more months eating stored veggies than you will fresh.

I've divided storage veggies into two categories:

*Those that I can count on to grow, and are my storage staples:
beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, potatoes, sunchokes

*Those I hope will grow and produce a harvest that I can store.
These veggies are unreliable year-to-year due to my variable climate:
corn, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, winter squash

I'm getting pretty good at growing lettuce and chard in my shop during winter.

For 2 people, I have about 350 square feet of SFG for most of my cool crops, tomatoes, corn, and peppers.  Then I have about 150 square feet of old school berm beds that I dump 5 way compost on, that I use for squashes, cukes, beans, potatoes, sunchokes, and misc.


I have the first edition of the ANSFG, and the recommended number of boxes don't come close to being adequate. Because I have the space to spread out, I probably don't use the space as efficiently as possible.

As to how much space for each veggie, that's something you'll have to figure out by trial and error.  You'll have to make adjustments for weather, pests, diseases, and family preferences.  For example: I have 128 sf just for sweet corn.  If we have a hot summer, then I'll have plenty of corn to eat fresh every day while it's in season, and be able to store enough to last through winter.  If we have a cool wet summer, I won't get as much fresh as I'd like, and won't have any to store.

Start off growing what you like to eat, then make adjustments for the next year. In a couple years, you'll have your planting schedule fine tuned.

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  Vash_the_Stampede on 3/19/2014, 7:36 pm

@boffer wrote:Last year was the first year that I attempted to eat garden veggies year round.  I came real close, but the variety of stored veggies is shrinking fast.  I finally gave in last month and bought some store veggies just for the change of pace.

Determine what veggies will be eaten fresh; what will be stored; what will be both.
It's easy to become fixated on the veggies that we'll be eating fresh from the garden; it's what we dream about when there's snow on the ground!  However, it's important to focus on the veggies that will be stored, because depending on your climate, you may spend many more months eating stored veggies than you will fresh.

I've divided storage veggies into two categories:

*Those that I can count on to grow, and are my storage staples:
beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, potatoes, sunchokes

*Those I hope will grow and produce a harvest that I can store.
These veggies are unreliable year-to-year due to my variable climate:
corn, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, winter squash

I'm getting pretty good at growing lettuce and chard in my shop during winter.

For 2 people, I have about 350 square feet of SFG for most of my cool crops, tomatoes, corn, and peppers.  Then I have about 150 square feet of old school berm beds that I dump 5 way compost on, that I use for squashes, cukes, beans, potatoes, sunchokes, and misc.


I have the first edition of the ANSFG, and the recommended number of boxes don't come close to being adequate.  Because I have the space to spread out, I probably don't use the space as efficiently as possible.

As to how much space for each veggie, that's something you'll have to figure out by trial and error.  You'll have to make adjustments for weather, pests, diseases, and family preferences.  For example: I have 128 sf just for sweet corn.  If we have a hot summer, then I'll have plenty of corn to eat fresh every day while it's in season, and be able to store enough to last through winter.  If we have a cool wet summer, I won't get as much fresh as I'd like, and won't have any to store.

Start off growing what you like to eat, then make adjustments  for the next year.  In a couple years, you'll have your planting schedule fine tuned.

Hello Boffer,

Thanks for the info. As soon as we nail down the location I'll be in contact with the local extension service to figure out what will/will not work for the area and go from there. I'm going over the numbers with my wife to see how we need to adjust based on our consumption in and out of season.

The biggest thing is I may not be able to spend a lot of time in the area before purchasing the property given the nature of my job. I'm in the process of working out that little wrinkle with our friends.

 thanks

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  camprn on 3/19/2014, 7:40 pm

Buy a place that already has fruit trees and cleared land, if you can. This will cut years of the work and wait for a fruit and garden harvest! Start collecting your tools now.

Zone 3a will give you about 100 days to grow food.

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 3/19/2014, 10:46 pm

You also might want to read up on some winter gardening techniques to extend your harvesting. I bought a book this fall called: "Backyard Winter Gardening" by Caleb Warnock. He harvests all winter without power and until recently without a greenhouse. He tells you which plants work the very best for the winter and offers heirloom seeds for many plants for sale. I've enjoyed the seeds I've planted thus far.

He did build a greenhouse recently and built it as an underground/geothermal style. Again, no power but it works all year around. Might be of interest to you guys as you get further along. It's all in the book.

He's Mormon and has written some other books based on the Mormon pioneers and the knowledge they had of self-sufficiency and food storage. I'm neither Mormon, nor that involved in putting up food so I haven't read any of the other books but they look interesting.

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  Marc Iverson on 3/19/2014, 11:47 pm

You may want to build a healthy amount of slack into your system. Some things I found out about what I expected from my garden versus how much it really fed me:

1. Outputs are variable, and some years are better than others. Weather, insect populations, and plant diseases can have drastic impacts on your crop yield. Last year, for example, I planted 22 tomato plants. Weeks of choking summer forest fires blacked out the sun and laid a blanket of smoke and ash over everything. Nothing I could do about that. There were so many bugs and other critters munching on what were probably weakened plants that I wound up still wanting more tomatoes out of 22 plants. The year became locally notorious as a rotten year for tomatoes. I estimate I got about a third of my larger tomatoes, at best, and the critters got the rest. I planted so many in case of failure rather than counting on success. Thank goodness, or I would really have had nothing. That's not the only crop I had go sour on me -- cucumber beetles ate, infected with bacterial wilt, and fairly quickly killed all but three of my two dozen cucumber plants. Don't go hungry because you planted "just enough" ... you have no idea whether those plants are going to thrive or not, or how much. You don't know if lightning will strike. (Hey, that's what started our forest fires...) Extras, you can always give to the neighbors or your chickens, but if you wind up short, you're just stuck.

2. What works for others, and how it works, may not work out just right for you. Even your neighbor right next door may have different soil than you do, if you intend to do any in-ground planting. The extra sun (or shade!) he gets or different fertilizer and fertilizing and watering schedules he uses may give him very different results. My neighbor got so many tomatoes he was practically begging the neighbors to eat them. He didn't have any bugs to speak of, and the forest fires weren't enough to stop him.

3. I eat more vegetables than most people, and would like to eat even more. To me they're a major part of the meal and I really enjoy them. So the usual standards about how many vegetables each person "needs" and should plant don't always apply. Just about everything I planted, in a large garden - I didn't plant enough. If you go by someone else's standards of what it takes to feed you ... well, that might not actually be enough to feed you. Even if everything grows flawlessly for you and you make no mistakes and have no problems.

So, be wary of counting on "best case scenarios" too much. If things work out that way for you, fantastic! But you might not want to put yourself in the position of being short on food if you have a very ordinary or a worse than usual year. Consider growing enough that there's a healthy amount of slack in your system, enough to get you through a patch of rough luck, bone-headed mistake-making(speaking from personal experience, it happens!) or overly modest or optimistic assumptions.


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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 3/20/2014, 2:28 am

Mark - perfectly said. Not only plan for more than enough in case of difficulty, but it's also great to have plenty to share with the new friends you'll make in your new home!

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  Turan on 3/20/2014, 12:14 pm

I can only add to the excellent advice already given with two things.
1) start now, grow as much of your food as you can right now, even if the gardens can not move with you the knowledge will. This includes raising chickens and rabbits and kinder goats (small and easier to get past a subdivision nose). I raised all my family's vegy, eggs, meat and milk on half an acre when the kids were little. Yes I brought in hay and grains.
2) If moving to 3a do serious research on greenhouses and bermed greenhouses. Yes the Hidatsa managed with out that but it sure is easier and a more diverse diet with that.

It is an endeavor well worth taking on. You might find your or your partner's resolve falters at times and that is ok as well. Sometimes the need for money means taking time off from a homestead but it always returnable too. The earth persists.

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  R&R 1011 on 3/20/2014, 1:29 pm

Homesteading is my goal as well.  We dont plan to go off the grid so to speak, but plan to try to grow as much of our food as we can.  My plan is to just add a little bit each year.  There is so much to learn!  I just wanted to add that starting an orchard, fruit bushes, and brambles takes 2-3 years to get going.  Nut trees take even longer.  My best advice is to read & research as much as you can.

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  Vash_the_Stampede on 3/20/2014, 4:26 pm

Hello all,

Thanks for the advice and encouragement. We've got time before we will get started on the homestead so we're researching and learning what we can. I've learned about redundancies through my profession and we won't take the chance on just enough.

Little by little we're getting there.

 thanks

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  Vash_the_Stampede on 3/20/2014, 7:25 pm

Hello again,

Ok, so i've read the first 5 pages (of 50!  Shocked  ) of the Back to Eden thread and there is a lot of good info. I'll watch the videos next chance I get. I'll have to try the wood chips idea sometime, though I'm not sure if it's worth it to do it here.


 thanks

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  Marc Iverson on 3/20/2014, 8:13 pm

You'll probably enjoy the movie. Most people do. Even if you're not as religious as Paul is, he's an engaging character and his method makes sense. It's nice that the chips both hold and absorb water if it's too wet lately, and keep things moist when it's too dry. If it only did one or the other, it might still be great, but much less useful and for some places contraindicated. Instead it just seems like a good idea, period.

It can make it take longer for the soil to warm up. But then again, it insulates against cold ... so once again it helps maintain a pretty happy average.

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  Vash_the_Stampede on 3/24/2014, 5:18 pm

Hello Marc,

I thoroughly enjoyed the Back to Eden video! Who would have thought wood chips could be so useful? It's something that I probably won't attempt this garden as it seems to require a year or two to get the full effect, but wherever I end up next I will surely give it a shot.

It seems so simple that I hesitate to get my hopes up about it, but then again the simplest answer is usually the best.

 thanks

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 3/24/2014, 5:40 pm

I saw immediate benefit with the system and it only gets better with time. People tend to get really worried about "nitrogen robbing" with the wood chips. It was never an issue for me because I put compost down under the chips and planted in the soil and then sprinkled a little manure on top later in the season or whenever I saw any issues developing. Super easy and it works fabulously.

My first batch of wood chips broke down from 4 inches to 2 inches in just a few months and the soil was looser, retained moisture and was very fruitful.

I watched a video a couple nights ago about a pile of 3 year old wood chips (on youtube). The top of the pile looked like regular chips but just under the surface and the whole pile through was incredible, black, loose, loamy soil. That's what happens in your garden over time.

You're right, sometimes simple is best  Smile 

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

Post  Vash_the_Stampede on 3/24/2014, 6:21 pm

@audrey.jeanne.roberts wrote:I saw immediate benefit with the system and it only gets better with time.  People tend to get really worried about "nitrogen robbing" with the wood chips.  It was never an issue for me because I put compost down under the chips and planted in the soil and then sprinkled a little manure on top later in the season or whenever I saw any issues developing.  Super easy and it works fabulously.  

My first batch of wood chips broke down from 4 inches to 2 inches in just a few months and the soil was looser, retained moisture and was very fruitful.

I watched a video a couple nights ago about a pile of 3 year old wood chips (on youtube).  The top of the pile looked like regular chips but just under the surface and the whole pile through was incredible, black, loose, loamy soil.  That's what happens in your garden over time.

You're right, sometimes simple is best  Smile 


Hello audrey,

I'll give it a shot at my next residence. I'd do it here, but I may be leaving in less then 12 months and because of housing regulations I can't leave the garden for the next family to enjoy.

 thanks

Vash_the_Stampede

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Re: Homesteading/Subsistence Living

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