By Kylene and Jonathan Jones
The cold, hard fact is that it is almost impossible to store enough nutrient rich foods to survive a long term event. Yes, you might be able to stockpile 30 years-worth of wheat, rice, beans, dehydrated foods, and other foundation grains if you have enough room. However, you cannot stockpile fresh fruits and vegetables which provide optimal health, nutrition and go a long way toward improved immune function and disease suppression.
You might think that your next best bet would be to count on identifying edible plants in the wild to supplement your diet. After a taste-test tour eating wild plants, we immediately went and bought more food storage. Edible? Yes. Tasty and filling, not even close. We burned more calories finding the plants than we received by eating them.
According to Marjory Wildcraft of www.thegrownetwork.com, it is just too land intensive to realistically support a family on the hunter-gatherer system. She states: “Let’s start first off with the almost magical dream of the pure hunter/gatherer. I often hear this one from those concerned about a collapse of civilization. Just how much land does it take to support you without destroying all the wildlife and plant populations? How much area do you need in order to live sustainably as a hunter/gatherer? Since there are so few actual hunter/gathers left alive on the planet, and the few places where they do still exist tend to be jungles which look nothing like anything in North America, we will turn to anthropological data. The quick and easy answer is that traditional peoples used on average, about 10 square miles per person. Ten square miles is 6,400 acres – that is for one person.”
So what’s the answer? It just might include creating your very own self-sustaining food supply. Call it survival landscaping, permaculture, sustainable agriculture or whatever you like. The goal is to work with nature to create a truly sustainable system. A garden paradise that requires little or no human intervention once established. Due to the “natural looking” nature of this type of landscape most individuals would never suspect the amount of life-saving food growing in the tangle. Thus protecting your food supplies in plain sight.
The objective is to create an environment which requires very little human intervention once it is established.
The ideal permaculture design produces food year after year without weeding, pruning, tilling, fertilizing or using pesticides and herbicides. The system is perfectly balanced for the local climate. It is possible to accomplish permaculture landscape on a half-acre city lot as well as in a more spacious country environment. Permaculture takes many years to establish and become resilient to changing conditions.
Selection of plants is critical to take best advantage of local climate conditions, ensure natural balance and to extend the harvest throughout the entire growing season. There are a growing number of great reference books to guide you through the process. Many of the authors recommend a more “natural or wild looking” landscape which is perfect for a remote bug out location, but may not be welcomed in a gated community.
Delightful results can also be achieved by applying permaculture principles on a small urban lot that has a more trimmed and controlled appearance. Food does not have to be grown in an orchard or in neat weed-free rows. Even annual vegetables can be creatively interspersed with landscape to create a unique functional beauty. Limited space requires creative solutions. Consider vertical growing possibilities such as arbors, trellises and arches. Permaculture designs allow grapes or other vines to grow right up tree trunks. Container plants can extend your growing area to decks and patios. Use your imagination to produce a stunning, productive yard.
Strategically plant fruit and nut trees. Apple trees come in miniature dwarf, semi-dwarf and standard sizes. There is the perfect size to fit your landscape. Depending on the type and size of the tree, an apple tree can produce hundreds of pounds of apples each year to be stored, dried, or bottled as needed. A walnut tree is a wonderful large shade tree producing up to 150 pounds of nuts annually, providing needed fats, protein and calories. Fruit and nut trees are a long term investment and would supplement your diet and extend your food stores during a prolonged disaster scenario as well as enriching your diet today.
Consider what resources you currently have growing in your yard. Would it be possible to plant grape vines or berry bushes in with your current landscape? Remove a non-productive shrub and replace it with a life-saving nutritional plant? How about including some medicinal or culinary herbs? Those dried beans are going to taste a whole lot better with a few spices. If your current lifestyle does not allow time to harvest your bounty, don’t worry about it. Healthy soil is critical for a successful survival garden. Compost whatever you don’t use along with grass clippings and leaves to build your soil for a time when you might be dependent upon what you can produce on your own land for survival.
As you prepare for the challenges in our future, consider investing in living food sources in addition to your long term dry food stores. The security a full pantry and productive garden provide are worth the time and resources required to achieve them.