The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Growing enough food

Cutting up carrots

Part of Brandy's question that I didn't entirely answer alluded to her concern that she'd have to budget for buying vegetables at the grocery store if the crops in her hypothetical homestead failed.  The trick to feeding yourself off your own farm only (in one food group or in all of them) is to diversify and grow more of each type of food than you think you can eat.  That way, if your eggplant gets decimated by flea beetles, you'll still be wallowing in cucumbers and tomatoes.

Another facet, though, is to learn to eat produce that isn't as pretty as the stuff in the grocery store.  For example, I made a mistake and left the spring carrots in the ground a month too long.  In past years, this hasn't been much of a problem, but 100 plus degree heat followed by weeks of rain meant that a third of the harvest had bits of rot here and there.

Dried carrots

The average American would toss those subprime carrots in the compost pile (or the trash can), but I instead cut them up, blanched them, and spread the root rounds on our food dehydrator trays.  It's simple to do a spot test of problematic veggies --- cut off the part that's obviously bad and then taste what's left.  If your tongue says "yum!", the produce is good to eat or preserve, as long as you do it right away.

Of course, if our farm was more diversified, we could have given carrots to horses, cows, goats, or pigs.  Or, if I'd wanted to cook them up, we could have fed them to our chickens.  But my goal is generally to keep people food for people as much as possible since we're still working the kinks out of our own food production system.  Hopefully these dried carrots will come in handy for winter soups when the rest of the harvest is long gone.  Plus, eight pounds turned into two cups, which definitely helped with the storage issue!

Our chicken waterer never spills in coops or tractors.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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It seems so simple, really. "Plant more of everything". And the fact is that you're right, you can't go wrong with planting more than you think you need. Who says no to free, fresh produce if you grow too much? I love generosity and sharing. I know there's such thing as too many zucchini, etc, but if plenty is the problem, I don't see much problem at all. Thank you for the post, Anna!
Comment by Brandy Fri Jul 20 13:01:30 2012
Brandy --- It's definitely fun to have produce to give away. The tricky part is finding people who eat real food nowadays, but it does serve as as a very handy method of preaching without saying anything. After folks eat our strawberries, my crazy garden management methods suddenly look a lot more appealing to them. :-)
Comment by anna Fri Jul 20 18:06:41 2012
I bet they don't! I am blessed that I have a local food bank in my town that happily receives fresh produce from gardeners to distribute to those needing those healthful fruits and veg that are hard to come by when money is tight. Our local community garden always has a plot tended by those getting their Master Gardener certification with all produced in the patch going to the food bank. Anyone else with excess is free to donate. How lucky is my community? Very!
Comment by Brandy Sun Jul 22 01:17:07 2012

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