Saturday, November 19, 2011

Self-Sufficiency Goals for 2012

While my winter greens garden is still growing, the leaves have fallen and it is time to move them into the compost pile and start focusing on 2012.  Thoughts turn to questions about what steps to take in the coming year to move us closer to our goal of being self-sufficient.

The first part of self-sufficiency is having food to eat. Food self-sufficiency means finding ways to grow, gather (through hunting or foraging), or trade for food.

Growing:  as I consider what foods to grow, I'm looking to build a base of perennial plants; both fruit, vegetable, and herb. Of course, there will also be the necessary annuals -- one simply can not do without tomatoes and cucumbers!

The fruits I hope to plant next year include: gooseberry, blueberries, strawberries, fig, muscadine grapes, passionfruit, hardy kiwi and elderberries. Some of the perennial vegetables I hope to get planted include asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes), Egyptian walking onions, garlic, sea kale (if I can find a root cutting), scarlet runner beans, and...well...I'm still working on the list as I read my new book on the subject.

How much of any one thing to plant is always a big question. One issue is cross-pollination -- some fruits simply have to have another of it's kind to set fruit. The other question is: how much will each plant produce versus how much can we use? We like to have some for eating fresh but in most cases, we also want some for preserving either through canning or freezing. We also want to have enough to share and to trade. So, the question of "how many to plant" is not such an easy question to answer.

Gathering. Foraging and hunting are also areas to be considered and improved upon. In 2012, I hope to do more in this area that we did this year. I want to learn where to go clamming and relearn how to do that. I went clamming many years ago but have long since forgotten the process. Fishing is another thing I'd like to do --or find someone who goes fishing that is interested in a barter arrangement. I would love to have more local fish on my menu! Deer is another commodity we didn't get much of this year. We had hoped that Son would get to learn to hunt this year -- we will add that to the wishlist for 2012.

Barter. I recently had occasion to speak with some ladies at church about a potential barter/trade community arrangement within our church family. Some are interested in trying a church community garden which would be great for growing some things that I might not have space to grow. It would also be nice to have folks working together on such a project. The barter arrangement would be wonderful. Not everyone has a "green thumb" or desire to garden but might like to make soaps or candles or perhaps they have or want to have chickens. We have one couple that likes to go fishing. Working with each person's strengths could help each of us be more self-sufficient. Such a community of believers helping each other has long been a dream of mine. We'll have to see what might come of it.

Other goals for the homestead for 2012 are:

* build a berm/swale to separate my growing space from the wall of blueberries the neighbor planted.
* build a chicken dome and finally get my hens.
* get a breeding pair or two of muscovies.
* to work perennial beds which mix perennial vegetables, herbs, and fruits
* improve the health of the pecan trees so they begin producing again
* build the 3 month food pantry and start working on the 1 year food pantry

2011 was a year of struggle but it was also a year of learning. I guess you could say that 2011 was the school of hard knocks. Let's hope that 2012 is the sweet fruit that comes from persistence and determination not to quit.

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