Nothing brings mankind closer to the earth than digging potatoes. There is a certain joy in working the soil, planting seeds, watching the plants grow, taking care of the plants, then harvesting the fruits of your labor. This is especially true with potatoes.
Digging potatoes like opening a present, you do not know what it is until you open the box. The same is true with potatoes. You do not know what is in the ground until you start digging.
There are other options besides digging potatoes by hand.
SHTF / TEOTWAWKI has happened, whether it was a financial collapse, nuclear war, widespread civil unrest,,,, something has happened to has disrupted society as we know it.
If you live on a homestead in a rural location, what might be some of the supplies you would need, and what would be some of the hardships you would face?
As I write this article I am just thinking out load. Lets brainstorm and get some ideas for discussion.
We all know the typical topics such as safe drinking water and food. In this article lets move past those topics that should be a given. What are the things that would make everyday life possible? What do we use in our everyday lives today that we would need after SHTF / TEOTWAWKI?
Lets wake up, do our morning routine then eat breakfast. What are going to be eating for breakfast? Chances are its going to be oats we have stored in mylar bags and eggs.
To have eggs we have to make sure our chickens are safe from predators and the elements. Given the chance predators such as foxs, opossums, coyotes and even other people will steal your livestock.
Exposed to wind, rain, ice and snow your chickens will die.
What do we need to keep our chickens safe and comfortable? We need a chicken coop and a way to repair the coop. This means we need hand tools, staples, hardware cloth, hammers, a good saw, wire cutters, tar to fix holes in the roof of the coop,,, and so on.
The cucumber market is not easily over-supplied, but the pickling tub should stand ready to receive all cucumbers not sold in a fresh condition.
For field culture, good ground must be selected, and marked out with a plow, 4 × 4 feet; or, a little wider, if the soil is strong. At least one shovelful of well-rotted manure is dropped in every hill, and mixed with the soil, and a dozen seeds planted, to be thinned out finally to three or four plants. It is better to have extra plants, on account of the attacks of the striped beetle.
The cucumber belongs to a botanic family which is naturally tender, and the seeds should not be sown until the soil is quite warm. For farm work, the planting season is the latter part of May and the whole of June; and even July is a suitable month, if the soil can be irrigated. It will require two pounds of seed for an acre.
The variety sown should depend on the purpose in view; but in all commercial operations, well-known and thoroughly tested sorts should be chosen. Shallow cultivation is recommended.
If an early market is to be supplied with cucumbers, the seeds may be started under glass, on bits of inverted sod or in small boxes, and set in the open ground on the arrival of settled warm weather; but the farmer will usually find it most profitable to sow the seeds where the plants are to remain.
The onion is a national crop; as widely though not quite as extensively grown as the potato. It is available as a money crop for the farm gardener.
Choice of Soil — Heavy, stiff clay land is to be avoided. Sand and gravel dry out too quickly. Stony land renders good culture difficult. The best soil for onions is a deep, rich, mellow loam. Soils which afford natural advantages for irrigation should not be overlooked, as the rainfall is often lacking when greatly needed.
Fertilizers — Onion culture demands high manuring. No amount of rotted stable manure is likely to be excessive. A ton per acre of high-grade, complete fertilizer is not too much, if moisture can be supplied. Hen manure is a good top dressing for onion-beds, furnishing the needed nitrogen. Nitrate of soda is a good source of nitrogen, if nitrogen must be purchased. The clovers and other leguminous crops yield the cheapest nitrogen. Wood ashes, kainit, etc., furnish potash. Either ground bone or acid phosphate will give the needed phosphoric acid. An analysis of the onion shows that it carries away fertility in just about the proportions furnished by stable manure.
It is a singular fact that onions can be grown year after year on the same ground, if well manured. Rotation is necessary only in case of the occurrence of disease or insect attack. The onion loves cool weather.
Planting — To grow onion sets, the seed is sown in close rows, at the rate of from fifty to sixty pounds per acre. To grow large onions direct from seed, five pounds of seed per acre will be required. To plant a field with onion sets will require twelve to fifteen bushels per acre, according to size of the set.
An onion set is merely an immature bulb. Sets vary from the size of a large pea up to that of a walnut. When the seed is sown thickly the bulbs have no chance to grow, and the summer weather quickly ripens the tops, completely suspending the growth of the bulb. In some parts of the country onion sets cannot be grown with profit, as the tops refuse to die and the bulbs or sets do not ripen properly.
Early cabbage is not a farm gardener’s crop at the North, though in the Southern States the early varieties can be grown by farmers for shipment to the great Northern markets. The Northern farmer, unless provided with glass, usually finds more profit in the later and larger sorts, which mature in autumn.
Soil.—Rich, loamy soil, containing much clay, is best for this vegetable, which is a rank feeder. Large amounts of manure are demanded. The manure is best applied in a partially rotted form, as fresh manure of any kind (especially hog manure) is liable to produce the disease or deformity known as club-root, the spores of the disease apparently being in the fresh manure; though land too long cropped with cabbage is likely to produce the same disease without the application of fresh manure of any kind.
Seed — It is of especial importance that good seed be planted, as cabbage varies so much and shows such a disposition to go back to undesirable types that great dissatisfaction and loss attend all experiments with poorly-selected seed. The choice of seed not infrequently determines the size and success of the crop. Expert cabbage growers are well aware of this fact.
Planting — The manure should be broadcasted, and an ample amount used, with a high-grade fertilizer in the row. The young plants, previously started in a seed-bed, should (at the North) be set out in July. The seed for late cabbage is planted in May. A quarter pound of seed will give enough plants for an acre.
The rows should be 4 feet apart, and the plants 2½ feet apart in the rows. These distances favor good cultivation and quick growth. In some parts of New England the seed is sown in the open field, in rows where the cabbage is to grow, but the practice of transplanting from seedbeds is found most satisfactory.
Bean-growing in a small way is fully warranted in every garden, but on a large scale it is a different question, being somewhat a matter of soil and location.
Food Value.—The bean is one of the most excellent of human foods. Its botanical kinship is close to the pea, and both are legumes. The leguminous plants, it will be remembered, have the rare ability of obtaining nitrogen through the tubercles on their roots, taking this expensive element partly from the air, and not greatly impoverishing the soil by their growth.
Something of the food value of the bean may be learned by comparing its chemical analysis with that of beef. In 100 pounds of beans there are 23 pounds of protein (nitrogenous matter), while in 100 pounds of beef there are but about 15 to 20 pounds of protein. Peas are almost as rich as beans in protein, which is the tissue-building element of all foods, and, hence, it is easy to realize the fact that both beans and peas are foods of the highest economic value. They are standard foods of the world, entering into the diet of soldiers, laborers and persons needing physical strength.
It is generally safe to grow beans for the retail market of any town or centre of population, but to compete in the open wholesale market demands experience and good equipment on the part of the grower to insure profits.
In no other form can so large an amount and value of human food be obtained from an acre of ground as in that of edible roots or tubers; and of these the Potato is by far the most acceptable, and in most general use. Our ancestors, it is settled, were destitute and ignorant of the Potato prior to the discovery of America, though Europe would now find it difficult to subsist her teeming millions without it. In travelling pretty widely over that continent, I cannot remember that I found, any considerable district in which the Potato was not cultivated, though Ireland, western England, and northern Switzerland, with a small portion of northern Italy, are impressed on my mind as the most addicted to the growth of this esculent.
Other roots are eaten occasionally, by way of variety, or as giving a relish to ordinary food; but the Potato alone forms part of the every day diet alike of prince and peasant. It is an almost indispensable ingredient of the feasts of Dives, while it is the cheapest and commonest resort for satiating or moderating the hunger of Lazarus. I recollect hearing my parents, fifty years ago, relate how, in their childhood and youth, the poor of New-England, when the grain-crop of that region was cut short, as it often was, were obliged to subsist through the following Winter mainly on Potatoes and Milk; and I then accorded to those unfortunates of the preceding generation a sympathy which I should now considerably abate, provided the Potatoes were of good quality.
Roasted Potatoes, seasoned with salt and butter and washed down with bounteous draughts of fresh buttermilk, used in those days to be the regular supper served up in farmers’ homes after a churning of cream into butter; and I have since eaten costly suppers that were not half so good.
Over the past 2 days I have given away 2 dozen eggs. Some people might be saying “so what”? To give food away means that my wife and I have an excess food supply.
Think about that for a minute. My wife and I bought our first chicks February 25, 2012. In all we ended up with 13 chickens. The chickens started laying when they were around 5 months old. At close to 6 months old we are getting 6 – 7 eggs a day.
We are dealing with a couple of topics here, the time required to get your food production up and running, and being able to grow more food then you need.
I see a lot of survivalist saying that if SHTF they are going to get some chickens, goats, maybe a couple of cows,,, the usual stuff. I see those types of planes as being unrealistic. You think you are going to be the only person looking for farming supplies and livestock after SHTF / TEOTWAWKI?
Lets say you have a buddy that knows a friend whos second cousin has a few chickens they are willing to trade for 1,000 rounds of 223 Remington. After some bartering the two of you finally agree on 500 rounds of 223 Remington and 500 rounds of 7.62×39 for 2 laying hens.
You get your hens home, now what? Where are you going to keep them at? Do you have an enclosed yard to keep your chickens in, do you have a coop? Or do you plan on keeping the hens in your garage? Hopefully you will be lucky enough to find some hens that are already laying. If not, you are going to have to wait several months for the chicks to grow and start laying.
Its not just livestock, what does your seed stockpile look like? Do you have tools to work the field? Do you have access to a tractor, tiller, hoes, rakes and manpower needed to get a field ready to plant?
After you get your squash, cucumbers, zucchini, turnips, snap beans,,,,etc planted, you are looking at 60 – 90 days before you are going to harvest anything.
Lets say that some kind of long term SHTF / TEOTWAWKI survival situation happens. Whether its war, food shortages, some kind of new disease,,, something happens to disrupt modern society. What food group would you want to have stockpiled?
Fresh picked spinach and snap beans
Instead of saying what single food would be the most important to stockpile, lets look at it from a “food group” point of view. The fact is, there is no single perfect food. Humans are omnivores, meaning we are designed to eat a wide range of food.
Man can not live on bread alone, nor can we live on meat alone.
Lets look at four factors in selecting our food group
History – how long has mankind used the food group.
Ease of growing – how easy is the plant to grow. We should be looking at long term survival factors.
Production – how much food does the plant produce.
Storage – how easy is the plant to store.
For the past 7,000 years or so mankind has moved from the hunter-gather lifestyle, to a farmer-gardener. What plants have sustained mankind? We have greens (radishes, turnips,,etc.), squash, zucchini, corn, okra, wheat, beans and peas, watermelons, various grains, fruit trees, potatoes,, only to name a few.
Over the past 20 years I have heard the same story probably 1,000 or more times – “if SHTF, I am going to bug out to the wilderness and live off the land”. Then the person starts talking about hunting small game, how they have X number of 22 long rifle, and how they should be able to get X number of squirrels or rabbits with X number of rounds. After you hear the same story hundreds of times, it gets rather repetitive.
The first questions I have, how often does the person go hunting? How often do they load up their gear and head out to the wilderness for 3 or 4 days to test their plans? Has the person ever skinned a squirrel or rabbit, much less cooked and ate one?
Then there is the big question, where are you going to hunt at? Do you have access to land? Do you have access to remote land, or private property so other people will not intrude?
One of the survivalist mindsets that has been around for a long time, is that you need 1 years worth of food stockpiled; that you should have 1 years worth of food for every member in the house. If someone has the time and money to manage such a project, then good for you. But personally, I do not have the room, money, or time to put towards maintaining a 1 year food stockpile. Its no easy project to maintain all of that food without letting it expire or spoil. Expiration dates need to be kept along with a running inventory. If you eat out of your food stocks to keep everything rotated, then list will need to be kept as to what was eaten and what needs to be replaced.
I never have been one that subscribed to the “massive stockpiling of food” mindset. Stockpile food – yes. But not to the point where rotating your food and keeping track of inventory consumes a lot of your time. Over the years I have seen people that have dedicated a massive amount of time to their food stockpile – everything from calorie counting, to spreadsheets that list every single little item.
My plans are more like stockpile what you eat, and have normal food rotation. Instead of having 1 or 2 jars of pickles, have 3 jars. Instead of having 2 or 3 cans of ravioli, have 4 or 5. Instead of having 10 pounds of rice, have 30 pounds, instead of having 1 jar of honey, keep 2 or 3 in stock.
On top of that, I keep a nice stockpile of seeds for gardening.
I look at survivalist food preps as layers:
1st layer – the frozen food in your freezer. If kept cold, this might be able to supply most families with 3 – 5 days worth of food. The thing is, stand up freezers do not stay cold without electricity. Once an upright unit is opened a few times, all the cold air is gone. Chest freezers stay colder longer, and have some good quality ice chest on hand, like a 5 or 7 day coleman extreme.
2nd layer – MREs or eversafe meals. 1 case of MREs should be enough food for 1 person for about 6 days. Each case has 12 meals in it – eating 2 MREs daily should give 6 days worth of food.
3rd layer – is your canned and dried foods.
4th layer – is your long term survival food supply – your livestock and or garden.
I would rather have 4 – 6 months of food stockpiled, and enough seeds for 2 or 3 years worth of gardens, and that stockpile requires little rotation. Then to stockpile 12 months of food, and have to dedicate a lot of time and effort into keeping that food rotated.
The 13 hens my wife and I have are laying between 6 – 10 eggs everyday. Eggs will be a good source of protein and fat during a long term SHTF situation.
The only real solution to long term survival is having livestock and a garden. So why not make the garden and livestock part of your plans to start with? To me, stockpiling food is a short term solution to a long term problem. Having several months of food stockpiled is a great idea, but it only addresses part of the problem. To address the “whole” problem, and to have a well rounded solution, then there must be a start and finish point.
Starting point – to have stockpiled food for an instant solution.
Ending point – to have a self-sustaining farm with livestock and garden.
Every survivalist should have seeds stockpiled for a survival garden. The first questions is, why would anyone need a “survival garden?” During extended wide spread disasters, food production and shipments might get disrupted. Most grocery stores only have a few days worth of supplies in their warehouse. When the panic buying kicks in, those stocks could be wiped out in a matter of hours.
In the days before a hurricane makes landfall, local grocery stores are cleaned out. There is no reason to think the same thing will not happen if there is an outbreak of some kind of new disease, or some kind of other world wide event.
During outbreaks of the plague in the middle ages, starvation was a serious issue. As farmers were dying off, and the merchants died off, there was nobody to raise the food or ship it to the cities. People who live in an urban environment, and who depend on the grocery store for their food – they especially need to take home gardening very seriously.
Growing potatoes is a pretty easy and straight forward process.
Once the tops of the potato plants start to die off. Which is usually about 3 or 4 months after planting, just pull the top of the potato plant up and then dig the dirt up around the plant. The potatoes will be easy to damage, so dig up with care. Try not to use tools such as shovels as they can damge the potato.
Some people use cloth gardening gloves to help protect their hands from injury (from debris in the dirt) and to prevent getting dirt under their finger nails. One way to quickly harvest the potatoes is to run a plow down the middle of the row. This will roll the dirt up and bring the potatoes to the surface.
After the potatoes have been Harvested, store them in a cool dry place. Some people will put down a bed of straw, layer of potatoes, layer of straw, layer of potatoes. When they need the potatoes, dig through the straw and dig some out.