Producing Your Own Food for Long-term Survival

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There’s a huge difference between short-term and long-term survival. While the majority of the situations we are likely to be faced with are short-term survival situations, we can’t really ignore the possibility of long-term ones either. Should any of us ever be confronted by a long-term survival situation, our short-term preparations won’t be enough. If we aren’t prepared for the long-term as well, our families won’t survive.

So what’s the difference between the two? While there is no technical definition or even a break-off point that is widely accepted, separating short-term and long-term survival situations, by and large when preppers talk about long-term survival situations, they’re talking about things that last a year or longer. But there’s a simpler way of defining it; a long-term survival situation is anything that lasts longer than your stockpile.

Obviously, surviving longer than your stockpile lasts would be a real challenge for anyone. Those of us who prepare look at those who don’t and apply that thought to them. But what about ourselves; what will we do, when our supplies run out? We won’t be able to scrounge for supplies, as those who are unprepared will have already found all those.

This is why it’s important that we all be able to produce our own food, turning our homes into homesteads and growing food in our backyards. We know it’s possible to grow enough food in our backyards, because others have done so already, even though it has taken their entire yard to do so.

Please note that I’m not talking about a “four-foot garden” here. While there are those who have promoted the idea that it’s possible to grow enough food to feed your family in a four foot by four foot vertical garden, it’s just not so. It takes about a ton of food per year to feed one adult and that’s way more than can be grown in that amount of space. It will literally take your whole yard.

Growing a Vegetable Garden

If you’re already a gardener, that’s great. But if not, I’d recommend starting this year. My son, who was our family gardener, moved out a few years ago, leaving his garden to me. As I had never been a good gardener, it took me a good two years, before I had anything to show for it. Gardening is more than just scattering some seed around and hoping for the best.

For most of us, raised beds are the way to go. There are a number of advantages in using raised beds in a garden, but more than anything, it boils down to how efficiently you use the space. If you’re planting in rows, you space the seeds out according to the directions on the package; but the rows are 12” apart. With raised beds, you make the rows only as far apart as the spacing of the seeds. So, with carrots, you’re planting them 2” apart, in rows that are only 2” apart. That makes for much greater productivity out of the garden.

The other big advantage of raised beds is that it forces you to bring in topsoil for use in them. Considering that the average backyard comes equipped with soil that’s only good for raising weeds, being forced to bring in good topsoil helps ensure that your plants have the nutrition that they need. For the best soil, make a mixture something like:

  • 5 parts basic topsoil
  • 1 part pearlite or peat moss – this helps ensure good aeration and water absorption
  • 3 parts compost – decomposed green matter
  • 1 part animal waste compost (composted cow manure or similar)

There are many variations of this basic recipe, depending on where you get it. Regardless of the version you ultimately use, the idea is to provide good nutrition to the plants being grown in the beds. However, you can’t just use compost, as that will generate too much heat, killing off the seedlings when they start to grow.

Since the idea is to get as much out of the garden as possible, the bigger the garden the better. Even if you don’t turn your entire backyard into a garden now, you should have the things you need to, so that you can if the time comes. This especially means having the necessary fertilizers and other chemicals to fortify your soil, as well as seed to plant. It would also be a good idea to have a rototiller, along with a stock of gasoline, so that you could dig up more garden beds quickly.

People in the south have an advantage, as they have a long growing season, allowing them to get in more than one crop in a year. Those in the north struggle to have enough time to get one crop in during their short growing season. That can be extended somewhat, by using a greenhouse to start seedlings early. The greenhouse provides a warmer climate for the seedlings to germinate, before it is warm enough to plant them outdoors.

Growing Meat for Protein

While there are some plants which provide amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, it is extremely difficult to get all the proteins our bodies need from plants. We need some form of animal protein to supplement our diets. That means growing animals that can be used for food.

There are a number of options for this, but for most of us, we are limited by municipal laws where we live. Unless you happen to have couple of acres out in the country, it’s doubtful that you can raise beef or pigs to eat. Rather, you’re going to be limited to small animals which won’t bother the neighbors.

The easiest of these for most people to raise is chickens. While municipal laws vary from place to place, most cities will allow you to have 5 or 6 chickens, without hassling you. If you raise layers (chicken breeds which are good for laying eggs) rather than fryers (chicken breeds which are raised for eating), six chickens will give you four eggs per day. That’s enough for one per person, per day, for a family of four.

One of the nice things about chickens is that they will eat anything, converting it to food. Their main protein source is bugs, so they can clear your yard of ticks, termites and any nasty insects which are attacking your garden. Just be sure to fence in your garden well though, or the chickens will eat it to the ground as well.

While those eggs might be enough meat for bare-bones survival, it probably won’t be enough to satisfy. You’ll need to supplement those eggs with other protein sources.

One such option is other birds, if your city allows. Quail are a good choice, although you have to have a totally enclosed pen, as they can fly away. Another good option is rabbits. You can feed rabbits off of the scraps from your garden, just like you can chickens. Rabbits multiply quickly, making them a good sustainable source of food.

Another option is fish. Of all the varieties of fish out there, tilapia is one of the faster multiplying strains. They require little space and will even eat the algae, helping to keep their pond or tank clean. If you don’t want to bother digging a pond, you can use an IBC (intermediate bulk container) to make a fish tank. That’s enough to hold a lot of tilapia.

For food, order in a couple thousand worms and start a worm farm. All you need is a container and a bunch of compost. The worms will eat the compost and grow, helping to compost for your garden while they are at it. A handful of worms makes a good meal for your tank of tilapia.

Be Ready to Preserve Your Food

One of the challenges which has faced mankind since the beginning is that most food sources don’t keep for an extended time, without going bad. We’ve solved this by a number of different methods of preserving our foods. If you’re going to be growing your own food, that’s an important part of the process. Make sure that you’re ready to preserve the food that you grown, so that it will see you through the winter.

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