Should You Plant on Mounds in Sandy Soil?

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Calen asks about planting on mounds in fast-draining, sandy soil:

“I’m a native Cracker from [coastal Florida]. I’ve been homesteading on ancestral farmland with a survivalist and traditionalist mindset for three years now. All heirloom and organic, etc. I own all of your books, and they, along with your blog and videos, have been the most helpful gardening advice that I’ve ever found anywhere. Last year I grew tons of Seminole pumpkins with great success using your “melon pits.” I passed that along to many friends who did likewise. I also plant the pumpkins in many “guerrilla gardens” in the swamp and backwoods on public land, and that’s worked out great as well. I never revisit them until harvest time, and they normally do better than my tended ones. Anyways, this year I want to give the three sisters a try. My plan is to use Jimmy Red corn, Cherokee black pole beans, and Seminole pumpkins. Pretty much everything I read says to plant on mounds. However, my place is high, dry, east-bank-of-Lake George sugar sand. Is mounding the way I should go? We didn’t even have standing water during the past two hurricanes. My thought was to maybe do these in slight pits like the melons and pumpkins but wanted to see if you had any advice on the subject? Thanks for your time.”

Fantastic. It’s good to hear from a fellow Floridian.

Mounds are what you always hear about. It’s even on the back of the seed packets. Calen is right to question the practice in his soil conditions.

For people who haven’t planted in “sugar sand,” it’s hard to explain how very hot, dry, and fast-draining the stuff is. It contains almost no humus and needier crops planted in sugar sand need almost constant watering.

Scrubland Sandy Soil

My old homestead in North Florida had large patches of almost sandy loam with smaller granules which would hold water for longer. There, I would double-dig and loosen the ground to plant, which would mound it up somewhat.

GardensFebruary2015-5

Those loose raised beds did very well, so it would be easy to say, “Oh yes, Calen, go ahead and plant in mounds—it works in Florida!”

But sugar sand isn’t the same as the soil above. Just because something works in one area of a state doesn’t mean it will work in another. And in his area, I would try to stay as flat as possible.

When you raise the height of the soil in one area, the water will drain out of it faster as it finds its level. You really can’t afford to let that happen. If he’s not holding onto water even after a hurricane, raised beds and mounds, unless amended with extra compost before every planting, are not the way to go.

You might want to go even further and grow in sunken beds, as is sometimes done in the Southwestern U.S.

Even across my old homestead, the backyard was loamy and the front yard was sandier.

This is how I used to plant melons and pumpkins in my fast-draining front yard:

Melon Pit

Those are sprouting legumes, by the way. In the winter I would plant melon pits with cool-season legumes like lentils, chickpeas, peas, and fava beans to feed the soil and pave the way for the curcurbits I planted in the spring.

Read More: “No Bare Soil! Vegetable Garden Cover Crops”

I would try planting in sunken beds, Calen, and see how it works. If you really want to see if it makes a difference, plant one area flat, one area in sunken beds, and one area on mounds, then compare how they did over the season. That would be a really good way to gain a bunch of data from one growing season.

I planted corn in flat ground when I had a sandy area:

Corn in Sandy Soil

And on mounds in clay:

Planting-on-mounds-1

You’re right to think outside the mound, and you get serious extra points for guerilla gardening Seminole pumpkins. The melon pit method is one of my favorite discoveries.

If you’re reading this and don’t know what Calen is talking about, here’s how to make a melon pit:

In sand, dig deeper and go for an indentation instead of a mound.

What about you? Have you had success planting on mounds in sandy soil? What about with using melon pits? Let me know in the comments below!

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Supercharge Your Garden! 4 Steps to Vibrant Soil Using Compost and Crop Rotation

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Pest management and pathogen control are great reasons to use crop rotation. For me, though, nutrient management is my most important reason.

Our soil was devoid of organic matter when we moved to our homestead. I sheet-mulched, piled my beds with fresh compost, cover-cropped, chopped and dropped, trench-composted, and spread worm castings like I was icing a cake.

In short order, we had incredible yields. I thought I was a gardening genius…

Parsnip - Crop Rotation

The first clue that I’d run up against diminishing returns on compost applications was my parsnips. The tuber-tops peaking from the soil were 5 inches wide. The greens were shrubs. I expected a lifetime supply of parsnips. Then I harvested. My parsnips were only 2-3 inches long and looked like parsnip pancakes.

That’s when I learned about nitrogen overload from compost. I yanked my disappointing parsnips and planted corn. My corn was supposed to grow 6 feet tall and have 1 large ear and 1-2 small ears. I got 3 full-sized ears on 10-foot stalks.

With the magic of crop rotation revealed to me in that experience, I studied it and experimented extensively to create optimal crop rotations. Here’s what I learned.

1. Start with a Soil Test

If you haven’t had a comprehensive, professional soil test recently, get one. You’ll be surprised by how much they can tell you about your soil and gardening practices.

Mineral Content

Soil tests include listings of mineral content. If you have deficiencies, they will include application rates for minerals to bring your soil up to par.

They’ll include the phosphorous and potassium (the PK in NPK) content. If you are a regular compost user, it’s easy to overload soil with phosphorous and potassium. This test can let you know if your compost habits put you at risk for excesses.

Soil pH

Soil tests divulge soil pH. Unless your pH is right for what you plan to grow, you might as well be planting on the moon. Most vegetables like a pH around 6.5.

You may have to add lime to make soil alkaline (e.g. raise the pH). Alternately, you may have to add sulfur to acidify soil (lower the pH). A soil test should include recommendations for this, too.

Organic Matter Content

Tests also tell you how much organic matter is in your soil. Less than 3% and you need to add a ton (or tons) of organic matter to get your soil into shape for growing healthy vegetables.

Nitrogen

Nitrogen level is the one thing a good soil test will not tell you. Or, it should warn you that nitrogen results are unreliable. Nitrogen, in the soil, is inherently volatile.

Nitrogen changes based on what you plant (or your weeds), tilling and harvesting practices, amendments used, weather (e.g., lightning adds nitrogen), and water sources. Heavy rain can leach nitrogen, while acid rain adds it.

This volatility is why nitrogen is one of the most difficult forces to manage in a vegetable garden. It’s also why professional growers tend to use slow-release fertilizers, or multiple applications.

If you are like me, though, you want to use stuff you can produce at home without spending a fortune. In that case, consider rotation plans that include rotating your food crops, cover crops, and homemade amendments for nutrient management.

Start by making the adjustments determined by your soil test. When you have a good soil-health baseline, start using crop rotation for long-term nutrient management and soil improvement.

2. Rotate Food Crops by Nitrogen Needs

Nitrogen is like candy to plants. They love it. Some plants can eat all the nitrogen they want and grow better. Others eat too much and end up sick. And just like people sometimes do with candy, plants are prone to eat too much nitrogen when it’s available—even when it’s not good for them.

Plants do need some quantity of nitrogen to grow. The right quantity is good for them (I can’t say the same about candy for people). Still, this analogy offers an easy framework for understanding nitrogen and its use in crop rotations.

To manage plant consumption of nitrogen, the first thing you do is load up the nitrogen in your soil. Then start the rotation party!

  1. Start with plants that thrive on nitrogen—a.k.a. heavy feeders.
  2. After the heavy feeders, bring in plants that benefit from moderate nitrogen. These are your medium feeders.
  3. When the nitrogen is nearly depleted, bring in the candy addicts. These plants can’t handle much nitrogen, but they love it so much they’ll suck every speck of it out of your beds. We call these light feeders, but they are really more like the cleanup crew.
  4. Once your bowl is empty, refill it and start the progression again. Grow nitrogen-fixing plants or add nitrogen-heavy amendments like fresh compost. Or do both.

Real Garden Crop Rotation

In a real garden scenario, this would look like adding a whole bunch of compost and fertilizer to your beds. Then, plant corn, followed by cucumbers, and finally turnips. Next, add more fertilizer and/or bring on the beans (or peas, or clover…).

If you spread this cycle over a four-year period, you have also created a rotation schedule that works for pathogen management by using four different families of plants.

Identify Heavy, Medium, and Light Feeders

When I tried to find a good list of plants by feeding type, I found a lot of discrepancies. I recommend you make your own lists based on what you actually plan to grow and on your own experience in your garden.

Whether you like big agribusiness or not, they sure know how to manage nitrogen for optimal production. Checking nitrogen application rates for commercial fertilizers is a great way to identify your feeder type (even if you won’t be using their products).

Here’s the list I used to glean this information. It’s geared for Wisconsin, but the general reference tables have universal utility.

Page 43 starts a table of nitrogen application rates for many common crops. Those rates change based on the amount of organic matter in soil. Compost-rich beds need less nitrogen than tilled dirt because the biological life in the soil continues to make nitrogen if soil is kept moist.

A table on page 30 tells you how much potassium and phosphorous plants need—as well as which plants will remove it from the soil—which conveniently brings us to our next topic!

Cover Crop - Crop Rotation

3. Rotate Cover Crops for Healthy Soil

In addition to rotating food crops, rotating cover crops is important for nutrient management. Different cover crops serve different functions.

Cover Crop to Remove Excess Potassium and Phosphorous

Compost adds humus and fertility to your garden. However, without good crop rotation, compost can overload soil with phosphorous and potassium in the long run. To prevent this, you need to rotate in plants that are effective at extracting those nutrients.

Alfalfa and red clover are exceptional at extracting potassium and good at extracting phosphorous. Hairy vetch and field peas are excellent for removing excess phosphorous. These plants are also potential nitrogen fixers.

For phosphorous and potassium removal, harvest the above-ground greens to feed your greens-eating livestock or add them to your compost pile for later application. Do not use them as chop-and-drop, or they will just end up right back in the soil. Always leave the roots in the ground, though, for nitrogen-fixing benefits.

Cover Crop to Add Nitrogen

Nitrogen fixers are plants that pull nitrogen from the air and store it in nodes on their roots. When the plants die, the nitrogen nodes decompose and release that stored nitrogen into the soil. Nitrogen fixers add more nitrogen when they are killed before they flower. If they set fruit (e.g., peas or beans), they are more like “nitrogen neutral.”

Nitrogen fixers work best when inoculated with a beneficial bacteria that encourages them to store more nitrogen. Planting rates are different for nitrogen fixing than for food production. To kill plants being used as nitrogen fixers, scythe or mow them to the ground. Leave roots in the ground and greens on the beds.

Cover Crop With a Biofumigant

Mustard is a beneficial biofumigant to break up soil pathogens and pest problems. Mustard also scavenges minerals in deeper soil and makes them available to plants that don’t root as deeply.

When using mustard as a biofumigant and mineral source, you need to purchase cover-crop mustard seeds (not edibles). Before the plants flower, cut them to the ground and gently turn them into your soil.

Cover Crop to Preserve Nitrogen

Grasses like wheat and annual rye are used as cover crops because of their ability to protect soil and scavenge nitrogen. While they don’t technically fix nitrogen like legumes, the biological organisms in your soil will quickly decompose those grasses if they are cut while green and allowed to decompose in the beds they were grown in. As the grass decomposes, it releases nitrogen into the soil at the surface, making it more readily available to next-round crops.

Choosing Your Cover Crop

Cover crops work best when selected based on either what you plan to grow next or on what you harvested, to correct for deficiencies. For example, corn is a heavy feeder. It sucks up nitrogen like a vacuum—as in, everything easily in reach.

After corn, wheat would be a good option. Wheat will pull nitrogen from all the areas the corn missed. If chopped and left on the bed, it decomposes and disperses that nitrogen more uniformly for the next planting (e.g., cucumbers).

Alternately, if nitrogen depletion is suspected, Austrian peas or clover used as a nitrogen fixer would work better than wheat. Rather than having a set schedule for cover crop rotation, make decisions based on the needs of your beds. There are fewer pests and pathogens in cooler weather, so strict rotations are not as necessary with winter cover crops.

Compost - Crop Rotation

4. Rotate Your Homemade Amendments by Crop Needs

If your main amendments are of the homemade variety, you also want to consider rotating the kinds of amendments you put on your beds along with your crops.

4 Types of Compost and Their Uses

Humus Compost

Humus compost is the stuff made by layering browns and greens at a ratio of 25 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen, making a large pile that heats to at least 130°F, turning it a few times, and then allowing it to age for 2 years. Humus increases the air- and water-holding capacity of soil and allows biological life to thrive. This kind of humus compost doesn’t have a lot of nitrogen.

Fresh Compost

The biological life that makes compost also creates nitrogen through their digestive processes. The longer a pile ages, the more nitrogen and other nutrients leach out by way of rain, air, etc. Fresh compost is made by the same process as humus compost. It’s just been aged less than six months and so has more nitrogen.

Composted Manure

Composted manure—i.e., a pile of manure mixed with fallen feed and bedding materials not necessarily at a rate of 25:1—can radically vary in nitrogen and nutrient content. Store-bought chicken manure has a 3-2-3 rating for NPK. Meanwhile, uncomposted chicken manure could have an NPK rating of 40-60-40, 55-55-47, or other variations.

Personally, I use a mix of chicken and goat manure that’s been aged for 3-6 months as a nitrogen source. I don’t know the exact nitrogen content, but it doesn’t burn my plants and it grows huge corn and cabbage.

Mystery Compost

Mystery compost happens when you throw a bunch of stuff together and wait. The nitrogen content will vary by what’s in the pile and what decomposed it. You could just throw it on your beds fairly fresh and hope you get lucky! Or, you could age it and use it for humus.

With these compost definitions out of the way, on to when to use them for nutrient management crop rotation.

Rotating Compost Applications for Nutrient Management

Here’s what my amendment rotations generally look like:

Year 1: Apply 4 inches of fresh or manure compost.

The risks from E. coli and other bad bacteria are minimized if your compost materials are 6 months old when your food is harvested. If you are growing lettuce, aim for 6-month-old compost to start. If you are growing vegetables like winter squash, aim for 3-month-old compost, because it will be over 6 months old by the time you harvest.

Year 2: Apply 2-4 inches of humus compost

Humus compost will still provide some nitrogen and other nutrients. Mainly though, it will help preserve any leftover nitrogen from the fresh compost in year 1 and replace the organic matter you harvested.

Year 3: Apply 2 inches of mulch to preserve moisture.

By year 3 in this plan, you are organic-matter heavy. You may also have extra potassium and phosphorous. For light feeders, just use mulch to protect your soil and preserve moisture rather than piling on compost.

Mulch is essentially browns with no greens. Straw, leaves, or wood chips work well. Mulch will eventually decompose and add nutrients, but not within the planting period that you apply it.

Year 4: Add nitrogen; remove phosphorous and potassium.

This is when you want to plant your nitrogen-fixing, phosphorous- and potassium-extracting cover crops.

Personally, I like to eat some peas and beans, too. I plant peas and beans to eat in early spring through mid-summer. I cover-crop from late summer through winter. I mulch the plants I grow for me and leave them on the beds. I remove the greens and leave the roots from my cover crops.

Year 5: Soil test and repeat.

Start the cycle again. But first, get another soil test and make adjustments as necessary. That second soil test is like a report card on how you are doing with your crop rotations for nutrient management.

Be Flexible in Your Use of Amendments

Just like with cover-crop rotations, if your beds seem depleted, then you may need to add fresh compost rather than humus compost. You may want to add humus compost rather than mulch if your beds feel dirt heavy and humus short. You may also need to up your game at times and apply worm castings or other stronger amendments. Use the health of your crops as your guide.

Crop-Rotation Conversation—What Do You Think?

To do crop rotation really well, you need to make it specific to your soil, pests, pathogen risks, crops, and amendments. There’s no canned crop-rotation plan that is going to work well for every garden.

Personally, I love the challenge of figuring out effective crop rotations. Gardening could get boring really fast if you weren’t taking your skills to the next level, paying attention to your plants, and improving your processes.

My intent with this series has been to inspire you with some of my crop-rotation concepts. Now, I’d like to hear from you!

What kind of rotations are you thinking of, what are you using now, and what is your intuition telling you? What works? What doesn’t?

(Also, include your growing region and soil type (loam, sand, clay) if possible so others can decide whether your ideas will work for them. I started with clay, but now have what I call clay-loam.)

Please join the conversation on crop rotation and share your comments below!

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Planting Corn in Stations

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Before I moved to Central America a couple of years ago, I always planted corn in rows, one plant every 6-12 inches, 1.5-3 feet apart.

Like this:

Planting Corn in Stands

Then a farmer taught me the local method of planting corn in stations, and I’ve found it really saves prep time.

Read More: “Hand Pollinating Corn for Seed Saving”

Instead of tilling an area, you just take a string trimmer (or scythe or whatever may be your weed-clearing weapon of choice) and scalp the ground right down to the dirt.

Then knock loose holes in the ground about 2.5 feet apart, plant 4 kernels in each hole, and feed with manure or whatever high-nitrogen material you have.

In a few weeks, the corn will grow taller, but the weeds you knocked down will also return. Come back with your string trimmer and knock all the space between the corn back to bare earth.

In a few more weeks, the corn will be tall enough to take care of itself and shade out the weeds. Eventually, you harvest the ears, then turn the ground over to grow something else.

It’s really an easy system. You can see a patch I planted this way in this video.

This method of planting corn can also be used in a pigeon pea/corn intercrop system like I wrote about here.

As I remark in the video, I’d really love to try this in a typical lawn. Imagine doing this in the midst of an expanse of St. Augustine or bahia! What great fun.

Here’s a large patch of corn growing this way:

Planting Corn in Stations on Hillside

See how it was done? It’s the same method of hacking holes into the soil and planting kernels. 3-4 seeds are planted in each hole and the corn grows nicely that way in a small clump. Between clumps is about 2.5 feet in all directions.

This method seems to work very well on slopes, as the roots of the weeds and grass hold the soil together, whereas tilling it all and row planting corn could lead to serious erosion issues.

The harvests are decent as well — I haven’t noticed a drop off in productivity at all. The wider spacing also means you can often grow corn without any irrigation, depending on your climate.

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Top 10 Seeds to Hoard

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Have you ever thought about which plants you should focus on for long-term survival? If food supplies were to run low, what could you grow to provide a large amount of food, calories, and nutrients to help your family stay full and healthy? Just as important, though, are plants that are easy to grow. Your […]

Homemade Sweet Cornbread Recipe – Down Home Goodness In A Pan

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I have always had a love hate relationship with cornbread. When I was a young child, I had campfire cornbread that was so dry and unflavorful that I avoided it for years. Fast forward to college. I went home with

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Three Sisters Gardens: Grow More Food With Less Work

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Imagine a small garden that produces an above-average harvest, yet needs minimal water, fertilizer, and weeding—and, as a bonus, leaves your soil more fertile at the end of the growing season. Some might call that a dream come true, but what it’s really called is a Three Sisters Garden.

Yet this remarkably savvy strategy for growing corn, beans, and squash wasn’t developed by a Ph.D. in a modern research garden. Instead, it began centuries—perhaps millennia—ago as a Native American agricultural tradition.

Three Sisters Garden 3

What is a Three Sisters Garden?

Unlike today’s gardens where plant varieties are separated by straight rows, a Three Sisters Garden allows corn, bean, and squash plants to grow together and benefit from each other.

The beauty of a Three Sisters Garden comes from the symbiotic relationship between these three crops.

  1. As corn stalks grow, they create poles for beans to climb on to gain support and find sunlight without getting outcompeted by the sprawling squash.
  2. The bean roots also help stabilize the corn in heavy winds and fertilize it by “fixing” nitrogen from the air into a form that corn and squash roots can absorb.
  3. The squash’s large leaves are prickly enough to deter pests from coming close, and they shade out weeds while keeping the soil moist.1)The Old Farmers’ Almanac: The Three Sisters: Corn, Beans, and Squash 

History of the Three Sisters Garden

When agriculture began in the Americas 7,000 years ago, it quickly changed the landscape and local cultures beyond recognition.

Maize, beans, and squash were domesticated in Central and South America and gradually made their way to the American Midwest.2)University of Nebraska: The “How” of the Three Sisters: The Origins of

Different Native American tribes began to integrate these crops into their horticultural traditions, though the Iroquois (also called the Haudenosaunee) first used the phrase “Three Sisters” to describe the practice of growing them together in highly productive garden plots.

Over the centuries, the Three Sisters gained physical and spiritual importance for the Iroquois. Their planting method involved sowing all three seeds in fertilized mounds that prevented the young plants from getting waterlogged.

Women then weeded and hoed these mounds throughout the summer and harvested the crops in the early fall before drying and storing them for winter. Celebrated as a gift from the Great Spirit, corn, beans, and squash were eaten together for most meals.

American colonists first learned of Three Sisters Gardens over 300 years ago.

Since they were used to straight, orderly farm fields, most settlers first dismissed these densely planted gardens as wild.

However, they soon learned that this biointensive combination-planting method was perfectly suited for the region, as cleared land was difficult to maintain and small Iroquois garden plots needed to produce higher yields than European ones.

Today, a Three Sisters Garden is a great example of an ecological guild in America because each plant directly benefits the others.

Grown together, Three Sisters crops produce more food with less water and fertilizer.

In fact, Three Sisters Garden plots tend to produce 20 percent more calories than when the same crops are grown apart.3)Estimating Productivity of Traditional Iroquoian Cropping Systems from Field Experiments and Historical Literature

A Nutritional Cornucopia

Not only are the Three Sisters naturally suited to grow well together, they also pack a powerful nutritional punch. In fact, a diet of corn, beans, and squash is nutritionally balanced without the need for other protein sources.

Corn kernels are rich in carbohydrates and become a complete protein source when eaten with beans.

Full of vitamins and minerals, squash rounds out the diet nutritionally.

Making them even more valuable, corn, beans, and squash all could be dried and eaten throughout the winter.4)Native Seeds: How to Grow a Three Sisters Garden When combined with other vegetables native to America like peppers and tomatoes, the Three Sisters fueled culinary creativity and promoted health all year long.

Three Sister Variations

Not all Three Sister gardens are the same.

While squash, beans, and corn were important food crops throughout America, many native cultures made variations on the growing method to better fit their local conditions.

For example, throughout the dry Southwest, the Three Sisters were often planted in separate fields with wide plant spacing to maximize the use of a limited water supply.5)Native Seeds: How to Grow a Three Sisters Garden

In some places, a fourth sister joined the trio. Sunflowers attracted insect pollinators to the garden while distracting birds from the corn and providing support for bean vines.

Throughout the Southwest, tobacco was interplanted with the Three Sisters as a ceremonial plant.

Likewise, watermelons and gourds were easily substituted for squash.6)Native Seeds: How to Grow a Three Sisters Garden

Three Sisters Garden 4

Tips for Getting Started

When you follow the Three Sisters method today, you equip your garden with the building blocks it needs to grow flavorful plants that are well suited to your natural conditions.

You can also help preserve a Native American heritage and benefit from centuries of horticultural innovation and experimentation by growing your own Three Sisters Garden at home.

Layout

There are plenty of variations for laying out a Three Sisters Garden, but it’s always best to plant your corn in clusters instead of rows. This makes it easier to attract pollinating insects for your squash plants and for wind-pollinated corn tassels to fertilize each other.7)Native Seeds: How to Grow a Three Sisters Garden

Make sure you choose a spot with plenty of direct sunlight and a neutral pH level (6.0–7.0 is best).

Minimal space is needed for a Three Sisters Garden. A 10-foot-by-10-foot plot tends to be ideal. That’s a small enough space to be fairly simple to prepare and maintain while ensuring that you sow enough corn (about 10–20 plants) for it to cross-pollinate.

To set up a traditional Three Sisters Garden in a 10-foot-by-10-foot plot, mark off three rows spaced five feet apart. Each row will have five 18-inch mounds, alternating corn/bean mounds with squash mounds.8)Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: Growing a Three Sisters Garden

Planting

Sowing a Three Sisters Garden takes a little longer from start to finish, but the steps are simple—and the results are oh so worth it!

  1. Start by fertilizing the garden bed with your favorite amendments.
  2. Form the soil into flat mounds that are a foot high and 18 inches in diameter.
  3. Alternate the corn/bean mounds with the squash mounds.
  4. Stagger the planting by species to create a “stacked” garden that gives the corn and/or sunflowers a few weeks’ head start. This also prevents the plants from outcompeting each other in their beginning growth stages.
    1. Once the danger of frost has passed, plant four kernels of corn an inch deep and six inches apart, with each kernel forming one of the four points of a diamond shape.
    2. Once the corn reaches five inches tall, plant four bean seeds in a pattern that adds corners to your diamond shape, effectively making it a square.
    3. Squash seeds should be planted one week later in the remaining mounds. In each mound, plant three squash seeds four inches apart in a triangle shape.9)The Old Farmers’ Almanac: The Three Sisters: Corn, Beans, and Squash
  5. Make sure to hill up the soil as it starts to level out so that there is plenty of material for the root systems to work with.

Maintenance

As the Three Sisters grow together, you will notice the bean sprouts starting to climb the corn stems, and heavy squash leaves starting to fan out along the ground.

While squash leaves help shade out weeds as they grow, it’s best to regularly weed your plot when the plants are young to prevent them from getting outcompeted. Laying down a layer of organic mulch is also a good way to help the soil retain moisture on hot summer days.

Insect pests are likely to find your garden as exciting as you do, so make sure to watch for squash bugs, squash vine borers, and corn earworms.

A drop of vegetable oil on the tips of corn ears can help fend off an invasion, and you can keep your beans healthy by working them only when the plants are dry.10)The National Gardening Association: Growing the Three Sisters

To preserve the purity of heirloom varieties, you can hand-pollinate your corn plants. Simply place waxed paper bags over the corn silk to prevent pollen from getting in. When the tassels are two inches out, remove the bags and shake your preferred pollen on the silks before replacing the bags to prevent contamination.

Harvest

By mid-to-late summer, your Three Sisters Garden will be brimming with produce.

Summer squash is often the first to mature. You can harvest the squashes once they are two inches in diameter, as they taste best when small and tender.

Winter squash needs to be harvested when the outside skin is hardened and the squash has lost its natural sheen. Make sure to cleanly slice the stem with a knife, and leave the stem on the squash to help it stay fresh for several months.

Green beans are best harvested when the pods are slim and tender. So long as you prevent your beans from over-maturing and going to seed, they should produce vigorously for a month or two. Take care not to damage the vines as you pick them, and you should enjoy fresh beans for much of the summer.

Ears of corn are ready to pick about 20 days after the first silk stacks appear. You’ll know the ears are mature when the silks are dry and brown and the kernels are smooth and plump, and emit a milk-like juice when you puncture them with your thumbnail. Simply twist off each ear when ripe, and eat immediately for the best flavor.

Three Sisters Garden 2

Best Three Sister Varieties to Grow

Not every variety of corn, beans, and squash grows well in a Three Sisters Garden.

Oftentimes, traditional heirloom varieties are better suited to the specific growing conditions that companion planting calls for.

Below are varieties of corn, beans, and squash that are well suited for Three Sisters Gardens.

Corn

Sweet corn was a staple food in Native American diets,11)Mother Earth News: Native American Gardening: The Three Sisters and More and most varieties grow well using the Three Sisters method. Native corns tend to be heartier and more drought resistant than industrial varieties, so make sure you look to corn varieties that are naturally suited for your growing conditions.

It’s best to choose a tall variety so that your bean plants have plenty of room to grow.

Pencil Cob corn is a prolific, six-foot variety, and Flor del Rio is an excellent heirloom popcorn.

If water is an issue, Southwestern varieties like Tohono O’odham and Hopi mature fast and use less water, but their short stature makes it harder for them to support beans.

Beans

When choosing your beans, it’s essential that you select pole beans instead of bush beans to ensure they trellis themselves on the corn stalks. Common pole bean varieties include pinto, kidney, black, lima, and navy.

Ideally, you should grow “corn beans,” as they have adapted to growing in shady conditions and won’t suffer from overcrowding.12)Mother Earth News: Native American Gardening: The Three Sisters and More

Few Native American bean species have been preserved, but the Ohio pole bean and Amish Nuttle are two options.13)Mother Earth News: Native American Gardening: The Three Sisters and More Other versatile pole beans include Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder, O’odham Vayos, and Four Corners Gold. If you do end up with a short corn variety like Tutelo Strawberry, you might pair it with a bean variety like Wild Pigeon, since it isn’t aggressive enough to overpower the shorter corn.

Squash

Unfortunately, few squash varieties that were common in traditional Native American gardens are still in use. While Yellow Summer Crookneck and Early White Scallop date back at least to the 1700s, the varieties available today are significantly different from the originals.

The best squash variety depends on the amount of space you have to work with.

If your garden provides ample room for plants to sprawl, go for a winter squash variety like Tarahumara Pumpkin or Magdalena Big Cheese.

Tighter arrangements better suit Yellow Crookneck squash, Ponca butternut, and Dark Star zucchini.

A Harvest of Heritage

A delightful combination of science and history, the Three Sisters Garden nurtures both body and soul.

Yes, it provides larger harvests with less work and water. But it also connects gardeners with centuries of heritage—and lets them play a vital role in ensuring that this wondrous planting method survives to nourish yet another generation.

For more information on Three Sisters Gardens, check out THE definitive book on the subject—Native American Gardening: Buffalobird-Woman’s Guide to Traditional Methods.

 


 

 

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References   [ + ]

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7 Staple Crops for Northern Gardeners

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If you live in a cold climate and have to garden to feed yourself, what staple crops would you grow?

There are plenty of staple crops in the tropics (I cover 10 good ones in my Top 10 Tropical Staple Crop Countdown video), but as you move farther north it gets harder to produce a lot of calories on your land. Seasons are short and sunlight is less intense, plus the variety of plants you can choose from is greatly limited.

Yet all is not lost.

Here are a few tried-and-true survival crops for the north, plus one that shows great potential.

7 Staple Crops for Northern Gardeners

Potatoes

Your best bet as a survival staple in northern climates is the trusty potato.

staple survival crops - the potato

Potatoes are really hard to beat on yields and caloric content, plus they take less space and a lot less work than small grains.

I’ve grown wheat, oats, barley, and rye. Though they’re pretty easy to grow, processing makes them a serious pain. I outlined the pros and cons in this article–go read for yourself. Potatoes are much simpler.

The Three Sisters

This is a classic method of gardening practiced by American Indians, as seen here.

Interplant corn, beans, and pumpkins/winter squash for a three sisters garden.

Let’s cover them individually.

Corn

I love corn. It’s a ton of fun to grow, and it’s much easier to harvest and use than most other grains. It’s also beautiful.

staple survival crops - corn

The number of grain corn varieties is staggering. Up north, I recommend sticking to “flint” corns, as dent corn takes much longer to mature.

Beans

In the three sisters garden, pole beans are used. For a survival crop, look for types you can shell and save–not green beans.

Beans

Beans aren’t high on yields compared to a root crop, but they do contain a good amount of protein.

Pumpkins/Winter Squash

Pumpkins and winter squash will yield you a lot of weight in long-storing calories if you pick the right varieties. Vermont Harvest of the Month has a great illustration and recipes on their site.

winter-squash-vermont

In the north, gardeners should mostly stick to C. maxima and C. pepo varieties. In the south, C. moschata usually does better.

Jerusalem Artichokes

Steve Solomon and I were talking about northern staples earlier this year, and I suggested the Jerusalem artichoke as a super-easy root crop; however, he pointed out that the difficulty most of us have in digesting them makes them a lot less attractive in the long run.

I love their productivity, but the tubers mess up your digestion unless you’re very acclimated to them. They are likely a better choice as an animal feed, particularly for pigs.

staple survival crops - Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes are beautiful and make a great addition to the edges of a property or in rougher soil where regular vegetables don’t grow.

I planted these along a rough drainage ditch in hard Tennessee clay and rocks, and they grew like crazy.

Turnips

Another option is turnips. I planted big beds of turnips one year and had great success . . . but eating turnips daily gets old fast.

Turnips: staple survival crops

I knew we grew too many when my wife Rachel presented me with a turnip pie she baked for dessert one evening.

After weeks of turnips stewed, mashed, roasted . . . then in pie . . . I didn’t want to see another turnip for a long time.

On the up side, the greens are very good to eat and quite nutritious, making them a dual-purpose crop.

Chinese Yams

Some northern gardeners have had luck growing the cold-tolerant Chinese yam, a.k.a. Dioscorea batatas.

a staple survival crop chinese yam

Experiment and see how it does. As a bonus, the Chinese yam produces tiny little roots on the vine. Cook them up like mini potatoes!

See those here:

Try Chinese yams in your garden and tell me how they turn out–they did well for me in North Florida, and Eric Toensmeier grew them successfully in Massachusetts. I think they have a lot of potential as a staple survival crop. Just be careful, as they may be an invasive species in some areas.

BTW, I mentioned their invasive nature in my newsletter and reader Sharon wrote back, the real invasive species is soy and GMO corn. Wild yam will feed you along with many other weeds.”

I agree. Feeding yourself is of high importance, and if a vegetable grows like a weed and produces calories . . . I find it hard to demonize.

You can buy Chinese yam bulbils from Sharon in her online store here, along with an assortment of other obscure and wonderful plants.

Conclusion

There you go: seven staple survival crops for northern gardens. Did I miss any of your favorites?

Let me know in the comments.

And check out my book Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening for serious help in a collapse.

Another great title is Carol Deppe’s The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times.

And the must-have Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times (Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series), by Steve Solomon.

 

* Beans image by Kenneth Leung. Creative Commons license.

 

TGN Bi-Weekly Newsletter

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Are You Prepared for Peak Chicken?

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three-step-chickensWe have all heard about peak oil. But have you heard about “peak chicken?” Or peak almost everything else that composes the modern human diet—dairy, meat, corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, vegetables, and sugar?

According to a study in Ecology and Society,1https://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol19/iss4/art50/ we’ve already been there and done that. We peaked on just about every food-related product considered critical to human survival, except farm-raised fish, in or before 2010.

Thank goodness for carp, catfish, and tilapia! If you don’t like those, you might want to start working on some new recipes and get used to them….

Once you get your head around the idea of peak food—meaning that food production is stagnant or declining—then do an Internet search for “world population clock.”

Sit back and watch as the world’s population increases before your eyes.

It is interesting to watch, until you do the math and realize that declining food production + increasing population = a big problem. Suddenly that population calculator looks a lot like a ticking time bomb, and the $60,000,000,000,000 (global public debt)2http://www.economist.com/content/global_debt_clock/ question is: “When does it explode?”

The truth is that we don’t know if, how, or when the bubble will burst.

Reason to Worry

But according to the authors of the Ecology and Society study, we should be worried. Their findings show that 20 of the 27 key resources for human survival peaked within the 50-year period ending in 2010.

The fact that so much of our food supply peaked within the same time frame makes sense at an intuitive level. Growing food with current industrial processes requires adequate water and fertile land suited to maneuvering large equipment. When we run out of fertile land, we develop undesirable land by leveling or clearing the earth, adding synthetic fertilizer, and pumping in water for irrigation. That works until we exhaust our water stores and deplete easily accessible nitrogen sources.

As land, water, and fertilizer become less available, the natural result is that food production declines, prices go up, and distribution gets contentious.

Those of us fortunate enough to live in wealthy countries like the United States have been insulated from most of the deprivations of peak food.

  • But if you live in rural Mexico, you probably already know what a 733% increase in the cost of a staple like tortillas feels like.
  • Or if you’ve lived in parts of Venezuela in the last few years, you know what it’s like to go to the grocery store and find the shelves inexplicably empty.
  • In India, farming-related debt is so high and weather events are destroying crops so frequently that suicide among farmers has reached epidemic levels.

These are just a few examples of peak-food-related issues already occurring around the world.

According to the USDA’s Agricultural Projections through 2022,3https://www.usda.gov/oce/commodity/projections/USDAAgriculturalProjections2022.pdf “Although agricultural prices decline in the near term, continued growth in global demand for agricultural products holds prices at historically high levels.” This means that for those of us who live in the United States, Japan, or the EU, our days of food cost stability are numbered as developing countries are expected to outpace us on demand, economic growth, and strength of currency in international markets.

Additionally, the USDA’s Food Price Outlook, 2017-20184https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-price-outlook/summary-findings/ for the U.S. indicates that the most notable inflation increases in food have occurred, and will continue to occur, around the perimeter of the grocery store.

The Rise and Fall of Peak Nutrition

Poultry, dairy, eggs, seafood, and fresh fruits—the most nutritious foods available—are becoming less affordable, and this is expected to get much worse.

In response to price increases, such as the market price of beef going up 10 percent in two years in the U.S., consumers have already diverted their budgets from nutrient-dense natural foods to prepackaged, high-calorie foods, which tend to be less nutritious.

Just as it makes intuitive sense that peak food would follow quickly on the heels of peak land, we can also assume that trading fresh, healthy foods for processed foods to make ends meet will lead to peak nutrition—after which our collective public health will begin to accelerate in its decline.

So, is there anything we can do to change our food future?

In light of their disturbing findings regarding synchronous peak production, the authors of the Ecology and Society study suggest that we need a “paradigm shift” in our use of resources if we are going to be able to adapt to our post-peak realities.

That seems like a polite way of saying, “we need to radically alter our methods for growing and distributing food, or we’re in big trouble.”

Finding Answers

The good news is that you, I, and other members of The Grow Network community are already starting to work on this. The peak calculations were based on data from the 2013 FAO Statistical Yearbook5http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3107e/i3107e00.htm. That report includes figures reported by international governments like Gross Domestic Product, and is dependent on financial information provided in tax returns and financial statements.

All the home-scale food growing taking place around the world is not included in determining these peak food calculations.

The study also does not take into consideration the black markets and barter markets that are already prevalent throughout much of the world, and may be used by two-thirds of the world’s population by 2020.

Unfortunately, for the same reasons that these data are not included in peak calculations, it is impossible to determine how much of an impact home food growers, barter economies, and black markets are making in relation to peak food.

Anecdotally, though, we know that there has been increased interest in home-based food production:

  • Just look at the number of self-sufficiency publications showing up on supermarket and bookstore shelves over the last ten years.
  • The number of farmers’ markets have increased by nearly 500% over the last 23 years, according to the USDA.6https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/NationalCountofFMDirectory17.JPG
  • There’s been an explosion in intensive growing practices—raised beds, vertical gardening, companion planting, permaculture, aquaponics—methods that use significantly less inputs than industrial agriculture while producing a superior product with excellent yields.
  • The Obamas put a garden on the White House lawn, and Oprah started a farm in Maui.

These are all positive signs that a transition to more sustainable food-growing processes is already under way.

A 3-Step Solution

Taking a closer look at the details reveals that our current “peak food” problem is really more of a “peak industrial farming” problem.

What the Ecology and Society study makes absolutely clear is that we cannot feed the world using only industrial farming methods because they depend on resources that have peaked, or will peak, in the near future—such as constant nitrogen inputs, spray irrigation, and mono-cropping on cleared land.

However, we can continue to improve our outlook with regard to peak food by choosing to support a few clear, actionable solutions:

1) Diversifying What We Grow
2) Reintegrating Local Farming Into Our Communities
3) Supporting Community Food Security

Let’s take a closer look at these solutions…

#1. Diversifying What We Grow

sweet-potato-vinesThe fact that our key resources list can be narrowed down to just 27 items that include corn and sugarcane is both an indictment of our modern diet, and a mandate for change.

The Case for Corn

Corn, for example, could be an excellent “calorie crop,” meaning that it has the potential to provide a high calorie-per-acre yield. It has culinary versatility: corn bread, polenta, grits, tortillas, eaten on the cob and off the cob, popcorn, and as a supplemental feed for poultry and pigs.

But less than 1 percent of peak corn grown today actually makes it to your table directly. The rest is inedible for humans as it is grown specifically to go into our cars as ethanol or to be used as feed for livestock like cows, which would never touch it if they tripped over it in the pasture. A good portion of the corn used in our human food supply is corn syrup that is arguably a leading contributor to epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Fields of monoculture corn swaying in the wind might even seem pretty—but don’t walk barefoot in those fields because they are loaded with toxic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides that require protective gear to apply.

For the home grower, corn can be a fun food to grow as part of a balanced diet, if you have the space. You need to grow enough corn stalks for good cross-pollination or you need to hand-pollinate, and you have to take some extra precautions to prevent contamination from cross-pollination if you want to save your seeds.

But an even better option is to focus on more nutritious foods that don’t make the peak list.

Think about cabbage, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and winter squash. These are also versatile in soups, sauces, and pies, and they can be mashed, added to breads and pasta, roasted, and fried. Pumpkin and squash take space to grow, but there is no reason that they can’t be grown in vertical space. There are compact varieties of sweet potatoes like Bunch Porto Rico that can be grown in containers. These alternative calorie crops also store well without additional processing and they are relatively high in nutritional density, according to the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index.7https://www.drfuhrman.com/learn/library/articles/95/andi-food-scores-rating-the-nutrient-density-of-foods

Mix these alternative calorie crops up with a long list of other highly nutritious foods that you can easily grow at home or pick up at your local farmers market, such as tomatoes, chard, beets, turnips, arugula, watercress, lettuce, and you will be on your way to post-peak food health and happiness.

A Not-So-Sweet Staple

Now for a not-so-sweet subject: sugar. Sugar is a staple of our diets … really?!

Why is something that significantly increases our chances of dying prematurely from cardiovascular disease (according to the American Heart Association) a resource considered necessary to our survival? Sure, it’s got calories, but they are non-nutritive.

If you consume your calories as sugar, you must either overconsume other foods to make up the nutritive difference, or run a nutritive deficit. Both roads lead to poor health.

Currently, roughly 898,000 acres of sugarcane and sugar beets are grown commercially in the U.S. alone. That amount of land, replanted using intensive farming methods, could grow enough healthy vegetables, meat, eggs, and dairy products to feed 400,000 people a healthy, balanced diet.

If you’ve got an incurable sweet tooth, how about satisfying it with a source that takes almost no land to produce, is good for you, and the production of which actually increases crop productivity in the immediate area? This is not some manufactured miracle sweetener that we will later discover causes cancer. It’s the oldest known sweetener on the planet, so revered at one time that the pharaohs of ancient Egypt were buried with it in their tombs, while indigenous communities risked life and limb to extract it.

Of course, you guessed it: The miracle sugar alternative is raw honey.

Raw honey is loaded with good nutrition. It may also help reduce the intensity of seasonal allergies, which are expected to increase in length and severity as a result of climate change, resulting in greater losses in productivity. Keeping bees near your garden increases pollination rates and raises yields. Since every third bite of food we eat requires insect pollination, and most of this is done by honey bees, adding honey to our key resource list makes much more sense than sugar.

If you want to keep your own bees, try a top-bar hive. You can make it out of scrap materials and it does not require expensive extraction equipment. If you can’t keep bees, buy raw honey from your local beekeepers to encourage more beekeeping activity that benefits our entire food supply.

stevia-growing-in-herb-gardenOr how about growing stevia? Stevia is an acquired taste, but once you adjust your palate, it becomes a viable alternative to sugar in beverages.

The leaves have negligible calories and can be boiled with teas and iced to make a sweet-tasting soda alternative. You can grow stevia from seeds obtained from a reputable supplier or you can grow it from cuttings. The plants do well in containers and can overwinter indoors in zones 7 and below with adequate light. When you harvest leaves by trimming the plants between leaf segments, similarly to how you harvest basil, the plants will become bushier and even more productive.

Corn and sugar are easy targets because there are delicious, available alternatives. But there are endless ways to diversify your diet:

  • Swap rice for bulgur, quinoa, lentils, or split peas.
  • Try goat or duck as a beef substitute.
  • Use buckwheat and amaranth flour instead of wheat.
  • Substitute sunflower seed meat for almonds.

Study your shopping list, identify the things you buy regularly, and then seek substitutes that can be grown in your community. You may be surprised at how much variety is available when you make the effort to look for it.

#2. Reintegrating Local Farming into our Communities

peak-chicken-peak-eggs-fullThe expression “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” has never had more relevance than it does right now.

Checking Into Chicken

Chickens are fairly easy to raise at the home scale and they add fun and beauty to a landscape, so if you are seriously thinking about raising a backyard flock, now might be a good time to start. Make sure you know your LORE (laws, ordinances, rights, and entitlements) before taking the plunge. Also, talk to chicken owners you trust or do research to determine best practices in buying and keeping chickens in your area.

If it’s against the “LORE” for you to keep backyard chickens or you don’t have the space, how about rallying your community to turn underutilized common areas onto vegetable gardens and raise egg chickens or egg ducks there? Not only does this concept make common space meaningful again by doing something productive with it, but it can create opportunities for new farmers to enter the profession, and opportunities for residential “lawnscapers” to become organic “foodscapers.”

baby-ducks-and-chickensLaying Off Lawns

And this leads us to another method for countering peak food—let’s overcome our lawn addiction. North Americans devote 40,000 square miles of prime growing land to lawns.8https://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/edible-ground-covers That is more land than we use to grow wheat or corn, it requires half the American residential water supply to grow, and it uses heavy doses of post-peak nitrogen and chemical products that end up soiling our waterways.

In the era of peak food, we really need to kick our lawn habit to the curb.

If you are a DIY type and you already take care of your lawn and landscaping, swap your holly hedge for blueberry bushes, replace flowers with flowering herbs, grow veggies anywhere you currently grow annuals, or build raised beds right over your lawn. Fruit trees like paw paw, jujube, Asian pear, mulberry, and elderberry are less needy than many ornamental trees like dogwood or flowering cherry, so use those as your starting points for planting a “foodscape.”

Surround the trees with a living mulch of Russian comfrey and borage. As the trees grow, prune them for good airflow and a less dense shade profile so you can grow shade-tolerant spinach, lettuce, and peas under the trees. If you have good southern exposure in front of your trees, plant fruit bushes there, plus herbs like chives, lemon balm, and mint to attract beneficial insects. You can also vine grapes up the trunks, making use of that vertical space.

herb-spiral-for-microclimatesIf you are not the DIY type and you spend on lawnscaping, reallocate your budget toward foodscaping to support a new generation of growers.

Many professional farmers and landscapers are excellent machine operators, soil scientists, irrigation experts, and pesticide applicators. But they may not have the expertise to grow a variety of foods without the aid of heavy equipment or purchased fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.

To beat peak food and take advantage of prime growing land located within our populated communities, we need more small-scale farmers and growers skilled in controlling pests without chemicals, adding fertility with organic inputs produced onsite, minimizing water usage through smart planting, and applying intensive planting methods to increase food production.

There are plenty of people who want to do this, but we need to create the economic opportunities for them to be able to make a living at it.

To get started, talk to your current landscaper about having them do the work for you. If they don’t have the skills and they aren’t willing to gain them, talk to your local agricultural or gardening extension office, farming schools, vendors at farmers markets, or nearby permaculture schools to find people who are able to help you.

To keep costs low, you can make agreements to let student farmers sell surplus crops and keep the profit in exchange for doing the work. There are also a lot of budding permaculturists who offer their consulting services at discounted rates to develop their resumes and client bases.

Finding ways to grow food in our homes and neighborhoods should be a priority for anyone concerned about peak food.

#3. Supporting Community Food Security

Planting food instead of lawns not only increases food production, but also raises awareness of the importance of doing so. A surprising number of people are not even aware of the issues surrounding peak food. An even more surprising number of people are aware of some of these issues but feel powerless to do anything about them.

By bringing food growing to the forefront of our daily lives, we create opportunities to share our knowledge and help others collaborate with us. Our window of opportunity to beat peak food gets smaller the longer we wait and as weather becomes more erratic and resources less available, so the sooner we spread the news and help others get involved, the more impact we can have.

If you have any doubts about the urgency of building food communities, look to China for guidance. The Chinese government has encouraged its food corporations, through loans and preferential economic policy, to purchase and accumulate companies from around the world that grow and process food products (e.g., Smithfield Foods). This is part of a concerted effort to ensure food security for China’s growing population. And, it might be a wise policy given the reality of peak industrial food.

Yet not all governments are this proactive, and even when food is stockpiled or production is secured, distribution systems may not be fully developed. Also, goods may be distributed with preference for specific populations, like wealthy cities and wealthy citizens.

Realistically, unlike the Chinese government, most of us here don’t have $5 billion to buy up 25% of the pork production in the U.S. “just in case.” But most of us do have some kind of grocery budget and/or a food-growing system in place. Instead of spending our money and resources to support a post-peak industrial food system, we need to redirect our efforts toward local and sustainable food-growing activities.

Home growers can set up food-swapping networks with other growers to exchange products and increase diversity. Non-growers can take their food budgets to the farmers’ market and buy direct from local producers, or pick up weekly baskets from a local CSA. Greater demand for local food means more local growers. More local growers means more food security when declining industrial farms can no longer meet the food needs of a growing population.

We can adapt our eating and growing habits, and make the paradigm shift required to overcome peak food, if we acknowledge the problem and meet the challenges individually, and in our home communities, through thoughtful effort.

We can reach critical mass and cause real change in our society.

But the clock is ticking….

 

 

TGN Bi-Weekly Newsletter

(This is an updated version of a post originally published August 14, 2015.)

References   [ + ]

1. https://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol19/iss4/art50/
2. http://www.economist.com/content/global_debt_clock/
3. https://www.usda.gov/oce/commodity/projections/USDAAgriculturalProjections2022.pdf
4. https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-price-outlook/summary-findings/
5. http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3107e/i3107e00.htm
6. https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/NationalCountofFMDirectory17.JPG
7. https://www.drfuhrman.com/learn/library/articles/95/andi-food-scores-rating-the-nutrient-density-of-foods
8. https://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/edible-ground-covers

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Compare Food Storage-Green Beans And Corn

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Today I want to compare food storage as in green beans and corn. When we had six of us living at home, we pressure canned pints of green beans we grew in the garden and we froze fresh corn scraped off the cob before the corn became genetically modified. Years ago, we used the dark rich soil on our land with zero pesticides required. I purchased seeds before they called them Heirloom seeds. Yes, I purchased a few plants, but mostly used seeds because they were cheaper. Wow, how things have changed over the years concerning seeds. Who would have guessed that a company could patent/own certain seeds?

Who in the world would have ever thought you could be arrested for saving your own garden seeds. Wow, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that saving some seeds is illegal. If you have seeds that are owned by a certain company, you better not save them. Please remember to get several can openers. Can Openers

Today is not about gardening, but buying cans of corn and green beans. These are all ready to eat right out of the can.

Compare Food Storage-Corn

compare food storage

I’m really glad a reader asked me yesterday, “what is a #10 can?” I remember my publisher asking me the same thing. In case you still need a copy of my book, please buy the hard copy and study it with your family. “Prepare Your Family For Survival” by Linda Loosli. Let me explain what a #10 can is, it is a can that is 7 inches high and 6-1/4 inches in diameter. It’s fairly similar to the large coffee cans you can still find at the grocery stores. I’m going to talk about the cans above going left to right. I did not add sales tax to the products listed below. Please keep in mind that prices can change daily, I have no control over the cost of each item. One can of corn has sugar!! Why does it need sugar?

Thrive Life

The first item on the left end is a #10 can of freeze-dried corn, you can eat it directly out of the can, or hydrate it and serve as a side dish. It has a shelf-life of about 25 years, unopened, depending on the temperature where you store your food storage. It’s great when you add it to soups. Freeze-dried by Thrive
Ingredients: Sweet corn, nothing else. It weighs .99 lbs. and today’s price is $19.59. Please compare ounce to ounce when buying any food storage, the cans may be the same size but may have different ingredients and weigh more or less than other cans. Don’t forget to add in the shipping cost, if applicable.

Great Value

It weighs 15.25 ounces and cost $.50 cents today. Ingredients: corn, water, and salt. Suggested expired date: 8-8-19.

Kroger

It weighs 15.25 ounces and cost $.50 cents last week. Ingredients: corn, water, SUGAR, and salt. Suggested expired date: 12-2019.

Libby’s

It weighs 15 ounces and cost $.77 cents today. Ingredients: corn, water, and salt. Suggested expired date: 12-2019.

Organic Great Value

It weighs 15.25 ounces and is USDA/Organic and cost $1.32 today. Ingredients: Organic corn, water, and sea salt. Best if used by date: 12/31/18.

DelMonte

It weighs 15.25 ounces and is Non-GMO and cost $.68 cents today. Ingredients: corn, water, and sea salt. Best if used by 9-9-19.

Compare Food Storage-Green Beans

compare food storage

Thrive Life

Is a #10 can of freeze-dried green beans, you can eat it directly out of the can or hydrate it and serve as a side dish. It has a shelf-life of about 25 years unopened, depending on the temperature where you store your food storage. It’s great when you add it to soups or stews. Freeze-dried by Thrive
Ingredients: Green beans, nothing else. It weighs .34 lbs. and today’s price is $20.19. Please compare ounce to ounce when buying any food storage, the cans may be the same size but may have different ingredients, and weigh more or less than other cans. Don’t forget to add in the shipping cost if applicable.

Butter Kernel

It weighs 14.5 ounces and cost $.76 cents today. Ingredients: cut green beans, water, and salt. Expiration date: 8-28-2019.

Double Luck

It weighs 14.5 ounces and cost $.40 cents today. Ingredients: green beans, water, and salt. Expiration date: 7-16-2019.

Libby’s

It weighs 14.5 ounces and cost $.77 cents today. Ingredients: cut green beans and salt. Best if used by date: 12-2019.

Kroger

It weighs 14.5 ounces and cost $.50 cents last week. Ingredients: green beans, water, and salt. Best by 12-2019.

DelMonte

It weighs 14.5 ounces and cost $.68 cents today. Ingredients: green beans, water, and sea salt. The can says Non-GMO. Suggested expiration date: 7-19-2020.

I hope today you learned a little about how to compare food storage. Did you notice some of the cans look like they are the same size but weigh different amounts and cost a little differently per ounce? I decided Mark and I needed to stock up on items we can share with our friends and neighbors when a disaster or unforeseen emergency comes our way.

Let me know what canned food items you want to stock up on and let’s compare food storage ideas. I bought a few cases of different cans to fill the pantry.

I hadn’t seen the brand Double Luck for years, I didn’t realize they still sold them. I hope this makes you compare food storage purchases in the future. Thanks again for being prepared for the unexpected.

Survival food by Linda

The post Compare Food Storage-Green Beans And Corn appeared first on Food Storage Moms.

Kitchen DIY: How to Nixtimalize Corn

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This project looks deceptively simple, but it is one that I had to try a couple times to get right. I only stuck with it because Nixtamalization is a vital process for people that use corn as a staple food. This is because the nutrient niacin is unavailable in unprocessed corn, and by cooking dried […]

The post Kitchen DIY: How to Nixtimalize Corn appeared first on Dave’s Homestead.

3 ‘Survival Crops’ That Store (Naturally) More Than 1 Year

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3 ‘Survival Crops’ That Store (Naturally) More Than 1 Year

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If you’re growing or foraging your own food for winter storage, there are plenty of options for keeping your family fed in the early days of winter. Many root crops, fruits and greens can keep for a few months cool and out of direct sun, even without a proper root cellar.

As the winter presses on, though, options start to dwindle and there are fewer and fewer choices in dependable home-raised crops that will take you all the way through the hunger gap into the first productive days of late spring and early summer. Nonetheless, humans survived millennia without refrigeration and long-term food shipments, so there’s plenty to get your family by.

There are multiple reasons you should look into long-term storage crops. What if spring and early summer crops fail? What happens when a full summer’s worth of crops fail and you’re heading into winter again, with just what you still have on hand?

In 2013 the Northeast experienced record rainfall and cloud cover in June, meaning that the growing conditions were more like an average northeast November. Crops rotted in the ground, and normally dependable summer and long-season fall crops were delayed by months or could not be grown at all. Looking back further, the year 1816 was dubbed “the year without a summer” because a volcanic eruption caused widespread climate problems, and many areas experienced blizzards and hard frosts literally every single month of the year.

Looking For Non-GMO Seeds? Get Them From A Company You Can Trust!

Of course, you also could pressure can, salt cure or dehydrate food to increase storage life, all of which require either special equipment or considerable time and effort to ensure that a food that would otherwise spoil stays palatable for longer than it would on its own.

There is a better way. By selecting foods that naturally store for extended periods of time without specialized effort or processing, you ensure survival and food security with minimal extra effort and in general minimize your consumption of processed foods of any sort. There’s something to be said for providing your own home grown, long-term food security, all without the need of special equipment or elaborate processing.

1. Nuts

3 ‘Survival Crops’ That Store (Naturally) More Than 1 Year

Image source: Pixabay.com

While annual gardens and fruit orchards tend to get a lot of attention for providing food self-sufficiency, nut trees are a great investment to provide a stable fat and protein source to balance out your family’s diet. They have the added benefit of a long storage life, especially at cool temperatures.   All nuts keep best unroasted and left in the shell.

Hazelnuts, a high-yielding, easy-to-grow home crop, can keep up to two years held between 32 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit (in a cool unheated basement), or for just over a year at 50-60 (F) degrees in a back closet on the north side of your house in cooler regions. They have the added benefit of being one of the most versatile nuts, because they can be grown anywhere between zone 4 and 9 successfully. There are even some zone 3 cultivars.

Pecans come in second place in nut shelf life, and can keep just over a year at cool, unheated basement temperatures. Very high fat nuts such as walnuts don’t keep quite as well as the others, but remain good for 9-12 months at cool temperatures.

Be sure to check your nuts for rancidity by smell before eating them. Nevertheless, rancid or not, it won’t harm you to eat them during an emergency situation as long as they don’t have visible mold or pest infestation.

2. Dried corn and beans

3 ‘Survival Crops’ That Store (Naturally) More Than 1 Year

Image source: Pixabay.com

While many forms of grain and staple legumes store for extended periods of time, dry corn and beans are the most practical for growing and processing at home without equipment. Beans and corn can be harvested, cleaned, dried and stored all by hand without specialized equipment, unlike other grains such as wheat. If dried thoroughly to a low moisture content and kept cool, home dried corn and beans can last 2-3 years, without the need to invest in long-term storage options like vacuum sealing and oxygen absorbers. With the additional investment to reduce or eliminate oxygen, corn and beans can hold successfully for up to 10 years.

3. Honey and maple

Natural sweeteners like honey and maple are full of beneficial enzymes and micro-nutrients, not to mention a ready source of calories, and they boast considerable shelf lives. Honey, if kept uncontaminated and well-sealed from moisture, can last at room temperature indefinitely. Maple syrup, packaged very hot into glass jars such Mason jars, has very long shelf life potential – upwards of 50 year or more. Maple manufacturers recommend a storage life in glass of no more than four years for optimum flavor, assuming the jar is unopened. Maple stored in plastic jugs should not be kept more than 1-2 years, and metal jugs are only rated for six months of storage life.

What would you add to our list? Are there other foods you grow and store for long-term survival? Share your tips in the section below:

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

Our New Three Sisters Garden. Hugelkultur.

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This season we are trying a slightly new garden method, just to see if it works. This will be our three sisters garden, corn, beans & squash. This method of making a garden bed is known as Hugelkultur .

I will be making a video of this later when the crops are up, but right now this is as far as I have got. I dug a trench first & filled it with garden refuge, cut grass & weeds, heavier tree trimmings on top of that, some old garden edging logs that we have replaced, then the soil on top. I did add some chook manure before adding the soil to help break down the refuse.
When I started mounding the earth, I soon realised that I was not going to have enough soil to cover the highest logs. I did not want to bring more soil from elsewhere or use our compost that we needed for our other garden beds, so I removed two of the top logs.

The two pumpkins are volunteers from last year.

Book: Homegrown Whole Grains

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A backyard field of grains? Yes, absolutely! Wheat and corn are rapidly replacing grass in the yards of dedicated locavores across the country. For adventurous homeowners who want to get in on the movement, Homegrown Whole Grains is the place to begin. Growing whole grains is simpler and more rewarding than most people imagine. With […]

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Completely, 100 Percent Off-Grid: 9 Essential Foods You Should Grow

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Completely, 100 Percent Off-Grid: 9 Essential Foods You Should Grow

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Are you ready to feed your family by what you grow and raise? If you want to reduce your dependency on the commercial food supply, you better start now. It is important to develop a functional homestead capable of producing enough food to live on before you need it.

Establishing crops, building infrastructure, raising animals and working out the kinks all takes time, and you may have a few less successful years before you can really eat off the grid.

Assuming you have a house on cleared land, with at least one usable outbuilding already constructed, then you will be able to focus on growing food. With long working days, attention to seasonal change and weather, efficient work practices, and regular routines, two adults can work the land for food within a few years. Figuring in planting time, growing time, daily chores, pest and weed control, soil maintenance and construction, it would be reasonable to expect a partially self-sufficient homestead within three years, and a fully sustaining one in around five years. In addition to a milk source (cows or goats), you should plan on having:

Protein

1. Beans – Reliable and easy to grow, beans are a nutritional staple for the homesteading family. Prepare the soil early, and plan on 2-3 months of growing before harvest to get a yield in your first year, and you can expect more in year two.

Just 30 Grams Of This Survival Superfood Provides More Nutrition Than An Entire Meal!

2. Poultry – If starting with chicks, expect 2-3 years of successful rearing, selection, brooding and culling before you will have your flock established. In the meantime, you will collect eggs and eat birds you choose not to keep in the flock. Start with 10-12 chicks, and plan for them to be around 3-4 months old before butchering.

3. Rabbits – Rabbits are quick producers of meat for your family. It is not unreasonable to expect 20 or more rabbits per year from a single breeding pair. Allow for 1-2 years for your rabbits to become established. Select for breeding performance, health and size, and introduce new genetics regularly.

Grains

4. Corn – Corn is a prolific grain crop needing much nutrition from the soil and up to four months of heat for production. In your first year of growing corn, it is not unusual to have a lot of losses due to weather, pests or soil issues. However, once you have worked out the issues corn can be an important staple grain. Plan on about two years of learning before cultivating a substantial harvest.

5. Wheat – One of the most common grains in the American diet, wheat is reasonably easy to grow and hard to harvest. Wheat is ready after around two months of hot weather. When planning to start wheat, figure in threshing and grinding time.

Fruits & Vegetables

6. Winter Squash – Grow winter squash to supply your family with important vitamins and provide you with an easy keeper crop. Winter squash takes up to 4 months to mature, but you should be able to get a good yield in your first year with appropriate pest management and watering.

Completely, 100 Percent Off-Grid: 9 Essential Foods You Should Grow

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7. Apples – Although apples can be extremely useful, you need to plan on 6 – 10 years with your trees before they will bear fruit. Your patience will pay off, however, and planting apple trees is well worth the wait.

Looking For Non-GMO Seeds? Get Them From A Company You Can Trust!

8. Potatoes – Potatoes are easy to start. You can expect a good yield in your first year of potatoes. Short season varieties will grow in as little as 2 months, but longer season varieties can take 3 months or more.

Extras

9. Honey – Honey is a fantastic sweetener on the homestead and comes with lots of nutritional benefit. Plus, bees pollinate your crops. However, bees take a while to get production ramped up. Your first year harvest will be very small, but in the second year you can harvest up to 30 pounds of surplus honey from one hive (leaving the bees something to eat over the winter).

If self-sufficiency is your goal, then don’t wait to start on projects like these. Even if you’re still buying most of your food, developing your homestead so you can begin slowly weaning yourself away from doing so, means you won’t have to spend your early years of self-sufficiency struggling to find food.

What advice would you add? What would you add to this list? Share it in the section below:

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

7 Vegetable Pairs You Should NEVER Plant Together (No. 5 Is Where Everyone Messes Up)

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7 Vegetable Pairs You Should NEVER Plant Together (No. 5 Is Where Everyone Messes Up)

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Companion planting — the practice of intentionally planting two or more species in close proximity to each other — has many advantages.

Paired properly, companion plants can help each other grow, deter pests, reduce weeds and even improve flavor. Unfortunately, not all plants are ready to link leaves and sing “Kumbaya” together. In this post, we’ll look at vegetable pairs that should be kept far apart from one another.

1. Corn and tomatoes

While you’d think a common enemy would make for good friends, in the garden it’s usually a recipe for disaster. Both corn and tomato are vulnerable to the same worm and the same fungal infections and if planted too close together, it makes it easy for invaders to conquer both at once.

2. Cucumber and sage

It sounds like it should be the name of an enticing new lotion fragrance, but as friendly as they may seem in the cosmetics aisle, cucumber and sage have no business being together in the garden. In fact, cucumbers and almost all aromatic herbs have an antagonistic relationship. The strong scent of sage and other herbs are likely to affect the final flavor of the cucumber, resulting in an unpleasant off-taste.

3. Radishes and hyssop

Another herb-vegetable combination to avoid is radishes and hyssop. Hyssop is a fragrant flowering herb used to scent potpourri and prepare teas, but it also tends to wreak havoc with radishes. Don’t write off hyssop entirely, though — it’s great for luring away cabbage moths and is said to help make grapes grow.

4. Onions and peas

Mom may have spent a lot of time trying to talk you into eating the onions and peas hidden together in a casserole dish, but out in the garden you can keep them as far away from each other as you’d like.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

In fact, the entire legume family and the entire allium family tend to “go Godfather” on each other, likely because onion (and its many relatives like shallots, leeks and garlic) set up root systems with large radii that have a tendency to hoard needed nutrients from beans and peas.

5. Tomatoes and potatoes

7 Vegetable Pairs You Should NEVER Plant Together (No. 5 Is Where Everyone Messes Up)

Image source: Pixabay.com

While it may be fun to say their names together, tomatoes and potatoes don’t belong together in the garden. Both are subject to the same early and late blights, making it easy for a problem with one to quickly become a problem for both.

6. Dill and carrots

Dill participates in some of the most complicated companion planting relationships you’re likely to find in the vegetable garden. Loved for its small yellow blossoms and bright perky flavor, dill will do great things for asparagus plants, broccoli plants and a wide range of others. On the other hand, it seriously inhibits carrots. Both part of the Umbelliferae family, dill can cross-pollinate with carrots to a disastrous end. Even more confusing? The relationship between dill and tomatoes. Planting dill and tomato together will benefit the tomato … at least until the dill reaches maturity, at which point it will start to stunt the growth of tomatoes and should be moved.

7. Strawberries and cabbage

Save any combination of strawberries and cabbage (and other brassicas like broccoli and cauliflower) for the salad bar. While strawberries appreciate the presence of onions, thyme, bean, and sage planted nearby, they get tired of having to call the cops on their pest-prone cabbage neighbors.

Although far from an exact science, keeping these neighbor no-nos in mind when planning your garden will help you get the most out of your garden space.

What would you add to our list? Share your advice in the section below:

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

The Three Sisters: How To Garden The ‘Native American Way’

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The Three Sisters: How To Garden The ‘Native American Way’How many of us have sisters we can truly count on? One or more who will be by our side rain or shine? You may be wondering how sisters and gardening go together, but it seems they always have for Native Americans. The ancient method called Three Sisters gardening is a proven method for healthy bounty and successful vegetable growing. You can grow three vegetables – corn, beans and squash – in an efficient and earth-friendly way. It’s the method the Native Americans taught the Pilgrims, and it’s the method that thousands of people still use each spring.

A Little Bit of History

Three sisters gardening provides a healthy diet and long-term fertility of garden soil. It was a system of gardening that native people perfected before the first European stepped onto the New World. Native people grew a wide selection of plants which often were drought-resistant and adaptable. Gardens were more of a small field or clearing. This would be big enough to grow produce for seeds the next year, as well as for food. Seeds would be gathered and stored, and it has been recorded by the early settlers how the native people would store ground maize to use during the winter.

They looked for signs in nature as to when to begin planting. For example, when the Canadian geese returned or the Dogwood tree’s leaves were the size of a squirrel’s ear, the soil was warm enough to plant seeds. They grew variations of today’s Three Sister gardens. Maize was the common corn.

Need Non-GMO Heirloom Seeds For Your Spring Garden? The Best Deals Are Right Here!

At the beginning of the planting season, there would be ceremonies. A festival would be held for the harvesting of the first green corn on the cob. Men and women had specific roles in the garden.

So, why do corn, squash and beans get planted together in this type of garden?

Traditionally, the native people viewed the Three Sisters — corn, squash, and beans — as a gift from the gods. These three vegetables were important both physically and spiritually to every tribe. There were several different tribes, with their own variations of the story behind the three sisters, leading to different methods of gardening. In every one, however, each plant had a significant role. Scientifically, these three plants nutritionally complement each other. Corn has the carbs, beans have the protein and squash has vitamins and oils. Corn provides a pole for the beans to climb and in turn, bean vines stabilize the corn stalks and also provide nitrogen in the soil for the corn. Squash plants are prickly enough to deter predators. Squash also acts as a ground-covering mulch and prevents weeds from growing. Squash also helps the soil retain moisture. All leftovers can be put back into the soil at the end of the season.

Planting Your Own Three Sisters Garden

Planting a Three Sisters garden is slightly different than the common garden style we know of today. Find an area with a minimum space of 10 X 10 square feet. This ensures good corn pollination. The site needs to be in the sun. Plants will need six to eight hours of sunlight a day. Put compost or manure in the soil — or fish, if you truly want to follow native methods.

You can sow seeds once the night temperatures are about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This usually happens in middle to late spring to June.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

The Three Sisters: How To Garden The ‘Native American Way’

Image source: Plimoth.org

Include pole beans or runner beans, as well as squash or pumpkins (both have vines, rather than bush.)

How to Plant a Three Sisters Garden

There are many ways to plant a Three Sisters garden, but here is one:

  • Choose the type of corn, squash/pumpkin and bean to plant.
  • Make mounds for your beans and corn. The center of each mound should be five feet from the next mound’s center.
  • Mounds should be 18-24 inches across with flat tops. Plant the corn with four seeds in the center of a mound, and when the plants are about four inches tall, plant the squash and beans (at the same time).
  • Plant about four beans in a circle around each corn stalk. (Make sure you weed the ground before planting.)
  • Plant several squash seeds in a circle around the beans. Once the plants start growing, thin the mounds down to allow the stronger plants to grow.

Success for this garden depends on the spacing of seeds, timing of planting and the variety of crops. Do not plant too many seeds together or the vines will snarl into a mess and the corn will be smothered or crushed. Three Sisters gardening combines food, gardening, culture and history, making this gardening experience one-of-a-kind.

Have you ever planted a Three Sisters garden? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

Every Spring Gardeners Make This Avoidable Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

What’s for dinner? It’s in the can

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food storage cansWant to know when I am most often thankful to have food storage? It’s on those nights when I have trouble figuring out what to have for dinner!

Being a Survival Mom doesn’t mean just being prepared for the big emergencies, but for the every day ones – like having four hungry children to feed.

More often than not, I have a main dish planned, but I need a side dish or two to go with it. For my kids anyway, they’ll need more nourishment than just an entree! When I’ve been desperate in the past for side dish ideas, I’ve looked over what we had on hand, hoping for some inspiration!

One recent night, I knew we were going to have shredded barbecue beef sandwiches. We’ve been having them two to three times a month as I’m trying to work our way through a half cow we bought. I needed a new side or two to keep my family’s taste buds happy. Baked beans and corn came to mind, so I searched for some new recipes on Del Monte’s Web site. (I didn’t have a can of baked beans in the house, so I’d have to make them from “scratch.”) Below is what I tried, along with a few variations that can be made with them. (There was one recipe I didn’t try yet, but it gave me an “aha” moment – using canned fruit in smoothies! My children love smoothies, but we don’t always have the right ingredients on hand. That will change soon.)

These recipes use canned ingredients, along with seasonings and an occasional fresh ingredient or two. Opening a few cans makes the cooking process super easy and painless.

Baked Beans

This baked beans recipe called for pinto beans (canned), diced tomatoes (canned), sautéed onions, brown sugar, mustard, cinnamon and allspice. Dried beans could be used, although that takes a bit of planning and prep work to soak and cook them. Dried onions could be used instead of sautéed onions. Instead of baking, I threw the ingredients in a crock pot on low.

The recipe ended up a bit on the sweet side, so I added some paprika, cumin and jalapenos to make it a little zippier. It was a hit with everyone. I’ll probably cut down on some of the brown sugar next time and add some bacon if we have some on hand, but now I can make baked beans from “scratch” pretty easily.

Zesty Mexican Corn

This easy corn side dish calls for corn, butter, chili powder, cumin and lime juice. The corn could be sautéed in oil instead of butter and lime juice could be substituted with lime essential oil (just a drop or two). I had never cooked corn this way and it added a little crunch to the corn. This was another hit with the family and I wish I had doubled the recipe. Frozen or freeze dried corn could easily be used in place of the canned corn. Onions, green peppers, diced tomatoes or salsa could all be added for extra flavor.

Both of these recipes are very easy to make from food storage and pantry items. They could easily be done on the gas or charcoal grill or even over a fire. If we ever end up facing a long-term power outage, I think my family and I will be grateful to know different options for cooking from our food storage.

It’s in the can

Canned goods are a great part of any food storage pantry. Canned fruits and vegetables can make meals easy when the power goes out and are easy to pack up if you need to leave your home. Make sure to have a hand operated can opener with the cans and in any bug-out bag, though. If you end up in a situation where you have canned food and no can opener, you can try this tip from Survival Life: rub the can top side down on a hard surface like concrete until the seal starts to break.

Canned goods do have expiration dates, but many people believe the food can be good long past that date. Expiration dates are set by food production companies and can just reflect the “peak of freshness.” How can you know canned goods are still okay to eat? Signs that the food inside may not be safe to eat are bulging cans, rusted cans and cans that are leaking. Canned meat may break down more over time and tomato based products can break down cans eventually since they are high-acidic foods. In fact, I’ve heard complaints about canned tomato products than any other canned food.

While canned goods may not always be the absolutely healthiest option, in times of emergency (every day or catastrophic), they can come in handy to feed yourself and your family. Take the time to be creative with the food you store – your future taste buds (and those of your family) will thank you!

food storage cans

How your local farmer NOT growing GMO corn got hurt

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Another great one by Chaya Foedus:

80 million. That is the number of corn acres in the United States. 85% That’s how much of it is GMO. If you are a farmer, please leave a comment with any corrections or opinions you may have to shed light on this subject. I write any of this at all in an attempt to…

Continue reading

The post How your local farmer NOT growing GMO corn got hurt appeared first on Pantry Paratus.