Expecting the Unexpected

FarmerJamie

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I wasn't certain which section to post this, but this seemed like the best spot.

The local news story (link below) got me thinking. Seasonal weather is a real challenge to our self-sufficiency goals or ambitions. Here in Ohio, the previous winter resulted in little to no peach crop in the state, we may see a repeat this summer. I used to have a small orchard, with varieties of trees supposedly more cold hardy/tolerant. In a decade of fussing with them, I had 4 seasons where I got basically nothing off of them. I have had severe weather (heavy rain and hail) wipe out 2 years of gardens - fortunately it was early enough in the season, I was able to re-plant and recover mostly. And even your herds/flocks are not immune - one spring I had a pack of coyotes breach my fencing and killed all 50 meat chickens one week before I was planning to send them to freezer.

So if one is truly self-sufficient, what is your mitigation effort to minimize the negative effect of bad things happening? What actions or strategies do you employ to ensure your food supply will be adequate?

http://www.newsnet5.com/news/local-...-raise-concerns-for-maple-and-orchard-farmers
 

Britesea

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Pretty much what they did in the old days: store more than a year's worth of seeds and plant-based foods so you can weather a bad year, and hope you can get fresh livestock from someone that didn't get hit as hard as you. Even so, people starve when they are dependent on their own efforts; look at all those horrible pictures of starving children in India or Africa....
All you can do is your best and hope that's enough.
 

frustratedearthmother

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I'm lucky enough to live in an area where we can garden practically year round...but just because it's "supposed" to work doesn't mean it always will. Case in point - I was a victim of killer compost last year. The harder I worked on my garden with mulching and weeding - the worse it got!

Sooooo... I'm changing the plan a little this year. I invested in some very large tubs and am going to experiment with some container gardening. I've also moved my main garden from the 'poisoned' area to a brand new area. In fact, I'm going to do a little gardening in several different places.

I've had a yearly problem with stink bugs wiping out my tomatoes. But - I noticed last year that the bugs never found the tomatoes that I had in a pot on the front side of the house - totally away from the regular garden. That gave me the idea to spread my garden out into different areas.

Like Britesea, I've got a lot of seeds and a canner and a big ol' pantry full of goodies.

Good fencing and a good LGD has virtually eliminated any predator problems. (even though I caught a possum in a live trap a few weeks ago) I guess he had been after eggs because I didn't lose any birds. If I hadn't caught him in the trap I would have let the Westies stay in the barnyard for a night or two - they are the BEST varmint dogs EVER!
 

tortoise

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I'm guessing diversity is part of a solution (buffer). Diverse varieties of plants. We plant a couple varieties of a crop and some years one variety does great, the next year it doesn't. Plus diverse food sources, so if one is wiped out you have other food sources left.
 

Beekissed

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We can enough to last a couple of years and strive for sustainable type farming practices..no chemicals, low maintenance, breeding/growing for natural health and hardiness. Sometimes things happen over which one has no control(often in this world), so I do all farming/gardening with God and trust that whatever happens He is in control and aware and will take care of all my needs, no matter how small.

For livestock I keep a dog outside around the coop and free range flock 24/7 and that takes care of most preds. I've learned just this year to never have chicks in the fall during hawk migration time....live and learn on that one. Spring/summer chicks only from now on. I also keep a shotgun by the back door with shells at ready and sleep light. When I hear the coyotes calling around our meadow, I'll often go out to be with Jake and call back to them....sort of my way of saying, "Yeah...he ain't alone, fellas....".

I've moved away from buying nursery stock plants and have been getting back to seeding my own and trying to use heirloom type seeds as well. Also mixing my own starter soils so as to inoculate the seedlings with my soil culture right off, so there's no transplant shock later when they move from a sterile potting soil and indoors to the soils in my garden. Since doing that, I've noted my own plants, though smaller when planted, will catch up to and accelerate past the nursery plants, stay healthier and produce more....they are also more resistant to predation.

Going to start a Back to Eden garden this year to amend my soil and retain/disperse moisture in the event of too rainy or too dry gardening seasons. Also using this in my orchard for the same reason. God led me to that method~brought it to my attention for the first time this year, though the info on it has been out there since 2001~ and I sense He is wanting me to try it, so I am. He knows what is coming and what has been and every minute particle of what is happening, so I'm trusting that His guidance is wisdom... and so I follow it.

Beyond that I keep an open mind to learning, constantly read and study on faith and farming, and then apply what I learn. That seems to be sufficient.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
 

Britesea

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Hmm, I read a little about the Back to Eden garden, and it doesn't sound that different from what most organic gardeners do, or at least try to do. Maybe I need to read further to see what the flap is all about?

One thing I'm doing is looking for crops that will do well in our climate. High desert is a very challenging area for gardening- arid, short growing season, drying winds, etc. In my garden, tomatoes are a happy bonus, not a staple. Instead, I rely on things like peas, favas, beets and other crops that do well in cool weather. I'm excited about trying the Painted Mountain flour corn, which was developed in the mountains of Montana, and may do well here. I also want to try quinoa, since much of the Incan empire was also at high elevations and little water.
 

Beekissed

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It's a tad different, though it does incorporate a more organic, sustainable approach. I think it has a lot to do with the thickness of, and the total area covered by, freshly chipped up wood in the garden and in the orchard, as well as the ongoing use of chickens to supply composted side dressing, though I'm not impressed with his flock care practices or the sustainability of his animal husbandry.

The thickness of the wood chips allowed to decompose in one place and further addition of the same has created a top soil over his hard, clay soils that can be used to plant into without tilling in amendments. All the amendments are just added to the top and composted right in place. There is no further tilling in this kind of garden, no digging or double digging...he does all his gardening with a rake.

In his orchard the wood chips were originally 16 in. deep and right up to the trunk of the tree, which every other source says is a big no-no, but it turns out they are wrong and it has benefited his trees. Other people who have tried it find it also has benefited the pasture beside these garden plots, creating a more lush growth as the nutrients run off of the composting wood chips.

There are follow up vids on his garden and orchard on YT that tells about what he has learned down through the years with this method and they are impressive, to say the least. I can't say I've been that impressed with any other type of gardening I've seen, tried or even read about.
 

baymule

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Just moved to 8 acres, going to plant a wide variety of fruit, nut trees, grapes and berries. And will be planting heritage seeds, already have a lot of those I have been growing. Plus I can a lot. I freeze and dehydrate too. Already have chickens but need to add some more, and going to raise Dorper hair sheep.
 

Britesea

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I can attest to the benefits of thick layers of composting materials in the garden. We took over the farm that DH grew up on; his parents had been dumping the litter from all their animals onto the area they used for a garden for 30+ years. San Jose is notorious for its heavy adobe soil- with hardpan only 12" from the surface; but in that garden I have dug more than 3 feet down (to plant a fruit tree) and never hit hardpan- just beautiful rich humus.
We also didn't bother with digging the soil- just push aside the unfinished compost/mulch on top and stick a seed in... then jump back so the plant doesn't stick you in the eye, lol. I am fondly remembering cauliflower 14" in diameter, and corn plants that were two feet taller than the conventionally-grown corn on our neighbor's side of the fence.
Now I'm in an area with volcanic soil- rich in minerals but very low in organic matter. I don't want to wait 30 years, so I'm trying to add tons of additives and finished compost to hurry things along. The soil doesn't hold water very well either, so I need more organic matter to help with that as well. I'm using raised beds so I don't have to improve ALL the soil, just the area I use for crops. I decided to use pine needles (which we have in abundance) in the pathways; they tend to really block out the weeds.
 

FarmerD

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So if one is truly self-sufficient, what is your mitigation effort to minimize the negative effect of bad things happening? What actions or strategies do you employ to ensure your food supply will be adequate?

for perennials i would suggest planting as large a diversity as possible including less vulnerable fruits. look into permaculture/food forest design as opposed to straight orchard style plantings. also, try to use any existing micro climates to shelter sensitive plantings. i think we all have to prepare for more weather extremes going forward.
 

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