Thursday, May 19, 2011

Someone's going to miss dinner

I'm keeping more than half an eye on the Mississippi flooding. Of course, it's raised havoc with farming. It's hard to plow and plant a field that has motor boats traveling across it. Then there's the issue with barge traffic. A good bit of food and fuel normally travel that old river. Food prices are going to go up.

Factor in unsettled weather around the rest of the world, and there isn't going to be enough grain to go around. Sure, we could stop feeding grain to animals and there might be enough to feed all the humans, but where's the profit in that? Apparently the world doesn't work that way. Those who have the money want to eat meat. Doesn't matter if they are American, Chinese, Indian or whatever; anyone with a few extra dollars to spend ends up spending it on meat.

Those people near the bottom, those who are already only eating grains, will suffer the most. Don't be surprised when the poor riot. They've got nothing left to lose. In the future, looting might be the proper survival strategy. Not a nice world to live in, but that's where the world's choices are leading us.

So . . . what are we going to plant in our garden, should it ever stop raining? In northern New England, we don't grow a lot of wheat. A few farmers have reintroduced it, but it's not grown on any large scale. Buckwheat grows around here, but isn't even a real grain, it's a herb. It does make a pretty decent pancake. Farmers plant a lot of corn. A fair bit of it goes to dairy cattle. I've never been a big fan of growing corn in the home garden.

The exception is to grow it using the old Native American three sisters system. Corn is planted with squash and beans. The beans climb the corn stalks and the squash vines run along the ground. This system can't be harvested with a combine, but works good for the home gardener working by hand.

All the same, my garden plots are too small and too isolated to plant corn. It's just not worth the space. What is worth the space and can be grown easily? Now a lot of people love to plant their salad fixings: tomatoes, lettuce, onions, peppers -you name it. Garden fresh salads are great in the summer, but they don't really have the calories, plus storage can be a problem. Yes, I know tomatoes are canned or dried, but nobody cans lettuce. The very thought appalls one.

Where are you going to get those filling calories when the gardens have been put to bed? Potatoes work for me. They are easy to grow, produce well, have a lot of calories, and store easily. There are a lot of things that can be done with potatoes. Beans are good too. Beans are easy to grow. They come up quick, are good eating fresh, and can be canned or dried for later. Squash is another one. I once had an organically grown squash get lost behind some storage bins in my kitchen. Two years later is was still good to eat. I wouldn't count on yours lasting that long, but squash will get you through the winter.

Don't plan on having your full growing season. For example, if you normally count on 100 frost free days, maybe you should plan on 75, or 50. It might take an extra month for things to dry out, then cool weather could come early. Better to have something that matures quickly than watch your grain crop fail just before harvest.

A survival garden is all about calories. Sure that salad stuff is fine. Plant some. It's good eating and good for you. However, make sure you have something simple like potatoes that will fill your larder. Don't be afraid to plant something different too. I'm going to try sun-chokes (Jerusalem artichokes) again this year. Last year, raccoons got them all. (maybe I'll try eating raccoon) This year I'll plant them closer to the house where the dog can keep a watch for invaders.

I've some nut trees coming into their own this year. Nuts store well and have the calories you'll need. They are nice to have, but take years to mature.

Also in the very nice to have category, my hop plants are doing well this year. I could get a usable batch of flowers for brewing. I just hope the nation's barley does will this year. Can't make a decent beer without it, and I don't grow it my own self. Let us all pray for the barley crop. We might need that icy cold brew in the tough days ahead.



  1. Don't go buying sun chokes. Mine came back in force this year, so I'll happily send some your way!

  2. Thanks Leane. They are tasy. Glad your garden is off to a great start.

  3. well back to seaweed veggies; acorn bread; smoked eel and roasted road kill for me..


    or maybe a certain texan