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Practical gardening

As you consider options for growing food on your property, you should try to stop thinking in terms of preserving what you are used to, and instead think of sustaining life.

When most people think of planting a garden or growing food, they think of growing vegetables or fruit trees.

The value of vegetables and fruit lies primarily in their nutrients. These nutrients prevent malnutrition and preserve health. With some planning and preservation, all vitamin and mineral requirements for life can be provided by a rather small garden, so long as the temperature, soil, and water is adequate. 

When aiming for sustaining life, everything changes. How many home gardeners do you know who grow grain? Grain is the staff of life. Calorically, there is no comparison between grains and vegetables. 

Grain requires a lot more space than vegetables, and it requires extra work (and know-how) to render it from how it grows to how it is stored and eaten. If you are going to grow wheat, barley, rye, etc., you need to know how to remove the grain from its husk. If you are going to grow flint corn (the non-sweet kind you let dry instead of eating fresh), you need to know how to remove it from the cob (much easier than threshing wheat/barley/rye). You can't grow grain in effectual quantities in the suburbs, nor would it do you any good there if you needed to, because your neighbors will steal it, probably before it is even mature. 

The ideal situation is to have a multi-year supply of sufficient grain to provide all your caloric needs, plus surplus in case other people need help, plus already having invested the time and money and planning to convert your land to a space where you can grow grains. This last item requires that you've done it before: you have the seeds, equipment, and knowledge; you've tested it and worked out the bugs by doing it; you can do it with or without diesel fuel and electricity.

Most people will fare far better buying and storing bulk grains than trying to grow them. You can (still, for now) buy at least two years' worth of calories for your family in bulk grain for far less time and money than you will probably spend setting up your land to grow grains. [This will not be the case for much longer. Take heed.] Again, this is less valuable in the suburbs. If you end up in only uncomfortable situations, or if your needs are specific to your family, food supplies will help you in the suburbs. If everyone is in need, you will find what you think of as normal human decency evaporate before your eyes, as "normal" people become willing to kill you for your food. You do not want to be in the suburbs or cities three days into a "no food" situation. You might be ok in an "intermittent" food situation, and you'll be in much better shape in a situation where you lose your job or otherwise find yourself in an individual lack of food / lack of money situation. 

When you grow your own food, you have to contend with harvest dates and food preservation. The requirements for preservation can make a massive difference on the practicality and value of what is grown. For example, if an item requires pressure canning to preserve it, its usefulness depends on cheap energy for heat, an expensive pressure canner, lots of time, a one-time purchase of jars, and a constant repurchasing of lids. Some items, like certain winter squashes, can last most of a winter without any special care except storing them in a cool, dry place. Other items, like flint corn or wheat, can last around 30 years once dried if kept in a cool, dry place. These considerations matter.

You might think that this is overkill. Hopefully, it seems less so than it did several years ago when I first said it. I promise you that this generation will live to see the prudence of this advice revealed.