Urban Preppers Consider Several Garden Produce Options

Window Herb GardenUrban life often limits the amount of garden space to the number of pots you can fit on a balcony or window sill.  With these kinds of restrictions, growing everything you want to put in your food stores is impossible.  For those reasons, any people purchase prepacked foods in cans, boxes, and foil packets.  But that does little to soothe the minds of those who would prefer to put up fresh grown produce, free of chemicals.

Organic foods purchased in grocery stores or markets are expensive compared to other commercially pre-packaged foods.  When you spend that kind of money on organic foods, the tendency is to want to eat it right away, not can or freeze it.

There are things you can do to get the quality produce you want without breaking the bank.  It will take a bit of research and networking, but it can be done.  Prepare to contact growers in January or before planting season starts to strike up a deal.   Now is a good time to start.  The earlier you contact growers, the better your chance of getting what you need.

Who or what is a grower?  A grower is anyone who uses their land to produce food. Blooming Hill Farm Anyone.  That means it could be a homeowner with 1/8 acre to 5 acres of land or someone out in the country on hundreds or thousands of acres.  The keys are knowing who the growers are and what you want.

Start by getting a “what is in season” list within the region you are willing to travel.  You can get these from county agriculture extension offices, garden clubs, and some local nurseries may have information to share.

DollarPlan your budget according to what you wish to put up for a one year supply.  If money is tight (and when isn’t it?) try to skim off a few percent of the dollars to spend on produce and canning or freezing it.  As the price of everything continues to rise, it will be difficult to budget exactly what you need.  Over time, you will find your food bill goes down as the amount of stored goods increases.

The first year you might spend a little more on jars if you just starting out.  To justify this, buy cases of jars instead of eating dinner out.  Skip the movies this week and buy two more cases of jars.  Before you know it, you will have enough jars to line your shelves.

Find growers who may be willing to grow what you order.  These producers often sell Vegetable Farmanimal as well as fruits and vegetables.  Perhaps you will need to pay them half up front and the other half when you take delivery.  Take the time to get to know them to get the best possible price.  Get a receipt that explains exactly what you are exchanging.

Some growers may allow you a share of the produce in exchange for your labor.   You apply for a part time non-cash paid job.  Get it in writing.  Be sure to spell out how many hours you will work per week, how much each hour is worth, and how many pounds of each produce you will get in return.  This requires you to do pricing research well in advance.  Take into account the wholesale price and the retail price of the products you want.  If you are lucky enough to get such a deal, make certain you work hard on the farm, work every hour you agree, don’t complain, and are always on time.  You will want to be invited back year after year.

Small Garden PlotIf by chance you and your friends have yards of any size, get together and form a co-op of your own.  Even the tiniest sliver of dirt next to a house or sidewalk can make excellent gardens.  Take out the grass and put in fruits and vegetables appropriate to your region and available sunlight.  By devoting the yards to specific produce, using bio-intense methods, and sharing, everyone in the co-op will get a variety produce.

Orchards Often Offer You Pick Opportunities

 

Lastly, “You Pick” farms offer great prices on perfectly ripe fruit.  Bring your bushel baskets, boxes and bags to pick all the produce you want at reduced prices over markets and stores.  Usually you pay “per pound”.  These are also good places to offer your labor in exchange of produce.  If you are going on a weekend trip, perhaps adding a you-pick farm to your sight-seeing might be a welcome alternative to tourist traps.

By combining all these resources, preppers should be able to find enough produce at reasonable prices, the cost of time, or nearly free.  Most importantly, it takes planning many months in advance.  The rewards are worth it.

Here are a few links to get you started.

Illinois “What’s in Season” Chart

Texas Produce Availability Chart

 Pick Your Own Farm Directory (Incomplete)

Stocking Stuffers or Gifts Preppers Give; Part 2

How many of you are like us?  We hate shopping.  Period.  We do almost all our shopping online, mostly at Amazon.  Seriously.  The only other stores we enter are farm stores, hardware stores for home maintenance, grocery stores (there’s only two to choose from), and sporting goods stores (for camping and outdoor stuff).  We’re just not shopping types.  So when the holidays roll around, we either give gift cards, cash, or order something online and have it delivered.  Mostly it depends on the desires of the gift recipient.  All that’s left is the stocking stuffers, and they are super easy too!

A previous article, Disaster Recovery or Gifts Preppers Give; Part 1 about gift giving was important because everyone needs to be prepared, even those who don’t believe in “prepping”.  That book offers up a way to get them thinking, and maybe get their brains working in that direction.

Another way to help the unprepared prepare in a kind way would be to give them stocking stuffers or small gifts that will be perceived as thoughtful, kind or silly, rather than pushy.  Who doesn’t want someone to care about them at the most important level?

The important thing about all these gifts is that they will get your reluctant preppers to think about things in a different way. Many of the items they will use up right away. Even so, likely they will buy more of them and will have them on hand. When a world changing event does happen, they now have a different way of thinking and will grab those items on their way out the door.

Here is a list of stocking stuffers and small gifts we will be including this year for family and friends.

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Economics of Animal Husbandry for the Small Farm

Small farms can be profitable in today's economy.Cattle need a year between birth and slaughter, much more time than poultry and rabbits.  Cattle consume much more food.  Pigs, goats and sheep fall in the middle for cost of feeding them out.  Farm animals can be produced in such a way to make it worth the time and expense of raising them.

Poultry

Selling duck eggs for $5.00 each, three dozen eggs will pay for a fifty pound bag of feed, which will feed the small flock of about 20 birds for over two weeks. The remaining duck eggs are free food and any that you incubate and feed out to butcher are almost free food. Since some breeds of ducks lay more eggs than chickens, they are quite profitable to keep.

Chicken eggs sell from $2.50 to $3.00 per dozen.  Hatching chickens from your own flock provides the same results as the ducks in terms of nearly free meat and eggs.  With the lower price for chicken eggs, you will have to sell more dozens to pay for the feed.

Guinea birds get bigger than chickens but their eggs are only about the size of a golf balls.  They are great tasting eggs,  but it takes more of them to make a meal.  Most people in this region who keep them don’t keep them for meat purposes.  They keep just a few as guard birds.  But, for those who do eat guinea, they enjoy them.

Pork

If you breed pigs and butcher the piglets while still young they make a good supply of tender meat and at a very good price.  Each litter will have 10 to 12 piglets per litter, twice a year.  One half grown piglet will make many meals.  Twenty-four piglets will provide protein for your family and those you don’t need can be sold.  The parts of the animal you do not want to eat can be used for dog food.  Pig ears are a treat no dog can avoid.

Cost of Food

Pound for pound, animal food is cheaper than human food. The problem comes when trying to feed out feeder cattle or feeder hogs.  Since small farmers can’t buy the feed as cheaply as Tyson and Omaha Beef the cost per pound of large animals is higher than larger producers.  That is if you are buying feed.

Many people begin comparing the price of beef in the grocery store with the cost of small farm meat production.  The problem with making those comparisons is that the meat in the grocery store is only the best cuts of meat and burger.  Rarely do you find ox tail, tallow and beef brains.  The same is true for pork.  The only lard to buy is loaded with preservatives and sold in a box on the shelf rather than refrigerated.

Why would you want tallow and lard?  Rendering them provides a beautiful fat for cooking, using as fuel, and for soap making just to name a few.  The point is that when you butcher your own animals you are able to keep the parts that would normally be sold to packaged food producers.  The bones for making broth.  Brains, liver, heart and tongue for making sausages.  The list goes on and on.

Efficient Use of Livestock

Every product you gain from your animals drives down the price per pound of food.  Don’t forget, if you have a milk cow your cow will not only provide milk for its offspring, but also will provide you with milk, cream, butter, ice cream, sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt, and soft cheeses. If you are adventurous, you can learn to make your own hard cheeses too. The clabber, whey and excess milk from your cows (sheep and goats) will be good food for your other animals.

Further, you can add a few extra seeds to your garden to grow animal feed.  Consider growing beets, parsnips, peas, pumpkins, and corn for cattle.  Have an orchard?  Cows will enjoy eating the produce as much as you.  Do a little research to find out which produce you grow that will also serve to feed your livestock.  Be sure to avoid onions, rhubarb, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and night shade family produce and pine needles.  Not only will they eat almost any produce, they will provide plenty of manure for your gardens and can be sold for a profit.

When you consider that other livestock provides as much in terms of food and other products, it becomes clear that the efficient small farmer can reduce his grocery bill to nearly nothing while not spending large amounts of money to feed the livestock.

The success of your operation will depend on the available land, amount of time you invest in your operation, and your production choices. Think outside “conventional” farming feeds and methods.  Good planning and education about how to raise and butcher various farm animals will make them profitable to keep.

Horse of a Different Color

Horse meat finds its way into the food supply.Some prepared families keep a horse and burrow for work after the fuel supply dries up either temporarily or permanently.  The reality is that animals breed, that is if you have both male and female varieties on the farm.  These animals can be used for barter in a multitude of ways.

You can trade a day’s labor of horse and rider for supplies or services.  Selling or trading the animals for other items and services is a good option too.  Since they are expensive to feed and need space to live, trading them might be a blessing.

But, what if you can’t sell, trade or otherwise make them earn their keep?  You end up with too many of them and they are consuming your resources faster than you can get them.  They have to be maintained, shod, vet care, grain, and more.  Your preps only planned for a certain number of animals at a time.

In many countries around the world, they eat horses.  Yes, they do.  For some reason people in western Europe and North America find it distasteful at best and inhumane at worst.  But is it really?  These beautiful beasts have been dinner fare for centuries in countries around the world.  It has only been in recent history that horses have been elevated to pet status because of the relationship some owners formed with their horses for work and pleasure riding.

In parts of Europe, Asia, and South America horse meat is still served on a regular basis.  In Japan it is called Basashi.  Wild horse meat is leaner than beef, but also tougher.  Domesticated horse meat is lean, tender and sweet.

Regardless, in the United States, the government banned the slaughter of horses by refusing to inspect the meat.  No meat can be sold in the U. S. without being inspected by the USDA.  Under the Obama administration, the ban on inspections was lifted in 2011.  Horses may legally be slaughtered and served as food in the U.S.

People who don’t think eating horse is right usually also won’t eat cat, dog, rat, and monkey.  All of these animals are eaten in other countries on a routine basis.  But we eat cows, pigs, elk, deer and lamb.  What makes one animal suitable for food and not another?  Cultural habits and taboos mostly.

As prepared people, we need to be prepared to change our cultural taboos on meat consumption without worry of what others will think about our eating habits.  There might come a day when they will gladly trade services for a bite of horse steak or jerky.

Farmers and Preparedness

Many preppers are also farmers operating small farms.  Unfortunately, there are many government regulations to make it difficult or nearly impossible to produce and sell your products.  Many USDA and FDA regulations were lobbied for by big commercial agri-business companies with the plan of breaking the small farmers from entering competition.  Other regulations  which are not appropriate today were passed over 80 years ago and should be repealed.  Take a look at this video sent  in by a reader.  If you would like to share a video with our readers, send the link.