The Southern Agrarian

Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Tag: preparedness (page 1 of 3)

The Southern Agrarian Last Ditch List

Okra pods and flower

Most of us garden primarily for pleasure. It’s what we do because – well, because we are Southern Agrarians. Yes, what we grow ends up on our table or given to friends and neighbors; however, what our garden produces generally does not determine whether we eat or starve.

But what if it did? What if our very fragile system were to collapse leaving the grocery store shelves empty and the streets too dangerous to venture out in? Part of Southern Agrarianism is being independent of that complex system, so this is very much a topic for discussion.

My garden tends to be planned more around what we enjoy eating and growing rather than for maximizing food production when lives depend on it. The Last Ditch List is what I would be planting if lives did depend on it.

 

The Southern Agrarian Last Ditch List

Sweet Potatoes (Centennial)
Incredibly easy to grow; I’m still growing them from the very first slips that I got about eight years ago. I keep moving them around to avoid soil-borne pests and diseases, and they will take transplanting without any problem.
ꔷ The taste is delicious
ꔷ High in nutritional value
ꔷ Will last for months if stored in a cool, dark place
ꔷ The leaves are edible

Okra (Clemson Spineless)
ꔷ Continuous production through hot weather
ꔷ Very resistant to disease and pest
ꔷ Each plant will produce one or two edible pods about every two to three days
ꔷ Easy to save seeds
ꔷ Delicious when fried

Eggplant (Florida Highbush)
ꔷ Highly productive through hot weather
ꔷ Easily prepared and makes a good, filling meal
ꔷ Minimal problems from disease or pests
ꔷ Relatively easy to save seeds if you know the technique
ꔷ Should plant a fairly large number to maintain genetic diversity in seeds

Seminole Pumpkin
ꔷ Fruit can last up to a full year when properly stored
ꔷ Almost impervious to disease or pests
ꔷ Huge vines that drop roots along the way making the plant very resilient and able to thrive on relatively poor ground
ꔷ Lots of organic matter at the end of the season to keep the ground rich
ꔷ Needs good care and lots of water to get started; once established, requires almost no care

Collards (Georgia Southern)
ꔷ Winter crop
ꔷ Other greens will not reliably produce seeds in this area

 

Second Tier crops

These are ones that I am still working with but don’t have enough experience yet to put them on the Last Ditch List. Nothing other than lack of a well established track record keeps me from putting them on the Last Ditch List.

Potatoes (Yukon Gold)
This is only my second time planting these, but all indications are that they should make the Last Ditch List in the next year or two.

Squash (Tromboncino)
The variety makes all the difference. I have given up on the more typical yellow squash; bugs have destroyed them every single time I have tried. Tromboncino, on the other hand, is highly resistant to pests due to its tough outer skin. The fruit is pale green, long and thin, and grows on a vine. I have them growing along a fence.

 

Not On The List

These are crops that I grow now, but they don’t meet the criteria for inclusion on the Last Ditch List.

Beans (Kentucky Wonder or Blue Lake) – Too many poor results. Sometimes I get a good crop, and other times it’s a poor crop. Inconsistent. May be moved to the Last Ditch List once I learn more, but not yet. Good potential once I learn more.

Corn (Reid’s Yellow Dent) – Low yield for the amount of space it takes up. Heavy drain on the garden soil. If any crops would be available for purchase following a collapse, it would be grains. They are well suited for large scale, highly mechanized farming, and they transport and store well. I keep some seeds on hand for use in corn meal or for chicken feed – just in case.

Tomatoes (Homestead 24) – Too easily damaged by bugs or disease or blossom end rot. They stop producing when the weather gets hot.

Peppers (Carolina Wonder) – Susceptibility to Blossom End Rot keeps peppers off the list. If I can get the calcium deficiency solved, this might be moved to the Last Ditch List.

 

Final Notes

Vegetable gardening is very location-dependent. This Last Ditch List is what works for me here in north central Florida. There is a really good chance that your Last Ditch List would be different. Maybe very different. Perhaps the most value from this list is in the criteria – why I chose what I did for this list.

What is on your Last Ditch List – and why?

Tools For The Garden

Gardening can be very time-consuming, hard work – unless you have the right tools for the job. The right tools can make the work fast and easy, and they can allow someone to reasonably produce enough food to feed their family where it would not be possible without them.

The top photo shows my current collection of manual garden tools. This does not include the BCS two-wheel tractor and implements that are stored in another area. I tend to collect garden tools like some folks collect guns – better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. One can never have too many garden tools. I even have a broad fork – a beast of a tool that I might even need some day. In future posts, we’ll look at some of the more interesting tools in my shed.

The second photo shows two extremes in tools. One item is a Rogue Field Hoe (reviewed here) – a great example of a high quality tool that should last a lifetime or more. The crude stick with a metal spike driven through it is not an ancient relic from an archaeological site or something sold to tourists. It is a hand hoe that is in routine use today in Africa. Specifically, this one was purchased at a village market in Sierra Leone, West Africa by missionaries there that I work with. This could correctly be called state of the art technology in most of Africa today. Yes, there are certainly tractors and modern tools in use there also; however, those are imported. When it comes to tools made by the locals, this pretty much says it all. There are some lessons to be learned in this.

Western hoe and African hoe – both manufactured about the same time, and both routinely used in their respective areas.

OK. What’s the point of this post? Ask yourself how you would produce enough food to feed yourself and your family if you had to work the soil to feed them. Stored food doesn’t count – that eventually runs out. Power equipment is great, but it doesn’t count either – fuel very quickly runs out. What you’re left with is muscle powered tools. Most of the world will reply with rolled eyes and a smirk. “It couldn’t happen here” they would say. Perhaps they are right. I certainly hope they are right; however, I’m not going to bet my family’s life on it. Do you?

Clean it, Maintain it, Fix it


In a reply to a previous post, I was reminded of the need to learn to make do with what we have and to repair and maintain things. That brought to mind the two tools shown in the photo above – both tools have been in the family for several generations. The grubbing hoe is still in quite usable condition despite the handle being wrapped with a strip of metal that has been nailed in place. The axe, on the other hand, is just kept as a reminder of a time when tools were treasured and were not easily replaced.

One of life’s great lessons is learning that it always pays to buy quality and then maintain it. Quality tools, well cared for, maintained, and repaired as needed, are far better than saving a few dollars buying Chinese junk and then replacing it because it’s not worth repairing.

One of my routines is to always wash all of my garden tools and set them out to dry when I’m finished using them. Most of the time, that is all that is needed before hanging them in their place in the tool shed. If a tool should start to get some rust on it, I clean it off with a wire wheel or whatever is appropriate, rub a bit of oil on it, then put it away. About once a year, I go through all of my tools and use a file to sharpen them, but some tools get sharpened more frequently.

Wooden handles are too-often neglected. I use a rag to rub linseed oil into the wood handles of my tools. If they are treated with reasonable care and stored out of the weather, a good hardwood tool handle should last a lifetime and be able to be passed down to the next generation. Some folks prefer to paint their wood handles, but I’ve never had any desire to do that. 1) I love the look and feel of real wood, and 2) Paint can hide cracks and other problems that should be quickly taken care of.

The grubbing hoe in the photo probably came down with the family when they moved from Alabama to Florida in about 1921 – nearly a century ago. Although we usually associate covered wagons with pioneers moving west, that is how my grandparents moved their family and household goods down here. My grandfather built a covered wagon that was pulled by oxen. It was driven down what was called the Florida Short Route, marked by crude signs and tree carvings saying “FSR”. The cattle were carried by train, and some of the family was loaded into an old Ford, and off they went to find a place where the farming was easier than the rock-filled clay of McGehee Mountain in Clay County, Alabama.

New Era Resolutions

Books_IMG_3679_phatch


America continues down the path to a new era – not because of who does or does not occupy the White House, but because about half of American voters now follow the cult of collectivism and egalitarianism while the other half bitterly opposes it. There is no room for compromise, no chance for reasoned debate. Both sides see this as “winner take all”. Both sides see no alternative to total victory or total annihilation. If this were just another political split, it would be a minor issue to be addressed in a future election. It is not. This represents an extreme cultural split on a massive scale. Our task as Southern Agrarians is to move as far away from that dividing line as possible. We must stake out the cultural high ground so that there can be no doubt as to which camp we belong – or neither camp.

To that end, this is a list of tangible things we can do, presented in no particular order.

  1. Be an encouragement and a help to your extended family in a way that will make it easier to decide to have a larger family. If that doesn’t apply directly to your current situation, then spend time helping another worthy family. The break-down of the multi-generation family has resulted in serious consequences for society.
  2. Boldly proclaim the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Leading a soul to eternal salvation is a greater accomplishment than anything else in this life.
  3. Live a virtuous life at home, at work, and in public. Always speak the truth. We are ambassadors of our great Southern culture and must serve as an example of what that culture stands for.
  4. Be part of a church that truly believes The Bible 1 as the literal word of God – and acts on it. There are far too many modernist churches that lower standards and try to become like the rest of the world. If you’re in one of those modernist churches, leave and find a real church that is not focused on entertaining the congregation.
  5. Use the power of the spoken and written word to advance the cause of restoring civility to America.
  6. Dress more formally than what is customary in today’s society. It demonstrates a respect for others – and for yourself.
  7. Pay close attention to manners and etiquette, and make them a part of your daily life.
  8. Pray – not a vain repetition, but pray like you are talking directly with The God who created the entire universe, because that’s exactly what you are doing. He listens to “specks of dust” like us.
  9. Seek out like-minded people, and form strong bonds with them.
  10. Treat others with respect. As conditions worsen, there will be those who proudly provided for their families in the past, but find themselves without work or, if they are fortunate, doing menial work. Your turn may come. While those who willingly live off of money stolen from the productive deserve our open contempt, resist the urge unless pressed.
  11. Follow the Boy Scout slogan of “Do a Good Turn Daily”. Find some way to help someone who would not expect it.
  12. Follow the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared”. When hard times come, you can depend on no one but yourself and your closest friends and family.
  13. Produce some of your own food by gardening or small-scale farming, and raising chickens. Those are valuable skills that cannot be learned by just reading a book. It is also the key to our Southern Agrarian culture.
  14. Understand the foundation of what Southern Agrarianism is by reading I’ll Take My Stand. While Southern Agrarianism is not strictly defined by this book, it is the starting point.
  15. If you are living in an urban area, move to a semi-rural or rural area. The cities are not only increasingly dangerous, they are corrosive to the soul.
  16. Arm yourself and learn and practice to become effective in the defense of yourself and your family. Armed men are free men – disarmed men are slaves.
  17. Turn off the TV, cancel the cable subscription, and disconnect the antenna. TV has done more than anything else to destroy our culture. Don’t allow the filth and propaganda into your home.
  18. Home-school your children and help and support other home-schoolers if you can.
  19. Take control of your future by investing your retirement savings yourself so that the government cannot gain control of it.
  20. Make your home more self-sufficient: put in a well, start a garden, own a sewing machine 2 to make and repair your clothes, install a wood heating stove, increase the insulation in your attic.
  21. Adopt the idea of “Not for Our time, but for All time” when considering choices for your family and your home. Homes that were built centuries ago still stand today while houses slapped together only a decade or so ago are abandoned and demolished. Think long term for your family and your home.
  22. Secure your home. Rampant crime is just one of the results of a decaying society where civility is no longer revered.
  23. Embrace old-school ways of doing things: use paper and pen rather than an electronic device for taking notes (bonus points for using a fountain pen 3); shave with a double-edge safety razor and brush and mug rather than the latest multi-blade gizmo; resist the temptation to automatically upgrade to the latest technology 4.
  24. Resolve to give no credibility to political correctness. When it comes up, question it and force the source to justify what was said or written. Don’t accept it.
  25. Watch your language. Make a conscious effort to avoid any obscene or profane word coming from your lips. Crude language identifies the speaker with the worst elements of any society. That such language is now commonly used by “celebrities” is reason enough to shun it.
  26. Cherish those who are close to you and resolve to repair any relationships that need repairing. Your family, your spouse, your friends – those are more important now than ever, and will become even more so in the future.
  27. Display the Confederate flag – any one of them – on a regular basis. (see the Code of Confederate Flag Etiquette)
  28. Sharing a meal as a family is a time-honored tradition. Make the extra effort to have a more formal, structured dinner.
  29. Resolve to take away the power that the word “racist” has over us; at the same time, remember to treat all men of every race and creed with the respect they deserve as men and as souls that Jesus died for.
  30. Language is an important part of any culture – the English language is the language of our people. Don’t allow yourself to slip into the sloppy language habits that have become a mark of modern popular culture. Writing and speaking well are the marks of a civilized man or woman. Use correct English in your speech and writing. 5
  31. Collect books – not digital text, but real paper and ink books that can be read without batteries. As the popularity of digital text increases, there are bargains to be found in used books. 6
  32. Carry a pocket knife. A generation ago, every Southern male carried a pocket knife – it was almost a rite of passage. Somewhere along the way, the Nanny-state took over, and an incredibly useful tool came to be viewed as a dangerous weapon and a threat to be banned.
  33. Get out of debt as quickly as possible. Make it a top priority.
  34. Reduce or eliminate your income dependence by laying the foundation for your own business. Find something that you truly enjoy doing and that others are willing to pay for, and acquire the tools and the skills to provide that service or product at a profit. 7
  35. The Christmas season has become the emblem of materialism in America and a brief glance at the mayhem of “Black Friday” shopping will confirm that. Turning away from the greed and materialism is a wonderful opportunity for a family lesson in setting priorities. Rejecting materialism now will make life easier later when it is forced on America by a failing economy.
  36. Find something that you can grow or make at home to give away to others. For some, it is home-canned vegetables or preserves or home-made soap; for my wife and I, it is vanilla extract; for our son, it is egg nog in a variety of flavors. Turn back the clock a bit to a day when people didn’t buy everything from the store, but made it themselves. We also give away much of what our garden produces, and the surplus eggs from our chickens and ducks.

This list was inspired by a list posted at The Thinking Housewife blog. What can you add to this list?


This is an updated version of a post that I first wrote in 2012.

Save

Save

Save

Notes:

  1. Finding a church that insists on using only the King James Version is a big step in the right direction
  2. The old cast iron sewing machines will last for generations. Treadle and hand-crank sewing machines in excellent condition are still readily available – we have several of them in our home.
  3. While a quality fountain pen is not inexpensive, they will last for generations if well cared for. I have my father’s fountain pen that he purchased in the 1950’s. I had it refurbished and it is now as “good as new”.
  4. At the very least, consider using open source software and Linux rather than falling into the Windows/Mac upgrade trap.
  5. There are, no doubt, plenty of errors in grammar scattered throughout this blog. If you find them, please let me know so I can correct them.
  6. A first-class library can be assembled by making regular visits to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army store.
  7. I spent nine months of evenings and weekends developing the software package that has provided a comfortable living for my family since 1995 – it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Storm Cleanup – It’s Who We Are

debris_img_6185-1200x700

The winds from Hurricane Matthew had not yet faded away when debris had been collected into neat piles waiting to be hauled away or burned. I was struck by the contrast between Agrarian and Urban in how this sort of thing is handled. It also provides a good illustration of two very different cultures in America. As Southern Agrarians, it is good to remind ourselves of that difference.

The Leftists like to say, “That’s not who we are” when criticizing ideas that don’t agree with their globalist fantasies. Well, it’s time to ask who the “we” is that they are talking about.

We’ll use the terms “Agrarian” and “Urban” here, but “Nationalist” and “Globalist” would also work, as would “Alt-Right” and “Leftist” or “Reactionary” and “Egalitarian”.

Across the dirt road from my house is a wooded area. I, and others living on this side of the road, keep the county right-of-way on the other side of the road clean and mowed. We do not own that land, and we have no formal obligation to maintain that land, but we do. Just as land must be constantly maintained, so too must a civilization. If the brush and debris is not quickly cleared, then it cannot be mowed. If it cannot be mowed, then weeds and brush and scrub trees will begin to take root and grow. Before long, it can no longer be easily mowed, but requires serious work to reclaim the land. So it is with a civilization. The Western European culture that built our civilization has become fat, lazy, and tolerant. We have not maintained the cultural land, and the debris that has accumulated provides shelter for the weeds and scrub that would take over and destroy us. The time for routine maintenance has passed. To reclaim our civilization, we are now left with the hard work of uprooting and chopping and clearing to restore the land – all because we didn’t keep the land clean enough through routine maintenance.

Urban culture destroys – Agrarian culture builds and maintains. Witness the Black Lives Matter crowd – their standard reaction to any perceived slight is to destroy their own neighborhoods and stores. The Agrarian reaction is very different. Those piles of debris from the storm were cut up, picked up, raked, and stacked by people who understand the necessity of taking initiative and responsibility. No one told them to clean up not only their own property, but also the road and the empty lots and fields beside them. I saw this on dirt roads beside cow pastures; I saw this in suburban developments; I saw this in a mobile home park with old but clean single-wide trailers.

It’s who we are, and we are very different from what the Left means by “we”.

 


 

(Edited to add)
It occurred to me that some folks would look at that little pile of trash and think, “That’s not much of a hurricane.” I assure you that is just there as an illustration. Much of what is awaiting disposal is far bigger than that and requires a lot more than a rake and pitchfork to move. These two photos were taken in front of our little post office (you can see it in the background of the second photo). I was driving home and stopped while our county Sheriff, dressed in a sweat-soaked T-shirt and blue jeans, used a John Deere tractor with a front-end loader to push those big logs into a pile. No photo-op for this elected official, just getting the job done (his house is across the street from the post office).

debrisimg_6190-1200x800
debrisimg_6192-1200x800

Save

Our Precarious Agriculture System

A lush crop of corn being grown for silage.

A lush crop of corn being grown for silage.

Last month, our family held its sixty-first annual family reunion. It’s a chance to talk with a number of my cousins who have been farmers in that area all their lives. When I remarked about how lush and beautiful the corn looked, I learned a lot about just how precarious our food supply is. It is almost entirely dependent on vast quantities of fertilizer and diesel fuel to work the land and to irrigate it.

The situation varies, of course, depending on the type of soil found in different parts of the country. The ideal combination of local climate and fertile, well-drained soil is really quite rare. The reason that the world’s farmers are able to feed a huge and rapidly growing population is the enormous input per acre, of fuel, fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides. Much of today’s farmland is not a whole lot more than a growing medium to which water and nutrients are added – similar to hydroponics.

I will also point out here that we haven’t even touched on the complex system of transporting and delivering that food from the farm to your table. That is even more fragile than the agriculture system, with its near-total dependency on a functioning financial system, available credit, just-in-time ordering system, trucking system, and a coordinating system totally dependent upon the Internet.

There are plenty of exceptions, of course, but the fact remains that without the continuous flow of cheap diesel fuel, irrigation water, fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides, the food available to the consumer would be a tiny fraction of what is needed. Proponents of organic farming point to that as the solution; however, there simply isn’t enough organic matter available nor is there a high enough yield for organic farming to even approach the quantity of food needed. (I’m a big fan of organic gardening, but the issue here is one of scale rather than method.)

If you’re looking for a solution to the overall problem, I’m afraid that there is none. Mankind has grown completely dependent on highly mechanized, high-input farming to feed the population. There is simply no getting around that – as a wide scale issue, anyway. On an individual scale, it is a different story. Growing and producing a portion of our own food for our own family is something that we can all do. Very few will be able to produce more than a token amount of their food to begin with, but it is a learning process. When the day comes that our complex food system no longer functions, make sure that you have the skills and the tools to feed your family.

Irrigation, powered by diesel fuel, keeping that corn growing.

Irrigation, powered by diesel fuel, keeping that corn growing.

Food Security and Social Unrest

IMG_5554-1200x800

In a report published yesterday (06/26/2016), a FEMA contractor reported on a simulation called “Food Chain Reaction”. The scenario was to simulate a food crisis brought about by “food price and supply swings amidst burgeoning population growth, rapid urbanization, severe weather events, and social unrest.” You may want to read the full article yourself, but that’s not really our concern here.

As Southern Agrarians, our goal is to isolate and insulate ourselves from the chaos and anarchy of a world in collapse. Growing a portion of our own food – even if it is only a small portion – gives us a base from which to ramp up our food production to the point of being relatively self sufficient. Right now, I have a rather small part of our one acre being used to produce food. Every year brings new lessons in how to be more productive: what grows well and what doesn’t, learning the best time to plant, the best plant spacing for the soil in my garden, and a hundred other things to learn.

That small garden can be easily expanded by turning lawn into garden in order to multiply the amount of food being produced. Having the tools to do that is a key part of it. I recently purchased a two-wheeled walk-behind tractor made by BCS. It is an Italian company that owns Ferrari (Ferrari used to make tractors before they focused on high-end sports cars). With the roto-tiller attachment, I can quickly turn new ground into ready-to-plant garden area. I also have several high quality hoes that allow me to efficiently maintain the garden.

There is so much more involved in becoming more self-sufficient. How do you provide water for your family, your garden, and your livestock? How do you preserve what you grow for the rest of the year when the garden is not producing? How do you feed your chickens or ducks or other livestock? Those are the kinds of questions that we try to answer here in addition to the cultural and social aspects of Southern Agrarianism.

Being self-sufficient is a very comfortable feeling in these unstable times. Make sure that you can provide for your family, no matter what the future holds.

Garden Experiments

Experiment_IMG_1961_phatch
If you’ve been growing your own food for any length of time, you already know that there is a whole lot more to it than putting seeds in the dirt and waiting for harvest time. Those who buy a can of “Survival Seeds” and set it in a closet “just in case” are going to be severely disappointed – and hungry.

I have a nice collection of books about growing food and raising small livestock. They are the starting point, not the final authority. I routinely discover that what works great for one person (or the author of one book) just doesn’t work when I try it. The answer to that is experimentation. You have to try it yourself. You have to compare different groups with only one or two variables. You have to keep careful notes. None of these things are particularly fun or easy, but the results are always worth the effort.

Do you test your soil? Do you keep notes on what you have added and how the plants react? Sometimes it is almost impossible to keep track of (What went into that last batch of compost you added?), but make notes anyway. The notes might not be used, but wouldn’t you hate to end up with that perfect season and not know what was in the soil, when the seeds went into the ground, what the variety was, and where you got the seeds?

One of the keys to effective experimentation is to reduce the number of variables to as few as possible. That’s one reason why I like to always start my seeds in individual pots. I always plant more than I anticipate using; that way, I can plant only the best seedlings and they are all relatively uniform. The ones that look weaker than the others are culled. Any that are remarkably more vigorous than the rest are tagged in the garden to see if they carry that trait through to maturity. If so, that’s a plant that I’ll save seeds from (and, of course, make a note to that effect).

Don’t just plant a garden – improve your garden. Make it your goal to have each year’s garden better than the last year. Experiment, test, take notes, and adjust.

What have you experimented with? How do you keep your notes organized? Leave a reply about something you’ve tested in your own garden.

Seminole Pumpkin Follow-up

SeminolePumpkin_IMG_4133_rs

This is a followup to a post from July 4, 2012. I’ll start with the relevant text from the original post:

Experimentation is the key to successful gardening. What grows in your area? What part of your area is best for a specific variety? Because variety-X will grow in your USDA Plant Hardiness zone, does that mean that it will grow in your county? in your own garden? in different places in your yard?

On June 28, I planted some Seminole Pumpkin seeds in soil blocks. One week later, they were well-sprouted and had roots extending from the blocks. They were ready to plant. That is about the fastest seed-to-transplant time I have seen.

My objective is to be able to grow Seminole Pumpkin in marginal areas where my primary crops won’t grow. Seminole Pumpkin is a spreading vine that takes up a lot of room. On the other hand, it has some characteristics that make it an ideal plant for gardening when it counts – when you depend on what you can grow to feed your family 1:

  • The fruit can be picked and stored without refrigeration for almost a full year.
  • It was a mainstay of the Florida Indians and early settlers.
  • It will spread over the ground, cover fences, and climb trees.
  • Needs to be fertilized only at planting and requires no protection from insects.
  • Is excellent baked, steamed, or made into a pie.
  • The young fruit is delicious boiled and mashed.
  • The male flowers can be dipped in batter and fried as fritters.
  • It produces continually and roots at the nodes.

For this test [2012], I planted groups of three plants in three different areas. They will be given a single dose of fertilizer and then water as needed. My goal is to find a place that I could plant Seminole Pumpkin and let it take over a large part of otherwise-unproductive land. Since this is an excellent subsistence crop that requires a large area, the ideal would be for it to grow over what is now bare areas and lawn grass.

This is quite late in the year to start Seminole Pumpkin, but it will suffice for this experiment. If this is successful, I will be planting them in the Spring.

Follow up:

The 2012 planting did not do well at all. While the Seminole Pumpkin can do without fertilizer once it is well established, it needs a rich place to get off to a good start. Simply planting them in sand with a little fertilizer added will result in plants that probably aren’t going to die right away, but they won’t grow either. In my next post, I’ll show how I planted the 2013 crop of Seminole Pumpkin. The difference was incredible.

For this post, we’ll look at the long term storage properties of the Seminole Pumpkin.

The pumpkins were picked when fully ripe. They were washed off, then placed on shelves in our garage. Basically, they were stored at the same temperature and humidity as the outside air. Out of all the pumpkins that I harvested in 2012 and 2013, probably less than a half-dozen went bad. I would have a shelf full of pumpkins that looked like they were picked yesterday, and one that shriveled into an unidentifiable rotting mass. What starts the process, I have no idea.

We have cooked several of them, and they were good – not something that gourmet chefs will be anxious to use, but they have a good taste (very similar to a regular pumpkin or winter squash), are nutritious and satisfying, and they are easy to prepare. Since this year’s experiment has to do with how well they store, we didn’t want to eat up the test subjects. We’ll experiment with preparing the harvest from the 2014 crop.

Harvested in July and August 2013. Photo taken December 27, 2013.

Harvested in July and August 2013. Photo taken December 27, 2013.

Harvested in July or August 2013. Photo taken December 27, 2013. What caused this one to rot while those next to it are just fine? I have no idea.

Harvested in July or August 2013. Photo taken December 27, 2013. What caused this one to rot while those next to it are just fine? I have no idea.


Conclusions:

  1. Seminole Pumpkins require good rich organic soil to start off with. Once established, they can do OK with not much else.
  2. Long term storage in typical Florida temperatures and humidity is excellent. Some will rot, so it it important that they be stored with adequate air space between them and on something absorbent, like newspaper, in case they start to rot and leak.
  3. They are an excellent crop to grow as an emergency food source should refrigeration and other means of preserving food become unavailable.

PDF Doc – “The Sturdy Seminole Pumpkin Provides Much Food with Little Effort”, by Julia F. Morton; Pages 137-142; Florida State Horticultural Society, 1975.

Notes:

  1. Florida State Horticultural Society, 1975, page137.

Food Storage Wisdom

IMG_6492_640x480A generation or two ago, families had the good sense to always maintain a good food storage program because they understood that bad things can happen to food supplies. At some point, America became complacent and assumed that there would never be a time when we couldn’t get in the car, drive to the grocery store or restaurant, and find exactly what we wanted in bountiful quantities at cheap prices. That is not a good assumption. Now things are starting to return to a more sane idea that every family should have their own secure food storage plan. Food storage is still viewed as a somewhat quirky, semi-paranoid idea, but anyone reading The Southern Agrarian understands that it is a very wise move.

These are some notes compiled by a relative who spent forty days living entirely off of stored food supplies. I have known him for my entire life. He is a physician, and looks at this from a very analytical and physiological standpoint. I found myself modifying our family’s own food storage program after following his experience during those forty days.

  • CANNED GOODS—Canned goods have a limited shelf life and should not be part of a survival food program unless they are rotated as part of one’s regular eating. Older foods may not make a person sick, but they taste funny and stress the digestion.
  • FREEZE-DRIED FOODS—Freeze-dried foods have a very long shelf life and are quite palatable and satisfying, both the vegetables and the meats.
  • OILS—Oils are not sold as part of a survival package. They must be acquired separately. They are needed for cooking, palatability, and calories. Vegetable oils probably have important essential fatty acid nutrients, too.
  • NUTS—Easy to store, and a satisfying supplement to many foods.
  • GRAINS—RICE, RICE, RICE. Easy to prepare, easy to store, goes well with other foods. More palatable than freeze-dried potatoes, easier to prepare than breads. (If I had it to do over, I would have bought more rice and less wheat. THIS WAS ONE OF THE BIG LESSONS OF MY EXPERIENCE.)
  • LEGUMES—Easy to store, easy to cook, satisfying. (Legumes, along with rice, became the staples to which I added other things.)
  • SEASONINGS—Seasonings are critical to making legumes palatable. They are sold as packets in grocery stores next to the legumes (dried beans).
  • DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS—Fish oil caps, and hard-coat (i.e. oxygenation-resistant) vitamin pills. Just in case something is missing from the other foods.
  • BULK SUPPLEMENTS—Fiber supplements and perhaps mag citrate. Under survival conditions they can make it so you have one less thing to worry about.
  • PRESERVATION—Many foods come in large containers and once opened, unused portions are susceptible to spoilage unless properly stored. I use mason jars and evacuate air with a vacuum pump. (Completely filling the mason jar is another way to minimize the amount of oxygen in the jar, too.) Weevils can destroy grain supplies if grains are exposed to oxygen.
  • MISC—Salt; sugar; anything you use for cooking. Tincture of iodine, to make drinking water safe. (Think of other supplies.)
  • PRACTICE—If you are not experienced, you will neglect supplies that are important and overstock supplies that are unimportant.
  • PRESERVATION II—Light, heat, moisture, oxygen. To maximize shelf-life, keep these to a minimum.

MISCELLANEOUS LESSONS LEARNED:

  • Old canned goods may taste alright, but leave me feeling slightly queasy for hours.
  • Freeze-dried meats and vegetables can be sprinkled onto moist foods and eaten with no additional preparation. This is convenient, and they are more palatable dry than reconstituted.
  • Ketchup, mayonnaise, and salad dressings are wonderful for dressing up foods. They have limited shelf life, probably about a year, but they are so good and so familiar it is worth keeping a fresh supply.
  • Some freeze-dried fruits are more suitable than others. Raisins are substantial and flavorful, whereas strawberries and blueberries are puffed-up and acidic. The raisins would be more of a staple, and the other berries serve as part of a treat recipe.
  • Powdered milk can be sprinkled onto foods (like oatmeal) and taste quite good (add peanut butter and raisins, please) and avoid the nuisance of reconstituting to an insipid, fat-free drink that must be protected from spoilage.
  • Beverages will be limited. Coffee, tea, grog, crystallized drinks can be properly stored indefinitely. Liquid concentrates do not have indefinite shelf lives. I favor the fortified orange drink from my supplier.
  • #10 cans are much more convenient than 5-gallon pails, unless one has carefully thought out his usage patterns.
  • Lots and lots of mason jars will be needed in order to have opened a variety of foods without losing the balance to spoilage.
  • The moist, hot, recently prepared rice and legume combo made me feel like I was eating fresh, rather than off-the-shelf survival foods.
  • Many “combo-recipe packs” (e.g. beef stroganoff, spaghetti and meatballs, etc.) are very salty and should probably be “cut” with a bowl of rice.
  • Pan breads (pancakes, waffles, cornbread) are more practical than firing up an oven to cook loaves or biscuits. Under survival conditions, baked bread will become a luxury item.
Older posts