In Defense of Growing Things
James is opposed to agriculture in general, gardening in particular and if any permaculturists show up he'll use a precious .303 round on them ( and not even a brass cased round, only a round from the lesser steel cased stockpile).
From a macro, long term view of various civilizational collapses, agriculture usually expands population beyond carrying capacity, depletes soils, literally "salts the earth" from irrigation, causes a degeneration in physique over successive generations compared to hunter gatherers, etc., etc.
Hell, I get it. Instead of digging around in the dirt, I'd rather hunt down a buffalo or mastadon using a sweet ass obsidian Clovis-15 assault spear, drag it back to camp and knock mocassins with a tribe hottie or two.
But that ship has sailed. The megafauna aren't coming back, and billions of ravaging humans have had their way with Mother Earth for quite a while. It must take quite a number of square miles now to support a 20 person hunter gatherer tribe.
For most of us, growing something is necessary for ( or would benefit) our future food plans. Yes, stockpile as much as possible while still living in the cheap oil cornucopia. But it is valuable being able to supplement that stockpile with fresh food grown in soil built using what most Americans set on their curb to be trucked away. Some soil building ideas: road kill, biochar soaked in manure or compost teas, mulching with pine needles or forest duff, bags of coffee grounds Starbucks gives away, have nearby family or neighbors save food waste in 5 gallon buckets you supply, make some bokashi bran for them to add to it for a fermented, enhanced end product, collect bags of leaves set out curbside and compost using saved urine if lacking a nitrogen source. The point is to channel waste already existing around you into building a fertile patch of ground where you can grow nutritious food for close to free.
Growing a percentage of daily food now builds skill and long term health. Not needing prescription drugs after eating multiple servings of leafy greens daily (that only traveled 10 yards to your plate, grew in great soil, and don't have residue of Round Up or fecal coliform) makes a garden seem like a genius idea. The physical exercise and mental benefit of garden work help also.
Check out David Kennedy's book 21st Century Greens. Good read critiquing the modern food system. It also describes nutritional benefits of many leaf crops. For example, sweet potato leaves are the richest known source of lutein, the antioxidant that protects our eyes and skin from UV radiation damage. Think staving off macular degeneration and skin cancers. Plenty of ideas for both perennial crops and annuals for a range of climates.
Another good book with ideas for perrinnial crops is Eric Toensmeier's Perrinnial Vegetables.
Perrinneals are valuable because you plant it once and they continue to grow and produce food for many years unlike annuals. Traditional annual garden crops usually have a narrow time window for planting and harvesting. If you're busy doing other essential things during these times, that years crop will not happen. Also many perrinneals, when compared to common annuals such as corn or tomatoes, may not be as readily identified as food by human pests and mooches.
Gardening is not just for low calorie vitamin production, calories can be produced:
- I convert leaf crops (and weeds) into high quality protein, fats and calories by feeding to chickens and rabbits.
- In my area, root crops such as sweet potatoes and cassava can be grown year round.
- Beans such as yard long beans and winged beans grow throughout the long, very hot monsoon summers. Traditional bean varieties grow better in the winter.
- As far as grain, I have grown small patches of rice, sorghum, and buckwheat ( not a true grain). These trials make me wholeheartedly agree with James: currently grain is a complete bargain. Growing, harvesting, winnowing and cleaning your own grain by hand is lots of work for not much return. So purchased wheat, even ready packed in buckets, is way worth it. Stack it deep.
Thanks for reading.
S in Fla.