How much land do you really need to be self sufficient?
With a world food crisis, drought and civil unrest over escalating food prices, around the world, we all have concerns about food security and the ability to feed our own families. An info-graphic is circulating the internet that tells us that we need a full 2 acres to be self sufficient in food on a omnivore diet, implying less land if one is vegan. The problem with a graphic like this is that it discourages experimentation, and assumes a one-size-fits all family eating style. It uses yield estimates taken from mono-cultural commercial agriculture and imposes them on the homestead. This discourages people who want to attempt to be self sufficient and live a more sustainable life. 2 acres is a substantial investment in a highly productive agricultural belt or near an urban area. And this info-graphic assumes highly productive land — expensive land.
So is 2 acres a reasonable estimate? That depends where you live and what you mean by “self-sufficiency”. When Canada was being divided up in homesteading grids — it was assumed that on the Prairies an average family would need a section of land (over 1,000 acres) to be self-sufficient. In those days, self-sufficient meant to survive to the next year, without grocery stores to fall back on. In Ontario and B.C. the amount of land necessary to feed and cloth a family was considered a ¼ section — 160 acres. That area provided water, food, energy, and a livelihood. Along the St. Laurence and in the Maritimes the amount of land needed was less — due to the proximity of fishing and water. The closer one is to fresh water, whether a stream or through rainfall, the less land that is necessary to sustain a family.
Those in the North or at higher elevations need more land to be self-sufficient. Its hard to grow food — other than livestock and hay — in a growing season that’s shortened by intermittent summer frost. But it can be done. Land in these areas is cheaper, too. You will need 5 to 15 acres to be productive in a Northern area and you will have more land dedicated to raising livestock and hay and less land dedicated to vegetables and fruit.
How much land do you need?
So what’s a reasonable estimate for how much land you really need to sustain your family?
Skip the 2,000 square foot house. Its unnecessary. A smaller footprint that builds upward is a better use of space, and is easier to heat and clean. Solar panels? Possibly if you are far enough south and have a good exposure. Wind? Micro-hydro? Methane? Wood? All are possibilities to explore for energy efficiency. Each property has to be assessed individually. There is no one-size-fits-all solution — except the grid. Cut the house footprint in half.
Livestock? Skip the pigs — they produce only meat and take up valuable space. Skip the corn unless you live in the South, where your summer has the heat value to ripen corn easily. The livestock doesn’t need it and its low on food value — 2 goats and 5 chickens can live on garden surplus, grass and weeds. 5 chickens will feed a family 2 dozen eggs a week in the peak laying season. They don’t need their own dedicated space. Put them in a movable chicken tractor and let them till the garden, eating bugs and weeds. Move them every morning during the growing season and it will improve your soil quality, too.
Goats can be housed in a shed near the house, a lean to onto the house or even the back of the garage. They only need a small bedding area and can be taken for walks in the hedgerows of your neighbourhood to feed on browse. They can be given a loafing area or be tethered in different spots around the yard to help keep down weeds. Protect them from stray dogs and predators and they will give you 8 to 10 years of the highest quality raw milk for drinking, cheese, yogourt and ice-cream. They can be fed with garden waste. Or share your field peas and produce with them, in exchange for their milk. Their manure will increase the fertility of the garden space. 2 full size dairy goats will give your family a gallon of milk a day and 3 kids for 90 lbs. of meat every fall. Live in an urban area? Invest in Nigerian Dwarf goats and half the production rates, as well as the food inputs.
Instead of corn in cooler regions, grow potatoes. They offer more calories and can be grown in more climates and take up less space. You can follow a crop of potatoes with kale for a longer harvest season, even in a colder climate.
Don’t forget the orchard
Fruit and nut trees are a must. Nut trees take a while to mature but the increase in protein is beneficial to you, and your livestock — plant them if you have the space. Dwarf fruit trees will grow on a 6 foot centre and can be trellised along a fence to increase yields per space. If space is at a premium, do consider trellising them — planting 6 feet apart in a one foot wide row. One dwarf tree will yield 75 lbs. of fruit, once it is mature. 10 trees trellised along a fence with a Southern exposure, blossom sooner in spring and have an extended growing season, and will give you enough fruit for a family for jamming, canning and preserving.
Berries and small fruits take up little space and can offer high vitamins and antioxidants to your diet. If wild roses and wild strawberries grow in your area than other berries will as well.
Sunflowers are an annual crop that provide an increase in protein for your diet, and can grow on the borders of the garden, taking up very little space.
Raised beds for vegetables
Vegetables, grown in raised beds or containers, give high yields and can be rotated for 3 season gardening — greens from spinach to lettuce to kale can rotate through the growing season to keep your plate full for daily salads and vegetables. We grow all the greens we need in about 20 square feet this way. Other vegetables, like cabbage, beans, carrots and beets, need a full growing season but can be inter-cropped with flowers and herbs to feed bees, and provide medicinal plants for the family first aid kit. With raised bed gardening you could cut down the vegetable area square footage by ½ to 2/3rds Add a greenhouse and train vines to grow up instead of out and you can increase the growing season and the yields in the available space.
Community is essential
This chart fails to take into account the sharing that inevitably happens between gardeners — zucchinis, squash, lettuces and other prolific growers provide a bountiful harvest that many families can share, at the peak of the growing season.
Rabbits? Chickens? Ducks?
Put in some rabbit hutches – Each rabbit needs 2 feet by 3 ft. space. You can give them a grass run and build rabbit condos that offer them a wonderful, natural lifestyle. 3 female french angora rabbits and 1 male will provide your family with a meal of rabbit meat once a week and enough angora to keep your family in mittens and hats for the winter. They will eat your garden surplus, and grass hay. In Europe, during WWII, families with back yard rabbits would make hay by harvesting the grass from vacant lots and roadsides all summer. And they make affectionate pets, too. Are we eating our pets? No, as a farmer you make pets out of the breeding animals and give the best possible life and respect to the young that end up on your plate.
You don’t need meat every day, but you do need high quality protein every day and this kind of gardening will give you that.
Consider planting field peas for increased protein. Field peas increase the fertility of the soil and the crop is ready to harvest in August when the ground can be cleared and a second crop can be planted of either peas or a winter vegetables. The straw from peas is relished by goats and rabbits.
Consider the addition of an aquaponics greenhouse in the vegetable growing area. This will yield fish fertilizer, vegetables, and fish for a well rounded diet for you and your garden — along with year round vegetables. Add a methane digester and you can supply some of your own energy needs as well. If you can grow meat and vegetables year round, you reduce your dependence on a freezer, which lowers your electrical needs.
My estimate is that in a highly productive area with adequate rainfall, the average family could raise all their food needs on 1 acre of land. Many did just this during WWII with just a large city lot, by walking their goats and moving their chickens around the vegetable garden. The key to making this work is to eat what you can grow in your climate — using heritage seeds that are adapted to your growing conditions. With more land — 5 acres — you can move from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture and begin to make some money from your productivity.
If you have more land, grow more food and expand your self sufficiency. But if you only have a balcony in a city apartment, grow where you are planted. And start in a small way to be more sufficient now. On the Joybilee Farm Facebook Page, I post periodic links to urban agricultural projects to inspire your urban efforts for self sufficiency.
One of my favorite resources for urban farm is the Urban Farm Guys. Their videos are practical step-by-step guidelines to help you harvest more food from a small amount of land. –joybileefarm.com
OMG I LOVE THE VIETNAM AU. Finally, the reunion! So wonderfully written. But hold the phone WHAT happened to Jamie and why does he look like that and how is Claire gonna heal him? *sigh*
“Stuffed cabbage, Claire?”
Claire turned to her left, meeting the kind brown eyes of
Ian Murray – Jamie’s best friend and brother-in-law.
“Sure – is it grown here on the farm as well?”
Ian served her a good-sized helping. Jenny – at her right
– poured a bit more wine into the tall glass by her plate.
“Most of the simple vegetables come straight from the
kailyard – always have, as long as we can remember. Nothing is as fresh to us. Or
Claire took a tentative bite, keeping her eyes firmly on
the gorgeous old dinner plate – clearly used only for special occasions – as Jamie’s
foot silently nudged hers beneath the table.
Somewhere around three that afternoon, Ian had hobbled
down to the barn – he had lost his leg in a childhood car accident, Jamie later
explained – finding a doubly rare sight. Jamie Fraser was idle – and Jamie
Fraser was in the company of a woman.
That he had somehow, sometime told Jenny and Ian who she
was had been clear – but just exactly what they knew about her was not. She had
helped Jenny and the kind housekeeper Mrs. Crook prepare dinner – over Jenny’s protests
that a guest should rest – seeking the opportunity to quietly introduce herself
to Jamie’s sister, and needing the time away from him to just reflect on her
whirlwind day. She had had months – years – to prepare. He had had no notice,
and yet had taken it all in so gracefully.
Had pledged himself to her, fully. Unequivocally.
Would she do the same for him?
She’d immediately accepted his offer of a place to stay
for the night. Jamie had proudly shown her to one of the beautifully
apportioned rooms on the second floor of the Big House – Lallybroch – sharing incredible
stories of the many Frasers whose blood and sweat had been poured into the very
stones and floorboards of the house since before the Revolution.
Light streamed through the windows of the room that was
to be Claire’s – the hand-carved bed covered in a worn but exquisite blue
bedspread that had been quilted by Jamie’s grandmother MacKenzie; two plush
armchairs of a 1940s vintage cozily angled before a small fireplace; on the wall
above the bed, a vibrant watercolor of the Big House amid the glowing orange
leaves of autumn.
“There should be some spare clothes in the bureau,” Jamie
remarked softly, remaining just inside the doorway as Claire quietly acquainted
herself with the room. “And my Mam painted that when I was small. We have her
drawings and paintings up all over the house.”
From her position at the window, admiring the kitchen
garden and small orchard of fruit trees clustered near the old outhouse, Claire
turned to smile at him. “Do you paint?”
He shrugged. “I’ve tried. But Jenny has the real talent
for it – some of her pieces are downstairs.” He paused, licking his lips. “Well
then. I’ll be down in the study with Ian. Have some orders to straighten out
for tomorrow. Will – ”
“I’ll be all right,” she reassured him. “Thank you,
His smile – small, glowing – was absolutely beautiful. “Thank
*you*, Claire.” Then he turned and disappeared down the hall.
“The apples in that pie you helped me with come right
from the orchard – great-grandmother Fraser planted them, right after the War
Between The States,” Jenny continued. Claire snapped back to the present as the
toe of Jamie’s boot curled around the back of her shin.
“I’m normally not much help in the kitchen, but you’ve all
been so incredibly warm and generous – ”
“Nonsense,” Ian insisted, tearing up a piece of Mrs.
Crook’s thick homemade oat bread – a bannock, Jamie had called it – for his
three-year-old son – Jamie’s namesake holding court at the worn but homely
kitchen table between his father and uncle. “You’ve made Jamie smile again.
Lord knows that’s been a rare sight since he returned from ‘Nam.”
Jamie withdrew his foot – and Claire looked across the
half-empty portions of roasted pork and Brussel sprouts and corn bread. Meeting
his intense blue gaze. Hoping her eyes could convey everything her voice could
Apple pie and whisky before the fire in the sitting room –
lined floor to ceiling with books dating from the 18th century all
the way up to shiny new editions of Slaughterhouse-Five and In Cold Blood. Comfortable
silence between them when Jenny and Ian departed to tuck the children into bed.
And then when Claire had yawned for the fifth time, Jamie rose, banked the
fire, and helped her rise from the couch. Then gently led her upstairs to the
room that would be hers for as long as she wished. Holding her hand the entire
They paused in the doorway.
“Will you be warm enough? There are extra blankets in the
hallway closet – ”
Claire rested her hands on his solid shoulders. “I’ll be
just fine. I’m not fragile, you know.”
He settled his hands on her hips, eyes creasing with happiness
in the dim light of the hallway. The silence of the house buzzed in their ears.
“I know you aren’t,” he breathed.
Then drew her close – holding her. Enveloping her. Feeling
her melt against him – her heart thrum in time with his.
After a long while she pushed back, kissed the corner of
his mouth, and quietly slid out of his arms.
“I’ll be right here, down the hall,” he whispered. Eyes
She blew him a teasing kiss, then quietly swung the heavy
oak door shut.
On both sides of the door, Jamie and Claire rested their
foreheads against the wood. And sighed.
Despite her exhaustion, Claire slept fitfully. Tossing and
turning on the heavenly soft mattress and under the almost sinfully warm quilt.
So many images flashing through her mind – the bullet-scarred palm tree on the helicopter
pad at Chu Lai; the faded anchor tattooed on the forearm of her anatomy
instructor; the checked shirt Uncle Lamb loved to wear when presenting his
latest findings to a group of his peers. The graceful, invisible shapes Jamie
had traced with his hands as he shared stories about himself and his Fraser
forebears – helping her learn about all the gifts he would give her.
Did she belong here? Could she belong here – the lady of
this great house? Sharing such a well-respected name? Enjoying dinner every
night in the rustic kitchen built two centuries ago, surrounded by so many
Frasers, alive and dead? Quietly at peace here on the ridge which Frasers had
called home for longer than Beauchamps had been in America?
The house groaned and settled around her – easing into
Except the shuffle of steps in the hallway. Pausing
outside her room, then continuing down the stairs.
At least she wasn’t the only restless person tonight. Jenny,
perhaps? Maggie was still nursing – perhaps just another late-night feed?
Claire wrapped the tartan blanket – Fraser colors, Jamie
had told her – from the foot of the bed around her shoulders, draped over the App
State t-shirt and flannel pants that had been neatly folded in the bottom
drawer of the bureau, gently pushed open the door, and stepped downstairs.
Only one room to visit at this time of night – the parlor,
where books and the warmth of the fire could lull even the most restless to sleep.
But it wasn’t Jenny who sought solace, deep in the night.
Jamie stood after adding a fresh log to the fire, rubbing
his face with his hands, clad in an olive-green Army-issued t-shirt and worn
white long johns.
Claire must have made a sound – for his head snapped up,
His wide, sweet mouth twisted in a wry smile. “You could
say that. I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in three years.”
Claire blinked harshly in shock. “You mean – ”
“Yes – since Chu Lai. I – well.” He swallowed, grasping
for words. “I re-live all of it every night.”
She crossed the room to stand in front of him. Rested a
tentative hand on his elbow. “Tell me?”
He did. Terrible storied of men blown to pieces. Villages
burned. Dead livestock floating face-down in rice paddies. The faces of men he couldn’t
save. Memories of pain, and anguish, and isolation.
“And the worst one –” his voice broke.
At this point they had curled up together at the corner
of the couch, her legs tucked against his, sharing the warmth of the plaid. She
squeezed his clammy hand. Encouraging.
“The worst one is when the VC attack Chu Lai – and I can’t
find you, Claire. I can’t protect you. And then I’m scrambling down the hallway
and they’re firing at me and I trip over your body.”
He wouldn’t look at her – preferring to stare into the
She wiped the tears from his eyes. Stunned.
“Have you ever told this to anyone?” Her fingers twined
in his hair, damp with sweat. Bringing his face to rest in the curve of her
All he could do was shake his head. Breathing hard.
Burrowing closer to her.
“Nobody here understands. I’m a war hero. The owner of
this estate. I’m not supposed to be scared. I’m not supposed to have a back
twisted with scars. I’m not supposed to be terrified of going to sleep every
Claire eased onto his lap. “Shh,” she soothed. “I’m here.
Just let go, Jamie.”
He inhaled deeply. Shakily.
“Let go,” she repeated. “I understand. I’m here. You don’t
have to pretend.”
“I love you.”
His awed, red-rimmed eyes lifted to meet hers. Smiling through
Then her lips found his – and they clung to each other in
desperation and joy.
Genre: Angst, Smut (later), Gang!au, some (dark) Humor
Warning: Violence(!), Mature language and themes
A/N: Strap in and get ready for this one it’s gonna be a ride. This is just the beginning folks so I hope you like it. This will be a 12 part series and I am about as ready as you are.
Summary: Growing up as the daughter of an infamous Mob boss isn’t particularly easy or full of sunshine and skittles. Still, you hold yourself together pretty well and get by without too many issues. That is until you get kidnapped and dragged away far from the safety of your home, the brutal mobster-filled estate disguised as an orchard. Escaping from your kidnappers isn’t the hard part. That part is almost too easy. No, getting home to your concerned father and your overprotective, and now very worried, “family” is the problem. Luckily, you find your salvation in a kind, though not so innocent, stranger who saves you from the wrath of gunfire. You then “convince” him to help you home, though the road towards Strawberry Village isn’t as smooth as you both hope.
Costumers have no fucking business bitching about scars. We can't bitch to you about how bad your breath is, how your perfume gives a 15 minute warning of your impending arrival, how your face is so contorted with downright evil it's comparable to withered orchard fruit. Stay out of our personal lives. Your parents failed to teach you basic human decency.
Nashville. It’s what Taylor thinks of when someone says ‘home’. Her mom and best friend live here. It’s where she recorded her first song, created her debut album, and every single one thereafter. Nashville is the birthplace of her first kiss, first love, and first heartbreak. Braces happened here. Birthdays have come and gone, so too have anniversaries and Christmases and New Year’s, all precious memories firmly cemented in her mind.
What hasn’t happened here? The grime and filth. The lies, the made up stories, the stalking of her by paparazzi, the snarky Ed Drosteish opinions, none of that.
Nashville is safe.
She loves the people, the community, the manners, the food, the music. The lakes and the forests are her sanctuary. She enjoys going out for brunch to have her favorite sweet potato pancakes, running into people who aren’t overwhelmed by her fame or celebrity. She likes that she can have a sense of normalcy in Nashville.
Here, she can be Taylor. She doesn’t have to be Taylor Swift every day.
No one really bugs her here, and there aren’t usually paparazzi. She can drive, and she can go places without her bodyguards sometimes, even though they always get wishy washy about that.
When she comes home, fans aren’t standing around her gate, and no one’s taking pictures through her windows. No drones are circling overhead. Her neighbors generally ignore her. Sounds weird but, she loves being ignored like that.
It’s the perfect place to spend time when you don’t really want to be noticed.
To discover the new frontier of urban farming, you’ll have to look up — and look sharp — for hanging fruit.
Urban orchards are dropping everything from apples to persimmons to avocados on Seattle, Bloomington, Ind., Boston, Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other North American cities. Groups like the Portland Fruit Tree Project advocate for public access to existing fruit trees so that people can glean crops that would otherwise go uneaten — an idea some are calling radical. Other groups are more interested in planting new groves of fruit trees on previously fallow city land.
Fruit trees produce food, but also provide shade, keep greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, improve water quality and may even deter crime. Advocates say they also have a longer lasting impact on communities than vegetable beds.