Daily Sustenance

Daily sustenance. The way we live takes planning, sometimes planning way ahead, like years in advance. An example. If I want to have fresh milk, there has to be an animal that provides milk. If I want an animal that provides milk, I need the capacity to buy, house, raise, breed and milk it. That in itself, unless I am able to purchase a place that has all of the facilities and an animal in milk that is trained to be milked, takes time, sometimes years.

We moved to our homestead in the summer of 2008. We had the pasture property line dozed of the old barbed wire fence, step 1. Hired a man to install new fencing, with cross fences for rotational pastures, step 2. Had a barn built, then the fencing crew finished the fencing and corral, step 3. Had a water well drilled by the barn, step 4. Located young goats to start the herd January 2009, step 5. Located a buck, then waited until the goats were old enough to breed in the fall of 2009, step 6. While waiting the five months for the first kids to be born, built birthing pens, a weaning pen and a milk stand, step 7. All twelve does had their kids in the spring of 2010 and we were overwhelmed with too many animals, so began quickly selling off the wilder ones of the herd and many of the kids , step 8. Began the process of teaching myself how to train a milk goat to get on the milk stand, not kick me or the bucket, or put their hoof in the bucket [they were very skilled at this, I was not], step 9. Enjoyed our first drink of milk almost two years after we began this process, step 10. All for one drink of milk.

Garden map for this year – the 4th or 5th edition. Probably more changes to come, but this is it for now.

Planning sustenance for a family, no matter how large or small, takes time. Doing for oneself and decreasing dependence on others, be it the supply chain, local establishments or online markets, takes time, planning and effort. All of the effort and activities of the milk example happened after we moved from Alaska to Oklahoma, started new jobs, were having the exterior of the house renovated with new porches added, we were painting the inside of the house, adding blinds to the windows [so we could take down the butcher paper covering them], having a portable building delivered for the chicken house, raising young chicks in the garage, and general setting up of a homestead. We tried to start gardening in the spring of 2009 as well. If I remember right, we didn’t produce much that year and didn’t start caning and preserving a harvest for another year or more. All of it takes time, planning and most of all the motivation and determination that results in success.

The garden, mid March 2021. Trellises ready for April planting. Dog fence installed to prevent garden loss from a one year old active lab.

Experience, failure, discovery, new information, research and more experience all bring new knowledge and insight to a process that may help achieve a goal with a higher success rate. Example. I have tried to learn about companion planting in the garden, how to achieve more production from a smaller area. I tend to plant too thick, too close and have had more than one person say how do you pick anything? There is no where to walk. It’s true, sometimes I just go through a patch of cowpeas, for example, and just pay attention to where I step. They start out in rows but will fill all the spaces in between and it’s kind of like tip toeing through the tulips and trying not to crush anything, but it’s what works for me.

Back to companion planting. One year, like this year, I planted carrots along the tomato trellis after reading they were good companions. Then I planted the beets along the pole bean trellis thinking that would utilize more space productively. The beets barely grew. The beans were fine as usual. Turns out beets and beans don’t like each other and the beans win. No beet crop that year. This year more than ever, I have gone to my books to compare and study what plants compliment each other to try to maximize our harvest and minimize the space it takes to do so.

Brussels sprouts with pots of mint [dug up from the back yard] planted in between to see if cabbage worms will be deterred.

Speaking of harvest. No one we know of in this area of southeastern Oklahoma had a good, productive garden last year. Not one. Crops had to be replanted several times to even get them to grow at all. I ran out of cowpea seeds [purple hull peas] after replanting for the fourth time and couldn’t find anymore. All the normal seed companies I used were sold out. Still are. There are a number of online companies I use that continue to be sold out of some seeds, almost all strawberry plants, many basic staple items. Some still have some designer seeds, but not the basics.

I am really hoping and praying our garden is productive this summer. If you’re not familiar with the solar minimum, educate yourself about the affects of the lower sun cycle and it’s affect on plants. It can be devastating if it continues as it is now. I wrote about it previously and many other folks have also, even NASA and NOAA. There are professional opinions that differ on the affects of the cycle, how deep and long it will last, but it is occurring, nonetheless. Along with the lower sun cycle comes an increase in some aspects of the sun’s rays that reaches the earth due to the difference in the interaction with the layers of our atmosphere. This also affects plants ability to grow and produce in a manner we are accustomed to, especially if we are trying to produce crops in the normal fashion. The crops haven’t changed, but the conditions under which they are trying to grow has. Do a search on the blog to find my previous articles on the solar minimum. It has some links that can help you get started on your own research.

I called this article daily sustenance. That is what my days revolve around. Planning our meals, for that is what sustains us. Planning when to worm the goats so one will give us milk while the others feed their babies until the appropriate waiting period for the medication to clear their milk. In a pinch we would continue drinking it, but now we have the option of letting the kids, chickens or dog have it for a five day period before we keep it for ourselves again. If the supply chain or purchasing power of our local economy is impacted to the point that we can no longer buy feed for the animals, our supply of milk and eggs will be greatly impacted. What then? Is there anything I can do to provide extra for the animals that will increase their production and thus our consumption? Maybe. As we age, I no longer think of being able to grow food for animals, my concentration is on producing enough for two people. I study which foods are nutritionally dense, that will provide what our bodies need to be healthy and productive. There are some foods we grow well, like beets, that have some good nutrition, but there are others that have much more and are easier to store, like sweet potatoes.

I plan a couple of days in advance when we need to bake bread. We get the sourdough starter out of the frig, feed it for a couple of days, bring in a bucket of wheat if needed, Frank grinds the wheat and flax, and the routine goes on. We plan ‘bread days’ when we don’t need to be out and about doing other things that morning because we make the dough in the morning, let it set through the day for the fermentation process, then bake it in the evening.

Cheese making uses four gallons of milk and takes all day. I found the other day that the buttermilk culture I had prepared and stored in the frig had gone bad since I made it too far ahead of time to start making cheddar cheese. I fed it to the chickens and cultured another quart of milk. It is now in the frig awaiting the first batch of cheddar for this season. But then it was time to worm the does so we’re only getting milk from one animal. Right before that took place, we waited until we had four gallons, made mozzarella, then wormed the other two does. We are just finishing the waiting period for the medication to clear the milk. Time. Planning.

Frank wrote a couple of articles back in 2013 and 2014 about some of the realities of trying to set up a homestead, or preparing for a collapse, that outline some of the realities of having to plan ahead to survive what may be coming. I think you will enjoy them. Here are the links.

Homestead Delusions

I’m Going To???

We can’t remember the last time we ate out, or ate any food we didn’t prepare ourselves. Most folks find this to be very odd, but it is our choice. If we go somewhere we pack some bread, boiled eggs or cheese, and an apple. It’s our preferred sustenance when we are away from home. Meal planning at home revolves more and more around what we have on the shelf, much of which we have produced ourselves. My hope is by doing so, if the food supply chain experiences a severe disruption, we can continue to be sustained with what we have without a major impact upon our bodies. If a time of significant disruption in the food supply comes to our country, and I do believe it will, my goal is to sustain us, to have the experience and knowledge to keep us as nutritionally sound as I can.

Sustenance, no matter where you get it, from the store, the pasture, or the garden, takes time and effort. That effort may be the daily work that brings home the bacon so to speak. It may be the planning and serving of meals. We’re not all in the same boat with a view of the same horizon, but we all have to eat, and to eat we have to plan ahead. The horizon is dim and uncertain making the ability to sustain ourselves shrouded and unfocused. Regulations and new restrictions on food production, transportation and the ability to procure the needed supplies is being impacted more and more everyday. I encourage you in the strongest possible way to see to the sustenance of you and yours. Whatever you eat, by whatever means you usually obtain it, please do so, in an overabundance that seems way beyond what you may ever need. Strikingly so. Find somewhere to put it. Under the bed, behind the couch, fill up your spaces with sustenance. Plan. Think it through in detail. What is it you need for your daily sustenance if that is all you could ever get? Ever?

Without food, without sustenance, we are dead.

Until next time – Fern

8 thoughts on “Daily Sustenance

  1. Fern,
    Thanks for sharing about your homestead experiences with us. There always seems to be mistakes or bumps in the road as we move along in life. We certainly don’t like to have problems ,but they will occur regardless . We try to look at misfortunes as a learning experience and sometimes it is just a little bit challenging to do that.
    We also do a garden diagram every year and save the previous year diagram to help us in any crop rotation we do. We bake our own bread and have found that using bread flour makes for a lighter bread ,especially for rye and sourdough. Our goal has been to be as self reliant as we can and we are working harder toward that goal especially since the eye opening experiences of last year.
    We don’t raise any livestock but we buy beef and pork from neighbors that raise them . Wife always has a soup pot going and we do lots of casserole dishes , usually getting 2 dinners from one casserole.
    We can from our garden and also we can lots of beef,chicken and pork. We have bought heirloom seeds from Seed Treasures as well as Victory seeds from Oregon. We really like the Hopi squash from Seed Treasures , it is delicious and it stores for up 2 years.
    Thanks again for your posts , they are quite informative.

  2. Thanks for keeping up your blog and for your writings.

    I weeded in the garden space just outside my front door this week. I took my time and did a little bit over three days. The entire bed is about 15ft long on the longest side but is shaped like a trapezoid, not a rectangle.LOL

    I also got into the closest community garden to see if any asparagus was up yet. It’s a little eary yet given that we had freezing temps for about a week at the beginning of March. I could have weeded but just looked around.

    And the most exciting news, I’m on the list of ‘potential’ owners but won’t know until the puppies make an appearance if I made the final cut.Golden Retriever, again.Whelping date is Monday as in 24hours from this comment.

    Fun to see pictures of your new pup. Cheers,

    1. Hi SJ, good to hear from you. I wondered how your community garden adventures were coming along.

      It seems you have been waiting for a puppy for quite some time. I hope one brightens your doorstep before long.


  3. Thanks for the article Fern. Lots of good progress made in the last decade, good for you to keeping it up. Reminds me of so much to do, so little time. Lots of rain this week in the Ozarks, not much we can do outside this weekend. Did some pruning and trimming last week, I’m ready to start cleaning out the beds and getting after it.

    1. I always have ‘planting fever’ this time of year, Redneck. I have been reading the daily update at the Old Farmer’s Almanac page each morning this year. It has some interesting information and daily ideas. Here is a link to their page. It is also on the sidebar of the blog.

  4. I almost hate for this company name to get too widely known because then I might have supply problems 🙂 Anyway, try Seed Treasures. They are in northern MN; grow only heirloom plants and grow as varieties that thrive in a cooler climate.

  5. Being a little (okay, a lot) OCD we have inventory lists of all our storage foods over and above our everyday pantry and freezers (Sweet Bride said listing the freezers contents was just too OCD). It comes to 15 pages double spaced, and adjusted as we draw from the inventory with a note as to what needs to be replaced.

    One positive aspect of the lists is being able to pinpoint disparities in quantities. For instance, many years ago I toured a wood flooring factory in Brazil. Walking past the lunchroom the owner mentioned he fed his employees black bean/rice/black bread twice a day, every day.. I remember thinking what a boring menu that must be, until I noticed a multitude of sauces and spices on each table, making it possible to have a different tasting meal each time. Looking at our inventory list I noticed how short we were on spices and flavorings like chicken/beef base to compliment our pails of beans & rice. Easily fixed, and a terribly monotonous menu avoided.

    Your mention of the solar minimum, which gets almost no mention in the pro-climate change media, is something we all need to keep in mind. As you say, it’s going to affect our gardens in unexpected ways. We’re considering whether to take a chance on adding fertilizers, but are worried we’d overdo it, or just continue with composted manure & hay. More investigation to be done there.

    Thanks for y’alls regular posts, they’re always food for thought, or in this case, the table.

    1. Tom, I have read about folks that keep lists like this, but I am not OCD. Give your Sweet Bride my sympathy.

      Good point about spices and condiments, it’s a great way to change up the same staple items into a variety of meals.

      If we hadn’t had hay with Grazon on it, we would still be using our barnyard on the garden. It’s all we have ever used and it works great for us. I have no advice about commercial fertilizers since this is the first time we have ever used one.

      Thanks for sharing, Fern

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