I am fortunate to have grown up in a family that grew, raised, gathered, processed for storage, and finally cooked much of our own food. I am often dismayed by how many people today lack such basic living skills -- even to the point of ignorance regarding where common foods come from. Some years ago now, a friend of Lee's and mine, a wonderful old Crone named Mallie, was shopping in a grocery store. In the produce section, she saw a child turn to her mother and ask,
"Mommy, what factory are oranges made at?"
The mother thought for a minute, a puzzled expression on her face, and finally said, "I don't know, dear."
Wherever my parents made our home, they planted a vegetable garden and an orchard of vine, bush, and tree fruits and nuts. We raised chickens (for eggs mostly, though we also ate the meat), rabbits, and at least one steer. We fished and gathered seafood off the beach and while diving. We butchered our own food animals, and froze, canned, smoked, and otherwise preserved the food we harvested. When I was born, my family even had a milk cow.
I learned to dress out chickens and rabbits and clean fish and other seafood early in life. Later, I added goats to the roster of animals I've dressed out for food.
Also later in life, Lee and I became homebrewers, making our own ales, wines, meads, and liqueurs. We have been interested in learning to make our own cheeses for some time now, as well.
These are much-needed life skills, and I'm glad to have learned them. I feel the need now to use them more, to expand upon them, and to help myself and interested others learn more.
Raising our own food has been central to our plans for Haven for years now. The more I learn (and the costlier the state and county make building Haven) the more crucial and urgent becomes the task of raising our own food.
It is also important to us to do this in a way that is not only environmentally sustainable and healthy, but also sustainable and healthy in terms of our own physical effort and time. So we plan to draw heavily upon the principles of permaculture as we design and build Haven.
Lee especially has been very concerned that he not end up with so much ongoing work to sustain Haven and its inhabitants that he cannot live his personal dream of expanding his metal working skills and accomplishments.
There will be a great deal of work involved in building Haven for the first about three years especially. But we want to set it up so that in time, the need for ongoing input of human labor is minimized. Designing for this will be crucial.
Our plans for food-raising include several projects:
- breeding rabbits for meat and pelt;
- raising goats for brush control, light draft work, and meat;
- adapting the forest currently at Haven to include more edible species and so enhance its utility as an edible forest garden;
- planting an herb and vegetable garden; and
- raising more food plants and other tender species in solaria along the south face of the cob house.
- Shannon plans for detached greenhouses as well.
- Haven's forest already contains a variety of wild foods for whichwe may forage.
Lee has declared his personal dislike of chickens (apparently he encountered some particularly aggressive roosters in his childhood), so either Shannon will be raising chickens for eggs, or we'll trade for or buy eggs locally.
The idea of keeping a milche goat as a source of milk for cheese-making, and a source of kids for meat, is a "maybe, someday..." Generally speaking, keeping a milche animal of whatever species, in a manner to produce quantities of fresh raw milk on an ongoing basis, is a major commitment. I do not think I will ever want to commit Lee and myself to twice-daily milkings for 8-9 months out of the year, and Scott has mad it abundantly clear that he is absolutely against the idea.
But both Shannon and I have heard of the possibility of letting a female goat bear kids and nurse them normaly, while occasionally taking some of the milk for oneself, until the kid is weaned and the flow stops. That might be a more than adequate way to have some fresh, raw goats milk for cheese making and kids for meat, both on a natural, seasonal basis. It bears further investigation, I think, to see how feasible the idea may be. Shannon's Pygoras may give us the opportunity to experiment if she breeds them, as I think she plans to do.
But probably the first meat animals we will raise will be my Chocolate Havana and Silver Fox rabbits. Rabbits are prolific, relatively easy, efficient, and also relatively inexpensive.
It will be a bit of a challenge to place a vegetable garden in a workable but out-of-harms-way location while we are building. We are fortunate to have Shannon, a Master Gardener, among us. I know she will be eager, as will I, to garden. She is already resigned (I hear) to wait on landscaping (which she does beautifully). We must get a good roof over our heads first. But we also have many people interested in learning how to build with cob by helping us build our cob home, and they will need to be fed.
So, that is an overview of our plans to improve our food self-sufficiency at Haven. Clearly, more can be said on several subtopics raised: permaculture, beekeeping, rabbits, goats, milche animals, cheesemaking, gardening, edible forests, wild-gathering, homebrewing, and more. Each in its own time...
However, one further point needs to be made now. Given that we are only four adults (perhaps only two, if Scott and Shannon end up ultimately getting their own land elsewhere), we clearly cannot meet all our needs alone -- not even (probably) just our food needs. It will be important to build a strong interdependent mutually supportive community with our neighbors. There is also a CSA -- community supported agriculture -- farm not far from Haven, which is a valuable resource. And there will certainly still be things we "go to the store" for, while we have such stores available.
But one of the most important motivations for Haven, for me at least, was to free ourselves from dependence upon the exchange of money at a grocery store we had to travel to to get our food. Lee and I are very much enjoying buying more locally from farm stands as we make the transition to raising more of our own food.