The Resilient Farm and Homestead

An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach

BEN FALK

WITH PRACTICAL INFORMATION ON LANDSHAPING, WATER SECURITY, PERENNIAL CROPS, SOIL FERTILITY, NUTRIENT DENSE FOOD, AND MORE

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not clear at the time why. In retrospect it was likely several things. Harvest time is one of the most beautiful and busy times of year. August, September, October— these are stunningly beautiful days with a crispening air, the bulk of the harvest coming in, frost soon to arrive—gratitude, urgency, and abundance all rolled up into a couple of intense months. Spending long hours in the kitchen boiling water and putting up relatively small amounts of food for each massive pot of boiling water (and energy input) seems even crazier to me now than it did then. The harvest time is a time to be outdoors. It’s still swim season, the beginning of some hunting seasons, foliage season. Not a time to be slaving away over a stove. Besides, think of the energy input in physical terms alone: Boiling three or more gallons of water to put up maybe three to five quarts of food. The energy exchange is a poor one for food but seems acceptable for diet supplements like sauces.

Processing Strategies
As we learn to produce abundance reliably (see chapter four and this chapter for food-production techniques), we must also learn to extend that abundance across the year. The most resilient techniques for processing and storing foods are those that are: • Most healthful: retain and even enhance the lifesustaining qualities of the food. An example would be lacto-fermented versus canned, the former being living and as such more life-enhancing than dead canned foods. • Most passive: the approaches that can be performed with minimal time, energy, infrastructure, and material inputs, both initially and in the long term. A root cellar is clearly superior to a refrigerator in this aspect. • Most multifunctional: All things being equal, the best method of processing is one that harnesses an energy stream or activity already taking place; for example, dehydrating on a woodstove while the stove is used to heat water and warm interior space. If you’re already using the woodstove for those latter needs, other values can be harvested virtually for free. Drying apples in the rafters of a wood-heated kitchen is a great example of this strategy.
A friend, Richard Czaplinski, putting up some of his many apples to dry in the rafters of his kitchen ceiling

• Most time efficient: All things being equal, the faster a method can put up abundant produce the better because, simply put, time is your most often and greatest limiting factor, especially during the busy harvest season. Equally as important as speed of processing is when the processing can occur; for example, red cabbages, which can keep until late winter, then be made into kimchi and keep another four to six months. Any processing method that you can apply well after the harvest season has in and of itself a high value in this regard. These strategies apply across all of the primary ways we store caloric and nutrient value, including drying, canning, pickling, smoking, lacto-fermenting, in oil or in vinegar, living (vegetable in the ground, animal on pasture or in the barn), and tincturing.

Food Crops

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Very Long-Term Food Storage: An Insurance Policy
LONG-TERM FOOD SUPPLY staple food/crop storage
BEST USED BY indefinite indefinite 30 30 “LIFE SUSTAINING” 30+ indefinite salt, sugar, baking powder wheat 30+ instant potatoes cooking oil dried apples powdered eggs canned food pinto beans oats powdered milk yeast pasta rice

20 15 10 5 2 0

20 15 10 5 2 0

cracked/ground seed

dehydrated vegetables

dehydrated dairy

An overview of some of the most important long-term food stores sources: https://www.usaemergencysupply.com/information_center/storage_life_of_foods.htm; Nutritional Adequacy and Shelf Life of Food Storage by Dean Eliason and Michelle Lloyd copyright © 2005 Brigham Young University

Three modern technologies that have emerged in recent years allow us to put up a baseline stock of food for insurance purposes—for particular use in an emergency event that lasts awhile. These three tools are Mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, and plastic five-gallon buckets. Easily available from many emergency preparation suppliers, the bags and absorbers can be used with certain stable foods—dry beans, grains, salt, and sugar—to enable storage for very long periods of time because of the securing of the optimal food-storage environment, which is dark, dry, cool, oxygen-free, and protected from pests. Ensuring these conditions can allow the viable storage of beans, grains, salt, and sugar for at least five years and up to twenty years. Research is still being conducted on these approaches, but evidence shows reliable storage of these foods for at least ten years under ideal conditions. Salt, of course, can be stored indefinitely, and many salts are already millions of years old at time of purchase (for example, Himalayan or Andean salt).

salt, sugar, honey

dried herbs

pasta

beans

dehydrated fruit

root vegetables

fermented foods

hardy fresh fruits

whole spices

hard grains

brown rice

soft grains

white rice

nuts

alcohol

Storing food for very long periods of time using Mylar and food-grade buckets is simple and involves achieving the optimal conditions by (1) drying the food to be stored, (2) placing food and oxygen absorbers into a Mylar bag, (3) sealing the top with an iron, and (4) placing the bag into a tightly closing five-gallon bucket with a strong lid and storing it in a cool, dry, dark environment. I find that buying foods in bulk from the local co-op is a good way to find fresh, large-quantity dry foods at a good price. I wait for a warm, very low humidity day on which to do the Mylar bagging, using grains and beans I have spread out in the sunshine during the middle part of the day. It’s easy to get behind on the process and end up attempting to bag foods as the sun gets low. This is dangerous because the dew often starts to set well before sunset on such a day—rendering the whole drying approach ineffective and likely destroying any possibility for such food to last years in storage. I have not measured moisture content with precision but find that a couple of hours in direct sunshine on very low humidity days (here,

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that’s 40 to 60 percent, which is relatively high for drier climates) does the trick. The beans, grains, or sugar are spread out thinly across screens or dry canvas so that sun access is high. A light breeze can help but is not necessary. I transfer the food quickly into Mylar with two to three oxygen absorbers added into the bag as the food goes in. Holding the bag tightly so that as little air is inside as possible, I use a hot iron to make the top seal—mine is an electric model, but one could be fashioned at home and heated via a woodstove if necessary. Labeling each bag, of course, is very important. Though Mylar bags are available in full five- and six-gallon sizes to fill a bucket, I prefer to store at least half my longterm insurance foods in smaller one-gallon bags so I can open smaller quantities at a time, and in the event that a seal was not properly performed or the food was not adequately dried, less food is spoiled.

Within one hour after each bag is packed and sealed, you should see the bag tightly crinkled around the contents such that an outline of each bean, seed, or grain is visible on the outside—it should look like it is vacuum sealed. If it does not, you should consider that bag shortto midterm storage at best and eat it within a handful of months to a year. Some have brought up the concern that Mylar could be released from the bag into the food, as is the case with many flexible materials, such as plastic food wrap. This could definitely be a health issue to be sure. My take on the concern is simply that, while it’s a possibility—even a likely one—the need to store food for very long periods is important enough to warrant the risk. As with most things, our exposure to artificial contaminants is high and continuous in the modern world—we must counter that with equal consistency through daily foodmedicine and other health-enhancing tools.

The longest lasting storage options are of particular value because they allow us to extend harvests across years, not just months. This multiyear storability is crucial when acute events happen—like the Year Without a Summer. While such events are unlikely to happen often, they are inevitable, so a continuous backdrop of preparation for them is foundational. The longestlasting storage approaches combine the right foods and methods, which yield a stable calorie and nutrient package that can be consumed more than one year from harvest. These food/storage combinations should

be used as the baseline to one’s food security. These include, in general order of value, the following: • Live animals for milk, meat, fiber, hide • Hay • Dried fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, certain nuts and seeds in their shell • Grains and dry beans (unhulled, ideally) • Canned and frozen foods: long storage but high initial and operational inputs limit their usefulness

Keeping a Homestead/Farm Journal
Today the ice on our ponds is 6" thick, it’s 28°F out and snowing sideways. A quick look at our farm journal reveals that on this day last year the ponds had been free of ice for a week and the first spring peepers were heard. By checking the journal I also see that we had been eating arugula for weeks already last year while those same beds are now frozen solid. The earliest perennials were leafing out at this time last year—a far cry from this year. Our memories are poor and having a written record going back now almost five years has made me realize this to an acute degree. When it’s nearing time to sow a specific veggie seed, look for a certain pest, or think about harvesting a crop I turn to the farm journal. I find an increasingly long span of records that show me the average time the same action was done in years past and the extremes on both early and late ends of the season. I try to record all migrations, new pests, leaf-out dates, ice out, ripenings and harvests, sowings, birthings of an animal, completion of projects, and dozens of other markers that can serve as both seasonal guides and reference points in the future about significant events. It is always an enlightening experience to leaf back through the years and see that whether something on the farm seems productive, early, unhealthy, or late, it all seems to even out by the end of the year.

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