Saturday, March 31, 2007

Steps Towards Self-Sufficiency

I'm feeling fairly happy with myself at the moment, as I just finished planting five new fruit trees in my yard--one apricot, two sweet cherries, and two european prune plums. It wasn't particularly difficult--five plants in the ground with all the extras in a little over two hours work. I have no delusions that these five trees will make me self-sufficient when it comes to food, but they are a start, and they're something that almost anyone in suburbia can do. I should get some fruit in two or three years, as they are all fairly large and hardy bare-root specimens. Eventually they will, hopefully, provide quite a boundy--according to John Jeavons of Ecology Action, one mature semi-dwarf apricot (as I planted) should yield up to 225 pounds of fruit. Each semi-dwarf sweet cherry should yield up to 200 pounds of cherries, and each prune plum up to 100 pounds of plums. That more than a little--it comes to 53,00o calories of apricots + 81,000 calories of plums + 60,000 calories of cherries, for a grand total of 194,000 calories per year. That's 531 calories per day, or about 25% of my caloric needs for years and years. I'm sure that I won't come close to that in the average year, but even at half that, it's not bad for two hours work! Now all I have to do is keep them alive and healthy...

I"m particularly interested in the Apricot variety that I planted--it's a "sweet heart" where the kerel is also supposed to be non-bitter and edible because it doesn't contain the toxins in most apricot kernels. The Hunza, who live in a remote valley in the far north of Pakistan, survive largely on apricots--they eat the fruit fresh and dried all year round, and they grow a unique variety with a similarly edible kernel. They use this kernel in ground form as a high-protein, high-fat flour-equivalent, and they express oil from the kernels to meet their primary fat requirement and as a lamp fuel. It's like the olive of the Karakoram! If nothing else, it's worth the experiment, and is a potentially fascinating way to follow the classic permaculture function fo stacking processes to increase yields--most apricot kernels go to waste...


Anonymous said...

Hey Jeff --


I am anxiously awaiting the delivery of my new dwarf hazelnuts... the ones you pointed me to some months ago! (Thanks, BTW). I 've got five of them coming, plus some grape vines, paw paw trees, and a full selection of (largely edible) wildflowers drawn from a local guild. Oh... and then there are the maples already well established and just *begging* to be tapped next winter. :-)

Here's to home grown, eh?


strategist said...

Jeff - interesting post. I liked the way you talked about the Hunza as well as your own experience.

I don't grow much fruit, and do grow vegetables - my enthusiasm to get out in the garden waxes and wanes with other commitments, and currently (at the start of autumn, here in New Zealand) the garden is looking rather scraggly. But my tomatoes have been progressively ripening over the last two months.

Ryan said...

Well, my steps to self sufficiency right now primarily include increasing my monthly investments to 30% or my total income, so I can eventually buy that plot of land and build my house there.

goinggreen said...

Greetings Jeff,

Last year we planted a peach, 2 pecan, 2 apple trees and 6 blueberry bushes. One pecan, the peach tree and 2 blueberry bushes made it. We also had a vegetable garden that did okay but not fantastic. There is a bit of a learning curve with this gardening thing.

This year, due to the course of recent events, we've stepped up our efforts and are planting apples (again), 2 more pecans, more blueberry bushes, jerusalem artichokes, paw paws, grapes, three hazelnuts, and those are just the perennials. We will also double the vegetable patch.

Each year we intend to add to our forest garden. I already have a name once it gets into shape--the garden of eden.

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