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September 27, 2012

Tech Troubles and MEN

Unfortunately both my camera and my laptop are giving me fits lately. So apologies to everyone who has been kind enough to leave comments - I'm a bit behind. But thank you, as always, and I'll get this thing figured out. I might need a new laptop. Drat. My camera needs to be replaced also and I'll work on that soon. Today we'll just do a quick pic-less post.

To be sure Mother Earth News (MEN to its fans) and I have our differences. But somehow I got sucked into a automatic renewal scheme where I'm getting it for $8 a year. And so it stays. I just skip over the more extreme views and concentrate on the gardening sections. And what great gardening articles they have!

They haven't updated their website for the October/November issue but I got my hardcopy in the mail a few days ago. Sometimes people ask me how they can start their own "grow you own" projects. The MEN article, "A Plan for Food Self-Sufficiency" (by Cindy Conner starting on pg 29)  is a great overview for folks to get a plan in place to get started. 

First a word about the words "self-sufficiency."  There is always some clown who wants to argue that its not really "self sufficiency" because you may still get electricity from the grid, buy stuff from the store, and will want to throw the phrase, "well you dont grow your own coffee" at you like a stick. I say to them, "Go and stand over there with your friend who wants to keep saying "there's no such thing as a free lunch."

We'll assume that that "self sufficiency" vaguely means getting out of the stranglehold of big agribiz and doing something for yourself. Whether you want to save money, make a political statement, or do it just because you can - growing your own food is wildly rewarding. As is giving the finger to the local SuperGrocery and their broccoli from China. Now is a great time to get a plan in place for next year's growing season. This article "A Plan for Food Self-Sufficiency" is a great reference. I'd highly recommend picking up a copy of the new issue of MEN if you get the chance.

To summarize, the author Cindy Conner, suggests taking the following steps:

1. Establish your goals
2. Choose a gardening method
3. Plan how much to grow
4. Keep good records
5. Preserve your harvests

Sounds easy enough. And its not so overwhelming when its broken down into these chunks. If you haven't done any of these projects I think its hard to see how you go from nothing to harvesting grains to feed to your flock of poultry. Let alone canning meat!

But once you get your feet under you, and you have a garden going, you can move up to other activities such as growing/harvesting your own oils, sweeteners, and then getting into livestock. It is widely acknowledged that chickens are the "gateway" animal into a full barnyard. Once you start with chickens you think, "ducks would be fun" then there are turkeys, goats, and pigz. Pretty soon you only go to SuperGrocery for catfood, chips, and beer. 

If you are hesitant to take on the full gardening and barnyard then start small. Determine to grow, harvest, and preserve just one thing - say, all of your tomato sauce. Or salsa. Get your growing area ready now by establishing raised beds or mulching a sunny spot. Get a canner, some jars, and a few garden tools while they are on sale at the end of this season. Do research on what varieties of veggies do well in your area.  Then you'll be ready to get gardening when spring rolls around again.

For those of us who are well into the grow your own thing, I found a great resource for extending this gardening season on the MEN site. Check out this page on year round gardening and cold frames. There are tons of ways to keep those greens coming for the next several weeks... or longer.

Happy Thursday everyone! And if you know if a deal on a cheap, bare bones laptop... let me know.