Food in Uncertain Times: How to Grow and Store the 5 Crops You Need to Survive
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Neanderthal stone tools, interestingly, are all found within a few miles of where the rocks originated. And the tools didn't change very much over time. But Homo sapiens that lived at the same time had tools made from rocks that were clearly traded over long distances. And H. sapiens tools changed and developed rapidly. We traded our ideas along with all our stuff. Any Neanderthal tribe that met a sapiens tribe was one tribe against an entire species. I'm a Homo sapiens, and I follow Homo sapien traditions. I aim for appropriate self-reliance, not for independence. Independence is for Neanderthals.
MG: It's kind of a relief, actually, to think about gardening outside the realm of those perfect photos so prevalent in other gardening books. For people who have day jobs taking them away from their farms and gardens, resilient gardening might seem like a miracle. How would you compare resilient gardening to more traditional forms?
CD: Much of our garden writing is about the gardens of rich people who have employees to do the work. Even non-rich people with full-time jobs and no hired help are encouraged to take the gardens of rich people as the model. Beauty and showing off and ornamental plantings and huge high-maintenance inedible lawns have mattered more than food, for example. I'm not rich enough and haven't the time or inclination for that sort of gardening. I delight in all the knowledge about plants, ecology, and gardening we have today. But I take peasants as my basic model. I aim to be a modern peasant. I focus primarily upon growing food, especially upon staple crops and crops of special nutritional value. And I want lots of delicious food for the least possible work.
In addition, in the real world, things are always going wrong. These can be private or personal, such as an injury or family emergency that removes your labor from the garden for a while. Or they can be financial. Loss of a job can mean you really need to know how to get most of your food from the garden, not just fruits and vegetables. I also look at things over a thousand years. Over that kind of period, humans experience mega-crises of various kinds.
On average, the Pacific Northwest experiences two or three mega-earthquakes per thousand years, for example, which would destroy our roads and bridges and cut us off for years. Many kinds of natural and societal disasters occur over such time frames. Gardeners who know how to grow food can be reservoirs of knowledge, skills, and seeds for their communities. For this, though, the gardeners need to know how to grow staple crops, that is, calories and protein, not just fruits and vegetables. In good times, gardeners don't necessarily need to grow all their staple crops. But in good times, resilient gardeners learn to grow and use some of their staple crops so that they at least know how.
The resilient gardener knows we have our ups and downs, as individuals, families, societies, and as a species. The resilient garden is designed and managed so that when things go wrong, they have less impact. Most gardens are good-time gardens. They self-destruct rapidly if deprived of our labor. They depend upon constant imports of fertilizer and seeds. They need relatively stable weather. The resilient gardener has learned to operate with minimal external inputs, and in a world where climate is changing and weather is more erratic. The resilient gardener knows how to save seeds. The resilient garden is one that thrives and helps its people and their communities survive and thrive through everything that comes their way, from tomorrow through the next thousand years.