Self Sufficiency and Survival Foods… are you prepared?

Planting a garden with food potential is one of the most worthwhile things we can do.

This information on Self Sufficiency is provided free from Isabell Shipard's Self Sufficiency book.
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Please see How can I be prepared with Self-Sufficiency and Survival Foods?  for full text.

Self Sufficiency Book Commendations

Will we always have a free country with unlimited food supply? Would we be prepared to try new foods, or forage the environment, if our usual foods are scarce?

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What wild foods, would you know to survive on, in your area? How about foods, that are repulsive to you, would you eat them if starving … snails, earthworms, cockroaches, grasshoppers or rats? Many years ago, I taught a Herb Course with a segment on self- sufficiency at Kingaroy. Robert, who was in the group, shared with the class the following information. While in Morocco, when he was backpacking the world, a family had invited him to stay. He could see that they were very poor. He patted their little dog and remarked at how the pet was so friendly. The evening meal was prepared and they ate, and he remarked at how enjoyable the meal was, and asked what it was & they said … “Roasted doggie poo!” Now, you thought I was going to say roasted doggie, didn’t you? I am not sure if any of us would like to have to eat either the doggie or the poo! During times of war, when cities have been under siege for many days, people have resorted to atrocities beyond my desire to put on paper.

In our present century, in many third-world countries, the main concern of many thousands of children is … where their next mouthful will come from. They die of malnutrition and disease due to poverty, while here, in Australia, where food is plentiful and social welfare assistance available for all, one major concern, is consumption of too much food. Many children, teenagers and adults are overweight. Perhaps, we need to contemplate what it would be like without food, shelter and other essentials that we often take for granted.

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Could a major calamity or drought affect the supply and the price of food in our land of plenty? We know that the cost of living just keeps escalating but what can we anticipate … with the predicted long droughts … or in a prolonged flooding crisis?

A recent radio program gave details of a Queensland man who had kept all his supermarket dockets for the last 7 years. In checking the dockets, he found that the price of fruit and vegetables had increased 50%. Daily newspaper, The Courier Mail, 27th September 2007, highlighted the climate crisis with a large heading ‘Starving our Shelves’ and that the long drought may bring on ‘food shock’. The Federal Government has joined farmers in warning us of a looming ‘food shock’; as scientists speculate the drought may never end, many farmers are forced to walk away from their dustbowl farmland.

Could rolling strikes, or a range of other calamities, disrupt electricity, water, telephone, transport and other amenities to shops and to our homes … and how would no petrol affect every household? We truly have been a ‘lucky country’ … plentiful food, running water in our homes, sewerage systems taking away our wastes, comfort and luxuries in our homes … we are truly blessed. However, it may not always be this way in the future … would families be prepared … if catastrophic disaster struck?

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Poverty, starvation and death are ‘a way of life’ in many third-world countries.

How much non-perishable food does your family have stored, if all shops shut tomorrow?

Now … is the time to grow a useful garden. Plant trees that are fruit bearing, and vegetables your family likes to eat that are suitable for your climate.

Plants most suitable for tougher times should meet one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Plants that have proved hardy and adapt to a wide range of soils and low rainfall.
  2. Can be harvested throughout the year, or have a long cropping period.
  3. Produce that has a long shelf life or can be dried or used in some other form.
  4. Plants that are little known as a food source and are unusual … if times get tough; with jobs and food scarce (or highly priced in the shops) our gardens could be raided and food stolen, so grow some obscure food supply.

The following plant and seeds could be practical for you to consider growing and storing for the future:

Drumstick Tree, Leaves and Pod
Drumstick Tree, Leaves and Pod

Food plants not so commonly known … particularly plants with high protein leaves: sweet leaf bush 34- 39% protein, p88, drumstick tree 38%, p 89, fenugreek 32.6%, p 94, kang kong 31%, Queensland greens 29%, comfrey 22-36%, p 102, salad mallow 20.4%, p 88, nettle 20%, p 60, amaranth 20%, p 61, alfalfa 19%, p 71; and also other obscure plants like: sambu lettuce, mushroom plant, mukunu-wenna, warrigal greens (see Bush tucker, p 72), Ceylon salad leaves, chicory, red lantern hibiscus, pit pit, pinto peanut, Indian fig, p 66, sugar cane, sugarbeet, Lebanese cress, mitsuba, and leaf ginseng, to name a few. The leaves of the high protein plants can be dried, then crushed and stored to provide a protein source to add to meals. For more detail of plants, see Salad Greens, p 86 and Herbs, p 97.

Become familiar with edible weeds. Be aware, now, of plants that are edible, as weeds may provide hope of survival during times of extreme hardship. Calamities may strike with terrifying suddenness … earthquakes, tidal waves, or cyclones. During times of war, many starving people found that nettle could give sustenance (see Weeds, p 56).

Learn of plants to be avoided that are harmful or poisonous (see p 79).

Grow a variety of root crops; these can, usually, be dug, over many months of the year eg Queensland arrowroot, South American arrowroot, cassava, taro, coco yam, sweet fruit root, Jerusalem artichoke, jicama, Chinese artichokes, sweet potato, sacred lotus, American groundnut, water chestnuts, oca (see Hardy survival food plants, p 25).

Grow some hardy vegetables, particularly ones that store well eg many pumpkin varieties, potatoes, squash, choko, pie melon, p 25, 48, African cucumbers, p 74, flour gourds (these will store for over 12 months) (see p 25 for some of these plants).

Store seeds for sprouting These must be used and replaced, regularly, to ensure seed will always be viable for sprouting. Take note, that the viability period can differ with each kind of seed eg chickpea, lentils, fenugreek, peas – usually are viable 2-3 years; brassicas viable 2-4 years; corn, wheat and other grains, also sesame, buckwheat, sunflower, alfalfa, mung beans, adzuki beans, broad beans and many other kinds of beans viable 2-5 years; while rice bean seeds may be viable 10 years; chia, pigeon pea and amaranth seed 4 – 5 years (see Sprouts, p 92).

Plant natural sweeteners like: stevia, licorice, Aztec sweet herb, (often during wars and calamities sugar is not available or in short supply). (see Herbs, p 97).

Also, herbs to dry to use for flavouring of rice, pasta or cooked pulses eg marjoram, oregano, thyme, savory, parsley, chives, garlic, tarragon.

Grow tonic and immune building herbs (see p 83) and greens (see p 86).

Herbs for stress relief and sleeplessness eg rosemary, sensitive plant, lemon balm, St. Johns wort, mother of herbs, camomile, valerian (people in bomb shelters in Britain during World War II were given valerian tea to drink for its tranquillising effect). (See Herbs, p 97.)

Herbs for building energy, endurance and strength eg fenugreek, licorice, gotu kola, stevia, khat, chia, oats, yerba mate, nettle. (see Herbs, p 97).

Grow a variety of healing herbs … eg herb robert, gotu kola, comfrey, aloe vera – the living first-aid plant (found to heal radiation burns) (see p 99).

Other items that will keep indefinitely, when stored out of harms way of weevils and rodents eg nuts in shells (like almonds), rice, pasta, carob and tamarind pods, sweeteners like honey, molasses, golden syrup, and sugar; peanut paste, Vegemite, and other spreads; spirulina, soy sauce and tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, dried vegetables and fruit. Seeds of wheat, barley, oats, rice, corn, amaranth, millet, buckwheat, pea and beans seeds have been found to store well for many years. These seeds may be soaked and cooked until soft, to make them more easily digested.

Grow some toilet-paper bushes: Arla bush Tithonia species, p 73, 1-3m tall with white daisy flowers, and large, soft leaves; and Blossom bouquet bush Dombeya burgessiae, p 29, 2-4m tall with large leaves. These bushes will provide velvety-soft leaves for using in an outside, makeshift toilet, if the sewerage system does not work. In one of the Herb courses, a lady shared that her mother-in-law always keeps a 12- month supply of toilet paper; you see, she had lived through the 2nd World War in Europe and knew what it was like not to have toilet paper. At any time hygiene is important, and even more so during times of upheaval, as disease can spread rapidly.

Save non-hybrid seeds from the basic food plants that you grow, like carrots, corn, peas and beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins and the brassicas; make it a routine to save these valuable seeds at the end of each growing season (p 123). We must save our seeds to preserve the biodiversity of seeds, to guarantee the survival of plants, in this century and the next, and from genetic engineering.

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