R. Ann Parris on Gardens – Counting Chicks


Gardens — Counting Chicks by R. Ann Parris for PrepperGroups.com

We’ve heard the phrase “don’t count your chicks before they hatch.” It applies in a lot of areas, but particularly with food production. We could actually expand it to not counting chickens before they’re grown and harvested, because both plant-based and animal-based food systems have a lot that can go wrong.

It’s one of the reasons our forebearers became exceeding successful — and more populous — once they settled into permanent or only semi-nomadic lifestyles. Their habits can give us a couple of really good points to consider when it comes to our production and storage.

Self-reliant growers don’t plan on eating off gardens in spring — they produce and preserve for a complete cycle, harvest season to harvest season.

Even for growers with long 5-7 month seasons who then further buffer beds in spring and autumn for extended harvests, and who eat highly seasonally, just producing the vegetables and fruits to augment their base calories, harvest-to-harvest typically means 7-9 months of some kind of storage.

Not preppers. Just self-reliant growers.

That’s apples and winter squash on shelves, bottled peaches and tomatoes, carrots waiting in deep-mulched beds, and turnips in sand tubs or pits. Because those crops have to last until they can harvest the next round of carrots, peaches, and squash.

Even when they primarily eat seasonally, due to the unpredictability of harvests (even in Big Ag) most of those self-reliant growers won’t only store food for winter and the very first parts of spring, and count on foraging and growing enough of even just their veggies.

Instead, many actually go out further with their dehydrated and canned produce, a full 12-18 months, to account for bad harvests of specific crops and bad seasons that reduce normal garden totals, and buffer the potential of a really ugly situation from having a bad year all around.

We see a bit of a flip in the extreme polar and alpine regions where instead of vegetables, natives who still live very old-school lifestyles are relying heavily on the waterways and fatty animals for their nutrients as well as the energy to stay warm through the very, very, very long cold seasons.

Those people, particularly, know the absolute necessity of harvesting as much as possible and storing as much of it as possible for the lean times. In many cases, they may have only a few weeks a year to get each primary harvest in, and if they fail to make the mark, it means slaughtering dogs and hoofstock and still possibly going hungry — rationing to the bare minimum for months on end, not weeks, and totally at the mercy of a good season in the coming year.

They embrace extended food storage as part of their lifestyle, because even in the best of seasons, things can go wrong.

Numerous as potentials for disaster are when we rely on Nature and other living things, it’s not always a failure on the plant or animal fronts. Things can also happen to us specifically that greatly affect how much we produce, harvest and preserve.

We break and get injured. We fight illnesses. So do our families, which can affect us and the time we can devote to producing and harvesting.

And, so do trees, which can fall and squish a garden/animal shelter, back up a creek/ditch and flood our patches, or squish our roofs/windows and force us to spend time dealing with that instead of producing, harvesting and storing for the future.

Tools also break and are lost and stolen. Depending on insurance and income, and availability, we may not be able to replace/repair them. We may not be able to replace/repair them quickly. That can slow us in producing, harvesting and storing, and when it comes to Nature, we’re usually matching or racing her timescales, not setting the pace. Delays affect how much yield gets safely tucked away.

It all contributes to the need for some extra, even beyond our harvest-to-harvest storage.

People lived that way far longer than the modern trends of day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month and season-to-season living. Those who maintain or have returned to more traditional, self-reliant lifestyles learn to replicate the farther-forward outlooks — among others — and are usually the last ones to expect that every season will bring as much as in the past, without any complications.

They don’t count their chicks until they’re in sturdy, protected storage, and even then they keep an eye on it. Because things go wrong. If we’re prepping, we should really be acknowledging that potential, too.