The following article has been generously contributed by Joe Alton, M.D., aka Dr. Bones, of Doom and Bloom Nation where you can find strategies to stay healthy that include traditional medicine, alternative remedies, and medicinal/survival gardening. For the best in emergency and long-term disaster medical preparedness we encourage you to check out The Doom and Bloom Survival Medicine Handbook and follow Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy on their weekly podcast.
To Survive, How Much Land?
Have you ever wondered how likely it is that you’ll be able to produce all the calories you’ll need on that piece of land you have? How much land for livestock? How about those solar panels you were thinking about? How many square feet of panels will provide you with the electricity you’ll need? There are ways to figure this out, and the answers may surprise you.
Let’s start by talking power. In a collapse situation, you’ll probably be able to rely on the sun and wind and not much else, unless you’ve built a watermill. The best answer might be installing some solar panels on your roof. This is a commonly available option that many people are considering nowadays. Let’s say part of your roof is facing south (the best place for a solar panel) and you get 7 hours or so of sunlight, on average. To get the amount of power that an average home uses in a year, you’ll need 375 square feet of panels. These things aren’t cheap, and that much hardware is going to be beyond the average family’s financial reach. This means that you’ll have to make decisions regarding how to ration the power you ARE able to produce. Look around the house, and you’ll probably see lots of things that are plugged in that you can eliminate if the stuff ever hits the fan. This is part of the planning you’ll need to do now, so that you’ll be better prepared for times of trouble.
How about food? If you have a family of four, you’ll want to provide at least 2000 or so calories per adult, more if you’re a big guy, maybe a little less for kids. The formula is simple: At least 30 calories per kilogram of body weight. One kilogram equals 2.2 pounds, so an 80 kilogram adult would weigh 176 pounds. 30 x 80 = 2400 calories/day. Less for kids, of course. All in all, you’ll need to provide 8000-9000 calories a day to maintain your family of four’s weight.
So, let’s talk about some hard realities. No matter how much food you’ve got stored, it will eventually run out in a full-blown collapse. For your future success, better get that garden growing. Anyone who’s done it will tell you that there’s a learning curve, and you sure don’t want to plant that first seed in the midst of the Zombie Apocalypse.
Now, let’s separate your garden out into three categories: fruits, berries, and vegetables, then wheat, then corn. If you went totally vegetarian, you would need a little less than half an acre per person to provide all of those calories. That means a family of 4 needs almost 2 acres of farmable land!
The majority of this land will go to fruits, berries, and veggies. You’ll get the most nutrients in terms of vitamins and minerals from these. To decrease the amount of land you’ll need, consider companion planting. Some organic farmers will plant sunflowers, and then plant peas that will grow up the long stalks. The same goes with corn, squash, and pole beans. Squash will grow low to the ground, pole beans will take the intermediate area, and corn up high. Make sure you don’t put plants in the same family together, such as dill and carrots. They will share the same pests and diseases, which could possibly spread from one crop to the other.
If you stock up on wheatberries and use your handy dandy Wondermill, you can cut the land requirement down a bit. A mix of prepared food storage and gardening will keep you healthy and fed for a longer time. Corn isn’t a very land-efficient crop, but you might need it for your livestock. An alternative if you need to trim that acreage down a bit more is to stock up on bushels of corn feed; that’s about 55 pounds of feed for about $9-10. This is a good idea, but you’ll use a lot of it. It takes 10 bushels of corn to get a hog from weaning to slaughter. Btw, corn prices are going higher; they were less than 5 dollars a couple of years ago.
Don’t forget, you’ll need some land for hog wallows, goats, rabbits and chickens. All of these animals can be raised in relatively small amounts of space, and provide important protein. You’ll need a good 200 square feet for 3 hogs, more if they have piglets. You can get away with less for each of the other animals.
You might have to forget about cows; they aren’t land-efficient. If you want milk, think about goats, especially Nubian Goats. This variety can produce 1800 lbs. of milk a year, according to various sources. That’s a lot of milk! How about eggs? The average family of four will eat 1000 eggs or so a year. To reliably get this quantity, you’ll need about 10-15 birds in your henhouse, depends a lot on the breed and the ingenuity of the local foxes and raccoons.
You could probably squeeze this all in with an acre and a half of land. If you don’t have that much property, now you know you’ll need that much more food storage to make up the difference. This is information I thought was important for me to know, and now you know it too.
Joe Alton, M.D.,aka Dr. Bones, is a medical doctor and a certified Master Gardener for his state. He’s a regular contributor to Survivalist Magazine and the author of The Doom and Bloom(tm) Survival Medicine Handbook, due out early next year. His blog at www.doomandbloom.net is all about medical preparedness, survival gardening, and figuring out strategies to keep you healthy in a collapse.