Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A glimpse into my Brain

This post has little to do with Tiny houses.
Clearly, I want a tiny house when and where I settle with my Partner, and when I have it I want to put it on a little homestead.
I have a pretty strong desire to grow a lot of my own food.
Growing all of my own food might be possible, if I lived in a suitable climate and devoted all my time and energy to it. That is not what I want. Every food item that I grow should be weighed against a few things.

-how much time and effort does it take to produce?
-how much space does it take to grow?
-how easy is it to purchase it of a similar quality?
-how much more (or less) expensive is it to grow myself?
-how fun is it to produce it myself?

For example, growing all my own wheat would take up a lot of space and requires specialized skills and equipment to harvest and process, and organic wheat is easy to purchase and not too expensive. I might grow a little patch of wheat or other grain to experiment, but growing all the wheat my Partner and I eat in a year would be too much work. It wouldn't be fun.
My father got me thinking lately about Aquaponics, which led me to thinking about protein self-sufficiency. What would it take to grow all the protein my partner and I eat in a year? Here is a quick writeup of a brainstorming session I entertained myself with for a few hours.

This gets kind of dense and boring. Have a picture of baby goats. 

 All Good? Let's continue. 

Protein self-sufficiency brainstorm
52 fish per year = 1 meal of fish per week
24 broiler chickens per year = 1/2 chicken every week
1 goat kid per year = ~1/2 lb red meat per week?
3 laying hens = ~a dozen eggs per week, averaged
1 milk goat = ~1/2 gal milk per day for 6-9 months
    extra could be made into cheese

inputs for the fish
aeration (electricity)
filtration (aquaponics, requires more electricity)
fingerlings every year
one-time output for the setup
unknown amt of money/year for maintenance
Protection from the elements
Good freezing system to prevent freezer burn (yet more electricity)
Effort would be yearlong
    culminating on one day of butchering
    followed by the introduction of new fish

inputs for the broiler chickens
pasture (ideal)
chicken tractor/s
protection from predators
expected mortality rate
good freezing system to prevent freezer burn
effort would be concentrated over 8-12 weeks
    culminating in a day or two of butchering

inputs for the hens
pasture (ideal)
chicken tractor
protection from predators
protection from the elements
supplemental light (in winter)
effort would be yearlong, production would fluctuate
regular replacement (2-3 years)

input for the milk goat
some grain

fodder for winter
electric fencing (intensive rotational grazing)
protection from the elements
yearly stud service or AI 

vaccinations and deparasiteizers
milking parlor and supplies
cheesemaking supplies
effort would be yearlong, production would fluctuate
regular replacement (5-10 years)

inputs for the kid
some milk from the goat
some grain

many of the same inputs as milk goat
good freezing system to prevent freezer burn
kid born in early spring, butchered in fall
-meat goat father probably ideal

This is more meat than the Partner and I currently eat, though the dairy and eggs are about right. We also eat a lot of legumes and nuts, which are not represented on this list.
The thing that bothers me the most about this, is that every single item on the list requires outside inputs in the form of food and electricity. I could maybe, in theory, grow all the hay and grains and legumes needed by all these animals, but it would be a huge amount of effort and space.
If my interest is in sustainability, how sustainable is it if the success of my farm is dependent upon draining the resources of another, not to mention the use of fossil-fuel or nuclear produced electricity, but going completely off-grid requires a large input of time and effort, not to mention the capital required to set the system up...
(Stop. Breathe.)
I can't do everything.
Probably the easiest way for me to attain protein self-sufficiency would be to eat as low as possible on the food chain - a vegan diet.  Growing legumes and nuts is definitely something I'm interested in, but I tend to do very poorly when I don't have enough animal protein in my diet.
So maybe a vegetarian diet would be the answer? Adding milk and eggs? But to keep a dairy animal in milk requires yearly freshening, which means babies, and there is a very very limited market for pet goats, and a backyard milker's kids are unlikely to go for anything else... except for meat. So I might as well eat them myself. And laying hens need replacing every few years, so I might as well eat those too, so they don't go to waste... and some vegetarians eat fish, right? and I like fish... so I'm back at square one again.
Probably the best I can do is grow what I can and want to - I really really want to have my own goat for milk and chickens for eggs - and hope wherever I am when I can finally have my homestead, there are nearby farmers I can buy everything else from.
So... I hope you enjoyed this fun(?) look into my thought processes.
Join me next time when I agonize over other sorts of food self-sufficiency - like producing all your own oil, or all your own sweeteners! (never going to happen)


Wesley Owen Campbell said...

:-D I've been contemplating something similar; try adapting for life on a sailboat! I would like hens for eggs, and think I cam make that work on a boat, a small greenhouse for the vegetables I eat, and fish and other seafood is all-you-can-catch.

In the end, I think I would be trading the seafood for beef and other wants.

For your setup though, I think the best thing is to find a good community that will offer great trade, if everyone in the community focused on few aspects, according to their comfort and capability, then trade could be plentiful. It's not self-sufficiency exactly, but can be off grid.

mamita said...

Good point Wesley

Pacharuna said...

I have some Ideas for razing chikens that wold not require outside inputs. somthing like our chiken setup in ecuador but for this tipe of climet. I have figured out how to grow a pig withought grain that would provid meet and all your oil needs. and you should consider a sheep rather than a goat in my humble openion (I dont like goats) :) maby you sholuld live close to me and you can just buy a beef from me in the fall that would take care of all your proteen needs and you can can lots of this stuff that would free up your freezer. well cool beans talk to ya later

Zaylinda said...

@Pacharuna: I would like to see your ideas for raising chickens... but I really have no desire to raise a pig. I don't like pigs. They are evil. They hunger for human flesh.
The goat is primarily for milk, and an average goat is going to give as much milk as an exceptional ewe. The kid is a secondary benefit... and I have met some very nice Goats, with very neutral tasting milk, and I have acquired a bit of a taste for goat cheese too.

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