For non-preppers, it’s spring cleaning time of year. But for our self-reliant tribe, growing our own groceries preparations are getting in full swing.
Many of us have been afflicted with that dreaded disease…cabin fever. This incredibly harsh winter after several years of mild ones, seems like it will never come to an end. Al Gore can take his whole global warming theory and stick it, I am beyond sick of snow.
It is not just snow I am sick of, it is the deceptive unseasonably warm, like 65 in Appalachian Ohio kind of odd weather, followed by an inch or two of snow the following day – rinse and repeat, that I am tired of dealing with.
I am trying to look at this horrible winter as a preparedness teachable moment. There’s no better way to try out your prepping plan than to put it to the test. This winter we got to test our snow storm, ice storm, and flood preps simultaneously.
Merely getting ready for the spring growing season (even if I am doing it while standing in snow) is very exciting and makes me feel fully productive once again.
Getting Ready For Bees
This week we prepped by getting our fruit grove ready for spring and summer. It is too soon to order more bees, but we spent time researching top-producing queens and comparison pricing.
Keeping our hives in our fruit grove, and in our garden as well, should truly enhance the harvest. The shorter the distance the bees have to roam to find crops to pollinate, the less chance they are going to come into contact with chemical pesticides and GMO crops that can – and do kill them.
We do not use a single GMO seed or chemical product on our survival homestead. Our family eats natural food, just like most of us did growing up before biotech companies introduced government approved poisons into the food supply.
Bees are responsible for growing about 70 percent of the food we consume. Their numbers have been on a drastic decline since about 2005. If the bees all die, the human race will surely not be far behind.
Raising bees in your fruit orchard, garden, and/or greenhouse will not only help your food grow, but will provide delicious and healing raw honey.
Researching and price comparison shopping, both online and in seed catalogs, is a great way to prep when you cannot get outside and do much – or when you only go out and take care of what has to be done and then rush back in to hug the wood stove.
The horse manure that has been composting all winter long is now dry enough to use. Several wagons and truckloads of the black gold were hauled up the steep hill to the upper acreage and spread about.
We mound some good composting material around all existing trees and then dig holes and shovel the compost in – covering it with straw when the compost hits ground level.
The horse manure and other composted materials will work the soil to use for about another month or so until we can safely plant in the holes after the last threat of frost has passed.
I am making a big assumption that there will be final frost this year. The way the evil winter of 2017-2018 has gone, that definitely is not a given.
We also tested the soil to see if its composition had been altered in any unexpected way over the winter. Sandy loam or loam soil are great for fruit groves because they are permeable and foster proper water drainage and retention.
Fruit trees tend to achieve maximum growing results when cultivated in soil that has a 6 to 7 pH balance – making it just slightly acidic.
Fruit Grove Prep
One the days it was decent enough by prepper standards to work outside, the fruit grove started getting an overhaul.
First, we needed an additional barrier between the fruit grove and the horse pasture. The upper part of our 4-tier partly wooded survival homestead is simply a sight to behold. It is beautiful, secluded, impossible to reach by anything except a helicopter or ATV – if you have the nerve to try.
This is one of my favorite spots on the survival homesteading retreat. The hunters in our tribe love it for the big bucks that appear frequently. It’s also a great place to go to pick acorns, walnuts from some nearly mature trees, and to hike around and repel down a rock formation.
As I have stated before in various articles, you can stand in the middle of the upper portion of the retreat, look in any direction you want, and not see any signs denoting what century you are living in. No power lines, no noise, just some wood fence posts and barbed wire partially hidden by berry bushes.
A part of the upper pasture gets perfect sun for our fruit grove. My hubby made chicken wire cages around the new trees, but that ultimately did not give them enough protection from our horses. Apparently, scratching your butt on a fruit trees feels awesome, if you are a horse!
Bobby hit Tractor Supply and bought some electric rope fencing, posts, and a charger to frame out the fruit grove area. We will put a string of barbed wire in between the rows of electric rope/tape fencing, as well.
I scored some super cheap bird netting over the winter to add another layer of protection to at a minimum, our younger fruit trees.
The first fruit trees were planted in a section of the grove I refer to as the Future Generations Garden. Each grand kiddos helped plant the seeds that they will one day reach up and pick for themselves.
Expanding The Fruit Grove
In addition to adding a more secure perimeter to keep the horses away from the fruit grove and preventing the birds from eating our food, we’re also planting some more healing and healthy food.
I can’t wait to get my rose hips seeds into the ground. I had never heard of rose hips until I overhead the Kilchers talking about them while walking through the living room when Bobby was watching Alaska The Last Frontier.
I was intrigued by the scene with the rose hips on the show and delved into some research on their medicinal value and growing requirements.
Rose hips possess more vitamin C than oranges – and you obviously do not need to live in a warm climate to cultivate them. The rosy red fruits are also a prime immune system booster and are key ingredients in natural home remedies designed to treat diarrhea, urinary tract infections, back and leg pain, constipation, gallbladder problems, and kidney infections.
Yep, rose hips definitely sound like something I need to plant to expand my natural home apothecary.
Rose hips can be eaten raw, but I highly advise washing them and crunching them up in a blender first. Growers or wild pickers, generally soak rose hip fruits in a bowl of cool water overnight and then simmer them for about a half an hour before mixing them into a natural remedy. Rose hips can also be used to make wine and tea. Medicinal wine – now I like the sound of that.
Black Walnut Trees
We had to cut down a high-yield black walnut tree on the property because it was located too close to our primary garden. Two young replacement trees will soon be thriving in our orchard.
Black walnut trees cause low-growth and fungus to grow on tomatoes, and similar bad effects on a host of other common garden crops as well.
Thankfully, copious amount of black walnuts from the tree did not go to waste. I scooped up all the ones that were not going to be eaten and used them to make a natural wood stain and with my hide tanning projects.
Both the leaves and the bark from black walnut trees are excellent natural ingredients for poultices designed to treat poison sumac, warts, and poison ivy.
Ample space is now reserved for our elderberry bushes. This is another powerful and natural flu fighter. A tea brewed from elderberries has been known to help bring down fever and combat other symptoms typically associated with the common cold and flu – like sore throat.
Elderberries also have immune system boosting compounds.
The elderberry tea, which can be consumed either hot or over ice, is decidedly easy to make. Simply mix together 3 cups of water with a ½ cup of dried berries and bring it to a boil for half an hour.
After the pot boils, strain the berries and water into a glass container (I used a Mason jar) and then add 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons each of ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Basically, add the healing herbs to taste…a little bit of ginger goes a long way unless you happen to be nuts about the taste of ginger.
Stir in 1 cup of honey and let the healing elderberry teal cool enough to sip and you are done. Relief from cold symptoms should begin happening rather quickly.
Non-Native Fruit Plants
We grow dwarf non-native fruit trees and bushes in our home and greenhouse. I really, really, really, want to grow a black pepper tree, but that will involve my beloved substantially expanding at least the roof of the greenhouse or building a new addition. No such luck yet, but I plan to get my way eventually sometime before the SHTF.
Black pepper has so many healing and medicinal properties I just don’t think I stockpiled enough little spice cans of it to feel fully prepared – I feel the need for a sustainable and renewable source.
It is still too early to take our dwarf fruit trees and bushes out of the house and greenhouse to relocate to the orchard, but I am giving them some extra natural soil and growing boosters to ready them for the process.
Non-native plants we cultivate in containers for the fruit grove and outside seasonal growing:
We are considering growing tobacco because it will make such a great bartering item during a long-term disaster.
Non-Orchard Growing Plans
Even though we poured over plant and seed catalogs and websites for hours on end, we still had plenty of stuck inside time to further ponder our growing expansion plans for this year.
We are blessed with enough space and tribe members to enhance our grocery and apothecary growing plans, and experiment with new concepts.
Our non-orchard additions during the upcoming growing season this year will be adding sorghum and rice crops. The fairly neglected space along several parts of the creek should make a viable spot to try our luck at growing rice.
If you want to grow rice but don’t have an ideal spot, small portions of the life-sustaining crop can be grown indoors year round in containers.
Sorghum is the black sheep of the grain family. Far too few folks bother with planting any, but they should. The cereal grain can be eaten by both your family and the livestock you are raising on a survival homestead.
It takes up far less space to grow than wheat. Harvesting sorghum is a whole lot easier than harvesting wheat – no hours spend grinding hard berries required. It’s a great companion crop for corn, as well.
Have you started preparing your land or your small gardening this year? Getting your hands in the dirt is as good for your soul as it is your belly. Spring will be here soon, fellow preppers, I just know it. Get busy growing because one day, your life just might depend on it!
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.