What question to ask a person who experienced a self-sustainable life for years

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What question to ask a person who experienced a self-sustainable life for years

Hello everyone,

I am in contact with a 93 years old lady and her 72 year old son.  The lady lived all her life on their farm and was self sufficient for many many years.  She raised 8 children and according to her son they never ran out of food or happiness, the house was always visited by familly members. 

I am also considering going in retirement homes in farming areas to conduct focus groups.

I am keenly interrested in mapping the process they followed to obtain the energy required to generate enough food to feed a happy familly.

I am starting to structure the questions needed to paint the picture. 

I thought that since food is essential, It woukd be a good idea to first make the inventory of the types of food, the recipies and go up the process to visualize how it was created, transforme, conserved, etc.

If anybody knows of books on the subject it would also be welcomed.

As I accumulate data, I will post the findings. 

Please excuse the mistakes as English is my second language.

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

Luc,

I think you are on the right track here.  To me, food is number one when it comes to sustaining oneself.  Obviously, that would be followed by shelter.  However, I think it is much easier to "figure out" the shelter issue than the mechanisms to keep the family fed.  Once you have exhausted their knowledge on food, then move on to other topics.  Please keep us posted on your findings.

Thanks, I feel this is important knowledge that is has, for the most part, already been lost.

Mark

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

Thank you Mark,

If you had only one question to ask, what would it be ?

Thanks

Luc

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

I've asked my older relatives who grew up in rural Southern Italy how they kept their bedrooms warm in the winter. They warmed up rocks outside near the fire and then brought the rocks inside near the bed to keep warm at night. There's a lot you can learn from the older folks. Your on the right path. I would focus on the food as MarkM said.

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...
Luc wrote:

If you had only one question to ask, what would it be ?

What five crops provide the most food for the least effort?  

 

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

I would ask about preserving food. This is especially important in areas with only one growing season.

Also, it may be worth your time to research the Amish community. They live very simply and close to the earth, many of the things modern society has "forgotten" is everyday life to them. I happen to live in an area with a very large Amish communtiy, this does a lot for my peace of mind.

I think you have a great idea and I look forward to seeing what you find!

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

I think it is important to define what is self sustainable. How much petro chemical inputs are there? Who makes the cloth for clothes? Who makes the shoes? Who makes the plates and eating utensils? Who makes the tools?

I think you will find there are not many people on this planet that are self sustainable. The places to go to find them are likely very deep in the Amazon, Outer Mongolia, Borneo possibly the Outback in Australia etc..

Any place in view of a computer screen is not self sustainable.

V

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...
SagerXX wrote:
Luc wrote:

If you had only one question to ask, what would it be ?

What five crops provide the most food for the least effort?  

potatoes, potatoes, potatoes, potatoes, and potatoes Smile

 

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

V

I think you are very right. I just hope that the transition will still leave us with residual energy long enough to enable us to rebuild the tools they  used to use. Tools used for farming, making clothes, food, saddles etc.

Even then there was a dependency on a social structure to have access to more specialized tools.

I am uncertain about weather I and my loved ones would be able to adapt and thrive in a totally different environment.

When I started pilot training in the military my first instructor told me - It is normal to be scared, what is not normal is not to admit it ,not to control it , so that we can act on it and all that is required is to have a satisfactory outcome. 

Before a flight I had to visualize the moves and only then was I able to make them part of me.

While I have excess energy, time, and resources availlable I feel that learning the basics of a simpler lifestyle gives me a feeling of going forward and the illusion of adapting.

Seeing the happiness in the face of all the older people as they are visualizing their past lives in order to explain an event or a fact fills me with hope and joy.

If I can learn, visualize and later practice their daily motions of the past,  I could share them with those who will need them when time comes.

 

 

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

V is right about sustainability.  However, I hope that we can move to a simpler life that is more sustainable rather than having to live as if in the wilds of Borneo. We'll see.

My question would be "What food was your main caloric source?"  I would think bklement would be right with potatoes as the answer.  Secondarily, I would ask about ALL the nuances of raising that particular crop.

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...
V wrote:

Who makes the cloth for clothes?

John Weaver, Joe Clothier and Jack Taylor.

V wrote:

Who makes the shoes?

Fred Tanner and Thomas Shoesmith.

V wrote:

Who makes the plates and eating utensils? Who makes the tools?

The other Smiths.

Meanwhile the various Wrights do most of the building, houses, wagons, wheels, storage boxes etc.

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

Luc,

What a fantastic project. Kudos to you for taking it on and sharing your information here. You might want to make audio recordings of the interviews in the fashion of StoryCorps: Recording The Lives Of Everyday Americans : NPR . I have done a few of these StoryCorps projects and if I can help you in any way please don't hesitate to PM me.

I would ask them about mistakes they (or people that they knew) made along the way, and how they corrected them.

PS: What part of the country is this taking place in? (Agriculture info is specific to regions...)

Good luck....Jeff

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

bklement was partially right.

It is potatoes but not the nightshade family. It is sweet potatoes. They are I believe the single most nutritious food on the planet.

V

PS A life is either sustainable or it isn't. More sustainable is like a little pregnant. You either have or create everything you need without waste. This is why you will see more sustainable cultures closer to the equator. It is just a lot easier

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

Thank you JAG for your nice comment.

I was just considering how to pass on the info as this is done in rural Québec and 99.9% are unilingual French.  I can post the recordings; however, I will have to translate the essential. It will be quite an adventure as the french spoken  by people of this generation and living in rural Québec is very colorfull and closer to 1800 century french due to the long isolation from France after the English conquest.  For example they use the term asteur to mean nowadays, and although it is in the dictionary it is very rarely if not ever used in France. 

Thank you for the offer to help.

Thank you to everybody for the questions. Please keep them comming.

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...
V wrote:

PS A life is either sustainable or it isn't. More sustainable is like a little pregnant. You either have or create everything you need without waste. This is why you will see more sustainable cultures closer to the equator. It is just a lot easier

I hate it when you are right.Laughing

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...
Luc wrote:

Seeing the happiness in the face of all the older people as they are visualizing their past lives in order to explain an event or a fact fills me with hope and joy.

 

Not to mention making them aware of their value even though they might be wrinkled and unable exert the physical effort they once did.  Something that has been mostly lost in our American culture.

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

"I hate it when you are right."Laughing

 

Mark if it is any consolation it gives me no joy either.Cry

V

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...
bklement wrote:
SagerXX wrote:
Luc wrote:

If you had only one question to ask, what would it be ?

What five crops provide the most food for the least effort?  

potatoes, potatoes, potatoes, potatoes, and potatoes Smile

arrowroot,  arrowroot, arrowroot, arrowroot, arrowroot,

 

Mike

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...
MarkM wrote:
V wrote:

PS A life is either sustainable or it isn't. More sustainable is like a little pregnant. You either have or create everything you need without waste. This is why you will see more sustainable cultures closer to the equator. It is just a lot easier

I hate it when you are right.Laughing

A couple of years ago, we had a speaker at our monthly Permaculture meeting whose name is Peter Fries, an American to boot!  He works as an advisor on sustainability for the United Nations.  He opened his talk by saying "nothing we do is sustanable".  He blew me away, because I happen to agree....

Mike

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

Luc, this is a fabulous idea; it would bring the knowledge from many families together.   We've lost so much in three generations.  When my grandfather was a boy, the family farm was very close to being self-sufficient except for farm machinery, shoes, cookware and weapons.  They raised their own draft animals, cut their own hay, raised their own grain, raised all their own vegetables, produced their own milk, butter and cheese, produced their own honey and maple syrup, raised their own meat animals, raised chickens for eggs, and put by food for winter.  They cut their own fire wood, built their own buildings, and (back when Nova Scotia was still the home of wooden ships and iron men) built their own ocean going clipper ships to obtain materials that were not available close to home.  Go back a couple of generations further, and you see even more goods made by hand; one record notes that our village produced over 7000 pounds of flax, which was spun into linen and sold in Boston.

A great-aunt is bringing a replica of my Great Grandfather's clipper ship home this summer, and giving it to my mother with some of his log books.  I've very curious to look at these, as the ship was built in Masstown from our own timber.  It sailed back and forth to Boston a lot, but also sailed around the tip of South America several times, and made runs back and forth to Europe.  Peak oil doesn't mean there will be no more trade,  and just because we can't grow cotton this far north does not mean we'll never be able to wear cotton again.

And please don't apologize for doing this in the first language of the people you are talking to; you are representing the experience of a unique cultural group in time.  Perhaps others will take on similar work in other regions, with other groups.  Place and culture are huge determinants of people's experience; ask several groups about the one crop to grow and you will get different answers.  Innu elders might tell you its not about growing crops at all.    I think these different perspectives are important, and that if you have only one question to ask you might want to ask something that will profile the unique knowledge and experience of that group. 

Bluenoser

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

 LUC ,  I too was privileged to spend much time learning such things from my grandparents .   My children are not as excited to learn homesteading skills but they do it grudgingly .    I let them enter these things at the county fair and the purple ribbon or trophy seams to be enough to keep them going . Plus this is where you can meet people with things you do not know .   For example I was having trouble raising blueberries , I hunted down the kiddo that had the grand-champion blueberries and asked him questions .

FM

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

Bluenoser,

Thank you for your post, you seem to be in an area where you can access quite a pool of knowledge and pride. 

I am trying to look at their availlable food resources with today's meal planing structure; if at all possible.

For example as we plan the meals for the week we have the final product in mind then we look in the fridge or storage room to locate the ingredients required and if any are missing we concocte a list of things to buy at the grocery stores.

Using this high level process in the context of sustainability, what animal, what grain, which vegetable etc would be needed and in what quantity and in what order so I could draw a plan to generate the ingrediants needed to supply a weekly grocery list for the upcomming winter. We could also get to know what was not availlable at the time and store them in advance. 

What could be the open questions required to obtain this type of information which would be the building block of a sustainability plan. 

Once the types of meals are known and the bigger picture is derived in the form 15 different types of meals which need 4 cows 2 pigs 54 carrots 4 bags of oat etc . then I could leave the divergent thinking process and converge back int the details of the different meals and figure out what is likely to be missing using todays knowledge like for example Curcuma which is a powerfull anti oxident.

 

 

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

Full Moon,

What was the question you asked the blueberry expert ?

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...
V wrote:

They are I believe the single most nutritious food on the planet.

That's interesting.  I think you may want to qualify that as plant food though.  A Norwegian explorer found that raw seal meat met all his men's nutritional requirements but not having access to that food myself,  I would personally opt for the lowly and oft maligned (but unjustifiably so) sardine.  Plenty of protein, bone minerals, CoEnzQ10, DNA, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, etc., most of which are severely lacking or absent in the sweet potato. 

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...
bklement wrote:
SagerXX wrote:
Luc wrote:

If you had only one question to ask, what would it be ?

What five crops provide the most food for the least effort?  

potatoes, potatoes, potatoes, potatoes, and potatoes Smile

 

One caveat though ... all these taters could be a problem if one is nightshade (i.e. alkaloid) sensitive.  

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

 

 

 Luc , I lost a few blueberry bushes ...  Our soil is a little off ph .   He told me to put wood chips in the hole as I plant and to mulch with wood chips or pine needles .

  Whoo hoo !   My kids did get Champion on the maple syrup they tapped  and Honey they harvested  from our hive  ! 

  Your food storage question is hard , I would choose eggs  .   I make up 60 meal plans( my husband does not like leftovers or anything to often )  , write down the ingredients  then  times it .    I know we eat one beef , three pigs ,and 200 chickens per year then I plan around that . I raise double in case something happens and then I am able to share .   You might want to only  Keep track of what you eat for a month . 

  Not all years have as great a harvest .   But  I know 200 quarts of tomatoes will do , 12 quarts of dill relish, 28 quarts of pickled beets etc.    You will need to figure what fits your needs and then add to them .   These are times when you know you are doing things right and have abundance to share .  I was able to help a family going through hard times with  the husband going through cancer treatment .

 Ok back to the  homestead ... it is time to make hay .   We have been very blessed with each crop harvested this year being bountiful  .  Maybe even a forth increase this year.    Bonus was a free calf  given to us from being born in a nearby feed lot to young heifer.  I believe there is a reason for everything and that calf will be put to a good purpose .

    I would like to know, from someone homesteading,  if it would work to take straw bales  soak them with water before winter  , let them freeze then  use them in an ice house to keep things cold long into the summer .. This would save hauling all that ice from the river .  Or what about  allowing  5 gallon buckets of water  to freeze  ?

 

 

 

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

In late 50's, 1958 to 1960, there were about 30 million people die in hunger under the Commie rule in China.  My mom told me we survived because of a tin can of fat(pork) which was mailed by my grandmom from Singapore. If there is no food  and no meat, you will feel hungery no matter how much vegetable you have if there is no fat.

        I grow up in the city and then went to the villages living with the peasants after high school in China.  (Poor and isolated mountain villages). 20 kilometer was a very long walk. It would take a entire day.

No matter how poor and how low the living standards humen are living in, there is always a" trade"  around you. In after-peak -oil, my idea is planting sweet potatoes and trade my potatoes.  No matter what you would do, the key is: you must have a piece arable land of yours. If you don't know how to plant crops, just lease to someone who knows or call me up,LOL. It is easy to learn planting.

        I have calculated: one hundred dollar rice will be enough for one person for one year at todays' pricing. If I will live next 30 years, I will need three thousand dollars for food if I buy it now. Therefore, if we need to store energy (rice) while price is still low, just pack a few hundred bags. With the correct  packaging, it said that rice could last 30 years.

       Only my personal opinion, I said, it is only my own opinion, urban(home) gardening is not a very good idea. It won't help much. Spend few thousand dollars for solar panels instead of packing rice? The black cow compost in HomeDepot is more expensive than a bag of rice in same weight,. Why should we do gardening?. The focus is moving to the south, somewhere is not that cold and buying a piece of farm land for the future. This is my first priority.

      Now I am confused with my second priority which I am working at: "How do I make a living after peak oil?"

Any ideas?

 

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

FM

Dig holes 2 feet deep and 2 feet across and fill them with Canadian Sphagnum Moss. Then plant your blueberries in the holes.

Do not use soil and mulch heavily

V

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

Kennyq

I like the idea of storing for long periods as it may reduce anxiety while going through the learning curve of food production.

If you could go back to the village and if you could only ask one question wrt food and food production what would it be ?

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...

Full Moon,

How many people does the food quantities feed ?

Do you slaughter the animals yoursself and if so how did you acquire the skill.

How many plants of tomatos are required to generate 200 quarts ?

wrt keeping ice, could the ice house have a portion dug in to use the freshness of the ground.?

My familly used to cover the ice with saw dust.

Thank you for the quantities of raw ingredients required to feed your familly it has a lot of value

 

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Re: What question to ask a person who experienced a ...
Damnthematrix wrote:
bklement wrote:
SagerXX wrote:
Luc wrote:

If you had only one question to ask, what would it be ?

What five crops provide the most food for the least effort?  

potatoes, potatoes, potatoes, potatoes, and potatoes Smile

arrowroot,  arrowroot, arrowroot, arrowroot, arrowroot,

Mmmkay.  There's *two*.  Smile

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