[permaculture] Feeding a family of four

Carrie Shepard outlikeelijah at gbronline.com
Mon Apr 25 13:43:29 EDT 2005

Hi Sharon,

Let me know if you get any solid answers to this.  I know that John
Jeavons/ecology action literature stresses the need for people to record as
they go, but you're talking about a LOT of skills that have to be there
before a family can begin to give solid answers to this.  I've been too
busylearning how and implementing things in between running my home to
really devote more time to recording what we're doing.  I do have a garden
journal and my habits are getting better in that regard, but time seems to
run away from me when it's time to harvest and put food away, getting it put
away takes precedence over writing about it.  My 3 children are getting old
enough that perhaps I'll do better this year with delegating some of that
part of the chore list.

As a stay at home mother and wife I can say that it took me 4 years to get
the basic good habits of tending the garden and growing soil down before I
had anything substantial to harvest!  I can tell you that from several milk
goats, 2 dozen chickens, a few ducks, and a garden (about the total of 5
wide rows 40 foot long) plus some peach trees and a big apple tree we
managed to eat really well and feed a family of 7 who lived with us from the
end of May till November last year and still have lots in the freezer and
cupboards.   We still bought some fruits, oils and breakfast/bread grains.

We made feta, mozzarella, ricotta cheeses from any extra goat milk and we
made salad dressings from ricotta and kefir and storebought mayo.   We also
bartered a bit with ducks raised in the orchard, trading some live ducks and
meat rabbits for some grass raised beef and a live turkey for thanksgiving's
meal which we shared with the same family.

Because they were willing to eat and work alongside us, we were able to have
them live with us for such a long time.  If we had had to buy everything
from off our property, there's no way we could have really afforded to have
them here with us for so long.  So, I'd say that the fact that I do garden
and grow as much as I can here at low cost allowed us to teach another
family a way to leave a smaller footprint and get/stay healthier in the

Our property is just 2.4 acres, but we keep 19 bunny cages filled (selling
extras for pets, food, and raw feeding to dogs), 13 dairy goats (my limit is
5-7 in milk and a buck, but right now we have the kids still bottle
feeding), several dozen chickens, and average a dozen ducks in the orchard.
The orchard has now 4 apple trees, 3 young pear trees, 2 really good peach
trees, 2 young plums,and a number of wild plums.  Outside the orchard there
are now more wild plum trees and 2 more abundant peach trees and a few of
those manchurian apricot trees.  We're using our 12 X 20 hoophouse now for
seed starting and I have 3 more hoops that I plan to make a movable
hoophouse to use as in Eliot Coleman's 4 season harvest in one of the
gardens.  I hope to grow more greens this way through the winter. 

I'm still learning what plants I need to add to our property and what
fencing needs to be added to create more browse for the milk goats on their
half of the property.

Hope this is helpful,

Ps.  We do have a weeping willow and have made wreaths from it and the grape
vines, and I also spin, knit, weave, and sew.  I make many of our mittens
and hats and we made some shawls last year since they were 'in'.  We live in
a fairly affluent area of the country relatively speaking, but I'm reading
Living More With Less out loud to my children and thinking of further ways
to streamline our lives to spend more time doing what we really love rather
than wasting it caring for senseless accumulative 'stuff'.  I love fiber
arts, my children also enjoy them along with music.

I also grow brown or green cotton each year (this year it's green if these
seeds germinate soon <G>) and we have one young lamb for future wool.  I had
a small fiber flock before I got sick and needed the goat's milk.  Wool is
the cheapest, fastest way to have fiber for clothing, but it isn't really
economical without lambs to sell or put in the freezer on a small property.
I found the sheep to be really great fiber pets, but will keep ewes and a
ram eventually.  With good grass/pasture, you can keep 8 - 10 sheep easy on
a rotating acre.  I had to supplement with purchased hay over the winter

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