The Colonials, Pioneers, people living in the Depression era and then WW2 all learned to be resourceful. The colonials arrived at Plymouth rock with whatever they packed on the ship…and those were finite resources. They had to look around and see what they could use to survive.
The pioneers moving west also had to be inventive on the trail to make repairs, supplement their pantry supplies, and treat illness. Folks living through the Depression era were struck with low wage or no wage in conjunction with high prices or poor supply. They had to save and reuse, re purpose, forage, and make meals out of very little.
*We will explore frugal meal options in a future post and youtube videos*
The same again with families during WW2 when rations limited the amount of food that could be purchased and oftentimes the supply could not even match the ration books of many families in many towns.
Right now, at time of writing, there are many Americans who are malnourished in the face of an affluent country. Malnourished, yet they live in a country that wastes millions of tonnes of food annually and when an increasing number of people are obese.
For those people who always have the financial stability to just drive to the store and buy more food if they run out, the thought of having very little to eat might seem unlikely….and that is the wrong way to think entirely.
We should not take for granted that the supermarket will always be open and stocked, we cannot take for granted that there will be mechanics, electricians, doctors, hardware stores, access to purchased fuel. We should learn to make use of what we have more in order to humble ourselves, to waste less, and to give ourselves a little bit of security knowing that we have acquired skills and knowledge that we might not have otherwise.
Lets look at the prickly pear cactus at the top of the post, the Native Americans knew how valuable this plant was and we can make use of it too. It grows wild all over the southwest and is easy to keep in other climates [check with your local extension office if you can grow them where you live]. The prickly pear fruit can be used to make a drink, syrup, jelly. The young cactus pads can be skinned and eaten like a cucumber and even pickled too. The larger spines can be used as sewing needles. Neat huh?
What grows wild near you (away from traffic and chemicals) that you can utilize?
What can you grow in your garden that can feed you and give other purpose too?
We have wild creosote and mesquite bushes…the creosote attracts bees, when pruned it provides mulch material, and most importantly it holds the soil structure and prevents erosion. The Mesquite makes bean like pods that can be ground for flour, they provide shade and habitat for beneficial insects, and when pruning the dead wood you have a great wood for smoking meats.
It’s not just wild things that we can make use of (with good reference books of course!) but what man-made or man-left things can you re-use?
When we arrived on our homestead, there were some things left behind in the barn, a shed, and in a small salvage pile. In the rafters of the barn we have a bunch of scrap wood, siding, pipes, iron rods, a few tools. The shed we have pvc piping, old milk pails, rebar, and the shed is also the perfect size to renovate into our hen house. In the salvage pile we have cattle fencing, fence posts, wood boards, and even sign posts!
Luckily the materials left behind are all decent and useful to us…I know sometimes people move to a home and find actual junk that they wont use…or things they see as junk instead of a resource. I have already used some posts and cattle wire for my compost coral, wood boards for a couple raised beds, and I plan to use a piece of particle board to make a barn quilt *more on that later!*
Above is the giant mass of bamboo growing inside our “back yard”area. A problem if let to get too out of hand but what a great resource! I am using some as a filler in the bottom of raised beds and also permaculture beds, some I will use to make edging for our garden flower borders, some will be used as a flooring and interest for our chickens to scratch through (and after they have scratched it up it will go to compost) and the leaves I have been using as a mulch along with bush trimmings. Not to mention I doubt I’ll need to buy bamboo canes for climbing plants ever again!
By saving some food cans, I have been able to use some to grow sweet potato slips in and some as seed starting pots. I punched holes in the bottom for drainage and at planting time I will remove the bottom and plant the seedling WITH the can around it. This wards off pests that attack tomato and pepper stems. Eventually the can will rust and I will carefully dispose of it at the recycle center.
Saved food jars that are not of suitable size for home caning lids, can be used to store dried foods in having kept the screw caps but here I am using them to propagate celery.
Lastly for now, these railroad sleepers were left behind and I used them to make a small bed that is for the boys to experiment with. We filled it with native soil and steer manure compost. They got to chose and buy seeds and they can grow and learn with this bed so that I can manage our main food and market beds. Presently they have basil plants, mint, thyme, radish, lemon cucumber (that will trail out the right corner), a baby watermelon (trail out left corer), sunflower along the back, marigold along the sides, and ruby chard in the middle.
Its great for kids to learn for themselves. Experiment and learn what works and think about solutions and plan based on prior knowledge. Example, knowing that the sunflowers grow tall, we discussed the best place would be the back edge with west sun behind them so as to offer some partial shade for the chard and radish in the middle and apex.
So that’s me finished for now, just a few ideas of how to look around you and be inventive. Re-use things as much as you can and think outside the box.
Your giant bamboo monster needs thinning? Do so mindfully and make use of it in several ways. Another cute idea I will be making is solitary bee nests and I will have some of those for sale.
Did you purchase celery and are still waiting to be able to plant your own seeds out? Propagate…in a later blog post I will show you everything I am propagating from bought fruit and vegetables.
Also, I will show you how to make flower border edging with said bamboo monster and of course! A barn quilt. Excited for that!
Thanks for reading if you got this far and sorry for delay since the last post. Been super busy over here but I have lots to catch you up on. I hope you enjoyed today’s post and look forward to any comments or thoughts below.
The Quiet After Monsoon Rains