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Tam Cordingley, SAAB, Realtor Kennels & Horse Farms


Fresh, safe food is vital in 2023 and growing your own edibles is price and health-wise even if it means planting fruit and veggies on the penthouse rooftop.


Not only is growing your food satisfying, safer and less costly but it makes me nervous to trust our health to other countries who are not our friends. When you add the advantage of eating naturally grown organic foods it is a plus-plus.



If you have access to a flat roof, you don’t even need yard-space. With permission you can use Earth Boxes, half barrels, buckets, commercial planters, old bathtubs, clean industrial barrels cut lengthwise - it doesn't matter as long as it has drainage holes and will hold soil.


If you have neither roof-top or yard, stay with me because fresh foods and grass for your house pets can be grown on a sunny windowsill


I’ll also touch on dried (dehydrated) foods but first, whether dried, canned, fresh or frozen, we need to discuss Genetically Modified Organisms, i.e. GMO. Meat, seafood, dairy or vegetables, all can be treated. It may look like food, smell like food and even taste a lot like food but manufactured edibles may not be processed by our bodies as food.


We simply don't know and I'd rather not find out how risky GMOs were after I'm sick or my breeding stock has gone sterile.


Dried meals are on every prepper website and some may be organic. They are great to keep the family fed for short term emergency. For a long-term plan I have my doubts. For one thing they are boring. How much dried soy-based stroganoff can one eat?


Also think about your pets. The same applies to them which is why they beg for fresh foods appropriate to their species. I know you are thinking about freezing meat treats and that is a good idea but remember, if the power goes off, they won’t last long.



Now about containers. This depends on the space you have. You can grow sprouts in a jar on your kitchen counter. Sprouts are truly an amazing thing. Whether bean, broccoli, or alfalfa they are easy and a true miracle of nature.


Dehydrated ingredients, on the other hand, are fantastic. You can combine them in endless new ways. They are pre-cut, usually organic and non-GMO, ready for you to combine in your own recipes. If, as the family chef, you are on a fast track, relax, as opposed to dried beans which have to soak overnight, dehydrated beans take about 15 minutes to rehydrate and be ready to cook.


I keep on hand five varieties of beans, plus dehydrated pre-chopped onions and garlic, sliced mushrooms, corn, peas, green beans, sun dried tomatoes, etc. All of this ready-to-prepare food stores in jars on two pantry shelves.



The caveat is temperature. Dehydrated veggies and meats keep for over a year, are tidy and taste great. Most sources agree that dried fruits can also be stored for a year at 60ºF, 6 months at 80ºF. If you have a cool basement that might be best for storing all dried foods. There is a lot of information available on home drying and dehydrators so I won't cover that here. I want to tell you about my favorite subject, gardening.


You may prefer to start with established started plants. As long as they are non-GMO and open pollinated that is fine, in fact one of the largest plant wholesalers in the US has gone non-GMO this season. They are listening to their consumers.


Gardening, on any scale, can start you on the path to self-sufficiency. You don't need lots of land. Even with garden space, my favorite method is container gardening and a sunny space or window.



The containers can be almost anything from very elaborate and pricey growing systems to old egg cartons as mentioned above. The starting place is seeds. Always think organic and open pollinated. Open pollinated means that you can save seeds from your produce and re-plant and they will grow. Make sure what the label says…


Hybrids (think factory farming) either won't grow or will not bear fruit like the parent plant. Look for seed companies specializing in heirloom and/or organic seeds. Most even have survival seed packs which is an entire garden in one package. Indeed, in troubled times, your life could depend on it.


Next is soil. Buy organic because soils hopped up with excessive amounts of chemical fertilizer will grow pretty but tasteless food. You can make your own “organic soil” using equal amounts of perlite, peat moss, and compost. I also amend my soil with rotted manure, worm castings, blood meal, bone meal, and a little Epsom salt. Mix well and use for everything.


I like gardens put up on 2x4 frames to elevate for easy care. Some people use a few concrete or decorative blocks, mine are on sawhorses with wooden boards between them. If done outside, put black plastic under the containers so weeds don't grow up between the planters.


Some crops, like green beans, lettuce, onions, and summer squash need to be replanted at two-week intervals rather than all at once. This spaces your harvest so you have enough to eat and preserve but not so much that your family, friends, and animals get sick of one crop. If your family likes greens they can be planted outdoors as early as March in most climate zones, thru June, then again August thru September. The lettuces grow fast and bolt fast so they are a definite succession crop.


I hope you are motivated to create edibles for yourself and your pets. Dogs, and especially house cats, often don’t get “out” enough to eat grass. I have lots more to share with animal owners so there will be a “part two” in the next edition of HEADlines. EST 1998 © Nov. 2022



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