Thursday, October 21, 2021

Dry rubs, Storing Walnuts and post-Apocalypse Agriculture


I originally bought this as a joke.

I really like it. It is very aromatic and I cannot identify the spice(s). If any of you masters-of-barbecue are familiar with the blend and can identify the top-notes, I will be forever in your debt.

Pallets vs barrels

A plastic barrel will hold approximately 60 gallons or about 8 cubic feet.

A crib fabricated of 42", square pallets will hold between 33 and 43 cubic feet depending on construction details.

Pallets can be had in many places for the asking. Barrels start at $10 each.

Mrs ERJ gave me permission to fabricate a crib to hold black walnuts.

Bottlenecks and limiting factors

A big part of "engineering" is to "normalize" problems. That is, to divide variables-of-interest by constants to create more meaningful, more intuitive variables.

An example from canning involves BTU/hour of various burners. Not very useful until you can turn them into "time" to bring a full kettle "to heat".

In vehicles, the size of the gas tank is of less interest than the number of miles you might comfortably squeeze out of a full tank. That would involve multiplying the nominal tank capacity by the miles/gallon.

Looking at production and throughput constraints, the two most common limiting factors in the post-Apocalypse homestead will be minutes of management attention and square-feet of land intercepting sunlight and/or rainfall.

Data from 1917. Before you yell at me, consider that newbies might be hard-pressed to match these yields. Also, I am going to look at relative differences rather than absolute values.

Corn (maize) trounces every other crop for Calories/acre.

Soybeans beat every other crop for protein/acre.

The comparisons of meat/dairy are interesting. "Milk" produces about four times as much protein/acre as beef and five-and-a-half times as many Calories/acre.

Poultry produce almost twice as much protein in the form of eggs as they do when managed for meat.

Mixed animal husbandry

It is my informed-but-amateur opinion that the production level for beef/milk per acre can be increased by about a factor-of-three (compared to continuous grazing) through the use of Management Intensive Grazing techniques and by managing the pasture to provide an optimal ratio of improved grasses and clover/alfalfa.

Additionally, if the homesteader puts most of his poker-chips on dairy, he can still produce veal, old-cow stewmeat/hamburger. He can follow the dairy cow(s) with sheep in the rotation. Furthermore, he can follow both with chickens that will tear apart the cow-flops and eat the fly larvae.

In much of the humid East, a combination of cattle and sheep is better than sheep alone. Sheep are vulnerable to internal parasites and cattle help break the cycle. Cattle do not benefit from the arrangement as much as the sheep do.

Sheep are much harder to manage with electric fences because of their wool. While there are "hair sheep" that do not have wool, one must wonder what advantage they offer over beef. This is a no-brainer decision if the distaff side of the household enjoys fiber-arts.

Hogs rip the snot out of pastures. On the plus side they can be fattened on skim milk and cheese-making waste as well as other crop and kitchen waste. That makes them more of an ancillary enterprise like a garbage disposal rather than a money-maker.

Confinement dairy is management, labor and equipment intensive compared to rotational grazing.


  1. sheep have triplets and can breed the same year they are born.

    1. When we raised sheep there were a few bloodlines (Finns, Romanovs) that could have quads and trips. I backed off of that as I had high losses and eventually settled on medium-fine wool types like Columbia X for maternal lines and Suffolk sires. I thought I was doing well to average 180% lambs surviving to feeder weights.

  2. When we raised sheep I also used Sufflok rams and Columbia, Targhee and Corriedale ewes to breed lambs. I would also keep a Targhee and a Corriedale ram to breed more ewes. I had about the same lamb ratio as you did until the DNR started dumping wolves here and tried to catch me protecting my flock from them. That and Bill Clinton signing the NAFTA, WTO and other treaties to get rid of American textile jobs finally ruined my sheep and angora goat operation. ---ken

    1. I targeted having the first lambs drop about April 15. Fawns start showing up May 1 and I figured I could cheat a couple of weeks.

      When did you target lambing?

    2. About the end of April. I'd put the rams in the last week of November and it would take them a couple of weeks to get the job done. The angora goats a couple of weeks later because the kidds couldn't take the cold as well as the lambs and I needed to spread out my work load with handling birthing problems and bottle feeding the rejected and weak ones---ken

  3. Home raised protein sources here are bunnies, chickens and eggs.

    The bunnies are a bit labor intensive per pound, and feeding them bunny chow raises the cost per pound over grocery store steak, but....

    They self-propagate
    They can be slaughtered all year long
    They can be bred all year long
    They can be fed via forage if your income evaporates

    And they are CUTE!

  4. I have always been an empathetic person but now I have Old Man Empathy big time. Killing things has gotten very hard for me. I do it when necessary but it has to really piss me off before I'll do it. I will do it if we get hungry which I see coming, but in the interim I'll wimp out and pay someone else upstream of the store. ---ken

  5. Great article, thanks. My flock of Icelandic and Finn sheep are very hardy - haven't had to worm any in the past 18 months and their samples still all show hardly any parasites. Body conditions after this abundant summer can be described as "fat". This year's flock of chicks (hatched mid-May) are just beginning to lay this week. The Kune Kune pigs are eating grass and not rooting much, just as advertised, though now I need to start feeding hay as the grass is going dormant. I only wish we'd started this farming thing five years ago rather than last year.

  6. Is corn ahead of potatoes for total calories?
    I've heard the claim that potatoes are the only crop that can feed a family of 4 from an acre of ground. Is this accurate?

  7. Have you ever watched Justin Rhodes on YouTube? He's doing much of what you described: dairy followed by sheep followed by chickens. Pigs are used to convert forest to pasture and skim milk/scraps to bacon.

    Opie Odd

    1. I have not. He sounds like an intelligent person!

      Graze the highest performing livestock first. Then follow with "clean-up". If it stops raining then sell the clean-up. If that is not enough, cull the high performing herd considering both production and number of useful years left and, possibly, genetic diversity.

  8. I raise Katahdin hair sheep. Easier to handle than beef now that I am old. They eat weeds and brush in preference to grass, so are more productive on marginal land. Easier to process and use 50 lbs. Of lamb than 500 lbs. of bed if no electricity. If a sheep gets out, it comes to the house and bleats for grain, if a calf gets out it heads for town. Sheep milk is also way more nutritious than cow milk.

  9. Beef, not bed. Although true either way.


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