Food and where it comes from is an ongoing theme in RetroSuburbia. This essay extends on the discussions in Chapter 29, Sustainable and sustaining diet, and the further information given in Appendix 4, Retrosuburban diet. It outlines David’s vision for a localised, resilient food system in an energy descent future and compares this with the current average Australian diet.
by Ostii Ananda | Jun 20, 2018 | 3 comments
I found feeding retrosuburbia an interesting study on what it will take. Questions and feedback I would have are:
Well, of course, being from CA, I converted and came up with pounds, and I am a vegetarian, the amounts seem reasonable. But, I find the weight for dairy products to be vague as there is a very big difference between grams( or ounces) of milk vs cheese, so would love clarification on this.
I have worked with some amount of suburban food growing over the years. I find that 8 eggs a week per person doable, but I wonder about the feed and how that is worked into the calculations. It is about 1/4pound wheat per day per bird, and some legumes. So about 7 pounds per month for the 8 eggs per week per person, even if there is sometimes going t be yard waste and fruit waste and some forage, there is not enough forage in a suburban area. So is there enough room in your outer farming area to grow the grains for the suburban chickens ? I also have Nigerian dwarf dairy goats and make cheese, having goats integrate urban and suburban is very doable, and saves on refrigerated transport, but they also take feed brought in.
In my area I find it impossible to ever harvest nuts due to squirrels. I am in great need of knowledge on how to kill squirrels in a suburban setting that will not harm the cats.
I know people in town how have great luck in raising rabbits for food, and very little has to be supplemented, so way easier to feed on site compared to chickens. I cant raise rabbits due to the myxomatosis in this particular suburban area as it is carried by the wild rabbits right here. On the other hand, people in my neighborhood have great luck with turkeys and the turkeys have better survival and foraging than the chickens.
I would love to see more along these lines. One thing people can do is try and follow the diet guidelines, even if they are not yet producing as much as indicated. Seems both can be worked on at once. This may also help with developing markets, or rather changing markets by the new consumer demands, more grains and wild meat, no processed factory foods.
Thanks for your thoughts about the retrosuburban diet, especially about the practical implications of feeding laying hens and goats in suburbia. But first I want to clarify the very sketchy nature of the RS Diet and its derivation by comparison with data for the average Australian diet from government stats. This top down view is different from measuring actual consumption of our own and other households in our region applying permaculture ethics and principles. By taking the line items in the government data base and estimating what we and other might be consuming as a percentage, I arrived at grams/day which I could then do a check against personal experience and any fragmentary measured data.
It is then possible to compare these demands with rough estimates of potential production from garden, urban farming, wild harvesting and hinterland farming.
This is obviously very crude but gives a first approximation that could inform household strategies and more accurate estimates. For example see Jason Bradford’s report The Future is Rural from the Post Carbon Institute.
Your observations about suburban egg production being dependent on grain from hinterland farming is generally true, although a combination of supplementary protein from on site worm farming, black soldier fly larvae and/or high protein urban food waste can reduce that dependence at least in the context of the current wasteful economy.
In the case of goats I believe the opportunities to provide feed from public and private space green waste are greater than gathering protein rich food waste for laying hens. All suburban areas generate large quantities of woody green waste, much of which is palatable and nutritious for goats. Most of this currently goes to landfill, is chipped or even burnt. As with food waste, increasing competition and reduced level of waste could constrain this supply in more frugal futures but in addition to collection, there are considerable opportunities to walk pet goats in common space to browse and graze. As public and private budgets to use herbicide and fossil fuel to control vegetation decline, the opportunities for use of goats and sheep to control vegetation in suburban landscapes will increase.
This example highlights the importance of considering private rented, mortgaged or freehold residential property as the inner zones of a wider common that will increasingly be subject to informal local management. Early adopters of retrosuburban self reliance have the opportunity to help shape the protocols for this shared informal governance that will be essential for us to live well in suburbia. Whether by planting the street verge, harvesting fruit from overhanging trees, walking the goats to forage or hunting pest animals, these actions will need to navigate the existing and emerging interests of other residents and users of the common.
Your mention of squirrels highlights the widespread problem of so call pest wildlife that thrive in suburbs. Even if these animals are not considered acceptable human food they represent a valuable source of animal protein to sustain laying hens and “cats and dogs with jobs” rather than relying on imported food. This harvesting by some with the inclination and capacity can also benefit vegetarian and even vegan food producers by reducing predation on their food crops and stored grains. This ecological complementarity between people of different dispositions is what we need rather than the ideological conflict between right and wrong food habits and behaviours that seems to characterise much discussion about “sustaining and sustainable diets.”
I agree with your final comments that the process of trying to produce and eat from what a household can most easily produce simultaneously generates demand in market systems from those who desire the same way of eating but are not able to provide it for themselves. I have long argued that the culture of garden farming to grow fresh food for a household has been one of the strongest drivers in the current growth of demand for community supported commercial urban and peri-urban farming supplying seasonal produce.
Hi David, as a dwarf goat owner, I agree, it would be much easier for me to keep the goats alive on local forage than chickens. And, I have ALOT of ideas on how to improve it, but not the health or energy to implement ( yet, although I may eventually get partners to help again) It seems to me that I could have coppiced trees that provide both good quality goat forage and firewood to stay warm, around here that would have Chestnut and Mulberry as major players, and mulberry leaves especially is high protein. ( Madrone also, although that grows slower it is very hot burning, drought tolerant and would coppice). The goats also relish any oak or fir branches and blackberry vines. They would still need bought feed too I think to keep up milk production in a regular suburb, I am next to parkland with tons of shrubs and trees, and other suburb areas may also have such areas. But I think the brought in high protein hay or grain would not need to be much, and the savings on refrigeration and transport of the milk would be great.
I have also thought about feeding squirrels to the chickens and dog, but I do not know how to catch them. I do catch and kill gophers, the California pocket gopher is a ruthless pest, But I know how to trap and kill these and I feed them to the dog and sometimes the dog catches one himself, or the cat if it is a young gopher. In a lower energy future there would likely be better neighborhood cooperation on getting the squirrels, and with more people on board likely one of them could trap or shoot them. Then I could have hazelnuts ! ( and a few laying hens, seems to me that chestnuts would be a good chicken feed)