So, the same as last year i went to a 2-week “bug-out” trip to my country summerhouse. I will share my experiences with you.
My cabin is situated outside the city, practically on the edge of the huge forest. It was small plots of land “granted” by Soviet government to citizens to grow their own produce and cultivate this land so that in the future it could be permanently settled. But when Soviet Union collapsed this project was abandoned and now there exists a “ghost” settlement of summerhouses where people visit in summer to garden or to have a rest.
Technically it was my “vacation” from work, but its purpose was to practice off-the-grid, self-sustainable living.
So, i a few packages of dry peas, some buckwheat, a pack of flour, some salt, tourist gear in my backpack and im off to cabin in the wilderness for two weeks.
There my grandfather built a small brick house, a cabin in fact. There is no electricity, nor gas, nor running water. Only a hand water pump and firewood stove inside.
First day i was busy establishing the household and cooking my first on-place meal. It took me till late night, a long evening in candle light.
I intended (and eventually did) to learn to bake pita bread. First few times were not good, but then i gained some practice. :)
I gathered and ate raddishes from my garden – both the red bulbous root and greens could be eaten – did you know that? The leaves taste the same as the actual raddish!
Also there were few potatoes left on place in storage from last year – i boiled them. From the cuttings new potatoes will grow.
There is a vegetable garden where my grandmother and i grow vegetables.
My granny’s cabbage,
my corn and squash
rhubarb and amaranth,
my raddish patch,
and my “experimental” patch where i am trying new crops, among them mustard (tiny yellow flowers).
And my topinamburs (Jerusalem artichoke).
Ah, and of course, the garlic!
We have our own garlic – do not buy it ever. Its a local variety – very hardy and very strong taste.
Here, this year’s garlic crop is drying out on the attic. This will be next year’s seeds and for eating through winter. Onions are too difficult to gro and so very sensitive, and aside from all that i dont like onions, so i dont grow them. I love garlic!
Here is this plant that reproduces as weed – its sour and used in salads.
And this is lamb’s quarters or goosefoot (Chenopodium album) – its leaves have unique flavour – it tastes to me a bit like green peas or sour cream or cabbage – rare herb that tastes like *real food*! I want to cultivate this hardy weed – will start goosefoot patch next year.
We work our land manually, by hand. Simple hand tools that have been used since the beginning of mankind.
In our garden we dont use any chemical fertilizer, nor even manure, because we dont have any animals. Only thing used is organic compost made of plant remnants.
I add organic matter in plastic container at home and then bring it to my garden and scatter right on the garden bed. Everything goes in: from vegetable cuttings, banana and orange skins, to eggshells. Doesnt look very pretty, but plants love it! I read somewhere that its called “Indian way” of gardening.
As i aim to nearly total self-sufficiency, i am saving my own seeds. For example this year’s raddish and beans and peas come from last year’s seeds.
Here you see overwintered beats, carrots and green salad (lettuce) that will go to seed this year.
There is also a fruit and berry orchard there.
Apples, cherries, plums, black and red currants, raspberry and gooseberry, and vines.
They’ve made my everyday breakfast, in other instances they are eaten straight from the bush.
Black currant, strawberry, raspberry, and cherry stalks make up a compound for a herbal “tea”.
Also i dried and stored some willow bark – it contains acetylsalicylic acid from which aspirin is made. Willow bark when boiled in water is a natural antiseptic, anti-fever aid.
Wormwood herb, drying – good for liver and digestion in general, as well as for killing worms (if there are any, LOL!).
Also, ferns are spreading on their own throughout the garden, and grandma’s flowers.
As i said all water on place is pumped with a hand pump. There is a big iron barrel outside – it is is for watering the garden. This white barrel (40 litres) here is for washing needs.
And drinking water is stored in big (5 litre) plastic bottles.
Here is a washstand i constructed. There is an old fashioned village washer and a plastic bottle hanging head down – if you fill it with water and then un-screw the cork a bit – there will be a continuous water flow.
Water that gets used in household (“gray” water) goes to water the garden. I want to make also a roof rainwater collecting system from used plastic bottles.
My discovery – equisetacea plants is excellent to wash the dishes, especially where there is grease.
Washing clothes is done in “lyes” – ashes from the stove mixed in water produce lye. Then just wash in this lye water.
What else did i do?
I scythe. I use “classic” hand scythe that has been used for centuries and is still the predominant method of cutting the grass in Ukrainian villages.
The grass cuttings are gathered by me in heaps around fruit trees and berry bushes – to give them organic nutrients. Also grass cuttings go as mulch into the garden.
When crop season is over all this plant matter is just simply dig in for winter and is let to rot directly on the plot.
Also i started building a fence.
Went to the forest to cut “pillars” and thin long branches to weave in between horizontally. This will be a traditional Ukrainian fence.
And then, i also tried to make fire by friction. Its not difficult at all – trust me, i tried it myself!
First four days it was raining hard and i havent seen a living human there – i was the only “crazy dachnik”, because noone stays there when there is bad weather! LOL!
Despite that thieves lurk and look for opportunities, so i had to have some self-defence.
Now, about the “entertainment” part.
My girlfriend visited me there
and took a daughter with her.
We had some great time there.
As i said there is a forest just across the road,
And at the bottom of the hill on which summerhouse stands there is a natural lake.
Its a pity i cant swim.
So here’s a hippopotamus in the shallow waters!
One more thing to mention: during my “holiday” i learned how little food a human really needs. Few handfulls of berried for breakfast, few pieces of pita bread in the midday, some herbal “tea” or just clean plain water and one “large” meal of boiled peas or buckwheat in the evening with green salad or raddish. That’s it.
I quit eating sugar at all, ate very little salt and no animal protein at all. As a result i became significantly slimmer and feel “lighter”.
A bit of fun for the end:
A lizard lives under an iron barrel outside. She comes out to sunbathe often.
How do i know it is a she? Over course of days she became fatter! She is going to become a mother. A pregnant lizard! LOL!
All in all, i pretty much enjoyed the weather, beautiful scenery
and ... became a little hearier! :)
Andrew, swimming is very easy. You just have to become friends with water. Suggest you use the following method: go into shallow water, with your feet touching the bottom, and then take position with back down and chest up. I mean, with your chest pointing to the sky and your back pointing to the bottom of the pond. In that position, looking at the sky if you wish, start taking a deep breath, and hold the air inside your pneumons for a couple of minutes. You will discover that the pneumons, full of air, are a natural flotation vest. Next, try to stay afloat that way, now without your feet touching the bottom. It will only take you a couple of tries to make it. Then you may experiment staying afloat that way, without touching the ground. After you have become familiar with floating, you may start moving your arms and legs, and see what happens. And also, then you can invert your position, trying to float with your belly down. It is just like playing, that easy it is. Do not go into deep water yet, just in case you get tired. When you have learned how to float, to move and displace in the water, you can swim. That position, chest up and back down, is extremely helpful. It will allow you swim rather long distances, since any time you are tired you can just lay on the water and float chest up and back down, take a rest, and relax, to then start swimming again ... If you have a good command of that position, you'll be able to swim for long distances ...
thanks for advice! :)
Andrew, IMPORTANT do not learn to swim alone!!! of course :)
@Jorge: Do you know some good ways to keep rabbits out of the garden? Thanks S.V.
S.V., from what I've seen, locals protect their trees with steel mesh sorrounding the trees, a couple of ft. high. Regarding their gardens and orchards, or nurseries, the locals prevent the rabbits from digging their way in using 2 or 3 lt. PVC bottles filled up with soil. They bury these bottles filled up with dust in the ground which surrounds the orchard, and that is supossed to keep rabbits from digging their way in. I would think it works OK. Nurseries is a different story. It all depends on the kind of nursery you are using, since you may even build a small wall around, to prevent the rabbits from coming in. All protections I know of are mechanical type, solid type protections. And, of course, your may hunt them (hunting by steel wire lace has been said to get tastier rabbits, than hunting them with a fire arm), or have your dogs keep them away. This is the best I know of, as of now ... I've got a lot to learn
Andrew, the weed that has the bitter taste that you eat in salads is Oxalis. It is a member of the sorrell family. It is OK to eat in small doses but can cause digestive problems if you eat too much. We have it in our yard. Ours has a small beautiful medium pink blossom. Here in Florida, USA, it must be grown in filtered light as it can't take the heat of the Florida sun, but can take our coldest winter days without being covered for protection. I grow it in flower beds because it is beautiful and has two blooming periods each year. Here in Florida it goes dormant during the heat of August but comes back in Sept. I've never tried eating it, so I've learned something from you. Many thanks! If you'd like to learn more about Oxalis, a good source would be Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia. That web site has pictures as well as information. www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxalis.
Very cool, Andrew. It looks like you know what to do to get along just fine.
Really nice preparation for ongoing worldwide events.. This is just great.. Be on your own.. You should try this in winter time to see how you're standing with your survival skills.. ;) Thumbs Up!
Thanks for sharing Andrew. I'm fascinated to know more about the scythe. I'm sure knowing better how to use one...to keep fleas and weeds down, some order in the chaos, etc. we will still likely need to "mow" areas, as well as be able to harvest crops, hay for livestock, etc. Thanks for sharing your off the grid holiday pictures and stories. Glad you had a nice time!
Hi Andrew. Your post is truly inspiring. I'm finally starting to be motivated into learning how to save seed with the stuff I will buy from the store and take some notes on the plants that you have grown. Such a beautiful and peaceful place. A way to be in touch with nature as it should be. Thank you for this post =) Hope you and your family are doing well.
Does anyone know if eggshells expire?
what do you mean ''expire''? eggshells are made from calcium, a mineral, and mineral doesnt expire. you can store them and grind into powder and fertilize the garden whenever you want, OR you can EAT them, to add your body some calcium!
Andrew and Becky, thanks for your help. Just what I need to know.