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How to survive the year without a summer

 
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Living on the southern end of anything resembling healthy salmon populations, I would bet a cold syear would do mostly good for these fish which need cold water to breed. The water would be my first place to look for food, as warm temperatures are killing off major ocean food sources as it is.
 
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Living on the southern end of anything resembling healthy salmon populations, I would bet a cold syear would do mostly good for these fish which need cold water to breed. The water would be my first place to look for food, as warm temperatures are killing off major ocean food sources as it is.

the salmon were still running and spawning under the glaciers, which is good to think about.  The Earth does not shut down, but it will get thrown out of whack.  Salmon are a great food source, but they have their moments when they are not... like when the ocean currents change or... just because they are a little fickle they decide en mass to not spawn this year, and spent a two year cycle in the ocean.  They can't really be relied on 100%.  99.99 maybe... but not 100 %.  Even the middens of the Northwest Coast  of North America showed salmon deficit layers which held way more deer and marginal fish bones and no salmon.

So the question was what would a permacultural community do if suddenly winter didn't stop for a few years.  Well I would think that around here, most folks would learn to snare and be eating rabbits pretty quick... potato and rabbit stew.  Gathering more nettles and chaga, and birch syrup, and other wild foods et cetera.  

I'd be keeping better care of my tools.  Paying more attention to the directions that the birds fly.  Paying more attention in general.  The permacultural observe, observe, observe motto would go a long way to ensuring survival during this time.  

The local dairy farm which is a 5 minute walk away will be looking to thin it's herd because of the limited hay supply and as such I will go get me a thousand pounds of jerky in exchange for adding to the labor of the processing of their herd, or possibly exchanging veggies or wild food and medicine plants.  I would do the same for some lamb.  

Growing food under cover, following the 4 season garden approach and taking it to the extreme.

The landrace, seed saving, seed swapping, and probably doing a lot more of this with animals too.

I would isolate my heating area until I had a massive backlog of firewood gathered.

I would hold a community meeting to try to formulate a strategy for making sure that we are all fed and housed safely.

I would go up my creek and do a bunch of permaculture, increasing it's potential to hold winter run off, thinking that when the climate yo yo's and shifts to a hot dry period, my creek will still be productive.

Has anybody read Lucifer's Hammer?  It's novel based on the idea of a oceanic meteor strike which produces as Biblical rainstorm, and the resulting crop losses.  A great read.  It's been more than a decade, so I can't remember much of it at this time, but I do recall some judge in central California setting up a community of some sort based around greenhouses.  
 
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:

Living on the southern end of anything resembling healthy salmon populations, I would bet a cold syear would do mostly good for these fish which need cold water to breed. The water would be my first place to look for food, as warm temperatures are killing off major ocean food sources as it is.

the salmon were still running and spawning under the glaciers, which is good to think about.  The Earth does not shut down, but it will get thrown out of whack.  Salmon are a great food source, but they have their moments when they are not... like when the ocean currents change or... just because they are a little fickle they decide en mass to not spawn this year, and spent a two year cycle in the ocean.  They can't really be relied on 100%.  99.99 maybe... but not 100 %.  Even the middens of the Northwest Coast  of North America showed salmon deficit layers which held way more deer and marginal fish bones and no salmon.

So the question was what would a permacultural community do if suddenly winter didn't stop for a few years.  Well I would think that around here, most folks would learn to snare and be eating rabbits pretty quick... potato and rabbit stew.  Gathering more nettles and chaga, and birch syrup, and other wild foods et cetera.  

I'd be keeping better care of my tools.  Paying more attention to the directions that the birds fly.  Paying more attention in general.  The permacultural observe, observe, observe motto would go a long way to ensuring survival during this time.  

The local dairy farm which is a 5 minute walk away will be looking to thin it's herd because of the limited hay supply and as such I will go get me a thousand pounds of jerky in exchange for adding to the labor of the processing of their herd, or possibly exchanging veggies or wild food and medicine plants.  I would do the same for some lamb.  

Growing food under cover, following the 4 season garden approach and taking it to the extreme.

The landrace, seed saving, seed swapping, and probably doing a lot more of this with animals too.

I would isolate my heating area until I had a massive backlog of firewood gathered.

I would hold a community meeting to try to formulate a strategy for making sure that we are all fed and housed safely.

I would go up my creek and do a bunch of permaculture, increasing it's potential to hold winter run off, thinking that when the climate yo yo's and shifts to a hot dry period, my creek will still be productive.

Has anybody read Lucifer's Hammer?  It's novel based on the idea of a oceanic meteor strike which produces as Biblical rainstorm, and the resulting crop losses.  A great read.  It's been more than a decade, so I can't remember much of it at this time, but I do recall some judge in central California setting up a community of some sort based around greenhouses.  



Luciver's Hammer came out 197y I think. I bought it paperback and it made rounds in my hometown (one person stuck it in his back pocket, I don't know how, and trashed out the cover, too)

It was basically a huge meteor impact, it destroyed the entire infrastructure as it was known, and how some survivors banded together.

Still, the idea of if it went nuclear winter style (the event in the 1300's, there was little sun, very short days, mostly murky, cold, wet, and nothing wanted to grow-there were about three years of that. In 1816 it was again, cold because of sun blockage and the spectacular red sunsets in everyone's paintings, and a cold short growing season.

What can you do to grow around a cold short season if you aren't already in such a zone... or if you have adequate moisture stop (drought. Atlanta Georgia has had a few years here where they almost ran out of water, as in NONE. Some cities in the area did have to bring in water in tanker trucks). Fortunately I have grown in 7 grow zones and from exceedingly short seasons to coldHOTcold and other variables. So diversity in my food forest, ways and knowledge on how to grow around the weather, a diversity in my seeds I plant in case it happens to be this kind of year instead of that kind of year.... and preparing for what if the grid goes down and where is your water? Not prepper but going back to the times of say my grandparents and how did they make it without a lot of what we have now? The individual may be able to survive but I think some of our question is about how will society change if such a thing happens, can we survive that?
 
Ben Zumeta
pollinator
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"If you don't deal with the birthrate problem, the death rate will catch up to you" (Ehrlich)

Sorry to get dark, but I didn't bring up nuclear winter. It would be a lot easier to imagine all of our scenarios and strategies working with 1billion people snaring, fishing and hording firewood than 7bil. When the salmon didn't run in the NW, the relatively large populations of coastal peoples experienced famine, population contraction and war over resources. Eventually these groups, despite being very diverse linguistically, developed shared cultural mechanisms to prevent these anomalous years being caused by over fishing and habitat destruction (i.e. first salmon ceremonies allowing the 1st 2 weeks of salmon to run by; prohibition of trapping out more than a certain fraction of a river; requiring a person go to a spot at least 10x before being allowed to fish it). The dry years still happened due to low rainfall, landslides, glacial dams breaking etc, but in general the NW natives created selection pressures that favored salmon running earlier and over a wider portion of the year (each species' run was seen separately).

It is amazing to go hiking through the Sierras (thinking of Muir Pass at 10k+ elevation on PCT) where receding glaciers have uncovered ground that hadn't seen sunlight in 10,000 yrs. It is incredibly buggy, and I imagine salmon/trout would be in heaven, happily bringing in nutrients from downhill to eventually become soil that will grow trees and stabilize water temperatures and flows to allow for more salmon.
 
pollinator
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I have held off joining this conversation because it gives me such anxiety.  Here in Kenya we have already seen catastrophic change in weather patterns.  For about half the country, seasonal rains failed.  It was the year without rain... In a country that suffers from constant food insecurity, even when the weather is normal.  In my part of the country we got our rain, but less than expected.  Media coverage was kind of sparse, as everything is eclipsed by election year drama, but a few sad stories drifted through.  Animals starving to death, both domestic and wild.  The government started a buy up program for people to off load their livestock and offered ridiculously low prices, $5 for a goat, $10-15 for a cow.  Food prices across the country have gone up about 150 percent.  There have been increased incidents of violence as people fight over water sources and steal from each other.  People drinking sewage.  Outbreaks of cholera. There are reports of people eating poisonous fruits.  Kids stop going to school because they are too hungry to learn.  The city of Nairobi was put under water rationing.

What does that mean for me? I can grow through a dry season, but I don't think I could get through an entire year.  We have an on site spring that has never run dry, but that doesn't mean it never will.  And what if the weather went the other way and it suddenly got cold and rainy?  What if we got snow and freezing temps?  Luckily, our land is sloped so we aren't likely to flood, but the clay soil will become a mirey mess.  Most of our crops don't like wet feet.  On top if that, our tropical staples are long season - 6 months for sweet potatoes, a year for cassavas, taro and banana... So it would take a really long time to get back on our feet if we had a year that wiped out everything.

I do think we have a district advantage over our neighboring villagers.  We have a diversity of crops, so the probability of something surviving is better.  Taro root, for example, love mud and will even grow in standing water.  I have researched drought resistant indigenous crops and plant quite a few of those.  And, I hale from Vermont, so I have a lot of experience with short, cold seasons, if it came to that. (Although sourcing seeds would be a problem if we were facing any kind of social collapse.). I also have done research on edible weeds and uncommon edibles.  Spiderwort and black jack are hardy weeds that are edible.  The leaves of taro and cassava can be eaten with special processing.  Man cannot live on greens alone.  There is literally nothing left to hunt here, wild game has already been wiped out.  I'm a pretty good shot with a bow, though its been twenty years since I used one.  I can also hunt with s bola, which might be practical.  I am a decent fisherwoman too.  We could probably survive crop failures and food shortages.  

What we probably wouldn't survive is rampaging neighbors.  I feel quite certain that if we had supplies, they would steal, using deadly force without a thought. Human life has very little value, even in good times.  I do believe humanity will fail entirely if things get desperate.

I think the best hope for us would be to build a resilient community.  But at present my neighbors aren't interested in such ideas.
 
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In this sort of scenario livestock that can eat grass or brush would be critical. Goat's, sheep, rabbits, would probably fit this bill. Even if you had to keep them in doors and bring food to them to keep them from being poached or stolen it would probably be doable. Grasses and brush will grow in almost any conditions.
 
gardener
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It's a weird little thing about the desert - an event that reduced the sun intensity by say half, even 75% here would actually help my ability to grow a wide variety of foods.  Lots of people in desert climates grow under shadecloth for this reason.  A local farmer has greenhouses with 50% shade cloth and grows tomatoes and cukes in there, along with most everything else you can think of, greens, brassicas, etc.  

Green and hoop-houses are what many people here in the desert use to grow in year-round, in order to manage the humidity and sun exposure better.  Drying winds plus sun are really hard on plants. I grow some things in a "greenhouse " - a south facing lean-to with solid roof on top.  This means almost no direct sun comes inside in the summer, only the winter.  Bell peppers grow great in there all summer, and I have green tomatoes on the vine right now.  I give this as an example of growing in greatly reduced illumination.  There are a lot of plants that can still grow, the trick would be figuring those out.

So some areas might thrive in unexpected ways.  The dispersal of volcanic nutrients could also be very good for some regions, like the PNW of the US, where the soils are very old and low in mineral content.
 
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This year so far is differently not "the year without summer".

Here it is only May and our temperatures are already in the 102's.  That is what we usually get in July or August.

We are already in a draught.  My blackberry, a rose bush and blue sages are dead from this crazy weather.
 
Kim Goodwin
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Anne Miller wrote:This year so far is differently not "the year without summer".

Here it is only May and our temperatures are already in the 102's.  That is what we usually get in July or August.

We are already in a draught.  My blackberry, a rose bush and blue sages are dead from this crazy weather.



Ouch, Anne.  Here a bit west of you, it is hot, but not that hot yet. We are little higher, too, I think.  4200 ft elevation?  I'm sorry about those plants!

I'm reminded of some of the no-summer years growing up in the wet range of the PNW.  Lots of brassicas.  And potatoes, there are varieties that like it cool and damp.  I grew up in an area with very little summer, so my attempts as traditional summer veggies were at times embarrassing. I was also inadvertently torturing plants. Like basil and rosemary and the time I attempted to grow okra. I grew a melon once. One single, barely ripe melon in a raised corrugated pipe bed in the sunniest part of my acreage.

So in a year of no summer, I'd do what we did there - harvest a lot of nettles (which would grow anyways, I think), and really focus on brassicas, leeks, and give potatoes a try.  Also Chinese artichoke and my favorite tuber - oca - we had both of those growing in Oregon and they did well in a significant amount of shade.
 
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It's funny how a little bit of change can make a difference.   I believe you are north and maybe a hair west of me, but relatively close. But though I'm south that gulf humidity has push those hundred degree days a few days down the calendar.   Forecast says next week, but I am thinking this weekend.

I don't enjoy the sauna.  It always confused me why anyone would pay for an experience I get sitting in the shade outside most of the year.  

The plants are thriving as long as we keep them watered. I divided the Mexican feather grass last fall and I think now I should have gone smaller.  They might need more dividing this fall.
 
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Anne Miller wrote:This year so far is differently not "the year without summer".

Here it is only May and our temperatures are already in the 102's.  That is what we usually get in July or August.

We are already in a draught.  My blackberry, a rose bush and blue sages are dead from this crazy weather.



I sometimes wish I lived in a place with warmer weather and a longer growing season, but I don't envy that weather.  Every place has it's advantages and disadvantages I guess.  I hope most of your things survive.
 
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Kim Goodwin wrote:So in a year of no summer, I'd do what we did there - harvest a lot of nettles (which would grow anyways, I think), and really focus on brassicas, leeks, and give potatoes a try.  Also Chinese artichoke and my favorite tuber - oca - we had both of those growing in Oregon and they did well in a significant amount of shade.



I'm in the Pacific Northwest, and this spring has really been a non-event. It's more like (our) winter. Consistently in the 40's and 50's F, with lots of rain and not much sun. It keeps hailing, too.

Lettuce is doing well. Potatoes are growing nicely. Peas are loving it. Radishes and kale are doing great. I haven't tried planting any summer crops. I'll try planting some beans with a glass coldframe above them to see if that helps. But, if things keep going the way we're going, squash/corn/beans/tomatoes won't do well.  I don't even TRY to grow melons or large tomatoes (even on a good year, I'm lucky if the cherry tomatoes ripen in time). The cold, wintery temperatures don't seem to be negatively affecting my berries, either.

So, to take your list and add to it:

- Leeks
- Chives
- Elephant garlic
- Garlic
- Brassicas (radish, kale, broccoli, cabbage)
- Potatoes
- Chinese artichoke
- Oca (I haven't' tried this one yet!)
- Nettles
- Lettuce
- PEAS!

Berries like:
- Strawberries
- Honeyberries
- Salmonberries
- Gooseberries
- Currants
- Trailing blackberries (on a damp year, the Himalayan blackberries rot in the rain when they get ripe)
- Blueberries
- Raspberries (don't expect a second crop from everberring raspberries. It'll probably be too rainy by then and they'll all rot)

All of those berries ripen early/mid season and don't mind cool temperatures, and--aside from the raspberries--they don't seem too damaged by rain. Salmonberries and trailing blackberries do go bad after a rain, but if you pick and process/eat them right away, they're fine.
 
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

I'm in the Pacific Northwest, and this spring has really been a non-event. It's more like (our) winter.

I'm capitalizing on saved seed. I've got enough, so I've planted peas twice already and am contemplating a third batch. The first batch, I think I've got one thriving. The second has most doing better. That situation could easily have been reversed.

I was so desperate for "green", I started cut and come again lettuce in two square pots on my south window ledge. When I needed the space, I dug pot sized spots in the front garden and put the plants straight in. I had that lettuce in wraps for dinner tonight, but they'll need another week of growing to pick again. I want to start some more as soon as possible, but there are other pressing issues first.

I'm taking a huge chance and started some supposedly cold-tolerant climbing beans. Again, they're saved seeds, and I have plenty so I'm hedging my bets!

Last year, I took 3 of my "compost cubes", and planted various squash right in  the cubes. They acted like a cool version of a "hot bed" that people use to start seeds.

I'm trying to add plants to my collection that like different seasons, so if one crop is a bust, the next one might at least give me produce.

What would really, really help me would be a green house, and I'm upping the pressure on getting on with at least some version of it.  
 
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