Americans eat entirely too much food! We can get along with much less, and especially with less meat!
Raising your own meat livestock is very resource consuming. The animals you keep should be there for double duty, that is, bedside the fact that they are pleasant company for the most part.
Pigs will consume lots of waste food and scraps, and they do not have to be kept in dirty conditions...they also make plenty of piglets at a time! Do not forget to keep one male for breeding, and as many females as you want, to produce piglets for trade, meat and new breeding stock. Consult an expert about breeding practices and an expert about safe making of sausage, salami and dried, corned and cured pork making. Generally pigs were slaughtered in the fall. This was a good time to cure the meat and also the time to reduce consumption of resources that were scarce through the winter. Sometimes pigs were allowed to run fairly free, with perhaps a tender to watch them. They would forage in the forest floor and make good meals out of acorns etc..
Cows...only what your grass will support, and only one bull should survive for long. That much meat is hard to preserve. If it is not making milk or fathering a new generation...get rid of it! Read up on breeds as they have different strengths and weaknesses, butterfat and temperament, etc.
Chickens give you eggs in months that have plenty of light. If you have the luxury of solar panels on the roof of your chicken coop, you can keep a light going in the coop for increased winter egg production. They also eat bugs, keeping things like ticks at bay on your property where chickens are free to roam. In addition to all sorts of vegetable matter, flowers and grains, corn, feed etc., they also eat weed sprouts etc.. When the egg laying ceases, then they can become food. One thing to remember, is that if you are in crisis mode, you cannot afford to be feeding the hens a huge amount of expensive feed. Chickens and other foul will forage for themselves and did so for millennia before we domesticated them. This will, of course, produce smaller birds with less meat. They will however be very tasty for that once in a great while chicken meal and the following soup that is particularly good from older birds. If you live in colder areas, the birds will need some sort of food supplement in the winter.
For centuries, people have been building dovecotes. Small partitioned buildings with nesting boxes and high entry holes for pigeons. They were good food and were often flying into and out of besieged cities after the livestock of the city was all butchered.
It is not unusual in parts of Europe to go through days and days without seeing or hearing a single bird, except pigeons. The birds we consider song birds in this country are often hunted for food there. Provence and much of Italy are notable for small birds in the diet. While it would be OK in an emergency, you have to remember that they have a niche in the ecology of an area. These birds eat weed seeds, bugs and in some cases vermin, that would become a nuisance without them. Go easy unless you are desperate.
Rabbits eat almost anything vegetable.... weeds, fruits, vegetables, and they produce prodigious numbers of edible offspring! A loose rabbit can run amok in vegetable plots and do tons of damage in one day. If you plan on a hutch that is on the ground, bury fencing deep into the ground to prevent burrowing under. Be mindful of snow storms that raise the ground level inside the pen and allow them to escape over the fence. They have virtually no defense from predators, so keep the pen and hutch securely closed, especially at night. Allowing mixed sexes in the same space can yield an explosion of bunnies, though if you have plenty of food for them, they can be raised to an edible size. There are tons of hybrids. Choose short haired varieties without any odd characteristics. There are dwarf varieties that are fun as pets but nearly useless for food.
Goats produce milk and baby goats.(I will put in a post about simple cheese making. More ambitious cheeses must be carefully taught by an expert.) The kids are great meat animals, and the reason that some societies have a tradition of eating baby goats or young goats, veal and roast pig, is that a farm or land can only support just so many animals. Some animals must be slaughtered or traded away, especially in the Autumn. The best thing you can do is to make the short lives of these animals idyllic, and their demise as painless as possible and as free from fear as possible. You must understand that the lives of so many wild animals is very short due to predators and environmental conditions. You are doing much the same thing, in your farmyard, as a wild animal might experience. Do not do too many goats! A few goats will produce a prodigious amount of milk. Some of the milk will go back to the kids, but still, you have to be making cheese all the time and drinking plenty to keep up with the production after the kids are reared. Goats produce much more milk than cows per head. Feed kids pasteurized milk to reduce disease. I will post about pasteurization later.
Livestock will benefit from sprouted grain instead of just dry grain. Soak oats overnight, then spread out in trays to sprout and feed to animals instead of the grain. Good for people as well. You need far fewer pounds of grain to feed animals if you sprout them first. Much higher accessible nutrition.
Do not eat potato that has sprouted, or the sprouts themselves. You can consume slightly sprouted potato or green potato. The green potato will not taste good, and must be peeled rather deep into the potato. The sprouts of the potato must be cut at least 1/4 inch deeper into the flesh than the origin of the sprout in the skin of the potato. Alfalfa is also a good feed for them. They can forage, but the cultivated feed will be generally healthier and the larger volume will obviously produce larger and healthier stock. Also, some of the sharp flavor of the cheese will disappear if the goats are fed instead of free range.
You do not need a whole crowd of goats, geese, cows, pigs etc., on your land...barter and food is the only answer to overpopulation. Especially, do not think that you can feed hoards of animals on scraps...there are only so many scraps to go around. Chickens, on the other hand are a great animal to keep as they provide eggs that are so very nutritious and versatile and can be a good source of protein without butchering them except when they stop laying. They can also forage for much of their food.
Plant foods are the way to go. You can be very healthy on a completely vegetarian diet, and with the addition of small amounts of meat from your land and hunting, even healthier.
If you can provide extremely dry storage conditions and a good drying atmosphere, you can grow and dry:
Peas, lentils, apples(and a number of other fruits), squash, pumpkins, beans of all sorts, herbs, onions etc..
Try looking for Egyptian onions. Plant a huge area with them. They grow up on a large stalk(which is edible like spring onions) and form small onions on the top. The weight of the onions on top makes them fall over, and the little onions sprout into more plants. They are onion factories, and require no care at all! They are a pain in the ass to peel a couple of dozen for a meal, but you can blanch them and remove the skins that way. In many cooking methods like roasting, the skins can stay on. Roast them, serve raw, cook like onions in all recipes. Onions are a good source of vitamin C. Just do not waste the water they are cooked in as the nutrients like vitamin C are then lost.
The same is true of all cooking water....Never throw out an ounce of cooking water as it is all nutritious, rich in water soluble nutrients if you reuse it for soups, gravy and cooking liquids.
Though they are extremely healthy, I am not a fan of Cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage and Broccoli, as they get so many worms...but that is just me. Soak vegetables from the garden in salt water for half an hour or more before preparing them to eat. Little beasties will die or just float to the surface unless they are deeply buried in a vegetable.
You will have fairly complete protein in your diet if you combine grain(especially whole grains) and legumes. Rice, wheat, barley and oats, and a number of more exotic grains, can all be grown in North America, just be sure to reserve some grain for seed in years that crops fail so it is available in the following year. Some whole grains have limited storage times compared to more processed grains.
Peas, beans and lentils are all legumes that can all be grown successfully and dried for the future.
Spread the peas or seeds you intend to dry on screens in a dry but sunless space or drying barn to dry. Do not over crowd them and turn them regularly, as they can mold.
Carrots and possibly parsnips have a strange habit. Almost any part of the root will sprout and produce a new carrot. Experiment with this instead of throwing away carrot tops. Halve or quarter a carrot top to produce several plants from one. The carrot only needs to have some green at the top, not necessarily a true living leaf. They will sprout if given a helping hand. Stand the cut root, with the green side up in a shallow pan of water. Keep out of the sun, and they should sprout.
There are a number of perennial food crops as mentioned in other posts.:
Asparagus will come back year after year once established, as long as you do not over harvest. It does need a particularly deep soil. You can dig out stones and debris from deep trenches to get that depth, and apply good natural fertilizers to the soil that you return to the hole. Do not over harvest them, you need to allow foliage to develop in order to keep the roots strong.
Perennial can sometimes be misleading. Beds sometimes need to be dug up, replanted with only the healthiest plants and re-fertilized.
Horseradish is a cast iron crop, though usually only used as a condiment, you will be very happy you have it once your supply of imported spices are no longer available.
Chives will last for generations. There are several varieties of chive. Some are garlic flavored. Divide and replant till you get a very large bed of them. You will not miss the onions you will not have enough of. Use tons of the clipped tops in place of an onion. The flavor is a bit different.
Jerusalem artichokes are nothing more than flower roots that will grow in some forgotten corner of your garden. Like all root crops, loose but rich sandy soil will be appreciated.
Tomatoes and peppers are easy to propagate from saved seed, but will do best in hot climates, even forgotten dropped fruit can sometimes sprout at will. Look for heritage varieties.
Raspberries, and blackberries will last for generations as well, but need to be cared for, rather than allowed to go wild as so many do.
Strawberries will come back from seed if you and the rodents can leave a few on the ground. Remember that rodents are good to eat too!!!! Remove old plants periodically to allow the new plants to develop, and keep the ripening berries off the ground with a layer of pine needles or straw...remove and replace the mulch so mold will not go crazy.
Blueberries are an easy crop in acidic soil. Many varieties will produce huge crops of berries.
Fruit trees are an obvious choice and good to plant near your septic system as they can feed heavily there.
People do not think of gooseberries and currants as a food source. They are often considered a bad companion for harvestable soft wood trees as they can carry disease, but it will be well worth it when you have those piles of berries to eat. Currants will dry like raisins. Dried fruits and berries last for a long...LONG time.
Grapes will grow in a very large part of the continent. New varieties increase the range as does the trend toward warmer weather. You can actually plant grapes and some other plants inside the house or greenhouse, and train the vines out through holes in the walls to go where they want. This keeps the root alive in bad weather.
Oregano is a good and prolific crop, Several varieties are good to grow as some of them can be a little strong for more than flavoring, but others make a good salad extender.
Oregano is in the mint family, and many of the other mints can be a great boon to boring food. Spearmint and Lemon Balm are indestructible.
Good King Henry(A perennial Spinach substitute) and Sorrel are great sour plants, good for soups and for use with chicken or fish. The only drawback is that they have oxalic acid in them, and they are not good for you in large amounts.(liver and kidney irritants as I remember) Use them judiciously. Wild or Wood Sorrel can be gathered and once you see one you will recognize them as a common weed.
Speaking of weeds...Do not forget the common Dandelion. A great bitter herb when tiny and cooked until they become large and excessively bitter later on. Don't dig them up...encourage them! Do not use plants as they get larger. Newly sprouted leaves and spring plants will be fine.
Some areas of the country are OK for sweet chestnut trees. Do not confuse them with Horse Chestnuts. Other nut trees are typically easy to live with and care free. Hazelnuts, walnuts, Butternuts, Hickory nuts are good for the US, though the nuts are not typically as big as commercially grown varieties. You need a big hammer to get into some of them, and the meats are small sometimes. Worth the effort though. Some Pine trees from Europe produce Pinola nuts, though I do not know their range in the US.
Nut trees will attract squirrels...good eating!
Hot climates can grow Capers. These are a bitter flower bud used mostly with fish and vegetable dishes in the Mediterranean. Both the buds and the seed pods are pickled in brine or salted.
Just one word of caution...if you are gathering wild food....know what you are putting in your mouth...just because it looks like a parsnip or a white carrot, does not mean that it is not a deadly poison! Do not harvest wild mushrooms unless you have been carefully taught by an expert. You can grow your own however, in a dark cave or basement.
Storing potatoes is pretty easy. Harvest some as late as possible. Store them dry and cold(but not freezing), and in the dark with good air circulation. Just cut them up in the spring, leaving a couple of "eyes" on each piece and bury them in good soil....you should never have to worry about shortage if you are careful in storage.
Native Americans lived off corn for thousands of years, and the stalks can be used for animal feed. Dried ground corn will help to feed chickens.
In colonial days, popped corn was used like a breakfast cereal with milk and sugar.
Simple meals can be made with corn on the cob, like Corn Oysters(look them up or check out my cookbook on line), and corn based pancakes are a classic with caviar or fish and sour cream or yogurt.
Squash and pumpkin seeds are easy to save, and the flesh can be dried easily, strung on strings in a dry place.
Native Americans grew Corn, beans and pumpkins in the same hills. The beans climb on the corn, and the pumpkins(or squash) shade out weeds in between the hills of corn.
Build a drying building, like the tobacco barns in the south and Central Atlantic States. Put on a good roof and leave the siding with plenty of gaps to allow air to circulate. Pave the floor with big stones to keep down burrowers and dampness.
Preserving fruits and vegetables by drying and root cellar are best done in a very orderly manner. I will try to research good Root cellar techniques. Do not overcrowd and check stock regularly to avoid rot spreading in your containers or shelves. Do not try to store bruised and damaged food.
There are all kinds of flowers that are great to eat in a salad or sprinkled on entrees for color. Violets and roses(old varieties) have been candied or Crystallized for centuries. Roses and other flowers can be baked in muffins, cakes, etc.. Teas can be made from flowers and leaves.
Excess fruit can be pressed like cider apples. One of my favorite memories of Massachusetts around route 2 in the 50s and 60s is stopping for Cherry Cider that was purchased in huge glass bottles. Many fruits come into season at various times of the summer. You can make wines and hard ciders with those that are not consumed immediately.
Squash and pumpkin blossoms can be sauteed, stuffed and baked... stuffed, breaded and deep fried. Day lilies work for salads as well.
Nasturtiums are a nice plant with very peppery leaves and flowers...pretty to look at too.
There are many mint varieties, They spread like wildfire in some cases, and some are hard to raise. Spearmint, peppermint and many others make great teas and flavor meats well. They also flesh out salads. Lemon Balm is very lemony but also citron like...perhaps a bit medicinal.
Sumac flowers taste like the lemon balm and it is common in middle eastern food. Try making ices and lemonade(from the tea) with them as well.
There are all sorts of plants, herbs and flowers that can be deadly poisons. Yew trees, Monkshood, digitalis(foxglove) are all common in the garden and not a good idea to eat...unless you are serving some raider who is after your animals.
Again, I say...encourage your dandelions...they are good in sausage meat if you blanch and chop them first. The flowers make wine.
I will be sure to post a good basic bread recipe, good for bread and pizza. Once you have made the bread, save a small amount of (sour)dough or semi liquid dough with plenty of sugars for the next time you do bread. Do not over salt the dough or starter(sour dough) as salt inhibits the yeast growth. Search the Internet for recipes and practices. Allow plenty of time to have the dough rise. The very best breads raise in cold or cool locations. This can take a day or more, but it allows you to have bread rising anywhere in your house and at all times of the year.
There are sour cakes as well, that use natural fermentation to make the leavener for the cake.(sometimes called friendship cakes, they are pretty frightening to make at first. The end results are nice though.) Back in the early days, you could buy Saleritus. It was a leavener like baking soda etc...When you used too much, your food turned green! Many of the common baked goods began their lives without baking powder and baking soda. Instead, you would use the required eggs, and separate them. The yolks were part of the batter and the whites would be whipped up and folded into the base batter to make the lightening agent. Pancakes, muffins, corn breads etc. can all be made this way and though a bit heavier, they can be very pleasant food.
Things that you have to understand:
Living off the land is a day in, day out twenty hour a day job. You are up early with the animals, working all day in gardens and kitchens, making all the things you would normally buy, setting aside a day of the week to wash, a day in the year to make your soap, make your candles, spinning and weaving your wool for days or weeks to make cloth, canning or preserving food, and finally to bed just after the animals in the evening. Winter comes and all the gardening jobs disappear, but the long term projects begin. Making clothing, repairing equipment, and building new equipment to replace what has worn out, tanning leather, schooling children, quilting,...in short, all the long term projects begin in the winter. This is why cultures in the past barely knew people and cultures even twenty miles away. Life was too intense right in your own yard or community to connect with people twenty miles away. Village life made this a bit easier as people could specialize in just a few jobs. But that will not happen immediately after a collapse, as predicted by many Preppers, unless you do it way ahead of the collapse. Yes, the loner with his high powered rifle in a remote cabin in the woods will struggle far more than they realize. The smart families will be the ones that form small communities now and have specialized skills to benefit the whole community. Think how much easier it would be to have a single common oven and wood supply in the center of a village, than everyone trying to do that one job, every day, for themselves. A whole village could build an ice house and harvest ice in the winter, together for the common good, etc..
Living on your own farm produce means that you are wedded to the farm. You cannot walk away for a day or two without making arrangements for someone to care for the animals. You also need to keep your farm in a scale that your resources can support. You need to be realistic about how many animals can eat off the land, and if not just eating off the land, you will need to provide commercial feed or devote some of your farm produce to the feeding of your animals, especially in the winter. One should not get the idea that living off your farm is anything like being a gentleman farmer. In the event of some apocalypse, you will have to work all the time to feed your family, and at some point, stored supplies will run out. Plan, practice, prepare.
Bugs and snakes are good sources of protein...eat as many ants as you can, but do not decimate the snake population as they also eat your pest animals!