Friday, 15 February 2013

My Habitat Home: The Dreaded Food Stamp

Building a back yard garden didn't go so well.  Our borrowed rototiller died and a garden did not get planted last year.

I don't know how many times I've heard or have to hear "Those welfare people are lazy.  Those welfare people are on drugs.  Those welfare people need to work."  FYI you can't have welfare food stamps or the monetary assistance unless you work and often you are paid less than $2.00/ hr for a job that a hired on employee makes $20/ hr been there, done that.  They tell you "It will get your foot in the door."  Um, no it will pay said employer to keep the welfare recipient on.  An employer will not hire a recipient because the employer is getting welfare too.  I used to be an employer and truly that is something they tell you not to discuss.   The thing with this kind of work is you make more money flipping burgers and not many people want to flip burgers for a living.

The burger flipping means you probably get food stamps even if you work full time and over time.  It also means, in many minimum wage jobs you're drug tested.  Therefore, drug testing people who are already on record is nonsensical.  All that to the side, this post really isn't about all that.  I feel that there's a whole world that those who receive food stamps don't know about.

I'm going to take you back though time.  Before I do that I will say we do receive food stamps in monthly $450 allotments.  Before we had our home, we lived in the projects.   There really was no point in having a garden.   The neighborhood kids would have ripped it out and you can't grow anything permanent besides.

I had no clue you could use food stamps to grow a garden. No one ever told me and no government office ever mentioned it.  Fast forward to having enough money to buy a home and save for a garden...  When I first started my garden, three years ago, I wanted to start working on looks.  I knew I needed beneficial bugs  lady bugs, praying mantis, bees and more.   Those bugs aren't turned on by a head of lettuce.

I don't think you can use food stamps for ornamentals.   I haven't tried it so I don't know for certain.  My next goal was to feed my family/ get rid of food stamps.  I'm still not completely on the way.  There is a lot of work to do for that to happen and I've been the only one working toward this goal for the most part and when $500/ yr is your budget that's what you're going to stick to.

I know... "That should buy all your seed."  Right... but any gardener that doesn't use pesticides will tell you that because of mono-culture and the process surrounding it, we have soil deterioration.  I have soil deterioration because they ripped out a part of the forest when our home was built.   Forests have leaves and rotting wood which naturally provides mulch and fresh soil.

I'm working from poor soil.  That $500 goes toward mulch and soil first, plants second.   Because I don't want to worry about feeding my family I've decided to spend a great deal of the money on permanents.  The permanent plants come at a far greater expense than the seeds but as my husband and I age, they'll be a greater value than the seed.

I can propagate a raspberry bush easily because it's a perennial.  I can't do that as quickly or as easily with an annual.  We purchased two apple trees because to produce apples you need a male and a female unless you have a hybrid.  Apple trees run to about $40/ tree.  We have blueberry, kiwi, grapes, herbs, and edible flowers.  Very little of what has been planted has produced thus far.  I won't expect it to start producing until next year.

When you buy permanents, that reserved $500 doesn't go very far.  Admittedly, we use income tax for things like trees and edible bushes because my kids need food now and the food stamps cannot take that kind of hit.  There are permanents that I have used the food stamps for so it is possible to build on something that will be forever.

List of edible seeded permanents:

fever few
Greek oregano

These are just some of the things that I've found fairly easy to grow from seed and it will keep coming back.  I know you're looking at this and maybe perhaps thinking 'well gee that isn't much.'  This is where foraging skills come in.  You see, the earth has already provided for you if you just choose to open your eyes  and keep your poopie pets contained.

Things we use to tide us over that I did not plant include dandelion, wild onion, wild blackberry (the leaves are edible too and taste great in salad).

Before we moved, I had no clue food stamps can be used to garden.  It's not like it's advertised.  I found out because my incredibly wonderful, supportive mom told me.   If I convince just one person to use their dreaded  food stamps (no one really wants them) to plant just one plant at a time as organically as possible we can pave the road back to self sufficiency.   This is how it was done in the WWII era as a patriotic responsibility, to grow a garden.  I think it should still be a patriotic responsibility especially now when the right to grow your food is one you now have to fight for.

I wonder how much would be saved if the government pushed gardening.  Imagine if the nation were gardening... could we, as self sufficient convince the government to follow suit?

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