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A group of ~100 people working together have built a large forest secluded from the rest of society. The forest is ~70 km by ~70 km square. It has no seasons and can not be found or accessed by any other than those ~100 people.

The group consists of mostly merchants trading throughout the country and getting rich in the process. Trading for food is usually much more convenient than gathering it themselves. But in times of famine or persecution they want to be able to switch to getting food from their secluded land keeping their lavish diet as much as possible. How would one prepare this land with minimal amount of effort so that plenty can be harvested at a time of need?

The technology available would be roughly 1200 medieval England. Magic is present in the world. It has created the secluded forest. But it is often unavailable to the group for long periods. So it is not that useful as an emergency feature.

edit: The whole group can and would work to harvest the food when there is a need for it. It is only in normal times that they have little time to tend to their land.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Aug 23, 2022 at 7:25

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Temperate plants in tropical climate

Many plants only make the edible parts once per year in the Summer. Trick your plants into thinking it is always Summer, by planting them in a place warmer than where they evolved.

Edit: Some plants decide when to make fruit based on the number of hours of daylight, and not just the temperature. This is a different problem with the same solution. Plant temperate crops that fruit in summer when there are 12 hours of daylight; and build your garden on the equator where there is always 12 hours of light. Or set your whole story on the equator to avoid this problem entirely.

The forest is ~70 km by ~70 km square. It has no seasons and. . .

Well that makes it even easier. If there are no seasons (we're allowed to have one) by some spell then simply make the spell so the single season mimics the temperature and hours of daylight of the fruiting season for whatever you plant in the garden.

Tubers

potatoes

Carrots, Potatoes, Parsnip, Yams, Taro are all tubers. The plant uses them to store nutrients for the Winter. If your garden is tropical they will never need to use the tubers, and they remain in the ground ready for use at a moment's notice.

Beehives

enter image description here

The bees do not need to be supervised. They feed themselves from the potato flowers. You can come back at a moments notice and harvest the honey.

Orchards

enter image description here

Your garden is full of temperate fruit trees. Those guys only fruit in the Summer. But since the forest is tropical they think it is always summer. They always have fruit.

(Some) Spices

Some spices are leaves or bark or roots. Herbs, Curry leaves, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric are available all year around. Others are seeds or flowers. Some temperate ones might be available as with the orchards.

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    $\begingroup$ "But since the forest is tropical they think it is always summer." It's not as simple as that. Plants regulate their seasonal activity by hours of daylight, which is determined by latitude. Temperate plants will not bloom all year just because it's warm. - But only the "temperate" part of your answer needs correction. An arboretum of fruit trees from all over the world will surely produce something practically all year round. $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2022 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ Uh... no. Plants rely on day length to regulate their cycles, and without that, they cease fruiting and die within a few years. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Aug 22, 2022 at 0:39
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild Yes they do, howsoever the potatoes work, the potato isn't a fruit it's a tuber laid down in summer and in a perpetual summer the plant will just continue to produce them .. case in point, potatoes rarely fruit in England because we don't normally have the adequate seasonal variation to trigger that in them but they continue to grow and produce potatoes just fine and the fact we never have any seeds from them isn't a problem because you can just break a potato off their roots and grow a new one from it. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 22, 2022 at 1:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore I suppose if humans provided regulation by scheduled harvesting of annual plants, that would still work, but perennials wouldn't survive long enough to reproduce. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Aug 22, 2022 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild Why won't the perennials survive? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Aug 22, 2022 at 10:12
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Fruit and nut bearing trees require the least amount of effort to provide food, and having a rich variety of food-bearing trees would possibly provide them with enough food to live on, but it would not provide them with anything close to a "lavish diet" unless they consider fruits and nuts a lavish diet.

They could, however, have trees that don't exist on Earth, trees which produced fruit/nuts exceptionally rich in variety year round. Meat is labor intensive, but a deep stream/lake stocked with a variety of fish is doable with less effort than keeping meat animals.

Barring circumstances non-existent on Earth, I can't think (based on experience) of a non-labor intensive way to provide oneself with a varied and a-bit-close-to-lavish diet.

One summer, my family survived on only what we could grow ourselves with the exception of flour, sugar, and another basic that I can no longer remember. We had milk goats (and male kids), chickens, ducks, venison, and other birds as sources of milk, cream, meat and eggs, and a large garden with a lot of different veggies. Our land had a lot of briars, so we had plenty of 2 kinds of raspberries and one variety of blackberries, all wild. In addition, I had small fruit-bearing shrubs. While we ate pretty well (I made our cheeses, pasta, and sausages), and my kids helped a lot, I'll tell you that I have never worked so hard in my life as I did that summer, and never will again! Feeding oneself even moderately well is a lot of work!

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  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, plants wouldn't grow there. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Aug 22, 2022 at 0:43
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    $\begingroup$ @MontyWild - Why would plants not grow and fruit there? Do plants defy earth sciences there? Are there no equatorial trees that fruit continuously for up to 50+ years? (Hint: there are lots of them.) $\endgroup$ Aug 22, 2022 at 1:29
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    $\begingroup$ @MontyWild source please. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 22, 2022 at 1:48
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    $\begingroup$ @MontyWild so your strange assertion can be safely ignored then. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 22, 2022 at 2:01
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    $\begingroup$ @MontyWild then how about providing some suitable key words that might turn it up in a search? that wouldn't take more than a minute of your time .. if you can remember who was it by? and/or what site, publisher or organisation published it? $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 22, 2022 at 2:12
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American chestnut tree

American chestnut trees could produce 100lbs of food per tree per year once mature. Chestnuts are both edible by humans and provides a massive food source for wild game, wild game being a much more reliable food source. Harvesting was often does with a simple shovel since the seeds were so abundant and hardy. They trees are large and provide a large open space underneath them perfect for camping as well. As a bonus they also produce rot resistant wood. They are virtually extinct today but this only happened in the last hundred years due to imported diseases.

Preparing the land could not be easier clear away existing trees and plant some chestnut trees, they are competitive on their own but with a head start they will quickly establish themselves. They might not even have to clear he land, when native Americans brought chestnuts to Pennsylvania it only took the trees a few hundred years to become dominate, making up 25-30% of all hardwood trees in the state.

enter image description here

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ No. The trees would die there. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Aug 22, 2022 at 0:43
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild no they wouldn't, they might not fruit, being a temperate plant with cycles triggered by seasonal variation, but they would continue to grow and put out new leaves. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 22, 2022 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore No... scientific studies have shown that perennial plants die within a few years in the absence of seasonal light variations, not just fail to fruit. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Aug 22, 2022 at 1:37
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild perennial plants that live at the equator prove you wrong. no seasonal day night variation at the equator. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 22, 2022 at 1:44
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    $\begingroup$ @MontyWild - Which studies? What location? How much variation? Daylength at two cities on either side near the equator varies only by two minutes a year. You're actually stating as fact that a plant will neither fruit nor survive deprived of fractions of a minute of daylength change per day? Then all vegetation on the equator should be exceedingly short-lived, which is not the case. $\endgroup$ Aug 22, 2022 at 4:34
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Semi wild herd animals.

In times of plenty the herds grow and the animals get fat, in time of need you thin the herds and eat the animals.

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  • $\begingroup$ i thought of animals as well. do you need to keep their population in control? so they won't eat all the plants to leave a barren earth behind. or will that happen on its own? $\endgroup$ Aug 22, 2022 at 12:58
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There could be choices depending on the situation, water supply, effort, climate etc.

Fruits

If the food is just fruits, trees can be grown in a fertile area with enough water supply.

  • Some fruits are used when they are ripe e.g. apples, mangoes, oranges etc.
  • Some fruits can be dried and used later on e.g. figs, apricots.
  • Seeds of some fruits are used which can be stored and consumed when needed e.g. almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, cashews.

Pros :

  • Very little effort is needed.

  • Bees can make hives on trees to produce honey.

  • Birds can make nests on the trees.

  • No cooking needed.

Cons:

  • Food has little variety.
  • Food is deficient in many nutrients.
  • This is only an emergency measure used for little time.
  • Most people will be fed up if used for long time.

Grains

If the food is grains e.g. rice, wheat, millet, barley, corn, then you need to

  • plough the land so you need bulls or horses.
  • irrigate the land at necessary intervals.
  • cut the harvest.
  • separate the grains from husk using plank pulled by horse or bull.

Pros :

  • Grains can be stored for long time and available whenever needed.

  • Animals will also be available for milk, meat, eggs etc.

  • A large variety of food is available.

  • People will get all kinds of nutrients needed.

Cons:

  • A lot of effort is needed.
  • Cooking is needed.

Vegetables

If the food is vegetables e.g. potatoes, turnips, spinach, carrots, cauliflower, then you need to

  • plough the land so you need bulls or horses.
  • irrigate the land at necessary intervals.
  • cut the harvest.

Pros :

  • A large variety of food is available.

  • People will get many kinds of nutrients needed.

Cons:

  • A lot of effort is needed.
  • Cooking is needed.
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    $\begingroup$ what selection would one then make to keep the fields full of food without having to spend much effort? $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2022 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ @PostlimFort Hire some other people to do it, like rich folk have done throughout history. Or, use magic. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Aug 21, 2022 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Cadence like i said in my question. other people can't access the land. and the group doesn't have magic any moment they like. $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2022 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ Terrestrial plants wouldn't survive there. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Aug 22, 2022 at 0:44
  • $\begingroup$ @PostlimFort Minimal amount of effort is with fruit trees. Ripe fruits are available in their season only. Dried fruits and seeds are available all the time if stored properly. For grains , cattle, vegetables, 5 persons can work in shifts of one week. $\endgroup$
    – imtaar
    Aug 23, 2022 at 6:03

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