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Im working on an above-ground fortress in Dwarf Fortress. I'm trying to kickstart grape farming, but i never seem to have enough dwarves to brew the grapes {brewing produces seeds, cooking doesn't} and to chop wood for potash to fertilize my fields. Does anyone have any tips on this subject

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  • If I were doing an above-ground fort (something I may yet do one of these days) I'd ask myself if fertilisation is really needed. From my play-throughs of 'classic' below-ground forts, raw plants are never the bottleneck, and I end up shutting down agriculture entirely in year 2 or 3 b/c I have enormous stockpiles. Well, maybe except cloth-producers... – Liz May 14 '18 at 8:23
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So Above-ground forts are always going to be difficult. Among other things, materials that would normally be used to make crafts are instead used to build your fort. Why this matters is that you get more migrants based on your created wealth.

Now, constructions do count for this I believe, but if you're using logs/rough stone to build, the value of your houses will be pretty low. I recommend having a mason carve stone blocks, and building houses out of these. It will still take a while, but eventually your fort's created wealth should start attracting more migrants, the more useless you can assign to your winery.

Good luck with the fort, and remember: once your created wealth and exported wealth are high enough, it'll trigger Fun stuff.

(As an aside: I was always disappointed with just how cheap wine is in df. It's like it's just grape juice. )

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    Adding a note for pure above ground forts with no stone, gems, or metal: Cloth (especially dyed cloth) can be a good value-for-effort endeavor. Cloth-producing plants a relatively common above ground, so you may be able to boost your wealth and attract migrants with a textile industry. This also has the advantage of being renewable. Check out dwarffortresswiki.org/index.php/DF2014:Maximizing_value for valueable items you can make out of wood, sand, clay, and cloth. – Paul May 10 '18 at 20:53
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Fort value ∝ Migrant wave size

In order to get more dwarves in your migration waves more quickly, you need to increase the value of your fort more quickly. The target population for migration waves is correlated with your fort's value. Increase it and more dwarves will come.

In order to do so, embark with a supply of food for a couple years (each dwarf consumes about 2 units of drink and 2 units of food per year), and set 2-41 of your starting dwarves the task to setup and run an export industry, with the remaining 3-5 building your fort.

What to export?

If you're not above a little exploitation, take a look at the item value list and this dedicated wiki page. From it we'll learn that the base value for most things is around ☼10.

Option 1: glass discs

Large serrated discs have a base value of ☼126, and can be crafted in a single action.

Thus, the most valuable labour in profit per time spent is the construction of large serrated discs at a weaponsmith or glassmaker. Since we're talking about a surface fort, the glassmaker would be the go-to choice. I'm assuming your embark has a source of sand somewhere. A single tile of sand plus a source of fuel (wood, coal, or magma) suffices for a limitless supply of green glass.

If you have trees available, then you can create pearlash and make clear glass, which increases the base material value from ☼2 to ☼5, but requires more steps. Overall clear glass industry will net you the most money per unit of time invested, but it requires a more complicated setup of labours, and so I would recommend you to start with a manual green glass industry, then upgrade to clear glass when you have your manager setup so you can automate it.

See the diagram below:

glass industry diagram

Making something out of clear glass requires 9 labours:

  • woodcutting,
  • 2x make charcoal,
  • make ash,
  • make potash,
  • make pearlash,
  • gather sand,
  • make clear glass,
  • make <object>.

While using the simpler green glass requires just 5:

  • woodcutting
  • make charcoal
  • gather sand
  • make green glass
  • make <object>

This will allow you to mass-produce clear glass large serrated discs. For 9 dwarf labours, you can make this item worth ☼630 (before quality bonuses), or ☼70 per action. If you have magma available, then you do not need to make charcoal3, reducing it to 7 labours, or ☼90 per action.

Option 2: Cooked food

Cooked food allows you to stack quality bonuses from each component used in it, and is produced in large quantities by skilled chefs rather quickly, and can stack a lot of value in a small space. And, as a bonus, you can always use the excess. There are a couple drawbacks to all this convenience, which is why I'm listing this as the 2nd option:

  1. Make sure the food does not spoil.

When one of the minces or the preparation happens to roll ☼masterwork☼ quality, a spoiled meal gives the cook an unhappy thought. That can lead to mood problems if it happens en masse.

  1. Keep pests under control

Related to the previous: vermin and certain animals (parrots, monkeys, etc.) will try to snatch your food, with the same consequence.

  1. Make more than you eat

Obviously, if you start eating more than you're making, then your fort value will go down. Unlike the serrated discs which last forever, we're crafting a consumable here.

Possibly the best ingredient to use is whip vine. A lavish meal made of whip vine flour is worth ☼110 before quality bonuses, and requires only 3 actions (farming2, milling, and cooking). By using 3 dedicated stockpiles for seeds, flour, and meals and using the give & take functions you can setup 2 repeat orders for milling flour and cooking meals, and forget about the whole thing.

It's an exceedingly simple setup, yet still rewards you with ☼37 per action. However, due to this outstanding bug, your dwarves will cook not by the meal, but by the bag: a whole full bag of flour at once. Thus, the cooking action takes comparatively no time at all, and you really make almost ☼55 per action.

If your embark does not have Whip Vine, but does have any other kind of crop that can be turned into flour, then these other flours are all worth ☼20 base, resulting in ☼90 lavish meals, for ☼45 per action.

As your farmer increases in skill, their harvest yield will increase from ~2 plants per tile for a level 5 farmer up to around 3.3 per tile for a level 25 farmer. Setting up windmills for forts that are not located in the doldrums can further increase the efficiency of producing this product (the milling will typically be the most labour intensive part of production), as does fertilizing your farms with potash.

Notes

  1. Depending on how difficult your embark is: with more difficult embarks take less risk.
  2. Farming consists of 3 actions: till, plant, and harvest, but produces several plants per harvested square. For starting level 5 farmers, the time cost of producing a plant is about equivalent to the time a similar level crafter needs to craft something.
  3. Replace the kiln with a magma kiln, and the glass furnace with a magma glass furnace.
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Sorry about that misunderstanding. There are a few ways to get more dwarves. 1. Migrants: This is the best way to get more dwarfs. You get a migrant wave about ever year (the largest recorded is 77 dwarves). 2. Babies: After 12 years a baby/child will become a peasant and you can enable whatever labors you want. 3. Guests: Rarely a visitor will request to become a citizen.

Also, if you never seem to have enough just enable the farming/brewing/whatever labors you want on idle dwarves.

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    Hey Cosmo, again welcome to Arqade! Instead of posting a new answer, please edit your existing answer with your updated information – Wondercricket May 21 '18 at 19:35

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