We All Gotta Eat

Folks, I have a real concern for the food supply of the world, and especially our country and my specific neighborhood. Wherever you are, grow anything you can to decrease your dependency on others. Control of the food supply is one of the most powerful weapons known to man. There may not be enough bullets to kill a lot of people in a given area, but you take away or control their food supply and exponential population decline can happen at a rapid pace, or on a given time table.

Frank had a conversation with a young father recently and said to him, “There are some words you don’t want to hear. Like – Daddy I’m hungry – when you have nothing to feed your children.”

Take that statement and apply it to those you are responsible for, or those you love, or just those that live around you. Really think it over. We have all heard about the golden hordes coming from the cities to take what we have, knowing we would have to defend ourselves against them. Well, folks, if you don’t have anything to eat, you aren’t going to be defending anybody against anything, because you are already dead. I wrote about it a while back in this article – Without Food You Are Dead.

If you are in a situation where you can grow food to replace the supply you are eating, DO IT IN QUANTITIES YOU NEVER DREAMED YOU WOULD NEED. All caps? Yelling at you? Yes, I am. You see, I believe that the sexes have been created to fulfill certain roles in life. Frank’s job is to protect us and keep the homestead running. Today he ran the well pump with the solar panels for an hour on a sunny day, he charged our handheld radios, took care of our finances and made me laugh – all in a days work as a husband and leader of our household. Me? I have cooked two meals, milked the goats, fed the chickens, wormed the cats and dog, watered plants and seedlings in the greenhouse, took care of some communications and now I am writing to you. I have been lead to be the food producer of our family. My days revolve around planning for and preparing meals, tending the animals that all have a job geared towards increasing our food supply. I am the gardener and the milk maid. It’s a wonderful life. No, I am not suppressed, depressed, or less of a person, I am living the life I want to live. I love being a wife and trying to prepare nutritious meals for us.

All of this is leading me to a discussion of garden seeds and the lack thereof in the usual online stores I shop with. Many of them continue to have a number of varieties that are out of stock and have been out of stock since last spring. We shop at Shumway’s for most things. They have been out of some of our choices for almost a year. If you are going to plant a garden and plan to order seeds, I hope you have already received them. If not, I would highly recommend you do so immediately, or day before yesterday. It appears the stores have seeds on the shelf, but I really wonder how long they will last.

Some seeds companies like Johnny’s have shut down ordering. They don’t have the supplies to fill more orders and are way behind on the orders they do have.

This is no joke. How are you going to resupply your food stocks if there are no seeds??? Did you save some of your own seeds from last year? Are they viable? Do you know how to save seeds? I feel like I am still a novice seed saver, but we did save quite a few last year. Saving seeds from what you grow is a good way to reproduce what has grown well for you in the past. There have been many times I have studied a new variety that would appear to grow well here in our zone and climate only to do poorly. I would hate to have to depend on an unproven seed supply for my only source of food. What if it fails? Some years things fail, that’s a fact of life. We have had some things grow great for a year to two then not hardly produce at all.

The solar minimum we are in right now has had a grave impact upon growing seasons everywhere, all over the world. Our garden did very poorly overall last year compared to the past. I can only hope and pray it will produce in abundance this year so I can refill my pantry shelves. What if it doesn’t? Do I have enough on hand to go another year and provide for Frank and I? NO. NO I DON’T. Do you? We wouldn’t starve, but we wouldn’t have the wide variety of nutrients we need either. Our health would decline as a result and that is not a position I want us to be in if all hell breaks loose like it appears it will.

Canning supplies to preserve the crops you grow? Good luck. Most places we have looked recently still have back orders. If you determine you need 500 canning jars to feed your family for a year, double it. Really. Double it. You will need more than you think. That has been reality in our case.

There are countries around the world that have lost their collective minds and turned their productive farm land back to ‘nature’ because of ‘climate change’ caused by man. They think so much of themselves and mankind to think we determine the natural climate shifts of millennia along with the solar activity of the sun. In my humble opinion, they are either crazy or trying to accelerate the starvation of the population. Not to mention the release of bioweapons used to control the world through fear and communistic mandates. I guess you can see where I stand on a few world changing events we are in the midst of.

My message for today is simple. See to your food supply and your ability to resupply if we no longer have the luxury of stores lined with row after row of convenient food at our fingertips. I haven’t even mentioned the inflation in prices and shrinking sizes of packaging portions. This phenomena is and will impact our ability to fill our shelves.

Plan to feed you and yours, because WITHOUT FOOD, YOU ARE DEAD.

Until next time – Fern

Got Seeds?

Grow them. Grow your own. One tiny seed can produce more food than you can imagine.

One tough Swiss Chard that keeps coming back every year.

It’s not easy and includes a big learning curve. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes they are viable, sometimes they aren’t. Guaranteed germination rate like store bought? No. But it can be done. Even by accident. That is how much of our learning takes place. We find there are times we learn more from our failures than our successes.

The small salad bed on the east side of the house.

Spinach going to seed.

Around here in the late spring spinach and lettuce go to seed. I will let the spinach seeds drop right in the bed where they are growing. I will harvest the lettuce seeds from the pot on the front porch and broadcast them into the “salad bed” where the spinach is growing. 

Back in February I spread some old spinach and lettuce seeds in this bed not expecting anything to grow since they were older. We received a nice surprise of an extended ‘salad’ season. I will remember this and broadcast seeds next February in hopes this will replicate.

 
This lettuce is growing on the porch in the same pot as some sweet potatoes.

Surprise spinach
Surprise lettuce and parsley

 
Last years sunflowers seeds have germinated very well and are growing great.

Turnips planted last fall went to seed and provided this seed harvest. We dried them in the greenhouse.

Last year’s sweet potato plants probably aren’t considered seeds, but we’re hoping this experiment, planting them in a large pot, having them in the greenhouse all winter, and now on the porch, will show us if they will continue growing potatoes. The few potatoes we harvested last year gave us half a dozen sprouts that have been planted in the garden. They are growing well, so we hope to have replacement plants from year to year. Kind of like seeds, right?

You can grow some type of food almost anywhere with a sunny window, a porch, a sidewalk, with a bucket, a large tub or other container, a flower bed, the edge of a yard along the fence. You can plant nutritious, calorie rich foods just about anywhere, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, any type of cowpea (purple hull peas, black-eyed peas, etc.), to name just a few. If you can find them, buy a bag of pinto beans at the store, they will grow vines you can train on a fence or trellis. The potatoes you can store and eat over the winter, the beans and peas you can dry for cooking later. Neither has to be canned, so no need for canners, jars, shelf space, etc.

The Seed Starters Handbook is a great resource. I bought our copy back in the 1980’s and still use it regularly. It’s part of our resource library.
 

Got seeds? Got food? Grow some. Any amount you can provide for yourself will decrease your dependence on others, be it the grocery store or the government. It will increase your self confidence and determination to maintain or regain a small portion of independence for you and those you love.

Until next time – Fern

What’s Growin’ in the Garden 3

I looked back at the pictures from the previous garden update and realized what a difference a month makes. We have had a few more storms and wind, but the plants are much larger and there was not much negative affect from the weather. This article is long on pictures, so grab a cup of coffee and enjoy. 

June 22nd

July 13th

The rest of these pictures are from July unless otherwise indicated.

Pinto bean weed patch, July 13th


This looks like overgrown weeds, doesn’t it? This is the pinto bean patch interspersed with crabgrass and other delectable weeds…. I have begun to slowly pull the plants and harvest what I can. Next year I will know these need a trellis. An error on my part not knowing pintos are a vine like pole beans. I just made the assumption they were a bush variety like the Jacob’s Cattle beans I have been growing for the last few years.

Once the pinto beans are harvested, this area will receive carrot and beet seedlings. I will probably plant a couple of hills of yellow squash and see if we can have a fall crop for fresh eating.

The trellis next to the pintos has the peppers and Missouri Wonder pole beans. The peppers are just starting to produce well. I will be freezing some of them soon. We have found that frozen, chopped peppers come in handy cooking through the off season.

The yellow squash is finished thanks to the annual squash bug invasion. These will be pulled up and replaced by another cowpea patch.

The tomatoes are starting to ripen and we have begun to freeze them. We have two gallons in the freezer so far. Last summer we froze 20 gallon of tomatoes that we turned into tomato sauce. They seem to be ripening late again this year. Last summer many people in our area barely got any tomatoes and most folks we talked to indicated their gardens didn’t do well at all. We’ll see how this year turns out.

 

We tilled between these tomato trellises about a month ago with the new electric tiller and this is all that has grown there. Without the tilling it would have the same crabgrass overgrowth you see at the opening of the row. I remain very impressed with how this new tiller helps to eliminate grass and weeds compared to the Mantis that I used and liked for years. These amaranth seedlings will be planted between the tomato trellises and in the now harvested corn patch which I’ll show you in a minute.

Amaranth seedlings

Speaking of amaranth, we have harvested some of the heads and are drying them in the greenhouse. I probably picked the first few before they were quite ready, but this is a new learning process for us. There are more heads to harvest from the original growth and we hope the side shoots will now continue to grow and produce more grain. For now we are not harvesting the entire plant, only the top most portion of the main grain head.


How are we going to winnow and clean the grain? Well, we have yet to figure that out. We have some fine strainers that may work and will cross that bridge once the seed heads are dry and ready to work.

The cowpeas we planted right before the last garden article are growing well. They will soon fill in this area between the tomatoes and okra. For now the zinnias are taller, but that won’t last much longer.

Purple hull cowpeas

The okra has been slow to grow and produce this year. It just hasn’t liked the cool, wet spring and the lack of sunshine. One of the nice things about this patch is that it was grown from seed that we saved last year.

And speaking of seeds, much of the garden this year was grown from our seeds. This has been a goal for many, many years, one that we are starting to make some progress on. From our own seeds this year we planted green beans, okra, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, winter squash, turnips, zinnias and marigolds. And yes, you read that right, carrots. As you know, carrots don’t seed the first year, so I had to plant them in a separate part of the garden two years ago. We harvested these seeds last year.


The last of the corn has been harvested and I have a question. I didn’t realize that corn grows suckers similar to tomatoes. I broke them off thinking they would prevent the stalk from producing good ears, but I think some of those plants didn’t produce any ears. Would someone increase my knowledge about the growth and production of corn? We haven’t grown any in a number of years and have never been tremendously successful.

 

  
The strawberries have died. Last year after we planted them they grew very well. Then toward the end of summer, some of the leaves started getting brown spots, curling and dying. The only information I could find was that a virus in the soil causes this problem. The solution? Kill the plants and start over somewhere else. I tried inoculating with nematodes to see if that would have any impact, but it didn’t. The plants started growing this year and trying to produce in the wet, cloudy spring, but most of the berries rotted from the excessive moisture. Now, the virus has wiped out the rest of the plants.





We had a plum harvest this year. Here is half of it. Tasted great!

We have some lettuce coming up in the small bed by the back porch. I’m not sure how well it will do in the heat of summer, but fresh salad greens do sound good.

  
We are blessed to be able to live where and how we wish, and we certainly hope this continues as long as possible. There seriously appears to be very troubled times coming. Plan and plant ahead.

Until next time – Fern

What Seeds Have Taught Me

Seeds. I love seeds and the potential nourishment they represent. If the truth were to be told, I have too many seeds, so some of them age past their prime and lose viability before they have the opportunity to grow. A waste? Yes, could be, but like our preparations, I would rather have too many, than wish I had something grow because we were hungry. Frank has heard me say many times that seeds are worth more than gold. The food that seeds provide can keep us alive. If there are no seeds to be had, all the gold in the world is worthless.

I am grateful that we have had the last seven years here to learn the climate, soil conditions, pests and temperature variations. No two years have had the same weather conditions, which has offered even more to learn. Our first two gardens were grown under extreme drought conditions. This past year we lost some of our hard earned topsoil to flooding, and it was so wet that seeds rotted in the ground.

During the first few years we tried growing the same varieties of vegetables we had grown else where, some did well and some did not. We experimented one year with about six or eight types of peppers, tomatoes and winter squashes. That gave us a very good idea of which ones would produce well here. Some of our favorites made the cut and some did not, fortunately we found better producing varieties that have now become our new favorites.

It took me three years to figure out how to grow lima beans only to discover we really didn’t like them. Until two years ago, I didn’t like fresh tomatoes. We started growing two old heirloom varieties, and surprisingly, I liked them. Frank has always liked tomatoes and he describes them as more acidic than many of the newer varieties. I have also discovered that my back cannot pick a row of bush beans. I just can’t do it. This has led to experiments with several types of pole beans until we found one that we really enjoy, that produces well into the fall.

I wish I could figure out how to grow a head of cabbage. I even wrote an article about it. And onions. Those are things I will continue to work on because we eat a lot of both. I also need to be more diligent at saving our seeds. It has always been easier for me to order seeds instead of planning ahead for seed saving. There will come a time when the only seeds we have will be the ones we save, so this is not a skill for me to continue avoiding or neglecting. 

The greenhouse has given us a whole new learning experience in growing food. As would be expected, the cool weather crops are happier than those that like the heat of summer. We have picked one yellow squash and the tomatoes are blooming, but with 38* lows at night, I don’t expect much from them. I will soon be planting seedlings in the greenhouse. The window I’ve used for the past few years has now been replaced by the greenhouse entrance and I find that to be very comforting. I’m excited about the greatly expanded room to grow many more seedlings that won’t be leggy and leaning over sideways in an attempt to reach the sunlight. I’ll be learning much more about the timing for growing, hardening off and planting these seedlings.

There are many beautiful seed catalogs arriving in the mail now days. They all have something to offer that is new, different or interesting, but I have found a company that has a very wide variety of quality products for a fraction of the cost. With few exceptions, we order our seeds from R.H. Shumway’s, which I have no affiliation with, except as a very satisfied customer. Their catalog is not shiny and showy, but it is packed full of seeds and information.  I would highly recommend them.


So, what have the seeds taught me? Patience, diligence, responsibility, the power of observation and learning, conditions for success, hard work usually pays off, and that hope springs eternal in the miracle of germination and growth. In a recent article I said, Our future will be one of incredibly hard work, grubbing in the dirt for our survival.” That’s what seeds mean to me. Life. Survival. I am continually fascinated that one tiny little seed can produce so much food. In the coming days if you have a few seeds and a shovel to spare, a man could help feed his family. Do you have enough seeds for this year, and the next, and the next?

If you are new to your area, or plan to go somewhere else when the SHTF, do you know someone that can help you with invaluable information about local growing conditions and varieties that produce? When is the average first and last frost date? What insect pests cause the most destruction? Do you know how to deal with them without running down to the local garden center for a fix? Has the soil been turned and worked? Is it fertile enough to support the production you need? There are so many things to learn and know before those seeds will turn into food. I have read many places that people feel prepared to replenish their food supply because they have a can of survival seeds. Unless these people have figured out, and made accommodations for many of the things I have mentioned, they will starve. Not that these cans of seeds are a bad idea or contain inferior products, but the conditions necessary for adequate food production are dependent upon so many factors that the odds are stacked against them. 
 

Grace’s garden


We have a friend, Grace, that gardens just a few miles down the road. She can grow things we cannot. We have pests she doesn’t, and she has some we don’t. Conditions can change quickly, from location to location, as well as year to year..

What have you learned from your seeds? Please share with us because we are all in this together. Any knowledge we can glean now, before it is a vital means of survival will be of great benefit. As soon as I get back the use of these two hands I will be rolling up a new batch of pot makers and planting them in the greenhouse. I can’t wait.

Until next time – Fern
 

Good Advice from the Plant Lady

We recently published an article titled Got Food? For How Long? and received some very thought provoking comments from the PlantLady. She is an experienced gardener and provides us some very good advice. We‘d thank her for taking the time to share her experiences and we would like to share what she had to say.
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This very subject is why I became a market gardener. Not to make money – although that is very nice – but to practice growing large quantities of food. Have always been a serious gardener (ok, maybe obsessed), but more on the ornamental side as I had always hoped to have a small nursery after retirement. With the way things are now, food is far more important. And

while I am the person the master gardeners call with questions (hence the PlantLady moniker), had no idea of just how much to grow, how many seeds it would take, which crops would provide the most nutrition, which crops to grow when for a balanced diet, timing of planting and harvesting, which crops store easily without refrigeration or canning and just how big the garden needed to be. During my 6 years of elder care, studied everything I could get my hands on to try to figure all this out. Guess what? There is no way to know without actually doing it! Every location is so different as far as weather, general climate, water availability, soil structure and fertility and available resources…and all these factors change constantly. What worked last week, month or year may be totally wrong for the now.

So two years ago worked up new ground and started practicing. Last year I started selling at market. This year I doubled the size of the garden and sold at market regularly, added a second location for selling closer to home and started really keeping track of what I grew when, how much I harvested, how much I sold, how much I donated, how much I preserved, etc. Keeping records is necessary…you may think that you will remember, but
there is just too much you need

 to know. And, heaven forbid, after the Darker Ages arrive…what if something happens to you – the only person that knows everything needed to produce enough food? Your family will be oh so grateful to have a written record of how much of each crop is needed, how many seeds to plant to get that much, when each crop needs to be planted and harvested, how to time things so you have a steady supply for fresh eating, how to time things so crops for preserving ripen at the best times (ie. for making pickles, you need cukes, dill, onions, garlic, peppers and apple cider vinegar simultaneously) how to best preserve each crop, how to save seeds and breed crops to best suit your location, provide the largest harvest, resist disease and insects and suit your taste.

Then there are the infrastructure needs…do you really want to be starting a garden by digging sod by with a stick? No way – that needs to be done now with power tools. And you need to stock up on good quality shovels, hoes, rakes, wheel hoes, GLOVES – enough for many people. Do you want to wake up one morning and find your only food for the next year has been decimated by

deer/rabbits/coons/strangers? Heaven forbid – get fencing now while its available and learn how to set sturdy fence. While things are still available, plant as much perennial food as you can – fruit trees and berry bushes, nut trees, asparagus, rhubarb, horseradish, etc. And stock seeds…I get twitchy if I have less than 5 years worth on hand. Also get animals while you can, unless you plan on being a vegan in the coming Darker Ages! Not just for needed food, but also for their manure to keep your garden fertile. Green manuring is ok for the now, but how are you going to cut, chop and incorporate those easily by hand? Easier by far to turn under composted manure and bedding. Get what you need to extend the seasons so you can grow more food – cold frames, hoophouses, low tunnels. 

The only real way to know what you actually need is to do it. What are you waiting for? You can do it…start now!


PlantLady 

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PlantLady – continued

I am an excellent gardener, but am just starting on trying to figure out just how much food I need to produce to feed my extended family and how I am going to manage this feat with just what we have here in the way of natural resources, equipment and plant and animal stock. Trying to get a sustainable cycle set up before conditions get too much worse, because once the trucks stop running, it will be very hard to impossible to get anything.
 

There is a lot more to it than you might think, especially when your very lives will depend upon your success. When what you eat is what you grow, you find that you don’t plant a garden once and harvest it once. You will be constantly planting and constantly

harvesting – because of course you will be wanting to constantly eat (hehe). People I talk to are amazed that I don’t “put in” the entire garden Memorial Day weekend then harvest as it ripens. There are spring, summer, fall and winter crops possible – even here in the far north. I plant stuff most every month except Oct., Nov. and Dec. and we and the goats and chickens eat out of the winter salad garden under low hoops all fall, winter and spring. And I never plant a crop just once or all in the same location…I plant some for early cropping then wait a while and plant more for midseason, then wait a while and plant some for late. Aside from extending the harvest period, your entire crop of something isn’t vulnerable all at the same time in the same place. Plus, that way you don’t have a years worth of a crop all at once to preserve – you can spread the work out over a few weeks or months. Johnnys Selected Seeds website has some awesome planting charts for each seasons crops and succession planting – an invaluable resource.

And folks, first you gotta have land with water that will grow food, or you don’t have much of a chance to survive the coming Darker Ages. Nobody wants to hear this or think about it – but its true. Every time I read about someone planning on surviving by growing enough food on a city lot or in pots here and there, I want to cry – because that just isn’t going to work. Once the trucks stop running, its up to you to feed your family. And to grow enough food you need land. If you don’t have land, if you are real lucky, you might get taken on by someone with land and the infrastructure to grow food as a slave, serf or the like – just for the chance to be fed anything. If you aren’t lucky, you and your family will starve without the means to produce the food you need.

The upside is that growing your own food now is about the smartest thing you can do, even right now, with prices for everything rising so quickly. Every bite of food you can produce is one you don’t have to buy. And infinitely better, safer and fresher than anything you can buy anywhere. A lot of what we learn on our prepping journeys is very useful and perhaps critical to know “at some point”. But am I going to drag out the book “When There Is No Dentist” now? No, I will go to a dentist while I can. But growing your own food is great even in the “now”…saves money, you get a better product and you can afford to store more. Plus, you will be gaining the knowledge, equipment and stock you will need to survive the coming hard times.

Let’s all go plant something edible!


PlantLady

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There are a couple of things PlantLady brought up that I’d like to comment on. So far I have begun a notebook with maps of my garden from year to year for adequate crop rotation. I also have a notes on what I planted. What I don’t have is information about when and how much I planted, or how much I harvested, all of which is vital information if we plan to truly live off of what we grow. This is one of the points PlantLady discussed that really hit home with me.

Planting in succession for a steady harvest is another thing I have not done. I have always just ‘planted’ the garden. Now that we have the greenhouse up and running, I have given much more thought to planting crops more than once. This will be the beginning of my learning experience in this realm. 

We have given much thought to alternative ways of storing food such as canning, drying, curing and cool storage, as in a cellar. All of these skills are still in their infancy for us, but we have begun this process.

Saving seeds? I have done a very poor job of this. For me, it is always easier to order seeds. How will that help me at TEOTWAWKI? Obviously it won’t and I need to get very serious about having my own seeds to plant instead of someone else’s.


I can’t agree more about preparing your ground now, if you have some. Turning a garden with shovel instead of a tractor or tiller is backbreaking work, not to mention new ground is not very fertile and will grow a limited amount of food until it has been worked and enriched.


Why am I pointing out our short comings in gardening and raising our own food? Because we are all in this together and can learn so much from each other. I find PlantLady’s comments very, very encouraging. They are also inspiring me to learn more and do better. Please share your ideas, experiences and thoughts with all of us so we can learn even more.


I know the opening lines of Got Food? For How Long? were rather harsh. A friend of mine said she opened the article expecting a nice Thanksgiving thought, not me saying get with it or you will starve. Hard? Yes. True? Unfortunately, very true. The incredibly, unbelievable events taking place all over the world on a daily basis make learning every possible survival skill of the utmost importance. Please heed PlantLady’s advice and start growing something edible today. Yes, in December. Somehow, somewhere in your house, on your porch, somewhere, start growing something edible today.

Until next time – Fern

What’s Growing in the Greenhouse? Volume 1

Well, we did it. We actually built a greenhouse after 30 years of dreams and plans. Dreams really do come true, and they are appreciated all the more when the wait is long. To be honest, it still doesn’t seem real to me even though I tend the plants here everyday. Recently I had lots of fun, when I added another 18 pots of stuff, some alive and kicking from the yard, and some with newly planted seeds.

We decided to continue using our former seedling tables for planting, this is where the messes will be made. The set up is great, there is lots of room for dirt, gravel, pots, tubs and such, at first we were thinking that everything would move into the greenhouse, but not now. We’ve already started to wonder if the greenhouse is too small, when at first it didn’t look like we could possibly fill the shelves. It is quite the interesting learning process. I can only imagine the other changes we will make along the way.

I started out my planting foray by digging up some things from the garden and herb bed. I realized today that I missed getting some marjoram, which we have really come to enjoy. I will get some in the next few days and add one more pot to the greenhouse shelves, for now. My digging adventure turned up a number of things.

More potatoes from the garden
Comfrey

Mustard greens
Lemon Balm
Creeping Thyme
Two year old celery
Oregano

Tiger decided we needed to have a discussion while I was putting these plants in pots. 

 

Next came the seeds, more pots, and more trips to the greenhouse.

 

I have to admit, it looks pretty neat in here. With more pots on the top shelf to water, I started using the step stool. I am tall, 5’9″, and watering a few plants is not a problem, but now that there are a lot more, it’s time to ‘step up’ to the task.

I have been reading about hand pollination since we have a number of plants that will need help. Since I have several different cucurbits (squashes, cucumbers, muskmelon) growing, and I don’t want to cross pollinate them, each plant will have it’s own paint brush for this task. When I told Frank I needed some paintbrushes he reminded me there were some in the garage. It’s nice to go no farther than one of your own shelves when you need something.


We have picked some lettuce and spinach for salads. I even trimmed some greens from the onions once. We’ve also picked a few turnip greens, but that’s all so far. I don’t think it will be long before the pickings will be increasing, and that will be a real treat, especially as the days get shorter and cooler. Here is what’s growing in the greenhouse.

Onions
Collard greens


Comfrey
Romaine that is going to seed.
Lettuce
Strawberries from the garden thanks to a reader.
Spinach
More Turnips
Turnips
Brussels sprouts
Broccoli
Cabbage

Carrots in tub #1
Carrots in tub #2
Beets

As I prepared some of the new seeds and plants, I began to wonder where I would put them. Some of these plants thrive in cooler weather, so I thought about putting them on the floor. Even though the concrete will help with some heating via solar mass and ground temperatures, I could picture these plants going dormant because of the cold air that settles to the floor. At first I thought about raising them off the floor with concrete blocks, but they would be cold as well. I settled for scrap blocks of wood from some of our building projects, hoping the wood would not conduct the cold as much as a concrete block. We’ll have to see how this theory pans out. This also utilizes more of the space we have in the greenhouse.

Austrian Winter Peas in the tub, new potato plants in the pot
Celery from the herb bed
The first potatoes from the garden
Mustard greens
Okra, which is a hot weather plant. We really don’t expect it to produce.

The area next to the wall of the house contains the plants that prefer hot weather and/or need a trellis. So far with night time temperatures in the 40’s occasionally, this area tends to be around 10 degrees warmer than the main shelf by the outside wall. We are very interested to see how this will work out with freezing temperatures. Since the nights are not down to freezing and the temperatures inside heat up quickly on sunny days, we have not closed down any of the vents yet. Frank has a plan for easily opening and closing the vents as needed.
 

Back row: Green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers
Front row: ginger, buttercup squash, turmeric

Yellow squash

 

Muskmelon

The yellow squash and muskmelon are in the center of the room. So far, they are very happy. The squash will be blooming soon. I hope to be able to wind the muskmelon around on the table top as it grows.
 

The herbs, a few greens and some flowers, have found homes on the top row of shelves. When I was looking for herb seeds, I ran across some Thumbelina Zinnia, Livingston Daisies, Dandelions and Moss Rose (which we have always called rose moss), and just couldn’t resist having a few flowers in here.

2 kinds of Kale
Rose Moss
Zinnias
Mesclun Mixed Greens

 

Creeping Thyme

The almost dead Stevia is coming out again.

Oregano
Lemon Balm with a dandelion

It’s hard to imagine how growing these things may affect our diets, especially in a survival situation. This truly is our survival greenhouse. We have much to learn, and a short time to do it. There will be failure and there will be success, but most of all, I hope there is food.

Until next time – Fern

The Survival Greenhouse

Now that the greenhouse is up, has doors and looks wonderful, I want to fill it with plants! I’m not a very patient person and I’m ready to get started. The problem? This afternoon when it was 89* outside it was only 117* in the greenhouse. It would make an excellent dehydrator at this point, and would cook any plant I put in there. The solution? Plant seeds anyway, but leave them on the porch in the same place we have been growing seedlings for the past few years.

Speaking of growing seedlings in the past, the other day when we cut the hole in the wall of the house for the door, I did some reminiscing. The window we removed was the first place I learned to grow seedlings. It wasn’t ideal and they were usually a little leggy, but it was all we had at the time and we learned a lot.

This is also the time we discovered using newspapers and a Pot Maker to make our own seedling pots that would quickly break down the in soil and recycle newspaper at the same time. We have been very successful transplanting the seedlings we grew this way. 

So as that window was removed and the door installed, I remembered our learning process of the past and looked forward to this new learning process in our future. We have never had a greenhouse, so there is a whole new learning opportunity in front of us. My problem is I just can’t wait to get started. 

This afternoon after finishing up a batch of mozzarella from our fresh goat milk, I got out the seeds and sorted out the ones I want to try growing in the greenhouse. Some of them will probably make you shake your head and wonder, but we want to try all kinds of plants and see how it goes. Our greenhouse will be unheated except for the sun and the thermal mass of the concrete slab and ten 55 gallon water barrels. Our theory is that with the sunshine during the day, the concrete and water will absorb heat. The question will be how slowly that heat will dissipate through the night and what effect it will have on the air temperature surrounding the plants. This will be fascinating to observe, a great learning adventure. We also have some frost cloth to use if the temperatures are going to be very cold. I have only tried them in the garden up to this point, so that will be another experiment. We can only wait and see how our theories pan out.

 

For most things, I used some of the dishpans and bus tubs we have used previously. They get pretty brittle in the sunshine, but we will keep using them until they break down and are unusable. I still have a few on the shelf that will have to go. Eventually, when time allows, we will build some planting flats from wood that will last for years. For now, these will work fine.

 

I keep soil in a 30 gallon trashcan. After some seedlings have grown large enough to plant in the garden and are removed from the tubs, the remaining soil is put back in the trash can for use again the next time. Each tub has a layer of gravel across the bottom to help with drainage.

What did I plant today? Five kinds of lettuce: Romaine, Buttercrunch, Tango, Corn Salad & Endive.

 

 
Two kinds of spinach: Mustard Spinach and Bloomsdale Long Standing.

 I planted two kinds of peppers, yes peppers even though it is fall. We are going to try to grow a few ‘hot weather’ plants and see how they do. Banana peppers and Marconi Rosso Sweet Peppers.

Yellow Crookneck Squash

Banana Muskmelon

Danvers Half Long Carrots

Golden Ball Turnips

I ran out of space on the table and daylight before I got to the beets, kale, collard greens, kohlrabi, cabbage, chives and onions. I’ll also be planting more carrots at intervals along the way.

I thought this might be a good place to put these tubs, but then I remembered the cats always think these tubs are litter boxes. I hope they don’t get into them up on the table this time.

I didn’t plant tomato seeds today, instead, I went out in the garden and cut some starts off of a few of our tomato vines. I’ll root them in water then plant them in this pot.

 
My theory is to put the ‘hot weather’ plants against the wall of the house or in the middle of the greenhouse away from the outside walls. I’m hoping the heat from the house, concrete and water barrels will provide enough heat for these plants to grow.

And I cheated a little. We were at the lumber yard last week and they had some bedding plants. This is the first time I have seen fall seedlings and I picked up a few.

 

We really look forward to the possibility of eating fresh food during the winter. This greenhouse has long been on the drawing board with supplies bought and stored years ago. There are many different ways to accomplish a goal, sometimes sooner, sometimes later. Frank has had a saying for longer than he has had me. Postpone gratification for long-term gains. We have long lived by that motto. We buy most things on sale, and if we can’t pay for an item, we don’t buy it. It’s that simple. This greenhouse is a very good example of living by this creed. We have dreamed of having a greenhouse for many, many years. The time has now arrived and we are very thankful. It is unfortunate that the excitement of a new learning opportunity has an underlying sense of necessity. The coming storm will tax us all in our endeavors to survive. This greenhouse is one more means of producing food. Food that we will need for survival. A survival greenhouse.

Until next time – Fern