Dammit! We Wasted a Day of Sunlight!

This is a repost from last summer, when for the first time, I attempted to grow a meaningful amount of my own food, at least enough to store during the winter and supplement (hopefully) fewer trips to the grocery store. I planted 38(!) heirloom tomato plants, which proved to be a few too many. I literally had days with bushel baskets of tomatoes. Some went to friends, many were dried, many were partially cooked in a solar oven, then frozen. This brief story is not really about tomatoes or solar ovens, but about a comment my father made, ultimately relating to paradigm shifts and tipping points. (Note: I am just now finishing the last of 2007's tomatoes, just when this years are being snuck off the vine by my dog)

First some background:

I go out in the morning and pick whatever tomatoes are ripe. On sunny days, I wash and core the tomatoes, then quarter them. In July, I wrote a post here about the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair, where I bought a Solar SOS oven. I really like it, and use it most days either to cook a snack or blanche/prepare some produce for storage. It can get to about 225 degrees and about 275 if you use the solar reflectors (not shown here)

I then put the tomatoes in the pot, put a little olive oil on them and some oregano and italian seasoning, close the lid of the solar oven, point it towards the sun and rotate clockwise 30 degrees, and leave to do whatever else is on my agenda for the day.

Several hours later (or as little as 2 hours), I return to juicy delicious tomato concoction, which I can eat with bread or such right then.

But lately, I've been dumping the contents in freezer bags and throwing them in my (energy star) freezer, to remind me of summer during the long Wisconsin winter. But heres the moral of this story.

My father is one of my favorite people, though politically and economically he hits it pretty straight down the fairway. He's a peak oil agnostic - though he does believe that oil is finite, he doesn't think there will be meaningful supply problems in his lifetime (on this we disagree). He is a nature lover, and very knowledgeable about the natural world, though I suspect this is related to the deer and ducks he shoots. He has always been a very hard worker - even if nothing really needs 'doing' he will find a 'project' of some sort to occupy his time, usually outdoors.

Though Ive thought Ive gotten under his skin the past year or so - warning of peak oil, explaining how dependent our system is on liquid fuels, articulating how fragile the food transport economy is, etc., perhaps there have been positive externalities from these talks. He helped me build a decent sized garden this year, and we have been storing (and eating) from the garden for the past few months.

(Punchline)Yesterday I was too busy to go use the solar oven. At about 3 in the afternoon my father returned from some various outdoor chores and inquired 'Whats in the solar oven today, Nat?" I told him I had forgotten to put anything in it - that I was too busy. His reply, (the title of this post), was a vehement "Dammit?!! You've wasted a day of sunlight!!" And you could tell from his expression that he actually felt this as a 'loss'. (It's possible he was thinking that we'd now need to use the kitchen oven, which would cost money in KwH, as opposed to free sunlight)

After the initial shock and some chuckling, I thought a bit about this. My father is old school. For him to think in terms of 'energy' as a currency to pay attention to, is important. He is not in the peak oil crowd, but just a normal guy pursuing his lot. It gave me renewed confidence in our collective ability to change, when I heard those terms meaningfully spoken, from someone who has worked hard his entire life but never viewed 'sunlight' as something of value.

Today's societal metric of success is pecuniary bigger and better stuff. This metric was not one created overnight. Our world has been morphed by a collection of baby steps, too small to notice day by day, but quite significant when they accumulate over decades. So too, will the world of our children be created by such small steps. The change to a biophysical economy will also be a long process. To me, being chastised by my Dad that I wasted a day of sunlight, was a baby step in the right direction.

I'm not suggesting that everyone be farmers. But to change small aspects of our lives to be more in sync with natural systems is an improvement in our demand infrastructure that will accrete over time. These ‘food chores’ may appear wasteful to an economist. My time, knowledge and experience in other areas should be able to provide more societal utility translatable to monetary value for me and more resources to society as a whole via my comparative advantage. Indeed, the amount of money I could make in the time it took me to procure one batch of tomatoes would probably be enough to have dried heirloom tomatoes delivered to my door by Federal Express. But I a)enjoy spending my time this way, b)eat healthier unprocessed food, c)have more opportunity to create social capital with neighbors and d)have less opportunity to spend my time consuming other stuff...

Had my Dad not been traveling today, perhaps he would have told me I wasted a day of rain...;)

I wonder how many acres to support the average family annually? I guess it would depend on how much meat and how intense the farming/gardening techniques are, location etc.

Meat is a key determinant. John Jeavons lists 1/6 of an acre for a vegetarian using intense intercropping IIRC. Much more if one needs to grow food for animals. Im sure Jason Bradford or Sharon Astyk or others will have more specific references...

I've never been able to come close to John Jeavon's yields using the methods in Grow More Vegetables.... I should probably take a Grow Biointensive class. :)

Has anyone else here been able to come close to the yields listed?

An excellent book for information on the resources required for raising meet animals and the nutritional values of various food groups is "Crisis Preparedness Handbook" by Jack Spigarelli. The feed requirements for animal from rabbits to cows are daunting. For example, enough rabbits (12) to provide an average of 1.5 to 2 lbs of meet per day requires 3.5 tons of commercial feed per year! Or you can make your own feed from corn, grain sorghum, hay, oats, soybeans, and wheat. The acreage to grow that amount of feed is substantial. A dozen laying hens to get close to four dozen eggs a week require 1,200 lbs of mash per year (page 171.)

The space needed to raise meet animals is not very large, it's the land required for the feed which is in scarce supply.

If there are any Bio-Engineers out there perhaps you should get cracking on a new animal that 'eats sunlight'. As a starting point may I suggest a cross beteen a chicken and a billiard table...

Trust me, these 'Pool-Head Chickens' are going to be the norm come the revolution and their legs will be tasty too given all the xtra weight...


I raise chickens. Our dozen hens get no grain from green up (April) to 'no more bugs' (October), and about half the listed amount of grain the rest of the time. They do get kitchen scraps, but that's just preprocessing the compost.

Also four eggs/week is poor laying. Rather than almost four, you should get over 5. And a dozen chicken dinners per year: six retired layers, and six cockerels that you raised along with the six replacement pullets.

Thanks for the good news. I was a bit bummed with the numbers in the book. I did some more research and found an article with two key pieces of information.


The article is about Carl Hammer in Montpelier, VT who raises 1,400 chickens on primarily restaurant garbage! Even better, was the method for protecting his free range flock from predators. He relies on a single German Shepard.

One fact I have not found yet is the ratio of birds to acres during the spring, summer, and fall that allows for enough forage food that supplemental commercial food is not needed. I'm sure that ratio has a wide variation depending on the makeup of the land. Lawn, hay meadow, meadow no longer hayed and left to grow, shrub growth area, and forest area.

On another note, back in the seventies when we raised a couple of pigs we feed them primarily with day old donuts from Dunkin Donuts in Essex, Jct, VT. We typically picked up two to three bags a day. If I remember correctly, the bags were about 3' tall. I also remember eating quite a few before they got to the pigs:)

Our flock ranges over about two acres. That's pretty much a circle around the coop and includes about everything: lawn, garden, forest (the neighbors) pasture and barnyard. We collect expired food from the local food bank for our pigs (and other animals -- sheep like broccoli the way pigs like chocolate donuts). We've been known to eat a bit ourselves too.

Our winter feed bill for the chickens would likely be higher if they couldn't scavenge seeds from the hay and risk their lives robbing the pigs.

"Has anyone else here been able to come close to the yields listed?"

I have not, but this couple from Hertfordshire in the UK seem to have cracked it.



We've not gotten close to those yields.
My first crop of potatoes was good - but then came beetles.
Tomato yields were great last year - but this year things warmed up earlier - we've not really gotten summer heat - and EVERYTHING (peas, beans, tomatoes, raspberries) is 2 to 3 weeks late (seemingly all across Canada) while it's the first time ever that we've had a crop of lettuce (it usually bolts - but this year we had lettuce well into late July if you don't mind it a bit bitter).
Each year we generally find a wonderful new pest. This year it's flea beetles (destroyed my brassica crops). I've never so much as seen any of my lambs lettuce come up (been trying spring and fall crops 2 years running now). We still don't know what's destroying our beans at the community garden plots, or what's demolishing our kale at the home gardens. My late planting of Brasilian peans worked out well (I'm still getting some every week) and will plant them again. Likely coons are going after my corn - I planted Indian corn for grinding into flour and it's sweet if you eat it (raw) before it changes color and I'm hoping that they'll stay away from it as it's now dark and more starchy. All squash crops are pretty well shot again - vine borers are hell unless you spray spray spray (that now includes our neighbours and community garden).

We do have a "Square Foot Garden" with Mel's mix - and some things are growing well in there - but not the tomatoes (last year they did wonderfully but required watering AT LEAST daily or lots of blossom end rot - this year they seem anemic). Our of our 6 gardens tomatoes are really only growing well in one. By growing well I mean that I have to use more than those toy wire cages and use wooden stakes about 4' high in order to provide enough support to stop the fruit from tearing the plant to pieces (heritage beefstake, "boars heart" and heavy Italian plum types).

It's funny how Jeavons never mentioned humanure outright in his books - although I believe that they did use it (reading between the lines).

We had blossom end rot five years running. Then we read about putting a single "tums" tablet with each plant when planted. This year we've had no blossom end rot. Seems to work.

Blossom-end rot is caused by calcium ion deficiency and very rapid ripening. Work dolomite into your soil before planting next year. This will give you both calcium and magnesium ions, needed for growth of many plants.

For the squash vine borers, I've found in my garden that planting a different species of squash, Cucurbita moschata, results in my having more squash. The borers are less successful in destroying the vines. One particular variety that I've heard called both trombocino and zucchetta is a bit like a long, curly zucchini. It's pretty productive for me down here in NW Georgia, without needing much more time to first-squash than regular zucchini or yellow squash.

Each year we generally find a wonderful new pest. This year it's flea beetles (destroyed my brassica crops).

Been gardening vegetables all my life. Diversity is one key to dealing with pests. Plant small patches of many different varieties, and interleave appropriate vegetables. There's a good book called (IIRC) "tomatoes love carrots," which is a store of useful information on that subject.

I've also just encountered the flea beetle for the first time in my life. (New country, new pests). I had fair success with a "mechanical" pesticide: Diatomaceous Earth. Google it and take a look for yourself, my guess is that it is okay for organic use because it's not a poison. Conquered the flea beetles... :)

Jevons is in California, Nate is in Vermont. If Nate got half the annual yield that Jevons does he'd be the better gardener.

No, I haven't - but then again, I live in a climate with only half the growing season. My own experimentation suggests that a reasonable estimate for most people would be somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 acre per person, allowing for crop failures, errors,climate, etc... That's not to say that the other can't be done, but I prefer not to eat quite so many parsnips myself ;-).


I would suggest considering alternative techniques. Bio-intensive requires more inputs than traditional horticulture techniques, such as those used by settlers and indigenous populations across the west. As soon as individual plants come into contact with one another, it is safe to assume that the plants are competing for light, water, and nutrients. Yields per plant will be limited due to crowding. Crowded plants are also stressed plants, and more susceptible to disease and predation. Jevon's "living mulch" is in fact a haven for disease and pests by a)limiting air-flow b)trapping moisture and c)providing cover.

But pull-out every other plant,freeing up space previously occupied, and growth resumes with fewer inputs, larger yields per plant, and in many cases, higher quality produce. Disease and predation are limited as a)progressive thinning selects for the fittest individuals, b)increased airflow checks virus populations, and c)limited cover shifts the balance towards predator populations.

Steve Solomon is an informed source for this approach. His latest book is "Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times." I also highly recommend his virtual library: www.soilandhealth.org. In an age of scarcity, his book "Gardening Without Irrigation" may also prove useful: http://www.soilandhealth.org/03sov/0302hsted/030201/03020100frame.html

Solomans books are the tops in the field.I use them like a bible.

Plant a whole bunch of different types of fruit trees...some will do well one year,some will do well the next.The most steady suppliers I have found is a chojoro Asian pear,and a Sparatan apple.At the elevation I am at,and the location.[Your milage may vary]

I think that's incorrect generally, perhaps correct specifically. If you live in an area where the sunlight is so strong that it kills plants (as I do) then overcrowding actually helps.

Why is it "safe to assume" that as soon as they come into contact they are competing, if soil contains higher concentration of nutrients across a broad spectrum than plants require then the overcrowding will reduce ion concentrations in soil in a helpfull way.

There are also several good reasons to overcrowd from a pest control point of view. Take cabbage moth for example, it flies around quasi-randomly lobbing on anything that looks cabbage like, if after several tries in a particular patch it fails to find a cabbage it will wander off into another patch. So, hide your cabbages in amongst non brassica plants.

(I thouight this was new age bullshit when I read about it but I actually observed cabbage moths performing exactlty this behaviour only 3 days ago. )

Progressive thinning to select for the strongest individual is the only point of yours that I would agrree on.

To each his own however and may your harvest be bountiful whatever your method.

I have been following the low input Solomon approach in subtropical Australia with a few adaptations and I have found he is right on the money. We have just gone over two months with no rainfall and I am only just now considering watering my vegetables from a rainwater storage tank. The key is to store your rain when it comes within the soil by cultivating deeply but gently, and by providing ample nutrients to your crops so they dont have to use up all the soil moisture to access them. And spacing your plants generously, while weeding religiously, means you can balance the water demands of your crop with the available rain water. As an example of how superfluous watering by hand is I have had pumpkins germinate and a crop of fair quality lettuce grow in my garden from directly sowed seeds through two months of zero rain, and no hand watering. Just put them into properly prepared and maintained soil and up they come like magic. The time otherwise spent waving a hose around is better spent gently mowing down the weeds as they germinate with a good quality sharp hoe.

The only modification I have made of his method is to divide my garden into two halves, one for a summer crop of heat loving veggies, and another for the winter crop of frost tolerant ones. The summer crop gets the end that is heavily shaded in winter, the winter crop gets the side that is more dry and exposed in summer but gets good winter light. When the crops arent growing I put in dense rows of green manure crops (just packets of food grade broad beans, and whole animal feed oats) that get cut by hand multiple times through the season (and some tossed to the chooks). This does amazing things to soil texture- and it is far more time effective than turning a concentrated compost heap and digging it in everywhere. It also means you can water them with urine to enrich the soil without worrying about contaminating your crops.

Best of all it means I get to sow my crops at the perfect time and can let a long running crop like eggplants finish off properly since they don't need to be shifted to make room for the next rotation.

I would also agree with the estimation of about four to five people per acre of staple crops as a safe estimate for reasonably fertile soil with about 1000 mm of rain a year. Under ideal conditions you could manage double this, but halving it leaves a margin for error for crop failures. It also gives you enough surplus to feed stock in the good years and improve the quality of your diet. Drought years then mean just having less chicken dinners, rather than actually starving.

To my mind novice gardeners are often setting themselves up for unneccesary trouble growing vegetables. They dont realise that some are very robust and easy (kale and collards) while related versions can be extremely finicky (cauliflower, brussel sprouts). Reliance on store bought seedlings is another major problem- the sooner you learn to handle the power of seeds the better, but be aware that most store bought seeds are terrible quality. They sometimes take on too much species diversity at once, rather than picking out a smaller subset of new species to get a handle on each year. You can tackle these two problems together by making sure you buy multiple strains of a type of vegetable (eg beans) from lots of different sources to grow side by side the first year. This will show you how much seed quality can vary, and also show you how different varieties will perform very differently in your garden. Next year you can just grow the best two or three that serve different purposes, preferably from your own seed. And finally they put too much emphasis on watery vegetables and neglect to master growing life sustaining staples like starchy root crops and drying legumes. In the short term home grown vegetables offer the best economic and quality advantages over store bought ones, but you need to have experience in growing staple crops in case you ever need to really feed your family in times of need.

Currently there are about 5 arable acres of land per person, only 50 years ago there was roughly 12 arable acres per person. I am guessing without lots of fertilizers and the like you would probably want roughly 8 acres per person.

An important consideration is, does this land have to catch all the water? or is their town water? can you get water out of a stream? i am sure you could produce all your food on 1 acre per person easily enough if you used more water than what fell inside of that 1 acre (in my geographical location at least).


The world average yield for 2007 is [source],

wheat, 2.75t/ha
maize, 3.41t/ha
rice, 3.37t/ha

All grains give about 3,500 calories per kg. A sedentary adult will require about 1,500cal daily, one doing heavy physical labour - like growing grain without fossil fuels - will require about 4,000cal daily. Given that about half the world are city-dwellers and don't do heavy physical labour, and a good number are children or sedentary elderly, we can get an average of about 2,000cal per person daily.

Thus, 2,000/3,500 = 570g grain are required daily, if nothing else is eaten. This would also give about 60g of protein, which is plenty.

So 209kg grain per person annually are required - again if nothing else is eaten. This would take 0.076ha for wheat, 0.061ha for maize, and 0.062ha for rice. Allowing a small surplus to save up for any bad years, we could call it 0.1ha. That's a quarter-acre, more or less.

Legumes give roughly the same yields as grains, and are grown in the off-season. If you don't have artificial nitrogen, then growing grain in the summer and legumes in the winter is more than good enough. Fruit and vegetables tend to have higher yields per hectare than grains, since grains are essentially grasses and what we eat are their seeds, a smaller proportion of their total growth than for fruit and vegetable-yielding plants.

So in a person's 0.1ha they might have just 0.05ha for grain, and the other 0.05ha for fruit and vegetables, they'd thus have a nicely-mixed diet, and a good amount of diversity to protect against bad weather or disease; if you grow only one thing, one kind of weather or one bug can wipe it all out, if you grow twenty, you'll always something left to eat.

And if you have that diversity of things growing, then you can on your 0.1ha have a few animals, too, some chickens, a pig or goat or two, and feed them just with the scraps of your own eating, getting them to clean up the fields for you - so they don't take extra land, but complement the land use you're already doing.

Some may argue that absent fossil fuels, these yields will drop. But crop yields have three main limits. The first is available nutrients in the soil, we prefer artificial sources to crop rotation in the West, and that involves fossil fuels. This is mainly because artificial sources of nutrients require less labour than crop rotation and the like. Since in the West labour is expensive and resources are cheap, we prefer using resources. Having a tractor means you can just spray stuff on the ground, it means less farm workers to employ, but then if the tractor stops working and I can't get the workers, land lies unused, crops wilt in the fields.

The last is water. When you look down the list of crop yields in the various countries in the piece I linked to earlier, the lowest-yielding countries (setting aside those with civil conflicts, like DR Congo and Zimbabwe) mostly have lower inputs of fossil fuels - but varying much more is their water. Places like Lesotho are just bloody dry, places like Haiti have good rainfall but they cut down their trees so the water washes away and doesn't stay to feed the crops.

If you have a good source of water, and can keep that water in the soil, then you can feed people on very small amounts of land.

Of course if the people want new t-shirts every week then you have to grow lots of cotton, and if they want burgers every day you have to keep cattle and then feed them, too, and the land required jumps up hugely. To feed humanity is not a problem. To have even a fifth of humanity living extremely wasteful lifestyles, that's a problem.

Of course if the people want new t-shirts every week then you have to grow lots of cotton,

Cannabis makes better fabric, for a lot less input of most things, than cotton. That way if you don't like the T shirt then you smoke it and forget all your worries for a while.(witt off)

Yes, it could all end like one giant episode of 'scrap heap challenge' but at least within the lifetime of those reading this blog we will have access to many technologies that can help.

For example a solar panel connected to a water pump will allow for recirculating aquaponics system that can provide fish and crops. Seaweed can be used as fertiliser and don't forget good old clover 'fixes' nitrogen.

So I don't think we need to exert a ploughmans amount of calories / day if done like this. The panel(s) can easily provide a couple hundred watts / 1/4 HP...


What happened to the greenies? This post gets my +1

Its one acre per person if you are not using green revolution's seed, that is, if you are doing farming the way it used to be in india, china, australia, south america, europe, africa etc in 1950 and before, you not use artificial fertilizers, you not use pesticides, you not use tube wells, you have a much much larger bio diversity in crops and you are having only one crop in a year.

If you are using green revolution's seeds then its 0.2 acres but you need fossil fuels to make artifical fertilizers, pesticides and to run tube well to pump ground water. If you want to avoid input of artifical fertilizers by recycling crop residues and human and animal manure, avoid usage of petrol to run tubewell by using sugar cane ethanol instead, then you need 0.25 acres per person.

The question about how much land a family need is uncomplete because you hadn't defined family size. The world average through out history is 5, you should be clear if that is what you meant.

If you want to have a farm land to grow your own food you must have atleast twice as much land as you need to survive during crop failures.

The calculations about why you need exactly one acre per person on average and not any other number can be given on request.

Per person ....

400 corn plants .. 20x100 plot of beans(legumes) .. 15 winter squash plants ... various nut and fruits that can be dry stored (almonds , figs, apples) .. various vegetables (fresh if at all possible)

Not much, when you know how.

Take a look at this evergreen piece, from a professional who's been doing it for a living since his dad started to teach him the craft in his childhood.

The answer to your question is in paragraph 9, after "Dear Folks". My own stumbling steps -- a LONG way behind David -- and those of many others learning the craft on the job, confirm what he says:


Great story, Nate. I did this myself too, grew three hybrid tomato plants (Bush Early Girl) on the deck for the first time this year. I didn't have quite as good luck. They grew well at first, but they're looking pretty sick now from aphids and disease. I did get some tomatoes off them, just barely enough for a few salads and sandwiches. Hope I have better luck next year.

Did you lop off all the sucker branches? Or maybe to
much attention due to not having as many plants to care for? Like over watering?
You mention a deck and I get the idea of a deck as being attached to the dwelling...is the deck on the
east of or north side of the home,therefore shading the plants? Maters love full sun all day.
Was the soil in the containers,potting soil or real
earth you took time to cultivate and add organic matter too?
Really its not hard to grow food if you apply yourself
The labor and physical effort I dont add to the equation because todays liesure pursuits are yesterdays mundane chores. Tomorrows chores will be
todays liesure pursuits.
Tending a mono-culture lawn of grass,will, in the not
so distant future,be considered a sign of mental
Todays culture is so starved for recognition that a
mere "atta boy" from a superior is like Pavlov ringing
bells to salivating dogs.
Grow a successful garden and be prepared to find pure
joy and self pride buried deep within your very DNA
and spirit.
Two slices of bread and a salt shaker and a home grown
tomater and even angels would trade places with you.

It was a roof deck so it had plenty of sun. I probably overwatered. It was growing great until the leaves turned dark, then curled up, then turned yellow and died. I didn't know about pruning, but I'll remember that for next time. It wasn't a total loss. They tasted pretty good, and I had enough smallish tomatoes for salads and sandwiches.

Dwcal: Cut off every branch that doesnt have blossoms.Every
tomato plant is essentially a vine and shouldnt resemble
a bush.The branches to be discarded will fork off just before the blossom main branch and be closer the trunk of the plant. After just a few minutes of pruning and you will
no longer even be looking for the blossoms as it will become
instinct and habit.You may find you dont need scissors or
a knife either if you take care and pinch off the sucker
branch near its base.
Dont blame me if you begin thinking of your plants as children and smother them with love and attention.
Its natural.Dont become alarmed if you wake and first thing
you do is go and look at your veggies and last thing before
the waning light is go look at your veggies.

Aphids usually appear on a water stressed plant. Keep the soil evenly moist.

In much of the world there is a virulent tomato disease caused by nearly the same organism that caused the infamous Irish potato blight. The spores are usually present everywhere. The problem starts when foliage is wet 48 consecutive hours whether from constant rain, fog, dew or especially watering with spray in daylight hours. (Always water early in the morning when the leaves are still wet with dew). When these conditions are met the spores germinate, penetrate the leaf and spreads systemically. Usually it appears about the time the first tomatoes are pink - almost red. You may see a few black spots on leaves as it gets established. Often the plants are dead or dying in 3 or 4 days after first seeing the spots. You can avoid this by spraying (well before infection) with boullie Bordelaise which is a water suspension of copper carbonate. (Developed in France many years ago). The copper spray will not cure sick plants. The other alternative is to grow the tomatoes in a tunnel or green house with drip irrigation so the leaves stay dry..

Thanks for the advice. I get fog every night from the marine layer. I'll have to prune better next time and give the leaves room to dry out. It was a surprise how the tomato plants are such a magnet for pests. As if the aphids and blight weren't bad enough, I found a Tomato Horn Worm on it last week too. The other (non-food) potted plants are doing fine.

Like your father Nate, my wife finds the concept of peak oil too far out in the future to worry about. That was until our water pump in the cellar bit the dust last Saturday morning. In the 48 hours we were without water, she started to come around to the stark reality of doing without. Lugging buckets of water from the river to flush the toilets became a better alternative for her than braving the mosquitos while trying to use the great outdoors for a bathroom:)

We are fortunate that our spring is less than 20' deep. My wife was extremely excited when I told her an old fashioned pitcher pump would provide clean water just yards from our back door. Next year I'll bring up gardening:)

Only a few miles from your meager home, the land of sun and tomatoes, I too captured the sun in my photovoltaic system and fondled my garden. Others here are doing the same. They are shifting, becoming aware. Today I talked to my renter about making preparations for the winter and the new increasing costs of dealing with that. She knows it is changing. This year they will heat fewer rooms, as we do. Her pickup is gone. The windows will have heavy curtains and she admitted she tried not to use the air conditioners after she received a $125 electric bill last month. It is a hard shift but money and necessity seem to have a way. The key is information and that is what The Drum does. It is my hope that slowly the information will trickle down and the settling into the new paradigm will be gentle. I have my doubts, however. The thoughts of steady state economics, exponential growth, resource depletion, scale paralysis, cognitive dissonance and the never ending hype of Madison Avenue certainly disrupt my wishful thinking. Do keep up the good work and believe me there are untold number of lurkers like me in one way or another keeping track of your work.

It's our ability to borrow from the future (aka DEBT) that is worrying. Debt is predicated on the possibility that tomorrow is better than today and can thus be repayed. I say possibility because so far it has always 'worked out that way' in aggregate.

If today is shitty and you borrow to help you get over it and the tomorrow is even shittier where does that put us?

Governments will do the same. At some point I think we are looking at the greatest default in the history of humanity.


Google "the automatic earth" for a daily update on the destruction of our financial system....these people have it nailed..

Do you have a picture showing more of the dog? We planted 5 tomato plants which is too many. They are weeds. Fortunately our golden retriever eats the tomatoes off the vine when they become ripe.

Where do you get dogs that like tomatoes? Mine just chews up watermelons when he can wrangle past the wire. I've been two years going on with my little backyard garden and have enjoyed cucumbers, Roma and cherry tomatoes, small watermelons, lettuce (tricky...needs to be early in the season - cool nights), and corn. Corn has done the worst. Perhaps too cramped in my little plot. The greatest planting, however, is my hybrid apple tree in the front yard. It grows two red varietes, and a green variety (Granny Smiths...not sure, but sour as the dickens...yum). Got my rhubarb going on 5 years now and it is my tried and true. My wife makes awesome rhubarb pie and cake...never enough when fed to the family!!!

Lesson here is you don't have to do much to get the experience you might need for whatever the future holds.

Do you have a picture showing more of the dog?

I don't have one catching him 'in the act' but here is one pic of Quinner. (I have hundreds)

Ahhhh...cute boy...cold, wet nose...happy dog!! Another true asset in a world gone mad.

I thought it was a golden from the paws. Best kind of dog. They must of been bred to eat tomatoes. My dog will eat anything. Carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, and of cause tomatoes. Very handsome.

Either that, or the tomatoes were bred to be eaten by them:

The word tomato comes from a word in the Nahuatl language, tomatl. The specific name, lycopersicum, means "wolf-peach" (compare the related species Solanum lycocarpum, whose scientific name means "wolf-fruit", common name "wolf-apple"), as they are a major food of wild canids in South America.


I had a golden that would very carefully 'pluck' the tomato from the vine, then carry it around in his mouth-so proud-but didn't eat it. He also rolled it around the yard as if it was a ball!

Goldens are a sporting breed meaning they are originally designed to retrieve ducks and bring them back with a soft mouth.

We don't can or preserve. 5 bushes is enough to eat fresh the ones Tarkie don't want four months a year. We aren't survivorists and don't have caches of ammunition either.

Love is a Dog.

How many is too many is a very variable question. I have 8 tomato plants which is not enough for me and whatever creature (probably a racoon or opposum) which comes in every night and snatches the big ones. I ended up having to buy 40 lbs at the farmer's market to can this year.

Several days ago I purchased a book at a local antique store. The first edition was written in 1866; the second in 1874. The title "Gardening for Profit. A guide to the successful cultivation of the Market and Family Garden" by Peter Henderson (Jersey City N.Y.) Published by the Orange Judd Company. Broadway N.Y.
This book was written before the start of the oil age, and provides the information necessary for the cultivation of small gardens in the Post Oil Age. It uses New York as its location and states that suitable changes to timing of planting must be made to account for ones location in the 'States. It provides detailed information as to how to run a small market garden for profit - information which can be adjusted for a small scale family garden. This book is a great read and a good buy if you can find it.

I would like to have a copy of said book, but, since that would eat into My profit, I found it is downloadable (PDF) from books.google.com (scanned by Google as is now in public domain).

I haven't looked over all of these titles, appears they also are downloadable, but you do have to jump through some little hoops, I love some of the titles: http://www.soilandhealth.org/03sov/0302hsted/0302homested.html (in the same vein as "Gardening for Profit...").

Hall, Bolton. Three Acres And Liberty.
Bruce, Maye E .Common-Sense Compost Making By the Quick Return Method


Google books offers up the full text of the book mentioned HERE.

It also seems available if ya look around a bit...

With respect to having land to produce meat. You really don't need a lot of land if you just concentrate on raising small animals such as rabbits, free range chickens, and other poultry. You can also raise fish in small ponds. Beef and swine use too much energy (grain) and land to produce meat. Also, you can concentrate the manure for composting since rabbit manure is very potent (hot) and can be use to produce compost along with the chicken manure. Eggs are a plus and large animals don't give eggs. You can supplement the protein from the small animals with beans and legumes. I also take the waste from our meals (no meat products) and canning and put it in the compost pile. All of this is very sustainable and doesn't require a lot of land. If you develop a powerful hankering for beef or pork, you can buy a few pounds for way less than it would cost you to raise them. We buy our beef and pork from a cattle farmer who sells his meat to us for way less than the market would sell it to us for.
Also, you can rotate your crops to maintain soil fertility. I use cover crops( green manure)to accomplish this also.

Yes, I remember the story: We Wasted a Day of Sunlight!. But you won't feed a family on tomato sauce, nor will you have a freezer to put the FF based freezer bags into. No, I would direct folks to drying and pickling, and then into foods that store well on their own (carrots, potatoes, turnips, etc).

Yes, there is more to the story but this is a start. I would say 1900 would be a good place to look for advice thus the aforementioned book. There are still many options that can be practiced and studied and they may not involve freezers nor the little petroleum bags. There will be jars. I still use some that are 100 years old and there will be canning---get a pressure canner. Storing root crops is no easy task either and it might be wise to just try it for a hoot. By spring those turnips will be sad fare not to mention the potatoes all sprouting and mouse eaten. There might be cellulose bags! This entire event will need practice and every step in the direction of learning is worth something, maybe humbling, maybe frightening but still everyone should practice. 5 tomato plants will not do squat. It will be important to have 25 and use every lousy tomato, canned, dried, or stored in paper. All knowledge of this order is worthwhile weither one uses it or not. The amount of food one can grow in a 100' x 100' plot would astound most people—at least here in Wisconsin. I do like my freezer but I can run it off my solar panels. What the 13 million folks in Milwaukee/Chicago/Gary will do, I have no idea. In 1900 we did not have a megatropolis of 13 million. Keep learning, keep trying. I am playing my fiddle more.

Glass jars are great and the only consideration is that a person should drag a finger nail around the entire circumfrence of the lip at the top.If you find
a nick,it may not seal a vacuume.
Dont discard the jar though.You can repair the nick no
matter the depth by sanding the entire edge evenly.
Invert jar top side down on a piece of sanding paper
and spin between two palms.If the nick is deep,use course paper and follow up with a finer grit last.
Sanding paper should be placed on a hard flat surface
to insure a level and concentric surface is maintained
on the lid sealing surface.
I prefer canning as opposed to freezing due to the energy for freezing is constant and the canning is a
one shot endeavor.
I also like the two piece canning lids as opposed to
the one piece.The (bands) can be reused indefinately
and the (flats) are more economical to purchase.
Access to wax can make a flat usable many times over
since the thin rubber ring tends to lose its sealing
abilty after even one use.

You can use many jars that products come in for canning fruit, tomatoes and pickles in Hot water canners. Jars that held pickles, even mayonnaise can be used. They are not Pyrex so breakage can occasionally be a problem. The trick is to lower the basket with jars rapidly into the water and then take it out. Doing this several times will warm the glass with out shocking it and cracking it. You can reuse the lids the jars came with as they have a built in ring seal on the inside of the lid. Eventually the seal gets damaged and you must find a new lid. We have never pressure canned with the non-pyrex jars. Don't know if they work.

What about dipping the tops of ordinary glass containers (e.g. spaghetti sauce jars) in molten candle wax?

I stored my carrots last winter in pails of dry sand, in the basement by the north wall, all winter and was still eating them come March. As long as you have a cool basement, and they are in the dark on the north side, they should deteriorate very slowly. Very dry sand, a layer of sand then a layer of carrots till the pail is full. I was very surprised at how good it worked. My grandparents told me it used to be very commonplace.

I've been wonder the feasability of a crude vacuum dehydrator for root vegetables and fruits. Start with a pressure cooker, connected via piping to another vessel that behaves as a condenser. With something like a small firetube boiler you blow all of the air out of the apparatus with steam. When you're satisfied the steam has pushed out all the air, you close valves sealing it off. For the condenser receptacle you immerse in a bath of water, maybe with some means of evaporative cooling to keep it near web bulb. You heat the pressure cooker with some low grade heat, maybe solar. After a bit you get food that has been dehydrated in the absence of oxygen.

Anybody around with hands on experience with vacuum distillation?

Yes, i was about to comment "nate nate nate, why am i seeing disposable freezer bags?? whats wrong with a reusable tub" but anyhow you have beaten me to it.. its a start though, i am sure more FF would be used to ship them half way round the world than to make a freezer bag :)

I reuse my freezer bags, but I hear you. After last years post a doctor from Canada sent me a piece on how estrogens and chemicals leech out of those freezer bags if heated, which might explain my current pizza-boobs.

But I'm trying.

Indeed: Had you ordered the tomatoes and Fed Express delivered them ---"Damnit, you wasted a whole season."

Here, our problem is no natural water and bad soil. We are working on it. Apples galore, some berries, some tomatoes, squash, watermelons, but not enough to feed the family yet. Building soil is very time consuming. A PV pump in our well should be plenty to irrigate the garden and hosehold water. It is only a 30 foot lift.

In 1947 as a 14 yr old I worked in a Purina feed store. We had 4 white chickens in cages. It was my job to feed the chickens and collect the eggs. Many days, I got 4 eggs for a little feed. Prices were of course different but it was profitable then, probably still is. The store owner got most of the eggs but I brought enough home for my Dad and Mom and me.

Now we have a little barn so I will go back into the egg 'business' again next year but with free range chickens. I have to teach those chickens to only eat tomato worms and other garden bugs. :-)

"Nevada Handbook. Forth Edition” by Deke Castleman.

"It’s estimated that upon contact with the first explorers, 3,000 Washo Indians occupied a small territory from the Pine Nut Mountains east of Carson Valley to Lake Tahoe in the west and Truckee Meadows to the north, where Reno and Sparks are today."

This is about 800 square miles. So after most everyone leaves this high cold desert, a few of us will get together and make do on what's left.



I very rarely buy veggies any more. I have tomatoes in the dehydrator right now (heirlooms and Early Girl's). Freshly picked yellow squash in the curry tonight, and picked wild huckleberries yesterday.
Chard, Collard greens, onions, basel, peppers, egg plant, etc---
And I live in a apartment! It does have a large backyard, and there are enough blackberries and abandoned fruit trees locally to overwhelm any attempt to harvest a fraction of the bounty.
Mushroom hunting in the fall and winter, surf perch just about anytime.
I am horrified most people cannot identify a edible mushroom in the environment they inhabit, or collect and forage for food.
When in Montana, elk were my main source of animal protein, and Axis deer in Maui.
I live in Marin now, and can grow year round.

...I live in London and not only can I not identify a mushroom but the practice is in fact banned (at least at my nearest park of Wimbledon...)

I see fruit trees all around that are mere ornaments. I wonder if I should offer to take away their fruit to stop flies and wasps gathering on the dropped decaying mush, I could probably charge 'em for the service...


The English are incredibly fungi phobic, along with the Americans. Swim against the cultural current and learn about those delicious mushrooms you have in your environment. A few Russians wold straighten out the situation quickly.

...there are plenty of Russians who now live in London but they are most probably the type who escaped the need to identify your own mushrooms in order to survive...


We have a little different approach. We can (put up in sealed glass jars) rather than freeze, and use an iron wood cook stove out in a summer kitchen in this effort. We want to be practiced at living without electricity, relying on the most likely fuel we will have available in a societal breakdown. And solar is too complicated for my old mind when something so much easier and time proven comes right out of our abundant woodlot.

I didn't notice you talking about saving seeds for the next year's crop, and I would like to add this as an essential skill, simple, but which should be practiced in advance.

And finally, if you want to go to gastronomic heaven, I want to brag about one that can make you float up in the air. Basil is the premier sauce herb to my taste. Some oreganos are ok, but even the best do not do what basil does.

To delight your taste buds, first use the ultimate tomato sauce tomatoes. For pasta sauce get some Roman Plum tomato seeds. This is an heirloom variety that will knock your socks off. This is a striped tomato (red and yellow) that is very, very large for a plum tomato; you probably have not ever seen them because they are relatively rare, but can be mail ordered from Bakerville Seed Company in Missouri.

You want to have one head of chopped, fresh garlic for each 20 or 30 tomatoes (keeps the Vampires away, don't you know, but if your are not into garlic, then you can cut down the amount to your taste). Put the garlic in an iron fry pan with a generous pan bottom coating of olive oil (or any other that might be available in the future) and cook the garlic down, but don't let it brown. Simultaneously, boil some water and then dump the tomatoes in the boiling water for only about 1 minute. This makes the skin easy to peal off. After removing the skin, squeeze the innards out, and use the outer skinless fruit. Just throw the tomato fruit in the fry pay with the garlic and oil. As it cooks down a little, just use the side of your spoon to break apart the tomato pieces. If you have previously made tomato paste with more ordinary heirloom tomatoes, and want to thicken the sauce, throw in about one cooking spoon's worth for every 20 or 20 plum tomatoes, but this is not necessary. Add about 25 fresh chopped average size basil leaves and enough fresh Greek oregano (or sweet marjoram, the annual variety of oregano) to fill the palm of your hand. Finish it off with a tablespoon or more of crushed, dried, stevia herb to sweeten it to your taste.

This is nice thick tomato sauce that will knock your socks off. I promise, you will wonder what your have been eating all your life before you discovered this. It is great on whole wheat spaghetti or ravioli. Or if you really want to die and go to heaven, then use it as a sauce for eggplant parmigiana (or just skillet fried, Italian breaded eggplant, if you don't have the parmigiana cheese). Talk about a great pizza sauce also.

To can all your excess Roman Plum tomatoes just ramp up the above proportions, and can as you would any tomato sauce, and then plan on a heavenly winter as you bask in the warmth of your wood heated home enjoying an Italian sauce of which the food network could only dream.

By the way, the basket of tomatoes you showed looked really great. Makes we want a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich for lunch tomorrow, as I have some Arkansas Traveler tomatoes ready to pick.

Great to see this again, and I wish tomatos did better in Hawaii. Though they have low calorie density, they often make up for it through sheer enormity of excess. The tropical bugs seem to shred the tomato plants pretty fast if you're lazy, and we are. We do have to fight the dogs for the pineapples.... whenever my dad bought one, he'd cut off the top half-inch with the leaves and stick it in the yard, and they're still coming up with tiny ultra-sweet fruit that the dogs often beat us to. No elaborate planting was necessary, my dad had a 30-second rule.

We have both a sloping lot and aging bodies, so have leaned more into tree crops. One of the things that makes that useful here is that the lack of seasons allows you to have trees that fruit out of phase with one another, so for instance we have avocados 7 months of the year. We also have so much starfruit it goes to waste - dunno where it finds all that potassium - and lillikoi, mango, banana, mountain apple, and other stuff, and are currently sprouting a zillion papaya seedlings to fill in some sunlit gaps recently created with a chainsaw. The big food crop has to be the dozen mature coconut trees, and alla this stuff just basically grows and falls. (this is on the back slope of a rather standard suburban houselot). Of course, most of the stuff goes uneaten, but in the future it may not, and I have a policy not to chop out any food trees that plant themselves in a good spot... which the avo's and coconuts and mango are doing with wild abandon.

But what I've been really trying to get going is breadfruit, because those are some kick-ass starch producers. So far, have failed on that; though the three trees are healthy no fruit so far. My wife wants to start an initiative on Oahu to encourage breadfruit tree planting in as many yards as possible; but the concept that someday people might want to eat them is considered far-fetched. We've also converted the swimming pool that the house came with to a pond; not enough fish to fry up, though I have notions of attracting termite-swarm biomass with halogen lights to boost that if we wind up staying here through the energy crash. And the pool will also be the main reservoir for drip-watering of the trees during droughts. (I've scored a bunch of 55-gallon plastic drums for $10 each and will be creating mosquito-coast style water systems and storage with 'em.)

I've also idly wished I had a vehicle which would hold an old projection TV, since people advertise broken ones for free all the time, and I think many have whompin' fresnel lenses in them; with the sun we get here, not only could we cook stuff but we could probably melt scrap copper.

Yes, the neighbors think we're kinda nuts, but my dad gave the projects his blessing; he was raised by his grandmother who was a hard-edged farm girl from the plains in the mid-to-late 1800's. The family considers it harmless, and somewhat entertaining. And though we lost my dad two years ago now, we're still eating his recycled pineapples.

Mind you, this is just using "stick it in the dirt and ignore it" techniques. However, one morning a few months ago after reading a Bob Shaw NPK post, I bought a half-ton of 10-20-20 on general principles so we can shift into overdrive if necessary. (and yes, the family DOES think that was peculiar).

So now that we've done that, and I've put on the catchment-grade 50-year metal roof, all I have to worry about is the million armed cannibals converging on my yard once the Matson barges full of twinkies stop coming. Not only is growing stuff fun, but in the future it may well provide a plausible reason my ribs aren't showing as I secretly consume my buried spam.

I've been thinking about this pool thing and I see no reason why you couldn't have your cake and swim in it so to speak.

Spillover Pool water could be fed to another seperated fish grow tank (one way) from there to a vortex / filter unit to get rid of fish waste / convert Ammonia to Nitrate, then on to a powerful UV unit to kill the bacteria/bugs and return to swimming pool via plant grow beds. In essence it's an entirely natural Aquaponics setup with a recreational pool thrown in... Birds and stuff can drink from the water too... You might get the odd frog in your swimsuit...

With your setup you could probably isolate part of the pool with a wall and as long as the flow is one way it should work and you would have a swimming pool back if you wanted it.

Has anyone done this?


I've done something of the sort for many years-using fish waste for the garden.

I raise salmonids-trout and char both-on a gravity setup. Unfortunately, I've never had the head at the garden to really irrigate with the fish water. At best, I could furrow irrigate which usually drowned one portion while keeping the others dry.

Now I use a system where the solids are settled out and applied with a shovel, and the excess fluid is sent to a lower pasture with sufficient head for sprinkler irrigation. Solid removal is essential to keep nozzle heads from clogging, esp at my lower pressures.

Doug Fir---
The cleaned parts of my surf perch catch get added to the garden. I'm using a Hawaiian method, when ever Pakalolo is planted, add a fresh fish on full moon.

I think we could get a lot of our calorific needs just from home grown tomatoes, potatoes and corn. It's up to our ingenuity to find ways to keep them interesting and to store well. For example salsa di pomodoro can keep tomato pulp fresh in 26 oz beer bottles without using vacuum equipment. Seeing as how Michael Phelps eats a bowl of hominy grits every morning I might try an old recipe using corn and wood ash. It's still frosty here Down Under but I just had a tip from a professional to start potato plants under black plastic. In fact I'm extending a cellar to store the expected harvest.

No luck however in growing wonder cereal quinoa from seed I bought in a health food store. In tough quarantine countries you just can't get viable seed.

You should be so lucky. Here in the UK it's been the wettest August for 100 years. No sun and almost continuous cloud.

But - it's great for my potatoes and blackberries (I've got 2 gallons of blackberry wine on the brew).

And a lot of interesting mushrooms popping up.

Can I post a little puff for the Foxfire books from the 1970s onwards in here?

A school in the Appalachians got their kids to interview ther grandparents on how they lived, cultivated, made moonshine, built wagons, rode their mules to market, etc.

I've got the first two books which are great. It seems there are 12 now see:


No freezers or solar cookers, though.


In a recent post you talked about cognitive science, our ancient evolved drives toward novelty, gratification and position in the cultural swim; and the connection with BAU 'growth'. Perhaps, rather, we (specifically the human bit)evolved in small groups having massive detailed knowledge bases built on top of cultural habits(accompanied by physical brain plastic modification) that instilled priorities devoted to individual endogenous stability harnessed to acute reciprocal learning and constant 'in the world' awareness. I guess 'we' often coped very well.
(Recent advertising and etc., via co-option of scientific method, has created hooks to human cognition that make a very different use of the positive and negative feedbacks and create a very different, unbalanced, consciousness - "waste of sunlight"?)
I guess from the above set of comments in this post that you are beginning to recreate a pretty good hunter-gatherer band with access to a bit of growing and storage technology.
I would like more on that dehydrator somebody mentions. We need to know how best to store the key phytonutrients that make sense of Kiashu's calories. Hunter gatherers like key kit and slippy techniques that make for timely action.

As a dialup user, I am quite sensitive to big files.

Did you know the image posted to the main page of TOD is 652,700 bytes long? (IMG_0648(2).JPG)

This makes TOD load very slowly for those of us who do not have high speed access.

I hate to complain about anything, but this one image causes me a lot of grief, a lot of churning on the disk drive trying to buffer it, and was the cause of a technical support call to my ISP trying to figure out why the system kept disconnecting on me.

Slightly off-topic....but

you might want to use firefox and install "Add Block Plus" plug-in. That way you can get rid of most images very easily. I've not used dial-up for a long time, but i think i couldn't survive without firefox/ABP

You have my sympathy.

Could I also suggest that links out of the Oildrum pages, particularly in Drumbeat, are made to open in new windows (i.e. using 'target=blank')?
That way when you return to the Oildrum you don't have to reload the whole page.


Right Click -> open link in new window/tab ;)

I would rather it be left as it is so i dont have new windows popping up everwhere.

I have dialup too and feel your pain. Besides bandwidth, there's a javascript on TOD that sucks my computer dry, sometimes for a couple of minutes. I recently found a computer that has a 5 watt power draw, the downside is that it really is slow.

Does anyone take care to avoid Genetically Modified seeds from companies like Monsanto?

Is anyone worried about transgenic contamination?

Yep. I buy heirloom varieties from a reputable seed company and always collect seeds in the fall for the following year (actually, my wife is in charge of that part...). After that, there's not much more you can do.

I bought a home recenlty which is still in town but has a larger lot enabling me to have my first vegetable garden this year. I set a modest goal of producing 1% of the food for my family of four this year. I hope to reach 10% in the 2nd or 3rd year. Frankly, I probably didn't even reach my 1% goal this year. Part of the problem is that I don't live at that house yet as it is being remodelled and I didn't have enough time to devote to it. I hope to do better next year. My experience so far has been that fertilizing organically is not too difficult. We have lots of trees and plant material that creates more compost than I can use. Next year when I live there, all our other appropriate waste will get added to the compost. Organic pest control seems to be the harder part. I lost all of my peas to pests. My first crop of sunflowers was destroyed entirely (by cutworms I think). Tried to grow ground cherries and not a single one germinated. Anyway, I learned a lot this year and next year I'll actually live there so I hope to have much more success.

This has been a learning year for me (more details at greenerminds.com). I finally got Permaculture certified which took up whole weekends in March, April, May, June and July. I work full time, support a family of four and have other committments three nights a week, and did a couple of community projects too, so it was definitely a part-time hobby for me this year. We live on a double lot in a village in western NY, south of Rochester.

With those caveats in mind, I was able to sheet mulch about 800 sq. feet of my yard by getting many bags of manure from the local mounted police and local horse farmers, cardboard from behind the Family Dollar in town and straw from the feed store (24 bales and counting). I had sheet mulched two 4' x 8' raised beds last year and got the best results from one of these, which I planted to a polyculture mentioned in Toby Hemenway's Gaia's Gardens: lettuce mix, chamomile, radicchio, carrots, kale and calendula. Tomatoes are starting to come in on about 10 heirlooms, though deer ate one or two of the plants. Broccoli I've been cutting for about a month for little spears, have a couple of cucumbers, a good batch of garlic planted last fall as an afterthought, a few beans, peas, peppers, tomatillos (which are doing great) and musk melons. I also got a harvest from one of the apple trees (Cortland) I planted last year. I've got a small harvest of kale, collards and chard coming, as well as pumpkins that volunteered.

Planting directly into the sheet mulch was hit or miss. I got some slug problems with peppers and beans especially, but tomatillos and strawberries did pretty well and the cucurbits generally have done well, probably due to water retention in the mulch.

I started many things from seed and need a lot of improvement here. I lost a lot due to planting out too soon, too heavy starter soil or failing to transplant once to a richer mix. Also I think many of the things I started in pots would do better direct sown, expecially the leafy greens.

This is my favorite time of year because many nurseries locally have massive sales, and my buddy also has an end-of-year perennial sale. Last week I spent around $100 for 70+ plants including echinacea, pyrethrum, fennel, lobelia, datura, nicotiana, mint, burnet, lavendar, red plantain, asters, salvias, forsythias, weigelias, a japanese maple, a chinese scholar tree and an eastern red bud (last two are nitrogen fixers), monkshood, comfrey, three oreganos, masterwort, and some stuff I have no idea what it is. Lots of these plants work in guilds or as interplants for pest and weed control, as mulch or to draw micronutrients from subsoil (e.g. comfrey).

Anyone who really wants to get serious about growing food themselves or purchasing locally is going to have to get into home canning in a big way.

You cannot use a freezer and pretend to be reducing your impact on the environment. My mother-in-law had shelves filled with various preserved fruits and vegetables while my wife was growing up in Canada 60 years ago.

Ball jars are easy to master, there are many books out on how to do home canning and the best thing is to prepare a big batch of whatever is in season at once. The jars last forever, all you need to do is replace the lids each season. They also come in a wide range of sizes so you can store everything from a single serving to enough to feed a church social in an appropriately sized container.

I just started canning seriously this year, and have wondered about the supply of new lids. Can you buy alot and use a couple of years later? Are there alternate methods for sealing ball jars?

I've thought about this issue. My first impression is that eventually the rubber in the seal would get too hard. So I have dated all the boxes I've purchased and use the oldest first. So far, lids up to 4 years old work fine. I haven't tried any older.

I've also found that many times you can re-use lids and they will seal again. However, it is not 100%. So, unless I am canning something I know I will want to be using some of soon (so I can just refrigerate the "failed" ones) I have been using new lids. I still keep the used ones just in case of future shortage.

Another alternative is that you can reprocess a jar that failed to seal. I ended up doing that with some squash pickles this year. On closer inspection the lid had a small bend on the rim and thus didn't seal. Of course, the quality suffers some as you are in effect cooking the food twice.

If you have a cool cellar, you can also explore lacto - fermentation preservation. This is the process that makes sauerkraut and can also be used for all kinds of other vegetables and some fruits. Used lids are okay for this because you are not creating a seal, just keeping the dirt and bugs out.

As I posted once before , we grew all our food for over 12 years.

In order to get your 2-4000 calories/day you have to get your basic grains produced and stored for year round use.

A plant based diet is the only way to go.

Look at your current diet ... most of your calories probably come from fats and sugars.

You mentioned a solar dryer. What kind did you use?
Is there any way to use the solar oven as a dryer? I have a sun oven and can leave the lid up a bit so it doesn't get to full temp (375 degrees F). My heirloom tomato plants are coming in now too, although I have only a half dozen, not 37.

Its possible as we go Post Peak that all indiginous sources of Energy resource start to get used up and that means coal (consider the amount of Gas used to keep the lights on).

Coal usage will accelerate global warming and this will cause mayhem to the current food production patterns. There was a piece in yesterdays Drumbeat concerning 'Climate Wars' and one of its key iisues was forced population migration due to loss of production / food scarcity.

Even if you have found the perfect bit of land NOW it might change in the decades ahead and you will have to adapt to that.

Eventually any survivors will probably end up living in a floating island at the North Pole eating krill and seal blubber... ;o)


I've commented before how much I like Mr. Hagen's attitude. Part of the old "waste not, want not" philosophy, but I suspect more. End of August, the days are shortening rapidly, esp to those who spend some of their life outside. Very little time to get ready for the winter, and so much to do. The thought of doing certain chores in the chill, mud and rain only weeks away hastens your actions.

I'm surprised more don't sense it, the impending winter, notice the dulling or browning of leaves, browning of fields, new birds showing up, or even slower growth on their fertilized lawn. Today we are reminded of winter by back to school specials at the department store or on the TV.

It's great to read the post again, hear the admonition of wasting a day of sunshine.

"Mr. Hagens" is actually a retired doctor, and I will tell him you said hello. In addition to his curmudgeonly attitude on wasting resources and sunlight, he also is a bit curmudgeonly about the 'time I waste on that oildrum site'.....

However, it seems like this type of post brings out a great deal of lurking opinions and expertise that should probably be shared...

Biggest lesson from putting in a moderate sized garden (around 1000 sq foot) + some fruit trees.

It ain't cheap.

I have often thought that low income folks should grow tons of their food but we have several thousand dollars and counting in to it and only providing a small % of your consumption.

I realise this will level off to a degree and some planting could be accomplished on the cheap but their is always a price to pay.

I'd really like to hear how you put several grand into 1000 square feet and some fruit trees. Fruit trees are $25 bare root. Say ten for $250. $100 in seeds, $200 for started plants. I suppose you could manage another $450 on tools and fertilizer, but that's still only one thousand.

To me, 'several' is at least three. I can't figure out how to spend three grand on a thousand square feet of garden.

We have just purchased 6 stone fruit trees = $350. (Aussie Dollars)

We live on black beach sand basically so each tree will need a pre prepared 300 litres of quality growing medium.

Each tree will need;

2 bags ( 70 litres )cow manure, 2 bags sheep manure, $20
1 bag chicken manure, $40
4 bags of palm peat, $20
5 kg slow release FF fertiliser (NPKT) $30
2 bails of pea straw $20
SUB-TOTAL $130 x 6 = $ 780

That's $1100 for 6 fruit trees on 30m^2 (1/6 of our arable land), by the time I finish I will have spent over $10,000 on seed, saplings, shit and straw for this inner city duplex unit with 200m^2 of soil + 50 m^2 of paved area that will be used for growing in pots (approx 2500 square feet)and a 5000 litre (1200 gallon)aquaculture pond. If your blessed with good soil most of these costs disappear.

I guesstimate that soil mix will keep the trees happy for at least a decade judging from results of previous fruit tree planting, and should be maintainable with compost after that time.

Started with a huge lawn. dug it out, rototilled($), brought in several yards of different "stuff" and tilled in.

Tools ($$$)

Created smooth rock gravel paths (it rains a bit here in Oray-gun)and had to retain an area. Plumbed a couple water faucets($)

Built a bunch of portable cold frames.

planted mostly from starts($) to get a jump on what can be a short season, the seeded stuff has not really caught up.

Bought espalier fruit due to space restrictions(big$.

Put up some mesh to keep out critters (racoon I think)

continue to bring in leaf mold, peat,manure, npk. This has shown me that you absolutely get out what you put in.

My compost is really starting to crank out some gold so I hope to be able to scale back on inputs soon as long as I have tons of "stuff" to put into the compost pile.

I am sure there is a bunch I am leaving out but it is over 2 grand.

Eep. I've never had to buy soil.

I converted a discarded paraboloid shaped rattan chair into a solar cooker/dehydrator. It works like a champ. A cookie sheet placed at the focus of the 5 foot diameter reflector (plastic sheets covered with aluminum foil) will dry halved tomatoes in two days. Lower moisture vegetables such as diced onions or peppers are dry after a few hours in full sunlight. When not drying vegetables, I use a stew pot to hold 3 quart jars for canning in about an hour at midday. A 12 inch rim from a child's bicycle is suspended at the focus to support the cookie tray or cooking pot.

Gardening on TOD?
I feel like the man who went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.
Your dog ate your tomatoes?
My dogs eat my tarragon.
Have to grow it in a pot up high where they cannot reach.
Highly recommended: Frances Moore Lappe, "Diet for a small planet".
Also (less well known but another classic): Bradford Angier,
"One Acre & Security, How to Live Off the Earth without Ruining It"

Best to be fully productive on that land as well as only have enough kids to replicate gene pool as according to this site US has slightly over 2 acres per person of arable land and the world has 1.15...(for this to occur in reality there would have to be massive amount of Chinese in Russia - but relax - there is comparative advantage)

My wife and I just moved to Bennington VT -- and we have a very pretty vegetable garden -- but the produce from the local farms tastes MUCH better. Our tomatoes are for sauce only -- and then only with some doctoring. One wonderful thing about VT is access to wonderful local farms for quality meat-dairy-vegetables-etc items. Nate -- are you in VT? I know you are associated with UVM.

Hi from a new TOD poster:
Edward Charles Ponzi Jr
Hooverville Falls VT Volunteer Plunge Protection Team