Sunday, August 31, 2014

30 Signs You're One of those Crazy Preppers

In contrast to the rather sobering list of Inconvenient Truths About TEOTWAWKI, I thought you'd all enjoy this humorous list from The Organic Prepper entitled 30 Signs That You’re One of Those “Crazy Preppers.”

Here are the top 30 signs, should you ever be the subject of a nationwide manhunt, that you too will be considered a "Crazy Prepper on the Loose":

1. Pantries are so mainstream... you have food stashed in strange places in every room of the house.
2. You have enough toilet paper to get through a year of uncomfortable digestive upsets... occurring with 6 people simultaneously
3. Speaking of which, you possess at least 3 different ways to use the bathroom, only one of which is an actual bathroom.
4. Your kids know what OPSEC means…at the age of 4.
5. You have topographical maps of your area... plural.
6. When you’re forced to interact with “the others” you feel like you are awkwardly censoring your true opinions
7. You think nothing of treating an injury or illness yourself because “what if there was no doctor?”
8. Paintball is no longer just a fun way to spend an afternoon –- it’s called "training."
9. With every major purchase, you contemplate going for the off-grid version.
10. You have more manual tools than power tools.
11. You’ve washed entire loads of laundry by hand for either necessity or practice. (And not just your dainties... we’re talking about jeans and stuff!)
12. Your kids are not afraid of guns…or fingers pointed like guns... or pastries in the shape of guns…or drawings of guns.
13. When house hunting you look for multiple heat and water sources.
14. You store food in buckets... lots of buckets... like, maybe even a whole room full of buckets.
15. You garden with a determination and time commitment normally reserved for endurance athletes training for an Ironman triathlon.
16. If you don’t have a water source on your property, you have put in miles of footwork searching for one nearby, and have mapped multiple discreet routes to and from the source, and figured out how to haul the water back to your house on each route.
17. Your first instinct when hearing about some event on the mainstream news is skepticism. (False flag event, anyone?)
18. You believe that FEMA camps are real and that you are most likely on “The List”.
19. Instead of CNN, you have alternative news sites bookmarked in your favorites on your computer.
20. You have enough coffee/tea/favorite-caffeinated-item-of-choice to last you through three apocalypses.
21. You have enough over the counter medications stashed away to outfit a small-town pharmacy.
22. You have an instinctive mistrust of most cops or anyone working for an alphabet agency.
23. You could sink a ship with the weight of your stored ammo.
24. Looking for a fun weekend outing with the kids? Forget amusement parks –- the shooting range is where it’s at.
25. When the power goes out, you calmly light the candles and proceed with whatever you had been dong previously.
26. A longer-term power outage is called "practice."
27. If a like-minded person comes over to your house, they’ll realize you are "one of them" by seeing your reading material. Other folks won’t even notice. The FBI would call your copy of The Prepper’s Blueprint and your James Wesley Rawles fiction "subversive literature."
28. Your children carry a modified bug-out kit in their school backpacks.
29. You can and dehydrate food with the single-minded fervor of a Amish grandmother facing a seven-year drought.
30. Calling 911 is not part of your home security plan.

Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor who lives in a small village in the Pacific Northwestern area of the United States. She is the author of The Pantry Primer: How to Build a One Year Food Supply in Three Months. On her website, The Organic Prepper, Daisy writes about healthy prepping, homesteading adventures, and the pursuit of liberty and food freedom. Daisy is a co-founder of the website Nutritional Anarchy, which focuses on resistance through food self-sufficiency. Daisy’s articles are widely republished throughout alternative media. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, and you can email her at


(The Organic Prepper encourages everyone to add to this list.)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The power of willpower

A few months ago I received an email from a woman named Laura who had a question, and we fell into an email conversation. She told me a bit about her and her husband's story. They were living near Philadelphia and longed to move to north Idaho and start a homestead. As we chatted, I found myself deeply impressed -- not only by their attitudes and hard work in starting a home business, but by Laura's impeccable English (she immigrated from Romania when she was 18). They were working hard toward their goals -- learning, saving money, paying off debt, living frugally... in short, doing everything right.

A couple days ago, Laura dropped me an update: she and her husband are now the proud owners of a piece of property in the area! As you can imagine, they're thrilled to make the move and get started turning their new place into a small farm.

Laura gave me permission to post the following. I think you'll agree that these folks are taking the right approach toward moving rural.

As she says in her email, their story should be encouraging for all those who want to make such a leap. I wish them every happiness in their new home!

This has been our dream for the past two years... in preparation for it we have learned to can and "garden" on our tiny balcony, started cooking everything from scratch and stopped eating out, we have gone out to yard sales every weekend for an entire summer in order to gather cheap tools and watched many eBay auctions to get what we needed to start our homestead at a price we could afford. We saved every extra penny we earned from our jobs and worked very hard to build our businesses so we could afford to work from home when we would start our homestead.

We are now at the point where we will be able to sustain ourselves between our businesses and our savings and are confident that we can make it work. It'll still be a stretch but we now have confidence in our ability to be frugal. It is incredible to see all of our hard work finally paying off. We are beyond excited to begin this new stage in our lives.

If you'd like to share these last paragraphs with your readers, you are more than welcome to. If you do, I hope this will act as an encouragement to anyone who has a big dream of homesteading or living differently from the mainstream. We have gotten plenty of strange looks when people hear of our dream but we pushed through no matter what and now we are so glad we did. There were moments when we weren't sure if we were ever going to make it happen but it was all worth it in the end.

Thank you, also, for your wonderful advice and for conversing with me over e-mail for so long. It helped us narrow down where we would like to rent, and it also convinced us of just how nice and friendly North Idahoans are. I am very excited to be meeting more people there and making new like-minded friends in the area.


Congratulations to Laura and her husband!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Inconvenient truths about TEOTWAWKI

I found this cheery list on Todd Savage's Strategic Relocation blog. If nothing else, it gives sobering food for thought. (I found #11 especially true... because at this point we're ALL armchair survivalists. #22 is also true -- trust me on this.)

Just to clarify, the list as well as the commentary that follows was reprinted from the blog post; it's not anything I wrote.


28 Inconvenient Truths About TEOTWAWKI

The end of the world as we know it may hold realities that are
very, very different from our expectations. Consider these points:

1. Not everyone will survive. Ouch.
2. For many, circumstances will trump preparedness.
3. Preparedness will cost money. There's no way around it.
4. If you talk about preparedness, you'll be ridiculed. If you
keep your mouth shut, you'll miss out on establishing a support
system that is 100% necessary to survival.
5. A rural retreat won't save you. The federal government has
you in their cross-hairs, as does the United Nations.
6. Stored food runs out, eventually.
7. Even the best prepared survivalist Navy Seal can be brought down
by an infected ingrown toenail.
8. You probably aren't tough enough for what's coming.
9. Gold and silver may be useless if a world currency is
established. Using them may even be criminalized.
10. In a time of plenty, it's impossible to imagine the reality
of true scarcity.
11. Survival is easy for armchair quarterbacks.
12. Most survivalists and preppers are overly optimistic when it
comes to how much food store, what scenarios to plan for, and their
ability to survive off the grid.
13. TEOTWAWKI will change the way you and your children and
grandchildren live. Forever.
14. The minute you bug out, your chances of reaching your retreat
destination are slim.
15. You're kidding yourself if you think your hidden caches
won't be found by others, eventually.
16. You won't know if you're ready for TEOTWAWKI until
you're in the middle of it.
17. Ultimately, a too-powerful government will be the biggest
threat to your survival.
18. Life will become cheap.
19. Free time will become a thing of the past.
20. There's nothing wrong with preparing for natural disasters,
but if you're not ready for a collapse of the American economy,
you're not ready.
21. Coming tough times will threaten even the best of marriages and
other close relationships.
22. Growing your own food is a bigger challenge than you ever
thought possible.
23. Depending on where you live and any drought conditions, a green
garden can be spotted from miles away, thus endangering your food
source and your family.
24. Dealing with human waste and trash will become your new
part-time job.
25. You'll discover exactly what you're capable of when your
family is threatened.
26. Formerly strong and capable people will escape their new reality
through booze, drugs, and/or suicide.
27. Protecting and nurturing close family ties will become one of
the most important things you can do.
28. Those who can accept and adapt will find survival easier than
those who hold on to the past or have unrealistic expectations of
the future.

None of these points are especially cheerful. In fact, they're
downright discouraging. However, the fact that you are preparing
for difficult times, as well as everyday emergencies, is very
Encouraging! You're aware of storm clouds on the horizon and
you know it will hit eventually.

Do something this week to become just a little better prepared!
(Relayed by Ryan L Olsen)

(reprinted with permission)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Book hangover

A friend sent this. It couldn't be more true!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Are we in for a hard winter?

Here in Idaho (as well as many other northern locations) they say we have three distinct seasons: Winter, After Winter, and Getting Ready for Winter. There's some truth to that.

Old-timey folks wisdom is full of predictors for the weather, usually interpreting signs in the natural world (both plant and animal) to dictate whether we'll have a hard winter or not.

Last winter most of the country was WHOMPED with one of the harshest cold seasons on record... yet north Idaho managed to escape the worst of it and we had just a regular winter. But we've had our share of nasty weather as well. A few years ago, we had two harsh winters in a row that illustrated with great clarity why a prepared lifestyle is a wise lifestyle.

So when I saw Granny Miller's blog post on a hornet nest winter forecast, it got me thinking about our winter preps. We have a lot we want to do before the snow flies, but here's what we've got done so far.

We have oil lamps primed and on standby, as well as a generous supply of kerosene.

We have about 40 gallons of stored water on hand (no photo, sorry).

We have lots of firewood.

We have our hay in.

The livestock have shelter from the barn awning.

The chicken coop is now insulated.

But there are a LOT of projects we want to accomplish before the snow flies. These include:

• We want to build feed boxes for the cattle under the awning. This will keep hay from being wasted as much, and will keep debris from building up as fast.

• We want to build an above-ground root cellar out of a pen in the barn. We anticipate a heavy crop of potatoes and don't really have an adequate way to store them. Our house doesn't have a basement and digging underground involves a lot more logistics than we're willing to put in at the moment, but retrofitting a pen with heavy insulation is more do-able.

• I want to do a lot more canning. A lot more.

• Don wants to drop several more dead trees and cut them up for firewood. Not only will this reduce the chances of losing other trees to insect damage, but it will provide additional firewood.

• We'll need to blow out and put away part of the drip irrigation system in the garden.

• We want to build an extension to the bull pen shed. Our current shed is kinda cozy (read: small) and having additional room will allow the animals to over-winter more comfortably.

• We want to install guttering on the barn awning. Currently water just dumps down the awning and creates horrifically muddy conditions. Guttering will funnel the water away and make the bull pen and feedlot much less sticky.

• We want to buy a ton of chicken feed. Yes, literally. We found a source of bulk feed where the feed comes in thousand-pound bags. The cost is half what we're currently paying for 50-lb bags, and it means we won't run out of chicken feed in the middle of a blizzard. However we'll have to build rodent-proof bin before we can buy the bulk feed.

• We'll make sure to have plenty of food on hand, both for us and for our pets. For example we always try to keep two bags of dog food ahead of what we're using, just in case.

• We'll top off our propane tanks.

As you can see, plenty to do before the snow flies! But since it's not yet September, we'll have about two full months (maybe more, if the weather cooperates) to get these tasks done. We'll prioritize as we go, and the least important (or the least do-able) will get put off until next year.

Yep, we're in the season of Getting Ready for Winter. We must be in north Idaho.

What are your winterizing plans?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bacon and Eggs blog

A reader just reported the sad news that Jodi ("SciFiChick") of the Bacon and Eggs blog passed away last Thursday of an apparent heart attack.

I never knew Jodi in person, but her gardening skills and ability in the domestic arts were staggering and an inspiration to many. Franboise Manor blog has a beautiful tribute to her, as does A Homestead Neophyte blog.

May you rest in peace, Jodi, and thank you for all the humor, wisdom, and know-how.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Vanilla fish and other culinary disasters

Last night at our neighborhood potluck, our neighbor served fish he had raised and harvested himself. It was tender and flaky and delicious. And it reminded me of a story...

Back when Don and I were newlyweds, I decided to try a new seafood recipe. I don’t recall where I found it or what it consisted of, but the idea was I was supposed to start with fillets of fish, dredge them with plain yogurt, coat them with crumbs of some sort (cracker crumbs? cornmeal? – I forget) and bake the fillets.

The recipe looked delicious and I was anxious to impress my new husband with my (cough) culinary skills. So I got to work.

The only problem was, we didn’t have any plain yogurt on hand. But I had VANILLA yogurt. It’s white too, right? Just like plain yogurt? So I diligently dredged the fish in the yogurt, coated the pieces with crumbs, and baked it.

It looked fabulous. If I recall, I even garnished the dish with lemon and paprika.

My dear husband, who has suffered through my gastronomic shortcomings for the past 24 years, gamely worked his way through three or four bites... but then he had to admit defeat. The fish was simply inedible. I had to face facts: vanilla yogurt and fish don't do well together.

On the down side, that cooking mishap gave me something of a phobia about my kitchen skills. Cooking has never been my strength to begin with. Oh sure, I can DO it... I just don’t ENJOY it. Such is life.

On the plus side, we’ve gotten more mileage out of that silly faux pas than we ever had if the recipe had turned out well. We have laughed, joked, teased, kidded, poked fun, and otherwise remembered that horrific meal with fondness (especially since I never attempted to re-try it with plain yogurt).

The subject of my kitchen deficiencies came up today, and it got me thinking... We've ALL had some sort of culinary calamity in the kitchen. What are yours? Let’s shed the shame and share the stories so we can ALL get a laugh.

Ready… set… GO.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

August chaos

This time of year, it should come as no surprise that the house is a mess. It's the busy season for our woodcraft business, and tidiness must go by the wayside as we labor to keep up with the workload.

Yesterday evening I looked around and realized the house was in the typical state of chaos, with multiple projects going on, that usually happens this time of year. To wit:

We glued bottoms on about 130 tankards.

I've been canning blueberries as they come ripe. Yesterday I canned six pints.

Pizza for dinner.

Glue pans, tin cans, tankards. Typical tableau.

Half-inch oak (for tankard bottoms), used duct tape (it holds the tankard bodies together until we glue), and boxes and buckets for transporting between the house and shop.

Messes everywhere, right?

I remember once, a long long time ago, I visited someone's beautiful house that was in immaculate condition. It was so beautiful it was almost like a museum. And I remember wondering -- didn't these people ever DO anything? Did they live in a house or a home?

A home full of projects -- woodcrafts, canning, dinner from scratch -- is a happy home, in my opinion. Yes, I managed to get the kitchen clean before bedtime, but at this time of year nothing stays tidy for long.

At least, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Beyond extreme

I've been following with great concern the historic drought in California. The situation has moved beyond extreme into the classification of "exceptional" drought. I lived in California for twenty years and Don's and my families are still there, as well as innumerable friends.

We had a successful garden this year, but it goes without saying most of it is due to the fact that our water is abundant. Clearly right now a garden is an impossibility for most people in the Golden State.

Not only is surface water drying up, but so are the aquifers, which are being pumped dry by farmers desperate to keep their crops alive.

It's bad enough for those with annual crops; but for those who raise walnuts or peaches or other tree crops, losing entire orchards (which take years to establish) must be heart-breaking.

Water issues were one of the reasons we decided to leave California back in 1993. By no means was it the deciding factor, but it certainly contributed. Somewhere in the back of our minds we knew that if we wanted a homestead, we needed to settle in a place where water was, if not abundant, at least not a crisis point more times than not.

But we left when we were young, childless, and not yet rooted. It was hard enough to leave our family and friends behind. It's harder for folks with children who are surrounded by loving extended families. For most people, there are also employment issues to consider as well.

Should a drought issue suddenly plague north Idaho, it would be a FAR more difficult decision for us to up and move, since we now have an established farm and roots in our community.

But California may face a more serious issue than whether or not to grow a garden. There's talk about relocating people as communities run out of water. What happens then? It's not like anyone could hope to sell their home to someone moving in, if people are being asked to leave. There is speculation that this drought could continue for years. It's truly a crisis.

I know many readers of this blog either farm on a small scale, or someday hope to farm on a small scale, so water availability is doubtless high in their minds. What can Californians do? For those actually living in California -- will you stay or are you thinking about leaving? What are your thoughts on the future of the Golden State?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Chuckle du jour

Reader Rob sent this, along with the caption, "I found my section at the bookstore!!"

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Beautiful words

Reader Jeff wrote a comment on the Garden Update post which was so poetic I didn't want it buried.

As easily as anyone I can see an outward sign of what most regard as wealth...big fancy houses, expensive exotic cars, first-class world travel... the list is endless...and feel a certain real attraction from time to time. But for sheer jealously, pure longing, a palpable, wistful desire, for me nothing can compete with the images of a bountiful garden.

Even knowing the unimaginable amount of hard work it represents, I am overcome with jealousy. Smiling, good-natured jealously, but all the same. I am currently not in a position, space-wise, climate-wise, time-wise, else-wise to even begin to address my shortcomings in this regard. Were I there, I'd give you a big hug, Don a solemn handshake, and without words, wander endlessly, in awe, around the tires, til someone came with a flashlight and fetched me out of the darkness.


Reminds me of the lovely poem by Dorothy Frances Gurney, the most famous verse of which is:

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,--
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hay question

A reader had a question on my post Bringing in the Hay regarding feeding cattle. I started to answer but my reply became so long I decided to make it a separate blog post.

Here is the reader's question:

We are fixing to get cattle for the first time and are debating on how best to feed them. I would like, in an ideal world, to 100% grass feed them, but having only a small pasture (1.5 acres) will make that difficult. Thankfully my parents have a small hay field so we are getting a good deal on hay, but my dad is insistent that we will have to feed grain, too.

How do you feed your cattle, particularly in winter?

My reply:

We feed exclusively 100% grass hay during all times of the year the animals can’t get enough to eat by grazing. Keep in mind if you only have a 1.5 acre pasture (and depending on how many animals you’re getting), it will get eaten down in a fairly short period of time (even during the lushest summer months) and you’ll have to supplement their feed with hay the rest of the year. I sympathize because when we lived in Oregon, our pasture was only about 2.5 acres, so we had to feed almost year-round.

Keep an eye on your pasturage. Some neglectful livestock owners have the extraordinary notion that just because their animals are in a field, they are getting enough to eat. But if the field is eaten down to bare dirt, the animals could be starving. Be vigilant and attentive to the needs of your animals. Besides the cruelty factor, hungry cows won’t give much milk.

For winter feeding (or for feeding when the pasture isn't providing enough food), a rough rule of thumb is about 3% of body weight per day in hay. For a thousand-pound cow, this translates to 30 lbs. of hay per day, usually split between two feedings. Some people free-feed, which is fine; but you’ll go through a lot more hay that way because they tend to lay down on it, and/or defecate/urinate on it.

“Hay” is a generic term referring to dried plant material, either grasses, legumes, or a combination. Depending on your climate, terrain, rainfall, and other factors, you may have to supplement year-round.

Not all hay is created equal. Alfalfa is a high-protein high-quality feed, but it’s also very expensive and a pure alfalfa diet may be too rich. Cheatgrass is a low-quality low-nutritional forage that, at least in our case, our cows loathe. In our area we also get a lot of St. John’s wort and yellow hawkweed, both of which are nasty and non-nutritious for cattle.

I don’t know what kind of grass is in your father’s hayfield, but you’ll need to be vigilant that it’s of decent quality, not garbage.

Grass hay such as a timothy/brome mix, or oat hay, are excellent general choices for livestock. These are usually among the more affordable feeds as well. Because these hays are less rich in protein, a small grain supplement won’t hurt your animals, but it’s not necessary either.

Grain is used to “finish” beef cattle (fatten them up before slaughter). It’s also used to supplement the feed of high-producing dairy cattle whose bodies must go into hyperdrive to supply milk under commercial dairy conditions. But for a small homestead, grain is not necessary except for the occasional “bribe” for training or cooperation (sort of like bribing your toddler with an M&M when they use the potty chair).

Grain is high-protein and cattle love it; but let’s face facts, it’s not what they were bred to eat. Kids love cookies, but they aren’t “bred” to live on cookies to the exclusion of healthier foods. Similarly, cows love grain but were bred to live on grass.

So reserve grain as a treat, a training aid, and perhaps as a nutritional boost for a lactating animal; but don’t get caught up in the notion that livestock MUST have grain. We’ve raised cows for years with nary a grain in sight.

Make sure your grain is INACCESSIBLE to your livestock at all times, except when you're feeding small amounts. We have some friends who tragically lost a beloved dairy animal because she broke into the grain storage and gorged. She had to be put down and it was sad loss to these folks.

Your livestock should also have access to minerals, either with a mineral block or with loose mineral salts.

And needless to say, water! Your animals must always have fresh water available.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Garden update

Now that the heat wave we've had for the last six weeks has broken, I can start catching up on weeding in the garden during the day instead of at 5:30 am. I'm estimating we have one more month (until about mid-September) before our growing season ends, so some of the plants are in a race for time.

The other day I was weeding the potatoes when it occurred to me I hadn't posted a garden update since early June. So without further ado, here's how things have developed this summer.

I usually do my weeding with the aid of a pokey-stick hand weeder thingy. Very useful device.

But I couldn't use it with the potatoes because every time I plunged it into the dirt to loosen a weed, I hit a potato. Well shucky-darn.

There are eight tires of potatoes: two red and six brown (Russet). Although many of the leaves are curled, the potatoes themselves seem to be developing very well.

The corn has been a fascinating experiment. I'm trying a new variety this year, called Yukon Chief sweet corn. It was developed at University of Alaska in 1958, and it only takes 55 days from germination to harvest. Despite being a dwarf variety, it's supposed to be a vigorous producer. We planted twenty tires.

It's an interesting variety. When it was still very young, all the corn stalks split themselves into three.

This corn is tough. During three violent thunderstorms, it's been flattened in one direction or another. And all three times it's sprung back upright (well, mostly). That it itself makes me admire it.

To my surprise, when the corn was no more than two feet high, it started tasseling. What the...? But despite the small stature, it's been vigorously producing ears of corn. They're not huge, but they're abundant.

Don picked an ear the other day. It still wasn't quite ripe but it was already sweet. If this variety lives up to its promise, we'll never grow anything else. The ears are small, yes; but if it can survive multiple flattenings through violent storms AND complete its lifespan and produce abundantly during our short growing season, this is the corn for us!! Unless something drastic changes, we plan to double the number of corn tires next year (to forty).

Here are our "viney" tires in which we planted watermelon, cantaloup, honeydew, and pumpkins. We were still working on the garden infrastructure until late in the planting season, so these all got planted later than we would have liked. Still, they seem to be producing reasonably well. (I consider anything that ripens before the first frost as a success.)




The pumpkins themselves are still pretty small, but they'll fatten up in the next month.

Carrots. I planted two tires, but planted them late. I think I'll get mature carrots before the first frost hits, but we'll see. I may just let these over-winter and save them for seed next year. I also plan to put in more beds of carrots next year -- they're easy to grow and can beautifully.

The round strawberry beds (we also have two rectangular raised beds). These, if you recall, produced overwhelming quantities of strawberries this year. Wonderful success!

Brussel's sprouts. These poor plants got severely battered by the thunderstorms, but they're still alive. However I haven't seen any sprouts on them yet. We'll see if they do anything by the end of the season.

Broccoli. I only have two tires of broccoli and wish I'd grown more.

The tomatoes have done awful. I have five tires' worth of tomato plants (both paste and eating tomatoes) and every one has tightly-curled leaves, lots of flowers, but barely any fruit. Does anyone know why tomato leaves curl like this? Could it be the heat was too intense? I'm disappointed because I was looking forward to canning a variety of tomato sauces this year.

Lettuce. It's grown splendidly -- far more than we can eat -- so I'll save a lot for seed. Lettuce is NOT something I'm emphasizing in the garden (despite the fact that we all enjoy salads) because it's a vegetable that cannot be preserved in any way whatever. Therefore we'll only grow a tire or two for fresh eating.

Spinach. Between the heat wave and my trip to Portland, the spinach went beyond the eating stage into the seed stage. That's fine, I'll save it for seed. I only have one tire's worth anyway. However I'll probably grow more next year because spinach cans well and makes an excellent addition to many dishes (such as lasagna).

The onions are doing very well, though I feel like I "cheated" with these because I started them from sets. I planted 200 onion seeds in early spring but they didn't survive. Starting onions from seeds is more challenging than I thought and will take some additional research and experimentation before I get it right. Meanwhile, I'm glad sets were available.

Red bell peppers, a favorite of Younger Daughter. I'm particularly proud of these because I started them from seed from a store-bought bell pepper, and they've all grown splendidly.

We have a lot of peppers which will flush red when they're ripe.

Hot peppers, possible the one single item in the garden that thrived during the heat wave.

We're growing several types: cayenne, cascabella, and habinero.

Horseradish. This is rescued from one of last year's weed-infested tires from an untarped part of the garden. I thought I'd killed the horseradish because we dumped the tire, rescued the roots, and then I put the roots aside and forgot about them in the sun for several days. Then (hoping to save some of the roots) I soaked them in a tub and -- you guessed it -- forgot about them for several days. At that point I figured the roots were too far gone to regrow, but I planted them anyway. Several grew -- yeah! -- so we'll divvy the roots up this fall and re-plant again.

The horseradish is attracting these tiny black beetles that have apparently been munching on the leaves.

But it's also attracting ladybugs, which at first I thought were munching on the beetles.

Or perhaps the ladybugs are just eating aphids. I think I see one in the upper left of this photo, in one of the leaf's white spots.

There were also a lot of wasps on the horseradish for some reason. Are they eating the beetles? I couldn't tell -- and didn't want to get too close to find out.

Of course the raspberries did well...

...and the blueberries are producing abundantly.

The herbs have flourished. Here's basil:





The peas have done poorly, so poorly that we didn't even bother putting in fencing for the vines to climb (because they didn't get big enough). The problem with the peas is simple: I planted them too late. Peas love cooler weather, and this summer's blasting heat wave did nothing to help them. I've had bumper crops of peas in the past, however, so I'll plant earlier next year (since now our infrastructure is now in place) with anticipation of more success.

The few pods I have, I'll save for seed.

Despite losing a lot of green pears in the last storm, the pear tree (our surviving remnant of the original 15 trees we planted years ago) is bearing well.

The beans are the biggest failure. I planted only two tires of beans (dried beans) because I've had spotty success with beans in the past. (Green beans grow well, but I didn't plant any this year - I ran out of tires.) But for some reason dry beans have problems here. Often the tender young leaves get eaten right after germination, making me wonder if robins or some other birds were nipping them off. So this year I netted the tires right after planting... and the beans still grew up stunted and undersized. Why? We don't have a slug or snail problem here, so I don't know why they won't grow. Are they being devoured by insects?

If there's one take-home lesson from this year's garden, it's the success of the drip irrigation system Don installed. Not only is it far more time- and water-efficient, but it insured the plants would receive water even during the hottest days of our heat spell when NONE of us wanted to go outside to water the garden by hand. (All we had to do was dash out, turn on the drip irrigation, and retreat back into the house.) The only thing not on the drip system are the strawberry tires, the carrot tires, and some of the herbs. I water these by hand and it only takes about 20 minutes a day.

We're also learning what grows reliably as a survival food (potatoes, corn) and what doesn't (beans). If the time comes when we're forced to live off the garden, this is important information to know.

We have lots more space in the garden and next year will install a lot more tires and irrigation. We also plan to fence off and plant an orchard, giving it one last chance.

But the success (and some failures) of this year's garden, as always, taught us a lot... and underscored the need for the learning curve to happen now, before it's a matter of life and death.

And of course, we can't forget those men and women whose tilling of the earth feeds us all, every day. A friend sent this.