Planting your own insurance

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day 19 - Bring It On

It’s raining outside right now. Not a squall, just a steady shower, but it’s enough to have me on edge. Not more than a week ago is was in the 70’s outside. The sun was beating down on my salad garden and I was planting peas along side the newly installed garden fence. I was sweating, birds were flying about and the chickens were fluffing and rolling around in the dirt, shaking off any mites from their feathers in the process.

But last night… life changed here on the Central Coast…clouds rolled in with a vengeance and the temperature dropped into the 40’s. Winter here can be fickle when it comes to weather, and like all the other silly cool weather planters; I was outside in the blustery evening wind, covering up my tender seedlings with plastic greenhouses and straw.

Some gardeners may have been doing nothing, having already given up on our bi-polar weather, but not me. This wasn’t my garden anymore, to squander and neglect. My daughter had given up a whole day of her teenage life to help me install the fence and plant these greens and I had spent hours more planting the other bed myself. I wasn’t going to lose 128-feet of food over one bad night. So I made little greenhouses out of scrap PVC pipe, wood and plastic, and held down the newspaper mulch with straw, went inside feeling cold and tired, but optimistically compassionate. I’m still surprised at how much emotion dirt and plants can bring up in you. Like a bucket dipped into a stream, it brings up whatever’s just below the surface.

This morning, the plants were fine. My mulch and greenhouse insurance policy seems to have worked. When I checked on the garden at 7 AM, the straw and plastic was covered in a fine layer of ice crystals, but the leaves below seemed content. I felt proud. It’s nice to watch the land take care of you while you take care of it.

So… speaking of insurance policies…

I am comforted, even if it’s just a little bit, by my garden, my flock of birds, my hutch of rabbits and pen of sheep. Knowing that there is a source of protein and vegetables on the other side of the yard brings me a little more solace. Come summer, the price of a pound of tomatoes might shoot up to another ridiculous amount. I can’t imagine what any organic vegetable will cost by then, but they’ll easily trump their chemical laden cousins. Right now the prices for gas and grain, and the world’s shortages in food are all I hear about on the radio (if not that, than the war) While we couldn’t survive off our little homestead for a very long time, we can supplement our diet and most of our meals this summer, with fresh local food grown less than 100-feet from our back door. And yeah, it’s a hell of a lot of work, but we’ll also be saving a lot of money. The seeds for the broccoli I put in the ground last November cost 2.79 a package. A head of organic broccoli is 2.69 a pound in my local store. Growing my own heads costs me a few cents each, plus I can keep planting more as long as the recipes hold out.

It’s not just eggs and the garden and the barn that give me comfort. It’s the skills I’ve picked up along the way. When berries flood the farmers market I can make a years supply of jam and pie filling in one afternoon for a few dollars in supplies and some mason jars. My stock of flour and yeast keeps us in all the home baked bread we can eat. A bountiful tomato crop will give us all the pasta sauce we need for the winter. If we’re lucky, this coming fall we’ll have hand-raised turkeys adorning our Thanksgiving table and homemade sausage for biscuits and gravy.

Being able to produce, preserve and create some of our own food feels kinda good when the average tank of gas is pushing towards $5.00 a gallon. We’re not there yet, but just you wait. When your next loaf of bread costs ten bucks you’ll feel it there and at the pump. If there was ever a time to start learning to garden, to cook from scratch and preserve, if only for the saved cash, now is that time!

I don’t want to be an alarmist, nor do I think mankind is at the edge of extinction. I do think; strongly believe that most people would be better off, happier even, if they spent more time digging in the dirt and less time dwelling on the news. It’s hard to feel helpless with the world’s situation when you’re chomping on a salad grown just feet from your kitchen.

So, here’s my advice folks! Turn off the tube. Throw on your mud boots. Grab a shovel and some packets of seeds. And get your hands in the dirt!

To get started on your own insurance policy or to just wet your appetite check out the links below for our favorite seeds catalogs. But remember, no matter what you put in your garden, try to plant seeds that can be saved for future use.

Cook’s Garden –
Seeds of Change –
Seed Savers Exchange (heirloom verities)
Park Seed –
Tomatomania – (heirloom seedlings)
Territorial Seed Company –
Stark Brothers (trees and berry’s) –
Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds –
R.H. Shumway’s –
Peaceful Valley –

Creative Commons License photo credit: ctkmcmillan

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