Link: “Don’t Count on a Garden to Save Your Life”

I get regular e-mails from The Survival Mom. Learning to prep is a steep curve, and I have definitely not reached the pinnacle (and, after all, who has?). But I got this very relevant e-mail from her last week (copy-pasted below), and I think she is absolutely right.

The E-mail:

Hi there, ,

After being in the survival and prepping niche for more than 12 years, I’ve heard just about every survival strategy and tactic there is.

One of the most popular is this, “Learn how to grow your own food.”

And more recently, “Better get a garden started right now!”

That isn’t a bad idea, but for the vast majority of people — like 75% or more — it’s not only unrealistic but foolish to think you can grow enough food in a garden to sustain life. 

“How much did you say I have to grow???”

Just to maintain average health, the average adult needs anywhere from 1600 calories to 2000 or more per day. The most popular and easiest to grow vegetables, like tomatoes, zucchini, and cabbage, have around 20 calories per serving. Clearly, the typical vegetable garden is not going to save anyone’s life

Let’s take a look at potatoes. They’re a lot higher in calories (160 for a medium potato), very versatile, and they can store for long periods of time. To live on nothing but potatoes, you would need to grow around 6000 potatoes per person per year. This can be done, but you’ll need at least an acre of land, growing nothing but potatoes, not to mention optimal growing conditions, farming equipment, fairly high level skills, and knowledge.

You’ll get the calories you need from those potatoes, but is that any way to live? For a year?

Have you ever tried to farm even just one acre? I never have, but I imagine it takes more effort than a few Square Foot Gardening boxes!

Growing one or two other high-calorie crops will provide more variety, but you’ll also need more land. No one really wants to survive on just potatoes and maybe some corn or beans, so raising chickens, some rabbits, and maybe a few goats seems like the way to go — but have you ever done that before? And maintained a couple of acres of crops at the same time?

How will you preserve all the food you grow, and maintain healthy soil so it keeps producing? The depletion of nutrients from soil is a significant issue, so to keep your multi-acre garden producing enough food to keep from starving, you’ll need to factor in the right types and amounts of fertilizer.

There are hidden expenses in all these endeavors that you usually won’t learn about until they suddenly become urgent!

What a garden is good for

Depending on a garden for survival is unrealistic for nearly everyone. An old farmer once told me, “It takes about 10 years to get to know your land,” and even if all you’ve ever done is some container gardening, you’ve probably learned the truth in that statement!

A more realistic plan for integrating a garden with your prepping plans might include:

  • Use it primarily to grow herbs and seasonings. These can easily be dehydrated and would be one less thing to purchase and stock.
  • Use it to grow seasonal vegetables and extend your growing season with a greenhouse, the use of cold frames, and/or indoor garden with grow lights. Do what you can and enjoy the process.
  • Focus on the easiest and fastest-growing vegetables for your zone, grow as much as you can, and then preserve with canning, pickling, and/or dehydrating. These will add fiber and nutrients to your other stored food.
  • Learn how to grow anything that has the highest calories, and experiment with different crops until you find the one that is the best fit for your growing zone, the amount of land you have, and your specific growing conditions. This might take a while.
  • If you live in an area prone to drought, take this into consideration! There are some food crops that require less water and smart techniques for using the water you do have.
  • Use it to teach gardening and the love of nature to your kids and grandkids.

Personally, I use my garden as an excuse to get outside and into nature every single day, and for me, that’s reason enough to always have some type of garden. I just don’t have any expectations that it will someday save my life with its bounty, or lack of, depending on the year!

I’m not trying to discourage you or mock your plans for survival

The plans we make ahead of difficult times and worst-case scenarios need to be made with the least amount of emotion and the clearest view of reality.

I cannot stress that enough.

Gardening can be incredibly expensive, and in a time of inflation and unpredictable product shortages, this isn’t the time to pour money into something you hope will be life-sustaining only to find out how impractical and difficult it really is.

We’ve all heard stories about the $45 tomato — or maybe you’ve grown one of those yourself!

Calories count. Nutrients and micronutrients are vital, but if there’s anything susceptible to the whims of Mother Nature, it’s growing food.

So what is Plan B?

Keep working on your garden and improve your skills and knowledge each season and with each seed planted — if you’re enjoying the process and have the time, money, energy, and manpower to continue. Expand your garden. Try new crops, but also integrate some of these into your plans and routines:

  • Learn to forage in your area.
  • Continue building your food storage, “stack it high and deep.” The plain truth is that 10 cans of pinto beans will always be cheaper for the average person than trying to grow your own and a heck of a lot easier and faster.
  • Work towards a well-balanced food storage pantryMinimum goal: 90 days worth of food.
  • Learn gardening skills through your county’s Master Gardener program. If your county doesn’t have one, then find a county in a similar climate and growing zone, and see if you can take their course. Many courses are now online. Do a search for your county’s name + Master Gardener.
  • Might there be a community garden near you where you can rent a small piece of land to grow more food or volunteer in exchange for a share of the harvest?
  • Take a look at this list of places to find free or nearly free food. Focus on what you can later preserve by canning, pickling, or dehydrating.
  • Visit a farmer’s market and see what crops and varieties they’re selling for ideas about what grows best in your area.
  • Get family and close friends involved. The more you all learn and cooperate together, the better the chances are that you can grow much, much bigger amounts of food.

Survival is more than just “get a garden started”

I really do wish it were that easy! However, you’ve probably learned by now that “survival” is never a one-size-fits-all and there are always multiple layers for your plans and preps to be effective.

All the best,


How Does Your Garden Grow?

Really slow.

We had a cold, late Spring, and some things aren’t even up yet.

Meanwhile, I planted dill and yarrow seeds on the actual rows (both plants are supposed to repel pests and support the growth of other veggies), but with the strong winds we had around here, they apparently got carried into the furrows and that is where they are coming up.

I’m just a beginner.

More (Possible) Ancient Surgery

Photo by Renato Danyi on

Not for the squeamish.

Ancient surgical implant or modern-day fake? Peru skull leaves mystery.

Just a few (more) thoughts about ancient surgery.

I am fascinated, in theory, by what people are able to do with various kinds of technology. My upcoming book, The Great Snake, features a character who has spent the entire trilogy being called upon to do emergency surgeries on her extended family whenever something comes up. She has dealt with gouged eyes, lacerations, severe burns, miscarriages and C-sections, plus of course numerous births.

I can research and figure out what she would probably have had to do with the best of them.

In real life? Forget it.

A loved one recently had some emergency surgery without which she would probably have bled to death or worse. (Congratulations on your baby, Rachael!) Thank God we have medical professionals who know what they are doing. I would NOT know what to do in that situation. I wouldn’t know what to look for, or what I was looking at, and I would probably be petrified by the fact that someone’s life was in my hands and be totally unable to make any decisions. That’s if I didn’t faint. Again, thank God for cooler heads when we need them!

Tagging this “I’m a Luddite” … but am I really?

Amazon Unboxing

Yes, I know I am a bad girl for using Amazon.

I had … shall we say a number … of books I wanted to buy. I checked out prices on B&N. I would have been paying a lot more than on Amazon. Like, a lot more. And I’m Dutch-American and kind of cheap, what can I say?

The books are coming in several shipments. This is the first.

Live Not By Lies is one I’ve seen several people recommend. The books of Enoch keep showing up as primary sources in the reading I’ve been doing in secondary sources about giants and elohim and so forth, so I figured it might be just as well to own a copy.

Painting Inspired by Knitting

I’m in the process of knitting the scarf for a specific person. I picked the colors of the hand-dyed wool based on the intended beneficiary’s coloring, and the colors of the clothing they usually wear. Little did I know that when it knit up, it would portray a futuristic, sci-fi-book-cover type of scene.

Don’t see it? Look closer …

Now zoom out a little …

… and, all the way out …

There it is.

“Misty Mountains” Poncho

This was a complete coincidence.

We bought yarn in the colors the little girl liked. I had wanted to try a zigzag pattern on the next poncho I made. Turns out, when you do a modified zigzag using colors with an ombre-type fade, it looks like mountains receding into the distance! Who knew?

The picture above is one half of the poncho. I made the other half identical, sewed them together corner to corner, and added a brown tassel:

I like this mountain-y look so much, I am tempted to make one for myself some day. But that’s off in (you might say) the misty future, as I have a few other projects to get to plus a nerve injury in one arm to baby.

Knitted Baby Moccasins

I got this pattern from a book called Wee Garter Stitch. I found it in my then local library, and knew I would want to make this pattern again and again. With the way you can vary the color of the mocs and the kind of fabric you sew on the instep, it is just so versatile. The original pattern called for brown cotton yarn – which I use here – but it had the fringe being all one color. As you can see, in this iteration I decided to change it up.

First, you make the moccasin part. These are made by knitting a simple rectangle, adding a tongue, and sewing the whole thing together. They might be uncomfortable to walk on, but for a baby, they are basically just socks. The pattern suggests you sew the optional fabric onto the instep after the mocs are completed, but I have found that it’s easier to add the fabric before starting on the fringe.

Then, you pick up stitches around the open edge of the moc and start “making a loop” on every stitch every round or two. This pattern taught me the “make a loop” technique, which is pretty cool. It was at this point that I started switching out the colors, partly because I didn’t have enough yarn of just one color. I actually ran out of white cotton yard and had to sub in wool for the last few rounds on one moc.

You do that for a while, and, voila! it’s time to knit four rounds of rib and cast off. Then you cut the loops and even up the fringe.

I don’t actually know how easy or difficult these are to put on a baby, because I’ve never heard back from any of the moms I’ve given such mocs to. But I have a feeling that this time, I’m going to get lucky.

Here is another pair that I made with a different color scheme.

I stuff gift paper into them, to get them to hold their shape and stand up.