Archive for the ‘crisis garden’ Tag

Gardening Tips for Fresh Salad Veggies

 

During the winter, I like to tap into my stores of canned and pickled vegetables from my garden. However come spring, there is nothing I enjoy more than harvesting fresh vegetables to make a big, garden fresh salad. (Yes, real men do eat salads.) If you are a salad lover, too, here are some tips for your garden.

Plant greens in April- April is a great time to plant salad green such as lettuces, spinach, kale, and even broccoli. These plants all do well with warm days and cool nights.

Space out your sowings- Lettuce and other salad greens grow very quickly. So you can continuously sow lettuce seeds throughout the spring to have a fresh supply for several weeks. Try planting lettuce seeds every three weeks or so throughout the spring. Take a break during the hot summer months, then continue planting lettuce seeds again in the late summer.

Plant fast-growing radishes- Radishes are excellent for those who are looking for a bit of (practically) instant gratification. They go from seed to harvest quite quickly, and are great for a variety of applications, (as you may remember from my radish blog from last year). Green onions are another fast growing salad crop.

Plant a variety of greens- Don’t stop at predictable Bibb lettuce and Iceberg lettuce. Try something a little different, such as my favorite Red Salad Bowl lettuce. The leaves are large and crisp, and a pretty deep scarlet bronze color. Don’t forget about the super nutrient powerhouse spinach, too. A great variety here is Giant Nobel spinach, which is a very reliable producer of large, smooth leaves.

Remember to water- When you plant greens, make sure to keep their soil moist so that they do not develop a bitter flavor. All leafy greens crave water– but don’t give them so much that the soil becomes swampy.

Harvest strategically- When you harvest lettuce and spinach leaves, cut the leaves off about 2-3 inches from the base of the plant. This way, the plant will produce new leaves, and you can get several harvests from the same plant.

Harvest in the morning- Lettuce and other leafy greens are sturdy and crisp first thing in the morning. If you harvest in the evening, after an entire day of stress, the leaves are more likely to be wilted and tired.

Thin your seedlings- Once you have planted your lettuce seeds, the lettuce plants may come up crowded together. In this case, it is best to pull out some of these seedlings. This is a process referred to as “thinning,” and it will help to insure that your remaining plants have enough room to grow. Once your seedlings have sprouted, thin them to be about 2 inches apart. The good news is that you can eat the baby greens from the seedlings that you have to pull.

Check for snails at night- Slugs and snails may try to eat your salad greens. Your best defense in an organic garden is to check your garden at night, and simply pull snails and slugs off with a gloved hand.

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Easy Herbs to Grow Indoors

One of the gardening questions that I am asked most frequently is, “what can I plant if I don’t have a yard?” Sometimes when I answer, I get a little bit of a skeptical look, because most people know that my wife and I maintain a full one-acre crisis garden. But I haven’t always been so fortunate as to have this land to grow on. I have experimented with growing indoors and on found plots of land and I can tell you honestly, it is possible and not terribly difficult.

If you have only a rooftop to work with, you can create an urban crisis garden. If you are limited to a small porch, balcony, or patio, you’ll find that many vegetables, including tomatoes and lettuces, grow really well in pots. If you truly have no outdoor space, and your garden is confined to a few small pots on a windowsill in your home, then herbs are an excellent option for you.

You may think of herbs as just a seasoning for your food, but they are so much more than this. Fresh herbs are an excellent source of antioxidants. Common fresh herbs such as sage, oregano, peppermint, and thyme are all chock full of healthy antioxidants. Plus, herbs have incredibly powerful medicinal properties. In fact, the herbs that are included in the Survival Herb Bank have the ability to treat a huge range of illnesses and ailments with no harmful side effects.

Herbs are awesome for a great number of reasons. So if you want to try growing them indoors, here are a few easy types to try:

  1. Spearmint and Peppermint- Mint grows so well and is so hardy that it is almost like a weed. One of the things that I like a lot about mint is that it is good even for people who do not like to cook. You can just throw some fresh leaves into a pitcher of iced tea. Mint is great at calming an upset stomach and is delicious and refreshing in every application.
  2. Chives- Chives are one of the very easiest things that you can grow indoors. They don’t even require much sunlight. To stimulate new growth, all you need to do is cut off about 1/3 of their tops. Their slight peppery, oniony flavor is a great healthy seasoning.
  3. Parsley- Parsley doesn’t require much sunlight either, and is great for both cooking and medicine. If you have a large bunch of parsley, try using it in pesto instead of basil. My dog Hatchet loves parsley, too. You can give parsley to dogs to help calm an upset stomach or freshen their breath.
  4. Rosemary- Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs because of its wonderful piney fragrance. It is so good baked into bread or corn muffins. Plus, it has amazing medicinal properties and can be used for indigestion, and to treat poor circulation and muscle pain.When growing rosemary indoors, leave the soil on the dry side and make sure not to over water it.
  5. Oregano- Oregano is such a classic herb. I associate it with Italian food and therefore automatically find it comforting. Oregano is also powerfully healthy for you. Wild oregano oil is just as effective at treating bronchitis as conventional antibiotics- without the side effects. If you grow it indoors, make sure to put it in a sunny spot because it requires about 6 hours of sunlight per day.
  6. Thyme- Thyme is another herb that requires a good deal of sunlight. Try to give it about 6-8 hours of sun if you grow it indoors. A nice thing about thyme is that there are many different nice varieties from which to choose, such as lemon thyme and golden thyme.
  7. Basil- Basil, like thyme, comes in many different wonderful varieties. Some are more sweet, while others are more spicy. Basil is one of my favorite herbs to use in cooking, but it is also great raw- you can toss the fresh leaves right into a salad. If you grow basil indoors in the winter, be patient. It grows slowly.

ZPrepared.com- Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse

I recently came upon this website while reading up in my favorite survivalist blogs. ZPrepared, it’s called. And according to the website,

Zprepared is a group of like-minded individuals who feel that it’s hard enough to survive the endless hordes of the walking dead, so people should have the option to do so with the coolest gear available. We find all kinds of gear that will not only help you survive, but to survive in style. Make the zombie apocalypse more comfortable and stylish…ZPrepared.

So I got a kick out of browsing through a variety of their different products. I must say, some of them are quite clever. Like this bacon in a can, which has is already fully cooked, required no preparation, and has a 10 year shelf life. Then there’s the Mayday Emergency Food Ration, which is a small bar of food that contains a total of 3,600 calories. That could sustain you for several days, and could fit right in your pocket.

Then, as I was browsing, low and behold, what did I find there listed right between Zombie caution signs and a Zombie-proof bunker that is for sale in the UK? None other than the reliable Survival Seed Bank. On the site, Hudson Steele writes,

If you’re anything like us, you’re preparing for the long haul. That means a fortified shelter, lots of supplies, and a plan to sustain yourself once the dust settles a little. When your food stores run out you’re going to need a way to sustain yourself, and other survivors you’ve collected along the way. When the going gets tough, the though get GROWING. Most people don’t realize that the Produce you buy in the grocery store are of a Hybrid variety, meaning you can’t just plant the seeds from a Golden Delicious and expect to grow an apple tree. We recommend having your own supply of self germinating, survival ready seeds to grow your own crops. The Survival Seed Bank fits the bill perfectly. This kit comes with all the basics for starting your own renewable food source. It features 22 varieties of Open Pollinated “Super Seeds” that yield a full acre of nutrient-dense food crop. They’re individually vacuum packed for maximum shelf life; up to 20 years at 70 degrees, and up to 100 years when frozen so they’ll be ready to plant when you are. The kit also includes a nifty bottle of “Nitro Seed Starter Solution” to help jump-start your crop and a handy manual for rookies. All you need to supply is the land, water, ample light, and the manpower to make it happen. While the rest of the world is scrounging for leftover cans of baked beans, you’ll be feasting on fresh healthy veggies grown with your own hands.

Hudson, I really don’t think I could have put it any better myself. Regardless of whether you think an impending Zombie attack is fact or fiction, doesn’t this product description hit home?

Look at all the good, fine folks in Japan now, for example. Grocery store shelves are, for the most part, empty. There is scarcely any gas available, so it is not reasonable to expect food to be transported to stores in the near future. More than 160,000 people have been evacuated from a 12-mile zone in an attempt to avoid the fallout from an impending nuclear disaster. Really, the situation there is heartbreaking. Because how many of these people do you think abandoned their homes with a supply of survival food in tow? How many of these families could turn to the harvest of their crisis gardens when the earthquake struck, and they faced rolling blackouts and empty grocery store shelves? Probably not many.

The message here is clear. If it’s not Zombies, it will be an earthquake. Or a tsunami. Or a tornado. Or a flood. We must all be prepared for these occurrences, which can happen at any time. It is spring now, and the ideal time to plant. So go get busy in your crisis garden.

Planning for the Spring Planting Season, Part 5: Conducting a Soil Test

 

Not all soil is the same. Some soil is mostly made up of clay, while some may be mostly sand. Plenty of people who are reading this blog right now are looking for gardening tips because their soil is very rocky. Or others may have chalky or silty soil. Depending on where you live, what you are used to as “dirt” can vary greatly from what someone else may have to work with.

When preparing to plant a garden, one of the most important things you can do is get acquainted with your soil. Healthy soil is what I consider to be the #1 most important factor in whether you will have a successful garden. It is the lifeline for all of your plants. Any time that you wish to feed your plants, what you really need to do is feed your soil.

So to get to know your soil, you’ll want to conduct two basic tests:

 (1) Test #1- The Squeeze Test

The squeeze test is the easiest way to test the texture of your soil. This is essential because in order for plants to thrive, you must insure that your soil has the right texture to enable water, oxygen, and nutrients to flow through it.

Go out into your yard/gardening space and pick up a handful of your dirt. Now give it a gentle squeeze. If the soil clumps together in your hand, then falls apart when you poke it, this is ideal. This means that you have loamy soil, which is ideal. Loamy soil retains moisture but also drains well. If the handful of dirt doesn’t hold together at all, this means it is sandy. Sand drains well but doesn’t really hold in nutrients. If it holds together and does not fall apart when you poke it, this means your soil is mostly clay. Clay is typically rich in nutrients, but does not drain well.

Now if you have sandy soil, it cannot be transformed into loamy soil. This is to say that the actual particles of sand cannot be turned into something else. However, you can add to your soil to change its overall texture. This way, you can add other particles around the sand particles in order to allow the soil to overall hold in nutrients.

To amend sandy soil, your goal is to add in organic matter. This will help the sandy soil to drain more slowly, and to hold on to nutrients in order for your plants to be able to use them. Amend sandy soil with organic matter such as cow manure, worm casings, shredded bark, peat moss, compost, or a combination of any of these things.

To amend clay soil, use the same method of adding organic matter. This will help to break up the compacted particles of the clay, and therefore allow water to drain through it, and oxygen to flow in it. Aim for a ratio of 50% dirt to 50% organic matter.

With both clay and sand, make sure to till your garden area before adding the organic matter. “Tilling” means that you will be loosening the soil at a depth of about 12 inches. You can use a shovel, spading fork, or hoe for this task. Mix in the organic matter well, rather than just laying it on top. (Laying something on top is referred to as “mulching” rather than “amending.”)

 (2) Test #2- The Soil Ph Test

All soil, regardless of its texture, has an acidity level. This can be measured by testing the Ph level of your soil. Ph is tested on a scale of zero to fourteen. Zero is the most acidic, whereas fourteen is the most alkaline, and seven is considered to be neutral. Most plants grow best in soil with a fairly neutral Ph that is between six and seven. If plants need a slightly more acidic or alkaline soil, the seed packet will specify this. For example, some root vegetables grow well in soil with a Ph of about 5.5. Plants that like “very acidic” soil thrive in soil at a Ph level of 5.0, whereas plants that like “very alkaline” soil do well in soil at about 8.0. So really, you don’t want your soil to be further on the scale than this in either direction.

To test the Ph level of your soil, I would recommend purchasing an at-home test kit at your local gardening store. These typically do not cost any more than $6. If you do not wish to conduct your own test, you can contact your local cooperative extension, as many will offer soil tests for free. Home tests are quite accurate as long as you follow instructions closely.

When attempting to change the Ph level of your soil, it is very important to first recognize that there is no immediate solution. You may need to use a combination of amendments, or apply several treatments over time. There is no quick fix or instant cure. It is best to start amending a whole growing season before you intend to plant.

With that being said…

*If you have acidic soil– add amendments to raise the Ph level, such as ground limestone or wood ashes. Avoid “quick limestone” as this tends to burn out your  plants.

*If you have alkaline soil– add amendments to lower the Ph level, such as pine needles, shredded leaves, sawdust, sulfur or peat moss. These will all add acid to your soil.

Compost has the amazing ability to bring either type of soil to a more neutral level. So as a general rule, it is always wise to be continuously adding compost to your soil.

Planning for the Spring Planting Season, Part 4: Seed Starting Tips

I just love the month of March. Daylight savings is coming up and the days are getting longer, the frigid weather is beginning to melt away, and the trees are starting to bud. March is also the official start to the spring planting season in many hardiness zones, including here in zone 7b. There are many types of fruits, vegetables and flowers that can be direct sown in March. My favorites are listed here in my blog from last year, What Can I Plant In March?

For seeds that are not quite ready to go in the ground yet, or ones that do not have a lot of success when they are sown directly in your garden, March is a good time to start your seeds. The term “seed starting” refers to the process of  planting your seeds indoors, in a safe and temperature controlled environment. Then, once the seeds have sprouted into seedlings, they can be transplanted outside into your garden. There are several good reasons to start your seeds indoors, including:

  • Seed starting gives you a head start. You can plant seeds inside while the ground outdoors is still hard, and while there is still the danger of seedling-killing frost in your area.
  • Vegetables that like cooler temperatures, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, and head lettuce will grow better when started indoors. This is because they can go from transplant to harvest before the hottest days of the summer set in.
  • If you buy seedlings from a garden store, it is much, much more expensive than growing your own seedlings then transplanting them. Plus, when you buy seedlings, you are limited to the mainstream varieties that are available. When you start your own seeds, you can use any seeds you want.

Now depending on where you live, you may be able to start your seeds right away, or you may have a little ways to go. The best way to tell when you are ready to start your seeds is to count backwards from when you typically receive your last frost.

  • Eggplants and peppers- Start your seeds 7 weeks before your last frost date. Transplant the seedlings outdoors 2 weeks after you receive your last frost.
  • Tomatoes- Start tomato seeds 6-8 weeks before your last frost date. Tomato seedlings can be planted outdoors as soon as your last chance of frost has passed.
  • Squash, cucumbers, melons, and pumpkins- All of these plants generally like heat. You can start your seeds indoors 3 weeks before the last frost date. Wait 2 weeks until after the last chance of frost has passed to transplant your seedlings outdoors.
  • Corn- Start corn seeds 5 weeks before your last frost date. Transplant the seedlings as soon as the last chance of frost has passed.
  • Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage- These are cool season vegetables, so they can actually go in the ground up to  a month before the last chance of frost has passed. These cool season veggies can be started indoors 5-7 weeks before you want to transplant them. Then the seedlings can be transplanted in your garden 4-6 weeks before the last frost.

For more tips on how to start your seeds, please visit my articles:

Tips for Starting Your Garden With Seeds

Tips for Growing Heirloom Tomatoes From Seeds

Planning for the Spring Planting Season, Part 3: Installing a Rain Barrel

 

We all know that April showers bring May flowers. And if you have a rain barrel, you can stretch those beneficial showers even further. A rain barrel is a device that collects and stores rain water, therefore allowing you to recycle it in a variety of ways. It is an efficient device that is earth-friendly and easy to maintain. If your city has any type of water restrictions, then a rain barrel is a must for you in order to be able to water your plants. It is also a great way to know that, should you be without running water, you will have a stored supply available to you. Just one single rain barrel can store up to 80 gallons of rain water. I probably would not recommend drinking water from a rain barrel yourself. But collected rain water is perfectly sufficient drinking water for your survival garden.

You can purchase a rain barrel at pretty much any major lawn and gardening store for less than $100. Or, if you are a big do-it-yourselfer, you can even make one yourself. If you are particular about its appearance, then don’t worry. You’ll find that there are several different designs, including ones that are designed to match your decor, such as those that mimic the look of ceramic or terra cotta.

Rain Barrel Tip #1: If you have gutters, your rain barrel should be placed underneath a downspout on your house. If you do not have gutters, you can place the barrel under a spot on your roof where water flows off. Either way, this is the most logical place for your barrel to collect water.

Rain Barrel Tip #2: If your ground is not even, try placing the rain barrel on some cinder blocks, patio stones, or gravel. If it is possible, try to prop your rain barrel up so that it sits about 1-2 feet off of the ground. Cinder blocks are an easy solution for this, or some people build a wooden frame. This will make it easier for you to empty water from the barrel once it is full. (You should not expect to be able to lift 500 pounds of water, you’ll need to rely on a spigot.) Having the barrel propped up also means that you can rely on gravity to feed the water to the spigot, and into hoses.

Rain Barrel Tip #3: Once your rain barrel is in place, all that is left for you to do is cut your downspout, and/or the top of your barrel to insure that water flows into it. If your rain barrel has a solid lid, you will need to cut a hole for the downspout using a jigsaw. If your rain barrel does not have any lid at all, it is wise to cover it with a piece of screen in order to prevent leaves, debris, and animals from getting into your barrel. Try to fashion your rain barrel so that there is only one specific opening where the clean water will flow in.

Rain Barrel Tip #4: You also have the option of installing more than one rain barrel, and installing overflow tubes so that if one rain barrel overflows, the water will flow into another barrel.

Rain Barrel Tip #5: A rain barrel is really not something that can be used year round. You should not leave water in your barrel over winter to freeze. If you live in a region where you are still experiencing very cold weather, wait until the risk of a hard freeze passes in order to install your barrel. Once the start of spring hits your region, it’s rain barrel time.

For some great how-to tips, check out these resources:

Making and Installing Your Rain Barrel- Do It Yourself. com

Rain Barrel Basics- YouTube Video

How to Set Up A Rain Barrel- Cool People Care

Installing a Rain Barrel- Joel the Urban Gardener

Planning for the Spring Planting Season, Part 2: Taking Seed Inventory

I derive a great satisfaction from saving my own seeds from my garden every year. Perhaps it is because some giant monopolizing seeds companies (ahem, Monsanto) will have us believe that we shouldn’t be doing it. Or perhaps it is because it symbolizes just how self-renewing and self-sustaining gardens really are. But either way, saving seeds is a simple task from which I receive great pleasure. So if you’re reading this blog, hopefully that means you’re a seed saver, too. With spring on the way, it’s time to start taking inventory of your saved seeds. It is wise to not let your seeds get too old, and to track just how long you’ve been storing them.

Each time I save seeds from an item from my garden, I dry them out completely, place them in paper envelopes, then file them inside a plastic file box or glass jar. (For full details, you can read my tips on saving seeds here.) This storage system helps to keep the seeds from being exposed to extreme heat or cold and moisture, which is very important.

Now you’ll notice that in the above article, I recommended planting seeds within a year. This is the best case scenario- to plant seeds the year after you save them. But of course this is not always possible. So if this is the case, it is very important to rotate your seeds storage. As with any survival food that you store, you should be rotating the oldest seeds forward and using them first. The newest seeds should be rotated to the back of your storage.

Not all seeds have the same shelf life, so you can actually safely and effectively save some seeds longer than others:

  1. Short Lived– Short lived seeds are ones for which the one-year rule applies. I generally do not recommend keeping corn, leek, onion, parsnip, or spinach seeds for longer than one year. Try to plant your seeds the next planting season after you save them. These items all are a high priority in my garden- I’ll pull these seeds out of storage first.
  2. Medium-Lived- These include beans, carrot, celery, chard, eggplant, parsley, peas, pumpkin, and squash. Medium-lived seeds should be planted within 2 to 3 seasons. So if you have pea seeds from last season that you don’t intend to plant this year, that’s okay. You can rotate them to the back and plan to keep them for another year or two.
  3. Long-Lived- Here’s some good news- lots of seeds that you can easily store are long-lived seeds. These include include beets, all brassicas (such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, collards, and kohlrabi), chicory, endive, escarole, radicchio, cucumber, kale, lettuce, melons, mustard, peppers, radish, rutabaga, sunflower, tomato, and turnip. Whew! So for long-lived seeds, you should rotate your oldest ones to the front. If you have cucumber seeds that are 5 years old, you can still plant them this year. And the newest ones can go to the back. You can store long-lived seeds for 5-6 years.

Planning for the Spring Planting Season, Part 1: Crop Rotation

It’s February already, and that means spring planting season is just around the corner. I know it may not feel like it just yet, but Punxutawnie Phil did see his shadow last Wednesday, so that means warmer temps are on the way. It is time to get ready for seed starting and planting season. This is a great time of year to allow yourself to be bitten by the planning and organizing bug.

Now while it’s still too early to start tilling and amending my soil, it’s not too early to create my 2011 garden map. I’m sure you’ve probably heard the term “crop rotation” before, but did you know that it applies to gardens on a small scale, not just been large crop fields? Crop rotation is important, even to small garden plots, because it is one of the best ways to thwart pest and disease problems, as well as prevent soil erosion and allow your soil to remain healthy. For example, tomatoes are heavy eaters. So if you plant them in the exact same spot for a few years in a row, you are likely to deplete your soil of the nutrients that the tomatoes need. However, if you plant peas the year after you have planted tomatoes, the peas will help to return nitrogen to your soil, therefore helping to keep your soil and your garden healthy. Isn’t it cool that plants have the ability to balance themselves out like that?

My goal in creating my garden map for 2011 is to insure that I am not placing members of the same vegetable family is the same place as I put them last year. The nine vegetable families are:

  1. Nightshades- Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes.
  2. Legumes- Peas and beans.
  3. Squashes and Melons- Summer and winter squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, and melons.
  4. Brassicas and Salad Greens- Greens, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
  5. Sunflower Family- Sunflowers, Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), lettuce, and endive.
  6. Carrot Family- Carrots, parsley, parsnips, and celery.
  7. Goosefoot Family- Beets, swiss chard, and spinach.
  8. Grass Family- Corn.
  9. Onion Family- Onions, garlic, leeks, and scallions.

Now, a good goal to set for your spring garden map is to plan not to plant members of the same family where they were planted last year. For example, don’t plant beets in the same place where you planted spinach last year, because these are members of the same family. So, in essence, you are rotating not just a single crop, but a whole crop family. If you planted beans in one spot last year, plant corn there this year. Members of the grass family need good fertile soil, so they will grow well in a place where legumes were planted the previous year. Members of the sunflower family are light feeders, so they will grow well in a spot where heavy feeders such as brassicas grew the year before.

Are you starting to get the big picture? Crop rotation does take some attentiveness and planning. But it is very well worth it. It not only helps you maintain the health of your soil, but also helps to insure that your spring and summer vegetable garden will have the largest output possible.  Plus, come spring, having a garden map will make planting that much simpler for you. Planning in the winter makes for ease of planting in the spring.

Other important things to take into consideration when mapping your spring garden are:

  • Taller plants should not block sunlight from reaching shorter plants.
  • Some veggies and fruits grow really well together. Check out this information from Seeds Of Change on Companion Planting for more details.
  • Will your garden be exposed to harsh elements, such as wind? How will you protect it? How about protecting it from critters?
  • If you are expanding your garden this year, will it still be within reach of your irrigation system?
  • How much space do you need between your plants? If you have a 3″ by 3″ plot for carrots, for example, how many carrots can plant in this space? It is important not to crowd your seedlings. And with climbing plants, make sure to leave enough space to stake them.

Okay, now I am sure I have given you plenty of food for thought. Time to get back to the ol’ drawing board!

What Would You Do Without Medicine?

 

There are lots of preppers out there who have done an excellent job of accumulating an appropriate and adequate survival food and goods supply. They have saved heirloom seeds, they have stored dry goods properly, they have accumulated basic supplies like a water filter, shovels, plastic bags, and wire. But here is a life necessity that is easy to forget about, or overlook: medicine.

If T.S.H.T.F, what will you and your family do about medicine? Because the truth is, even if you have a supply of medicine saved, those items do expire.  In a crisis, you will absolutely not be able to count on conventional drugs, such as those used for diabetes, chronic pain, asthma, and hypertension, to be available. Now consider this- it’s not just prescription drugs, but over the counter things that you rely on, like Tylenol, aspirin, Tums, Pepto Bismol, and DayQuil. What will you do when these things are not available?

I realize that it is more than likely that you, along with every person in your family, take at least one prescription or over the counter drug every day. If you and your family are totally drug- free, then that is wonderful. Wonderful and unusual, with pharmaceuticals being the largest and most profitable industry in the world.

Of course you know what I am going to say, but I would like to strongly encourage you to start looking into alternatives to your perceptions now, while you still can. Homeopathy is a very real and reliable practice, as is herbology. I feel very strongly that everything that has been invented by major drug companies, Mother Nature came up with first. The Earth can supply us with everything we need to cure our ailments. Well, except perhaps for birth control pills. You should probably look into an alternate form of prophylactic if you wish to remain sexually active. (Again, a lot of people don’t think about this, but it is really important!)

A good starting point for learning how to grow, create, and use your own medicines is with the Survival Herb Bank. As I’ve written in the past, the Survival Herb Bank contains heirloom seeds for several powerful medicinal herbs. One that I use very frequently is catnip. People are always surprised by the great number of uses there are for this herb. Additional heirloom herb seeds within the Survival Herb Bank include:

  • Arnica
  • Black cohosh
  • Boneset
  • Calendula
  • Red Pepper
  • Chamomile
  • Chicory Root
  • Comfrey
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Evening Primrose
  • Fennel
  • Feverfew
  • Hyssop
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Balm
  • Marshmallow Root
  • Rosemary
  • Valerian
  • Yarrow

 Two other medicinal plants I have nurtured in my Survival Herb Garden, which my kids used to call the medicine garden, are aloe vera and ginger root. With these 21 plants, I am confident that I have all of my families’ medicinal needs covered. Plus, these plants are notoriously easy to grow. In fact, some of them, like the lavender, you actually need to keep a good eye on, lest it grow out of control.

These plants can be used to treat everything from arthritis, to bacterial infections, to diarrhea, to depression. Like I said, the only prescription drug I can think of that these plants cannot replace is birth control.

If you have not already planted a medicinal garden in your yard, plan to do it this spring. The plants are easy to care for, grow, dry, and use. And you will be able to completely break yourself from dependency on pharmaceutical companies, which is a great feeling. Not to mention an essential safeguard for the future.

Would Your Children Survive a Crisis?

As a parent myself, I know that this is something that none of us like to think about. But the sad truth is that when a crisis occurs, it is really the children who suffer the most.

What got me really thinking about this was when I was watching the news this week, and saw reports on the 1-year anniversary of the disastrous earthquake in Haiti. Rubble still stands in great piles. Thousands of people are still living in tent cities. President Bill Clinton was quoted as saying that a great amount of progress has been made there. But to the naked eye, everything remains completely in ruins. One woman who was interviewed tearfully stated that she has literally nothing. Anything that she has, she said, is something that was begged for, or that she was given by friends.

All of these images are painful and disturbing. But of course the most painful images are those of the children. Many children have no choice but to fend for themselves, as they or orphaned, or their parents are too weak and sick to care for them. The same thing happened in Argentina recently after their economic collapse- children literally wandered the streets scrounging for food and digging through garbage to simply survive. We also saw the same image after the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Really, these natural disasters can happen anywhere at any time.

With the reality of economic and weather-related disasters all around us, we should ask ourselves, have we equipped our children to survive these crises? If we were injured or incapacitated, could our kids fend for themselves? If they were on their own, would they know what to do? This is an essential part of survival. Our kids must be taught self-sufficiency, they must not rely on us entirely for survival.

A good starting point for teaching your children survival skills is to remember to make it fun for them, not scary. Try making it game-like. Tell them that you are going to take them camping and teach them how to build a fire, not that they need to learn to survive in the wilderness. Invite a neighbor or relative along so that your children can build trust with another adult. Definitely don’t tell your kids that they may be orphans one day and they need to learn how to survive by themselves. There is no need to frighten your kids like this.

Another great beginning point for teaching your children survival skills is to practice gender neutrality. Do not teach your daughter skills that you think a girl should know, and your son skills you think a boy should know. Teach them both equally with no regard to gender. There are plenty of people out their who think that only women know how to sew and only men can handle a pocket knife. But these are skills that both boys and girls should learn and be comfortable with. All kids should learn basic gardening, hunting, and safety skills (staying away from downed power lines, stop-drop-and-roll, etc).

As you garden in your survival garden, pull your kids away from their video games and get them out in the garden with you. You may think they will not be interested, but I’ll bet you that they will be. Gardens are full of all sorts of creepy, crawly, smelly, dirty, and cool things. Teach children the names of fruits and vegetables, and what nutrients they have that are good for us. Also make sure to teach children what plants they should not eat- those that may be poisonous or harmful. My kids were always fascinated with my herb garden- they knew it as the “medicine garden” because it contained everything I needed to cure their tummy aches, bumps, and bruises. From a very early age, my children knew that they could rely on the earth and its fruits to care for them. This is an important lesson.

Again, I know it is not pleasant to think about your kids needing to survive on their own. But with the real possibility that in a crisis you may not be able to care for them, teaching your children to be self sufficient is a truly valuable lesson.