Green Thumb University

By Major Van Harl USAF Ret

Survival Gardens
Green Thumb University

Wisconsin –-(  Both of my parents started their lives living on farms.

My father’s family lived in northeast Missouri and struggled in the mid-1930s to even put food on the table.

My paternal grandfather moved the family to Iowa after their crops failed two years in a row. Missouri suffered right along with Oklahoma during the “dust-bowl” days of the 1930s.

Of course, the depression was also going on and nobody had any money. My mother’s family lived in Iowa and they had a little more rain in those days so growing food was somewhat easier but life was a continuing struggle for her family.

You had to grow your own food to survive if you wanted to eat regularly.

My mother was one of nine children so they had to grow lots of food to be able to feed a family of eleven. Usually, it was more than eleven because there was always some extended family member who lived in my grandparent’s home. The Colonel’s (also known as my wife) grandmother told us she had to can, an average of six jars of garden produced fruits and vegetables every day during the growing season in order to have enough food for the coming winter.

My mother did not have electricity until after WW II so there was no refrigeration on their farm. They would use the same canning process to preserve meat. My mother calls it cold-packing. Prior to 2000 when I believed that Y2K was coming and going to destroy the earth as we knew it at the time ( I was wrong) my mother and I canned cases of jars of beef and chicken.

My parents have always had a garden for as long as I can remember. Even when we lived in Scotland my dad tried to have a small garden in a cold, rainy climate that was better suited to grow roses than eatable plants. My father is in his 80s now and gave up his garden this year. He offered to give me his monster Troy Bilt rototiller. In exchange for the tiller, I had to till his garden area for the last time and seed it with grass.

By 1944, during WWII over 40% of the food eaten at the American dinner table was produced in family “Victory” gardens. Unlike most of the world, there was no real food shortage in the US during WWII, because of these gardens.

I believe hard times are coming and I believe in my lifetime I am going to have to grow my own food in order to feed my family. The problem is I know nothing about gardening. I tried to plant a few seeds this year and was a total failure. In order to keep us from starving the Colonel is going back to school. She has enrolled in the Master Gardener Program offered by the Wisconsin University Extension program. She will attend a three-hour class every week, all this fall to learn how to grow things the correct way. Correct meaning we can eat them.

I joke with her that she is attending Green Thumb University. She has been excited about this for months. This is a good thing that will keep us from starving if sadly, I am correct about our future. I have to build her a raised garden bed by spring so she can plant our first year’s worth of crops. My daughter gave me a new pressure cooker for Christmas last year and I am prepared to get back into canning.

The problem with gardening is you need seeds and the seed industry has a stranglehold on what you can buy. Sure you can buy all the seeds you want at the hardware store but most of them are hybrid. That means you cannot harvest the seeds out of this year’s crop and use them next year. Look into heritage or heirloom seeds. They will produce the fruits & vegetables that will provide not only the needed food but seeds for the following year. Just in case there are no store-bought seeds to be found.

In times of crisis, the two things of true value are food and firearms. You cannot grow a handgun in your garden but you can feed your family from it. If you produce enough food you could trade it for a firearm or the all-important ammunition. Acquire and securely store your seeds.

Learn how to garden–it could save your life. In the meantime enjoy your fresh homegrown food.

Major Van Harl USAF Ret
[email protected]

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.

Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret. , is a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. Now retired, these days he enjoys camping, traveling, volunteering with the Girl Scouts and writing. [email protected]

Major Van Harl USAF Ret Winter 2014

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Christopher Hill

Colonel. Wife. Good one…