When I saw The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times by Carol Deppe in the public library catalog I thought it would be a useful sort of book. The description led me to believe it would talk about how to garden with climate change in mind, how to garden in this still bad economy in order to save money at the grocery store, how to garden if you have an injury or disability, that sort of thing. But it turns out the book is less about gardening and more about survivalism and living off the grid when something bad happens. And within a page of this book, Deppe had me worried about something bad happening. She’s that paranoid. Not that something bad might not happen, I am not that naive. It is good to be prepared for natural disasters, but she goes beyond that to complete economic collapse and zombie apocalypse. Well, maybe not an apocalypse with zombies, but she plans on being able to survive when the world infrastructure collapses and she has nothing else to rely on but herself.
So she recommends growing what she considers to be staples in order to survive. These staples are potatoes, corn (not sweet corn but corn for flour and polenta), beans, squash and eggs. If you don’t have a yard at all or a yard big enough to produce enough of these things to live on, then you can just lease some farmland from a local farmer. Easy for Deppe to say. She lives in temperate Corvalis, Oregon, population 54,462. In Minnesota one of our major industries is agriculture. If I tried to lease an acre from a farmer close to the city s/he would laugh in my face since that land is already being farmed. Should I be able to convince the farmer to lease me the land, it would cost me a lot of money.
However, should I, by some miracle, be able to lease an acre of farmland at a low price and plant myself a field of potatoes, corn, beans and squash, and should the apocalypse arrive, how the heck will I be able to get to my field to harvest my food? There will be no cars. I can ride my bike 20 miles or so to get there but I am not sure how I will be able to haul home a 100 pounds of potatoes, a bushel or two of corn, a bushel or more of beans and 50 pounds of pumpkins in my bicycle basket through roving hordes of starving people. So for me, the message of this book is: you are screwed.
That said, I did learn a few little things about growing beans with corn and the spacing. I also learned the corn should be about four inches tall before I plant the runner beans that will be climbing up the corn stalks. I also thought that runner beans were like green beans, that you eat the pods, but you don’t. Apparently the pods don’t taste very good and you eat the beans after drying them. I learned that “cow peas,” which I have seen in seed catalogs, are also known as black-eyed peas. Black-eyed peas are yummy and now that I know they are the same thing as cow peas I will be ordering some next year.
And did you know you can dry summer squash and use it in winter in soups and stews? Deppe uses a drying frame outdoors for her obviously large survivalist harvesting. She must not have a squirrel problem. If I were to dry squash or any other food outdoors like that it’d be like a neon sign for the squirrels and birds saying “Free Food Here.” If I give squash drying a try, it will be indoors in my food dehydrator.
So if you have an acre or so of land and a survivalist mentality, you will find this book quite useful. If you are an urban dweller with a small community garden space or only a backyard to garden in, then don’t bother with this book unless you want to make yourself paranoid. We city folk would be better off stocking up on bottled water and canned goods and using the garden as a fresh food supplement when the apocalypse arrives. Then if we are not killed for our food by the unprepared, we will eventually be able to take over the yards of our neighbors and have enough acreage to grow food in.