"Live like you are going to die tomorrow, but farm like you will live forever!"

My Growing Experience


Certified organic vegetable gardenMy vegetable plot a few years ago

This is part of a larger (three-acre) garden that I ran for a few years. During that time I took it through the organic certification process. The land remains certified. It's now being used as a community garden.

I presently manage the web site Cyber-Help for Organic Farmers - filled with useful information, including Who Owns What?, a chart showing corporate ownership of organic companies.

Today in Canada all our food, be it organic or conventionally grown, travels an average of 2500 km to reach our plates. – Proximity and Petroleum by Derek Masselink.

Finding Water in the Desert

"Finding Water in the Desert" is a short clip Frank and I shot while en route in Nevada, USA. It is set amidst a flat salt pan with a mighty Erg. An Erg is a wind blown mountain of sand that resembles a sand dune. See how I explain how to find water in the natural spring line that sits down hill from the Erg. See more movies like this at

Posted by Geoff Lawton on Thursday, 27 November 2014

Lessons from the Soil

It's hard to learn much or do much about sustainability without getting your hands dirty.

True, global problems of resource depletion and climate change entail some high-level thinking. We need to understand some important numbers - 350 parts per million of CO2 (the target necessary to avert catastrophic climate change), 5% production decline rate in existing oilfields (what must be overcome each year to forestall the inevitable peak of global oil output). We need skills in analysis and persuasion. Inevitably, all of this requires much time spent in front of computer screens.

However, while we attend to these technologies and abstractions, we are much more likely to succeed in our ultimate goal of building sustainable culture if we are also grounded in the most basic of activities - obtaining food directly from the Earth.

Reading has taught me a lot. Gardening has taught me as much or more. Often, these lessons tend to be ones that sound trite when put in words: stay humble; don't demand too much too fast; notice the interconnections; go slow, but always pay attention and be prepared for rapid-onset opportunities and problems. However, when you garden, you don't just learn these lessons verbally and mentally. You learn them with your whole body.

Leaving food production entirely to others is the essence of full-time division of labor, the origin and vulnerable taproot of civilization. Only in agricultural civilizations has a rigid class system arisen in which the most important decisions are made by people who don't need to spend any of their time directly contemplating our human dependence on nature. Instead, the managers, accountants, soldiers, and religious functionaries of state societies tend to enclose themselves ever more completely in the language-based solipsistic social matrix that is the source of their power. They pay ever more attention to words, money, and technology; ever less to weather, birds, and insects. And this, ultimately, is why civilizations collapse: the people in charge simply don't notice that the ecological basis of their society is being undermined.

Sound familiar?

There are lots of good reasons to garden these days - given that food prices are soaring and the nutritional quality of supermarket food diminishes by the year. Those of us who are working on sustainability issues have even more reasons to plant and hoe. We must teach our neighbors the survival skills they will need as fossil fuels dribble away; we must set an example, and help create the gardening networks that will provide food for our communities during the hard times ahead.

But perhaps the best of all reasons to garden is simply our need to stay sane. I mean this in two ways. Yes, the garden is a refuge from a world that often seems to be flying apart. Turn off the television and pick up a trowel: you'll feel better. But more importantly, if we garden we are more likely to be psychologically balanced people capable of making sane choices. And the world needs people like that at the moment.

-   From MuseLetter 198, October 2008 by Richard Heinberg


"There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe if full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given him. " – Ralph Waldo Emerson


When we moved in, our house had no vegetable garden (in fact, no garden at all). The South Cariboo has virtually no loamy top-soil, so I got on the phone and soon a truck arrived and left twelve yards of dark, rich-looking soil. I've turned this into a vegetable garden, using available rocks to border the beds. It's worked quite well, taking advantage of the southern exposure of the front of the house.

Beware of revolutionaries who do not garden. - Bill Mollison

Rock raised bed garden

Heart-leaved Arnica
Heart-leaved Arnica

I've been getting to know the wild plants growing on our lot. Here's a beginning list:

Annual Hawksbeard, Early Violet, Flixweed (mustard), Foxtail Barley, Heart-leaved Arnica, Kinnikinnick, False Solomon's Seal, wild onion, Meadow Buttercup, Northern Geranium, Nuttal's Alkali Grass, Pearly Everlasting, Pineapple Weed, Red Clover, Salsify, Saskatoonberry, Showy Aster, Showy Daisy, Blue Clematis, Timothy, Wild Raspberry, Wild Rose, Yarrow, Douglas Fir, Quivering Aspen, Wild Strawberry, Dandelion, Bull Thistle, Plantain, Shepherd's Purse, Wild Blue Flax, Wild Mustard, Strawberry Blite and many more . . .

growing things

With a little watering and weeding, my small patch of wildcrafted strawberries keeps producing a larger crop.

Wild strawberries      Wild strawberries

Why apply chemicals to remove your weeds, when you can harvest them to eat? We wander through a backyard to assemble a salad with a plant expert.

Robert Hart was among the first to create a food forest garden. This video is a rare interview with Robert Hart, who passed away in 2000.

growing things


Excerpts from Whole Earth, Spring 1999.
A BASIC SOIL QUIZ (Peter Warshall, Editor):
  1. What names do you give the soils you live on? What texture and colors do they have?
  2. What soils grow your food and fiber? Which soils filtered and purified the water you drink?
  3. Do any virgin soils remain in your bioregion? Who - if anyone - cares about protecting them?
  4. What makes your soil landscape particular?
  5. Do special layers of soils nurture singular flowers or grasses?
  6. Do you need phosphates to grow your garden?
  7. What's your soil's history? How have humans changed your watershed's soils?
  8. What soils cause problems to your community? foundations? Silt? Quicksand?
  9. Are the soils healthy? Do you know of leakage from old industries or landfills?
  10. Could parts of parking lots be unearthed to make room for trees between the car slots? [and better drainage too. Ed.]

SOIL POINTS - from Evan Eisenberg:

worms and earth Darwin's last book was not on natural selection, but on worms and earth.
rye plant The root system of a single four month old rye plant was found to have a surface area of 639 square meters - 130 times the surface area of the above-ground plant.

. . . and a soil thought from Jack Handey:
Somebody told me how frightening it was how much topsoil we are losing each year, but I told that story around the campfire and nobody got scared.

recommended books

Food not LawnsRELEVANT/RECOMMENDED BOOKS - Reviews and order information:

Home-Scale Permaculture Toby Hemenway: Gaia's Garden, A Guide To Home-Scale PermacultureGaia's Garden - A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture
How to Get Your Lawn and Garden Off Drugs Carole Rubin: How to Get Your Lawn and Garden Off DrugsHow to Get Your Lawn and Garden Off Drugs
Ecology Evan Eisenberg: The Ecology of Eden: An Inquiry into the Dream of Paradise and a New Vision of Our Role in Nature
earthworms Amy Stewart: The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms
permaculture Bill Mollison: Permaculture: A Designer's Manual.
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution Paul Hawken, Hunter Lovins, Amory B. Lovins: Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution.
Books on botany Books on botany

Recommended web sites for growing things

Screenshot: Wild backyard Cariboo plants NOTEWORTHY WEB SITES

Cariboo Backyard Plants Preserving the wild Wild Cariboo Backyard Plants Preserving the wild
Permaculture Principles Permaculture Principlest transition to a sustainable future
Enriching your life with forest gardening Gardening Like a Forest Enriching your life with forest gardening [AUDIO]
Environmental and health benefits of meat-free meals Eating for a Healthy Planet Environmental and health benefits of meat-free meals
South Cariboo Produce - Local food directory South Cariboo Produce Local food directory
Plant Hardiness Zones in Canada Plant Hardiness Zones in Canada
Willie Smits restores a rainforest Willie Smits restores a rainforest Inspirational restoration of land.
City Farmer News City Farmer News New Stories from Urban Agriculture Notes
The Garden Safari The Garden Safari Abundance of life in a Dutch garden.
CEEDS Community and Organic Farms CEEDS Community and Organic Farms Experience life on an organic farm in Canada
Cyber-Help for Organic Farmers Cyber-Help for Organic Farmers Excellent range of material, resources and links
Secwepemc (Shuswap) Ethnobotanical Gardens Secwepemc Ethnobotanical Gardens Secwepemc (Shuswap) use of native plants.
Database of Foods, Drugs, Dyes and Fibers of Native American Peoples, Derived from Plants Native American Ethnobotany. Database of foods, drugs, dyes and fibres.
Plant Hardiness Zones in Canada Plant Hardiness Zones in Canada.
E-Flora BC: Database Search Page E-Flora BC Database Search Page
Plants for a Future Plants for a Future An excellent database and general resource.
Organic Seed Sources in Canada Organic Seed Sources in Canada For farmers and home gardens
Wild Flowers of British Columbia Wild Flowers of British Columbia A rich variety, including orchids
Food not Lawns Food not Lawns Activist community gardening
Organic Lawn Care Organic Lawn Care For the Cheap and Lazy Detailed advice

Grey squirrel
Canadian Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat Program
  • About our birds
  • Some British Columbia insects
  • A nod to the little wild mammals and reptiles that live on or visit this ¾ acre. The ones we know about are: squirrel, chipmunk, field mouse, toad, marmot, black bear, snowshoe hare, mule deer, salamander and garter snake.

    Garter snake

    Salsify and western swallowtail

    Global Plant Search


    Wild Blue Clematis blossom
    Wild Blue Clematis

    Recommended web sites for growing things

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