A Way to Counter Forces Beyond Our Control



This week, The New York Times ran a piece suggesting that tensions in Iran and Syria may soon bring us $5 a gallon gasoline.  Nothing any of us can do about that.  

Frankly, over the last four years since the start of the Great Recession, it's hard not to feel helplessly blown around by the economy. Today's question, whether a restructuring of Greek bonds will set off credit default swaps, one of the great magnifiers of the subprime mortgage meltdown, is barely comprehensible.  But if you paid attention in 2008, well, it's hard not to worry that there will be some shocks attached that may reach even to the level of American households.  And let's not even talk about the housing market

If you are 20 and jobless, you can join Occupy Wall Street and change the world.  If you are 40 or 50 with a mortgage and a bunch of kids, probably not.  

But it is possible to opt out of a volatile economy just a little bit.  Instead of buying all those $5 gallons of gasoline, you can plant a vegetable garden and conserve gasoline by skipping a few trips to the supermarket every month. You'll also be rejecting all of those petroleum-rich fruits and vegetables you'd otherwise be buying in the Price Chopper, depressing the demand for oil just the tiniest bit and possibly convincing Big Ag to rethink. You'll be paying $2 or $3 for a package of seeds and harvesting bushels of food in return.  At a minimum, your vegetable garden will make you feel more self-sufficient.

That is, until you are blown around by that other great force no ordinary person controls: the weather. 


  1. I’m so thankful I have a little vegetable garden and live in an agricultural community where farmer’s markets, roadside stands, and local egg and dairy farmers are plentiful. Now to learn to can and get disciplined enough to freeze the surplus to get through the winter.

  2. I have a shaded yard, with Black Walnut trees, so I haven’t even tried having a veggie garden at this house. At the last house I grew all our salad, peas, strawberries, raspberries, herbs, beans….I miss that. We live in a very agricultural area, however there are not the roadside stands here for some reason, we have the once a week farmers market in the summer, if I can get to it.

  3. I like the idea that gardening and growing your own food is an actionable, do it now way to make a difference in your life. Through the garden you can gain a new perspective that allows all that outside noise to be reduced, or eliminated.

  4. If you live where you can do so, biking gives one an incredible sense of self-sufficiency. We use our one car maybe twice a month.

  5. Even if (like me) you have much better luck with starts than seeds, 1.99 for nine lettuces ain’t bad. My vegetable gardening is limited compared to the rest of the gardening I do, but I usually manage to keep us in basic salad fixin’s for most of the spring, for about the cost of a single bag of pre-made salad mix.

  6. Right now the weather is in as volatile a mood as world financial markets. One day it says, go ahead, plant the greens and peas and potatoes. The next day your back to a crash in the late 20’s.

  7. I have found that a side benefit from growing some of your own food is that the produce tastes so wonderful (and obviously in season) that it makes our family commitment to eat seasonally and locally less difficult. It is much easier to pass up the strawberries in the market in February when you know what awaits you in your own garden in four months.

  8. Gardening is always a pleasure, just being out in the fresh air can change your feelings for the better, and of course you’ll love picking your own tomatoes.
    We are still eating sauce we made in September…a miracle of sorts.
    Great post.

  9. I’m looking forward to $5 gas. I’ve already got a garden in the backyard and take the bus to work every day. The writing was on the wall four years ago when gas was at $4 a gallon, and some of us read it. This is something that has been coming for a long time, and we have all had time to prepare.

    I’ve been blogging about the trials and errors of living a lower-impact life in a (smallish, midwestern) city for about a year now at http://eighthacrefarm.blogspot.com I share what I learn, no advertising accepted.

  10. In addition to vegetables, don’t forget about replacing the standard suburban landscape with low maintenance perennials, grasses, shrubs, vines, and small trees with high wildlife value. This can reduce energy consumption, overuse of fertilizers, eliminate pesticides, and strengthen biodiversity.

  11. You have just hit the nail on the head! As a small (construction industry based) business dependant family; I’ve gone from a plant ecology student to a self sufficient, gardening, canning, freezing, dehydrating conesouire. I cut our grocery bill in half every summer and drive less than I have in my entire life. Although money is rediculously tight, we will never starve.

  12. I’m starting my first veggie bed ever this spring, and scare crapless. Ornamentals are easy, but veg–so many things can happen to ruin them all for the season. It’s more like having kids, and less like babysitting for an afternoon.

  13. I couldn’t agree more. We have lost our roots, to get out into our own gardens, grow and nurture our own foods and to be close to nature…there is nothing in this world like it. With gas and fuels going up, this is a small step to take, but on a personal level so much more fulfilling. And there is nothing like picking a home-grown vegetable or fruit and eating it or cooking it seconds later. It tastes so much better knowing you have grown it.

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