Caleb Warnock “must be on food stamps”

After getting many requests from across the nation, in Nov. 2013 I released a video tour of my geothermal greenhouse, which is heated by the earth all winter without artificial heat or electricity.
But when you give something to the world on the internet, the trolls are waiting.
“It is 36 degrees right now and it is snowing and it has been snowing since last night,” I say to the camera as I begin the tour. “And now we are inside the greenhouse, where it is 52 degrees.” And then I show the world my beets, onions, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, peas, and more.
I filmed this tour because the year before, I released of video tour of my backyard winter garden to YouTube, which has now been viewed 8,000 times, and people have been asking me for more videos -- especially for a glimpse of my greenhouse, which I wrote about in my latest book.
My greenhouse is small by careful design -- just 9 feet by 12 feet, for a total of 108 square feet. The design is groundbreaking, meant for 365-day a year growing without what technical people call “inputs.” To my knowledge, it was the first greenhouse in the nation of its kind (it has been copied since my Backyard Winter Gardening book came out).
It must -- and does -- withstand sub-zero freezes in winter and 140 degree heat in summer. To work, it must do just one thing -- remain unfrozen, even on the most bitter night of the year. Because if it freezes, even once, all is lost. On winter nights, every square inch of air space inside the greenhouse has only the geothermal properties of the earth to keep from freezing.
This is why my greenhouse is small -- so that it works.
Imagine my chagrin when some anonymous person on the internet, going by the pseudonym “Gig Bite,” posted this comment on my greenhouse tour video: “Caleb: You must have a small family or be on food stamps due to the size and yield of this crop. I sure hope you get more in harvest than the amount I see.”
Gig got it wrong.
We have a large family. And we are not, have not, and will never be on food stamps. Because we know how to be self-sufficient.
We are probably one of the few families the U.S. who can claim to be nearly self-sufficient. A lot of people talk about it. Not many people practice it.
But Gig’s incredulity is warranted, only because of his or her inexperience. Gig can’t understand what s/he was never taught. As a society, we’ve pretty much abandoned self-sufficiency. We rely on corporations to grow our food, produce our seeds, and make sure the grocery store is stocked. We drink more soda than water, and eat more brand-names than vegetables. We are awash in fake calories.
Our house is different, by choice.
For example, today, I picked beet greens, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage, and other winter veggies to use for making stir-fry over homemade noodles, a winter favorite. All those vegetables I picked are cut-and-come again. With the right varieties, you can cut them at ground level, and they grow right back, immediately, over and over again -- as long as they don’t freeze. Our greenhouse is planted thickly, harvested sometimes daily, and produces bountifully.
And Gig is right. Alone, it is not enough. The pumpkins, onions, apples, and winter squash are in the garage. There is at least four times as much food in the backyard garden under cold frames and cloches. The eggs are in the coop, the stevia, medicinal herbs, and culinary herbs are in the cupboard. The beef from our pasture (we live on 1.5 acres) is in the freezer with the tomato sauce. There are peaches and grape juice in the cellar. It takes all of this to feed a family through winter. Because I am a “retired” cow-milker, the only thing we buy regularly is dairy -- milk, cheese, kefir, yogurt, cottage cheese.
We are not on food stamps. As I have said in hundreds of speeches, I’ll wager we eat better, spend less on food, and have less debt than anyone else in our state. I hope “Gig” never needs me. But if he or she ever does, our family hopes to make ourselves useful by showing people the way it was always done until we abandoned the methods and knowledge of our forerunners.

Caleb Warnock is the bestselling author of “Backyard Winter Gardening”, “The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast”, “Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers”, “More Forgotten Skills”, and “Trouble’s on the Menu: A Tippy Canoe Romp”. He sells the rarest seeds in the world (never hybrid, never GMO) at You can join his email list here. You can see a video tour of his winter garden at or a tour of his winter greenhouse at



  1. I am currently building a small greenhouse for exactly this reason. My research has led me to understand that smaller is the way to go. I live in the same area as you, and I believe there are so many who do try to be self-sufficient by whatever means they can, and kudos to each and every soul who tries. Every little bit counts!

  2. Got both your garden books and started with winter gardening last year with some success. I would like to build a thermal green house this year and would like to know where Caleb got the none hazardous chemicals treated lumber from. Thanks for your help.