Backyard Discretion: A Primer

Below is a guest post from my writer friend Maleah Warner which I wanted to share here because I loved it. I also wanted to share it here because someone recently told me they won't share my blogposts because I occasionally talk about religion on my blog, not just self-reliance. That comment made me want to share more things about religion, not less. If you don't see God in the backyard, what's the point of trying for a backyard renaissance? So without further ado, here is a beautiful and smart contribution to our renaissance from Maleah:

Lately, I've been thinking about praying for discretion.

I already pray for Wisdom.

I've done this for years, because although I can be slow to figure some things out, it didn't take me too long to realize that I am pretty stupid on my own.

I also pray for Faith and for Charity. By myself, I'm not so good at either one of those. So I'm a bit hesitant to add more to the already lengthy list of attributes I need to develop, but this prayer thing really works. 

You can pray for anything. I pray to find the video camera memory card because I need to record the 5th grade play in one hour. I pray to be a better visiting teacher. When I'm not in the mood to pray, I pray, "Please help me to  want to pray."

Let's face it, the monotony of life gets heavy and sometimes I want to throw in the whole load of towels.

Most days I just pray, "Please help me want to do the laundry."

And it works, it really does.

For example, several years ago I decided that I took life way too seriously and that I needed to develop a sense of humor, so I started praying for  humor. Then (like most things) I forgot about it, until a year or so later I came across a page in my journal where I had written: Things to pray for: *Humor

And I realized that I am funnier that I used to be. I promise. I am.

So about this discretion thing…

In a church lesson about honesty, a lady asked, "If my friend asks me if her hair looks bad, and it does, do I tell her the truth?"

Another lady said, you can be honest and discrete. You can use good judgment in your honesty."

So I got to thinking about Discretion and all its synonyms: Care, Consideration, Deliberateness, Diplomacy, Foresight, Good Sense, Good Judgment, Gumption, Maturity, Presence of Mind, Prudence, Thoughtfulness, Tact, and Wisdom.  

If one word can include all that, then I think there is room on my prayer list for one more word.

You can read more from Maleah at

Philos 41

“[I was left with] a riddle I haven’t solved, of how we judge those who have hurt us when they have shown no remorse or even understanding.” – A Thousand Acres, by Jane Smiley

In 1987, just after starting high school, I was riding in a truck with my father on our family farm. I did not know the next ten minutes would change the course of my life.

Days before, my father had suggested I join the high school debate club. I had never heard of a debate club. My father struggled to even explain, but made it clear this was one of my spiritual gifts. It was a short, powerful conversation. Yet, at school, I learned there was no debate club. Deflated, I reported this to my father. His answer:

“Then start one.”

I had little faith in this answer. Yet, with my father’s encouragement, I did it. Over the next four years, I went on to become a three-time state champion, with a wheelbarrow of awards. I spent hundreds of hours studying philosophy, rhetoric, intellectual approaches, and the complexities of discerning and explaining truth. We were thrown difficult questions, and worthy opponents. It was a crucible that molded me.  

Today, I am a writer, teacher, journalist, and owner of solely because my father taught me that I had the ability to think, and the freedom to build something from nothing.

It has been the most monumental gift. It cannot be overstated.

Today is my 41st birthday. A day for thinking about how to create a better me. So I face Jane Smiley’s riddle, how to “judge those who have hurt us when they have shown no remorse or even understanding.”

I want to be present yet kind, safe yet full of truth. But there is a gap -- as I judge those who have hurt me, what about the judgement of those whom I have hurt?

Change is the only coin you can spend in the next life. Hurt is catalyst for change. In my life, meaningful change often begins in no other way. Without the hurt, who would I be?

I am guided by Maya Angelou: “I am totally present. And sometimes to be there is to be difficult – not just to be there to submit. At some point to be there is to say ‘No, not me. Include me out. I’m totally here. Not. No.”

And this warning from 2 Nephi 7:11: “Behold all ye that kindle fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks, walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks which ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand—ye shall lie down in sorrow.”

Between those quotes is where I live. I struggle to discern how to judge, how to honor, how to show gratitude -- and how to be safe. Perhaps only people who have been grievously hurt, and hurt again, can understand how hard it is to pick up and walk forward, knowing you can never feel safe.

I have also hurt people, I have also made people feel unsafe. I need forgiveness, and distance. Does gratitude count when it is shown from a safe distance? Does forgiveness? Does keeping your distance mean you are cradling the hurt?

In this new year, I want to be the person who faces the hard questions. The person who can say both “include me out” and “thank you.” The person who is grateful for the crucible, and safe.

Storing seeds in case of Zompocalypse

Over Christmas, my seed company,, offered a spectacular deal to email newsletter subscribers of $140-worth of seeds for $39. Some of those who purchased this seed bundle wanted them not for gardening, but for what I like to call the zombie apocalypse -- a hedge in case the day comes where growing your own food is a necessity, not a hobby.

Naturally, I got some email and Facebook questions about how to best store seeds if you don’t plan to let your seeds see the dirt any time soon. Here is what you need to know:

1. Buy true seed, not hybrid seed. Hybrid seeds make up the vast majority of seeds available today. Hybrids are not natural, and are self-suiciding by design. Hybrids were invented to force people to pay for seed year after year, instead of growing their own seeds, as families had done for thousands of years. In event of Zompocalypse, you will need true seed, not hybrids.

2. Hybrids are often hidden. If you go to your local hardware store or most online seed companies, some hybrids are marked, some are revealed by special codes (such as F1) but most are not marked at all. The whole reason I started was to provide a place where people could get true seed, guaranteed. We never sell hybrids, and we never sell genetically modified seeds (no GMO!)

3. Parsnip and onion seeds don’t store at all. These two vegetables in particular have a very short seed life of basically a single year. So don’t bother to store these seeds.

4. Never store seeds in a can. Long-term exposure to oxygen corrodes seeds and slowly destroys them. Seeds stored in cans will be exposed to oxygen -- even if they have been packed in carbon dioxide gas, which some have. Those cans corrode and even a tiny leak can let in air.

5. For long-term storage, freezing is your best bet. Triple seal your seeds in freezer-grade plastic or foil bags, removing as much air as possible. To remove air, use the Archimedes Principle, or a vacuum sealer. The Archimedes Principle is simple -- put the seeds in a bag, and then lower the bag into water, almost to the top of the bag. The water will push out the air, and you seal the zip. Be careful not to get any water in the bag. Make sure your bags are triple sealed -- a bag inside a second bag, inside a third bag, with the air removed from each bag.

6. Fluctuating temperature is a seed’s worst enemy. If you plan to use your seed within three years, you should not freeze them. Instead, put them in a dark, dry, relatively cool drawer in your home and leave them alone. If you don’t plan to use them within three years, store them in the freezer. But if you take seeds out of the freezer, it is best to leave them out. Repeated temperature changes will damage seed quickly.

7. I strongly recommend that you store ten times more seed than you think you will need to feed your family for two years. There are few if any families in the U.S. which have more experience in year-round self-sufficient gardening than our family, so I can tell you from experience, it will take more seed than you think to feed yourself in an emergency. Especially if you are not an experienced gardener.

8. Finally, I suggest you consider ignoring all the advice I have given you. Instead of storing seeds, grow them. Choose open-pollinated (true seeds) also called heirloom seeds, and grow them. For health reasons, for financial reasons, and most importantly, to teach your children and your neighbors how to grow a garden. Do it now. Don’t wait. And grow a self-planting garden, which are seeds that replant themselves year after year. You can read all about self-planting gardens in my book More Forgotten Skills. You can find links to this book at You will also find the nation’s best supply of self-planting seeds at -Caleb

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


Greenhouse gardening class, January seed special

Hello all,

This is author Caleb Warnock of to let you know
about my January Seed Bundle,
and my new Greenhouse Gardening class.

to order, go to:

January is a great time to plant seeds, if you
have the right seeds. This bundle offers
varieties that should be planted now.
This is more than $45 worth of seed for $19,
while it lasts. This includes some seeds
you can only get from me -- Amsterdam
Forcing carrots, which sold out very quickly
last year, as well as North Pole lettuce.
Everything in this bundle should be planted
now in a cloche, cold frame, hot bed,
greenhouse, or in a sunny window
in the *coldest* room in your home. (See
growing instructions at
Shipping for this bundle is $7.

Here is the whole list:

Chives (common)
Asparagus “Mary Washington”
Medicinal Hyssop
Vernal Red Orach
Tom Thumb Butterhead lettuce
Broad Windsor Fava beans
Garlic chives
Yarrow (medicinal or display flower)
Anise (herb)
Thyme (herb)
Amsterdam Forcing carrot
North Pole lettuce
Tom Thumb peas
Grand rapids lettuce

To order, go to:

Please help me spread the word about this seed special,
or the class below, by sharing this email with anyone
who might be interested. And if you are in or near Utah, join me for:

9am to 1pm Jan. 25, Highland Community Center,
5378 W. 10400 N. Highland, Utah

$39 through Jan. 21 (click here to register)
$55 after Jan. 21
$29 per person (two people; before Jan. 21) (click here to register)
and click on “classes”

This class will cover: the “greenhouse ocean” principle,
size, best greenhouse vegetable varieties, design
options, costs, types, maximizing productivity,
venting options, polycarbonate, the candle mistake,
winter tomatoes, nutrient recycling, self-sufficient
watering, seed-starting in January, how to harvest
for best production, variety testing, what is most
useful to grow, maximizing space, and using a
greenhouse for emergency preparedness. At the
end of class, we will drive about 2 miles to tour
Caleb’s January greenhouse and taste his fresh
greenhouse vegetables. As a free bonus, each
class member will take home at least $30-worth
of greenhouse variety seeds from, including:

North Pole lettuce
Amsterdam Forcing carrots
Broad Windsor Fava beans
Caleb’s Deep Winter lettuce
Michihili Chinese cabbage
Bright LIghts Swiss chard
Tom Thumb peas
Golden Sweet Snow peas
Snow Fairy tomatoes
Chioggia beets & more.

Caleb Warnock is the nation’s leading expert
in winter gardening, and author of the #1
national bestselling book “Backyard Winter
Gardening.” He is also the author of “Forgotten
Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon
Pioneers”, “The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast”,
and the owner of Watch
a video tour of Caleb’s January winter garden
at or view a tour of Caleb’s
winter greenhouse garden at -- see you in class!