A Different Perspective
On Wise Investing
(Garden Infrastructure)

Dateline: 17 June 2015

Fabric-mulched potato hills in my garden.


I’m persuaded that we as a nation are currently in the early stages of of an era of epic wealth destruction and confiscation. For more and more people the American dream of working hard and getting ahead is giving way to the American nightmare of working hard (if a job can be found) to pay off debt while barely keeping the taxes and bills paid—or not keeping them paid. 

Those who have good-paying jobs or an earned life savings are becoming a minority, and are increasingly seen by the corrupt political class as targets for even more vampiric taxation. 

The old rules for wise investing apply less and less. Those who actually have a little money ahead, and want to invest it, so as to earn a return, are hard pressed to find safe and secure investment options. 

With these emerging realities in mind, I believe one of the wisest investments anyone can make is in what I’ll call Garden Infrastructure. Let me explain…

A dictionary definition of the word “infrastructure” is as follows:

The basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g., buildings, roads, and power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.

My definition of “garden infrastructure” would be:

The basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g., land, tools, fertilizer) needed for the operation of a productive personal garden.

No matter how bad the economy gets, no matter how much wealth destruction and confiscation happens, if you invest your money now in garden infrastructure, you essentially “lock in” profitable returns for years to come.

No, you aren’t necessarily going to get a financial return (in the conventional sense) for your investment, but conventional monetary returns don't mean a whole lot in an era of wealth destruction (and the social/political upheaval that will likely attend this era). 

The concept of investing in garden infrastructure is surely unconventional. Precious few moderns will take the idea seriously,  but it is pretty much the safest and surest investment a person or family can make.

Even in the unlikely event that impending worldwide economic problems are resolved, and the conventional investment paradigms do not fail, garden infrastructure is still one of the best investments a person can make. Think about this….

If you work a job to earn money to purchase your food at a store, and you are in a 30% income tax bracket, you have to earn $140 to buy $98 worth of food ($42 of the $140 would go to the government). 

That being the case, you might be further ahead if you worked less at a job and more at growing your own food. Unless, of course, the government figures out a way to tax people on the value of any food they produce for themselves.

I have been investing in garden infrastructure for years, but this year I’m increasing my investment in the following areas… 

1.  I have invested in soil amendments to last me for several years. Specifically, I’ve bought several bags of kelp meal and humates. I invested in a soil analysis and mineralization of my garden a few years ago. These new soil amendments (along with compost and biochar that I produce) are all I figure I’ll need for a long time.

2.  As readers of this blog know, I started using using black plastic and black plastic fabric as a mulch in my garden last year. These materials are helping me to have a more productive garden, and I have bought more of the material this year. 

3.  I’ve come to the conclusion that a soil blocker is the most intelligent way to get most seeds started, before transplanting them into the garden. With that in mind, I am in the process of purchasing enough ingredients to make my own soil-block mix for several years. I’m also making and using self-watering trays for the soil blocks. I hope to blog about this in the future, but there is plenty of soil-block information on the internet, and Eliot Coleman’s books cover the subject well.

4.  After procrastinating for years, I am planning to finally to put up a small, movable, unheated greenhouse this year. It will be for the purpose or growing greens through the winter, for starting plants in the spring, and for growing tomatoes in the summer. I will be writing about this subject as it develops.

5.  I hope to get a ramial chip maker (wood chipper) later this year. I have an abundance of scrub brush on my land that needs to be chipped up and put to good use.

These are just some examples of garden infrastructure. Other examples of garden infrastructure investments would be fencing, trellis supports, Row-cover materials, tools, and how-to books. Even bluebird nesting boxes could be classified as garden infrastructure.

I know that many (if not most) people who read this blog are investing in their own garden infrastructure. So I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. But, for the record, I just want to make it clear that I think garden infrastructure is one of the best investments there is.

As always, I welcome your comments and insights about this subject.



21 comments:

Cynthia (C.L) Lewis said...

I have been of the thought process lately that stock market investing and the like are not the way to go anymore. Like you we are investing in our homestead. Fruit trees, animals, infrastructure, herbs and perennials, etc. I have been itching to really study what people "invested" in before banks and the stock market.

dfr2010 said...

My gardening efforts are still far below what I'd like, but my big investment the past year has been chickens. It looks like I got my breeding stock just in time, with the avian influenza outbreak this year which could easily linger on for another year and inhibit moving birds. The chickens are even helping with our compost-making.

Mel said...

Herrick-
You may be preaching to the choir, but when you share your thoughts, you help the rest of us to make sure we haven't overlooked something important. I am thankful every time I read one of your posts.

vdeal said...

Herrick,

I couldn't agree with you more. I've said for years that without the infrastructure you're likely to fail in your home food endeavors. Around here the biggest investment is fencing. Even though we hunt deer a lot in WV they will still decimate your garden, orchard or whatnot in a night if given a chance. I invested quite a bit of money in sawmill 4x4 locust posts, double galvanized welded wire fencing and electric fencing and now can be fairly confident that no deer or other mammal will get to my gardens. Hand tools go without saying and I'm working on a garden shed for more storage. I too have started using plastic but am still in the beginning stages. As far as a chipper I believe in having as few power units as possible (less maintenance) and will eventually buy one for my BCS walking tractor. Timely post and great advice in the times that we live.

vdeal said...

Herrick,

Quick question. Looking closer at the fabric covered potato hills picture it appears you have strings tied to your row strings going perpendicular across the beds. I'm I correct in assuming that those strings are to keep the extra fabric up around the potatoes?

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you don't have a soil blocker in your Whizbang product list, perhaps one is one the horizon?

-CJ

vdeal said...

Herrick,

Missed your comment on the soil blockers. I've been using them for several years now and won't start seeds any other way. Expensive but well worth it. I will be interested in your self-watering trays.

Clinton Johnson said...

With all the new ideas you are working on, how soon before the 2nd edition comes out? Or will it be book #2? I've been interested in buying it, but I now have the $ to do so... but too often I buy and a week later the 2nd edition comes out.

Also, I did buy the occultation cover - found it at here (http://www.catalogclearance.com/Sunbelt-Ground-Cover-3x300) for $80+S/H (A savings of nearly $40 over the link you had posted)

In the first picture in your post, it looks like you use it as a path and in others it is a cover... please confirm I understand that correctly.

Good writing!
-Clinton

mobius wolf said...

Hmmm.... I have no idea what a lot of the stuff you mentioned is, but I definitely agree about where to invest.

I made a little plastic green house this year for the first time and I am sold on the utility. Once I get everything planted, I'm going to build a permanent one.
I also tried cold frames for the first time this year and what a difference.

Chickens are indispensable for composting just make sure you don't get any fresh manure near your veggies. Hot stuff.

I've been making beds and soil for ten years now. Started with woods, brush and an overgrown apple orchard.

Here are some pictures of everything, if anyone is interested. The most recent are from a week ago, I couldn't get the labels to work on photobucket.
http://s1026.photobucket.com/user/mobius4747/library/Garden%202015?sort=3&page=1

I love your blog. You give me more to learn than I can keep up with.

Fred

Sunshine said...

We too have been investing heavily in garden infrastructure this summer. My husband built a ten-foot tall fence around our garden and also trenched it down three feet in order to keep out both deer and burrowing critters.

I've added more fruit trees and shrubs (blueberries, gooseberries, currants) and a rhubarb patch. We got chickens in the spring but gave them away because one of our daughters was allergic to them. We will build a coop far from the house and fence in a chicken yard as we hope to try again next year and not have them in the house with us.

In addition to investing in garden infrastructure, it is also wise to invest in canning equipment. I've bought more canning jars recently.

Chris said...

I would take it one further and suggest to invest in house infrastructure too. Things that will get water to the pipes, without electricity (wind, water or gravity). Renovations to the house, such as a greenhouse that will naturally assist the climate control throughout the season - plus grow plants/food right next to the house. Get a wood burner and good quality pots and pans designed to last generations (such as cast iron) and also a small plot of trees to coppice seasonally for firewood.

Invest in anything that will heat and cool the house naturally, without having to pay utility companies to do it for you. Or at least, pay them less and have a backup when they go down.

Also a good root cellar for those with the climate to use one. Not real good here because we don't get snow. But we plan to build a solar dehydrator, that takes advantage of the sun we get a lot of instead, which will help preserve food in a different way.

Frank and Fern said...

Hi Herrick, excellent post. We can't be reminded too often that we need to invest in ourselves. Money in the bank is gaining no interest, and there is going to come a day soon that if you want it, you won't be able to get it.

Fern and I have been attempting to upgrade recently. We've had the floor leveled in the house, new windows installed, and putting lean-to sheds on both sides of the barn. We buy inexpensive garden tools every chance we get. Never know when there might be extra hands showing up that will work in exchange for food. It's always a good idea to have an extra year of seeds put away. Don't forget the precious metals, brass and lead. Don't leave home without it.

Thank you for the excellent reminder. Someday we're going to wake up and it'll all be shut down. Banks will be on holiday and the stock market will invoke Rule 48. Not for a couple of hours, but maybe indefinitely.

Take care,

Frank

RonC said...

I agree about investing in plants and animals and the infrastructure to raise and process them. Here is a video you may enjoy. The language is a little course and it is a bit outlandish. Shows the power of investing in plants and animals very well. You can be a millionaire very quickly!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGo5z8BJ6zg

I started investing in beehives this spring. I built 5 Warre hives and have some rapidly growing colonies in 4 of them. I plan to double them each year. I will build 5 hives again this Winter and then 10 the next Winter and then 20, then 40 and so on until I am wealthy beyond my wildest dreams.

Anonymous said...

I would pay attention to any trace minerals that your soil might need now. Easy to fix today but what about a few years after it all hits.

Herrick Kimball said...

dfr2010—
I would consider chickens a wise investment in garden infrastructure.

vdeal—
Yes, The fabric mulch is held in place by a few strings tied to the row strings. It has worked very well. We had some high winds recently and none of the plastic came loose.

Cj—
I don't have any good ideas for a Whizbang soil blocker. But I do see some ideas on YouTube. I won't be bringing any new product ideas to market this year. I've decided to focus less on new idea/products and more on my down-to-earth projects around home.

Clinton—
That's an excellent price on the Dewitt Sunbelt Ground Cover! I'm using it in the walkways between the beds and as occultation covers over the beds. And I'm using some as a permanent mulch on some strawberry beds. The 2nd printing of my garden idea book will be published next spring.... maybe.It all depends on if I have time this winter to do the editing and if I run out of 1st printing copies (I printed a lot of them. The 2nd printing will be same as the first, but with the little typos fixed.

Mobius wolf—
You are an ambitious gardener!

Ron—I'll check out the video.

Thanks, everyone, for the comments.

Marsh Creek Farmstead said...

I finally had the opportunity to use my whizbang foot water control switch when i processed 77 birds this past monday. A indespensable investment if you process your own livestock. The ability to turn the wash water off and on with my foot made things alot better and way faster too!

Thanks to you Herrick for putting out another awesomly useful tool! (I use all homemade whizbang equipment while processing chicken.)

David Rogers said...

I read Craigslist every day. I have bought tractors and implements. 6 tractors and lots of implements. I garden a
mountain hill side and it's sandy. Newest tractor is from 1967.
all the new farmers want Diesel. The old gas models are undervalued. I have 2 Super As, a Case 311, and Fords--8N, 3000 with bucket, and 4000 with bucket. My wife and I have
driven a couple of hundred miles to buy a 3 point wood chipper albeit slow, and a Farmi wood winch.

I am in the process of remineralizing in the manner of the Ideal
Soil by Michael Astera.

I Read Possum Living by Dolly Fried back in the 70's and thought
it made sense.

I supplied one son with 10 acres and a trailer and maybe 3 acres
are tillable.

second son is in the process of buying 25 A (me the bank) of young trees.
heavily logged 20 years ago. moist but not too moist.

My wife bought parts for the Whizbang Chicken plucker.

Thanks Herrick,

I look to your blogspot every day. Keep it up.

Thank you

Dave Rogers up in the Adirondacks of north eastern NY

Herrick Kimball said...

Marsh Creek Farmstead—
Thanks for the positive feedback. Much appreciated.

Hi Dave—
I enjoyed reading your comment. You're my kind of people. :-)

Sheila Gilbert said...

Because I have been "prepping" for a very long time, I have almost everything I need for keeping a wonderful garden. I also have all the tools for preparing and storing my produce too. I can, can several hundred jars of produce, or dehydrate them, and have many #10 cans of dehydrated foods for backup. Although I have many tools, I will be purchasing several extra shovels, rakes, hoe's, garden gloves, water dispensers, and many more items, I will need for my family when they help with the growing, and the work, but also for others, as a barter item. I have all the material for a greenhouse, actually for several of them, and although I have many of the soil amendments you mentioned, I will be purchasing many more of them.
I will be purchasing fruit trees next month, and will need more peat moss and all of the materials for that seed starter you linked. It is perfect, and I will be getting a lot of it. I have a lot of seed, but Will buy many, many more in August. I'm planning on moving to my "home/garage" at the end of August, and stay there until at least December, unless everything goes wrong, and then I plan to stay there. At this point I'm actually finished with my goal, and purchasing "extras" like homestead/garden items, was the last thing on the list, if I had ever gotten there. Because I'm finished, I can now zero in on any materials that will be extras for the garden, and any "machinery" I may want extras of. For me, the biggest issue is getting it all together, and I figured that if things go really bad, my children will finally realize what they are up against, and chip in. If they want to eat, they will work. They do actually help me a lot, but with jobs, they can't possibly be full time gardeners. Now all I have to do is teach them how to light a Stove Tec., How to wash clothes in a wheel barrow, how to use a wringer to wring the clothes out, and lots more. May God Bless and Keep us all. Sheila

Anonymous said...

I left out the most important part. I also have at least 10 years of property tax cash put aside in case I need it. It will all go into coin form, since paper will be worthless. Lots of rolled coins, won't that be fun! My property taxes are very, very low, no home on the property, well, kinda. LOL
AND I'm digging a root cellar too.

Herrick Kimball said...

Sheila,

You are amazing. I think you are a very smart woman!

Thanks for the inspiring comment.