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Green Acres or How To Blow a Small Fortune on Gardening Before It’s Too Late

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I have a friend who has a saying: Been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt. Read the book. Saw the movie.  I feel the same way when it comes to the current “crop” of euphemistically glowing reports of how much fun a “kitchen” garden can be and how little it costs. There is all that saving when you “harvest” your own fresh veggies. Even the new First Lady is embarking on such an endeavor.

Once upon a time I had much in common with the main characters in the corny television comedy, Green Acres. I was going to grow my own veggies, make pickles, pick fresh berries from the woods, turn them into jams and jellies, then give bountiful gifts of home made goodness for Christmas.

It was a great plan with unintended consequences such as having big, black, mama bear chase me out of her blackberry patch. The neighbors stole my entire crop of figs. Then, to add insult to injury, my mother would almost daily descend upon my beautiful snow pea crop and devour them like a horde of locusts.

I started out “small”, with a single large flower pot. In it I planted a couple cherry tomatoes, a large beef-steak tomato, and three cucumbers, a bell pepper, a single zucchini, and two packs of snow pea seeds. Aside from the bell pepper plant never doing much, the whole thing was a great success. My mother had fresh snow peas, daily, along with some very good cucumbers.

Unfortunately, success is the mother of defeat.

I spent the winter reading up on seeds, where to find just the right veggie plants, and the exact plans for a raised vegetable “bed”. It was going to be a wonderful summer, tapped off by my first venture into pickle making, and my first jams. I was giddy over the success of my two dozen jars of fig preserves.

I was hot.

You think I was going to build the blasted raised beds?

I hired Stanley, who had spent the previous 3 years remodeling my 10,000 square foot Mill Gallery. The final price-tag for the raised beds was about $300.

We’re not talking soil — yet.

I wanted an organic veggie garden.

Do you know what happens when you use regular yard soil in your beautiful, new, raised veggie beds? You get a veggie garden full of weeds! The only solution is to either nuke it with an unhealthy dose of weed killer, or, deal with potting soil.

You guessed it. I opted for the potting soil.

I had two raised beds, three feet wide, six feet long, and a foot deep. Do you know how much potting soil is required – and that’s after a healthy crop of rocks on the bottom of the increasingly annoying money pit. The rocks went on top of the plastic liner that was designed to keep weeds and grass from growing up into the bed.

Do you think I personally hauled rocks for the durn bed?

I hired my mother’s gardener, then reminded her of the snow peas. Mr. Bryant’s services for two days ended up costing about $75. I then had to give him $20 for the gas for his pickup truck. He went into town and picked up 20 large bags of potting soil at 5 bucks a pop.

Are you keeping track of the simple veggie garden? I had spent nearly five hundred dollars and not even bought the blasted veggie plants for it yet. Those were another hundred bucks. We’re up to six hundred and counting.

After a month I was fully convinced Mother Nature had been playing a practical joke on me the previous season. The watermelon plants died. The snow peas took over, and spread like wild-fire. The Brussels did not sprout. NEVER ever plant a half-dozen zucchinis if you have a sense of self-preservation. I had some cucumbers. Okay, I had enough cucumbers to convince me to go into the pickling business. I was also going to make zucchini pickles. By that time my mother threatened to disown me if I brought another zucchini into her house.

The final price tag for the pickling spices, jars, etc. was about $125. I gather you realize I’d spent upward of $800 on the fiasco. Oh, the pickles were so successful, I decided to make blackberry preserves. That’s when I was chased by mama bear. We were getting our berries from the same patch.

By the end of the summer I’d spent nearly a thousand bucks on the damn veggie garden. When I realized I could have used that money for a week down on the Islands, I gave up and treated myself to a week at Club Med on Guadeloupe.

Now you know why I snicker and roll my eyes when I hear the “green thumbs” describe how inexpensive and cost effective a family veggie garden can be. Do yourself a favor and don’t even think about it. Find a good farmer’s market and learn how to make bread and butter pickles with the bushel of cucumbers you will end up buying to "save money".

Unfortunately, the small kitchen garden, flower pot salsa garden, or even kitchen shelf herbs may soon be a thing of the past. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) has introduced H.R.875. Called the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, it will basically reclassify even that pathetic flowerpot of tomatoes and cucumbers into a “Food Production Facility”. If complex records are not kept logging every step one would take to plant that pot of produce, the backyard gardener could be subjected to upwards of a million dollar fine.

The bill, introduced at the behest of the Congresswoman’s hubby, Stanley Greenburg, who works for bio-tech giant Monsanto, will basically outlaw organic gardening, organic food, and the small family farm.

Like all “good things” the bill was designed to protect innocent people from salmonella poisoning, etc. Instead it places under government control EVERY food production facility in the nation. This includes any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation. By law, all grain elevator operators, stock yards, ranchers, farmers, community gardens, or farmer’s markets will now be controlled by the government. Anyone who produces food of any kind — meat, milk, fruit, vegetables, grains, etc. — and transports that food for sale will be subjected to warrantless government inspections of their farms and food production records.

Further, the law allows warrantless search and seizures of your records and products during unannounced inspections. They can tell you how to feed your farm animals, how to plant your fields, and manage your ranch. If you refuse unlimited access to federal agents, you will be fined a million bucks.

You might also want to know that Rosa DeLauro has received nearly $200,000 in donations from sources like Monsanto. The bill has 39 sponsors so far. She’s a pal of Rahm Emanuel.

I wonder what all these new regs would do to Michelle’s now famous White House Kitchen Garden? We all know she will not be subjected to these new laws if they pass. The big question, though, is this Nanny State Over-reach, or simply a corrupt politician prostituting herself to the highest bidder, and selling out every farmer and rancher in the country? The Nanny State implication is bad enough, but if this is simply a corrupt politician sponsoring a truly repulsive bill for her donors, her actions are even more despicable.

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About SJ Reidhead

  • Jordan Richardson

    Sounds like a good…

    Oh, right. I forgot. Regulations are evil, government “control” is everywhere, yadda yadda yadda.

    By the way, I love the linguistic tricks you play to parlay something into something else entire. That the bill will “basically outlaw” organic gardening and, apparently organic food in general along with small farms. How d’ya figure? It’s a pretty important point, but you seem to have just snugly tacked it on after two pages of personal anecdotes and good times. Not for nothing, but one would think an important detail such as that would have gotten a bit more print space.

    Also, where can I find more information on that fine of “a million bucks?”

    All this bill seems to do is alter the regulatory job and move the authority from the state level to the federal level. Of course, that means we’re all going to die…but who’s counting?

  • Joanne Huspek

    Hid your veggies within your landscape. It’s the only way to go… Or get a boatload of grow lights. I guess that second story in our vacant Detroit building would be good for that. The outlaw life, that’s for me.

  • Cindy

    Good article SJ.

    My grandparents’ gardens never cost anything though. Maybe just the seeds.

    Monsanto, Cargill, Tysons, ADM, Congress, and the rest of the government can all go to hell.

    How do all the people saying that the bill is sponsored by these agri-corps know this? I don’t have time right now to find out. But, I hate when all I can find is just a whole bunch of repetition of such a charge without the evidence. It’s not like I find it difficult to believe; hearsay just never satisfies me.

  • Cindy


  • SJ Reidhead


    Your grandparents knew what they were doing! That’s the big difference.

    I think I put links to the information in the article. I read some of the bill. It isn’t pretty, but then nothing coming out of DC these days is.

    The Pink Flamingo

  • José Jiménez

    Soy el José Jiménez auténtico. ¡Míreme tienen una marca de exclamación Española!

  • Roger Nowosielski

    Will the real José Jiménez stand up! Enough of this foolishness.

  • Clavos


    No se escribe española con mayúscula.

  • Cindy

    Usted descubrió ése era yo. Y gracias por la corrección.

    ‘It is not’ = no se

    But, I thought, ‘I don’t know’ = no se

    Then I thought maybe I was thinking of ‘no lo se’, but when I looked it up, the translator won’t say. ¡Clav, Ayuda!

  • Matthew T. Sussman

    Congratulations on finally getting to your point before the article ended.

    It’s called “inverted pyramid.” Look it up.

  • Roger Nowosielski

    My name Bill Dana. My real name José Jiménez.

  • Roger Nowosielski

    The real José Jiménez.

  • El Bicho

    “I had much in common with the main characters in the corny television comedy, Green Acres.”

    Not from the description you gave.

    I don’t know how you can be friends with a person who has a saying like that.

  • Clavos

    It (he/she) is not = no es.

    I don’t know = no se

    I don’t know it (or that) = no lo se

  • Dr Dreadful

    Whatever it is you three are smoking, please toss some my way.

  • Ruvy


    I see the fools on this site don’t want to take you seriously. Their loss. In this case, it will be a big loss – for them, and possibly for you.

    Friends of mine warn that there will be food shortages all over the United States. They are the kind of warnings that you might put credence in, SJ. But the geniuses on this list will not. They laugh at your Bible and at you; they laugh at the prophecies of the ancient Hebrew prophets. They look down to an abyss and say “this is high; they look up to a summit and proclaim, “this is low”.

    You are not the only one warning them – but they laugh in their contempt.

    Contact me off-line if you want me to send you the warnings I have gotten. I will not subject my friends to the derision of fools here.

  • Jordan Richardson

    I will not subject my friends to the derision of fools here.


    By the way, know what I’m doing now? Laughing!

    Oh, the horror.

  • Jordan Richardson

    In truth, Ruvy, and this may be a loooooooong shot, but maybe people just don’t feel like being afraid all the time. Maybe fear-mongering and ignorance peddled as factual information doesn’t always work. But, by Golly, I guess it’s up to good people like you to keep sounding the ol’ alarm bells and keep us all heavily concerned at how things really are because, Zeus knows, you’ve got that special insight there from your perch above the rest of us. I tell ya, if you weren’t so darn condescending I might like you!

    Maybe those old tricks don’t work for everyone. Maybe people don’t want to look at how horrific things can be. And you know, I guess if I magically run out of food down here with all the Silly Billies, maybe I’ll starve with a smile on my face and a more fulfilled life. Or, and here’s hoping I’m on to something, I can perhaps feed myself on the energy my sarcasm and humour brings me.

    It’s worked pretty well so far.

    I respect the articles here, the people that post them, and the people who comment in the comments section. I truly do. But sometimes I wonder why some people seem stuck on “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIEEEEEEEEEEEE! OH NOOOOOOOES! BRACE YOURSELF, SAVE THE CHILDREN, HIDE YOUR WEAPONS BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT’S GONNA TAKE THEM FROM YOU AND ABORT YOUR FETUS! ZAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!”

    I mean come on, is it really that bad or do people like you just wish it was so that you could say “neener neener I told you so?”

  • SJ Reidhead

    I’ve read the predictions of food shortages, social unrest, etc. There is really only one way I can see this happening, and that is we continue on this absolutely idiot path of “global warming” foolishness.

    No, I don’t believe global warming is man made. I’m not that arrogant, and before additional comments are made, I’m not that stupid, either. I like my scientific facts cold, hard, and absolutely logical. The planet’s temperature is tied to solar activities and the whims of the planet itself.

    This said, we’re dealing with some abjectly foolish, draconian, and potentially disastrous and needless new regulations that will try to “safe the planet”. This is where I think our shortages will occur and a land of plenty will be reduced to less than a third world.

    The regulation I’ve written about in this piece is another potential problem. This one isn’t about “protection”, saving the planet or even saving lives. It’s about political corruption – pure and simple. It is payback for tens of thousands of dollars paid to a willing recipient in such a scope that it gives a bad name to “honest” prostitutes who are just trying to make a living.

    I am cynical enough to believe that the allegedly earth friendly and draconian laws that are being forced upon us are going to be the result of the same thing – political prostitution.

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I don’t care if a person is liberal, moderate, or conservative. It doesn’t matter. Perhaps it is time to either completely outlaw prostitution, both political and literal or legalize it.

    Thus speaks the voice of the cynic. But – I am a hopeful cynic.

    The Pink Flamingo

  • Christopher Rose

    SJ, I’m not aware that anybody is saying that the current period of global warming is man made and, yes, it is indeed a natural phenomenon. If that were just the end of it, the implications for, certainly millions, possibly billions, humans living at or near sea level are pretty serious.

    Would it not logically follow that the additional contribution to that process by the heat given off by human activity is going to hasten the process to some extent?

    I’m not entirely certain that current initiatives are comprehensive or coherent, but it would be an extremely brave person that would risk the future of their family or country by doing nothing at all.