Gardening and Integrity

What in the heck does gardening have to do with integrity? Plenty…every activity has lessons embedded within it if we’re paying attention. I had 30 years of gardening practices (mistakes, really) chucked out the window within the first 30 minutes of touring Singing Frogs Farm.

Such is life when you allow data to inform your views and to learn from insight (rather than pain).

This video represents our first attempts at upgrading the video experiences for our users. Along with Livio Sanchez, a supremely experienced video editor and producer, Evie and I are working hard to figure out how to expand our message in a way that can reach more people. In other words we are wide open to any and all critiques.

The basic framing is this; we’ve reached a lot of people using words, charts, and logic. We feel there are many more people to be reached (possibly some or many that you know personally or professionally) using stories, examples, images and by opening our hearts and lives to the world.

So we’re looking for stories (which means we’ll be asking for brave volunteers from this community to similarly share their knowledge and experiences - the good, the bad and the ugly) with which people can connect and in which they can visualize themselves.

We’re also looking to create a stronger sense of community here among our tribe. Evie and I are busy building a physical community and supporting infrastructure here in Chester MA and we’re planning to document the journey. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Why? Because this is our mission, something we feel passionately about and are drawn to (hopefully not like moths to a candle). We’re pouring our hearts and souls into this project the same as I have dedicated myself to Peak Prosperity over the years. People need models to follow and sometimes ‘seeing is believing.’

There’s a lot of incredible material out there and plenty of deep thinkers all wrestling with trying to re-write our narrative in time, and to frame the issues, problems and predicaments in new ways. Many of them are wayyyyy beyond me in their organized and structured thinking (Rebel Wisdom, Daniel Schmactenberger, Nate Hagens, and Charles Eisenstein are a few), but still I note a paucity of actual models to examine. The thinking is there, but who’s already living that way? Where are the physical examples to follow and absorb?

All of this is in service to the idea that we have to begin trying new things, taking new risks, and letting go of that which no longer serves us, which is hard work in the best of times. I don’t know if investing in these new videos will work, or if they will be well received. But my intuition is very strongly indicating that it’s time to try anything and everything to reach more people. Now is the time. The circumstances are quite urgent.

Consider this a ‘pivot’ away from problem definition and towards solution space. I’ve been at this a long time and I have a lot to share. I’ve put considerable energy into each of the eight forms of capital (financial, emotional, living, time, cultural, material, knowledge, and social) and my hypothesis is that millions of people are waking up and realizing that they should be more resilient.

A great reskilling movement to go along with a back to the land movement, all driven by the twin realizations that not only is there an expiration date on the consumer culture but there’s a better life to be had too. One that is more connected, more fulfilling, and more satisfying.

Evie and I are already living that dream, as are many of you, and we feel like it’s time to bring that to the world. So here’s one of our ‘rapid prototypes’ towards that aim.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

The ability to subjugate one’s ego and embrace new learning is an all too rare trait, especially among our leaders, but a trait that yields enormous benefits and growth. Kudos to you Chris for doing so.
We can learn from everyone (both in a positive sense as well as in a negative sense) but from time to time, if we keep our eyes, ears, and heart open, we come across certain unique individuals or groups of individuals whose knowledge and wisdom we instantly recognize as being beyond our own. Associating with and learning from those individuals has the potential to generate quantum leaps in our own growth which we, in turn, in order to honor that learning, have the responsibility to pass on to others.
This is a wonderful message reflecting the need for a transformation in our world that goes beyond the material to the spiritual.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and state that obtuse teenagers who argue and don’t listen might want to consider how much integrity they have.
Just saying!! :slight_smile:

The father of permaculture, Bill Mollison, said some great things on these subjects:
the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter
most lawns are purely cosmetic…thus affluent societies have, all unnoticed, developed an agriculture system which produces a polluted waste product in the presence of famine and erosion
all we need to live a good life lies about us. Sun, wind, people, building, stones, sea birds and plants…cooperation with all these things brings harmony - opposition to them brings disaster and chaos
stupidity is an attempt to iron out all differences and not to use them or value them creatively
if we all contain a few molecules of Einstein and if the atomic particles of our physical body reach to the outermost bounds of the universe, then we are all de facto components of all things. There is nowhere left for us to go if we are already everywhere and this is in truth all we will ever have or need. If we love ourselves at all we should respect all things equally and not claim superiority over what we are

We’ve been doing this type of gardening for a several years now. The hum of insects from our backyard is now amazing. We can walk across the street in our residential neighborhood and noticeably hear the sounds of insects and birds coming from our property when it’s just silence everywhere else.

The ability to subjugate one's ego and embrace new learning is an all too rare trait, especially among our leaders, but a trait that yields enormous benefits and growth. Kudos to you Chris for doing so.
Thanks ao. I'll keep doing what I do. Maybe it's just my age speaking, but the more I get into this, the less I care about human diversions and distractions. I barely watch Netflix anymore. I can't be bothered to watch sports anymore, and I used to watch a lot. I have a dwindling interest in the rigged and fraudulent ""markets"" ... etc. and so forth. If we're really facing the crises I think we're facing, then its really something of an existential crisis. A moment in time when you'd better be asking the big questions; what's really important? Who and what do I love? What's my role in all this? Am I here on earth to 'do something' and, if so, what is that? In other words, the older I get the less I know. I am now open to more and more new things as being true, and less certain that what I used to know as being important has any meaning left to it. I feel like this is a time for me to be in service, which is an act of faith. In service to what? To whom? Why? I really don't know for sure, it may well be forever above my pay grade, but I am 100% committed to the project.    

As I said in a monologue on my radio show not too long ago: “Don’t tell me what you want to destroy. Tell me what you want to create.”
I’ll be watching with great interest!

Thank you very much for the Singing Frogs Farms summary.
Please consider doing more interviews with no-till experts (especially potatoes) and include expositive pictures for upcoming “insiders”…
It’s been a long 12 years, really looking forward to the interesting and exciting work of creating wealth going forward. Took care of the silver/gold/stock/farmland issues some time ago…
It seems that the theme is adding biomass to the soil surface, and not removing any biomass except what you actually eat… Hmmmn it would be great to see a summary from a broad thematic view. Another area of desired exposition is how to irrigate easily and using less water. best wishes

We too are building our homestead and are utter novices so I expect a steep, long learning curve. Unlike Chris and Evie we don’t have springwater, but our plan is to install raincisterns to collect and store water from the roof and - we hope - use this to irrigate the garden. Does this make sense? If so any quick and dirty ways to calculate water usage? Any recommendations for regulating flow? We have very wet springs, summer - not so much.

Island G
I too am a complete novice and we have the same problem a. no well or spring possible, b. very wet spring-tons of water in two weeks, c. followed by 6 weeks of absolutely no rain most years.
This year our water tower ran out of collected rain water after about 3 weeks. My “research” consists of slogging through and seeing what works. What I am doing now is making a simple plastic sheet (using one building wall for one side) to temporarily catch water in a big volume (10,000 liters), to be used only for 6 weeks following our rainy season. The problem is too much rain in July and then no rain in August. I see others using temporary tarp/pools to use water for limited time. Let me know how it goes for you since I have the same problem.
This is another reason for adopting low volume irrigation systems as singing frog farms seemed to do as seen in the last PP video. They have a movable black plastic pipe that goes over a row of vegetables. Lets find out about that.
I suspect that: a) high organic matter added to the top of a bed with; 2) low flow precise delivery irrigation system can eliminate more than half of the water needed…

Thanks. We’ll have to do some research - I may talk to the folks we are thinking of using for the cisterns.

Brad Lancaster (Tucson AZ) is a good start And there is always a Geoff Lawton Designing the landscape itself can make all the difference Also look up “keyline planning” from another Australian design genius

hi Island Girl,
rainwater catchment can be great, main things to look out for are types of roofing materials no tar shingles or treated cedar shingles. Best is metal roof as long as you let the rain rinse it off if it’s new. The main bottle neck is cistern size. The best bang for the $ I’ve found is used 1000 litre totes. You can get them for around 100$. Ponds are also great for volume but usually require pumping out to garden beds. It also depends on your soil type. Raised beds dry out quicker than in ground but pests are easier to manage. Steep learning curb indeed!
Are you by chance on Vancouver Island?
best of luck,

We too are building our homestead and are utter novices so I expect a steep, long learning curve. Unlike Chris and Evie we don't have springwater, but our plan is to install raincisterns to collect and store water from the roof and - we hope - use this to irrigate the garden. Does this make sense?
I don't know how to perform any calculations here because I don't know how many linear feet of garden beds you'll have or the soil type (clay vs sandy). But regardless of the type, rainwater catchment would be super high on my list of projects if your circumstances were mine. Water is everything. And even if water were no issue (and it really isn't for me with the spring), I'd be installing drip irrigation. It's simply the most efficient use of water for plants there is. First because it penetrates so deeply via capillary action. Because it penetrates deeply (12"-18" of properly water soaked soil depth after an overnight soak) it encourages plants to seek water 'down there' so they put down deep roots which also helps them be more resilient to heat/dry. Second because you can easily set the system up to run on a simple faucet timer so you can deliver precise amounts. Third because you can set that timer to run during the night when you'll lose the least to evaporation so it can penetrate more deeply. Very simple systems to set up. Takes me about an hour to set up the garden the first time in the spring. Practically no maintenance either. Big fan. Check out

Hi Island Girl. We have 50,000 gallons of rain storage on site, but mostly use it for domestic purposes. We live in a semi arid location, so water is precious. I’ve installed over 15 large collection systems for clients over the years and am currently building a house for an architect friend that is 100% reliant on rainwater. (No well…no other water source).
It’s expensive to get enough volume storage to water large gardens and livestock, so we use well water mostly for that. It costs about the $1,200 for a 3000 gallon storage tank or you can get large cisterns for less per gallon storage costs. We filter our water with a 5/50 dual gradient filer, then run it through a charcoal filter, then through an ultraviolet light and use it for drinking and domestic purposes.
Our well is 750’ deep and has mineral and alkalinity. It’s okay for the gardens but not ideal.
We have a pump house that has well water coming in one side and rainwater on the other side…and outlet pipes that go to various locations (garden, horse paddock, barn, and main house). The manifold allows us to send either type of water to any of the locations by turning valves on and off.
We use rain guard leaf screens to keep gutter trash from getting in our tanks and have a “first flush” system that takes about 50 gallons of water down a waste pipe before filling the tanks. This cleans the metal roof of bird poo residue and other contaminants in the first 50 gallons which is manually flushed after each rain and then ready to accept water at the next rain event.
Rule of thumb is 600 gallons of collection per 1000 square feet of roof surface in a 1 inch rain. (calculated flat).
We also use drip irrigation to conserve water…perhaps the greatest invention for gardeners. Soaker hoses are not drip irrigation.
Having our own water utility system takes away one concern over domestic terrorism and the possibility of disruption of water supplies on a large scale.
Good fortunes with your project.

I feel your shift and have noticed it in myself too. I find myself watching less of markets and oil waiting in anticipation for evidence of things turning. The oil picture is pretty clear now. Markets, who knows how this is going to go but there is no free lunch so they can’t turn out well. There is a stillness in me that wasn’t there before. We are there. The shift has happened. No more overall growth.
We have worked hard at our place and I feel like it has been one giant “What not to do” story. Well we can pass on our knowledge of “what not to do” for the next generation. That is how we are paying it forward.

I have experienced the same thing but perhaps for a somewhat different reason that I will get into in just a bit.
Hopefully, we all evolve in life based on what we learn during this temporal existence. And hopefully, that evolution is in a positive direction. I know I’ve learned a tremendous amount by my participation here and I am very grateful to all the PP folks who have contributed to that learning and to you for creating the Crash Course and this site and guiding it so brilliantly. It’s interesting and encouraging see how you’ve evolved and grown as well.
If I may share something that has come into my life as of late, perhaps I can offer some words of wisdom that may be useful. I recently was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer affecting the bones of the pelvis, spine, and left femur. I am doing everything in my power to overcome this diagnosis but I know the prognosis is not good and the statistics are against my long term survival. After getting over the initial shock (since I’ve been the poster boy for good health with excellent nutrition, health habits, fitness, and exercise habits for my entire life and zero family history of cancer), one naturally pauses to reflect on life and what it all means.
I’ve valued many different things in life, most of which have enriched my existence but some of which have not, but in the final analysis, when a life circumstance like this brings your awareness to a laser sharp focus, the most important single thing in this life is relationships … relationships with friends, relationships with family, and relationship with our Creator. All else fades into relative insignificance.
Many of us are familiar with the Ten Commandments which are Judeo-Christian principles that are said to undergird the guiding moral principles of secular Western civilization. But there are two other commandments in that belief system that are rarely mentioned in the secular world yet are considered THE most important and have everything to do with relationships and the all-important “glue” that holds together successful relationships … love (and that “love” is not necessarily the commonly embraced romantic love in the Hollywood sense but rather the deeper, richer, and more profound agape love). These commandments are stated in Matthew 22:37-40 which I will leave readers to look up if they are so inclined.
One of the most important ways in which that love is expressed is through service to others. It doesn’t matter whether it is expressing love for your fellow man or love for your Creator. In both cases, it is through service to others that love finds full expression. It is so interesting to me that you voice a recognition of the importance of service. Yes!
Another expression of the love is being good stewards of the resources granted us by our Creator. One resource is our body, the means by which we can express love through service. So taking care of the body within which resides the spirit of life provided by our Creator is one way in which one can be a good steward. That is not to say we should obsess about our body and health since it is only temporary and therefore of lesser importance than our spiritual self. But maintaining our body and mind at the highest level possible (whether we are born with congenital problems, acquire problems as we go through life, or are perfectly healthy) allows us to serve at the highest level possible. Serving is more difficult when we are sick and our energy levels are low as compared to when we are healthy and they are high so the importance of properly maintaining one’s body and mind is readily apparent…
We are also called to be good stewards of our families and our communities as well as the planet that we reside upon. So maintaining a sound family structure and a supportive community are high priorities as well as caring for the environment that sustains us whether it be the air, the water, the soil, plant life, or animal life.
Our secular society focuses heavily on the self and doing things for “me” yet we have past historical blueprints for what happens when that focus on self is taken to the nth degree. King Solomon, for example, arguably one of the wisest men in history, sought all the things so many in our society seek. He had fame, power, and riches beyond compare and unparalleled wisdom but was unfulfilled. He had multiple beautiful wives and concubines but remained unfulfilled. He had stables of magnificent horses but was still unfulfilled. He had a magnificent palace but again was unfilled. In Ecclesiastes, he laments how all this is just “vanity” (i.e. futile). He realizes that without putting his Creator first in his life, it is all meaningless.
In the modern era, the book, The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, addresses this subject in a clear and simple manner from a more contemporary perspective than Solomon but the conclusions remain essentially the same almost three thousand years later. As Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun”. For individuals like ourselves who are intelligent, logical, analytical, and scientific, it can be hard for us to conceive that our mind and our reasoning powers cannot provide us with all the answers. Yet as you yourself expressed, there is much we do not know. In fact, since we are neither omnipotent nor omnipresent nor omniscient, there is far, far more we do not know that we know. Another favorite book I might recommend is The Book of Not Knowing by Peter Ralston which addresses this issue from a secular philosophical perspective.
In closing, I hope I don’t offend anyone by the above expression of my personal world view but that might be inevitable for some. Please understand that I felt the need to share this perspective as looking death in the eye and having time to contemplate that fate has a way of heightening one’s appreciation of what is and what is not important in life. I have friends who are agnostic and are of other faiths and we remain friends and respect one another’s views despite our differing perspectives. I hope the same can be said for this forum.

Threw a tarp over the pole beans and peppers tonight, hoping to get them through this cold snap. I’ve been reading you since January, and you were one of the main voices that made me start preparing then. While I did buy a rototiller, I’ve gotten very interested in no-till. I think that’s the way to go for next year. Thank you for your video!
Though I’m an IT person, I have fortunately been interested in learning a number of skills that are now coming in handy. I started making cheese in 2008, and in 2018 had advanced training in cheesemaking and affinage in France. This has meant that our family can enjoy many things that are now hard or impossible to buy. Similarly, a few years ago I took professional-level baking classes at King Arthur Flour. Even longer ago, I studied cooking with Madeline Kamman. For me, gardening, cheesemaking, baking, cooking, etc. are all based in Integrity.

Welcome, fellow Vermonter!
We hit 34 at my place last night. Fired up the woodstove for the first time to take off the evening chill. Bread’s just out of the oven this morning (I let it rise overnight, generally 12-15 hrs) and it’s tickling tastebuds. We make kefir from raw milk, haven’t made cheese yet except labneh from occasional over-cultured kefir, but that learning curve is coming.
Still getting tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and zucchini from the hoop house. Since I didn’t grow cabbages, I just bought a dozen heads from a nearby organic market farm to make kimchi that’ll tide us over the winter and spring.
Putting the outdoor gardens to bed this coming week. Nothing’s overwintering this year. Gotta winterize the chicken quarters too, now.
Still need to mount a heater in the garage so I can fix some things during the indoor months.

Ao: first of all, I am so very sorry to hear of your diagnosis. I truly wish you the best as you fight this new and unexpected life threatening battle in whatever ways work best for you.
I was so pleased to to see you write these words (bold my emphasis):

Many of us are familiar with the Ten Commandments which are Judeo-Christian principles that are said to undergird the guiding moral principles of secular Western civilization. But there are two other commandments in that belief system that are rarely mentioned in the secular world yet are considered THE most important and have everything to do with relationships and the all-important "glue" that holds together successful relationships ... love (and that "love" is not necessarily the commonly embraced romantic love in the Hollywood sense but rather the deeper, richer, and more profound agape love). These commandments are stated in Matthew 22:37-40 which I will leave readers to look up if they are so inclined.
I have mentioned before on this site I am an accessibility consultant. My practice name is Agape Inclusion Solutions. I had a warm fuzzies after reading your mention of the word, ao, and its meaning, which is why I chose it for my practice. My interpretation of Agape is to love and accept everyone, and in the context of my work, specific focus on demonstrating that by trying to effect improvements for people living with disabilities. This is my passion, my service to others, something that I am dedicating the rest of my life to. Recently, as sometimes happen when people selflessly do good, good things are sent back to them. I am in discussion with two fabulous people I met while volunteering for a community gardening initiative, who are leading food and gardening sustainability initiatives in my city and province. They are interested in hiring me to help them ensure that what they do is accessible and inclusive for everyone, and to develop & deliver training for all involved. This is so, so important, since so many people with disabilities live in poverty and are food insecure. To be able to help in this way, with the possibility of actually getting paid to indulge in my two great passions - accessibility and gardening, is beyond thrilling! This article resonated strongly, Chris. I think the single biggest thing we can do given how things are unfolding 'out there' is to pivot focus to our own immediate lives , shifting efforts to things that really matter, things that we can control and make tangible improvements to. I cannot do anything about the politicians or central banks, but I can help my community, and in the process, help realize my own level of self-actualization. As Marcus Aurelius said "do good because it is good to do good". This is an invaluable thread, and I would love to see more articles like this. Let's not let this thread go sideways the way things sometimes do here as people introduce comments that moves the discussion at hand off topic. Jan