Inside Scoop on Horseradish and Other Vegetable Matters

Our city is riddled with chutes, which I take great delight in going through. I am not sure where the pleasure comes from. Maybe it’s because they feel like a secret passage transporting you to some hidden oasis, even though they merely take you to another part of a subdivision or launch you onto the walking trail. But I like them, just the same.

The one below takes you from a busy street into a new subdivision that only three years ago was nothing but a field.


This is perhaps my favorite chute, because of the horseradish that grows rampantly beside it. I like to walk past it and wonder how it got there. It is evidence that the field-turned-subdivision wasn’t always just a field. Perhaps there was an old homestead here long ago and these are the horseradish plants from that long-forgotten garden.

Lord knows these plants are tough. And tenacious. Just like the homesteaders who planted them. If, indeed that is how they got here. All I know for sure is that once you have horseradish you always have horseradish.

I have a bit of a pioneer/prepper/self sufficiency mentality so I also take pleasure in knowing of a public source for horseradish. This could be important when the SHTF (a prepper acronym that stands for Shit Hits The Fan and encompasses all manner of mayhem from banks collapsing to city-wide riots to weather catastrophes).

Should the SHTF I can stand up and say, “Everyone calm down. I know where I can get some horseradish.”

Because we all know what a life saver horseradish can be.

And because I use horseradish…well, I never use horseradish. That stuff is crazy spicy. But if the SHTF and you find yourself in dire need of some horseradish, I’m your go-to-gal.

Did you know that even harvesting horseradish is spicy? I read somewhere once that you should wear goggles and hold the root underwater when you peel it just to keep the fumes from overpowering you. See? I know stuff. Prepper stuff. I’m prepared. Sort of.

Speaking of growing food, my community garden is ripening off. Here is what it looked like about a month ago…




But things have gone a bit downhill since then. My zucchini and spaghetti squash have been struck down with powdery mildew and almost everything else is going decidedly yellow. My green pea harvest was nothing to write home about and most of my onions went to seed before producing much of a bulb, but the dragon tongue beans, potatoes and kale are all doing pretty good.

One bed of beets up and died while another patch in an adjoining bed are doing fantastic. Go figure. I should get a few decent carrots, but they should have been thinned better.


And look…I even got one lonely vine ripened tomato! I love these dragon tongue beans as much for their name and purple streaked appearance as their taste. Once you cook them they turn green though, which is unfortunate. These potatoes are Yukon Gold.


My favourite variety is this Red Russian kale. I should just eat it in salads and green smoothies but I like it best tossed in salt and olive oil and then baked for about half an hour in a hot oven until crispy. Kale chips! Delicious. But probably not super healthy.


Here’s my garden as it sits right now. It’s not looking super healthy neither. The dead yellow vines are purple mist peas that I am letting ripen for soup peas. I should get all of two cups by the looks of things : ) The deep purple plant is a Kalette that I wrote about awhile back. It’s a cross between kale and brussel sprouts. It takes a long time to mature so we’ll see if the frost gods are kind. And the sad little vine to the right is a wanna-be spaghetti squash that has no hope of producing anything in time to beat the frost but I just can’t pull it up. At least not yet.




Eco Villages for the Peaceful Prepper?

Whenever my husband and I start talking retirement and have some downtime we tend to spend it looking at real estate sites. We sit in the living room, each armed with our iPad and we take turns passing them back and forth as we come across a place we like. It’s sort of like House Hunters Digital Style. Or something like that.

Today my husband passed me his iPad with information on an eco village. You buy your own house on common property and are encouraged to have a small garden beside it, as well as a share in the work/harvest of another two acre garden designated to feed the community. There is a common house where everyone can hang out together. Two meals are shared there per week.

“You want us to join a cult?”

“It’s not a cult. It’s an intentional community.”

“Um…so you want us to join a cult?”

“Just read what it says.”

I read.

There were provisions for all kinds of sustainability with an eye to making the footprint of each person as small as possible. I was impressed. Very impressed.  A quick read of the profiles of the current shareholders showed lots of young, ridiculously healthy looking couples with small children. They were the kind that look like they go mountain biking before breakfast, white water rafting in the afternoons and then do some leisurely rock climbing up a mountain face or three before bed.

Folded in there, however, were a couple of happy looking “elders”.

There was even a mention of elders in their vision statement. The elders would provide wisdom, insight and balance to the community.

I am sorry to admit that my initial reaction-right after getting all judgey and dismissing them as a cult-was to snort and roll my eyes.

I have no idea why, but I envisioned a bunch of romantic homesteading wannabes drunk on the idea of saving the planet, who would bolt at their first encounter with quack grass. I think I might have control issues. Or judgmental issues. Or just…issues. I have issues.

I saw myself trying to maintain two acres of vegetables single-handed, while the rest of the community sat around a campfire sipping expensive wine and singing songs. Every once in a while someone would shout out towards the field, “How’s the potato hilling going Shannon?”

“And you’d be playing the flute,” I told Darcy indignantly.

“I like playing the flute.”


“And you love gardening, so what’s the problem?”

After I got down off Thunder (my high horse-he’s a palomino btw) and took off my Little-Red-Hen-Who-Does-All-The-Work big ole Attitude Apron, I started to get intrigued.

I read a bit further and discovered many in the community were seasoned gardeners (duh) who were very capable and not the least bit scared of quack grass. I got the impression they might do a little snorting and eye rolling of their own at my paltry efforts to help out in the community patch. Only they wouldn’t because they are much more evolved and not at all judgey. Unlike some people.

I admit I kind of liked the elder persona. I imagined the young people coming to me for advice, though that would be a very bad idea as I have no clue what sort of advice I could impart. Still, it would be nice to be asked.

And then there were the children.

I have two, but they are 27 and 30 and neither plan on having children of their own. So no grandchildren in my immediate future, anyhow. But this community, it would have children built right into it. And I would be like a surrogate grandma. I could see myself guiding along chubby little fingers as they plucked slippery bean seed from a bag and planted them in a row. I imagined sharing the children’s excitement when the beans first popped their heads up through the soil, their little seed caps on their heads. The beans, not the children.

Kids picking vegetables on organic farm

At night I could snuggle a small child on my lap as we sat around the community fire, watching their parents play music or dance. Or I could read them story books. Neither rock climbing or white water rafting are very kid-friendly activities. They would need me to babysit from time to time.

But not too much.

And the clincher? There was no mention of making plans for popping off potato people’s heads.

That’s a thing.

I’ve read about it.

Maybe I should explain.

Because I love the idea of self-sufficiency I often find myself linking up to sites that promote prepping for when TSHTF (the shit hits the fan). TSHTF refers to anything that leaves the economy in ruins and people roaming the streets looking for potatoes. Preppers are ready for this. Not all, but some. They not only have their BOB (Bug Out Bag) packed with water filtration paraphernalia and matches, they are armed to the teeth. Even the ones who are already on the land and growing gardens etc. brag about stock piling an arsenal that would make a mafia king (or whatever they are called) weep with envy.

Come for their potatoes, they proudly post, and they will be more than pleased to pop off your head.

This bothers me and not just because I am fond of potatoes. And my head.

My grandparents claimed a homestead in the same area I live today, back in 1930. It was the Great Depression and they had a wagon, a team of horses, a toddler (my aunt) and a baby (my Dad), a lamp, some clothes, a few tools and a couple of boxes of household supplies.

Things were tough.

The shit had hit the fan.

Their first reaction was not to pop off people’s heads while they searched for potatoes. It was to help each other.

They got through a decade of mind numbing poverty by coming together with their neighbours (neighbour with a U because this was Canada) and sharing what little they had. They built a rough shelter out of spruce logs and lived on moose meat, Saskatoon berries and turnips. And onions. Lots and lots of onions. So many onions that when my father hit his twenties he put down his fork and flat out refused to eat another so long as he should live. Even now, at 85 and in the late stages of vascular dementia, if asked if he wants some onions, he will grimace and shake his head. But-and this is important-at least he has a head to shake.

During the Depression there were barn building work bees, threshing teams and when a community needed a school or a hall, they all got together and built one. It was about as intentional of a community as you could hope to find. Instead of every man for himself it was a community effort.

It could be argued that back then you could get land for free-or at least for cheap-and that gave you a chance to at least feed your family when TSHTF. And we weren’t nearly so populated. Or dependant on grocery stores. Or lacking in survival skills.

Maybe preppers have a point.

I just don’t want to be the kind of person who can shoot another human over potatoes. I would rather die.

Or so I say now.

With a belly full of mango black bean salsa. It would be more fitting if it were potatoes, but that’s not what I had for supper.

Maybe I would turn into Rambo Old Lady Prepper Person. People would fear me. They would throw their potatoes at me just to save their poor heads when they saw me coming with guns hanging from every limb.

No one knows for sure what they will do when TSHTF.

Utopia, Dystopia, the past, the future…wherever we go we all live in a community of some sort.

Maybe when we retire we will live in another.

In the meantime there is the present. And the present is pretty darn good.

I think tomorrow we will have potatoes for supper…

Raw potatoes, dill, garlic and butter on a wooden board