How Our Homegrown Thanksgiving Went Horribly Wrong

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Author of Be Ready for Anything and Build a Better Pantry on a Budget online course

This article was originally published on November 25, 2015.

I’ve previously written about what a rough year for gardening it has been here in California for many, due to the drought, the lack of forageable food for wildlife, and an incredible heat wave. This Thanksgiving, my gratitude goes out to the local farmers that have been more successful than I, who have made our impending feast possible.

Our Homegrown Thanksgiving Challenge

At the beginning of summer this year, my best friend and I decided to plant our gardens with a goal in mind. Our families always get together for Thanksgiving, so this year, we would grow ourselves a homegrown feast. Anything we couldn’t raise ourselves, we would procure within 10 miles of home.

We started out great.

BFF had planted potatoes, corn, pumpkin, and melons. Although I got a late start because of a move, I had a lovely herb garden, a fig tree, bean plants, some zucchini, several winter squash plants, and an abundance of tomatoes.

Early in the season, both of us were invaded by deer. Despite our fencing, despite the Deer-B-Gone sprays, despite the smelly pee that we bought from the nursery, the deer decimated Round 1 of my garden in one evening. BFF’s corn, pumpkin, and melons were likewise inhaled by those persistent, relentless, tick-infested jerks.

“Well, we still have potatoes, tomatoes, squash, herbs, and figs,” BFF said consolingly.

I figured out how to keep the deer at bay. I got an enormous dog that served to terrify them out of my garden. “Checkmate!” I screamed at them, waving a fist in the air as they grazed on the hill and laughed at me.

I replanted, secure in my belief that I had won the battle against wildlife.

The wildlife had the next laugh, because, GOPHERS.

Like something out of a sci-fi movie, my squash plants vanished, one by one, getting yanked in their entirety down a hole at the roots. At the rate of one per day, they were simply gone.

“We still have potatoes, tomatoes, herbs, and figs,” said BFF. “We’ll just get some meat from a local farmer and it’ll be a great meal.”

I replanted yet again, even though it was far too late in the season, and then came the heat. And by heat, I mean the day after replanting, it reached 115 degrees in my little garden. My new transplants didn’t have a chance in the world.

Then, despite my efforts to keep it alive, my fig tree died, most likely from the epic drought here in California. I salvaged not a single fig, as it was too early in the season for them to be picked and ripened.

“Well, thank goodness we still have potatoes, tomatoes, and herbs,” I said to BFF.

Then my formerly thriving raised beds of herbs and tomatoes began to mysteriously wither. Once lush and green, those poor plants were just keeling over where they stood. The mystery was solved when one day, from the barn, I looked down the hill and saw the dog, that noble protector of the garden and frightener of deer, hiking his leg and PEEING ON MY HERBS AND TOMATOES. Not just a little trickle. A drenching.

I called BFF to express my dismay and she said, “Well, I have some more bad news. The deer ate all of my potatoes.”

I asked, “How could that have happened? Deer don’t eat potatoes. I read that. I READ THAT IN MY GARDENING BOOK.”

I began to sympathize with the Pilgrims even more than I had in grade school history class when my mom had to pick me up from school because I cried so hard I threw up on Tammy H’s desk when I learned about all of those people dying of starvation. (What!?!?! I was a very sensitive child!)

At this point, our homegrown Thanksgiving is going to consist of a couple of tomatoes, an eggplant, a handful of jalapeno peppers, and some eggs.

An omelette. That’s right.

Thanksgiving dinner will be an omelette for 10.

We’re holding out the fervent hope that some Indians show up with non-GMO corn.

Happy Thanksgiving, from our house to yours.

The First Thanksgiving

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Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • My gosh, what an ordeal. I am on the other side of the country (Virginia) and I want to get in my car and bring you food! Love your spirit… I would not be as thankful, full of resolve, and humorous. Your pointed post is humbling. God bless you….and your omelette eaters. So. Much!

    • Hi Robin! Thank you for the good wishes. I’m sure we’d have a great time if we were able to get together and celebrate! Don’t worry, we have lots of delicious abundance from farmers who were more successful than us this year. 🙂

  • I was feeling bad for you until the Indians part at the end. We’re not from India, and the Pilgrims and Native people getting together is a made up story.

    • Hi Amber. I’m sorry you were offended by was meant to be a humorous reference to the elementary school play that basically all of us took part in during our childhoods. I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving.

  • Daisy,

    Happy Thanksgiving to you, too. And, omelets are delicious anyway!

    Please ask BFF how to grow potatoes. I have tried for three years and have not been successful. I have a greenhouse (because of bad soil and deer) and I plant the potatoes in large containers. As the plants grow, I add soil and the plants grow more and eventually the containers are full, the plants are large and bloom.

    The first year I “dug” the potatoes way too soon. A cousin of my husbands said I had to wait for the plants to die and then wait a bit more before digging. OK.

    Next year, I did that. Dug potatoes and harvested about 6 or 8 the size of golf balls. Figured I hadn’t waited long enough.

    This year I grew lovely plants. They died right on cue. I waited and waited and waited. Dug and there wasn’t even a marble sized potato!

    So, what am I doing wrong?

    Have a wonderful Holiday season.

  • Sounds like your soil has way to much fertilizer for potatoes. Also, unlike the books portray, potatoes really don’t like closed in containers and they need heaps of water to grow well. Better luck next year.

    Daisy, your story was great and unfortunately more true to life than we would like to believe. Growing enough food to live on is really a life long experience.

    • Thanks Vivian.

      The too much fertilizer could be the problem. I was using Miracle Grow garden soil straight from the bag. I’ll keep trying.

  • Hi Daisy, sounds sort of like my adventures with chickens, but the neighbors dog has been having chicken dinner for thanksgiving all year. As for keeping out of politics at holidays? NOT IN MY FAMILY! We believe its Important to discuss what we believe, young or old all opinions welcome. In fact when my ex’s girlfriend tried a few years ago to say discussing politics in company wasn’t polite ,my son looked at her and said In O.UR family we discuss politics. Nuff said. How else will young people know the truth?

    • I totally agree with you about discussing what we believe in. But I know that there are some folks (obviously not your family or mine) who are not able to keep the conversation civil. 🙂 As for us, we’re making plans for Christmas, playing games, and Netflixing.

  • I feel your gardening pain! Every year we have some failures, this year more than normal. The most crushing loss this year was the loss of 20 tomato plants after only the first third of the season. Also, to the commenter about potatoes: I always try new crops at least 3 different seasons before I give up. I had tried potatoes twice with no look due to being devoured by potato beetles. I mean knee high one day, completely stripped the next. I tried a small experiment in a different location and had great success this year! DON’T give up on them yet.

  • As for planting potatoes. You can plant them as late as the 4th of July. This way you will miss the potato bug & still get a good crop. We have done this & have had a good crop

  • Reminds me a little of my son’s 4-H vegetable garden project this year – beautiful vertically grown zucchini – until the deer figured out how to get through the 8 foot deer fence. Then they got the peppers, came back for cucumbers and snap peas. When we figured out how the deer had done it, the season was too far gone- and there was no salvaging the project for judging. So sad for him but he learned a similar life lesson. P.S. I like to think the deer in the freezer this fall was the very same one who wrecked his project (unlikely – but makes us both feel a little bit better).

  • That fiasco sounds just like my 2019 Virginia garden experience, minus the animal plagues. Blood meal keeps all the vegan animals away and the long guns are always at the ready. The heat and the drought are what did in the local gardeners. The large farms faired better by virtue of industrial irrigation systems.

    I wasn’t about to risk my well reserves during a drought in triple digit temperatures. Things were so pathetic that even the rabbits had pity on us. Fortunately we still have a good stock of canned tomatoes and frozen vegetables from last year to fall back on.

    On the up side, the dry weather has been good for the wild turkey hatch. The turkeys are keeping pace with the coyotes so far and the deer are big and healthy if not fat. Meat will not be a problem.

    Still looking for those Indians to drop by with that non GMO corn. It’s liable to be a long wait!

  • Oh my, I do feel for you. I’ve had a couple years of woodchucks. The one last year got into the garden via a tunnel that came out hidden under the rhubarb–so I FINALLY discovered THIS spring as I was manuring said rhubarb! That one got all the broccoli, beans, peas, lettuces, cabbages, brussels sprouts–and apparently rolled on anything he didn’t eat. I did get a few tomatoes. The one the year before that I was able to trap. (Then there was the rabid woodchuck a year before that–but at least it didn’t get into the garden, although it clawed/bit at the fence trying to get at me… Finally got it with a fence post after carrying the post around with me all that forenoon.)

    There was also the Year of the Rodents, the year following a big acorn year. I trapped over 100 chipmunks that summer, that were raiding my organic chicken feed, and got absolutely no apples or peaches–the squirrels got them all. (Big acorn crop this year, too, so we’ll see what next year brings!)

    This year it’s the chickens, decimated by a bobcat–I’ve lost 10. We think it’s moved on (poor chickens having been confined to the coop for 6 weeks!) because we’re seeing chipmunks again… Of course I haven’t seen the bobcat since I’ve been “carrying”…

    At least the foraging tends to go well…

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