Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: The Year in Review

Well, it's that time of year again. 

The time to look in the mirror and say OMIGOSH WHAT HAVE THE HOLIDAYS DONE TO ME!

No. That's not it.

It's the time of year to look back and see what was accomplished in 2013.

So - without poking around any further - here's a look at how things shaped up on Econopocalypse Ranch in 2013. Are you ready? I am (though I think I may have broken my calculator punching in all the harvest numbers). 


Crops harvested:

Broccoli: 40lbs, 2oz
Turnips: 36lbs
Papaya: 87lbs
Mustard Greens: 20lbs (est.)
Beets: 4lbs, 3oz
Kohlrabi: 10lbs, 1 oz
Cabbage: 16lb, 11oz
Radishes: 10lbs (est.)
Kale: 10lbs (est.)
White potatoes: 109.5 lbs
Carrots: 10lbs
Beans: 26lbs
Garlic: 4lbs
Pineapple: 7.5lbs
Watermelon: 46.5lbs
Strawberries: 15lb (est.)
Cassava: 20lbs
Corn: 25lbs 
Dry beans: 10lbs
Seminole Pumpkins: 35.5lbs
Sweet potatoes: 156lbs
Sugarcane: 73.5
Squash: 16lbs
Various salad greens: 20lbs (est.)
Buckwheat: 2 lbs
Water Chestnuts: 4lbs
Sorghum grain: 4lbs
Amaranth grain: 3lbs
West Indian Gherkins: 1 lb 5oz
Velvet Beans: 4lbs
Various berries: 5lbs
Herbs and teas: 1lb

Total: 832lbs, 6oz

Estimated Egg Count (Chicken and Duck): 250

(Note: I got rid of our poultry this year after multiple predator strikes. Plus, I had a lot of traveling to do... unlike plants, they can't be left alone for days at a time. Dang I miss those eggs...)


1 pecan tree
2 apple trees
1 "long" mulberry
50 sugarcane plants
1 "Pride of Barbados" tree
6 agave plants
1 native persimmon
3 loquats
2 peaches
3 jujubes
2 banana trees
1 clump of bamboo
4 native pawpaws
6 avocadoes
2 rabbit eye blueberries
3 goji berries
5 pineapples
1 prickly pear
2 lemon trees
3 loquat trees
5 figs


Built/dug 5 new garden beds
Began building a 96 square foot Epic Tree Fort
Redid front walk
Changed side fence and created nursery area
Added potting soil bin
Acquired new Clarington forge digging tools
Acquired new British-made machete
Acquired a Silverfire TLUD stove
Acquired a better tiller
Acquired a huge pile of tree shreds
Took down former goat run
Made a new worm bin
Created an in-ground cassava storage pit
Created a greywater oasis
Took down a rotten oak
Started deep mulching "islands" in the front food forest



1 mulberry
1 chocolate pudding fruit
1 tamarind
1 bed of ginger
1 cinnamon tree
1 grumichama
1 jabuticaba
1 acerola cherry
3 surinam cherry
1 cherry of the Rio Grande
Multiple canna lilies
1 heliconia
Multiple naranjillas
1 jackfruit
1 tropical almond
1 fig
1 canistel
3 edible hibiscus
1 katuk
1 monk's hood
1 sea purslane
1 Gynura procumbens
1 saltbush
3 turmeric


Stepping stones
Bird feeder


Total Posts: 373

Survival Plant Profiles Created: 9

New Videos Posted: 7

Top Posts:


Articles for "Natural Awakenings" Magazine: 12
Articles for "The Marion Gardener:" 5
Articles/posts for Mother Earth News: 15
Articles/posts for The Prepper Project: 152
Seed-saving/Survival Crop comic book: 10 pages


This year we harvested almost 250% more than we did last year in 2012.

Granted, 2012 wasn't a very good year because of the toxic manure issue - but I'm still quite pleased with the overall results. (Incidentally, the manure problem was mostly cleared up in 2013's annual beds after generous applications of biochar. Some of the trees are still crippled, however, and I'm starting to doubt they'll ever recover.)

I'll repeat my disclaimer on numbers from last year: our weights are approximate (though based on a lot of notes) since many things were eaten in the garden and never made it to the scale to be weighed. We also didn't bother weighing most of the salads we consumed - or the edible weeds we mixed into stir-fries.

The food forest made a good jump forward this year. Some of the trees added a good 3-5 feet of growth, though we aren't getting many fruit yet other than the occasional fig or kumquat. The blueberries are failing to grow with any speed, unfortunately, but the pomegranates and loquats are shooting for the sky. One day our harvest numbers will be outrageously large thanks to the tree crops. I hope more of them will start bearing in 2014 - the deep mulching and chop n' drop programs across the half-acre food forest are bound to make a difference.

As for the blog, I now regularly get between 500-1000 pageviews a day - a lot better than 2012. The newsletter has almost 100 subscribers and the feedback has been quite positive. I greatly enjoy the many sharp folk that stop by here and comment on a regular basis, not to mention the very appreciated people that mail me seeds and cuttings to try out.

There will be lots of new and wonderful things to report in the New Year. May your gardens overflow with abundance in 2014. Personally, I can't wait for spring. If this winter continues to be mild, it'll be an amazing year for my citrus and other borderline species.

All the best,

-David the Good

Monday, December 30, 2013

Start the New Year right: Downsize and throw off the shackles of debt

Mortgage-free and living well in a tiny house:

I like this couple's priorities.

I've been debt-free and mortgage-free for three years now. They aren't kidding when they talk about the freedom that comes from dropping out of the rat race. This blog probably wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the decade my wife and I spent budgeting, saving, investing and expense-cutting.

It's an amazing feeling to not owe anything. If it takes building a tiny house to do that, it's a great trade.

I could've been debt-free a lot sooner if I hadn't gotten caught in the heady excitement of the real estate boom. Fortunately I got out before it went bust.

If you are in debt and struggling, I really feel for you. These are tough times and it's hard to make money. I know from personal experience. I've had years where I fell well below the "poverty level."


My advice, for what it's worth:

1. Quit buying stuff.

2. Ditch everything that has payments attached.

3. Save every penny and live like you're utterly broke.

4. Grow your own food.

5. Save by stuffing extra cash into something hard to spend, like silver.

6. Work more and save the extra.

7. Sell stuff you don't need, want, or just because it's expensive. Cash is better than stuff.

8. Forget the Joneses. Like Dave Ramseysays - the Joneses are BROKE!

9. Don't let people pile obligations on you. If you can't afford a trip somewhere, tell everyone you're sorry and can't make it.

10. Always keep an emergency fund with at least $1000 in it.

11. Ditch your credit cards. Cut them up. Now.

12. Quit eating out.

13. Quit paying for Direct TV/Cable/Netflix/etc.

14. Learn to enjoy "making do." I recently made a new hammer handle and saved $6.00. It's pretty awesome to reclaim stuff that would otherwise hit the trash.

15. Always remember why you're doing this. FREEDOM!

Can you imagine not having to pay a payment ever again?

I can spend money on trees and plants that would normally have gone to some fat cat banker. And I can afford decent cigars and tree forts. We're still nowhere near wealthy, but at least we're not tied to monthly payments.

The decade of pain was worth it. You can be debt-free faster than I did with some planning. Especially if you ditch your house or apartment and get a tiny home (though I wouldn't pay what they did for it).


Good luck!

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Seminole pumpkin: an interior view

My wife sent me this photo when she was making pumpkin pie with the caption "too pretty!"

We're definitely growing Seminole pumpkins again, though I'll probably take a one-year hiatus and grow Rick's pumpkins in the spring so we can save seeds without crossing varieties.

Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if the two types are closely related genetically already. They have similar coloration and both are able to tolerate the extreme humidity and heat of Florida. Perhaps the Amish got seeds from the natives at some far-off point in the past...

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 28, 2013

There's something EPIC in the trees

Piece by piece, the new Epic Tree Fort is coming together:

More pictures and details coming soon...


Friday, December 27, 2013

Winged Yam Success!

My friend Mart sent me a couple of sweet pictures over the holiday in a "Merry Christmas" e-mail:

The picture aboveis of his Dioscorea alata vines... and here's what he found underneath them:

Impressive, eh? That's a jar of peanut butter in the foreground for perspective. That's ONE winged yam tuber.

Mart also reported that this was a two-year-old vine and that insects leave his vines alone. He also reported that the roots are delicious, particularly with butter like a white potato.

See why I call these puppies a perfect prepper crop?

It's probably about time to do a new survival plant profile...

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Book Review: Teaming with Microbes

Have you ever looked down and wondered what in the world was happening in your soil? Who was eating who? How many varieties of bacteria, fungi, arthropods, algae, etc. were down there?

Probably not.

I didn't give it much thought, either... but after reading Teaming with Microbes, I have a new appreciation for the incredible complexity of nature.

Ever heard the organic gardening advice "feed the soil, not the plant?"

This book explains why.

Around the roots of your vegetables, shrubs and trees, there's a vast web of microorganisms living sometimes in competition, sometimes in cooperation, and sometimes in symbiosis.

Fungal nets stretch out from the roots of a pine to capture nutrients the tree cannot... bacteria create feeding frenzies that heat up a pile of grass clippings... mushrooms spring from the wood they're breaking down into compost... tiny mites and nematodes constantly turn the soil and release nutrition... it's a wild world. Lowenfels and Lewis encourage you to harness that world on behalf of your plants.

If you're the type of person that gets bored by science, I should say that you won't like the first part of this book... but instead, I'm going to say you're a moron. Science is awesome.

One part of Teaming with Microbes I found particularly interesting was the difference between plant communities and how some prefer bacterially dominated soils... and other prefer fungally dominated soils. It makes sense when you consider the difference between an annual vegetable garden with its constant plant turnover and the relative stability of a forest. The former is a live-fast-die-young place where bacteria reign... the latter is a place where vast nets of mycellium invest themselves into unturned soil.

And speaking of soil turning, one of the takeaways the authors want you to get from this book is: DON'T TILL! This is emphasized multiple times through the text. Though I don't buy completely into the "no till" approach, I do understand the reasoning behind that philosophy better after reading Teaming with Microbes.

If I were to pick a downside of this book, it would be that it suffers a little from the same ailment as health books often do: a reliance on "bought-in" supplements, in this case fungal and bacterial mixes designed to help your plants. Though a lot of emphasis on creating "compost tea" is given, the idea of further going and buying expensive fungal or bacterial cultures doesn't sit well with my survival gardening ethos. Neither does the emphasis on constant compost tea drenches of the soil or regular soil microorganism analyses. Too much work for me. (Though I do REALLY want a microscope now.)

Overall, the information in this book is eye-opening and consistently entertaining. I found myself wanting to go deeper after reading, which is one of my criteria for a good book. It left me daydreaming of ways to bring more life into my soil, particularly in my compacted and sad front yard.

Teaming with Microbes is a very good book. You can pick up a copy here.

If you buy it through my link, I make a few cents. Maybe if you buy 100 copies I can afford a bigger compost tea sprayer...

4.5 SPUDS!

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. 

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

-Luke 2:1-20

My grandfather Judson used to read that story to us every Christmas Eve from the huge and ancient family bible. My grandmother Marian would usually sit or stand by his side and nod along with the familiar words.

Our entire family (and many "adopted" friends) would assemble from across the country and beyond. We'd sing Christmas songs and hymns, have a wonderful meal, then read that account and spend time in prayer before opening gifts.

There was a wonderful solemnity to the occasion. You could feel the weight of eternity on your shoulders as my Grandfather's solid and stern voice read the account from the archaic and powerful King James' version of the scriptures. Then, as strong men and good women prayed together for the assembled family and those that couldn't make it, for strength in the New Year and, most often, gave thanks for the many blessings we'd received, we kids felt a sense of belonging. We were a part of an ongoing generational legacy that looked above, rather than below. Whatever gifts we received, they were nothing compared to the raw power of spiritual community connected by love and blood and grace.

I miss my grandparents the most at this time of the year. 

Enjoy the time you have with those you love - and blessings upon you and yours.

I'll be back again on Thursday with a review of the book Teaming with Microbes... stay tuned... and...


Monday, December 23, 2013

Seed Gathering Time!

My daughter and I spent the other day wandering the yard and gathering seed from the various plants that have played out most of their reproductive lives this season.

We started with the many orange cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus) scattered around the food forest.

They make seed heads that look a lot like Bidens alba. Little sharp stars of almost black seeds, waiting for a passing animal or a good gust to knock them to the ground. Cosmos attract a lot of pollinators - they seem to be a particular favorite of the zebra longwings that flutter endlessly through my yard.

The seeds are easy to gather by scooping them off the brown heads and dropping them into something convenient.

After the cosmos, we moved on to the Tithonia rotundifolia, an annual cousin of Tithonia diversifolia, also confusingly called a "Mexican sunflower."

With these guys, I just snip off the flower heads after they drop their petals, turn brown and point towards the ground. Getting the seeds out is a little bit of a chore since they're wedged firmly inside the heads. I basically just break them apart, pick out the bigger chunks and let the chaff and seed sit in the bowl. I'll toss them both out together on the ground when I replant in the spring.

From there, it was on to the buckwheat bed.

We got plenty of seeds from our buckwheat experiment, though I had to wait a while for a dry day to start gathering them. The seeds are pretty easy to gather from the dried plants. I rolled them around in my hands to break off the little bits of stems left sticking to the grains, then poured them from one bucket to another in front of a box fan to blow away the miscellaneous leaves and chaff. This year's seeds will be used for planting, though Rachel really, really wants to eat them. Maybe I'll give her ONE to eat. JUST ONE!

After the buckwheat, we moved to the back yard and gathered a bunch of seeds from the little bed of zinnias my daughter and I had planted some months back.

With zinnias, the seeds form at the base of the old petals. It's not too hard to pick them out. You can do it without beheading them, but I like beheading things.

Once we gathered and cleaned our seeds (not very meticulously), we labeled envelopes for the bounty and put them away for the spring.

This next year I'm planning on adding a ton of flowers to the food forest in order to add habitat, confuse predators, attract pollinators and just generally make the yard look amazing as heck.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Quick Aside: Give My Sister Money... Get Healthy... Lose Weight!

///ALERT! The following is a PSA on behalf of my amazing little sister///

I've never been a "supplement" taker or much of a "health food" guy.

I grow my own - and what I don't grow, I actively seek out in food form.

Turmeric, sesame seed, raw egg, yogurt, black-strap molasses, moringa, cinnamon, seaweed, cocoa, peanut butter banana smoothie, anyone? (I'm not kidding).

However, if you're looking to eat healthy or lose weight and you don't have time to garden (and don't enjoy practicing culinary alchemy), you may be interested in checking out the health products offered by my sister Linda.

This is not a picture of my sister, though it would be cool if it was.
She's lost weight on them and loves to share her knowledge (and I owe her for helping me keep my business organized some years back when I was totally swamped with work) - so here's her website. You can reach her directly to find out how she can help you, too - her number is 954-261-1930 and her e-mail is darlin238 (at) gmail.com.

I don't make a penny if you buy anything, but she does - and she's a really generous gal who gives... and gives... and gives to her family, church and community. Maybe she can help one of you with a New Year's health resolution.

///We now return to our regularly scheduled garden programming///

Friday, December 20, 2013

Breakfast for two

I may be a gardener, but my wife is a chef. We eat some pretty amazing meals around here.

As long as I keep her supplied with vegetables, she keeps feeding me amazing food.

This particular meal contains wonderful bacon, local eggplant from the farmer's market, some organic eggs, ground beef, spices and a generous helping of our homegrown greens.

Sorry... gotta run... breakfast is served!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Soil Creation and Thoughts On Complexity

I was just going through my pictures from the Appalachian Trail and found this:

Lichens are patiently eating into that big hunk of rock. Slowly but surely, it's being turned into soil that will feed the surrounding forest for generations and generations to come.

Some people might just see a mushroom... some mold... flies devouring a carcass or ants carrying away crumbs from a picnic.

But there's a lot more going on in nature. There's a huge cycle set in place long ago, where every piece interacts with every other piece, sometimes in immeasurable or incomprehensible ways.

The fungi in the soil can transfer nutrients across the forest floor... the bacteria in the soil can take nitrogen from the air and convert it into plant fertilizer... the insects break down organic debris... and the lichens on a rock can release minerals that feed the pines.

When you spray poisons or flood the soil with synthetic chemicals, you run the risk of damaging the trillions of processes happening in your garden's ecosystem.

Slow down... observe... think about how much is going on. Plant an abundance of species, drag home piles of sticks and logs to feed the fungi, sprinkle seeds around, mulch and let nature repair and balance itself.

When it comes to gardening knowledge, we've barely scratched the surface, just like those lichens. But every little bit of knowledge or thoughtful action makes a difference.

There's a plan here, set in place by Someone far above us.

Seek it out and enjoy the good things that come your way.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

7 Ways To Cut Through Seed Catalog Confusion

In most of the country, fall gardens have been put to sleep… there’s frost on the windows… the ground is too hard to work… and just when you’d almost forgotten about growing… a lightning bolt of color strikes your mailbox and ends up in your hands.
A seed catalog.

In it you find page after page of amazing vegetables from wild and exotic locations like Persia, France, Siberia and Idaho. The possibilities of gardening thaw your ice-encrusted mind and re-ignite the gardening passion in your snow-dimmed soul.

“What if…”

Be careful, friend. Remember last year? And the year before? I’ll give you a minute while you go dig through your seed box and look over the barely touched packets printed ’06, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’10, ’11, ’12 and ’13.

It’s hard not to succumb to the excitement and over-binge on seed buying, even if you’re a “survival gardener.” I’m guilty.

Heck, I occasionally find unopened seed packages in the back of desk drawers, behind my dresser, in the pantry and under my bed. Over the years I’ve learned to dial back and make myself get the best use from my winter seed catalog reading.

How can you cut through the confusion and plan out seed-buying for the New Year?

Here are seven killer tips:

1. Don’t Buy It If You Don’t Like To Eat It

Zucchini, anyone? This tip seems like it’s almost too dumb to list… but the fact is, many of us do grow stuff we don’t really enjoy, sometimes just because we’ve always grown it. Mel Bartholomew, author of Square Foot Gardening, recommends looking at your grocery list as a way to narrow down your planting choices. Why waste space on something you or your kids will tire of quickly?

2. Grow What’s Expensive

Ah, so you’re a cheapskate? Me too. And I like great vegetables. Have you always wanted to have your own organic blue potatoes? Plant them. Amazing leeks? Go for it. Endless stacks of deep red beets? Uh-huh. Fresh herbs? Yep. Exotic melons? Oh yeah. If there’s something you like to eat – but it’s a little steep at the store – plant it in your garden. If you grow extra, you can sell it and buy next year’s seeds.

3. Choose Heirlooms for Replanting

This is something a lot of people think about but never really pull off. Hybrid varieties can exhibit helpful tendencies the year you plant them… but next year, who knows what you’ll get from the seeds you save? If you choose heirlooms you’ll be able to save seed from year to year and hopefully never have to buy that variety again...  

(Click here to read the rest over at The Prepper Project)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review: The Spring Gardener 10 x 20' Greenhouse

Two years ago I finally decided to take the plunge and buy a simple greenhouse.

It's no secret that tropical plants play a big role here at Econopocalypse Ranch.

There are plenty of plants I grow for survival... and then there are some that I grow just because I can't accept the fact I don't live in the tropics.

Buying a greenhouse was a big deal for me. I'm a cheapskate. I don't like spending money unless it makes me money. That's why we have one car, a modest house, thrift store clothes and lots of garden beds.

The need to keep things alive and start new plants during winter finally won me over, however. To jump in, I did a lot of research on various ways of building greenhouses and perused plenty of kits before settling on the model I own now - the Spring Gardener Gable Greenhouse.

It's simple enough to set up in a couple of hours the first time (especially if you have a handy-dandy direction-following wife with you.)

The frame is quite sturdy and the plastic sides attach to it easily with a simple yet ingenious method - little dingle ball attacher do-dads:

The corners velcro together sturdily as well.

When we first set this greenhouse up in 2011, I figured it was heavy enough to stand up fine even in windstorms.

One particularly brutal thunderstorm proved me wrong. After a frantic fight to unhook flapping panels in the wind and rain to keep the structure from going airborne, I had to rethink my naive strategy.

I used a post hole digger to dig holes by the bottom of each leg, which I then filled with cement with a piece of re-bar sticking out a few inches above the surface. I then used hose clamps to attach those re-bar pieces to the legs and haven't had any problems since.

The manufacturer recommends tying this thing to the ground - I just needed to find out why first-hand. Just tie it down the first time around and avoid my mistake.

There's plenty of space inside the Spring Gardener Gable Greenhouse, with 9' of clearance to the roof. You can walk around inside from wall to wall and not touch the roof with your head unless you're 8' tall.

I'm please with what I got for the price (under $700.00). It's allowed me to grow starfruit, coffee and other exotics without having to drag pots in and out of the house.

Here are a couple of extra tweaks I do to keep this thing running well.

I disassemble the plastic sides and leave just the metal frame in the yard during the warm season to preserve the plastic.

Another thing: see those 55 gallon drums? They're thermal mass. By placing them in the greenhouse, I moderate the temperature much better than it would be without them. Even if I leave the greenhouse shut on a hot day, the cool water in the barrels keeps my plants from getting cooked - and on freezing nights, the comparatively warm water keeps the temperatures from falling to dangerous levels.

My recommendation: there isn't a better deal you can find on a well-built entry level greenhouse. One day I may build a big permanent greenhouse and plant a tropical food forest inside it, but for now - this is a solid tool and I'm glad I bought it.

That's saying something, 'cause spending money hurts.

On a cold day, there's nothing like stepping into an 80 degree greenhouse and soaking up the warmth and extra oxygen while enjoying lush green tropical plants. You may not be able to buy happiness, but that gets pretty close.



Monday, December 16, 2013

How To Make Your Own Fish Fertilizer

Remember that old story of the natives teaching the Pilgrims to bury fish beneath their corn plants? It works. That’s why “fish emulsion” or “fish fertilizer” is still sold as a common organic fertilizer. Plants love it – and you can make it yourself. This is a good thing, because fish emulsion is really expensive.

As I posted previously, my friends Rick and Mart came over a few weeks ago for a major yard work day. Both of these guys are pretty hard-core plant geek/survivalist/homesteader types.

When they arrived, Rick said, “Hey… I brought you a little gift from the Caribbean market.” He then proceeded to haul two buckets of nice fresh fish guts and parts from the back of his truck.

I was thrilled. What thoughtful friends I have!

Once I had this bounty… it was time to make it into something amazing for my plants.

If you have access to fish waste, you can do the same thing I do. It’s easy and it smells incredible. Here’s how I’m doing it.

Step 1: Get A Big Barrel

After this particular project, you’re not going to want to use this barrel for anything else, so choose wisely. I got a great used 55-gallon drum with a top from the local feed store:


You want a lid for this thing to make sure animals stay out and that none of the fish turn into undead zombie fish and escape in the night. They’ll come in your windows and stuff, trashing your house and eating your brains. Don’t let that happen.

Step 2: Throw In The Guts!


Isn’t that an amazing picture? I think that should be the cover of a punk album. Or maybe something by Aphex Twin. You can almost smell the ocean. I threw in crab parts, too, since they’re loaded with calcium and other nutrients. I don’t know how well they’ll break down in the final scheme of things, but I imagine they’ll go eventually.

Step 3: Add Some Carbon!

We all know about the whole C:N part of composting, right? That is, for nitrogenous material, it helps to add some carbon so the microorganisms get plenty to snack on as they break down a pile. I’m doing the same thing with my fish fertilizer. In this case, I used shredded moringa tree trunks.


You’d never know there was a hellish slop of yucky piscine waste beneath that, would you? Looks pretty innocuous, if I do say so myself. You could probably use sawdust, mulch chips, shredded paper or straw in this mix… the idea is just to give a little more balance to your fertilizer. We’re anaerobic composting, here… it may be nasty wharf-scented sludge, but it’s still compost.

(To read the rest and see the final steps, click on over to The Prepper Project)

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday breakfast

"There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise:

The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer; 

The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks; 

The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands; 

The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces."

-Proverbs 30:24-28

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Victory for Food Growing Freedom!

The Helvenstons finally pulled it off!

Check out their latest post:

It is now legal to grow your own food anywhere in your yard within the City of Orlando.  We all managed to change our little part of the world for the better.   

Congratulations everyone.  We did it.

Never mind the convoluted code writing, it would be very difficult for anyone to ever get a “vegetable” code violation again.  Our front yard garden is completely legal AS IS.

Thank you ALL.  Special thanks to Kitchen Gardeners International, Institute for Justice, MotherEarth News, TreeHugger, Coalition for Property Rights, Campaign for Liberty, Food Not Bombs, Food Not Lawns, FloridaSurvivalGardening.com, Orlando Center for Urban Permaculture, Front Porch Radio, all of the media, and so many more.

(Read the rest

I don't like legal battles one bit.

I pay my taxes, abide by all the non-native invasive plant requirements in my nursery and even keep an actual valid driver's license in my wallet. The thought of "fighting back" against something unjust is a thing I can appreciate... but I think I have a little too much Amish pacifist in me.

That said, what Jason and Jennifer Helvenston did impresses the heck out of me. They stood up to the city, played nice with their neighbors, let their story be known and refused to plow under their food despite the threat of heavy fines.

Good work. I'm impressed.

That front yard garden beats grass any day.

If you missed my original video interview with them, here it is again:

And my Mother Earth article is here.

One of these days I need to go down there and do a new video shoot featuring their garden... anyone want to spot me some cash for a good video camera? :)

Let's keep winning these fights!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Survival Plant Profile: Water Chestnuts

Every once in a while, I come across a crop that's totally foreign to me as a gardener.

That was the case with water chestnuts until just a few years ago.

I didn't know they were a sedge, I didn't know that they were different from the invasive water chestnut, and I couldn't find any planting stock for testing in Florida.

That is, until my friends at the USDA hooked me up with a few to try out this last winter. I planted them in jars of mud on my windowsill until the weather warmed up outside, then snagged an old bathtub from a family member, put in some potting soil, and planted one in it.

Here's what I started with:

And here's what I had a month or two later:

And by July:

These plants grow like mad. When the leaves began dying back and I started pulling them up a few weeks ago, I found I had piles of water chestnuts for eating and planting.

NOTE: How I grew them this last year was not quite correct. First off, I added too much water to the tub and not enough dirt in the bottom. I got a lot of small and squashed corms from this method. Next year, I'm growing them in these bad boys:

Yep. Those are old hot tubs behind my greenhouse. I actually have three now, all of which will be growing food for me this next spring.

Until then, however, I'm keeping some water chestnuts growing in the greenhouse. Here's how to grow water chestnuts:

Step 1: Find something that holds water.

Step 2: Put some good dirt in it.

Step 3: Plant a water chestnut a few inches deep.

Step 4: Add water until it's over the soil line.

Growing water chestnuts is totally easy. Just wait - within a few days, that chestnut will pop up. They grow like crazy, as mentioned previously, and the "nuts" will be all over the place beneath the muck in about 6-7 months.

Alternately, you can grow water chestnuts in kiddie pools or swampy areas. For low-work yield, they're hard to beat. They're even pretty good nutritionally. Plus... the flavor is superb. Nothing at all like the canned or frozen blah you get with Chinese takeout.

Send me $20.00 and I will ship you five of them via Priority mail, shipping included.


4 Spuds

Name: Water chestnuts,Chinese water chestnuts
Latin Name: Eleocharis dulcis
Type: Perennial water sedge
Size: Around 2-5' tall
Nitrogen Fixer: No
Medicinal: No
Cold-hardy: No
Exposure: Full sun
Part Used: Corms
Propagation: Corms, division
Taste: Excellent
Method of preparation: Raw, cooked, pickled
Storability: Decent. Keep in cold damp sand or can them.
Ease of growing: Easy
Nutrition: Good
Recognizability: Low
Availability: Low

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, December 12, 2013

How To Protect Moringa Trees From Frost - 4 Easy Steps

Protecting moringa trunks from frost damage is the #1 thing you can do to ensure an early spring harvest of nutritious young leaves.

In the northern half of Florida, moringas will often freeze to the ground, then grow back again from the roots sometime in spring. If you let this happen, you'll be waiting on new leaves for a lot longer than necessary.

Want a shortcut that will give you much better yields? It's easy. I've written on this method before, but it's time for a better demonstration. Here's how I do it.

Step 1: Chop 'Em Down!

Chop your moringa trees down to 4' trunks in late fall or early winter. I wait until the first frost is coming, then do this the day before.

It hurts to cut the trees down, but you can take away some of the pain by drying leaves to use through the winter. See?

I usually put away a couple of dry gallons of leaves... that's a LOT of moringa. We never run out.

Step 2: Make Rings!

Got some old chicken wire or other fencing? Get snipping and bending!

It's easy and fun. Just watch yourself on the sharp wires.

I make my rings about 16 - 20" across, depending on the size of the tree. You can see one of the trunks above is a lot thicker than the other little moringas - that one is over two years old and was protected last winter. The others are only a year old.

Once you have your rings, move on to step three.

Step 3: Stuff Those Rings

I buy straw for this step but you could easily use leaves instead. Last year I used pine needles. All you want to do is make sure you get plenty of protection between the wires and the trunk of the trees. I stuff them tight, like so:

And that's it! Once all danger of frost has passed, pull the rings off and rake away the straw. The moringas will shoot up like rockets from the intact trunk and you'll be harvesting new leaves in no time... while your friends wait sadly for their moringa trees to return from the ground.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chickweed: Free and Delicious

Check this out:

That's a close-up of one of my garden beds. All the way to the right is a cilantro plant with a red lettuce behind it... but a lot of the rest of the bed has been overrun by chickweed. That's the spralking green stuff everywhere.

This isn't an accident. We planted this bed with lettuce and other greens... then a few weeks later, I noticed that in between our deliberately planted veggies, we had a lot of little chickweed sprouts coming up. As my wife and I weeded, we went around them.


Three words: chickweed is delicious.

It's good in salads where it adds a "sweet corn" flavor, and it's good in stir-fries or any other dish where a pleasant green provides a nice addition.

Chances are, you have some in your yard right now. For identification keys and lots more info, Green Deane has the lowdown.

If you keep your eyes open and aren't a weed-Nazi, there's good food everywhere. When I see something worth nibbling in my beds, I leave it alone (unless it's going to take over, like Shepherd's needle will). Purslane, chickweed, dandelions and wild lettuces are always welcome.

This particular patch of chickweed is going to be fueling salads for the next few months until it fades out in the late spring. There's nothing like free food.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How To Find Good Ginger (And Grow It)

A perfect piece of ginger for planting.
When I was a kid, we were friends with a Chinese-Malaysian architect. He was the first person I'd ever seen growing ginger.

Before I saw him pulling roots from a large flowerpot, I had no idea that ginger even was a root. I only knew it as a the zippy half of "ginger ale."

Now that I'm older, I've really come to appreciate ginger both as an ornamental and a culinary plant. Over the years, I've planted ginger root from the store many times; however, good roots are getting harder to find. A lot of what I've seen lately is limp stuff from China without any good "eyes" on it. You have to look hard to get good pieces. As you saw last week, I found some recently on a trip to Whole Foods.

You want pieces that have eyes like this:

Nice, healthy yellow-green bumps. Those are where your new ginger plants will grow from. Watch out for pieces like this:

That's what a lot of the ginger in the store looks like these days. The growing eyes have been chopped or abraded off. Skip them and keep looking.

When you have your nice, healthy pieces of ginger, break them up into a few pieces if they're huge chunks, and ensure each piece has at least one or two growing buds.

I just planted a long row in a planter bed as part of The Great South Florida Food Forest Project - check it out:

After spacing the roots on the surface like that, I buried them all a few inches deep. In a few months, ginger plants will pop up in a lovely row and it's off to the races.

Forget popping in non-edible ornamental plants... why do that when you can grow something delicious and beautiful? Growing ginger in Florida is easy. They have few or no pests, grow in so-so soil, like the shade and they're good for you.

We use it for seasoning (the leaves can be added to soups like bay leaves) and to treat upset stomachs (ginger is a champion at calming queasiness... I pop chunks of it into tea all through campaign season).

Grow it - it's fun!

(Want to learn more on growing ginger? Click here.)

Labels: ,


This Page

has moved to a new address:


Sorry for the inconvenience…

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service