Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: The Year In Review

Alrighty! I get to do another "Year in Review" post!

It's a Florida Survival Gardening tradition now... and who am I to break tradition?

As a refresher, here's 2012 and here's 2013.

In 2013 we pulled in 832lbs of produce. This year we didn't quite make that number since we added a cute new addition to the homestead... right when we normally plant our spring gardens. So much for our normal rush of spring harvests. I'd rather have a baby anyhow.

The weather of 2013/2014 was nice and mild which was good for my tropical plants but not as good for my temperate trees. The seedling peaches produced for the first time this year, as did two of my Japanese persimmon trees, a tangerine (which was supposed to be a grapefruit), my Ponderosa lemon, my Meyer lemon and my blood orange. The yields were quite small but we at least got a taste.

The blueberries and blackberries are still failing to jump as I'd like. The figs are doing better but haven't come into their own yet.

Well... just take a look at the numbers and you'll see what did well and what didn't:

Harvest Totals:

Bananas: 22 lbs
Beans (Yard-long): 6 lbs
Blackberries: 1 lb
Blueberries: 1 lb
Broccoli: 18.5 lbs
Cabbage: 15.5 lbs
Calamondins: 2 lbs
Cassava: 25 lbs
Chaya: 5 lbs (estimated)
Chinese Water Chestnuts: 10 lbs (estimated)
Coffee: 1 lb (est.)
Ethiopian Kale: 5 lbs (est.)
Figs: 3 lbs (est.)
Goumi Berries: 1 lb
Grapes: 3 lbs
Greens (Suriname purslane, Okinawa spinach, longevity spinach, hibiscus): 10 lbs (est.)
Hot Peppers: 14.5 lbs
Key Limes: 3 lbs
Kumquats: 1 lb
Lemons: 5 lb
Loofah (Angle gourds): 3 lbs
Malanga: 13.5 lbs
Moringa: 20 lbs (est.)
Mulberries: 28 lbs
Oranges: 3 lbs
Papaya (ripe): 11 lbs (est.)
Papaya (green): 12 lbs
Peaches: 5 lbs
Persimmons: 1 lb
Pineapples: 5 lbs
Potatoes: 28 lbs
Seminole Pumpkins: 196.75 lbs
Sugarcane: 46 lbs
Starfruit: 1.5 lbs
Sweet Potatoes: 103 lbs
Watermelon: 7 lbs
Velvet Beans: 5 lbs (est.)
Yams: 39 lbs

Total: 680.25 lbs

Eggs: 100 (est.)

We got 6 hens and a rooster this summer since I missed the eggs. They're in a simple PVC tractor, happily chewing their way around the food forest and not laying near enough for the family; however, they do pay their way in tillage and manure.

The real star of this year was our compost-pile Seminole pumpkins... which ironically, we didn't even plant! Almost 200 lbs from perhaps 6 plants.

In the realm of tree crops, our mulberries really found their stride this year, producing a rocking 28 lbs of berries. Not bad for 2-3 year old trees.

Consider this: 4 oz of organic berries in the grocery store costs about $4.00. That means those mulberries, if sold as pesticide-free organic berries, should be worth about $450.00.

Mulberry trees cost about $20-$25 each. You do the math. It's a lot better than the stock market!

This spring we lost our field crop test plots due to a string of problems with the landowner. It's nice to be free of that particular relationship but I did truly enjoy growing heirloom corn without irrigation. Fortunately, we have another friend who has volunteered about 5,000 ft2 for our shared use with his family so the corn experiments will resume in the spring. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away... blessed be the Name of the Lord.

The mulch added to our front yard food forest at the end of 2013 really paid off. Though the plums, nectarines, peaches, chestnuts, jujubes, pears, apples and other trees out there didn't produce this year, they did put on big spurts of growth which gives me hope for 2015.

I lost my rare loquat tree out the other side due to a string-trimmer accident but some of the budwood was successfully grafted onto other loquats around the yard so the variety has been saved.

My Pakistan long mulberry keeps failing to produce berries due to a weird dieback it keeps getting in the spring. If it does it again this year, it's gone.

The grapes did rather poorly. The Southern Home variety, which is the main type I planted, seems to have a strange leaf-browning issue.

In better news, my friend Allan found a white mulberry growing in his neighborhood and got me some cuttings. They rooted, so I'm hoping to have some of those added to the food forest this next year.

And speaking of adding things... here are some of the trees and shrubs we added to the property over the course of 2014.

Trees/Shrubs Planted

(4) Paulownia trees (fuel for rocket stoves/chop-n-drop)
(7) Pyracanthas (berries for wildlife/jam)
(5) St. Christopher lilies (just because)
(5) Rosa rugosas (edible hips)
(5) Autumn Olives (edible nitrogen fixers)
(6) Goji berries
(1) Root beer plant (Piper auritum)
(Multiple) Gingers
(1) Red honeysuckle (very rare)
(1) Crabapple
(8) Edible hibiscus
(2) Dwarf Poinciana (nitrogen fixers)
(5) Cherry trees
(3) Almonds (two are now deceased)
(3) Dwarf Everbearing mulberries
(1) Saharanpor Mulberry
(5) Dunstan Chestnuts
(2) Flowering almond verbenas (for pollinators)
(Multiple) Various pentas/salvias/other pollinator plants
(1) Kumquat (it was on sale)
(1) Nectarine
(4) Arrowroot plants
(6) Yacon plants
(Multiple) Jerusalem artichokes
(Multiple) Tithonia diversifolia
(Multiple) Cassava
(Multiple) Rare test varieties of yam
(1) Clumping bamboo found in discarded pile of yard debris
(1) Thousand Finger Banana
(1) Thai black banana
(6) Canna lilies (various types)
(5) Chayas

Plenty of good plants... and there are plenty that I forgot. I'm always popping them in here and there. Here's what we accomplished on the infrastructure front:

Infrastructure Added

Hoss Wheel Hoe/Hoss Seeder
Three forged digging hoes
Multiple oil lamps
Ruger 10/22 for plinking squirrels
Trailer for hauling plants
New wheelbarrow
New 12' x 16' greenhouse (Thank you, Dave Taylor!)
Multiple garden beds
Large cassava patch (Thank you, Jeff D.!)
Junkyard area
Plastic sheeted tree area/wire supports for fruit trees for sale
Small mist house (Thanks again, Jeff D.!)
Carpeted interior of the house
Repaired (sort of) my Grandfather's old table saw and got it running again
Built a solitary bee house and had great success with gaining tenants
Added more bird feeders and houses to the food forest
Added a birdbath to the food forest
Added a small pond to the food forest
Built a rabbit cage and nest boxes
Installed 4 rabbits in the cage

As for this site, here's how I did:

Site Stats

Posts created: 323
Episodes of Crash Gardening Produced (Thanks, Jeff Greene!): 11
Total videos created: 30
YouTube Channel Subscribers: 465
Florida Survival Gardening Newsletter Subscribers: 541
Newsletters Written: 8

The traffic on in 2013 generally ranged between 500-1,000 pageviews a day.

In 2014 it generally ranged between 1,000 - 1,500 a day.

That's a pretty good increase, especially considering I SOLD OUT and put ads on the site to try and pay for my hosting and time. It didn't work, but I do manage to make about $30-40 a month in revenue.

If the ads bother you, let me know. I'm on the fence with them.

My Top 5 Posts for 2014:

How To Make Cane Syrup at Home (Without a Cane Press)

Five Plants the Look Like Marijuana 

Survival Plant Profile: Cassava, King of Staples

Suggested Reading for Florida Gardeners

2 Blocks: 17 Edibles

People are apparently quite interested in Marijuana.

(Hey - I should see if I can make THIS post a top post! Marijuana, Mary Jane, Reefer, Cannabis Sativa, Pot, Bud, Crippy, Hemp! There! THAT ought to boost hits (snicker) amongst the dreadlocked set!)

At least it's still getting beaten by sugarcane. Though I suppose you could make a pretty good argument that sugar kills a lot more people than marijuana.

Oh shoot.

By the way, I do get a kick out of some of the search terms that bring people to this site. On December 26th, for instance:

Okay, now some of those are just plain funny. I'm imagining a bum with a malt 40oz sitting in a library typing "does moringa has no nitrogin?"

Google, c'mon dawg... give me a hand...

Beyond this site, I also did a lot of writing for, plus a decent amount of writing for (though not as much as I would have liked.)

In 2014 Mother Earth News gave me two prestigious awards for my blogging: a cool mug and a cool pin.
They didn't give me the plastic alligator.
One runaway success of 2014 was my Survival Gardening Secrets audiobook. That has sold many hundreds of copies thus far and continues to do well. Thank you, Chet and Jason at The Prepper Project for pushing me to get that completed.

I also helped create The Brilliant Homestead as well. That will grow into something great.

I'm greatly expanding my annual garden beds for the spring and Mrs. Survival Gardener and the kids will soon be helping for an hour every morning as a part of the children's studies. It's wonderful to work in the garden as a family - I'm quite looking forward to it. I have a great wife. (And she's haaaaaawt!)

On another personal note, we finally connected with a good church in Gainesville and have found the loving people, commitment to biblical truth, family-integrated worship and the large concentration of homeschoolers a wonderful thing. Pastor Joel is also able to hold his own in a theological debate, plus smokes good cigars and has good bourbon at his house.

Solid Christianity without stupid legalism. Crazy, right?

Florida Food Forests nursery did excellently this last year thanks to the many visitors we got at the 326 Community Market, plus the many sales through the mail. Though there's nothing happening right now since it's cold, we'll be back in the swing of things and providing lots of rare edibles once the weather warms up. Stay tuned.

Though I know I shouldn't laugh at my own jokes... I think my favorite moment of 2014 was my April Fool's redesign of Florida Survival Gardening:


I had multiple people write on April 1st and warn me that Florida Survival Gardening got HACKED!


One thing I do regret this year is not making it down south to work on The Great South Florida Food Forest Project. My parents had a few renters sharing their home so it wasn't possible; however, we should soon be able to visit there again and I'll give you all an update after we do. I've heard good things about the trees and their progress.

As 2014 draws to a close... thank you all for stopping by and sharing your gardening wisdom, asking questions, making snarky comments and keeping me going.

Happy New Year - have a wonderful 2015!

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

@The Brilliant Homestead: The Top 5 Best Garden Hoes

The following post was originally published over at
Unfortunately, thanks to the decline of Western Civilization, even saying the word “hoe” now evinces smirks and winks.
We’ve left our agrarian roots and have immersed ourselves in the cesspool of the inner city.
Yet for us who have left the city and sought out simpler lives connected with the soil, our hoes are comforting tools that fit nicely in the hand and lead to clean rows, stronger crops and a healthy mind.
However, not all hoes are created equal. Today we’ll take a look at a variety of different types of garden hoes and how they’re used.

Garden Hoe #1: The Gooseneck Hoe/Paddle Hoe/Garden Hoe

This is the classic garden hoe in North America.
Unfortunately, modern models don’t consist of a single forged head and handle mount like the antique model above. Instead, the gooseneck portion is welded onto the blade and then fits into a hole in the bottom of the handle where it’s held in place by a cheap stamped metal collar.
Look around for an old one – you’ll appreciate it. The cutting steel is remarkably fast compared to the modern metal. It’s like the difference between a cheap stainless butter knife and a good carbon steel blade. You’d choose the latter for food prep: do the same in the garden with your hoe.
The swan neck on the hoe should be adjusted to maintain a good angle with the ground the gardener stands and hoes his garden.
This is a good, quick blade for tougher hoeing jobs and larger weeds, as well as little weeds. If you find yourself chopping at the ground, you’re doing it wrong. Sharpen up your blade and ease into your work.

Garden Hoe #2: The Scuffle Hoe/Hula Hoe/Stirrup Hoe/Oscillating Hoe

The Swiss oscillating hoe sold by Johnny’s Selected Seeds. We want one.
Yes, there are a lot of common names for one hoe. Hoes need to be given Latin names. Let’s just call this one Marra oscillatus.
This hoe is a country housewife’s favorite and for good reason. Rather than scraping the weeds in a repeated scraping stroke-and-lift as you would with a regular hoe, you scuffle this hoe back and forth, letting the oscillating blade snip through the weeds, effectively decapitating them.
The scuffle or hula hoe is a major time saver that makes cleaning up weeds a snap, provided they’re not too entrenched. If they are… you’ll need the next hoe.

Garden Hoe #3: The Grub Hoe

The grub hoe is an earth chopping monster. Unlike the previous two hoes which are created for lighter weeding projects, the grub hoe is an earthmoving tool consisting of a heavy forged head that points at a little less than a 90 degree angle from the handle. This is the primary cultivating tool in much of the undeveloped world. It’s easy to use than a shovel for digging, plus it’s more than strong enough to chop through tree roots, smash through hardpan and till new ground.


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Monday, December 29, 2014

Making moringa tea

Making moringa tea is easy.

You can dry the leaves and you'll get an earthy-flavored brew (I like this excellent strainer I bought earlier this year) or simply do it the way I do in the video and boil some fresh leaves, then strain them out with a larger strainer.

Dropping ice on the floor is optional.

The more I grow Moringa oleifera, the more I like it. It's a fertilizer, a tea, a salad green, a nutritional supplement, a water purifier, a good chop-n-drop tree and an excellent addition to any Florida garden, yard or food forest.

Making moringa tea from fresh leaves gives you a slightly zippy pot-liquor flavored brew that just tastes healthy. Add some honey for a sweet tea... or simply put it on ice like I do and enjoy the full flavor of nature's healthiest tree.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

My 10 Great Gardening Ideas for the Coming New Year

I've got a bunch of plans for the homestead right now.

There are way too many in my head but I'm going to try and get the important ideas down for now.

If any of these strike your fancy, try 'em and see how you do.

IDEA #1: Micro-farming

I'm thinking of trying my hand at farming a small amount of vegetables for a circle of local friends.

A box subscription sort of a deal. Like... $30 a week and I provide a regular box of fresh-picked organic produce to everyone on the list.

Just toying with the idea right now.

IDEA #2: Massive Banana Circles

I'm also considering hanging gutters on the portions of my house that don't currently have them, then creating 3 or 4 BIG banana circles to catch the run-off and simultaneously grow us more bananas.

We get a decent amount of bananas right now but I'd like to have enough that each kid can eat one per day. That's a tall order, but it's a goal.

IDEA #3: Grafting Mulberries

It's time to try grafting mulberries.

I'm not happy with the fruit quality or quantity from my largest mulberry tree in the front yard so I'm thinking of grafting a half-dozen different varieties all over it. Ought to be fun.

Imagine white mulberries, Pakistan long mulberries and other types all growing on the same tree. I don't know about species compatibility since it's a Morus nigra and I'd be grafting Morus alba and Morus rubra onto it... but hey, why not try?

IDEA #4: Expanding The Annual Garden

This was my last year fiddling with a big patch of sugarcane.

I need more space for food for the family, so it's goodbye for now.

I'm going to press that area into service as an expansion of my vegetable gardens.

More roots, more Seminole pumpkins, more greens!

IDEA #5: Build a Smokehouse

Photo credit
After my successful small-scale experiments with smoking on the StoveTec, I'm going to go big.

It's time for me to take a bunch of cinderblocks and get busy building a killer smokehouse.

IDEA #6: Build A Tropical Food Forest


That's right. A friend owns a greenhouse frame and wants me to have it. It's a HUGE greenhouse.

I've got a friend with some land. She and I are talking about setting it up at her place and planting a tropical in-ground food forest beneath it. The plastic could be removed for half the year, then installed in the winter.

I don't know if it's workable or not but I'd like to try.

IDEA #8: Grow More Yams

Apparently, there are non-invasive varieties of true yam which grow in Florida and make huge roots.

I want to grow some. I love the winged yam but my nursery license doesn't allow me to carry it in my nursery.

I'm looking for Dioscorea caymanensis in particular. If anyone has a source, please let me know!

IDEA #9: Grow Sweet Potatoes In Plastic

I'm thinking of covering an area with a plastic tarp or weed cover, then putting small holes in it for my sweet potato slips.

I think the tarp should keep them from secondary rooting and weeds, leading to much bigger final tubers.

Going to have to try and see.

IDEA #10: Plant a Mahonia Patch

Photo credit
Mahonias are an edible berry that grows in the shade. I have a big patch of shade.

Why not plant it then start using the berries? They're acid but can be processed into jams and jellies. Maybe they'd be good dried?

I need to know!

In Epilogue

Finally, what happened to Idea #7?

I don't know. Idea #7 was obviously so secret that my subconscious caused me to delete it.

And a better question, what are YOUR great ideas for the new year?

If there's anyone reading who hasn't succumbed to post-Christmas blood sugar overload... share your ideas in the comments!

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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

American holly. Original photo here.

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

Have a wonderful and blessed Christmas remembering the God who became man in order to redeem His wayward creation.

We pray you come to know Him personally if you don't already.

Best Christmas wishes from our family to yours.

-The Goodman Family

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas Eve!

My mom sent me this photo last night of her festively decorated tamarind tree.

I think it looks as good as any spruce, don't you?

I can't believe how big this tree has gotten since we planted it. This is how it used to look:

Today Mrs. Survival Gardener will be making some eggnog from scratch. I'm torn between adding Sailor Jerry's spiced rum or Knob Creek bourbon to the mix. #FirstWorldProblems.

Outside the weather is balmy and overcast... all the windows and doors are open and the Florida breeze is playing with the curtains.

Give me a green Christmas any day over the cold and ice of the north. I was born a Floridian and will always be one, no matter what those Yankee stooges in New York think should be a "proper" Christmas.

Have a wonderful day, hopefully with your family.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What To Plant in a Florida Orchard

Luscious purple Florida-grown figs.
Last night I noticed this comment on the high-density orchard post over at The Brilliant Homestead:

Most people think “apples” when they hear orchard. What would I plant in a Florida front-yard orchard? -Phyllis Franklin


Thou art in luck: trees are one of my favorite topics!

For those of you who don't know Phyllis, she is a writer with her own homesteading blog "Evolution of a Farm Girl."

Even better, she's a homeschooling mom. (Since I was raised by a homeschooling mom, I'm rather partial to that rare and wonderful breed of lady.)

Now: trees.

The question, "What would I plant in a Florida front-yard orchard?" is not easy to answer without knowing a location.

The one thing I wouldn't plant anywhere in the state is citrus. Just don't do it - you'll lose the tree.

That aside, here are my recommendations.

Trees for a South Florida Orchard

A fragrant lychee.
In south Florida and large parts of coastal Florida, your options are incredible. My in-laws, for example, bought a house that had a small mango orchard planted in the front yard. The trees are now gigantic and bear incredible quantities of mangoes which bring them a decent side income during mango season.

My parents have a tamarind, a canistel, an acerola cherry and a jabuticaba tree in their front yard in Ft. Lauderdale. In the side yard they have a fig and a tropical almond. Out back there's a chocolate pudding fruit, a mango, a Key Lime, a coconut palm, multiple bananas, cattley guavas, Surinam cherries, dragon fruit cactus, a Grumichama, a starfruit, plantains, papayas and probably a few more trees I can't remember (they're all parts of The Great South Florida Food Forest Project).

 If you wanted an orchard in South Florida, all of those trees would be excellent choices.

I'd also add:

Sapodilla (Mmmm)
Jackfruit (Largest fruit in the world)
Longan (high market value)
Lychee (high market value)
Custard apple
Cashew (a fruit AND a nut!)
Macadamia (Awesome nut, nice big tree)
Soursop (anti-cancer!)
Ackee (poisonous unless harvested at the right time)
Loquat (grows in north and south Florida)
Jamaican cherry (delicious)
Tropical guava
Cinnamon (large tree and very beautiful)
Peruvian apple cactus
Coffee (Yep, it grows into a small tree)
Nutmeg (probably marginal)

...and probably a hundred more tropical trees.

The quantity of fruit you can grow down there is astounding. I'd bet on at least a 1,000 species since the Tropics are BY FAR a much more productive region than the world's temperate zones.

Trees for a Central/North Florida Orchard

A tangy loquat.
The further north you move in the state, the more your options dwindle.

That said, you do pick up a few new species that cannot be grown in the southern tip of the state, such as plums, peaches and pears.

The transition isn't immediate, but basically once you have overnight lows that go below the upper 20s, your tropical trees become a hard-to-grow liability rather than good orchard fodder.

My favorite three N/C Florida fruit trees are mulberries (white, black, Persian and Pakistan), Japanese persimmons (be sure to get both astringent and non-astringent types - they both have their uses on the homestead) and loquats. Finding improved loquat varieties isn't easy but they're worth buying since they bear larger and sweeter fruit than the landscaping seedling trees usually found for sale.

After those, I would add these trees to my North Florida orchard:

Pears ("Pineapple" is my favorite - tough and disease-resistant. Orient is a good pollinator.)
Plums (UF varieties)
Peaches (UF varieties or seedlings from locally-picked fruit)
Apples (Anna, Dorsett, Tropic Sweet, Ein Shemer. None are particularly easy to grow here)
Pecan (gets big, but has high market value)
Chestnut (fast producer of sweet nuts - get two "Dunstan" types)
Nectarine (UF varieties)
Avocado (cold-hardy types such as Lila and Mexicola. Subject to early death via disease.)
Bananas (Raja Puri, Orinoco, Red Dwarf, Ice Cream all survive cold)
Pomegranates (Note: some spontaneously die. Don't get attached!)
Autumn olive
Goumi berry
Black cherry (gets tall - hard to harvest - flavor is amazing)
Japanese raisin tree (rare)
Sichuan Pepper
Jujube (Chinese)

Among these trees there are many cultivars and variations that should keep you quite contented as you plan. I currently prefer a food forest to an orchard; however, an orchard is better than having just a couple of trees... and a couple of trees are still better than lawn.

As you plant I would mix up the species rather than keeping them together in blocks of the same type. That makes it harder for pests to jump from tree to tree. Running chickens through the orchard on a regular basis also feeds the trees and knocks back potential pest problems.

Along with these trees, you can add a couple of wires for grapes as a nice upgrade. Or build an arbor.

Now go, Phyllis. Plant!

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Monday, December 22, 2014

A Review of the SilverFire Hunter TLUD Biomass Stove

Confession: I'm in love with a TLUD biomass cookstove.

I picked up a SilverFire Hunter stove over a year ago. Since then I've used it to cook meals, scald chickens and entertain my children.

I've been meaning to write a Silverfire Hunter review ever since I bought the thing. Then I thought: why not have Jeff record a video review instead? So we did, and made it episode 5 of Crash Gardening season 2:

The SilverFire TLUD is rather expensive but it's a marvel of engineering.

You can load it with a small amount of wood and cook an excellent meal without feeding in any additional sticks. We're talking 8 pinecones or so. This thing is a monster at converting biomass into heat. Incredibly efficient. I like my StoveTec, but this - though a bit more complicated and unwieldy thanks to the chimney - is remarkable.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

How To Grow Mushrooms in a 5-Gallon Bucket

Growing mushrooms in a five-gallon bucket is easy. In today's video, my friend Mart shows us how.

I'm quite impressed with the simplicity of this method of growing mushrooms. Mushrooms are an excellent addition to anyone's diet and with how easy they are to cultivate - particularly in the case of Oyster mushrooms - I could see this idea taking off on homesteads.

Mart sent me home with the bucket we created and I'll be keeping an eye on it. The photos at the end of this video are ones he took at his place.

You can find the cool drill bit we were using here. And the reamer/deburring tool is here.

Also, Firehouse Subs sells their used buckets for a couple of bucks - that's an easy way to get started on the cheap.

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Coming shortly...

I've almost got a new video on mushroom cultivation ready to post.

I'll get it up here sometime today - stay tuned.


Now YouTube is claiming I don't own the rights to the music I added to my video... despite the fact that it's from a CD I specifically purchased as a royalty-free collection of music. Thanks, Google.

Anyhow - I'm reposting with different music. Will get it up here sometime today... hopefully.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Self-Watering Grow Bag Grow System

Larry Hall has some very interesting ideas:

Though I generally like growing directly in the ground, I have to admit: I'm tempted to do a few self-watering gardens, especially since I've already got a half-dozen pools for my Chinese water chestnuts.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Recipe: Christmas Seminole Pumpkin Bread

The following post was contributed by Mrs. Survival Gardener.

Probably the most common use of pumpkin in America is to put it in pie.

At least that's what I've been hearing a lot lately.

Imagine you've had a bumper crop of pumpkins and you'd like to share your bounty with some friends.  "Hmmm. Thanks for the, um, pumpkin. I guess I'll make pie."

Beyond that, we seem to be at a sort of loss with what to do with it.

Don't get me wrong, I know there are pumpkin lattes at the coffee joint around the corner, but most people aren't going to look at a fresh pumpkin and think mmmmmm, coffee! 

So I thought I'd help you out, fellow bumper crop gardeners. The following recipe for pumpkin bread is as heirloom as the pumpkins we're going to use. 

It comes from my fantastic mother-in-law, who makes it every year around Christmas and gives it away to friends and family. This year, since we're always looking for new ways to grow what we eat and eat what we grow, I thought I'd use one of our beautiful Seminole pumpkins to make pumpkin bread. 

If you have a stash of Seminole pumpkins, like we do, choose the most deep orange one you can find.

Like sweet potatoes, Seminole pumpkins turn sweeter after you pick them an let them sit on the shelf for a little while (like a couple of weeks). A good indicator of this, I believe though you'd have to ask David for corroboration, is its deep orange color. When you first pick them they taste more vegetable-y. Later, when they're more orange, the starches have converted to sugar and they are sweeter.

Cut the pumpkin in half width-wise and scrape out the seeds and stringy bits. Save those seeds! They can either be roasted for a delicious snack, or planted in the spring.

Win, win.

Then roast the pumpkin halves.

Once they're roasted, scoop out the innards into a bowl...

...and mash them.

Next, grease and flour three loaf pans.

Sift together some flour, baking soda, nutmeg, salt and cinnamon.

Ok, I didn't technically sift.

I just mixed the dry ingredients around in the mixer a bit. The bread will still turn out well.

Now put some butter, water, mashed pumpkin, vanilla, and eggs in a bowl...

...and beat them.

At this point you're going to want to taste it and decide how much sugar to put in. Canned pumpkin, obviously, has a set amount of sugar in it. The Seminole pumpkin will very in natural sweetness, but generally they're about twice as sweet as boring old pie pumpkins from the store.

The original recipe from my wonderful mother-in-law calls for 3 c. of sugar.

I recommend you add the sugar 1/4 to 1/2 c. at a time, mix and then taste. Think to yourself, Do I really want this any sweeter?

If the answer is "no" leave it where it is. Mix well.

Now pour the batter into the pans...

...and bake!

This is so very much worth the effort, which really isn't that big a deal.

The kids ate it straight. and still warm from the oven. I put some butter on it. Cream cheese would also be amazing.

Really, it's just so very good it doesn't matter how you eat it.


By the time I got to staging a final picture, we had plowed through most of a loaf. Actually, I'm not sure David got to eat any of this.

Hmmm, I guess that means I'll have to make more.

Thanks, Mom for the recipe!

Here's the more traditional format for the recipe.

Seminole Pumpkin Bread

Preparing the pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut pumpkin in half width wise and scoop out seeds and stringy bits. Bake for 1 hour or until very soft when poked with a knife.

Scoop out the pumpkin and mash.

Baking the bread

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour three loaf pans.

Sift together:

     3 1/3 c. flour
     2 tsp. baking soda
     1 tsp. nutmeg
     1 1/2 tsp. salt
     1 tsp. cinnamon

Beat together:

     1 c. softened butter
     2/3 c. water
     2 c. cooked, mashed pumpkin
     1 tsp. vanilla
     4 eggs
Add sugar, 1/4 to 1/2 c. at a time, to taste; mixing after each addition. Up to 3 c.

Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients.

Pour batter into loaf pans and bake until done (approximate 1 - 1.5 hours)

Enjoy, and don't forget to save some for your hard-working, gardening husband!

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