As is my practice since launching this blog, it’s time for the annual year in review post where I cover the accomplishments, harvests and failures of the last year.
Overall, I have to say…
2015 Was Amazing!
In the spring, I got to be a part of Marjory Wildcraft’s Homegrown Food Summit, so I created and shared my hour-long tip-packed video 13 Tips, Tricks and Lessons for Homesteading an Acre.
That video was later put up for sale in July of this year (you can get it by clicking on the image) and has sold 40 copies thus far, which makes it (just slightly) profitable.
I lost my main video editor early in the year (don’t worry, he didn’t die – he just quit) which ended up being a good thing, since it pushed me to work harder on my own video editing skills. When you can’t trust someone else to do it… do it yourself! I’ve gotten a lot better and have done lots and lots of videos which has helped hone my skills.
Additionally, I’ve been invited to join Marjory again in 2016 and so I’ve created the most insane film on composting you will EVER SEE IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE. Stay tuned for details on that… it’s coming up soon.
I’d have to say the biggest success of 2015 was the successful launch of four books and a short booklet:
Back when I launched Florida Survival Gardening in August of 2012, I intended to grow an audience to the point where I could write a good gardening book.
As a test of the waters, I published Create Your Own Florida Food Forest in February of this year, basically on a whim. I figured I’d share the various species I was growing successfully in my area, plus give people some YOU CAN DO IT inspiration. To my surprise, the little book was a success. It’s sold at least 500 copies thus far. Not bad for a little niche book on a niche topic. Thank you, readers!
After that success, I got in touch with the owner of Castalia House and asked if he’d be interested in publishing the book on extreme composting I had started after CYOFFF. Strangely enough, they decided to give the book a chance… and in May, Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting was published.
Compost Everything has done roughly five times as well as CYOFFF – and led to a 5-book deal with Castalia House.
Following that, I decided it was time to really compile my knowledge of specialized crops and Florida gardening to write a book for this state that would help Yankees, nematode-wranglers, and the frustrated. This was to be the book that the Florida Survival Gardening website was really leading up to: a capturing of my love for this state, its climate and its sand.
That book was the self-published release Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening, which came out in September. That book has also done well, though not quite to the level of the others. I think as it gets discovered and people’s gardens are transformed into massively productive spaces, its fame will grow. I also didn’t really get a chance to promote the release as much as I should have because I was already deep into the writing of my latest and greatest book for Castalia House: Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening.
Grow Or Die BLEW out the initial first month sales of Compost Everything. In its first month, it sold over 1,000 copies – despite my feeling that November was a lousy time in which to release a gardening book.
Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening is still at the top of its Amazon category. And, for those of you that keep asking: yes, it will eventually come out in paperback.
Until then, the Kindle edition is really cheap – and you can read it without a Kindle. See this post to find out how.
Now some of you may wonder how I managed to run a plant nursery, maintain a blog that runs every weekday, record videos for YouTube, write blog posts for other sites, write magazine articles AND write four books in a year.
Here’s my secret: write every day. Set serious goals and attack them like a pit bull. You’ll be amazed at how much you can do if you write every day. I learned this while writing a novel a few years ago (which is still unpublished): if I wrote regularly, I got ahead. If I quit writing for a few days, I was likely to go a month without significant progress.
I can easily crank out 2000 – 3000 well-edited words in a day. That’s not much compared to some writers (Michael Crichton famously wrote 10,000 words a day!), but it adds up.
My goal now is to get all my books voiced as audiobooks. I’ve already made the audiobook of Create Your Own Florida Food Forest available on Audible and I should be done with Grow or Die within a couple of weeks.
Now – enough about the book stuff. Let’s take a look at what REALLY matters – the garden!
The 2015 Gardening Report
We made the decision to sell our homestead back in June of this year and so we quit planting gardens and started packing up, fixing things and doing house showings. Even without planting for fall, however, our harvests over this year have been quite impressive.
Check it out.
2015 Harvest Totals:
Bananas: 40 lbs (est.)
Beans: 5lbs (est.)
Beans (Yard-long): 11lbs
Berries (Various): 2lbs
Blood Oranges: 3lbs
Calamondins: 7 lbs
Cassava: 15lbs (Note: I have about 100lbs in the ground unharvested as of this writing.)
Chaya: 5 lbs (estimated)
Chayote Squash: 10lbs
Coffee: .5 lbs
Daikon Radishes: 15lbs (est.)
Grapes: 3 lbs
Greens (Suriname purslane, Okinawa spinach, longevity spinach, hibiscus): 10 lbs (est.)
Hot Peppers: 1lb
Key Limes: 5lbs
Kumquats: 3.5 lbs
Moringa: 10 lbs (est.)
Rabbits: (25) 75lbs total (est)
Seminole Pumpkins: 182lbs
Sweet Potatoes: 50lbs
Velvet Beans: 10lbs
Yams: 135 lbs
Total: 966 lbs
Eggs: 300 (est.)
Here are my garden yields via visual representation, thanks to the graphmaker I found here.
We beat last year’s totals by 285.75lbs, even without planting a fall garden. My initial goal for 2015 was to hit a literal ton of food. We made it half-way there in half the year, so I can at least imagine I could have hit it. If I went out and dug up the cassava right now I’d be nearing 1100lbs for the year… but truthfully, I’m tired of eating cassava and have decided I prefer yams.
Right now there are buckets of citrus ripening up. Tangerines, kumquats, grapefruit, calamondins, lemons, Key limequats, blood oranges… it’s wonderful.
We tried growing tree collards this year and they were a fail. Sometime in summer they just totally gave up in the heat and humidity. Oh well.
Our warm spring also led to a lot of bitter greens. This wasn’t a particularly good year for salads, but we did do awesome with our cabbages.
No results on the apples yet, though all the bare root apple trees I planted are looking decent and none have died. The grafts I did in the food forest have also done nicely and put on some great growth. Since we’re moving, there won’t be any more reports on this particular project, sadly.
The almond trees died, but I blame the nursery. They didn’t look good from the beginning.
In happier news, the Minnie Royal and Royal Lee cherries are still going strong.
Jerusalem artichokes are not worth growing here. This was my 5th year trying with multiple different varieties. Heck with it. Terrible yields and they wreck your digestion anyhow.
(2) Date Palms (I have no idea if they’ll produce here)
(3) Dwarf Everbearing mulberries
(3) Black mulberries
(3) Grape Mahonias
(1) Red Mulberry
(1) White Mulberry
(5) Soap nut trees
(2) Flowering almond verbenas (for pollinators)
(Multiple) Various pentas/salvias/other pollinator plants
(1) Pineapple Orange
(Lots) Velvet Beans
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:
Added a huge rabbit setup in early spring for my wife, then by late summer we both said goodbye to rabbits and sold out. We are just not animal people – though the meat was good.
Added 6 overhead irrigation sprinklers (thanks, Allen!). 3 for the annual gardens, 3 for the nursery.
Built a second chicken tractor, then sold it and the chickens in the summer.
Added large nursery area and second greenhouse, then sold the nursery and the greenhouse.
Created better trellises for the garden.
Mostly finished an awesome tree fort (thanks, Sam!).
As for this site, here’s how I did:
Posts created: 264
Total videos created: 92 (up from 30 in 2014)
YouTube Channel Subscribers: 1,946 (up from 465 at the end of last year)
Survival Gardening Newsletter Subscribers: 1,985 (up from 541 last year)
Newsletters Written: 28 (Up from only 8 in 2014)
The traffic on FloridaSurvivalGardening.com in 2015 was excellent, but then I killed that site in favor of TheSurvivalGardener.com, throwing everything out of whack.
The old site still redirects to this one, sending me a decent chunk of my daily traffic. Migrating all the articles and getting things working was a huge, huge pain; however, my friend Rick helped me by hosting and setting up the skeleton of the new site, plus he troubleshoots the random errors that pop up here and there.
My goal in launching the new site was to broaden my audience – and to get me off the pathetic blogspot platform and onto WordPress. I’m a Florida gardener, yes, but I now have readers from around the world. The Survival Gardener can reach much farther.
Unfortunately, I don’t really have a good set of analytics on this new site. Blogger had a nice, simple setup. I haven’t found anything comparable for WordPress, so I can’t give you any serious stats.
As for YouTube, it’s really taken off. The most-watched video I did in 2015 was this one featuring Allen the Beekeeper. The next most watched video was the tour of my food forest:
I thank my friends Mart and Cheng for that, since both of them passed around the info on my house and food forest when I announced it for sale – and that video was on the listing page.
My Top Posts for 2015:
Folks really seem to like marijuana, sugar and mushrooms.
Beyond this site, I did some writing for MotherEarthNews.com and joined Marjory Wildcraft in writing for her site Growyourowngroceries.org. I also had an in-depth article on gardens being poisoned by herbicide published in Backwoods Home Magazine. Getting in there has been a goal of mine for a long time. Great magazine.
This year I ended up dropping The Brilliant Homestead project in favor of creating this site. I’ll likely roll those posts into The Survival Gardener over the next year, since the focuses are similar.
The Florida Food Forests nursery did quite well until September when we sold it in preparation for selling our house. You can read my farewell post on that great project here. I spent a lot of time at farmer’s markets meeting plenty of wonderful people (and a few that were utterly insane – I’m looking at you, Gainesville). I miss that interaction.
This year we added a cashew and a June plum to The Great South Florida Food Forest Project, though the latter subsequently died. Otherwise, though, the project is doing wonderfully and the growth in the trees and abundant fruit harvests have been marvelous.
2015 was the year in which I went from a half-broke nurseryman to a half-broke garden writer. The momentum is with me, however, and my focus is high. I’ve got three more book projects planned for this coming year, plus a great video release and at least one or two more short booklets for preppers.
My long-term goal is to become the top gardening author in the world
I’m on my way. Watch out!
The house should sell soon and I’ll be traveling onwards to a new property where I can try some brand new experiments and do research for my new books and, of course, you’re invited to join me right here… I’m going to keep on posting, no matter where we end up.
Thank you all for a wonderful year. May your gardens and homes be blessed in 2016.