A Great Review of “Push the Zone”


A fellow Gabber sent me a link last week to a good and well-balanced review he wrote after reading Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics:


“…the practicality of Grow or Die necessarily came at the expense of the insanity of Compost Everything. However, his newest book, Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Outside the Tropics arrives at a nice compromise between the two positions of his prior work. Some of the concepts contained make good fodder for worrying my fiancee, others I will actually implement in my own gardens this week as I start some plants slightly earlier than anticipated.

Push-the-Zone-cover-webThe central concern I imagine people have is one of whether the book is worth the five dollar cover price and handful of hours it will take to read it.  If you don’t garden at all, and you aren’t particularly intellectually curious, shame on you. However, the book is worth the price and effort of reading it, even for a cretin like you, because you will pick up a few new strange and interesting anecdotes. Acquiring interesting anecdotes will make you seem like a more interesting person, which will lead to business and personal success. That’s well worth the cover price.

Now suppose you still aren’t a gardener, but you are the intellectually curious type. Push the Zone teaches practical applications for thermodynamics that I bet you haven’t thought of before. You will have added breadth and depth to your knowledge of a seemingly everyday subject matter that some spend a lifetime studying. For the intellectually curious, that should be enough to warrant picking it up.

If you’re like me and do a little gardening where we get days at a time below freezing, and some years we get two feet of snow in a day, you’re not going to be “growing tropical plants beyond the tropics” while keeping them outside. No matter how many of David’s bag of tricks I use, I think growing citrus or Papaya along the banks of the Chesapeake is asking a bit much. However, that doesn’t mean the techniques described in the book are useless to me. On the contrary, the techniques described in the book are exactly the sorts of things that will help to extend my growing season by a few weeks. That means more productivity from my gardens, and a longer amount of time that we can eat homegrown produce.

If you’re living in the southeast US and love to try new things in your garden, this book is simply an indispensable guide. You will not only learn helpful techniques to apply to your own gardens, but you’ll learn about the author’s specific experiences with growing tropical plants in North Florida and Tennessee. That kind of first hand knowledge and experience is invaluable to help in trying new things in your own garden…”


Click here to read the rest.

When I was working on the book, I knew I was limited in my zone-pushing experience by only having done so in North Florida and Central Tennessee. Both locations aren’t super cold. Yet my publisher urged me to write the book anyway, as he felt the concepts were sound enough that they could be adapted far beyond where I conducted my experiments. I agree.

If you live in New York, this book could help you grow something like peaches which might otherwise be considered impossible. You might not be able to grow coffee like I did (a few hundred miles north of its “proper” range, I must add), but there will be things you can grow with these techniques that previously seemed impossible.

A Handmade Clay Kiln


This new video from Primitive Technology is very cool:

Gotta love the handmade roofing tiles.

Feed a Family of Four for ONE Year for Less than $300

My family would have to more than double this amount, but I did find this preparedness hack to be quite impressive:


“This plan is THE fastest, cheapest and easiest way to start a food storage program. You are done in a weekend. AND there are no hassles with rotating. Pack it and forget.  It’s space efficient – everything is consolidated into a few 5-gallon buckets. You’ll sleep content in knowing that you have a one-year food supply on hand for your family should you ever need.

With the exception of dairy and Vitamin B12, this bean soup recipe will fulfill all your basic nutritional needs. It won’t fill all of your wants, but using this as your starting point, you can add the stuff that you want. 

All of the food and storing supplies listed below plus 2 55-gallon recycled barrels to be used for rain catchment cost me $296, including taxes. I purchased rice, bouillon and salt from SAM’s Club. You can buy small bags of barley at the grocery, but if you don’t mind waiting a few days, special ordering a bulk bag from Whole Foods was cheaper.  All of the beans I purchased from Kroger’s in 1-lb bags. Buckets, lids, Mylar bags and rain barrels were from the Lexington Container Company. Their prices are so good, with such a great selection that it’s worth a drive even if you are not in the local area.”


Hey, bean soup might get tiresome but it would keep you full. It’s a great idea to have plenty of food stored away in case of a crisis. Consider it cheap insurance in an increasingly unstable world. Additional greens could easily be grown or wild foraged for nutrition. Fresh or dried moringa leaves are also good for adding to soup. Maybe some Bidens alba, too.

I actually miss that prolific “weed.”

If a year of nothing but bean soup isn’t up your alley, my book Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening has what you need to know about survival gardening, plus information on what grocery store seeds and plant material can be used in a crisis to grow a serviceable garden if things get tough.


*          *          *

O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge;
    save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
lest like a lion they tear my soul apart,
    rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.

O Lord my God, if I have done this,
    if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my friend with evil
    or plundered my enemy without cause,
let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it,
    and let him trample my life to the ground
    and lay my glory in the dust. Selah

Arise, O Lord, in your anger;
    lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
    awake for me; you have appointed a judgment.
Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you;
    over it return on high.

The Lord judges the peoples;
    judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
    and according to the integrity that is in me.
Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
    and may you establish the righteous—
you who test the minds and hearts,
    O righteous God!
My shield is with God,
    who saves the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge,
    and a God who feels indignation every day.

If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
    he has bent and readied his bow;
he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
    making his arrows fiery shafts.
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
    and is pregnant with mischief
    and gives birth to lies.
He makes a pit, digging it out,
    and falls into the hole that he has made.
His mischief returns upon his own head,
    and on his own skull his violence descends.

I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,
    and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.

-Psalm 7, ESV

Fermented Plant Juice


This is similar to the Korean Natural Farming method of fermenting plant material anaerobically:

Multiple comments beneath the video claim that it IS the same method, but it isn’t.

Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 3.25.00 PM

This Hawaiian technique for creating fermented plant juice uses a lot of sugar and lacks leaf mould and sea salt. I am curious if it works well.

Some commenters claim it has done miracles for their gardens.

Youtuber Tom Fisher writes:

“I used your FPJ made out of Henbit and raw sugar and mixed it with EM1 and Bokashi Juice. The first spraying was FPJ and BJ. The plants took off right away. AMAZING!!! I sprayed our, and my neighbors flowers and shrubs with it and they are gorgeous! My garlic is over 30″ tall and my strawberries are a foot tall have have more flowers on them than I have ever seed in my life on strawberry plants. Thanks for an excellent video. You are a blessing to me and my family. Blessings to you!! My next batch will be Comfrey or Purslane.”

I may have to do a side-by-side test of methods to see how this works compared to the JADAM method.

Many compost tea enthusiasts will tell you that anaerobic fermentation is a bad practice, yet my own experiments have shown it to be a good source of soil fertility, particularly when compost supplies are low or you are gardening in sandy soil and need to optimize plant nutrition.

Pulling a bunch of materials from a wide range of plants is good for minerals.

Not having to bother with stirring or a bubbler or rapid application after creation is labor-saving.

So… I’m on the anaerobic train. Darn the microbes – full speed ahead!

I am gratified to see my own experience and experiments are backed up by both traditional Korean and Hawaiian practices.

Compost Everything!

Is Oxalic Acid Good for You?


I was doing a little research on oxalic acid in foods and came across the following:


1. It has been assumed that black tea due to its high oxalate content increases kidney stone formation but recent research has shown it to have a preventive effect.

2Victoria Boutenko of the Raw Food Family sites research on how high oxalic acid foods actually reduce the formation of kidney stones.  The true cause of kidney stones is actually animal protein.

3.  Oxalic acid linked to the cure or prevention of cancer:

  • When cancer is diagnosed there is always a low level of oxalic acid in the blood. It is important to have the enough of it n our blood because this eliminates all abnormal cells without harmful side effects
  • Every alternative cancer cure that is successful is filled with foods, herbs, grasses, and teas that are full of high amounts of oxalic acid.
  • American Cancer Society conducted tests over 50 years ago using oxalic acid in the treatment of cancer and the results in papers and evidence were positive.
  • “When oxalic acid is in our blood; in foods & beverages we eat and drink, and testimonials confirm oxalic acid kills cancer cells, virus, bacteria, and decalcifies the material in plaque in arteries; and is in the blood of all warm blooded mammals”. From booklet “Questions and Answers About E- M- F, Electric and Magnetic Fields Associated with the Use of Electric Power
  • Radiation will decompose oxalic acid in the blood.  This usually weakens the immune system so the body is unable to fight off viral or bacterial disease.  Is this why many cancer patients die from cancer related to viral pneumonia.”


I have read the warnings about oxalic acid and kidney stones, yet at the same time we’re supposed to eat lots of fresh greens and fruits, right? How can starfruit be bad for you?

I find this “oxalic acid is good for you” (OAIGFY) view quite interesting.

Kristie Wolfe’s Hobbit House


This video is entertaining for a few reasons:

First, the gal is attractive, so that got a lot of… uh… interesting comments on YouTube, including multiple marriage requests and some less savory mentions of her particular endowments.

I dunno why I don’t get marriage requests on my YouTube videos. Probably because the ladies know they can’t compete with my foxy wife.


It also might be my failure with machetes that lowers my attractiveness, though I would’ve thought a gangsta like me would still get some proposals.


Okay, now I’m just getting silly. And I’m not jealous of Kristie, oh no, not even one bit, precious, (gollum) not one bit oh no…

But, to continue: she built this house based on Tolkein. That is awesome.


A circular front door! Fantastic.

And… Kristie made it from a big wooden spool:


NICE re-purposing of what would otherwise be scrap material.

The interior fixtures, windows and floor are all very creative. She even built her bed from reclaimed wood pieces she got from a second-hand store.

And again… this door!


Something that really struck me as funny, though: she has a table with a chessboard stained onto it, made from a slice of a tree stump…

…but it’s obvious from the video she doesn’t actually know how to play chess:


She moves her knight one space diagonally. And her guy friend doesn’t call her on it.

I think he knows, though.


So… is this hobbit house really awesome… or is it hipster posing?

I mean… this door, though! Look at those custom hinges!


My verdict, for whatever it’s worth, is this is quite a clever piece of construction and a marvelous escape from the day-to-day world. I was also glad to hear the county worked with her to get it built, rather than stymieing her dreams.

I have a thing for hand-built houses. I own this book and love it.

I’d like to do one myself, though I can’t even get a tree fort quite right without assistance.

Scrubland Avenger had to save me when I got in over my head, and eventually the shame of my failure drove me right out of the country.

What is Wrong with these Tomato Plants?


A viewer of my YouTube channel just can’t figure out what’s happening with his tomatoes:

Quite a mystery.

Front-yard Gardens are a Revolutionary Act


Remember my interview with Orlando’s “illegal” front-yard gardeners?

AIMGiftbearer commented below this video yesterday:


“All such ordinances should be done away with. “Appearance” should never trump function, and “property value is not something that should be legislated. People should be free to grow what they want on their own property. If somebody else doesn’t like a neighbor’s yard then they just shouldn’t look at it. It’s none of their business! If they don’t like it then tough tomatoes! When push comes to shove food comes first and everyone has the right to feed themselves and their family. Food prices keep going up and salaries aren’t, so one’s gotta to do what one’s gotta do. I say if someone can grow much or all of their own food then more power to them! And really if you look deeper this is not coming from “the government” per se although they are the ones enforcing this BS law, but what’s really behind it is special interests that represent mega food production; big corporations that want to be food monopolies. They are the same corporations that have put many small mom and pop local farmers out of business. Such predatory companies want everyone to get their food only from THEIR multi-billion dollar businesses. The government’s part in this is that they are too lenient in not limiting corporate over-reach and in so doing they fail to protect the “little guy” from abusive big business practices and their self-serving agendas. It all comes down to profit over individual rights, and individuals just trying to feed themselves and their families are getting stepped on here. Aesthetics is often the stated reason for such ordinances, but in reality it’s just an excuse to place the rights of the food monopolies over that of the citizen. This cover reason does not hold water. It’s utterly transparent and total BS! There are so many better ways tax money could be spent instead of paying ridiculous “yard police” to go and micromanage people’s front yards and tying up the court system with frivolous trumped up charges against citizens who are just living their lives in “pursuit of happiness. This form of harrassment really is a violation of Constitutional property rights and it should be the position of County, State, and Federal Government to take a universal hands-off approach when certain busybodies complain about the “look” of a sustainable garden. Maybe instead of encouraging this sort of nitpicky, catty behavior, those agencies who are receiving such calls should just tell the griping person to be more tolerant and that they can only control land that they own; not everyone else’s. If one person here and there is so stressed out by what someone else chooses to plant then the problem really rests with that person who is “bothered” by it, not the planter. Personal preferences should not be a mandate for another to pull up and dismantle their garden crops, wasting good, healthy food. Individuals growing their own food IN NO WAY infringe upon Monsanto or any of the big box chain grocery grocery stores’ rights, nor the rights of other citizens living in the vicinity. They are still free to do what they want with the land they own. There are however legitimate laws on the books against monopolies! I hope that this couple’s attorney will make use of those statutes in court.”


I tend to agree. There does seem to be a push towards centralization of control in the hands of corporations and bureaucrats.

Planting a front-yard garden in some areas is now a revolutionary act.

Viva la revolution!

Coral Bean’s Big Brother


Coral beans are a common Florida wildflower.


On the edge of our homestead here in the tropics, I’ve discovered its big brother the coral tree:Erythrina

The color looks somewhat like that of a poinciana tree, but the growth habigt and leaves are quite different. This tree is probably 60-80′ tall.

I could tell it was a cousin of coral beans by the bloom and the leaf shape. Once I started hunting down Erythrina species, it was easy to find multiple large jungle trees that fit the bill. Though I’m not 100% sure, I believe this is the wild version of Erythrina variegata.

When we first moved here last spring, I found little purple-brown beans all over the ground that looked like a cultivate bean variety… yet there weren’t any bean plants growing nearby. Now I know they were falling from far above.

Here’s a zoom-in on some of the blooms. A bit blurry, unfortunately.


You can see the broader trifoliate leaves to the top right.

Apparently, this tree is good for animal forage, nitrogen fixing and using for living fence posts. The little trees are popping up all over the place from last year’s dropping seeds and I’ve left most of them to grow and improve the soil. If they become nuisances, I’ll cut them back.

Due to the abundance of local common names plus the language barrier, it’s hard to figure out many of the species here in the forest. I’ll write a common name in Google and come back with nothing. Fortunately, I’m not too bad at nailing down broader plant families, so I generally know what something may be used for without knowing the exact species.

When I buy some property, I’ll experiment with Erythrina hedgerows and chop and drop. The young trees are thorny, so that’s a drawback, but I imagine there are out of the way places where they will work well.

There is more on the coral tree here.

Less than Impressive Cassava Harvests


I picked the most likely candidate in the overgrown cassava bed down the hill and dug it:

That’s barely worth feeding to the chickens!

Back when I grew cassava in North Florida, the roots would grow huge in the loamy sand. Here, I don’t know. People do get decent harvests, but my guess is the shade and the clay hurt our yields.

I’m going to try again and see if I can do better. These were grown in loosened soil but I think they could have used more sun.

We’ll see.

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