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

David-the-good-books-revised

In Memory of Bill

Seagrapes

bill-zinkFor seven years I’ve been debt-free. No credit-card debt, no school loans, no mortgage… nothing.

I might not be in this uniquely un-American state of being if it was not for my friend Bill.

Growing up, Bill and his wife Linda were pillars in the little church I attended with my parents. Linda taught my Sunday school class and put up with more than her fair share of trouble from me. If you think I’m crazy now… well, as a kid I was really… different.

Bill was a deacon. He ended up a deacon because he was already doing everything a deacon would do. If something needed doing, he’d probably already done it. He would grin at you as he hauled out a bag of trash or stacked tables, or shake your hand and ask how you were when you walked in. He was always laughing, too. To be around the guy was to feel lightened in spirit.

What does this have to do with my being debt-free?

A decade ago I was in rough shape financially. I had been freelancing in radio production work and as the economy tanked, so did one contract after another. I was left with very little. Rachel and I owned a small house in Tennessee which I had rented out to a friend while I was living near family in Florida. When I lost my work, I couldn’t keep up with the rent on my own house in Ft. Lauderdale so I moved into a trailer park… and then the “friend” who was renting my little house in Tennessee quit paying rent and wouldn’t answer calls. Instead of talking through whatever was keeping him from paying up, he sent me an email threatening legal action against me. Without that rent money, I couldn’t cover the mortgage on that house – and I could barely cover the rent on our trailer!

I was in trouble. Rachel and I had just had a baby – which was also expensive – and things were very stressful. One day I called Bill to say hi and we ended up having a conversation about faith. He told me that he also had been in debt once and simply decided to pray that God would pay it off. Bill had done so, and after some months of praying, out of the blue a man wrote a check and paid off his mortgage.

Personally, I thought that was rather presumptuous. Just… ask God if He would pay off my debt? But… I decided, why not? The worst that could happen was God wouldn’t do it, right?

So I started praying. Bill’s direct and simple approach seemed as good as any option. But… I didn’t end up debt-free right away.

A friend stopped by the house in Tennessee for me and said “David – guess what? The house is empty!” At that point, I decided I needed to cut my losses in Florida and go back to Tennessee with Rachel and our young children… so we moved back into the little rental house. The bathroom floor had half rotted out and a few things needed repair, but it was cozy.

And I kept praying. And I decided I wouldn’t take on another penny of debt for any reason.

A couple of years later, along came the Nashville flood. Though we were outside the city, the rush of water through the drainage channel behind our house turned into a rushing brown torrent and destroyed years worth of soil-building. I had a foot of mulch, garden beds, planters, a bridge… all swept away and ripped down to the subsoil.

I told Rachel “I’m done! It’s over! We’re outta here!”

And that Monday, I listed the house for sale.

Eventually, it sold and we moved back to Florida, this time settling in a rental house in Citra. Now we were debt-free and we had come out ahead a little bit thanks to the house sale, but we owned nothing. I was not making much money still but I was doing okay. And we had a few more children. And I really wanted some land to call our own… but the money I had in the bank was less than half the cost of a cheap house.

And I kept praying.

Then – out of the blue – we found out that Rachel’s aunt had set aside money for Rachel in a college fund which had never been claimed. Rachel had used some of it for college but thought it was empty. It wasn’t. In fact, there was $41,000 dollars in the account!

We were blown away. All the time I had been praying, there was already a provision laid up for us.

Rachel claimed the money and along with what we had made off the sale of our cottage in Tennessee, we had just about $75,000. We looked at a foreclosure that was listed for $109,000 and liked it, so I offered $50k, much to the chagrin of my real estate agent, who didn’t want to insult the listing agent. “Just offer it,” I said, and she did.

The listing agent was angry about the low offer, but presented it to the bank anyhow. Lo and behold, they came back with a counter offer of $85,000. I told them there was no way I could do that and I offered $65,000.

And… they came back with a counter of $75,000.

Sold.

I was debt-free and owned a home. Granted, I had scrimped and saved for years and had killed all debt except for mortgage debt… but God had done the rest and more than we could have saved. And Bill was the one who said, “just pray!”

I called him after buying the house and shared the story. He laughed and wasn’t surprised at all.

That’s a man of faith for you. I’m always surprised when things work out well. He wasn’t.

Back in time a little further…

I grew up with Bill’s daughter AZ. She’s maybe 2-3 years younger than me and was cute and slender. We never dated, though, and I met Rachel when I was 20 and never looked back.

After bringing Rachel along to church with me a few times, Bill pulled me aside between services, his hand on my shoulder.

“David?”

“Yes?”

“What are your intentions with that girl?”

“Rachel?” I asked, taken aback. “Well, I like her a lot. I’d like to marry her.”

He shook his head at me. “David, come ON!” he exclaimed. “What about AZ???”

He looked at me like I had completely let him down.

“I can’t BELIEVE you!” he said.

I never knew I was supposed to marry his daughter… and by the time I did, I was way too in love with Rachel. If you’re reading this, AZ, I am sorry you missed the chance to marry the most handsome gardening author in the tropics.

As Bill got older, he became sick with a degenerative disease that really took its toll on him. He spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital. When I was in town, I would sometimes see him at church or go visit. Linda would tell me to stop making jokes and making up ridiculous songs on the piano, though, as I would get Bill laughing so hard he’d start losing his breath.

On the 24th of February, Bill’s breath finally did give out and he left this world for the next. He was with family when he died and he left behind his wonderful wife plus loving children and grandchildren.

I miss you brother, but we shall meet again. You shared the faith that helped me pay off my debt to the bank… but to you I owe a debt I cannot repay.

Have a blessed Lord’s Day, everyone.

 

*           *            *

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
consider my groaning.

Give attention to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you do I pray.

O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you[a] and watch.

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with you.

The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.

You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
in the fear of you.

Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.

For there is no truth in their mouth;
their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
they flatter with their tongue.

Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.

For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover him with favor as with a shield.

 

-Psalm 5, ESV

David-the-good-books-revised

Free Nitrogen-Fixer Seeds

Nitrogen-fixers

I’m not picky when it comes to sources of soil fertility.

Sure, I could go the classic route and plant soybeans or peanuts, like farmers do, or I could go the grocery store and buy dry beans, peas and lentils, or…

…I could just go wander through the woods or even along the shoreline and pick up seeds from obvious nitrogen-fixing species.

Many, though not all, members of the bean and pea family, more properly known as Fabaceae, enjoy a special relationship with certain soil microbes which allows them to take nitrogen from the atmosphere – which is inaccessible to plants – and “fix” it into a form which plants can use.

Soybean-root-nodules

The roots of the plant share sugars and water with the bacteria, and in return, the bacteria give the plant nitrogen. It’s a fantastic design and one the gardener can put to work in his garden.

Once you learn to spot members of the bean and pea family, it because easy to find them.

If you don’t feel like you’re very good at plant ID, the book Botany in a Day has a lot of photos which will get you spotting plant families in no time.

Botany in a day

Though you’re not really going to learn botany in a single day – unless you’re some kind of a savant – Elpel does a nice job visually putting together plants into families and getting you going. You might not nail down a species right away, but you will be able to tell pretty certainly that the plant is in the hibiscus family or the soapberry family or, as concerns today’s post, the bean and pea family.

Nitrogen-fixing trees and plants are everywhere. In the case of the bay beans and Crotalaria I picked up at the beach, I know both of them fix nitrogen – and even if I didn’t know for sure, I could make a very good guess since they look like beans and are also nice and green in an area where they don’t have much right to look so chipper!

I’ll be planting these in rough areas and then later cutting them for use as compost while leaving the root systems in the ground. If you leave the roots instead of pulling them, you get more biomass in the soil and as the roots decay they’ll feed the next thing you plant.

Crotalaria isn’t edible (so far as I know) and the edibility of bay bean is disputable.

This woman, however, cooked and ate some – plus she made a nice privacy screen by planting a bamboo trellis with bay beans – but eat at your own risk. I’ll wait until I have more data.

Edibility is a nice plus with nitrogen-fixers but isn’t necessary. I’m mostly interested in feeding the ground for now.

If you’d like to see some of the many nitrogen-fixers I added to my old food forest in North Florida, check out this post.

Have a great Saturday – get out there and garden!

David-the-good-books-revised

A Tiny House Made from Coca-Cola Crates

tiny_house_cocoa-cola-crates_3

Yesterday I was invited to a neighbor’s farm to see his sugarcane plantings. As I’m always game for a farm tour, I spent a couple of hours visiting and talking with him.

As we walked down the main path together he said “David – how do you like my house?”

And there, surrounded by palms and jungle, I saw the strangest house I have ever seen in person.

tiny_house_cocoa-cola-crates_4

The entire structure, with the exception of the roof, was constructed from discarded Coca-Cola crates.

“I live humble,” the farmer told me.

I was impressed by his ingenuity. The indented portion to the left is his kitchen, the rest of it is his bedroom/living area. The door is just a stack of crates which he pulls in or out.

The kitchen has just enough space to walk into, with crates up to just over waist height as counters. To the back of the room is a gas double burner where he cooks.

Normally I wouldn’t put people’s houses on the internet, but he said “David, take a photo! Put it on Facebook if you like!”

I laughed. The man is proud of his work, as he should be.

Here’s another view:

tiny_house_cocoa-cola-crates_3

I asked where in the world he got the crates. He told me that a local bottling plant lost their contract with Coca-Cola and were discarding piles of them, so he was able to help himself.

The floor is also made of crates – the short, tray-like type that you can see making up the porch portion of the image above.

So far as I can tell there is no electric or water running to this property, though a river runs beneath it.

“Do you drink the water from the river, David?” he asked me, with a pitcher of water in his hand.

“No,” I replied. “I have heard it will make you sick sometimes.”

His brother who was sitting next to me chimed in, “Yes, it will sometimes.”

The farmer shook his head and laughed. “No – it’s good for you! You gotta drink it every morning! It’s better than the water you buy.”

He may have a point, as the city water is chlorinated – though I would definitely boil that river water before consuming it.

I asked if mosquitoes were a problem in his house and he told me they weren’t at all. My guess is they don’t like the bright red color, though I’m not sure.

“The house is always cool inside,” he continued.

I’m sure it is – the jungle is cool and the abundance of air flow through the crates certainly helps.

“How did you attach these crates together?” I asked. “Are they just stacked?”

“No – I used wire,” he said, gesturing at the wall.

tiny_house_cocoa-cola-crates_2

The crates are indeed all wired together. I tried to shake one wall and it was quite stable.

The farmer looked at me.

“Do you have poor people in the United States?”

“Sort of,” I replied. “People who don’t have that much money end up on government programs for food and housing and all that. They end up in areas with crime, standing in line for handouts. You can’t really get a piece of land and build your own house like this – you’d get in trouble. They’d say you were a terrible person and try to get you to pay for a septic tank and air conditioning and meet a bunch of regulations… and then probably take your children away if you had them.”

He just grinned.

“When I was a kid I was poor. We used sugarcane to clean our teeth – I didn’t get my first toothbrush until I was 12.”

He effortlessly peeled a piece of sugarcane with a razor-edged machete and handed some to me. The juice was sweet and rich, full of life.

We walked down a ways and he started digging a yam a little ways up from the riverbank, carefully breaking away the clay with his machete to free the root.

“One day I’ll build another house down by the river. We’re clearing and planting now. It’s beautiful here. The river is my jacuzzi, you see! And there’s food everywhere.”

“I know,” I said. “I’ve also been digging yams and eating wild fruit.”

“I wish people ate that way more,” he said. “Everyone is eating fried potatoes and fried chicken now, instead of the good food all around. That’s why we’re getting sicker and sicker.”

I nodded and replied, “The soil here is excellent – anything fruit you eat is like a vitamin.”

“Yes!” he said.

“You could build a house like mine,” he continued, carefully lifting a perfect yam from the soil. “Or David – build a tree house! That would be even better for the kids. You or I – we could live in the trees and be happy. This is all you need. Even if a man lives in a castle it doesn’t make him happy.”

He’s right. A piece of land, some running water, a roof over your head… and you are in pretty good shape.

Coke crate walls are optional, of course.

David-the-good-books-revised

The Coffee Plantation Begins

CoffeeCherries1

Coffee-shoots

Merry Christmas!

I have wanted to grow big piles of delicious coffee for a long time. Back in Florida I grew multiple coffee plants and even sold then in my nursery, but the climate wasn’t the best so I was stuck keeping my big coffee tree in a pot in the greenhouse or bringing it inside during frosts.

The one I planted by the south-facing wall of the house did well, though, and is still alive today so far as I know.

TheSurvivalGuidetoGrowingCaffeineFIXsmI did well enough with coffee, tea and yaupon holly that I wrote a little booklet on growing it, thanks to the additional help of Kona coffee farmer Gary Strawn (owner of Kona Earth coffee, which tastes amazing) who corrected some of my more exuberant ideas.

The plants I grew in Florida were Coffea arabica, which is the most gourmet of coffees; however, we have coffee growing here on the property we rent which is almost certainly Coffea liberica.

Coffea liberica is a courser-looking, lighter green coffee plant that is tall and has beans almost twice the size of the arabica beans I grew in the states.

While checking on them last week in search of ripe fruits, I discovered something wonderful:

I was hoping to harvest fruit and plant the beans, then I found that nature had already done it for me. There must be 50 or more sprouts out there around the trees.

coffee-sprouts-2

CHRISTMAS!!!

Yee-haw! This means I get to start my plantation!

Of course, just potting up some plants isn’t good enough to get my plantation started.

I also need to buy some land. And that leads me to a dilemma.

Buy or Rent?

It took a lot of money to move overseas.

I have enough cash to buy a small piece of property but it won’t leave me much of an emergency cushion and it ties me to one place.

At the same time, I want to own land so I can build a new food forest.

I could buy about an acre here for $50k. That’s rather brutal considering the cost of rural land back in N/C Florida, but that’s the economics of it. Then I’d need to build a house. Building a house here is MUCH cheaper because you don’t have a bunch of codes and inspectors and government losers to pay off before you can build. Heck, you don’t even need indoor plumbing to get approved here in the mountains.

I could likely build a decent Cracker house for maybe $15-25k.

This would be awesome, but then again… if I just rented I could live pretty cheaply and keep the savings I have in the bank.

It would also put me in the position in which many of my readers find themselves: a small yard at a rental and maybe some balcony space.

I know it sounds crazy, but food forest gardening is way too easy here. Fruit trees plant themselves all over the woods. Mangoes are a naturalized species for goodness sake! So are papayas. And yams? Everywhere. Just go wander through the woods and you can dig them all over the place.

So… having a small space gives me limitations that might help future writing. It also means I can move easily if I get tired of where I am.

I dunno.

Just thinking out loud… in front of the entire world.

I do want to plant that coffee plantation. If I rent, I’ll have to grow them in big pots (which works, incidentally), but if I can get them in the ground I’ll get a lot more production.

A New Post at The Prepper Project: Grafting Fruit Trees

Here’s my new post over at ThePrepperProject.com.

MulberryGrafting10

I once did a horticultural analysis of a property way out in the scrublands. The owner had good clean water, no real neighbors, a great location… and hot, fast-drying, mineral-poor sand that was really, really bad for gardening.

There was no couching it. I had to tell him: this area just won’t cut it for most of your planned annual gardening projects. It will barely support much in the way of fruit or nut trees.

What it did have was a decent amount of native American persimmon trees. They were dwarfed by drought and stress, but they were strong and alive. That said, I saw very few with fruit.

With antive persimmons you deal with a variety of drawbacks. Unlike their cultivated Japanese persimmon relations, they’re dioecious. That means you have male and female trees – and you need both to get fruit. The male won’t make fruit but it does provide the pollen that allows the females to fruit.

Japanese persimmons are self-fertile, plus they make hefty, sweet fruit that’s very worth growing. They’re also regularly grafted onto American persimmon rootstock.

Seeing the wild trees gave me an idea: why not use the existing trees as rootstock for Japanese persimmons? They’re already established and growing in poor soil, making them a perfect support for a higher-producing and delicious variety of improved persimmon!

Sometimes our first observations aren’t the best. You might see a crabapple with lousy fruit in your yard and think “I hate that thing! I’ll tear it out and plant a good apple in its place!”

Step back and think about it: maybe that tough tree is a resource you can use. With grafting you can go nip some twigs off good apple trees and just graft them onto the tree you don’t like. If it’s a happy and healthy mature tree, use it! If you can graft fruit trees, you can grow more food for less money…

(CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST)

Merry Christmas!

Star

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

As I wrote last year:

Despite political and racial divisions, wars and rumors of wars, disease, loss, pain and misery… this season is a time of hope as we remember there is a God beyond this world who became a man, walked among us, was killed by His people and the corrupt Roman government, then resurrected to reign forevermore – and He invites us to join His family as the children of God.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. All the evil of the world can’t stand against Him, and ultimate peace can only be found through Him. Our own works can never get us to paradise – only His sacrifice can. He has conquered death and hell – glory be to God.

God bless you all and thanks for reading. Have an extra slice of pie and coffee for me.

David-the-good-books-revised

Gardening in Virginia Shade, Chicken Coop Water Catchment and Lots More!

Chickens!

Today let’s cover a bunch of stuff all at once!

First:

Help! Gardening in the Shade in Zone 6/7

AppTrail

I recently received this comment asking for help shade gardening in Zone 6/7:

“Hi David, I don’t know of a way to contact you will questions so, I am sending this email/comment.

I live in Northern Virginia zone 6/7. I have been proceeding nicely with numerous failures in the garden and have discovered lots of things not to do. I have a mostly shaded back yard and would like to plant something under the shade of my mature maple tree. Is there any food crop you can recommend? I am new to the gardening and don’t know if I can plant anything in the shade of a tree and expect it to grow. Thank you. I love all the things you do and can’t wait for more.” -Jason D

 

I love questions like these because they make me think. I gardened in Tennessee for five years at the edge of Zone 6 and 7, so I can speak to this question with a bit of authority; however, I’m sure there are plenty more options you readers out there can add in the comments.

Most of our agricultural food crops have been targeted towards sun-grown annuals such as corn, lettuce, beans, peas, etc. Yet there are some lesser-known edible (or medicinal) options you can plant in the shade. A few I can name right now:

Mayapples, PawPaw, Ginseng, Gooseberries, Violets, Shiitake mushrooms, Chives, Mint and even Jerusalem Artichokes, provided they get sun for at least half the day.

Questions like these are particularly good for the new Survival Gardener Forums, since they allow people to post on and on in a big string without the answers being buried by time as I post new posts here on the blog.

Jason, you may also have some luck with various greens in the shade. Full shade is tough but half-shade isn’t game-ending for most salad ingredients. Getting beans, peppers, tomatoes or corn to grow will likely be impossible, however.

One plant we used to harvest regularly from the shade of our hackberry trees in my Tennessee backyard was wild violet. We used the leaves in salads and the flowers to make a violet tea. Very nice plant, and it’s perennial.

Good luck!

Compost Everything: The Movie

I’ve updated the Compost Everything: The Movie trailer to send folks to the download link for the film, which is available on gumroad here.

If you enjoyed the book, you’ll definitely enjoy the film. I’m no Kubrick, but the film did turn out well enough to be very popular at this year’s Homegrown Food Summit. Just using one or two of the ideas it contains can save you hundreds – or thousands – of dollars over your gardening career. Seriously. Ever look at the price of fish emulsion? Or buy a truckload of compost or top soil that turned out “blah?” This is a game-changer.

Chicken Coop Water Collector

Shane writes in:

“Just thought I’d show you a cool way to use a chicken coop as a garden bed and water catchment device – something to show your blog audience.

My coop has a flat-roofed run covered in chicken wire with a tarp on the top. This tarp catches water in it when it rains. The main part of the coop, where the chickens sleep, has a roof that I use to put my plants on away from the weeds, bugs, and slugs.ChickenCoop-GardenBed_WaterCatchment

So, when it rains, I have all the water I need to water my plants. I use a plastic drinking cup and simple scoop out the water on the tarps and dump the water into the plant pots.”

That’s some good redneck ingenuity there.

Little-known fact: I used to be a total redneck. Here’s me from those redneck days:

Redneck_David

(That photo is totally going to get me kicked out of the Christian Agrarians Facebook Group – I just know it.)

Okay, enough silliness. I wrote back to Shane recommending he add some wicking grow bags… and he informed me he was already on it. Awesome.

Related: Justin Rhodes’ live chicken coop building webinar is this Sunday afternoon, so if any of you haven’t signed up, you can go do so here.

Help! What’s the Best Book on Raising Goats?

I received another email this week from C.B. who was gifted with some dairy goats and is looking for help raising them:

Hi David,
I was wondering if you knew any good books for getting into goats for a beginning homesteader (aka, one with no land but neighbors that let him use theirs)? I originally planned on starting with chickens, but one of those awesome neighbors gave me and my wife two goats that just had three kids! Anyways, the original owner is a decent go-to, but only from experience and regularly explains she only knows from trial, failure,  and going to other neighbors. I’d like to get some info, so I am not as reactionary and waiting for emergencies,  but having healthy goats and good goat milk!

I once gave a friend some goats and he hasn’t forgiven me yet. He still has them and they’re still eating away his financial resources to this very day.

The thing with goats is this: you need to stay on top of their management. C.B. is right to seek out knowledge right at the beginning. Rachel and I kept goats for a year, learned a lot, then sold them. She’s a voracious reader and consumed lots of information. We got to drink fresh goat milk, see babies born, castrate and later butcher a buck, plus learn a lot about how much land and resources it takes to raise goats properly. Rachel was also quite good at milking:

They’re pretty tough animals, yet they are hard on the land. After a time we realized we just didn’t have the space… plus one of the goats got out and pulled up an orange tree I just planted. That was the last straw – don’t mess with my orange trees!

Storeys_Guide_To_Raising_GoatsMy recommendation to C.B. was to go get Storey’s Guide to Raising Goats. That’s the classic book and it will get you started well.

I would also get in touch with ECHO in Ft. Myers and seek out goat-raising resources. It doesn’t necessarily have to be as complex as most Americans make it.

Where I live now goats are commonly tied by a back leg by the side of the road to eat brush all day. They make great road crews.

Often there are ways to do things simply and effectively without much in the way of inputs. Remember: your goats are not your pets. They’re a food source. If you’re paying $30 a quart for the milk once all is said and done, you might as well just buy it for less from someone else.

Finally – goats are a very good place to get safe manure for the garden. I dig that.

Tobacco Book Still Free (Ends Today)

TheSurvivalGuidetoGrowingTobacco-web2As a last point, don’t forget to go grab a copy of my tobacco-growing booklet on Amazon if you haven’t already.

It’s free through the end of today, then it goes back up to its normal price.

As of me writing this post on Thursday afternoon, almost 500 copies have been given away.

That’s not bad, but it would be cool to see over a few thousand copies fly out into cyberspace.

My next book should obviously be on the Kardashians.

Have a great weekend, folks. Get out in the garden and get something done and I’ll be back with a new post on Monday.

 

UPDATE:

Commenter Annie recommends Natural Goat Care by Pat Coleby as another excellent book on raising goats:

Natural_Goat_CareAs another final point for the day, I’m in the midst of totally revamping the forums right now.

We’ve decided to move from the free option we were using to a somewhat expensive but much more user-friendly alternative. It will work a lot better.

If you’ve signed up and posted in the current forums, my apologies. We’re going to lose all that data but the new one is so easy to use that it will all be worth it.

See you there. Soon!

David-the-good-books-revised

Growing Jackfruit in South Florida

Growing_Jackfruit_In_South_Florida_Open

Growing jackfruit in South Florida? You bet!

If you subscribe to my YouTube channel, you probably saw the video I posted last week on my friends Chuck and Sarah who are growing jackfruit in their South Florida front yard:

The tree is almost, but not quite, as beautiful as Sarah:

Jackfruit_Tree_South_Florida_With_Sarah

(She’s totally gonna kill me for saying that… fortunately I’m a zillion miles away from South Florida right now. Ha ha! Come and get me!)

This particular jackfruit tree is a truly magnificent specimen, loaded with highly valuable fruit.

Growing Jackfruit In South Florida

Can A Jackfruit Tree Handle Freezing?

A mature jackfruit tree, though a tropical through and through, has the ability to survive temperatures into the upper 20s for brief periods. That means you can grow them along the coast up into the Palm Beach area, with special care given to the trees when young.

According to UF:

“Jackfruit leaves may be damaged at 32°F (0°C), branches at 30°F (-1°C), and branches and trees may be killed at 28°(-2°C)”

I wanted to plant a jackfruit in The Great South Florida Food Forest Project, and in fact I did put a seedling in there at one point… but after seeing the size of Chuck and Sarah’s tree, Mom vetoed the idea. And the seedling DIED MYSTERIOUSLY

That little yard would be great with a massive tree canopy and gigantic fruits no one in the house would eat, don’t you think? C’mon, Mom!

Jackfruit_Tree_South_Florida4

It’s just like another mulberry tree! You can never have enough mulberry trees!

Let me make the case further for those of you who, unlike my beloved mother, are on the fence about this beautiful tree.

Why You Should Grow a Jackfruit

If you’re way out of the range for growing jackfruit, as many of you are, then this article is just a curiosity… but if you’re in the range where they grow, or even close enough to zone-push a bit, let me make the case for this marvelous tree.

Where I now live in the Central American rainforest, jackfruit is well-known by many as a healthy, easy-to-grow delicacy that acts as a starch crop, a fruit crop, and a nut.

In the USA, it’s more of a “eww…. that’s weird…” kind of a fruit. This attitude isn’t helped by the fruit’s strange smell when ripe.

Let’s get the couple of negatives out of the way first.

Some has described the smell of ripe jackfruit as “boiled onions”; however, not all the jackfruit I’ve encountered smell like that. Some just smell somewhat fruity. Fortunately, once opened, there’s no strange scent to the delicious flesh inside.

Another objection to growing jackfruit trees in South Florida or elsewhere in the US is that most people have never tried them and are afraid of growing something they haven’t tasted.

That’s a sissy excuse. Just go for it. Sissy.

A final reason people don’t like jackfruit is the incredibly sticky latex in the rind and around the edible portions of the fruit. I’ve shown some pictures of us butchering a jackfruit before, laid out in a horror-movie style without any explanation.

…anyhow, here are some good reasons to grow jackfruit.

Reason #1: Jackfruit Trees are Beautiful

Look at this:

Jackfruit_Tree_South_Florida_Staghorn_Ferns

Jackfruit growing into a staghorn fern. Just that picture should be enough to make any gardener say “sign me up!” Plus, the fruits look like fractal geometry up close:

Jackfruit_Skin

Not enough? How about some cold, hard capitalism?

Reason #2: Jackfruits are Highly Valuable

In the right ethnic markets, you can get mad money for good jackfruit. I’ve heard of them selling for $10 per LB! That’s pretty awesome, considering how many pounds one of these fruit can reach. Even if you never ate a single fruit yourself, you could likely cover one bill per month just selling jackfruit. A lot of immigrants miss the jackfruit of their home countries and don’t have the space or the time to grow their own. Meet the need and PROFIT!

Jackfruit_Tree_South_Florida

This is what mad money looks like

Reason #3: Jackfruit are Productive

Jackfruit trees can produce hundreds of pounds of fruit per yearand they will produce for about half the year… and sometimes will have ripening fruit here and there year-round. This productivity happens with very little care. Jackfruit can even start fruiting from seed under ideal conditions in just a couple of years.

My friend Chuck harvested about a dozen just when I was visiting their home to record my video:

Jackfruit_Tree_South_Florida5

That was probably 140lbs worth… with easily another 1,000,000,000 LBS ON THE TREE!

Reason #4: Jackfruit are Delicious

You know Juicy Fruit(TM) gum? That flavor was based on jackfruit. The story goes that the owner of Wrigley’s gum tried a jackfruit and was blown away, so he took a fruit to his lab guys and said “make gum that tastes like this!”

The flavor of jackfruit is eminently tropical with undertones of passionfruit, pineapple and guava. It’s amazing. I can’t imagine anyone not liking it.

Reason #5: Jackfruit is also a Starch and a “Nut”

The seeds of a jackfruit can be boiled and eaten like chestnuts or boiled peanuts – and, like its close cousin the breadfruit, an entire unripe jackfruit can be skinned and roasted as a starchy vegetable. It’s not just a sweet fruit – it’s also a potential staple starch crop!

Half_A_Jackfruit_And_Seeds

Edible “nuts” in the foreground, tasty fruit in the background.

Conclusion

If you can grow a jackfruit tree, do it. Even if you never ate a single fruit, you’d be the wonder of your neighborhood.

growing jackfruit in south florida

Growing Jackfruit in South Florida: Front Yard Edition!

Check and Sarah’s tree is quite a looker – and they had no idea what the tree was going to be like when mature. They went out on a limb (heheh) and now are harvesting huge fruits they can share with friends or sell at local markets. Growing jackfruit in South Florida (or other tropical regions) is delicious, fun and potentially profitable.

Why not go for it?

David-the-good-books-revised

Chickens 101: Feeding Chickens

chickens-27

Feeding chickens without buying feed has been a long-time goal… but it’s a goal I’ve never successfully pulled off.

A few years ago I wrote a post on the topic of home-grown chicken feeds for The Prepper Project.

There are many problems you’ll encounter when you dig into the nitty gritty of feeding your backyard flock. Let’s jump into them one at a time.

Chicken Feed Is A Weird Collection of Junk

 

The typical bag of chicken feed you get from your local farm supply is a combination of GMO corn and soy with other fillers, often including pig guts and even poultry wastes.

That means you’re feeding chicken to your chickens.

Other ingredients include bone meal, restaurant grease, canola (which is also a GMO) and barley malt left over from brewing.

Rooster

Don’t feed me no weird stuff, yo!

Modern chicken feed is a bizarre collection of bits and pieces. If you’re not comfortable with having genetically modified organisms and chicken wastes being brought onto your homestead to feed to your chickens, I don’t blame you.

However, if you want to buy “organic” chicken feed that doesn’t contain all the weird stuff, it’s going to cost you. $40 a bag isn’t uncommon. That’s compared to the $13 – $16 I paid per bag for the cheap commercial feed.

The chickens don’t seem to know the difference between feeds, either. They’ll lay eggs when fed the nasty stuff and they’ll lay eggs when fed the good stuff.

I’d rather give them all great food but my budget didn’t allow that… so we gave them the cheap feed and supplemented their diets with good nutrition from other sources, such as extra produce from the garden and fresh pasture where they could munch on weeds, grass and insects.

Feeding Chickens with Homegrown Chicken Feed

 

You’ll see recipes for mixing up your own chicken feeds from time to time. I’ve found that the effort, money and time involved makes this unattractive. Unlike some chicken enthusiasts, I don’t want to spend all day babying my birds. I’ve got gardens to dig and books to write!

Justin Rhodes covers some innovative methods for stretching your feed budget and getting the most from your feeds in his Permaculture Chickens movie (you can see his free videos here) but I haven’t gotten to experiment with those ideas yet as we’re in-between homesteads right now.

You could technically grow enough food for your chickens if you planted them some gardens with high-protein legumes mixed with grains and roots for carbohydrates. Chickens will also eat just about any kitchen scraps you pitch their way, including meat, vegetables, pasta, Vienna sausages, ramen and birthday cake. Chickens are the pigs of the bird world.

The problem in feeding chickens is protein. We’ve fed them on homegrown grains, vegetables and kitchen scraps, only to have them quit laying. They need the protein levels found in chicken feed. If they don’t get enough protein, they may be happy and scrappy, but they won’t lay any eggs.

This heirloom grain corn is homegrown chicken feed

Heirloom corn we grew in part for homegrown chicken feed

Getting the right ratios is tricky. Modern chicken feeds, despite their unsavory ingredients, are well-balanced in their carb/protein ratios.

If you’re feeding your birds lots of good stuff but they aren’t laying eggs, they’re not paying their way on the homestead.

If I just quit here and said it was “tough” to get enough protein for your chickens, I’m sure people would write comments talking about soldier flies, mealworms, maggots and earthworms… so I’m going to cover those as well.

Soldier Flies, Mealworms, Maggots and Earthworms

 

All of these are potential sources of protein for your chickens – but have you ever tried to produce any of them on any kind of scale?

Soldier flies produce those chunky, half-flat, segmented maggots in the compost pile. Chickens love to eat them and they’re high in protein – but getting enough of them going, particularly year-round, to feed more than a couple of hens would be tough. You’d need a good source of compostable material and you’d need a good way to harvest them. I’m not saying it couldn’t be done on a large enough scale to give your chickens enough protein – in fact, I’m sure it can – but it would take some engineering skill to pull off.

Mealworms are similar. They’re the larvae of the darkling beetle and can be raised at home with some simple techniques, but there is time and labor involved, plus you’ll likely have to buy grain materials to feed them. Do you want to become a full-time mealworm farmer in order to feed your birds? I don’t.

ScaryBeetleGrub

Chickens will eat some really creepy things – like this wood-boring beetle grub.

Another chicken protein source idea that’s always kicking around online is the “roadkill in a perforated bucket dropping maggots in the chicken yard” approach. This is a disgusting and stinky way to feed your birds. Carrion flies carry diseases and potential illnesses that can kill your birds, plus your chicken yard will smell like death if you do this. I’m obviously in favor of returning organic matter to the soil, but I’d rather buy roadkill and plant a fruit tree over it, not have to smell it for weeks in my backyard while watching maggots spill into the chicken run.

No.

Earthworms are another good source of protein for chickens but they’re not that easy to grow in quantities sufficient for regular feeding. I’ve red wigglers on purpose and encouraged earthworms on accident through deep layers of mulch, but there are never enough to feed my greedy chickens. If you went large-scale, I’m sure you could pull it off – but then you’ll be a worm farmer. Better to sell those valuable worms to fishermen and vermicomposters, then buy eggs from someone else!

So What’s the Final Deal on Feed?

 

Since we didn’t have access to affordable organic chicken feed, I calculated that we would be paying way too much per dozen eggs if we dropped the creepy commercial feed.

So commercial feed it was.

But alongside that GMO-cannibal-restaurant-grease-cow-guts junk, we gave our birds other good things to eat. They got lots of fresh grass and weeds as we moved their tractors around the yard. They got to eat insects and caterpillars. They were given kale and moringa and sweet potatoes. They got weevil-filled rice from the pantry. They even got lots of food scraps from church dinners, including beef, noodles, stew and bread.

My chicken feeding has never hit a perfect level, but it did keep the birds laying. When I tried for an affordable organic approach with lots of homegrown materials, they quit laying. So compromise it was.

I’m not done, however. I still think you can feed your chickens off your land and have them keep laying. It’s just a matter of finding the right foodstuffs and the right chicken breed for maximum conversion of food into eggs.

One day it will happen.


David-the-good-books-revised

Chickens 101: Chicken Tractors vs. Chicken Coops

ChickensAreBack1-300x292

I received the following e-mail last week:

 

Subject: Help with chickens

 

David,

 

My name is [K. L.] and I live in the [mid-Florida] area, most recently I stumbled upon your YouTube site which then led me to your website. I thoroughly enjoyed your videos and blog post that I have watched and read and would like to ask you for some advice. Currently I have a small garden that is under construction to increase it to a 50′ x 25′ garden, which I enjoy working in and producing food for my wife and I but I would like to add some chickens to the equation. I have never had chickens and really know little to nothing about what I need other than the coop has to be critter proof. I will definitely need critter proof because although I live in a neighborhood, I also live in the forest. I should also tell you that I’m only looking to have eggs right now so any advice on what type of chickens I need would be great. I guess basically I need Chickens 101. Lol. Any help or advice you could give me I would really appreciate it.

Thank you and God Bless,

K

 

Well… lots of questions there. Today I’ve decided to start a short series of “Chickens 101” posts to share what I’ve learned about these oh-so-useful backyard birds.

chicken tractors vs. chicken coops

We’ve kept chickens for years and have had plenty of problems we discovered along the way. When you think you have it all figured out, it’s usually about time for something else to go wrong.

Let’s start with housing.

Chicken Tractors vs. Chicken Coops

1: Chicken tractors

 

I spent a lot of time on the internet researching chickens before and after moving to the country. This made me think that chicken tractors were the best way to go.

My first chicken coop was a chicken tractor I designed as a 4′ x 4′ x 8′ rectangle. About six foot of its length was screened in with chicken wire and the last 2′ had space for the birds to nest at night and lay their eggs.

It was made from solid pressure-treated wood with a metal roof, stained a rich brown color… and it weighed a ton.

I intended on keeping it in the yard of our rental house but even moving it there was a huge pain. It ended up in a former cousin’s yard, then later ended up being disassembled for parts.

FAIL

2: Chicken Coops

 

My second chicken coop design was a more standard affair. We had an old shed so I converted that to a chicken coop over a weekend. We added nest boxes and nailed up some tree limbs so they could roost. I also found some pictures of Elvis the previous homeowner had left in the attic, so I hung those up for the birds. Chickens instinctively like Elvis.

We found that the chickens took to roosting in the rafters of the shed, which was dangerous both for them and for us. When the door was opened in the morning they’d come crashing down like drunk vultures from eight feet in the air, tearing towards the light.

That was remedied by the addition of some old fencing over the rafters so they could no longer make their way up that high.

Around the coop door, we fenced a chicken run that was about 20 x 30′ in size and mostly shaded by an oak tree.

It was a nice place for chickens.

However, the raccoons went after and killed some of our birds  despite our best efforts. If we forgot to shut the birds in at dusk, some would be murdered in the night.

That was a pain. It meant that if we wanted to go to dinner with some friends or had an evening church service, we needed to chase all the birds back into the coop and shut it early.

Pro-tip: Herding chickens isn’t easy in dress shoes

The standard coop design did keep the chickens safe as long as we shut the door, but they did strip the weeds and grass in their run down to compacted sand over a few months. Not particularly permaculture or friendly to the ground or the birds.

After a time, I decided to remedy this by designing some new chicken tractors so I could put at least some of the birds to work in the gardens and the food forest.

3: Chicken Tractors Again

 

This time I used lighter materials and made some simple triangular-topped chicken tractors from 2 x 2″ lumber and chicken wire. They didn’t take long to make and worked a lot better than my previous design. At 3′ x 8′ with about 4′ height in the middle, they held 6-8 birds well.

I didn’t bother putting a true covered roost area in these. Instead, I stapled old feed bags over one half of the tractor for rain and sun protection and just left the other side open.

Dragging them around was a bit of a pain, though. We invariably broke eggs (the birds nested on the ground in this design) and sometimes birds would get their legs pinched if we moved too quickly.

After a time, I got tired of these tractors, my main chicken coop, the losses to raccoons and the feed bill… and we got rid of our chickens altogether.

For a while.

But I couldn’t help it – I had to take them up again, and when I did, I went back to tractors. Shiny new tractors with PVC and good wire. And I got a new flock of healthy pretty birds with bright eyes and flappy little wings.

chcicken tractors vs. chicken coops

 

And then the raccoons started taking them, usually one at a time, but not every night. Just here and there.

The worst night was when I had just raised a new round of chickens in the incubator, gotten them bigger and stronger in a tub on the back porch, and then put them in a new chicken tractor.

Two nights afterwards all of them were murdered by a racoon.

All 16 birds.

It was the worst chicken day ever and it led to me putting wire on the bottom of all my chicken tractors.

That wired bottom was a pain, however. The chickens would get their feet stuck in it – and it kept them from digging up the ground nicely and eating the grass and weeds, which is one of the main reasons I wanted them in tractors to begin with.

So – what’s the final answer in the battle of chicken tractors vs. chicken coops?

…stay tuned!

David-the-good-books-revised

Where to Find Safe Mulch

Where_To_Find_Safe_Mulch
Where To Find Safe Mulch

Where can a gardener find safe mulch… for free… in this crazy world?

Long-time reader Wendy asks where to find safe mulch for her gardens:

 

“Good Morning, David! 

Do you have any resources for getting free mulch delivered to your house from tree trimmers or someplace else? What do you think about that idea? 

Diseased trees, lead, other toxins, allelopathic trees/plants concern me somewhat. 

I want to use wood chips for:
1. huge compost heap to let break down into soil for later to use in annual vegetable beds
2. mulch for perennial edible beds
3. path cover (over cardboard) between raised beds and other beds
I’ve used free mulch from the city (st. petersburg, fl) and it was ok but there is a fair amount of rocks, concrete, soda tabs, large-ish wood chunks, palm branch bits, and some glass in there. And I don’t know what kind of unwanted residues (pesticides, lead, herbicides from grass clippings) are in there, if any. http://www.pinellascounty.org/solidwaste/mulch.htm
I spent a little time trying to google if allelopathic trees are common in my area to see if it’d be a concern in free mulch I may find. I didn’t find much information.
Do you have any experience with abouttrees.com? That seems cool if it works and is not a scam 🙂
Have a lovely Thursday!
Wendy in St. Petersburg”

Where To Find Free Mulch

First I’ll cover where to get free mulch.
City mulch supplies are a mixed bag for sure.
When I lived in the town of Smyrna, TN (may it be consumed by a volcano and/or swarms of demonic locusts), I got an entire dump truck load of mulch delivered from the municipal waste facility in the neighboring city of Murfreesboro. There was some trash in it we had to pick out, but overall it was great stuff and the gardens thrived on it.
That was almost ten years ago, however, and before the scourge of aminopyralid became common.
Diseases and invasive species can also find their way to your property via municipal mulch supplies.
The main reason is because lots of people contribute to the municipal yard waste recycling program… and some of those people are less careful than others. When raking and bagging your yard, it’s easy enough to end up with the occasional beer can in the pile of pine needles… or some candy wrappers… or a Budweiser bottle.
And that’s just the inorganic stuff. It’s a pain (sometimes literally) to find shards of metal or glass in your garden, but it’s not a big deal compared to some of the chemicals you may encounter.
I tend to be pretty lax with the organic material I allow into my garden. I’m not that scared of invasive species or plant diseases, since I garden in an anarchistic and very dense manner. There are lots of checks and balances in the ecosystems I create, so if something finds its way, it’s not likely to overrun everything.
What I am scared of are persistent herbicides. After my nasty run-in with Grazon(TM) a few years ago, I look sideways at anything that might contain that nasty plant-destroying poison. Fortunately, it’s most common in manure, hay and straw, which are not typically components of yard waste.
Grass clippings, however, give me pause. According to EarthEasy.com:
“The weedkillers (phenoxy herbicides) used in weed ‘n feed products are persistent, bioaccumulative toxic substances linked to cancers and to reproductive, immunological and neurological problems. Some of the herbicides in chemical weed ‘n feeds—especially 2, 4-D—have been linked to increased rates of cancer in people and dogs.”
Yeah, I don’t like that kind of thing. Lawns are pretty toxic places in America.

My Favorite Source of Safe Mulch

I’ve found the best source for mulch is the tree companies that prune along the powerlines. That’s where I got about six loads of good stuff for my food forest, and I knew exactly what was in it.
Pines, oaks, hickory, cabbage palms, wild grape vines – all the wild stuff that grew along the edge of the road – and no grass clippings!
As a side benefit, mushrooms love turning that tree mulch into soil.
Mushroom12

My Second Favorite Source of Mulch

The second source I’ve found for mulch is more of a pain to gather, but worth it.
Leaves and yard waste that haven’t been picked up by the city yet but are beside the road = fair game!
I’ll look in the tops of bagged leaves to see if the bags contain grass clippings. If they don’t, I nab them.
Just a couple of days ago I also dragged a green yard waste bin into my Dad’s backyard to add the contents around the fruit trees in the food forest. It was filled with pine needles, some hardwood leaves and some pine cones. Good stuff, once I picked out a few pieces of trash from the bottom.
When I see neighbors trimming their trees, I ask for the logs and the leaves. Though they break down slowly and aren’t great for mulching, they are excellent sources of long-term fertility for the garden. I put random chunks of logs right around fruit trees and buried into garden beds as moisture/mineral sources and fungi repositories.
I’ve even had good luck with leaving a big pile of rough sticks and leaves in my yard to rot, them stomping it down into usable mulch a couple years later after it rotted enough to become brittle.

Allelopathic Trees In Mulch

I’ve mixed a bunch of different species together into my compost piles without paying much attention and have never seen any issues. I didn’t add black walnut, granted, but I’ve read that some of the species that grow in my neighborhood and were in the mulch dropped on my food forest were allelopathic… but again, it was a big mix of stuff. Nature sorted it out for me. I have a feeling that small to moderate amounts of allelopathic trees won’t make much difference in your gardening. It might even be good for it. Plant homeopathy?

And Finally

Abouttrees.com seems like a good idea if it works. I haven’t had any experience with them, but it doesn’t look like a scam so far as I can tell.
The creator writes:
Mark is an arborist that REALLY love tinkering with computers too! For the past fifteen years he wasted thousands of gallons of fuel hauling wood chip mulch, a valuable byproduct of his business, across the city only to dump it in landfills.
Neighbors would often come up to him requesting it, but many times he would have to knock on doors to see who wanted it.(Mark really didn’t like that part…)On hot Georgia days, covered in sweat and sawdust and breathing the fumes of that non-air conditioned chipper truck, Mark had plenty of time to think how much fuel he was wasting to get those loads of mulch to the dump. Even worse was that he knew that there were people close by that would want it but he didn’t know who they were because he only had access to his own list of wood chip requests, and not the list of other tree services.And even more frustrating was when he finally was working in an area where people had called in to request mulch, the majority of times they already had their request filled by a someone else.He felt there had to be a better way. He finally saw real the problem. MULTIPLE LISTS!He saw that tree services maintaining their own separate list was a HUGE waste of time, not only for the tree services, but also for the client who had to make tons of phone calls to tons of tree services for only one single delivery.

So he decided to trade his hardhat for his website development hat. (Well, actually it was his project manager hat because Mark hates coding!)

He found the best Atlanta Ruby Developers and the result is our free mulch app!”

 

The problem with ideas like this is getting enough people to sign on. Why not try and see? It seems like a rather elaborate and niche to be scam – I can’t imagine the benefit to the scammer.

Unless he’s a psycho-killer who really has a thing against organic gardeners.

Tomorrow I’ll be back with some great photos from Wendy’s garden in St. Petersburg. It’s beautiful and you’re going to love it.
David-the-good-books-revised
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