Get in Shape this New Year with YAMFIT!

yamfit

yamfit

My sister Christi spent almost a week with us and while she was here, we had to make a video together:

What says “family togetherness” better than filming a crossfit parody?

This is yam season right now and there are yams growing wild all through the jungle. When the vines start to die back, the roots are ready to dig. They’ll sit in dormancy for months, then spring back into growth sometime in the spring.

These are my old friend Dioscorea alata, though they are the white/yellow type, not the purple variety. I haven’t seen any purple ones here.

Digging yams is a pain in the clay here. You can see the trouble they give me in this recent video:

We got a good harvest, but man… the clay is thick. It’s probably better for pottery than gardening! If you want to know more about growing yams, I have an in-depth post here.

If You Don’t Think I’m Funny It’s Your Own Fault

Though I’ve been posting goofy videos for years, people still don’t seem to get my jokes.

Or that they are jokes.

This comment on my “Machete Safety” video is a case in point:

it's-a-joke

My IQ is in the top 2% of the population. At least.

If you don’t understand why I’m doing something, it may just be because you’re unable to grasp it. There’s nothing wrong with that. We all have our own gifts.

Machete Safety is a meta-narrative that works on multiple dimensions.

I claimed it was a joke – but it’s not just a joke. Though on its face it appears to be Rachel wearing my clothes and re-enacting my machete injury, in reality it’s a treatise on my fears that String Theory fails to adequately explain the physical universe.

Seriously – is it that hard to grasp that the machete represents quantum gravity? Anyone?

Of course, it’s possible that Michael’s comment was representative of perturbation theory… which would completely blow my mind. It could make sense, as the complexity of my theory might be challenged by his simplistic “not actually informative” rebuke, following the natural chain of Hamiltonian disruption.

However, the “good info mixed in with noise” sounds like the popular Chaos Theory silliness that took off after Jurassic Park instead of a rational response to my symbolic shrug in the face of the blurry edges of modern physics.

Well, you can’t win them all.

Alternately, these interchanges may occur because my sense of humor, though funny to me, simply doesn’t translate. I know a very high IQ guy who doesn’t think I’m funny at all.

I don’t care. I still giggle like a middle schooler when I put together some of these videos. I can’t tell you how much I laughed creating In Seach of Bilimbi, even though the critics panned that one.

Bilimbi_4

An alternate theory: maybe I just want to know what love is?

Seriously, though – the yamfit video is funny. Enjoy and share on Facebook.

Christi is a natural comic – let’s make that girl a star!

Have a great Monday.

David-the-good-books-revised

Bilimbi: In Search of Ghost Fruit

Bilimbi_1

It’s bilimbi time!

Bilimbi

Last week I released what may be the most controversial film I’ve ever uploaded to YouTube, if not the weirdest.*

In Search of… Bilimbi!

I had people write me to make sure I was okay after that one.

If you can’t stand the tracking, stay out of the bilimbi!

I’ve always had a thing for old science and nature documentaries. I used to watch them on a wavy old TV set or off distorted VHS tapes. In the bilimbi film I recreated that in stunning technicolor.

Bilimbi_3 Bilimbi_2

Anyhow, for those of you that didn’t get it… I feel very badly for you.

It is a powerful and beautiful film of which YouTube is not worthy.

Every distortion and tracking error was lovingly hand-built.

Every warbly piece of the vintage soundtrack was tweaked and EQed for maxiumum impact.

Even now a tear comes to my eye as I ponder the masterpiece I created.

The Backstory

 

I wandered across the creek behind our place and up the mountainside with some of the children one afternoon on a rambling exploration and that’s when we first saw the bilimbi tree. I recognized it from the picture in my well-loved copy of Fruits of Warm Climates and couldn’t believe I finally got to see one in person.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera so I could capture images for all of you – so I decided to go back the next day in search of the bilimbi, this time armed with my inexpensive Nikon L830 in case I fell down the rocks or something.

I searched and search and searched, doing my best to retrace my steps… and had no luck! The next afternoon I tried again… and still no luck!

That’s where the film came from. A fruitless (heheh) search.

Bilimbi_4

Finally, I asked again for directions from a local friend and he told me where to look. That third time… well… I’ll just let you watch the video:

I really was quite happy to find that tree at long last.Bilimbi_8 Bilimbi_7 Bilimbi_6 Bilimbi_5 Look at all that fruit!

It’s a small tree, similar in growth and appearance to its cousin the starfruit but bearing fruit directly from its trunk instead of just on the branches.

The fruit is incredibly acidic. As I say in the video, they taste like War Heads candy.

But What Is a Bilimbi?

Bilimbi is a fruit tree and relative of starfruit. Its Latin name is Averrhoa bilimbi, whereas starfruit’s Latin name is Averrhoa carambola.

Bilimbi has some interesting food uses according to Purdue University:

 

“The bilimbi is generally regarded as too acid for eating raw, but in Costa Rica, the green, uncooked fruits are prepared as a relish which is served with rice and beans. Sometimes it is an accompaniment for fish and meat. Ripe fruits are frequently added to curries in the Far East. They yield 44.2% juice having a pH of 4.47, and the juice is popular for making cooling beverages on the order of lemonade.

Mainly, the bilimbi is used in place of mango to make chutney, and it is much preserved. To reduce acidity, it may be first pricked and soaked in water overnight, or soaked in salted water for a shorter time; then it is boiled with much sugar to make a jam or an acid jelly. The latter, in Malaya, is added to stewed fruits that are oversweet. Half-ripe fruits are salted, set out in the sun, and pickled in brine and can be thus kept for 3 months. A quicker pickle is made by putting the fruits and salt into boiling water. This product can be kept only 4 to 5 days.

The flowers are sometimes preserved with sugar.”

 

Good enough for me. You’re getting added to the homestead, bilimbi!

I brought home some rotten ripe fruit from around the bilimbi tree on my final quest and will be attempting to grow the seeds contained therein. The flavor, though powerfully sour, strikes me as having great culinary value. It would be nice to have a tree right where I can find it.

Especially considering the problem I have finding bilimbis.

 

 

*This film would probably take the “weirdest” award:

David-the-good-books-revised

Caesar Responds to Criticisms of “Grow or Die”

Julius-Caeser

Today is the Ides of March and Caesar was kind enough to take a few moments out of his busy schedule to respond to a recent criticism of my book Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening.

The review has some substance in that I cover some similar ground in Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening, particularly on methods and crops. I felt like I needed to repeat a decent amount due to the fact that Grow or Die was created a guide for people – particularly non-gardeners – who were preparing for or even facing the worst. The difference is that both books are honed in on separate audiences with different focuses. The goal was to have each book stand alone; one for Florida gardeners, one for survival gardeners. There’s definitely some overlap but there are a lot of differences as well as well as a good bit of different information.

I appreciate that the reviewer still gave me three stars, and that he likes my writing in general.

Actually, I was perfectly willing to step back and let the criticism pass me by… but the most honorable Caesar had different plans.

By the way, this is the first film created on my new Canon 70D camera. I had to do a little tweaking to get pro filming set up, but the camera is now working amazingly. I added a short STM lens since the autofocus on the standard EF-S lenses made an intolerable amount of noise, plus I added a small shotgun mic to the shoe for a much better audio capture. I’ll have to write on my entire setup in a future post.

David-the-good-books-revised

5 Ways to Kill all the Bugs in Your Garden

Cute_Little_Grasshopper

“How do I kill all the bugs in my garden?”

 

Cute_Little_GrasshopperIf you hang around gardening forums and newbie gardeners, you’ve probably heard that question before.

Bugs are frustrating. Right at the point you think you’ve really got your tomatoes going perfectly or your squash plants are loaded with blossoms and young fruit…

…something terrible will happen. Stink bugs, horn worms, pickle worm, cutworms, leaf-footed bugs, lubbers, heck, even termites will sometimes show up in the garden and wreak havoc.

I know why people ask how to kill all the bugs in their gardens, and that question can be answered. It’s definitely possible to kill all the bugs in your garden – and today I’m going to give you five powerful ways to end all insect life.

 

Solution #1: Kill all the Bugs With Fire

 

Cute_Little_Grasshopper_In_FlamesFire purifies and renews. There are no stink bug phoenixes that will arise from the ashes of a well-torched garden space.

The trick with burning all the insects in your garden is to do it when nothing is growing. I recommend an oxy-acetylene torch; or, if you can get it, a flamethrower.

Just run over the area thoroughly, destroying all plant and animal life. Bonus points if you melt the top layer of soil into glass.

 

Solution #2: Kill all the Bugs With Ice

 

Cute_Little_Grasshopper_IcedThis also requires having an empty garden plot when you start, since icy temperatures will also destroy plants.

Here’s how to get a nice clean…and cold… slate in the garden.

First, go out and buy yourself a few cubic yards of dry ice. Dry ice is just frozen carbon dioxide, but it’s much, much colder than regular old water ice.

Then, pile that ice over your garden bed and cover that pile of dry ice with lots of blankets to keep the cold in as long as possible. That will kill everything in there!

Solution #3: Kill all the Bugs with a Custom Super Pesticide

 

Cute_Little_Grasshopper_PoisonIf you wander down the rows at any home improvement or garden center, you’re bound to see pesticides for everything from ants to fleas, chinch bugs to spiders. Some brag that they’ll kill 100 or more species of insects.

That’s not good enough. All bugs must die.

If you want to kill all insects in your garden, it would be best to mix as many of these pesticides as possible and apply them at much higher rates than is recommended on the labels.

Solution #4: Kill all the Bugs With Poison Gas

 

Cute_Little_Grasshopper_Gas_MaskBack in World War I, mustard gas was used with great brutality to maim, injure and kill soldiers on both sides of the war.

What most people don’t realize is that you can make something similar at home for much less than it costs to buy most pesticides. All you need is some potassium permangranate and hydrocloric acid. Mixed, they make a powerful cloud of green-yellow chlorine gas that’s pretty good at eating through organic matter – like bugs! Build a tent over your garden with plastic, carefully taping all the seams, then pour hydrocloric acid into a few cups of potassium permangranate in the bottom of a bucket under the tent. Get out quickly, because chances of death are really high. If you don’t have either of these chemicals, you can also just mix bleach and ammonia, which also makes a horribly toxic gas capable of burning out your lungs… and killing hornworms!

 

Solution #5: Kill all the Bugs With Nuclear Radiation

 

Cute_Little_Grasshopper_Radiation_webIf the four remedies above don’t wipe out all insect life, you may have to go all the way and split the atom.

This really isn’t easy at home; however, if you can manage to till plutonium into your garden soil, it will end all life.

The downside is, of course, that you’ll also have to wait a few thousand years before you can pop in some seeds or transplants.

But really – isn’t that a small price to pay for the knowledge that you’re totally and utterly bug-free?

OKAY THIS POST MUST BE A JOKE!

If you’re making a toxic shopping list: stop right now.

I’ve (obviously, I hope) been pulling your leg.

You don’t need to kill all the bugs in your garden. Killing insects has become less and less important to me as I’ve grown in my gardening skill.

Yes, I do pull horn worms, knock stinkbugs into soapy water and blast aphids off my tender plants with the hose. Every once in a while.

Once in a long while.

Why? Because I’ve learned to start…

Embracing_The_Bugs

 

 

Embracing the Bugs

 

Not literally, of course. I’m not starting a “Hug the Hornworms” charity any time soon.

I’m just urging you to quit thinking about how to kill all the bugs… and how instead to add more bugs until the pest populations come under control.

As I wrote in the pest control chapter of my new book Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening:

Grow_Or_Die_Cover_Web

My second Amazon bestseller – coming soon in paperback

“You don’t want to lower the insect population; you want to raise it dramatically!

Look at what happens with deer when you remove the predators. Overpopulation quickly leads to denuded forests, landslides from erosion, and eventually, starving deer. But when there are plenty of hunters, wolves, or tigers, the deer population comes under control, the remaining deer and forests are healthy. You don’t want to kill all the deer, and you don’t want to remove the predators, either.

Pests generally breed a lot faster than predators. They’re also the first thing to find your garden. If you spray to kill the pests, you’ll also knock out the predators in doing so. The pests precede the predators, meaning that just about the time they build up to plague proportions, there’s almost always a predator that’s going to appear and knock them down again.

The problem is, if you’re growing a garden in a well-kept yard with few shrubs, flowers, weeds or other places for the good guys, it takes them a lot longer to find your garden and the pests inhabiting it. Pests are great at finding your plants regardless, but when there are places for the good guys to live, they’ll be there when you need them.”

 

I’ve created quite a few previous posts on the importance of a complete ecosystem to control pests, including how I got more birds on my property, how to build a solitary bee house, why I like snakes in my garden, and how to get ladybugs to stick around.

You don’t need to kill all the bugs. You rarely need to kill any bugs. When you kill what you think are the “bad bugs,” you also kill many good bugs.

kill all the bugs and you'll kill bees

Spray poisons and you’ll kill pollinators

I’m not saying that as some kind of a bleeding heart raw foodie or something: I’m saying it because the more bugs you kill, the less bugs there are for the good guys to eat, and therefor the good guys often don’t show up or stick around.

It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s the truth: more bugs is a good thing. Wiping out all the insects is like wiping out all the bacteria in your digestive tract with antibiotics. It’s not a good thing.

wasps kill all the bugs they can

Wasps are pest killers

Plant lots of plants together. Create perennial garden beds where good guys can hide year-round. Put stick and rock piles at the edges of your gardens for snakes, toads, beetles and lizards. Hang up mailboxes so paper wasps can have a place to build their nests.

Just don’t kill all the bugs in your garden. No matter how tempting it is.

Every piece of the ecosystem you remove is one more piece you’ll have to fill in.

Using insecticides (or ice, poison gas, fire, etc.) to kill all the bugs in your garden is like fixing a watch with a hammer.

Plutonium is too expensive anyhow.wdf87122-b19cd302-3b35-4d51-b0e9-37148349c27f-v2

David-the-good-books-revised

SEO for Non-Techies

SEO for Non-Techies

Hi everyone – today we’re going to talk about SEO for non-techies!

Thanks for sticking with me and dealing with the new site as I work the bugs out. For the last two weeks, I’ve delved further into SEO, html, WordPress, plug-ins and techie stuff than I’ve ever done before.

I’ve also just completed going through all my old posts and re-writing them, adding new links, videos, etc.

I now realize after reading up on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) that I made some mistakes starting out back on Florida Survival Gardening. If you are on WordPress, go download Yoast and learn how to use their tool. They provide good info for free on their website.

So now.. here’s my little post on what I’m learning about SEO.

SEO for Non-Techies, i.e. Survival Gardeners

If you title a post “This is Amazing!” and then show a picture of a snake dancing with no caption, search engines won’t easily find your “amazing” post on the dancing snake.

Instead, if you want people to find your post when they search for “dancing snake,” on Google, you need to title your post something related to the content.

You could call the post “Check Out This Dancing Snake!” and it will get found. Your chances go higher if the picture of the dancing snake is titled something like dancing_snake.jpg with an alternative tag on the photo that says “photo of a dancing snake” and a caption that says “Dancing Snake!”

Many of my older posts were also too short to rank high on SEO. If you only have a couple of lines on a blog post, it won’t rank well. In contrast, if I wrote an article with at least 300 words and well-labeled photos and good sub-headings, it would get picked up higher.

This stuff is crazy but I’m finally pulling it together. I would love to have more people stop by and see my writing… so I went back through all 900 posts and fixed the SEO on the ones I could.

It’s so bad… I’ve been dreaming in SEO.

dreams-about-flyingOther search terms include:

“It looks like you’re trying to fly”
“Dreams on flying”
“flying dream”
“flying dream die at end”
“i dreamd i flyd

(click)

404 ground not found

 

Anyhow, it’s been very interesting learning all the crazy tech stuff I never learned before, though I’m sure you all would rather have a gardening post today.

Thanks are in order for my friend rycamor who is hosting this new site for free, my friend Difster for help with WordPress, and Dave Dalton for the help with SEO.

And, since we’re talking about SEO for Non-Techies (see – I crammed in my keyword again!!!), here’s an SEO-optimized picture of a frustrated gardener:

SEO for Non-Techies

SEO for Non-Techies

Anyhow, if you find anything really weird on the site, let me know.

And please, go back through the old posts if you haven’t seen them in a while and have time… a lot have some new info and some have even been re-written.

And that concludes

SEO for Non-Techies

 

That headline right there will boost my rankings for the search term “SEO for non-techies!” Ha! I got my keyword phrase in again!

Tomorrow I’ll be back to gardening posts… thanks for your patience. Please subscribe to the newsletter if you’re not on there already… there are some cool projects in the works.

-David The Good

David-the-good-books-revised

Crime Scene Investigators: Small Mammal Edition

DeadMolePicture

I was working on an article at my desk the other day when my daughter came in.

DAUGHTER: Dad?

ME: Yes?

DAUGHTER: We found a weird dead animal outside.

ME: Oh yeah?

DAUGHTER: Yeah. So we drew it. Look!

ME: Wow. Nice.

DAUGHTER: We’re not sure what it is. Can you tell us?

ME: Looks like a mole to me. Where did you find it?

DAUGHTER: In the path in the backyard. The ants are eating it.

ME: You should catalog your find further. Here, take the camera and get some shots. I’m sure your mom will want to see them.

DAUGHTER: Okay!!!

I went back to work on my article and forgot about our strange conversation until I just downloaded the contents of my camera and found the following images:

dead mole

 

dead mole

 

dead mole

Yep. Definitely a dead mole.

Subject matter aside, why do photos taken by children always look creepy as heck?

I love my kids. Life is significantly more hilarious with them around.

David-the-good-books-revised

A daring raid

PlantRescue1

“Will the cops come and get us?” my son asked, half seriously.

“No, I don’t think so,” I replied.

“What if the neighbors see,” my daughter said, “Will they come over and get mad?”

“I doubt it.”

We stood in the backyard of a dark and empty house, armed with trash bags, shovels, buckets and a single LED flashlight. The company included my oldest two children, my friend Allen the Beekeeper and his girlfriend Laura.

Allen had gotten a call earlier that day from a friend.

“Hey… there’s some plants and a bed of sugarcane in the back of my house. The landlord doesn’t care about it. Dig it up now or I’m gonna mow it all down tomorrow.”

After the call, Allen called me.

“Want to get some plants?”

The answer, of course, was yes… the problem was, we weren’t both free until well past dark.

When we got to the house, it looked like this:

Perfect conditions for a garden raid!

Dark. Very dark. But there were plants that needed saving so we pressed on. Laura held the flashlight as we cut down cane and dug up what had been a 4′ x 8′ bed of the stuff. Thanks to a mild winter, the canes were untouched by frost and deliciously sweet.

I may have paused during the daring raid, O reader, to give the children a few choice chunks… but I never lost sight of the mission.

Overall, it took us about an hour of digging to remove all of the sugarcane.

Allen takes charge.

Beyond that, we also nabbed a few rosemary bushes (which I greatly doubt will survive transplanting) and a nice clump of lemon grass.

On the way out, I couldn’t help looking through a pile of yard waste by the side of the road… and was greatly pleased to discover (and rescue) a freshly dug clump of Jasmine, unwilted with some good roots remaining.

We can’t save every plant… but we can try.

David-the-good-books-revised
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