“…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.
The 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…”
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.
This is a very nice review of Push the Zone from Mars Is:
“So the other night I was on Facebook and I noticed that my favorite mad gardener, David the Good was looking for folks to give honest reviews of his new book “Push the Zone”. In exchange he was willing to provide a review copy, given that it had not yet gone on sale and by definition a review can’t be honest if the reviewer aint yet read the book. Now as a fan of David’s youtube channel, but someone who had not yet read any of his books, I figured I’d throw my hat in the ring, especially since it meant free book, and he wasn’t attaching any of them stringy things.
I was definitely glad I did. Though I knew his video style was irreverent, wacky, and entertaining as hell it wasn’t until I was reading his book that I realized he wrote the same way. Now many of you might think I’m a bit dumb for not realizing that all the products of a mind as twisted and tweaked as his is would share certain uniform characteristics, but I was actually a little worried that the book would be as dry as his videos aren’t. Fortunately my worries were most definitely in vain. His unique sense of humor most assuredly shines through in his prose.
The information contained in the book, which primarily pertains to ways in which one can grow tropical plants outside of tropical regions (Hence the title) is top notch, very easy for even a complete noob of a gardener like myself to understand, and provides both practical advice as well the underlying theory on which his advice is based, without delving so far into the theory as to be academic gobbledegook to someone whose thumb is far more often black than green.”
If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, you can do so here. It’s a gardening book unlike any other you’ll find. And the reviews on Amazon keep coming in.
“I have enjoyed my new found hobby but also find myself missing some of my old tropical favorites. This book explains that you can actually grow some of my southern tropical favorites here even though they are indeed outside of my current zone. I am so excited to start experimenting more with some of these methods! I highly recommend this book. It is written with clever humor and David must know a thing or two if he realized bananas plants are not actually trees 😉“
The Driftwood Coffee Company recently made the terrible mistake of sending me a bag of coffee with a request for a review. Since I’m not really a foodie or much of a connoisseur of the finer things in life, I had to switch to one of my alternate personalities to pull off the task. The rest of today’s review was written by Hipster Dave and his hipster friends.
-David The Good
Hipster Dave Reviews “Midnight Drift” Coffee from the Driftwood Coffee Company
Coffee is the black, steaming blood of creativity.
And I am way into sustainable coffee that doesn’t rely on slaves in Japan and stuff, so when I got a chance to try some coffee that’s supposedly way good I went… YES BRING IT TO DADDY.
I’ve been drinking coffee since I was 13, back when I was playing Street Fighter II all day and watching MST3k all night. That was, of course, before I realized how totally sexist SFII was because of that one chick’s dress that would flip up when she kicked people around. Totes quit playing that, plus I broke the controller trying to look at her legs.
I sincerely apologize to all women right now, past present and future.
Anyhow, so I got this bag of coffee in the mail and it was sitting in my office still in the box and I went, whoa, man, this whole office smells like the Sahara or wherever it is they grow awesome coffee. I mean, like – it was soul-shaking aroma therapy and really got into my headspace.
So I have this grinder and a French press so I just totally made myself some and wow, just wow. It’s good and sweet and not bitter and almost made up for the fact that my man Sanders got beat by Clinton the establishment tool in the SC primary (but not quite).
So here’s an artsy thing I kind of threw together on my favorite Mac of me making some Driftwood Coffee Company coffee and being #authentic:
Back in the day I was totes gonna write for Rolling Stone or whatever because I loved Thompson, that guy was real. I didn’t actually read his stuff but I watched the movie and the woman with the moray eel neck and the dirt racing made me go, “yeah, I’m gonna travel like that one day and do journalism” except not with all the drugs. Maybe a few drugs but not ether and pineal gland juice. #nevergonnadothoseweirddrugs.
So because I was thinking on the journalism track and how we’re so disconnected and the coffee was so good I thought about how this new Matrix of connectedness really interrelates people and that I should get my friends to pitch in and share the coffee love so I gathered up some really cool folks and just went, “hey, give me your thoughts on this Driftwood Coffee Company coffee those cats sent me.”
I painstakingly crafted multiple pots of coffee in my French press (#love!) passed it around, then asked these beautiful people to give me their impressions. All the quotes are 100% real, as are the people and the coffee… would I lead you astray? No, you know I wouldn’t.
Allen The Scot
“Tastes like Folgers. That’s not bad, I like Folger’s. Doesn’t taste like a volcanic island coffee. Great scent, not overly bitter on the back of the palate.”
“It was delicate yet strong, intense but light, I enjoyed it but I hated it. Would recommend.”
“It was awesome. No bitter taste.”
“It’s extremely smooth. Earthy, a little fruity, and just absolutely delicious. It really is. I would buy this in a heartbeat – as a matter of fact, I’d like to know how much this is.”
“An extremely long finish. Is it tea or coffee?”
“It’s fruity. It’s very fruity.”
Rachel My Sister
“Smooth, very balanced flavor. Zero bitterness. That’s why I drink my coffee black. I know right away.”
“It tastes good to me, though I put a lot of cream in it. Maybe I’m tasting the cream. I shouldn’t have done that. So the next day I drank it black and it was good. I never drink my coffee black because it’s too bitter. I could do this one. Also, that’s a terrible photo you took. Why do you love your sister more than me?”
“I just smoke so much my palate is dead.”
My crew was really into this coffee, lots of them took seconds, and we also ate this really great gluten-free cake with it and that chocolate/pecan/coffee thing together was wow. I actually saw Melanie take Tim’s mug away and drink his coffee, so that’s some seriously good stuff if my people can be trusted, which they can, because they’re the most authentic group you’re gonna meet, which you probably won’t because you’re not nearly in the rad circles where I run, just saying. And really, even with how amazing they are I’m even more so and even more authentic, and you guys are just lucky, lucky, lucky I’m gonna tell you what I think.
The first thing that gave me “woo” about this coffee was that it was made in the country of South America because I’m just way into that Latin culture and the samba music and Ravi Shankar so getting beans with some culture in them = WIN in my book.
I would totally culturally appropriate the ever-lovin’ donkey-riding cowboy Spanish guy hauling bags of rich creativity down a mountain out of these beans, man.
The second thing is just how totes good it smells and tastes, making me want to free verse some mad lines with every sip of:
dark and rich
earth mother bounty cup
full of creativity blood
hot and steamy
crumbling crushed hot water leached
I’d drink this coffee every day if I could afford it; in fact, I may set up a Patreon account so I can do just that… way better than most I’ve seen and for a good cause, you know?
You can taste the rich fruitiness of the beans, and as my crew said, the Midnight Drift blend from the Driftwood Coffee Company is great coffee without any bitter to harsh your mellow. Chef Ray in particular was quite impressed and he’s a Blue Mountain Coffee sort of a guy who has spent a fortune buying the very best beans, back when I was still working on my record label and drinking cheap instant mixed with raw milk kefir for a pro-biotic buzz.
This coffee gets 5 out of 5 beans in my sustainably bound moleskin review book, like the girl from Street Fighter II, who I’m gonna show you now but without revealing her legs so you can’t objectify her:
Today I was sent this very nice review of the Create Your Own Florida Food Forest audiobook:
David the Good’s guide to creating a Florida food forest is an optimistic and energetic approach to gardening in an area that most gardeners find daunting. His conversation style writing and reading of the book make the information easily understood and applied. After listening to just a few chapters I was ready to head outside with a shovel and start planting my own food forest, and you will be too. I was encouraged by the good news that in spite of the sand, sun, nematodes and hoards of bugs ready to feast on your prized traditional gardens, there are plants that will not only thrive, but outcompete the bugs and woes of traditional veggie gardens (and with much less input from the gardener too!)
Even if you aren’t ready to kiss your lawn goodbye and let your intentional food forest take over, you will still find good gardening advice and principles to plant by. This is also true if you live in a deed restricted neighborhood and aren’t allowed to have a wild looking landscape. I don’t have a food forest in my backyard, but I did learn how to apply food forest principles to densely and diversely plant my 10th of an acre lot with a variety of plants that grow with minimal care.
Last year I posted a SilverFire Hunter review on my Youtube channel and it’s garnered over 5,000 views thus far.
Here it is:
The SilverFire Hunter is what’s known as a “TLUD” or Top-Lit UpDraft stove. That means it circulates air in a particular pattern that makes it more efficient than a comparable model rocket stove or, if you’re really cheap, an open fire – which it’s WAY more efficient than.
If you need to cook off-grid or even need a small stove for a cabin, tiny home or a tree fort that doesn’t require anything other than a few sticks to run, you’ll want a TLUD of some sort. Today, after a couple of years of using my SilverFire Hunter, it’s time for a full written review.
Cooking On Next to Nothing: A SilverFire Hunter Review
The first thing you’ll notice when you unpack the Silverfire Hunter is that it’s a pretty piece of equipment.
Rather than being painted metal like some stoves, it’s a shiny stainless steel piece of space age tech.
The next thing you’ll notice is that it has some weight, but not so much that it’s a total pain to cart around.
This is no backpacking stove, certainly (if you want one of those, it’s hard to go wrong with something super lightweight and durable like the Emberlit), but the SilverFire Hunter is perfect for putting in the truck on your way to the mountains.
Lighting the stove properly takes a little practice, but once you have that down and get used to working the draft at the bottom, you can get a nice clean burn going that will rapidly cook breakfast or boil a pot of water.
The SilverFire TLUD is rather expensive but it’s a marvel of engineering.
You can load it with a small amount of wood and cook an excellent meal without feeding in any additional sticks. We’re talking 8 pinecones or so. This thing is a monster at converting biomass into heat. Incredibly efficient. I like my StoveTec, but this – though a bit more complicated and unwieldy thanks to the chimney – is remarkable.
Now, as for using it to cook indoors, I dunno. I’ve heard some say that it’s fine to use indoors provided you run the stovepipe out properly… yet I think even then it would be quite smoky. The chimney does siphon away much of the smoke when there’s a pan or pot over the combustion chamber – yet when you take that pan away, plenty of smoke ensues.
I have corresponded with the creator of the SilverFire Hunter about the design of this model. It’s based on super-efficient Chinese designs and was created with the help of their engineers. Apparently, the Chinese are the folks that know the deal with efficient biomass stoves.
That said, the SilverFire Hunter stoves is made in China, which I would be remiss in omitting from this review, just in case you only by US goods, or Swiss goods, or whatever.
I’ve used this stove for cookingand boiling water when the power was down for a day. It works great and requires a lot less maintenance during cooking than a rocket stove.
With the SilverFire Hunter, you load up the chamber with flammable material (I like to use dry Mexican sunflower stems and oak twigs), light it, then cook for an hour or more until the fuel is consumed, unlike the StoveTec or other rocket stoves which you feed continuously while cooking.
Everyone I’ve demonstrated this stove to has been impressed… and I’m still impressed two years after purchasing it.
Have you thought about building an old-fashioned pole barn? I have… but haven’t even gotten around to it.
I checked my PO Box a couple of weeks ago and was thrilled to find a package from one of my favorite homesteaders: Pa Mac.
In the past I’ve posted some of Pa Mac’s videos. If you aren’t familiar with the guy, go here to see his YouTube channel – he’s not only very well-informed, he also makes great videos (my children call him “the funny guy”).
So – what was in the package?
A nice note, plus a copy of his new book, plus a DVD collection of his hilarious Farmhand’s Companion episodes. My children promptly borrowed and watched the DVD as I looked through the book.
As you may have guessed by the name of today’s post, Pa Mac’s new book is titled Building an Old-Fashioned Pole Barn.
I have a pole barn of my own at the moment, but soon may be building a new one depending on where we end up. It’s a structure often exempted from the tax assessor’s baleful eye, thanks to its usual lack of a concrete foundation, so building one is really a nice way to add storage and animal space to your property (or even some clandestine living space) without racking up new taxes that end up wasted by the local kid prisons public schools.
Building a pole barn, therefore, is a revolutionary act.
Or, at the very least, an act that creates a nice space to store your rusting lawnmower after you replace the yard with a food forest.
Okay – where was I? Ah yes, a book review of…
Building an Old-Fashioned Pole Barn
With five chapters and 107 black and white illustrations, Building an Old-Fashioned Pole Barn covers everything you need to know about the topic. It’s also written totally in a breezy Southern dialect, which is amusing.
Excerpt (from page 13):
“After the four corner poles are up and make quite the perfect rectangle (hopefully), it’s no botheration to stretch a string from the outer side of the poles on each of the long sides of the rectangle. Then measurin’ 11 feet down the string from either end (on both long sides) will give me the midpoint location for the middle poles, so I dig ’em and set ’em. And now with all six of ’em set and plumb, this pole foundation (which is the whole reason a pole barn is called a pole barn) is ready to be joined by level lumber that’ll provide a solid framework.”
It’s like Mark Twain telling you how to build a barn.
Pa Mac is thorough, entertaining and extensive in this book. Even if you start from a place of just above zero knowledge, like me, you’ll be able to build a pole barn. If you watch Pa Mac’s videos, you can even see quite a bit of how he built the barn in the book.
My bet is that this book would easily pay for its purchase price in the first 15 minutes of a pole barn construction project. Just the way he lays out the tools and challenges will save you a lot of thinking. He’s done it, made mistakes, done it again, gotten it right, then shared the knowledge so you can avoid the same mistakes.
He also covers the kind of things you don’t normally see covered by modern writers, such as the value of different tree species for wood in various parts of the building (examples of uses include sweet gum, pine and oak, all for different parts of the barn) for the homesteader using home-milled lumber. He also talks about recycled windows, vintage tools, homemade measuring stocks, the use of rocks and strings… I love that kind of thinking.
Anyhow, Building an Old-Fashioned Pole Barn is great book from a great guy. I count myself fortunate to have once met Pa Mac in person back when we were both living completely different lives as radio professionals.
Both of us walked away from successful careers to follow our passion for homesteading and teaching others to do the same. The only difference is that Pa Mac is actually patient enough to build a building from start to finish… whereas it’s taken me three years to almost finish a tree fort.
Heh. That’s why I’m a gardener, not a carpenter.
Though when I do finally knuckle down and start building at my new homestead, this book is going to be my go-to reference. Thank you, Pa Mac.
Over at This Dad Does, there’s a very nice review of my latest book Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening:
If you’re going to survive the upcoming apocalypse, you’re going to need food.
Lots of food.
And if you need a lot of food, you have to know how to grow it. Once you’ve mastered this, you can sit back, safe in the knowledge that you can survive decades of international turmoil and societal breakdown.
Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening by David the Good will give you all the knowledge and metaphorical tools to survive even the most serious economic meltdown.
David the Good is a well known published author, blogger and survival gardening expert.
His blog The Survival Gardener is one of the most popular on self sufficiency and small holding while his YouTube channel has nearly 2000 subscribers.
The author is one of these guys who’s knowledge on his subject should be measured in libraries. But you can buy Grow or Die on Kindle for a few quid – a good investment given the uncertain times we live in.
By the time you’ve finished you’ll have the tools to:
Grow high calorie foods which store easily
Preserve your crops through the winter
Make your own fertiliser and compost
Improve irrigation and control pests
There’s also a useful ‘post-Event’ Emergency Quick Start Guide for when you pick up David’s book a little too late in the post-apocalyptic future.
The book is a lot of fun and is a mix of fantasy and practical gardening advice. Even if you’re not a Doomsday Prepper, you’ll find a lot of useful knowledge to get started on your survival garden.
I don’t want to go into details about all of the techniques and tips in this book so here are my highlights.
When I was a teenager, I failed the President’s Physical Fitness challenge repeatedly. I didn’t have the running speed or the flexibility to hit the required markers – yet I was thin and relatively healthy.
When I hit my mid 20s, I started to gain some weight. I was eating what I thought was healthy: rice, vegetables, homemade bread, pasta… all the “good” grains that were recommended by the food pyramid… yet I was steadily gaining weight. I tried going vegetarian for a year and that made it worse. I also tried some jogging and bicycling but couldn’t get fit. My sedentary life at a desk didn’t help either.
It wasn’t until my early 30s that I discovered the “paleo” diet of protein, fat and little to no carbs or grains (especially wheat) that I dropped the extra weight and became lean again. I lost 30 pounds in about two months and was suddenly looking pretty good for the first time in a decade. The missing ingredient in my journey, however, was a regular fitness program.
Over the last few years I’ve hit the gym off and on, sporadically done lots of pushups and chin-ups, gotten back into jogging and biking then quit both…
I just didn’t really “get” the right way to feel strong and hold on to muscle until I came across Muscle Up and discovered how we’ve really been ripped off by the “experts” and our doctors’ recommendations.
For at least three months now, I’ve faithfully been doing multiple sets of simple weightlifting/resistance exercises every other day for about a half-hour and the results are really showing. I initially started lifting again thanks to my wife (who works out regularly) and some recommendations I’d seen online, but the best arguments for continuing along this path of fitness were given to me by Mangan.
This book has so many reasons to lift weights that you’ll be compelled to put it down every couple of pages and pick up something heavy.
Muscle Up has galvanized my shift from a carb-eating aerobics fan into a protein-eating beast.
I feel better, I look better and the science backs up the results I’m experiencing.
If you’ve struggled to lose weight, struggled to look good, are dealing with heart disease, cancer, obesity or diabetes – this book has the answers.
P. D. Mangan’s writing is crisp, clear and almost minimalist in its stripped-down presentation of facts. He quotes extensively from scientific research and doesn’t waste time telling fun stories or putting in cutesy pictures. It’s a straightforward prescription that, if followed, works.
Just look at the author’s photo on the sidebar of his website. He’s 60 and he looks better than most folks in their 20s.
I’ve always been a problem solver and have had a distrust of the “mainstream” way to do things. When I quite following the food pyramid, I got lean. Now that I’ve abandoned the mainstream cardio thing, I’m becoming truly fit.
With consistency and just a bit of discipline, you can become leaner and much stronger than you think in much less time than you ever thought possible. This book is a must-read for young and old, male and female. No matter how sick you are right now, there is something you can do to get yourself better. In many cases, adding some muscle is the ONLY thing that can make you better.
But don’t take my word for it – get a copy of P. D. Mangan’s book and prepare to have your assumptions challenged and your body transformed.
“Over the past few decades, mainstream health experts have universally recommended aerobic exercise as a uniquely health-promoting activity. Yet now, Americans are fatter than ever. Aerobic exercise not only has a very poor record at fat loss, it might even cause weight gain. Strength training – also known as weightlifting or resistance training – has much greater power to cause fat loss. What’s more, since it builds muscle mass, strength training has huge advantages over aerobic exercise when it comes to improving health.”
Note: if you buy anything through one of my Amazon links I get a few cents. Thanks for keeping this site going!
A month and a half ago, I posted this video on building an earth oven with cob construction:
It’s closing in on 3,000 views, so there’s obviously a lot of interest in earth ovens and building with cob. I admit on film to knowing basically nothing about cob construction – yet since I recorded that video with Joe Pierce, I now know a lot more thanks to the book he recommended on the process.
Call it an INTJ quirk, if you like. Or just another manifestation of my AMAZINGLY HUGE BRAIN!
“I can build an earth oven. With my mind.”
Actually, you don’t have to do a lot of research on earth oven construction if you have Build Your Own Earth Oven. It contains everything you need to know.
As I read it, despite my lack of previous experience, I started to think “Hey – I could do this! I WILL do this!”
Now I’m not doing it at the moment, since my house is up for sale and currently under contract, but after reading this book I’m itching to get started on a new homestead just so I can build an earth oven and try it out.
One of the best things about this book is its sheer enthusiasm for the topic. The illustrations, the stories, the pictures sent in by readers of previous editions – it’s a paean of love to the humble earth oven.
Build Your Own Earth Oven contains a variety of plans, methods for sheltering your oven, ways of using it for baking and lots and lots of good ideas. From the simple to the complex, the functional to the artistic, this book illuminates the beauty of working with your hands to build something productive that will feed you for years to come.
I don’t even eat bread except on rare occasions (yeah, I’m one of those crazy paleo types) and now I want to make some sourdough.
If you have any interest in off-grid cooking, baking with an oven that works BETTER than your electric model, cob construction or just spending a weekend working with your children to make something really cool… pick up a copy of Build Your Own Earth Oven.
I greatly enjoyed the book and its combination of a playful spirit with very practical and scientific information.
If you have any interest in earth ovens or off-grid cooking, get a copy. You’ll like it.
NOTE: If you decide to buy this book through one of my links above, I make a little commission on the sale without costing you any extra. Amazon sales help cover my web hosting costs – thank you!