What a year!
The changes and challenges we faced in 2020 were like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
I first mentioned the Corona virus in my post from February 19th. We started prepping for its arrival before then, but we got very serious in February, planting most of the ground on our tropical homestead with staple crops as well as stocking up on lots of canned and dry goods at the local supermarket.
It was a good thing, too, because the lockdowns on the island were ridiculous. We didn’t even go shopping for months, but by God’s grace we always had enough to eat. Once a prepper, always a prepper. You look like you’re crazy… until you look like a genius. One thing we lacked enough of was meat, until a local butcher drove up our road one day with his truck and said a friend had sent him to sell meat to us. From that point on, we had plenty of meat, as he would come by weekly with more pork, mutton and beef.
All through the early months of 2020 I worked on our big backyard garden, digging up boulders, burning limbs, clearing brush and digging beds. It was the best garden we ever built, and by the middle of the year it was astoundingly beautiful and productive:
But life on the island got tough. Our neighbors got weird, and BLM started protesting near us. Anti-white sentiment was rising and murders were up. It became obvious that we weren’t wanted.
So despite all our hard work, the houses we’d built, the gardens we’d planted, the church we’d joined, the food forest I planted… everything we were leaving behind, including the lovely tropical beaches… we left.
Though the airport was still locked down, the US consulate helped us get our papers together and we will always be grateful for their care and hard work to push things through in the middle of a pandemic. I was able to send Rachel, my eldest son, and our youngest daughter on an expatriation flight they had arranged to New York. Unfortunately, that left eight of us behind – but my friends Beau and Andy were able to send a charter flight to get the rest of us a couple weeks later.
And then we were in Florida.
One week after I got back, I was picked up in Ft. Lauderdale by a man working with Beau to start a veteran’s ministry in Alabama. They wanted me to look at land with them and give suggestions on which pieces might be better or worse for farming.
I did, though I was beat and nervous. I wanted to get a house rented and get settled in Florida again before the election.
God had other plans. On the way to Alabama I checked out a house in the Ocala area which I thought we were going to rent. It was a mess and not livable. Plus, the yard was shady (no good garden space!) and it was on a busy highway. Nope. We continued on to Alabama and I prayed God would help us find something.
Alabama was like being in a different world, especially after living on a tropical island – which was also heavily locked down! We could still go shopping and the stores were stocked, I could open carry my handgun, people were friendly… it was lovely and I immediately felt at home. And then a friend of a friend asked if I would be interested in renting a house from him. A 4/2 on 30 acres. I looked at it and wasn’t’ sure. It was a long way from my family in Florida and my connections there. Yet Rachel had been hunting for property back in the Sunshine State without luck. We didn’t want to be in the city again, and nothing was coming open.
So after some deliberation, I said yes. And we moved up.
And ran into a hurricane on the way there, getting in just before it hit, thanks to help from our friends Sam and Shannon. Our first week in Alabama we spent without power, but we did get a generator that worked sometimes. And neighbors brought us food. What an adventure!
That was in August. We left the island and got a new house and got hit by a hurricane, all within that month.
In September, I was able to borrow a tractor and put in a great big fall garden. I deliberately tilled up more space than my previous garden in Grenada, partially because I was sad about leaving that big, beautiful space behind and felt like I needed to recreate my success.
Unfortunately, the soil is much worse here, as is the climate, so it will be an uphill battle. At least we don’t have bad neighbors now.
On the down side of being here, we are renting again instead of owning. It’s strange to be renting. I owned land for years, then moved overseas and had to rent for three years, then living on my own place for less than a year… and now I’m renting again. 2020 was a heckuva ride.
I’m glad to be back in the USA, though. I love America, despite all its troubles. I tried to escape from the problems I saw coming, but learned there really is no place like home.
At the beginning of 2020, I listed my goals for the year. Let’s see how I did.
1. Hit 150k Subscribers on YouTube
Nope. But I did hit 112,000. Started the year at 76,000, so that’s a good jump.
2. Plant a Coffee Plantation
I got about 20 new trees planted, but that’s moot now.
3. Make the Food Forest AWESOME
I came up with a really cool method of direct-seeding nitrogen-fixing trees in with my corn. If I had stuck it out, we would have made this goal. I added a lot to the food forest in the first half of 2020.
4. Grow 1,000lbs of food
Not sure if we made this goal or not. A friend on the island has been harvesting lots and lots of cassava and sweet potatoes from the gardens we left behind. He also says my banana trees are now loaded. It is painful to think about what we left.
5. Finish the Main House
As the pandemic arrived, I decided not to do any more building. I just wasn’t feeling settled. We put the land up for sale instead – at a loss.
6. Get Jack Broccoli II in Print
This is actually happening… but more on that in a minute.
7. Launch a New YouTube Series
I had this idea of doing 10-minute segments where we see what we can get done just in that time period. I didn’t do it. Pandemic again.
8. Get the Current Buildings Waterproofed and Painted
But I did get all the buildings buttoned up and livable before we left. It was a fun ride.
9. Write Another Gardening Book (or Three)
While under lockdown I wrote Florida Survival Gardening and got it published in mid-June. I also re-wrote my booklet Create Your Own Florida Food Forest and expanded it into a large, illustrated book. We’re still working on the illustrations, but the text is complete. Finally, Jack Broccoli II is now done and off to the printers!
I greatly look forward to that one coming out. The first in the series was good, but this one is awesome.
So I had maybe a 1/3 success rate on my original goals for the year. But there were other successes.
- During the beginning panic part of the pandemic, my books Grow or Die and Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening both EXPLODED on Amazon, giving me more daily sales than I have ever seen before.
- Youtube views went way up, though during the height of the pandemic I had terrible internet and had to climb to the top of a mountain ridge to get cell signal in order to record and post.
- My single-row fall garden has done quite well, and I’ve also had some interesting results from my 12-bed garden amendment experiment.
- At the beginning of the year, the Tropical Tomato Growing Experiment gave us a clear winner – “Carbon” – which is a my new go-to heirloom recommended variety for steamy, disease-prone areas.
- We managed to get quite a few fruit trees planted at our church before leaving the island. Hopefully those will be there for years to come.
- We found a new church in Alabama, so we’re back in fellowship.
- Though I lost a lot of money this year, the higher book sales kept us afloat, as did the extra donations and superchats from readers and viewers, along with gifts from friends who helped us move home.
- My video channel at Unauthorized.TV has continued to slowly grow in subscribers.
Blog Posts (167)
This was the worst year of posting since this blog began, mostly because of our terrible internet situation during lockdown, followed by a stretch of moving, then a hurricane. And then another hurricane. Still, 167 posts is more than most gardening bloggers. Almost everyone I used to consider my blogging peers are long gone, but I’m still here and I’m not quitting.
Old Scrubland Vantage, Cottage Life on Pilgrim’s Farm, Southern Forager, Greenbasket.me, gone! Yet here I am.
The breakdown by month:
YouTube Videos (118)
Despite some gaps in the year, we still managed to get 118 YouTube videos done. I probably would have had more done this month but I spent a lot of time sick in the middle of December.
Tiny House Expat Living
Along with my YouTube videos, I also documented the building of our cabins on Grenada in Tiny House Expat Living, which ran for 22 episodes. They are only available at Unauthorized.TV and are a lot of fun. Kind of sad to see all we did, but hey – we learned a ton. I can build again.
The big takeaway from this year is that God is in control and He took care of us in remarkable ways. He even sent us a free piano this month (thank you, Sheri!), which I have greatly enjoyed playing.
I cannot complain a bit. Spring gardening here is going to be a blast, now that we know what is wrong with the soil and we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t thanks to the tests we started running in fall. I’ve met some wonderful people at church as well as my new best gardening friend Elizabeth who lives just a few miles away and has already been dealing with the same soil issues. We have other good friends here who visited us at Christmas despite us being in quarantine – and brought presents!
The children are all healthy and strong and are very glad to be back in a place where they can have good friends. And I got some nice paintings done this year.
All in all, it was far from boring and ended better than we could have dreamed. Thanks for sticking with us. May God give you a wonderful 2021.