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Making Cane Syrup in Lower Alabama with Ben White

Fri, 11/25/2022 - 07:10

Happy (post) Thanksgiving!

Here’s the latest cane boil video I posted yesterday:

Though my YT viewers watch these syruping videos much less than my regular gardening videos, I am committed to documenting the process from multiple points of view and with a myriad of methods. This syrup boil with Ben was wonderful – great people!

If you think I’ll never stop it with the cane syrup, don’t worry – the season is almost over.

Yesterday I did some work on the new food forest project in between feasting. We planted multiple bare-root grape vines and a loquat tree. Today I’m headed over to Randall’s place to help him mill pine logs on his sawmill. My hope is to build a library in our house for our ridiculous collection of books.

Thanksgiving was wonderful. Though it was just our family, we greatly enjoyed it. Rachel and multiple children made pies, stuffing, a smoked turkey, sweet potato casserole with pecans, mashed potatoes and more. It was our first Thanksgiving on our new and final homestead, and we are so thankful to be here.

I woke up to the sound of this hymn playing:

And that really summed up our day.

Have a great weekend.

The post Making Cane Syrup in Lower Alabama with Ben White appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

Planting a New Food Forest

Wed, 11/23/2022 - 10:22

Yet again – but hopefully this time for keeps – I am planting a food forest.

We were able to get some of our plants from the old property, plus some new trees, and now we’re putting them in the ground. You can see the new food forest planting in the new video I did on planting sugar cane:

Today we have about 20 more stalks of cane to plant, plus a good bit of cassava – which we’ll plant in the ground now to see if it’ll sprout in the spring – plus lots of various roots, such as ginger, yams and more. I also have some banana pups I need to do something with, plus six citrus trees, plus 10 bare-root muscadine vines from Ison’s Nursery.

Busy busy!

I have a lot to be thankful for. This time I actually own my land, so I should be able to keep this food forest until I die, Lord willing.

These are very uncertain times and having a long-term source of food is vital. Plus, I like the idea of this homestead maybe becoming a botanical garden in twenty years or so. Perhaps families will take tours through here long after I’m gone!

Guess I need to plant some Monkey Puzzle trees that will fruit after I’ve left this realm. The plums I set as the photo for this post are from my old food forest in North Florida. I must do it again!

The post Planting a New Food Forest appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

Sweet Times: Making Cane Syrup in the Deep South

Tue, 11/22/2022 - 11:12

Over the last couple of weeks I have been documenting various sugar-cane boils. Thus far we have made syrup with Marcus in the Florida Panhandle, with Danny and Wanda in Mississippi, and then, on this Saturday, with Ben White in Lower Alabama.

There is a lot of history in making cane syrup, and plenty of stories told around the pots of thickening syrup.

Here’s our first boil, with Marcus:

That was a wonderful day, with lots of good conversation and sweet syrup. Marcus was a wealth of knowledge.

Then, last week, I headed over to Mississippi for a day to make cane syrup at the Deep South Homestead with Danny and Wanda.

As I shot these, I made a deliberate attempt to let the players tell their own stories and share what they knew, creating more of a documentary feel than a vlog approach.

Danny’s method of boiling greatly differed from Marcus’, as he used a small two-pan stove to make a couple of gallons of syrup, rather than a 90-gallon pot. It’s more approachable on the backyard scale.

Though really, the big limiting factor in making cane syrup is actually crushing the cane. Extracting juice from sugar cane takes a lot of torque. The crushing power needed is incredible.

In the next sugarcane video I’m releasing, you’ll see an antique grinder powered by a log splitter. It’s a brilliant system – but still, the main grinder is an antique.

Finding a new grinder is difficult. There is a lot of Chinese junk on Amazon and elsewhere, but the syrup-makers I’ve seen so far stick to the older mills, such as the ones made by Golden’s and the Chattanooga Plow Corp.

I am now in the hunt for a mill myself, if anyone has a lead. We’re planting lots of sugarcane right now.

And speaking of that, here’s my brand-new video on how we’re planting cane!

This weekend I have yet another cane boil to attend with yet a different cooking method.

This is the time to learn these methods, before times get tougher. A little sugar goes a long way. I’ve had a blast meeting people and learning as I go. Thank you for coming along on the ride.

The post Sweet Times: Making Cane Syrup in the Deep South appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

Space Coast Grocery Row Gardens (in the Suburbs!)

Mon, 11/21/2022 - 10:19

I recently received this email sharing some new Grocery Row Gardens in Florida:

“Good day, good sir!

I figured you might appreciate an update on our grocery row gardens while you finish up your new book. A wise sage once said, “Get ‘er done!”

My wife, kids, and I are big fans of yours. I think my favorite video thus far was your melon/pumpkin pit where you chucked frozen meat against a tree to break into usable chunks for your pits…. Just priceless. You can’t script that sort of comedy! I had a hearty laugh, the kind where your abs are a bit sore afterward.

But we too planted a grocery garden this year and its growing in nicely! 4 rows each 28′ long by 4′ wide with 2.5′ pathways. Full of so much life!

2 Muscadines, double mahoi banana, dwarf namwa banana, dwarf banana from my in-laws, 2 varieties of blackberries, Christmas loquat, lemon grass, 5 moringa trees, 3 different varieties of tropic low-chill peaches, Beer’s fig, LSU fig, Mexican winter avocado, 3 Blueberries, 1 Carrie mango, pigeon pees, Fakahatchee grass, Louisiana purple sugar cane, White winged yams, purple winged yams, cassava, Seminole pumpkins, shrimp flowers, marigolds, various sweet and spicy peppers, basil, a white eggplant bush, and 1 espaliered pink lemon tree, 1 espaliered dwarf mango tree.

Those are mostly perennials, we also squeezed in all kinds of annuals: we just harvested buckets of a landrace field pea project that we are working on, lots of sweet potatoes over the summer, and okra. We just transitioned to fall garden mode and now have: Irish red and Yukon gold potatoes, cabbages, rutabagas, pink celery, elephant garlic, green onions, beets, and broccoli growing intermixed with everything else.

Before:


After (June 4th, 2022 right after we put the beds and plants in):


We love the method and the kids really enjoy running around the jungle scape.

(Behind the Grocery Row Gardens is our coop and run for our 16 layer chickens)

After (November 2022 with only 5 short months of growth!):


Also just to show how much you can grow in the city in tight space, our house is only on 1/11th of an acre.

Eastern Side Yard (4 beds 24′ x 2.5′)


Western Side Yard (1 grocery rowish bed 75′ long 3′ wide with 6 mulberry trees, katuk tree, roselle, and moringa growing)


Front Yard 7 rows 22′ x 2.5′ each with 12 inch paths:


Between us and the neighbors is a Front Yard hedge: 2 Barbados cherries, 1 dwarf in-laws banana, 3 Shangri La mulberries, 3 dwarf everbearing mulberries and 1 grumichama.

Not pictured Front Potato patch ( 28′ x 4′)

Not pictured Front Bok choi and radish bed: (10′ x 2.5′)

It’s taken us roughly 4 years, but we are finally at the point where vegetable-wise we probably eat 90% from our gardens. And we eat a ton of vegetables. And it’s largely in part to your Florida Survival Gardening book and Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening book. Hoping to experiment with Dave’s Fetid Swamp Water this year as well as adding some biochar to our soil. We amended our beds with our custom Steve Solomon’s mix and our chicken compost earlier this fall so hoping for good results!

We are also incredibly blessed to live in the sunshine state where we can garden year round. We are still learning, having triumphs as well as lots of failures. Yet we keep planting, trusting in the Lord’s providence and care. Hoping one day we can get onto a larger piece of property here in Florida.

Appreciate all you do brother, especially with your big family. We are only at 3 chidlers thus far, but hope to catch up to you one day.

God Bless,

Joshua and Shay”

I am blown away, Joshua and Shay – you have done amazing work. If more people would do the same, we’d have complete food security no matter what happens.

My hat is off to you. Great work. Say “hi” to the kids for me, too. God bless and keep you – your gardens are fantastic.

Also – for my other readers – if you haven’t tried the Grocery Row Garden method, it’s a lot of fun and has many features to recommend it. It’s working excellently for us, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how our new ones grow in 2023.

-David

The post Space Coast Grocery Row Gardens (in the Suburbs!) appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

Making Terra Preta: Did Our Experiment Work?

Fri, 11/18/2022 - 11:23

Last year we attempted to make terra preta in a test garden bed:

Here are the results we’ve seen, as of this week:

In this video, I dig into our terra preta test bed and see what we can see.

For the first season, everything grew very well. But this year, the good growth stopped. My theory is that the trees are sucking up the fertility, but it could also be that the area we charged is running out of fertility. We buried bones, charcoal, manure, biochar and pottery shards in an attempt to make terra preta.

Another possibility is that we need to make a lot more fine char, to really darken the ground with carbon and provide more hiding spaces for microlife.

Of course, some people don’t like my attempts to recreate ancient technology:

It beats me how trying to recreate terra preta means that I fail to appreciate terra preta, but there are a lot of daft people running around with access to the internet.

Can we make terra preta again? I have no idea. But we’re going to try. We have a lot of wood we can chop for char here, especially as I start coppicing trees late this winter.

Stay tuned.

The post Making Terra Preta: Did Our Experiment Work? appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

A Brazillian Method of Preserving Cassava Canes Through A Frosty Winter

Wed, 11/16/2022 - 03:49

I received a comment on my recent cassava video with a link to a Brazilian method of keeping cassava planting material alive through frosts: 

I watched the video and found it quite interesting. In a mild climate, this looks like a great method of keeping cassava cuttings alive through winter:

If you don’t speak Portuguese, you can set the “auto-translate” on the video to English subtitles and get a better idea of what’s happening.

Keeping Cassava Cuttings Alive Through Winter (Brazilian edition)

In short:

  1. Harvest your canes before frost destroys them
  2. Find a storage area under a tree, facing East
  3. Clean up the weeds a bit and make an area of loose soil
  4. Press your long cassava cuttings right-side-up into the loose soil in a big bundle
  5. Hill up a little more soil around them
  6. Put a few more branches from something over the top of the cuttings to further protect them from and drying out.

I think that’s the whole story, as best as I can make it out.

We’ve had some issues with cassava canes rotting or drying out during the winter. This looks like a good happy medium. If I can find any more undamaged cassava canes in the old gardens after our recent frost, I will try using this method under one of our trees.

The post A Brazillian Method of Preserving Cassava Canes Through A Frosty Winter appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

In Memory of Sandy Graves

Tue, 11/15/2022 - 05:53

I just discovered that my friend Sandy passed away back in August.

He was the inventor of the C-Head composting toilet, and was a relentless experimenter and innovator.

The first time I met him he said, “David – you gotta come visit me and see what I’m doing!” A couple of years later, I stopped at his shop out of the blue on my way to Ft. Lauderdale. It was one of the last stops and videos I made before heading South to Grenada in 2016.

This is the video we made together:

That ended up being one of my most successful videos. It was also where I met Doug and Stacey, as we fought over composting toilet systems in the comments, then later ended up friends.

Sandy was serious about finding ways to cut human waste out of the sewer system. He composted with soldier flies, dehydrated waste, diluted urine as plant food and built systems for sailors to use at sea and for homeowners to safely use off-grid.

His enthusiasm was infectious, and he loved the ocean as well as his gardens. I wish we could have spent more time together.

May God keep you in His hands and may you rest in peace – thank you for the inspiration.

The post In Memory of Sandy Graves appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

The First Frost

Mon, 11/14/2022 - 09:01

Back in October we had a near miss, but this morning we came out to see our first real frost of the fall.

I forgot to pick the green beans ahead of time, so we’ll have to do that this morning and eat them for dinner.

When it frosts I sometimes miss the tropics. Though I must say, having a break from gardening chores and mowing is good.

I must in all circumstances learn to be content, as the Apostle Paul said. The frost really is beautiful.

We pulled in our tropical plants to the enclosed porch last night. One day I’ll probably get a greenhouse, though I am loathe to spend the money.

Today’s project is to pull apart an old shed at a friend’s house, then to rebuild it as a permanent chicken coop on our own land.

The post The First Frost appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

What You Need to Know about Growing Cassava

Fri, 11/11/2022 - 08:10

Growing and processing cassava isn’t hard!

Inside the continental US, cassava is generally unknown to gardeners, other than immigrants from warmer climates who grow some on a backyard scale.

Yet it’s where tapioca comes from (or “fish eyes,” as my Uncle Stuart calls them) and has been used as a source of laundry starch.

The roots are really, really high in starch.

Growing to about 12’ tall, the cassava plant looks very tropical.

Its palmate leaves and graceful cane-like branches are attractive in the landscape or in the garden. Cassava’s pseudonyms include yuca (with one “c,” NOT two – “yucca” is a completely unrelated species), manioc, the tapioca plant, and manihot.

In Latin, it’s Manihot escuelenta.

Whatever you call it, it’s a serious staple crop. Virtually pest-free, drought tolerant, loaded with calories, capable of good growth in poor soil – cassava is a must-have anyplace it can grow. And it’s MUCH less work than grain and much more tolerant of harvest times. In fact, once it’s hit maturity, you can basically dig it at any point for a few years (though the roots may sometimes get too woody to eat).

But there is a caveat on cultivation: cassava doesn’t like cold. At all.

If temperatures drop to freezing, your cassava will freeze to the ground.

This won’t usually kill the plant, but it does mean you need to plan your growing accordingly. In the tropics, cassava is a perennial, capable of growing huge roots and living for years.

If you live north of USDA Growing Zone 10, then the occasional frosts will knock it down. Growing it at any zone beyond 8 may be an exercise in futility. Cassava needs warm days and nights to make good roots.

And speaking of roots… the cassava’s roots contain roughly twice the calories of a comparable serving of potatoes.

Bonus: they’re easier to grow.

Of course, there is the cyanide to consider.

CYANIDE?

What – you didn’t think a plant this awesome could exist without a down side, did you?

Yes – cyanide.

The plant contains a certain amount of it, from its lovely leaves to its tasty roots. Fortunately, boiling or fermenting gets it out, so fear not.

A lot of plants we eat are poisonous. Just google the “cashew tree” or look up the toxicity of dry kidney beans.

Now THAT’S scary.

Compared to many things we eat, cassava’s pretty tame.

Microwaveable burritos, for instance.

Sweet and Bitter Cassava

That said, there are “sweet” varieties and “bitter” varieties of cassava. Sweet types are low in cyanide and are safe to eat after cooking to fork-tender, but bitter types are high in it and need additional processing. You’re unlikely to get the high-cyanide varieties in the US, but it’s good to know they exist. I don’t have any “bitter” types in my garden, and have not seen them, even when I lived in the Caribbean where cassava cultivation is common.

All we do to make our cassava safe to eat is to cook it until it’s soft, but that’s because it’s a “sweet” type.

The bitterness of a cassava root usually correlates to its cyanide toxicity. As a study from Africa posted on the National Library of Medicine notes:

“Farmers in Africa generally use the bitter taste of cassava roots to perceive the potential toxicity of cassava [13,18,19]. Research has shown that a greater portion of cassava varieties perceived as bitter and toxic by farmers, do indeed contain higher cyanogenic glucoside levels than cassava varieties perceived as being sweet [18]. However, this may not always be the case, as cassava contains other bitter compounds [20], making validation necessary. However, during a period in which a konzo epidemic was experienced, families had been reported to complain that cassava roots were more bitter than normal during that period [21]. Thus, through taste perceptions, most people had become conscious of an increase in cassava root bitterness that led to cases of cassava cyanide intoxication. This report shows that the bitter taste of cassava roots can be used to determine increased root toxicity. Cassava root taste can also be used to assess changes in the degree of bitterness in roots of a particular cassava variety [22,23].”

Low rainfall and tough growing conditions tend to make roots more toxic. The takeaway here is that if your cassava roots taste bitter, they’re probably not good to eat.

That said, over a half-billion people eat cassava on a regular basis and manage to live just fine through it, so don’t get too hung up. Get sweet varieties and take care of them, and cook them well. You can also soak cassava roots for a few days before cooking to make them even safer, though we don’t bother doing that with our roots.

How to Grow Cassava

Now – moving beyond the cyanide – how do you grow these things?

Unlike many plants, cassava is not usually grown from seeds except for breeding purposes. The only way most folks grow it is via stem cuttings.

Roots from the grocery store almost definitely won’t work since they’ve been separated from the stem and dipped in wax, so it’s important to get cuttings somewhere. Grower Jim in Orlando sometimes has them, as does Josh Jamison at Cody Cove Farm. You’ll also find cassava cane cuttings for sale on ebay and Etsy.

Or you can make friends with people at your local gardening group and see if any of them have it. If you live in a warm climate, chances are good.

Planting Cassava

To grow from fresh cuttings, chop a sturdy stem into pieces about 1.5’ long and stick them in the ground on their sides about two inches down and cover them lightly with soil. Select cuttings that have gotten woody, with bark that is no longer young and green. Within a week or so they’ll be growing new leaves. You can also plant the canes vertically, about 2/3 in the the ground, or even diagonally. Some farmers claim diagonal planting is even better than vertical.

However I plant them, I get roots, but at some point I need to do a side-by-side comparison of planting techniques.

Cassava likes irrigation and good soil, but isn’t too picky. It will survive drought and heat. 6-12 months later (depending on variety, care and rainfall), they’ll be ready to start harvesting.

Harvesting Cassava

To harvest, machete down the entire plant a foot or so from the ground, throw the branches to the side and start digging.

Be careful, though – the roots are easy to chop through. Some careful exploratory digging with a trowel is often a good idea. The roots you’re looking for grow down and away from the main stem and are generally located in the first 1-2’ of soil. They’re deep brown with flaky skin. Don’t dig them too long before you’re going to process them as cassava doesn’t store well at all.

Once you harvest the roots, you’ll want to chop up the rest of the plant to make a new set of canes for planting out. I snap off all the leaves and compost them, then cut the bare canes into planting size.

Saving Cassava Cuttings and Planting Them

Remember: canes that are too green tend to rot rather than root, so throw them on the compost too.

Sturdy, 1-2” diameter canes are perfect.

Plant them a third of their length or so into the ground and stand back so the new growth doesn’t knock you over. Just don’t plant them upside-down.

Ensure they’re right side up by looking for the tiny little growth buds by the leaf bases (or where the leaves were before they hit the compost bin). That little dot should be above the leaf’s base, not below.

The Cassava plant is a must-have in warm climates, but even at the edge of its natural range you can push it.

Keeping Cassava Alive Through Winter

You can bury cut canes in a box beneath the ground for the winter, as a Cuban friend told me her family does… you can let your current plants freeze to the ground and just wait for spring to bring new growth back… you can put cuttings in pots and bring them inside on freezing nights, then plant out in spring… or you can get a greenhouse and always keep a few plants in there for propagative stock.

It’s pretty tough stuff. And as for work, the worst part is the harvesting.

View it like digging for treasure and it’s fun.

Cassava Leaves are Edible

Another great thing about this plant: its leaves are also edible (boiled, of course – remember… CYANIDE!) and rich in nutrients. The young leaves are best and remind me of a drier-tasting collard green. I generally compost them, as I have plenty of other greens I prefer, but they are worth eating if you like them.

Storing Cassava Roots

The roots can be chopped and frozen – they keep quite well that way. You can also dry them into flour. Or, do what I do, and try not to harvest cassava until we’re going to eat it! Roots keep very well in the ground.

They just need to be peeled first. There is an easy-to-remove peel that simply requires slitting and pulling to remove. It’s more like bark than a proper “peel.”

These are roots I grew in Alabama, USDA zone 8:

We’re beyond the tropics, yet some varieties of cassava are still doing well for us.

Here are what the roots look like peeled:

Cassava is literally a lifesaving staple in Africa, and can be the same in zones 8 and warmer.

If you want to learn more about this and many other survival crops, check out my book Florida Survival Gardening and Grow or Die.

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And that’s it for the ducks…

Thu, 11/10/2022 - 08:48

Every new transplant I put in the garden was losing leaves, bit by bit.

We saw the ducks in the garden now and again, and didn’t realize what was happening until we witnessed one wandering through and casually yanking off leaves with her bill.

And then – the worst – we caught our largest drake squatting in the middle of our transplant production bed, nibbling away. In minutes, he had shredded over a hundred seedlings we were planning on setting out in the garden rows.

We put up more fencing. We shut gates. We did our best. Yet they found they could fly over and get back to eating transplants.

So – knowing what we now knew – most of the ducks were given away and one was roasted for dinner. One remained behind because she was sitting on a nest.

My gardens are our bread and butter. As much as I enjoyed the meat, the cost was too high.

Due to ducks we lost:

100 small transplants

3 rows of collards

1 bed of cabbages

2 rows of cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower (which cost $1 each as transplants, since our seedling transplants had been destroyed!)

And a few kale we’d planted in our herb areas.

They moved FAST once they decided to attack the gardens, and were very sneaky about getting in.

So now they are gone, and I hope we can salvage what’s left of this year to get a few vegetables before the real cold of winter sets in. We’ve lost six weeks of production already.

I dispatched the final surviving duck this morning after Rachel caught her in the garden early this morning. She sat for a month and a half without hatching anything and she just wrecked about a half-dozen newly purchased transplants.

Enough is enough.

Anates delenda est!

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How to Make Cane Syrup: From Juicing to Boiling to Jarring Syrup

Wed, 11/09/2022 - 12:19

This weekend we had the pleasure of attending a cane syrup boil with Marcus Stewart, a local syruper.

You can see the documentary here, as we follow the cane syrup making process step by step:

How to Make Cane Syrup

The process of making cane syrup has a few hitches that are difficult to overcome on a home scale. Last time we made our own at home, I had to bypass the juicing process and simply cook the sugar out of the canes. Juicing sugar cane is much better, however, and has a higher yield for much less processing time. If you can juice it!

Juicing Sugar Cane

Juicing sugar cane is actually quite difficult. It’s hard to believe how tough the stems are under pressure, and it takes a literal ton (or more) of torque to pull off. I tried chopping up sugar cane into pieces and feeding it through my Champion juicer without luck. It choked the machine, despite how incredibly tough that thing is. You really need a machine dedicated to juicing cane.

Marcus uses an antique Golden’s Cane Mill he salvaged for a good price from an organization that had been using it as a yard decoration for years.

You can see the size of the tree trunk attached to the sugar cane mill’s drive shaft in this photo I took at sunset:

In conversation, he told me the crushing power of that machine is incredible.

“Imagine a long-handled wrench and how much more force you get on a bolt,” he said. “That’s a massive amount of torque.”

He uses a small Sears yard tractor to pull the post around the mill. You can see it on the left in the image above.

Three canes at a time can be crushed by the mill, but no more. Their juice is directed down through cloth filters and into buckets, which, when filled are poured through a second cloth filter, then poured into the boiling kettle.

Juicing the cane is really the hardest part of this entire process. Once it’s juiced, it’s time for the boil.

Boiling Down Cane Syrup

Marcus boils his syrup in a 90-gallon cast iron pot. He laments not having a proper, wide syruping kettle, but uses what he has.

The actual boiling takes five or more hours. The goal is to evaporate away the water and thicken the sugar cane juice into delicious and shelf-stable syrup. A wider kettle allows for more evaporative surface.

As the syrup boils, scum is skimmed off the top.

After hours of boiling, the juice has thickened into rich amber syrup.

The syrup crew, in this case Joshua Ussery, checks the temperature regularly. As the water leaves, the temps go up from 212, and when they hit a certain point, the syrup is judged to be finished. My guess on the point they pulled this syrup is in the upper 220’s. Other signs of the syrup being finished is the “clouding” of the boil and the bubble size, and when a “sheet” of syrup falls from an overturned dipper, instead of in individual drops.

At the proper thickness, the fire is rapidly pulled and the syrup is bottled in Mason jars for later sale.

It’s an all-day event, and is rather like a big family party at Marcus’ place, instead of a work day. It certainly takes a lot of crushing and a lot of stirring, but there is a joy in the process when shared with friends and family.

And the results are certainly sweet.

Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoy the little documentary as well.

The post How to Make Cane Syrup: From Juicing to Boiling to Jarring Syrup appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

Corn Stalk Syrup?

Mon, 11/07/2022 - 18:39

Here’s an interesting tidbit:

We spent most of Saturday helping to make cane syrup from sugarcane with a new friend we met at the Gulf Coast Homesteader Meetup.

I hope to post the video soon.

But corn-stalk syrup? What an idea!

The post Corn Stalk Syrup? appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

I’m Planting Fruit Tree Seeds Again

Thu, 11/03/2022 - 11:26

I can’t take it.

Every grapefruit… every apple… every pomegranate…

They call to me. They say, “care for our children!”

I have about 15 acres now, so why not plant lots of seedlings?

I just finished reading Cato’s De Agricultura, and in it he describes how to create a nursery bed for pear and apple seeds. That was 2200 years ago. And somehow we now think that planting fruit tree seeds will give us lousy plants.

Modern agriculture and science have stolen from us the joy of experimentation and the love of life.

I’m currently looking for some local Satsuma seeds to plant.

Today I have to figure out what to do about the ducks. I think I’ll just put up 3′ tall chicken wire to keep them out of the gardens.

If that doesn’t stop them, they’re all headed to freezer camp.

By the way, if you haven’t read Free Plants for Everyone, I think you’ll like it. In it I talk a lot about the beauty of plant propagation and seed-grown trees.

I’m headed out to go pot some plants up. If I finish that in time – and decide what to do with the ducks – I’m totally going to plant more fruit tree seeds. If not today, then tomorrow.

They call to me.

The post I’m Planting Fruit Tree Seeds Again appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

The Case of the Missing Leaves

Wed, 11/02/2022 - 10:49

I planted three rows of collards, a row of cabbages, two rows of beans, plus a bed of pak choi and cabbage.

All the collards were destroyed along with the row of cabbages. The small bed with pak choi and cabbage is now getting chewed up. The cabbages in that bed were all leafless this morning, and some of the pak choi were nibbled.

Though I haven’t caught them yet, I suspect it was ducks.

Today we must figure out how to keep these greens safe. We’ve put in a lot of effort only to lose them. Problem: we only occasionally see the ducks in the gardens, so I don’t know if they’re really the culprit. Maybe – worse – there are rabbits getting in.

I have no idea, but we must do something.

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Transplanting the Grocery Row Gardens

Tue, 11/01/2022 - 10:58

Piece by piece, we are moving our gardens from the rental over to the land we actually own:

We waited almost two months for rain. It’s been incredibly dry lately, but now the ground is finally wet and soft, so we’re moving as fast as we can. It’s better to transplant in cooler weather, anyhow.

Over the last week I’ve finished about 20,000 words on the new book project. It’s been a very busy month, with three different plant-related events eating up three weekends. The Gulf Coast Homesteaders Meetup was excellent, though, and that’s the last we’re doing until next year.

Now we can finally work on getting our own house in order. Fence lines need to be cleared and repaired, a hedge needs to be planted, a chicken coop needs to be built, extra stuff needs to be donated or sold, boxes need emptying, bookshelves need building, soil needs amending, trees need planting… there is a lot to do, and our time has been too limited.

Today we’re fixing up a piece of cattle fencing around the milking area so Rachel can peacefully milk a cow without the other cows wreaking havoc and stealing grain. We’re also transplanting a few more plants we didn’t get in the ground during the filming of the video we posted this morning.

There are a lot more trees and plants in the old Grocery Row Garden that need to be moved. The owners of that land do not care about gardens and we fear they’ll end up bush-hogged if we don’t get them cleared soon. One piece at a time, rain permitting, we shall press on.

See you all soon.

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Working on a Book

Tue, 10/25/2022 - 10:47

I will be tied up for a bit, as I am currently working on Minimalist Gardening. Thus far it is about 1/3 done.

God bless. Hope to see some of you this weekend at the Gulf Coast Homesteaders Meetup in Milton, FL.

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Grocery Row Gardening in Australia

Mon, 10/24/2022 - 11:32

Jodie and Jamie share a Grocery Row Gardening project in Australia:

I’m a huge fan and have been watching your videos and streams since discovering you when looking for new ways to compost a few years ago. I have always loved your content and I have always related because it seems we both do so many things in similar ways in the garden. I have created a grocery row garden in the ______ region of South Australia and was wondering if you would be interested in seeing how it goes as it’s an adaptation of your system but tweaked to suit my climate somewhat, it has 4ft paths mulched with pine bark and 5ft beds all mulched with tree mulch (from tree trimming powerlines etc) there are 4 beds 18m long and an additional odd shaped bed that is more of a regular permaculture area incorporated into the grocery rows. BEFORE: AFTER: I would love to take you for a virtual tour or take some videos for you when I get a chance! Have included a before picture of the grocery row area and my adaptation of your amazing melon pits, I do the same thing but add a length of PVC pipe down to just above the organic material so you can directly water the root zone! MELON PITS: I have been renting and collecting plants and knowledge for around 10 years and recently found an opportunity to farm chickens for some like minded folk who have bought a very cheap 1.33 acre property for us to live that we are buying back from them and have spent the last 5 months bringing this abandoned property to life with plants and livestock hoping to have a fully functional homestead in 6 months. I will link some pictures but will need to get out and get more recent ones as the weather here has been insane and we have had more rain than we have had in at least a decade! Hope this email finds you well – God bless and hope you are getting on with your new property well!  Jamie & Jodie Nice work. First thing I thought when I saw how great your gardens looked was, “what am I doing in my office? I need to get outside and work on my OWN garden!” We went from flooding rain to complete drought here, so I understand those weird climate swings. Your wider spacing makes sense for the extreme weather, too. It’s great seeing all the life. In a couple of years, that property is going to be absolutely incredible. Nice work, and I am glad you finally have a place to call your own.

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Twenty Women Followed Him Home…

Thu, 10/20/2022 - 08:33

Because of longevity spinach.

Man, I’ve heard of some miraculous uses for the stuff, but that’s impressive.

I haven’t ramped up my production of tropical greens since moving to Alabama, but I do have an Okinawa spinach, a couple of longevity spinach and a Surinam purslane kicking around. We had our first frost last night and I got some things indoors, but I’ll have to go to the old gardens and see if the Okinawa spinach survived.

If you have a warm climate you can eat greens year-round with little difficulty. In Grenada I would just stick piece of longevity spinach in the ground and they would root and grow.

I didn’t have lots of women following me home, though. Maybe it’s because my wife was too much for the competition.

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What is the trinity of veggies for Florida?

Wed, 10/19/2022 - 09:40

What would be the top three garden plants for Florida gardeners?

Hey Mr. The Good.

Italy has onions, garlic and tomatoes, New Orleans has celery, bell pepper and onion… what would the growable Florida trinity be?

That comment was left on this video:

My answer was:

Probably the top three would be true yams, Mexican tree spinach, moringa. But throw in longevity spinach, yard-long beans, sweet potatoes, Seminole pumpkins, cassava and Everglades tomatoes and you have a great, easy-to-grow and tasty garden.

Now, on further consideration, I think he may have been asking more about a culinary trinity, rather than an easy-to-grow trinity.

If I lived in South Florida, I think coconut, cassava and mangoes would be enough to keep me happy.

In North Florida, I would say sweet potatoes, cassava and mulberries would be a great way to eat.

But there are so many options! We haven’t even touched herbs, or nuts, or the wide range of fruits…

…or the possibility of turning vegetables into delicious meat, milk and eggs.

But if you are like me, and like to go through lots of plant profiles and dream about your gardens, my book Create Your Own Florida Food Forest is for you.

We have a frost this evening and I’m missing South Florida, but at the same time, I do need a break.

It’s been a busy year. I’m busting with ideas for the spring!

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SCRUBFEST Report

Tue, 10/18/2022 - 09:16

Scrubfest was a great success, with probably close to 400 attendees there.

The camera card failed during recording, so we don’t have video of my presentations. Hope you made it!

This was the first SCRUBFEST and it went very smoothly overall. A few people got lost on the way, a few others had some issues paying online, but I’d say we were 95% fine on everything. The tent was big enough, there were plenty of chairs, the parking worked out, the nursery was well-organized, and almost all the vendors totally sold out. Plus I got to meet many of you who I knew only by name and not face. And there were some great kids there, too. I ended up sharing my mid-afternoon snack with a beautiful blonde baby who couldn’t understand why I had a banana and she didn’t.

I believe the audience went home with a huge amount of inspiration and ideas. Mark Bailey’s talk was excellent as well, plus we had lots of books there that were flying off the table.

Next time we’ll try to have easier directions and more vendors. Sam is already talking about doing SCRUBFEST II in spring. I would be game!

Later this week my son should finish a post sharing his view of the event – stay tuned.

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