To My Readers Near Jacksonville

I just saw this announcement on a new book study of Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening from the Permaculture Jax Meetup Group.

For those of you interested in alternative crops, permaculture, trading seeds, cuttings and information, I highly recommend joining Permaculture Jax. I’m friends with Alex Ojeda and some other members and they’re the real deal. I’d join if I wasn’t two hours away.

Plus, you know that any group that reads and recommends one of my books HAS to be great.

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Thank you, Permaculture Jax. I’m glad to have provided some discussion material that aids your excellent efforts.

If you’re local to the area, you can sign up for the group via the link at the top of this post.

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Building an Old-Fashioned Pole Barn Review

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.

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.


You can find Building an Old-Fashioned Pole Barn here at Pa Mac’s website.

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Freezing week

Snow in the Mountains

A great deal of the USA went through a major deep freeze, we were not spared here in far west Texas. We got dumped on with snow, it snowed as far south as Presidio, an area where one rarely needs more than a light jacket in winter. There were road closures from highway 10 all the way down to Presdio. Fortunately it happened over a weekend, and a holiday weekend as well. We had plenty of notice, and for me it was a payday weekend, I was able to stock up on some comfort food (soups, chili and the such), we were also able to stock up on some extra fire wood, we went through a LOT of firewood over those icy, snowy days and nights.

It’s funny because the Friday and Saturday before, the temps were getting up into the 70s F, T-shirt weather, but halfway through the day on Saturday, the wind changed direction and the temps dropped like a rock. PB and I were out by the road talking to a friend when the first few snow drops fell, yes I said drops, not flakes. These were marble sized, rounded snow drops, heavy, wet and hitting hard. The rest of the night and the following day, it snowed pretty much non-stop, we ended up with 6-8 inches of heavy, wet snow.

Normally our snow out here is powdery, dry and light, not this time. But all in all, it wasn’t a bad long weekend. My boss, who lives in Lubbock and got nearly a foot of snow, emailed everyone in the district to let us know we shouldn’t try to go out on the roads if it wasn’t safe, I didn’t even try to venture out until Tuesday afternoon. By then, the snow had pretty much melted off the roads and our dirt roads were dry enough to drive on without slipping and sliding.

Today, over a week later, there are still some patches of snow in the protected nooks and crannies out here, I am a little disappointed that I didn’t venture out and snap some pictures, but it was just too cold for me, too cold and too wet, I much prefer the powdery stuff that doesn’t stick to you and taps off of your boots. Yes, I’m getting to be a bit of a wimp, but with PB keeping the SkyCastle warm, the good food I cooked and warm dogs to snuggle with, I really had no interest in going outside during this snow event.

Fortunately, PB snapped a few pix.


Snow on the solar panels

Depth of the snow in a chair


Lots of snow

SkyCastle in snow

View from the bedroom

Break time


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2016 Goals & Resolutions

Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you had a great time last night and that you’re not too bleary to get focused on some goals.

I’d like to hear your goals and resolutions for the New Year in the comments, so I’ll start by sharing some of mine:


Goals for 2016


1. Write Two New Books


Since I will eventually be the top gardening writer in the world, it’s important that I keep writing new books and getting my name out there. I have a five-book deal with Castalia House and we’re only two books into it so far. I hope to publish at least two more for them this year. Actually, the next book I’m submitting is so insane that it might get me into trouble… I think you’re going to love it.

Spoiler Alert: the new book will contain a section on terrifying death hedges.

After writing those two books, I was thinking of revising and expanding Create Your Own Florida Food Forest in order to make it a definitive resource on growing food forests in Florida. More species, guilds, more on growing in sand, native plant communities, etc. I’m thinking I’ll triple the size of the book or so to reflect my continuing research and input from other projects in the state. What do you think?


2. Find a New and Warmer Homestead


One of the big decisions of 2015 was to sell our house and seek out a warmer location so I can experiment with more tropical species such as mangoes, plantains, coffee, etc. Some place like this would be perfect:


You know, south Florida used to be mostly rainforest. If you live down there, it doesn’t take that much effort to get it back… just go wandering around a shady Miami neighborhood and you’ll see what I mean.

Once my place here closes, we’ll be trying to nail something down further south… so you should be hearing quite a bit more on The Great South Florida Food Project in 2016. Stay tuned!


3. Record 100 New YouTube Videos


As I posted yesterday, I managed to create 92 videos in 2015. Some of them were a lot better than others, of course – and the quality went up over the course of the year as I improved my editing skills and learned to think more like a videographer and less like the stiff subject of an amateur documentary. So hey – why not record 100 more?

I realized also: I’m not a serious garden teacher. I’m a ridiculous garden teacher. My videos need to be entertaining, not just have informational content.




When I try to play it straight like I did in the first episode of Crash Gardening, I have less fun… so why not go with being funny?


4. Obtain 5,000 YouTube Subscribers


This ties in with #3, since more videos leads directly to more viewers and subscribers, provided the videos share useful information or are entertaining. I’m at 1,951 subscribers right now and have been picking up a few more every day. As I posted yesterday, I ended last year with 465 subscribers. That means I grew the channel more than 400% in 2015. Hitting 5,000 should be MORE than possible, particularly if my readers keep sharing videos to their Facebook pages and in various gardening forums. The more people that learn to grow their own food, the better the world will be. My ultimate goal is to catch up with John Kohler.


5. Reach 5,000 Newsletter Subscribers

My newsletter is where I post some more personal thoughts, plus cool videos, etc. I also use it to tell people about book releases and do giveaways. Multiple people got the Create Your Own Florida Food Forest audiobook for free one time, and in November I shared the informative videos my friend Justin at created for his new Permaculture Chickens video. The problem with just having the blog is that you never really know who’s reading or if they’ll be back. Sending out a newsletter gathers folks back together again and lets me stay in touch. I’m almost at 2,000 subscribers now, so 5,000 isn’t all that far off.


6. Continue the Seminole Pumpkin Breeding Project


I had a lot of fun mixing up various lines of Seminole Pumpkins in 2015 – but the REALLY fun part starts this year as I’ll be planting again and then starting to select for interesting characteristics I’d like to preserve. I was really sloppy with the genetics I allowed into the line, since I grew some calabazas right along with the Seminoles.


All of these interbred. Who knows what’ll happen?

I have absolutely no idea what’s going to result from the crosses and I’m expecting some serious hybrid vigor. Hopefully I make it down south in time to have a good spring garden. I’ll continue updating the Seminole Pumpkin Project page, too, as more photos come in. I just added a few more images and notes the other day from a reader in South Carolina.


7. Finish Audiobook Versions of Existing Books


I mentioned above that I released an audiobook version of Create Your Own Florida Food Forest in 2015. Thus far, it’s sold an astounding 17 copies! (snicker)

That less-than-incredible number aside, I’m also hoping to voice Grow or Die, Compost Everything and Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening in 2016. I’m actually half way through the audiobook version of Grow or Die, so stay tuned. I think sales on the Castalia House releases will be worth the effort it takes to read and edit them.


8. Resume a Regular Lifting Routine


I injured my shoulder a few months ago and had to quit some of my harder lifting routines and trade them instead for long walks around the neighborhood and random garden work. P. D. Mangan’s book Muscle Up (which I reviewed here) continues to be a source of inspiration and I think my shoulder is almost better. Time to get back to KILLING IT!


9. Test Totally New Crops


This is pretty much a goal for me every year, though sometimes I try more new things than others. If I really wanted to show off how high I can get the yields from my garden, I’d grow tried and true heavily producing staples like yams, Seminole pumpkins and sweet potatoes; however, I think it’s also important to keep testing a variety of vegetables and fruits that aren’t well known. It’s good for my writing and it’s fun. I’m also a sucker for old-fashioned grain corns, so I’ve already bought a couple of types I’m dying to try – including one grown primarily as a source of good cobs for corncob pipes!


10. Release More “Survival Gardener’s Guide” Booklets

TheSurvivalGuidetoGrowingTobacco-web2I put out this little $1.99 ebook guide to growing tobacco earlier this year. Despite its small size, I packed in many years worth of growing experience and included some info on curing and using the tobacco you grow.

I’d like to write more booklets on other niche crops, such as caffeine sources, sugarcane, etc.

I make a buck every couple of days from the first one, plus it’s gotten some nice reviews.

Rather than putting a bunch of ads up here, I’m happier putting some useful info up for sale on Amazon. Hey – it pays for seeds!


So – what are your goals or resolutions for 2016?

Whew. That was a long post.

So what are YOU planning in 2016? Let me know!

The post 2016 Goals & Resolutions appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

Permaculture Research Institute Proud to Be Recognized with UNCCD Accreditation!

The Permaculture Research Institute (PRI) recently received notice that the organization has been accredited as a Civil Service Organization by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). This accreditation is no empty honour; it demonstrates both PRI’s commitment to finding ever-more effective ways to carry out its mission as well as recognition of the importance of that mission by a body as important as the UNCCD. Furthermore, as an […]

Florida: People vs. Utilities

If you are in Florida - Register for Solar

If you are in Florida – Register for Solar Choice

A battle is developing in Florida between the solar power movement, and some of the most venal and vindictive utility companies in America.

At stake is the economic viability of Solar power in the state.  Florida is one of  four states — along with North Carolina, Kentucky and Oklahoma — that prevents citizens from purchasing electricity from sellers other than utility companies.

Both sides are proposing constitutional amendments for the 2016 ballot, either to allow solar panel owners to sell on their surplus energy, or (from the Utility companies)  to force solar panel owners to keep paying towards the costs of the Grid even if they no longer use it. And the Utilities, with a $6m war-chest, are winning hands down with only a few weeks left to garner the vital signatures that will place the proposed amendments on the ballot paper.

Initiatives need 683,149 signatures — roughly 10 percent of voters in the last general election — by Feb. 1 to qualify for the ballot and allow a public vote on a proposed statute or constitutional amendment.

And once they’re on the ballot, at least 60 percent of voters must approve constitutional amendments.

It’s an expensive and complicated feat, and even some of the stronger contenders for a spot on next year’s ballot appear to be faltering.

One of the most popular proposals came from Floridians for Solar Choice Inc., a group of Tea Party supporters and environmentalists working to allow individuals and businesses, not just Florida’s utility companies, to sell solar electricity.

This group collected 273,280 verified signatures as of Dec. 22 to get its proposed amendment on the ballot. It has another 212,000 signatures awaiting verification by the Florida Department of Elections, which has 30 days from the date of receipt to complete the process.

But it seems unlikely Solar Choice Inc. will collect the nearly 198,000 verified signatures still needed by Feb. 1 to get its initiative on the November ballot. In light of the shortfall, group leaders told The Associated Press they were exploring options to get on the 2018 ballot, instead of November’s.

Opponents, meanwhile, say the proposal would shift millions of dollars in costs to consumers who remain with utility companies.

The James Madison Institute, a nonpartisan economic think-tank based in Tallahassee, published a policy brief arguing against providing a constitutional carveout for solar energy.

It said Florida law requires traditional utility companies to maintain a network that provides for all households with their operating area, regardless of whether or not these households are connected to their grid. As households increasingly move off the grid and switch to solar energy, it would be up to the remaining consumers to cover fixed maintenance costs, which could pass $1 billion within three years, the institute argues.

“We felt very strongly that the issue at hand is a public policy question, not an issue for the Florida Constitution,” said James Madison Institute vice president of policy Sal Nuzzo. “The makeup of Florida’s energy portfolio is not something that should be determined by the Constitution. That’s a matter for legislators and elected officials to determine.”

Meanwhile, a rival proposal backed by utility companies is working its way through the approval process with a $6 million war chest and 479,050 verified signatures.

The initiative, misleadingly named Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice, has support from energy companies like Florida Power and Light Co., Tampa Electric Co. and Duke Energy based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

It now needs approval from the Florida Supreme Court, which must determine whether the proposed ballot complies with state law.

But the latest notice from the high court suggests that part of the process would run precariously close to the Feb. 1 deadline for qualifying ballot initiatives.

On Dec. 1, the Florida Supreme Court ordered parties to file briefs by Jan. 11 and answer briefs by Feb. 1, leaving supporters of the Rights of Electricity Consumers initiative to continue gathering public support without knowing whether the measure will pass the legal test.

The post Florida: People vs. Utilities appeared first on Living Off the Grid: Free Yourself.

Montana Music Man

Greg Grant, born in New York, has spent the last 21 years living in his self-built off-grid home in Montana. In this clip we interview Greg about his lifestyle and share some of the videos from his own web site.

Armed with previous experience as a carpenter and with the help of friends, but mostly self taught, he built his home which serves as both his recluse and studio.

Greg currently spends monthly no more than $150 in living costs, all thanks to his solar power set up, food growing and all round frugal lifestyle.

Greg Grant:



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