Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Vegetables Seeds are Expensive

Over the pass few years I always look forward to my new tradition of buying seeds for the upcoming growing season. With the economy in the tank these days I have seen a steady trend of people starting home gardens and couple that with the 2012 end of the world hoop-la and we now have a seed crisis. Just take a look at burpees website and you will quickly realize that the average price for a pack of seeds are $5. That's INSANE!!! But it's business and the demand is up for seeds. I have flown around other sites and have found that although not topping the charts at $5-$6 a pack they have too raised their prices. I know I'm going to get punched in the face for saying this but the only seed company with reasonable prices this time of year is Baker Creek .

Last year I started saving my own seeds. This year I'm looking to go full throttle and save all of my seeds. The goal is to never purchase seeds again. There have been reports that brokers are buying vast quantities of seed stores as a type of commodity like you would gold or silver or even pork. To think that seeds will be more valuable than money one day. I hope yall got your guns... Because I sure do!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Introducing Kids to Gardening

It's been great to finally have my boys around. It's also apparent that we live different lives and they are accustomed to different things. The homestead life was not one of them LOL!! Nevertheless, when they arrived they have had some interest in the workings of how we do things. My challenge was to find the warm coal, nurse it and try to start the fire.

First, I didn't even bombard them with the garden... Well that's not totally true... There was that one time.. when I intercepted a conversation from my oldest and he was talking about being a drug dealer and a gangsta... I got his butt up at 3am and gave him a head lamp and had him turnin dirt, wheel barreling compost, pullin weeds, preparing the raise beds, clean out the chicken coop and re stack the perfectly good pile of wood... After which,  that evening around midnight when he was exhausted and tired I had him jump in the car and I drove him to the heart of the ghetto and told him to get out... Since he wanted to be a thug and didn't like the way he was living... He just broke down and cried.. he didn't want to get out.. so I seized the opportunity to build him back up. After that incident my son came to me a few days later and said.."dad you changed my life, I had a lot of time to think while i was working the garden and I'm going to change" and you know what he did... This first marking period that he entered.. he is poised to making straight As'. I'm extremely happy.

Sooooo, with all this goin on my main goal is to introduce my kids to the homestead life..and have them adopt it as there own.. First I identified there likes... My oldest son taught himself Spanish and he speaks and writes it fluently, after having that heart to heart with him, I helped him realize that he should attempt to be an interpreter and learn as many languages as he can.. currently he is teaching himself Arabic and its amazing how fast he is progressing.. I wish I had these interest as a 13 yr old. My youngest son breaths, eats, sleep Dragon Ball Z.. in my opinion its a Cult!! These kids are obsessed with it.

 I had a mentor once tell me when I worked at a school for emotionally challenged kids.. in order to make any progress.. you have to find what the child loves and use it against him.With that mindset.. I approached my oldest and told him that I understand that he loves cultural and is interested in people and music and that hr wants to travel all around the world..sooooo before you go there we are going to learn everything we can learn here.. I told him there are two things that you must do when traveling for the local people to accept you as friend and family and that is love their food and listen to their music... You don't have to speak a word... Because your facial expressions will tell whether your sincere or not.

With that being said I told him I want him to do some research and find 20 vegetables that Spanish speaking people absolutely love and we will grow them this year and prepare dishes..also I asked him to identify vegetables that people from the middle east enjoy and we will grow and prepare those dishes as well. With my youngest I told him.. before you play Dragon Ball Z.. tell me 5 phrases in Japanese of how your...Winning, how your kicking someone else's butt, no one is stronger than me, I am the best, and you guys suck!! He laughed uncontrollably and believe it or not he asked my wife and she helped him out.. he is now on his way to learning the language.. in addition I asked him to identify 20 vegetables Japanese people love and enjoy..

So that was the project.. I found the warm coal, nursed it, started a small flame and threw gasoline on it. Now we are on our way to learning, growing  and experiencing culture. It's gonna be a fun journey :)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Quest to Eco-Living and Reducing your Carbon Footprint

This post is inspired from a comment a reader left on reducing your carbon footprint. Respectfully, I acknowledge as do most people who follow this community that we (collectively) can and should do a better job with identifying ways to reduce the use of the earths valuable resources. However, there is a huge disconnect with living that way effectively and applying that concept into our lives.

For all intents and purposes the Eco-living movement is not geared toward the masses of people that can truly benefit from this lifestyle. In my opinion and excuse me if I offend anyone; this lifestyle is geared toward wealthy individuals who have the luxury of intertwining extremely expensive products into their way of life. At the end of the day people who enjoy the comforts that western societies have to offer will not succumb to a lifestyle that cost to much and which impedes on their current way of living.

Over the past few years that I have blogged, I have come across many, many people from all different walks of life and they have shared their experiences with me on how to be more sustainable. I have witnessed the evolution of some folks who transfer from corporate jobs and walk away from high profile educations to live and play in the dirt. Some folks who I have also come to admire never even had a choice. They simply are. I on the other hand like many people have a choice. I chose to attempt to  live a more sustainable life because I believe it's in the best interest for my life as a whole and my family. With that being said.... I have also come to realize why most people don't adopt my viewpoint and it's because, this lifestyle is expensive. Extremely Expensive!! Normal folk cannot purchase products and equipment that have been created to reduce carbon footprints and because of this I believe although the intentions started off in the right place the movement grew legs and ran someplace else. Because if we were really serious about reducing our carbon footprint we would start with helping people of little means be able to live life more cheaply so that they have more spending power which will enable them to have a higher quality of life.

So my gripe.... is with, the one person at a time methodology. To me it is a serious waste of time. In order to have an impact, communities need to be mobilized and different ways of thinking need to be orchestrated. There are individuals who believe in this whole hearted and are making real change. But the discussion has only begun between the haves and the have nots. In my perfect world I want to see sustainability inculcated into every lifestyles because its efficient and cheap. Not because it's an ideal way of living. I believe the catalyst for a true mindset of change is when low income communities can start contributing to their energy needs because energy is sustainable and cheap. For now the Eco-living movement does not support those who need it most. I hope with further discussion and much more debate it moves in that direction.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Homemade Sausage

Recently I have become Fascinated with the process of making Homemade Sausage. So much so that, hopefully one day I actually become an artisan. What can be better than marrying meat, fire, wood, smoke, herbs and a bit of creativity? My interest was peaked when I bit into a delicious all beef hot dog from Boars Head. The firm but delicate texture and the crunch of the slim dog on a bun with just ketchup and mustard. I was sold and now I'm on a quest of making my own. With all the reading that I have been doing, it is suggested that I start out with sausages first and then work my way to making wieners. At the end of the day I want to produce a sausage and ultimately a dog that's amazing!! Only time will tell. But as I become more comfortable with my smoker I realize that I have what it takes to make a half decent product. I can't wait. I just need to convince my wife that I need to buy a sausage maker instead of her espresso machine:)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hunting Wild Boar

I'm blessed to live in area with access to so much hunting land. This hunting season has been truly rewarding. Pictured is a Wild Boar I took while hunting in Central Georgia a few weeks ago. Lately I have been having aspirations to become an artisan sausage maker. I am fascinated with cured and smoke meats. Hopefully one day I can transfer this passion into something real. But for now I'm going to enjoy the hunt and ultimately the feast. This wild boar dressed out at 190lbs his testicles were huge and he had battle scars. I shot him with  an AR10 Armalite .308 caliber 7.62mm Match Grade at approx 100 yds. When I shot him the Satans Dog spun around and ran right towards me clapping his jaws to sharpen his tusk. I must admit.... I was gripped with fear. I really thought I was going to die. But as he neared toward my location he started to give way to the damage of my bullet and dropped dead 20 yards in front of me. Still frozen with intense fear, I stared at him for another 20 mins. When it was all done. I was extremely proud and relieved to live another day.
Wild boar can sometime be tough. But in the fall and winter they eat multitudes of acorns.. especially white acorns from the white oak. This boar taste so great!! I'm looking forward to bagging another one here shortly..

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Order Home Grown Organic Kona Coffee

I am so late on this post... nevertheless, I really want to plug Killino Farms in Hawaii. I use to work with Todd and he is just a great guy to say the least. Free Spirited and an adventurist who has a lot of passion in what he believes in.. Unbeknown to me.. Todd and his wife decided that they would pick up and head to Hawaii; purchase a Kona Coffee plantation-bed and breakfast and live the good life "Aloha" !! I find this simply amazing and thier coffee that they grow on the farm is Soooooo Soooo Delicious!! The first thing we noticed from stirring up a hot brew of Killinos Coffee was that it was soooooo smooth and there was no after taste. If coffee ever needed comforted it will drink Killinos Kona. Im plugging Todds Kona Farm because everything I believe in about sustainability he has done. It takes great Risk to create your own blazing trail and to his Adventure I tip my hot cup of brew to him. Todd and his wife take orders through their website for customized roasts of fresh Kona. If ever you were thinking about the Perfect Gift for a Coffee Lover I urge you to give the Killinos a try.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Custody of my Sons

Its been awhile since I have been able to attend to the my blog. Over the past year I have secretly been  developing a plan to wn custody of my sons. About a month ago it all came together and now my boys are with me. Its new for all of us; im getting the boys use to the new life.. They are loving it!! Part of the growing pains does include the garden and my sons have taken to the Homestead with so much eagerness. I look forward to sharing stories about the boys and how they develop into future Wild Men.. :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Avocado Squash - A must for any garden

 This year I tried Avocado Squash for the first time in my Straw Bales. I didn't know what to expect. To be totally honest there was not a whole lot on the vegetable for us to really learn about... But there was one thing that was certain and that was the prolific growth from early spring and still going strong in the fall.

So what exactly is an avocado squash? There are a number of names for this vegetable. It is an Asian vegetable and if you like Zucchini you will absolutely Love the Avocado Squash.

There is some caution that needs to be adhered with regards to Growing and Eating Avocado Squash...First... If allowed to grow on the vine the Avocado Squash will get extremely seedy. The first picture shows a small Avocado Squash but as you see in the Pic I had to scoop out the inside. A good rule of thumb when Growing Avocado Squash is to grow it to the size of a large orange. If left on the vine the Avocado Squash will grow to the size of a Pumpkin.. which is great for seeds.. Some have used that size in soups.. I personally don't  want to go that route
The Entire vegetable can be eaten at the size of a large orange. Skin and All... The texture is buttery and smooth and is an excellent alternative to Zucchini.. Paired with garlic this vegetable is a home run!!

The Shelf life is short if left out at room temperature. If you harvest more than you can eat.. which you will... the Avocado Squash will store perfectly in the fridge for about a week.

This variety grows perfect in Straw bales and as personal experience will tell you it grows out of control..It also has the unique quality of being a vertical grower. So if you have limited space and want to grow up.. this will do the trick. I have heard the Avocado Squash makes Great Zucchini Bread. I cant wait to try that. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Garden Buddies

Earlier this year I had a war with insects eating my garden before it got started. I thought I wold never win the battle. I left for a few months and my expectations were not great for the garden. Upon returning I noticed that my wife just literally gave up.. The garden Looked like Jumanji... Foliage was everywhere. Although it was not what I wanted I was happy that things were still green. I also noticed that the leaves were extremely healthy.. The Garden was thriving... Bumblebees are visiting... Wasps have put a dent in the slug population. Parasitic Wasps are impregnating aphids with their spawn, with the turn of a spade there are more earthworms than I can ever count and I have an unbelievable amount of Praying mantis that have resided in and around my garden. They must be breeding because I see small ones and big ones. The Mantis is so cool. They are so patient. I suspect they are thriving on the healthy flying cockroach the south is so well known for. Have at it!! All in all things are looking good while preparing for the fall growing season.. Hopefully we can continue to provide a sanctuary for my garden buddies in the years to come.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Redneck Lobster---- Gar Fishin

My buddy Scott is an amazing fisherman. He knows the local waters better than anyone and does a really good job catchin and landing gar. On a recent trip I was curious to see what Gar actually taste like. As suspected... the normal reaction is...... Nah man that's a junk fish.... Scott However, has actually tried to eat gar and in his opinion it wasn't the worst fish out there and it wasn't the best fish. So with a little research as I typically do in my own fashion..... I found several YouTube videos and websites dedicated to the art of dining on Gar. To my surprise I learned that you either gonna love this thing or hate it. But if I was a bettin man... I would be willing to bet that most people who don't like it have never tasted it. They are just passin along broken knowledge from generation to generation. But to the contrary.... there is something to be said about Seminole Indians trading bass for gar and cooking them over open flames in their hard shell. They absolutely loved it.

So I was convinced..... or at least the only person I had to convince was Scott to catch one or we go together and catch one so that I will cook it. And so we set out on the lake in search of Gar.. We don't have any Alligator gar where we are.. Just common gar, log nose, spotted and Black Gar. It took us all day and we finally got one heading back in to dock. The Shell of the Gar is literally an armor plate. But I was prepared. We had a nail and hammer and brought my thick tin snip cutters and sharp filet knife along with some freezer bags. A quick nail in the skull to a board and immediately sever the spinal column with the tin snip cutters. I ran the tin snips along the back to the tail and I was able to separate the meat from the armor with the knife as I pulled the meat away from inside the armor. BY running the knife along the back all the way to the tail on both sides I was able to get to huge filet's like the back straps of a deer. Some of the prettiest meat I have ever seen.

We cooked it two ways..... One back strap we fried... I prepared lemon wedges and melted butter for the course and the second back strap I cut into chunks and threw it into a Cajun Boil and for approx 5 mins and let simmer down for an additional 3 mins. This was served with a side of melted butter also.. The Verdict.................... ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!!! and I am not just saying that.. the meat is likened to grouper and when dipped in butter tastes like sweet lobster. SIMPLY AMAZING!!! If Gar isn't the best Fish in the Water and River I want to know what can compete with it. I have tasted practically every fish in our Waters and my favorites are Walleye, Trout, Crappie and Salmon. Now Gar is going to be added into the top Five. If you like Catfish... You will sell your home for Gar!!

Important things to remember....... Make sure you rinse the gar meat off well with cold water and put on ice. I freezed the gar for a night and thawed it the next day to eat it. After it thawed I put it in the fridge to keep it cold until ready to eat. I was flirting with the idea of soaking it in milk... but When I opened the freezer bag there was no smell whatsoever that can be found on the gar. It was clean. So opted out of that. The key ingredient to cooking car is time. Gar doesn't need to be cooked long and it needs to be served hot to enjoy the best the meat has to offer.

So in Short.... with the economy getting tough and families looking for ways to spread their dollars. Instead of heading to Red Lobster... Go and catch a Gar and prepare some Redneck Lobster:)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Product Review--- Omega 8006 Juicer

OK I must admit I was a skeptic about this Juicing thing... My wife has become the Juice Ninja and over the past few weeks she has been juicing every thing that's green, red, yellow and orange. The first juicer was the juice man.. Because of my wife excessive juicing the Juice man didn't last 2 weeks...It broke and depression set in... Literally. This inadvertently became a good thing because it encouraged us to really explore the other options of juicing..... First things first.. When looking for a Juicer... You want a Masticating Juicer.. Steer clear away from centrifugal juicers. The reason why.... your juice yield from centrifugals like the juice man are not going to be high compared with Masticating juicers like the Omega 8006.. Centrifugals are a pain in the neck to clean... compared to masticating juicers like the 8006 that takes less than 3 mins to clean. The only upside to Centrifugal juicers is the speed in which they produce juice.. But with this speed it looses a lot of juice. The Masticating Juicers are slow to juice but the pulp from the veggies and fruit come out dry. The Juice Ninja (my wife) actually used the dry pulp from the spinach and made homemade pasta with the 8006. I wouldn't believe it if I had not seen it. Fresh eggs from the coop and Spinach from the garden with a little flour and with a quick attachment to the 8006 she made pasta.... Simply Amazing!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Saving Seeds and the process of Fermentation

Seeds and Pulp Recovered from Avocado Squash
This year my Advocado Squash aka Early Balum squash has done exceptionally well within the haybale garden. So much so that I will save seeds so that I can have a supply of resources for the garden. I have been intimidated by the idea of seed saving for quite some time. But given the global crisis with the financial system that has saturated us for sometime.... Learning how to save seeds couldn't come at a better time. As I studied my options I began to realize that this whole process is really not that hard. Like with anything... if you want to get good at it you are going to have to do it.. So im jumping in with both feet!!
Place seeds in Jar/ Add half of water to jar

I want to save seeds from all of my herbs, greeny vegetables, tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplants. Some of these vegetables like the peppers, herbs and greeny veggies are relatively easy to save seeds from. However, vegetables and fruit like tomatoes, squash and eggplants need to undergo the fermentation process before they are ready to save as seeds.

Fermentation for seed saving... from what I gather is the process of allowing the seeds and the sticky residue that often envelopes these types of seeds to dissipate through the process of "fermintation" this is acheived by placing the seeds in a jar of some type with just enough water to cover the seeds and by placing the jar in a room that is between 75 and 80 degrees... The seeds will begin to ferment in approx 5 days loosening the protective coating that encapsulates the seed prepping it for germination in the future.
Find a place that is approx 75 to 80 degrees and let sit for approx
5 days. The fermintation process will begin when bubbles and froth is
present. Only viable seeds will begin to sink and dead seeds will float.

The true test is to achieve germination....  

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Harvest from this seasons Haybales

Well as suspected.. I came home to find the garden looking like a scene out of Jumanji!! In my wifes defense... I have to seriously re-consider the layout of the garden for the spring and summer. It's way to hot and the mosquitos are vicious. So with some careful consideration we are going to start using our deck to grow more produce and grow produce in the garden that is easy to navigate through.

In the basket are some extremely healthy looking butternut squash and some gigantic Avocado Squash that were grown exclusively from the haybales. In fact the haybales have totally collapsed and decomposed and the vegetables are thriving on the rich matter that is accumulated in the raise beds.

Because of the heat and other issues my wife just watered the garden and said the hell with picking anything. I don't blame her... when the weather is 100 degrees and 110% percent humidity with mosquitos so thick they cover any exposed bare skin. The Avocado Squash are supposed to be harvested at around tennis ball size. They are extremely prolific and and if picked regulary will continue to produce amazing sets of buttery textured zucchini quality fruit. These on the other hand are the size of soccer balls and therefore not fit to consume or maybe I will see. But my maion focus for these guys will be to save there seeds for next season. Speaking of next Season.. We definetly need to have a new game plan to deal with this heat.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Local Food Watch--- Georgia Peaches

We are almost three quarters of the way finished with the intense heat and as soon as we get over the dog days of summer, fall will follow suit; this year I really want to experiment with canning. Apparently Georgia has seen there best season for peaches that they have had in years. According to local news articles this years peaches are sweeter than ever. I can't really think of anything better than Warm Peach cobbler dressed with vanilla bean Ice Cream.. That's one of my favorite desserts. From year to year certain crops are better than they ever have been. It's always good to know who is doing what and what successes they have experienced. Enjoy!!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Supporting Restaurants Who Support Local Farms

I have write this post quick, being that I just took an Ambian to settle down for the night. Currently I'm in Virginia doing some training and I will head back home in about a week or so. Just enough time to get back and see what shape the gardens in. I miss writing on the blog...but when traveling I'm deeply engaged in work and I don't want to have anxiety over what I can't control (I hope to God My wife didn't Destroy the garden). The past few days I have been having the itch for some really good home grown food. Food that when you bite into it, you can taste the journey and envelop yourself in every stage of it's life. From garden to kitchen to plate. I knew exactly what I wanted. But I didn't know where I was going to get. So I recruited my new best friend which is the HTC Thunderbolt BY Droid Carried by Verizon. If something happens to this phone I will probably go into a state of depression. But anyway I did a quick search on the web for restaurants that serve dishes with locally grown produce and instantly I got a place called the Mezzanine. I pulled up my maps on my phone and typed the restaurant and immediately I had all the information with distance and direction and so I began my trip.

Often times we find ourselves wanting to support businesses who support our local farms but many times it never comes to be a reality. Lets face it most of us are all busy and the even though doing search on the net doesn't seem like a lot of time to be taken. It really is when you have other things compiled on your day. However, today I proved to myself that there is rich reward when a little effort is put forth. Because you never know what small gems are within fork distance.

Upon arriving there I was seated by a very professional and knowledgeable staff. I ordered some wine (High Note Melbac, Argentina) for anybody that cares to know what type and I ordered the special... A rare Bison with a creamy chunked Lobster Mash Potato and sauced with a red lobster rue. Wellllll I came to find out the Bison was grown in Virginia at farm that was not far from there and the Green mesculine lettuce were provided by a couple that I had the pleasure of sitting next to at the bar. These guys were pretty awesome! They were working Farmers who had full time day jobs, but they grew vegetables and sold them to the restaurant. This is a perfect example of how communities can support one another to accomplish a goal.

So now Going forward my New hobby is going to be... to try to compile a list of restaurants that I want to visit who cater to the community by supporting Local Farms and Produce. I would love to learn about any place in the World that supports Local Farm... If I am in the area I will seek out these little gems and thank them for their Service........ To Good Times and Hard Work!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When hopes of having a child faint away

It's been awhile since I have posted anything going on at the Urban Homestead. This time of year I usually leave the garden to my wife to take care of and I resume in the fall. Nevertheless, life continues to move on and realities begin to set in. One of which is having a baby. I would have never thought in a million years that I would be in a situation where having a child would be an issue. I have two sons from a previous marriage and so selfishly i never considered the importance of what it means for my wife. Until I met her parents. They are a Traditional Japanese Couple, pops is hard dedicated worker and mom has assisted him throughout his career. They have made tough sacrifices for their two children and it is in these days that my wife (after her rebellion) appreciates everything they have done for her.

So this past fall I got the unique experience to meet my mother and father in law whom have never been to the states and don't speak a lick of English. I wasn't worried about impressions, I just wanted to meet them and show them everything American that is synonymous with Everything Japanese. Our engagement was wonderful and something I will never forget for the rest of my life. When the Tsunami hit we were worried about them. As the reports came in from Japanese TV; which we luckily subscribe through via Dish Network, the reality on the ground was that many, many, many people have lost their lives. And not only that but whole families are gone with no way to carry on their name. This saddened me and put a pit in my stomach.

Many people contribute through finance and we followed suit. But while sitting down and looking at a story in which the only child who happened to be a daughter drove from several towns over to rescue her mom and she ended up dying and her mom survived. This situation made it real to me that in an instant a generation can be gone when there are so few in the gene pool to start with. My wife's Parents brothers and sisters are terminally ill and they have to very few children I want to say a handful is an exaggeration. When I took this all into I account I realized that my wife's parents have no grand kids. As this reality manifested itself I also realize that for several years my wife and I have been trying to have a child but with no results and because of this we have to be aggressive in pursuing other options.

 On the table is artificial insemination and invitro. It never dawned on me the extremely high cost and the importance of having a child through these expensive procedures. The bottom line is that we have no other choice . Although my wife looks and appears to be a spring chicken, her system is not and we have less than two years to try procedures that have any chance of working. The time is clicking and I'm on the other end of the pendulum making some of the toughest decisions in my life. I'm Glad to be back and I have a lot of work to do. More to follow..........

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Perennial Tomatoes?!?!

Last year I began researching  a few articles on perennial vegetables and I found out that although tomatoes are not traditionally thought of as perennials if given the right set of circumstances they can overwinter. Over the past few years I have successfully overwintered Eggplants, Peppers sweet and Hot and for the first time Tomatoes. Last year I started some cherry tomatoes from seed and grew them in containers. Container garden for tomatoes has it challenges. First cherry tomatoes want to go everywhere. However, if you like the wild Hair look than cherry tomatoes in a container is the way to go. I'm not particularly fond of it but as an experiment it worked. As winter set in I kept the tomatoes out for as long as I could, checking the temperatures daily to to make sure they did not go below 45-40 degrees. As the cold weather set in consistently, I pulled the plants into the sun room and sat them by the windows. The rays from the sun intensify as they pass through the windows of my sun room. In there the temperature is comfortable and even on days of frost the tomatoes in my sun room do not wilt. My only downfall during this project was paying to much attention to water and overall leaf health and not paying any attention to the aphids growing unchecked in my sun room. During the overwinter process, the plants do appear to go dormant. But with tomatoes as long as there is sun they keep on producing flowers and through the winter many flowers were set and although they didn't produce bucket loads of fruit; they did produce fruit occasionally. As the spring arrived I put the plants out and for the first several weeks I saw and fought with the aphids for the first time. They were everywhere. On my eggplants, peppers, and hitting my tomatoes hard specifically targeting the new growth. The war of the aphids is not over but I'm winning and my plants are starting to show tall tale signs that they appreciate the dedication. I believe overwintering is important for urban farmers. Many of us don't have the land or space to properly rotate crops. However, with container gardening and your overwintered plants all you need to do is fertilize and re pot if needed. Recently, I added some Grade A compost manufactured from my chicken coop and the Tomatoes are absolutely loving it. The next phase of this project is to do more research on developing seeds that overwinter well. This is a whole new animal for me and the reading is intense but I find it absolutely exciting. The fact that individual plants that are exposed to certain conditions and thrive as a result only to pass on this code to future seeds of their prodigy is territory that is both foreign and amazing to me. My hope is to one day develop strains that first overwinter well and then produce sweet delicious fruit. Well see..... I feel like my journey has just begun.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Zombie Gear AR 10

I believe in the Zombie Apocalypse. Although not as in depth as some hard cores believe; I believe that people when pushed up against the wall no matter what ethnic background (with the exception of the Japanese) and no matter where they fall on the social economic ladder; the inherent nature of people to survive at all cost will manifest itself when times get tough.

I think back to the Katrina Catastrophe when mobs of people were running the streets like "Zombies" raping, pillaging and destroying everything in thier sight. How do you protect yourself? How do you protect your family? When chaos strikes because it will, it's not a matter of "if" but rather when and when it does go down, how prepared will you be? One day your watching a movie with your family and the next day your hiding in your closet hoping "Zombies" don't find you.

Guns are a tough subject for many people. Especially when we just recently had a congress woman shot at point blank range by some idiot. I get it. I believe there should be regulations, but we have to be smart about what we are regulating because often times regulations only affect law abiding citizens. Regulations have no affect on criminals. Let me say this again.... Regulations have no affect on criminals. This is why I say we have to be smart about this becuase when that time comes and your life is in serious danger, you will have many options. You can run away from criminals who will have guns. You can try to reason with criminals who will have guns or You can stand your ground with your guns agianst criminals who will have guns. Either way in any situation, criminals will always have guns. I wish this talk was only fantasy, thought up in the deepest darkest segements of my mind, but that is just wishful thinking.

Pictured is an AR 10 Armalite. It shoots a .308 rd or 7.62 x 51mm NATO rd. It's outfitted with a rail system to add sexy equipment, bipod, magpul assualt grip, and Bushnell Tactical Elite 3200 5-15 x 40mm Scope. I will finish her up with a Tactical stock. As long as the Zombies keep at bay, I will be using this beauty this year to shoot wild boar and deer. Some purest believe you do not need a military style rifle to hunt with. My statement to those critics is to look back in history and tell me what military rifle in colonial times were not used for hunting.

In short--- No Matter what your personal reasons for owning a gun is, I urge all gun owners to practice gun safety continously and be responsible. And for non gun owners and Antis who are totally against guns- I urge you to not make yourself appear vulnerable. No im not here to spout off my opinions to people who do not think the same way I do. The bottom line-Criminals are oppurtunist and seek to exploit  easy vulnerable targets. There is real extreme evil in this world. I have seen it up close. It's not pretty. I wish my eyes were virgin like the majority of people who have never experienced it. My only advice; if your in a situation where you wish you would have a gun and don't; Wish a little bit harder that your neighbor has one.

Friday, April 15, 2011

How to grow the most in limited space

Most Urban Homesteaders Start out growing in the city with a sense of frustration, wishing they had more land and one day hoping for the time when they can purchase some land in the country. But as the journey begins to manifest itself, Urban Homesteaders quickly realize that the aspirations for moving to the country can't match the joy reaped from challenges produced in the city.

It's difficult to grow vegetables in the city, because the lack of space is the number one nemesis. Living and growing in an urban environment has forced me to challenge the very way I think about producing a harvest. The cool thing about this approach is that it is all unorthodox. You don't have to follow a strict set of guidelines. Growing under these conditions will push creative juices to flow, some result in total failure and others will result in bountiful crops. This year I took one of my raised beds and decided that I was going to do hay bale gardening in them. The picture portrays two hay bales inside of  3' x 6' raised bed. In this particular raised bed I am growing Bush beans, Garlic, Melons and yellow squash. The 1st hay bale has some miniature heirloom melons growing in them. The second hay bale has the yellow squash. Spaced evenly around the perimeter of the bed are garlic bulbs that are growing strong. Evenly distributed in between each garlic bulb  are highly prolific bush beans that don't require a trellis.

My motto is to grow veggies where weeds would grow instead. My opinion is unless you are trying to grow an award winning Swiss chard or some other fabulous plant, crop your veggies as tight as possible and reap the benefits. The tricks to growing the most in limited space is constantly being developed. If your reading this and your on the fence about not having enough room to grow. I challenge you to get a planting pot and see just how creative you can be.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Our Homeless

Living in an Urban Environment I can't help but to notice that homeless people are living around me. I see them everyday. There is one particular guy that I see pretty often, his name is Mike. My neighbors have known Mike for a long time and Mike is homeless because he just can't leave the bottle alone. Today I was walking out of my home towards my car and I heard a voice from my Neighbors porch. It was Mike, sometimes Mike likes to sit on the porch and people watch. Who knows what Mike has done prior to his arrival but it doesn't matter. Mike is Just Mike and Mike likes to sit on the porch and watch people and traffic go by. But today Mike called out to me as I was walking to my car. He said, "Excuse me." I said, "Whats going on?" I assumed his next question was going to be if I had some money, or a ride or maybe even some food. Nope it wasn't any of that. Mike said, "Can I ask you a question?" I said, "sure Mike go ahead." the next four words that came out of his mouth took me by complete surprise. I knew being homeless, is not the ideal situation for anybody, but some of these people just don't have a way out and they are looking for a way out. Mike asked me, " Can you Shoot Me?" I was taken back a bit from this odd request. I told Mike, " Mike No I can't shoot you." Mike looked severely disappointed that I wouldn't take him up on his request. As I left to go workout I realized that for Mike, living must suck everyday and he doesn't have the courage to take his own life but he realizes that living everyday is just a plague for him. Shooting Mike is not an option, but if I were in Mikes shoes I probably would want some body to shoot me too. My wife cried when I told her that today. I still feel saddened. My neighbors are some of the best people you will ever meet, they have a heart bigger than earth. From taking care of stray animals to giving Mike a sandwich now and again, they wont give him a bullet but at least he feels an ounce of kindness from people who don't have to show him anything. We can take life for granted everyday, but sometimes the homeless can help us put things right back into perspective. It's not in me to wish harm on Mike to make his situation better, but I do hope and pray he is able to one day find peace.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lady Bug Larva Don't actually look cute

A few weeks ago I bought some lady bugs over the Internet and released them into my garden. Since then I have noticed that the lady bugs went from eating at the buffet to wanting to make my garden their home. Everyday I see lady Bugs in the garden and more importantly I see their larva. Lady bugs for all they are worth are very popular in children's books. But most children books do not advocate the voracious appetite these creatures have and their use. I am absolutely fascinated with the predator prey mentality. Just yesterday my wife and I were watching Great whites chase seals and as the seal was jumping and escaping the Great white she was yelling yes!! We both were yelling 'Yes' with each lunge, until Ole Great White lunged straight up and caught the seal in mid air, She yelled, "Oh No!"" and I yelled "Yeessssss!!" If any body was listening to that conversation it probably would have sounded like an orgasm gone wrong. She looked at me in horror that I had the audacity to cheer for the Great White. What can I say seals wouldn't be seals if there was no presence of the Great White. But anyway back to the lady Bug Larva... They are not cute, even though Lady bugs have the representation of being the Child's Bug. But for all their worth, they are extremely helpful. The fat joker pictured is full of Aphids. I have seen his kin on other plants throughout the garden and they are feeding heavily. Only time will tell if this war of the bugs will prove beneficial.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Share your Beer with the Garden

The past few weeks I have been extremely busy at work, working day and night. Most of the time right before I leave I turn on the sprinkler system to water the garden before Bob makes his appearance. But as busy as I have been, there has been something a lot busier in my garden eating up all my leafy green vegetables.

Obviously you wont see any of the characters in play during the day, but on one cool morning I walked outside to see a slug crawling along on my cabbage plants. I wondered why my cabbage had holes in the center of them. I also noticed that all my leafy greens were affected by this. As bob came out and the flying insects started to wake, I also noticed a wasp fly to the cabbage plant where the slug was and it crawled in the cabbage. I thought this was weird because too, because first, I didn't know what the ole wasp was up to. But watching a little further I wondered if the wasp was preying on the slugs. I don't have any confirmation of this but it's very likely the wasp was hunting.

As I soaked all this in I realized that my garden was under assault. This is the type of creepy assault that's not noticeable. Its in your face everyday, but it's not alarming until it's to late. I have heard of the use of beer being used in the garden as a way to keep the slugs down but I really never bothered with giving this the attention I should; until now. Because as work has picked up I am not around to pick every slug off my plants and feed them to my chickens. So I decided to share some of my beer with my garden to see what happened. To my surprise this stuff works lethally well and even though I have cut down drinking beer sue to training for my next ultra-marathon, I will definitely continue to make beer runs for my garden .

How it works.... The yeast from the beer is to irresistible for the slugs to leave alone. They will come far and near from anywhere to the smell of beer and as they crawl slowly toward the smell of the beer, they literally dive right in and sink to the bottom and literally drowning in a drunken stooper. Beer is an easy, cheap, and effective way to control these beast that will damage your leafy greens in short time. At the first sign of holes in the middle of your plants, get a confirmation that you have slugs or snails and make a beer run. Thank God Georgia just passed legislation to buy Beer on Sundays. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Best plants to shade your veggies.

For some of us spring has not arrived but rather summer has jumped right in it's place. My plants are either loving it or hating it. Usually by this time of the year the weather is cool and comfortable. Not muggy and insanely hot. Furthermore, the trees that are usually fully leaved in about another month are still naked. My garden however has started to set root. I noticed the other day that some of my squash that's in direct sunlight are being troubled by the heat. The same plant in a different location with a little shade is growing strong. So my brain started to get thinking about how I can provide shade to plants that need them. Well fortunately for us growers we have a few options in our arsenal of heat loving plants. The idea is to grow these heat loving plants in the direction of the sun so that they can cast shade on plants that don't well with intense heat. Some of these plants that I will use are Pepper Plants, Eggplants and Okra. These plants love the heat and when everything is choked out these guys are basking in their glory. All it takes is a little shade to make a plant happy and it's good to know I can find them a companion to perform this duty.

Friday, March 18, 2011

EPIC FAIL for Sustainability

I think of myself as a guy that enjoys people and experinces derived in sustainability. But when criusing the net I found something so completely obsurd that I had to share. Horse shoes.... Really!! What idiot decides that this is fashionable. Im no PETA freak by any means. Anyone that has read my blog for any length of time knows that I am definately a meat eater. But come on, Horse Shoes!! Like Literal Horse Shoes. Someone; call it creative genius, I call it creative stupidity found a use for horse legs as a fashion statement. Like real horse legs, for real!! Big Sigh!! SMH!! WTH!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Release the Hounds!!!

My long awaited, highly anticipated little warriors have arrived. I'm a military man; war, strategy, opposing sides, you name it, I'm all over it. So when those little buggers (aphids) picked a fight with me by chomping down on my succulent new growth for this growing season. I was torn between using chemicals and using nature to fight back. I conceded from the chemicals and went with mother nature. I received 1500 lady bugs today from Hirts on Amazon today. The lady bugs came in excellent health. I watered my plants before I set them out so they will have some water. As the sun set I released the hounds and they began to relish on the delicate but highly destructive aphids. The aphids knew something was amidst. For the first time I saw the aphids retreating from their intoxicated cover and scatter about the branches to escape the perils of the Lady Bug. This was very interesting because as soon as I released the ladies at the base of the plant, they instantly knew to climb higher. It almost seemed like they knew this was going to be a one sided battle and the males stopped eating and started mating. When lady bugs feel like they have found a place that can provide an abundance of food they start to mate. Well, let me rephrase this. The Males started to mate; the females who are bigger than the males just wanted to eat. Lady bugs can live up to three years and the bigger their spots typically depicts that they are older.
 As the ladies ate, gorged and hooked up with horney males they began to prepare for the next generation of lady bugs. One lady bug can eat up to 50 aphids a day. There larva which resemble small little crocodiles are also notorious for eating aphids and other scaly bugs. I feel like a General of the Garden Wars. More to follow........................................

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Koto Preparing for the Molt

It's that time of year were we falconers have to make a decision. To keep or not to keep. Most years I release my birds back into the wild so that they can go back and contribute to the gene pool. Its certainly an option and every falconer is different. But sometimes there comes along a hawk thats just special. Koto and I have formed a prettu good relationship. She is not the tamest of hawks that I have encountered. But she is definatelty the most tolerant of people and especially dogs. This year for the first time I hunted Koto with my GSP Jackson and they did wonderful. We took one flying squirrel and one grey squirrel on that particular hunt. Those are the qualities that are hard to come by and im not sure im ready to just give it up. So for another season I will keep Koto around. For now she will eat to her hearts content and soon Molt into her new feathers for this upcoming hunting  season.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Some people just don't have a clue

Today I was checking around to see if some of my local garden centers carried lady bugs. I am putting my money where my mouth is and I'm committed to attack these aphids organically instead of chemically. They have gained some ground and I see physical sign that they are winning. So today's call was to find out who in my area can help me locally. One out of four garden centers can order the Lady Bugs but will only do so well into the spring. My last resort was to call pest control companies. I mean pests and pest control go hand in hand right? Well at least I thought so. So I called the first company and I asked the guy does he have any lady bugs? He said, "Yup those lady bugs can sure be a problem." I said, "No Sir, do you have Lady Bugs?" He said, "WHAT!" I said, "Lady Bugs; do you have them sir?" He said, "What the hell do you need Lady bugs for?" I said, "Dude Really?!?! I need them to kill aphids. I have an aphid infestation and I use them to kill aphids." He said, "Nope we don't carry no lady bugs." WOW!! I can't believe I had that conversation. But than again his job is to hunt and destroy. I'm going to put this out there to any pest control company that may not know about this side of the house. It will Behoove you to get smart on the use of beneficial bugs for gardeners like myself who want to get rid of "Pests" I'm just sayin, It might be profitable.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Quick and easy Window Shelves to grow plants.

Sue from http://suesgardenjournal.blogspot.com/ gave me the idea about this post. For sometime I have been trying to utilize every piece of useful space to grow veggies in my sun room. With a little creativity I came up with this workable design that can be added to any window.  .
This is how I did it. I cut two 2x4s approx the length of the window. Most windows are framed and it should be easy to anchor them right next to the windows with screws. When that was done I installed my brackets. The ones that are shown, I bought from Ikea you can pick them up here for $2 a pack. So I bought 3 packs for what I wanted to do.
After installing the brackets to the 2x4s, I added the wooden shelves. The shelves are 1 foot wide and 4 feet long. I purchased each plank for $7 at lowes. They are not anchored in although they could be. Since I use them for plants I sprayed the top portion with a protective base of paint to repel water. These shelves have absolutely been great and I am currently using them to germinate seeds through the window. Each shelf costs approximately $10 to make. Just a simple design for some practical work

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Trick Your Leafy Greens into growing faster

Plants for all they are worth grow extremely slow. But in the plant world you have your sprinters like bamboo and your really slow movers like cactus; one such variety is known to grow only 1 inch within it's first 10 years of life. I'm the I gotta have it now type of person; so when my leafy green veggies seemed to be stalling in my garden, I tried something for the first time. I took hay from one of my left over hay bales and covered them just enough for them to get some air and see speckles of green through the dense brown. Something amazing happened. In less than 48hrs all of those leafy green veggies pushed through the hay and it somehow jump started a growing spurt. (The picture shows greens pushing through, but two days ago there was more brown than green.) If you think about this it makes perfect sense. Plants like all life on this planet are struggling to survive, even the one that only grows 1 inch in it's first 10 years. (So Depressing!!) So couple that with the need to survive and grow strong and you have the perfect atmosphere for competitive behavior. This is only my assumption based on this one observation and it shouldn't be construed as fact. Nevertheless, if the right variables are in place you might achieve some amazing results and  this is what I did. My thoughts are; by covering the plants slightly it will put them in a state of panic as though they are being smothered. Another variable that was thrown into this equation was the fact that over the 2 days this growth spurt took place there was severe overcast. I am convinced that smothering these plants lightly caused them to grow faster. Now I know there are the nature gurus how say don't mess with nature and cause any imbalance, blah, blah, blah, blahhhhhhhhhhh.............. I got it. However, I grow to eat and enjoy and if there are natural ways to spurt growth production in living things we farm, I am all for it. I know I am not the first person to witness this, but if your growing this season and you feel like your leafy greens are lagging a bit, give them a shot of caffeine by throwing a light cover of hay over them.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Prepping hay bales for the growing season

Over the past few years I have learned a great deal from Hay Bale Gardening and have had pretty good success. Many people I talk to are surprised you can use hay bales to grow in. The quickest way to get started is to buy a few hay bales. The other day I drove by my favorite garden store and there in the back laid several almost rotting bales of hay. They were waiting for another shipment to come in and treated as outcast. To a keen eyed urban farmer dweller man such as myself, those rotting hay bales were like gold. So I took them off of her hands and put them into my garden. The first thing you want to do when you grab your hay bales is place them in a spot that is going to get some sun. On average a hay bale takes approx 3 weeks  to get prepped. But if you can find some left over hay bales from last year rotting somewhere it will take half that time. The trick that I use for Hay bale garden is adding Ammonium Nitrate or any fertilizer in a pellet form that slow feeds into the ground. Take a cup full of the stuff and pour it on the hay bale and for a few weeks keep the Hay bale wet. The hay bale will get hot and this is the reason you don't want to plant right away. So getting started now to prep your hay bales for this spring is very doable. This year I am using the hay bales to grow squash and melons. You can also grow Tomatoes and cucumbers but keep in mind that they need to be staked. For all that it is worth hay bale gardening is a blast. It is definitely for the lazy man gardener who just likes to stand over his hay bales and with hose in hand water his hay bales and in the other drinking a beer, it's great for people who don't have good soil and limited space that don't want to tear up their ground, and perfect for older people like myself who don't want to bend that far.

Friday, March 4, 2011

My Buddies Graduated from Man School RLTW

Today my buddy Lawson graduated from Ranger School. He Graduated with Distinguished Honors!

For the Rangers of the Past and the Present the legacy will continue to live on

Haskel was awarded the Leadership with Honors

His dad has a lot to be proud of

It seemed like only yesterday when he was in Diapers

Kennedy is so proud of his guy graduating from Man School

Lawson and Libby lovin life. Now go eat at Ranger Burger!!

Honor Grads takin home the Gold!!

The look in his mothers eyes is just priceless
The Elusive Ranger Tab less than 1% of US Soldiers have it. Many will try only few will succeed.

This moment will never be forgotten