Episode-1210- Lessons in Homesteading by Taking a Big Step Backwards

Last Year's Abundance Won't Be Repeated This Year

Last Year’s Abundance Won’t Be Repeated This Year

Last year at this time, the wife and I were cutting up so many jalapenos that it took 3 days just to get them all ready for dehydration.  We had taken bag after bag of produce to the local church all summer long as the abundance was more than the two of us could us.

Neighbors who had previously shook their heads in slight mockery at our initial set up now shook their heads in awe at an abundance none had ever seen.  Into a rocky, granite ridden ridge top we had done something no one ever thought could be done.

Over 1,000 peppers in one harvest from 24 plants, yea we did that.  25 water melons from one 4×10 foot bed, did that too.  Trees rated to only zones 2-5 surviving in rock and granite in zone 7 with 100 degree days, yep, made it happen.

Yet as most of you know my wife was happy and unhappy at the same time.  The place was wonderful and she loved it.  Yet the separation from her family was more then she wanted to deal with.  So we made a decision to come to Texas.  Today a new challenge is unfolding in front of us.  Lots of work has been done, the foundation is largely set for next year but this year, well, it has been tough.  Today is about what that has taught me.

Join Me Today As I Discuss…

  • From abundance to starting over, the hash reality is mostly psychological
  • Why it is good for those who have done well to start over, it is called remembering
  • The unique challenges of our property and what they are teaching us
    • Less rain
    • Less soil in some ways
    • Damaged land is harder to work with
    • Everything doesn’t work everywhere
    • Animals are more work then I remember but more productive as well
    • You often don’t know as much as you think you do
  • The plans moving forward
    • Get the food forest main frame established in Spring 2014
    • Urban garden design in Oct. primary implementation over 6 months
    • 1500 gallon water catchment, done, expand by 1500 more
    • Develop permanent fencing for paddock shift of livestock
    • Develop large scale hugul systems on road frontage
    • Begin classes with better planing on more than just permaculture
    • Increase composting activities on all levels
    • When abundance is reached, don’t forget the reset challenges
    • In the mean time worry less about initial results

Resources for today’s show…

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38 Responses to Episode-1210- Lessons in Homesteading by Taking a Big Step Backwards

  1. I have not listened yet Jack, but do you mill those dehydrated Jalapenos into a powder?, if so, do you extract seeds first?

    • Modern Survival

      Mill yes sometimes, deseed no.

    • Ok, I did grind some into powder last year and a bit this year (The new Vitamix try blade really grinds to a fine powder). But I think I will keep some rings for chile’s , stews and soups. Hope you extracted a few seeds from those surviving Jalaps to keep the stock going further…

    • “Dry” Blade

  2. Ah, good. This comes on the heels of a discussion I had last night with my girl. Gardening wise we got beat up pretty bad here in TX. Disheartening and somewhat inspiring. We’re plowing forward for the fall season. Hoping for much better results.

  3. Very timely show Jack. This is something that has been on my mind for the last few months. I recently moved to a new house in January and have run into this. I had minimal production all summer, which was very disappointing. As usual, the haters came out (family members) on saying how things don’t work, what are you doing, etc. Which is ridiculous since last summer/fall at the new place, I couldn’t hardly use/can all the produce I had. Right now I am rebuilding and redesigning the temporary setup I had.

  4. good podcast! I like the advice that Paul Wheaton gave you. It’s 100% true. Show the world of permaculture what you can do!

  5. Great podcast. I definitely now how you feel about the abundance.

    Some of the things we’ve had going were unbelivably abundant. Sweet potato i’m hoping is going to be one of them. Although we’ve had some major major setbacks this year. Squash bugs (that I didn’t get a hold onto until it was too late) destroyed a 8 x 30 foot bed of summer squash, zuccini, winter squash, and even the neighboring cucumber bed. All of our cucumbers were killed by some sort of little micro pest on the stems that kept making channels in the stems (drying the whole plant out).

    Tomatos… dear god the stink bugs. Still got em too. I was/am completely swamped with these bastards. Out of close to 30 amazingly large and great tomato plants, I probably got 4 good tomatos…. sigh….

    Purple Hull peas. WOW! Amazing. All pepper varieties. WOW (except my cayennes i grew from seed =( ). Recently an armadillo decided he was going to dig up all my beds. That has been an utter disaster, and as a result had to spend 380 dollars and build a 350 foot fence around the garden (in 3 hours). That little bastard has cost us alot of money. (Not to mention 2 animal traps he’s so far evaded).

    I definitely think you should just design your property yourself. I know what you mean by ego for sure. Some wise words my friend. I like how Paul Wheaton is giving the Great the glorious… oh wait wrong person… the mouth of permaculture advice. That’s great stuff, and stellar words (from him).

    Cheers to learning and experience.

  6. My summer garden comes out great every year with abundance of veggies but every year my fall garden sux. Cant seem to grow anything. Gonna try again this year but with bales of straw. See if something will grow. Something new to try anyways….

  7. I have never tried a fall garden. I find it very interesting. Most of the time growing up on a small farm; our fall time was spent canning, hunting, chopping the heads of chickens and hanging them up on the clothes line. It was also the time that my mother would start to make her raspberry, mulberry, and strawberry jellies and jams. I would however like to try some spinach and broccoli but I think it might be a next year sort of thing.

  8. Debi aka sofireme

    Jack, after listening to the podcast with Nick B, we decided to hire him to come to our property. We are at a turning point, on our place.We took down 2 old structures, and have some open space. Let me just say WOW!! Nick was here last week, and we spent the day, walking our 1 acre place. We talked,used his laser, marked contours. .My background is in traditional agriculture,and I have had a garden for the last 10 years. Last year we walked in abundance, this year, all we are eating is humble pie.My husband and I have come to the realize, the way we are doing this all, just isn’t working. We only started listening to the survival podcast, in the last year, and first heard about permaculture, on your podcast.I enjoyed the podcast today,because I feel like we are also starting over! The raised beds are going, along with lots of other stuff .This is so very different than anything we have ever done! Nick was excited at our property. I saw failures, he saw a food forest. We are working on 2-5 year plan. At Nick’s suggestion, we are doing a workshop here, led by Nick ,in Oct. Thank you for sharing your failures. It is an encouragement to know, that someone who has been at this much longer than we have, also has some disappointments. Here’s to a better fall.

  9. Some years, everything is great, some years everything is bad, and some years it’s a mix. You never know what you are going to get, but you make the most of it. Except Zucchini, it grows too much every year it seems.
    In years where things don’t grow as well, you do get an extra sense of fulfillment for what you do manage to produce.
    Thanks for sharing the struggle.

  10. Im really enjoying these ‘casts, storing up the info like a psycho squirrel in a nut house. (hows that for a mixed metaphor?)

    A point of clarification: The previous owners, if they were engaging in a polygamous lifestyle, were either in violation of the LDS Church’s tenants and in danger of excommunication, or (more likely) one of a multitude of splinter groups whose only claim to fame, if you can call it that, is practicing polygamy. They most assuredly are not Mormon. (nickname for the LDS Church) No worries though, as this happens all the time, the confusion of the actual Church and the offshoots, splinter groups, excommunicated groups.

    Per your show, sounds like using a Sep H. style hugelkultur tree bed is just what the doctor ordered. Privacy screen, noise reducer and gives the trees area to sink their roots. Win! On a separate but related note, I sent in my Permaculture design today. Hopefully, a nice freshly minted Certificate will be winging my way soon. To all the TSP permies who took the class, cheers! And best of luck to ya. :)

  11. I have a bunch of peppers that I have neglected for a couple weeks (getting red and very ripe) is there a good cheap way to dry them? The MT knives program derailed my plans for an Excalibur for a while.

  12. hey Jack Just wondering if you thought about using your future hugul beds as an anchor point for the electric fencing posts?? if your still keen on a paul wheaton style paddock shift system or even just solidifing posts into a concrete filled tire base??

    • Modern Survival

      That really wouldn’t work well at all, due to the rapid elevation change. Oh and I love Paul but paddock shift isn’t his idea, LOL

  13. I enjoyed the show, as usual, and this one has a fair bit of relevance to my current situation, as usual. I’m in the process of building a new house and developing the 4.5 acres it sites upon. So much thought, planning and dreaming go into the project its important to remember to step back a little, be patient and remember that it may take years to make/ guide your property into what it can be. It doesn’t take long for “a little at a time” to make a big impact.

  14. Divinia 'doodle' Featherly

    Thank you so much for your show today Jack. Just this past Sunday I was hacking at the grass taking over the garden with a hoe, and angry tears running down my face. I don’t feel any less overwhelmed…but I do feel better.

    It’s tough when the previous owners tilled the vegetable garden, planted huge flower beds, sprayed with Round-up, and used insecticide for pests, when I don’t…and I’m the only one trying to homestead these 15 acres.

    I’m thinking I may offer my neighbor’s granddaughter some money to help me around here…and since she’s my son’s girlfriend, he may jump into help just to hang out with her (I can only hope).

    Anyway…thanks again for the show. It was like God sending me a message not to give up.

  15. Does Geoff Lawton not like hugelkultur? I’m just curious what the “Lawton way” is.

    • Modern Survival

      It isn’t he doesn’t like it, it is that 95% of his work is in tropics and sub tropics where it is so humid that hugul isn’t really that necessary and cores break down incredibly fast. Though I have explained the reality to him that technically a banana circle is a form of hugulkulture.

    • He mentions Hugelkultur all the time. I agree with Jack’s characterization of it. Basically like anything else Geoff Lawton advocates not being so fixated on particular elements or ways of doing it, and rather to be open to all ideas, and analyze if it will work in your time, place, and climate.

    • Oh, OK, that makes sense. You are right, Jack, a banana circle is in essence a form of hugelkulture, one I hope to utilize in the steamy subtropical Florida climate I live in :). Somebody suggested in an earlier blog that I should create hugel beds around the perimeter of my property with the logging debris once I clear the pine tree monoculture. Got me thinking…..

  16. Are you planning on doing the huge hugel beds that block the highway view on contour?

    I’d like to do huge beds to block out the highway in front of my house but it couldn’t be done on contour.

    • Modern Survival

      No and full sized beds don’t really need that anyway. The area is mostly flat anyway, I will be doing them with some curves to make them look cool and some cool gateways where one ends and the other starts with an overlap.

      We will be doing something like this though only about 1 meter high and not as huge of a total project. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7j4JkXnfW8

  17. Hopefully everyone already knows this, but for the record, the Bible never says that having a gruesome death has anything to do with forgiveness of sins. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

    People will use any means to obtain and exercise power over others, whether that is in the form of a government or man-made religious institution (which, if it calls itself a “church” and proceeds to rule over people, goes contrary to what the Bible describes the church as). Tyranny always leads to suffering, no matter what mask it wears.

    Men who ignore the Bible and establish a sort of government to torture people in the name of God are disgusting in the highest degree. As a Christian I would fight and give my life to oust them from power, and any other tyrants while I’m at it!

    Love the show, Jack. Keep up the good work. Hope I won’t start a pointless Internet debate, just wanted to throw in my two cents and let people know that mutilating and beating people to death isn’t something Christians believe will help with forgiveness… LOL!

  18. Man, this is a must-listen for my sister. After seeing what I’ve been pulling off through my own gardening efforts int he last few years, this year she finally decided to give it a go herself. For one thing, she has a TON of trees on the property. Like, tot he point that it does amazing things for their electrical bill in the Summer because their AC has to do so little work. But, we found a place that got some okay sun, south facing, so she planted some zucchini, sunflowers, watermelon and tomatoes.

    Long story short, the only thing that have much success at all was, surprisingly, the sunflowers. And I can just tell she’s depressed about it all. I keep telling her that given the kinda bizarre circumstances she finds herself in, and that this was her first try EVER, she’s done just fine. Still, it seems like women tend to lend more weight to the opinions of knowledgeable third parties rather than people (men especially) they’re closely related to.

  19. Good show Jack, It is nice to hear someone else experienced with gardening having problems. Just a word of caution, I started a fodder system this summer here in Arizona with 100 degree days. (yes inside) I started with barley but was soon fermenting them instead (I know you like to do that for other reasons) but it was in my living room and was awful. So I read up on barley and it likes to sprout at 60-65 degrees. So I switched to sunflower seeds for the summer. Now that it is getting cold I switched back. I also saw on line somewhere about the lacto fermentation of the sprouts is good for them too.

    Also this is the first year I convinced my husband to not poison the squash bugs. Ugh…..for over a month we went out for about 45 minutes twice a day and hand picked them. Then we gave up but it was enough for the plants to revive and re leaf. Happy accident not on purpose. That is the butternut did..not the zucchini. Thanks for the show Amber

  20. lisapaintergirl

    “You can take that (information) and short-cut your learning, but you’re still gonna have to secret sauce it.”- Jack Spirko

    Love it.

  21. Jack, have you made a formal permaculture design for your property (with zones and sectors and all)?

    • Modern Survival

      No in fact when I do on paper designs I stick to rough bubbles, my mind doesn’t work the way you need it to in order to make a design like you are talking about. I have also been very reserved on high level planning due to the fact that Geoff Lawton was to come do the main frame design. I am now moving towards doing that myself.

      I haven’t designed the zone one which will actually be the Urban Garden Showcase because we are running a workshop on that. The students will all end up with their own designs, my design will pull from the best ideas those 30 students come up with. Which will make it awesome.

      One place Paul Wheaton and I are similar is we are not big on paper designs. I tend to design with a laser level, an iPhone sun application and an excavator. I just see what needs to happen but my art skills are lacking we all have to be weak at something. So I just do a bubble and write food forest, a line and write swale, etc. and generally I don’t even do that.

      I do think it will be necessary to have a plan, or at least make a plan after the design for the purposes of teaching which is the reason we are doing the urban garden workshop. By now I could have it done but this way will be a lot cooler and we will end up with a formal master plan.

    • How about a Listener Contest open to those who’ve taken a PDC?

      List your specs, contours, sun angles, elevation, map with location blacked out for your privacy and let us have at it!

  22. Does anyone have an online source for barley? I ordered some from the local Agway but notice just in time that it was coated with a fungicide and labeled as “not for food or feed”?

  23. hey buddy,

    just barely listened to this one. some of the difficulties you chronicled in this podcast remind me of “the suck” you referenced a couple weeks back, in talking about new business ventures.

    sounds like you’re pushing through the crappy parts. cheers.

    also…. thanks for doing things “the real way” on your property, not just the Geoff Lawton way or perfect way. more people need permission to do things even if they can’t do them perfectly.

    -Dan

  24. You mentioned worm bins, there is a lady in garland, tx that owns tx worm ranch if you need some worms, castings or worm wine.