Episode-1615- Survival Podcast Expert Council Q&A for 7-31-15 — 28 Comments

  1. Would love to hear about other house builds in tropic and arid climates. Great show!

  2. Jack had some great follow up comments on my question today. I would have liked to have gone deeper, but the time limit kept me from delving in much further. However, his comments made me think of one thing I do specifically track on farmers market sales that are a good barometer for us on the marketing effort side of things.

    I look at the number of transactions and the $/transaction average at a market from week to week. From this information I can easily see if we are improving from year to year (i.e., gaining more long term customers who spend more each time they come). Particularly at a new market, if those numbers don’t trend way up from years 1-3, then something is amiss. Also, using Square to process on site debit/credit sales gives us some great date as well, specifically new vs. returning customer percentages.

    I will tell you that for direct consumer sales, specifically with meat, you will spend A LOT OF TIME with each initial customer. It is EXTREMELY RELATIONAL. This isn’t a cucumber, melon or bag of lettuce. They want to know how the animals are raised, treated, slaughtered, what they are fed/not fed, where they live, what you spray/don’t spray, inject/don’t inject and what the critters name was. Typically, after 10-15 minutes of conversation and becoming comfortable with you, new customers will just buy one package of something to try and over time many will work their way up to being regulars.

    But the main thing we are looking for at the farmers market isn’t just a new regular (although they extremely important and key to success). What is pivotal is finding a regular who is ready to graduate to bulk customer (whole hogs, half cow, chicken CSA, etc). Having a solid core of bulk customers is key to leveling out cash flow, projecting overall production needs and diversifying income streams. And for us, our bulk customer retention rate is THRU THE ROOF.

    So I say all of that to say, don’t get too hung up on the marketing effort beyond some basic litmus tests to gauge if a market, strategy or effort is worthwhile. Exposure to as many potential customers where they can meet you face to face is your greatest marketing key in this genre.

  3. Darby-
    Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. Funny you used Joel’s dads quote as I have been rereading “You can farm” and I use that quote all the time. Its great to hear from other people that have been down the path we are walking down right now. Thanks again for the encouragement and Jack I love this Q&A expert council format.

    If anyone is interested you can follow what we are doing at

    • You are most welcome! I do hope you find it helpful. And seriously, don’t look at what other people are pricing things at beyond “being in the ballpark”. I’m anywhere from 20-50% higher than my competitors on some products, and many of them are still working an off-farm full time gig. Just sayin’. You have to charge for your time appropriately or why do it.

      It does however take a lot of consumer education as to “why” you product costs what it costs. And people have to be willing to pay a real farmer the real price of real food raised without subsidies. I’m sure people who bark about my prices like to get paid for doing what they do! So do I.

      And it also requires selling to a populace who either have the means to support you, or are willing to make the sacrifices necessary in other areas of their budget required to support you.

      Good luck and thanks for the great question! And just FYI, we’ll be spending four hours at the PermaEthos event on this very stuff! Marketing, setting prices, cash flow planning, etc. Maybe we’ll see you there.

  4. JACK!!!! please don’t ever apologize for going long. Everyday I am not listening to something to better my education I have to listen to the radio and I hate it…..

    I wish you could just do 20 per week sometimes.

  5. I second the ‘Don’t apologize for going long’. Some days I need a two hr + podcast after writing code all day an dealing with the fluff at work.

  6. Cholesterol: I agree with everything that was said. I would just add that you might want to spend some time reading about apo A and B lipoproteins, and how to interpret an NMR lipoprofile if you are really concerned about the issue. The most used test is obsolete and serves little purpose other than a tool to sell statins. If your doctor disagrees, get a new doctor.

    Fasting blood sugar: I don’t agree with this one. Quoting values for fasting blood sugar can be very misleading. Several years ago I thought my fasting blood sugar levels were rising because I thought I saw a trend from each year’s physical. So I bought a device to measure fasting blood sugar. My first measurement was in the low 70’s. My reaction was that the device was wrong because the blood test from my physical put me at 90. So I tested again. The level was around 80. Then I waited several days and the value was back up to 90. Finally, it occurred to me that each time I tested it was an hour or so later in the morning. The earlier I got out of bed the lower the number.

    Fasting blood sugar very much depends on cortisol and glucagon, and perhaps other hormones that will effect the breakdown of glycogen in the liver. This all happens in the early morning before you wake up. Your brain is getting you prepared to run from the lion when you exit your cave. At least that is my theory. In fact, my fasting blood sugar is lower
    in the winter and higher in the summer on average. It is highest no matter what the morning hour in the summer the day after I ride my bike 100 miles. Maybe the cortisol stays high before going back down. I don’t know. I have had numbers between 67 and 104 for fasting blood sugar. 99% of the time the numbers are between 70-100. They are as likely to be near 70 as 100. It all depends. Basically don’t get alarmed if you are at one end or another of this range; it is normal. And if you doubt this, go pay $18 for a blood sugar reader and start testing. You will be surprised at the variation. In fact, I am starting to wonder how doctors diagnose anything with many medical tests. The variation can be huge for a perfectly healthy individual. Of course the drug companies see otherwise. Drug company equity prices are directly correlated to whatever is dictated for a so-called healthy total mass density cholesterol number.

      • The interesting thing about the Federal food guidelines and cholesterol is that those guidelines actually worsened lipid profiles for anyone that followed them. It is straight forward biochemistry. Cholesterol results from the Mevalonate pathway, and the feed stock for this pathway is Acetyl-CoA, which is provided by carbohydrate metabolism. Increase carb intake and increased VLDL results. VLDL goes to IDL goes to LDL. The LDL concentration in the blood stream is then regulated by the LDL receptors in the liver. Note that triglycerides are measured and used to provide an estimate for VLDL. Basically what has transpired in the last 30 years is that the Federal government has recommended a diet to promote the sale of statins, and provide a $40B revenue stream for the drug companies. I wish the tort lawyers would begin to sink their teeth into this, but I am not going to hold my breath. A lot of people in high places should be in jail, but it is not going to happen.

  7. I also would love to hear Geoff Lawton elaborate on home building considerations. We’d like to build within the next 5 years and I was wondering what the permaculture considerations would be

  8. I would love to hear more from Geoff Lawton about a more humid environment (Deep South – 8b Georgia). We are finishing up the buying of land. I plan on doing passive solar but not sure what else to do. I’m in a neighborhood with no covenants but I don’t want it to look trashy and I want it to have solid resale value (even though I hope to be there for a couple decades).

  9. Chock-full

    The word meaning full to the limit is chock-full. It is commonly misspelled chalk-full, probably due to the close similarity in sound between chock and chalk especially in American pronunciation. Chock-full‘s origins are mysterious, though there are many theories that we won’t go into here. There is usually a hyphen between chock and full, though you’ll often see the term with a space instead of a hyphen.

  10. I’m not a big poster, but I am a heartfelt supporter of TSP.

    In the years I’ve been listening, I think the new Friday council format is one of the best updates I’ve seen for the program. I never even considered Nick or Darby to actually do a consultation at my property, but after listening to some of their responses in these programs, I probably will. Same goes for the rest of the council. It’s super beneficial for them to participate in that show from my point of view.

    As far as having Geoff do a miniseries on building, I think that would be fantastic. Design decisions we may learn about in different climates may give us inspiration about how to enhance or limit micro-climate areas in our temperate-climate buildings.

    I’d be interested also in what Geoff thinks of building materials like Insulated Concrete Forms, earth-sheltered concrete structures or other solutions which may keep you cool (69 deg F or lower) without much energy in hot summer suns.

    Awesome work and thanks!

      • I agree as well. These Friday shows are fantastic!
        Thanks to all the members of the expert council for your thoughtful detailed answers.

        Jack thanks for all you do.

  11. I loved Geoff’s input, but I’d like to hear about one of his new projects.
    He was talking on another podcast about a new way of encouraging farms with a farm lease system.
    I didn’t completely understand it, but something like an expansion of the system where several customers “own” parts of a cow to the point where customers “own” parts of the whole farm.

  12. Excellent points on bindweed . If you place sticks in the ground in the infested areas this allows you to see when to harvest the new growth. So the shoots have less time to put down reserves back into the roots.

  13. Erica –
    Once again, thanks for delivering such an informative response. You always manage to organize your thoughts so logically without sounding stilted or rehearsed.

    Jack –
    Maybe you and Erica could team up to create an ‘effective communication’ course. Your expert council members and guests could benefit from it, and you might be able to use materials as an online product.

    Keep up the great work!

  14. Hi Matt – thanks so much for your kind words. I’m flattered! For myself, I basically write out extensive notes for my answer before I record, so I know more or less what I’m going to say. This gives me an opportunity to fact and safety check anything I’m not 100% sure on so I’m sure I’m giving the community the best answer I can. I’m glad it doesn’t sound stilted, but I’m reminded a bit of that great Dolly Parton quote, “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.” 😉

  15. Just wanted to say I was running through target today and in a attempt to avoid a aisle block I went down the small appliance aisle. Imagine how fast I stopped when I saw the pressure canner that Jack has been talking about there on the shelf! I even took a pic so I could compare and make sure it was the same thing! So for those who like to buy in a store it was the same price as on Amazon in target

    • Hey great you just made me realize something I should have told everyone a long time ago. To my knowledge this is the case still and it was the case when Joe was my intern. Target does price matching. Dorothy and I went to Target and Joe came, why we went I don’t remember but it must have been important, I hate stores.

      I find Joe in the customer service line. And wonder why since he came in empty handed. He was like this hard drive I need is 30 bucks less on Amazon, they will match it. Sure enough he gets up to the lady, she confirms the items are identical and done. That is good to know if you need something now and with so many warehouses you don’t save the tax very often any more anyway.

      Still I will stick to prime, I hate stores! That said not everyone does so this is good to know.

  16. Jack,
    Would love to hear more about Geoff’s input on designing a home. This is something I have been trying to wrap my head around for some time. Would particularly be interested in ideas for a TX type climate.

  17. I just purchased the Power Pressure Cooker XL from Bed, Bath & Beyond. They are always giving out 20% off coupons, so I paid $80. It does not include the canning rack, however, so I purchased that from the manufacturer for $9.99 with free shipping.

    This stainless steel pot is a compatible replacement for the non-stick pot that comes with the Power:

    The replacement pot arrived today and it fits. It is better construction and heavier duty than the Power’s pot’s non-stick. I haven’t yet tested the stainless steel pot to verify a good seal with pressure cooking and canning, however. Power’s included steamer rack sits lower in the stainless pot than it does in the OEM non-stick pot. Make sure you keep the non-stick so that you can reference the markings and fill levels.

    • The Secura stainless steel pot worked beautifully in the Power Pressure Cooker XL! I tested the replacement Stainless Steel pot with the “First Time Use” procedure recommended in the PPC user manual (2/3 full of water and Canning setting for 10 minutes). Next, I made stew by throwing in partially frozen grass-fed beef stew cuts, dried vegetables, leftover sauteed onions and bone stock (canned last year on a stovetop Presto). I pressure cooked that on the soup setting for 20 minutes and the results were excellent. In both cases, the seal was completely tight and there was no seepage of steam once the PPC pressurized. There was barely an odor of food cooking. I ordered the canning rack last Wednesday. No word on shipping or an ETA. I look forward to canning when it arrives. Remember back in the day when 6-8 weeks was the norm for fulfillment? Thank you, Jack, for telling us about this great tool.

  18. I have a question for Nick Ferguson regarding his soil builder lasagna that he described around 54-55 minutes into the show. What do you do with it the following season when you’re ready to plant? Do you turn it into the soil? Do you clear off any of the mulch? The reason I ask this is because I can see just putting transplants directly into the layers, but having that much mulch on top of the soil has been problematic for me when direct seeding crops like root vegetables (carrots, beets, etc.), spinach and lettuce. I try to pull the mulch back and form a farrow to expose the soil, but inevitably the mulch is blown/washed back over the soil, often times before the seeds have sufficient time to germinate, and they just can’t make it through the mulch. What can be done to avoid this?

    Thanks so much to all of you for a great show!

  19. Cross Batman and McGyver and what do you get? Steven Harris and his prep list.. Find it at!
    Seriously, Steve, you’re an inspiration. Hope to hear you on the show again soon.