Last Minute Christmas Gift Idea To Encourage Gardening

Well, I’m back from a month long vacation. Thanks for all the emails asking where I was.
In my travels, I kept in mind the fact that I needed to have Christmas presents ready to go.
This video will show you how I solved the problem.
Do you have friends that you would like to encourage to garden but don’t know how? Give them something that they can’t resist.

Joos Orange Portable Solar Charger Review

Those of us that take the electrical grid for granted, should realize how important it is to have power at our disposable, no matter how small.

In my continual quest to become more self sufficient, one area I’ve focused on is solar.

The advertisements and reviews I’ve seen about the Joos Orange Portable Solar Charger, seem like a refreshing relief for people like me that have been severely frustrated by the many solar chargers on the market.

The last few years of research have left me feeling completely overwhelmed and under motivated.

The reason? It was nearly impossible to find a charger that stood up against the hype and hysteria by the people promoting them.

Most of the solar chargers I’ve tried didn’t have the capacity to blow a bug’s nose. And if they did, they weighed nearly as much as a cast iron stove.

My quest:

I wanted a solar charger that was not only portable, but capable of charging my cell phones, portable power banks, and maybe a rechargeable headlamp. That’s really not too much to ask is it?

So, I decided to test the Joos Orange Portable Solar Charger.




Cost $149.95




 Included in the Joos Orange Box:

    Joos Orange Solar Charger
    White USB cable for connecting the Joos to a computer
    Black cable with interchangeable tips to connect to multiple devices.
    Durable plastic zip lock pouch to store cables and tips.

Weighing just about 1.5 lbs, and pumping out 5v/2w of power through it’s micro USB port, the Joos is reported to be 3x faster than any other solar charger in its price range.

So, how well did this equipment hold up to our test?

Read more

5 Reasons To Grow Heirloom Vegetables

Ok so here it goes. Another hot topic.  One issue at our garden club that seems to continually come up is, Hybrid vs Heirloom. Which is better?  I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t grow hybrids. If it gets you outside in the sun and gets your fingernails dirty, I’m all for it. For what it’s worth, here is my take on the subject.  5 reasons why I believe everyone should be growing heirloom vegetables.

Heirlooms Taste Better

I thought I would start with this one since this is the most heated topic regarding heirlooms. Those on the hybrid side of the fence will argue that certain vegetables have been bred not only for disease and bug resistance, but also taste.
Although I have grown quite a few hybrids that certainly are delicious, I am yet to find any as good as the heirlooms I now choose to grow. I also might add that taste is subjective. There are factors that affect taste. Growing conditions being a major player and of course variety.

Heirlooms are Cheaper (with a caveat)

I think we can all agree that seeds are cheaper than vegetables. And most would also agree that going to the nursery or big box store and buying seedlings is certainly cheaper than buying the amount of vegetables these plants produce. But the comparison I’m making is not between hybrid and store bought, but rather hybrid vs heirlooms. There is a substantial savings between buying a packet of seeds rather than a flat of starts. One seed packet will cost about $2. That same packet can produce sometimes up to 30 plants. If you went to the market and bought 30 plants, they could possible cost you over $100. Now there is an exception to this rule. Many nurseries offer heirloom seedlings. And if you buy hybrid seeds then the cost goes way down. BUT, if you grow hybrids, you will not be able to save the seeds to replant the following year.


For me, this is a big one. Just a quick scan through an heirlooms seed catalogue will reveal hundreds of varieties of vegetables to choose from. You can pick one that matches your requirements regarding taste, days to maturity, size, shape etc. You are not limited to the choices that hybridizers give you.


After growing a certain vegetable variety, saving the seeds and replanting year after year, Over time, the plant will start to adapt to your specific location. In other words, it will slowly acclimate to your environment. If, for instance, there is a specific tomato you like, you grow it year after year and watch it start to adapt to it’s new home. Essentially becoming accustomed to its environment. There are however certain limitations to what it can adapt to. I’m not suggesting that if your area is prone to hail storms, that somehow it will magically develop steel stems. That’s just not going to happen. But you will be amazed at how well it does adapt.


This is the absolute biggest reason for me. I believe that no person has the right to patent life. And that life also includes plants. Even if that person or corporation develops a completely new genetic strain. They are NOT creating life. They are genetically manipulating already created material. And it is that material that I believe should NEVER be owned by anyone. No matter how much they manipulate it. So by selling hybrid vegetable seeds, the companies are taking two heirlooms or open pollinated varieties and crossing them. Now I’m certainly not suggesting there is anything ethically or morally wrong with that. I’m just suggesting that there shouldn’t be a patent on it.

Secondly, because it is hybridized, the offspring from saved seeds will usually not produce a plant similar to the parent. therefore, if you like a certain hybrid variety, you are forced to buy new seeds every year. And this process makes you a slave to the one holding you hostage to your food supply. We must always maintain the independence and control over our lives and should NEVER yield or submit to others in this regard.

The Opalka Tomato Seeds are In

I just wanted to let everyone know that the Opalka Tomatoes are starting to be harvested. Everybody that has been asking me for them will have the opportunity to get some. However, I will probably only have about 100 packs this month but we should be in full stock by Sept. Thanks to everyone that inquired.

To orders seeds, please visit our retail store:

Natural Does Not Mean Organic, and Organic Does Not Always Mean Healthy

Natural. All Natural. 100% natural.. Made with…….. yadda yadda yadda. Frankly, the words don’t mean much anymore.

As I walk through the isles at the grocery store, I have to admit, I’m enticed by the concept of natural. I’m obsessed with feeding my family healthy organic foods. And why not? We all want to give our bodies the best food we possibly can. So, why then isn’t “natural” food a good thing?


I believe most people consider “natural” to be organic, or close to it. But the honest truth, it doesn’t really have anything to do with untreated, non-gmo, pesticide free food. It has more to do with the company not using artificial ingredients in its product.
To me, this is deceptive. In one regard “natural” does mean what it supposes, but on the other hand, I’m convinced it is used to lure people into a false idea, and that idea being “organic”. Does anyone remember “all natural” products being so prevalent before the popularity of organic foods? I certainly don’t. So to me, there seems to be a correlation.

What is Organic?

Organic means growers and processors must not use any chemicals or genetic engineering in its foods. In other words, to be organic certified, a farmer must not use chemicals in their fields and all pest control must be certified by federal standardization.
Organic standards also exclude genetically modified seeds (like Monsanto’s roundup ready soybean).
”Natural” offers no such guarantee. Why? because there’s no global standard by which a grower, processor or seller must follow. We are basically taking their words for it. To me, it’s a ploy to sell products.

Organic does not always mean healthy

Before you come unglued, please let me explain. The “organic” standard is based on EXCLUSION. This means that farmers are not allowed to use certain chemicals. However, this dose not mean they are required to INCLUDE things. 
When I  talk about healthy foods, I’m talking about foods that are nutritious. Fruits and vegetables that nourish the body. I assume they are loaded with vitamins and minerals. They also contain vital nutrients for healthily growing and maintaining our bodies.

So what’s lacking?

Organic farmers are not required to introduce micro-nutrients into the soil. These trace elements are essential for fruits and vegetables to take up and store and then pass on to the person who ingests it. But if a farmer is only introducing nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, they are producing vegetables severely lacking in the some 70+ elements our bodies need and thrive on. Therefore, just because a market is selling “organic” produce, it is not necessarily selling HEALTHY produce. Even though they are following the governments organic standards.

What’s the answer?

Grow your own. I know that sounds blunt. But is there any other guarantee that what we’re eating is truly organic and nutritious at the same time? I know that many readers may not have land to grow their own food. Some live in apartment buildings or have very little plots to grow on. My answer then, is to befriend the local farmers in your area. Shop the farmer’s markets and get to know the growers. Don’t be afraid to ask them the important questions like, “Do you use organic fertilizers only”, or “do you add micronutrients to the soil in the form of organic compost and essential rock dust minerals”. Hopefully they will be honest with you so you are able to make an informed decision about your food buying. After all, your health depends on it.

Seed Definitions

Sorting out the confusion of Hybrid, Open Pollinated, Heirloom and Genetically Modified Seeds.



What is an Heirloom?
There are some heated discussions about what defines an heirloom. Many believe an heirloom has some history to it, or that it has been grown for a certain amount of years to prove its worth. But the general consensus is that an heirloom has certainly been handed down through the years, passed down for the purpose of preservation. Heirlooms are open-pollinated.  It has also been suggested that heirlooms are from varieties at least 50 years old. This too is open for debate.

What is Open-Pollinated?
Open pollinated means the seeds from the plant can be saved, grown again the following year and produce an exact replica of the plant the seeds came from. For instance, if you grow a certain kind of tomato, and you like its taste, size, and production, you are pretty much guaranteed the seeds from that tomato will reproduce closely to the original plant.

What is Hybridization?
In order for a plant to produce, it must be pollinated. Although hybridization can and does happen naturally, forced pollination is done by human intervention with the intent of producing a specific characteristic. Someone may cross two different varieties of a certain vegetable. A variety may be chosen for its resistance to frost, and another may be chosen for its disease resistance. The two are crossed in the hopes pf producing both desirable traits in the offspring.
What the problem with hybridization?
1. For one thing, hybridized plants are generally patented. You must buy new seeds every year if you want to keep growing that plant.
2. The seeds cannot be saved and replanted. You will hardly ever get a desirable result from them. They will be unpredictable.
3. Because cross-pollination can occur, a purely historical heirloom plant is in danger of being pollinated by a hybrid or genetically modified variety and it’s purity is lost. Not only is the original variety lost, but its history is gone and we are forced to accept the new one.

What is a Genetically Modified plant?
GMO (genetically modified organisms) are plants that have had their genetic material altered. An organism from a completely different species, like pig genes for instance, are inserted into the plant gene. The purpose here is to produce a plant resistant to certain factors like disease, weather, and even more horrifying PESTICIDE.
For instance, a genetically modified soybean has been produced with a bacterium resistant to pesticides. This means that plant can be sprayed with the pesticide and the chemical does its job to weeds but does not hurt the soybean. Farmers have jumped on this bandwagon like gangbusters. They weigh the cost of weed control against having to purchase new seed every year from the seed companies.
We will not go into the ethical ramifications about such practices, but will state that if this doesn’t alarm anyone, then there is something seriously wrong in the world!
Who benefits from Engineering?
Seed companies with the sole purpose of controlling the world’s food supply, specifically the seed to produce the food. Many do it under the guise of solving hunger or some other ridiculous reason.  Plain and simple, it is all about money.

Family Seed Planting Chart

What To Grow For A Family of 4
What a family of 4 needs to grow for a one year supply of food
The following chart is only an estimation.
Some would need more, others less. You must make your own adjustments.

Type of Vegetable/Fruit Amount of
Plants Needed
Spacing (if row)
Apple 3 Trees
Apricot 2 Trees
Asparagus 30 plants
Beans 100′ row 6″
Beets 100′ row 6″
Broccoli 25 Plants
Cabbage 15 Plants
Carrots 200 plants
Cauliflower 15 Plants
Celery 20 Plants
Cherry 2 Trees
Corn 200′ row 12″
Cucumber 10 Plants
Eggplant 10 Plants
Kohlrabi 20′ Row
Lettuce 30 Heads
Mustard 5 Plants
Onions (Green) 15′ Row 2″
Onions (Bulb) 30′ Row 8-12″
Parsley 3 Plants
Peaches 2 Trees
Pear 2 Trees
Peas 130′ Row 5″
Peppers (Green) 10 Plants
Peppers (Hot) 5 Plants
Plums 2 Trees
Popcorn 30′ Row 12″
Potatoes 60′ Row 36″
Pumpkins 5 Plants
Radishes 30′ Row 6″
Raspberry 100′ Row 12″
Sage 2 Plants
Spinach 20 Plants
Squash 5 Plants
Strawberry 100′ Row 24″
Tomatoes (Slicing) 10 Plants
Tomatoes (Paste) 20 Plants
Tomatoes (Salsa) 5 Plants
Turnips 10′ Row 8″
Watermelon 6 Plants