Tag Archives: gardening

It’s time for that annual – Christmas Recycling :)

27 Dec

It’s that time again

Okay, so you didn’t burn your house down as you lit up that tree in the corner of your living room until it resembled a nuclear reactor.

But, now that St. Nick has come and gone (thank the heaven’s… I’m not sure we could have survived one more day of that), it’s time to start thinking about WHO you’re gonna talk into hauling the evidence out and cleaning up the mess…

Now here at RR, we’re all about “recycling, repurposing and reusing”…

While many of us sprung for that “plant it somewhere in the yard later” version of the Yuletide lumber yard…

Statistically, most of us bought “farmed trees”… (enterprising souls among us filled that empty cavity in our celebration by obtaining trees that we bought a “self-harvest permit” for, usually from some secluded spot just out of the sight line in the nosy neighbor next door’s yard)…

Wait! That’s not it… 🙂

We drove way out into the forest, through the snow and mud and potholes…  and then argued, negotiated and listened somewhat attentively as some whined… until just the right tree was selected, inspected and then… hacked free from Mother Earth…

(Okay, around here, we just tuned out the wailing and then murdered the closest tree to the truck…)

This usually involves one person finger-pointing, changing their minds 862 times and then… someone else doing some finger-pointing of their own (usually with their middle finger) and then doing all the heavy lifting and chainsaw juggling…

However it happens, most of you get an organic (REAL) tree stuffed through your front door and then onto a prominent place in your living room, so that you can decorate it and shame the neighbors with your “Christmas Celebration Creation”.

And then. it happens…

Someone decides that they need that corner of the room back and that darned tree has to go…

And guess who gets stuck with that task? Yep. The same sorry SOB that was forced to give up a day in his warm, insulated garage blissfully  organizing tools or playing with a new Harley part or tinkering happily away at the workbench as Joe Walsh tortures a piece of ash in the background… only to find himself spending the entire day listening to his “alleged better half” recant stories of how “the tree we got last year was better…” while you contemplate pulling over and freeing up space in the interior of your truck by tossing a certain someone into a snowbank…

But, I’m not bitter… 😉

So, once you get tired of listening to all the nagging, you’re faced with two tasks.

The first task is stripping the trees of all the flotsam and jetsam the kid carefully threw onto it, WHILE the kid is howling like a scalded cat because you’ve dared touch “His Tree”.

Eventually, you give in, stop threatening him and put him now for a nap, lulled into slumber with tales of little kids waking up stone cold dead in the morning if they don’t stop causing trouble for their parents… 😉

The second task, once the kid is in bed and out from under the tree, doing everything but chaining himself to it so that you can’t remove it… is figuring out what you’re  going to do with the dead, tormented, relic of Mother nature’s beauty and grace that you’ve turned into a quickly browning, needle shedding, “Master of disaster”…

It’s at this point that you need to start thinking about those “next” steps.

I mean, the poor thing gave up it’s life to give you a small (and I’m talking about a 5 year old sized) package of joy. The least you can do is honor it’s sacrifice by doing something with the tree that is “useful”… in the grand scheme of things.

When I was a kid… we gathered up every tree in the neighborhood and then carted them down to the local lake. There, they were twined together and thrown haphazardly onto floating barges, so we could tow them out into the lake and “bury them at sea” complete with fifes and salutes… so that they could become shelter for the fish. This insured that (a) they were “out of sight and out of mind, and (b) that come summer, we’d have plenty of new fish to catch, all the while insuring that our parents got some much needed peace and quiet by “allowing us to go fishing…” some place beyond their hearing. 🙂


The Forestry guys do it now…

When we got a little bit older, we realized that we lived in a land surrounded by golf courses, HOAs and old folks that used their front yards to generate status.


We started collecting those trees so that we could stuff them into a chipper that my Dad “borrowed” from the Marine Base (usually during a period of darkness) and we caught the “output” in “SuperSacks” for resale to the locals who had provided us with the mulching material in the first place.

Okay, we charged them $2 for “tree removal” by hauling the trees off… usually by dragging them down the street behind our Sting-Ray bicycles.

Then, we ground them up into mulch and piled the “organic mulch” into wagons (again dragged down the street via left-over candy cane fueled kid power ala Sting-Ray… to sell the “mulching material back to neighbors, for $2 a wagon load.

For another $2, we’d scatter it willy-nilly into their shrubs, to “beautify and protect their landscaping. We reminded them along the way that mulching was not only good for the plants, it helped conserve water. And since we were in a drought period where watering your lawn was a big “no-no”… the pitch ran rather well…

By the end of the first week of New Years, we had cold hard cash… which we planned to use for Rock’N’Roll music albums (which we would hide from the discerning eyes and ears of our parents) , guitar picks, bicycle upgrades and candy…

It never worked out that way. What happened is that mom reminded us that if we wanted to continue doing things like “eating”… we all had to pitch in.  (sigh!)

So, the realities of being a “military family” ground their jackboots into our entrepreneurial dreams… but we sure ate good for a few weeks after that. 🙂

Okay, fast forward 40 years…


Local landscaping companies now drive up and down the block, collecting “dead trees” in big stakebed trailers, so that they can crush the dreams of enterprising kids… um… er…. grind them into mulch themselves, thus getting “Free” mulch to flagrantly resale to all their clients as “Organic goodness”.

This while kids everywhere line the streets in sadness, saluting those trees as they are carted down the street… like John Kennedy’s riderless horse during that hallowed funeral procession.

A word of warning;

Pine needles are acidic. That means that if you mulch them onto the wrong plants, you’re going to harm your shrubbery. Around here, we use pine needle mulch at the base of blueberries. The neighbor ladies who have been here for generations use them to perk up and protect their gardenias and periwinkles.

This “tree mulch” also works great as “winter cover” for areas where you get snow. Around here (there are several feet of snow on the ground as I type this) a thick coating of “Christmas Tree Mulch” is just the ticket to protect your plants  and shrubs from the cruel bite of winter. And as that mulch breaks down and turns into compost, it’s going to add some tasty soil improvement goodness to that soil!

But, you don’t have to have a chipper to get some benefit from those trees in the “snow zones”.

Here in Montana, we sometimes use those dead Christmas trees (left intact) to create “snow drift hedges”… big berms created to keep snow from blowing into the front yard.

After winter passes, we simply retrieve those tree carcasses and then use them for bonfire firewood.

But wait… there’s more;

Nowadays, there are a minions among us that use these “Christmas Corpses” for “Frankenstein” inspired purposes.

“It’s alive… It’s alive! Wait… not it’s not! We need to harvest it’s organs! Quick, get me my sap extractor!”

Pine sap (that stuff that bled out of the trunk all over the top of your truck and then again all over your carpet) has medicinal properties. In fact, it’s anti-bacterial. You can use the stuff just like honey (the Greeks and Romans had this down to an artform), to close up wounds. You know… wounds like chainsaw “slip-ups” and twine abrasions… or the ones you get above your eye after ignoring the wife’s ranting for a while… ranting usually targeted at chores you were supposed to do before Christmas but never got around to…  Talk about heated encounters…

Speaking of “things incendiary” – pine sap also makes a great firestarter.

But, you don’t need to “harvest sap” to get the benefits of the pine…

You know, I remember the days when we talked lovingly about the “benefits of the pine”…

It used to have a direct connection to baseball and Spring… Now… it’s found it’s evil way into conversations about sap. Can you imagine that next beer fueled discourse at the local Sports Pub?

“What did you do this weekend?”

“Well, I harvested some sap…”

“Whaaaaaa? Is that what they’re calling it nowadays?” 🙂

No. Not going there. Not gonna do it.

Did you know that if you bundle pine tree branches together, they make dandy torches? I mean, if they were good enough for unruly mobs brandishing fire and pitchforks, they ought to be good enough for you!  We bundle them together tightly using baling wire. Then, you  shove the “bitter end” into the ground and set them ablaze… to make some “pine powered tiki lamps” for those backyard parties…

Around here, the locals use those pine needles to make a concoction that they call “Christmas Cider”… using the pine needles to make “tea”. We’ve already established that pine needles are “anti-bacterial”. So, using that logic, thee are those who take that Olympian leap… and then consume it.

Now, chewing pine needles is a task best left to beavers and ground squirrels, if you ask me. But fear not… you can indeed get the benefits by drinking the stuff.

Grab an old cup (one that you won’t mind hurling away in disgust later….) and then grab about a dozen green pine needles. Combine needles in the cup. Add about 1 and a half cups of boiling water and then steep the needles for about 10 minutes.

In my experience (we field test everything around here) if you’re a “smart pig” you’ll add a significant amount of honey to the brew about halfway through. Trust me, this “tea” is an acquired taste.

After about ten minutes, extract the needles and then drink away…

The claims are that this brew rivals good Single Malt Scotch for soothing the ravages of cold air and sore throats…

… but frankly, I’m thinking that anyone who compares “pine needle tea” to good Scotch must be buying their Scotch at a steep discount from non-English speaking liquidators out of the back of a battered old van at the flea market.

The abuse of  pine needles continues.

Some miscreants among us actually grind up the wood and pine cones to use as thickeners for cooking. They liken this to other store-bought thickeners used in flour and corn starch concoctions. They’ll tell you that the inner bark of pine trees is nutritious, tasty and chock full of vitamins, especially Vitamin C. They’ll also tell you that their ancestors, sailing the plains in Conestoga wagons, relied on this as emergency and survival resources.

Us? Well, frankly, we’re not really interested in sorting trees into piles labeled “Pine” Spruce” or “Fir” in order to determine which ones can be mulched, burned (we prefer bonfires to using them in wood stoves or fireplaces), eaten (gasp!) or turned into a toasty warm concoction that tastes like gasoline (grimace!)…

… we have a wood chipper and we ain’t scared of it.

We’ll chop up those trees until they resemble the output of one of those late night infomercial Ronco Chop-O-Matics… and then we’ll let the kids toss them under the trees and shrubs.

And if your kids can beat the landscapers to the neighbors houses…. they can turn those trees into cash… or even forts… many a kid has ‘nearly lost an eye” in pine cone wars while “hunkered down behind all those dead soldiers”…

We used to shoot ’em out of slingshots made from surgical tubing and the bottoms of old bleach containers.

Remember that the ammo contains the cure… you can close the war wounds with the sap…

Now that is some “Christmas Goodness”, there, boy… 🙂

The Renaissance Ronin

Glass Salads… what?

3 Dec

Many of my building families are building “out there on the edge”…  in places where a bit more thought is taken on, before planting seeds.

For instance, that ISBU Homestead feels like paradise, until the deer and squirrels eat your garden.

Then, you’re thinking had about making trips into town, to stock up on things you thought you had covered.

Me? I’m thinking about eating well-fed venison, but hey…

The folks over at windowfarms.org have your back though.

They’re teaching people to grow “window farms”.

(What did you think they were gonna teach – YOGA?) 😉

Quote from npr.org: (Do you support NPR.Org. If not, WHY not?) 🙂

The window farms Web site provides instructions on how to put together a system that grows three plants. The materials will cost about $30 — and not all of them are traditional gardening supplies: water bottles, an aquarium air pump, air valve needles (like the kind you use to pump up a basketball), and a hanging system designed for displaying art.

Riley says that putting recycled consumer goods to use is an important part of the DIY ethic.

“We’re kind of showing that we can actually get really, really far using things that we already have available to us as consumers,” she says.

ISBU homes usually have significant expanses of glass to let the outside in.

Now, you can have the best of both worlds.

I highly recommend that you head over to Windowfarms.org and check it out.

Look at the pretty pictures and then click “Build Your Own” at the bottom. 🙂

image credit: Julie Makarova

Sustaining IN the Suburbs… Smart.

30 Jan

After my last post (aimed at making you think about what’s happening outside your yards, I admit…)

… my email account got pounded by people who kept telling me that living in anything resembling the city precluded any kind of “reality based” sustainable lifestyle.

A death in our family took us out of town unexpectedly for the week, so it’s time to get back to the task of dispelling myths and debunking urban folklore…

YES. You can build an affordable home out of repurposed materials. I’ve been showing you how to do exactly this for years.


YES. You can take that same mindset and then apply it to places “non-Corten”, like your roof and your yard.

Using good design let’s you capture the sun and take her hostage – ala heat and even electricity.

You want to really make a difference in your paychecks?

Kill your mortgage, “grab the sun” and then grow your own food.

And you don’t have to live in the boonies or the woods to do it.

People who claim that are just afraid of the hard work it takes to earn this “simpler and less complicated life”.

Look around you. If you’re like us, you’re surrounded by “typical suburban lots, filled with typical suburban tract houses”.

If you have one of these, you probably already have everything you need, to get started.

And Shhhhsh! Don’t tell Monsanto.

They’ve paid for politicians who are writing bills to “stop” the way you grow your own food. The “Food Safety Act” is just ONE example of the legislation that is currently making the Beltway circuit, legislation aimed primarily at taking more of your personal power from you.

Can families really wrest back power from “the authorities” and make good on their own  hard work to improve their lives?

Check out a feature called “Living the Simple Life” where ABC Nightline profiled the Dervaes family.

This family isn’t “living like the Amish”, “living in the boonies” or even “hunkered down in the Ozarks”.

They live in LA. Not Louisiana! I’m talking about Los Angeles.

Welcome to the world of the urban homesteader. The Dervaes are a family of four and they aren’t independently wealthy or trust fund babies. They actually live quite comfortably on about (3) bundles of Benjamins (30 grand US) a year. $30,000 a year.

Are they suburban farming a huge tract lot measuring in the gazillions of square feet? Nope. They’re only using a fifth of an acre to grow their food. And, that includes poultry, dairy and the veggies.

They even have a surplus. They make enough goodies to sell to local restaurants and neighbors.

But wait, there’s more!

We’ve all heard about Bio-Fuel, right? It’s a fuel based on recycled vegetable oil. When you burn it in a car or truck, it smells like a french fry factory is following you everywhere you go.

Well, that’s what the Dervaes do, too. They make their own fuel for their automobile from the used vegetable oil they get from the restaurants they sell produce to.  Then, it’s easily and inexpensively (about a buck a gallon) to fuel It costs $1/ gallon to make.

The only down-side is that it makes you hungry as all get out for fried food… like french fries. I’ll never be thin again… 🙂

They have a nice home. They have good food. They make a nice little income to offset any costs. And…

They aren’t afraid of hard work.

So next time you’re sitting in traffic for an hour trying to get to work, consider this;

It’s not some unfathomable grand scheme. It’s just reality. Many of our parents and grandparents grew up this way. Then, it was NORMAL.

The Dervaes are cool as heck, but they aren’t anything “special”. What they are is “dedicated”. You can do what they’ve done.

You’ll live better. You’ll get a buffer from rising fuel prices, inflated food prices, and those fools in Congress messing around with the economy. You won’t have to worry (as much) about losing your job.

You’ll eat better.

And, I’ll add that you won’t be ingesting chemicals and pesticides.

You’ll be happier, and even healthier.

Hard work and exercise will do that to you whether you like it or not.

Yeah, yeah, I know. We can’t all start “Farming on Fulton Street”…

BUT, you can take some notes and figure out how to work some of this into your own lives.

The reason you’re reading this blog is that you want an affordable, sustainable, strong home, right?

You’ve heard me “preach the sermon” over and over again;

  • Self-responsibility.
  • Self-sustainability.
  • Self-reliance.

Why can’t that exact same mindset extend out beyond your porch?

Live HERE. Eat THIS. Drink the Kool-aid. :(

26 Jan

Here at RR we urge you to look at what’s happening around you.

Being aware means being active as things change around you…

Identify, React, Respond.

  1. Decades ago we built ISBU homes in the woods out of necessity.
  2. Years ago we built ISBU homes because they remained  affordable and cost effective.
  3. NOW, we build ISBU homes because in some cases, it’s the only way to insure that families have homes at all.

And “the powers that be” aren’t exactly thrilled with the idea.

The people building these homes aren’t walking around like lemmings, doing just like everyone else. They’re thinking for themselves and making decisions based on what’s best for their families, sometimes in spite of local authorities who have been bought and paid for in part or in entirety by corporations that don’t want to see their profits eroded by “clear thinkers and mavericks”…

We teach you how to build safe affordable housing out of steel boxes.

We teach you to re-use, recycle, and re-purpose materials to keep your costs down.

Then we teach you how to insure that you’ll have what you need, by providing it for yourself. Stuff like vegetables,. for instance.

Will they? No. Not only will they tell you what you “can’t” live in, they’ll even tell you what you “can’t” grow in your yard.

It’s about control. Those people that we elected to serve us, now want to control us.

Want proof?

Is this the future of “home grown” food?

Pay attention and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Some little zoning schmuck has gotten all full of themselves and decided to “Play Napoleon”.

This is an isolated incident, right?

Um… Google: MONSANTO.

IMHO: If you start ranking “evil companies bent on doing harm to people” Monsanto is the Darth Vader of Food “Producers”.

And they’ve already bought and paid for Obama and most of Congress.

Google: “The Food Safety Bill”

You’ll find out that there are people out there who want to make it illegal for you to grow a large garden. And they’ll use the Department of Homeland Security to enforce it.

Cooler heads must prevail before we not only have no place to live, we’ll also have nothing to eat…

Unless we “Step and fetch for the Man” like good little lemmings…

When is a CONTAINER, not a container?

13 Apr

When I’m not talking to you about ISBUs, or Plasma Cutters, or even ISBU home floorplans…

I’ve been talking to you about  “Survival Gardening.”

Oh, I have too. You can’t click away that fast… You’ve seen the posts!  😉

But not everyone has;  a  wife that nags them almost constantly to get up off the sofa and go out in the yard, “to get some exercise by playing in their big yard with a shovel”… or a few kids to trick into doing “forced labor” to build Chicken Coops/Greenhouses or raised beds, or plant row upon row of beautiful tomatoes…

Anybody wanna buy a wife? 😉

And not everyone has a driveway that they can line with fences made of PVC, to turn something ugly into something productive and green… literally.

But anyone, even YOU… can “container garden.”

You don’t have to buy big fancy pots, and spend tons of cash to get started.

Here’s an example of how easy, and even creative it can be.

Self-Watering Containers

These containers are great because you make them for less than $5. They are made from materials that most likely would’ve been sent to landfill and are readily available.

A self watering container can be placed on a fire escape, balcony or in front yard. Since it’s in a container, it can easily be transported as well.

The tools and materials required are:
• 5 gallon bucket
• 1 vinyl tile
• 15″ of copper pipe
• Plastic deli container (or butter, creamed cheese container)
• Drill with 1/4″ bit
• Marker
• Razor
• Scissors
• Duct tape

Check out the video below for assembly instructions or check out the full instructions on how to make a self-watering container.

This little brainstorm didn’t come out of my head, either! I got it from a smart guy named Mike over at The Growing Edge.com!

And I suspect that he stole it from the guys over at Urban Organic Gardener.com

So, if you cut yourself on that Exacto Knife, fall off your fire escape, or just generally tick off the fireman trying to use said fire escape to fight a fire… blame THAT guy (Michael Lieberman) at “The Growing Edge” or even the guys at Urban Organic Gardener.com… and not ME! 🙂

Here’s where you can find Mike’s entire post:

See? If you run one of my posts, I will run one of yours! It’s “Win-win!”

Now, you have no excuses, except maybe an allergy to hard work. Get busy!

Wanna know more? Go see Michael. I’m sick of gardening! I’ve got ammo to reload! 😉

Stay tuned!

Let’s Talk About “What IF?”

31 Mar

Today, I’m going to talk about “WHAT IF?”…

Originally, I wrote this for my other blog, but I’m going to run it here, too. I think it’s so important, that it needs to be “aired out.”

Now, I’m not all “ego-driven” (unless you ask my wife), and I don’t have any insight that comes “from above,” I’m just “standing by the shore, watching the storm come in.”

We get email.

Yeah, people actually take the time out from their busy schedules, to let us know that we’re:

(And I quote)

(a) crazier than a bag fulla cats (or even “Crazy Harry”),

(b) just miscreants stirring up trouble,

(c) “Closet Supremacists” looking to start a fight so we can watch the chaos, and…

(d) Republicans eager to throw stones at a President who inherited a mess, and made some changes…

Okay, here’s our reply:

(a) We like cats too much to shove them into bags. That’s just mean.

Do that around me, and I WILL punch you in the eye, or worse.

(b) We choose our fights very carefully and we avoid confrontation as much as possible. This precludes “causing any” whenever possible.

It’s important to LIVE without stress or drama.

(c) We don’t find ourselves aligned with the dogma’s of Aryans, or Extremists, or Fundamentalists (or even Baptists, for that matter). We’re just people with families who want to safely navigate any peril we’ll encounter, and get thru any storm that comes our way.

At some point, you need to look to your own house, before you look to everyone else’s.

(d) We don’t see ourselves as being “politically aligned” or even “politically correct” anymore. It’s far too late for that. Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, a Liberal or a “Tea Bagger”… the perilous times we now live in have twisted themselves into something that affects every single one of us adversely, at some level.

You don’t need a “Magic 8-Ball” to see your unemployed neighbors, or friends with homes in foreclosure.

Things aren’t getting better.

It’s time for US to look after ourselves, since the U.S. Government doesn’t seem to be doing much in the way of “positive action” to make things better.

That government, that Congress that was supposed to provide for our security is too busy negotiating “riders and attachments,” “give-aways and bribes,” to get landmark legislation passed that will surely bring all of us to our knees. When even the analysts unite to tell us that something is really, really bad… well, we’d better start listening.

The times, they are a’changin…

It’s time to see things as they are, and then return to “Ground Zero.”

The problem is having real security in the basic things that are true necessities — air, water, food, shelter, and clothing.

Air – Although it’s quality is declining in most of our metropolitan locales, it’s still free and plentiful.

The multinationals have not figured out a way to control it, and Congress hasn’t figured out a way to tax it… yet.

Water – Hello? There are places in America where you’ll get a ticket for watering your lawn, or even washing your car.

Potable water is becoming more and more of a problem in more and more places on earth, due to overpopulation, pollution, drought, and waste.

Shelter- Well, Renaissance Ronin and The Bubba Effect are both basically just “Family Survival blogs” that talks a lot about creating safe shelters.

In fact, that is “part and parcel” of what we are chartered to help solve here. Our roofs won’t fall in tomorrow if everything else comes to a screeching halt.

Building an affordable, sustainable home that works with you on a daily basis to insure your family’s security and well-being just makes sense, especially NOW.

Clothing – Have you been to Walmart or Target lately? In the US, very little clothing is being made here.

There’s a reason that there are huge mountains of empty shipping containers stacked up in every major shipping port and railyard in America.

Everything is imported from overseas!  There is probably very little local sustainability of clothing supply anywhere within our borders, except in isolated places where commerce is still based on “the local Mom and Pop store” that Walmart hasn’t managed to kill yet.

People will say: “But wait… we have stockpiles! This is America! We have huge excesses of clothing on hand for the short to medium term.”

Sure we do, but how are you going to actually GET them? Commerce will come to a screeching halt if there is anything that resembles a collapse. Trucks may dare venture out on open roads, but I’m betting they won’t. Why? Those trucks will become huge 18 wheeled targets…

I’m hearing that old “Country Western” song in the back of my head right about now (I forget who sang it… CW McCall, I think… wait, I’ll “Google” it):

Get a load of that old stereo! I remember having one just like it in our living room…

I’ve left the best for last…

Food – is the “Elephant in the Room” that nobody seems to want to talk about.

It’s a big, big issue. You don’t have to turn on Cable News to figure out that world stockpiles of food are at the lowest levels since records have ever been kept.

And “Worldwide distribution of food?” Forget about it.

THAT is utterly beyond anyone’s control. This beast is barely still chained in the yard, and it’s a largely unmanageable system that barely seems to function as it keeps “working” so far…

Look, we are totally at the mercy of the globalized markets for our food.

Check the vegetable aisles in your local stores. All the produce seems to be from Chile, or Peru, or Mexico. The system might seem robust now, as you pay several dollars for a pound of tomatoes, but the reality is that it’s a supply system that can be shut off in a heartbeat. THEN, what will you do?

When we were stationed in America, I grew up in Southern California, in the middle of a huge farming district. We literally ran out our back door, and into neighboring fields, to pick enough produce for dinner, with the landlord’s blessings. (He was an “Ex-Marine” and a big fan of my father, who ran a local US Marine Air Station.) Alas, commerce and progress reared their ugly heads, and most of California’s produce production moved north, to places like the Sacramento valley, which represented a huge breadbasket.

Sacramento is famous for tomatoes, a huge trade crop, but even with that  seemingly unlimited availability of tomatoes and nothing else, you are certainly going to starve to death.

I mean, tomatoes are great, all mashed up into condiments, but you still need proteins. And sauce… we eat a LOT of pasta around here. But, many of the other vegetables grown there are similarly without vital components needed for survival.

Fortunately, there are also huge rice paddies and fruit and nut orchards within bicycling distance of the biggest towns in the region.

Now,  if you could harness all that… you’d be talking about real “Grass Roots” subsistence!

The problem there (beyond the fact that the State is in utter chaos and bankruptcy, as I type this) is that the million or more people have absolutely no clue how to provide for themselves on a basic level.

The few that do? Well, they won’t have a chance against the mobs.

Many of us grow gardens, and incorporate that produce into our families diets. However, unless that garden is pretty “intensive,” the vegetables that we grow in our backyards is not nearly enough to provide the calories we’ll need to live.

And we’ll burn calories bringing those crops in, unless we can talk the kids into doing it. Here’s how I’m gonna do it, when Joshua gets older:

And, there’s the grim reality that those very same gardens may actually pose a threat to us, as “those without seek out those with,” in mobs.  We grow gardens for the fresh food, the education, and the knowledge that we are creating a real “sustainable environment” in our own space, and we work hard at it.

There’s a lesson here:

Members of the LDS Church figured it out a long time ago. Now, as most of you already know, I’m a Jew, but I’m not afraid to “tip my yamulke” to those who have the foresight to create communities where security is provided by insuring the food supply.

They store, can, and dry. And then, they stockpile food as they pray, to the very same G-d I do, for guidance, and calm, and “divinely granted” insight…

Why don’t others do this??

Well, it’s because we’re not taught from the beginning, that times can get hard. If we’re out of something, we jump in our SUV  and race to Walmart or Winn-Dixie. We’ve outgrown conversations in the house about the “Great Depression,” or WWII Rationing.

What will you do, when Walmart or other grocery stores can’t be relied on to fill your shelves and pantries?


I suggest that you have something important to think about. And, it’s a great topic for family discussion over the dinner table.

The real answer here, in my view, isn’t to buy guns, or bottled water, or MRE’s.

It’s to “gather the masses,” getting people together at the local level, to discuss and then understand the very real and imminent dangers that we face, as the American Economy falters. We need to go back to the times when communities actually had dedicated spaces, for purposes like Community Gardens.

We need to face the fact that “things are changing” and then work together as friends and neighbors to achieve local food security.

To people who find themselves living in places like Phoenix, AZ, where there is a large population, essentially no local food production, and no excess water or decent land to grow food with if they wanted to, I have some advice…

Consider your “needs,” and then consider your “haves.”

And then, act on it.  You may figure out that you “need” a moving van in your driveway…

Stay tuned…

And be nice to animals. The eye you save may be your own… 😉

More fun with PVC!

19 Mar

Last time…

… we talked about something other than ISBUs or plasma cutters… we talked about using PVC to build a Greenhouse/Chicken Coop to get a jump on chores.

After all, the more chores we get out of the way, the more time we get playing with the plasma cutter!

And before you ask… Yeah… I’ve actually done this. In fact, it started a “range war” with my neighbors, who thought it “looked like a blight” and gave me all kinds of grief.

In reality, I think that several “soccer moms” just got on their hubbies to do likewise, and those guys didn’t like the idea too much.

But, no one ever said anything to me “directly” as I was always out in the driveway working on a Harley, and I usually had some “tat covered – big burly biker type” handing me tools. I think the neighbors thought that if they confronted us, we’d thrash them.

And… we would have. 😉

Ronin’s PVC Fence Garden:

Take 4″ pipe and using a circle saw mounted in your drill, cut 2 1/2″ holes in it,  spaced evenly along the lengths of your pipe.

If you want to be really “high-tech,” paint your pipe (on the outside… nobody’s gonna see the inside) black first. That way it’ll soak up the sun. Heated soil produces better plants… unless you’re doing this in the Sahara Desert…

And don’t be an idiot! Line up all the holes first! The last thing you want is holes running “willy-nilly” all over the place. Neatness counts,  huh?  I bore holes about every foot or so, on center. But depending on what you’re planting, you can go closer. Don’t go any closer than 6″ though.  The holes will be too close together for good root production to take place inside the pipe.

These holes are where you’re gonna stick your plants, so do yourself a favor and hit them with a little sandpaper first, or you’ll scratch yourself to pieces.  I know that you’ll probably survive a scratch or two, but heaven forbid your kid gets a gash on his knuckles while helping you plant the crops. Your wife will look at you like you’re Charley Manson!

“Hey! YOU were supposed to be watching him, you idiot!”

Now, you can just run these pipes down the outside of your fence posts, but I double them up. I mean, I’m already there, and I do love using power tools, so what the heck, eh?

Plus, you get a REALLY sturdy fence that way.

If you’re going to run 2 sections per “row” – alternate your hole locations, so that everybody gets enough room to grow without crowding.

You can wrap fabric over the ends of the pipe, to allow for drainage.

Now, just sink some 4×4 fence posts in the ground, and then run a piece of your garden pipe between them, both sides, front and back. I secure them to the posts using hurricane straps and drywall screws. It’s easy.

Starting high enough off the ground to insure that your dogs don’t pee in them, just run them up a few feet apart, until you get to shoulder height. Anything higher than that is hard to plant, tend, and harvest.

A drip irrigation system snaking up and down,  back and forth… keeps everything green and maintenance free!

Note that the ends are depressed, so that they angle down slightly, to help with drainage. Just put a little pressure on them with the hurricane straps to get them angled down the way you want them.

I put a big container plant at each end, to catch the “extra” water drainage. Don’t want to be accused of wasting water!

When you’re thru, you have a sturdy fence, fresh food, and dense, lush, glorious… privacy.

That’s a “three-fer!”

These photos are of Peter Duke’s fence garden, in Orlando, FL. I’d have used my own photos, but a hurricane ate them. After I get a new fence built, I’ll add my photos to the mix.

Have fun!

I write this blog, because like many other families in America and beyond right now…  my family’s SURVIVAL is at stake. This blog is the one thing that we can do to help others.

I’m asking you to get involved.  We’re drowning here. IF you can, consider “throwing us a bone”, huh?

If I’ve helped you, informed you, educated you, or just entertained you with the hundreds of informative posts we’ve  written… please consider donating a few bucks to the blog, to help MY family survive and rebuild OUR own home.

Every dollar counts, and  every single penny gets very carefully spent.

There’s a Paypal button located right up there at the top of the page. It’s easy, it’s SAFE, and it’s SECURE.  And we’ll appreciate it more than you can possibly know.

Fun With PVC!

11 Mar

Hi there!

Here at “Renaissance Ronin” we’re looking for excuses to do “manly” things, since our wives made us stay up all night making “seed tapes” for another project of ours:

The “2010 – The Bubba Effect “I’m NOT A VICTIM” Survival Garden.”

That’s because… lately, somebody who shall remain nameless…  talked me into making “seed tape,”and like an idiot, I mentioned it to my wife.  So now, (robbed of “the seeds are too small for me to see” excuse) I’m tasked with starting all the seeds.

I’ll get you for that, Alina. I swear I will… 🙂

Oops. I wasn’t gonna “name names”… Oh well! 😉

(Man… my “I’ll get you” list is getting longer, lately… Hmmm…)

You see, when we’re not dreaming and scheming all things ISBU, we’re thinking about what, or sometimes even WHO we’ll eat next. Because the only thing worse than a “houseless Daddy Ronin,” is one with his stomach grumbling.

Well, starting seed in March requires a little ingenuity, since the weather is sneaky here, and it can turn on you in a second. Here in coastal Mississippi, the weather is just downright demented. Last night it dipped down into the frosty part of the thermometer to the point where your breath almost clouded. Then, this AM it rained, then it got bitterly cold, and now… it’s 64 degrees and it’s headed back down into the thirties tonight.

Talk about a roller-coaster. Mother Nature must have missed her meds… again.

So, I started thinking about building a small greenhouse, but because I’m frugal as “all get out”…

(And people frequently tell me to do just that… “AL! GET OUT!“)

(And no… about the “frugal” thing… it’s not a “JEWISH” thing… It’s a “POOR” thing, so just stop it.)

I have a bunch of left over PVC Connectors. And, I have a bunch of leftover PVC plastic pipe.

And… what could possibly be more “manly” than plumbing?

So I thought to myself;

“Self… I ain’t up to “bare-fisted shark wrestling” this week, so…  what kind of mischief can I get into before the fumes from the PVC glue overtake me?”

And, Voila! Then it came to me like a blow to the head with a cast-iron skillet…

Here’s what I’m going to do:

Instant greenhouse, that “Transformers” into a chicken coop, later this year!

C’mon, you guys know how I am about “recycling and repurposing” stuff. I mean, really…

I’ll put chicken wire over it now, from top to bottom. And then, I’ll cover the chicken wire with clear plastic sheeting material, that you can buy in big rolls.

WHY? Because I just happen to have some of that “plastic on a roll.” It’s see thru, and a little bit thicker than the stuff they wrap your new VCR or DVD Player in, from the factory.

Then, I’ll build some benches to plant in (using recycled wood, of course), and run a waterline up inside one of the “legs” of the PVC structure, so I can water the plants now, and then water the chickens later. I’ll just build it so the whole thing runs off a garden hose attached to the greenhouse/coop, wherever it gets dragged to in the yard.

I’ll run an extention cord up “the other side,” so I can install (2) overhead CFLs’s, to allow work after dusk…

I might even put “garden cart” wheels on it, to allow it to be drug all over the place without it rubbing on the frame when it gets moved.

Easy, easy, and it shouldn’t take more than a weekend. He said. 😉

To firmly anchor it to the ground, I’ll just use u-shaped coat-hanger wire, pushed down over the frame at the bottom, into the ground. I may even add a few tent pegs to it, just for insurance.

After the seeds get off to a good start, I’ll take the plastic off the sides, and then throw some chickens in there for Joshua to torment. I’ll just throw some dark plastic over part of it, to give them some shade…

And since we’re talking about PVC and gardening…

This guy used 2 & 1/2″ pipe for the outer structure, and 3 & 1/2″ pipe for the top and two vertical supports.  It’s easy to harvest with this walk-thru trellis.

Now them’s some “Manly” Cucumbers! I’m gonna have to send a big “Thank You” to Dave Camp, who built this PVC Beauty!

Don’t blame me.. or even Alina… blame this lady:

Or blame these guys:

You can find other cool stuff to make out of PVC here:


Yeah, I could have done it out of an ISBU.  But have you ever tried to drag an ISBU across the yard? Huh? Well?

I didn’t think so. Hmmmmphf!

Good luck.

I write this blog, because like many other families in America and beyond right now…  my family’s SURVIVAL is at stake. This blog is the one thing that we can do to help others.

I’m asking you to get involved.  We’re drowning here. IF you can, consider “throwing us a bone”, huh?

If I’ve helped you, informed you, educated you, or just entertained you with the hundreds of informative posts we’ve  written… please consider donating a few bucks to the blog, to help MY family survive and rebuild OUR own home.

Every dollar counts, and  every single penny gets very carefully spent.

There’s a Paypal button located right up there at the top of the page. It’s easy, it’s SAFE, and it’s SECURE.  And we’ll appreciate it more than you can possibly know.

Survival Gardening:101

13 Feb

Oy Vey!

Apparently, even in “Containerville”… it’s “Gardening time”.

How do I know that?

Well, the price of tomatoes is thru the roof, the last thing that got “tossed” around here was Joshua’s “cookies… um… er… dinner”…

I haven’t had a green salad since the Bush Administration, and even Walmart is having a special “truckload sale” on bags of soil.

Whatever happened to the good old days… You know… when you just dug a hole in the yard and then threw the seeds in? Huh?

People actually buy bags of DIRT. Oy Vey, what is this world coming to? 🙂

And this gave me pause to think. And we all know that is NEVER a good thing…  😉

Okay, beyond thinking it was time to hide until next winter, to avoid the gardening…

Once again, because of that furry little rascal Punxsutawney Phil, or whatever his name is,  it’s time to break out the rake and other assorted weapons of yard destruction, and commit an act of  aggression against groundhogs… um… er… your lawn.

And while we’re on the subject… “Punxsutawney”? Why not “Pittburg”? Or “Psychotic”? Or even “Premeditating”? At least I can spell those, without having to consult an Internet dictionary. Oy.

And why are we letting a Groundhog tell us what to do, anyway? I mean, what do they weigh?

About 6 pounds? Ten? I could take him… Probably.

It’s not like I don’t already have enough to do…

I’m trying to get some 20′ ISBUs ready for internal modification/fabrication, as we turn these little Corten Steel boxes into Mobile Medical Clinics, for service to the Haitian people ravaged by the earthquake in Port Au Prince.

I’ve got several pairs of family members building ISBU homes, who are trying to figure out where Tab A is, and how to get it into Slot B.

I’ve got email to catch up on…

I mean, I get about 120 emails a day. Okay, so about 80% of them are to tell me what a j@ck@ss I am… and a few are even spam.

But… some of them are really important. I’ll have you know that I’m a lost Prince of Nigeria, and I’ve won eleventy-gillion dollars. All they need to send me my cash inheritance is a copy of my driver’s license, my social security number, my address, and two valid credit card numbers (just to confirm my identity, of course)… So you guys better start showing me some respect…  😉

But since the recent rain softened up the yard, and I won’t need a jackhammer to carve out some room between the weeds, it’s time to make like Mr. Rogers and proudly yell out, to anyone who will listen… that age old catch phrase that every little kid knows by heart;

“HEY! Get yer butt outta my yard! I’ll turn the hose on YA! I’ll do it! I will TOO!”

Wait, that’s not it…

And then, once the crowd of “Nosy Parker” little kids is dispelled, who just wanted to see which “overly enthusiastic” door-to-door salesman you were burying… this week…

Your outdoor space is all cleared out before you know it, the weeds are cleaned up (by tossing them into the neighbor’s yard…), and your newly cleared acreage is ready to be turned into the biggest, wiltiest, droopiest patch of crabgrass that you ever saw…

Wait, that’s not it either…

But whether you’re gonna create “Green Acres” or just few “pots fulla goodness” that you’ll position over and over again on the patio because your wife can’t make up her freakin’ mind about where they look the best… um… er… never mind…

You need to take stock of your situation. After all, you show me a loser, and I’ll show you a person who didn’t have a good enough plan.

And you show me a guy with a really lousy garden, and I’ll show you a guy whose “significant other” is probably putting at least a  size 8 to his butt!

Remember, “forewarned is forearmed”, or a 5 yard penalty, or something like that…  🙂

Over the next few weeks, in between dazzling you with ISBU project after ISBU project, I’m gonna help your significant other make you pull more weeds, plant more seeds, and grow more stuff, than Johnny Freakin’ Appleseed.

And, I’m gonna start it all out by introducing you to a new “tribe member”, so we can all give them the good old “RR” welcome, and put em’ thru the ringer… After all, it’s what we do, huh? 😉


Because in order to:

  • Save your butt from your significant other’s boot,
  • Save your family from getting scurvy,
  • Safely house your tribe, and…
  • Keep that Utility guy outta your yard…

You have to  eat, too.  After all, you need your vitamins. You ain’t getting any younger… Right?

And just so you know, I’ll be soaking my mail in a bucket of water, just to make sure it don’t go boom. This ain’t my first rodeo…

Enjoy the gardening… 😉


Stay tuned.

Taking out the garbage…

9 Aug

I don’t usually do this, but today I’m going to just rant in “another direction…”

Don’t worry, it’s still a “Green Rant” that is perfectly in keeping with the spirit of this blog, it’s about living locally, working locally, and prospering locally… Hell, at least we’ll save money on gas…

As you know, I’m building a house for my family, out of recycled buildings, and shipping containers. It’s heady stuff, at least if you listen to all the locals telling me that “I’m out of my mind…”

It’s either that, or teach my family “the fine art of living under bridges.” And  frankly, too many people are already doing that, around here…

I was reading the Atlanta Business Chronicle the other day, looking for news of the Russians facing off with the Falcons or the Braves… After all, it’s been a day or so since they invaded Georgia, right?

(I know… I know… that’s not nice… I’m sorry… Actually, I’m apalled at the invasion of Georgia by the Russians, and I’m hoping the UN and the entire free-world come down on Putin and his cronies like a fat kid on a happy meal… Commie Bastards…)

And I read that a popular supermarket chain is actually paying someone to haul off their organic garbage…

Here’s the article;

(I didn’t get permission to reprint it, so if it disappears from the post soon, don’t blame me. It’s the lawyers fault! LOL!)

[Begin Article]

“Publix Super Markets partners with Organic Recovery”

Ever wonder what supermarkets do with those brown bananas or apples that have one too many bruises?

In the case of Publix, it will be recycled and turned into a high-power fertilizer.

The supermarket chain has partnered with Organic Recovery LLC, which debuted its first facility on Thursday in Pompano Beach, Fla.

The partnership works like this: Publix pays Organic Recovery to pick up the fruits, veggies, meats and bakery products that otherwise might end up in the dumpster. Organic Recovery turns it into liquid fertilizer, which is purchased by golf courses, homeowner associations and, eventually, individual homeowners.

The partnership is expected to increase Publix’s recycling rate by 25 to 30 percent in 33 stores. Organic Recovery’s goal is to serve all 84 Publix stores in Broward County by summer’s end.

Organic Recovery is planning two additional facilities in Lakeland, Fla., and Atlanta.

Lakeland-based Publix has 932 stores in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee, including 140 stores in metro Atlanta.

[End of Article]

Here’s my beef;

Does this really make any sense?

They could have accomplished the same exact results (for free), by allowing local gardeners to come get the old produce and organics, for use as composting material, in each and every neighborhood that Publix co-exists in.

Almost every community has one cranky old retired geriatric with a pick-up truck, willing to haul rotten produce to a community composting site…

Almost every community has a “community garden.”

Almost every community has a swarm of people trying desperately to cut down their food bills, by growing their own produce in their backyards…

(Oh… I get it…)

I guess the stockholders in Publix would get P.O.’d if the chain did anything to enrich the communities they actually do business in. After all, they might lose the ability to sell tomatoes at $4.00 a pound…

I gotta go now, my wife says I need to… say it with me… take out the garbage… LOL!

Stay tuned!