2017 Chronicles

This page lists the notable events of 2017. All events are listed in reverse chronological order (the January articles are at the bottom of this page).

Summary: 2017 was a surprising year for EDEN Barter Garden. The biggest surprise was our Asian eggplant—a real bumper crop that didn’t stop producing until the snow arrived in December. And our Moringa Oliefera grew like crazy—we couldn’t keep ’em below ten feet tall—and planting the tops produced even more trees! Our overall production has doubled year-over-year since our inception—mainly due to the lessons we’ve learned—from the bug wars to the weather battles. Most of all, we learned not to fight the frustration threshold, and to change direction for easier and more successful harvests.

Eden Garden Photos (Winter Covers) 123117

Greenhouse Arrival 121017

The new greenhouse arrived on the third day of our first hard freeze. We worked hard to fill it up with plants! Click the button below to see a short movie of the arrival of the greenhouse:

EBG First Snow 120717

While waiting for the new greenhouse to arrive, we stuffed lots of plants in the garage, and we used grow lights to provide heat.

The first hard freeze in several years almost wiped us out. Though we tried every trick we knew, we lost many citrus trees.

Eden Garden Photos 111117

Front Patio Images

Japanese Ashitaba

After a mighty struggle to propagate Japanese Ashitaba (aka “tomorrow’s leaf”, above), the end is near. Starting with forty plants, we lose an average of 50% per year, due to bugs and heat.

A Special Shelter 101617

Why install a Storm Shelter? I spent a memorable portion of my youth dodging storms in Tornado Alley. I learned that our home could blow away at any time, but anything stored in our underground shelter (including us) would surely be right where we left it after the storm was over. Now, as an adult with 3S (semi-self-sufficient) tendencies, a storm shelter just makes good sense. And I’ve heard horror stories about evacuation experiences: stuck on the freeway for days without food, toilets, or gas. No thanks!

A storm shelter has other uses too. In addition to hurricane protection, it can also be used as a vault, a gun cabinet, a root cellar, a Faraday cage (for protection against EMP bursts), and for secure storage. In addition to storing emergency supplies, our shelter doubles as a giant kitty cage, complete with a custom escape tunnel (from the house to the shelter) and a sliding metal plate that bolts into place to keep them safe inside (see image above).

Best of all, a good storm shelter (constructed of .25″ carbide steel) is actually cheaper than a lousy vacation (something to think about!). Interested? Contact StormShelterDepot.com or call Mr. Ault (850-258-2753). They handle everything (construction, delivery, and installation) and all arrangements can be made online. Tip: If you’re interested in a storm shelter, get a custom version that fits your needs exactly. Click the button below to see how our storm shelter was installed.

Tunneling for a New Soaker System 100717

The hardest part of installing a new soaker system is adding the new plumbing—especially when you need to tunnel under a driveway. Thankfully, we have lots of practice! We used a 30′ water boring pipe (below) to tunnel under the driveways. With practice, the tunneling task only takes about an hour. Note the new 1″ pressure-line (attached to the fence above the raised beds) installed to feed the soaker hoses in each bed.

We chose a soaker system over a drip system because it’s cheaper, easier to maintain, and easy to reconfigure. To provide an even amount of water to the bed, each soaker hose should be less than 50′ long; anything longer results in dry spots in the middle of the hose run. Our 1-hp water pump produces about 55 pounds of pressure and allows us to supply rainwater to 9 beds (40 sqft each) simultaneously in 30-40 minutes. To anchor the hoses in the beds, we made 10″ ground stakes from medium guage wire for about 8 cents each. We added quick-connect hose spigots to each bed so that we can attach a short hose for hand watering.

Update: Though we kept the quick-connect hose spigots (on the pressure line), we abandoned the soaker system in 2018. Why, because it uses twice as much water as hand-watering, and the (above-ground) pressure line is difficult to maintain. Tip: Hand-watering allows us to continually monitor the health of our plants on a daily basis. Any blight or bug problems are spotted quickly, before they have a chance to spread!

Elegant Solution—from our friend DM 091417

This rainwater capture solution from our friend DM is artfully accomplished.

The white barrel beneath the gutter serves as a first flush and sediment filter that also helps to regulate the flow into the IBC storage tanks.

Eden Garden Photos 081117

Ten-foot Moringa Oliefera

Moringa really does grow about a foot per month. Although I like to top them out to create 4′ bushes, the boss said to let ’em grow, and grow they did, as shown here in Raised Bed #11.

Raised Bed #1 through #4

This photo shows Raised Bed #1 through #4, bordering the West driveway. Installed to reclaim a mow strip along the West fence line, these beds have proved very productive.

Inside the Bitter Melon Trellis “Cave”

Our bitter melon trellises in the back garden are heavily overgrown (above). Note the aluminum extension ladder mounted atop the trellis frame. I constructed a wheeled dolly to traversed this ladder, as a means of harvesting the fruits that could only be reached from the above. Although lots of fun at harvest time, the arrangement proved impractical and was removed.

The Hydroponic Tanks

Gen-2 Hydroponics Tanks with Gen-1 Rain Covers

Shown here after two years of operation, all four tanks are equipped with string-reinforced rain covers. These will later be replaced with billboard vinyl. The small tank on the right is a gen-1 tank (constructed from our original design). The other three are gen-2 tanks (lightweight and more efficient).

Rear Tank Bank (Gen-1 configuration)

This gen-1 configuration of the rear tank bank (holding 5500 gallons) proved to have several problems that became apparent after several years:

  • The corrugated Ondura covers are strapped into place and thus are hard to remove for maintenance (such as flushing the individual IBC totes);
  • The individual IBC totes are difficult to remove (to fix a leak);
  • Installed in order of acquisition, different sized totes were interspersed (275-gallon totes are mixed with 330-gallon totes), which greatly complicates the plumbing.

These issues would be solved in the winter of 2019. Although the Ondura covers proved to be great at shielding the totes from the elements, I could never come up with a good way to hold them in place. Thus, I used straps.

West Trellis

Designed as a heat shield on the (hot) West side of the house, this 12’x22′ trellis proved to be too tall to handle a heavy wind load. It came down in the winter of 2017 and had to be re-constructed at 6′ tall. This trellis is constructed of 2″ PVC uprights that are set into 3″ sockets (that are buried in the ground).

Front Patio

The front patio shows sunlight streaming through the winter cutout that was designed into the front patio covers. This cutout allows lots of light (but little heat) to penetrate the South side of the house. Additionally, the patio covers (and carport) provide shelter for potted plants in the Winter season.

The Pegroit Garden 071017

This beautiful system (from our friends P&EP) combines ebb and flow hydroponics with insulated fish tanks. Constructed from IBCs, the fish tanks can be seen below.

This remarkable garden combines old world European charm with the latest in growing technology.

This combination greenhouse / aviary (above and below) doubles as a potting shed, which is hidden at the back. What a great design!

We can’t wait to learn more from their experience and designs.

Consummate hosts with a magnificent garden, P&EP set a regal table with meals that are best described as exquisite.

Cycling Raised Beds #5 and #6 101017

At the end of a harvest, the steel frame is tilted off of a raised bed and the trellises (and bed) are cleaned. The compost is replenished, the frame is tilted back into place, and the bed is replanted. The large rolling bins are used to haul the leftover stems and roots to the compost pile.

Extension Pump 062517

When you have hydroponic tanks, there’s always a need to move water around, from one tank to another, or simply to empty a tank for cleaning. Needless to say, we’ve amassed quite a collection of special-purpose pumps. This pump is used to empty our tanks. The splitter on the outlet port lets us dump the water in two different locations at the same time.

EDEN Garden Photos 061617

Raised Beds #1 through #9 (on the left) are shown bordering the West driveway. All of these beds have removable steel frames that have been equipped with plastic trellis panels. All of these beds are planted in long beans, bitter melon, flowers, and green onions.

Raised Beds #10, #11, and #12 (in background). #10 and #11 are planted in purple sweet potato and Moringa Oleifera.

Friends are always welcome!

Raised Bed #9 (on left) and #10 (on right).

The nursery on the West patio (front).

Raised Bed #12, now heavily planted with okra, jute, Asian eggplant, and a fast-growing sweet loquat tree. Note the Mexican petunia and Philodendron in large pots (both are exceptionally hardy and require little care).

New Ridge Pole for Tank #1 060117

A hard rain on a hot summer day can be a welcome break in the weather. Unfortunately, this event often caused the PVC supports of our hydrotank rain covers to collapse. This problem has been solved by installing a steel ridge pipe to support the PVC bows.

These images (above and below) show the new steel ridge pole we added to Hydro Tank #1, our oldest gen-1 hydroponics tank. This 4’x8′ tank was constructed with heavy 2″x12″ side boards. It’s capacity is 220 gallons. For gen-2, we switched to much lighter materials, constructing the side boards out of lightweight 3/16″ luan siding panels reinforced with 2″x2″ rails. Our gen-1 rain covers were made of string reinforced plastic sheeting (shown in the background above), which only lasts about a year, and lets in too much heat. Our gen-2 rain covers are made of re-used billboard vinyl, which lasts up to 4 years in the hot sun. Note the green sun screen material that protects the young plants from direct sun.

Dwarf Lemon Trees 060117

Purchased online from a Florida supplier, we had poor luck with these dwarf Valencia Lemon trees (and all of our citrus trees).

EBG Newsletter #4 Published 031017

Romaine Lettuce 022817

Mustard greens, lettuce, and other green-leafy veggies grow best in the cold weather of early Spring. This crop in Raised Bed #4 is ready for harvest.

New Raised Bed #12 021717

Our largest raised bed (#12) took almost a week to construct and fill with compost. It’s not easy to level the blocks and square the bed. But, we have lots of practice! Tunneling under the driveway to extend a water line with a pressure nozzle only took a few hours, as we have become quite good at that task (see Tunneling for a New Soaker System 100717 above).

The new pressure line to deliver rainwater to the new raised bed is shown above.

Raised Bed #12

The hard part of laying out a raised bed is squaring the corners. If they’re not square, one side will be longer than the other and you’ll end up with an unsightly gap in the long wall. The trick: Use stakes and string to layout the bed before you install the blocks.

The only thing harder than squaring the corners is levelling the blocks all the way around the perimeter. Sounds easy, right! After lots of do-overs, I developed a trick: Put down a perimeter of 2″x10″ pressure-treated boards and then stack the blocks on top of the boards. To build a bed that’s 10’x6′ long, lay down two 2″x10″x10′ boards and 2 2″x10″x4′ boards. You still need to level the boards, but that’s much easier than levelling the blocks.

Topping the Beds 021517

Replenishing the compost in each of the raised beds is a yearly springtime chore that’s handled manually. With more than a dozen raised beds, this task is always a workout. Thankfully, compost is much lighter than wet sand. True story: Though I use the wheelbarrow often (almost daily), the tire remained flat for almost twenty years. I never replaced it because the axle was welded into place and I couldn’t get to the tire to replace it (and the tube). And I didn’t really mind the extra effort of hauling a load around (work is work). Finally, I decided to replace the darn thing. After several hours of cutting and welding, a new tire was installed. Wow! What a difference!

Meet Howdy Salsa 011017

We met 14-year-old Logan Gonzales at a local Farmer’s Market. Impressed that he had started a business at such a young age, we stopped for a chat. Later, we posted the following article in Issue #4 of the EDEN Barter Garden Newsletter on March 10, 2017.

Ever since I was a young boy I can remember my father making salsa.  It took him years of trial and error to get it just right, but he finally perfected the recipe while stationed in Guam for the US Navy.  He made it with care every time, and always from the freshest ingredients.  Our family would eat anything, as long as it had a touch of Dad’s salsa in it, or on it!  Growing up we always had fresh salsa to enjoy and share with our friends and family.  His inspiration and passion probably had a lot to do with his own childhood in Southern California, but I think he mainly did it because his salsa made people happy.  My Dad taught me to make his fresh homemade salsa as soon as I was tall enough to reach the counter, and I’ve been making it ever since.  

My Dad had a huge personality, a welcoming smile and an infectious laugh that always filled our home.  Instead of greeting people with a simple ‘hello’ or ‘hi’, my Dad always welcomed folks with a heartfelt ‘Howdy!’.  A few days before Thanksgiving in 2015 we lost him suddenly and far too soon.  After some thought and careful consideration we decided to honor him by sharing his gift with the world.  Howdy Salsa was born in 2016, and in our first sales event we sold out by 11am, even with our handmade sign!  The feedback has been very positive with lots of repeat customers, people simply love the flavor and can’t get enough of it.  I think my Dad would love to know that we are sharing his life’s passion and making new people happy with every new customer.  We are working on a plan to share our salsa with the world, but for now please visit us and many more at the Santa Rosa Farmers Market located at 4587 Woodbine Road, Milton FL 32571.  We’re there every Saturday, 9am-1pm in the winter and 8am-1pm in the summer.

Please visit our website: www.howdysalsa.weebly.com. And on Facebook: @howdysalsa. And we now have an instagram page: www.instagram.com/howdysalsa 

Hope to see you all soon! Logan Gonzales, President Howdy Salsa