Questions & Answers

This page answers the questions most often asked by friends and visitors alike.

Q: Why Florida of all places?

Florida has sustainable groundwater, lots of sun, and a long growing season. These three assets make Florida ideal for sustainable living. In India, 32 farmers commit suicide each day because their farms have failed; a major cause of failure is depleted groundwater (see Pumped Dry: The Global Crisis of Vanishing Groundwater). If we don’t find a solution soon, depleted groundwater could destroy the large-scale corporate farms that produce the majority of our food. What will we do then? EDEN Barter Garden is working to develop solutions that help us to transition from where we are now to where we need to be in the next decade.

Q: Can I produce income from my garden?

Yes, In Florida, small-scale produce growers can sell their raw fruits and vegetables to consumers without a permit or business license. In addition, the Cottage Food Law of Florida allows you to sell certain “cottage foods” within the State of Florida (up to $15,000).

Leveraging Self-Sufficiency

Traditionally, the American dream was based on investing in a house and residential lot. Due to changing demographics, lifestyles, job markets, technology, and more, this paradigm is changing fast. Non-performing temples of conspicuous consumption are becoming obsolete; houses are just too expensive to purchase and maintain, and they don’t meet our future needs. The solution is to return to a farming mentality—as best we can. The trick is to make our property perform. EBG does it with hard assets (gardens, solar, rainwater collection), soft assets (hybrid designs, education, exercise), and more. Dozens of visitors each year tell us the same story—we need to become as self-sufficient as possible to insulate our families from the realities of a changing world.

Gen-2 Hydroponic Tanks

Q: Can a family garden satisfy the food security needs of a family?

Yes, but not in a manner you might expect. Our most valuable crop is education; we’ve learned what it really takes to survive, not only with a garden, but with all of the supporting infrastructure as well. The second most valuable crop is community; a family garden can’t meet all of your food needs, but a barter community can, because you’re all working together.

Our garden insulates us from running to the store every few days. Best of all, we know the quality of the food we’re eating, because we grow it ourselves. From a quantity perspective, we’ve adopted a simple strategy to insure that we always have something nutritious to eat: we planted large plots of purple sweet potatoes. Easy to grow, harvest and cook, these highly nutritious potatoes can be harvested almost year-round. Other easy food plants include Moringa Oleifera, heirloom yellow cherry tomatoes, green onions, chives, radishes, long beans, Chicago Hardy figs, turmeric, ginger, Loquat, Bitter Melon, Bok Choy (a great substitute for lettuce in salads). The hardest part of gardening (aside from the labor) is fighting the bugs!

Q: Is solar worth the investment?

Street View of EBG

Yes. (1) Solar hot water systems are the best-kept secret in the solar realm, especially in sunny states like Florida. The net cost of a solar hot water system is about $3500. It provides 80-gallons of hot water (up to 150-degrees) nearly year-round (greatly reducing your overall electricity needs). (2) Our Tier-2 PV (solar electric) system earns 1 carbon credit per day. Currently, residential carbon credits are not very valuable (ranging from $5-13), but that’s expected to change quickly with the advancing green agenda. At some point, we expect to be able to trade our accumulating carbon credits in an open trading market. (3) Solar panels are warranted for 25 years, but they’re actual lifespan is almost indefinite. (4) Federal tax credits are going away (dropping to 26% in 2020). Get ’em while you can! (5) Dependable electrical service is not guaranteed (look at California). (6) Residential properties with solar sell faster than comparable properties without solar. (7) When leveraged with the other 3S (semi-self-sufficient) features of EBG, solar hot water and solar power work synergistically to enhance the overall value (from a sustainability perspective) of the project.

Q: What’s the best design for raised beds?

Raised Beds along the Fence Line Reclaim Wasted Space

In our experience, the best raised beds are constructed of 8x8x16″ hollow concrete block (each block is packed with sand); these beds are 18″ deep (including 2″ top cap) and have no bottom lining. We’ve had no trouble with moles in these beds. Concrete blocks never rot and can be re-positioned as needed to change the size of the bed (and they can be removed if you get tired of gardening). After building lots of raised beds with hollow blocks, we’ve learned a few tricks. The sandy soil in our area causes the blocks to move around (over time) just enough to throw them out of alignment.

After two years, the front wall of this raised bed is bowing outward.
Rebuilding Raised Bed #5

As you’ll see in the Chronicles 2016, we’ve had to re-construct most of the tall (18″) beds, this time with the first course of blocks bedded in a light layer of dry concrete mix. But wait, there’s more! The best way to level a row of concrete blocks is to lay the first course atop a 2×10″ pressure-treated board (leveled at grade). This trick reduces a 6-hour job to about 2 hours.

Constructing an 8″ Raised Bed (Bed #13). See Chronicles 2017.

We’ve also tested 8″ raised beds. These short beds are easier and cheaper to construct, and they require less compost. They’re great for sweet potatoes and plants with short roots. Drawbacks include an increased susceptibility to moles, and the need to replenish the compost on a more frequent basis. We’ve also experienced with minimally-amended beds. These beds contain a 10% mixture of compost. Although great for sweet potatoes, they dry out fast, leech soil nutrients quickly, and require lots of water.

8″ Raised Beds #10 and #11

A portable raised bed? Yes! Hall’s Hardware sells long galvanized tanks (they look like stock watering tanks) that don’t have a bottom. They’re just the right size (about 8′ long x 2′ deep x 21″ tall). If you don’t like the industrial look of the galvanized steel, wrap the tank in bamboo fencing that’s been cut to size. Fill it with compost and you’re good to go. You can construct this raised bed in less than an hour.

Q: How much did our garden cost?

Counting everything, our garden takes eight years to repay the hard cost of infrastructure (plots, raised beds, rainwater tank banks, pumps and plumbing, hydroponics, greenhouse, supplies).

Q: Do I need a greenhouse?

Yes. A greenhouse saves about 90-days (per year) by keeping your garden alive through the winter months. Shown here, our 20′ greenhouse arrives in the nick of time.

A greenhouse greatly accelerates the Spring startup cycle, and it protects you from losing your most valuable plants. We use the greenhouse to ensure a constant supply of Moringa Oliefera, and to propagate stocks for early planting.

Q: Is hydroponics practical?

Yes, but only in the Fall and Winter months. Why? Because the summer months are too hot to maintain a constant water temperature in the hydroponic tanks (even with 3000 gallons of thermal mass in each tank). This is great because the Spring and Summer months are too busy anyway. Read more about our experience on the Hydroponics page of this website.  

A Gen-1 Tank During 2015 Testing

Q: What is The Tree of Life?

My wife kept telling me about it, but I wasn’t listening. She related many childhood memories of using this tree for traditional remedies.

Moringa Oleifera in Raised Bed #9.

And then one day, I looked it up. Wow! Moringa Oliefera (aka Malunggay, The Miracle Tree, The Never Die Tree) is a verified superfood: tasty, incredibly nutritious, fast growing (one foot per month), all parts edible (the roots are used to purify water), and the bugs won’t touch it! You can top it out and plant the top in the ground and end up with another tree! And, it provides full-spectrum nutrition (including more protein than steak). If you only have one plant in the garden, this is the only one you need! Wow, what a tree!

Q: What the heck is a secret sanctuary?

Kitty Lunch

Motivated by a desperate need to care for the abandoned, strayed, neglected, abused, and sick pets in the area, secret sanctuaries can be found in almost every neighborhood. That crazy cat person down the street is working hard to handle a problem that most of us overlook or consciously avoid. At EBG, we support a variety of secret sanctuaries, directly and indirectly. Read more on the Kitty City page of this website. Shown here (starting at the 9-0’clock position) is Tux, Fluffy, Grumpy, Tiny Tim, Stinky Joe, and Scruffy Popadopolous.       

Q: Can I cash in on agritourism?

Yes; build it and they will come! Here at EBG, we host dozens of unscheduled tours each year. From chefs to CEOs, we’ve hosted them all. Like us, thousands of people are answering the call to return to a self-sufficient lifestyle. Although interested, many people are short on time, have a low frustration threshold, or just don’t know where to start. That’s where we come in. We know what works and what doesn’t and we’re happy to share our experience. After all, our best solutions came from one of our many friends.

Ref: 2014 Dobie Double Robot Tests-assets52714_Dobie test images2

About Dobie (our Double Robot)

Shown above at 6-months of age, Dobie has been fitted with a tethered laptop (for roaming), attachment points (for clothing), a counter-balance (to compensate for breezy conditions), and a locking wallet (for trips to the store).

We poured 116 yards of concrete to make it easy for Dobie (our first-gen Double robot) to “run around” outside. Programmed to conduct tours at EBG, Dobie overheated in the July sun. So, we bought him a hat. That worked for about five minutes and then he overheated again. So, we taught him to stay in the shade, and we bought him an outfit to go with the hat (why not?). Unfortunately, Dobie’s navigation is less-than-perfect and he runs into things (the vehicles of guests, posts, raised beds, etc.), so I hacked a game controller and headset so Dobie can receive voice commands. But, Dobie has trouble understanding the soft vowels of the English language (“turn right, stop that, go back”). So, I gave him commands in Spanish. This worked, but then Dobie “died”. After a short funeral (and photo shoot) we put Dobie back in his shipping container and returned him to California to be resurrected. Several hundred dollars later, Dobie returned (as good as new?). I gave him an audio upgrade and a voice box. A week later, I awake in the middle of the night to hear him chattering with someone in another country, so I yanked the voice box and went back to bed…. read more on the Robotics page of this website.    

Q: What does the future hold for self-sufficient initiatives like EBG?

Here, at EBG, we ask ourselves one question every day: Is the world a better place today than it was yesterday? If the answer is no, we get back to work. If the answer is yes, we go out to eat. I think you’ll agree, the answer (on most days) to that question is a resounding NO. Based on all that has come to pass in the last five years, our decision to leave California (and build EBG) has turned out to be a good one. After 45 days without rain (in back-to-back yearly seasons), our decision to extend our rainwater collection system to 7000-gallons has proved to be a good one. After witnessing the recent power outages in California, our decision to install solar (in 2015) has proved to be a good one. The list goes on. PS: Every time an oil tanker is attacked, we place an online order for more SPAM. Although reluctant to predict the future, I think it’s pretty clear that the writing is on the wall.

Q: What are the pros and cons of installing a Generac whole-house generator?

A Generac whole-house Generator

We’ve had our Generac for four years now. The answer seems to be related to Murphys’ law; if you don‘t have a generator, you’ll surely need one; if you do have a generator, you’ll never need one. Before we installed the Generac, we experienced brownouts on a weekly basis. After we installed the Generac, we rarely experience a brownout. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. So, we installed a storm shelter. If you have a storm shelter, you’ll never get hit by a hurricane. Sounds silly, but this logic seems to work.

What’s the value of electricity when the power grid fails? A Generac is expensive and requires yearly maintenance. You can do the maintenance yourself (easy and cheap) or you can pay someone else to do it for you (expensive but convenient). A Generac is a well-built piece of hardware. Robust and dependable, a Generac will last a lifetime if properly maintained. And, our Generac installer has proved to be very dependable and easy to reach if you have questions or need help. Take it from us. The answer to the initial question is simple: the value of a Generac when the power goes out is incalculable.   

Q: What’s the best security equipment for a residential property?

A gaggle of geese and a shotgun are ideal (no joke). At EBG, we test a variety of equipment. Our primary system is ADT. ADT is expensive but their cameras are outstanding, and systems functionality is always increasing (their wireless cameras are great!). We also use Guardline Wireless Alarms and Sensors. Inexpensive, easy to install and operate, this product has proved to be an excellent addition to our security lineup. We test a variety of other methods as well (including thermal arrays and sat relays), but they shall remain secret.  

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