Rural Lifestyle

Life in Rural America

Category: Homesteading

Farming Gardening and Homesteading

Cultivating Muscadine Grapes At The Bug Out Location

Southeast Texas Muscadine grapes

Looking for an easy to grow grape for the bug out location? Look not further than the Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia), aka possum grape. However, the Muscadine is not native to the northern portion of the United States, or the western states, such as California.

While there are a number of varieties available from big box outlets stores, we want native wild species at the bug out location. This means finding wild growing Muscadine grapes, harvesting the seeds, and then planting the seeds.

Typically, wild Muscadine grapes will grow along creeks, streams, or highlands with well drained sandy soil. Seeds are spread by wildlife eating the grapes, then pooping the seeds out.

Look for wild growing Muscadine grapes under the base of trees, along the edge of bodies of water, such as rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. In other words, anywhere birds may roost.

Life After SHTF: Moving Food From Farm To Market

Bowl of okra and peppers grown as part of a survival garden

For this article we are going to take an exert from the book “Life in a Medieval City” by Frances and Joseph Gies. We are looking at chapter 3, a Medieval Housewife, pages 47 and 48. Last paragraph of page 47 talks about how the housewife shops for food on a daily basis. She would go to the market, divided into different groups, then shop for a variety of food.

There are several lessons to learn from this example.

Since there was no way to preserve food for a period of time, gathering food was done on a daily basis, and was seasonal. Food was grown locally, harvested, then brought to the market almost daily. How else do we think the housewife shopped for food daily?

Someone had to organize transportation for the food to go from the farm to the market. Today we call those people “middlemen.” The middleman organizes and communicates between the merchants and the farmers.

After a SHTF event we could probably expect this same type of organization to become reestablished. Chances are people who have horses and wagons will divide up rural farms into routes, very much like what the United States Post Office does. Rather than numerous middlemen going to the same farm, middlemen would divide up the farms and have established routes. This would allow the middlemen to develop relationships with the farmers.

Planning a Fall / Winter SHTF Survival Garden

Turnip as part of a survival garden

Let’s take a few minutes and talk about planning a fall and winter survival garden after SHTF. There are a number of variables in planning a fall or winter survival garden, such as location and growing season.

In the southern part of the United States we have a long growing season. Depending on location, we may not have our first frost until late November or early December. Sometimes we may not have a frost until mid to late December.

The northern portion of the United States has a rather short growing season.

Due to the various lengths of the growing seasons, first and last frost, please adjust the dates listed in this article to your geographical location.

The fall and winter survival garden will be divided into two sections:

  • Fall
  • Winter

The difference between the two? First heavy frost will kill the fall crops, while the winter crops will survive until the most severe cold weather sets in. An example would be the difference between acorn squash and turnips greens.

Fall Survival Garden

The Case Against Corn for a SHTF Survival Food Crop

Using a tiller to work manure into a garden

Regardless to popular belief, corn is not a good crop for surviving a SHTF Doomsday event.

When the topic of food crops for SHTF comes up in the forum, there is one that is talked about more than others, and that is corn. There is a common misconception that all someone needs to do to grow corn is to plant the three sisters – beans, squash and corn.

In theory, the beans are supposed to supply the corn with much needed nitrogen. While beans and peas produce their own nitrogen, it is not in a form that can be easily used by other crops. In other words, there is more to growing corn than just planting beans with it.

Then there are the various types of corn. Corn seed we get from the local farm supply store is a far cry from native corn grown by indigenous Native American tribes.

Corn After SHTF

Using a Vehicle to Solar Dehydrate Peppers and Tomatoes

Solar Dehydrating Peppers and Tomatoes

Can a vehicle be used to solar dehydrate peppers and tomatoes?

Saw this on an episode of Doomsday preppers, or something like that, so I decided to give it a try. A tray off of an electric dehydrator was used to hold the food, and a meat thermometer was used to measure the air temperature. Two of the windows of the SUV were cracked around 1/8 – 3/16 inch.

The goal is to capture the greenhouse effect of the summer sun on the vehicle. Then use the collected heat from the greenhouse effect to dehydrate peppers and tomatoes.

Types of peppers in this experiment:

  • Tabasco Peppers
  • Jalapeno Peppers
  • Bell Peppers

Preparing the Peppers

Stockpiling Seeds For a Doomsday / SHTF Event

Doomsday Survivalist Seed Stockpile

Interested in stockpiling survivalist seeds for a doomsday / SHTF event? Then you have arrived at the right place. This article will cover various aspects of stockpiling survivalist seeds for doomsday.

The purpose of this article about stockpiling survivalist seeds is to help the first time seed buyer. If someone has never bought their first seed, this article is to help that person make an informed decision.

Heirloom / open pollinated – Bear true to form. Meaning, if the seeds are saved and planted, the resulting plant will be just like the parent.

Hybrid Seeds – Cross pollinated between two related plants. The seeds can be saved from the cross pollinated plant, but the child may or may not be like the parents. Saved seeds from hybrids may or may not be like the parents, may be sterile… chances are will not bear true to form.

There is a misconception that stockpiling hybrid seeds are bad. Hybrids can sometimes be more drought, pest and disease resistant than their parents. It is perfectly fine to stockpile hybrid seeds, just realize saving the seeds is a gamble.

GMO Seeds – Modified on the genetic level. For example, some scientist may take a gene from a puffer fish and splice it into a corn seed. The corn plant would then produce a toxin which would kill bugs.

Stockpiling Seeds For Doomsday / SHTF – YouTube

Growing Period

Canning Home Grown Jalapeno Peppers

Canning home grown jalapeno peppers

This article about canning home grown jalapeno peppers has been two months in the making. We started in May of 2018 with planting the peppers, taking care of the jalapeno pepper plants in the backyard garden, then finally harvesting, and now canning.

  • Plant peppers after the last chance of frost has passed.
  • Visit a local farm supply store and pick out the types of peppers you want to can.
  • Work the ground and break up and clumps of soil
  • Use a balanced fertilizer, such as 13-13-13
  • Consider mixing manure into the soil production through the summer months
  • Plant peppers where they get plenty of sunlight
  • Keep pepper plants watered

Tips on Growing Jalapeno Peppers in a Backyard Garden

Pepper plants sitting on the tailgate of a truck

How to grow jalapeno peppers in a backyard vegetable garden. Jalapeno peppers are an excellent crop to grow in a backyard vegetable garden. They do well in a range of soil conditions and tolerate the summer heat fairly well.

Fertilizer For Jalapeno Peppers

Jalapeno Peppers do best with a well balanced fertilizer, such as 13-13-13. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers such as 21-0-0, or even 16-6-12. When taken care of Jalapeno Peppers will produce through the summer months and into fall. Unless killed by a winter frost, the plants may survive through the winter and into the following spring.

Because Jalapeno Peppers have such a long growing season they benefit from a slow release fertilizer, such as manure.

We are going to start off with tilling the garden rows with a garden tiller. Then mix in some well balanced fertilizer, such as 13-13-13, and some kind of manure or compost. Till the fertilizer, compost, and / or manure into the rows. Remove clumps of soil, rocks, or tree roots.

The 13-13-13 fertilizer will provide the Jalapeno Peppers with plant food to get started, then the manure / compost will provide a slow release fertilizer to help the plant thrive over the course of several months.

This should be enough to help the plant produce through the summer months.

Planting Jalapeno Peppers

Tomatoes, Peppers, and Okra Spring Garden Update

Jalapeno peppers

The garden got off to a late start this year. In March we received so much rain the seeds rotted in the ground. It seemed like every couple of days we were getting a cold front.

All of this means the 2018 spring garden is running a month behind. Instead of the peppers producing in May, they are producing in June. Which is no big deal because once the peppers start producing, they will continue until the first frost.

Instead of the okra being planted at the first of May, it was planted at the end of May. I was hoping to get some rain to help the okra germinate, but we did not get rain for a month.

Eventually, I decided to plant the okra and water the seeds with a sump pump that sits in a creek. Everything worked out and the seeds germinated. Once the okra started to come up, it is making solid progress.

Tomatoes and Tomato Cages

Local Wildlife Ate All The Wild Plums

Texas Wild Plums

The wild plums here are on the farm were almost ready. So the other day I grabbed a bucket, walked over to the plum patch, and the trees were empty. They had gone from hundreds of wild plums to one in just a couple of days. Chances are the local wildlife feasted on the plums.

How do I know it was the local wildlife? There were no plums on the ground. When the plums ripen they fall off the tree. Since there were no plums on the ground, this means something ate them.

There is a wild plum crop here on the farm that has been left to grow for the past decade. Some of the trees are close to eight feet tall and are nice sized.

Wild plum production can be hit and miss. Some years the trees do very well, while other years they produce almost nothing. The plum production may have something to do with the time spent below freezing, but I am not sure. The winter of 2017 – 2018 was very harsh here in Southeast Texas, and the plum corp in 2018 was wonderful.

Ending the Chicken Manure as Fertilizer Experiment

Tomatoes grown with chicken manure experiment

One gardening experiment for 2018 was to take a field that had not been used for a couple of years, till in chicken manure using a garden tiller, then plant the crops.

How well would the crops grow? Would some types of crops do better than others?

After watching the experiment for close to two months, I think I have my answers. The experiment for this year has drawn to a close and 13-13-13 fertilizer was spread along the garden rows.

However, I feel part of the experiment should be repeated in the spring of 2019. The weather here in Southeast Texas was very wet between March – April, then very dry from April – May.

When the rain stopped in April, it stopped. It was like GOD turned off the water valve. We have not gotten a drop of rain in close to a month.

Starting the Chicken Manure Fertilizer Experiment

Transplanted Tomatoes and Planted Okra

Tomato and pepper plants in a home garden

The tomatoes that were planted a couple of months ago were root bound and had to be transplanted. While the tomatoes were being transplanted, I went ahead and planted the okra seeds we had germinated

Related article – How to germinate okra.

For those of you who do not know what root bound means; simply put, the pot is too small for the plant. The roots need more room than what the pot provides. The solution is to either transplant the plant into a larger pot, or plant the plant in the ground.

There were other issues:

  • The roots were getting too hot.
  • The pot was not holding enough moisture for the plants to grow.

Transplanting Tomatoes

Tips on Getting Okra Seeds to Germinate

Okra seeds

Okra is one of those wonderful and well rounded crops. It can be canned, boiled, fried, or used in recipes such as gumbo. As wonderful as okra is, it needs certain conditions for the seeds to sprout (aka germinate).

To help understand okra we need to look at where the crop originated from, and that is Africa. What would we expect a crop from Africa to need? If the reader guessed hot weather they are correct. Some theories suggest okra was brought to the United States during the slave trade, which would be feasible. On thing is for sure, okra is a mainstay in Louisiana cuisine, including gumbo recipes. If gumbo does not have okra in it, it is not real gumbo.

The old timers use to say, “Plant okra when all you need is a sheet to sleep with.” This was before modern air conditioning and people slept with their windows open. So when the weather warms up enough that all someone needs to cover up with is a sheet, it is time to plant okra.

Here in Southeast Texas, most people plant okra in early May.

After heat, the next thing okra needs is water. A lot of people I know soak their okra seeds in water before planting. Some people even add a couple drops of bleach to the water. I have never tried the bleach.

Soaking Okra Seeds

Leaving a Rat Snake in the Chicken House

Texas Rat Snake

This may seem counter-productive, but two rat snakes have been allowed to stay in the chicken house. Usually, if a rat snake (aka chicken snake) is caught in the chicken house, it is dealt with with extreme prejudice.

However, awhile back a good size rat was spotted in the chicken house. For those of you who do not know, one of the worst creatures that can be in the chicken house is a rat. Not only will they eat the chicken feed, but the will kill chickens. Yes, a rat will kill and eat part of a chicken.

When it comes to pullets, which are chickens less than one year old, a rat can easily kill and eat one. Then there is the egg issue. Rats will eat whatever eggs they can.

Simply put, a rat in the chicken house can wreck havoc.

A live trap was put in the chicken house to catch the rat, but it kept getting out of the trap. Poison is out of the question. Old style spring loaded rat traps are also out of the question. What’s the next best thing to do? Let nature take its course.

In other words, let rat snakes do what rat snakes do.

Rat Snake in the Chicken House

Trying Something New With The Fig Trees

Fig tree

Around 2014 several fig trees were planted in the chicken yard. Some of the fig trees died and had to be replanted. The original ones, and the new ones have barely grown.

One of the original trees has barely put on any growth in four years.

In the past I had tried stuff like Miracle Grow plant spikes, and some Miracle Grow plant food. All that stuff is is a low grade fertilizer. Nothing I tried with Miracle Grow spikes or plant food helped the fig trees.

For 2018 I decided to try something different. I picked up some 6-7-7 fertilizer and put a cup around the base of each tree. This was done right before a rain. To benefit the plants the fertilizer has to be worked, or washed, into the soil.

Fig Tree Fertilizer

Kevin Felts © 2008 - 2018