Friday, December 31, 2010

"Real Love" most recent video by The Beatles

This is the authentic video for the song the surviving Beatles created using John Lennon's raw vocal tracks....a real gem, as is the wonderfully nostalgic yet trippy video.... I love that white piano opening!

Happy and Healthy and Prosperous and Love Filled 2011


John

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tt3mOimgyc8

Free Liquid Organic Fertilizer from Muscovy Ducks

Free ducks.....free dinghy......free food scraps.....free dog cage for them to sleep in at night for protection from predators.....free seashell grit from the high tide line at nearby Picnic Island Beach....free is GOOD!   John

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7KpDs-XkI0

Waste Not, Want Not....Using Freeze Killed Stalks as Soil Builders

In view of the hard freezes that have slammed Florida even before the usually cold months of January and February, I am re-posting this video from late last spring as now I will be employing the concept in the same area but in a new manner. For the last several weeks the center garden around my main pond my three Muscovy ducks have done a WONDERFUL job of eating down my hated weed 'Spanish Needle' (Bidens) plus the remnants of overgrown Vigna "beans" from last summer, pooping all the time. I can't believe how much work they spared me. Tomorrow I plant in that area two specimens of the productive Mystery Sweet Potato that Jon and Debbie Butz, hosts of WMNF's 'Sustainable Living' radio show gave me this year, then will broadcast seeds of the  ultra cold hardy forage rape 'Bonar' that I have grown so fond of. I will then sprinkle in horse stall sweepings from the stables across the street from my gym at Ballast Point, then  lay in there in criss cross fashion freeze killed stalks from my Bolivian Sunflower (Tithonia diversifiolia) and edible canna and more. This will act as a sheet compost to boost soil fertility while trapping moisture as the Bonar plants grow up between all the stalks. Most of my neighbors take their freeze damage waste to the Manhattan Avenue landfill, but I will use mine as a soil building resource on site. John

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eued80RWZZ8

Got Fleas Indoors?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QL42HKgWup0

Thursday, December 30, 2010

NASA on Global Warming

Despite supposedly clever quips by "climatologists" like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, cold snaps like we've experienced  lately don't negate the rising AVERAGE temperature of the Earth. John

http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/earth_warm.html

My January Classes

Classes being taught here as I refurbish entire yard front and back to embrace Water Wise Container Gardens......work in progress, much to see in the gardens. John




Basics of Frugal Backyard Chicken Raising 1-16-2011 1-29-2011

Many folks these days are considering, or have followed through on, pursuing a long time desire to raise backyard chickens for fresh eggs or even meat they know the origins of. I've had chickens on and off since the mid 90s, and can share how to raise happy, healthy, antibiotic-free chickens and eggs VERY frugally. I am teaching this well-received class twice in January, on the 16th and the 29th, from 11 AM until 1 PM, with a 30 minute Q & A session after. My address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa FL 33611, about 6 blocks south of Gandy and 1 1/2 blocks west of MacDill, jungly yard on the south side. Please park on my side of Paxton off of neighbors' lawns. The cost is $20 per student. Please bring a note pad and pen as we will cover many points. You will receive a pack of winter greens seeds to sow now to provide raw green plant matter VITAL to having healthy backyard chickens. 813 839 0881 or e-mail to RSVP. See you then! John Starnes

Urban Farmsteading Basics 101 1-8-2011 1-22-2011

There is no security more reassuring than daily harvesting fresh meals from your front and back yard, just feet from the kitchen, even if just potted arugula or snow peas or cherry tomatoes for starters, or a fresh chicken egg or meat. But don't know where and how to start? Learn easy ways to deeply cut your water use, to insure fresh salads and root crops and fruits year round, a super cheap solar shower, and more. You'll get a lesson sheet of 15 topics to be covered; please be sure to bring a notepad and pen. Feel free to shoot pics and video. You will receive two free packets of cool weather veggie seeds, plus instructions on their culture, harvest and use. I've taught this class many times and folks say it it thorough and intense. It addresses a way of life and a mindset vs. being just a gardening class. I am teaching this class twice in January, on the 8th and the 22nd, from 11 AM until 1 PM, with a 30 minute Question and Answer session after. My address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa FL 33611, about 6 blocks south of Gandy and 1 1/2 blocks west of MacDill, jungly yard on the south side. Please park on my side of Paxton off of neighbors' lawns. The cost is $20 per student. Happy Gardening! John 813 839 0881

Fermented Foods 101 1-15-2011

Many folks are realizing the wide spectrum of health benefits of eating probiotic fermented foods, but that also they can be very pricey in the health food stores and grocery stores. Garden writer John Starnes (Fine Gardening, St. Pete Times, Florida Gardening) loves to grow and cook and prepare foods for friends and himself, and in this class will show easy very affordable ways to make your own kefir, natto, tempeh, kimchee, and cheese. There will be samples for tasting too. Be sure to bring a note pad and pen to write down the simple steps and ingredients, some of which can come from your own garden. The class will be held on January 15 from 11 AM until 1:30 PM, and the cost is $20 per student. The address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa 33611 813 839 0881 Please park along the south side of Paxton to spare the lawns of my neighbors on the north side. Thanks. Come hungry!

Growing Food, Cultivating Freedom and Harvesting Joy 1-30-2011

Growing and raising much of your own food can free you from an unsatisfying job and addiction to the New Serfdom of endless debt as a "consumer". Celebrate this new year by taking this class to learn three basics of successful gardening in central Florida, see the ease of a few backyard chickens for fresh eggs, plus, primarily, get two handouts with 30 key techniques, attitude shifts, and resources that can allow us to discover what we REALLY want out of life, how to live frugally, and ways to shed old, restrictive thinking and living habits and replace them with pleasurable, expansive ones to create a self-perpetuating positive feedback loop of habitual joy and gratitude. People say my trippy livingroom exemplifies "thinking outside of the box that the box came in" so most of the class will be held in there after we tour my urban farm. I feel that happiness is a choice we can make daily, and that we can create our lives vs. them just happening to us, with productive gardening as the key. I will offer this class again on January 30, from 11 AM until 1 PM here at 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa, FL 33611 813 839 0881 to RSVP. Please park on the south side of Paxton. The cost is $20 per student. Each student will receive 1 free packet of easy-to-grow seeds with instructions on their culture and harvest and use. See you then! John

Growing Cold Hardy Veggies and Herbs in 'Water Wise Container Gardens' 1-1-2011, 1-9-2011

Winter is here so now is the perfect time to plant the cold hardy crops that love chilly temps. I had my first veggie garden here in 1967 when I was in 9th grade at Madison Junior High, and have learned since then core principals and techniques that make winter food gardening in central Florida both pleasant and productive. Forget pesticides, forget wasting money on plants and seeds and crops that fail, and forget thinking that you have a brown thumb. Learn how to create a fertile garden site that will bless you with fresh pesticide-free produce for the six cooler months of the year, plus learn how to make your own 'Water Wise Container Gardens' for cheap to free...hey, the idea is to SAVE money, right?!. I am teaching this class twice in January, on the 1st and the 9th , from 11 AM until 1 PM. My address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa FL 33611, about 6 blocks south of Gandy and 1 1/2 blocks west of MacDill, jungly yard on the south side. Please park on my side of Paxton off of neighbors' lawns. The cost is $20 per student. You will receive two free packets of winter crops seeds. I will provide a handout, but be sure to bring a notepad and pen. See you then! John Starnes 813 839 0881

Non-toxic "Green" Pest and Disease Control 1-23-2011

Many homeowners and gardeners and pet lovers alike think we MUST use toxic pesticides to control plant-ravaging bugs and diseases, plus swarms of fleas and roaches and mosquitos that can make make life miserable for us and our animal companions, and poultry mites in our henhouses biting us AND the birds. This class will teach you a great many natural, non-or-least toxic methods of controlling and eliminating those scourges, including biological methods that need be purchased just once from mail order or local sources. All of these control methods are VERY inexpensive (hey, I’m a lifelong pathologically cheap tightwad!) and easy to acquire or make at home. Food self sufficiency gardeners like me CAN enjoy fresh produce all year long by defeating pests without poisoning those crops or the environment. A detailed handout, complimented by the notes you take (bring a pad and pen please) will let you begin right away winning the “battle against bugs and fungus” all year long. I am teaching this class again on January 23, from 11 AM until 1 PM. My address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa FL 33611, about 6 blocks south of Gandy and 1 1/2 blocks west of MacDill, jungly yard on the south side. Please park on my side of Paxton off of neighbors' lawns. The cost is $20 per student. To RSVP call: 813 839 0881 Happy Gardening! John

Hyper-Frugal Tightwad Gardening 1-2-2011

Times are tough for lots of folks these days, plus many are trying to break their dependence on fiat currency, endless debt, store bought corporate-produced food, and soul-draining jobs. But if one is not careful, starting a food garden to “save money” can quickly result in a tomato that has $47 in hidden costs (just an exaggeration but you get my point). Plus one can spend a fortune on basic landscape and yard care supplies. But a lifetime of pathological frugality has taught me MANY ways to grow organic produce for VERY close to free, and to spruce up a tired landscape for next to nothing with free mulches and soil foods, plus low cost edgings, bird baths and more. I will use my back yard as a classroom to teach these tightwad techniques and ideas, plus I will have a handout listing many freebies to be had from our wasteful culture. My free range chickens may walk in and out of the “classroom”. I have some cool garden-related dumpster treasures to share too. I learned a lot of pragmatic hyper-frugal techniques things during the 19 years I ran my organic landscaping business, "THE GARDEN DOCTOR" here and in Denver. The class will be held here, 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa FL 33611 (813 839 0881) on January 2 from 11 AM until 1 PM. To get you in the spirit of “tightwad gardening” I will have free seeds. You can park on the street on my side to avoid damaging neighbor's lawns. The cost is $20 per student, $2 off for every 20 used sturdy 1 gallon pots you bring. This class should very quickly begin paying for itself many times over so you can pay down debt and save up for a rainy day AND end up with a lush and productive landscape and gardens.Happy Gardening! John Starnes

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

BBBBRRRRRRR!!!!

While my papayas and bananas and nasturtiums and brugmansias and hedychiums and more have been already zapped by hard freezes twice now, and it is not even January yet, I remind myself that my "Denver Roses" and my two Mystery Grapes, "Gracie's Grape" and "Gray Street Grape", will no doubt benefit from this winter with real sustained dormancy. I look forward to oodles of tasty fruits and sumptuous rose blooms......AFTER I do a LOT of cutting back of freeze-killed plant tissue all OVER my south Tampa yard. John

Monday, December 27, 2010

a GREAT price for 'Alaska Fish Fertilizer'

Great news....I confirmed today what one of my customers told me...the south Tampa Lowe's has 1 gallon jugs of 'Alaska Fish Fertilizer' for just $13.98, QUITE the price considering I've seen it in the low 20s before! Check the Lowe's in your area as it is the ONLY retail soil food I know of that contains ALL plant nutrients, including trace elements. I plug it in every gardening class I teach, so learning of this new low price is stellar news!  John

Finding and preserving the wild species ancestors of our food crops.....

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101209201938.htm

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Excellent Seed Sources


I would like to remind folks that a great local source of imported Asian veggie and herbs seeds (especially if you like to cook Asian cuisine as I do) is the Oceanic Market in downtown Tampa. The produce dept. sells cool things that can be PLANTED vs. eaten, like various hot peppers, watercress, Chinese White Yams (Dioscorea alata), ginger root and galangal ginger root, garlic bulbs, shallots bulbs, sweet potatoes, plus various fresh herbs that can be rooted, and more. Their shelves of dried seeds sold to be cooked are a cheap way of getting seeds of adzuki beans, soybeans, garbanzos, mung beans and many more. My diet is heavy with seaweed and they have a wonderful selection, including the iodine-rich kelp kombu essential to great miso soup. Right outside their scary meat dept. full of creatures still moving are three seeds displays that can include hard to get brassicas like Wong Bok and various Chinese rapes.

Welter Seed and Honey Company in Iowa is a great family company I promote in my gardening classes and are the sources of the various Forage Rapes and Forage Turnips I buy to give to my students, including Bonar and Appin and Pasja and other mild flavored VERY cold hardy brassicas. They have OODLES of grains, even Teff from Ethiopia, plus a vast selection of cover crops and green manures plus seed crops for wild birds. Very reasonable per pound prices in many cases. You can reach them at:

http://www.welterseed.com/ or 1-800-728-8450

John

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Parents' Estate in Okeechobee, Florida

Who knows how many eggs and chickens and vegetables and guavas and citrus fruits and melons and Old Roses their property has produced, all with well water? I am sure that part of my gardening "bug" came from Dad. Enjoy, John

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYlfgb2xHyQ

Chickens and Ducks for Weed Control and Soil Fertility

Enjoy, John

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h__y136ECfc

Nothing like a backyard fire on a cold night

Being "altered" added to the pleasure. John

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kPhYAVw7t8

Holiday Gift Certificates for Gardeners

Gardeners can be difficult to buy holiday gifts for as their interests can be both diverse and eclectic. Plus most of us are on tight budgets these days, so you can use these gift certificates to give your gardening friends and family members a way to choose what THEY want but based on YOUR budget. Gift certificates for my gardening and urban farming classes are $20 each, or your can purchase gift certificates good for exotic food crops plants and seeds for $5 and $10 each. When you send me your order and payment, be sure to provide the name and mailing address of each lucky recipient so I can mail them a lovely, rose-scented, Victorian style gift certificate they can redeem how and when they wish to. Save money AND insure a holiday gift they can really enjoy and benefit from....no more Chia Pets!! Thanks and Happy Gardening. John  813 839 0881


John Starnes
3212 West Paxton Avenue
Tampa FL 33611

Friday, December 17, 2010

Nero Di Toscana Kale: Heirloom Brassica

I grew this for the first time in years last winter and quickly became enamored with the lovely color, mild sweet flavor, and tender stringless texture. It laughed at two nights of 27 degrees SUSTAINED.....in cold climates like Denver where I gardened and landscaped for 15 years, it would be a stellar crop for late winter/early spring sowing. This year I started a few dozen from seeds for me and friends, and today I filled two black plastic compost barrels with lasagna layers of dead potted plants, aged wood chips mulch, fresh horse stall sweepings and soil from the chicken scratch path, deep watered, drenched it all with poopy water from the duck's above ground pool (read "dumpster-dived dinghy:), then planted seedlings of 'Nero Di Toscana'. Tampa is having yet another very dry winter, and so I am planting most of my winter crops in Water Wise Container Gardens I make from scavenged plastic buckets and tubs as it takes a LOT of water to keep Tampa's sandy soil damp during a sustained drought.

I can't imagine gardening and eating without the Brassica family.  John


http://www.territorialseed.com/product/892/s

My Free Hurricane Proof Henhouse

Several years ago when I had to go back to Denver each spring (with deep reluctance) to meet commitments there, one early spring during our  annual neighborhood 'Large Item Pickup" here in Tampa where people set out TONS of stuff to be picked up by special garbage trucks and crews, I scored from two homes several LARGE chainlink driveway gates. I did not know WHY I wanted them, but I AM John Starnes.....dumpster diving packrat par excellence'.....I brought them home, leaned them against the east wall of my Tampa home, then headed back to Denver in yet ANOTHER 2,100 mile road trip for me and my poor road weary dog Sweety and my cats Angel and Luvyu.

But one afternoon, when I got to finally be home in Tampa for good, I was delightfully altered on cannabis and free associating how to transform my blank canvas yard....I laid all the gates on the ground to see the possibilities, and soon realized I had JUST the right number to make a VERY sturdy and spacious henhouse by wiring them all together. I built it atop a few layers of scavenged carpet to insure that racoons could not burrow in from the sides. My free range chickens exit it each morning, go in to lay their eggs, and go in at sundown when I close the door.

My total costs?  ZERO! It has endured many hurricanes and now does double duty as a grape arbor for "Gray Street Grape" and "Gracie's Grape" to give the chickens shade in summer, sunny warmth in winter, and OODLES of grapes for me.

Just remember the dumpster diver/scavenger's motto:  "Peek and You Shall Find" !    John

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Increased magnesium intake and lower heart attack risk

This reinforces my decision about seven years ago to along with eating lots of magnesium-rich raw veggies directly from my gardens, to put a sprinkle of Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate) atop my Cuban coffee grounds in the basket each morning. I also put on a small pinch of potassium chloride and food grade lime to insure that my coffee, along with a heady aroma and taste and caffeine buzz, gives me by default magnesium, sulphur, potassium and calcium each morning.

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/12/16/higher-levels-of-this-mineral-linked-with-lower-heart-attack-rate.aspx

Monday, December 13, 2010

Freakin' BBBRRRRR!!!!!!

When I let my Siamese cat Luvyu out this morning before sunrise there was frozen sleet pelting my patio gardens! SLEET in Tampa! Some forecasts say 28 degrees the next two nights so I am covering my plumeria and Pig Chaya with inverted garbage cans with a fat candle inside just before sundown. It is VERY windy now just like all last night, but if it gets calm I think central Florida is going to get hammered big time by a truly hard freeze. I'm hoping that blankets over my nasturtiums out front can save them as last winter both sowings were killed. Stay warm!   John

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Update on my home made tofu

Mixed results...it DID curdle very well, and I let it press overnight so it was very firm and dense this morning. But tofu is usually made from full fat soybeans, so my defatted soyflour gave me a tofu that is beige and the texture of slightly damp, VERY dense cornbread with zero elasticity. I fried two slices in a mix of coconut oil, roasted sesame oil and palm oil, and sprinkled them with garlic powder, powdered hot pepper and fish sauce.....they were okay but too mushy vs. chewy like the firm tofu I buy and freeze for two months before thawing and squeezing out the moisture before cooking it. I will freeze half of this, and use the other half to add protein to home made spaghetti sauce I will make to enjoy during this new cold spell. Always fun to play Dr. Frankenstein in my kitchen!  John

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gratitude Is central to being happy.....

It was not until I endured deep, years long financial duress and seemingly endless winters in Denver, followed by the blessings of coming home to Tampa to a paid for home and no debt, plus good health, friends and the climate that feels "right" to me, the scents of saltwater and citrus blossoms, that I finally knew how to feel deep daily gratitude for my abundances. This concise two part article in 'Psychology Today' is an excellent overview of how to cultivate and make habitual a life posture of gratitude for food in the fridge, a car that runs, being able paying a bill, the scent of flowers in a garden, falling asleep on sheets fresh that day from the clothesline, sharing a meal with a friend, feeling one's hands in rich living soil, an embrace with someone you love....the list is deliciously infinite. Enjoy! John

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200602/make-gratitude-adjustment

Easy Cheap Home Made Tofu

I'm one of those guys who not only likes tofu I LOVE it, even chunks of it raw plain, or dipped into soy sauce with wasabi added, or with a bit of pickled ginger.....as long as it is the firm kind. But as a tightwad I flinch handing over $1.29 for less than a pound of tofu that I know is mostly water. So today I am making my first batch of home made tofu since my mushroom-inspired mid-20s.....back then I'd cook soyflour in water then added lemon juice as the coagulant. Here is what is working SO well today.

I recently bought on-line from Honeyville Food Products a 50 lb. bag of defatted, 55% protein soyflour for  $61.29 and $4.49 shipping to help me continue to achieve the muscle mass gains I've been enjoying since adding budget whey protein to my diet....a scoop in my dumpster dived (brand new!) Bullet blender with low fat soymilk, a shake of food grade diatomaceous earth and a few drops of iodine as soon as I come home from the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Even "cheap" whey protein is expensive, so my intent was and is to try scoops of this high protein soyflour in alternating Power Shakes. But with SO MUCH soy flour I can experiment in the kitchen....one of my favorite hobbies. So....I looked up home made tofu making and saw that while there are variations (nigari, gypsum, lemon juice, Epsom salts) the theme is the same....a natural coagulant in the manner of cheese making.

I brought two Brita pitchers' full of filtered water to a boil and added two cups of the soyflour, used a handcrank mixer to smooth out the lumps, and simmered it for about 15 minutes on Low. I put about a cup of filtered water in a steel sauce pan and added about 3 heaping tablespoons of Epsom Salts and a tablespoon of pickling lime (mainly as a calcium source) and brought it to a boil. Within SECONDS of my stirring the solution into the cooling soy milk, the curds began to form! They are now draining in a piece of clean pillowcase in a $1 stainless steel colander from Dollar Tree, then later I will put a few pounds of weight atop the saucer to press out more water. I will let it chill and firm up in the fridge to try out tomorrow.

Barely pennies' worth of Epsom Salts and 2 cups of that soyflour looks like it will yield maybe 2 pounds of FRESH homemade tofu!

http://al.godsdirectcontact.org/recipe/21e.htm

John

Friday, December 10, 2010

True Yams


Hi there! Just came upon your site and it’s really informative. I finally found an image of true yams grown on Guam. Hoping to find it out here in Washington state. But I thought you would like to have this recipe because it’s really good and tasty. Lorenda


Boñelos Dagu

Here is a recipe for Guam's Christmas doughnut. To make it a little more traditional, skip the sugar and flour and just "glop" a squeezed ball of grated dagu into the hot oil.

Ingredients:

2 pounds yams (dagu)
2/3 cup of sugar
1-1/2 cups sifted flour
Vegetable oil

Directions:

1. Peel yam and grate it to fill about four cups.

2. Place grated yam in a medium bowl. Then add sugar and mix with your hands. Gradually add flour while mixing.

3. Heat oil to 350 degrees.

4. Take about 1/2 cup yam batter into one hand and squeeze into small balls, about one to two inches around. Wet hands often and before taking more batter.

5. Place into hot oil and fry for about 10 minutes, turning once or twice. If you use two inches worth of oil, the boñelos dagu will turn up by themselves.

6. Drain boñelos dagu on paper towel. Serve hot with maple syrup.

Pacific Daily News files


Thank you! Yams need HEAT.....up there you might need a greenhouse. May I share your e-mail at my blog minus your last name? John

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Two Quite Different Types of Very Cold Hardy Peas We Can Grow

AUSTRIAN WINTER FIELD PEAS IN OREGONMost of us I am sure have grown English Peas and Snow Peas, plus the Sugar Snap Peas that resulted when the first two were crossed, but there are two other cold loving edible crops bred from the same base species, Pisum sativum. One, Austrian Field Pea, I grew in Denver in early spring when late frosts and snows were a certainty....great soil nitrifier, pods a little tough but edible (starchy seeds, low sugar content) and the usual edible leaves for people and poultry. Seeds are sold in bulk to farmers but should be available by the pound mail order...some folks raise it to feed and lure deer.

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/html/em/em8698/

The other obscure pea is 'Novella' which has almost all of its leaves replaced by edible tendrils that people snip into salads and omelets, stir fry etc. I think I have a pic; if so I will attach it. A few years ago I bought from an Indian grocer a bag of dried peas to plant just to see what came up....there were 'Novella'! The pods are on par with your usual English Pea...need to be shucked unless picked VERY young. Super cold hardy too.

In Denver, peas of all kinds are SO cold hardy we'd plant them in late fall just before the ground froze to germinate EARLY the next spring, or we'd plant them in EARLY spring just as the ground thawed. I had no damage to peas here in Tampa even during the Christmas Eve Freeze of 1983.

Give Peas a Chance! John

Indoor Winter Gardening


An ordinary onion and sweet potato vines grown in water can provide fresh greens indoors in cold snowy areas.....doing this in Denver helped to save my dietary health and sanity during those seemingly endless winter. These pics were taken in south windows here in my Tampa home. John

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christopher Cross in concert....'Sailing'

Enjoy, John

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9NkBxxHxAc

Free Viewing of 'Dirt' here in south Tampa

Friday night at 7 PM at the Grass Roots vegan/raw/vegetarian restaurant at 4334 South Manhattan Avenue, east side in a strip mall. These are the good folks who last week shared 'Fresh'. Hope to see you there unless I stick with the original plan of cooking and eating and conversing with a friend who lives near there....we might be attending instead. Come at 6:30 or earlier if you wish to eat there first. John

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8_dN5YWnyc

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter in Tampa.....

.....this winter is a dry El Nino winter.....last winter was cold and WET La Nina....like this lovely evening shower that filled my eaves buckets.  John

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibBrJZ2GOdI&feature=related

A cheap heirloom non-toxic control for bugs, mites and fungi


We’ve all had to deal with fungus problems on roses, squash and more. And we’ve all had aphids, mealy bugs, scale and red spider mites feast on garden treasures too.  Growing plants indoors and in green houses pose a whole new problem due to the absence of predators.  Those funky smelling chemical fungicides and insecticides rarely seem to work for long, and if they do, eating the produce or sniffing the blooms can be pretty scary. Hey, who wants to eat or inhale toxic chemicals when smelling an herb or bloom?  Thankfully, for over 100 years, Southern gardeners have relied on a cheap, non-toxic and VERY effective natural alternative they bought in grocery stores, and that thankfully we can now also order toll free or on-line.

What is it? An old-fashioned lye soap called ‘Kirk’s Castile’. Yup, dissolved in hot water this true soap (most “soaps” these days are detergents) is an organic gardener’s dream come true as a non-toxic all purpose garden spray. I was taught this concept in the 70's when I was an idealistic hippie/art major living in Seminole Heights with wise elderly neighbors who’d used it since the 1930's. These women said that back when they were young gardeners it wasn’t called “organic gardening”…. it was just a very cheap, tried-and-true common sense gardening aid…just splash the used dish and laundry water on plants with fungus and bug problems

To make a small batch of soap spray, rub a bar of “Kirk’s Castile” against a cheese grater, then dissolve 1-3 heaping tablespoon of the soap flakes in 1 gallon of very hot tap water in an old plastic milk jug. Let it sit a couple days, shaking the jug daily to dissolve lumps. Then pour the spray into a trigger spray bottle or your garden pump sprayer then spray the affected plants every 7-10 days till they are dripping. Be sure to apply the spray when you don’t plan on watering for a few days so it can cling to the leaves and do its job. Don’t be afraid to experiment with slightly weaker or stronger strengths as it is non-burning unlike some of the dishwashing detergent liquids you may have tried in vain.

To make a big batch of concentrate for future use, drop a whole bar into a wide mouth gallon container. Fill that jug with 1 gallon very hot tap water and let sit a week, stirring daily. You’ll end up with 1 gallon of a thick soap concentrate that keeps just about forever in a lidded container. To make a batch of spray, dissolve 1 cup of this concentrate in 1 gallon warm water, shake, then pour it into your sprayer. Thus a cheap bar of soap will make you SIXTEEN GALLONS of a very safe and effective fungicide and insecticide that won’t harm the environment nor make your vegetables and flowers and herbs toxic. For tougher problems try 1 part soap concentrate to 10 parts water for a thicker, more potent soap spray. And there is little worry of leaf burn from harsh summer sun.

How does it work? The soap alkalinizes the leaf surface, but powdery mildew and black spot and sooty mold ( on citrus and gardenias) fungi need an ACIDIC leaf cuticle to grow on…plus as a soap it helps to rinse them off. Spray UP at the undersides of the leaves if you are after blackspot fungus on roses.

What’s cool too is that the coconut oil in the soapy water (true soap is an oil or fat plus lye) help suffocate bad bugs by plugging up their breathing holes and permeating their chitinous exoskeletons. (that’ll teach’em ) Aphids on new growth? Spider mites on leaf undersides? Mealy bugs or scale on the stems on shrubs? White fly on your tomatoes? Just spray the plant thoroughly till it drips. Quite often the wing coverings of our garden allies the ladybugs and lacewings seem to spare them by acting as umbrellas. Adding 1 cup of cheap vegetable oil to that soapy gallon and shaking it thoroughly will let you wipe out vast numbers of scale insects.

Okay, its 2010, not 1976, and I am a little more grounded plus happily middle-aged now, and so I am glad that now more and more folks wish for less toxic ways to grow their garden favorites. A century old secret deserves to be better known and tried before we resort to expensive chemical sprays that can kill many unintended and valuable inhabitants of our yards’ ecosystems and endanger our children and pets while adding to the burden of poisons endured by our own bodies, the groundwater and what remains of this beautiful planetary ecology.

John







SOURCES:



Publix, Albertson’s Kirk’s Natural 1-800-825-4757 www.kirksnatural.com

















Free On-line book by the co-founder of Permaculture

http://www.futurescenarios.org/

Monday, December 6, 2010

Old Rose 'Louise Odier'

The Guide to Old Roses

In Denver my plant was a towering pillar rose in my west-facing front yard. There it was a very good hip setter. See the HelpMeFind link for more data. Oh that fragrance!! Enjoy, John


http://www.helpmefind.com/rose/l.php?l=2.2052&tab=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9qFE-ceFbk

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday Gift Certificates for Gardeners

Gardeners can be difficult to buy holiday gifts for as their interests can be both diverse and eclectic. Plus most of us are on tight budgets these days, so you can use these gift certificates to give your gardening friends and family members a way to choose what THEY want but based on YOUR budget. Gift certificates for my gardening and urban farming classes are $20 each, or your can purchase gift certificates good for exotic food crops plants and seeds for $5 and $10 each. When you send me your order and payment, be sure to provide the name and mailing address of each lucky recipient so I can mail them a lovely, rose-scented, Victorian style gift certificate they can redeem how and when they wish to. Save money AND insure a holiday gift they can really enjoy and benefit from....no more Chia Pets!! Please note I do no plants shipping, so the $5 and $10 plants certificates are for local use only so they can stop by and get the plants and seeds of their choice. Feel free to call me to ask for more details:   813 839 0881

Thanks and Happy Gardening. John


John Starnes
3212 West Paxton Avenue
Tampa FL 33611

The urban farming/permaculture/organic garden documentary 'Fresh'

As a long time urban farmer and organic gardener who has grown much of my food since 1984, I saw this illuminating documentary last night at a south Tampa organic restaurant on S. Manhattan Avenue and found it to be a powerful catalyst as regards re-defining the functions of various areas of my large back yard. In particular I will devise ways to corral my free range chickens into areas that late each summer get CONSUMED by a very aggressive annual grass. And due to the concept mentioned much of grazing animals on GRASS, I am very likely going to seed 1-2 areas in Bahia grass next summer to use as rotational pastures. Enjoy the trailer and try to see 'Fresh' for a fresh perspective on how we eat and live and work. John

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwR44T69_Is

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Urban chickens in San Diego

A great piece about a delightful woman and her chickens!  Enjoy, John

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oo0m-_jmZ-Q

Keeping roots of tropical houseplants warm in snowy cold regions each winter.

A trick I used in Denver in the 1990s to grow bananas and hibiscus and Old Roses indoors each winter was to keep the ROOTS warm:

1. In Denver I grew various Tea and China and Noisette roses in 3 gallon black plastic pots in my south and west windows.....that black plastic acted as a solar collector a rose can live in.

2. In my double-paned hotframes I made in the backyard from discarded, newly manufactured sliding glass patio doors, I had dumpster dived water bed warming pads connected to an extension cord from the garage. All that square footage of warmth let me germinate seeds and grow roses and veggies all winter. Once I insulated the soil mass by burying foot deep slabs of 3 inch thick styrofoam that came from the same door factory, all along the interior of the hot frame's length and width, the heat build up was dramatic.

3.In Denver I grew potted bananas and hibiscus indoors all winter in my livingroom atop dumpster-dived heating pads, like those people use on sore knees and elbows. Tropical plants struggle BIG time when the soil is cold.

4.Here in Tampa I use a heating pad my friend Allen gave me both to heat potted plants, and  to keep baby chickens of all ages warm and snug inside a scavenged plastic dog Igloo-style dog house inside their pen when cold fronts pass through, like last night.

"Peek and You Shall Find!"

(a dumpster diver's motto).

p.s. I usually got heating pads and water bed warming pads from apartment complexes and condos, and sometimes from dumpstsers behind Good Will and St. Vincent de Paul stores in Denver.

Clever Use of Wasted Solar Energy

I love this kind of thinking!   John

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101109102720.htm

Rain Gardens' Benefits

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101201151908.htm

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rooting Cuttings in Recycled Plastic Cookie Jugs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3T6fKtf1Kt0

'What The Bleep Do We Know' potluck at my house

Years ago this remarkable film had a potent effect on me by encouraging me to think and feel more bravely, knowing that my short life will be spent on the  third planet from a benign star shepherding a solar system in an outer arm of a huge spiral galaxy...one of many billions of galaxies. So why think and feel small and "safe" for fear of being considered "weird" or risky actual change? I've watched it easily thirty times over the years, altered and not ( I prefer "not") but it has been well over a year since I immersed myself in its imaginative wonder. Yesterday as my friend Tim and I talked about creating and choosing positive pre-emptive change in our lives vs. just reacting, I decided to host here a small potluck to eat, watch it, then gather around a fire in my back yard to discuss it and our own current state of affairs and dreams. I've hosted easily half a dozen dinners and potlucks to view and discuss this gem and so look forward to this new potluck.

Here is a link to the movie on-line, though the resolution looks low compared to the  DVD on my TV. For me, 'What The Bleep Do We Know' cultivates wonder and gratitude as do my gardens. Enjoy, John

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-azcMJ5JS4&feature=related

Waste Not, want Not........

http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/tre6as3o2-us-organic-britain-excreta/

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A video about the flying AEROGAMI sculptures I make from paper rescued from recycled bins

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPK1JeG_v3A

An article from my old St. Pete Times column in 2004

If you live in a cold climate area, plant peas either in the fall JUST before the ground freezes, or in early spring after it has just thawed out.

GIVE PEAS A CHANCE

John and Yoko were planting acorns around the world when they sang that famous anthem many folks are singing once again, but today we can use that same spirit of hopefulness with a “garden bed-in”. The cooler months of winter here in central Florida are our chance to cultivate the sweet crunchy pods and even the soul-penetratingly fragrant sweet pea flowers all too many think grow only up north or in our memories of our grandmothers’ gardens.

While we rarely see either edible peas or “sweet peas” in gardens here they will thrive each winter and spring if given full sun, rich fertile soil that isn’t too acid, something to climb up and plenty of cool or even cold nights. October through February are ideal planting times as peas grow quickly then; even a frost won’t hurt them. Add plenty of bagged compost to your sandy soil, and if you have highly acidic inland soil also apply a light sprinkling of dolomitic limestone about as heavy as parmesan cheese on spaghetti then turn it all under. Peas actually like “sweet soil” so coastal folks need only add that compost. Feed the peas once a month with a good drench of “fish emulsion” from a garden center....3 tablespoons per gallon of water is fine. Once they start to climb just entwine them into the trellis or chain link fence you planted the seeds next to and they’ll take off on their own as their tendrils grab a hold.

Like snow peas? Plant them and enjoy both those tender pods and the equally edible leaves raw in salads or tossed into stir fries. For the most food per foot of garden row sow the irresistibly crunchy-sweet “sugar snap” peas, be they the modern dwarfs that need no trellis or the old original with 4 foot vines. Once again, feel free to harvest the pea flavored tender new leaves and tendrils till the pods form but these pods are stringless and filled with crisp plump peas that rarely make it to my kitchen...it’s hard to not just stand there in my peaceful garden tossing the whole pods into my mouth! While they will grow just fine I never grow English Peas because they need to be shucked and after the pods are discarded it seems I get very little food.

Many northern transplants sorely miss old-fashioned “sweet peas” and the heavenly perfume they oozed when we were children visiting grandma’s garden. By the 1970’s though that amazing fragrance was lost by breeders in search of new colors and bigger blooms. But luckily the wild species was rediscovered on the island of Sicily, plus some heirloom varieties were tracked down too and now appear on ordinary seed racks and in catalogs. And winter and spring offer native Floridians a chance to experience a quality of scent like no other flower...sultry and spicy and sweet and soulful. Just one cluster of those elegant blooms will perfume a whole room! While some modern hybrids have brought back fragrance due to new breeding work, my heart still swoons most over two very old strains, the magenta and pink and white “Painted Lady” and the brooding deep blue and plum 17th century stunner ‘Matucana’. Be sure to pick plenty of bouquets to keep the vines blooming till the heat returns.

All I am saying is give peas a chance in your garden, and try three sowings per season; one in late October after the cool down begins, another in December, and a last one in February for a steady stream of delicious pods and startlingly sweet flowers.

SOURCES:



Thompson & Morgan Seed Catalogue 1-800-274-7333
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds   http://www.rareseeds.com/


AEROGAMI planes for sale

Tampa garden columnist John Starnes (St. Pete Times, Fine Gardening, Florida Gardening, Colorado Gardener, Sunset Magazine) is once again making and selling his flying sculptural paper airplanes called AEROGAMI he sold many hundreds of in Colorado. They are made from very heavy gauge paper, have reinforced fuselages, are painted in many colors, and each is hand signed and dated by the artist. There are many dozens of designs, but all are based are being aerodynamically correct with true airfoil wings, trailing edge camber, and control flaps to allow for banking, loop the loops, or smooth level flight. Due to their sturdy construction one needs a good throwing arm and a big open field to fly them in. If kept dry and picked up BY THE NOSE ONLY, each AEROGAMI plane will last for years. See below some of the designs available. They average 11 inches in length and are $10 each and may be picked up at: 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa FL 33611 Call to place an order for a preferred design if you wish: 813 839 0881


AEROGAMI planes are the ideal unique and affordable gift for this holiday season for people who like to fly cool things.









AEROGAMI planes are the ideal uinque and affordable gift for this holiday season.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I know....nothing to do with urban farming and gardening....

But I love this group's covers of songs by The Beatles whose music I feel help to accelerate social changes that embraced gardening and honoring the global ecology. Enjoy!  John

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=addNpGRQaiQ&feature=related

Friday, November 26, 2010

Velvet Bean: Mucuna pruriens video

I am really glad that I learned about seven years ago of this remarkable tropical legume that enriches soil with nitrogen via its roots while providing in its seeds the richest known source of natural L-dopa, making it useful to Ayurdevic medicine for the last 4,000 years as an aphrodisiac and adaptogen.. As such this plant can be useful to many folks with Parkinson's and Restless Leg Syndrome, plus those seeking options with Life Extension plans and depression. I really enjoyed seeing this vine tip last summer after entering my back porch lusciously altered.....nice to hear again the tree frogs, crickets,  and  the coturnix quail I was raising then. I hope you enjoy seeing and hearing this.  Enjoy, John

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34bxTxtZ7XY

Local Station WFLA Channel 8 Did This Nice Overview of my Water Wise Container Gardens

She was quite brave and nibbled quite a few plants and crops she'd never heard of. Cool to see how they edited the large amount of footage that she and the camera man shot. Enjoy, John

http://www2.tbo.com/video/2010/nov/26/gardener-saves-money-and-water-66816/video-news/

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Caterpiller Control for Tomatoes and Brassicas

The natural bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki has been my main defense against garden ravaging caterpillars since the mid 1980s, both here in Tampa and in Denver. Many brands sold in retail stores are greatly diluted, over-priced and often contain DEAD bacteria due to the products being stored in hot areas. So I buy and write and teach about the 'Dipel' brand.  Just keep it in your fridge for YEARS of usefulness. One teaspoon of this POTENT concentrate in a quart of filtered, well, pond or rain water (don't use chlorinated tap water) in a spray bottle will let you treat easily a 10 foot row of Brassicas (broccoli, cabbbage, mustard, boy choy and more) for just pennies. Spray your tomato plants until dripping when they are 4-6 inches tall, then again when a couple of feet tall to protect them from tomato hornworm. For the 19 years I cared for my clients' landscapes,  'Dipel' allowed me to keep their lawns free from sod webworms and their veggies safe from ravaging Cabbage Looper, Army Worms and Cut Worms.  John

My $1 one gallon solar shower water heater revisited

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsAVQURXpVE

Monday, November 22, 2010

European Crop 'Mache'




Now that things are cooling down in Florida I want to remind/tell folks about a wonderful, ancient European crop, an edible weed in the Valerian family, that I grew in Denver in VERY early spring when months of snow lay ahead, and here in south Tampa in winter. It has several names....Corn Salad, Mache, and Fetticus come to mind. The tender very nutritious leaves NEED cold weather to be vibrant, so farmers and gardeners in much colder areas east of Tampa where teens are common might find Mache worth trying. Plus it commands quite high prices as it is a true chef's and gourmet salad herb, so it could be a new source of revenue in lean times. Gardeners in snowy climate regions should consider trying it as a winter crop in cold frames, or sowing it in the ground in late summer, then covering the rows with a couple feet of straw JUST as the ground starts to freeze. All winter long just brush away the snow, lift the straw, harvest the tasty brilliant green leaves, and replace the straw just as you would kale as it is remarkably cold hardy! Attached is a pic of it with my hand for scale. John

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanks!

I want to thank the folks who support my blog sites with encouragement, ideas, by buying my plants and taking my classes, and swapping dumpster and other treasures with me. Of course I am thankful to folks who decide to use the "Donate" button at the bottom of my blogs to contribute to my PayPal account......I love the idea of my enjoying modest prosperity as result of my sharing with folks the concepts, inspirations, and pragmatic solutions and signposts that do so much to make me happy and grateful.

John

An article from my old St. Pete Times column that has relevance in all climate zones

GIFTS THAT MAKE SCENTS

Perhaps no other sense so touches the human heart as does scent...it can revive and renew cherished memories and create new ones to savor a lifetime. The holiday season is a blessed chance to give soulful living treasures to loved ones who will think of us every time they indulge in the sultry sweetness. And budgets of all sizes, even in these tight times, can accommodate the range of prices.

Fastest and easiest to grow and least expensive are bulbs of the Paperwhite Narcissus, usually about $1 each in bulk bins or mesh bags. Plant one to three of them in a small decorative pot 2/3's filled with bagged mushroom compost, water well, then cover the soil with an inch of glass marbles or rinsed pea gravel, or small seashells from the beach. In less than a month the lush foliage and flower spikes will emerge and fill your lucky recipient’s home with that astonishing musky sweet perfume. I for years have given them less than a week after planting the bulbs, so they can witness the entire growth process (a great gift for children to give OR receive). Other folks like grow them in advance so as to be in bloom when given. Either way, this gift from the heart is easy on the budget while offering priceless joy.

Have a local friend who loves roses but who laments the lack of scent and abundant hassle so often encountered by those who try to grow them in Florida? Have friends up north who miss fragrance too? Wow the northern folks first with the arrival of a gift card from the good folks at The Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas (1-800-441-0002 or www.antiqueroseemporium.com ), then later a husky own root rose growing in a 2 gallon pot in a tall and sturdy shipping box delivered to their front porch at the time best for their climate. They can take out the rose, feed and water it, and in six weeks have the heart stirring aroma of roses like our great grandmothers grew. Your Florida friends will get their rose before the holidays if you order by December 10. All can later transplant their rose gift into a five gallon pot filled with a 50/50 mix of potting soil and mushroom compost, with a dozen crushed eggshells buried deep to supply calcium for years of healthy growth. Lusciously fragrant roses for your Florida friends and family would include ‘Cramoisi Superieur’ (cherry red), ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ (pale flesh pink), "Maggie" (deep magenta), ‘Blush Noisette’ (baby blanket pink) and my own snow white hybrid ‘Sarasota Spice’. Extremely sweet roses for northern gardens I grew in Denver include ‘Conrad Ferdinand Meyer’ (pale salmon pink), ‘General Jacqueminot’ (deep red), ‘Baronne Prevost’ (rose pink) and ‘Hansa’ (fuchsia). Imagine that....roses for the nose that will grow easily!

Folks with gardening souls living in condos and apartments would love to get potted plants that are easy to grow in small sunny spaces and that boast a whole spectrum of perfumes. The generations-old ‘Logee’s Greenhouse’ (1-888-330-8038 or www.logees.com) grows treasures just for the holiday season, shipped to the doors of the lucky recipients. And as they thrive and increase in size, they can be transplanted to larger pots. I’d suggest potently-perfumed gems like Sambac Jasmine, Night Blooming Jessamine, ‘Belmont’ gardenia, Osmanthus ‘Sweet Olive’, Murraya paniculata, dwarf Meyer’s Lemon, or Stephanotis floribunda. While the plants DO arrive small, they should grow quickly for many years of their heady aromas.

Go ahead.....touch someone’s heart and thrill their nose with lovely living gifts that make scents this holiday season.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My December Classes

Basics of Frugal Backyard Chicken Raising

Many folks these days are considering, or have followed through on, pursuing a long time desire to raise backyard chickens for fresh eggs or even meat they know the origins of. I've had chickens on and off since the mid 90s, and can share how to raise happy, healthy, antibiotic-free chickens and eggs VERY frugally. I am teaching this well-received class again on December 11, from 11 AM until 1 PM, with a 30 minute Q & A session after. My address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa FL 33611, about 6 blocks south of Gandy and 1 1/2 blocks west of MacDill, jungly yard on the south side. Please park on my side of Paxton off of neighbors' lawns. The cost is $20 per student. Please bring a note pad and pen as we will cover many points. You will receive a pack of winter greens seeds to sow next fall to provide raw green plant matter VITAL to having healthy backyard chickens. 813 839 0881 or e-mail to RSVP. JohnAStarnes@msn.com See you then! John Starnes

Urban Farmsteading Basics 101

There is no security more reassuring than daily harvesting fresh meals from your front and back yard, just feet from the kitchen, even if just potted arugula or snow peas or cherry tomatoes for starters, or a fresh chicken egg or meat. But don't know where and how to start? Learn easy ways to deeply cut your water use, to insure fresh salads and root crops and fruits year round, a super cheap solar shower, and more. You'll get a lesson sheet of 15 topics to be covered; please be sure to bring a notepad and pen. Feel free to shoot pics and video. You will receive two free packets of cool weather veggie seeds, plus instructions on their culture, harvest and use. I've taught this class many times and folks say it it thorough and intense. It addresses a way of life and a mindset vs. being just a gardening class. I am teaching this class again on December 26th from 11 AM until 1 PM, with a 30 minute Question and Answer session after. My address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa FL 33611, about 6 blocks south of Gandy and 1 1/2 blocks west of MacDill, jungly yard on the south side. Please park on my side of Paxton off of neighbors' lawns. The cost is $20 per student. Happy Gardening! John 813 839 0881

Grow Your Own Salad Bar

Many folks want more than anything to simply grow a luscious, crisp, pesticide-free salad to enjoy each day. The winter season is stellar for the classic salad crops like arugula, chard, romaine lettuce, broccoli, sugar snap peas, scallions, cherry tomatoes and more, plus our hot muggy summers boast their own unique salad crops. This class covers the basic of making a Water Wise Container Garden, creating fertile soil for it, crops selection and planting them from seeds to cut costs (most are VERY easy from seeds), pest control, proper watering and organic soil feeding. You will quickly recoup the cost of the class in your first dozen harvests of many many dozens to come this winter season. You will get two free packets of unusual seeds for vigorous, mild flavored leafy greens you will never see in the grocery store, and instructions on their easy culture. One nice thing about winter salad gardening here is that, except for the tomatoes, the crops not only are cold hardy they LIKE frosts.....makes them sweeter. December through February are thus ideal times to sow their seeds.Garden writer John Starnes (St. Pete Times, Florida Gardening) is teaching this class twice in December, on the 4th and the 18th, from 11 AM until 1 PM, with a 30 minute Q & A session after. The cost is $20 per student. My address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa 33611 813 839 0881 Please park along the south side of Paxton to spare the lawns of my neighbors on the north side. Thanks. Why buy pricey little bags of corporate salads when you can grow fresh salads for just pennies a day?

Fermented Foods 101

Many folks are realizing the wide spectrum of health benefits of eating probiotic fermented foods, but that also they can be very pricey in the health food stores and grocery stores. Garden writer John Starnes (Fine Gardening, St. Pete Times, Florida Gardening) loves to grow and cook and prepare foods for friends and himself, and in this class will show easy very affordable ways to make your own kefir, natto, tempeh, kimchee, and cheese. There will be samples for tasting too. Be sure to bring a note pad and pen to write down the simple steps and ingredients, some of which can come from your own garden. The class will be held on December 5 from 11 AM until 1:30 PM, and the cost is $20 per student. The address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa 33611 813 839 0881 Please park along the south side of Paxton to spare the lawns of my neighbors on the north side. Thanks. Come hungry!

Growing Food, Cultivating Freedom and Harvesting Joy

Growing and raising much of your own food can free you from an unsatisfying job and addiction to the New Serfdom of endless debt as a "consumer". Learn three basics of successful gardening in central Florida, see the ease of a few backyard chickens for fresh eggs, plus get two handouts with 30 key techniques, attitude shifts, and resources that can allow us to discover what we REALLY want out of life, how to live frugally, and ways to shed old, restrictive habits and replace them with pleasurable, expansive ones to create a self-perpetuating positive feedback loop of habitual joy and gratitude. People say my trippy livingroom exemplifies "thinking outside of the box that the box came in" so most of the class will be held in there after we tour my urban farm. I feel that happiness is a choice we can make daily, and that we can create our lives vs. them just happening to us, with productive gardening as the key. I will offer this class again on December 19, from 11 AM until 1 PM here at 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa, FL 33611 813 839 0881 to RSVP. Please park on the south side of Paxton. The cost is $20 per student. Each student will receive 1 free packet of easy-to-grow seeds with instructions on their culture and harvest and use. See you then! John

Growing Cold Hardy Veggies and Herbs in 'Water Wise Container Gardens' Winter is here so now is the perfect time to plant the cold hardy crops that love chilly temps. I had my first veggie garden here in 1967 when I was in 9th grade at Madison Junior High, and have learned since then core principals and techniques that make winter food gardening in central Florida both pleasant and productive. Forget pesticides, forget wasting money on plants and seeds and crops that fail, and forget thinking that you have a brown thumb. Learn how to create a fertile garden site that will bless you with fresh pesticide-free produce for the six cooler months of the year, plus learn how to make your own 'Water Wise Container Gardens' for cheap to free...hey, the idea is to SAVE money, right?!. I am teaching this class again on December 12 , from 11 AM until 1 PM. My address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa FL 33611, about 6 blocks south of Gandy and 1 1/2 blocks west of MacDill, jungly yard on the south side. Please park on my side of Paxton off of neighbors' lawns. The cost is $20 per student. You will receive two free packets of winter crops seeds. I will provide a handout, but be sure to bring a notepad and pen. See you then! John Starnes 813 839 0881

Seeds of Forage Brassicas for Sale

Bred to have a low mustard oil content to avoid tainting grazing cattles' milk, these tasty, edible, very cold hardy brassicas thrive in winter in central Florida. In cold climates, sow them in early spring. Sadly, they are sold to the public only in 1 to 50 lb. bags. My goal is to make these more widely available to gardeners while recouping my costs. I am selling 1 tsp. of seeds (approx. 600) for $3 and a A Self Addressed Stamped Envelope sent to me at:

John Starnes
3212 West Paxton AvenueTampa FL 33611

I have the following:
Barnapoli Rape-large mild tender leafy tops
Bonar Rape- reminds me of a mix of broccoli leaves and collards, beautiful light silvery green, no bitterness, tender and sweet
Pasja-I believe it is a hybrid of Mizuna and a turnip, a classic salads green also good in stir fry, great for grazing right from the garden
Appin-Similar to Pasja, also mild flavored, tender, and a vigorous grower. Sow them all from October through February in central Florida.

Thanks and happy gardening! John

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Monster Home Grown Quiche


I used one of my two dumpster-dived long Pyrex baking dishes today to make a huge quiche that tonight I will cut into SMALL slices (8-10 lbs. of body fat more to lose to get my abs back) and freeze them. I admit that it came out YUMMY! The crust was biscuity...I made a wet dough of flour, olive oil, sea salt, bran, and baking powder and spread it about 1 inch thick in the baking dish after spraying it with lecithin then drizzling a little extra virgin olive oil ( 1 liter for FIVE dollars at Big Lots!). I put about 7 chopped yellow onions atop that batter, a half pound of cubed Publix Swiss cheese, then poured over that the mix a big tub of herbed eggs I'd found in my freezer of a LOT of eggs from my chickens plus already salted and herbed.....I thawed it last night. Today I added two fresh eggs and chopped Allium canadense garlic and mizuna and purple kosaitai for color, fiber and nutrition, plus added a few drops of iodine and a sprinkle of food grade diatomaceous earth to provide silica and dietary iodine. I baked it at 350 degrees for one hour.....a table knife inserted in it came out clean. Damn I love my own cooking! John

"Cow Peas": Vigna unguiculata

Fertilizer experiments on potatoes, corn, cow peas, peanuts, and effect of fertilizers on the germination of seeds (Bulletin / Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Tennessee)

I can't imagine my urban farm absent this super-productive crop. John


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSfFHNpX0vI

Yet Another Reason to Exercise Daily

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101115074040.htm

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Seeds of "Filipino Mexican Tree Pepper" for sale




This is the perennial (if protected from frost) "Tree Pepper" (Capsicum frustescens) I recently posted a video of here. The heat and flavor are on par with a good Thai pepper. I am asking $3 and a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope for 5 ripe pods that once you've dried indoors a few weeks, will yield a few hundred seeds to sow in the spring if you live in a cold region, now if you garden in a mild winter area. If you have winters harsher than Tampa's, I strongly suggest that you grow them in pots you can place indoors in front of a south window each winter. Just mail your payment and SASE to me at:


John Starnes 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa FL 33611.
Thanks and happy gardening! John

Bush joking about no WMDs

In his "book" he claims to be "sickened" that no WMDs were found in Iraq. So what's with his "joke" at a dinner when at that point over 2,800 American soldiers, and many tens of thousands of Iraqis had died? When will this spoiled arrogant monster face charges for war crimes and treason instead of getting a huge pension, a health care plan that none of us could dream of, and a book deal?! John

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_tFKa2_YBQ

Friday, November 12, 2010

Class: Easy Frugal Organic Winter Veggies and Herbs Gardening

The autumn cool down is here, so this is a great time if you are a super busy family person with either no garden site created yet, or if your past efforts yielded crops of disappointment instead of food for the dinner table, to get started. I had my first veggie garden here in 1967 when I was in 9th grade at Madison Junior High, and have learned since then core principals and techniques that make winter food gardening in central Florida both pleasant and productive. Forget pesticides, forget wasting money on plants and seeds and crops that fail, and forget thinking that you have a brown thumb. Learn how to create a fertile garden site that will bless you with fresh pesticide-free produce for the six cooler months of the year. I am teaching this class again on November 27th, from 11 AM until 1 PM. My address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa FL 33611, about 6 blocks south of Gandy and 1 1/2 blocks west of MacDill, jungly yard on the south side. Please park on my side of Paxton off of neighbors' lawns. The cost is $20 per student. You will receive two free packets of winter crops seeds. I will provide a handout, but be sure to bring a notepad and pen. See you then! John Starnes 813 839 0881

Class: Urban Farming 101 for the beginner

There is no security more reassuring than daily harvesting fresh meals from your front and back yard, just feet from the kitchen, even if just potted arugula or snow peas or cherry tomatoes for starters, or a fresh chicken egg or meat. But don't know where and how to start? Learn easy ways to deeply cut your water use, to insure fresh salads and root crops and fruits year round, a super cheap solar shower, and more. You'll get a lesson sheet of 15 topics to be covered; please be sure to bring a notepad and pen. Feel free to shoot pics and video. You will receive two free packets of cool weather veggie seeds, plus instructions on their culture, harvest and use. I've taught this class many times and folks say it it thorough and intense. It addresses a way of life and a mindset vs. being just a gardening class. I am teaching this class again twice in November, on the 13th, from 11 AM until 1 PM, with a 30 minute Question and Answer session after, then again November 28th, same times. My address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa FL 33611, about 6 blocks south of Gandy and 1 1/2 blocks west of MacDill, jungly yard on the south side. Please park on my side of Paxton off of neighbors' lawns. The cost is $20 per student. Happy Gardening! John

Class: Basics of Frugal Backyard Chicken Raising

Many folks these days are considering, or have followed through on, pursuing a long time desire to raise backyard chickens for fresh eggs or even meat they know the origins of. I've had chickens on and off since the mid 90s, and can share how to raise happy, healthy, antibiotic-free chickens and eggs VERY frugally. I am teaching this class again on November 14, from 11 AM until 1 PM, with a 30 minute Q & A session after. My address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa FL 33611, about 6 blocks south of Gandy and 1 1/2 blocks west of MacDill, jungly yard on the south side. Please park on my side of Paxton off of neighbors' lawns. The cost is $20 per student. Please bring a note pad and pen as we will cover many points. You will receive a pack of winter greens seeds to sow this fall to provide raw green plant matter VITAL to having healthy backyard chickens. 813 839 0881 or e-mail to RSVP. See you then! John Starnes

Class: Growing Food, Cultivating Freedom, and Harvesting Joy

Growing and raising much of your own food can free you from an unsatisfying job and addiction to the New Serfdom of endless debt as a "consumer". Learn three basics of successful gardening in central Florida, see the ease of a few backyard chickens for fresh eggs, plus get two handouts with 30 key techniques, attitude shifts, and resources that can allow us to discover what we REALLY want out of life, how to live frugally, and ways to shed old, restrictive habits and replace them with pleasurable, expansive ones to create a self-perpetuating positive feedback loop of habitual joy and gratitude. People say my trippy livingroom exemplifies "thinking outside of the box that the box came in" so most of the class will be held in there after we tour my urban farm. I feel that happiness is a choice we can make daily, and that we can create our lives vs. them just happening to us, with productive gardening as the key. I will offer this class again on November 21, from 11 AM until 1 PM here at 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa, FL 33611 813 839 0881 to RSVP. Please park on the south side of Paxton. The cost is $20 per student. Each student will receive 1 free packet of easy-to-grow seeds with instructions on their culture and harvest and use. See you then! John

Class: Least Toxic Pest Control, Indoors and Out

Say "gardening" and many homeowners and gardeners and pet lovers alike cringe and think of plant-ravaging bugs and diseases, plus swarms of fleas and roaches and mosquitos making life miserable for us and our animal companions, and poultry mites in our henhouses biting us AND the birds. This class will teach you a great many natural, non-or-least toxic methods of controlling and eliminating those scourges, including biological methods that need be purchased just once from mail order or local sources. All of these control methods are VERY inexpensive (hey, I’m a lifelong pathologically cheap tightwad!) and easy to acquire or make at home. Food self sufficiency gardeners like me CAN enjoy fresh produce all year long by defeating pests without poisoning those crops or the environment. A detailed handout, complimented by the notes you take (bring a pad and pen please) will let you begin right away winning the “battle against bugs and fungus” all year long. I am teaching this class again on November 20th, from 11 AM until 1 PM. My address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa FL 33611, about 6 blocks south of Gandy and 1 1/2 blocks west of MacDill, jungly yard on the south side. Please park on my side of Paxton off of neighbors' lawns. The cost is $20 per student. To RSVP call: 813 839 0881 Happy Gardening! John

Edible Native Garlic Plants for Sale

If you love garlic and onions you must grow this relative of both called Allium canadense that is native from Canada all the way down to Florida. The flavor is much like a mix of garlic and scallions, and you can eat the leaves, bulbs and flower stalks that appear in spring. Often these stalks bear baby clones that can be cut off and planted, much in the manner of Walking Onions. It very much prefers boggy soil, so set the pot in a tray with an inch of water, or in a sunny wet area of your yard. The plant seems to die back in spring, with no sign of life all summer, then BOOM once the fall cool down arrives the shoots appear like crazy. The bulb itself also multiplies underground, so in a few months you will have a clump that can be divided. I have 10 plants in 1 gallon pots available for $5 each, along with other edible crops plants, on my Honor System plant sales tables out front; just slip your cash through the payment slot in my red office door on my front porch. My address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa FL 33611 Thanks and happy gardening John

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Natto

Google the history of this ancient Japanese soybean probiotic food called 'natto' and consider fermenting and eating your own. John


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSUQdogKVOg

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Free Mini-Greenhouse for Rooting Cuttings


These tubs that cooking oil come in are a common sight in restaurant dumpsters.....they can be useful for storing bulk bird seed and fertilizer, or for transporting compost and manure teas. But if you root lots of cuttings, try using a sharp knife to stab the side near the top, then cut around in both directions, leaving a few inches of plastic intact on one side to serve as a hinge. Using a pencil thick drill bit, make 2 air and drainage holes per side, about an inch from the bottom to make it be a Water Wise Container Garden, then add the medium of your choice......builder's sand, garden soil, perlite, vermiculite, compost, etc. Set the rooting greenhouse where it will get INdirect light, like beneath a tree, or along the north side of a structure (if you live in the northern hemisphere), insert your cuttings, then control humidity levels with a combination of how tightly you close the lid, and whether or not you have the lid screwed on. For high humidity levels for the first week or so, tape it shut with cheap, wide, scotch style packing tape, which I often find near-new rolls of in the dumpsters behind warehouses.
Whatever kind of plastic they are made from, it becomes brittle in less than a year here in sunny Tampa. But hey, they are free for the taking-and-use in most restaurant dumpsters!
"Peek and You Shall Find" John Starnes


"The 7 modern sins: politics without principles, pleasures without conscience, wealth without work, knowledge without character, industry without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice." -Canon Frederick Donaldson

Waterboxx- VERY innovative for dry regions!

I am thankful to my friend Michael Mowry in Denver for sending me this link. Be sure to watch the animation showing how it works by duplicating Nature. John

http://www.groasis.com/page/uk/index.php

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Beatles performing 'Hey Jude' on The David Frost Show

I feel that The Beatles gave us not only wonderful music, but also breathlessly fresh and culturally needed energies to help fuel each choice we make every day to be free yet responsible, empathetic human citizens of this lovely world. John

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kv-pPMd_awQ&feature=related

Farmageddon

Food is power, and those elite "public servants" who perennially send our children off to wars of choice for profit, and who exempt themselves from the laws they try to bind us to, know this. Grow your own food, support local farmers, boycott Monsanto's GMO crops and products, enjoy if you wish cannabis as did Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, all the while remembering that Jefferson was a gardener and a farmer. I bet he'd be livid to see these videos of raids on family farms. John

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/11/09/the-return-of-fresh-milk-from-the-king-dairy.aspx

Opuntia Cactus Pickles Update

Well yesterday I popped open that apothecary jar of cactus refrigerator pickles.....DAMN they are good! Nice and crisp, the pickle juice did not become slimy as I expected, and great flavor. The taste is close to bread-and-butter pickles but much less sweet and with a ton of garlic and a fair amount of hot peppers. I took a small tub to my gym for folks there to taste and they loved them. The success of this first batch insures I will be making more, plus inspires me to re-look at the pickled fish recipes I've been collecting as someone who LOVES pickled herring. Now that the mullet are running and spawning I may well try my hand at making pickled mullet for the first time. For me, there is a near-spiritual satisfaction that comes from intimately growing and harvesting and preparing my own food. I just can't imagine living off of processed "food"! John

Waste Not, want Not

Rice Hulls for Greenhouse Soil Mixes

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101025161148.htm

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Mullets are Running!




So starting this week I will cast net 1-2 times weekly as today a fisherman said they are spawning, with the females big around as footballs due to all the roe. Not only do I love making and EATING smoked mullet, I am determined to get a few pounds of mullet roe to try my hand at making this traditional Old World delicacy. The pics are of mullets and other fish I've smoked in winters past as part of my ongoing efforts to achieve ever-greater food self sufficiency. John

Saturday, November 6, 2010

'Soil to Live For'

I wrote this article in 2008, but forget where it was published...'Heirloom Gardener'? The basic principles in it should be valid in most climate zones. John


Have you ever walked through an old growth forest and felt beneath your feet that rich spongy layer of natural compost accumulated over many human lifetimes? Year after year, a steady rain of falling leaves, bird droppings, pine cones, expired perennials and annuals, fallen fruits and the nutrients dissolved in rain water recreate and revive the soil beneath the green canopy of trees. This life-giving mantle of organic matter is a far cry from the lifeless sprinkling of decorative red bark nuggets, or occasional bag of peat, or a "miraculous" blue chemical fertilizer that many of us have attempted to heal our soil with. So how can we bring Nature’s soil enriching methods into our gardens?

"Sheet composting". Many of us have never gotten around to conventional composting because we don’t have a compost bin, or aren’t thrilled by the thought of having to turn the compost pile monthly, or spreading the finished product all over the far reaches of our landscape only to start all over again. Sheet composting eliminates those hassles by simply spreading compost-forming materials all over one’s gardens in a "sheet" of compost that builds up and decays and feeds the soil directly and steadily. It is an easy way of duplicating the forest’s method of constant soil improvement. Just think, with every good rain or deep watering, that sheet of organic matter leaches into the soil beneath it a life-giving broth of nutrients and beneficial bacteria and fungi. What was once funky lifeless dirt soon is rich humusy soil teeming with earthworms and healthy garden plants, all for free.

Recycling has progressed from being a "hippie fringe behavior" to a respectable mainstream habit our society embraces more and more in an effort to protect an environment under daily assault by a burgeoning human population. "Sheet composting" allows each of us to keep valuable organic matter out of landfills by healing our soil with an intriguing array of freebies. Why buy expensive bags of lifeless perky red mulches made from killed trees once you start noticing the boxes of cabbage leaves and corn husks your grocer will give you, or the kitchen scraps you’ve always sent down the disposal? Duplicate that forest and mulch your veggie or flower garden with chopped up bush trimmings and pesticide-free grass clippings, or leaves covered up with the horse manure the neighborhood stall pays to have hauled away. Buzz each evening’s kitchen scraps in the blender with water and toss that nutrient-rich slurry onto your sheet compost to feed the soil without attracting raccoons and opossums with intact table scraps. Use cheap clay cat litter, or plain garden soil or tree grindings mulch instead of the anti-bacterial clumping stuff in the litter box and toss that nitrogen rich mixture into the rose garden. Stop at your local coffee shop once a week and bring home big bags of coffee grounds and sprinkle them onto that sheet of compost forming steadily in your landscape beds. You get the idea…..if it will rot and it is free, bring it home and sheet compost with it.

Of course, esthetics are important, and who wants to gaze at a flower bed littered with decaying fruit, cat litter and corn cobs…hardly the cover of "Better Homes and Gardens". Just sprinkle a more attractive mulch material over your newest "deposits" to your soil’s fertility account, like tree chips mulch, pine needles, raked leaves, or a bale of hay shredded quickly by hand…one $5 bale will easily cover a 10 foot by 10 foot area with a pleasing blond mulch hiding all those decaying treasures while minimizing flies.

As your sheet of compost becomes a continuous mantle over all your gardens, you’ll notice that the soil stays damp and dark and earthwormy between rains and waterings, and that your plants are perking up big time. You’ll notice too that your deposits to the garbage man have shrunk, and that you’ve started coveting neighbors’ yard waste… "Hey man, can I have your pine needles?" "What are you going to do with those bags of leaves?" You’ll also notice that your gardens need less and less fertilizer. Why? Compost is the gold standard of soil amendments. A light sprinkling of fish meal each spring and fall all over the sheet compost will insure perfect plant nutrition. If your soil is acid, a light sprinkling of dolomite or garden limestone each spring will keep your soil "sweet" while supplying vital calcium and magnesium. While ordinary mulch primarily keeps soil moist and cool, modifying it into sheet compost turns it into a continuous Thanksgiving Day feast for your gardens. And a thick damp mulch will help slowly acidify alkaline soils.

Poor soil, be it clay or sand, causes most of our ongoing gardening frustrations, and is crying out for us to imitate Nature’s ways. "Pit composting" is another dramatically effective way of recycling garden waste and organic soil foods into little "heavens" for extra hungry plants like peonies, roses, squash, asparagus, baby trees and fruit trees. Autumn is the perfect time to start creating them as we clean up our yards of garden waste and leaves, or in spring if we prefer to shield our gardens from winter’s harshness with freeze killed top growth and leaves.
Sounds fancy but "pit composting" is nothing more than digging pits of varying sizes, and filling them with organic wastes that decay into compost. Each pit then serves as a highly fertile planting hole for trees, shrubs, perennials and hungry veggie crops the following season. Long employed in highly alkaline regions of the desert southwest like arid Arizona cursed with caliche soils, this technique is a godsend for folks gardening in packed alkaline clay soils, or in loose nutrient poor sandy soils.

Dig a pit 2-3 feet wide and deep and pile the waste soil all around the hole in a big ring as you stand inside the deepening hole...it will look like a moon crater or low volcano when you are done. Then use that hole as a "landfill" for your household’s wastes…bush trimmings, limbs from this spring’s snow damage to your trees, organic grass clippings, autumn leaves, spoiled bales of hay, kitchen scraps, dog dooky, soiled kitty litter (not the scented deodorized kind but cheap clay), spoiled dropped fruits and such, old firewood, plus hopefully a generous dollop of fresh manure of some kind, horse poop being my favorite. If you are fighting highly alkaline soil as is the norm west of the Mississippi, sprinkle in 10 pounds of cottonseed meal from a feed store, or a few handfuls of agricultural sulfur. If you are dealing with acidic soil, sprinkle in a few handfuls of powdered limestone. When your pit is filled with organic wastes you will have a mound 2 feet higher than the hole’s rim: place into that "organic salad" several earthworms from your compost bin or garden soil so they can feed and multiply, then cover it all up with the soil you dug out. You’ll end up with a tall funny-looking "dome". (be mindful that until it is filled, the pit is a stumbling hazard for young children and tiny dogs.)

Give this a good deep watering and let it mellow and compost all winter long, or for 3 months if you make one in spring. It will settle until it is a slight dome a year later. At planting time go ahead and plant your hungry babies or seeds in the center. The roots will luxuriate in that humusy, fertile, pH-balanced underground compost-filled pit that will absorb and hold water wonderfully, yet that porous medium will allow for good drainage and oxygen flow for the roots. If you have never succeeded in growing a huge bumper crop of winter squash or pumpkins, (both are very hungry plants), planting their seeds above a "compost pit" may well bring to mind Jack and the Bean Stalk! And compost pits are perfect homes for super-productive asparagus if you sprinkle a 5 pound box of cheap rock or ice cream salt into the pit before covering it up with that soil. Why? Asparagus is a brackish water plant from European coastlines and some of us already sprinkle salt on our patches annually anyway.

By creating compost pits steadily, side by side, all over our property year after year, we can reinvent our soil, recycle our wastes, conserve water, elevate low lying areas, and enjoy vibrantly healthy plants. And transforming "garbage" into beautiful blooms, tasty fruit, plump squashes and pumpkins, fragrant Old Roses and sensuous peony blooms is a touch of the alchemist’s dream.

Once we have created healthy soil, we need to feed it. While you won’t find this recipe on the Food Channel, it’s been a staple of European gardeners for centuries. To brew that nutrient-rich elixir called "Manure Tea" or "Russian Tea" or "Poop Soup" relied on by millions, all you need is a non-leaky garbage can, water, a stir stick and, you guessed it, fresh manure.
Horse manure is far and away everyone’s favorite, but you can settle for bagged sheep or poultry manure...but do take a few garbage bags to a neighborhood horse stall and treat your self to "the real thing" for best results. Fill the garbage can four fifth’s full of water and let the chlorine out gas a day or two, then fill the remaining fifth with fresh manure, stir, and let it "brew" for two weeks with an old window screen on top to keep out flies and breeding mosquitos. Stirring daily with an old broom handle will mix the sunken "goodies" with the foamy top. At the end of two weeks, "it’s time for tea!"

Just use an old mop bucket to bail out the barnyard- scented elixir onto your hungriest plants like corn, all manner of greens, squash, sunflowers, annual flowers, bananas, hibiscus, taro, true yams (Dioscorea species) and especially roses.. Then water it in deeply. They will lap up the combination of dissolved plant nutrients and beneficial bacteria, and you may soon be convinced you can see them growing.

For young seedlings of veggies and flowers just feed them a dilute mix of one half "poop soup" and water, then water that in too. This weakened strength insures you won’t "burn" those teensy young stems and roots. And use this dilute formula for a real pick-me-up for all your potted patio and indoor plants and orchids too...don’t worry...that musty barnyard fragrance many folks actually like will pass in a few hours.

When the tea is all drawn off, just spread the dregs at the bottom around your gardens as part of your ongoing mulching habit. Or toss it atop your compost heap. Hey, many of us save our tea bags and coffee grounds for the garden, why not this too?

As with all recipes there are variations, and people think of new ones all the time. Us "rose freaks" like to toss in five pounds of alfalfa pellets from the feed store. Passionate veggie gardeners will add a few pounds of dried kelp meal from the feed store to add the valuable trace minerals all plants need for optimum health. Tossing in two cups each of Epsom salts and rock phosphate supplies extra magnesium, sulphur and phosphorus. Stir five pounds of menhaden fish meal to make your own home made ‘fish emulsion’. Sprinkle in sources of beneficial bacteria and yeasts like compost starters, Calf Manna (from a feed store) or ‘Primal Defense’ (from the health food store) to broaden your garden’s ecology to ward off fungal and bacterial disease. If you are lucky enough to have access to potent poultry and pig poops, use one part to ten parts water.

When I moved to Denver in 1987 I devised a potently acidic version to combat the excess alkalinity that is the norm on the plains, and that many coastal and south Florida folks here face. I called it "Puke Juice" due to the effect its horrid smell on the human gag reflex has when being applied. Don’t worry...that charming "perfume" fades a few hours later in the garden. Plus it is easy and FREE to make.

Just toss in a bushel basket of FRESH green, pesticide-free grass clippings and some manure, stir, then brew with the garbage can lid tightly on for two weeks also....with no air available your tea will soon be being brewed by anaerobic bacteria who will produce so many natural acids that the resulting tea dissolves egg shells and chicken bones! Sure it stinks, but is a remarkably fast, cheap and natural way to acidify alkaline soils while also supplying a whole range of dissolved nutrients. I made and used many many gallons of "Puke Juice" my first year of gardening in my northeast Denver yard back in 1988 to quickly heal my then-packed, 8.5 pH bentonite clay "soil". Julia Child was a gardener I hear, so I bet she’d even give these recipes a try...ready, set, brew. (But don’t sip!)

Vibrantly healthy soil is the key to successful, pleasurable organic gardening....give these techniques a try and watch your soil evolve into a living fertile medium that some gardeners would either kill or die for.