Saturday, July 31, 2010

Back Yard Poultry: Bounty from the beach

This is a fun free way to avoid buying expensive oyster shell grit for your chickens. John

"Restricted Drainage Container Gardening"

I am still making and using new versions of an early progenitor to my Water Wise Container Gardens.......Restricted Drainage Container Gardens. They are easy and a tightwad's dream.....scavenge large used commercial black plastic tree pots, draw a rolled up used plastic grocery bag, half way, through each and every drainage hole so that half of each extends outside the pot. Set it in place, pile mulch around the base to hide the bags, then fill the pot with the soil/compost mix of your choosing. Soak it DEEPLY by hand, repeat an hour later, apply 2 inches of free chipped tree trimming mulch, then plant, then hand water again. This approach DOES allow the soil to drain, but SLOWLY. The large soil surface allows for good oxygen flow to the roots, especially if you bury a few handfuls of dry dog or cat food then add some red wriggler earthworms. This approach has allowed me to grow Old Roses, broccoli, hot peppers, okra and more despite south Tampa's perennial lack of sufficient rain. I also like to pee in them plus give them kitchen graywater as sources of both water AND nutrients. John

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Back Yard Poultry for Invasive Frog Control

The plague of Cane Toads and Cuban Tree Frogs I inherited when I bought this home and yard in 1998 was cured once I moved in for good in November 2002 and got chickens who feast on them. John

My Urban Farmhouse as an ongoing live-in art project

Since this is my last house I years ago pulled out the stops and have been having a blast tripping out the interior since I hope to live here until I am 94. VERY freeing indeed! And fun as all get-out. I work almost exclusively with scavenged materials, with wonderful finds (like big sheets of mirror for my livingroom floor) being catalysts for new phases of perennial projects. If you'd like to see a video of my Incredibly Red Hall, check out:

See that link at the bottom of each page at the urban farm blog for an eclectic mix of posts about science, art, political rants, wonderful music videos, poetry, cars, space travel and astronomy, dinosaurs, cool airplanes, my own art projects and more....there is so much to be interested in and excited by during our brief time here.

I love cultivating gardens around my house, then cultivating new possibilities based on recycling discards inside it. I THINK that at any of my blogs if you click "subscribe by e-mail" you get an e-mail each time I make a new post...the system won't let me try it on myself.

A nice rain here in south Tampa this afternoon as I worked out at the Joe Abrahams Fitness Center at Ballast Point, then more once I got home. Perfect timing, as earlier I had set out in my northeast street bed young plants of African Foxglove and Yellow Turnera and Pink Ruellia, watered in initially with water from a front porch rain barrel. After the storms passed I gave papaya seedlings in my beds nice drenches of kitchen graywater from my 5 gallon buckets.

Home Made Seed Packets From Junk Mail

I share lots of seeds with friends by mail, and for years have cut out the corners of junk mail envelopes, folded one cut side, put in the seeds, folded the second cut side, then used a stapler and staples (all from dumpsters!) to quickly and easily make seed packets. Waste Not, Want Not! John

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Instructional Poem

I hope you will visit my Starnesland blog often as it is an eclectic catchall for the many things that excite and interest me in this amazing Universe we are blessed to be born into before vanishing again not long after. I also now and then feature some of my creative projects, such as the "instructional poems" I wrote in my 30s, before and after I moved to Denver in 1987. Here is one I wrote during the Reagan-era military build up. John


If, one morning, as you work in the garden
the air raid sirens wail one last time,
continue combing the soil with your rake,
your hands grasping the warm wooden handle,
the hopeful green glint of unfolding leaves
diluting your fear.

Be sure to be stooped over lovingly planting seeds
when the fireball suddenly kills the sky
above you.

Seedlings will survive where your shadow falls.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Do You Also Like To Eat Daylily Blooms?

I love their color in the gardens and in my salads and plate garnishes. Some folks also eat the tender new shoots and tubers. So I am very fond of the company 'Gilbert H. Wild and Son' as they offer a VAST number of daylily cultivars, coded for climate needs (E= Evergreen for mild regions like Florida, the Gulf Coast and southern California, D = Dormant for colder regions) and at often VERY low prices. They also sell MANY kinds of bearded iris, peonies and hostas for colder climates too. I just got their new catalog and am working up an order of Evergreen type daylilies to add edible color to my urban farm. You can reach them at: 1-888-449-4537 or at: I have been pleased with every past ordered I've placed with them, and you KNOW just how cheap I am! John

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My free, hurricane-proof (so far) henhouse

Back when I was still having to spend most of each year in Denver, here just a few months each winter, I scored BIG time one winter during the annual S.W.E.E.P. event when people sit on the curb all the crap in their yards and homes too big to set out for usual garbage pickup. Being a dumpster-diving packrat I of course SCOUR the neighborhood for treasures (though I AM better now about putting stuff OUT for pickup as I try to make my yard look less 'Third World" each year). Two households had set out a LOT of chainlink driveway gates....I did not know WHY I wanted them, but I am John was my JOB to make a few trips in my van and stash them in my backyard before making once again, reluctantly, that LONG drive back to icy brown Denver in April.

Once back the next fall, one early evening I was getting "altered" on a certain herb, free-associating as usual ( I LOVE how cannabis can enhance creative thought processes) and starting playing around with mix-and-match combinations of these gates. I soon realized I had JUST the right mix to make a very sturdy and spacious henhouse. I constructed it atop 4 layers of scavenged carpet to keep racoons from digging their way in from the sides, and used various scavenged wires and cords to lash them all together into a very rigid structure not even jiggled by hurricanes to date. At sundown the chickens go in, I take "Mr. Rooster" out and put him in a dog carrier in the garden shed, cover that with heavy cloth then close the shed door (this spares my neighbors his crowing as I let him out 10:30 AM on weekdays, 11 AM on weekends), then close the henhouse door and tie it shut with a piece of phone cord to keep racoons from forcing it open.

It cost me nothing except some physical and mental energy, and for four years it has also served as an arbor for "Gracie's Grape" and "Gray Street Grape" for shade in summer, sun in winter for the hens, and grapes for me.

Peek and You Shall Find! John

a portion of a dialogue at GMInsidenews about the Middle Class shrinking

Originally Posted by calgaryhhr:
I think this is something that many people overlook or never mention when they start talking about the shrinking middle class. The middle class is essentially killing itself by being over-extended and trying to live high-class lifestyles when they can't afford it.For the last 20 years at least there has been a major push within the middle class to live beyond their means and try to represent themselves as being better off than they really area.The middle class should have focused more of saving and smart financial planning instead of taking expensive vacations, buying a new SUV every second year or trying to risk it all in real estate investments.I know the decline of the middle class is a lot more complicate than just this but this is a real part of the problem.

I agree that is a big part of the problem. I have been low income my whole life, yet have always saved compulsively, in part to create a safety net that in turn creates options, and to create a growing core of wealth. Net result is I bought this modest retirement home for cash in 1998, and a debt free way of life that my friends say resulted in my retiring at 48. I'm not "retired" as I do need to generate about $700 a month for basic life support, but I DO feel free to do what I wish each day when I wake up. That is a stark contrast to many people I know, who, despite their incomes being many many times more than I have ever known, have for years been enduring sleepless nights trying to not lose the home they borrowed against as if it were an ATM machine. But their sense of self esteem is VERY much based on what they drive and live in vs. developing an inner sense of self and confidence, and a passion for living. Quite a few used to criticize me for my frugality..."you only live once, borrow that equity, travel, send out for gourmet pizzas weekly, etc." Whatever happened to that quaint notion of living WITHIN one's means, saving 10-20% of one's income FIRST, or avoiding debt, or at least paying it down aggressively. In my view, addiction to debt and living beyond one's means disempowers you, making it easier to become then stay a modern day serf enslaved by corporate fascism.

"The only normal people are the ones you don't know well". unknown

Saturday, July 24, 2010

They're Up!

Remember my recently posting this pic of that 8 oz. bag of dried Thai hot peppers I bought at south Tampa's Vietnamese 'DoBond Market'? Well, I took the seeds out of several of the pods, hoping that they'd be viable (vs. the peppers having been heat-treated or irradiated), sowed them in a 4 inch pot of garden soil, then gave them rainwater. They are up! This was a VERY cheap way to get seeds, plus I got 1/2 POUND of dried HOT Thai peppers for $3.99! I am planning on growing quite a few of these in buried 4 gallon Water Wise Container Gardens as I LOVE hot peppers and this would insure ample home made hot sauces, dried ground hot peppers, plus hot pepper oil.

Cool! (I mean "hot"!). John

Friday, July 23, 2010

Posts From:

Originally Posted by SRQG8

John, with an absolutely huge amount of respect, please let me ask a question. If the majority of the world's population still uses "ozone-depleting CFCs" and other propellents and refrigerants, then why is there no more worry about a hole in the ozone layer anymore? Just because NA and Western Europe no longer use the "bad" stuff? It doesn't make sense to me. Please educate me on this. Thanks!

Good point I will look into that. Thanks. My first thought is that since the US and Western Europe are the most tech-intensive countries we'd contribute an impact far greater than more populated Third World places. I THINK the Montreal Accord did result in a pretty widespread global avoidance of CFCs though I don't know if that is true. Last I heard I think the US is about 6% of the global human population yet uses 40% of the planet's energy and resources. I forget what percentage of the pollution stream we contribute as a society.

I see many factors having helped the ozone layer to heal, like the deep cutback of use of bromides as farm soil sterilants. As best as I can tell we humans can bring a full spectrum of both good and bad impacts to the global ecology. We deforest like there is no tomorrow, yet we saved the buffalo and other species despite having rendered the Passenger Pigeon and thousands others extinct...forever. We stopped unsustainable whaling yet Felujah, Iraq, is suffering heartbreaking rates of deformed infants and cancer in children and adults due to the U.S. showering the area with depleted uranium-based explosive shells. But here in Florida in the 70s we saved the brown pelican, bald eagle, kite and osprey, plus the Gulf shrimping industry, by working hard to get Mirex and other DDT-related compounds banned.

Since 1970 I've tried in varying ways to help heal this planet's ecology, and I've witnessed many victories that emotionally help to offset the losses. So when someone whose kids' blood levels of lead are DRAMATICALLY lower than kids 30 years ago due to us "tree hugging-freakin-hippies-enviro-weenies" getting off our asses and doing something ( like fighting to get leaded gasoline banned) for 1-3 decades now chooses to refer to us as, me included, with any of those perjorative labels vs. "environmentalists", especially since so often they seem remarkably unaware of a broad base of widely available empirical data that suggests that yes humans DO affect the planetary ecology, I'm hard pressed to take them seriously. I guess name calling is far easier than contributing suggestions for substantive solutions.

A petri dish could seem "infinite" to three E. coli bacteria placed on the nutrient medium.....but not for long. We humans are REALLY crowding this petri dish called Earth, as best as I can tell.


"The only normal people are the ones you don't know well". unknown

Peek and You Shall Find

A few days ago I checked a long-favorite department store dumpster on the way home from buying a new motor for my AC with the help of my friend Tim.....MANY MANY bags of bird seed, each slashed. I got two loads in two trips (I live minutes away). I left MANY bags in the dumpster, plus who know how much loose bird seed that had spilled out of the slashed bags. Once home I transferred the bird seed (a blend of cracked corn, sunflower, rye or wheat, millet plus sorghum) into plastic buckets. Of course I HAD to weigh them all (now they know how many seeds it takes to fill the Albert Hall) on my bathroom scale. 325 pounds! The chickens, ducks and quail love it, so this will do wonders to meet their needs for QUITE some time. Just two bags had weevils...the rest were immaculate. Free is good. Thank you Alley God!

Peek and You Shall Find


Low Tech Kitchen Graywater Recovery

For easily 25 years, starting in Denver when my sink trap began to leak and I put a bucket beneath it, then decided to REMOVE the trap rather than repair it, I've been saving and using my kitchen graywater to nourish my crops and Old Roses. This is a 4 gallon hard boiled egg bucket that a friend gives me TONS of.....perfect height to slip beneath the pipe leaving the sink. I keep a 5 gallon bucket with a strong handle on the kitchen floor to dump the contents of the sink bucket into when it starts to get full. Since in much of the world people have to walk great distances to get, then bring home, water for cooking and cleaning, I enjoy taking 5 gallon buckets to dry areas or to thirsty plants like my guava or bananas, as a form of exercise AND mindful awareness of my water use vs. it disappearing unseen down the drain. Saving sink water in these buckets visibly quantifies my water use, as does my 1 gallon, solar-heated Arizona Green Tea jug showers I take daily in the back yard, standing in a tub to catch that gallon to use on my roses. I just swapped out the gnarly old bucket in this pic for a pristine new one to make my low-tech graywater recovery system all perky and Martha Stewarty looking.

I've done this for SO long that when I am in other peoples' homes I probably visibly palpitate as they let the water run and run as they peel a carrot or something, ALL that unknown quantity of precious water slipping down the drain, wasted (in my tightwad gardening mind at least). If you do this, remember two things: sit the bucket in a tray for the INEVITABLE occasional overflow, especially at the beginning when you are learning how a bucket quantifies your water use, and: stuff a used plastic grocery bag into the pipe that leads out of your home to insure sewer gas (methane) not seep into your home as that is the main purpose of the sink trap.

I am sure I will do this the rest of my life unless I end up a doddering old fart too weak to carry buckets of water! John

Give Pee A Chance

Yet one more reason to pee in your yard to nourish your soil and avoid flushing potable water. John

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

live cover of The Beatles' ' A Day in the Life'

He and his group routinely do superb justice to songs by The Beatles.

Home Made Grape Juice

Since I have oodles of "Gracie's Grape", "Gray Street Grape" and 'Triumph' muscadine grapes this year, I am going to give this a try. John

Vigna Tips

Heirloom variety "Clay"

Black Eye Pea blossom

Lots of folks don't know that the vine tips and young leaves of Vigna unguiculata (cowpea, black eye pea, "Clay", zipper pea, crowder pea, White Acre pea, etc.) are edible and nutritious added to stir fry, soups, omelets, stews, etc. I don't like them raw, plus if I rub against the vines shirtless when walking past them I get a painful "burn" that turns into a welt. But I love the fact that the young shiny leaves and abundant vine tips give me food long before the pods form. The blooms are wonderful on salads but of course each one eaten prevents a pod from forming. I've read that in Africa (continent of origin of the species) the mature leaves are harvested, dried then store for later use reconstituted with spices as they are quite rich in plant protein. See recipe below I plan on trying both with fresh and dried leaves. I am buying the peanut butter today.


"You are a joy!"

My friend, John~

A prayer to my friend, God, would be to attend your classes to listen to you again~I learned so much that warm day about one year ago or so. I often wonder how your limburger cheese came about. :)

We now have chickens (they were darling gifts from my hubby, Chuckles, for my 58th birthday this year). Yep, I'll take them over a diamond ring anyday! He is now redesigning the grandchildren's treehouse/play house into a girl's dormitory right outside my sleeping room. :) That surely will give the neighbors something to talk about!!! :) Hope to plant a few Bird of Paradise in front of their domain ... sort of a play on words...would plant an edible ornamental, but it is pretty shady...although the rhubarb thrives in that little nook of the cottage's ???yard???? :)

Bless you for your informative narrative~I am always lifted in spirit when I read your emails to the group! You are a trove of great information; a book needs to be written by you!

Bless you!

Theresa Byer

Sharing This Blog

Yesterday I accepted an offer from Blogspot to automatically install below each new post a tool bar that will let folks share via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc. a posting that they like with friends and family.....just pass your cursor over that little white bar to reveal each tool if you want to try that out. The more folks visit my blogs and look at the ads on the right side, the more income I can generate. Thanks for your support! John

White Roofs, Cooler Homes and Cities

I've been meaning to paint my roof white the last few years....looks I need to stop procrastinating! John

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Frogs as Pest Control Allies

Cuban Tree Frog (?)

Tree Frog in a Seashell on my Front Porch

Tree Frog on a Friend's Croton.....Cuban?

Teensy native tree frog

Teensy native tree frog

When I was a kid in Michigan, then years later a young teen here in Tampa in the late 1960s, leopard frogs were a common sight. Sadly, I now rarely see them...instead Florida has the invasive Cane Toad and Cuban Tree Frog reshaping the ecology. But we still have some natives too, and I enjoy trying to suppress the invasive ones and helping those that "belong" here, and soon I will post a brief YouTube video about that effort. But I am mindful that even these invasives help to control plant damaging bugs right up to the time that either I or my chickens ( they LOVE Cuban Tree Frogs!) control them.
Here are a few photos of a truly charming native frog we have here...a WEENSY TEENSY tree frog, which I feel certain that due to its diminutive size must surely eat a lot of spider mites and ants and aphids.
Sadly, populations of frogs and other amphibians are plunging globally due in part to human-released toxins and increased UV from thinning of the ozone layer, and now this new plague occuring in areas where tropical deforestation is rampant.

Enjoy the pics of this cute little bug eater!


Jamaican Yellow Yam

I can't imagine food self sufficiency/urban farming in Florida and similar mild climates without the true yams (Dioscorea species) and have about 5 varieties I rely on year after year. I was recently blessed to be given a hefty plant of the Jamaican Yellow (Dioscorea cayenensis) that has VERY yellow flesh compared to my African Yellow (same species, different cultivar) due to the abundant presence of beta-carotenoids. But I am running out of fence line, and the henhouse has been consumed by "Gracie's Grape" and "Gray Street Grape"! Guess I better walk around the back yard once again and scour and scan for some place that can accomodate another rampant yam vine!


Support Raw Milk: Produce it, Buy it, Drink it!

It blows my mind that a family farmer selling healthy, health-giving raw milk to folks who WANT it can get into more legal trouble than has to date, an unelected president who used deceit to lead America into TWO wars of choice for profit, with over one million innocent human beings dead, with many millions more having endured unspeakable suffering. Something is systemically wrong with this, and since the wishes and desires of the American people are clearly secondary to those of the corporations that actually run this country, only Gandhi-style civil disobedience to these unjust laws on a massive scale can change or negate them. Despite the breathtaking scope of his crimes, Bush gets a cushy taxpayer-provided retirement atop his already vast UNEARNED wealth, plus "socialized" medical care the rest of us could never we can sure as hell produce and sell and drink healthy raw milk, and enjoy the innocent pleasures of cannabis in the privacy of our homes.


Question and Answer for Blog Readers: Send Them In!


This is Jerry in New Port Richey. I took one of your classes a couple of weeks ago. I was going over my notes and had a question. I'm preparing my soil for the October planting. I have added mono phosphate calcium and will be adding the calf manna on Wednesday. Would you recommend adding the Manhaden Fish Meal and the alfalfa also? I really want to give my soil everything it needs. I'm also looking for a tree service in my area for mulch. Thanks for your time. Jerry

Hi Jerry,

Boy you are fast! Yes it would be great to do that for your soil, then mulch with the tree chippings. If you don't need to do the cardboard layer, now would be a good time to plant a few eggplant seedlings and a row of black eye peas , a row of okra so you can get food coming in long before October. John


Thanks for the quick reply. You did not mention a card board layer in your class. How would I know if I need one?
Thanks Jerry


I tell people they can kill a section of lawn, or reclaim a garden site from weeds, by covering the area with flattened cardboard boxes, each overlapping the next by 6 inches, after feeding the soil, and before applying the mulch, then letting it lie fallow for 6 months to kill all the sod and weeds. If that is not an issue for you, then I'd apply the other nutrients, put down about 4 inches of the chipped tree mulch, water deeply, then plant those summer crops. Black eye peas/cowpeas are SUPER easy from seeds and LOVE summers here. One or two baby eggplants from Lowes or Home Depot and you'd be set.


Supporting This Blog

I am enjoying creating the posts for this urban farming blog in hopes that folks find visiting to be both pragmatically informative and uplifting in these challenging times. If I am succeeding in those aims, you can support me and my efforts in a few ways:

1. Become a "follower" and get (I gather) an e-mail each time I post a new blog

2. Share it with friends and encourage them to join too since there is no cost.

3. Click on advertisements that interest you on the right side of the blog page, as that, plus "hits"
to the blog itself increase the incremental income I can receive from Google AdSense.

4. Someone asked me if anyone had donated to the far no. But I'd be delighted if folks
who feel they benefit from the information and energies I share here did that now and then
using the PayPal-generated "Donate" button at the bottom of the page, or it they mailed me
a check or cash amount of their choosing to:

John Starnes
3212 West Paxton Avenue
Tampa FL 33611

Thanks for checking out this and my two other blogs, Starnesland and Rosegasms!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Urban Farming Revolution

I turn 57 next month and after years of deep cynicism, especially during the Reagan and Bush Too years, in spite of things, I am again feeling cautiously hopeful (although I won't be waiting THIS time for a Woodstockian"bombers turn into butterflies" event!). The "change" I voted for seems minimal at best: it is still clearly, business-as-usual Empire building, the suffering and deaths of millions of folks like us in their own countries a given, a "cost of doing business", with the root causes of "terrorism" ignored. "They hate us for our freedoms and shopping malls".

But I feel and see and hear evidence of REAL change in American society. The urban farming instinct is becoming actualized by millions of us with veggie and herb gardens and fruit trees and backyard chickens. Lots of folks save and use their kitchen graywater. Many of us pee outdoors to avoid flushing potable water since human urine is a safe, sterile, home-produced liquid fertilizer.

Few people worship and slave over monocultural lawns. Laws that have ruined the lives of TENS OF MILLIONS of Americans for decades for enjoying the same Cannabis that Jefferson and Washington and Franklin enjoyed as they created America are being revoked.

Homosexual people like me are no longer pariahs or invisible, plus Bush and Cheney face arrest under war crimes charges if they go to quite a few countries.

So I am choosing to be optimistic in spite of it all, since I reside on a blue and green and brown hospitable planet that has supported me for 57 years, counting womb time. And I love my everchanging, ever-messy urban farm and home-as-art project in south Tampa. I am a very lucky man.

I know that 'The Beatles' was just a rock group from Liverpool, but I feel that they were a delightful, essential, integral catalyst that did much to stimulate a collective, societal and global subconcious tapping into a wellspring of growth and optimism and and self-determination that was long overdue. The classic "right place at the right time". For me, their messages and energy are relevant now. Plus I love their music. (koo koo ka CHOO!)

That urban farming is being looked into and explored and experienced by millions of American families is, for me, great cause for celebration and hoping that we continue to create a revolution based on organic food self-sufficiency in each of our own yards. Food is power...we can entrust its production and quality to the same governmental bodies that send our children off to wars of choice for profit based on lies, or we can grow it ourselves in our yards and our community gardens.


p.s. awesome video!

I've got this thing for panty hose....

Dr. Frankenfurter

panty hose loops "uncut"

Panty Hose Hoops "Cut"

Maybe because I've watched 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show" one time too many? Perhaps I am a kinky tightwad gardener? But I REALLY like pantyhose.
Don’t you just love it when the best solutions in life and gardening are easy, even free? Those of us who grow tomatoes, pole beans, plus climbing roses, grapes and flowering vines have bought expensive plant twist ties that are often cumbersome to use and then later on strangle the plant’s stems as they grow. But once again, creative recycling comes to the rescue.

Your women friends may at first think you’re a bit kinky when you ask them to save for you their panty hose with runs until they see you can make 20 or more very effective plant ties from each one. Heck, they may start to keep them for themselves.

Gather the butt section into a wad in one hand, then ust use a sharp pair of scissors to cut off the waist band so that it ends up a ring; snip it once to make a long, strong, flexible band perfect for training stiff-stemmed grapes and climbing roses and cherry tomatoes. Depending on what plant you are training, you may be able to cut it in two.

Then cut off each leg, snip off each toe end and discard that, then cut each leg into 10 equal lengths. Slip those rings over one hand and use the other to stretch them several times till they curl themselves up into little tubes. Snip that handful of nylon loops and voila! You’ve got a nice bundle of long plant ties perfect for training vines to a trellis or chain link fence. Need shorter ones? Cut the bundle in half again and double the number of plant ties.

Cut the butt section remaining into about 3 rings, stretch, then snip those once for medium strength plant ties perfect for patio tomatoes or flowering vines like mandevilla, wisteria, or allamanda.
Using them is way-easy; just loop a nylon tie around a stem once, then tie it to the fence or trellis using a double knot. In no time you’ll train vines all over that formerly ugly chain link fence or long sought trellis or pergola. I use them to train my climbing and rambling roses up 10 foot lengths of construction rebar pounded 3 feet into the ground to create lovely English-style "rose pillars" in my garden and that of my clients. Resistant to UV and rain, these nylon ties stretch as stems grow, preventing strangulation.

An entire panty hose leg can be used where great strength is needed, such as on mature grape vines, mature thick-caned rambling and climbing roses, clematis, and bougainvillas. Unsightly at first, they are soon consumed and hidden by new growth.
Hey, waste not, want not...recycle those panty hose and get a leg up on your unruly vines while smirking happily at the memory of Dr. Frankenfurter in 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show".

Re-legalize it!!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

'Sustainable Living' on WMNF Radio in Tampa

Hey folks

I'm pleased to report that I will be making my third appearance on Jon and Debbie Butz's great radio show 'Sustainable Living' on August 9, from 1-2 PM. I like the call-in portion where we get to hear gardeners' and urban farmers' questions and see if we can help them out. I think the topic for this show will be 'Least Toxic Pest Control, Indoors and Out'. I hope you can tune and call in! John

Yet One More Reason For Me to Keep Cooking with Kombu Seaweed (kelp)

Friday, July 16, 2010

"Gracie's Grape" is ripening BIG time!

Home Made Tempeh

I have been an omnivore for over a dozen years now for health reasons (I am sickly as vegan or vegetarian even if I take supplements, balance my amino acids, etc.....some folks think I must have an O blood type though I don't know), but I cook primarily vegetarian, eating meat medicinally about twice a week. I LOVE tempeh but it is SO PRICEY at the health food store, so years ago I learned how to make my own by inoculating cooked organic non-GMO soybeans with a chunk of store bought tempeh to add the fungus whose white threads "tie" the cooked beans together into that wonderful firm, mushroomy loaf. It is important to add vinegar to the cooked beans to insure the correct pH so the fungus can thrive. I like to ferment mine inside a banana leaf clothes pinned shut at the edges. It is amazing JUST how cheap, (and delicious!) home-made tempeh can be. Give it a try...lots of how-to sites on line. John

Maize (Corn) is an OLD crop!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Muscovy Ducks in my Urban Farm

Gai Lohm update

Today I went back to DoBond Market to buy a bag of Gai Lohm despite the price ($3.73 for a small bag) to sample...BUT.....I guess due to her thick Vietnamese accent, we had miscommunicated was NOT grown here locally but in California. She said that was why it is so expensive, and that it is a winter crop here just as any of us would expect. Nonetheless, I have 2 packets of 'Blue Star' coming from and look forward to trying this VERY thicked-stemmed Asian brassica this winter, and sharing seeds with friends as those stems look very succulent and tender. Folks in colder climates should grow this when they would other brassicas like boy choy, broccoli, cabbage, the various forage rapes, Brussell's Sprouts, etc. Sorry for the mixup!


My August Classes

Planning a Productive Fall and Winter Veggie Garden.....NOW

With the steamy heat just beginning, now might seem an odd time to think about a classic Florida cool weather veggies garden. But 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. 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. Use the hot summer months 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 on August 7th, 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 Starnes813 839 0881


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 a fresh chicken egg or meat. Learn easy ways to deeply cut your water use, to insure fresh salads year round. 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 veggie seeds, one each for the hot and cool growing seasons. I am teaching this class again on August 21, 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! 813 839 0881 John Starnes


Say “summer” 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 August 15, (my birthday). 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 or e-mail: Happy Gardening! John


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 August 8, then again on August 28, 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. See you then! John Starnes


For years people have told me that my way of life and thinking is upbeat, creative, authentic and valuable, (hey, I thought I was just weird!) and that I should make an effort to share it via a class or a book or two. So here goes! I will share 20 key techniques, attitudes and exercises that can allow us to discover what we REALLY want out of life, how 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. I feel that happiness is a choice we can make daily, and that we can create our lives vs. them just happening to us. This class will be held on August 14th, then again on August 22nd, from 11 AM until 1 PM here at 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa, FL 33611 813 839 0881 or to RSVP. The cost is $20 per student.


Fruit in the store can be very pricey, and is often laden with pesticides. But our balmy climate can let us grace our landscapes with attractive trees, shrubs and vines that also bear tasty, nutritious, often exotic fruits. You will receive a comprehensive list of these plants, how to grow them organically and cheaply by meeting their simple basic needs, and surprisingly cheap ways to get them. You will also learn of local and mail order sources of some of them.This class will be held on August 29th from 11 AM until 1 PM here at 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa, FL 33611 813 839 0881 or to RSVP. The cost is $20 per student.
thanks, John Starnes.

"One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself."-- Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Monday, July 12, 2010

This is a poem I wrote when I was 34 or so when I had decided to confront the innate fearfulness I had battled my whole life. I rarely had let that fear keep me from pursuing life actions, but I was tired of fearfulness being a background emotion due largely to an abusive childhood at home, and unceasing ridicule at school for being "too smart" and skinny, with ears that stuck out, plus they figured out before I did that I was homosexual. In my teens and early 20s, poetry was a prime creative focus, but out of the hundreds I wrote I feel this one is my best. For many years I've kept it framed on the wall, and when "altered" on cannabis would read it to reinforce the message. I don't do that much these days as I feel I have made its intent largely a life habit.....finally! But I still get fearful during take off and landing when I fly!



Live a Big Life.
Stretch the skin of each new day
then fill it with the flesh of your dreams.

Find the frozen stone of your fear
and chip it into sparks
to illumine the wonders that you can do.

Tell a Big Truth so bright
that the light of it flies out from your mouth
into the dark places
beneath every stone
behind every building
inside every mind.

Let your words and deeds be trusted things
that others can hold and treasure
as perennial measures of honor.

And every time you do the right thing
a stain will fade from the hearts of your children
their grandparents
and you.

Ask a Big Question.
Never lose the cool hunger of your youthful eyes…
learn of the mysteries
inside a lover,
a seed,
even you.

Use your Fear to taste the dark sweetness
reserved for heroes
so that when Death does come
you will have really BEEN,
you will have truly SEEN.

And as you leave that frail human shell,
it a faded chrysalis,
feel the quiver of your new, unseen wings.
John Starnes

A Heat and Humidity Tolerant Asian Brassica?

Saturday morning I rode my bike to the DoBond Market here in south Tampa, a wonderful Vietnamese grocer, to buy springrolls makings (I woke up with a hankering for them but had just the wrappers and the fixings for the dipping sauce) their cooloer I saw bags of a rich green brassica with FAT succulent-looking stems, and leaves that looked KIND of like collards...the bags said 'Gai lohm'. The owner told me it is called 'Chinese Broccoli' and that it is locally grown RIGHT NOW in this humid heat!!! Since it looked utterly pristine ( I did not buy it, bought Chinese cabbage instead) I Googled it once home, then went to my favorite Asian veggies seeds site, where I saw they had several strains. So I ordered the one that showed and mentioned FAT STEMS. They have a $10 minimum order so I got some other things, like a LIGHT GREEN amaranth and a tomato for the subtropics. See below the link to my order page. I got two packets of the 'Blue Star' gai lohm to try now plus of course this fall when I usually plant my brassicas, plus share with friends. Maybe the trick is to start them earlier, which is how she is being supplied by local Asian gardeners growing it now in midsummer...but I will try some seeds now anyway, then maybe NEXT year start them in March. I am psyched about this crop! I will likely buy a bag this week to taste (it was a little pricey to a tightwad like me) as it looked crisp and succulent in the bags in the cooler, plus I had a good class turnout Sunday so have some $$$. When I reflect on my fifteen years of gardening in Denver, I feel that this could well be a great summer crop for the rest of the U.S., not just Florida.


Fuel From Plant Waste-"To Go"

This is cool! John

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cheap Exotic Food Crops Seeds

Asian markets can be a blast if you love to cook and garden as much as I do. (Now if I could just learn to love to clean up after I cook I'd be set!)

This morning I had a sudden hankering for homemade, unfried springrolls, so I rode my bike to my neighborhood Vietnamese market, DoBond Market, to stuff my backpack with missing needed items (I dumpster dived some cool clothes items behind an apartment complex on the way there). I am a garlic and hot pepper junkie, and my replacement "Filipino-Mexican Tree Pepper" is still months away from bearing meaningfully, so I grabbed this 8 ounce bag of dried peppers from Thailand for $4. I nibbled about 1/4 of one....they are FAHKING HOT!!!! I used some to make a giant batch of Vietnamese dipping sauce for tonight's springrolls, and to store in a bottle in the fridge and freeze the rest, then a handful of the dried peppers to make a batch of FAHKING HOT sauce for me and my young friend Ezra, plus tore open a few to get maybe 200 seeds.
I sowed those seeds, plus ones from 3 Thai peppers I had bought fresh from DoBond a few weeks ago, in 4 inch pots filled with soil my chickens made for me in their free range compost path that encircles my back yard. I watered them good from one of the backdoor rainbarrels, and will give them a good drenching of dilute fish emulsion when the seedlings come up. Of course I am taking a chance that the dried ones from Thailand were heat-treated or irradiated, but if they DON'T sprout, I still got 1/2 pound of dried FAHKING HOT peppers for $4. If they do sprout, I will have oodles of plants to add to my gardens and sell from my front porch cottage business, and to share with friends and neighbors, plus one for Ezra so he can learn at 14 to "grow his own".

In the past, I've grown red adzuki beans, soybeans, mung beans, and fava beans from Asian markets, plus urad beans from an Indian market, all sold in bags to be I get a LOT very cheaply vs. buying the same thing in teensy imported seed packets.
I now am stepping up into 4 inch pots some seedlings I got from dried pods in Okeechobee in May when I went to see my Dad when my Mom was dying. I got them at a Mexican market there, and the cashier charged me nothing as I when I handed her the bag she felt the near-total absence of weight and gave them to me when I told her I got them for the seeds. They struck me as a cayenne (Capsicum annuam?) type. Not very hot, but good flavor nibbled dry. Those seeds sprouted very readily.

I will let folks know if I get germinations from these dried pods (I am SURE I will from the locally grown fresh ones). I NEVER buy hot sauce as hot peppers are so easy to Denver I grew them in pots I could bring in during those "charming" August or September blizzards. For us "pepper heads" Tobasco Sauce is not even hot, and just one plant of a good hot pepper can let you make oodles of home made FAHKING HOT sauce. In future posts I will share some great recipes I've devised for hot sauces that are not vinegary but instead full-bodied and slightly sweet.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Evacuate Tampa Bay Due to BP Oil?

Yikes! John

Super Easy and Cheap Sweet Potato "Slips"

"Filipino White"

"Filipino White"

"Filipino White"

from just one rooted chunk of a health food store
sweet potato!

Buying bundles of sweet potato slips can be very pricey, especially if you are a pathologically cheap tightwad like me. Many sweet potatoes in grocery stores have been treated with growth inhibitors and so can very reluctant to sprout. I buy mine at health food stores, where frequently they have leafy shoots emerging already. I usually cut one into several chunks, each with a shoot on it, let it dry in the shade for a day to heal, then bury each about 4 inches deep. The shoots emerge about a week later. Each summer I grow 'Garnet', 'Puerto Rico Gold' and a mystery one I got from a Filipino neighbor years ago I call "Filipino White". It is VERY vigorous and makes vast quantities of the leaves that are a wonderful spinach substitute when cooked....more nutritious than spinach and no oxalic acid. It roots VERY easily from stem cuttings in water. The white sweet potatoes are produced in extreme abundance and are less sweet than the usual types. The leaves of all types of sweet potatoes are yummy cooked, and some folks like them raw in summer salads. I always had poor results with sweet potatoes in Denver as those chilly nights were hard on this heat-loving tropical member of the Morning Glory family (Ipomaea batatas). But here in Florida and other places with long hot summers with warm nights, they are super-productive. The pic of a harvest between my feet shows just how many sweet potatoes you can get from just ONE rooted chunk!

Easy Live Food for Free Range Chickens

Chickens LOVE to forage for live food. In Denver, after a rain, vast numbers of nightcrawlers would emerge from that clay-based loam and my girls would go nuts feasting on them. Despite Colorado's dry climate, slugs can be NIGHTMARISH....before I got chickens, some nights I'd hand gather a GALLON of the slimy bastards and flush them down the toilet. Just three white chickens rescued from a factory farm on "Campbell's Soup" day very quickly made my slug problems a thing of the past. They'd eat SO many slugs that their gullets would extend!

Here at my Tampa house, cockroaches inside and out were a problem after it was a rental for a year and the tenant left vast piles of wood scraps in my first chickens solved that problem quickly too.Each summer , when the rains finally kick in, I throw food scraps on the ground in their pathway, cover them with a big piece of carpet, then weekly pull back the carpet to reveal a seething mass of roaches and pill SOON as the chickens see my reaching for the carpet they run up. I RARELY get a roach in the house despite my "raising" them in this fashion...they seem to prefer the "safety" of staying beneath the carpet with that food supply....until I lift the carpet and they are scarfed up in seconds.

Nice to see roach and pillbug protein converted to eggs and meat! John

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

An E-mail to a Tampa friend with chickens also looking into Black Soldier Fly "farms"

Yo Yo Yo Mary Jo!

When I got home from the gym I used a big pool tablets bucket with a threaded lid with a cool release lever built in, some BIG vinyl tubing I'd dumpster dived some time ago, the top of a milk jug, a paddle bit and a kitchen knife, plus some drinking straws and metal duct tape I usually use on the livingroom mirror floor, and made my first Black Soldier Fly larvae farm. The vinyl escape tube should drop the larvae into a receptacle I made from a kitty litter jug I've stored dry pet food in the past...I have maybe an inch of oak leaf mulch at the bottom for them to burrow into. Into the "farm" I put a few inches of fresh horse poop from the stables across from my gym, some oak leaf mulch, some hard boiled egg yolk from a friend on a high protein diet, plus Subway sandwich scraps from their dumpster. I had just a VERY few larvae from a super primitive prototype I made last week and put them in. BUT...I gather that a GOOD BSF farm will attract egg laying females via openings near the top....I chose to use a FAT drill bit to make maybe 20 holes near the top, but below a lip in the bucket that should shield the contents from rain. Those holes should also provide needed ventilation. I used a VERY thin drill bit to put a few drainage holes at the bottom of the pool tablets bucket for the compost tea to escape from into a drainage tray to use as soil food, or to feed the duckweed farms. Since they are heat sensitive and generate a lot of heat themselves, I set it up in a shady area on the east side of my house, below the eaves. A bundle of drinking straws cut in half attached to the inside of the lid with metal duct tape HOPEFULLY will serve as a place for the females to lay their eggs. I will check the inside this weekend to see what,if anything, is going on. Achieving self sufficiency for my poultry via Black Soldier Fly larvae and my three new duckweed farms has become a new if I needed a another one! I'll post a video IF this design works. I love that fact that due to the materials all being scavenged (except for foot of metal duct tape I used) this Black Soldier Fly farm is totally free.

How's progress on your end?


Why The Chicken REALLY Crossed the Road

(click to enlarge)

More Rain!

I was surprised to awake at sunrise to a very soaked looking yard, and to find soaked mail I'd left on a lawn chair as the forecast said almost NO chance of rain last night....I even left the car window cranked down a little to let out the odor of the horse manure in recycle bins I am emptying today. But I just checked my gauges...I got just over an inch last night! I just may have to stop calling this neighborhood "Egypt" if this keeps up. I LOVE it...everything is growing like CRAZY after so much rain the last five days.

So today I dump horse manure on a few bananas, get more from the stables across from my gym after my legs-and-shoulders work out, plant Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia) in front and out back, pot various plants for my cottage business, plant more papayas in the south, west and center beds, add gambusia minnows (for mosquito control) to the three new duckweed farms that will help feed the chickens, quails and ducks (video soon), pull weeds from the now- wet soil to feed to the poultry, and continue clearing out the front beds ruined by the now-gone giant 'Mermaid' rose having kept me out of my own front yard for well over a year (with disasterous results).

An urban farmer's work is never done! But I love it. John

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Black Soldier Fly Farm from a 5 Gallon Bucket

I like this design too. I have the clear tubing, am sure garden hose would work, plus I see water jugs for the funnel all the time in recycle bins. I think I will tackle making my first one this week. I have scavenged all the needed materials in the past and have them on hand due to my being a packrat/dumpster diver. John

Monday, July 5, 2010

What a Wonderfully Wet Weekend

Molokhiya (Corchorus olitorius)

unripe papaya interior

semi-ripe papaya cubed for a stir fry

ripe papaya

papaya leaf vein patterns

female papaya blooms

growing fruits

male papaya bloom stalk

Papayas are VERY easy from seeds from a ripe fruit

South Tampa's persistent rain shadow eased once again and over the last three days I've gotten almost four inches of wonderful to see my rain barrels and five gallon buckets lined up along the eaves of my house full and overflowing, my mulch and soil damp, the chickens running around looking soaked, to hear tree frogs singing and see my edible apple snaps feasting in their pond. Now at last I can begin my mass planting of papaya seedlings all around the chicken path perimeter of my back yard to provide shade canopy and of course, papayas! (I eat most of mine green, raw or cooked, as a staple, though I love a fresh ripe sweet one now and then).

I rarely eat cow meat, but today in the spirit of 4th of July style decadent eating I bought some ground chuck on sale, whole wheat buns and horseradish, and feasted on TWO homemade burgers topped with a slice of onion, squirt each of mustard and catsup, and a fistful of fresh molokhiya leaves instead of lettuce. I even splurged and bought a small jar of pickled herring, ( I ate half of it) AND a bag of 'Sweet Sixteen' powdered donuts and a half gallon of plain soymilk. Hey, when I splurge, I SPLURGE!

Until recently, we'd been VERY dry down here, so I had placed my giant pot planted with several molokhiya plants inside an even bigger plastic tub that could hold water...the molokhiya took OFF once that pot sat in a few inches of water. I have taken the Water Wise Container Gardens that grew tomatoes last winter and planted molokhiya in them too as I love the mild tender nutritious leaves as a rare summer green for Florida, both raw and cooked. To boost their growth I will give them a good drench of the water the three Muscovy ducks have soiled by pooping in it. Molokhiya loves both water AND nitrogen, and the hotter and muggier it gets the better it grows.

The papaya seedlngs I HAD planted in the back gardens, and kept alive with kitchen graywater and water still remaining in the rain barrels, should now take off as just before this rainy system came I gave them all a nice glug of 'Alaska Fish Fertilizer', approximately three tablespoons ger gallon of rainwater. (As in the kitchen, I never measure, just eyeball it). Once these new seedlings are planted, they too will get fish emulsion plus some of that poopy duck water.

I hope you had a great holiday weekend, and, if you like rain like I do, that you too got drenched, even if it meant no fireworks! John

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Home Made Black Soldier Fly Larvae Farm for Chicken Food

I'm not good at building things, but I think I can make this. Plus I have on hand all the components from dumpster diving. John

Black Soldier Fly Larvae for Chickens

I've seen these being sold as sources of protein, fats and the "thrill" of live foods for backyard chickens....I see the larvae frequently in spoiled restaurant scraps and will try to invent a home made version using some of the many plastic barrels that friends give me to turn in Water Wise Container Gardens. Plus just think of the compost that would result! John

Yet One More Reason to Grow Your Produce and Poultry

Amazing how adept we humans are at soiling our own (and only) nest. John

An article I had in The St. Pete Times in 2004....the techniques are applicable in any gardening zone


Ever notice how most everything offers mixed blessings? All during the long winter and spring dry season, we pine and whine for the return of the summer monsoons. But soon it seems that in the steamy heat various fungal diseases coat our roses and veggies and lawns like agricultural acne. Rarely dangerous, these various fungi can weaken and disfigure both our landscapes and our egos. So what’s a soul to do?

Some folks prefer the sometimes immediate results of using broad spectrum chemical fungicides like Daconil or Benomyl or Funginex, whose price tags stun even true believers. But since they can also wipe out the beneficial fungi that help control disease and nematodes, plus nourish plant roots while enriching the soil by decaying organic matter, they can be like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly on a piece of fine china. Such sprays simplify the ecology of a garden, but in nature it is the complex ecologies that are healthy and stable.

But those of us who garden organically to protect the health of our families and the environment can mimic nature’s billion year old wisdom and fight fungal diseases by adding teams of beneficial fungi and bacteria to crowd out the harmful ones. This "biological crowding" has kept my gardens and my clients’ gardens virtually disease free the last 20 years. And as you’d expect from a tightwad like me, the technique costs little and takes little effort.

Fill a 5 gallon bucket with water and let it age 2-3 days in the sun to drive out the chlorine. Then add two cups each of:

Calf Manna (25 & 50 lb. bags in feed stores)
any dry compost starter
fresh home made compost
Ringer Lawn Restore
sugar or molasses
add a packet of baker’s yeast, stir and let this "Bio Tea" steep for 2 days. Whisk air into it a few times daily to encourage aerobic microbes.

Stir again, then use a watering can to splash it on the leaves of your roses and other plants to innoculate their surfaces with billions of good critters. Strain it through panty hose into your pump garden sprayer (make sure it has NEVER held herbicides or insecticides) to spray it onto your lawn and shrubs to coat them too with these natural allies who will control disease FOR you as you tend to life’s affairs. Just think of this as your landscape’s equivalent of when you eat yogurt after taking antibiotics to repopulate your digestive tract to prevent the yeast infections so common after a tetracycline regimen.

As with most natural gardening and good health approaches, this "Bio Tea" is not a fast acting "silver bullet", but a gentle, steady means of achieving a stable and sustainable balance. Want an infomercial-style "cure"? Blast the garden with fungicides. Want fungus diseases reduced from scary plagues to minor cosmetic issues? Try a batch of "Bio Tea" and use the money saved for a nice meal out!

Ringer Lawn Restore

Barter for Office Chair

The artsy chair in front of my PC and desk I dumpster dived years ago is falling apart, and I'd love to barter with a local person cool plants and fresh eggs for either a real live office chair on wheels, or, better, a high-backed wooden dining room type chair I could trip out with paint and jewels and glitter I've stockpiled. Most of my plants are edible crops, but I DO have a couple nice Butterfly Gingers. My e-mail is:

Thanks, John

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I'm Looking for a New Dog



Folks have asked me if I've begun looking for a new dog after Sweety died May 11 at the age of 14, and my Dad has been actively looking for one for me there in Okeechobee. I've checked a few sites and run an ad on Craig's List, but no luck yet, so today thanks to Dad I will post at my blogs about my ideal new pooch. Like Sweety, and Sergeant and Captain before her, I want my new dog to be a Bordie Collie mutt vs. a purebred. All three were 10 months old and housebroken when I got them....that would be nice, but a puppy would be fine too. A puppy might even be better in terms of it growing up knowing that chickens are not to be chased and killed! I want a male this time as I now agree that female dogs can be took a LONG time for me and Sweety to bond, and we were never as close as I was with Sergeant and Captain.

Attached are pics of Sweety (she was my first big dog at 42 pounds due to being part Chow) and Sergeant, who weighed 20 lbs....many people felt he was a mix of Border Collie, Springer Spaniel and Poodle, and he and I were true "best buddies" those ten years. My ideal new dog would resemble Sergeant.

If you see a dog on the street, or know of a litter of puppies etc. in the Tampa area that might match this profile, please let me know. My e-mail is: and my phone is

813 839 0881
Thanks! John

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Free Mulch to Heal and Create Healthy Soil

Freshly delivered oak mulch

A mulch produced by chipping vs. shredding

Pine needle pathways and oak leaf and oak mulch for the beds.

I think many organic gardeners would agree that deep, Ruth Stout-style mulching of soil is a central principal we all rely on. Hay and straw are wonderful mulch formers, but can be pricey unless bought cheap as "spoiled hay". Autumn leaves do a fine job and are free, though some folks feel that compounds in black walnut leaves called juglans can suppress the growth of certain plants. Plus they are a seasonal mulch source. All things considered, my favorite FREE mulch for years has been the chipped up branches that tree trimmers will deliver to your home to avoid landfill restrictions I am thankful for. I prefer to get mine in summer, when the branches are laden with nitrogen-and-enzyme rich green leaves, vs. the dry leafless twigs and branches of autumn and winter. A 4-6 inch thick layer of the shredded green leaves and actively growing branches, applied to your gardens, will do wonders to boost the activity of beneficial macro and micro organisms, and leach with each heavy rain sugars and enzymes into the soil beneath while trapping moisture, and providing by default, humus formers.
Some folks worry if the trees might have been sprayed.....I don't, as tree spraying is generally uncommon, plus as a survivor the 70s when we idealistic hippies often got paralyzed trying to do EVERYTHING just exactly right, I years ago stopped insisting on black-and-white absolutes. I like to think that attitude is the result of learning over time, and a nice residual from those glorious experiences I had back then with Magic Mushrooms ( and they CAN be sheer magic if ingested with reverence).

Just call a local tree trimmer and ask to get on their list of addresses where they can drop off loads of freshly chipped mulch.

Tree mulches are also the only free way I know of to indulge your soil with the natural wood products that, once partially decomposed, become the invaluable substance 'lignin', which can be argued to be the essence of the wonderful soils in old growth forests. Lignin holds many times its weight in water, fosters beneficial organisms like the various symbiotic mycorrhizae and actinomycetes. Prehistoric lignin is the basis of lignite coal.

By using various free mulches, say pine needles for pathways, and autumn leaves and tree trimmers' chipped mulch for the gardens, you can also achieve wonderful esthetic effects and avoid wasting money on bagged mulches that are often toxic to soil and plants and people (Google the heavy metals content of many of those "perky" red mulches) and that often are by-products of either deforestation or monocultural tree farms euphemistically referred to by that industry as "reforestation".
I'd love to hear from folks what trees in their region of the world yield the best leaves and wood mulches to heal their soil with.

Paper Airplanes Made from Recycled Materials

Check out my Starnesland blog to see some cool paper airplanes I make from paper rescued from recycle bins, drinking straws I get from dumpsters, and office supplies I scrounge. The stapler and staples were also scavenged. But I DO buy the spray paint at times! John

Punitive Government Fees for New Community Gardens

While I am glad that Tampa city officials recognize the importance of the growing phenomenon of community gardens, I am disturbed to read that they are considering requiring lofty fees for "special use permits" approaching $1,500 for said gardens!! If this is the case, this new law amounts to a draconian, punitive suppression of Tampa citizens' rights to feed themselves and their community. It is bad enough that the city distributes reclaimed water toxic to a very broad range of vascular plants and that makes vegetables and herbs grown with it unsafe to eat raw, but to burden a community garden with a massive, unjustified fee before even the first shovelful of soil is turned, or the first seed is planted, is both unconscionable and a slap in the face of the farmers and gardeners, like Thomas Jefferson, whose brave visions of a free society led to America's creation. I fully oppose ANY government fees for new community gardens in Tampa!

John A Starnes Jr.

Organic Farms Have More Balanced Ecologies

Then again, most of us organic gardeners feel that way about our urban farms intuitively. John