Friday, June 17, 2011

Down on The Farm....and Dad

93% of Florida is now in severe drought, and  theTampa Bay area is the 7% considered NOT in drought due to a technicality in rainfall amounts...but based on soil moisture levels after this drought having persisted since 2006 we TOO are in drought. Brutal. I noticed today that our neighborhood lake/pond on Leila Avenue a few blocks from here is lower than I have EVER seen it since I bought my house in the fall of 1998...the water has dropped SO low there is now a rudimentary beach. It all blows my mind as a Florida native who remembers how we were often TOO wet in the 60s and 70s. So guess who got a new load of mulch to try to trap what little moisture there is in my soil? Today, once again, the desiccating winds continued.

Yesterday I paid my first visit to TNS Nursery on west Hillsborough Avenue here in Tampa, right next to the airport runways after Mary Jo and Tim helped me find it as some weeks prior Peggy had stumbled on it but was not sure where it it did not show up on Google. Very nice mix of plants (though unfortunately many had no prices) with some prices quite good. I got me a 5 trunked braided guava that is 5 1/2 feet tall counting the three gallon pot for $20, and a 3' X 3' mystery rose that I think is 'Belinda' in a 3 gallon pot for $7....the rose goes into the front bed formerly ravaged by 'Mermaid', and today I stepped up the guava into a 5 gallon pot and set it in the camper shell that Pat gave that can hold about 5 inches of water as guavas are THIRSTY. This drought nuked a guava I had in the ground in the SW corner of the backyard for a long time...years ago Dad propagated it for me and it did well when we were getting all those hurricanes. But it died two years ago. Put it this way....guavas SO love water they colonize canal banks in south Florida AT THE WATER LINE, which is where Dad's original came from via his brother Bud. If you live in Tampa, TNS Nursery could be a good stop.

Today I dug up a jaboticaba that has struggled harshly ever since this drought began, planted it in a large pot, and also set it in that camper shell in 5 inches of standing water. In a future posting I will share a strategy I have devised to insure lush growth for it AND the guava as in view of OBVIOUS climate change here in Florida a whole new paradigm is needed.

One of my hens is finally going broody long term so I took Pat's advice and closed the door to the small cage she had chosen and am giving her bowls of water and food daily. I have yet to have a hen hatch eggs here and have always relied on my incubator as the broody hens would only PARTIALLY sit on the eggs, which eventually rotted. Now that she can't leave she IS staying on the nest....I'd love it if I could break my dependence on that incubator.

The "baby ducks" are now as big as Mom with near-adult plumage, so I will make my first attempt at catching them in their pen, clipping their wings, then moving them all plus Momma and the other Momma and Daddy Duck over to my west bed for them to eat down hellacious summer weeds now emerging in the heat. I will dump the very rich water inn the dinghy boat onto a Persian Lime in the east bed occupied the last few months by Daddy and Momma Duck 2, then move it to the west bed and fill it with precious water from the is a wonderful "portable duck pond" I scavenged curbside a few years back...fiberglass construction and the ducks LOVE diving in it.

Cracker has made clear as my "new" dog that he has no interest in hurting the chickens....but he DOES love a few brief chases each day as he dashes to the back gate to hang out in my neighbor Theresa's spacious backyard where he LOVES to chase squirrels up the pine trees plus play fetch with a plastic ball I found atop the henhouse...he is my first dog ever to play fetch. But friends remind me he is a miniature Australian Shepherd who is by instinct both a herder and a dog who needs chores so we play fetch a few times daily in Theresa's yard plus he "helps" me put the chickens to bed each day at sundown. I love him big time....awesome dog!

My Water Wise Container Gardens of varying sizes and constructions are allowing me nice harvests of molokhiya, eggplant, Lesbos basil and Thai hot peppers plus some lovely Old Roses despite this drought I am starting to take personally...after all those 15 years trapped in icy alien Colorado by a very upside down mortgage, I finally escape in November 2002 and come home, only to find that drought is the new norm here. But I will take this ANYDAY over an impossibly short growing season, endless months of snow and ice and a brown landscape, not to mention 20 degrees below fucking zero! Once again I will put on my Universe Wish List that we have a WET LUSH summer and fall...two tropical storms a month would be nice, thank you!

I used this week to propagate more plants for sale via my Honor System plant sales tables out front, and to set up for the classes I am offering this weekend. I am SURE my next water bill will be higher as I have indulged in a few selective deep waterings. I would love it if my soil gets DEEPLY saturated this summer from tropical storms so that I can then obsessively DEEP mulch all the beds this late summer and fall to trap it.

Dad is doing MUCH better and there is FINALLY a diagnosis after the docs did the sputum culture I requested at the outset three weeks ago....this whole experience has been SO very rough on Dad, and has deepened big time my admiration for over-worked nurses, and my contempt and suspicion of VERY high paid doctors (one billed TriCare $70,000 for a 30 minute procedure!)  who display a STUNNING ignorance of the crucial role of nutrition in human health, plus the mind's very snottily poo-pooed the notion that Dad's reduced appetite and malaise the last couple of months before he fell ill might have been depression due to his wife of 57 years dying last May 28...despite this "doctor" not having a CLUE about the value of IV Vitamin C to address health crises, three days ago, after 4 days of my being persistent,  I saw to it that Dad is now getting a meager 100 mg a day IV. I pushed this unrelentingly due to his very poor appetite for weeks and the CRUCIAL role of Vitamin C in building and sustaining healthy tissue and fighting infection. Simply incredible and maddening that I should have to inform  them of widely available data from respected studies and therapies. Dad sounds so strong I hope he is home with his beloved dogs Buffy and Mindy in a few days.

  Lastly, the watermelons that Dad was SO passionately growing this year have found their ways into several households in Okeechobee and Tampa. And my cousin Mike has brought in two for Dad and the staff to share.

 Please wish Dad a speedy recovery, and Florida a WET SOGGY 2011!

                                          Dad, at 80, is on the right, next to his instant buddy John,
                                          at Archie and Vicki's 30th annual Christmas party last year...
                                          he had a blast.



  1. Hey John, yea its been a dry one here in central FL it sucks.. my water bill has been so high as i try to migrate my plants over to water savers.. I do wish us some nice storms this summer this weeks downpour was a sigh of relief but didnt last near long enough even though it knocked out our power in the process!

    ~ Organic Momma

  2. Loving the blog. Have you tried putting hens eggs under the muscovy hens? They are crazy broody and good moms.Wishing your da well.