Friday, September 30, 2011

Excellent Seed Sources

The Asian Brassicas are spring crops in colder climates, but here in central Florida they are frost hardy winter crops as they utterly fail in our hot humid summers. There are many varieties, but Purple Kosaitai has become a tried and true favorite of mine, though I've enjoyed every Asian Brassica I've ever grown and eaten. My two favorite sources for their seeds are:

Good prices, great selection, fast delivery.


Grow Food, Find Our Voices, Occupy Wallstreet and Washington!

Great interview by Keith Olbermann.

A Nice Letter From a Youtube Viewer...thank you! John

My name is Bill Rogers. I live over by Lois and Kennedy. I forget whether or not I emailed you in the past regarding your videos. I just want to say how much I enjoy them. It makes me wish I had a yard again. Thanks for all your videos. I hope to see many more. Currently some of my friends have been working on a local organic community farm and are preparing to start growing food in their own yard. I can't wait to join them in that endeavor. In the meantime, I'm encouraged to see other South Tampans not afraid to convert yards to food forests, grass lots to meadows. Good for you.

And of course I've seen your blog before too in the past and will continue to check it out. I also like your 'mirror room'. What a concept!
All the best, Bill

Excellent Video On Harvesting Rainwater

Here Is An Article From My Old St. Pete Times Gardening Column


Are you like me?......powerless and paralyzed in the kitchen if you miraculously run out of onions or garlic? Sure, the Asian spice asa foetida can serve as a vague substitute for either in Indian cuisine, but the sensuous warm flavor and aroma of garlic, onions, shallots, chives, leeks and other savory members of the Allium family hold a singular crown of honor in many kitchens. Plus medical research has proved the old lores that those sulfur-rich tasty herbs can lower cholesterol and combat bad microbes. And the next 6 or 7 months of cooler weather in central Florida make growing them a chef’s dream come true if we improve the soil in just about any sunny chemical-free corner of our yards, or grow them in big pots on sunny patios.

Related to lilies, all the Alliums similarly love rich, humusy, pH neutral soil in full sun. Before planting, spread a 3 inch thick layer of organic matter like horse stall sweepings, compost, old leaves, bagged humus, or alfalfa pellets from a feed store, plus a generous sprinkling of cheap clay cat litter to trap moisture and provide the clay Alliums love. If your inland soil is very acid as is so often the case, apply a liberal sprinkling of dolomite annually about as heavy as parmesan cheese on spaghetti. Alkaline coastal soils can be acidified with a heavier quarterly sprinkling of cottonseed meal from a feed store….sprinkle it right along with the organic matter. Getting your soil’s pH (acidity vs. alkalinity) tested by your local extension service will confirm which is the best course of action. It sounds wacky, but adding to that organic matter and cat litter a 50 lb. bag of cheap dry dog food nuggets over a 10 foot by 10 foot garden before turning the soil will feed the earthworms wonderfully who will in turn nourish your garden. A 4 inch thick layer of mulch, like coastal hay or chipped tree trimmings, applied after the soil is turned and watered DEEPLY, will do wonders to keep the soil moist and cool but not inhibit the emergence of the bulbs’ foliage. Let all this “ripen” for two or three weeks then plant away.

If you garden in a condo or town home or apartment with a sunny patio, just fill some three gallon capacity pots with drainage holes with a good compost and potting soil mix, adding cheap clay cat litter 10% by volume. Try one half “spent mushroom compost” sold at garden centers and one half of your favorite potting soil. Into each pot of the mix blend in the shells of a dozen eggs or beach side sea shell grit from the tide line to supply calcium, plus two cups dry dog or cat food nuggets. Mix it all together, fill the pots to within two inches from the top, water deeply and let it age for two to three weeks also. To keep the soil damp and cool and to reduce the need to water, I usually mulch my potted plants with maybe two inches of either horse stall sweepings or chipped tree trimmings mulch. You can plant any and all of the edible alliums in these pots.
Scallions are simply the tasty results of planting ordinary onion sets “too deeply” and harvesting them “too soon”… let them mature a few months more and you’ll have regular onions! It’s fun to buy the sets of red Bermuda onions, yellow or white onions, or even Vidalia sweet onions, and plant them deeply (about 6 inches) in a furrow, spacing them about two inches apart. Mental over garlic like me? Break up a bulb and plant the cloves in the same manner, and in a few months you’ll have a religious experience eating and cooking with freshly-pulled “garlic scallions”.....try them all and you will be spoiled for a lifetime. Be sure to snip off the tubular leaves of all of them to try as “chives” in countless dishes, even salads.

I always plant a few entire garlic bulbs just to be able to snip off their leaves to use as you would chives in salads, simple broths, rich casseroles or that occasional impetuous gravy or omelet. ( Friends visiting my winter garden always marvel at their first sultry savory taste of raw garlic leaves nibbled right there in the garden.) Harvesting the leaves will slowly exhaust the bulb, so plant one new garlic bulb per month from October through March for months of culinary bliss. I almost forgot....for sheer nirvana in the kitchen all year long, stuff a few fistfuls of garlic leaves into your blender, pour in some extra virgin olive oil, and buzz it all into a kind of “garlic pesto” and pour it into ice cube trays and freeze. Pop the green cubes into a gallon freezer bag, and when you need a “fix” of fresh garlic flavor, toss a couple into a skillet or wok or soup or spaghetti sauce. On Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, this is near the top for me!

Experienced gardeners might try growing Leeks (Allium porrum) from seeds planted in shallow 1 inch deep furrows. A little slow, they are worth the wait. I get the best results from planting them in late fall in loose rich soil I keep damp with a deep mulch and deep weekly watering. As they gain height, start piling soil and mulch up against the row of leeks to blanch them into the long tender white portion we are familiar with. There is simply no other flavor like leeks, especially in potato soup.

While Chinese Chives (Allium tuberosum) can be an acquired taste (they remind some folks of the related edible ornamental Society Garlic, they are very productive and will multiply quickly by fallen seeds and self division into a massive clump in the vegetable or flower garden (they produce lovely tall white flower stalks reminiscent of petite agapanthus blooms). I cut off handfuls of the strap-like leaves and chop them with my kitchen scissors into soups, stir fry and casseroles, or raw as part of the filling in spring rolls. The underground portion resembles a narrow scallion and can be used as such though the flavor is more potent, hence the nickname “Garlic Chives”.

The true Chive grew like a weed for me in Colorado, where it reseeds like crazy. but here in my native Florida I only get several months of growth out of them and have heard that from many other gardeners. But that unique flavor is wonderful in cheesy pasta dishes so I try them annually. I’d love to hear from someone who has learned how to get vigorous perennial growth from them in central Florida.

When your alliums’ emerald spiky leaves are 8 inches tall, feed the soil again with a sprinkling of ‘menhaden fish meal’ from a feed store or a good drench of ‘fish emulsion’ solution at 3 tablespoons of it per gallon of water. Compost tea or horse manure are also superb. A deep weekly soak will meet their needs and conserve precious water.

Life’s most reliable and memorable joys are the simplest ones, so indulge yourself this winter with a bumper crop of tongue teasing Alliums.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ultra Cold Hardy Veggie

Known as Corn Salad, Mache, Fetticus. Native to Europe, mild, sweet and tender and LOVES the cold. It used to push up through the snow in my Denver yard, loves winter in Tampa.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

This from Occupation Europe - "When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.. "

'Bonar' Seeds For sale

'Bonar' is a vigorous Rape/Kale cross I have grown very fond of the previous 2 winters...very mild and tender raw or cooked, super cold hardy member of the Brassica family. I am selling 1 tsp. of the seeds (approx. 500 seeds) for $2 and a SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope) sent to: John Starnes 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa FL 33611 Sow from October through February.

My October Classes

Oct. 1- Urban Farmsteading 101, 2-Grow Your Own Salad Bar, 8-Cold Hardy Winter Veggies 9-Backyard Poultry Raising 101, 15-Water Wise Container Gardens, 16-Growing Food, Cultivating Joy, Harvesting Freedom 22-Cooking What You Grow 23-Fermented Foods 101 29-Tightwad Gardening 30-Frugal Living Holiday Gifts

Classes are $20 per person and run from 11 AM until 1 PM each time, with a 30 minute Q & A session after if needed. Each student gets 2 packs of free seeds.

3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa FL 33611 call to confirm attendance 813 839 0881 John Starnes

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brassicas are THE ideal winter crops in central and south Florida

Their seeds germinate quickly, the plants are very cold hardy, often tasting better AFTER a frost, and their main pest enemy, the Cabbage Looper, rarely arrives in Tampa before late March, and is easily controlled with BT. Known by many names like Cabbage Family, Mustard Family, Cruciferous Vegetables and Cole Crops, the various Brassica species and their selected forms and hybrids are perfect confidence builders for central Florida folks creating their first winter garden. as the ideal planting times are from October through February. Give them rich soil that is not too acid, feed them fish emulsion fertilizer, water deeply every 5-7 days, keep a deep mulch between the rows, and grow them in full sun. In no particular order, here are some favorites of mine:

Waltham 29 broccoli
Minovase Daikon
Wong Bok
Shogoin turnip
Red Giant Mustard (raw it tastes and burns like wasabi!)
Bonar Rape
Appin Rape
Pasja Rape
Tendergreen Mustard

 Giant Red/Osaka Purple Mustard
 Waltham 29 Broccoli
 Minovase Daikon Radish


Thomas Jefferson was also quite the gardener

Any Tips On Muscovy Duck Slaughter?

Has any of my readers done this? I've killed just 7 roosters so far (decapitation via machete) but now my Muscovy Duck flock needs thinning, and I want to try the meat. But I want its demise to be quick...any tips? I've considered my machete, my pellet rifle, my aluminum baseball bat......videos of throat slitting make it look like death takes a LONG time. Soul of a vegetarian here but body chemistry of an omnivore trying to wean myself from factory farm meat. Thanks in advance for any suggestions for a humane slaughter. John

Allium fistulosum seedlings

I got a quite good germination rate from that first batch of home grown seeds planted in a heavy compost, so those morning I pulled out from a baby pool garden and fed to the chickens those vigorous Pig Weed plants, and will transplant into there most of these perennial (hopefully!) onion seedlings in hopes that right next to the baby pool that each fall through spring blesses me with abundant Allium canadense, I will have a baby pool garden teeming with tasty onions! Of course I will be potting some up for friends. Today I will sow more of those seeds in a lighter, sandier mix to see how that goes. It is worth mentioning that the envelope of these seeds have been in the fridge since I harvested them this spring to insure cold stratification. John

Monday, September 26, 2011

Weather Control

I still feel weak and drained by day 4-5 of this mega-cold and lousy sleep quality, which I gather is popping up all over Florida, so all I got done outdoors was to mulch a short section of pathway out front just to see the task begun, then around all the newly planted papayas in the Food Forest.

I did a load of laundry and by setting the basket of wet clothes on my back porch I was able to trigger a  dark violent storm that came in from the Gulf. A VERY close lightning strike just about made Cracker and me jump out of our skins!

Light steady sprinkle right now, so I checked my rain gauge in the south bed.....  3/4 inch so far, with local radar saying more is on the sure sounds like it west of me.

One of my biggest gardening lessons of 2011 has been...."Want rain? Set out a load of wet laundry" !


Deadly New Pathogen Accidentally Created By Monsanto's GMO Crops!/groups/tampabayfoodpolicy/doc/177995705582823/

Live From Occupy Wall Street

Excellent and eloquent!  John

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Weekend on the Farm

Despite my being laid up with a crappy cold and fever, I've gotten a fair amount of things done indoors and out. I posted some new videos on YouTube, and roses pics at my Rosegasms blog, kept the kitchen in decent shape for a change, and  am re-doing my bed to get rid of the "sick feeling" and have fresh sheets and pillow cases for tonight.

Today, just as I finished putting some Big Boy tomato seedlings in 4 inch pots and started potting more Caribbean Red papaya seedlings, Cracker and I got hammered with a few BIG but widely space the time we got to the backdoor the rain began in earnest. Then the deluge REALLY came, with very bright and powerful distant lightning. A little more than half an hour later it faded to a light sprinkle so I checked the rain gauge that this morning I made sure was empty.....3.7 inches! Those 16 papayas and other plants now nestled and fed in my south side Food Forest will take off now.

I got in a short time ago from bartering herbs for kitchen scraps from a nearby restaurant....the 7 gallon bucket was about 5/6 full after a VERY scant last couple of days! Some went to the 7 ducks (now 8) in the center garden, some to the chickens in their coop, and when I opened the door to the duckpen I was able to grab the tail of a female, clip one wing, and put her in the center garden where a male Muscovy promptly mated with her. Nice to see them free range in that big spacious garden eating my Bidens weeds for me after 6 months in safe confinement in that pen.

My cold is better, plenty of food for me and my critters, a wonderful soaking is good down on my farm.


Yet Another Reason To Raise Your Own Free Range Back Yard Poultry

A Late September Back Yard Tour

A Wonderful Soaking Storm That Radar Said Would Miss Us BIG time

Friday, September 23, 2011

Jon and Debbie Butts

They continue to do very valuable work for the local community with their farm and their show on WMNF, 'Sustainable Living'. Good folks to know!  John

Very Promising Health Benefits of Turmeric

I cook with it now and then, 1-2 times monthly when I cook Indian cuisine, usually yellow split pea dal, but to work it has to be taken daily as a supplement and I am way too cheap to buy the capsules at the health food store. I'm buying one of the cheap bulk bags I've seen at the Oceanic Market downtown and try different things, like a teaspoon stirred into fruit juice, kombucha, etc daily. So cool to see empirical science confirming what Indian and Ayurvedic medicine has claimed for MANY centuries. John

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Growing Food, Cultivating Freedom, and Harvesting Joy - $20 (south Tampa)
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. This class will be held on September 25th, from 11 AM until 1 PM here at 3212 West Paxton Avenue, Tampa, FL 33611. Call 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
Year Round Home Grown Salads - $20 (south Tampa)

There is nothing like a fresh, home grown salad free of e-coli and pesticides, plus it costs a fraction of one purchased at a health food store. This class shows how to easily and frugally grow salads all year long based on the time of year, appropriate crop choices, and the basics of sound organic gardening. You will get two packets of unusual winter salad crops and instructions as to their growth and harvest. The class is held this Saturday the 24th from 11 AM until 1 PM, costs $20 per student, plus you will get to see and taste some of these crops from the summer season and the close at hand autumn gardening season. Please bring a note pad and pen. Address is: 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa FL 33611 Call to confirm attendance: 813 839 0881 John Starnes

Plastic Bottles Garden

Yet another creative use of discards to grow food at home.  John

Q & A

Is it possible to grow a red hibiscus hedge successfully in Los Angeles? They would be in a sunny location.

I've never gardened there, just visited....maybe try a few and let me and others know the result! John

Solar Grilling

I've been casually thinking about how I might be able to use the sun to heat the water I scald my poultry in before plucking, then cook them.....this gives me one approach to consider. John

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Down On The Farm Today

I got in last night from a couple days with my poor Dad back in the hospital again, this time for a "day visit" for a test that has turned into an extended visit due to catching an MRSA blood infection due to an improper procedure done at his hospital in Okeechobee...poor man has had a hellish 2011 at 81! I was stunned at how SOGGY SQUISHY wet that part of Florida is as here in Tampa we have to water. Dad seems to be on a new rebound and hopefully goes home soon.

A good day here...I potted some more seedlings from a Caribbean Red papaya into 4 inch pots, and planted other older ones (2 seedlings per 4 inch pot in case 1 is male) into my south inventory bed to compliment the bones of a food forest comprised of a Meyer's Lemon, three bananas, a Jamaican Cherry, a Chaya, apple seedling given me by a student, a fig, a  ten foot tall citrus seedling of unknown origin bearing its first ever fruit, and a baby rambutan and Barbados Cherry recently planted together in a buried 55 gallon Water Wise Container Garden. My goals are to create a light shade canopy while various crops are produced, including ripe papayas as a sweet fruit plus green papayas as a staple in salads and stir fry dishes, with my growing beneath and between them the potted plants I sell from my honor system front porch plant sales cottage business. Even though is not edible I also planted a Sesbania punicea for color, to obscure my open-air rain barrel based on a scavenged dinghy (sp?)  boat cover, and to nitrify the soil around it. I will allow a few self sown seedlings of Cassia alata to mature for cheery splashes of yellow and pockets of shade. I wish I'd of thought of, and commited to this last spring.....if so I'd have papayas ready to bear!

When I fed the Muscovy ducks restaurant scraps in the pen that kept them safe from predators when young I was able to grab two INCREDIBLY strong males, clip one wing each, then place them in my center garden to feast on "Spanish Needle" bidens plus make the area fertile with their poop while they enjoy a new life as semi-free range birds. Once all the ducks are out of that now hyper-fertile pen I will trial Brassica crops inside there, plus Sugar Snap peas all along the fence as winter crops, as the vines of "Gray Street Grape" that shade the duck pen all summer have begun to shed their leaves....soon it will be full sun in there.

I got my seeds order today from the good folks at for flowers I either want to trial, or re-experience and share with friends. Some I grew in Denver as summer annuals and I suspect they MIGHT do okay here as winter annuals in the cooler drier air, including Dame's Rocket, Showy Primrose, Chicory, Standing Cypress, Rose Mallow and Missouri Primrose.


Hope From Young Americans For A Sustainable Future

I am SO going to make a batch of this super frugal laundry soap! John

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pop Bottle Greenhouse

I'd have hoped for more details but I am grateful for having been taught of this concept that I can easily imagine being used to create lightweight portable cold frames. John

Edible Hot Weather Crops

 Blue Pea Vine
 Filipino White Sweet Potato
 Tulsi Indian Holy Basil

Hibiscus Radiata  Thai Lemon Hibiscus

They love full sun and the humid heat...just keep their soil damp with water from your rain barrel. On my front porch honor system plant sales tables are a few plants each of: Sweet Cassava (3-4 feet tall!), African Blue Basil, 'Tulsi' Indian Holy Basil (used in Ayurvedic medicine for 4,000 years), Lesbos Basil (does not set seeds, root cuttings), Thai Lemon Hibiscus (tart edible leaves), Blue Pea Vine (lovely cobalt blue edible blossoms) and Filipino White Sweet Potato. They are in 1 gallon pots filled with homemade soil from free range chickens making my compost, and are $4-$5 each. If I am out just slip your cash through the white slot in my red office door on my front porch. Thanks in advance. John 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa FL 33611

A Friend Fairly New To Gardening Sent Me This

The little girl does a great job and is adorable!  John

I Grow These Crops Each Winter So Will Try This Yummy Recipe
"If a man has an apartment stacked to the ceiling with newspapers
 we call him crazy. If a woman has a trailer house full of cats we call her
 nuts. But when people pathologically hoard so much cash that they
 impoverish the entire nation, we put them on the cover of Fortune
 magazine and pretend that they are role models." --B. Lester

Super Cheap Solar Lighting for Filipino Homes

This is sheer, elegant, simple genius based on recycling!  John

Saturday, September 17, 2011

One More Reason To Grow Your Own Food

Tax breaks for the super-wealthy but NOT the working class...sickening hypocrisy from these self-described Christian Conservatives, most of whom are millionaires and get LIFETIME PENSIONS and healthcare after just one term in office. How do they sleep at night?

Today's "Cooking What You Grow" class

Four revved up women came here today and together we explored how easy and frugal it can be to use combinations of spices and other ingredients to transform the exact same harvests from your urban farm to create any one of a number of ethnic cuisines. They voted for "Ethiopian" so we used parboiled rice and select seasonings and fresh greens harvested from my gardens to fashion a savory spicy stir fry. I had fun as we covered super-frugal options for culinary creativity. I wish I would have thought to take pics!  John

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Autumn is bringing welcome changes

It is a little less hot and humid after a record-breaking summer, and for the first time I am looking forward to winter here in Tampa. Today I planted nasturtium seeds ( I got a POUND for $13 from Applewood Seeds in Golden, Colorado!) in my NE bed out by the street....a tad early but I feel they will take off once the October cool-down arrives. The slow economy has hurt the long time restaurant in my neighborhood whose scraps feed my chickens and ducks...they HOPE to keep the doors open by cancelling lunches. Thus the amount of food for my poultry has plunged...time to man up and finally kill my first Muscovy duck...after much thought I will try my high power pellet rifle I got for $20 at a yard sale some years back as their necks are SO substantial I think that my machete would inflict a tortuous end. I am a reluctant omnivore and I want the beasts I eat to die QUICKLY and if possible, with little or no warning to avoid fear being their last emotion.

The rains have stopped, the air has dried out, so time to make more Water Wise Container Gardens from 5 gallon buckets as I plan on growing MANY more tomatoes this winter for salads and robust garlicy marinaras. Growing them this way vs. in this chronically dry sand has done wonders both for my water bill and the vigor of the plants for three winters now.

Tomorrow I will take a few Muscovy ducks from their pen, clip their flight feathers, and move them into my center Food Forest garden and let them feast on the bidens 'Spanish Needle' that is my nemesis. The whole flock should be in my west bed by the end of the month to eat the weeds there too. Weeds- into -meat for my diet and good lives for the feathered dinosaurs I hatch and raise are my goals. I am so thankful to farmer Joel Salatin for turning me onto selective grazing, in part for weed control vs. herbicides


Jail EVERY officer and official complicit in this crime against Rawsome and the Constitution!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Today's 'Urban Farming 101' Class

   Five delightful women, each with varying degrees of gardening history in both their childhoods and adult lives, took this class today that reviews how, in steps, one can create an increasing degree of self sufficiency in water and food and comfort and purposefulness. We were kept in quite a while by a light rain ( I NEVER complain about rain) that once again kept my clothes on the clothesline damp another day, but later we got to take a tour of my evolving urban farmstead that more and more is embracing the "Food Forest" concept by expanding way past my original plantings of own root citrus trees with moringa and neem and loquat and more. My dog Cracker was unusually wound up and entertaining and as always, won over everyone's heart. The class was held mostly in my "Gay Trailer Trash On Acid" livingroom, then the other aspects of my home and yard based on re-purposing items gleaned curbside and from dumpsters to reduce my costs and provide fodder for creative projects. Find and be given a LOT of big sheets of mirror? Of COURSE you cover your livingroom floor with it!

What better way to mark the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Bush Regime's use of 9-11 to savage America on every level with an intensity that Bin Laden could have only dreamed of  by seeing that an abundance of produce and eggs and meat, all organic and  at very low cost, can be had in a modest south Tampa yard, with a casual, non-linear "system" that evolves as I do. Bush and Cheney and Rice and Powell and Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld and Rove, instead of facing charges for breaking U.S. and international law, trashing our Treasury and military and Constitutional form of government and global reputation and thus handing Bin Laden a wide-ranging victory on a silver platter, were/are given legal immunity WITHIN OUR BORDERS (hence their conspicuous lack of world travel) plus lush lifetime pensions and stellar taxpayer-provided health care plans (funny, modest versions of that for you and me is evil "socialism") and lucrative book and speaking and consulting deals.  Since working Americans who sell healthy raw milk, or enjoy the safe simple pleasures of cannabis are arrested and imprisoned, there IS no justice in "The Land of The Free" that has the world's highest incarceration rate and prison population.

 Urban farmsteading, barter, defying cannabis laws, starting and joining community gardens, discouraging our children from becoming fodder for the war machine that has nothing to do with "protecting our freedoms" and everything to do with corporate empire building, dumpster diving, giving fresh fertile eggs to chickenless neighbors, hosting and attending seed swap potlucks, setting up rain barrels and worm bins, these things and more can create new freedoms and creative energies and forms of security as Gandhi-inspired gestures of defiance of the institutionalized predation of the people of the world by a very privileged, much too powerful few seemingly devoid of empathy. We can plant seeds in our gardens and our minds while refusing to use our shovels as swords.

As a 58 year old "old hippie" it does my soul good to see "idealism" being embraced by millions for what it is.....REALISM in the face of the daunting challenges to us and the planet and its non-human inhabitants resulting from unsustainable avarice and greed. I am convinced that, short of global nuclear war being unleashed, we are powerless ONLY if we agree to be.

Thanks again to those five cool women who today wandered through my place, teaching me as I taught them!


Algae Barter

I am attempting to grow spirulina algae but it seems the pricey powder I bought as a starter culture at a health food store is in fact dead despite it being dried without heat. I'd love to barter seeds for a small vial of starter culture from someone successfully growing spirulina. Thanks!  John

Friday, September 9, 2011

African Yellow Yam

My Evolving Food Forest

I have become enamored with this concept and have commited that big garden area around the apple snail pond I have turned into a giant Water Wise Container by using my machete to stab the sides about a dozen times about 2 feet from the bottom; am now filling it with waste soil, logs, mulch, etc. When it is filled I plant my guava and jaboticaba in there since they are swamp trees. Three cuttings of moringa stuck in the ground around the pond have rooted and are growing like crazy, and today I dug a deep pit, threw in dead bidens, two rotten log sections, soil then plant two baby neem trees there. Between it and the closest moringa I am burying a 55 gallon drum Water Wise Container Garden and planting in it the super dwarf Cavendish banana John and Debbie Butts gave me. The chickens have de-weeded 99% of the south end of that bed but have been stymied by the tall bidens at the south end. Once I pull it all out to feed to the ducks I mulch the whole bed then plant about a dozen papaya plants. I hope we have a mild winter so I don't lose my papayas like I have the two previous winters. John

Looks Like Those Damp Clothes On My Clothesline Worked Again!
This Saturday I teach a class on Urban Farmsteading 101, and on Sunday, Backyard Chicken and Duck Raising 101, both days 11 AM until 1 PM, $20 per person, 2 free packs of unusual veggie seeds per person. 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa 33611 813 839 0881 to RSVP Thanks! John Starnes

Cheap Bulk Flower Seeds

Yesterday I splurged and bought 1 pound each of Dwarf Jewel Mix Nasturtium (2,800 seeds just $13) and Carpet of Snow Sweet White Alyssum (1,115,000 seeds per pound just $20!) from Applewood Seeds in Golden, Colorado as I FINALLY ran out of my last bulk purchase from years ago. They should arrive next week. Both are perfect for winter here.  The nasturtiums are fragrant, color and edible though can die in a HARD freeze. The alyssum LOVES cold, and can scent the air of an entire yard! Check their site to see a very impressive selection of bulk wildflower and garden flower and herb seeds.  John

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Down on the farm.....

By hanging a full load of laundry on my clothesline late Monday, I was able to trigger two days of rain that brought 4.5 inches to my yard and gardens!! And the forecast suggests that those clothes will remain wet on the line today too!

As the daylengths shorten my chickens are laying fewer and fewer eggs....time to run a bunch in my blender with a teaspoon of seasalt and freeze in small tubs to enjoy this winter when they cease laying altogether.

I've committed the main bed in the center of my backyard to becoming a food forest....I've rooted two moringa trees at the south end, will today plant a seedling citrus, loquat and neem tree at the north end, and once I pull out the Spanish Needle (bidens) the chickens have not managed to eat for me, I will pepper the entire bed with approximately 1 dozen papaya plants. Once I finish filling the former apple snail pond with soil, log scraps, compost and mulch to make it a bog, I will plant my guava and jobaticaba in there. In summer, sweet potatoes will be the ground cover; in winter, brassicas, nasturtiums and white sweet alyssum will blanket the soil with food, fragrance and color.

Autumn is in the air and today I will do a more vigorous sorting of my vast selection of winter seeds, and once I locate my bulk bag of Dwarf Jewel Mix Nasturtium seeds I buy by the pound at a GREAT price from Applewood Seeds in Golden, Colorado, I will try an early planting in the completed beds out front in hopes of getting their charming colors and scents and tastes sooner in the season. It is always fun to try to push the limits with crops in any climate.

Once I finish burying the roses growing in 5 and 7 gallon bucket Water Wise Container Gardens in the two beds hugging the west side of my driveway and front patio, I can then "finish" the beds by planting more perennials, papayas, annual flowers and some winter veggies. Once the garden paths behind them are mulched, the revamp of the front yard will be about 50% completed as I recreate my roses collection but THIS time based on buried Water Wise Container Gardens to insure wise water use for those lovely, fragrant but THIRSTY shrubs that melted my heart in Denver and Tampa in 1989.

         My east driveway bed a few winters back

A rose Water Wise Container Garden before being buried

Always so much to do...good thing I like to stay busy!   John

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

We Know We've Been Lied To Habitually....

Time to trust and feed ourselves, refuse to "serve" in wars of choice for profit, and to stop feeding this wicked bulldozer with our hard-earned incomes. As George Carlin said famously, "they" have no real interest in our well-being or that of our children....we are all just fodder and pawns to maintain and increase their already obscene levels of wealth and power.  John

Monday, September 5, 2011

Simple Cheap Graywater Recovery

Here as in Denver in the early 90s,  my "system" started out as a delaying tactit regarding replacing a leaky sink trap. But in both cases I ended up removing the trap, stuffing a used plastic grocery bag into the outflow pipe to plug it up so that "sewer gas" (methane) can't back up into the kitchen then slipping a bucket beneath the sink drain. Since I now and then overflow the 4 gallon bucket,  I set it in a dumpster-dived plastic tray. I love this approach for a few reasons:

1. It makes visible and quantifiable my water use....I can't believe how OFTEN I had to empty the bucket at the beginning each time! Folks who let the water run while peeling carrots sure won't if they do this!

2. It then results in GREATLY reduced water use.

3. By using White Rain or Suave shampoo from Dollar Tree (both get dishes SQUEAKY clean despite being much milder than dish detergent) I can take each bucketful to a dry spot or Water Wise Container Garden for reuse.

4. The bits of food scraps feed the bacteria and earthworms and hence the soil.

5. It reminds me that in Iraq and Afghanistan and in so much of the world, people have to walk great distances to bring water HOME...the least I can do is carry a bucket of  graywater 40 feet to a banana plant!


Sea Grapes

I shot this video last September...since these wild foods are ready again for foragers to harvest, I thought I'd share it again. Enjoy, John

Friday, September 2, 2011

Yet One More Reason To Read The Mercola Health Newsletter With A Skeptical Eye

Today he calls spiders (arachnids) insects, but they are not, something I've known since elementary school. How can he again be unaware of such a basic fact of nature found in any junior high science book? This is not a nitpicky difference, as to be confused about this can lead to incorrect steps for indoor and outdoor pest control, especially in the garden and landscape. As always, I continue to get his newsletter for an occasional nugget that can lead to useful inquiry ELSEWHERE, but I always take it with a BIG grain of salt due to frequent, serious science errors even as he rakes in the cash. John