Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ceviche Recipe

My gardening and fishing friend Pat catches big fish out in the Gulf and he and his buddies are not fond of amberjack so recently gave me three BIG ones. He offered more today but I declined as the freezers are full (!!!). But I just now looked up this recipe as I DO have room in my fridge....I should have said "YES!". This sounds yummy though I will likely substitute Myer's Lemon juice for the grapefruit juice. Happy New Year!

Class Today

Today's class: Probiotic Gardening 101: Creating and sustaining cheaply a complex hence stable community of macro and micro organisms in the vegetable or roses garden to control or prevent disease and pest problems. $20 per student, 11 AM until 1 PM. There is a good handout but bring a notepad and pen as this is an information-dense class. 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa FL 33611

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rain approaching from the Gulf

I hope it is a soaker for both my garden plants and containerized ones, plus it could set me up for new sowings of winter brassicas not currently growing. The south end rain barrel is empty so the dinghy boat cover is back on top, held in place with a heavy brick, to act as a funnel....I've been spoiled by having water way back by the south fence. The dinghy itself is my moveable duck pond, and both were scavenged road side a few years back. The barrels come from my friend Tim and his beverage business. Free is good!

Monday, December 26, 2011

This is such a cool practice!

Since the late 1980s I've been tossing rhizomes of native aquatic irises into retention ponds in Tampa and in the rivers in the Rockies west of Denver, so I applaud BIG time this innovative form of guerilla gardening! Wonderfully innovative yet frugal.

Love Wasabi As I Do?

Grow these cool season "Face Blaster" mustards in fall through spring in central Florida, spring and summer in colder climates. Cooked they are mild and tender, but shove a whole raw leaf into your mouth and chew and say goodbye to your sinuses! Great for head colds. In Denver the neighborhood kids would ring my doorbell each summer to ask for leaves of "face blaster" so they could play chicken...see who could eat the biggest piece and NOT blow it out of their little red faces!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Today I had six eager-to-learn students attend my class on 'Water Wise Container Gardening' during which we addressed key basics of successful organic gardening in central Florida. They liked it so much they applauded at the end! Thanks for coming folks.  John

The Shift

Down on the farm....

Yesterday I began pressing my second pound of raw cheese made from dairy kefir grains though I salted the curds of this batch before pouring them into the corner of a pillowcase now topped by a gym weight. In the front yard I finally reached the west fence bed LONG consumed by weeds and two MUCH too aggressive flowering vines, Ipomoea acuminata and Pandorea vine. Both are beautiful but put kudzu to shame.....I regret having planted them! But it is a delight to have my two rambling roses there, 'Leontine Gervais' and 'Seagull', largely uncovered as I paint the concrete edgings a fresh bright white. Two days ago I gave that long narrow bed a DEEP watering, its first in easily two years, so I expect to see both roses leap happily into vigorous growth. Next I put more roses into 5 and 7 gallon buckets turned into Water Wise Container Gardens....Mary Jo gave me an electric drill so that will speed up progress vs. borrowing my neighbor's drill now and then. Then each gets buried. I am pretty sure I am going to bury the 'Hansa' bucket on the south side of 'Marechal Niel' for contrast.

My friend :Pat gave me some sand perches he caught plus the carcasses of the large fish he filleted.....this morning I offered them to the Muscovy ducks since they are such omnivores....if they refuse them they go into one of the two new 55 gallon compost barrels now almost full.

 It looks like I have 6 students attending today's class on 'Water Wise Container Gardening' so I need to spruce up the back porch after Cracker dug a hole next to the path and scattered dirt EVERYWHERE!

Slight overcast so I expect my solar shower today might be a bit chilly! So that soon-to-be hot turkey barley soup will be appreciated. After class I must pot up many seedlings include Purple Lemon Mint, allium fistulosum and "Filipino Mexican Tree Pepper", then I'll start seed trays of two types of primrose (Oenethera) I grew in Denver to see if they can adapt to here. I especially hope the Showy Primrose grows.

Pickings at the restaurant have been slim the last few days and the poultry flocks are's hoping that I come home today with a full bucket of scraps AND that I get a big haul at the pizza buffet as I've fed them nearly all of the too-strong-to-eat arugula that self sowed in the heat!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

New Batch Of Cheese From Milk Kefir Grains

As with the first, I am skipping the usual heating to 130 degrees in salted water as I wish to preserve the beneficial microbes, but I AM working in a few spoons of fine sea salt before pressing a day or so. John

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Down on the farm today....

Late yesterday I drained the last of the old duck water from the dinghy boat onto my Persian lime, then moved it into the main center bed where most of the Muscovy ducks live. I filled it with the hose and today BOY did I have some happy ducks, especially the females! I shot a video and plan on posting it soon. Just as I'd read before getting Muscovies, they are very inclined to foul their own water, drinking OR swimming. So I placed the dinghy close to where I can bail the nutrient-laden water onto a new Moringa tree and a Dwarf Cavendish banana from Jon and Debbie Butts I will be planting in a buried 55 gallon Water Wise Container Garden.

After weeks of eggs being laid randomly within the large pen the other ducks are confined in (they won't let me catch them to move them into the semi-free range area), one female has at last made an egg-filled nest of her breast feathers inside the large plastic igloo-style dog house I scavenged years ago and built the duck pen around. I have a high ratio of male ducks and since they are starting to clash AND might kill the ducklings when they hatch in a month I really need to "man up" and do my first of several needed male duck slaughters to roast and freeze. I suspect that they will very likely attack the ducklings.

Today out front I began pulling perennial morning glory (Ipomoea acuminata) from the west bed.....which means I am closing in on the finish line of reclaiming my yard from years of drought, and being CONSUMED by the giant rose 'Mermaid'. Once THOSE concrete edgings are exposed, guess who is painting them white?! I was delighted to see that the Wichuraiana Rambler 'Leontine Gervais' had in fact survived that two year hell and was today sending out a nice basal shoot. I am giving that whole west bed a DEEP watering, its first in easily two years, then a deep feeding of home made fish emulsion and chicken poop tea.  I love the color and form of 'Leontine Gervais' but for some reason it affects my roses allergy very quickly and potently, usually minutes after I foolishly take a hit of its delightful perfume.

Oddly, despite the date, I am getting 3-4 eggs daily from 9 hens vs. the usual winter shut down. Today when I got the kitchen scraps from Artifacts Restaurant a few blocks from here, their bartender Kristen told me she LOVED the eggs I gave her, her first ever fresh, free range eggs. She was amazed by the differences.

Anyone who knows me will confirm that my genes lack the "tidy chromosome" that most gay men seem to have...invariably I'd rather create than clean. And it shows! Pretty scary I gather. So....I am taking the advice of folks who've suggested that I barter my classes/eggs/plants for house cleaning with folks who actually enjoy house cleaning. I tend to live in my mind and the projects I joyfully nurture there, so trading my skills with people who take tidiness for granted seems like a cool solution. I can only imagine what a 2 hour cleaning of my gnarly kitchen traded for one of my two hour classes would result in!

If you like wasabi with your sushi, and live in central or south Florida, now is a great time to sow the seeds of what my friends and I call "face blaster" mustards. Eaten raw, they duplicate that food masochism bliss of wasabi when it feels like your sinuses and nose will just fucking explode...then it shuts off with no lingering heat as with hot peppers. 'Green Wave', 'Osaka Purple' and 'Giant Red' are ones I love. Interestingly they lose ALL heat when cooked and become mild in stir fry or soups.


I've done this on a very small scale for years but in pits...did not know it had a name.

Urban Foraging

Wonderfully ripe sea grapes at Picnic Island Beach.

Chicken Grit and Beach Fun

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Classes This Weekend

Classes this weekend here: Urban Farmsteading 101 Saturday and Basics of Successful Organic Veggies and Herbs Gardening on Sunday, $20 per person, 11 AM until 1 PM, 2 packs of unusual free seeds, handouts for each but DO bring a notebook and pen. 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa FL 33611 813 839 0881 with questions or to RSVP.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dairy Kefir Grains

I am using my first ever batch to make cheese vs. drink after doing a 3 day ferment that gave me VERY firm curds. I've saved starter to share with friends...thanks Pat for my starter! I am psyched by the flavor and texture and ESPECIALLY the incredible number of beneficial microbes vs. the 12 in my usual bacterial starter! Special thanks to Dianne for turning me on to the concept.  Phukinay!  John

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I've Been Peeing On My Soil For Twenty Years To Feed It AND Save VAST Amounts Of Water

Why flush?

Free Nesting Material For My Chickens and Ducks

Here is a fraction of the "wood wool"  I dumpster dived a few weeks ago from shipping crates next to a dumpster. The birds love it and quickly made nests of it....far easier for them to work with the long pine needles I usually give them. Free is good!

A gorgeous hawk in my neighbor's yard

It's been years since I lost a hen to a hawk due to my rebars with blue bottles blocking their dive paths.

Occupy Flash Mob!

Macro Photos of Plants

 Mermaid rose
 Beauty Berry
Wood Violet Louisiana Iris
    "The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion.  He hardly knows which is which.  He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing.  To him he is always doing both."       -- James Michener   

Fluoride IS Dangerous To Our Health

I supplement with iodine to in part displace fluoride in my tissues, filter my drinking water, shower with rainwater and will now seek out fluoride-free toothpastes or make my own.

Pickled Fish Recipe

I've smoked mullets, and boiled/salted/dried many hundreds of greenbacks, so would like to try this recipe the next time I get a good haul of cast netted mullets. I suspect it would also make nice pickled eggs, which I have not made in quite a while.

Papalo Seeds For Sale

Thrives in summer and considered a hot weather substitute for cilantro though the flavor can be said to have a touch of arugula and oregano. VERY easy from seeds year round in Tampa though grows best in spring and summer. A summer crop in colder climates. One pinch of fluff is approx. 50 seeds: $2 plus a self addressed stamped envelope mailed to: John Starnes 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa FL 33611 Thanks!

This is so inspiring!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Avatar trailer

Universe Wish List

To aid in the evolution and maintenance of my urban farm in south Tampa, I'd love to trade plants, eggs, art or my gardening classes for these items:

1. Rhode Island Red chicks
2. A washing machine
3. A new back wood back door measuring 27.5 X 74 inches or slightly larger to allow for trimming
4. Some potent 420
5. A clump of dwarf yellow canna rhizomes
6. Bulk frozen mullet roe
7. Raw local cow milk
8. A sparkly sequin gown to use to make a throw pillow for my Space Couch
9. Some potent 420.......
10.Glass blocks
11.A lot of red clay house bricks to finish up my driveway
12. Local raw honey

Thank you!  John


Oddly, late this spring a LOT of fallen arugula seeds from the winter crop germinated in a front rose bed and is STILL growing very vigorously. BUT...even though I have a bitter palate and love arugula, this crop is SO in-your-face I can eat only small nibbles before going into bitter-overload. So I am going to begin pulling it to feed to the chickens and ducks so I can train the roses in there it has been competing with. I have not grown lettuce in years so might grow 'Paris Cos' romaine plus winter annual flowers in that bed. John

Simply UNbelievable!

Occupy Your Yard!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rocket Stove Update

I fired it up a third time today to heat up some turkey soup on this chilly. It was very smoky at first but then I learned that freeze-killed Bolivian Sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia) stalks from last winter were great tinder and fuel as they helped to ignite wood scraps. I have two OLD pallets out front hidden behind a giant rose...I will move them to the red brick fire pit patio out back and break them up to make LOTS of fuel for future uses of the Rocket Stove. Shower water now heating in the solar dish.... I love my urban farm! Attached is a video of the second run of the stove, and a pic of my solar heating dish making 4 gallons of CHEAP home made laundry soap. Today the top two bricks lay on their sides, and atop them was a steel rack from a small roasting pan to better support the soup pot. John

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

'Sunn Hemp' cover crop

Except for my Old Roses, I am usually a food crops man. But I am enamored with the lovely FRAGRANT blooms of this selected form of Crotalaria lutea (?) grown as a soil nitrifier and nematode suppressant. I have just a few plants but anticipate a lot of seeds so I can grow it in masses next year both to improve my soil and for the beauty. A stunning 8 footer out front was snapped in half by winds about 10 days ago. The sweet perfume stuns people! The blooms last for days in a bouquet.  John

Farmers Occupy Wall Street!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Blue Pea Vine" Seeds For Sale

Clitoria terneata  ("Blue Pea Vine") is a perennial vine that thrives in summer in Florida. In colder climates it will be a heat-loving summer annual that can be overwintered in a COZY greenhouse. It looks lovely on a mailbox and the blooms, along with yellow and orange nasturtium flowers, are tasty in salads. Three pods (about 6 seeds each) are $3 plus a Self Addressed Stamped  Envelope sent to: John Starnes 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa FL 33611 About 10% of the seedlings will be the double flowered form.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Due to a family emergency I am cancelling my planned classes this weekend. John

Thursday, December 1, 2011


My guess is that were he here now he'd be part of OWS, with Fox "News" talking heads making sneering, dismissal, condescending comments about "this Jesus guy". I don't embrace the Christian model of reality due to its long history of large scale violence, and because Hubble has revealed this is a BIG fucking Universe, and I am hardly qualified to claim to know how it works. But if somehow one brand or another of Christianity IS how the Universe works, I suspect that a vast number of self-described Christians, including George Bush, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin and Cain just might be in for a rude awakening after death and meet their "God" since they seem to warmly embrace the Pharisees instead of Jesus.