Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Must Be Nice....

No wonder the people in Congress (who get LIFE TIME pensions and free health care from serving just ONE term) can, with no detectable empathy, propose deep cuts in social services to the citizenry they wrest taxes from "to help cut the deficit" while expanding the already obscene military "defense" budget that expands Empire vs. actually defending our nation. Check out the link below about our "public servants" in Congress and the family budgets they struggle to live within.

They make these proposals as millions of Americans do their best to be frugal, including gardening at home and joining community gardens to try to insure their families eat in these very difficult times. Since this is no longer a democratic republic but an oligarchy that has no moral qualms about sending our children off to their wars of choice for profit (while steadfastly avoiding the military service for them and theirs that they tell us is an "honor") while robbing and imprisoning us ( the "Land of The Free" has just 5% of the world's population but 25% of the prison population) perhaps it is time to take note of the "Arab Spring" and get their undivided attention.

I bet they'd take note if next spring ALL middle class and lower class Americans "forget" to file their tax returns, or if we all withdrew all our funds from our bank accounts and stashed the cash safely, or if we discouraged our children from joining the military services that have VERY little to do with "protecting our freedoms" and that instead create vast numbers of "terrorists" around the world by making unprovoked land grabbing invasions and regime change possible.....George Bush did not personally invade Iraq.....hundreds of thousands of obedient US soldiers did. The shockingly amoral criminals of the Bush regime, instead of facing trials at home and abroad and justice and possible prison time WITH that 25%, instead got even richer plus book deals and taxpayer-provided lifetime pensions and "socialist" health care plans none of us could ever dream of. But heaven help the American caught enjoying the simple safe pleasures of the cannabis plant that our Founding Fathers enjoyed. (yup, Google it and read their personal letters).

I can only imagine how Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and Ben Franklin and more would be heartbroken if they could see how their brave dream has become a nightmare for hundreds of millions of people around the world, including here at home. More and more it seems to me that the time has come to emulate the non-violent social actions of Gandhi, Lennon and King before we lose our nation forever to a soulless, conscienceless, and incredibly spoiled plutocracy that seems virtually psychopathic in its lack of empathy for the people they govern and affect around Planet Earth.

I recently saw a quote I love although I forget who said it.....
"Garden as if your life depended on it, because it does".


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Recipe for Egyptian Molokhiya Soup

The last three summers I've grown very fond of this very tall growing heat-and-moisture loving annual from North Africa whose stem is the source of jute fiber.....I love to nibble the leaves raw right from the plant, or add them to salads, sandwiches and omelets. In Egypt it has been used for centuries in rabbit and chicken stews plus as a soup in its own right. I was looking at a soup recipe yesterday that required I spend some time and money on the pricey Greek spice 'mastic', the dried sap of a sub-shrub. But this African recipe looks easier in a few regards. I have planted two more 15 gallon Water Wise Container Gardens with molokhiya seedlings, plus will sow some seeds directly into a third as it will take a LOT of the mild tender leaves to make a good sized pot of this delicious-sounding soup. The botanical name of the plant is Corchorus olitorius if you wish to research it.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Home Made Botargo

I learned of this savory seasoning (spelled differently in each region) last year on the great show 'Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern' shot on coastal Italy. It is VERY expensive but I made mine for next to free. It is raw fish roe sacks fermented and dried for months packed in salt. It is shaved onto hot pasta and other dishes where it lends a flavor like anchovy but less sharp and not all all oily....more like a very dry Parmesan. Last Thanksgiving my friend Pat's fishing buddy Paul gave me two BIG pregnant mullets he'd just caught as he and his wife don't like mullet. I removed the roe sacks, cooked and ate the mullets, then did the following.

I lined a clay orchid pot with a paper towel (to keep the salt from spilling out the holes) poured in about 2 inches of fine sea salt and coarse ice cream salt, laid two roe sacks atop that, buried them in more salt, added the last two roe sacks, more salt until it was slightly higher than the rim of the pot,  laid a coffee saucer atop that, then set a 10 lb. weight on the saucer for the needed compression. This assembly was on my dead dryer in my unheated uncooled laundry room where it remained until a month ago. It was exciting to take the roe sacks out of the salt, now shrunken and VERY hard, like a super dense block of Romano cheese, exuding a rich savory smell. Guess who cooked up a batch of spaghetti noodles added to onions and garlic and arugula sauteed in olive oil, then topped it all with freshly ground botargo and romano cheese?! Like I always joke, some sweet guy with awesome pecs should marry me for my cooking and insatiable sex drive!

I hope to strike an arrangement with a commercial mullet fisherman as they discard the roe, and make botargo in bulk in a large wooden box packed with salt like I saw on Andrew's show that night. Yummy!


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wet Relief!

It looks like I got about 1.5 inches of rain this last 36 hours or so! So very nice to see puddles on streets and my mulch layers DAMP for a change. Tampa can thank me for this rain.....I had JUST finished a giant load of laundry that was ready for the clothesline when it arrived.

I am focusing more on growing fruit this year....after attending a presentation on bananas at the last Rare Fruit Council meeting I am making it a point to build up DEEP layers of litter and mulch around the few bananas that have survived nearly 6 years of drought. I am planting the super dwarf Cavendish that Jon and Debbie Butz gave me in a buried 55 gallon Water Wise Container Garden, and have planted my long-lusted-after Jamaican Cherry  (Muntingia calabura) in a buried 7 gallon Water Wise Container. I will soon begin dumping soil and mulch into my Golden Apple Snail pond to turn it into a bog garden and plant  my newly purchased Guava tree and my long-suffering Jaboticaba in there...I will use my machete to stab the sides of the pond liner about 2 feet down from the top to allow drainage and thus make it be a GIANT Water Wise Container Garden.

Today I picked my first semi-ripe bunch of "Gracie's Grape".....excellent flavor. And moments ago I picked one of two "Cactus Apples" from my Stovepipe cactus (Cereus peruvianus) and am chilling it in the fridge. I also planted 4 papaya seedlings in the bed out front that once was CONSUMED by the giant rose 'Mermaid' and that I am now repopulating with roses in buried 5 gallon Water Wise Container Gardens plus various perennials and annuals in the deeply mulched soil. Once I clear out the bed that once was home to a lovely own root 'Abraham Darby' rose for years I will plant in it a loquat I got for free at the last Rare Fruit Council meeting as I am growing very fond of the "Food Forest" concept. The papayas will give me both fruit and the garden beds some relief from searing full sun as the roses and other plants take hold. Someday, the loquat will provide both fruit and shade for the nearby garden swing.

The 'Cape Gooseberry' plants I am growing in 15 gallon Water Wise Container Gardens in the kitchen garden along with eggplants and molokhiya have taken off BIG time since I began giving them more kitchen gray water and remembered to pee on their soil more often...their resemblance to tomato plants is uncanny. I love the fruits...they are closely related to tomatoes, tomatillas and ground cherries (they are in fact a Physallis species) and the fruits are like bigger, improved ground cherries. The best flavor comparison I've thought of is a mix of kiwi and strawberry, with maybe a faint touch of pineapple.

"Gray Street Grape" is burgeoning with many thousands of green grapes and I look forward to a huge harvest...since seeds don't bother me (plus grape seeds are good for us) I may try my hand this year at making home made raisins, and maybe even my first batch of homemade wine since I was 19 in Albuquerque.

Life is good....this rain,  plus Dad's health has SO dramatically improved in the rehab center after a 4th doctor at Raulerson Hospital in Okeechobee intervened and ordered the  SIMPLE lung culture test Dad's three drug-oriented, short-sighted doctors (whom over the years have each made a FORTUNE from Dad's TriCare policy) failed to do that confirmed their MIS-diagnosis of infectious pneumonia not the B.O.O.P he has that has responded EXTREMELY quickly to low oral doses of prednisone, he may be going home by Wednesday. Now if Dad will just stay healthy at 80 long enough to match his Dad's 93 (he had NO decline, just dropped dead one morning while shaving in the home he built by HAND in his 80s on Big Pine Key) and IF Florida can have a WET WET summer and fall to recharge our poor soil and lakes and aquifer, and IF the Bush Regime finally faces justice for their staggering crimes against this country and humanity, I will be ONE happy camper in 2011!


                                                                  Cactus Apples
                                                            Cape Gooseberries

Saturday, June 25, 2011

My Muscovy Ducks

The growth rate of the hatchlings has been incredible these three months.....all are now the size of Momma Duck or bigger. Soon I will go into their pen, clip their wings, then transfer them into my west bed out back to tidy up THAT bed of weeds for me, something they excel at. Plus it seems that the other Momma Duck (who days ago laid another clutch of eggs) and Poppa Duck convinced me they are TOO MEAN to be killed by a predator, hence their status as a vermin bird in the wild in Florida, though she lost ALL her last newly-hatched babies to a predator (a cat I am sure) in a few days. So yesterday I placed a barricade between Poppa Duck and me (he went after me last year when still free range like a freakin'  Velociraptor in Jurassic Park...and I was just picking Vigna pods!) and I moved the new eggs onto a bed of pine needles in the giant dog carrier cage I used to shoo all three into each night before I realized racoons are afraid of them) so when they hatch in 30 days I can place these new ducklings in the very spacious duck pen for their safety.

This growth rate has been the result of their being fed restaurant scraps, weeds, bugs, left overs and seashell grit, with a few drops of iodine in their water now and then. As an urban farmer I have so far killed and eaten seven roosters, so I now need to "man up" and slaughter ducks too as the flock grows. I've only eaten duck meat a few times, and then the usual White Pekin, but I've read and been told that Muscovy Duck meat is VERY similar to cow meat.....dark and I've seen frozen male Muscovy Duck breasts being sold on line for $68 EACH plus shipping....a new source of income for me perhaps?

One of the things that amuses me about my Muscovy Ducks...they LOVE to swim in whatever mini-pond I create for them, but when it rains, they run for cover!

As a man who long ago learned the hard way that he is not healthy when vegan or vegetarian, but who is trying to wean himself from factory farm sources of meat, these ducks and the roosters that hatch here could well make buying meat from the store a thing of my past. I have the soul of a vegan...killing these birds is so very intense for me. But it feels necessary, honest, and authentic to me as a man seeking ethical self sufficiency and moral responsibility in a country and culture where factory farming, Monsanto, and wars of choice for profit, such as Iraq and Afghanistan and now Libya, are the norm.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Thanks! that mysterious person who left a hefty bag of FRESH lychees hanging on my front screen door knob when I was in Okeechobee helping out my Dad! I'm inhaling them plus enjoying sharing them with friends who've never experienced their decadence. I savor the ritual of peeling and eating them. Total food sex.

   And thanks Planet Earth for this sudden rain that arrived moments ago as my yard can surely use every drop...the next few days look hopeful indeed due to activity in the Gulf of Mexico.

  I look forward to teaching my "Cooking What You Grow" class tomorrow based largely on the output of my gardens and my passion for ethnic cooking.....I will show how strategic use of spices can make it easy to turn vegetables and  meats from your urban farm and grocery store into delicious examples of Thai, Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Turkish, Ethiopian, and Italian cuisines. Today I dug up a Caribbean Yam next to a banana plant by my south fence to show why this hassle-free species (Dioscorea) is a staple in tropical regions the world over....slimy when sliced raw but as good as any Idaho potato when boiled, fried or baked.

   Dad is doing MUCH better and is getting what hopefully will be 2 weeks of physical therapy in the less-than-stellar 'Okeechobee Health Care Facility' before going home to either be back to his old self, or receive assistance from home health care, me and his friends and relatives.

   I have a nice mix of tropical food crops for sale in 1 gallon pots on my front porch Honor System plant sales tables out front where folks just slip their cash through the dryer vent in my red office door, including  Holy Basil,  Molokhiya, Ube Purple Yam, Blue Pea Vine, Velvet Bean, African Jack Bean and Cape Gooseberry, all marked and priced on strips of recycled mini-blinds.

  Thank you.   John


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.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Errant Arugula

Arugula is considered a cold hardy winter crop in central and south Florida, and I've grown it as such for years as do friends. Last winter I grew quite a bit as "filler" in a front bed I am re-inventing by burying 5 gallon Water Wise Container Gardens with 1 rose per bucket, with perennials and annuals in between.....I got TONS of arugula for months, followed by a very heavy seed set which I harvested. But to my surprise, despite this scorching drought that is breaking records in varying parts of the state, OODLES of self sown arugula seedlings have appeared and are growing lushly after I gave that bed a deep watering recently. I just bought organic balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil on sale at Big Lots, so today I am going to indulge in the VERY unexpected treat of an arugula and molokhiya salad on a hot mid-June day!  John

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rare Fruit Council meeting

Yesterday I attended the Tampa group meeting at the Bayshore Garden Club....good presentation on citrus diseases, especially the scary new "Citrus Greening" that is killing my friend Pat's orange tree. As usual the potluck was stellar.....guess who got seconds? I got a free loquat tree left over the raffle.....I will plant it out front in the center as I am being influenced more and more by the 'Food Forest' concept. For that reason as I complete the re-invention of the front yard I will be planting quite a few papayas in between the roses and perennials and annuals to provide light shade cover AND food.

Yesterday I cut off two 10 inch long stems of molokhiya, used the leaves in a meal, then dipped the cuttings in old rooting hormone then stuck them DEEP in a back patio Water Wise Container Garden just to see if they root.

Now off to toss some fish carcasses Pat gave me into my homemade fish emulsion barrel.


Red Stink Bugs?

I've never heard of red stink bugs....I wonder if you had box elder bugs, though I've never heard of them attacking any kind of plant, including tomato. I'm cutting and pasting this to use as a post if this third attempt to respond fails. I wonder what's going on with Blogspot?  John

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Stinkbug Response

For over a week now Blogspot won't let me respond to comments I get here the reader for whom stinkbugs are not a problem count yourself lucky as they can decimate cucusas and other summer crops! John

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Home Made Stink Bug Trap

They were terrible last summer here in central Florida and I know of no cool and nifty organic controls or critters that will eat them. My non-gardening friend Mark sent me this link...I am intrigued. I will brainstorm on cheaper LEDs, like the $1 keychain ones at Dollar Tree. Enjoy, John

Bushier Molokhiya?

Yesterday I used many tender leaves in a yummy tofu rice stir fry from a cluster of about 5 Molokhiya plants I am growing in a 15 gallon Water Wise Container Garden. Their growth rate has been rampant thanks to "Super Poop Tea" and rain water, but the lanky growth reminded me that folks have asked me if topping this hot weather veggie from Egypt might make it bushier. So today I will chop them back to about 15 inches in height, use the leaves in a meal, and see what happens.  John

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

As Luck Would Have It

As luck would have it
the cold white terror of youth
often diffuses, with time,
into warm pastels.
Sharp corners become rounded,
burnished by a heart
that fears less and less.

This is the grace of growing older.

As luck would have it
the frenzied quest for Another
can leave a trail of cold ashes
leading back to ourselves...
Only then into our own company and comfort
can another quietly enter.

This too is grace.

As luck would have it
Death often waits
until all the wounds have healed
until all the right colors have glimmered
within every darkness,

until at last
grace is a gift of Light
that we can give
and take

with a turn of the eyes.

John Starnes 1994

Color Accents

I for years have loved cheery color accent flowers placed near white objects in the landscape, and so today I planted deep pink/white eye Vincas in the beds hugging the street. The white birdbaths, mailbox and edgings will highlight the contrast while pentas, various salvias, African Foxglove, sunflowers and more advance as summer progresses. My rain barrels out front allow for easy spotwaterings of new plantings like these, with kitchen graywater soon to be their main relief in this persistent perennial drought. Today I flung over these three street beds two 4 gallon buckets of "Super Poop" (pure horse poop, pee, hair and hoof trimmings) from my neighborhood stable atop the recent oak leaf sheet composting to be soon given a deep watering to enrich and revitalize the dry sandy soil. I got the tray of 18 hybrid vincas for $9.99 and look forward to their contribution to my efforts to make my front yard tidier, rosier and damper via making and burying many dozens of Water Wise Container Gardens.

As much as I love growing food, I enjoy using color accents and scavenged items in my efforts to boost the productivity and visual appeal of my all-too-casual landscape.  John

Monday, June 6, 2011

Back on the farm

I got back late yesterday from seeing Dad in the hospital in Okeechobee where he seems to be stabilizing....a lot of uncertainty despite his great vital signs. Please put his full and rapid recovery in your prayers.

Yesterday about an hour before I left Dad's house I spotted from about 150 feet away an oddly behaving bird that displayed red when it flapped its wings....I had on my computer glasses so the image was fuzzy. I put on my usual glasses then approached the bird as it rummaged in the weeds around Dad's burn pile...I got maybe 25 feet from it. It was very much a ground dwelling bird...maybe 2/3 the size of a robin, the tops of the wings and body a drab greyish beige. The tail seemed short, the wings were short and rounded, and occasionally it would flap a little BRIEFLY to move to new weeds.....the UNDERSIDE of the outer 1/3 to 1/2 of the wings was a reddish cinnamon-brown color. I didn't get a good look at the beak but it seemed a normal bird beak at a glance. I saw no head crest or neck rings or anything. It poked around in the dirt and weeds maybe 20 seconds then flew into a nearby cedar tree.I have NO idea where to even begin to look in my bird books...any ideas?

Iodine supplementation has done WONDERS for so many friends I've turned onto it plus folks I've met here and there. I've read repeatedly that many/most other developed nations have an RDA of iodine 83-100 times higher than our govt's RDA....maybe to keep us tired and complacent and ill and "needing" high profit medical intervention?

Me and folks I know are REALLY liking the long podded Vignas like the 'Asparagus Bean' on the Ferry Morse seed rack...pods are tender and sweet and stringless even when 18-20 inches long! So I am phasing out here volunteer seedlings of the 'Clay' Vigna I've grown for years and have given students and folks at the Sustainable Living Conference since those pods remain tender only to 5-6 inches. Mary Jo found a variant in the Taste of Asia portion of Ferry Morse seeds called 'Bean Long Zi 28-2' that makes 26 inch long pods!! I figure if I grow ONLY these super vigorous long podded types cross pollinations will be academic vs. their getting pollinated by the short pod type. I will planting more of these all along my chicken barrier fencing once/if the rains kick in.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Classes This Weekend Cancelled

Dad has had an unexpected health downturn and so I am cancelling my classes and attending my 40th highschool reunion this weekend. Please keep Dad in your thoughts and prayers. John

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Dad's Health and Rain

My Dad in Okeechobee, Florida got hospitalized last Friday for dehydration and bronchitis, and I got in last night after a few days there arranging for the care of his two dogs Buffy and Mindy, watering his gardens and new bamboo plantings, checking in on him at Raulerson Hospital ( my dog Cracker was a huge hit with staff and patients alike plus Dad loved seeing him) and making provisions to keep his basic bills paid as he recovers. Today he is off antibiotics and IV saline as he is learning to drink water MUCH more often when home to prevent a recurrence. He is dramatically better than from even 2 days ago, his appetite returning and all his vitals great. I hope he comes home soon. If you'd like to send him a well-wish e-mail to read once home, his address is:

Today here in Tampa we had a wonderful squall line approach from the Atlantic from the NE and in a short time it looks like my yard got a wonderful 1.5 to 2 inches of blessed rain! A second system behind it passed north of Tampa but even down here in south Tampa I got about 30 minutes of followup drizzle.

Dad's watermelon vines have been hit with anthracnose, so I brought home 2 seemingly ripe melons after my cousin Mike there gave melons to friends and relatives in Dad's absence. There is already a large crop of pods on the Asparagus Beans Dad is growing from seeds I gave him so I will coach Mike on their harvest and cooking, His African Jack Beans are thriving despite the lack of rain and I planted into his second garden a clump of Molokhiya he'd started in a 6 inch pot from seeds I'd given them and gave the gardens a few deep soaking the three days  I was there using his windmill pump. Getting home to see his dogs Buffy and Mindy and to tend his gardens is a big motivator for Dad to get better quickly. If you'd like to call him  at the hospital to wish him well from afar the number is:   1-863-763-2151  ext. 2955

Dad is a good guy who's worked hard all his life and turns 81 in September, and is a prime reason that gardening has been a central feature of my life since childhood. He has been wonderful for years now in accepting my homosexuality and now even understands my fondness since 1971 for the benign benefits of enjoying cannabis. His Dad lived vibrantly to the age of 93 and I wish him the same.