Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thank You Universe for Spring Bounty

I love this abundant time of year in south Tampa! Time to begin blanching and freezing various brassica leaves to use this summer and early fall, and the chickens are laying so many eggs I will begin stockpiling them for next winter using a method I learned many years ago in Denver.....crack a bunch of raw eggs into my blender, add a teaspoon of sea salt, buzz, let sit a few minutes to be sure the salt has dissolved, buzz again, then pour into recycled yogurt etc. tubs, label and freeze. This allows me wonderful omelets and quiches in mid-winter when the chickens are barely laying.

I noticed the emergence of flower bud stalks on the San Ho Giant Mustard I grew very fond of this winter so today I will slip the foot ends of a couple panty hose over them and secure with a twisty to prevent cross pollination from other brassicas so as to grow my own seeds of this wonderfully mild crispy cold hardy veggie I love raw or cooked.

I have a nice crop of daikon radish and am getting low on the last gallon batch of kimchi I made almost 5 years ago that is now beyond yummy, so I will scour the house and shed for a gallon glass jar to make a new batch. This time I will make it lower sodium and use a wider mix of veggies, possibly sweet potatoes to provide sugars for the lactic acid producing bacteria while balancing the flavor. As with that last batch, I will add crushed dried salted greenback fish I netted from Tampa Bay to add flavor and protein. Of course I will add a lot of hot pepper and garlic but this time include roasted sesame oil to add a hearty backdrop to the flavor. I have an abundance of green papayas from the huge plant out front and will include that in the raw veggies mix that will sit in sea salt overnight to draw out excess moisture before packing and aging in the fridge for several months.

My front yard is a sea of nasturtiums! The chef at Wimauma Restaurant loves them and my arugula and thornless optuntia cactus and more, and I in turn am grateful for the two or so buckets of scraps that he and his staff save for me daily to feed my ducks and chickens. A true win-win situation.

While I am usually a food crops man I am excited to see ample germinations in in seed trays of several flowers, including Showy Primsose, Missouri Primrose, Tuber Vervain and quite a few more. I want my gardens, especially in back, to be MUCH more colorful as I revamp the yard to learn to embrace tidiness as a habit vs. the exception. Plus I intend to stock the top bar hive with bees and I'm sure they'd appreciate nectar-filled flowers close at hand.

Thanks to the folks, like my neighbor Don across the street, who bring me their bags of spring leaves as I need 200-300 this year to fully enact my plans for a far more well-organized and productive, deeply mulched back yard.

With the scent of citrus blooms from my trees riding the spring breezes, I am once again so glad to be back home where I belong after fifteen LONG years in frigid Denver!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Bitter Melon

Due to a staffer at my gym reminding me of this crop after he bought one when I recommended he try south Tampa's wonderful DoBond Market, and today giving me seeds he bought at the Oceanic Market in downtown Tampa, I am growing this again for the first time in years.

Cucurbita maxima

Even though cultivars of this species THRIVED for me in my Denver gardens in the cool dry summers, and have done poorlly for me here in humid Tampa, I am this year trying 'Winter Sweet Meat' and 'Red Kuri' in my quest for dry, nutty sweet orange fleshed  squash to eat raw, baked or in soups.

Factory Farm Milk Linked To Cancers

Of course the FDA, owned in soul by Monsanto, will ignore the science.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Spring Drought

Yesterday I soaked all the Water Wise Container Gardens and Restricted Drainage Gardens with a 10 minute or so run of a shower head type sprinkler ( see pic, about $4 at Lowe's, I LOVE these!!!!) barely flowing. I think growth will take off now.

I make the Restricted Drainage Container Gardens by drawing a rolled up used plastic grocery bag half way through every single drainage hole, usually a  scavenged large black plastic commercial tree pot. Each is filled with layers of branch scraps, chicken path soil, chipped wood mulch, compost and brown leaves. When I do a deep soaking, water reaches the top due to the shopping bags, and drains out slowly in maybe 20 minutes. This affords full saturation of the soil, with earthworms surviving just fine.

Tomorrow I will deep soak all the Water Wise Container Gardens by the back patio. It's fun being obsessed with conserving water!

Land Of The Free?

Yet Monsanto gets SUBSIDIZED to poison people and the biosphere! The FDA is nothing more than a rubber stamp for corporations. This farmer's plight sickens and enrages me.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

If only I had a dollar for the thousands of times I played this song for a decade!
  • Receipt for Your Payment to Sunrise Seeds‏

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3212 West Paxton Avenue
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DescriptionUnit priceQtyAmount
Squash Winter Sweet Meat Seed
Item# Squash Winter Sweet Meat Seed
$1.89 USD1$1.89 USD
Chirimen Squash
Item# Chirimen Squash
$1.25 USD1$1.25 USD
Waltham Butternut
Item# Waltham Butternut
$1.25 USD1$1.25 USD
Musque de Provence
Item# Musque de Provence
$1.99 USD1$1.99 USD
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Thanks to Alex for sharing this with me on Facebook.

I'm ordering a few of these, might even stray past Cucurbita moschata!
A key identifying trait of Cucurbita moschata vs. C. mixta, C. pepo,  and C. maxima, is the lovely silvery patterning of the foliage. Dead giveaway!

Overview of Cucurbita moschata

Cucurbita moschata

I am germinating (hopefully) purchased 2 year old seeds of "Upper Ground Sweet Potato" and fresh seeds of 'Violina' butternut squash, plus open-pollinated seeds, some dating to 2005, of various calabaza-type pumpkins from past harvests, and from a roadside plant of what resembled 'Argonaut' that I spotted some miles south of Okeechobee as I Dad and I returned from a trip to the Keys in 2007. All are derived from the Central American species Cucurbita moschata and so should thrive IF I give them enough water and keep the soil fertile this summer. I am asking the Universe once more, as I do each spring, for many tropical depressions to SATURATE Tampa this spring, summer and fall!.

Down on the farm this week....

FIVE Muscovy ducks now nesting! Time to man up and do my first slaughter, then a few more for the freezer. Three bumper crops of wasabi-like Giant Red mustard now thriving, with follow up sowings or arugula growing quickly. Thanks to a mild winter I am now enjoying fresh papayas and am delighted to see blooms on eggplants entering their second year in a Water Wise Container Garden. Even the new young chickens given me by a generous blog reader have begun laying....brown shells with white spots! I'm not sure why but the many plants of perennial scalllion Allium fistulosum have surged in their growth, be they in 1 gallon pots for sale or in Water Wise Container Gardens for my use later.

Unfortunately so are the chickweeds and a few Bidens "Spanish Needle" in the beds out front. I MUST pull the rest up and fed them to the poultry to thwart seeds production so I can FINALLY win this perennial battle!

Later I will post a pic of a white plastic tub I got curbside before the garbage truck did and that I will convert to a high water table Water Wise Container Garden I will bury the south bed to raise taro in this year as I SO miss Thai taro leaf soup.


I'd enjoy seeing what karma has in store for this sorry excuse for a human

Friday, February 24, 2012

Onions Experiments

I have planted 80 yellow onion and 80 purple onion (both Allium cepa) sets very deeply in Water Wise Container Gardens, with the intent of harvesting most as scallions. But I will leave a few into summer to see if they even make bulbs and if so, does it escape decay in the heat and humidity. I've always heard that matters of day length in central Florida are why onions bulbing here is uncommon vs. a given up north. I am almost done planting 160 white onion sets (Allium cepa)  to see how they grow in the garden just outside my kitchen back door.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What a bizarre early spring following a mild winter!

Self sown hyacinth beans seeds are germinating, with some vines actually blooming! Even self sown Vigna unguiculata seeds are germinating....I'll freak if Velvet Beans begin sprouting too. The upside is a bearing papaya that survived winter after the two previous winters killed dozens here. I have oodles of nasturtiums in full bloom, with first blooms on Linarias and Bachelor's Buttons and Shirley Poppies, with more and more roses budding and blooming. Buds on my Persian Lime and Meyers Lemon trees are appearing daily, with rapid growth emanating from chaya and cassavas that got zapped by frost. Many seed trays now boast hundreds of seedlings, and an in-ground sowing of Scarlet Runner Beans now emerging. Since I generate SUCH low water bills (last one was $4.18) I've splurged on a few deep waterings here and there, with my intent being to turn the previously dumpy west bed into a damp, fertile bed for calabaza pumpkins of varying types, including 'Violina' heirloom Butternut squash growing beneath a canopy of papayas. I'll dig a fair sized pit and fill it with log sections and yard waste then bury it all to incorporate some element of hugelkultur there for benefits a few years down the road.

Now if we could just have a WET WET spring, summer and fall like we had in the late 60s and early 70s!

Forget Roundup!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Solar Food Drying and Home Heating

I'd been thinking about creating a modest trombe wall on the south side of my house, but that would require taking down my Pitaya poles plus a trellis. Both are doable, plus the two previous winters decimated my pitaya cactus. So I will look into the solar beer can home heaters he mentions in this video....I can imagine one for my bedroom and kitchen windows. A very nicely done video. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Interesting Yard East of Tampa

My first few years back in Tampa I'd pass this trippy yard on the way to see Mom and Dad in Okeechobee. Taking pics was tricky as they had a quite intense guard dog...but you get the idea. It helped to inspire the early stages of my Gay Trailer Trash On Acid living room.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I last grew taro in the ground in 2004 when all those hurricanes saturated my yard. Since then I've grown it a few times in 5 gallon Water Wise Container Gardens. I am tempted to use that huge kiddy pool I just scavenged as a taro farm vs. a goldfish pond, but will instead likely grow taro tubers  I'll buy from south Tampa's wonderful DoBond Market in various Water Wise Container Gardens made from 5 gallon buckets and scavenged plastic storage tubs. I so miss making and eating Thai style taro leaf soup with coconut milk and spices!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Recipe For Preserved Lemons

Preserved Lemons

I was given one once, liked it, will use my own abundant lemons and a big apothecary jar to make my own for my Indian cuisine and to pursue Moroccan cooking.

Light drizzle here....

Will proceed with spring tidying of back porch gardens, fresh pine needles for the path, sow more crops in Water Wise Container Gardens there, with the seed trays doing a nice job of delineating the path. Yesterday I made a WONDERFUL curbside score on the way to Wimauma's Restaurant to get poultry scraps and give Chef Gary fresh Giant Red Mustard and nopales cactus pads.....a VERY substantial plastic kiddy pool set out next to their garbage and recycle bin for pick up today! IMPOSSIBLE to get it in my Dodge Caravan so I put it on the roof and drove around the block SLOWLY, holding it with my left hand out the window. Very heavy gauge plastic, polyethylene I measures 5' 8" in width at the narrowest point, 6' 2" in length at the shortest distance and is 11 1/2 inches deep! I'm not sure if I will use it to replace the tiny old, now collapsed fish pond in the NW corner of my front yard, or turn it into a Water Wise Container Garden for thirsty crops, like okra, out back. Whatever I choose it will be easy to plug the drain hole. Thank you Universe!!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ever Try To Eat a Pomelo Citrus?

I am so glad I ordered seeds of this and hope it thrives for me


Down on the farm this week....

One of the penned Muscovy ducks has made a nest, filled it with eggs and SEEMS to be setting it......last night eggs were abandoned after three weeks. Yesterday I dated a number of newly laid chicken eggs and loaded them into the incubator, now hovering right around the ideal 99 degrees as it warms up.....102 or so the goal by today. Today I will set a seed tray of molokhiya seeds I started WAY early a few days ago atop the incubator for bottom heat in hopes of having plants ready to plant in Water Wise Container Gardens (it is a very thirsty crop) much sooner than usual as I love the tender nutritious leaves.

Last night I had my idealistic young gardening friend Ryan Iacovacci and his room mate Joo over for dinner and to donate to their Bird House buying club my smaller .long dormant freezer that just needs a new thermostat to help them expand their wonderful service of providing fresh local produce, dairy and meat for folks in Tampa. Good meal, great company, fun night. I gave them starter tubers of African Yellow, Filipino Purple and Caribbean White yams for their own gardens, and some Scarlet Runner seeds to try out. Plus now there is more room in my office to aid in the DEEP purge and cleaning I will be doing there soon with that freezer gone!

 So far the daily half gallon or so of sugar syrup is feeding visiting bees big time, but no sign, yet, of a swarm moving in. But the next 6 weeks or so is swarm time so I will persist. Plus I have run ads asking to barter what I have for a "nuc" of Italian Domestic's hoping either way.

After they left I worked up a new order from the good folks at  See below:

John Starnes 
3212 West Paxton Avenue
Tampa FL 33611
John Starnes 
3212 West Paxton Avenue
Tampa FL 33611

Order DateStatusShip DatePayment ByConfirmation No.Shipment Tracking
2/15/12Ordered VisaD15532243E 

Trade Winds Fruit Items
 2661Withania somnifera - Ashwagandha$2.00$4.00
 1105Cyphomandra betacea 'red' - Red Tree Tomato$2.00$2.00
 1970Elettaria cardamomum - Cardamom$2.25$2.25
 1752Mimusops elengi - Spanish Cherry$3.00$3.00
 13021Momordica grosvenorii - Buddha Fruit$3.00$3.00
 12679Violina Butternut Squash - Cucurbita moschata$2.00$2.00
Economy (free to U.S. addresses for orders $10 and above) Shipping $0.00
Sales Tax$0.00

Sunday, February 12, 2012


34 this morning and still chilly out there...guess who has NOT taken his solar heated 1 gallon outdoor shower yet? And when that water DOES get hot I'm showering indoors in my tub! Many 1 gallon pots of the perennial form of Allium fistulosum now growing, hope to have them for sale in a month along with other cool edibles. With the day lengths increasing the ducks and chickens are laying more and more......a dozen chicken eggs most days for folks to buy for $3 using my front porch Honor System. A dozen HUGE Muscovy Duck eggs is $5, also on my cool, shaded, north facing front porch, with labelled, priced edible plants in 1 gallon pots for $4-$5 on the Honor System sales tables out front......Lesbos Basil, Passion Fruit, Allium canadense. Thanks to the folks who buy my farm produce to help me raise gas and grocery money!

Friday, February 10, 2012

'San Ho Giant' Mustard

I am liking this new-to-me crop more and more.....crunchy wide rib stems and mild leaves if eaten raw, lovely in a stir fry. They are thriving in a  large black plastic commercial tree pot turned into a Restricted Drainage Container Garden by drawing a used plastic shopping bag halfway through each and every drainage hole, then filling it with home made soil. I am almost certain I got the seeds from a company I've liked for years:

'San Ho Giant' reminds me both of a heading Chinese Cabbage and Wong Bok.....a wonderful cold hardy brassica for central Florida gardens from fall through spring.

Looks Like Rain Is Coming.....

So off to sow seeds, feed roses and citrus and papayas, spread horse stall sweepings and weed.

Old Seeds

Quite the long shot but today I sowed into four inch pots seeds of varying calabaza pumpkins dating back as far as 2005. Only one was purchased seeds; the rest are seeds from very desirable calabazas that evolved in my gardens from apparent cross-pollinations of kabocha and Seminole Pumpkin. One envelope of seeds was from a round calabaza that Dad and I spotted roadside some years back on one of our road trips to the Keys. My intent is to grow calabazas this summer in the large, formerly messy west bed where the new bee hive is and that I am turning slowly into a sunny food forest boasting citrus, Pig Chaya, cassava, Filipino White Sweet Potato, and many papayas. Once it is made chicken-free with the last of that 4 foot tall galvanized goat fencing a wonderful blog reader gave me a new roll of (thanks again!) I will grow various Vigna "beans" on it for food and additional privacy for my outdoor 1 gallon solar rainwater showers.

In a few days, after they dry a bit more, I will sow seeds of a striped long necked calabaza from Bolivia that I bought at Publix. In an effort to again have calabaza as a staple in my diet I this year will relent a bit on my obsessive water conservation and weekly give the area a deep watering with my hose and sprinkler.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Well Produced Video of The Recent March to MacDill AFB...

that I and about 70 other folks took part in.....a shame that hundreds or even thousands did not join us with a new contrived war close at hand.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My class this Saturday: Home Made Probiotic Fermented Foods 11 AM until 1 PM, $20 asked per student. We will cover: kombucha, kefir, dairy kefir grains, kimchee, natto, cheese, bortago and tempeh. 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa FL 33611 813 839 0881

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My February Classes

My classes this month, all $20 per student, 11 AM until 1 PM, 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa FL 33611

Feb. 11 Home Made Probiotic Fermented Foods
Feb. 12 Frugal Ethnic Cuisine
Feb. 18 Urban Farmsteading 101
Feb. 19 Back Yard Chickens and Ducks 101
Feb. 25 Hot Weather Crops for Summer Bounty
Feb. 26 Creative Re-Purposing of Scavenged Objects to Help Your Budget

For questions and answers call me at  813 839 0881
My newest batch of cheese, this time made with unsalted curds of dairy kefir grains, has matured quickly and has a hearty savory taste that reminds me of a blend of bleu cheese and limburger. Delicious!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Spring is springing here!

So many signs of life in south Tampa..... green shoots emerging from amaryllis bulbs, those first few tentative buds on citrus trees, azalea and gardenia bushes escalating their show daily, neighborhood red buds and tabebuias in bloom, with my roses boasting ever more buds and blooms and vibrant new foliar growth.. Today as Patricia and Dave and I chatted in my back yard, the first flock of robins zoomed overhead. The increasing day lengths have prodded the chickens into laying more eggs....within six weeks each bird might be laying daily. I am planting food and flower crops daily. I hope you enjoy these pics from previous years.

I love living in south Tampa despite our perennial rain shadow!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Nice Sunday.....

With the help of a strapping 24 year old guy I got all the bags of leaves out front  moved first to the east side of the house, then dumped over the goat fence into the newly revamped, now-chicken-proof east bed out back that sees tons of veggies thriving in Restricted Drainage Container Gardens made from various scavenged plastic containers. That bed looks SO good with those leaves all spread out in a 4 inch thick mulch! For some badly needed color in my back yard I last week sowed seeds of Sulphur Cosmos all  along the inside of the new goat fencing. As soon as my Scarlet Runner Bean seeds arrive I will plant many in that same stretch of soil to draw hummers with the bright red flowers followed by the tender pods. Today I ordered from England via E-Bay two packets of a cultivar called 'Butler' that bears TEN INCH long STRINGLESS pods for just $3.23 including shipping. All that remains to do in that bed is finish cutting down and chopping up branches from the Brazillian Pepper tree hanging over from an abandoned home that foreclosed two years ago. In the midst of that mini-Hugelkultur mound I will plant a Filipino White Sweet Potato as an attractive ground cover this summer whose leaves are delicious and nutritious raw or cooked.IOnce the tuber is planted that whole area will also get a nice thick leaf mulching.  By August that whole area of my backyard will look tidier and more colorful than it ever has while being MUCH more productive. Thanks again to my wonderfully generous blog reader who gave me that NEW 50 foot roll of sturdy, galvanized goat fencing that made this project possible! AT LAST...chickens can't get in there and wreak havoc!

 The young guy and I also moved into the front yard the last of the logs that are left over from creating the new beds out front.....some will go into my firewood bins, the rest will go into the HUGE swamp garden (used to be my apple snail pond) for a Hugelkultur-based preserve for my guava and jaboticaba trees hanging onto dear life after all this time in pots in NON-swampy soil.

I just set out on the stone shelf to the left of my red office door two dozen fresh TRULY free range chicken eggs, $3 a dozen, and one half dozen Muscovy duck eggs laid in the last 24 hours, also $3. All should be fertile and fully hatchable in an incubator due to all the chicken and duck fucking I witness daily! On the nearby Honor System Plant Sales Tables are a number of edible plants in gallon pots, all labelled and priced, $3-$4 each. Just slip your cash through the white dryer vent below the Thank You sign on my red office door. In a couple of weeks I will have some exciting new plants for sale!

I have six live Muscovy Ducks for sale, male and female, about 9 months old, ready for the table or to start a flock with, $20 each. They do not quack...the males make a low hiss, and the females a gentle cooing sound, so neighbors are not disturbed by an urban flock.

Humidity and warmth is up....the next five days we stand so-so chances for rain....fingers and toes crossed.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Friday, February 3, 2012

Down on the farm today....

Many dozens of Allium fistulosum seedlings now grow happily in a Water Wise Container Garden made from a 6 foot diameter kiddy  pool that Tim scavenged and gave to me, and a couple dozen more are growing in an old Restricted Drainage Container made from a scavenged plastic mini-shed lying on its back. Moments ago I got from my neighbor Theresa's yard a BIG pile of pine needles I will use as I refresh and replant the back porch kitchen garden. A short time ago I planted 80 yellow onion sets DEEPLY in a rectangular Water Wise Container Garden I made from a discarded plastic planter box.....most I will pull up to eat as scallions but I will leave several to see if they mature into bulb onions.

Thanks to a mixed bouquet and a saucer of sugar water I've filled four times today, a LOT of honeybees are visiting the newly moved and rebuilt Top Bar Hive by my west fence. Since quite a few keep going into the  hive that has empty comb drizzled with honey attached to the top bars, I am cautiously hopeful that they are scout bees looking for a new home for a soon-to-be swarm and will move in.  Their golden color, docile demeanor and flight path straight to a nearby beekeeper with 122 hives has me hoping that they are Italian Domestics. The suspense is delicious!

Bee Bait

By adding some yellow Brassica flowers to the bouquet on the newly rebuilt Top Bar Hive I was able to QUICKLY lure bees to the saucer filled with sugar syrup. I've had to refill it twice today. I am pleased to see quite a few bees enter the hive......I am hopeful that at least one is a scout bee trying to locate a new home for a swarm!