Sunday, January 29, 2012

Top Bar Bee Hive

I just dismantled its old support tower, then moved and redesigned then re-assembled it, and now making sugar syrup to pour onto the same red saucer in the pics that in the past lured bees here. A seashell and bit of concrete in the syrup act as feeding station "islands" for when the rim gets crowded. Seeing pics from when it was an active hive (I'd wanted one since I knew a beekeeper when I was ten in Michigan) has me determined to revive it this spring.

Nothing Like a Home Grown Home Cooked Meal

All that was purchased was coconut and roasted sesame oil for frying, salt, the bleu cheese dressing, and the sugar and tea bags to brew the kombucha with. A very satisfying meal indeed of African Yellow Yam, free range eggs, garden salad, "face blaster" mustard that resembles wasabi when raw, edible mustard flower and tart chilled kombucha. I wonder what this feast would cost in an organic restaurant?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Give Pee A Chance!

My Universe Wish List

I'd love to swap seeds and plants or class for these items you may no longer want or have surplus of:

1. Rolls of unused poultry, goat or hog wire
2. A bunch of used big cottage cheese and yogurt tubs for me to freeze food in.
3. Potent 420
4. Bags of dry cat or dog food your pets refuse for me to use as poultry food.
5. Bags of oak leaves
6. Gallon jugs of just-expired milk for me to make cheese with.
7. Did I mention potent 420? lol!
8. A "nuc" of Italian Domestic honeybees
9. A division of dwarf yellow canna
10.An own root Nagami kumquat and/or Dancy Tangerine tree.

Thanks!  John

Down On The Farm.....

With the revamp of the now chicken proof back east bed nearly done I yesterday began the revamp of the horribly messy west bed. The damaged plastic pots are all out, and the good pots now gathered together behind shrubs at the north end of that bed for later sorting.  I have now planted a passion fruit vine in a buried 5 gallon Water Wise Container Garden by the fence, and today planted a Pig Chaya and a Mystery citrus seedling just to see what fruit it makes a few years from now. I've pulled up most of the carpet I laid down in there to kill the sod of Bahia grass and weeds and am using the pieces beneath the hammock and clothesline to choke out weeds the chickens won't eat, and to lift now and then to let them feast on hiding bugs. Next I move and redesign and rebuild the Top Bar hive that has been empty a few years now...since I've had bad luck with bees purchased from two unscrupulous bee men, I will try to lure a swarm with daily trays of sugar water. Then I will bury a 55 gallon Water Wise Container Garden and plant in it the Dwarf Cavendish banana that Jon and Debbie Butts gave me. Once this is all done I will feed the soil, scatter many seeds of Dwarf Essex Kale, deep water then lightly mulch the entire area to provide greens for me and the poultry. To protect all this I will erect what remains of that roll of goat wire my wonderful blog reader gave me recently, then plant at its base seeds of Scarlet Runner Beans for vibrant color and fresh tender pods. Life is good!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

This beautiful bird flew into my home office and got trapped there, freaked out by my windows and mini-blinds AND my chasing it. I finally caught it (STRONG little thing!) and released it apparently unharmed.

Long Shot For Tampa But What The Heck!

I got the seeds from the last meeting of the Tampa Rare Fruit Council....since upper 20s can happen in Tampa some winters it will be risky here but I will try in pots at first as I am intrigued.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Good News Bad News

The good is that the 'San Ho Giant' mustard and daikon radishes in large, restricted drainage tree pots are healing quickly since I rendered the area chicken proof, plus emerging seedlings in other container gardens are safe. The bad news is that some chickens once again got into an east bed due north and two Black Sex Links drowned in a 4 foot deep pond made from a buried fiberglass barrel, just as 2 did last year in a similar pond in the same bed I'd since kept covered with plastic mesh. Wasted eggs and wasted meat. Here they have a HUGE area to run including a massive west bed with weeds and bugs yet they INSIST on very persistently getting into two east beds that are NOT easy to get into!

Spring Fever!

The east bed revamp, which will likely include a hugelkultur zone at the south end to help process trash tree saplings I am cutting down in the back yard, is largely done, getting mulched with oak leaves, with crops actively growing in restricted drainage container gardens now that the chickens can no longer get in. Today I take the new pound of curds from dairy kefir grains that hung and dripped overnight and place a 5 lb. gym weight for a 24 hour pressing before aging a few months in the fridge. Past cheeses were dry due to a 2-3 press with more weight.....I want this cheese to have a texture more like Brie. Today I plant a few dozen more seedlings of Allium fistulosum in the 6 foot diameter kiddy pool that Tim gave me in my quest for onion self sufficiency since it is a perennial that divides and self essence a giant perennial scallion. Chickens are now daily getting into the SOUTH bed and have ruined papaya seedlings and the general tidiness I had finally established, so today I will consider two methods for keeping them out so they will forage in the west bed I WANT them to frequent!

The folks at Black Kow a few years back paid me to write them an article for a pamphlet they distribute across the southeast U.S. and might be commissioning two more! Their sales rep Steve sent me a box with two new all organic fertilizers whose ingredients impress me for me to test......two 5 lb. bags of 'Dynamite Plant Food' and 'Dynamite Mater Magic'....I am impressed by the ingredients of both and will be sharing them with a couple gardening friends to evaluate in their gardens. They might be commissioning two more articles from me, one about roses and one about tomatoes since I wrote often about both in my St. Pete Times column for eight years.

Sure sign of spring yesterday.....I saw my first azalea blooms of the year while riding my bike to the gym. Any time now my Meyer's Lemons should begin flowering and an early species amaryllis emerging would not surprise me. Thank heavens I escaped Denver in November 2002 as spring there is still a VERY long way away. So much to do this time of year....good thing I like to be busy. I've begun a weight loss and fitness regimen which will surely boost my energy levels as I get back into shape and get the gardens into shape.

Oh how I love spring fever!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The 1%

Waste Not Want Not

Trading fresh herbs and veggies and edible flowers with the newly opened Wimauma Restaurant on south MacDill Avenue in Tampa is working out great for both of us....Gary the chef gets FRESH arugula and nasturtium leaves and blooms, thornless opuntia cactus pads (nopales) and other great things from my gardens to use in his creations, and I get 2-4 buckets daily of kitchen scraps to feed my flocks of chickens and ducks with. And the surplus goes into my three vermiculture barrels. A true win-win situation!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Today's Class at 11 AM until 1 PM: Dumpster Diving 101

$10 class fee, we meet behind the south side of Britton Plaza facing Lowe's....look for my white 1998 Dodge Caravan. Here are shots from when the crew of Animal Planet's 'Most Extreme' series and I shot a segment about dumpster diving at that location in 2003 or 2004. We had a blast. Check out the cute swarthy director jokingly practicing diving into the dumpster....he's in the middle of my space couch....a real hottie. The sound man on the left of my couch a few weeks later won on Oscar for his work in 'Lord of The Rings'. We will visit this very same wold famous dumpster today! See you then!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I would love to swap plants/seeds/eggs for a panel or two of white PVC latticework to make a privacy screen. Am also seeking a "nuc" of Italian Domestic honeybees to restock my Top Bar hive. Thanks in advance!  John

Monday, January 16, 2012

Home Made Cheeses

I've now tasted two batches of cheese I made using curds made from dairy kefir grains strained overnight in a clean pillowcase then pressed for two days before aging in the fridge a few months. One I salted the curds before pressing...its taste and texture remind me of a smooth textured feta. The other was not salted and I tasted it yesterday before wrapping it deeply in clean fabric that will let it breathe while aging is a few weeks old and the taste reminded me of Brie with a touch of Limburger. Both are yummy already despite being young cheeses. I am fermenting a new batch this week, will likely salt it lightly and maybe inoculate it with a bit of Limburger. I am skipping the usual 130 heating of the fermented milk as I want to preserve all the beneficial critters. I once again will try to barter for expired milk from stores to make the cheeses virtually free.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Down On The Farm.....

Yesterday I scored two 5 gallon buckets of scraps from the new Wimauma restaurant several blocks north of Gandy on the west side of MacDill Avenue, and half of a 7 gallon bucket from Artifacts a couple blocks south of Gandy on the east side of MacDill Avenue. So my ducks and chickens were well fed yesterday and today. In turn I give both chefs cool fresh herbs and veggies to help them fashion unique meals based on their needs. Win win for all.

I am enjoying vigorous growth of a new-to-me Chinese brassica, a mustard called 'San Ho Giant' in a large, restricted-drainage tree pot, with a mild sweet crisp center rib to each mild, tender leaf. Unfortunately, today some chickens got over the fence and nibbled all around the edges of it and a nearby, similarly grown pot of  Daikon radish. I will thin the San Ho Giant and sell them in 1 gallons cheaply so that that remaining ones stands a better chance of making a "Chinese Cabbage" head.

Delayed freeze damage showing up more and more on yams. But, oddly, so far the Jamaican Cherry and Katuk and Chaya seem barely effected. Of course the Cassava plants are defoliating  although the stems seem intact. The Paper Mulberry runners from my neighbor's yard that I've fighting for a decade are defoliating, a reminder to me to cut them down and put a few pounds of animal feed grade urea to the stumps to kill then digest them. I TRIED to see this FAST growing tree as a source of biomass but I still want to eradicate it. And I will.

A few days ago I dug up a few BIG chunks of a HUGE yam growing just outside my bedroom (in summer the vines consume a re-bar structure to shade an outdoor room that cool the air that the box fan in my bedroom window draws in all winter the vines die, signalling harvest). I'd thought it was an African Yellow Yam (Dioscorea cayenensis) but once I saw the white flesh I realized it was a Caribbean White Yam (Dioscorea rotunda). I gave the top half to my friend Mary Jo to eat the lower portion of and plant the top) and cut off two big "steaks" from the large, crispy, slimy tuber and cut off the skins quickly. Into the wok went some coconut oil, roasted sesame oil, and African palm oil (SUPER rich in beta-carotenes so adds a lovely yellow color to foods).

I fried the two yam slabs, slowly, and covered, to trap the steam heat to insure deep cooking as the outsides browned slowly. Next I added sea salt and garlic powder and red peppers, then flipped them to brown again. I spaced out taking them to Roosevelt 2.0 to share with friends...bummer! So they instead helped to feed me the next day.  The texture is like a very good baked Idado potato but denser and, to me, more satisfying. That okra-like slime when raw is very nutritious, but slow deep cooking transforms it into a savory delight that one friend says is like an excellent French Fry. No wonder the true yams (Dioscorea species) have been staples in the tropics and sub-tropics for many centuries.

38 tonight so the $5 mattress warmer is on for a delicious entry into bed later after I "alter" and enjoy music and videos and Facebook a while to celebrate my extreme good fortune.

Happy Gardening.

Wonderful Ways To Recycle Pallets

I turned off the irritating music then enjoyed the parade of creations.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Make A Pond!
My January Classes, all from 11 until 1 PM, each $20 except $10 for Dumpster Diving 101 (that class held at the dumpsters behind Britton Plaza facing Lowe's) 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa FL 33611

Dumpster Diving 101- January 7 and 21
Water Wise Container Gardening- January 8
Fermented Foods 202- January 14
Ethnic Cooking With Your Homegrown Foods- January 15
Urban Farm Steading- January 22
Basics of Organic Cold Hardy Veggie Growing- January 29

San Ho Giant

I am very pleased with the vigor and flavor of this Brassica I am growing for the first time. It is thriving in a  scavenged,large, drainage-restricted tree planter.Plus I love Evergreen Seeds.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A special thanks to my delightful farm blog reader who today came all the way from St. Pete to give me: SEVEN lovely near-mature Black Sex Link hens, 2 chicken waterers, a BIG bag each of chicken food and oyster shell grit AND a brand new 50 foot long roll of heavy gauge, galvanized 4 foot tall goat fencing! She had to get rid of her girls due to a pesky neighbor and so made this very generous donation to my urban farm! Thank you kind woman! Pics soon.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My January Classes, all from 11 until 1 PM, each $20 except $10 for Dumpster Diving 101 (that class held at the dumpsters behind Britton Plaza facing Lowe's) 3212 West Paxton Avenue Tampa FL 33611

Dumpster Diving 101- January 7 and 21
Water Wise Container Gardening- January 8
Fermented Foods 202- January 14
Ethnic Cooking With Your Homegrown Foods- January 15
Urban Farm Steading- January 22
Basics of Organic Cold Hardy Veggie Growing- January 29

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Freeze Tonight

It did not take long to bring indoors my most cold sensitive potted plants, or to cover my neighbor's nasturtium and tropicals beds. Next I drag in a 5 foot tall guava in a 10 gallon pot when I close the hen house. I will almost feel guilty for putting the 2 roosters in their sound-insulated sleeping boxes in the shed vs. snuggling with their warm hens. This freeze should nuke mosquitoes and kill annual weeds but I suspect that there will be lot of damage to many favored crops and ornamentals.

Even Colder!

The forecast for tonight has worsened...and this is MY zip code with the bay on three sides of me! I think folks north and east of me will get hammered. BUSY day ahead of me. Weather like this makes me wish I had a boyfriend! Instead I will fire up my wonderful $5 mattress warmer an hour before I hit the sack. I will be curious to see if tonight is calm or breezy like now. I so hope my many bed sheets can save my huge beds of flowering nasturtiums! I am taking great lengths to protect my huge, fruit laden papaya out front, and my beloved super-tropical Jamaican Cherry out back that I took 7 years to get.  Stay warm all!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Freeze Coming.....Phukkin BBRRRR!

Am DEEP mulching my beloved Jamaican Cherry (Mutingia calabura) I sought for 7 years that THRIVED this year in the evolving south end food forest in a buried 7 gallon Water Wise Container Garden as the few others I knew of in the bay area froze fatally the last 2 winters. It is VERY tropical and VERY difficult to propagate so today I piled about 8 inches of garden soil around the trunk. Tomorrow I will add 2 feet of mulch,  then DEEP water, then before I hit the sack will fill a metal can that Mary Jo dropped off today with charcoal briquettes and light them and set the can beneath the crown.

I've been taking selenium intermittently since my early 30s.....

I think I will take it more routinely.

A Powerful Ayurvedic Herb I Will Grow in 2012

I have 100 seeds coming for about $7 after shipping, will be selling plants as a cash crop, giving some to friends, and growing it for my use in boggy Water Wise Container Gardens. A special thanks to Andy Firk for sharing about this potent herb on Facebook. It needs humid heat so I will likely sow some seeds in late April to test.

28 degree freeze coming tomorrow night!

I will bring in potted tropicals and tomatoes and peppers, cover the nasturtium beds with sheets, do a DEEP watering of the beds to add latent heat to the soil, deep mulch my katuk and Jamaican Cherry shrubs, and I will place a concrete block on its side beneath 
my giant bearing papaya, fill the holes with free dumpster dived charcoal briquettes and 
light them an hour before going to bed.