Wednesday, February 27, 2013

saw MONSTER plants of this amaranth last year at the Seminole Heights Community Garden! Cool to see more and more seedlings of the giant form of Calalloo that I was given seeds of at two of Andy Firk's events popping up in this unseasonal heat! Both women who gave me the seeds described incredible vigor, self sows like crazy, comes back with a vengeance even when the main stalk is cut back HARD. The leaves I sampled raw were very mild and tender, so I am psyched to have this new-to-me summer crop. I didn't get much seed as the flower heads they gave me were immature like they said, but I think so far I've shared with two summer's end we should all have oodles of the seeds.

When I moved back from Denver in late 2002 I discovered that my fifteen year absence from Tampa had reversed my immunity to oak pollen....very severe reaction including my first and last sinus infection. I know of no honeys that contain oak pollen in order to self administer a 30 day cure as I did with two other allergies in my 30s. But this incredible Chinese herbal tree did WONDERS for me and many people I've turned onto it. You can buy Magic 8 on-line or at Tampa's Oceanic Market. Like many dogs, my previous dog Sweety got a severe skin reaction from oak pollen....a bag of Magic 8 torn up and mixed into her stew did WONDERS for her too. A truly amazing blend of herbs. Despite the instructions, just two tea bags WEEKLY was all it took for both of us.

I like the taste but sometimes DO add lemon as they suggest on the box.

The 'Swiss Mint' and 'Kentucky Colonel Mint' that I bought some weeks ago from My Mother's Garden at The Twilight Market at Roosevelt 2.0 are thriving short term in restricted drainage pots I scavenged ages ago tucked up against the north wall of my home. My hope is there, spared the harsh south sunlight of winter, shaded somewhat by my home and getting north winds now and then, that these two VERY minty mints (MUCH more so and sweeter than Mojito Mint) will prove to be perennial for me here in south Tampa.

Tanja Vidovic, that plant of horseradish you gave me that looks EXACTLY like the strain I grew in Denver for fifteen years is growing VERY happily by my north wall close to a spigot that leaks when I run the hose.....if three years from now it is still thriving I'll consider it perennial here in south Tampa. Thanks!!

His tale SO reminds me of my experiences and that of many others I've met over the years who returned to being omnivores for health reasons. Reading this brought back a lot of memories of chronic health issues when I vegan or vegetarian. I now very much suspect that many people like us just can't make enough taurine in our bodies, and the flesh of animals is THE best source by far.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Kenaf Trial

It took less than three days for the few seeds of kenaf 'Everglades 41' to germinate, but still no signs of life from the 'Whitten' seeds. I have high hopes for kenaf as a summer crop here that can provide edible leaves for me, forage for the chickens and ducks, and ample biomass for sheet composting, barrel composting, and possibly poultry bedding if pre-dried.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

As I expected my first visit to The Dancing Goat and Pamela Martin Lunn was a delight. To simplify things I left Cracker at home and enjoyed the tour of her coops, barns, pastures, gardens and her cozy home, and took some pics....I wish I'd taken more! Her place is in many ways a goat sanctuary...they are never killed and sold or eaten...they lives out their lives there and when they die get a decent burial. Each has a name and due to all the attention Pam gives them they are very friendly...I enjoyed finding "itchy spots" on their heads just as I would a cat or dog. They have both pasture and stalls, with ceiling fans. Pam has oodles of chickens, many exotic breeds in large spacious coops..some were simply stunning birds with incredible plumage...she gave me fourteen eggs from ones that are BIG meat chickens were mature and so I am firing up the incubator today in hopes of hatching them. How nice to come home with a gallon of goat milk (!!!) and feta cheese, plus several feed bags and buckets and tubs filled with goat poop from very well fed animals. I gave Pam cuttings and tubers of perennial plants that are fast growing, super low care and low water needs....some edible for both people and livestock, one livestock only. My hope is to cut her feed costs while also giving her goats and horses and poultry more fresh live green plant matter for best health. What a wonderful day this has been

Monday, February 18, 2013

Horizon Herbs

I am working up a nice order with these folks, like yacon and oca and oodles of cool leafy crops like plantains (Plantago vs. Musa Family) and a chenopod that might take our heat here and more!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A couple of months ago a friend gave me marked pods of Ghost, Scotch Bonnet and other super hot peppers. On impulse a few weeks ago I crushed all the pods together and sprinkled them in this pot to germinate. I don't care if I know the name of X-Y-Z peppers if they are deadly hot and super-productive. I'll save seeds from the very best performers only. I'll have some planted out back in Water Wise Container Gardens, but most will get tucked in the front beds I am now re-doing with roses, glads, perennials and annuals and a very deep layer of mulch, a mix of chipped oak and palm. What looks to be an annual Tithonia popped up in there too!

I suspect that most if not all will prove to be annuals, but who knows?

"Vegetable Mallow"

The seeds came from these folks with a note saying low germination  rate, so they bumped my seed count from 250 to 450! Of the big pinch I planted I've gotten just this many seedlings, but that will allow me to try and share this new-to-me crop while still having some seeds left.

The White Potato Onions I ordered from Texas last year are doing very well, two plants in particular....both remind me of Allium fistulosum. I look forward to seeing what degree they multiply underground and to see a few years from now if they are perennial here in south Tampa. Here are two views of one. The leaves have great flavor.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hard to believe indeed, but both of my Bunch Grapes on the hen house are breaking dormancy and leafing out on February 12! Tomorrow I will set the sprinkler inside the hen house for my annual deep spring soaking of about half an hour to deep soak the root systems of both grapes while rinsing in accumulated poop, and to prevent an outbreak of nightmarish poultry mites that NEED dry conditions. Grapes happy, chickens happy, I'm happy

The longer I live and garden and eat as I do the more I understand why humans and various livestock animals have lived symbiotically for thousands of years all around the world. The animals get relative safety from wild predators that would otherwise kill them horrifically, often by eating them alive, plus are directed towards sources of food and water. In my case the ducks and chickens afford weed and bugs control, create fertile soil in the main path for me to use potting plants, provide me fresh eggs and now and then the meat that forty years of mindful adult experience as vegan, vegetarian and omnivore have taught me my body needs small amounts of a few times weekly for optimal health and vigor. Farmers I know who raise rabbits and goats and cows get milk, meat and hides and like me strive for the death of an animal at our hands be QUICK unlike a deer being slowly eaten to death by wolves. The fertility of my lot as a whole is increased, the birds get gourmet restaurant scraps, weeds I pull, the live bugs and lizards they relish, safe shelter at night plus shelter from rain, and drinking water enriched with iodine. It occurs to me that this symbiosis is a miniaturized version of the predator/prey and soil fertility cycles that have sustained life on the planet for easily three billion years. To me though, factory farming disrupts those basic cycles while subjecting many billions of animals annually to horrific, brief lives in nightmarish conditions while eating very poor quality food and being saturated with antibiotics and other drugs that are now breeding super germs. Sadly, with humanity breeding irresponsibly like bacteria in a sealed petri dish, factory farming may seem "necessary" to feed seven BILLION people wastefully at the cost of forests, aquifers and rivers, air quality and human health. I admire urban farmers and small local family farms who try to raise their livestock in comfort and with respect, just as native Americans did with the buffalo they utterly depended on, or the peoples of Tibet and Africa and the Middle East and Europe have done for many many centuries....true sustainability.

I've never been able to get seeds or tubers but want to try this native American crop.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

This summer I am growing the strains 'Everglades 41' and 'Whitten' to try as sources of food for me and my poultry, and biomass for sheet composting. Fingers crossed!

With so many shrubs and fruit bearing trees blooming early, I can't help but wonder if my three grapes ('Triumph' muscadine and two Mystery Bunch Grapes) will break dormancy early this year and soon begin leafing out. So VERY odd to have self sown African Foxgloves (not really a foxglove but Ceratotheca triloba) BLOOMING months before they usually even germinate! Such an uncannily mild winter so far..... I even have seedlings appearing of Balsam Apple, Hyacinth Beans, Iron Clay vigna! What next, Velvet Beans?!

The radical clearing out of my front yard is nearly done, with own root roses, glad bulbs, perennials and annuals going in, with all beds to be DEEPLY mulched. Roses that need the most winter chill will hug the north side of my home to shield them from the harsh south winter sun. I've increased my water use from the obsessively low levels of before to make this possible....the water use portion of my bill used to be single digit....this last one was $20.17, still FAR lower than water bills people tell me about. I'll start sharing pics once a few beds are completely done. One BIG change to my front yard with this new incarnation is that I will tuck food crops in between far more often, hot peppers and alliums in particular.

So far so good....

I am testing many alliums this winter in various Water Wise Container Gardens in hopes of securing and confirming onions that will be perennial AND multiply here in south Tampa. Some were purchased as bulbs, some are pass-me-down plants, some came from seeds. For me, their making it past THREE years will confirm their being truly perennial. I'll post pics now and then as they progress.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

An old Colorado memory just surfaced....a guy came to Denver to speak to the Vegetarian Society of Colorado, which at the time I belonged to....his diet advocacy was just as militant as any born again Raw Foodie or vegan I've ever met, was just as judgmental and unyielding, and was perhaps the most unusual way of eating I've ever heard ONLY from trees, mostly nuts, some fruit, and one CAN NEVER PICK THEM else you are assaulting and robbing the tree. You MUST wait until they have dropped to the ground. I forget what he called this diet, but he was very harsh about ANY other way of eating, in particular grains and annual crops. For him, eating a carrot and thus killing it is on par with killing a calf from a veal crate. He was speaking to a LARGE group of adamant vegans and vegetarians, many of whom who were gardeners, and yet lambasted our growing and eating crops in a garden as unnatural and bad. His certainty and dismissal of other diets was on par with a condescending Jehovah's Witness who "knows" that ALL other Christians are "deceived by Satan". Of course he "knew" that the human digestive tract "can't" properly digest leafy crops, legumes, grains, root crops etc, ONLY fallen nuts and fruits. Oddly, he was hardly the image of health.....pale as a ghost, no muscle tone, way too thin, yet lecturing US on how to eat. When someone tells me that they are healthiest eating a certain way (vegan, vegetarian, omnivore) I believe them and am glad that they found that balance. But I've had a few militant Raw Foodies and militant vegans utterly dismiss my sharing that I am healthy only as a light omnivore, in essence saying "I know your life history and health experiences better than you do". To me this is as arrogant and pushy as my telling friends who are deathly allergic to crustaceans or peanuts or mangos "NO YOU'RE NOT!!!!" At a recent gardening gathering I had a wide ranging conversation with a lovely, RADIANTLY healthy long term vegan who arrived there in stages a long time ago. She said that over the years she's seen a few vegans get all militant....her theory is that they found something that works for THEM and decide that it must be true for others, like an in-your-face recently "Born Again" Christian trying to convince themselves that they have found THE TRUTH. I agreed with her on a few dismiss and condemn how others choose to eat is disrespectful to them, that their militancy actually hurts the cause by turning people off, and that in time they usually end up chilling out and being willing to just eat how they wish to and live and let live. I don't know what the "food from only trees and only on the ground" guy thought he'd accomplish by in essence condemning the diets of an very large group of vegetarians and vegans, but not one of us started eating and living his way (just try that in Colorado's harsh climate and geography!). When I was passionately vegan I did not try to "convert" people, I just ate and lived that leather, wool, honey, eggs, tried not to step on bugs, etc. But I did not try to force it on others, just as my Christian friends, thankfully, never try to make me find and accept Jesus.

I am one of those folks who simply is not healthy as a vegan or vegetarian, of which I've met many. My theory is that just as some of us have a body chemistry that does not produce enough insulin or thyroxine or stomach acids, perhaps some of us can't make enough of the vital amino acid taurine, which is found only in animal-based foods, especially meat. I've met glowingly healthy ovo-lacto vegetarians and vegans whose bodies clearly DO make enough taurine. I have a long time friend who is largely vegan, sometimes eats eggs and cheese....for the years I've known him he's complained of chronic low energy, often has colds that last for view of taurine's role in fighting infection and generating cellular energy, I can't help but wonder if he is deficient in taurine? Nice to have an open mind on issues regarding diet and health, both of which are personal matters that only we can know and address.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Ducks Galore!

I now have FOUR female Muscovy ducks sitting on egg-filled nests, and I already have a surplus of males. Time to man up, slaughter, cook and freeze a few and be ready to move any ducklings that hatch (I've had low hatch rates this last year) and their moms into the fully secure duck pen.