Sunday, September 29, 2013

My last several winters in Denver I had outside my south and west living room window ( seen here) a solar array made from scavenged doors hinged together, each covered with shiny mylar plastic I scavenged giant rolls of at a coffee roasting plant. Each array was held up by scavenged metal racks, and it took just a few minutes to 3X daily change their positions to reflect in the most sunlight during those seemingly endless winters. They not only did a LOT to heat my home during those VERY lean times as a landscaper each winter, they let me grow roses and tomatoes indoors, which did wonders for my spirits. HGTV shot a segment there one year, come to think of it!

Lakeland Farmer's Market

I'm using this weekend to play catch up on garden chores I could not do those 4 days of rain, yesterday I slipped two big, slightly punctured white plastic waste bucket plastic bags over two LARGE flower plumes of "Giant Green Callalloo" in hopes of gathering the seeds as they form. One was already quite horizontal, the other was VERY tall so I had to stand on the ladder.....once it was in the bag I crimped the main stalk did not break and my instincts tell me that this won't impair the seed plume from ripening. I'll leave the bags on about 3 weeks then check. Vicki Conrad was not kidding...when the flower plumes are ripe they shed the tiny edible black seeds by the MANY THOUSANDS! Thankfully, the seedlings pull up easily and the chickens DEVOUR them. I figure that black garbage bags would cook them, but to play it safe I gave each white bag 4 knife slices to prevent build up of moisture and heat. This is truly a remarkable summer leafy veggie, mild, tender and PRODUCTIVE!

A combination of giving it about 10 gallons of POTENT horse poop tea in August, followed by weeks of rain, has made my seedling of a seedling of a 'Caribbean Red' papaya from the store go for a whole new second wind. It is SO tall that I need to reach WAY up with a long piece of bamboo to knock the green fruits down. (when ripe the fruits of this seedling have little flavor or sweetness, so I use them green plus share with my Thai neighbor Suri). I had to use Zoom to get this pic. So far I've used it to make two batches of kimchi that I feel certain will be awesome come January......I may eat one or two jars before then, but I like my kimchi really rank.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Interesting "problem" here....easily 10 years ago I planted an avocado pit in the center of my kitchen garden, whose fertile soil has grown LOTS of food. But the avocado has always struggled, WAY too small for its age: even though I've given it trace elements the leaves looked way too small and chlorotic. It has never bloomed or set fruit. On line research yielded no solution. Late last spring one of my students shared on the Barefoot Gardeners Organic Permaculture Central Florida forum that hers never bloomed until she gave it nitrogen...she did not mention what kind. JUST as the rains started in earnest down here this summer I scattered around its root zone easily 4-5 pounds of chunks of animal feed grade urea (46-0-0!!). The the rains EXPLODED into lush RAPID growth. Just before I fed it I'd also smacked the trunk several times with a baseball bat as I've heard about that for fruit trees since my 30s in Denver. The "problem" is that it has gotten SO big and dense SO fast that the several Water Wise Container Gardens around it are now suddenly in shade! Each weighs a lot, so I'll need to empty them to move them....but that will give me a chance to replenish the soil with water hyacinths, chicken poop and tithonia stalks. I so hope it begins bearing!

The arrow root tuber (rhizome?) that Josh Jamison gave me at Andy's has grown like crazy in a 1/3 barrel Water Wise Container Garden this summer even though I planted it became a tall, wide, very lush, tropical looking plant.....since fall is in the air I just fished around in the soil with my hand and found my first harvest. I'll try a slice raw but figure I'll need to simmer it a while to get off the tough outer scales I've read about. To me it looks a little immature....I'll wait a few weeks before trying to find others.

The bottom pic is the rhizome that Josh gave me.

Best year ever for "Peruvian Cactus Apples" here from two of my three Cereus peruvianus plants! They seem to have the best and sweetest flavor right after they've split open. Even though they ARE a cactus I can't help but wonder if they've loved the first truly wet summer here since 2005. I picked these two today, both are chilling in the fridge. ZERO spines/clochids on the skin are an added bonus.

Friday, September 6, 2013

My fifteen years of being a landscaper in Denver, with those LONG winters, deepened my tendency to store stuff, which LITERALLY kept me from losing my home each winter, as did dumpster diving for food at grocery stores, getting life's basics (clothes, blankets, pots and pans) etc at apartment complexes and thrift store dumpsters, pet food at wholesale distribution site dumpsters and so much more. Plus it allowed me to most months add $50 principal when this my retirement home went on the market the fall of 1998, I had EXACTLY its $60,000 price in equity in my tiny 829 square foot Denver home!!!! Scavenging also let me pay off my car VERY early at 0% interest rate using balance transfer offers that came in the mail. Selling the Denver house at the top of the market allowed me to pay off the debt of fixing both houses up. Most scavengers/"hoarders" I've known did it simply as a survival response to low or uncertain incomes...but I HAVE met a few "classic" hoarders who clearly did it as a life dominating compulsion. My lean times, thankfully, have been gone since 2005, so it made sense to follow my gut and so a DEEP purge and cleaning of my home. I've made HUGE strides in my front yard, but much remains to be done out back. One cool benefit of those LONG lean years is habitual daily gratitude for the abundance in my life whereas I know some folks who've ALWAYS been LOADED with money and they never seem to be satisfied, to have "enough".

Now that things have dried out a couple of days I can resume harvesting ripe pods of the cowpea "Joyner Butter Bean" that evolved in the garden of one of my blog readers from a chance cross of (Whippoorwill X Iron Clay). EXTREMELY productive! I've enjoyed cooking and eating plump green pods like edamame soybeans....boiled, drained, tossed with a little coconut oil and soy sauce.

About a year and a half ago I and a few gardening friends simultaneously, suddenly, decided that we wanted to address our hoarding/slovenly natures. Our histories were quite similar....lifelong environmentalists/permaculturists averse to throwing stuff out, knowing it would end up in long low/uncertain incomes so dumpster diving/scavenging items, keeping tons of stuff because "it might come in handy someday" was CENTRAL to our way of life and surviving financially.....creative natures that make working with found objects fun vs. just buying something....LOTS of interests/passions/avocations that made housekeeping boring by contrast. When we tackled the issue we each relied on the "salami approach"....slice a seemingly insurmountable problem into manageable challenges. In my case I started at the west end of my home and moved obviously surplus stuff from there into my office....the deaths of my parents saw a LOT of stuff go into that room as I prepared their home in Okeechobee for sale. I set out on the curb week after week duplicate the several fully functional vacuum cleaners I had for neighborhood freegans to pick through...I set out there VAST numbers of plastic pots, soda and bread racks and more from the back and side yards. About a month ago Renee and Stacy helped me do the FINAL purge of what remained indoors, and to do a DEEP cleaning of my entire house. I am still not ethically comfortable with the INCREDIBLE amount of stuff I put in my garbage can for two weeks, knowing it all ended up in a landfill, but I remind myself that 99% of it came from the waste stream anyway. The house feels SO much more open, freer, and friends here for my Wacky Hat 60th Birthday Party marveled at the changes....and the office hadn't even been tackled yet! Now it has, with just a few containers of stuff below my airplane making table remaining to be sorted. I am now practicing a few techniques that both women taught me, and that my Dad and tidy friends have always done instinctively, to KEEP it tidy. It is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks! I did this in part to honor my Dad who was super tidy since childhood and who did not say a WORD when he visited me here his last Christmas although I am SURE he was horrified. One friend has been steadily purging for a year now, a married couple are doing it, and another friend is down to just two rooms. What's funny is how often this "urge to purge" has come up over the last year at various gardening potlucks I've attended, with folks sharing the feeling that hoarding so much crap bogged us down with inertia! Please be seated when viewing the pics in case you faint!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Each morning, and now and then every day, my dog Cracker and my new kitten Shadow play fight, with Shadow "attacking" his head with claws fully retracted, biting him gently, Cracker "biting" back ever so gently. Then they each nap next to each other and melt my heart daily.

The vigor of Jon and Debbie Butts' unnamed sweet potato is amazing! I am sprigging back beds with overgrowth from this planting out front in hopes of it giving me weed control next summer.

Yesterday I went through ALL of my winter crops seeds and dumped all the partial old packets (some dating to 2005) of various brassicas into a drinking glass, mixed them thoroughly, and today will choose a place or two to scatter half of them 6 weeks earlier than I would normally sow brassica crops. IF any of these old seeds are viable and germinate, it will be interesting to see how they do in the humid heat. Regardless, I will sow the other half somewhere else sometime in the second half of October. Live and learn!

I listened to my instincts and decided to do a full two day ferment of the natto, which I just stirred....looks like THE best batch I've ever made with EXCELLENT "spider webs"! I've chosen some plastic storage tubs I just bought at IKEA, will look around for the large diaper pins I know I have somewhere, likely in my bedroom, and punch 6 small holes in each lid as even when frozen the bacteria in natto need to breathe. Getting ready to cook a batch of sticky rice now to renew my natto-as-breakfast habit. Natto and rice for breakfast, high protein smoothie for lunch, a regular cooked meal for supper with the usual raw grazing in between should aid my efforts to add muscle and lose this gnarly body fat.