Sunday, March 30, 2014
Easy to use a colander to harvest duckweed from this road side scavenged dinghy for chicken food. Gambusia minnows prevent mosquito breeding, and hot water cabomba below the surface is great chicken food too. As I recall duckweed is edible for people too and is 40% protein dry weight. John
Friday, March 28, 2014
I'm discovering that Jon and Debbie Butt's mystery sweet potato is EVEN more productive than I thought as I clean up the front yard for spring! Turns out that even though I repeatedly pulled up vines that had snaked across the pathways into roses and perennials gardens, many managed to make sweet potatoes in those beds where the vines touched the ground! It was a BIG mistake to plant them in my west bed of rambling roses out front as the vines were virtually unstoppable despite me and my yard helper Paul pulling them up repeatedly all summer, so I will remove them ALL and plant starts in my east and west beds out back to hopefully choke out weeds for me this year as it is no longer practical to let the chickens into either due to all the productive container gardens in there. Thanks for this truly amazing cultivar, whatEVER it is!
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Last year Andy Firk gave me one as a present, and even though I failed to keep it damp enough and it wilted a few times (even though it is in a buried 7 gallon Water Wise Container Garden in the center of my round dedicated sweet potato garden fence off from the chickens) it still bloomed and fruited. THE biggest best tasting loquats I've ever eaten! Andy says that young loquats are notoriously thirsty, so I've given the entire garden plus the bucket a few deep waterings, and am now mulching the entire garden with old logs, oak leaves...branches...the finale' will be a THICK mulching with fresh green Tithonia diversifolia branches. I'll be curious if the sweet potato vines will be able to make it up through all that, plus if by next winter that layer will have decayed enough to allow me to harvest the sweet potatoes. The 4 foot tall fence all around the garden supports several African Jack Beans (Canavalia ensiformis). I'll keep folks posted on how this unfolds, though I wish I'd thought to take pics of the huge fruits in my hand before I ate them all!
I've had this for easily two years, kept changing my mind...pond? Water Wise Container Garden? The latter it is, will drill the holes on the sides 3 inches from the bottom, put it in the rapidly evolving south bed and grow "Fife Creek" okra in it this summer. I scavenged it curbside the day before garbage day!
Monday, March 24, 2014
Since I had SO much trouble growing the Perennial Edible Hibiscus (Abelmoschus manihot) that Josh Jamison gave me last year before it died in the center food forest I moments ago deeply planted a rooted cutting in a long-buried 7 gallon Water Wise Container Garden in my south bed....fingers crossed that it THRIVES. I planted in another one maybe 8 feet away a sugar cane long root bound in a one gallon pot that has been thriving for a year in a few inches of standing water in a tub. The 'Martha Washington' asparagus is now planted in a buried Water Wise Container Garden made from a scavenged blue plastic storage tub. Next step...take down the dilapidated scavenged barriers that have kept the chickens out of that huge south bed for ages and erect the 50 foot long, 4 foot tall heavy gauge galvanized fenced I splurged $37 on last week, then plant Milkweed Vine and Passion Fruit Vine and a chayote.
My sweet cat Angel died in her sleep last night at the age of 16 from thankfully swift complications from rapid onset diabetes that appeared 2 months ago. She was a truly sweet cat. I got her as a tiny kitten from a cardboard box from a teen girl looking for homes for the litter in front of my King Sooper's grocery store in Denver in summer 1998.Her grave is marked by the edible leaf white mulberry that Josh Jamison gave me a number of months ago that I could never decide where to plant. So her passing has become a part of the radical revamp of the formerly squalid south bed that was ruined largely by my experiment of letting Muscovy ducks live in there seasonally. With a quite wet week forecast I also planted along the fence line 'Sunscraper' sunflower seeds and, as a LONG shot, a clump of seedling the the perennial Maximillian Sunflower that THRIVES in Colorado. I planted a clump of seedlings of yellow passionfruit by the west fence. I planted the odd white sweet potato from Publix in a very large kiddie pool garden by the Jamaican Cherry tree. I planted "Fife Creek" okra seeds in two large container gardens in the east bed as this summer I will grow MUCH more of this amazing heirloom variety that bears pods that remain tender at 11 inches in length.
Sunday, March 23, 2014
All that rain last week and my rich soil has resulted in an explosion of color out front, and as part of the ongoing revamp of my back yard, the south bed in particular, I am planting mostly perennial flowers and some annuals in those areas vs. ONLY food crops to get color there too. My wonderful neighbor Theresa behind me loves cut flowers, so I left this bouquet on her shady back porch while she and her daughter Patty are out to lunch. Looks like VERY good chances of rain Monday and Tuesday!
Saturday, March 22, 2014
FINALLY began an experiment I thought up two months ago...drew the 55 gallon rain barrel in the south bed down maybe 15 gallons, then jammed it nearly full with branches of an opuntia cactus that years ago proved to HAVE glochids (they went right through heavy leather gloves today, ouch!). To keep them submerged I set atop them a 5 gallon bucket with a heavy brick inside. My hope is that they will decay/ferment into a liquid fertilizer. IF it works it will be a great way to eliminate two BIG plants of it plus greatly reduce the size of the truly glochid-free one close to the house.
Friday, March 21, 2014
I built my predator proof hen house in 2003 from chain link gates and driveway gates I'd scavenged the preceding year before driving back to Denver for my final summer there.....they'd been set out curbside at two homes for our annual Large Item Pickup day. It has been through many hurricanes. I lost a few birds that first year, but a few minor modifications resulted in no predator fatalities in years. 100% free, lashed together with scavenged insulated wire. Now long covered by grape vines.
Iodine did wonders for my previous dog Sweety, completely reversed her hypothyroidism an expensive vet visit somehow missed and has helped many people I know and their pets. Other nations have an RDA 83 times higher than our governments. I've taken it for about 6 years in varying forms.
Dog allergy issues seem to be rampant this spring here in central Florida, and unlike Sweety, Cracker got just 3 days of relief from a tea bag of Magic 8 Allergy Tea added to his food vs. 2-3 weeks. I just gave Cracker a bath in the tub, toweled him off, then drenched his coat with 1/2 gallon Neem leaf tea from the tree that Vicki Parsons gave me some years back, left it on. I'll let folks know if this helps his skin inflamed by all the pollens. I noticed two days ago that his whole belly was inflamed and had very sensitive raw spots where he'd been licking and chewing. I'm hoping that the very bitter taste discourages him from licking and chewing, plus hope the tea heals his skin and stops/reduces the chronic itching.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
I broke up that clump of "EcoFarm Clumping Onion" that Debbie Butts gave me at the TRFC meeting into three: just planted one in the giant tree pot out front that is home to my "Fairmount Red" rose, will look for places in the back yard for the other two. I am mindful that she and Jon Butts said to lift them with the tops die back else the bulbs will rot underground this summer. I can see readily why they both said it is VERY different from the evergreen "EcoFarm Multiplying Onion" that has been thriving in the ground in a front roses bed ever since I bought them from them last fall at the Twilight Market at Roosevelt 2.0.....that one reminds me of a pregnant scallion. Thanks to them both for adding to my perennial alliums obsession! The clumper reminds me of White Potato Onions.....I'll be sure to do close comparisons as they grow, especially when I lift both to see the bulbs' sizes and colors.
Wow....rapid progress on that NASTY south bed that got so messy and cluttered and UNproductive during the time some Muscovy ducks lived in there. It was DEFINITELY a mistake to let Cassia alata self sow in there as a POSSIBLE nitrogen fixer...all are dug up and added to the massive pile of green waste all around the banana. Next in goes a border of white seeded sorghum, sunflowers, gandule beans and milkweed vine, clitorea terneata vine, mystery white sweet potato, plus a mass planting (albeit late) of nasturtiums. Soon the giant concrete birdbath gets fresh white paint all over, then blue paint inside the dish to add a "perky" focal point in the center of this very large area fenced off from the chickens that is home to my grumichama, Estrella chaya, Jamaican Cherry, Picuda chaya, Orinoco banana, papaya, purple ubes, 'Triumph' grape, asparagus, Barbados Cherry, 55 gallon rain barrel, chicken slaughtering area and a very large kiddy pool garden that the ducks destroyed long ago. There's hope for this gay guy who is way too much a slob to be actually gay!
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
At ROOTS last Saturday a tall slim young man had a tassle of this in his hand and gave some seeds to Bob Linde and me. He called it "white seeded sorghum" but wrote the varietal name on our coin envelopes. He said it gets 10 feet tall and bears very heavily, great chicken food. In the late 80s/early 90s in Denver I grew a common brown seeded one named "milo" that is often seen in bird seed mixes and chicken feed. In Denver I used to cook milo like rice as is done in Africa. Here I've grown one called 'Honey Sweet" but both have brown seeds and for me grew maybe 6-7 feet tall. I'm completely redoing my south bed that got horribly messy during the time the Muscovy ducks lived in there and will likely sow the seeds along the anti-chicken fence line in an effort to grow a LOT of seeds for future seasons and to share. So encouraging to see permaculture and organic gardening being embraced by young people 1/3 my age, with their teaching me new things!
I just tasted the "cultured vegetables" after a week of fermenting in a dark corner of the kitchen counter...very good! Milder than kimchi, very savory. I'd wondered if they might go "bad" due to much less salt being used than when making kimchi but they are fine. I'll give both quart jars a week in the fridge then make that nori seaweed dip. Thanks to Donna Sue Wallace for both links!
Not sure if I ever shared this with folks.....Josh Jamison and Paul Saucier digging wild Dioscorea alata yams near Lake Wales and H.E.A.R.T.. Josh's dreads are now gone. I can not speak well enough of these two passionately Christian young men dedicated to helping people feed themselves and others.
Sunday, March 16, 2014
After a very nice visit this morning with south Tampa gardener and rosarian Norma Bean at her new condo, ( we've been friends since the early 90s and her previous gardens just off Westshore Blvd. have been on HGTV! ) I stopped at BLOOM nursery there near MacDill and Bay to Bay to browse for a few plants. I noticed out back a BIG pile of wood wool plus several bags of it...the owner said to help myself. So I crammed two BIG bags into my back seat. My favorite chicken nesting material hands down...plus I was out of pine needles....good thing as after a LONG winter break they are laying again...8 eggs today. Free is good. Norma has always been a delight to spend time with, and at 78 is looking hot as ever!
Friday, March 14, 2014
Sweet potatoes, leeks, two kinds of ham, Morris Heading collards, garlic, hot pepper flakes, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, salt, cooked slowly in a covered stew pot. Some smart sweet guy with nice pecs should marry me for my cooking (would be great if he likes cleaning up after!).
Last year Josh Jamison shared with me a species leek that is apparently truly perennial in a colder climate. Initially the vigor was INSANE, with the clumps dividing wildly (see pics). But then here and there at H.E.AR.T. they went into a rapid nose dive, even though their gardens get MUCH colder than mine in south Tampa. This year I am growing MANY of the conventional leek 'American Flag', which in colder climates is a biennial. So today I did an experiment here...pulled up two leeks for a sweet potato/ham stir fry, cut off the lower two inches of each, will let dry a while then replant and label with a mini-blind to see if they regrow. IF they do will repeat to see if I can force leeks to be "perennial" vs. biennial, or, as is usually the case in Tampa, a winter annual.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
In Denver most mints THRIVE...a few years before I moved back to Tampa I used cardboard and mulch to kill my tiny grass lawn and replaced it with dwarf Candy Mint.....using my little push mower on it made my whole yard smell like Wrigley's Spearmint Gum! I wonder if Mojito Mint might work here?
Yam (Dioscorea spp.) vines are fully dormant now so this is a good time to dig up the huge mother tubers (one here once weighed 65 pounds!) and slice and fry them, slowly and covered, or to boil, bake, or add to soups. The taste and texture is like that of a very fine potato, just a bit denser.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
A lot of us are getting bountiful harvests and experimenting in the kitchen. Debbie and Jon Butts grow and sell from their EcoFarm a hyper-vigorous, very flavorful Mystery Sweet Potato, a classic Thanksgiving Day type with sweet deep orange flesh. I just sliced a big one, thick, and browned the slices, slowly, covered, in coconut oil. As they browned I ran through my Bullet blender about 1/8 cup of homemade green papaya/turmeric kimchee leftover at the bottom of the jar, and smeared a dollop onto each slice after browned on both sides. As I'd hoped, it acted like a very flavorful salt substitute. The longer I cook the more I appreciate complex flavors vs. simple "meat and potatoes" type cooking.
I just made a version of those "cultured veggies" that Donna shared that link to using what I have on hand: store bought onion, onion leaves, carrot roots and leaves, daikon roots and leaves, garlic, dried kelp, green papaya, Granny Smith apple, sweet potato, touch of brown sugar to feed the bacteria, touch of plain kefir to add 12 bacteria to those on the veggies, about 2 teaspoons of salt, Chinese cabbage and Morris Heading collards leaves, topped with bottled water (I've been told that my Brita filter does not remove chlorine). My food processor has just one blade, a chipping vs. shredding blade, so the texture is much coarser than hers in that link. I'll leave both jars out a room temp for a week, put one in the fridge, leave the other out full time to see what happens. Thanks for that link and the one for using cultured veggies to make that seaweed dip!
Live and learn....for quite some time I've enjoyed sharing what I know about gardening with folks, and have supported quite a few young people in the area in their efforts to become good gardeners and promote permaculture and sustainable living. But in the future I'll try to be more discerning about a person's character beneath the perky public persona and charm and self-promotion.....it has been disappointing to realize that a couple are far more focused on being "celebrities" at a young age than actually mastering their crafts, that one makes it a habit to not pay suppliers and farmers, another habitually steals from botanic gardens...plus I don't take kindly to my St. Pete Times articles and blog being plagiarized, or my class handouts being copied then passed out as being their own. I've long been told that I am too trusting....I don't want to sacrifice that, but WILL try to determine better a person's ethics before lending them my support, regardless of their age. Live and learn!
This used to do WONDERS for Sweety during oak season, just remembered I have a whole box from Oceanic, today will zap a bag in 1 cup water then add to Cracker's stew to see if it helps him too. Did wonders for ME when I first moved back after 15 years in Denver and had lost my immunity to Tampa pollens. Poor guy is so itchy so I hope it does for him what it did for Sweety plus people I've turned onto it.
Monday, March 10, 2014
Donna knows I love to make and eat fermented foods and sent me on FB this link to something I find interesting due the salt content being MUCH lower than that in kimchee and sauerkraut. I'm too cheap to buy the PRICEY starter culture (I Googled and saw it is just three lactic acid forming bacteria that should be present on any/all organically grown veggies). I'll make mine based on what is in my gardens. I also find the week of fermenting at room temp interesting. This is used to make a seaweed dip that sounds yummy that Donna had posted earlier on my FaceBook wall....I'll share that link too. I am definitely making it as I LOVE seaweed and have tons dried in the freezer that I bought right after Fukushima happened.
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Thursday, March 6, 2014
For the 19 years that I was an organic landscaper here and in Denver I created a great many landscapes for my clients that were radical for the times.....greatly reduced lawn areas replaced with informal English style cottage gardens of Old Roses, perennials, some annuals plus herbs and veggies. Not once did any of my clients get cited by code, even in very upscale neighborhoods with lots of anal-retentive rules. But I relied on two "distractions"....using all organic nutrients like fish meal, cotton seed meal, soybean meal, I made what lawn remained THE thickest and greenest and most weed free in the neighborhood. Secondly, I made those landscape beds THE most colorful in the neighborhood. Neighbors seem VERY hesitant to turn in neighbors to code just because their beautiful landscape is a little different. Super reliable sources of color to border "controversial" permaculture gardens in central Florida with include old fashioned red and lavender pentas (IF you can find them as the modern dwarfs suck), Sulfur Cosmos (super easy from seeds plus reseeds), Blue and Red Porterweed, Turnera, Salvia leucantha, Salvia 'Indigo Spires', Salvia coccinea, Vincas, Dwarf allamanda, 'Cramoisi Superieur' rose, Eranthemum pulchellum, various ruellias. All of my business came from word of mouth, often from the neighbors OF my clients. My own yards have always tended to be messy and jungly BUT super colorful, so I've had MINIMAL problems with code all these years.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
I've been obsessing on perennial onions for central Florida for years in this yard, have tried so many kinds that turned out to be either winter annuals or short lived perennials. I am now about 99% sure that "Eliska's Bunching Onion" IS different from my strain of Allium fistulosum, even just by looking at the two...mine as it divides makes stalks that at the outset are very thick and stout and leek-like....with "Eliska's" the divisions when young are VERY thin, like thin knitting needles. Plus it is VERY mild and sweet vs. mine is pungent onion. The bloom spheres on mine dwarf those of "Eliska's". So I feel it is very likely that we all now have access to TWO onions that are truly perennial multipliers in central Florida! And both are Mystery Onions!
For years I grew 'Sweet 100' and was very pleased, but this year I grew just ONE plant of its descendant, 'Supersweet 100' and daily I am getting far more fruits than I can eat. Excellent flavor too. I grew the vine in a Water Wise Container Garden I made from a discarded Tampa recycle bin and made the hugelkultur soil from various things in my yard, including dried chicken poop. Since it is "indeterminate" the vine is rampant. Even though hybrids don't breed true from seeds, I am going to process and save quite a few to sow this fall out of curiosity.