Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Berkey - Our Best Investment Ever!

Hubby and I invested in a 3.25 gallon Royal Berkey water filter last June.  We also bought two 24oz stainless steel water bottles (to the right - no, avert your eyes from hubby's Scotch - blech) to carry cold water to work or running errands, etc. in place of the bottled water we used to buy every week.


Hubby pointed out last weekend that this water filter is one of the best investments we've ever made.  It's not difficult to fill and we always keep a pitcher full in the fridge.

An added benefit to this setup is that we drink more water than we ever have in our lives!  That right there is a miracle!

The water bottles are key to making the Berkey work for us.  After an extensive search for an insulated, stainless steel water bottle, we found the "Thermos Armour" brand and it keeps our water cold for 12 hours - even if we leave them in the car in Florida summer heat! Seriously!  It's wonderful to get back in the car and have a cold drink at hand.  A lot of water bottles are difficult to drink out of, or to open, or both.  We looked at a LOT of water bottles.  Most don't even have any kind of insulation.  These Armour bottles have a clear lid so you can drink while you're driving and still see where you're going! LOL! You just push a little button and the lid pops open. Even my terrible hands can manage to open it with no problem.  The rubberized sides make it easy for me to hold, too.

So here we are, almost a year into the Berkey experiment, and we are still amazed at how much we love the taste of the Berkey water, and the Stainless Steel thermos bottles we found make it all "work".  No more buying bottled water!

So let's do some math (a year ago prices):

Royal Berkey with 2 Black Filters and 2 Fluoride filters on Amazon = $305
Thermos "Armour" 24 oz Stainless Steel bottles (at Bass Pro) = $60 ($30 ea)
Total investment: $365

The black filters will filter 6,000 gallons of water!  My calculations below show that we won't need to replace these filters (just clean them) for 10 years!

Let's compare the cost of bottled water:

A 24 pack of 16.9 oz. bottles = 405.6 oz / 128 oz/gallon = 3.17 gallons @ $4.50 (Publix brand)*

So, to purchase the equivalent of 6,000 gallons of bottled water, you would need to buy 1,892 cases X $4.50 = $8,514 (6000 / 3.17).

Even if you bought cheap water at $3.00 a case it would be $5,676 freaking dollars!

*We found that most of the "cheap" bottled water tastes terrible and it did bad things to my stomach - I have chronic gastritis thanks to Lupus.  So we stuck to Publix Spring water and our fridge filtered water.  The problem with the fridge filter was that it only lasted about 3 months, then my stomach would start to complain and I knew it was time to change the filter, even though the indicator on the fridge wasn't saying so.  Those filters are very expensive at $44 a pop.

The berkey is the first filter we've had that doesn't bother my stomach.  It's weird, but wonderful! I'm super sensitive.

If your eyes haven't glazed over and you're still with me on this, here's some more math:

3.25 gallon tank filled every 2 to 3 days, so say 15 fills a month X 3.25 gallons = 48.75 gallons of tap water a month.  We have seen no difference in our water bill, mainly because we had been using the fridge filter anyway.  We no longer use the ice machine on the fridge either.  We fill trays, like the olden days, because the water is so good. You can "see" the difference in the ice cubes.

We were buying 4 cases of spring water a month (minimum), plus the fridge water - with filters at the time being about $44.

4 cases @ $4.50 = $18 X 3 months = $54 + $44 fridge filter = $98 every 3 months for drinking water! The Berkey clearly paid for itself within 4 months.  It's galling how much our City charges for water.  You can't even drink the stuff!  I don't know one person who drinks from the tap!

How long will these filters last?  Yep, more math:

3.25 gallons X 15 fills/mo = 48.75 X 12 months = 585 gallons a year
6,000 / 585 = 10.25 years.  Even if the filters last half as long as they say they will, I'm shocked at the amount of money we are saving!  Not to mention all the plastic we're keeping out of the landfill!

Anyway, long story short, we have no regrets about coughing up the $305 for the Royal Berkey Filter!  And my stomach is much happier!

Okay, end of math lessons!  And, I swear I'm not a salesperson for Berkey!!!

Sheila

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Day Trip to Historic Spanish Point

On Memorial Day, Hubby and I took a drive to Historic Spanish Point in Osprey, Florida, just north of Venice.

We became members of Mote Marine Aquarium last year, and this place was on the reciprocal member list for free admission in May.  We had never been there and didn't know much about it.  We expected it to be a park down by the water and a nice place to have a picnic.

We were surprised at how much there was to see.  The property is quite large, with several cottages, a chapel, nice shell paths, a sunken garden, an ancient shell mound, and even an aqueduct!  (I was pretty darn impressed - I have a thing for aqueducts!)  It was a great little settlement and a nice walk.

This was the first flower I spotted (Iris?), looking very out of place at the picnic area:


It took a while to find another bit of color until I found this hibiscus:


There was lots of vegetation, just not a lot of colorful plants.

The butterfly garden was quite pretty.  Lots of color going on there.  The milkweed, porter weed, scarlet sage and scorpion tail looked well established.  I was wilting under the heat by time we got to the butterfly garden and didn't even think to take a picture. Drats.

They have clearly focused their attention ($) on restoring the buildings, which is a good thing.

Overall it was a nice relaxing Memorial Day afternoon and we enjoyed the visit to Spanish Point.  If you decide to visit Spanish Point someday, you should bring a pocketful of wildflower seeds with you! Just don't tell them I sent you!

Sheila

Monday, May 26, 2014

Comfrey and Seed Bombs!

I was anxious to get my comfrey seeds growing but I had read on a few websites that comfrey wouldn't survive the Florida heat and humidity.  I decided to plant one of the seeds anyway to see if I could get it to grow through the summer.  So far, so good!


It's in one of the big barrels I use to grow bok choy and lettuce, and it's in the shade for part of the day.  I'm hoping it will stay happy.  If it makes it through July with continued growth, it will probably survive the summer.

David at FloridaSurvivalGardening sent me some seed bombs.  Here's one of the seed clusters:


Not sure what they are, but it will be fun watching them grow.  There are a few others scattered here and there.

I also managed to get outside and plant a few more seeds - velvet bean, luffa gourd, ivy gourd, korean melon and black eyed peas.

I still need to plant tomatillo, eggplant and okra.  So much to do, so hot outside...

Not looking forward to the workday tomorrow.  Whaaaa!

Sheila

Seed Sale at Cherrygal.com!

I was checking out Baker's Creek and Cherry Gal seed sources looking for different flower seeds (cause a girl's gotta have flowers in the garden) and I noticed that at www.cherrygal.com they're offering 25 seed packets for $25. That's an awesome deal!

Be sure to read the instructions on how to get this deal!

Sheila


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Name This Bug!

What is this bug?  I've looked at images for "shield" type bugs but haven't found any with quite these markings or colors.


I'm thinking it's a squash bug. I've never noticed this bug before, but I do have quite a few new things growing in the garden this year.  And any year is an adventure for bugs in Florida anyway.  The bug in the picture is on my longevity spinach. I haven't seen any evidence that it's eating any of the leaves.

If anyone actually views my silly blog and knows what this bug is, please give me a holler in the comments section!

Thank you kindly.

Sheila

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Garden Border Progress

It's a two post day!  Busy busy!

I was finally able to do a bit more work on the brick border. I only had 10 bricks left so it didn't take very long.  After cleaning up I went back out to take a few pics and noticed it rises a bit high where the curve started.  Oops!  It gives it character I guess!


Here's a view from the deck:


While digging, I had a close encounter with an adorable bee!  I was so enchanted by the little guy I didn't think to reach over for my phone to take a picture.  Drats! It buzzed around my head a few times then landed in one of the depressions I had made with a brick.  It sat there and seemed to just want to take a rest. 

Then this Ibis showed up:


We have a flock of Ibis that poke around the yards in the neighborhood.  This one was on his own.  He stayed for a good 10 minutes.  

And then I heard the twitter of a Downy Woodpecker.  It was a pair - with one of them landing fairly close to me.  It's not a great shot, but you get the gist.  I think this was the female.  It was adorable!  


It was a good day - got some things accomplished!  And, I don't think I hurt myself!  




My First Seminole Pumpkin (Or Not)!

I harvested one of three squashes, which I believe are Seminole pumpkins!  Woo hoo!


It had been "tan" for a few weeks and certainly hadn't changed size in over a month so I thought I better get it out of harms way if we want to have any chance of eating one! One of the other two remaining on the vine is similar in appearance, but a bit fatter, and is starting to turn tan.  The third squash is on a different vine.  It's quite small and looks a bit different.

I'm really really bad at marking what's what in the garden.  I'm a "plant the seed and forget about it" kind of girl!  It will either grow and produce something edible, or not.  It drives my hubby nuts so he bought me 10 of these at an antique store a few weeks ago:



I'm marking my herbs with them.  This is what they look like after being placed in the garden:

Basil
This one is even worse:

Thyme

Not very pretty, or legible.  Using a ballpoint pen to "engrave" the marker was suggested for marking so that's what I did.  I'm going to have to try another method for the 4 I have left, like a sharpie!

Oh well.  The plant markers were a good "idea".




Monday, May 19, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Here's a good read over at The Prepper Project (written by David at Florida Survival Gardening):

http://theprepperproject.com/gardening-without-guilt/

I love the caption under the first photo!  I have posted some pretty darn ugly backyard photos on this here blog! Embarrassingly so. At least the last wide shot of a large section of my backyard garden wasn't too bad!  I've really focused most of my efforts this last winter/spring on that area, but for one reason only - to make a large area suitable for growing edibles.  I really don't care if it's neat or picture perfect, I just want to be able to grow herbs and citrus and cabbages and some pretty flowers here and there and some southern peas and maybe some okra and have a path to reach it all, and have fun building the soil too!  I'm never happier than when I'm playing in the dirt.  And finding worms!!!

Davids article caused me to take stock of what I'm good at growing, and what I'm not.

Good: pigeon peas, bok choy, green beans, wax beans, southern peas, cherry tomatoes, rosemary, basil, ground cherries, chia, amaranth, shepards needle (tee hee!).

So So: snap peas, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, sweet potato.

Bad: squash, cucumber, corn, radishes (I know, who can't grow radishes, right?!)

No matter what degree of success you are having in your garden, please please please persevere!  Find out what you're good at growing and keep adding to the Good list!!!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Gotu Kola vs. Dollar Weed Plant Identification

Gotu kola is a very important, yet little known "weed" here in Southwest Florida.

Here's Dollar weed (left) and Gotu kola (right) side by side::


Here's how to tell them apart. Dollar Weed has the stem coming out of the center of the back of the leaf. Gotu kola appears round, but it does have a little "slit", and the stem comes out of that slit.  Like so:


I've read quite a few web pages on the Gotu kola plant and apparently if you eat just three fresh leaves a day it can improve brain function. And boy, do I need all the help I can get in that area! I have Gotu kola growing in my front yard as well as at work in the little ditch in front of my parking spot.  Now that's exciting! I see a little experiment waiting to happen...


The Brick Border Has Begun!

The weather forecast was for a cool 70 degrees this morning so I knew I had to take advantage of the low temps and get outside as early as Lupusly possible and sneak in some yard time before work.

I cleaned out the spent green bean garden box and will try planting some herb seeds to see how they'll do over the summer months.  I think it gets enough afternoon shade so hopefully they'll do okay. It will be a good experiment, for sure.

But I also got to work on the brick border.


Okay, I admit it looks a little "wavy", but hubby doesn't seem to have any interest in doing it (in which case it would be perfect), so my way will have to do.  It just blends in with the rest of the jumbled up back yard!

In this view of the yard, I have a meyer lemon tree, orange tree, simpson stopper, two cassava, a banana tree, sweet potato, chia (for flowers really, but it's an experiment!), thyme, cilantro, lemon balm, bee balm, mint, and rosemary. Lots going on in there. Mulch is keeping the weeds at bay, for the most part, except for the pesky false poinciana tree seeds.

I stole about a foot of the "lawn" setting the bricks.  Tee hee.  I still plan to completely scrape out the "lawn" and reseed it.  It will need to be done in sections, but that's okay. At this point anything would be an improvement over the weedy crap grass that's there.

I'm hoping the weather will stay coolish and I'll be able to get back out there tonight after resting at work for the afternoon.  The boss has gone to his annual Preakness trip so I'm skipping out early!   I love 5 hour workdays!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Yard Creatures

Here are some random pics my hubby took of our backyard creatures.


We love green anoles.  Our little dragons of the deck.


Speaking of dragons...


If you've ever seen a moth with it's head missing, this is most likely the culprit. I wish I could take the credit for this fantastic picture!  Hubby was in the right place at the right time!


For several years we had a spotted skunk living in and around our shed.  One year, it moved onto the patio in a pedestal sink bowl (still in the box) that we never got around to installing. When we moved it (box and all) to the woods we must have offended it because we haven't seen it (or smelled it) since.  I kind of miss the little guy.


We had a beautiful gopher tortoise living just into the woods and it would come into the yard quite often to chomp on the grass.  One day our neighbor found it in her front yard and put it in her fenced back yard.  She told us weeks after finding it how she "saved it".  We never saw the tortoise again.  Who knows what happened to the poor thing not being able to get back to its den.  Very sad.



This is just a cool looking creature.  


I'm hoping my back and neck will cooperate this weekend so I can do more leaf mulching and install some border bricks. I need to hold off on hefting bags of soil for another week but that's okay. Still plenty of items to cross off the to do list.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

More Pigeon Peas

I am so in love with Pigeon Peas!  I've harvested another small crop, just enough for a small pot of Pigeon Peas and rice.


I have two plants - one still producing fairly well but the other is quite small and has stopped flowering, probably due to being in partial shade and in the ignored front yard.

I do still intend to plant 4 or 5 more so I can get larger crops.  I want to experiment with freezing and canning them to see what works best for storage. They are a bit sticky when shelling them but hopefully I'll get the knack of doing it with more speed.

I'll store this batch in the fridge until tomorrow.

Tonight is leftover pasta and homemade focaccia bread with fresh Rosemary.  It smells incredible in here!

Sorry you don't have smellavision...your loss!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Deadly Cardboard Plant and Dogs

Here's a little story about 3 of our shelter dogs we've owned over the years and a hard lesson learned about deadly Cardboard Plant seeds.

The picture I posted of my old dog and the chicken at the door in this post made me smile and made me sad. Molly died last December at age 13.  She was such a good girl - an Australian Shepard/Akita mix - with a wonderful, easy going disposition and quirky personality.  




When she was 8, she was already starting to show signs of arthritis, so we adopted Annie to maybe help keep her active.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but Molly wasn't the least bit interested in "playing" with Annie. She just tolerated Annie's puppy like antics.

This is Annie at "obedience training".


Ha!  I couldn't even get her to sit.  She was so excitable her butt wouldn't stay on the ground for two seconds.  I'm surprised she stayed still for this picture!

Annie was such a great little dog.  She was super fast, super smart, and she was quite the character. We absolutely adored her!

One day, she got a hold of a ground dove, grabbed it and ran like hell back into the house and pulled it apart in her crate before I could catch up to her.  Gawd. What a messy day that was!  She did it not once, but twice!  Then we had to put up wire fencing to keep her away from the bird feeding area.  She had been living with us for close to 6 months before that behavior popped out of her!

We adopted Lucy, the chicken butt sniffer, about 10 months after adopting Annie. I thought Annie needed a playmate since Molly wasn't participating in my keeping active scheme.

This was the only way to get a picture of Lucy!


The vet thought she was a maltese/poodle mix and about 11 months old.  When we got her from the pound you couldn't even tell she was white!

These two little doggies sure knew how to entertain us!  And I think Molly secretly enjoyed their antics too.

The Chase

Sadly, at about 3 years old, Annie died after eating poisonous Cardboard Plant seeds.





That dog ate EVERYTHING!  I'd never had a dog quite like her.  The day she ate the seeds, she had been chasing her nemesis, the squirrel.  To this day I believe she ate them only because she saw the squirrel in there, because otherwise, she would have no reason to crawl in that dense, picky shrub. Unfortunately, when she started throwing up that night we found a bit of red bell pepper I had dropped on the floor while making dinner, a piece of red felt from a toy she had destroyed earlier, and another unidentifiable mushy bit of red. We didn't KNOW there were red seed bits from the cardboard plant.  If only we had known, we could have saved her.  I finally put it all together the next morning when I saw the squirrel by the cardboard plant and went to investigate. The seed stalk was broken open and there were a few chewed up seeds.  We took her to the vets as soon as we figured it out but by then it was way too late due to her size. She was only 6 pounds so she didn't have a chance against the Cardboard plant seeds and the neurological damage they cause.  She seized out that night, 24 hours after eating the seed.

We've had 6 dogs at this house over the years and only Annie, the neurotic one who ate EVERYTHING, ever got into the Cardboard Plant seeds.

Please Beware of Deadly Cardboard Plant Seeds, especially if you own a neurotic dog that eats everything!

I still blame the squirrel.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Saving Seeds, Planting Herbs and Cute Little Vases

Happy Mother's Day!

Today I worked on my seed saving project.  


I've had seeds in dixie cups, 1/2 pint jars and envelopes, some since last fall. The tropical wisteria seeds had fallen down behind some canisters.  I've been searching for a long time for those seeds!  Glad hubby found them the other day.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time working on the Amaranth seeds.  It's mighty difficult getting the seeds out.  I am definitely not a fan.  I am probably going to have rogue amaranth popping up all over the place by the big compost pile and under the deck! I'll have to find a better way to save amaranth seeds, otherwise I won't bother with that again.

I went to collect some of the spent zinnias and found two flowers for my cute little vase.




After the seed saving project I managed to plant the 5 pots of herbs I got yesterday.  I also planted the flower seeds.

I am tickled pink every time I go dig in the yard.  We have WORMS!  Today's dig had worms in every hole but one!  I'm truly amazed!


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Salsa Verde, Herbs and Bricks

I bought tomatillos at Publix, did some research on how to grow them, looked at a bunch of recipes, and today I made Salsa Verde!  It was very easy to make and it was delicious!  


This is the recipe I used, which I found on Pinterest:

http://shewearsmanyhats.com/2010/08/tomatillo-salsa-verde-recipe/

I will definitely make this again.  I even remembered to save some seeds before I roasted them so I can (hopefully) grow some tomatillos.  I thought I had purchased seeds but what I had bought were cubanelle sweet pepper.  Oops!  Not quite the same.

What I didn't do today was finish adding more top soil and peat moss to the second hugelkultur garden project.  I wrecked my back last weekend building it and need to give it another week's rest before I heave heavy bags of dirt around.  I did manage to vacuum/mulch some leaves this morning before my back complained and will try to do a little more tomorrow.  I mulched a few more naked areas so I feel like I made some progress.

Home Depot had pots of herbs marked down to $1.99 each so I bought more Basil, Cilantro and Rosemary, and also got some Thyme and Pineapple Sage which I don't have in the garden yet.  They had a limited selection, but at least what was there was very healthy.  I also couldn't resist the seed packets and bought some flower seeds - Zinnia, Black Eyed Susan and Coleus.    

And, I got 20 more bricks for the border/edge project.

As usual, lots on the to do list!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Garden Greens in the Dinner...Again!

Aside from that very adventurous salad I made a few days ago, I haven't been feeding hubby the various greens from the garden.

Tonight I made a chicken orzo skillet that I've made many times, but this time I used lots of garden veggies.  Here's what I did:

I sauteed half of a large yellow onion in 1/4 cup butter, then added one minced garlic clove.  From the garden I added a handful of sliced green beans, a handful of small tomatoes, quartered, a 6" sprig of rosemary, chopped, and a sprig of chives. Then I added a summer squash, sliced, 2 cups of water, some ground thyme, krazy salt, and 1 cup of orzo and let that all simmer for 15 minutes.  Then for the last 5 minutes of simmering I added a large handful of chopped mixed greens from the garden - sweet potato leaves, longevity spinach, kale and amaranth.

Just before serving I stirred in fresh lemon juice (from 1 wedge) and some finely grated asiago cheese (about 1/4 cup).  It was lovely.

My rule for the orzo dish is 2 cups liquid (water or broth), 1 cup orzo, leftover meat (1 to 1-1/2 cups is sufficient), two cups of whatever veggies are on hand, and whatever mix of seasonings I feel like using that day.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Our Chicken Raising Experience

One Saturday in March, 2012 we bought 4 Black Australorp chicks for $1.75 a piece.  The kind elderly man we bought the chicks from showed us his "girls" and talked quite a bit about how they're the best egg layers he's ever raised and he'd been raising chickens for 40 years, etc.

We kept them in the living room in a clear plastic bin so we could keep an eye on them. The dogs were very curious, and enjoyed keeping an eye on them too.


At some point we had to move them to larger quarters so we put them in an unused dog crate.  That was a bit premature since they kept walking out between the slats and running around the living room!  I'm glad the dogs weren't phased by them or didn't try to eat them.  Although they really weren't "that kind of dog". They just followed them around.

We built them a long bottomless cage so they could get outside and poke around the grass and run around.  But one day, while we were in and out of the house going to get a drink or whatever, a big snake got hold of one of the chicks.  When we found it, it was dead and clearly had been smothered by a snake.  It was obviously too large for a snake to eat so he had to spit it out.

And Then There Were Three (Chickens).

Meanwhile, we had built the coop and A-Frame run.  Shortly after moving them into their new house, we had "the fly" problem.  We tried fly strips and fly traps but nothing was working.  It was horrible.  How could 3 chickens make such a mess?  So we consulted the interwebs and hubby came up with the diatomaceous earth remedy.  WOW!  That stuff is awesome!  Worked like a charm within a week or so (to break the cycle).  All I needed to do at that point was put a little in their food and water and sprinkle the coop and run when we moved them to a different area of the yard.  Brilliant! Crisis solved.

I don't recall how old the chickens were, maybe 3 months old, but at that point one of them started making ungodly noises.  It took us the good part of a week to figure out which one was the culprit.  So the next morning, a Saturday, we went back to the chicken man and asked how to kill a rooster.  He gave us some tips and wished us luck. So then we went home and spent quite a lot of time on Youtube watching videos of the process. The next day, we got up the gumption and did the deed.

And Then There Were Two (Chickens)


Right from the start we only wanted two hens but the chicken man said we should double our chances and buy at least 4 chicks.  So in the end, we ended up with exactly what we wanted. And boy were they great egg layers!

In the early days, the chickens learned pretty quickly how to get down the (rather steep) ramp from the coop to their run, and if they were running around the yard they always went back to the coop to lay an egg.  With great fanfare!  Squawking all the way!  We didn't have anything special inside the coop for them to lay their eggs, they just always picked a corner. We also learned that they needed light in the vicinity of the coop during the winter months so they would keep active the length of time needed to continue laying eggs.

We'd let them run around the yard if we were home.  They were in chicken heaven back there. They were a riot to watch.  I bought a corn grinder and would buy whole corn (stayed fresh longer) and I would give them cracked corn with their feed, which they LOVED!  I could get them to go wherever I wanted if I had a cherry tomato in my hand. It's how I lured them back to their coop whenever I needed them back in.

We weren't able to do much in the way of gardening though without putting up fencing or some sort of barricade.  It was a bit of a pain.  If they wanted something, they'd find a way to get around our barriers by simply barreling their way through.

They also hung out on the deck and patio a lot, which always led to lots of poop in places you didn't want poop!  They liked to hide behind the dog and sneak in when I'd open the sliding glass door!


When they were about a year and a half old, one of the chickens was attacked by a hawk and died. The hawk wasn't able to lift it away, they were heavy birds.  But it must have gotten it off the ground just high enough that it killed the chicken. We only heard the squawking and then saw the bird laying on the ground.  We were really bummed out. Things were going so well!  We had figured out how to raise chickens!

And Then There Was One (Chicken)

The last chicken was so lonely it would just squawk all the time and if we let it out it would just sit by the sliding glass door making ungodly noises (rooster like).  It got progressively louder and we were worried the neighbors would complain.  A friend of ours works for a man who raises chickens and he said his boss would take her. So after two more weeks of noise we took him up on his offer.

Overall it was a good learning experience (except for the dead chicken bits). If the coyotes ever leave the large acreage behind us (they moved in shortly after we gave away the last chicken) we might decide to raise chickens again.  I would definitely get black australorps, but I also want to raise Pekin ducks.  I have to shamefully admit, I am absolutely terrified of chicken FEET!  They totally creep me out. I never got over my fear and I couldn't hold the birds once their feet matured.

I figure if I can raise chickens anyone can! All you need is some sort of coop/run, food, and water.  But don't forget the diatomaceous earth and light for the winter months! They are just as important! Oh, and watch out for snakes and hawks!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

WOW! Our Devil's Backbone Has Flowers!

Looky here!


I found this info on the Dave's Garden website:

Euphorbia tithymaloides'Variegatus' - also known as Variegated Devil's Backbone, Japanese Poinsettia, Slipper Spurge, Redbird Cactus and Christmas Candle.  Read more:http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/1716/#ixzz30wOGThdd

I've never seen this plant bloom!  Before we moved it to this shady area, it had more pink/white color on the leaves.  I wonder if this is why it bloomed?  More energy into flowering than protecting its leaves?  Or we just never noticed!



This "bird cover" area is in need of raking and mulching. Something else to add to the to do list.

Happy Yardening!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The New Hugelkultur Bed

The weather was very cooperative today (cool ish) so I went out early to start the new hugulkultur bed.  I'm still disappointed with how little space I have to work with, but it will be expandable once the boat is moved.  Of course the A-Frame hogged quite a bit of space as well, but I'm still glad I put it there for the squashes.  This new bed will work for the summer veggies I want to plant.

I should have taken pictures of each layer as I built it, but I've never been a "picture taker". When I was looking at images on Pinterest, I saw some upright boards being used as a frame.  I realized that the bed couldn't encroach into the A-Frame or the gumbo limbo areas since I'd need to be able to access both those sides, so I used an old section of cedar siding from a long gone hot tub.  I'll be able to contain those two sides now and let the rest "slide".


Here's another view:


I weeded all the foreground area before I started the project.  This Florida soil is useless.

Here's a pic showing the gap I've left to access the A-Frame and back side:


I think this will end up being about 7' X 3'.  I've run out of top soil, peat and compost so I won't be finishing the bed today.  I knew I wouldn't have enough, but figured I'd do as much as I could.  I've watered each layer well and the old logs were already pretty wet from yesterday's rain.

I used two layers of logs, sticks/leaves, hay, kitchen scraps, the contents of the compost tumbler, bone meal, rabbit manure, chipper/shredder mulch, bagged compost, peat and top soil, and mixed in some 6-6-6.  When I get more soil, I'll add in more rabbit manure to the final soil mix.

All in all, it was a productive day.

Happy Yardening!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Garden Salad and Korean Melon

I made an awesome salad for dinner fresh from the garden (mostly).  I didn't know if hubby would eat it since it would be strange greens, no lettuce, so I hadn't bothered making one.  We both really enjoyed it.

The Salad:

longevity spinach
kale
sweet potato leaves
bok choy
tomatoes
cucumber - this was store bought

We also had some leftovers from a side dish I had made last night: wax beans (from the garden), israeli couscous, orzo, quinoa, and rosemary (from the garden).

To make this side dish, boil 2 cups of water, add chicken boullion, rosemary and 3 Tbls Quinoa.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Then add 3/4 cup Israeli couscous and 1/4 cup orzo and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Watch it at the end to make sure it doesn't completely dry out.  It's yummy.  I stole the idea from a package I got from Trader Joe's.

I also baked two small sweet potatoes - one from the garden that I dug up while making one of the beds - and one that we bought at the Asian Market this afternoon. The one from the Asian Market is the same variety as the slips I planted recently. I should have bought two at the time so we could try one, but I didn't think of that! We both liked it just fine.

We also bought a Korean Melon from the Asian Market.  It was crunchy with a mild sweet taste.  Very acceptable.  Hubby is not a fan of melon, but he said it was edible.  Of course I saved all the seeds and will plant some to see how they do in the different growing seasons.  Very excited about this find!  Unfortunately I can't find anything about when these might grow here.

Oops!  I was so excited about trying the Korean Melon I forgot to take a picture! Here's an image I copied from the interwebs.



Happy Yardening!

Chayote, Summer Vegetables, and Leaf Mulch

I found Chayote at Publix!  They were 2 for $1.49.  Can't beat that with a stick! Whenever I'm at a supermarket, I always look for tropical vegetables.  I was very excited to find Chayote.  I bought two, one to eat and one to plant.


It's looking like the boat isn't going to be moved any time soon, so I've moved the A-Frame cage, which is the run portion of our (currently unused) chicken coop, into the now cleared ugly patch area to use as a trellis for my squash on one side and the chayote on the other.  


Hubby felt the need to "camouflage" the coop - we live within City limits and aren't allowed to have chickens. He's funny.  Our neighbors never had a problem with the chickens and we have 200+ acres of vacant land behind us so no worries there.  So nobody snitched on us.  I'll do a post on our chicken raising experience sometime soon.

I still need to take the tomahawk to that tree stump and put some brush-b-gone on it.  I also need to move the coop out of the way.  

This ugly patch area is untouched, meaning it's all sand, roots and shell and has never been planted in as long as we've lived here (23 years).   Nor has it ever been mulched.  So it will be difficult to dig out.  Hence the hugelkultur idea.  Since there's still a bit of room for planting, I'll make a smaller hugelkultur "hump" so I can plant some okra, tomatillos, and eggplant.

We're going to have rain most of the day today and it's very wet from last night's rain, so my vacuum/mulching project is on hold.  I did get a little done last night before the heat got to me.  The tropical almond leaves are falling quite nicely now.  This is the next area of leaf mulch heaven to tackle:


I need to build a garden in this space, but it will need to be a shallow garden due to all the tree roots.  I managed to plug in a few Caladiums (love love love them!) but other than that, this whole area is hopelessly root bound.  I think the fallen almonds are at least 4 inches thick in this area!  Years and years worth of almonds! Another fall project! So I'm thinking a small area with herbs and salad greens will do nicely here.  I just need to build up the soil 4 or 5 inches on top of what's there.

Lots on the yardening to do list - Bricks to buy, holes to dig, bowler hat to find, eggplant, tomatillo, and okra seeds to plant...Hopefully I'll get a few things done!

Happy Yardening!