Home from Funky Chicken Farm

18 04 2009

I returned from Funky Chicken farm with the long end of the stick. In return for a couple of trays of seedlings Suzanne gave me a dozen happy chicken eggs laid on Tuesday, many packets of seeds including a variety of heirloom tomatoes, a strawberry plant and a gallon of Atomic Grow™.

She described these farm fresh eggs as “creamy”, which is exactly what they are. After having them I can attest that they are the best eggs I have ever eaten! I still chuckle when I recall our initial discussion about the eggs. She said “Isn’t it amazing that something so good comes out of a chicken’s butt?” Amazing indeed!


As we toured the garden I commented upon her gorgeous strawberry plants to which she replied by yanking out a good handful of runners and sticking them into a pot for me. Strawberries are the one thing AJ’s mom wished our garden had. See how easily some wishes come true?


The final goody Suzanne gave me was a gallon of Atomic Grow™. I have contacted them via email and hope to have a response in order to update this post. For now, I gather that this is an all natural, organic wonder soap, that when sprayed onto all types of plants causes them to do everything they do a whole lot better. The leaves turn greener overnight, the root systems become massive and strong, and insects are repelled. It appears to be a single application, environmentally friendly pesticide and fertilizer. I will take some before and after shots of my garden to document the results.

In addition to the physical objects I obtained in my trade with Suzanne, I gained an incredible introduction into the local permaculture movement as well as a wealth of new activities and ideas in which to participate.

During my visit I mentioned to Suzanne that I would love to go on a foraging expedition, but don’t have enough local plant knowledge to do this properly. She jumped on the idea and offered to suggest this to her good friend Vicki who is a member of the Conradina Chapter of  the Florida Native Plant Society.

As soon as I get my projects under control I want to get out and forage!

Suzanne also turned me onto Eco Growers of East Central Florida:

Eco-Growers of East Central Florida is an informal group of local growers that support and participate in sustainable, environmentally-friendly agriculture and offer an outlet to exchange resources, knowledge, current events, education, and more.

Our group was started to support growers (a grower can be anyone who has a few tomato plants or fruit trees, or maybe a flock of laying hens, or someone with a small working farm) and to help raise community awareness about local food.

Our goal is to promote local, sustainable agriculture in east central Florida and help make the community aware of the opportunities to buy locally grown or produced goods, as well as the environmental and social benefits of buying locally.

The members hold a “Local Flavors” potluck approximately once per month, and Suzanne hopes to hold one at her place soon. Where am I going to find time to do all of this fun stuff?

Since my visit Suzanne and I have also decided to get into the business of raising Ox Beetles. I will try to go into more detail about these delightful insects, and share a couple of photographs in a future post. For now I must get busy in the garden.

Once I finish this post I will compile all of the links and place them in my sidebar.

All in all I would have to rate this a five star day. I returned home both exhausted and exuberated.

The garden greeted me with some spring blooms and a surprise.

Green onion bloom


Chive bloom


Cardinal Air Plant ready to bloom


Does this look familiar? This is the mystery fruit from “Saturday in Review – Spring is Springing”. Things didn’t turn out quite like I expected. This is a passion fruit from a variety of which I do not know the name. My internet research assured me that it would ripen and drop to the ground, from whence I could retrieve it and enjoy it’s sweet goodness; perhaps by infusing into a bottle of vodka. Instead, the thing dried up, split open and released a handful of seeds on wispy parachutes. Oh well…


I saved some of the seeds, although I have no use for them, with a plant for cuttings growing right into my yard. I read that they are difficult to grow from seed and take many years to bloom.


Fortunately the plant I enjoy is mature and produces a constant supply of  blooms to the joy of butterflies and bees alike.


So, that’s my wrap-up of my visit to Funky Chicken Farm. If you live in the area or find yourself passing through, I highly recommend making an appointment and dropping in for a tour. You will find a warm welcome, lots of treasures and an experience to remember.

Thanks Suzanne & Andrew!

Funky Chicken Farm
3510 Hield Rd.
West Melbourne, Fla 32904
Suzanne at 321-505-4066 or at srichmond2@cfl.rr.com

Funky Chicken Farm: Part 2

18 04 2009

Funky Chicken Farm owners Suzanne & Andrew Malone with some of their feathery friends. Suzanne-&-Andrew

On Wednesday, I was so privileged as to find myself sitting around a large table at Funky Chicken Farm with four fascinating and like-minded individuals: Suzanne and Andrew, Christi and Carol. Funky Chicken Farm is a joint endeavor by Suzanne and Andrew Malone. Andrew is the poultry specialist while Suzanne does the gardening, brewing, bees, worms, herbs, Crusty Man Balm and Tie-Dye shirts. They help each other with all projects, many of which are symbiotic. Don’t ask me what “Crusty Man Balm” is. We talked about so much that this one got overlooked. Hopefully, Suzanne will fill me in and I will describe it in a later post.

Had I known so much would be taking place I would have brought a notepad. Instead, I attempted to absorb as much of the rapid-fire conversation as my feeble mind could contain. I’ll try to break it down into digestible segments. Suzanne and Andrew are as compatible as any two people I’ve met. They both struck me as gregarious, intelligent, easygoing and passionate about their varied interests. These are not people I would expect to find with their noses buried in the TV while the world passes them by. They are busy; busy doing lots of interesting and beneficial things. These are my kind of people! The conversation started with The Growboxes which are featured here and here. The Growbox looks like a Rubbermaid storage bin, but there is much more to it. Suzanne explains it best:

A Growbox is a self watering container that is portable, and contains all the water, air, and nutrients for a plants optimum growth. Great for patios, apartments, and even those in wheelchairs as you can put them on a raised platform. No more bending over! You will participate in making your own Growbox to take home, you will learn the quickest way to make them, you will use power tools and you will get a farm tour of my garden of veggies in over 50 Growboxes. Includes discussion on what to grow, trellis systems, and how many seedlings to grow in each box with a printout. We’ll cover composting, worm culture, and the chicken tour.

The mechanics still remain somewhat of a mystery to me, but upon viewing her garden, there is no doubt as to their effectiveness. I mentioned that I used one of those containers to start plants, but it wasn’t as sophisticated as her setup. Everyone took interest in my mention of initially using my container for raising beetles. Somehow I found myself explaining how there is a community of people who raise beetles and other insects as a hobby; and that I paid the rent one summer by capturing and selling Ox beetles (Strategus antaeus) online. We discussed black lighting and the forum where I met my fellow insect enthusiasts (insectnet.com). Andrew and Carol both found it interesting enough to jot down the website. It’s so refreshing to find people with the same interests.

I asked about their worms and Suzanne offered me some “Worm Tea”, which I learned is a great liquid fertilizer extracted during the process of worm farming. Their offerings so outweighed mine that I felt compelled to reign in my enthusiasm for fear of being a mooch. Next time I will come bearing our wild caught Florida shrimp and trade for some of the things I didn’t get today.

Next I learned that Christi started and moderates a yahoo group called Brevard_CoSeed&CuttingsExchange. Although I am happy to financially support the preservation of heirloom varieties I love her philosophy that plants should not cost money. I didn’t realize that the meeting was also a cutting swap. Now I feel bad for not bringing some cuttings to offer. I have since joined that group and found that Christi is looking for jasmine, which I have aplenty.

Everyone raved about the Brevard Rare Fruit Council until I was thoroughly convinced that I must join. I suggest that anyone who lives in the area should check out the website and take advantage of the benefits offered by this group. I certainly intend to. The topic of edible weeds was raised. If you have read back into my previous postings you may know that I’m a big fan of foraging and would love to be involved in a foraging group. I listed a few wild edibles that I nurture and when prickly pear came up Suzanne mentioned that prickly pear makes great wine. This is when I learned of yet another interesting hobby of theirs. They belong to the SAAZ Homebrew Club.

The SAAZ Homebrew Club in Brevard County Florida is an AHA registered club. We sponsor a national competition every year in September. Social events include our Summer Party, Octoberfest, Pub Crawls and Christmas Party. We encourage and help new members in the art of homebrewing to further our mission of educating and promoting homebrewing and craft beers. We have members who make beer, wine and mead (honey wine) and are happy to share their knowledge. Our normal monthly meetings are at Charlie & Jakes (6300 Wickham RD, Melbourne FL) on the 3rd Sunday of the month at 2pm. Due to the number of special events during the year it’s a good idea to check the calendar, or contact the club president at Prez@saaz.org  if you are interested in attending.

See why this took multiple posts? Actually, any one of the many topics we spanned could justify a post of its own.

To my surprise Carol began extracting small plastic cups and bottles of brown liquid from her bag. I wondered to myself “Is there no end to how interesting these people are?” As she opened a bottle and began pouring out shots she described the cloudy liquid as “Kombucha”. I had never heard of this beverage, but it turns out to be an interesting and tasty form of fermented sweet tea. From the Wikipedia page:

Kombucha is the Western name for sweetened tea or tisane that has been fermented using a macroscopic solid mass of microorganisms called a “kombucha colony”.

First Carol shared a spiced version rich with cinnamon, ginger and apple flavor. This was really good and reminded me of apple cider. Next she gave us a taste of the straight brew. The experience created an image in my mind of sitting around a campfire in New Guinea passing around native brew in a gourd, like you might see on The Discovery Channel. Of course, everyone sat in chairs and had their clothes on. Carol talked about the health benefits attributed to Kombucha and the conversation shifted to a variety of homeopathic  remedies for cancer and diabetes. The entire conversation was stimulating and educational.

Although I occasionally enjoy discussing politics and religion, it was a welcome relief to take part in such a gathering where these topics were never raised. It was as though a group of kindred nature lovers conspired to make the world a better place through acts of kindness, generosity and sustainability. When the shit hits the fan I want to be in this tribe.

After the Kombucha Suzanne offered to take us on a tour of the farm. Again, I wish I had taken notes because the vast number of plants she has was more than enough to overwhelm my memory. Suffice it to say that she has just about everything I do and ten times more. Suzanne showed us the Growboxes as Christi’s son investigated the ripening produce, causing his mother to repeatedly remind him “No picking.” He was a well-behaved child who did his best to maintain his composure in such an exciting place. Once or twice she had to retrieve him as he wandered off to look at chickens, but who could blame him? I had the same urges myself.

Some of Suzanne’s heirloom tomatoes.


I forget what this one is.


The Growboxes.


A selection of herbs. Throughout the tour Suzanne plucked aromatic leaves and offered them up for our olfactory enjoyment.


A robust bunch of celery from Victory Seed Company. Yikes, I think I planted mine in too small of a space!


Once our tour of the garden was complete we continued towards the back of the property to view the portable chicken pens they had built from simple and inexpensive materials.The coop and pens can easily be moved to give the hens frequent access to fresh grass. There is a netting over the top to protect them from birds of prey.

It is obvious that Both Suzanne and Andrew are big fans of creative solutions too. I wish AJ could have been with me; I know he would have been impressed. Anyone interested in these chicken pens can contact Andrew at 321-505-4227.

These are some happy Funky Chickens!


Awww…what a cute little duckling.


Check out my next post for a wrap-up of the day’s events.

Funky Chicken Farm – Part 1

18 04 2009

Tuesday I alluded to an excursion that I was to take on Wednesday. Although I wasn’t sure what to expect, it was all I had hoped for and more. So much more, in fact, that I need to break it into three posts.

On Monday I joined the Yahoo group Fruit Swap of Brevard, and offered a surplus tray of seedlings left over from the garden projects. Because it was  a fruit swap I expected to be offered coconuts, star fruit or citrus of some sort (all of which are wonderful) however, the response I got was a pleasant surprise.

Hi Roxanne,

I am interested!   I buy from Victory Seeds too.   I can trade you some honey or fresh eggs, Atomic Grow.
We are located at Funky Chicken Farm in W. Melb, off Minton, on Hield Rd.

My phone is 321-505-4066 as I will be away from the computer…


Right off the bat I knew this was a cool person and a fun place.

I Googled “Funky Chicken Farm” and was directed to their profile on Local Harvest. I’m familiar with Local Harvest because we are members with our shrimp business The Shrimp Pimp. Local Harvest describes their mission as:

The best organic food is what’s grown closest to you. Use our website to find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies. Want to support this great web site? Shop in our catalog for things you can’t find locally!

I called Suzanne and scheduled an appointment to visit the farm on Wednesday. I figured that my meager tray of baby lettuce was maybe worth a dozen free range eggs or a container of honey. After all, it only cost me pennies to grow, aside from a little bit of watering. I took a little bit of cash because I knew I’d want to buy more. During our conversation I learned that Suzanne knows John Rogers (AKA “Bamboo John”). It seems that he is a sort of local gardening guru (which I already suspected).

With plants loaded in the trunk of the car I hurried to get my work done and then made a beeline to Funky Chicken Farm. It was easy to find with a great sign on the road.


Funky Chicken Farm
3510 Hield Rd.
West Melbourne, Fla 32904
Suzanne at 321-505-4066 or at srichmond2@cfl.rr.com

I followed a winding, tree-lined road to a house surrounded by all kinds of stuff going on. I won’t even try to describe it; you’ll just have to go and see for yourself. Within moments of pulling in I was greeted by Suzanne with a jovial smile and a warm handshake. She was accompanied by a woman named Christi, whom she identified as “The moderator”. I didn’t get this at the time, but later I understood what she meant. Christi’s son was having a grand time exploring the place and had already done his share of “touching the chickens”. As soon as the introductions were made another car pulled up and I was introduced to Carol. Carol and Christi recognized each other from Freecycle.org. I believe that Carol knew Suzanne from The Brevard Rare Fruit Society. As I witnessed the threads of this community pull tighter, I decided that it was a community that I wanted to be stitched into.

I had arrived at lunch time and Suzanne invited all of us to join her and her husband, Andrew, on the back porch for lunch. We wove our way through chicken and duck pens, gardening things and all kinds of interesting looking projects to a large table on the back porch.  Along the way I dropped off my plant offerings in the garden, where they were received with enthusiasm by Suzanne. Before she went in to retrieve her food, Suzanne presented me with a bin of seeds in envelopes to pick through. She had already portioned out a variety of heirloom tomato seeds just for me. Everyone gathered around the table and I eagerly sorted through the packets picking out a few from some varieties I didn’t yet have. Just as in my excursion to John Rogers’ property I felt like a student trying to soak up as much information as I could.

These are the seeds I chose:


Suzanne presented us with a beautiful appetizer made with her heirloom tomatoes. I passed, only because I was full from having just eaten; but the dish was beautiful as though prepared in a fine restaurant. Suzanne’s husband, Andrew, emerged and they ate as the conversation rolled.

Cont. in Funky Chicken Farm: Part 2

I’m Turning into my Grandmother.

21 02 2009

As early as I can remember I have been interested in sustainability and preparing for TEOTWAWKI, although I don’t think it had an acronym back then.

I was a teenager during the booming 1980s and although there was that lingering fear of nuclear annihilation it was the farthest thing from my hormone addled mind. However, I had frequent dreams on a recurring theme. These dreams have continued to resurface throughout my adult life. They would usually start with a mushroom cloud going off in the distance. I would briefly look on in horror and amazement before calculating where my loved ones were in relation to the blast zone and which ones I thought would survive. Depending upon whether or not I was in a relationship at the time, I would desperately attempt to locate that person. Next I would go about the business of leading people to safety and teaching them how to survive in a Post Apocalyptic world. Sometimes the dreams would take a violent turn and I would find myself in firefights with warriors who were trying to take over the country.

I’m not sure whether these dreams are a result of my survivalist mentality or if they are partially responsible. Regardless I find myself looking to the future in horror as an economic mushroom cloud balloons into the sky on the horizon. The horror comes not so much from knowing what’s about to happen as it is from the realization that so many people in my life is oblivious or in blatant denial. I have harped as much as I care to harp. My warnings fall on deaf ears. Fortunately (and I write this on the date of our fifth wedding anniversary), my husband is of like mind. I will have to dedicate a future post to his incredible skills and abilities. I’m very fortunate to have found him when I did. Together I know we will survive what the future throws at us and will be the tribe leaders of this park and our families.

I have an ongoing TEOTWAWKI supply list, but there is no way I can afford to buy most of what is on it. Today I started another list called “Pre-Collapse Preparation”. This is a list of the immediate projects I need to take on in order to deal with the possibility of power outages, fuel shortages and the store shelves being wiped clean. As hard as it is for most to imagine, this can happen in a single day. During the Hurricane Season of ’04 people waited to the last minute and panicked in the face of the approaching storms. Overnight the shelves were depleted of water, generators, ice and canned goods. After the storm supply lines were cut off, and with no power people became desperate for food. Grocery stores were closed for weeks and although the gas stations had fuel there was no way to pump it. Those who prepared as instructed by purchasing two weeks worth of supplies (which I don’t believe is nearly enough) found themselves running short as they helped out those who did not prepare.

And so (finally), I come to the topic of my post. I am turning into my grandmother and assorted other elderly women who have factored into my life. After my mom’s father passed on her mother sold the farm and moved into town. Suffering from severe depression she had difficulty coping. My stepfather was a truck driver and gone for weeks at a time. My mother was overwhelmed with me, my little brother and another on the way; so it made sense to the adults involved to send me to my grandma’s house for a week or so at a time. Grandma Merritt lived less than a mile away, so it was convenient for everyone involved. I enjoyed it because I got to be the center of attention again and she had all kinds of fun stuff like a piano and a table with animal feet, both of which I found absolutely fascinating. Ever thrifty, she spent much of the day sewing and tending to her tomatoes and geraniums. She fed me orange sherbet and Cheerios, although the sherbet was often freezerburned and the cereal sometimes had bugs in it. Little did I know what she had lurking in her freezer…

At night she would tuck me into bed next to her and proceed to start talking about how much she missed Grandpa and how she wished she could die soon in order to be back with him. This monologue would always progress into a fit of sobbing which would last for what seemed like an hour. I would try to comfort her, but it was pointless as she was in another state of mind and hardly seemed to acknowledge that I was there. I learned to dissociate by replaying entire episodes of The Pink Panther cartoons in my imagination, starting with the theme song. Eventually, I was able to drown out the crying completely and fall asleep.

My grandmother eventually moved away to live near her son and his wife. I suspect that my mother was hurt because she knew that her brother was favored; but also glad because after a lifetime of rejection and verbal abuse she had little love for her mother. I never got to see anything like the abuse my mother described, but I don’t doubt it, based upon my mother’s reaction.

My grandmother lingered in her depression and prescription drug abuse until I was in college. She had wrecked her car one too many times and was forced into rehab where her system was cleared of the toxic chemical cocktail she was getting from multiple, unwitting doctors. While she was being detoxed my aunt and uncle  scoured her house and removed all of the pills.

Shortly afterward, I got a call from my mother. Somehow, a bottle of sleeping pills had been overlooked. Unfortunately, it was a fifteen year old bottle that my grandmother had stockpiled from when she still lived on the farm. Although she only took a regular dose the aged pills sent her into a coma. She was brain dead and lingered on life support until the family finally agreed to pull the plug.

As her belongings were divided up we learned the extent of her hoarding tendencies. “From the Farm” became the phrase used to describe the 15+ years that she had hung onto certain items. The next time I talk to my mother I will get more detail; but for now I will give you an idea of some of the things they found. Over the years since Grandpa Merritt had passed, she had crammed every corner of her trailer (including the spare bedroom from ceiling to floor), with certain items in duplicate.

  • Frozen meat “From the Farm”. Yikes!
  • Hundreds of rolls of toilet paper.
  • Over 200 pairs of unopened pantyhose, disintegrated with age.
  • 15 Electric chocolate pots.
  • Multiples of every personal care item you could possibly need.

Grandma had lived through The Great Depression and had always been thrifty, but the entire family was astonished to discover the extent of her hoarding.

Over the years I have come to live with three other elderly women of the same generation. All were much the same: strong proud and obsessively thrifty. Mrs. Miller had so much expired food in her refrigerator and pantry that it took me a full week to clean it all out. She also shocked me with her insistence upon washing and reusing plastic food storage bags. Now I have excessive guilt each time I throw out plastic of any sort. She and her late husband were avid outdoorspeople and had a nice library of old books. On her shelf I found and read “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” by Eull Gibbons. This book opened my eyes to the natural and abundant pantry hiding in plain sight once you step outside your door.

My stepfather’s mother wasn’t quite so excessive, but she did keep almost every margarine container and coffee can that passed through her door. She also had a basement with shelves full of dubious looking food in jars. Two memorable experiences were the time I spent an hour sorting out her plastic containers and throwing out the individual lids and and bowls that had no match, and the time she taught me how to can plum preserves. This was great because she was a natural food enthusiast and would take us on excursions where we would trespass on someones abandoned homestead and harvest the feral plums from the old orchards. I guess that’s an even more memorable moment.

An elderly woman I stayed with, and cared for, in 2001 was a Depression survivor with some great stories to tell. Mrs. Bowen grew up in Vilano Beach, Florida and her parents owned a huge tract of land, which they sub-divided and sold off. She lived in the original house her family built in 1916. Although she didn’t hoard like my mother’s mom she did have a drawer full of string, wire-ties etc. and a cabinet full of recycled plastic containers. The behavior I found most interesting was how she conserved water as though it would run out at any moment. She insisted that I use two dish tubs, one for washing and one for rinsing. When the washing water got too dirty I was to pour it onto the plants. Then I had to promote the used rinse water to wash water by adding soap. Needless to say, her dishes were never very clean. I took to pretending to use her system while I secretly washed everything for real. I will devote an entire post to this lady and her interesting life once I dredge up her historical pictures that I scanned.

I did live with another elderly woman (my stepmother’s mother) for brief time, so I guess that really makes five. She grew up on a farm in Kentucky, married a Coast Guard Captain and became an successful interior designer. She lived a prosperous and comfortable life until her later years when her drug addicted son and his multiple children destroyed her house and her finances. Now she lingers, bedridden, in a nursing home with only my stepmother, her son’s first wife and me to visit her. Since I live three hour’s drive away I make it to see her rarely. The last time I was there I asked her how she did during The Depression. She said that they did fine because they had a good-sized farm and raised everything they needed. Her mother made all of their clothes and canned food to store in the cellar. Her father butchered the meat and smoked it in their smokehouse. I asked her if they had trouble with transients and thieves. Because of their remote location and the fact that the neighbors were also self-sufficient they had no trouble. Occasionally a transient would come through looking for work or a place to sleep and they would put them up. Since they had extra, her mother would put out food by the road for those in need.

“Turning into my Grandmother” is really a compilation phrase to describe how all of these women have affected my survival philosophy. I am fortunate to have studied so many of these strong, resilient women and to see how easily the threat of scarcity can push one over the edge. As I promote the ideas of conservation instead of conspicuous consumption and as I beg my loved ones to educate themselves about the economic precipice upon which we stand, I realize that I could be perceived as having lost touch with reality. Other than my husband and a couple of friends and neighbors, no one else seems to believe that everything could change drastically in their lifetime. So, for now I will be the kooky “Conspiracy Theorist” and begin planning for my own survival and that of as many people as I can help when the shit hits the fan. I would rather be wrong and the butt of a few jokes than be hungry and lost if the worst happens.

Here is my Pre-Collapse Preparation list:

  • Order heirloom seeds and plant as much as possible.
  • Locate a polyethylene barrel and set up water collection and drip irrigation system.
  • Collect plastic buckets indefinitely. Get lids whenever possible.
  • Get handgun, shotgun and find BB gun. Stockpile ammo.
  • Apply for concealed weapons permits.
  • Help AJ finish wind generator. Still need a mast and blades.
  • Put together a community permaculture program.
  • Download and store survival info from internet.
  • Stockpile useful goods.
  • Stockpile biodiesel for the car we are buying today (Stand by for another post about that).

Later today I hope to have time to make those recordings I mentioned yesterday. I need something to lighten up the dour mood that has permeated my recent life and this blog post.