Babies

31 05 2009

OK, maybe he’s really more of a teenager. But isn’t he adorable?!

This afternoon AJ came running in to tell me that he had cornered a baby opossum. I grabbed the camera, raced over to the cottage and saw this little guy. We started to rescue him but decided to let him go. After checking the internet I found out that opossums this size are just fine on their own. We brought him over to our place and let him go, so now we will have one more midnight visitor to the cat food dish.

Opossum-Jr.

Found this baby muskmelon hiding under the vines today. More like another teenager, really. I’m guessing 30 days ’til melon time.

Muskmelon

Here are the new guests to the garden. Anybody want to make a stab at an ID? Here’s a hint…that’s the mammoth dill. These little critters are one of my favorite photographic models, so you will get to watch them grow up; provided the invasive lizards don’t eat them up.

Eggs

Baby collard didn’t take well to the transplant. It was so happy in the nice Miracle Grow soil of the nursery; but I decided it was time to graduate to the garden. I think it will be fine and soon on its way to becoming a Collard Tree.

Baby-Collard

Perhaps I’m overdoing it on the bananas, but isn’t this thing gorgeous? I have been standing underneath it, mentally willing the bananas to ripen. AJ tells me that he expects it to be even bigger than previously stated. If it is one of his grandma’s trees then the clump of fruit could end up weighing 150+ pounds. We’ll see, soon enough, if that is an exaggeration.

Banana

I harvested a couple pounds of tomatoes this afternoon. Sorry, the photos were too blurry to post. Next, I sprayed everything with Atomic Grow™.

I was working towards rolling out some news about Atomic Grow™, and my part in the company; but I haven’t gotten my ducks in a row just yet. I’m sure that you can tell that I’m very thrilled with this product and am anxious to be a part of its ascent in the world of gardening!

And finally…If AJ would make himself a blog these things would get better coverage. Of course he went about fixing things again today. This project started out as a simple truck wash. His eagle eye caught the clouded headlights, so he dropped what he was doing and sanded and buffed the headlights and tail lights. They look great, don’t they? If you want to see more of this stuff leave a comment and tell him to get on that blog!

Headlight





Week in review – A reprieve from the rain

31 05 2009

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Everything is green. The yard is packed with baby grass, and the garden is growing fast.

If you read Things are a bit Spotty, you may recall that I was having a fungal issue with the tomatoes. I’m calling it Grey Leaf Spot until someone tells me otherwise. Last year this stuff completely ravaged my tomato plant to the point that I had very little yield.

Last week I treated the plant with Atomic Grow™ and trimmed off the terminal branches. I left a few of the branches with the initial stages of yellowing to see what would happen. One week later, the leaves are virtually unchanged and it appears that the fungal invasion has been stopped in its tracks. The new growth is green and healthy. I’m not going to go overboard with excitement, but things look promising!

Leaf-Spot-Halted

I know I said I would make my next Atomic Grow™ application yesterday. I reserve the right to change my mind, and so I have declared Sundays to be “Atomic Sunday”. I will make the application this afternoon and post some quick photos. There are some new guests in the garden (one for which I have planted a specific herb), and I will not be spraying that plant because I want to encourage the guests. Sorry for the vagueness, but I think I’ll let you watch them progress and see who can guess what they are. Their momma dropped them off on Friday, so stay tuned for some baby pictures this afternoon.

Here is the Oasis this weekend. Doesn’t everything look happy?

Oasis

A closer shot of some of the herbs. This is my first year with celery. I’m learning about self-blanching and how celery needs to be grouped together. I had thinned out the clump and moved some plants to outside areas. They are easily identified because they turned pale yellow. The central clump is still green. I guess we will wait and watch to see how they turn out.

Herbs

The cherry tomato plant has officially reached tree status in my book. It is upwards of 5′ tall and growing by leaps and bounds. If it didn’t make those yummy tomatoes I’d think it were a weed.

Cherry-Tomato-Tree

Time for a salad.

Cherry-Tomatoes

The succulent garden is doing great. Notice that green grass in front?

Succulents

Over the course of the week our banana flower has opened up and exposed the first hand of six bananas.

AJ explained to me that this is only the beginning. Each layer of the pod will open up in succession and reveal another hand. He estimates five or six more to come. This has been the highlight of my week.

Banana-Flower-Preopen

Banana-Flower-Opening

Banana-Flower-Opening-more

The poblano peppers got off to a rocky start, but now they are loaded with babies.

Baby-Poblano

Can I have more than one highlight? The Marketmore 76 cucumber has exploded in size.

Marketmore 76 Cucumber

And I found three new babies on a single branch. I’ve got to keep my eye out for those pickleworms. They are not allowed to eat our cucumbers.

Baby-Cucumbers

The muskmelon took a beating from the winds this week. The older leaves are fairly shredded, but there is so much new growth that it hardly matters. This plant is loaded with babies.

Muskmelon Vine

Dead frog walking. Yes, here is another Cuban Tree Frog. This one has set up housekeeping inside one of the bamboo stakes. The stake has filled with water, thus forcing froggie to poke out of the top in the daylight. These are nocturnal frogs, so you can see its determination to stay home. I was able to get extremely close and the frog didn’t budge. I’m still building the fortitude to round up and kill these invasives. I even bought some Benzocaine to put them gently to sleep before popping them into the freezer. AJ is promoting the idea of just stomping on them. Is he mean or what? Actually, it would probably be the most humane way. I just don’t think I could do it.

For now I am building a collection of photographs for their memorial. Eat up little froggie; your days are numbered!

Cuban Tree Frog in Bamboo

Mr. Fix It is still at it. This week the rains exposed another problem with the car: leaking tail lights, which allowed water to get into the trunk. AJ took them apart and found that they were both crazed and that one was cracked in various places. Here he is trying to salvage the blasted thing until we can afford a replacement part. Anybody want to buy a 1985 Mercedes 300D? 😉

Tail-light-repair

I’ll leave you with “Gravel Cat”, Jorgi.

Gravel-Cat

Check back later for a harvest update and some shots of the baby guests.





Everything is Perfect in the Universe…

21 04 2009

We left for work this morning with Chinese takeout leftovers in the refrigerator and an unopened fortune cookie on the counter top.

When we aren’t thinking about work we are usually working to improve our simple lot (in the trailer park and in life as a whole).  A while back I mentioned that we were putting it out to the Universe for free tile. Mismatched, broken, scraps of any kind, we want it.  Since it looks like we are here for a while, we have been chipping away at all of the improvements that will make our stay more pleasant. That’s mostly what this whole blog is about.

We want the tile because our concrete pad is gouged and cracked. The more we fix up everything else the more this ugly thing sticks out like a sore thumb. We have decided to cover it in a tile mosaic. AJ replied to a recent post for free tile on craigslist.org, but never got an answer. Next, he ran the route of all the local flooring stores asking them to call if they ever had scrap or leftovers. The prospects didn’t look promising, as they all told him they rarely get anything like that.

Yet today was destined to be one of those special days, brimming with abundance and generosity. AJ’s phone rang while we were working. It was one of the flooring stores calling to tell him that there was some tile beside the building for us to have. We finished our work in excitement and anticipation for the gift we were about to pick up.

Funny thing, we didn’t even have to wait that long for the goodness to begin. We provide profit enhancement services for bars and restaurants. Since we are in the business of helping the owners curb their losses, we only occasionally find ourselves on the receiving end of free booze. However, today was one of those rare days, too. Our client had gotten three free bottles of sparkling wine from his purveyor. Claiming to have no use for them (although he could have easily used them for a promotion), he gifted them to us. I told him we would celebrate thrice. One bottle for our anniversary, one bottle for AJ’s birthday and one bottle to celebrate free champagne!

$48.00 worth of Codorníu Pinot Noir Sparkling Wine. Free to us.

Free-Sparkling-Wine

We finished up our work and headed towards home. The flooring store was on the way, so we stopped in to have a look at the free tile.

There it is: JST Flooring in Sebastian, Florida.

JST-Store

The tile was stacked by the door, just as Mickie had promised.

Free-Tile

Mickie (they guy who called us) wasn’t there, but Kathy Kragh (the president) showered us with the kind of treatment one would expect when purchasing marble floors for a mansion. I was reminded of a quote by Malcom Forbes:

“You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them”

Kathy explained that they had gotten new samples for the show room and that the old ones had been destined for the dumpster. Fortunately for us (not for them), the dumpster people had not brought a new one; therefore, the tile had been stacked there the entire weekend. Upon seeing our jubilation at receiving this great gift Kathy mentioned that she had something else for us in the back, too. We followed her to the warehouse where she presented the most beautiful aqua blue and turquoise glass tiles. She explained that she shares these with school children who do mosaic projects. I felt like a kid on Christmas because we have been planning to resurface our counter top and tile the back splash with  glass tile. This was quite a bonus!

But it didn’t end there. On the way to the warehouse we stopped to look at a pile of discarded carpet pad, to temporarily replace some missing floor insulation in the Mercedes. This weekend AJ went shopping for something to serve the purpose until he can find an official replacement piece. Home Depot only sold it in large quantities, and we needed but a small piece. No sooner did we express interest in the carpet pad than Kathy insisted upon giving us a fresh piece instead of the discards; pointing out that there were potentially unlimited varieties of contamination in used carpet pad.

Thrilled with our good fortune, we headed home to get the truck and a few pounds of shrimp to show our appreciation for their generosity. Today we are three steps closer to having a more beautiful existence.

Once we returned home with our bounty, we sorted the free tile and found some nice pieces of Travertine marble mixed in with the other tile samples. I felt as though they belonged inside, although I wasn’t sure where. I brought them in and looked around. We have a tiny metal and glass end table which I have always hated because it has such a small surface. I placed a piece of large marble tile on top of the table and another, smaller piece on the lower section. The unfortunate little table has been instantly transformed into a much more beautiful and functional piece of furniture. This was an unexpected surprise, and a solution I hadn’t even considered until I was standing there with Travertine in hand. The third piece went under my potted orchid to solve a problem with water staining the carpet. Trifecta!

Travertine and glass tile.

travertine-and-glass

AJ cuts and installs the carpet pad.

AJcutpad

Prepad

Carpet-Pad

Carpet-in

Thanks Kathy and Mickie!

If you are in the market for any type of flooring, I suggest you drive right past the big box stores and head to a local gem where great service and quality still prevail.

JST Flooring is located at 915 US Highway 1 in Sebastian, FL

Phone: (772) 589-6818

Tell them that the Trailer Park Queen sent you!

Disclaimer: The freebies that we got were really a bit of a fluke, as they were switching out floor room samples and we happened to be in the right place at the right time. Do go with intention to buy and to be glad you did. Although they wouldn’t remember us, we did use them a few years back for a construction job and got wonderful service!

Although this seemed like more than enough abundance for one day, there was still more to come.

Our friend and neighbor, Ron, called to tell us that he had a fish for us. Ron and his wonderful wife Vicki live across the road from us on the lagoon. Once a commercial fisherman, Ron hasn’t lost his knack for catching pompano and other tasty fish. AJ went to visit and returned with a beautiful pompano that looked as though it had just been pulled from the water.

Pompano

AJ filleted the fish, seasoned it with olive oil, fresh garden dill and a dash of MSG-free seasoning salt. He wrapped it in a new banana leaf and splashed it with some wine given to us by our neighbor Carrie.

Pompano-Raw

Carrie won’t let us do anything for us without paying or giving wine. We refuse the money, so we are always in the wine. AJ mowed her grass this weekend, and this is what she gave him. It tastes wonderful and was perfect on the fish.

Rex-Goliath

Next, the fish went into the smoker, cooked with charcoal for approximately 40 minutes.

Fish-in-Smoker

Wow! The pompano was scrumptious! So fresh, moist and tender. Hands down, the best pompano I have ever eaten.

Thanks Ron!

Pompano Done

Oh, and that fortune cookie…I finally got around to opening it.

Fortune-Cookie





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!

Eggs

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?

Strawberry

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

Green-Onion-Bloom

Chive bloom

Chive-Bloom

Cardinal Air Plant ready to bloom

Tillandsia-Fasciculata-Flow

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…

Open-Passion-Fruit

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.

Passion-Flower-Seeds

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

Passion-Flower

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.

Suzanne's-heirloom-tomatos

I forget what this one is.

Suzanne's-Garden

The Growboxes.

Grow-Boxes

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

More-Grow-Boxes

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

Suzanne's-Celery

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!

Layers

Awww…what a cute little duckling.

Duckling

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