Abundant Bounty

3 07 2009

Lots of goodies coming from the garden and the Universe over the past couple of weeks.

The tomatoes are still on full bore. I’ve been picking an average of ten to fifteen per day.


Here are a couple of harvests. This is not nearly everything I gathered over the past two weeks, just two of the bigger days. I collected the muskmelons because the vine was mostly dead. They could have ripened a few more days, but they were OK. The middle melon is the one I did not protect with the pantyhose. In retrospect I don’t see the value of doing this. The skin was thin and split on the protected melons, and the netting did not develop normally.



I made salsa for the first time. I didn’t realize how large the green onions were getting until I cut this one! These were store onions that I just stuck in the ground. They grow back each time I cut them. I also picked a puny red pepper and a smallish Poblano. The salsa is still a work in progress.

Onion Peppers

The past week has been very active for the eggplant. It grew…


and grew…


and grew! Since I’m not familiar with what these are supposed to look like, I am not sure when to pick it. I’m thinking I’ll pick it this weekend, since the consequences of waiting too long seem to outweigh the risk of picking too soon.


Here is Super Eggplant’s sidekick. I don’t know why it looks so different, but I think a bug got ahold of it.


The second batch of bananas is looking good. First batch is also coming along nicely, too. They sure are taking a long time, though.


This is the string lily AJ brought back from the river. We keep it in a container under the AC condensation drip. It is going great, and bloomed this week.


The blooms were short-lived, but very delicate and pretty. I can’t say my husband doesn’t bring me flowers! The kind he brings are much more interesting and thoughtful than those bought in a store.


Not only that, but he can smoke a mean pork tenderloin! Yum!


Yesterday was a special treat. We stopped in at John Roger’s to pick up some bamboo. John is a local horticultural guru and, as I’ve said before, one of the most knowledgeable and unassuming guys you could ever hope to meet.


Even though he was on his way to run errands he took the time to give us another tour of his property to show us some of the things he has growing, as well as some nice mounds of mulch and compost. Had you told me, a year ago, that I’d get a thrill from compost I would have looked at you askance!

Nor did I even know of heirloom and heritage varieties, about which I am now quite excited. John Rogers is a true steward of the land and cultivator of native and unique plant varieties.

As we headed to the compost heap we stopped to admire his massive watermelon and squash vines. He promptly plucked this little jewel and bequeathed it upon me. What’s the big deal? This is a renowned, historic gem of the squash persuasion: A Seminole Pumpkin Squash (Cucurbita moschata), to be exact.

At the recent Funky Chicken Farm seed swap, John Rogers encouraged me to get some Seminole Pumpkin Squash seeds. I had never heard of this variety, but have since learned that it is a true heirloom, indeed developed by the Seminole Indians. They planted these hardy, natives at the base of palm trees, and allowed the vines to grow up the trunk and fronds. Considering how robust the plants seem to be, I imagine that this was quite a sight! Wish I had brought my camera to John’s place!


I cooked the squash in the smoker, using my father’s recipe for acorn squash: A chunk of butter, a sprinkling of brown (raw) sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. It looked beautiful, and tasted much like sweet potatoes. AJ, didn’t take to it, since he is not much for sweet food. Strange for the guy who can devour ice cream and candy bars like they are going out of style, and who is currently drinking a Pina Colada! Oh well.

I’ve got some seeds and will be planting Seminole Pumpkin Squash this weekend.

Here they are in the smoker, which was still hot from the pork tenderloin.


The original reason for going to John Roger’s (AKA Bamboo John) was to pick up a cutting of the lovely striped bamboo (Bambusa Vulgaris), which I managed to kill last time. I think we will get it right this go round , and hope to have a stand going soon. Thanks again, John!


So far, a good two weeks. I will try to get the wrap-up posted on Sunday evening.

Have a Happy 4th of July!

Week in Review…Preview

21 06 2009

This is really a bit of catching up for the last two weeks. When I finish this post I am going straight to the garden to do some more stuff. Changes have taken place, and I will share them later.


When we got back from Jacksonville I couldn’t wait to check out the garden. This is an outdated shot, now; but the Poblanos were getting bigger.


We needed a salad so I did a mini-harvest. I selected one of the carrots I had transplanted. It had a nice big top, but when I pulled it up, this creature was revealed. Sorry for the bad focus. Lesson learned? Don’t transplant carrots.


The salad was good with Chives, Cilantro, Cherry Tomatoes, Celery, Carrot and Carrot Creature all freshly picked.


Mr. Fix-It

This is what AJ has looked like for the past two weeks. That is, when he hasn’t been on the phone dealing with insurance companies, parts stores and our financial matters.

Here he is fixing the battery tray on the truck.


Here he is changing the brakes on the Mercedes. He has fixed so many things that we can’t even remember them all. I’m sure he has sweat at least five gallons worth in the hot Florida sun.


Smokey the cat, does not work so hard. He just finds various ways to look silly.

Smokey Hose

Mystery Guests

Remember the little bird poop look-alikes?


They got more interesting…


And much bigger.


This one ate up the whole dill plant it was on. I caught it going for a stroll as I was vacuuming the garden. Lucky thing it was so colorful or I might have accidentally sucked it up.

When they go for a stroll, that means only one thing happens next. I relocated this one to my potted dill plant, where it nibbled a little more and then built a silk hammock. It stayed like this for the entire day.


The next morning I found this lovely green chrysalis. I’ve raised a number of these beauties (sometimes right on my desk), but I’ve yet to capture the moment they transform from caterpillar to chrysalis. Maybe next time… The fun part is what follows. In a week or two the chrysalis will turn transparent. This is the signal to get the camera ready for the emergence. Afterward I’ll post a specific page for this guest and disclose its identity to those who don’t already know.


Here’s another guest I discovered last night. Wish I could give some perspective as to how huge this thing was. I saw it from halfway across the yard. My heart jumped at the thought of being invaded by two inch monster mosquitoes. Perhaps that is an exaggeration, but it was at least 1.5 inches tall.

I got closer and was relieved to see that it was a Robberfly; so named because they often mimic their prey and attack when the victim unwittingly approaches. I had never seen one like this, before.

After moments on the internet I discovered that it is Diogmites sp., or “The Hanging Thief”; known for hanging by its front legs while eating its prey. These crazy looking flies are predatory and eat a number of intimidating insects, including bees, wasps and dragonflies. Here is a site with some great Robberfly shots, including the hanging behavior.

Diogmites (?) Robber Fly

Seed Swap at the Funky Chicken Farm

This past Wednesday I went back to the Funky Chicken Farm for a seed and  plant cutting swap. Suzanne Malone gave a great tutorial on growing and collecting seeds from your garden. I met a lot of great people and saw a couple of whom I had met before, including Carol (who was at the previous meetup) and John Rogers, AKA “Bamboo John”.

I explained to John that I had killed the bamboo cuttings he had given us. He generously offered to let us come get new cuttings. This time I won’t subject them to lime overdose.

I got a lot of seeds and some cuttings, which you will see in my upcoming posts (provided I can keep them alive). I am still working towards a page listing all of my seeds.


Allan Sr. and Barney the poodle came to stay with us last night. They brought steak and booze; so we had a pre-Father’s Day celebration. Good times and good company!

There’s a good chance I will get caught up on my writing goals, as we just lost over half of our income over the past week. Three of our clients canceled our service, due to the financial downturn. It’s depressing, but I do believe in the saying “When one door closes, another one opens.”

AJ has become “The Pina Colada King”, having perfected a Pina Colada recipe that helps dull the pain. It just takes two of these tropical delights to brighten things up for a while.

I’m sure I’ve got a lot more to say, but the garden beckons…the garden and a “Rum Punishment” as AJ has named his new favorite cocktail.

Check back tomorrow for the rest of the Week in Review.

Bamboo John and the Green Children

9 04 2009

A few days ago I mentioned finding a craigslist post for free bamboo.

AJ and I have both grown quite fond of this beautifully robust member of the grass family and have incorporated it into many of our projects. Our first and most dramatic bamboo construction was the fence made of timber bamboo that AJ built between our concrete pad and the parking space. We found local property owners who allowed us to harvest from their huge bamboo patch. We expected that it would bleach out in the sun and probably rot from being placed in the ground; both of which it has done. The old fence has given us a couple of good years, but now it’s time to replace it with a better version. This go round we plan to cure the bamboo and treat with stain and/or sealer. For a period our fence was a rich golden color and we hope to preserve some of this natural beauty this time.

I have used small diameter bamboo to border my raised garden bed, The Oasis. Although I’m not as concerned with its longevity, I would like to keep it looking as good as possible. With Oasis2 in the works I have been in the market for a fresh crop of the small bamboo to match the second bed to the first.

AJ doesn’t treat me like a princess. He doesn’t go out of his way to hold doors open for me, nor does wait on me hand and foot. He isn’t really the type for doting at all. This is fine, because doting makes me uncomfortable if not squeamish. What he does do is go out in his boat, risk life and limb on alligator and mosquito infested islands to cut wild bamboo for my garden. The border for The Oasis took him three grueling trips, after which he cleaned up and cut the pieces into perfectly sized lengths for my project. Now, if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is!

Of course, all of this was before Bamboo John. I called John’s number from his craigslist posting.

“Cut and carry. Several species to choose from. Diameters ranging from 1/2 to 3 inches. Lengths to 50 feet.

This stuff is too good to waste. You can build with it or make crafts.

I have extension cords that reach almost anywhere on these two downtown acres. Reciprocating saws work best, especially if you use a 9 inch pruning blade that will cut in both stroke directions.

Call or email me for the address.”

If all businesses treated their paying customers as well as John Rogers treats those to whom he gives away bamboo there would be no need for customer service call centers. We first visited his property to have a look at what he had and put together a plan to come back with the truck and harvest some bamboo.

John took us on a tour of his huge property pointing out numerous species of bamboo, calling out their scientific names and telling us how each was useful. “This one has nice long nodes…This one is perfect for making flutes…This one is great for making fences, but you have to watch out for the thorns.” I didn’t know bamboo came in a thorny variety. John explained that he once had over 44 species of bamboo. We saw at least 20 on our initial visit.

What I learned immediately is that Bamboo John is as generous and thoughtful as he is enthusiastic about bamboo. He had piles of neatly cut and stacked material on his property set aside for people like us. He mentioned that he didn’t want to set them by the curb because the big claw used by the yard waste pickup crew would destroy them.

We came two days later to harvest our take. Again, John overwhelmed us with his politeness and generosity. He offered up his own tools and gave suggestions as to how to best cut it down. He had a pile of bamboo by the roadside with a “Free” sign next to it. I have seen a lot of bamboo by the road, but never have I seen someone go so far out of their way to gift this wonderful resource to others. Perhaps we were doing him some great favor (although I can’t imagine how we helped him much with the minimal dent we made by trimming back a couple of patches) because he continually shared his extensive horticultural knowledge and insight.

Visiting Bamboo John’s property was like a hands-on educational tour of a botanical garden. Upon overhearing us mention a wicked looking spiky tree, he explained that it was an indigenous species called “Prickly Ash” and that Native Americans used it to treat toothache, thus its nickname “The Toothache Tree”. Next he pointed out two huge leafy trees and invited us to “turn our lips purple” by helping ourselves to the ripening mulberries. As a kid in Colorado, I spent a good deal of my time in mulberry trees enjoying their verdant shade and sweet juicy offerings. The reward of picking a crop of these treats kept me going through the arduous bamboo harvest.

John checked on us periodically, offering tidbits of horticultural wisdom with each visit. He is the type of person I would love to sit with over a bottle of good wine and discuss philosophy and nature. He exudes kindness, politeness and a deep sense of unassuming wisdom. I lost count of how many times he thanked us for harvesting his bamboo. At one point John inquired as to whether or not we had children and we told him we didn’t he said “Well, you can have green children” in reference to our love of gardening. This statement made caused me to think that he was thanking us for rescuing his own “green children” from the landfill and putting their lives to good use with our own projects.

We exchanged email addresses and even before I had completed this post John contacted me with information about the Rare Fruit Council of Brevard, where people of like mind meet to share information and plants. If they are anything like Bamboo John you can guarantee that I’ll become a member!

John Rogers AKA “Bamboo John”. (Notice the bamboo themed shirt)


Getting Started.


A truckload of small and large diameter bamboo.


An interesting variety. Perhaps John will tell us the name of this one.


Ever since AJ and I first saw this lovely golden bamboo with green stripes, we have been longing for a cutting so that we could try to start our own patch. Not only did John offer up a large chunk, he gave great instructions on propagation.


Closeup of the golden bamboo. I hope John will provide proper names for all of these photos.


This is the golden bamboo after I cut up the culms and stuck in the sand as recommended. Now we keep our fingers crossed in hopes that they take root. Once they being to grow we will move them…where? I’m not quite sure.


More starts of the golden bamboo.


The mulberry trees. John mentioned that they can be grown from cuttings and even offered to share some starts once he gets them going.


After the truck was full of bamboo and I had cleaned up our debris I dove into the cool darkness beneath the leafy giants and collected as many mulberries as I could fit into my big coffee mug. I have found a simple and tasty sounding recipe for mulberry cobbler and hope to introduce AJ to a tremendous fruit the likes of which he has never sampled.


All in all, a wonderfully educational and exhausting day. Thanks Bamboo John!

Check out my next post to see the driver I encountered on the way home. The Universe did not deal them such nice cards as we got today.