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Tangerine time!

The citrus around here is slowly coming into season. Every couple days a tangerine will drop from the tree, nice and ripe. We had one for dessert today, and it was great. Pretty soon we'll have oranges, grapefruit, and lemon as well. I've been looking into canning, and it should be easy (it seems like so many citrus fruits get wasted in Florida--- there's just too much too fast!). I'm also interested in candying some lemon and orange peel, which sounds scrumptious. I wonder if we could boil down some juice and freeze or can that too.

Garden salad

We're starting to eat more and more out of our garden. Yesterday we picked a little cucumber, some salad greens, and tossed together a lovely little salad.

What a cute little cuke!

Topped with some blue cheese dressing, it was delicious. Most people don't care for them, but I love raw collards. They're a tiny bit tougher than lettuce, but I think they add a nice flavor to a salad mix.

Yolk-less egg

Here's something you won't ever find at the grocery store. Taylor and I went into the coop and found a teeny tiny blue egg. We cracked it open, and all there was was albumen (white).

It still tasted delicious. It'd be pretty neat if these happened more often--- they'd be perfect for recipes that only called for whites.

Another dinner outdoors

With so much wonderful cool weather, we've really been taking advantage of eating outside. Last night, Taylor and I fashioned a wonderful little grill made from bamboo and leftover chicken wire.
We grilled up some shishkebobs, loaded with tomatoes, mushrooms, beef, onion, zucchini, and squash. Marinated in a wonderful concoction of all kinds of sauces, it was just delicious.

Farina's new home

A while back we acquired this adorable little angora rabbit. I really wanted an angora so that I could use some of the fur for spinning yarn. She's such a sweetheart, but we really couldn't keep her in such a small cage. Instead, we shaved her (the poor thing was covered in matted fur), and put her in with the other rabbits. The lady we purchased her from had her in about a 1.5 foot by 1 foot wire-floored cage, and her bottom was completely matted and tangled. Now, she has about 75 square feet of space, and plenty of company. At first, she was terrified of her new cage mates (the females were being a little bit territorial), but now she's meshed in just fine. We've seen her snuggling up to Toby, and exploring quite a bit.

Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us!
What are we thankful for?
Two wonderful people who give us the means to have our own little farmette. Our chickens, rabbits, and garden wouldn't be possible without them.
We're thankful for the wonderful weather that's allowing our crops to grow.
We're thankful for our families, of course, and our friends.

Up next? Christmas!

Little Cuke

Look what we found! As we were treating the squash's powdery mildew, we stumbled upon this cute little cucumber hiding underneath some leaves. We'll let it grow a bit longer, and then enjoy it on a salad.

Revenge on the snails!

Mr. Phils, our resident botanist, is tired of the snails wrecking his plants. We're tired of them eating our crops. I did some research, and it turns out, these common garden snails are perfectly edible. Once they've oozed out any toxins from poisonous plants they've eaten, which takes a few days, we can boil and bake them into a delicious dinner.

We've caught 18 of them, which took us about five minutes. We're not sure if we're going to breed them, or just continue collecting them from outside. Either way, it'll be an interesting culinary experiment.


So the snails have pretty much annihilated our two original strawberry plants, but we managed to rescue a few little offshoots. We've transplanted them into pots indoors, where they'll stay until they're big enough to make it outdoors. So far they're doing pretty good, and we check every few days for more rooting shoots to transplant.

Tour of Worden Farms

Yesterday, Taylor and I went with a group of New College students to go visit the only commercial organic farm on the west coast. We drove all the way out to Punta Gorda, where we found the 55 acre family-owned, Certified Organic farm.

After watching a quick film about the farm's history, we loaded up onto a hay-filled wagon and began our tour.

This adorable puppy decided to hitch a ride with us, too.

We got to see quite a few of the eleven fields where they grow a variety of crops. The lettuces looked delicious and we got to taste a few of the tomatoes which tasted just like candy they were so sweet.

They had a pretty big greenhouse filled with plenty of seedling trays waiting to be put into the ground.

All in all, it was a pretty cool place. It's great to see an organic farm so close to home. There were a couple of things that I didn't agree with. They ship in hundreds of tons of processed chicken manure from Perdue chicken farms half-way across the country. They don't use any of their wastes as compost for crops. They also use approved natural pesticides, and I'm really not sure how I feel about that. All in all, it's much better than the conventional agriculture going on here, and it's cool to see it available to the public.

Size comparison

So we think yet another one of our chickens is laying! Most of the eggs we've been getting (the top one) has been about the size of a conventional grocery store egg (the white one). However, yesterday we discovered one that was layed in a different area, that was about half the size of a regular grocery store egg. It's cool to see how our eggs compare. So far, two hens are laying, and the others are just about ready to (most are around 20 weeks old). I can't wait to find some brown eggs.

Taylor's Enthusiasm

I absolutely love when Taylor gets excited about something. Our recent influx of eggs has got him quite stirred up. Beyond checking the coop fifty times a day, he frequently fiddles with his new creation--- an egg-tracking chart.

He's keeping track of the color, number, and size of eggs we get each day, our ROI (Return on Investment), and average egg prices in the local supermarkets. So far we've regained about forty cents. At this rate, we only need 5,000 more eggs before we've paid off the price of the coop, chickens, and feed.


After waiting another day, we got another egg. We decided to cook them up into egg-in-a-holes, which were absolutely divine.

Dinner in the pit

We've been blessed with so many wonderful nights lately. The weather is cool and clear, without being outright chilly. We decided to dinner in the fire by the fire.

On them menu? Tomatoes and bacon with some green beans from our garden, squash and zucchini with onions, and a delicious seafood dish created by Mr. Phils.

We double-wrapped everything in aluminum foil and tossed it in the fire for a while to cook. It was all super delicious.

With the seafood, some of the fish kind of burned on to the bottom and turned into this crispy morsel of deliciousness. We followed everything up with some baked apples and cinnamon.

The fire pit is my favorite addition to the garden.

Taking a day off

It seems like I never really get time to relax. Between classes, working two jobs, and taking care of the garden, life can be a real whirl-wind sometimes. So what do we do when we finally get a chance to wind down?

Today we went to Emerson Point, a lovely little park out on a peninsula near the Manatee River. The park is filled with middens, which are basically giant mounds of trash from the Native Americans that once lived in the area.

Taylor couldn't help but jump in the water for a swim.

The lookout tower was really cool. It wasn't quite as tall as the one at Myakka State Park, but it had a great view in all directions.


We got the first of our chickens in late September, just in time for Seleighna's birthday. We weren't sure of most of their ages, so we didn't know when to expect eggs. This morning, something amazing happened.

It's a lovely blue green, so we know it came out of the Americaunas. Spyker is the smaller of the two, so we're relatively sure Prius was responsible for this. We're hoping the others will start laying soon as well.


As part of our transition to non-heirlooms, we've ripped out a bunch of our sickly squashes, radishes, and other crops. We've now got a bunch of empty spaces for the seedlings we've recently started.
Before we do add the new seedlings, we're going to mix in some ashes, rabbit and chicken manure, and compost. After remulching and mixing in some hay to prevent soil compaction, we'll go ahead and put in our fall plants.


A few months ago we started some flax plants which we've finally picked. I'm planning on turning them into fiber to spin or weave through a process called retting. By soaking them in water, the fibers eventually break down enough to separate them into individual fiber.

I'd like to figure out if there's a way to do this with bamboo, one of my favorite fibers to knit with.

Re-treating powdery mildew

So after the baking soda treatment burned our squashes afflicted with powder mildew, we researched some alternatives. We decided to try a 20% mixture of milk and water.

There wasn't an immediate effect like with the baking soda, but some of the treated plants are looking better. We're going to have to retreat pretty frequently, but so far, it looks good.

Leaping flames

A couple months back, Mr. Dennis provided us with the materials to build a small fire pit. The weather has finally been cool enough to start lighting some fires, which we've really been enjoying. There's all kinds of downed pine and oak around here, and plenty of palmettos to get them started.

Taylor gets such a kick out of playing with fire, and I love just relaxing next to a blazing fire. It's a wonderful way to relax after a long day.

Second Nature: A Gardener's Education

I'll admit it. I am a sucker for Michael Pollan. I started by reading The Botany of Desire, and quickly read through The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food. This past weekend I just finished reading Second Nature: A Gardener's Education.

It was a very entertaining and diverse read, and quite beautifully written. He focused a lot on flowers, which isn't a huge interest of mine, but he did include lots of information that pertained to both. One thing I particularly liked was how broadly he used the word garden. In one chapter, called The Idea of a Garden, he talked about a pine forest near his home that suffered from a devastating tornado. Local citizens wanted to just leave it be, and let it regrow however it happened to. Pollan went and talked to local professors and ecologists about primary succession (the way that ecosystems regrow after a disturbance), and they stated that the forest would most likely be overtaken by invasive species. He left us with this quote, "Often, in this day and age, a landscape that bears no mark of human intervention will require some amount of human intervention."

Leggy Seedlings

Taylor and I just got back from Massachusetts, and forgot to put our seedling trays in a sunny spot before we left. We came back to these very tall, stringy seedlings.

I think we're probably going to scrap these cabbage seedlings, and try again.

Pole beans!

All of our limas, black eye peas, and soy beans have gone down the drain, but our pole beans are still holding out. We're seeing a few mature beans on the vines, and plenty of flowers and baby beans too.

These are a climbing variety, and I think next season we'll try a burgundy bush.

Rotten radishes

Another vegetable that's not doing so well--- first the beans, then the squash, and now the radishes. The tops have been yellowing, so I pulled a few up to see how they were doing. I think they've been in the soil so long they started to rot.

Why'd they fail? I think our soil compacted too much, and it's been way too hot here. We'll pull these ones up and plant a new batch elsewhere.


With so many of our vegetables failing, it's so nice to see our collards doing well.

Collards are one of my favorite foods. Nothing beats a huge pot of collards cooked with bacon.

Chicken feeder

Up until last week, we were wasting quite a bit of chicken feed. We'd put it in a pile in the run, but when it rained, most of the food went to waste. Our local feed store wanted close to 50 dollars for a one-gallon poultry feeder, which wasn't about to happen. We tried an automatic pet-feeder, but the dish was so wide that they'd just jump in and scratch it all out. Then Mr. Dennis had a great idea.

We went to Publix and asked the bakery department for a left-over icing bucket. After drilling some holes and attaching it to a shallow plastic dish (like the kind that goes underneath terracotta pots), we had our nearly-free chicken feeder.

Powdery Mildew

So our squash have been looking sickly for a while, and we've finally narrowed it down to Powdery Mildew. It's a nasty little fungus that grows on the surface of rough leaves as a result of humid conditions and poor air circulation. We looked up some remedies, and decided to try a mixture of baking soda and water (one tablespoon per liter)*.

We sprayed all of the infected leaves and then let them dry in the sun. It seemed to kill the mildew on contact. If this fails us, we've also read about a milk solution that can be applied to the leaves.

*We later learned that this mixture was too strong and burned some of our leaves.


After our beans died as a result of our soapy aphid treatment, we quickly went and picked all of the ripe pods. We only wound up with a small handful of beans in the end, but had the plants not died, we could still have harvested more over time.

When we pulled up the bean plants, we did see plenty of little nodules on the roots, which means that the nitrogen-fixing bacteria were in fact doing their job. Some improved soil and a handful of beans is better than nothing.

Attracting pollinators

We've been noticing a lack of insect life around our garden. To remedy this, Taylor and I have been working on adding some more flowers which will hopefully attract more bees, and other buzzing creatures.

We're also trying to make sure we add some useful flowers as well. So far we've started some echinacea and lavender seedlings, and will hopefully add more later on.

Priming the chicken coop

While Taylor and I were out one evening, Mr. Dennis surprised us by painting the chicken coop with primer. Hopefully we'll paint it pretty soon, and have a barn-red chicken coop with a white picket fence. I just love this coop's charm.

Rethinking things

We haven't been having much luck here in our gardens. Many of our plants are succumbing to fungus, our soil is compacting more than we'd like, and things just aren't going as well as we'd like. Rather than get discouraged, we're kind of rethinking our strategy. Before we started on our garden, we came up with a list of goals and things that are important to us:

Grow things organically
Working on growing soil, rather than growing crops
Growing heirloom vegetables
Keeping as closed a system as possible
Figure out what crops to grow when in our unique climate

With the way things are going, we've decided to make some minor tweaks to this original plan. Everything is still going to be organic, without a doubt. There's no way that we're going to introduce pesticides or fertilizers into our garden. Improving soil quality is still our number one priority, and we're going to retest our soil to see if anything has changed from when we started three months ago.

Probably one of the largest changes we're going to make is the kind of vegetables we grow. Most of our afflicted crops are the heirloom varieties. Compared to the commercial seeds we've been growing, they're just not doing quite as well. For example, our squash.

The commercial variety, which is doing well besides a couple of spots of fungus.

Our heirloom Waltham Butternut, which has completely succumbed to fungus and disease. It was planted about a month before the commercial stuff.

We've gotten pretty discouraged with the way the heirlooms have turned out, and we've decided that now is not the time. If we keep having our crops fail, we're going to lose our motivation and excitement about gardening. After we've improved our soil and have learned more about the planting seasons, we'll try again, but for now, we're going to stick with commercial seeds.

We've also decided to experiment less with planting seasons. We've kind of been veering off from the recommended planting times on the seed packets because of how different our Sarasota weather is from the rest of our zone. Since that hasn't worked out, we're now going to follow the recommendations exactly. Later on, when we see how things have worked out, we can play around with planting times.

Our original goals haven't changed much. We eventually do want to plant plenty of heirloom varieties, and we're still huge advocates of organic gardening. Without making these changes though, it could be a long time until we really see any return on our garden, and to keep ourselves from resenting a failing garden, we need to make a few temporary changes.