Thursday, June 28, 2012

Just a Memory

Already Debby seems just like a distant memory, the waters have receded, the story is out of the headlines, and its been all blue skies and hot sun!

My sunflowers all blew over, my cassava split in half, the mulberry was leaning heavily to one side, the kale and collards look battered, and the tarp for the chickens covering blew off.

The bananas in the swales are so wet and happy they shot out all new growth. Speaking of swales let me update you on those!

What used to happen is my road would flood and rush over the sidewalk into my yard filling the dip right smack in the middle, then the water would rush off the roof and add to the growing flood in my yard. At the end of even a normal 2 hour storm my yard would be ankle deep water through the entire middle section.

Now as I have said before I created 2 swales, one along the sidewalk to catch road floods, and one along the house planted with banana plants to catch the roof runoff.

The real test was this tropical storm and let me tell you how impressed I am.

The swales contained all of the flood waters soaking them deep into the ground vs running off the top. There were maybe a couple little puddles around the size of my foot but that was it. What the swales didn't drink up the garden beds did. I am so thrilled with the work they preformed, thank you swales, and thank you permaculture for teaching me about it!!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

It keeps coming

If anyone out there is keeping track we have had around 10-12 inches of rain in the past 48 hours.

Tropical storm Debby has gone towards us vs away from us like they predicted and we are now included in the watch area.

We have been under Tornado watches since early yesterday with multiple tornadoes starting as water spouts and moving on the coasts and some in land towards us here in Tampa and Plant City.

The county has started issuing sandbags due to flooding. Many homes are without power and some building have been crushed in the storms.

The rain and storms are predicted to continue at least through Wednesday.

We are hunkered down here at Sunny Spot Gardens and keeping a watchful eye on the weather!

Pictures taken by local news crews in the past 24 hours round here:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tropical Storm Debby

As I write this I can hear the rain beating my roof in waves with the wind. Out in the gulf to the west of us loams tropical storm Debby and all that she brings.

So far she has brought 48 hours of steady rain, lighter at times but never ceasing. I have built a garden bed in her, fed and cared for the animals in her, weeded in her, but today is different. There is a strong wind blowing through the trees, making them whip back and forth. The leaves shudder underneath the cool rain every time a strong wind comes. Dropping as much as it can to the ground below.

The streets are flooded, and rain barrels filled, I see lights on in peoples houses and faces staring outside at me as I walk outside in my sundress with palms and my face turned up to the sky. Thank you mother earth for this blessing of rain, I know you are fixing the drought that we have had in the only way you know how. Rain.

The rain slowed and a slow gust of wind blew my hair and somehow I felt like I was understood, I turned and went into the backyard to finish my morning duties, I may have been sopping wet but I had a smile upon my face.

Life is good!


Eggs are one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Not in the wow look at that way but in a simple mesmerizing way.

The chicken eats the food, bugs, weeds, and drinks the water. Then in her body this egg is formed, with its hard outer shell and complete inside. She sits down and struggles to lay it in a dedicated nest site. Once finished she gets up and goes about her day, eating, drinking, and pecking around. We collect the egg and store it for use.

Each chicken is different and therefore so is her egg. Tiny our little bantam hen laid the small dark brown egg, Salt n' Pepper laid the large light brown egg, Red laid the light blue egg, and Charlotte laid the almost olive colored egg.

Its amazing to watch to wonderful beauty of the egg making process then seeing the end result still warm from being laid cracked into a cast iron pan for breakfast.

Simply Amazing.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I am still a woman after all.

Most girly stuff doesn't exist 'round my house, I am after all a girl whose favorite nail polish happens to be caked mud, but every once in a while I find myself craving something just a little feminine.

Today my wonderful fiance and I hit up home depot armed with a gift card. We came home with 20 cinder blocks.

I created a new garden in the front yard. A standard rectangle to fit between 3 beds that were already there. I stepped back and looked at my yard, all corners and edges. Nothing about it said a woman runs this yard.

I peeled all the bricks back leaving the open space, and contemplated what I wanted to do with it.

I arranged everything and with my daughters approval I stepped back and looked. Much Better.

This is what my new garden space looked like:

Just go for it!

I keep telling myself just go for it. Why not?

So I am.

I am currently working on a book proposal. Somewhere between and garden how-to and a memoir. About building a urban farm while working a full time job and raising a child.

Wish me luck. :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

New Herb Markers!

Florida Organic Growers Facebook page was offering a May contest to win these amazing handmade herb markers. Hand drawn images put into vintage silver spoons.

I submitted a picture of my sunflower and won.

In the mail a week later came a beautiful package tied with a ribbon bow. I unwrapped it to find my new markers. I LOVE THEM.

The spoons themselves are worth money but the cute handmade drawings make this little treasure complete! If you are interested in getting some yourself you are in luck, she has a etsy!!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


My plants are clearing themselves out....
Planted things to close together?
Nature will fix that!

My food forest was once so dense you could not see a inch of the ground but in came the pests and with them disease! So now some type of grain, beans, roselle, ground cherries, and some other plants are left standing as the monster squash slowly gets killed back and the nitrogen fixers were chopped and dropped. Really mother nature?

Some would claim this a disaster and at first so did I, but its not at all.
In fact this is how nature works.. do you wander into nature and see no bugs?
I dont think so, there are bugs everywhere (the good bad and ugly), diseased plants, fungi, and any number of other "problems" but this is how our mother works, so I dont ask questions (well sometimes i say "really?" see above) and I dont attempt to do it for her, she knows what is best so I leave it at that!

I am all about the minimal work nowadays, I want my garden to work for me not the other way around. So whatever happens, happens!

The roselle seems happy, the beans are happy, that grain plant (i dont know what it is) is over 7 ft tall so i am assuming its happy, the sweet potatoes are happy, sunflowers are happy, all my tropicals are happy, the kale, collards, peppers, and eggplant are still happy, so why stress about anything?
Just plant meaningful!

So here is my thought:

The squash was planted out of traditional season but meant as a experiment, it did not produce but what it did was get huge with large leaves that shaded out the ground from the hot drying summer sun, now that the sweet potatoes are going crazy and taking over as the ground cover mother nature is killing off the squash as it has served it purpose for this season.

Its actually quite beautiful to see how things work together!


I yearn for a farm of my own, a place where I can wake up 5am make a cup of herbal tea and sit on my front porch in a rocking chair watching the sun come up from behind a large hill, or a forest of trees.

I want my work to be tending my flocks, feeding and watering, raising my daughter, cooking, canning, cleaning, harvesting and planting, chopping wood for winter, and all those things that seem so very far away from what most people want nowadays.

So for now I will work this 1/5 acre with all my energy.. crowding as many plants in as I can in, pouring my sweat, drive, and tears into the soil below my feet, I will pay off all my debts and start saving every penny that I can which isn't much but my 5 year goal involves a house and at least 5 acres :)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pictures around Sunny Spot Gardens (6-10-12)

Here I am enjoying my gardens:

Asian Winged Beans growing happily!!!:

Chickens and their new banana tree:

Our ducks:

Baby Grapes:

Tropicals in the new food forest:

Okra in a kiddie pool:

Our papaya plants:

A sweet potato plant (thats all 1 plant):

Violet Jasper tomato volunteer:

Here is our never ending kale (i just keep harvesting and harvesting :)):

Digging Swales

What is a swale?

A swale is a low tract of land, especially one that is moist or marshy. The term refers to a natural landscape feature or a human-created one. Artificial swales are often designed to manage water runoff, filter pollutants, and increase rainwater infiltration.
It has been popularized as a rainwater harvesting and soil conservation strategy by Bill Mollison, Geoff Lawton and other advocates of permaculture.

My house doesnt really empty, there is a slight natural swale in the middle of my yard so the street floods into my yard, and the rain rushing from my roof flows down the other side meeting the streets water in the middle, this means ANYTIME we get a hard rain my yard floods out, I dislike this so I set out to dig 2 swales, one along the sidewalk to catch the streets flood waters, and the other along the house to catch the roof run off.

First came the sidewalk swale, dug right along the sidewalk with a raised garden on the otherside, we have had 3 days of rains and NO floods, the water rushes off the street into the swale which soaks it into the soil and leaves, any extra goes into the garden on the downhill side.

Today I decided to dig the swale along the house, with a lot of sweat and dirty hands I dug, and dug, and dug... I created a swale right along the house (with a board to keep the water from rushing against the house) and this time I dug a banana pit along it...

The swale goes along the house to catch the runoff then right in the middle I raised the soil a little so it was about 3-4 inches up and dug a level circle terrace, here I planted 7 banana plants to use that water (the spot they were in was to dry for them not allowing them to grow well), I filled the swale and banana pit with leaves we had collected from the roadsides, along the pit and rest of the swale we kept it at ground level (maybe even a little raised) and here we will create a standard garden with flowers and other edibles so when the water from the swale and pit soaks into the ground it will keep the standard garden well watered as well, seem like a win-win!!! :)

Basic Idea:

Water fills the swale, which then spills into banana pit, which then soaks into soil watering outer garden and bananas
Also allowing my yard to not flood out! :)

Here is the process of the front sidewalk swale being dug out and finished before filling with leaves (so no one kills themselves by tripping):

Here is the finished house swale, with banana pit and filled with leaves:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A project

I started a project who knows if anything will come of it but I HAD to try!!!

Here is the blog for the project (CLICK ME!!!)

Click Here
for the facebook page!!

Its called Re-Greening America! The goal is to plant self sustaining fruit trees all over America (in all 50 states). After the initial period to see if people are interested in it we are looking to raise $80,000 but with over 311,591,917 people in the United States that should be easy right?... I doubt it LOL

Back to Eden Movie

This movie is wonderful and makes me want a huge amount of wood chips :)

Link to watch the movie free!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A simple summer garden in the south

I always see people ready to give up veggie gardening during the summer here and I cant blame them seeing as how your big box stores are still selling lettuce, kale, cabbage, and other things that there is NO WAY we could grow during the summer, anytime I see that I give up post I try to step in and help out.

The advice I give is to create a simple garden using easy to learn techniques. Ill lay out my simple to follow garden plan..

~ Create or clear out a 4x8 garden bed in morning sun and if possible afternoon shade if not never fear

~ Plant a papaya or moringa in the middle of the bed

~ Plant 1 sweet potato slip in each of the 4 corners (this keeps the roots far enough away from the papaya/moringa roots you can harvest without harming the tree)

~ Plant a mix of starts: cherry tomatoes, cowpeas, bush beans, Japanese eggplant, sweet peppers, and/or hot peppers.
(try to not plant any of the same plant next to one another)

~Mulch with straw at least 3 inches and more like 5

~ Soak the new garden bed for at least 10 minutes

~ Set up some kinda shade cloth on your west facing side for the first couple weeks until your new garden is adjusted

Why do you do this?

The tree (papaya or moringa) provides dappled shade and food
The peas and beans add nitrogen to the soil
The sweet potatoes will give you sweet potatoes but also act as a ground cover (the leaves are great in summer salads as well)
Cherry tomatoes are the best tomato to grow during the summers
Jap. Eggplant are small and skinny and produce in abundance and quicker then a large eggplant
Sweet and Hot peppers dont really mind the heat as long as the stay moist and have cool soil (the mulch)
The bush beans are the only bean I have found that may tolerate the summer so plant a bunch (they can be planted as close as 2 inches from each other) and dont be heartbroken if these dont adjust

Everything works together to compete with the summer sun and heat!!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Girl with a Dream

Dreams, the minds way of sorting out information. Mine started with a blank backyard, no grass just dirt, first trees went in...
many fruit trees all along the back fence and sides, smaller trees scattered in the middle, then fruit bushes were added raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, then areas were filled with tropical plants like cassava, moringa, pineapple, followed by strawberries all over the place as a ground cover, there were straw bales growing tomatoes, herb spirals, large ponds with happy fish and plants that my dream self couldn't identify, a large outdoor classroom, a bee hive, chickens ranging around pecking happily finding bugs...

I woke up.

I feel inspired my dream self want to focus on the garden, maybe it has to do with my new outlook on the future, after all the garden is the base of saving money, imagine raising your own meat outback, your own eggs, all the veggies and fruits you need, herbs for your spice cabinet, and if you have room and the time you could even grow your own grains. You wouldn't need to make runs to the grocery store very often, you could freeze and can excess for eating out of season. You would save both time, energy, gas, and money this way.

Granted I cannot raise bees here in the middle of the city(with a hubby who is allergic), I have little room for a outdoor classroom (though maybe I can dress up the porch to serve the purpose), When the chicken range all over the place they destroy my veggies and fruits so they will say in their roaming area, I do not have room for a large pond but maybe a small version, there are base items that cannot be moved now but all along the back fence is empty so I think it would be perfect for 3 fruit trees to be added, I always want more fruit bushes and need to find them on sale because they are pricey :) My dream self has unlimited money but my true self is limited.

So the first things I will be working on is:
~ Paying off my current debt so I can start saving for property (I owe less then $5,000) within the next 2 years
~ Planting new fruit trees and fruit bushes, permanent features like this give much return for your spent energy level.
~ Harvesting more rain water to cut back on the water bill (new water barrels, swales, etc)
~ Putting in a small pond where I can grow edible pond plants

Having a set direction should help me control my need to buy useless things or spend my energy on pointless things, of course ill wander because thats what I do, and ill start other projects in the gardens because thats what I love but ill always have a set direction and only act of things that will help me get to this direction.

My final goal is: To lead a life where our own land will support our family, to not have debt that I have to work my whole life to pay off, to live simply but happily, and to own my own piece of land with a small simple yet lovely charming house ( 2 acres or more somewhere with good soil, low property tax, and good schools)

Sleepless Nights

Tonight I laid in bed, tossing and turning, my mind pouring over projects that need doing, gardens that need tending, animals that caring, a wedding that needs planning, and so many other things my mind was spinning.
I finally decided I had to lay everything out on something physical that I could see and make sense out of. Here I go:

Why do we go to jobs we dislike? Is it so impossible to find a job for something we do like?
I mean we all have different things we like for example I have seen nursery workers that cant tell you the stem from a leaf on a plant (yes that's a slight exaggeration) and obviously would rather be chatting on the phone or out at a club, those people could become bartenders, I could work with plants, etc...

Instead we all take whatever we can get and thats the way it is no one questions it.. day after day we drag ourselves out of bed in the morning, get dressed, shove some food in our mouths and head to a job we hate, just to come home, shove more food in out mouths and go to sleep then do it all again...

Why should we pay for a building we spend almost zero time in, why should we pay for cable we hardly watch, why should we pay for something nature gives us for free...
none of it makes sense anymore, maybe it lack of sleep, maybe im just so fed up with everything...
it seems we have no control over our lives, since we have been in school we have a timeline of events we must follow, people who tell us what we must do, when we must be somewhere, how we must do something, but what if we broke free?

If instead of that $200,000 house that you spend no time at because you are to busy working your back end off to pay for it you bought a $25,000 house on a acre, what if you could pay that house off in 5 years instead of 30, then cut your work time down to just enough to cover your living expenses (water, gas, car, insurance, etc). What if instead of having to have the latest and greatest car that you pay $250 a month for 7+ years to own you bought a $6,000 sturdy car in cash and had no payments on it. What if instead of having cable with over 3,000 channels for $100 a month (maybe you watch 5 of those channels?) you bought netflix or another streaming service for $10 a month, what if instead of buying your food you grew it on your own land, what if instead of going out to eat you cook a meal with food from your land and sit down with family and friends, what if instead of driving your car 3 blocks to the store and using gas to pick up bread and cheese you rode a bike and burned fat, what if, what if, what if....

Why am i asking all these questions at 2am on a weeknight? Because this is whats spinning in my head, why do i do what i do, I have been told i will have to work till i am 65+ in order to retire and enjoy life but at that point more then half my life is gone, and then you grow to tired, or sick to enjoy it fully, your children are grown and out following their own set of events, but what if I can break free of this chain? What if I can encourage others to also break free, to remove the shackles of the life we are told we want to enjoy the life we do have... What if all that starts with a spinning mind full of ideas and questions this very night, typing this very post...

No I will not quit my job but I will look at things very different now I think and yes it will take adjusting and no it wont happen in 1 day and many im sure will try to stop me, tell me i am crazy, but if I work towards it slowly at least I know im not working towards my endless goal of a 65+ retirement (if i make it that far) but a much closer goal of a content life on a little money, with a happy family, and a little house somewhere on a piece of property I can call my own.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

What to Plant Zone 9: June

Plant seeds of:
Beans: Bush, Pole, Lima
New Zealand Spinach
Malabar Spinach
Yard Long Beans
Cow Peas
Southern Peas
Sweet Potatoes
* Prepare for your garden by incorporating organic matter into the soil. Try planting vegetables in an attractive design which will add interest to your landscape.