Sunday, August 19, 2012

Florida Permaculture Spicy Globe & Goat Cheese Pesto

Simple yet delicious permaculture pesto recipe perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner or anytime in between!

Spicy Globe Basil & Goat Cheese Permaculture Pesto
Our patio container Spicy Globe Basil did so much better than our garden sweet basil this year.   I suspect because Spicy Globe Basil's leaves are smaller and grouped tighter than sweet basil, the Spicy Globe is more resilient to water loss through photosynthesis processes and wind desiccation.

Florida Permaculture Garden's Container Grown Spicy Globe Basil & Peppers ready for Pesto!
And our Florida Permaculture Garden's this morning's Spicy Globe Basil was bright green and ready for pesto.

One of my favorite pesto blends is Spicy Globe Basil and Goat Cheese with Jalapeños.

Florida Permaculture Garden's Jalapeños and Habanero Peppers, deseeded
To make, harvest two large handfulls of basil, a green and a red jalapeño (I added a habanero chili also this morning).

Wash the basil, deseed the peppers, place basil and peppers in the food processor.

Add one half cup goat cheese and shredded parmesan,  and a half handfull of almonds.  Sprinkle in ten golden raisins.  Add one half cup extra virgin olive oil.

Spicy Globe Basil & Goat Cheese Permaculture Pesto
Blend well and serve with our favorite crackers!

Spicy Globe Basil pesto is healthy, full of phytovitamins and a great way to start your permaculture day!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Florida Permaculture Garden's Hot & Spicy Basil Habanero & Banana Pepper Jelly

Florida Permaculture Garden is full of ripe habanero peppers.
Florida Permaculture Garden's habanero, chili, jalapeño & banana pepper's & spicy globe basil

Wondering what to do with the hot, hot, hot produce we took Rob Overly's Facebook suggestion and made hot and banana pepper jelly with the bountiful harvest.

Spicy globe basil leaves were added for a touch of summer taste.

The jelly batch turned out to be one of the tastiest, most delicious permaculture garden foods we've yet ended up with.

The hot and spicy globe basil - banana pepper jelly will go well with fish, turkey and any meat dish, be tasty on a bagel or with whole wheat crackers and cream cheese and as a salad accompaniment. 
Spicy globe basil adds summer taste to permaculture jelly!
And I thought the way too hot peppers would make the jelly inedible.  Instead, the spice level was just right, even for Judy who is ultra sensitive to hot foods.

Last night's first batch of the summer will definitely not be the last.

Here is the permaculture hot banana pepper & habanero jelly recipe:

Pick a colander full of bot hot and banana peppers - be sure to use gloves as these may be HOT!
Florida Permaculture Jelly:  Step One: Slice Open Hot Peppers


Florida Permaculture Jelly:  Step Two: Deseed hot peppers
Rinse three times in colander.

Florida Permaculture Jelly:  Step Three: Rinse hot peppers
Chop in food processor into small chunks.  Do not over process.  The pepper chunks should be about the size of a large grain of rice.
Florida Permaculture Jelly:  Step Four: Boil vinegar, peppers and sugar
Rinse chopped peppers again.

Place chopped peppers into a large sauce pan.  Add 1 cup of apple cider vinegar for every 3 half pint jars of the jelly you wish to make.

Bring slowly to a boil.

Just before the pepper and vinegar mixture reach boil, add 3 cups sugar for each 3 half pint jars of the jelly you wish to make.

Gently boil for three minutes, stirring constantly.

Turn heat off and immediately add one pouch pectin or Sure-Jell for each 3 half pint jars of the jelly you are making.

Stir until the pectin is dissolved.

Add several small basil leaves to each half pint jelly jar.

Spoon several large spoonfuls of the chopped peppers into each half pint jelly jar.
Florida Permaculture Jelly:  Step Five: Pour into Jelly Jars
Ladle the hot jelly liquid into cleaned and warm jelly jars.  Cap and let cool and seal.

Enjoy some of the best hot pepper and basil jelly you've ever put into your mouth!

Florida Permaculture Jelly:  Step Five: Pour into Jelly Jars

Note:  The combination of cider vinegar and hot peppers may cause a burning sensation in your eyes!  be sure to open your windows, provide adequate ventilation or wear a dust mask while cooking!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Best Pickled Okra Recipe - Florida Permaculture Garden

Some food traditions are hard to beat.  One of those here in the South is pickled okra.
Grandma's Pickled Okra Recipe

I love pickled okra.  My wife, Judy loves pickled okra.  My teens, Jincy and Ruairi especially love pickled okra.

Something about the texture and taste that turns a full jar into an empty jar within a matter of seconds.

Buying pickled okra here is expensive.  Most supermarkets carry the treat but charge three, four or five dollars per jar.

Fortunately however, okra is easy to grow and just as easy to pickle!

Okra originated in Africa, probably somewhere near present day Nigeria. Referred to as Abelmoschus esculentus by botanists, okra came to the new world on Middle Passage voyage ships.  Known by other names, such as gumbo and quimbombo, okra is found today growing across the world.

Burgundy Okra, Florida Permaculture Garden

In fact, we have more okra growing in the Florida permaculture garden than any other food plant and the plants produce significant quantities of pods.

So when the other day Mom sent me my Grandma's Miami, Florida pickled okra recipe I just had to make a batch.  Picking a bowl of okra and banana peppers out of the garden, I peeled a couple cloves of garlic, added dill seed and salt and heated white vinegar.  Soon we were feasting on the most delicious pickled okra I've ever eaten.

It was great to see my Grandma's handwriting once again too!

Grandma Belle's Pickled Okra Recipe 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Florida Permaculture Garden and Drought

Florida is thought of as a wet, tropical rainforest by many.  But lately, just the opposite is true.  Over the past twenty years our lakes, streams, rivers, springs and groundwater have been disappearing, due to the ongoing drought we've experienced.

Harsh drought impacts Florida Permaculture Garden
Yes, I know the precipitation charts say we receive at least 50 inches (130 centimeters) rain per year.

However that quantity is highly misleading.
Even the Zinnias Suffer in the Heat and Dryness
Most of the year we receive little of no rain.  Only during the tropical storms or cyclones do those precipitation numbers add up, and then most of the water runs off the baked dry, hard ground into ditches, never bothering to soak in.

Even with layers and layers of organic material our Florida permaculture garden lately has suffered.
Florida Permaculture Garden's Cow peas Are Crying For Rain!
The normally resilient zinnias, beans and other drought tolerant plants are wilty.

The sight of a once beautiful, vibrant garden suddenly brown and crisp can be disheartening.

And though tempted to turn on the sprinklers, we do not want to waste precious water.

But underneath the sad looking leaves are still plenty of veggies!
Florida Permaculture Garden Burgundy Okra
Yesterday I picked a wonderful basket of okra (quimbombo), eggplant and banana peppers for dinner, and made delicious iced lemongrass/cranberry hibiscus tea to refresh all.

Turns out that all that mulch we've added to our sandy soil has kept the veggies producing, even though they look terrible!

So despite the drought we are still eating healthy fresh food.  In fact our veggies look better than those at the corner market.

Our feast included; stuffed peppers, tomatoes parmesan, okra and eggplant stir fry with peppers, Basmati rice and a wonderful chocolate cake made from chick peas (why are you laughing?).
Permaculture Lemongrass, Roselle and Cranberry Hibiscus - A Refreshing Tea!
Large, ripened banana peppers were deseeded and filled with shredded Mexican type soft cheeses and placed in a glass casserole dish alongside tomatoes cut in half and covered in parmesan, heated in the oven at 350 F (175C) for twenty minutes.
Florida Permaculture Garden Stuffed Peppers
Okra and eggplant were sautéed in sesame oil and flavored with Spicy Globe Basil.
Florida Permaculture Garden Okra, Eggplant and Peppers Sauteed
The chocolate cake (gluten free mind you) was made from a large can of garbanzo beans, well drained, four eggs, two cups of melted semi-sweet chocolate chips, one half cup rough cane sugar, a teaspoon of baking powder, two teaspoons  vanilla extract and shredded coconut.
Florida Permaculture Garden's Garbanzo Bean Chocolate Cake
To make the cake, blend the beans and eggs in your food processor, melt chocolate chips and add, along with other ingredients to bean/egg mixture.

Bake at 350F/175C for fifty minutes.  Cool on wire rack and invert.  Top with shredded coconut.

High in protein, low in cards, this is one healthy desert.  No one will ever know this cake is made without flour.

We feasted last night.

Even with the harsh drought the permaculture garden still provides a bountiful harvest.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Permaculture Raised Beds and Some Of Our Favorite Veggies

Summer is half over and that means we are thinking about raised bed fall and winter plantings.  Ordering seeds for the next season's crop is so much fun!  We love going through the catalogues, admiring the photos, thinking about the upcoming seed starting and transplanting efforts.

Here are some of our tried and true, favorite cooler weather plants we like to have started by mid September.  The links will take you to either a description or catalogue page. 

Don't forget to download our Urban Farming book from Amazon with all the secrets about gardening, coop building, hens and more by clicking here!

Florida Permaculture Raised Bed Chives & Lettuces
Also known as rocket, arugula with her bitter, earthy flavors is one of my favorite winter plants.  Excellent on sandwiches, in salads or by herself, arugula is easy to grow, hardy and a must for every Urban Farm garden.
Florida Permaculture Raised Bed Arugula
Famous heirloom varieties, both Mary and Martha Washington varieties were developed around at the beginning of the twentieth century for greater disease resistance. The 1930 Ferry catalog states that Mary Washington asparagus is  "A vigorous growing and productive asparagus bred to resist the disease known as asparagus rust". Mary is a Martha cultivar with oval tipped stalks and comes highly recommended by most asparagus growers.
Another well-known heirloom variety, use dating to just after the Civil War in the Americas but earlier in Europe, Calabrese broccoli is a dark green plant, twenty to thirty inches in height, producing fist-sized central heads, and many side shoots until frost. Noted for her texture and flavor.
Use a variety of Broccolis, cultivars including Belstar, Premium Crop, Packman, Gypsy, Major, Nutribud and Waltham all produce large amounts of food.
An 1820’s heirloom variety, the three inch, round, golden beet bulbs are known for their desirable sweetness. Golden beet’s unusual color adds to her versatility.  Very sweet beet.
The early 1900’s heirloom Early Wonder Beet produces well before the other full-sized beets, has medium to tall size tops that can be harvested and served as delicious greens. Early Wonder possesses a deep red color and rich, hearty flavor.
Deep crimson, dark red, vigorous growing beet producing ample greens. Red cloud beet is know for her resistance to bolting.  She can be harvested throughout most of the growing season.
St. Valery Carrot is an 1885 heirloom carrot and, according to James Vicks’ 1924 catalog, is the "best and most handsome main crop carrot. Enormously productive, very desirable for private gardens as well as for markets." St. Valery has ten inch roots and a strong sugar content (sweet).
The New Kuroda carrot is a strong preforming hybrid, exhibiting a deep reddish orange color. Kuroda may be used as the main carrot crop as it produces well on most small homesteads and growing operations.
Adelaide is a Dutch hybrid know by its more popular common name, Baby Carrot.  Easy to grow and a solid producer, Adelaide keeps its texture and fresh, sweet flavor longer than most carrots.  Very sweet carrot and great for salads.
Long Island Brussel Sprouts is an 1890 heirloom dwarf brussel sprout variety growing on average to approximately two to three feet depending upon climate. The Long Island Brussel variety can set up to one hundred sprouts per plant and was considered the primary commercial variety for years.
Early Jersey Wakefield has been considered one of the best varieties of early producing cabbages for several hundred years of homestead agriculture.  Early Jersey is a 1840 heirloom variety growing to approximately three pound.  She exhibits a pale green leaf color and can be planted close together. According to DM Ferry in 1930, "this most excellent variety is the earliest and surest heading" and one that resists yellowing.
Another cabbage variety highly resilient to yellowing and splitting, Quick Start hybrid is a strong grower, one that can be planted close together in raised beds and relied upon for steady production of three pound cabbage heads.
Danish Ballhead is an 1887 heirloom late fall, blue-green producer. Danish Ballhead was originally introduced by Burpee Seed and has been a popular variety for years.  This cabbage keeps well in storage.
Mills says that Mammoth Red Rock 1880 heirloom cabbage is the “largest of the red cabbages and the most sure heading, also the best for pickling". Mammoth Red had reddish purple leaves and produces a five pound plus cabbage head.  Strong producer and stores well.
This 1890 heirloom cabbage heirloom variety was introduced in the mid-1800's by P. Henderson, president of Henderson Seed Company.  Early snowball cabbage is a reliable early producer of firm texture.  Very popular variety among urban farmers.
Bright Lights Swiss Chard is a stunning plant, certainly desirable for garden appearance but most appreciably important because of her delicious taste and reliable food production.  Leaves are bright deep green, moderately savoyed with veins of stunning bright warm and hot colors, most commonly red, orange, or yellow.  Developed by Johnny's Selected Seeds, this variety is perfect for the smaller garden or those gardens looking to capitalize on visual effect.  Bright Lights is highly recommended by both judy and myself.
Fordhook, while not as visually stunning as Bright Lights, is a reliable performer producing strong and plump white stalks with savory, bright green leaves.
As with Bright Lights Chard, Pink Lipstick offers amazing bright pink-red color. Use Pink Lipstick Chard in salad mixes for color and taste.
This 1890 heirloom cauliflower heirloom variety was introduced in the mid-1800's by P. Henderson, president of Henderson Seed Company.  Early snowball cabbage is a reliable early producer of firm texture.  Another variety popular variety among urban farmers.
Another great cooler weather plant, Starbor Kale is perfect for raised beds because of her beautiful blueish-green hue, firm leaves, great texture and compact growing characteristics. Greens can be eaten cooked or raw in salads.
An 1885 heirloom variety previously referred to as Tuscan Black Palm.  Dinosaur Kale offers large, rounded, succulent greens. Plants are hardy, exhibit vigorous growth habit and are popular among urban farmers as a crop that will feed the family.  We have grown Dinosaur Kale reliably for years.  Greens are good either as a salad component or cooked.
One of my favorite urban farm Kales, the Ethiopian variety will produce like none other.  Very tender and tasty and very drought tolerant.  Grows well in raised beds and seems to be root-knot nematode resistant.
Kohlrabi is also known as a ‘cabbage-turnip’ and the Grand Duke Variety produces a larger, non-woody edible part.  Very interesting plant for the garden and reliable producer.

Excellent pre-Civil War heirloom Kohlrabi variety.  According to DM Ferry Early Purple Vienna Kohlrabi can be considered "early with small top, the leaf stems being tinged with purple. Bulbs of medium size, purple; flesh white. Desirable for forcing and early outdoor planting."  Another excellent vegetable for the urban farm homestead, preforming will in raised beds.
Leeks are an important part of all urban farm gardens.  Lincoln leek is a long , succulent variety that can last for much of the year.  Used in salads, stir fry and other dishes.  Here in the south, established leeks offer good winter color and texture to the urban farm garden.
One of my favorites, this variety is evergreen, drought tolerant and produces well year around.  Offers brilliant white flower spikes.  This is probably one of the most hardiest of the urban farm plants, almost always reliable to out-preform any other crop.
Beautiful red-green, crisp standard lettuce, this variety is a cornerstone of any winter garden in the urban core.  Asian red thrives when picked, producing more and more throughout the season. 
Another popular lettuce variety, especially in Europe, year-round lettuce is as what her name states, a reliable producer except in the hottest of climates where she does best grown in the shade.
Florida Permaculture Raised Bed Lettuces
Ours favorite mix includes; Green Ice, Midnight Ruffles, Black Seeded Simpson, Simpson Elite, Matina Sweet, Buttercrunch, Red Velvet, and May Queen varieties.  Perfect for adding color and a variety of textures to salads.  The urban core farm animals love lettuces too.
A 1949 heirloom, mild radish, Cherry Belle is a standard for urban core farming.  She will produce up to one inch in diameter radishes, perfect for salads and snacks.  Another reliable producer, Cherry Belle is a standard for urban core farms and gardens.
A mid-1800’s heirloom, this white radish has her history in reliable production and ease of growth traits.  Wonderful, narrow, finger-like radishes they are perfect for salads.  Serve crisp and cold.
A 1920’s heirloom and described by James Vick as a spinach that, "grows about ten inches high. Large deep green leaves, thick and tender, with rounded tips."  Giant noble spinach needs cooler weather but will faithfully give the urban farmer plenty of tasty greens for both salad and cooked dishes.  
Tyee spinanch is a slow to bolt spinach growing well in raised beds and intense urban core farm settings.  Tyee spinach leaves are smaller than Giant Noble but heavy producers.  Good companion spinach plant to grow alongside with Giant Noble.
Florida Permaculture Raised Bed Lettuces
Borago officinalis grows to approxiately two to three feet in height and loves the cooler weather.  I’ve grown this plant successfully on urban core green roofs and in urban farm homestead raised beds.  The bright blue and purple flowers are visually an eye-opener and are often used as garnish for vegetable and fruit salads.  Good urban farm plant selection.
Standard pickling plant and herb, dill is an extremely drought tolerant urban farm plant with many culinary uses.  Our rabbits love the fresh picked leaves and the tall but tiny yellow flowers serve as an excellent attractant for pollinators.  Grows well in dry, neglected areas across the urban homestead.
An All America Winner in 1992 and introduced by W. Atlee Burpee Company, Fernleaf Dill exhibits a more compact growth habit than most of the other, sprawlingly large dill varieties.  Fernleaf dill is perfect for container growing or planting in heavily used raised beds.  As with the standard dill varieties, Fernleaf Dill provides good drought tolerant production as well as tasty culinary uses.
Fennel is popular for her licorice or anise-flavored seeds and bulbous base, both used in cooking.  Fennel is also a choice pollinator plant and brings a spray of light airy green to the urban core farmstead.  
An awesome landscape perennial, Bronze Fennel brings visual and culinary benefits to any urban farm garden.  Highly sought after by several Lepidoptera species, this hardy fennel can be used in cooking or as a tea.  Bronze fennel will grow about three to four feet high depending on climate and soil conditions and adds beauty and flavor to the herb patch.
A relative of oregano, marjoram is slightly sweeter and enjoys the cold weather.  She is very drought tolerant and her smaller leaves can be used to flavor meat dishes.  Marjoram is also used ethnobotanically in the Caribbean as a tea plant for both stomach and respiratory issues as she possesses an strong aromatic quality.
Standard flat-leafed parsley is a mainstay of urban core farms.  Used in Italian and Mediterrian cooking and for a variety of other uses (including keeping garlic fumes repressed in healthy diet breath), flat-leafed parsley is also sought after by many butterflies as larval food.
Curly parsley is a very hardy cultivar of the parsleys, reliable and useful as garnish, in soups, salads or to flavor meat dishes.  As with flat-leaf parsley, curly parsley is commonly used in Mediterranean dishes such as tabouli, hummus and other dishes.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

City Farming in Jacksonville, a Permaculture Narrative

Read about Kevin and Judy's experiences with all things Urban farming.  Ducks, geese, turkeys, rabbits, hens and thousands of plants all on a city lot!

Available through Kindle here!

The Real Scoop about Urban Farming!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Florida Permaculture Plant for Living Walls, Florida Green Roofs and Backyards, Seminole Pumpkin, Cucurbita Moschata

One of my favorite vines this year is the Seminole Pumpkin, Cucurbita moschata
Florida Green Roof and Living Wall plant, Seminole Pumpkin (Permaculture Food)

An adapted garden wonder to Florida, the Caribbean and Latin American, this variety of pumpkin or squash is acclimated to the harsh, humid climate of the region. 
Unripe Seminole Pumpkin, resistant to pests

A fast grower who provides ample shade, Seminole Pumpkin makes a great end of summer living wall and green roof plant.
Florida Living Wall plant, Cucurbita moschata

Thriving on neglect and drought, Cucurbita moschata, is ultra resilient to squash vine borers and other pests.  Here she is used as a cover to our geese pen, providing a wall of privacy, security, shade and food.
Seminole Pumpkin creates a living wall and green roof for the Urban Farm fowl
When thinking of drought tolerant plants for tropical green roofs and living walls, they don't just have to be wildflowers.
Seminole Pumpkin is a heavy food producing plant

 Nature has provided us with some awesome  food plants who will thrive well in the permaculture garden and on the hot roofs and walls.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Florida Rooftop Permaculture, No Room for a Garden? No Problem

Rooftop permaculture may be the long term sustainable trend for green roofs.  Where as green roofs may have many benefits, including insulation, mitigation of urban heat island effect, cleansing of stormwater, support for biodiversity, educational opportunities and more, growing food within the city can save food fuel and transportation costs, create permaculture benefits, cool structures, save money and provide much needed sustenance within inner cities.

Florida Permaculture, Rooftop Gardens - Mustards & Garlic Chives

With advances in green roof and permaculture technology, cost effective and lightweight growing systems can be created and installed for food production across balconies, patios, rooftops and windowsills.

Self watering and systems employing fog nets, dew catchers and condensate reuse will take the place of non-sustainable potable irrigation water.

Florida Permaculture, Greens and Garlic Chives on the Rooftop

Additionally, there is so much permaculture information available on the great world wide web the need for fertilizers can be easily replaced with proper and informed design principles utilizing nitrogen fixing plant species.  Our rooftop tomatoes growing alongside legumes were so much larger than those in our ground level gardens.

Importantly here in Florida (and other places), rooftop gardening eliminates many of the soil borne plant root pests such as nematodes.  Nematodes can devastate garden vegetables, stunting their growth by as much as a severe drought would.  Nematodes generally cannot survive in the hot temperatures typical of green roof soil media.

Florida Permaculture, Clover feeds the Greens on the Roof

Food plants such as those shown above, will have the advantage of first view by pollinators.

Your roof will become alive with butterflies, dragonflies, moths, birds, bees and more.

Tree frogs and anoles will soon take up residence, creating a wonderful integrated pest management systems as they eat volumes of the common household fly, mosquitoes, roaches and other pests.

Consider planting veggies on your roof as the next permaculture project.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Florida Permaculture, Urban Farm Geese are Growing

Another geesey video clip.  Our geese, ducks and turkeys are growing!  They are so cute at this stage.  But be not fooled with the sweetness.

Animals are all about life. Though they appear fluffy and clucky be not deceived!  Even as juveniles, these critters are driven to feed and will snatch crumbs from other's beaks.

Cute, yes.  Now.

You see a goose can live well over twenty years old.  A duck and turkey easily into their 'teens'.

Urban Farming requires long term commitment.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Florida Permaculture, Urban Farm Geese & Hallelujah

Video clip of our  Jacksonville Urban Farm Geese, Ducks and Turkey enjoying Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah while foraging for their morning snacks.

Geese especially, love to sing and dance to the music.  Ducks generally follow the lead from the geese.  The turkeys love the geese and ducks but do their own thing,

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Urban Permaculture Plants, Rosemary Propagation by Cuttings

One can never have enough plants on the Urban Farm.

Especially rosemary.

We start many of our plants from seeds.  Yet some, like garlic chives and rosemary, though they can be sprouted are much easier to propagate via cuttings.

Florida Permaculture: A full tray of rosemary cuttings ready to root

Cuttings are an easy and quick way to multiply your herb and plant inventory.  Having too many herb and garden plants can be a good thing!  Potted up herbs make great gifts for birthdays, special occasions or just for when you want to give company a special gift.

The following photos illustrate how I propagate rosemary via cuttings.  There are many ways to asexually increase your rosemary plant inventory via cuttings.  Most gardeners have their own preferred method.

I like to propagate rosemary, either the upright or prostrate variety in 72 count square plug trays.  For some strange reason, the square corners of the tray seem to make my cutting's roots grow faster and fuller.

Start by obtaining approximately one hundred rosemary cuttings about twelve inches long.

Florida Permaculture: Twelve inch Urban Farm cuttings ready to strip and stick

Strip the lower four or five inches of leaves from the stem with your fingers.

Florida Permaculture:  Cuttings and stripped cuttings ready for the rooting tray

Fill the cutting tray with sharp sand (I just use sand out of the back yard).  Pack the sand into the tray tightly by firmly pressing the sand down with your fingers.  Be sure to level off the top once the sand is impacted.

Florida Permaculture:  Sharp sand and a  72 count cutting tray

Press the stem cuttings with the end stripped down into the compacted sharp sand, two cuttings per cell.  The standing cuttings will help support each other once all the rosemary is placed into the tray.

I use an cheap electronic hose timer and sprinkler to mist the cuttings for ten seconds every fifteen minutes.

With the warmer spring weather I'll have one hundred or so rooted rosemary plants within a couple weeks.

We never use rooting hormone.  In my opinion rooting hormone is a capitalistic trick to make money.  Yes, I know there are studies that show potentially toxic rooting hormones can help develop roots.  Some of these studies are also funded by those who sell the powders.

My studies show ground willow bark can out perform root industrial powders.

Yet I never use any rooting hormones.

And our cuttings, roses, natives, figs, herbs, and anything I've ever tried to root, have rooted ever so quickly.   And I don't have to worry about the industrial powders and cancer, nor spend extra money.

The key is keeping your cutting leaves moist and the sharp sand just barely wet using a fine mist.  Don't let cuttings dry out.

Asexual propagation is an easy way to cost effectively increase your permaculture stock.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Florida Permaculture, Life on the Urban Farm

Never name an animal that you plan to cook later and don’t be surprised if the critters jump and fly or run after you’ve removed their heads.

Animals are put on the earth here for food for us, plain and simple.  And the whole purpose of starting with twenty six chickens was to have enough to cook one every couple of weeks on top of all the eggs we’d get.

Kevin & Judy's Urban Farm Fowl (Turkeys)

Kevin & Judy's Urban Farm Fowl (Ducks & Geese)

Kevin & Judy's Urban Farm Fowl (Baby Goose)
Even Momma told me about her Mom, my Grandma, who’d clean a chicken each week in Miami and cook the very best fried chicken one ever tasted. 

Never mind the fact that it has taken ten to twenty weeks to raise up the fowl from the cute little fluffy balls of chirps, gobble and quack, fifty pounds of weekly scratch feed, countless thousands of gallons of fresh water and the emergence of a strange but strong love-hate relationship, the animals are meant to be eaten.

My friend Pascale, the green roof expert from France even recommended mustard with cooked rabbit on a stick.

Judy however has decided that raising an animal from babyhood commands too many feelings of love and protection to take the killing and eating of what have essentially become our pets lightly. She woke up breathless one night from a dream in which we were eating rabbit stew.   We were eating Jack, Ruby, Thumper, or Midnight. This was when we understood we'd probably not try to breed more rabbits for food, them being mammals and all. 

The chickens should have been easier, but Judy grew very attached to the hens also. Raising them from fluffy little day old chicks (what could be cuter?) to awkward but endearing pullets and on to beautiful hens with iridescent beauty and sweet natures has made it very hard to want to eat our cluckers. I think we are just not hungry enough perhaps. 

Then there is the question of “embodied energy” and not just the spiritual idea of sacred life force. Embodied energy is the issue of how much water and food it takes to raise a chicken, duck, turkey, goose, or rabbit to a mature eating size. 

Judy has come to the conclusion that it isn’t wrong to eat meat or to raise and kill your own animals for food. Animal food is nutrient dense in a way that our bodies can utilize well. Raising your own meat animals is kinder to the critters in the long run than buying factory raised animals. 

Killing and eating an animal is a momentous act and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Perhaps this is why there were so many laws concerning the killing and eating of animals in the Old Testament, such as a lamb not being cooked in it’s mother’s milk and other rituals concerning the slaughter of animals including offering them to God. Contrast these ancient ways with the modern practice of supermarket meat wrapped in plastic and styrofoam and the practice of basing our diets on meat, such as some of  the ill-advised “low- carb” diets. 

Moreover, I’d suppose many of us would stop eating meat if we had to kill the critters and dress them out, disposing of the innards and carcasses.  Importantly, most cities and municipalities who allow for Urban Farm animals prohibit the slaughter of said animals in residential areas.  However, there are many licensed butcher and slaughter houses across the country, one probably not too far away from your farm.

A sharp machete and well placed swing will quickly dispatch most of the Urban Farm animals.    Butcher block and butcher knife will also work.  The knife’s motion must be swift though, to minimize pain.  Don’t be alarmed if the hen, goose or turkey continues to cackle, hoot or gobble, even without their heads.  A large, twenty pound headless turkey can especially put on a show, flying across the Urban Farm backyard, slinging blood everywhere.   If you are going to clean your own meat, be prepared to handle the gore.

Our uncomfortable adversity to killing and dressing backyard farm critters is only a couple generations displaced.  Grandparents thought nothing of slaughtering, cleaning and cooking a backyard bird or rabbit.  Really, it was the early Baby Boomer generation first forsaking the raising and killing of hens for Sunday dinner.  My mother has spoken of watching her momma cutting the hen into fryable sections soon to become delicious fried chicken.

Keep your knives sharp.  A sharp knife makes the job so much easier.  Once you’ve mastered the art of beheading and cleaning a farm critter, it should take no more than ten minutes from picking up the critter slated for the kitchen to the final wash of the meat.

I recommend a heavy butcher knife, a large, long serrated knife and a small paring type knife.  The head should be removed first, with a swift blow from the heavy butcher or a swing from a machete.  Be sure you don’t cut off your fingers and be ready for the blood.  A handy hose helps with the mess.

Separation of the legs and wings using the serrated knife follows the head.  Place the head, legs and wings in a garbage bag and using the small paring knife, slit the outer layer of skin from the neck down the chest about four inches.  Set the knife on the butcher table and using both hands pull the skin and feathers away from the underlying meat.  The skin should easily come off, similar to a pair of pajamas pulled off in the morning.

The feathers and skin goes into the same garbage bag as the legs, wings and head.  Once the bird is de-skinned it is time to remove the entrails.  Open the birds chest with the small sharp knife and reach in, grasping all the internal organs and intestines, pulling them out and placing all the guts in the garbage bag.  Try not to puncture to intestines.  Be sure to remove all internal parts and wash the cleaned bird down with the pressurized water nozzle.  Wash the carcass even more thoroughly if the intestines are punctures during the cleaning process.

Cleaned critters can be cooked immediately or wrapped in plastic grocery bags and placed in the freezer.

Urban Farm critters that are allowed to free range grow tough and stringy very quickly.  If you choose to eat your animals, consider cleaning the young and tender.  Sinewy meat may smell good in the oven baking or on the range frying but once stuck tightly in between teeth, opinions quickly change.

Killing and dressing your Urban Farm fowl and rabbits is the most honorable way to eat meat if you choose to do so.  Taking full responsibility for the death of and cleaning the of a creature before enjoying his or her meat is an educational opportunity.  Understanding the full impact of meat’s life cycle creates sustainability, it creates an intimate awareness of our actions.  Though we may choose for a season to ignore how  grocery store meat arrived on the shelves or in the freezer, the ignorance will eventually catch us individually and as a nation.  Participatory meat preparation celebrates the gift of meat made by your critter and sheds light on the true value of life.

Even better, consider becoming a vegetarian.  This may be easier than you think, for once you experience killing and dressing out a bird or rabbit, your personal attitude concerning carnivorous habits may change.   

Judy may agree to eat some of the ducks, geese and turkey that are already put in the freezer, but meanwhile it is still summer and it is easier to have a vegetarian diet supplemented with our fresh eggs and organic yogurt right now.   Me; due to the spiritual complexity and cost effectiveness of killing and dressing out, I am pretty much done with the meat (though it is amazing just how quickly we soon sometimes forget).