Monday was our big chance for a day trip, so we looked up a place we've recently been wanting to find...a nursery specializing in trees and exotic plants hardy to our area, especially fruiting plants and fragrance plants. We're not looking for something delicate, but rather something that will both weather the extreme heat and some of the vagaries of the winter thermometer (though this year has so far been quite warm).
Another reason we wanted to find this place is because of the happy coincidence of its being within driving distance, and their carrying a tree we've been very curious about, the Moringa tree. It's a tree I saw mentioned in various articles online related to permaculture and the use of trees as fodder for livestock during times of drought. I'm really excited to know that trees can be used as feed during lean times...the branches and greenery of willows, poplars, and many other trees and shrubs...even holly. Moringa is a tree that seems to have traditional uses for nearly every part of the tree. It thrives despite adverse weather and environmental conditions, can be used as fodder, its many parts used medicinally or as food for humans, and its flowers stir-fried to impart a mushroom taste. Interesting! Our web search for a US supplier turned up this nursery I just mentioned, Top Tropicals, less than a day's drive for us!
Getting there was fun. They refer to their location as the "Tropical Boonies," which is just what is was :) The directions include instructions that read "you can try to Google this location, but the directions are WRONG, so ignore them," and "make a left hand turn at the unnamed dirt road just past the RV park on the right." My kind of adventure!
Then you follow the signs...
This was the first of several signs. And it was a dirt road. Miles and miles and miles. And every so often another sign similar to this one.
Till you get to this sign. Don't be fooled by the illusion of other addresses being pointed to. It's still out in the boonies. It's a very very bad picture. Which is what happens when you're taking it through the windshield of a moving vehicle, pointing right into the noon glare of the sun. Sign on right points to further promises of finding the place. More dirt road to come...
Aha! Another bad shot, but we found the place!
We were met by one of the owners, Mike, and had the FUN of getting to amble around the place as much as we wanted, wandering among the fruiting, flowering, and fragrant plants. (To read Mike's and his wife Tatiana's story, click here.) Not that we actually knew what most things were...there were many plants with which we're unfamiliar. We'll have to research the web site info, since most of them are described well in the online catalog of plants in stock. There is also a wish list for plants not in stock, and the catalog list is much more comprehensive than even the many plants currently on site. Many seeds can also be ordered via their website.
I was really drawn to the fragrance shrubs and trees, ones I've only ever heard of in books, but never seen. There were the Ylang Ylang, the Frangipani, Joy perfume tree, Orchid trees, all sorts of Jasmines, and many I've never heard of...with exquisite frangrances I wish could be adequately described. Oh, heavenly, even with the dip in temps to the 60s! It seems these folks purchased this 20 acres in the past couple years, and have really put a lot of work into the place in a short amount of time. Pics on their site show it nearly a marsh, with standing water in a lot of places, before they put in their two ponds. They've planted fruiting and fragrance plants all around and hope to be getting a harvest next year. They also put down a lot of mulch and compost to improve the sandy soil. Now there is a wonderful diversity of growth everywhere, and we were so delighted to notice bees humming among even the low grass and the weed growth, which has flowers of its own. It just did my heart good...it's been so long since I've seen that many bees working such a big area. A joy!
They had an amazing selection of mangoes and harder-to-find trees...too many to list all of them since it takes up four or five full pages, but just to give you an idea, we saw quinces, loquats, lychees, lemons, limes, kumquats, sapodillas, tamarinds, natal plums, barbados cherries, persimmons, strawberry trees, breadfruit, guavas, figs, durians, papayas, chirimoya, and my husband's absolute favorite, mamey (pronounced mah-MAY). Here is his VERY happy face upon discovering THOSE...
We even saw coffee plants, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla...such fun!
We tried to exercise some self-restraint, which wasn't easy to do, and attempted to limit ourselves to two plants...one obviously the moringa. They had several of those in stock, so we snagged one, and J wanted to get a mango, so we got the Carrie variety, after asking Mike for a recommendation. Of course ALL the varieties of mangoes were tempting, and making a selection was difficult, but Mike said the Carrie variety is such that it will never be carried in a supermarket...it simply is too full of nectar and too juicy to survive shipping and handling. In fact, they are best picked straight from the tree, because if they fall to the ground, they are so full of juice that they burst open. And they taste out-of-this world, or so he said. We were convinced. A Carrie made its way home with us, along with a Moringa. Now we have them huddled next to the three papayas J has potted in the backyard.
Here are the papayas and the moringa. The papayas have the pointed leaves and the moringa has the more delicate looking leaves and the white flowers on a very slender stem.
Here are the leaves of the moringa, and the stem, which will one day be a sturdy trunk...I hope! We were told it will look wimpy till we get it into the ground permanently, at which time it will flourish and be really lush and fast-growing.
Here's the Carrie Mango. I hope it survives our amateurish beginning attempts long enough to get planted on LAND that we HAVE...hopefully sooner than later.
Update on that score...we have the good fortune, or rather blessing, of having narrowed our search target down from a region to a county and now to a specific area. I can't elaborate on how we're attempting to acquire acreage there, or give any more details just now, but they will be forthcoming if we're successful. We're much farther along than we've ever been! One transaction is in the legal process of being investigated (for no loose ends, etc) and another is in negotiation, depending upon the owner's being amenable to terms we're negotiating. Ah, the waiting part... EVERY day we do something related to the land. EVERY day we add to our computer file of things we have questions about and need to look up, or have looked up but need to keep investigating. EVERY day we have more conversations. I can't every day get online just now, since the computer is sustaining two of us with many time demands jobwise and one lovesick teenager whose boyfriend is stationed in the military beyond phone distance. This blog has been sadly neglected, but I do try to dash here in the event there is anything important in our process to detail.
I've now had going on three days with my husband due to the irregularity of our schedules. It's like being on a honeymoon, especially since we never had a honeymoon :) With the weather turning cooler (finally!), it's been spring-like and sunny and we've had SUCH fun being together. It's definately the shot in the arm I needed! I've been homesick for this man :)
I discovered the nausea I'd been experiencing for weeks was due to a medication, and after discontinuing it two days ago, I feel like my old self...yay! It was eating a hole in my stomach. No more! My blood sugar was also not in balance, something I have to be careful about, so that's being addressed now, too. The more physical work and organic veggies we can have at hand, the better it is for us both. We LONG to be at that point in our land journey. It's getting closer than farther, that's the consolation. And every month we keep plugging away at the jobs is another month closer to being debt-free. Anything we do on the land will be done without debt. One change we hope is about to happen is the transition for our daughter in her nursing career. Hopefully, within only 3 or 4 months she will have her LPN license. We're certainly praying all goes well with that, too! (Praying hard!) It will release us as her primary monetary support so that she can partially support herself while still availing herself of home and food here while she pursues further schooling...and a job! She is looking forward to being employed and having the ability to manage her own expenses as much as possible, and I see it as a good and gradual transition. Which will free up more resources for us, too!
Well, that's the scoop for now. Over and out till there's something else to report. I'll do a post about fodder trees soon, hopefully. I think it's an under-utilized resource in the US farming community, most likely.
Hope all are well! :)