Friday, June 29, 2012

June Calabazas

Volunteer calabazas grown right smack in a patch of Bermuda.  Does this keep the blight from getting to the blossoms?  These are about 3 - 5 lbs each.

Is the secret neglect, or sudden rains, or the fact that this is the third generation of seed from a fairly hardy survivor plant...or a combination of all the factors?

We'll let these dry out a bit and harden off in the shade of the back porch for probably a week or so, and then bring them into the house to store in a cool corner.  Minus the dirt and about two dozen fire ants or so...

What's surprising you in  your garden...or bermuda patch??

Thursday, June 28, 2012

We Just Lost our Freedoms Today

We are not a democratic republic any more.  We are now a regime.  When a government enforces "protections" by taking away individual choice over the individual, it's a regime.   Look for the next freedom that will be mandated to disappear to be that of openly criticizing the regime or the right to oppose it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I believe in community, especially being connected to the local community of faith and to others who work for positive changes in this world.  After all, being Jewish, at the very heart of keeping the Torah and God's commandments is a lasting optimism that despite how small or large the contribution, one person CAN change the world for the better...Tikkun Olam, the repair of the world.  It is a partnership with God Himself to transform what is in reach for the better, in ways we might never realize but that becomes a life richer with kindness and hope.

I wanted to state that as a preface for the statement that when walking that particular lifestyle of choice (it is a daily choice, after all), there are the lonely times.  It doesn't mean we're alone in actuality, in the big picture, or even in actuality in the smaller picture...our lives touch so many others we don't realize.  But there are times when the ones we love, our family or friends and dear ones, for whatever reason, just aren't there or can't be engaged as much as we'd like in a certain time period or moment.  There are lonely times, and sometimes lonelier as our daily choices remove us from the stream of life that seems to sweep the majority  along, but we're on a different path, it seems...a true definition of not being in the Main Stream.  Sometimes this is because of our lifestyle, especially for those who daily try to walk with God, when that diverges us not even by our own will, from others.  And sometimes it's just because in matters such as simplicity, or life differences, we feel a bit like throwbacks, a little displaced in time and mindset...and yet preferring to remain so for wisdom's sake, to keep our equilibrium, stick to goals, keep family and the day-to-day on track with simplicity and priorities.

Sometimes we just need encouragement when we FEEL alone.  I know I do, and I know I'm not actually alone, but connected to a large and wonderful community.  But I still feel alone at times when my choices keep me on a Path Less Traveled.

It seems our times are a testing ground for what is truly inside us, what "makes a man."  Integrity and morality, the true kind we need at the heart to guide our attitudes and actions to others and to continually re-create community and society, are at stake.  Sometimes it feels like stepping out of that quickly-moving mainstream is itself an act of resistance, or perceived as some sort of weirdness or rebellion.  But I am rambling now...

Anyway, I saw this short video tonight, and it was just what I needed.  And I love reading the Psalms.  I don't write that much on this particular blog about the role personal belief and the love of the Torah has to do with the other parts of my life, but in truth they are inseparable from the whole.  I don't want or need a soapbox, but I don't want to feel I can never put my thoughts about them here from time to time, either.  In all Jack and I strive to do or be in this life, at the very heart of it is God, and not in what most folks think of as "religious-ness".  We were caught up in groups in the past we're glad to have moved on from ourselves, but in the times in which we live, we need the truth of God's instruction and correction, and have experienced so much gratitude, provision, and blessing from Him.  We are nothing but grateful!

Here's a short video (no, it's not evangelistic ;-)) that encouraged me tonight.  The times in which we live DOES require choices and will continue to do so, and there is such a thing as right and wrong.  Here's to the times when the RIGHT choices put us a bit outside the main and we feel alone.  Those are times we realize everything hinges right back to that most basic relationship, for us, between us and God.  Just like it all started with God walking with man in His garden.

How grateful we are to God for His continued goodness to us, and for giving us instruction to walk simply from day to day...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Plants that Grow in Florida Summers

One of the challenges of living in SW Florida is that what is usually elsewhere a great summer growing season for gardeners is often, here, the "off" season of punishing temps and excesses of either drought, heat, or rain.  Florida's vegetable season is...most all other seasons!  That was hard for me to understand when I first moved here.

I saw a great list on the Lehigh Acres Edible Gardening Blog, a list of plants that DO survive our summers well.  Many of them are alternative or lesser-used (in modern times or in the U.S.) plants.  I was surprised to see how many of them we've tried over the years and found successful, even if we're not growing some of them this year in particular.

Here's the great list

Some of the plants listed there that we've tried before are

1.  Okra
2.  Sweet Potatoes
3.  Moringa (still going strong!)
4.  Pigeon Peas  (we planted them one year too late in season to have a harvest of actual peas...)
5.  Cherry Tomatoes (and how!!)
6.  Cranberry Hibiscus
7.  Malanga (still going strong, never have harvested)
8.  Nopal cactus (going VERY strong!)
9.  Basil (a great annual for us)
10.  Rosemary (ditto)
11.  Eggplant (got TALL and so so hardy)
12.  Chaya/Chayamansa (one of Jack's HUGE successes!)
13.  Tropical Pumpkins/Calabasa (got 4 about to harvest, more little ones on the vine)
14.  Cowpeas (one year we did purple hull peas, did great)

Of course this list does not include wild edibles or edible "weeds" such as Bidens Alba leaves and innumerable others.  And it doesn't include a lot of herbs, including Yerba Buena, one of Jack's favorites in the mint family.

Wow, we've tried more than I imagined!  Those are just plants from the Summer Survivors many others grow as well, but do better in the other seasons.  

We'd still like to try several more from this list.  If you ever need a great source for alternative plants for not just Florida but many different climates, most of these and many others can be found over at E.C.H.O....they have online ordering and also have an on-site nursery with lots of herbs, plants, fruit trees, and unusual (usually edible) plants.

Got any favorite survivor plants that always seem to defy the weather extremes? I'd love to know them!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rosy Camphorweed

Ah...found it!!  This was growing freely in the area we last visited in Charlotte county.  At first they look like "just a weed" and then you notice the fine, frosty-colored down-covered leaves and stems -- the soft mauve clusters of blooms embedded in star shaped settings, their clusters  rich with shadows of magenta.  So easy to walk on by unless you stop to look, and so beautiful upon closer examination.

I will continue my search and see what medicinal uses this plant may have.  There are different types of Camphorweed, also known as Marsh fleabanes and other names, and the different ones have different medicinal uses. At least one type is used interchangeably as an arnica that exciting or what! Here are some at this site, though I don't know specifically what the properties of the Pluchea baccaris are.  I need to confirm the ones I saw are exactly the Pluchea baccaris


Orange Milkwort

Charlotte county, June 2012.  Not the best picture, but not so bad on a day when the plants were swaying heavily in the wind.  This one was easier to identify.  I'll investigate any known medicinal uses, but nothing much came up on my first few internet searches.  Here's what Green Dean has to say about its kind...

I'm on a quest to slowly and patiently try to identify the native wildflowers I see underfoot in order to be familiar with them (knowing their names would be a great start!) and also to see if there are any known medicinal qualities to them.

But mostly to  marvel at their variety and beauty...

I find this so relaxing, and it's a place where my mind can relax and breathe.  It's no wonder the first place man and God walked together was in a garden.



Sunday, June 24, 2012

Frugality, Abundance, Kindness

A saying from an old decorative iron trivet that belonged to my family comes to mind...and it seems appropriate as I find myself using all the bits from the fridge, making sure those lemons get used up in time, storing bulk herbs, stretching milk for multiple uses...

I'm sure you've heard it.  It's as true today as it was back then, and I think it was just part of everyday life for most generations prior to my own:

Use it up
Wear it out
Make do
Do Without

My friend, Miss J, who just turned 87, said her own mother repeated this phrase often, as newly-widowed she raised 7 children in the Great Depression.  She also worked full time outside the home at half a man's factory wage, grew an acre garden and canned it all, loved growing flowers, and baked 90 rolls and 7 loaves of bread TWICE a week for her family...which included most of the neighborhood kids, who loved her cooking and showed up at dinnertime.  Those dinner rolls and bread required her getting up in the middle of the night (worknights!) to punch down the dough for the second rising.  And all the clothes were carried outdoors and hung on the clothesline to dry, even in the freezing winters when they froze and slapped in the wind.

Listening to my friend's conversations about her mother has sketched a gentle portrait of someone I've never met, but admire.  I'm learning from her life.  She was highly intelligent and had a sharp wit, was a genius with puns, and was kind to a fault.  She lost her husband to a freak accident when a truck at his worksite backed up and dumped a full load of shale without knowing he was under it.  Her eldest daughter died of an unnecessary complication while in the hospital for an unrelated condition, and her second eldest daughter died at 25 in a car accident.  So much loss, but so much grace from this beloved mother...she kept going on and she kept believing God was good  --  kept working hard and making a home, a family, with a lot less than most people today have.  And with humor, strength, and humility.

I could do with this perspective of frugality and this kind of love...the kind that fills days with an appreciation for the good there is in the simple things, and in keeping what's most important at the forefront of my daily reality.

Making much of little and lacking nothing, most of all being rich in gratitude.

Oh...and my friend never once, not even once, heard her mother gossip or talk ill of anyone else.  EVER.

Nor did I ever hear that from my own Grandma in all the years I knew her.

And so I take to heart these wise women and their older, wiser, ways.  May my economizing in these days  not be crabbed and shriveled with cares, but may it make way for the things that really count, mostly measured in the practice of kindness and ingenuity and creating a space that reflects  love for those who are important to me.  And maybe includes now and then some really good homemade rolls...



Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bog Buttons, Hatpins, Pipewort?

Whitehead Bog Button variety of Pipewort, maybe??  Lachnocaulon anceps??

If anyone can help me identify this wildflower, I'd love it!  It is very small and seems to grow in clusters here in wetland edges in southwest Florida.  The stem is long and thin and the blossom is a small globe shape, bright white.

Syngonanathus flavidulus?  If so, this is the Yellow Hatpins variety of Pipewort

I believe this is the same kind of flower, a little closer look.

Thanks for any help you might give me in identification.  These are new to me :-D

~ Robbyn

Update!   I believe the second picture is for sure some variety of pipewort in the Eriocaulon species , such as Syngonanthus flavidulus (Yellow Hatpins), and the first is maybe Lachnocaulon anceps (Whitehead Bog Button)?  I think they are all in the Eriocaulacae family.  Still not sure if they're one and the shall keep on looking.  And next time I'll get a better closeup of the foliage.  Even this helpful page isn't much help unless I have a foliage comparison...

August 21, 2012 update....Here is a link for the king of Pipewort used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and its actions:

This might be the one closest in ID to what I saw:   Tenangle Pipewort - Eriocaulon decangulare,


(Note added later...I found out what this is finally!  It's the Coastalplain palafox (Palafoxia integrifolia).  Hooray for online databases!~)

Palmetto Prairie Postcards

I'm having such fun with the photo editing options over at picmonkey, I'm playing more with everyday pics I've taken here and there (yes, just my basic originals).  Our area here in Florida where I live and within about an hour every direction is referred to in general as a palmetto prairie. It's a terrain that would have been at the bottom of my "dream area" list, but after having lived here nearing a decade now, I see even this climate and locale has its undeniable beauties.  I've decided to have some fun with photo editing for no other reason than my own pleasure, and I may start putting a few of them here from time to time.  Nothing serious, just my own whimsy...quick sketches and impressions just for the fun of it!

And so are born the Palmetto Prairie postcards -- photos and (edit button) finger paint-- :-D

Friday, June 22, 2012

Anyone Know What This One Is?

Note added 06/24/2011 -- found it!!  Hooray for the internet!   My photo is imbalanced in color...the true color is a lighter pink and it is of the Coastalplain palafox (Palafoxia integrifolia), which either come in white or the pinker color (as this one only minus my overzealous use of photo editing enhancement, note to self..)

Rose Gentian, Marsh Pink, Sabatia grandiflora

Hello, beauty!
Clusters of these plants were brightening an overcast and intermittently-rainy day at our stop on an afternoon outing in the countryside.  I love the patterns the wear and tear have made on these petals.

Sabatia grandiflora, rose gentian, or a marsh pink by any other of the first of many wildflowers and plants I hope to identify as time progresses and my camera cooperates.  I found a couple of delightful native Florida wildflower blogs to help me get to know these better:

Treasure Coast Natives


Native Florida Wildflowers

Easy identification features:   Jagged yellow central eye rimmed in red, twisted yellow anthers in its male stage.  Found in marshland perimeters, flatwoods and wet prairies.  An annual.  Very little foliage.

What wildflowers are flirting with pollinators in your neck of the woods?


Additional note as of August 21,2012:  Link on different gentians and their uses --

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Two Successes and a Dud

Fermented veggies plus sandwich equals YUM!

The first fermented veggie experiment is now finished!
The two jars of mixed veg, whey, salt and water were successfully fermented, and the juice smells piquant and appealing...hooray!  I went a little too heavy on the peppers in each of them, so I took them out and combined what was left all into one jar and put it in the fridge.  After a taste test, of course...they were tart, mellow, a little softer than the original raw texture, but not truly soft (a good "pickle" texture, sort of), only slightly salty, and delicious!

The third jar, the one made without whey, did not turn out.  It got white slime at the bottom and top of the jar, smelled bad (it was obvious, no guessing necessary) and the contents were thrown out.  My guess is that in the absence of the whey, I did not add an adequate amount of additional salt.

I really like the texture of the cauliflower and the small chunks of sweet onion.  I was not as pleased with the texture of the whole radishes, but the flavor is good, so next time I would dice them.  The red peppers (sweet) were nice, as was everything.  Next time if I want a little kick without overwhelming the whole jar, I'll stick in a half or so serrano pepper instead of more.  I was very glad to have included the really added a nice balance to the flavors.

We both enjoyed eating a bit on the side of various meals, but so far my favorite way to enjoy the fermented veggies is atop a basic turkey sandwich instead of the usual raw lettuce and such.  I think I'll make a more finely diced version of the mixture, sort of like chow-chow, for specifically a sandwich spread.  It really makes the sandwich taste amazing, and it's not an overwhelmingly tart or pungent (or weird) taste...just a burst of complementary flavors, so good.  It's, in short, a small back to the chopping board to see what odds and ends end up in the next experimental jars!

What are you doing in your kitchen these days?  How do you utilize your bits and pieces of fresh veggies and fruits? I'd love to hear!

Monday, June 11, 2012


It was time.  After much too much procrastination, I finally began my first veggie ferments.  I combined different vegetables I had on hand in the fridge and packed them (cleaned and raw) into clean half gallon jars.  Two of them have water/salt/whey solutions as the brine, and the third has just water/salt.  I'll top them off tomorrow if there is any head space, and give them a good "burp" daily to release any built up pressure.  They are supposed to ferment at room temperature after a number of days...I'll see what the count ends up being.  After they reach a good tartness/fizziness, the fermentation can be halted by keeping them in the fridge.

These are several combinations of any of these veggies:  cauliflower, vidalia onion, radishes, scotch bonnet peppers, scallions, sweet red bell peppers, garlic, and serrano peppers.  My goal is to get some of those great probiotics into our daily meals, use fermented foods as a side condiment to our regular food, and to get our "gut" (digestion) healthier and more robust.

I have two great references for fermenters...the first is the Shagri-La of all fermenting books authored by Sandor Katz, entitled The Art of Fermentation.  It's comprehensive and so engrossing I can hardly put it down EVERY time I pick it up to read!  You need not be experienced at all to enjoy and begin using it, it's that fun and straightforward, and thoroughly researched.  And approachable.  OK, I'm shutting up now!

And my second reference is my wonderful friend Deb, who is perpetually buried in fermenting projects that will inspire you and make you HUNGRY..she is over at the website The Kultured Karaite, where she shares her experience and opinions about fermenting and its importance in healing and maintaining vibrant health...check it out!

Well, I'm off now...can't wait till a few days pass and we can begin sampling some of the fermented goodies..they're our first try.  How very easy this experiment has been so far!

What are you fermenting, and what tips can you offer?  Do you have a favorite combination of veggies and spices?  Please share :-D