Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Datil Be Some HOT Peppers!

After stripping my poor overworked datil pepper plant of a snack baggie of smaller than usual datil peppers, I made the decision that while driving home from this past weekend's Jacksonville parent visit, I would locate a datil pepper grower and buy some plants. Oh how exciting! Eleven datil peppers were purchased and are home now, waiting for transplanting into 5-gallon buckets.

I contacted several places that sell datil plants and was disappointed to hear "they won't be ready for 2-3 more weeks" from all of them. I called Uncle Paul''s St. Augustine home and was ever so lucky to get Jeannie on the phone. She is such a wonderful gawdenah (gosh I love her and her New England accent) and told me she heard that someone on Church Road sells them. It was a seven mile shot in the dark, but lo and behold, I found them!

Randy Haire at 5225 Church Roa d in St. Augustine, FL has a small greenhouse and a whole bunch of datil seedlings (not ready for a few weeks) and a whole bunch more of 1-2 year old plants that have been cut back for the winter to ten inches tall. They look great with a sturdy stalk, good healthy leaves, and some with datils and flowers. Randy and his wifesay, "Y'all come!" He asked me to tell everybody about his datils. He does not sell peppers, just the plants.

My lone datil had gotten stringy and limby and the peppers were growing smaller and smaller and turning orange too fast, so I went home and followed suite, cutting back my scraggly bush to a ten inch stump with a few leaves. Soon we will have a whole bunch of healthy full datil pepper plants with big green peppers.

A single pepper can season an entire pot of lima beans. I quick soaked a bag of dry limas, then added a few pork ribs (that I smoked a week ago and froze) and ONE datil pepper. I'll fish it out before we eat, or somebody will be on fire.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Community Gardening Calls

Two green thumbs up for the Apopka Community Garden! Located in South Apopka - a typically impoverished area - the goal of this endeavor is to bring locals together with the common interest of organic vegetable gardening. Besides black and white residents, Apopkans from Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands are growing vegetables native to their home countries as well. There are no specific hours for farming our gardens, but most seem to congregate in the mornings, trading gardening advice and if we have overages, freshly picked vegetables. Sometimes vegetables are donated to the local homeless shelter.

In exchange for $20 annual rent, Peter Jordan, an agriculture teacher at Ocoee High School and one of the folks that runs this community effort, gave me a quick tour. We have a big dump truck load of dark soil, an equally large pile of compost/manure. There's a small raised box with composted vegetables stirred into soil loaded with big happy earthworms - their rich liquid fertilizer drips into a 2-gallon jug that hangs below. Inside the shed are some tools, free seeds, and paperwork. I was given a list of seasonal vegetables that will grow well in our area. For the safety of the gardeners and to prohibit non-paying folks from strolling through and picking the fruits of our labor, the entire property is fenced with combination locks on both gates and shed. One entrance opens big enough to drive through and renters are encouraged to pull in and lock the gate. I remain fearless, but will be cautious for my safety in this high-crime area.

I was assigned to plot #25, a 4 x 16 foot raised garden. Although there are other gardens in different stages of growth, mine is newly built with fresh dark soil and no old plants to have to dig up or turn under. The nearest water source is a pretty convenient hose drag away, just past the next 16 foot garden.

As a side note, I am excited that Peter is considering bringing some chickens over and constructing a movable chicken tractor to house them. I've expressed interest in this in the past, but because of our home's location against the forest of the Wekiva State Park, we have too many critters invading our yard, eating our plants, and potentially eating chickens to even consider planting a garden or raising hens in my back yard.

Preparation for planting has included poured over the internet, deciding what to plant, and mapping out my garden. I want to put in tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, collard greens, zucchini and summer squash. I'd also like to grow my favorite herbs - basil, dill and cilantro. Today I will go visit my garden, check out the seeds in the shed and visualize, followed by a trip to the local Feed & Seed and hardware stores to see what they have to offer in seeds and seedlings. I don't know if purchasing from these places is appropriate for organic gardens. More to learn! I can't wait to dig in!!

Locally, University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service offers a Master Gardener program. This is something I might be interested in. I jump in with both feet, don't I?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Don't Allow Your Defects To Define You

Years ago I saw a little sign at a craft fair that said, "Don't allow your defects to define you."  It's a good attitude to live by.

My Green Vermont is one of my favorite blogs.  I enjoy Lali's writing and look forward to her posts. The writer has chronic fatigue syndrome, something she rarely mentions.  CFS can be overwhelmingly disabling when it strikes, and as with most auto-immune disorders, it can knock Lali flat on her back.  She never knows when it will attack; it may sap every ounce of strength she has this afternoon, it could lay low until the morning of her next hair appointment, or it may never ever bother Lali again.

Rheumatoid arthritis has erratic timing like CFS.  RA has interrupted my health for most of my childhood and my entire adult life.  Who could count the thousands of medications and treatments I've endured?  Damaged hands and feet always hurt and there's always some mild to moderate pain that settles in a different place(s) every single day of my life.  I go and do and stand up straight and smile and my days are happy and fulfilling.  It is important my pace myself, avoid stress and get plenty of rest, or I'll pay for overdoing things the next day.  The resulting flare can be a day or weeks or years of intense pain for me.  Healthy people should all read the Spoon Theory to understand this.  These are the good times and I try to make hay while the sun shines.

The Spoon Theory writer talks about the many energy saving choices that she has to make every day that normal people take for granted.  In addition to the regular discomforts, my wrists and shoulder hurt today.  Here are a few of my pain saving choices I had to make just getting ready this morning:  Lift (ouch) the washcloths until I reached a lightweight one because wet washcloths are heavy.  Chose a smaller towel for same reason.  Needed both hands to turn on the shower.  T-shirts don't have buttons.  Opened moisturizer and the toothpaste with my teeth.  Used my toothbrush with the fat handle and, because faucets are really hard for me to turn on and off, I wastefully left the water running while brushing.  Pony-tailed my hair instead of styling it. I am so blessed that my husband makes the bed every morning.  To save my wrist from an awkward angle, I used the speaker phone to call Mark and thank him.  Gosh, it sounds like I have the suckiest life on earth!  The reality of it all is, I'm so used to compensating, I do this stuff without thinking.  I actually had to sit here and walk myself through my morning to recall the whats and whys of it all.

Each RA flare varies in intensity and can occur regardless of how stress free and well-paced my life might be, however overdoing it and stress are pretty much a pain guarantee.  When arthritis is unbearable, I lay low and work on being comfortable.  Sometimes I can't even think of how and somebody (thank you Patty, many times over) will show up and hand me the right meds or a blanket or whatever.  Of course nobody wants to be sick, but a bad arthritis flare doesn't destroy my being, because I know the sun will come out sooner or later. (Insert barfy Annie song here.)

Lali said she writes less when CFS takes over, and doesn't post in Twitter because, "everybody knows that birds don't tweet when they're feeling sad."  How awful for her.  I feel bad on a daily basis, some days worse than most, but very rarely do I feel sad.

Last week's Apopka Chief had had an article about a community garden and I cannot wait to be a part of this!  16-by-4 foot raised beds are available for $20 a year.  I love growing things, but the deer and bears and other critter won't leave my back yard farming attempts alone.  There are rules, and one is, if I don't start the bed within 45 days, I will lose my deposit.  I feel pretty good today and will hurry to the courthouse and seal the deal, then go to Hall's Feed & Seed to start planning.  Oh goodie!!  This is one example of how I will make hay while the sun shines today.