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Harvesting Nov 2019

By Koreen,

We're midst our busy harvest seasons, gathering and processing a variety of herbs from the farm before our first freeze of the year. Moringa, lemongrass, mulberry leaf, tulsi basil, wild medicinals and more are being harvested. We have been averaging first freezes in November the last few years even though first frost date for our region is December 15. 

We're grateful for the extended warm season with no frost in sight yet this year. Butterflies, bees and other pollinators are taking advantage! Blooming prolifically on the farm right now are a late flush of everbearing mulberry, tithonia (our Mexican sunflowers are loaded), cranberry hibiscus, sweet acacia, tropical and blue sages, cosmos,  sweet potato, pentas, dagga, citrus, Turk's cap, asters, liatris and other wildflowers, and winter flowers such as Johnny Jump ups, snapdragon, buckwheat, and soon, the nasturtiums we recently planted. Our rain lilies made a wild appearance and burst out for a day, even though there was no rain for days, before or after. 

We're documenting insects on the farm his year and are overwhelmed at the variety of spiders, pollinators, stink bugs, scarab beetles and other bugs, grasshoppers, and other creatures of the microworld that we've been spotting. The diversity and numbers of native pollinators especially lets us know we are doing some things right! 

Our winter crops in the kale family are thriving along with onions, parsley, cilantro, dill, peppers, tomatoes, and more. 

Our chickens, some of whom are molting and looking fashionably bedraggled, are going crazy over our protein-rich kenaf, which is dying back for the season, and Asian winter greens which are just getting going. 

Bird life is at a peak right now with flocks of migrating birds benefiting from the copious wild grass and wildflower seeds and insect life available, and native birds getting their fill too. 

Our seminole pumpkin vines made a glorious comeback and are again fruiting from new nodes. Food we're harvesting includes cassava, mulberry, some citrus, winter greens, green onions that grew through summer, banana, papaya, fig. Next year will add quite a few fruit and veggie varieties to that list that should provide year around abundance. 

Farm Walk, Sept 2019

By Koreen,

We do a walk through of our entire property once a month or so. We note what is in bloom, what is fruiting, wildlife, and other things going on (a tree came down in a back corner, for instance). Observation is the first principle of permaculture and at the heart of the practice. And there are so many levels one can observe. One can attend to macro patterns and micro details, and everything in between.

On a recent walk, the weather was windy and dry - more like October weather than September for us. As a result, some flowers were going to seed earlier than usual. What does that mean for the bees?

We had an unusually high population of love bugs this season - because they tend to hang out on pollen rich flowers, will this reduce nutrients for other insects? On the other hand, the wildflowers this fall are the most abundant they have ever been. We had double our usual rainfall this summer; that likely contributed. Almost everything on the farm is covered with something blooming.

A month ago, there was very little blooming. This is common in our part of the world in summer. Beekeepers feed their bees in both summer and winter seasons here. Within the space of two weeks, the flowers have come alive.

We noted which native flowers were in bloom in July and Aug (very few) so that we can add more of those. Dune sunflower was a hot spot for honey bees and bumblebees, both heavy with huge pollen sacks on their legs. It’s thus going to be a major addition in our wild areas.

Monarda (horsemint) went from one plant to dozens last year, self seeding in a patch we had haphazardly cleared - it was enough. So next year, we will 20X the amount we have. It doesn’t bloom in August here - the flowers just recently opened, but it is loaded with nectar - a quick way to fill up in the fall. I watched 20 different types of pollinators land on it in the space of 15 minutes. Bumblebees, beneficial wasps and syrphid flies are the most frequent visitors along with hundreds of love bugs.

The mulberry we transplanted in August is thriving - we did a good job of transplanting - it was fairly well established when we moved it. The extra work we did to do it right was worth it. 

 

In one of the large leaves a tree frog rests, hoping to not be noticed.

A coral snake slithers across an open spot by an avocado tree - transfixingly beautiful!

Here is the list of blooming plants I noted in the walk through:

Wildflowers blooming right now  

Not all of these are native, but all are growing wild on the farm.

  • Spanish Needle
  • Camphorweed
  • Monarda
  • Cottonweed/Snakecotton
  • Wild Buckwheat
  • Tropical sage
  • Firebush
  • Partridge pea
  • Elephant foot
  • Goldenrod
  • Ragweed
  • Skunkvine
  • Morning glory
  • Elderberry
  • Dune sunflower
  • Senna
  • Oxalis/wood sorrel

A few others, not IDed yet or missed in my walk through

 

Flowers we planted:

  • Everbearing mulberry
  • Cosmos
  • Pentas
  • Angelonia
  • Zinnia
  • Loquat (I know, right? Just one tree)
  • Firecracker bush
  • Tithonia
  • Basils
  • Dagga
  • Salvias, various kinds
  • Canna
  • 4 O'clock
  • Moringa
  • Papaya
  • Banana
  • Celosia
  • Marigold
  • Sweet potato
  • Anise hyssop
  • Coleus
  • Ceylon spinach
  • Gingers

Probably others I'm forgetting

 

Fruiting/seeding:

  • Papaya
  • Banana
  • Fig
  • Citrus
  • Starfruit
  • Everbearing mulberry
  • Various veggies
  • Pokeweed
  • Virginia creeper
  • Beauty berry
  • Moringa
  • Sand burs (lol)
  • Partridge pea
  • Sumac
  • Elderberry
  • Goldenrod
  • Ragweed

Lots of wildflowers, with copious proof left on my clothing by Begger’s Tick and Spanish Needle. 

Other stuff I'm forgetting

Bees went from not having much food to having a smorgasbord. Which they'll need, because all this abundance will shut down by November as we enter a bonafide winter quiet season here near Brooksville. We’re currently planning a fall cover crop that can feed them into the winter season, and early spring crops as well. Just one hour north of Tampa is a whole different world - Spanish Needle is a seasonal bloomer on our sandhill, not year around as it is in Tampa. This is one reason observation is so important to operating a system that works in harmony with nature, not against her. 

Koreen

 




Lushness

We’ve had twice as much rain as usual in our rainy season. In some places, that means flooding, but on our farm it simply transformed the 70 foot deep sand dune we sit on into a jungle.

Spanish Needle went crazy everywhere, along with many types of grasses and wildflowers. Mulberry branches burst forth in a wild bid for the sky, each limb reaching higher than the last, making the trees look like sprung springs.

Vines thickened up so much on trees that one of them fell over from the weight. Walking anywhere was a challenge without a machete or scythe. The fig trees lay hidden behind Spanish Needle as tall as us, which obviously loves the hugelkultur beds we created to suppress nematodes (the root knot nematodes love figs). When we break through, we find baby figs on the trees, apparently unconcerned about being buried in flowers.

Because of the generous rain, we didn’t have to water our potted trees, so they were ignored. When we went to find them, we couldn’t. In spite of a weed barrier, they had disappeared behind a wall of weeds.

The moringa forest looked more like a camphorweed forest, but the baby moringa trees we planted as seed were in there, stubborn, waiting for us to come and carefully, gently provide them with some light.

The tithonia and cosmos flowers that self seeded in our gardens burst into color in July, and were soon literally covered in butterflies. It was not unusual to see four or five different types of butterflies vying for the same flower. Flowers lined a path we traveled frequently; there were always butterflies there, flitting around us. Swallowtails, longwing, skippers, monarchs, queens, sulfurs, a painted lady. 

We didn’t think too much about clearing all this out for fall planting. That would happen, but for the moment, we just enjoyed the soft, warm rain, the smells afterwards, and the intense squall storms coming from nowhere with a dark, five minute headwind warning, filling our rain tanks in an hour while we wondered whether the violent lightning would damage anything electric on the farm.

And the jungle, after the storm, dripping with humidity and life, almost growing right as we watched it. Rainy season! 

 

March 2019

 

Aug 2019

 




March 2019

 

Aug 2019

 


 

March 2019

 

Aug 2019

 


 

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