Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Easter's Past

Aretha Franklin move over - now THESE are hats!

I have no idea who these ladies are other than my ancestors and from my mother's side. But I had to save them and they are pretty old. How fancy our photos used to be.

Had a very productive two days off. Going by my "Stars/Moon/Astrological Signs" chart, Tuesday was a planting day. Started two hills of yellow crookneck squash and zucchini, thinned the carrots a little more (I abhor pulling out little tiny plants - that could be a carrot someday!) but I know is is necessary if the other guys are going to grow into the beautiful carrots on the front of the seed sack.

The tomatoe plant is totally amazing me. I might actually get some real tomatoes this time. I think moving them into the front yard has been the best thing. Last year, and the year before I had them in my back yard, and as a result suffered a losing battle with little green worms. I searched and searched the internet to find out what these little buggers were, and the only one I came up with was the Tomatoe Hornworm. Could not find what they looked like when they were small - apparently they just appear as these big, ugly caterpillers with horns that spit at you or bite you or something. But that is not what I had. My Big Sis tells me that they fall out of the trees - and somehow they know not to fall until there is a tomatoe plant beneath them! Whatever, I am still keeping a close watch on my babymater.

I also stuck some more beans in the planter. As I mentioned in the last post, I cheated and planted the beans the day after plant day and one strange looking bean came up (out of 6). So we'll just test the theory of the chart.

Also started some herbs. Chives, oregano, rosemary, and also some onions.

And now, on to the subject of this post:

I borrowed a scanner from the neighbors so I could put my collection of old family photos on my computer. While I was doing this, I discovered several pictures that must have been taken at Easter as everyone in the pictures is "dressed". As a little background I come from a family (mother's side) of hand crafters. My great-grandmother was a quilter. I remember her stacks of little squares, some from the local 5 & 10 (Woolworth's?), but many from our old pajamas and dresses and such. I cannot confess what I did with the 3 completed quilts I got when I was young, but I do have several quilt tops that she made and that "someday" I plan to finish.

My grandmother made all kinds of things, but I remember best her hat blocks and dressmakers body that she kept in her attic. What a magical place for me that was. Platform shoes and dresses and real fox stoles complete with head and tail! And ribbons, and ric rac and just so many things to get into. I spent hours up there when I was little. And it was she who taught me to knit.

My mother could do anything. I remember someone saying she even made my dad's tailored suits. She made all my costumes for dance school recitals. And I'm sure she and my grandmother collaborated on the Easter outfits. She could knit, sew, even crochet with her hands. Nice gams, huh!

This is four generations. My mother, Shirley, is standing left and my grandmother, Bubba, on the right. Then, sitting from the left - my Big Sis, Toni, my great-grandmother, Mamaw, and me!

Check us out! Matching outfits complete with hats, socks, capes, and flowers!!

Here we are at my grandmother's condo in Ft. Lauderdale. That's me far left, my mom, and my Big Sis. Not hats, but we do have flowers.

It seems a little funny to me that I associate memories with food and clothes. I can totally remember the outfit I have on, the way it felt (soft and comfortable) and the way I felt in it (very grown up and pretty).

Friday, March 20, 2009

Kudos to the First Lady

Hello and welcome. It has been awhile since I have added anything to my blog. Partly because I have too many things that I would like to write about and partly because I have been really busy at work and things have been kind of crazy at home. I did start several articles, but because I didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted to say, unfortunately they were abandoned.

However, with the news that Michelle Obama has broken ground on the White House lawn for a veggie and herb garden - surely everyone has seen her on CNN and many other news shows as well as many, many blogs spreading the news - I finally had something of substance to write about. I have signed every petition that I have come across sending the veggie garden idea to the President. I am elated and so very proud of our first family for taking the initiative and doing this. I truly hope that is gives others the inspiration to start their own family gardens.

In these times of hardship, to have your own veggie garden, however small, gives you hope and perhaps a comfort that no matter how bad things get you will always have something to eat. It was one of the reasons I started my own, and as you can see by the pictures I have tomatoe flowers - soon to be tomatoes!!!, and carrots, I can't tell you how good this makes me feel. Just to see the little tiny carrot seeds I planted actually sprout - I did that! Soooo cool. And all of my veggies are being grown in containers.

But this vegetable garden thing is not a new idea. Several past U.S. presidents had vegetable gardens on the White House lawn. Perhaps the best known was Eleanor Roosevelt who started a victory garden on the White House lawn in 1943, which encouraged millions to do the same in their own front yards. When WWII ended, home gardeners were producing 40 percent of the United States' produce. And Woodrow Wilson even kept sheep on the lawn of the White House!

The First Lady hopes that inspiring children will help spread the healthy eating message to others.

"My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities," she said in an interview in her East Wing office. The plot of land given over to the new kitchen garden will measure about 1,100 sq ft. and will be visible from the street.

And this brings me to my new cause. Schoolyard gardens. I have become very interested with this movement, and have been doing alot of research on it as well. I came across an article by Brian Trelstad (google his name and you will learn who he is) on the history of school gardens in America from 1891 to 1920. It was interesting to discover that these school gardens emerged in hundreds of cities and manufacturing towns in the first two decades of the twentieth century. The push for this movement came from reformers like Fannie Griscom Parsons and her son who developed unique garden methods that reflected their own ideologies. Their efforts eventually started several national orginizations to promote the growth of urban school gardens. By 1915 three different bureaus of the Federal Government had committed resources to spreading the garden idea. The first American school garden was created in 1891. And in 1919, the United States School Garden Army had huge numbers of children producing food for the war effort. The school garden was used to teach children about nature, to green the industrial city, to Americanize immigrants, and to instill the ethics of hard work and patriotism. All of this was done to connect the landscape, the child, and the educator. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

To think that this forward thinking was taking place at the turn of the century, you wonder what has become of this movement. Modernization perhaps and the advent of processed foods. But when we take a look at all the poison that we have been feeding ourselves and our children, well, it just boggles the mind. Now I can take heart in the actions of our President and his family.

There are several organizations that are promoting school garden projects. Amont them are:

And this was what first got me interested in how we feed our children:

Just listen to the kids in this video and count the show of hands on who has a home veggie garden.

And can enough be said of Roger Doiron and the site for really promoting the idea of the White House vegetable garden.

Visit these sites and maybe you will become as excited as I am about what is happening in this country.

Okay, I'll step down from my soapbox now. But I have a little story to tell. I have been using a chart of astrological signs and moon phases to do my planting. My tomatoes were purchased, but the carrots, lettuce, spinach, and bush beans were all started from seed using my chart. Everything that is except the bush beans. I was a day late in getting the seeds into the dirt. Now I find that everything else is doing really, really well, but the beans, well, they are just not growing. The two that did come up (I planted six beans) had rotten tops and looked like something had chewed on the stems. Seriously. So, on the next plant day on the chart, I will try again and see what happens. I'll keep you posted.

Take care and come back soon. K (aka Mad Beach Maven)

Even Woodrow Wilson kept sheep on the lawn at the White House!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Botanical Gardens

Can anyone tell me the name of this beautiful blooming tree? I keep wanting to say a Jacaranda, but I'm pretty sure those are purple.

Well, I'm disappointed to say that the Pinellas County Extension Botanical Gardens was not what I had expected it to be. But I'm not giving up. I figure I may have just gone at the wrong time of year and should have waited unti next month. I also think that the Extension may be short handed (on account of low funding) and may be working with a smaller crew than usual. Although all the paths were clear the garden areas were in disarray and many of the plants looked like they were in pretty bad shape - again, maybe because of my timing. Most of the trees looked as if they could use a good pruning, and the flower beds needed some mulching as well. Also, very little was in bloom, which was the point of my visit.

I did take a few shots:

This little guy greeted me on the way in. It doesn't show up very well in this shot but he has a bright red beak. Couldn't find what kind of bird he was, but I don't think it is a duck - the bill is not right.

This is the best flower shot I could find. It is a white Bird of Paradise getting ready to burst forth and spread its wings.

One lonely nest in a very naked tree. I didn't see any activity around the nest so I'm guessing it is abandoned, or, on the brighter side, waiting for some lucky bird to claim it as their own.

These were a display on raised bed gardens done by the master gardeners who work at the gardens.

Starting at the bottom of the picture are Alyssum "Snow Crystals", then pansy "Delta Berry Tart" mix, followed by Viola "Penny Citrus" mix, and several beds of Snapdragons in every color you can think of.

My visit to the Farmer's Market was interesting. The local fruit and veggies are so much healthier than the ones at my grocery store. The market also features homegrown Florida honey, and many different crafts.

I must say I am really beginning to understand peoples obsession with orchids. The shots above are just two of the many, many varieties this dealer had. The price was right too, $7!! There were some that were larger that were $12, but if I had had some money to spend, it would have gone right here.

I really want to work to make this blog not only a personal journal of sorts, but also to be informative and to teach, or at least lead the way, to becoming more self-sufficient. And, undaunted, I will continue my exploration of the many gardens in this area: next stop the Hanging Gardens in downtown St. Petersburg. Now that place should be a bloomin' wonder!

On the brighter side - my carrots and bush beans are popping their heads up out of the soil - I'm so excited!! I know I can grow carrots because I've done it before. But what wonderful feeling watching something you started with nothing more than a packet of seeds and some dirt start to take form. So this is what it's all about . . .

Take care and stop by again. K (aka Mad Beach Maven)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

On Chickens

Good morning to all who visit! It is a rainy Sunday here on Mad Beach, but I am grateful for the free water and I know my seedlings are enjoying it also. We started carrots and bush beans this weekend. The Ol' Salt was happy drilling holes in the containers and cutting up some leftover 2 x 4's to set the containers up off the ground. I think the idea of me retiring next year is starting to sink in. He made the comment yesterday that he doesn't see how we are going to make ends
meet once that happens. Well, I do have a plan ya know. It is kind of scary wondering about all the "what ifs", but I know we will be okay. We just need to make some preparations now, so that the transition won't be too terribly daunting. Hence, the containers and seeds, etc. That is part of our "survival" plan. And to that plan I would like to add chickens. Not a whole flock (even though I'm not sure how many a "whole" flock would be), but just two, or maybe three. Only laying hens of course - no roosters allowed (for obvious reasons!)

Anyone who knows me well knows of my affinity for the chicken. When I was younger (in another life really, with "the x") I lived in a little town outside Ocala, Florida, called Chandler. The "town" consisted of a crossroads, railroad track, a general store, a few houses, and orange groves. I lived in a duplex of sorts - it was once separate apartments, most likely built for the migrant orange pickers to stay in. Both sides were exactly alike and each had a front door, but the wall separating them was taken out, making it one cottage. One side had a kitchen, bath, and bedroom, and the other side had living room, closet, and bedroom.

My landlord was an older gentleman who had been born and raised in North Dakota - back when there were still Indians roaming around. He was quite frugal and lived very much from the land. He raised rabbits and had a kitchen garden, and he called me the "greenhorn". He also had a chicken coop, which was not in use, as the neighborhood dogs had killed most of his chickens and so he stopped raising them. To make what could turn into a long story shorter, we began acquiring chickens. Two at first. Real beauties called Comets, which were a cross between a White Leghorn (you remember Whitehorn Leghorn from the cartoons) and a Rhode Island Red. The two hens had beautiful white and pale red feathers, and laid very pretty brown eggs. Then came Charlie, a huge white rooster whose wings Mr. Kaufman (my landlord) clipped just a little too short and I had to lift him onto the dowel at night so he could roost until his wings grew out a little. Then came a dozen chicks from which we got one rooster. He was very handsome and tall, I called him Long John Silver. The hens hated him though, and so he would have to sneak up to them pretending he was just passing by until a hen would start to peck, and then he would make his move, hop on, do his business and hop off, leaving the poor hen somewhat shaken and unruffled. I really loved going out to the coop and tossing feed to my brood. I had a portable transistor radio that I took with me and I played all the "hippie" tunes of the day for them. Mr. Kaufman really got a kick out of us. Especially when the first pair we brought home disappeared! I looked and looked for those darn hens, and then I looked up. Don't you know they were perched on a branch of an orange tree just whispering between themselves and doing what I was sure was laughing at me!!! How silly I felt. I had no idea that chickens could fly!! So with that background, I bring you to the point of this post.

The following article appeared in the St. Petersburg paper not long ago:

Henpecked Gulfport council reverses course
By Sheila Mullane Estrada, Times Correspondent Published Thursday, February 5, 2009

GULFPORT — The great chicken debate is over, and the chickens won.
Residents of this funky Pinellas County city should be allowed to raise chickens without breaking the law, the City Council decided this week.
Until Tuesday's vote it was illegal to keep even one chicken in Gulfport. Now you can have up to 10.
Backyard chickens are a "huge movement going throughout the country,'' said council member Michele King, perhaps the most vocal advocate for backyard chicken coops. At one point during Tuesday's City Council meeting, she held up an Atlanta newspaper article about a Georgia "chicken whisperer."
"If we don't do this,'' King added, "we are not moving forward."
Council members Judy Ryerson and Bob Worthington voted against the measure.
The vote ends months of debate that prompted a flood of pro-chicken phone calls, letters and e-mails, and visions of tearful children.
"This has been before us many, many times before and generated a tremendous amount of discussion. I want this to be the final decision and vote," Mayor Michael Yakes told the council.
The great chicken debate began last summer when a member of a backyard chicken flock loudly announced she had laid an egg.
A nearby police officer heard the noise, investigated and cited the homeowner, Briggs Monteith, with violating city code.
Over the next six months, Monteith, his wife, Jennifer Conroy, and their two daughters — Peregrine, 7, and Suwanee, 4 — became regular visitors to City Hall as the council debated, voted for and then against allowing chickens in the city.
"I am here hopefully for the last time," Conroy said Tuesday, as her two daughters ran up to the podium to stand beside her.
Conroy held up a carton of eggs she said her chickens laid that morning, and asked the council members to "let our chickens rest easy and become legal citizens of Gulfport."
© 2009

Gulfport is a small town just outside St. Petersburg. So, I have mentioned this article several times to the Ol' Salt, and he just dismisses me as being "crazy" to think I could keep chickens in our backyard. But I have studied on the idea and have read many articles from the Mother Earth newsletter that I subscribe to, and to other web articles on the subject. No big flock, just two or three as I said earlier. They are quiet (for the most part), clean, eat bad bugs and such, and they present us with delicious eggs, which is most convenient. I am becoming more aware about the origins of what we eat and buy from the local grocery store. And maybe even a little paranoid about things such as "fresh" produce and frozen fish. We are lucky that the Ol' Salt is a commercial fisherman and knows several who bring us grouper and margate fresh off the boat. (Commercial fishing is another blog entry coming soon). But even if I was not planning to retire soon, I can find only advantages in growing my own, chickens included.

See, told you I had a plan.

Please feel free to comment and take care. K (aka Mad Beach Maven)