Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Busy September

Before this month ends I suppose it's time to finally get a post up about this months activities.  We are fully back to our homeschool schedule, and the garden is still producing as we gathered up our peanuts and sweet potatoes in the first of these harvests for us.  We've cleared out the last of the beans and loofah squash that had grown so thick over the trellises we'd set up.  We are now preparing our beds for Fall planting which I'm having to learn that here in Central Florida is actually the preferred time for a greater yield because it's still warm for months and we won't have the intense heat and humidity of the summer months.

Now with that being said the activity that has really taken our time and attention and had our house in a state of chaos for the past month has been replacing the old carpet in the living room and Kevin's office.  When we moved in we decided to live with the old light blue/grey carpet that was original to this 20 year old home, until we completed a few other projects first and had a chance to live here and decide what would be the best type of flooring for us here in this home and environment.  I'm glad we waited because initially I was looking at tile throughout and though that would look nice, I don't think it would work as well as the antiqued hickory laminate we chose to go with.

Here is the living room and my work space in the far corner near the window after we've removed books and decorative items and prepare to move the furniture.  Bea's enjoying her last days laying on the carpet here.

With the bookshelves moved Kevin began removing the carpet and pad against this wall first to lay the flooring

With the new fireplace in we could now begin the process of clearing out furniture and ripping up the carpet and padding to lay flooring, do the trim and then move furniture and all each piece holds to then move on to the next section of flooring.

Kevin's put down the underlayment and is setting out the first floor boards

I took this opportunity to paint the armoire in my crafting and office space a country white which makes it work so much better in this space.

The first pieces of flooring and trim are complete and the armoire is painted and we've moved these along with the bookshelves and it's contents back into place as we prepare to move other furniture and continue the process of laying this new flooring.  The look of this works really well with the rock work we did on the fire place when we replaced the old one.
The new flooring from this angle with the fireplace and the bookshelf back in place.  The fans were needed, it's in the 90's outside and humid so even with the air conditioning it's hot while working on this.

The longest process for Kevin that gave him a real workout and caused another intense cleaning spree in the house was removing the white tile by the front door.  He initially worked with a hammer and chisel a little section at a time until we made a trip to Harbor Freight and picked up a wider chisel for his hammer drill that made much quicker work of this part of the project.

Making real progress with the old tile and all the grout once he had the chisel piece for his hammer drill

Almost done, you can see a pile of the fine dust that was all over from this process by the broom

We also replaced the ugly light in the hall entry area and Kevin's office that work much better with the look of our furniture and the new flooring.  As I share my pictures I won't have all the finished ones yet as we still have some final work to complete and I need to find my camera cord to download more updated photos.  The work at this time that still needs to be done is the trims on the edges of the flooring by the kitchen, and hallway. The rock work at the base of the fireplace hearth to cover the old brick now that the floor is in place this can be done. Then before we put everything back on the shelves and in Kevin's office we're taking the time to go through everything to clear out materials no longer needed as well as to find nicer looking storage containers for all the DVD's we have.  So little by little we are making a real change that is looking really nice.

This is the hall as the tile is being removed with the old light up

Glad to see this one go.

Our new hall light that works much better for our purposes
That's it for now.  My next post will be of the finished look the new floors, lights and furniture in place give to our living space.  In the meantime the organizing process continues.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Garden Produce

The banana circles and edible yard today

We've been enjoying some of the fruits of our labor from the garden recently, as well as storing it for future use. We've harvested loads of yard long beans and most are in the freezer awaiting use at a later date.  Despite another onslaught of pickle worms, I've managed to gather 20 butternut squash and there are still more on the vines.  I've been fighting these awful worms with BT applications and by the tedious process of squishing them by hand.  Disgusting, but effective and a bit satisfying with how destructive these things can be and remembering how much we lost from our crops last year because of those worms. Next year I'll try to figure out a way I can put up insect fabric to cover the plants at night as that's when the moths lay their eggs that result in so many problems.

Fifteen of our butternut squash
More squash almost ready to pick

I've planted a number of plants this year in order to produce seed for future crops seeing that I had limited seed and much of it was getting old so only some of what I planted proved viable and actually produced.  Still, it was enough to resupply me for future plantings.  This includes my giant golden amaranth and calypso beans.
Girls shelling dried yard long beans for future planting

Some of the calypso beans harvested I'll use for seed

Calypso beans growing
Golden giant amaranth growing.  This stands about 6 feet tall right now.

We've enjoyed 3 of our pineapples so far and though they were small they were so sweet and delicious.  We still have many on the plants in varying stages of growth so these are still something to look forward to.  With each pineapple we eat, I take the top and replant for future produce.

Our first pineapples that were so good!!

I purchased 2 year old asparagus root stock this year and have set them in a bed that they will be allowed to grow in hopefully for years since asparagus can be so long lived.  They've taken off and produced huge fern like foliage that I will leave this year cutting in the Fall once they've yellowed so that the root stock will be strengthened and grow more vigorously next year when I can harvest some of the asparagus for eating.

Asparagus look a bit wild right now, but will eventually produce wonderful results that we're looking forward to eating.

More papayas growing

My tomatillos have really been producing and I picked the first of my loofah squash that I used in place of zucchini for making my zucchini brownies.  Loofah is wonderful for eating provided you pick it when it's still smaller and green.  Otherwise it gets very tough and fibrous and is best used for the loofah sponges you find in stores.

Just some of the MANY tomatillos we've picked this year.  These still have their outer casings on them.
A squash picked to day along with the loofah squash

My first peanuts accidentally pulled up when I pulled some dead lemon balm out- looking forward to harvesting these plants to see what my results are as this is the first time I've grown  these.

More of our yard long beans harvested today

Lima beans growing

Banana circles today, and the golden giant amaranth on the right. You can see all the sweet potatoes growing along with squash around the banana circles.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Conquering Mulch Mountain

Mulch pile right after delivery
This is the yard before we started planting

In May I had a load of mulch delivered for free from a tree service for use under our trees and in the yard.  We have been slowly, but surely using this pile and have almost made it all the way through the pile.  Once I have used this I'll call around and see about getting another load as it's worked so well in helping our new plants and trees to really get established even with the heat we've had lately.

The girls helping as we first started to work on the pile

Me loading one of MANY wheelbarrow loads of mulch - got my workout daily here

Here are some photos of our first plantings on May 17th, then the progress on June 22, and finally how things have grown and been added to as of today.  In my next post I'll show some of the produce we've already harvested to date.
May 17th my first two banana circles are planted

June 8th and more planting beds are in and the squash has begun to grow from the compost piles in the center of the banana circles along with the sweet potatoes and bananas

June 22cd our mulch pile is dwindling.  The bamboo along with spider lily, cape plumbago and iris are in a new planting bed in the front.

The front of the house and what's left of the pile today

Going, going- almost gone.  The bamboo has really grown and I've added to this planting bed

The banana circles and other beds today

Yard from the back side looking towards the house.  The tall plants on the right are my giant golden amaranth. They are just beginning to flower and I'm looking forward to collecting the seed to use in a larger planting bed later.
That's it for now, as I said I'll show pictures in my next post of our produce and the progress of our garden.  I'm hoping as my fruit trees and berries grow I'll be able to look forward to year round enjoyment from something always in season.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Banana Circles

Typical banana circle image with compost area in the center and some suggestions for companion planting

Wanting to add bananas to my list of foods to grow I did some research on their growth needs and behavior so I could get an idea of where and how to plant them to give them the optimum chance of surviving and producing the fruit I'd so like to have here in my zone 9b area.  I saw a lot of information on planting banana circles to accommodate the heavy feeding needs of bananas and the fact that they die after producing fruit, so having a continuous set of new plants moving in a circular growth area provides for continuous fruiting once the plants are established.

To get these started I chose to cover the grass with layers of newspaper and cardboard and build up with the nutrients that would be needed.  I already had some mushroom compost, peat moss and a few bags of Miracle grow potting soil, but when they only provided a few inches of cover to my newspaper base, I went to a local supplier to purchase a truckload of mushroom compost to add to this and prepare for planting the bananas I had ordered online and the couple of cavendish I bought at Lowes.

Choosing my spot and laying down newspaper and cardboard

Spraying with water to hold it in place until I can cover with dirt

I put a couple of logs in the center for air flow and added compost from my pile
With this in place it's time to start building my planting soil

What I had on hand didn't cover much, so it's off to the local dirt and mulch supplier

With a layer of dirt in a circle we filled the area between the center compost pile and outer edge with mulch from my large wood chip pile I had delivered for free from a tree service. Once this was down we added a bit more dirt to the planting part and then began to plant some of the bananas I bought, some pineapples I'd started, lemon grass divisions from my large plant and then sweet potato slips.
I set the first circle just below my apple and orange trees in the front yard.  This area gets runoff being at a lower elevation than the surrounding yard and gets some protection from wind and intense sun because of the established trees on two sides.  I've documented some of my progress, and then after putting in this first circle I quickly added a second and then began adding other raised beds in the yard to get a start on the food forest I'd like to create on my property.

My banana order along with a dragon fruit plant

First bananas in place

First banana circle with bananas and pineapples planted
Hannah and Lauren adding mulch to my second banana circle
First 2 circles done

I've been amazed and pleased at how well things are taking off.  We're now in Florida's rainy season which is a real benefit to the growth of all the plants and trees I currently have in the ground.  I'll keep updating as I make progress.  I'm also making plans on having materials on hand to protect these during the colder months, until I can create enough of a microclimate through my planting area to give them year round protection as they mature.

Circle 1 with more mulch and a squash that seeded itself from my mulch pile in the center and I let grow
2cd banana circle with a couple small trees added and a cranberry hibiscus. A squash also self seeded in the center here too.
I then began adding other planting beds

Here's an update after a couple months growth
My "nursery" area for plants and trees that still need to find a place around the yard

I'm still in a learning process for growing here in Central Florida, so for any who have experience comments or suggestions all are welcome, and I'll post my results to benefit others who may need the information as things continue to grow, mature and hopefully produce the results I'm seeking.