Friday, May 25, 2012

My Edible Landscape

I have been trying for an edible landscape for about 20 years.  My husband, a landscaper, is really not interested, so alas, it has been hit and miss.  I am a strange dichotomy - I equally love Town & Country magazine and Mother Earth News magazine.  Actually, as far as "back to the land" magazines, I really enjoy Countryside magazine, which is pretty hard-core and done in black and white with few photos.

Envisioning a yard that is abundant in fruits and vegetables has always been a dream.  When I am feeling particularly earthy, usually not when wearing my St. John suits or all glammed up in a ballgown, I also want chickens and bees.  My husband heartily laughs when I suggest this.  Fortunately, we do not live in a gated community, we live in the historic section of Nokomis, where these things might actually be possible.

As I have noted in previous posts, we are planning on redoing our yard in the next year or so.  We have lived in this house for 25 years and it has had various landscaping plans, which never really jelled.  This is what happens when your husband does this work for a living and really could care less about it when he comes home at night.  We are definitely like the cobbler's children who have no shoes, I am sad to say. 

At times I have had a large rose garden, a large herb garden, lots of citrus trees and tried a variety of different fruits.  I love to be out in the yard during Oct. - May, but when hot and humid June comes along, I tend to conveniently forget about plants that need tending.  One of my very favorite things to do as the sun is setting, is to take a walk around the property and see what is growing, what needs attention, or just sitting on a bench dreaming about what could be.

These are the fruits we have grown well and easily - 1.  We have a large macadamia nut tree in our front yard.  It is probably about 20 feet tall.  It bears tons of macadamia nuts and we have VERY happy squirrels.  We don't usually get ANY of the nuts.  I guess we are just growing it to make the squirrels happy in our neighborhood.  2.  It took several years for our carambola - or star fruit tree to become big and bearing, but now it has abundant fruit on it.  The biggest problem - it freezes quite easily, though it also comes back quite easily.  3.  We inherited two large grapefruit trees, a lemon tree, a lime tree, and a juice orange tree when we bought this house.  They all grew well for many years, but they finally all just gave out.  In fact, we had one pink grapefruit tree that was planted by our septic field that was the talk of the neighborhood.  It gave, literally, about 100 bushels of fruit a year.  Neighbors from all around us would bring their snowbird guests over to our house to have their photo taken with this tree and take home some fruit.  It was a beauty!  Many years ago, I gave my husband a minneola tangelo for his birthday and it, too, was huge.  My husband had someone who had been mowing our lawn "trim" it back two years ago and they basically ruined it.  I literally cried when I saw what he had done.  And he thought he had done a good job - idiot!  Anyway, that tree is just a shadow of its former self and we will probably take it down.  4.  Last year we planted a peach tree, which is coming along, a lychee tree, also doing well, and a fig, which doesn't look that great.  5.  We have a beautiful Barbados cherry bush that came back very nicely after getting frozen two years ago.  6.  As I have shown you previously, I also am growing herbs and vegetables in pots, as well as waiting to plant my new plants from Sunday's sale, which include a hog plum and another fig.

I have a list of things that didn't grow well for me, or did for awhile and then bit the dust.  They were - 1.  Bananas/plantains  - yes, easy to grow, but every one I have ever planted never bore fruit and also froze.  My daughter has had better luck.  2.  Bay and cinnamon trees - I was very excited to grow both of these, but they never really amounted to anything.  3.  Blueberries and raspberries - I think I just didn't do the right things with these, though occasionally, we will have a stray raspberry cane shoot up out of the blue.  4.  Papaya - I have had decent luck with these and have grown them a couple of times, but these grow so tall and freeze easily.  5.  I bought this for the variety name - Cotton Candy Guava - I don't even know if I like guava, but I thought it sounded yummy.  It grew for a bit and then died.  6.  Sugar apple - this kind of grew and though we had fruit on the tree, we never could figure out when it was ripe or how to eat it and then my husband needed the space where it was growing to park his chipper, so out it went.  7.  Last, but not least, pomegranate.  I tried to grow these both in the ground and in a huge pot to no real avail.  I did get a couple of pomegranates off them, but they never looked too terrific.  I just read an article about them in Florida Gardening magazine written by a guy in Bradenton who talked liked they were the easiest things in the world to grow, so I apparently am doing something wrong.

Below are photos of things currently growing in our yard.  I didn't photograph things that aren't doing well, because frankly, who wants to see that!  Wishing you good growing and good eating! 

One macadamia nut that the squirrels haven't eaten.

What the blooms on the macadamia tree looks like.

A Barbados cherry - it has a pretty pink flower as it blooms.

Yay - one lone peach on our year-old tree!

Our lychee tree - no fruit yet, but we have our fingers crossed!

Lots of delicate pink blooms on our carambola tree.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Manatee Rare Fruit Sale

This year's Manatee Rare Fruit Council sale was SO much more comfortable than last year's event.  Last year they were only able to use half of the space at the Manatee Civic Center and this year they were able to open it up to the entire space.  Last year the a/c was not working well and this year it was nice and cool.  It was such a much more pleasurable experience, which means we stayed for two hours!

The sale opened at 10 AM and we got there at 9:50 AM.  There were already over 200 people waiting in line to get in the doors!  It only took us 35 minutes to get there from Nokomis.  The sale is always the Sunday after Mother's Day.  The one in Sarasota, which is held at Phillippi Estate Park, is the last Sunday in September.  It is held outdoors and it is hot and miserable, though I usually go to that one too, I just don't stay as long.

We ended up with a hog plum, a brown turkey fig, a lemon thyme, a lemon eucalyptus, and a red yarrow.  I would have loved to get more, but since we are planning a complete redo of our landscaping in the next year, we thought we should go easy on new plants.

I can't tell you how much I look forward to this sale.  It is a feast for anyone who loves an edible landscape or even to grow a few fruits.  They have exotic fruits and also "normal" fruits like lots of citrus.  It was just a plain ol' fun and enjoyable day!  I hope I'll see you there next year!

(In my next posting on Friday, I'll show you what we currently have growing in our edible landscape.)

A banana grower's display

The line waiting to get in the doors.

The herb section, and my husband talking on the phone, doing business.  I just bring him along to carry things.

The Univ. of Florida table


Mamey sapote plants
Information on mangoes

My daughter and husband discussing the mulberry tree she is buying.  You need to bring your own cart, if possible, or if you are lucky like us, you can grab one of the ones they have on hand for you to use.  Last year we didn't have anything to carry our plants in and it was a huge pain!

The honey guys

Sugar cane

Perennial basil - it was a huge plant!
A listing of all the plants this particular grower stocks

Blueberries - this grower's signs were really helpful

Dragon fruit

Jaboticaba - I took this photo more for the price tag - $200 - than for anything.  There are all sorts of price points at the sale - most in the $20 - $60 range.

Bay rum

June plum

Scotch bonnett

Miracle fruit

Tropical apricot


Monday, May 21, 2012

Ave Maria Prep - Miracle Fest Casino Night

First of all, I had to take a slight 10-day break from my blog.  I was just plum tuckered out from season overload.  Do you feel that way about now?  Anyway...glad to be back and will now be on my summer posting schedule of Monday - Wednesday - Friday.

Saturday night was Ave Maria Preparatory School's Miracle Fest Casino Night.  You mean you have never heard of Ave Maria?  It is a special learning needs school (K-12) located out in Myakka City, but thankfully, their event was close by at Michael's On East!

From the hundreds of events I have attended over the years, can you believe I have never been to a casino night?  I can't either, but it is true.  I thought this one was exceptionally well done.  There were scads of "gambling" opportunities scattered around the ballroom, all with play money of course, which you could use at the end of the night for prizes.  From the time I got there to the time I left, those tables were full and rolling!

I also had never heard ABC7's Bob Harrigan as emcee and auctioneer, though I know he has done it lots of times.  He was terrific!  He even sounded like a real auctioneer.  Bob, have you had special training?  Every live auction item went for at least its value and sometimes more, so I would say that was a huge success, especially for an auction this late in the season, when we are all about live auctioned out.

Of course, the most poignant part of the evening  was the program - first with Sister Gilchrist and then with Ave Maria Senior Christian Tidwell.  Sister Gilchrist was justifiably proud to say that Ryan McCarthy, now the school's Director of Development, was her first student when she came to Sarasota.  Sister also talked about several current students and how they had progressed with her "buddy's" help, meaning God.  One had gone from drool having to be wiped from  his mouth to now he was entering an Ivy League school.  She also announced that the school was starting a two-year agricultural college called Shepard's Field. 

A highlight was Christian Tidwell's speech (without a note, I might add) telling of his journey from being kicked out twice from Sister's former school to going to a public school where he got into drugs and gangs, to now graduating from Ave Maria, as he was "moved by a miracle" and turned his life over to God. 

Veronica Brandon Miller told me that Goodwill has a partnership with Ave Maria in which Goodwill hires every graduate who desires to, to learn a trade and have employment with Goodwill because everyone, no matter the disability deserves the dignity of earning a paycheck.

Michael's did their usual delish buffet.  I sure wish they would put their mushroom ravioli on the regular lunch menu.  I would have that every time!

One really nice thing about the evening, there were lots of new people attending.  That is always terrific to see.  A really pleasant way to celebrate the end of season! 

Veronica Brandon Miller, Sister Mary Gilchrist-Cottrill, and Dr. Paul Jaworski

Sister Therse and Robin Rogari, Chair

Molly Jackson and Ryan McCarthy, Dir. of Development

Dottie Garner and Rebecca Blitz

Renee Phinney and Jen McAlister

Betsy Wyant and Ken Allen

Jessica Shaw and Erika Favorite

Nolan and Kelly Gardner

Peggy Roberts and Dennis Celorie

One of the busy gaming tables

One of the buffet tables

The table setting

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Goodwill Foundation Fashion Without Barriers Luncheon

Lots of pretty silk scarves and wraps were shown Tuesday at the Goodwill Foundation's Fashion Without Barriers luncheon at Michael's On East.  Models in black showed how charming each overlaying piece in the Sitting Pretty USA collection looked for a variety of occasions.

The fashion show was done in a cute, old-school style with each of the celebrity models strutting down the runway playing a role in a little vignette described by Sitting Pretty USA Founder and CEO, Susan Olsen.  Susan, who is in a wheelchair, designed the collection so all women, no matter their mobility, could look lovely and feel terrific!  All the models also wore jewelry by Barb McSweeney and the men all wore ties from Goodwill.

Another fun and entertaining part of the event was a video done in the Goodwill boutique with Susan Brennan, Renee Phinney, Veronica Brandon Miller and Scott Anderson.  The girls were all "looking for Scott" and it showed Scott in a variety of places, including getting his non-existent hair done - very darling. 

The models were Beth Green, Cody Bowman, Chinna Buck, Ashley Grant, Dr. Kameron Partridge Hodgens, Aubrey Lynch, Helen McBean, Veronica Brandon Miller, Renee Phinney, and Anne Weintraub.  Their escorts were Steve Altier, John Annis, John Chapman, Jay Clarkson, Dr. Michael Gordon, James Holmes, Morgan Howell, Phil King, Ryan McCarthy, Justin Mosely, and Wes Roberts.  All were such good sports!

The centerpieces were all handbags from the Goodwill boutique, which were for sale.  A salad topped with two crab cakes was the entree followed by cookies and mini tarts.

Of course, you know Goodwill's mission is to turn donations into good jobs, good jobs, and good neighborhoods.  I saw some good bargains in the video at the boutique.  You should hop down for a look!

Others seen in the crowd were Rebecca Blitz, Yen Reed, Jenn McAlister, Linda DesMarais, Marjorie North, Monica Van Buskirk, Veronica Brady, Michael Scott, Renee Hamad, Susie Bowie, Audrey Coleman, Debbie Seitl, Jamie Aymerich, Tricia Foster, Suzanne Willis, Tamara Chapman, LuAnne Kirschner, Sarah Lodge, Laura Peters, and Rhonda Peters

Partners in the event were Easter Seals, Loveland Center, and Ava Maria Preparatory School.

For the first time ever in my career, I forgot my camera!!  I have never done that before and hope to never do it again!  A friend, who wished to remain anonymous, helped me out by providing these photos to me.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Co-chairs Susan Brennan and Renee Phinney with emcee Scott Anderson in the middle

Susan Olsen - Sitting Pretty USA Founder and CEO

Anne Weintraub, Veronica Brandon Miller, VP Goodwill Foundation, and James Holmes

Gail Bowden and Kelly Pepe