Friday, September 28, 2007

The Genius Loci Reveals Herself

Today I was doing some major deep tissue massage on the land and she must have dug it because spirit of the place the "genius loci" revealed herself to me for the first time. "A little deeper there", she said. "Not so hard", she moaned. "Oh, no don't plant it there, plant it here", she cried. (she was talking about blueberries you prev!).
We got along really well. I"m looking forward to a long fulfilling relationship with her over the years. We'll have some serious fun together i"m sure.
If you take the time to listen you'll her her at your place too.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


We're making great progress here at the Funny Farm. We're now harvesting baby basil and cilantro and will thin the turnips and eat the greens for supper tonight. We prepared and planted 5 more beds with Happy Rich Greens (rich in vitamin A), lettuce mix, tat tsoi, collards (yummmm), and 3 varieties of radishes (can't wait for the one called Red Meat). We tilled up the front lawn and sowed clover and rye to make a faux lawn until the spring when we till it under and start planting food. Being the 'burbs the neighbors will think we're nuts (they'ed be right) but we don't care and they'll quit complaining when they get to taste our organic, nutritious vegetables for themselves.
Pray for rain, do a rain dance.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

MO' Money in the Bank

Before it's current incarnation as The Funny Farm, the previous owners of the property had planted lots of ornamental plants for their enjoyment. Well, our philosophy is "if you can't eat it, smoke it or sell it, it has no place here." So in keeping with that we have been digging up the ornamentals and potting them up in anticipation of selling them to our garden center in Atlanta, The Urban Gardener.
We now have over 200 variegated liriope, 100 or so daylilies, 10 premium lenten roses and almost 70 blackeyed susans. Thats about $1000 in the bank waiting to be collected next spring. Of course if it doesn't rain soon and a total watering ban is instituted in our market we'll be out of business. But we can't worry about that now. Don't worry about what you can't control, right?
There are other specimen plants here that we'll pot up a little later into the fall which will be mo' money in the bank.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fish Sticks

I went to a conference at Fort Valley State U. yesterday put on by Team Agriculture Georgia called the Small, Beginning and Limited Resource Farmer Workshop. Well that certainly describes us to as T. It was a really good conference. The UGA expert on beekeeping Dr. Keith Delaplane gave a good overview of beekeeping. So now we'll be keeping bees of course but more about that later. Also on the program was Dr. Pat Duncan who is the director of the Aquaculture (fish farming) program at Fort Valley State. She is awesome. She is just getting the program there going but she has extensive experience in aquaculture and is very interested in getting farmers to integrate small scale aquaculture into a diversified farming operation.
My dream will come true after all. That is exactly what i want to do with our pond. Grow fish to offer to our csa members. She and I are going to apply for a SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) Producer Grant to study the feasibility of small scale aquaculture for the small, poor farmer.
Yee Haa! I can't wait to get that project going. We'll be eating organic fish sticks real soon!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I guess it's a good thing to start one's blog with a controversial subject but i never expected the amount of shit i've gotten from my friends about my composting toilet. Most of it revolves around "does it stink?". Well at first it did. My employees were working here at the Funny Farm when i first started using it 2 weeks ago and they complained to Robin about the smell when they came in to take a crap in the regular toilet. (no, the pussies wouldn't use the composting toilet. they even told her that it would be worthwhile for them to build us an outhouse.) BS! We've got our outhouse in house.
They we right, i must admit, about it smelling bad at first. But after 2 weeks the microorganisms have been feasting on the deposits and the smell has changed from shitty to earthy. Just like a compost pile should.
There have been several people who want to make deposits of their own, especially after my adopted son said anyone who did would get a bratwurt.
So come on out and make your contribution to the life of the Funny Farm if you dare!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rootin' for Salsify

My parents loved oysters. Not me, though. I think they taste like mud and slime. But when i was growing up each fall my mom would fix a casserole (she was a home ec teacher who really didn't know how to cook very well but loved to make casseroles which my father mostly hated being a meat and potatoes kind of guy) made from a root vegetable that tasted like oysters (sort of) without the slime and muddiness. It had butter and milk and saltine crackers and salt and pepper and i really loved it.
When i grew up and started to my grow vegetables i was flipping through a seed catalog and what do you know there was salsify seed. So i got some grew it and made some salsify casserole. During the next 30 years when we didn't have a garden we never saw salsify again. I guess a local farmer must have supplied the local Safeway store with the salsify we ate. Obviously it is not a viable commercial crop.
When we started the community garden 4 years ago one of the first crops i planted was salsify. We ate some the next fall and left the weak, pitiful ones in the garden over the winter and next spring they put up flower stalks which bore some of the most beautiful flowers we had ever seen. The seeds matured into large fuzzy brown puffballs like giant dandelions. Of course they were scattered by the wind all over the garden but none of the other gardeners cared because the flowers were so stunningly beautiful. We've never planted another salsify seed. (it's a biennial by the way).We just let some of it got to seed each year and let some of the plants grow along the edges of the bed which we harvest in the fall leaving some to bloom again next spring and keep the cycle going.
We're having salsify for dinner. Yum!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Mushroom Futures

We had to have a tulip poplar tree removed a couple of weeks ago after some large branches had been broken out of it in a storm. I was staring at the stump about a week later when the bright idea came to me to inoculate it with oyster mushroom spawn.I hopped on Fungi Perfecti's web site and placed my order.
The sawdust spawn arrived a couple of days ago. The past 2 days it has rained so the stump is good and moist, perfect for inoculation. The first step was to drill 13/16" holes about an 1 1/2" deep around the perimeter of the stump approximately 3" apart. ( why a 13/16" hole instead of 7/8" or 3/4" you might be wondering. Well because that is the size drill bit i happened to have on hand). I drilled 2 rows of holes then i stuffed each hole with clumps of sawdust which were the most heavily colonized with mycelia. Next i watered the spawn with rainwater we collected yesterday in our new rain barrels. Then i soaked cardboard in rainwater, cut it to fit the stump and laid it over the top. The cardboard will keep the spawn moist and since mycelia loves to eat cardboard it will become myceliated as well. Finally i covered the cardboard with wet excelsior the keep the cardboard moist. Excelsior is shredded wood that comes to us as packing material around pottery that we bring in to sell at the Urban Gardener. We save it and use it as mulch in the community garden.
Now all we have to do is wait for the fungi to consume the tree trunk and , when conditions are right we hope we'll get lots of delicious, nutritious oyster mushrooms.
When will that be? I don't know. Maybe next spring, maybe 2 years from now, maybe never. It is worth the investment i think.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Money in the Bank

More specifically rainwater in the rain barrel. It has rained finally and the first rain barrel is full. .5" filled up the 55 gal. barrel by the front door where a small percentage of the roof area drains into the downspout.The corner where we built the "urbanite" platform gets the majority of the runoff from the front roof so filling up a 1500 gal. tank should be pretty quick. Hurricane Humberto is expected to send us more rain tomorrow. We plan to get 2 more rain barrels set up in the morning to capture more of Mother Nature's blessing which really is "Money in the Bank".

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

We Got Crops

Well , not really crops, but the promise of food on the table in the near future as evidenced by the emergence of tiny little seedlings. I'm always amazed when the tiny seeds get together with the water and the soil food web to produce a new life that will use the energy of the sun and the elements of the air and the soil to grow into nourishment for our bodies.
Each species has its own timetable. In 3 days the turnips show up, in 2 more the basil. The cilantro takes longer, a week or more and the chives are still working it but i have every confidence they will make their presences known soon.
If i do my job properly we'll soon be dining on these miracles of life.
I can hardly wait.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle

That is on of our mantras here at The Funny Farm. As soon as I knew we were going to get the place, I began planning how to exploit the large roof areas to capture as much rainwater as possible. I plan on using 1500 gallon tanks which are 7.5' wide and 5+' tall which will require flat spaces on which to sit. My landscape crew was about to remove an old concrete patio on a job so, instead of taking the material to the landfill we stored it until we could repurpose it as wall-building material at the farm.
We needed a wall to make a flat area for a water tank at the corner of the house by the downspout. For some reason there are large amounts of broken concrete all around the farm so we used that along with the material we had previously stored to build a wall. My crew was amazed at how good it looks so now they all want to build themselves a wall with what a friend has dubbed "urbanite" or broken up concrete.
There was some sedum, sempervivum and variegated liriope growing in places where we didn't want them so we harvested them and incorporated them into and below the wall to create a finished look. The mulch we used is wood chips we stockpiled when we cleared out some tree saplings elsewhere on the farm. Everything organic we will use in some fashion here. It will be reused, repurposed or recycled as compost. More on that subject later.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Baptism at The Funny Farm

It's a fact...We are not experienced canoeists or canoers or whatever. We are not even novices. But what the hell we have a canoe and we have a pond so lets go canoeing. We're paddling around chasing the jesus frogs as they run across the water and watching our resident hawk go after one of the unsuspecting ducks. Having ourselves a great ole time in the early evening calm before we head out to Mary's for the Queen of the Strut contest tonight in which our store manager Kate is a strong contender. We decide we've had enough fun for today so we head to shore. Remember now, we are not experienced canoeists (spell check indicates this correct). Robin proceeds to stand up in the canoe, step out on the shore and do a split, resulting of course in both of us ending up in the water and mud with the canoe on top of us.

The up side is, according to Robin, she ain't afraid of the primordial ooze at the bottom of the pond no more.

Praise Jeeeesus!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Puke Power

My adopted son John Henry just im'd a link to an article that talks about a bacteria that turns organic waste into butyric acid that then is converted to butanol which can be used as a biofuel in cars and trucks. I got really excited when i found out that butyric acid is what makes vomit smell like, well, puke. Here's another bodily waste product i might be able to utilize for energy production. Now i'll have a good excuse to drink till i puke more often.
Watch out Earl, i'll be there tonight.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Kitty Loves Zinnas

Our cat, Kitty, loves to eat the zinnias that Robin grows organically in our community garden plot. She stands by her flower vase and howls until one of us comes over and holds a stem so she can rip off the leaves and petals and gobble them up. She's very picky though about her zinnias. The day after she moved to The Funny Farm Robin picked some zinnias for Kitty to eat that the previous owners had growing , hoping that they would make her feel more at home. Well, she would have nothing to do with those zinnias. When we went into the basement we found out why. The former owners stuck us with enough toxic pesticides to qualify us as a superfund toxic waste site.
We are happy to know that our cat upholds our standard of only eating organically grown food.

If only I can train her (kitty) to use the composting toilet....

ONe eyed Blogger

I'm an idiott. I just rubbed my eye after cutting up a hot pepper. I don't even liek hot peppers. WTF was i thinking. Ok, i wasn't thinking. We post something more interesting as soon as the burning qiuts.


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

An exciting day at the Funny Farm

Today we planted our first crops. We prepared the beds by tilling in some of our gourmet worm compost, kelp meal and granite sand for mineral nutrients. We planted beds of basil, cilantro, chives, japanese snow turnips, and Scarlett Queen turnips. Our broccoli, red cabbage and lettuce plants are growing well in flats and will be ready to plant soon.

I tilled in organic fertilizer and kelp meal in the bed that is destined to have Top Hat blueberries. Top Hat is a new variety that is self-fertile that was developed at Oregon State U. The plants are said to grow 2' high and wide making them ideal candidates for pot culture. They promise to be a great addition to urban farming. The berries are supposedly almost as large as Rabbiteye. We'll see next spring.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Paper or Plastic?

That used to be a question we were asked whenever we shopped at the grocery store. As a responsible environmental citizen I always thought it was a no-brainer. Paper please. I've heard it said that paper may not in fact be the environmentally correct answer after all.
Living in the suburbs has presented a whole new set of decisions i must make in my quest to save the planet. I now park my somewhat fuel-efficient medium sized pickup truck in my new garage. I got in the truck the other morning and reached for the garage door opener when a possible conundrum popped into my head.. Wait, i don't need to be using this battery powered device to turn on a light bulb (a real one that uses electricity) and activate a motor that also uses electricity to lift up the door.I can lift up the door using muscle power. So I did. Then i drove my truck out of the garage, put it in park then thought, well should i turn the engine off or let it idle while I get out and shut the garage door. Or, God forbid, would it be better for the planet if i just used the garage door opener.

I have no idea. Do you?

Rainwater Harvesting

This summer has been one of the hottest and driest on record. Successful farming requires ready access to a sufficient supply of water to support crop growth.We are connected to city water so we have the supply but it is expensive and it is chlorinated too which is not good for our friends the soil microorganisms. The chlorine is put in the water to kill bacteria and fungi and what are soils organisms? bacteria and fungi.
Sometimes water actually falls from the sky (although not very often this summer). All we need to do is collect it and save it for use when needed.

We've calculated that each time it rains 1" we can collect 1600 gallons of rainwater from the existing roof area that is currently guttered. We can add gutters to the barn and screen porch to expand our capacity another 600 gallons per inch of rain.

We plan to install above ground cisterns to capture that free water for irrigation. We've installed our first small rain barrel by the front door and are preparing places for 1500 gallon collection vessels at the corners of the house. Hopefully by next summer we will have all of them in place.

I have not calculated the payback time for the cisterns but when i do i'll let you know.

Monday, September 3, 2007

An exciting day at The Funny Farm

Today is an exciting day here at the Funny Farm. I built a composting toilet! No' shit you're probalby thinking. Well it has always been a source of great frustration to me that i have had the flush such a valuable resource as feces down a toilet. Well, no more. The toilet is simply a box within which there is a rubbermaid container in which i put some active compost about 4" deep. After taking a dump i'll cover it with wood chips. The feces provides nitrogen and the wood chips provide carbon for the soil microorganisms to eat. When the bin is full we'll give it to the worms to clean up the bad microorganisms. Over time they will turn these tasty meals into rich food for plants. Since many people are not as enlightened as we are we will only use this compost on non-edible crops even though it is perfectly safe.

All the parts of the toilet except the screws are repurposed including the woodchips which were once brush here on the farm.
Another step toward sustainability. Yipppeee!

The Funny Farm

This is the first installment from our new adventure in suburban sustainable living here at the Funny Farm. Robin and I have had a dream since we first got married 34 years ago to have a place where we can practice organic farming, living gently on the planet and teaching others to do the same. About 2 months ago we got a call from our friend girl Charlie who has been keeping her eye out for some land for us. She said her Angels told her to turn left instead of right ( her usual route). She saw a for sale sign had just been put up on the property behind her own. She called us, we came out the next day to look at the property and we new it was the place where we would spend the rest of our days realizing our dream. It has space to grow food and flowers, a large pond for aquaculture, a nice barn for animals, some woods, a full basement where we can grow mushrooms... a perfect set up for a diversified enterprise only 20 minutes from our business and community garden in downtown Atlanta.
We've been here a month now and we couldn't be happier. We've been busy clearing brush, tilling some space for flowers and veggies, making compost and developing a plan to make a living here.
I'll be using this space to chronicle our our efforts to create a model that will demonstrate that it is possible to live gently and sustainably whereever you are be it in the city, in the 'burbs or in the country. It is a matter of desire and commitment. Stay tuned and we'll share our efforts with you.