While searching online for a way to earn an income on the road last week, I found a farming related research project on a contracting site. I wrote between eight and ten proposals that day, all toward agriculture-related projects. This was aimed toward veterinary interns, but I decided to submit a proposal based on my experience in farming, and it was approved.
Starting next week, my girlfriend and I will be talking to farms, starting in Florida, to test their soils, in support of the privately funded research project. They aim to isolate mycobacteriophages targeting Johne’s Disease. If all goes well, in Florida, we will be contacting farms along a 5,000+ mile route we’re currently mapping out, to drive from Florida and Alaska.
The infinite intersections of imagination and reality charted my course. Opportunities to discover filled my sails through countless storm. The experience revealed a route through doldrums to distant conquests. With a fire branded within, the outward journey was borne. Once commenced, it could not be stopped.
In the military, we were ordered to shine our boots and press our uniform every morning. I thought it was superficial. “Why do we need to do that if we’re just going to be rolling around in mud all day?”
It didn’t make sense so I fought the system.
Little did I know how much I suffered being the rebel. Ironically, I haven’t cut myself much slack about it either, as if the little angel on my shoulder were actually an unrelenting drill sergeant spitting in my ear.
“You need to get squared-away soldier!”
Recently, I’ve started to loathe a little less that inner voice about the importance of routine, going through the motions to “Look, act and think like a soldier.”
Despite being tired and beat up at the end of the day, making an effort to “look like a soldier,” is a small goal, but the steps taken to achieve that goal build momentum for success in the thinking and acting stages, that is, actually becoming and being a soldier.
That extra “umph” exercises muscles of self-discipline that buy us a moment, no matter what happened during day, or will happen in the next, to calm the mind, reflect, reset and prepare for the next.
When you succeed on a small task as you start your day, and over and over, it invites positive feedback, whether from receiving and appreciating praise or affirmations from self, others or our environment – a boost of can-do, if anything, on a hard day.
On a good day, when things start to go right, that boost might just be enough to turn into a can of whoop-ass. As they say “Rinse. Repeat.”
Exercised enough, the appetite for momentum grows, and our disposition changes completely. In a chaotic world of uncertainty, where things may not always make sense, the internalization of security, control and confidence ensures us that no matter how out-of-control things may seem, enables us to stay calm and drive on knowing we at least in control of ourselves, and can handle anything that might come our way.
Approaching a daily task with a positive attitude is harder for some, but many agree that one factor as minor as “getting up on the right side of the bed” can make or break your success on any given day.
Since I tossed the army boots, I’ve never really adopted any new routines, but as I catch up in life and have started to do the things I’ve always wanted to, it seems like a hard morning run followed by a dip in the pool or lake (the colder the better) gives way to some pretty amazing results.
Sometimes, it doesn’t seem realistic to do that every day. For now, a quiet stretch or cup of tea will have to do.
The world is such a beautiful place, and people are such amazing and complex creatures.
As short as my time has been here on earth, and as tumultuous as it life can be, I’m extremely grateful to have been able to experience it the way I have, with challenges to overcome, the curiosity to ask others “Why?” and the courage to ask myself “Why not?”
I’m especially grateful to have been born able to learn, to see the many opportunities and adventures available wherever I put forth effort to make them happen.
I am thankful for the ability to face reality head on, to accept who I am, without addiction, escape or false security.
I had been trying to us get out on the water since I’ve been down here. Finally, last week a guy I had been helping on shore offered to take us out.
There was almost no wind. This was not so good for sailing, but it WAS a good thing considering this was the first time Rider had been out in a while, and evidently, he’s still working out some mechanical kinks: We lost a drive shaft connection, right as we were about to come back through the gate. I ran up front and threw the anchor out to starboard as he cut the motor, and we gently swung outside the channel just a hundred yards or so before we got to the pillars the bridge. The gate attendant radio’d down as we got to working on the boat. “Wish I’d have known you guys weren’t coming through.”
Luckily, we were able to fix it and still get home before dark.
“Sorry Cortez bridge. It was last minute!” We radio’d back as we passed through.
“No worries. Shit happens.” He replied.
All in all it was one of the most beautiful days, though there have been many.
My dad just sent me a picture I didn’t even remember existed – a picture of me, at 13, posing with a black bear up at Tustamena Lake.
It brings back memories. I had just had surgery the month before. The doctor carved out a problem with my meniscus in my left knee. Until then, I was never able to straighten my leg completely. I had walked with a limp, though I tried to hide it, I couldn’t run to save my life and as I hit puberty, my good leg was outgrowing my bad one. The back pain got worse, as well as the headaches, and I had enough. It was time to do something about it.
Fairly new at that time, the orthoscopic type knee surgery went well. Though Doc said I would be back to normal or able to run in six months. I never picked up the crutches. The swelling was gone in a few weeks, and I spent the next month in the mountains recovering, getting stronger as we hiked and hiked, learning little things about the wild, about myself, and getting to know my dad.
I think we ended up eating the entire bear while we were there. To change things up, we ate countless squirrels and spruce hen. I can’t remember exactly, but we must have been in the woods the better part of two weeks before hiking back down to the lake to catch our ride out. We didn’t know it at the time the picture was taken, but we were stuck there for a few more.
It took a day to drive down to catch a boat, a half a day in the boat to ride across the 25 miles of lake, and two days hike up. We saw between 17-25 bears per day traversing peaks in the area of a remote camp we set up, more than I had seen in my entire life. They sniffed around our tent at night, rummaged our belongings while we slept.
The friend that dropped my dad and I off thought we had made other arrangements to get out, so it was up to us to find our own way back. We didn’t see another person for about a month. That was the day we got out.
And the day we got out was an adventure all its own.
A home owner near Sarasota, Florida is planning a make-over of her home. She values the natural, wants to avoid chemicals and enjoy healthy living.
She is used to living in a more contemporary house, and is looking to increase the overall appeal of her home, inside and out.
While this project has not been approved, it offers an inside look at some of the basic factors affecting a natural approach to yards, gardens and farms in Florida.
Each project offers benefits and challenges. The following narrative is our initial summary, but is not extensive or final. Except for the sketches and photographs of the client’s home, any images provided are for demonstration and examples of similar work, not necessarily our own. We give credit and provide links to sources.
Other factors that will ultimately dictate (or affect) decisions on final design and plant selection include owner goals/preferences for the property, desired yield/crop, latitude, longitude, hardiness zones, micro climates, prevailing winds, soil pH, annual rainfall, distribution of precipitation, HOA restrictions, zoning and ordinances and so forth.
Note that while natural farming and gardening methods are rooted in science, many interpretations and preferences on projects/solutions differ. The information we provided here is useful for example purposes but we reserve right of ownership and commercial use. The contained information is not guaranteed, nor are the proposed solutions and technology appropriate in all situations. We are not liable for your use or application of the concepts.
Cultivate an attractive assortment of low-maintenance plant species, with special attention to water retention/diversion, the soil’s ecology and soil life as it pertains to nutrient production.
After looking at the site, soil and hearing the history of plants on site, it is evident that there are enough natural resources for an appealing design – sun, water, space, oxygen, nutrients. There are a few key issues are limiting the ability of plants to grow and thrive. This could include a particular plant’s preference, needs, but most importantly, the soil looks mostly sandy, devoid of life, extremely dry and prone to overheating and draining. These issues and solutions will be discussed below.
In the front yard (south facing) there is a 3-5% grade sloping away from home with approximately 15’ from porch to curb and 30′ between driveway and corner of lot. Soil settlement test shows a soil composition of roughly 66% sand, 34% organic material from store-bought mulch, virtually no silt or clay, and very little microbial activity. After a week in a jar, there is no smell or aroma to the water/soil mixture whatsoever. The area receives a direct, full sun without obstruction.
The owner says, some hardy varieties are able to grow, as seen in the photographs. Our goal is to address the water retention and help the soil sustain microbial life. We can then look at the microclimate zones, and list out a variety of plants, based on guild, function, size, shape and color.
Our client is concerned about chemicals. In preparing the contours correctly, we hope to allow soils to regenerate over the years with minor amendments and care on a regular basis. Though we can’t prevent the wind from bringing stray contaminants, or mother nature from bringing storm events, we work to increase biodiversity, improve plant health, reduce the impact of pests. These will reduce the need for direct application of artificial fertilizer, herbicides or insecticides through good plant selection, care and integrated pest management.
Our proposed ecological solution for this (and any site) requires a heightened level of observation, study and patience to create the greatest impact with the minimum amount of effort over the long term.
Since form follows function in designs that work with, rather than against the natural, the end aesthetic result can be estimated but is not exact. Investing extra time to understand the issues and intelligently apply concepts, chose plant species so it fulfills multiple functions, not just color or size, will ensure the ecosystem we create can fight off disease and stay healthy – a healthy plant is a beautiful plant.
Direct Issues to be resolved:
Rainfall diversion and retention
Soil composition and characteristics
Permitting/specification restrictions and standards
(1) Rainfall, storm events, water diversion & retention:
The area is small enough that it will only require a simple network of hand-dug microswales around two settlement areas to achieve the desired effect. As these overflow, runoff spills over to a drainage swale dressed aesthetically as a dry brook surrounded by grasses and plants that will help prevent erosion and create a look that is natural and contemporary.
Using small and large stones mimics a dry river bed and adds stability. The two “ponds,” will be approximately 18-24” deep by 60-90” wide, or as large as the area will permit. The excess (overflow) from these two ponds is diverted into the drainage area, which drains into a 50′ stone path that doubles as a dry creek bed (or french drain) which is routed to an existing storm-water collection area in the backyard.
The fringe of this path should be lined with stones of a size that prevents them from being washed away in heavy rainfall, while also protecting the soil/sand in planted areas outside the swale. The image below is a good representation, but if used as a walking path, should be topped with flat stones. If budget permits, geotextile cloth and clay could be effective in these areas as a barrier between the drainage rock and existing sand.
Note that except in extreme cases there should be no water running above ground. The path will retain its function even when water is present below the surface. The existing sand would be replaced down to the level of drainage from the front yard, filled with drainage rock and topped with larger pavers, natural or architectural, suitable for walking.
Regarding the stormwater collection area in the back. Future improvements could turn it into a functional rain garden. Raingardens are designed to increase appeal, prevent erosion and ease burden on the municipal system.
(2) Soil composition and characteristics:
Typical soils in Florida are 90% or more sand. Builders’ fill is even worse as a growing medium because it has little support and nutrients. If you limit plant selection to what will grow in these conditions naturally, it will will be almost impossible to achieve a lush and physically healthy landscape. It’s important to add organic material in large quantities. Doing so won’t guarantee they remain, as heat and sun break these down, and rain washes them quickly away. Diverting water so it doesn’t wash directly through, and that the area is at least partially protected from sun is crucial.
Once the initial storm water is diverted, remaining water which has filled the subterranean catchment pond can slowly permeate soil via capillary attraction, keep it moist, and be drawn on from by surrounding plants, fungal mycelia and microbes. The mass of moisture will provide cooling and soil temperature stability. The water should be kept below surface to prevent evaporation, algae growth and keep insect breeding to a minimum.
Over time, plant roots and leaves that fall to the ground die and decay will become forage for the life that builds beneath the soil. Even using all of this will not be enough to start the project and replenish all that has been stripped away in the building process. We have to get creative and be proactive in bringing in material. It also takes time to mature.
A small protected area for composting will serve to pile dead leaves and kitchen scraps, so our client can make use of wastes to create mulch and nutrients. We build a containment bin as part of the project. Once set, the pile should be turned a few times a week by client. With the right mindset, this practice becomes a part of the routine, and the basis for yard care.
Applying decaying organic matter and natural nutrients to the soil, then covering with a mulch will ensure that they are protected from the sun, and they continue to build during the early stages of transition for young plants. This underlying activity generates the tilth and texture that supports lifeforms that convert the organic matter to elemental levels and humus to hold nutrients and moisture which can then be absorbed by plant roots.
The capacity of the soil to support plants strengthens with age as habitat is restored and the diversity of local species increases to include single- and multi-celled organisms, larger living things such as nemetodes, worms, birds and a variety of insects that all act together to pollinate plants, spread seeds, fertilize, purify and consume decay.
(3) Excess heat/sun:
The desired visual effect is stepped, where the plants closest to the street are short, and taller toward the house. The image to the right is a similar landscape, with a small swale out front, backed by a more moist area offering greater variety of tightly spaced and alternating plant species.
Though stepping is possible, it’s not optimal. It’s important to create a canopy of shade to protect the understory and home from the hot summer sun, while also not blocking the prevailing south wind during the summer. There are already a few trees in the front yard which should be saved to provide shade and wind protection for the more sensitive plant growth, understory and ground cover. Smaller trees and shrubs, and a few more trees strategically planted within each existing stand will be sufficient to improve shade and reduce heat. Note, the clean yet natural look achieved with large, flat stones – a viable architectural option for your design.
Specifications, Permitting & Standards:
Per Florida Statute 373.185, any landscaping activity that follows “Florida-Friendly™” practices are protected, and will not be prohibited by any covenant, because they aim to benefit not only home-owners, but the ecology and health of Florida and the community at large.
For this design, we will support natural, chemical-free and Florida-friendly gardening practices. We combine these principles with aesthetic inspired by you (the client) and a function that improves the value and longevity of your property. The final solution, if successful, will do all of this while complementing surrounding architecture and having a positive role in preserving Florida’s natural ecology.
Since we will not be applying artificial fertilizers, no applicators’ permit will be required. No heavy machinery will be required. We will require a municipal ground locate of utilities, and by employing hand digging labor, we have the ability to work carefully to avoid any existing utilities. No changes to grade are necessary, only employment of barriers between planted areas and drainages to slow water and prevent runoff from leaching organic debris and as a result, foster a healthy root zone with observable microbial process, the foundation of life in the “soil food web.”
Other factors to consider:
Insects & wildlife
Insects & wildlife
Increasing biodiversity will have an impact on the landscape, as insects and animals are naturally attracted to the life, shelter and food that healthy foliage brings. We can prepare but not predict all changes that will occur, and small adjustments will be needed to provide for all living things that may arrive
Insect hotel and artificial beehives (RIGHT: some bugs pollinate, others prey on insects that could damage plants)
Bird bath, feeders and houses (birds eat insects, pollinate, and fertilize)
Bat houses (bats eat insects, pollinate and fertilize)
Florida-friendly plant species (zero tolerance for invasive species)
Companion plants (some attract and repel specific species, and some are poisonous to wildlife and humans)
Urban homesteading features, animals and plants used for fertilizer or fodder
Design/Estimate with you and myself, 3-7 days
Price and order materials, organize labor, set budget
Schedule pickup for discarded materials
Schedule delivery of rock and materials
Source mulch and organics
Select compost area and bin style
Research appropriate plant varieties (I’ll provide lists. You source and purchase.)
Provide concept sketches
Week 2, with 3 people working
Contour and survey, mark out swales and irrigation channels,
Remove excess sand and dig up plants to be saved
Hand dig and trench pools, swale and drainage to backyard
Tie in network of irrigation channels
Start collecting organics from yard – clippings and leaves
Lay fabric and clay, let dry/bake in sun
Week 3, with 3 people working
Lay wood and organic piles
Lay stones and cover
Mark sites for plants
Week 4, with 2 people working
Route appropriate irrigation hoses
Cover with mulch
Week 5-10, initial client maintenance with some input
Regular inspections of plants
Adjustments to irrigation systems
Continue gathering and applying organics and mulch
Week 10-52, routine client maintenance with little to no external input
Continue applying finished compost and cover with mulch
Turn compost 3x weekly
Water compost 1x weekly
Prune shrubs and trees annually
Inspect plants weekly
Inspect/repair irrigation as needed
Our main goals:
Control water and divert runoff
Preserve and build healthy soil
Provide shade plants/trees
Select appropriate plants for your yard, taste and Florida-friendly landscaping
Provide input on plant selection and install
The client’s involvement will be heavy during first week, then taper off to just working on plant preferences. We will continue to develop a list of plants that will work well (and that are available within the budget) as we do the installation. They would be present for final completion/hand off and walk through, if any corrections are needed.
After installation, or about 4 weeks, our input is limited to occasional discussions, updates and any follow-on estimates, proposals or contracts.
Due to unpredictability of nature, weather and environment, we can’t guarantee any specific life span of any plant, but which have the best fit for the climate, final soil type and level of care the owner is willing to provide, as the final result does improve or decline with and owner’s continued observation and inputs.
SO I just wrote my posting at Cruisers Forum. It will be interesting to see what kind of characters come out of the woodwork in response
“39 year old male taking the winter/year off. Id post under crew available but I’m traveling with my small terrier Isla, and trying to work out how feasible sailing with a pet will be.
I’m just arriving in the Sarasota area, looking to buy a 30-40′ sailboat and go sailing over the holidays.
I’ve got powerboat experience, commercial fished when I was a kid, and guided sport fishing trips in Alaska for several years on lakes and rivers, did a little kayaking, rafting, hiking, got a scuba cert, so I’m well on my way and definitely cut out for some adventure, and want to do as much as possible while I’m young.
Specific to sailing, I have basic, bareboat and coastal navigation courses under my belt, a recent 6-pack (inland waterways), and on my way to get a captains license as well, but am looking to focus on sailing enough that it becomes natural over the next year, or lifetime maybe…
I’ll probably go it solo, but am looking for anyone interested with or without experience that wants to partner up in the process early on, help get a boat ready, exchange skills or just come along for the ride down the road.
I’m handy and always looking to trade or work. I just remodeled a 4 bedroom house and turned it into an eco-lodge. Fixer-uppers arent out of the question, but the sooner I can get out on the water, the better. And it sounds like the time and place are offering a buyers market.
I have my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve been getting more and more into farming and gardening, turning waste into energy, helping communities solve problems in creative ways. That’s fueling my drive to travel.
I can do a lot but am only one guy and having company always makes light work, safety in numbers and flexibility. I am not a mechanic or captain (yet) but I operated and maintained my own boats as a guide, and am not afraid to tackle any kind of project.
I feel sailing is the most sustainable way to travel, so it just makes sense to proceed in this direction if I want to see the rest of the world – 30 countries and counting. I’m no genius, but I’ve got a lot of determination and a pretty good head on my shoulders. I’m full of ideas, good with people, marketing and sales, and will pretty much turn anything into a business if I need to make moneyalong the way.
Let me know if any of this resonates with you. I love ideas, options, like-minded and the adventurous.”
of uncertainty and surety. Of gains and loss. Of love and sadness.
Lying here, I’m contemplating the extraordinary silence of space and a vacuum, wishing I could experience it just once. I hear my cat. I hear an airplane off in the distance. I hear the fan filter I set up to collect the dust particles floating in the air. My dog is snoring.
If none of these were present, I would still hear the high frequencies of my nervous system, the hissing of blood in my veins, and beating of my own heart.
I guess that’s how I know I am alive.
I hear my thoughts.
I feel the tightness in my chest that comes with thinking too much. The fear. I shut it out.
There is nothing to fear.
Not being alone. Not people. Not change. Not rejection. Not falling. Not death. Not failing.
As I rise up in the shape and form I have in my mind become, look out over waters and imagine myself walking across them.
I need to get to the other side, but I don’t know how deep, how cold, how swift the current.
There are stepping stones leading away from shore. I don’t know how far they go but they are the only way forward.
So I take them one at a time, not thinking about falling in, only about going as far as possible.
My focus narrows. It’s tempting to direct it downward or behind, but I would lose my balance, my rhythm, my feel for the stones and my sight of the horizon.
The turbulent, shadowy unknown is all around, taking what energy it can.
I ignore it. I must conserve, so I give nothing back.
Instead I focus on my vision, my goals, my presence. In my in mind and heart, I embrace the reality.
This morning’s run is dedicated to an army brother who fell a few days ago, just one day before I arrived to catch up with him.
As I approached the mountains this morning, the clouds alight with a promise of sun, I took the high road, camera in hand. All the while, I knew the colors wouldn’t last. It looked as if it might rain, but I imagined the pictures I’d get if I got there on time.
A few years had gone by, so little did I know he was even in pain. There’s a second where I wondered if I could have done something to change the outcome. Never-the-less, the fate of people and time takes its course. Winter happens upon us all. I’m relieved it hasn’t taken me when I’ve felt its chilly breath at my own back.
When I arrived at the top, I could see all below. But to my disappointment, the clouds had consumed the sun and painted skies gray. So I sat there a moment looking off in the distance, wondering what kind of life I lived. Racing here and to, with some destination in mind. Had I been true to myself and would I look back and smile once I reached the horizon?
SO, hello. I’m here. Now. Taking a moment to reflect and connect with what’s around me. I’m breathing. Alive. And thankful to experience another glimpse of color, though the colors keep changing and fading.
And here’s to the man whom I met when I was 18 at Fort Huachuca, to the memories I have of him and fellow soldiers with us in Mainz, for some time Between Bosnia and Kosovo.