Gopher Apple

Gopher AppleGopher Apple (Licania michauxii)

This hearty small shrub looks more like a bunch of oak seedlings than anything else.  Underground it grows with an extensive maze of stems that send up slender woody shoots with evergreen oak-like leaves.  The leaves are stiff, simple, alternate, and about 2-4 inches long and 1 inch wide.  The Gopher Apple only gets about a foot or so above ground, but a single plant can easily spread its subterranean stems and branches over more than 100 square feet.  I have many colonies of Gopher Apple growing at the 40 acre woods.

The flowers are small, yellowish clusters, and on a  triangular shaped stem that stands a little above the leaves.  The fruits start out green, turning dirty white when ripe, and about an inch long.  Ripe fruits are edible and soft, and taste kind of like bland pink bubblegum to me.  The fruit has a single large seed inside.

Gopher Apple is a darn tough plant that grows naturally in dry sandy soils and is quite tolerant of drought conditions.  I have read that Gopher Apple is extremely hard to reproduce from a cuttings or transplant.  I am collecting fruit to grow more colonies from fresh seeds, I want to have more of this great ground cover growing at the 40 acre woods.

Gopher TortoiseMany of the animals at the 40 acre woods including rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, deer and the threatened gopher tortoise, seek out the fruit.  Like other native plants, colonies of Gopher Apple are a step towards a sustainable ecosystem that supports the native wildlife and an occasional hungry Hillbilly.

We like our Gopher Tortoises and our Gopher Apples at the 40 acre woods.

Posted in 40 acre woods, Homesteading, Permaculture, Skills, Sustainability, Wild Animals, Wildcrafting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Podocarpus Is More Than A Hedge

Podocarpus hedgePodocarpus (Podocarpus macrophyllus)

Podocarpus hedges are common in Florida, they make a dense screen hedge that stays green year round.  However, Podocarpus can reach 40 to 50 feet in height when not sheared and is quite attractive as a tree with the lower branches removed, revealing the light brown, peeling bark.  A great addition to the landscape.  I have also heard them called a Yew-Pine or Japanese Yew.

The inconspicuous flowers are followed by fleshy, purple, small, edible fruits (Arils) on female trees which are quite attractive to birds.  Attached to the fruit is the large hard green seed that is not edible.  In Summer I am known to visit friends that have Podocarpus hedges just pick their landscape.  The fruit is a great treat eaten raw right off the hedge, it has a grape flavor to me with a hint of blueberry.

Podocarpus FruitI have found the seeds sprout best if the fruit is still attached.  Layer them in some damp paper towels for 2 weeks and you will see the root sprout between the seed and the fruit. Then plant them in a pot or in the ground.  I hope to have a lot of these trees at the 40 acre woods, for the birds and me.

Remember, only eat the purple fruit (aril), the green seed is toxic.  Twist the seed and fruit apart after picking.

Posted in 40 acre woods, Cooking, Homesteading, Permaculture, Skills, Sustainability, Wildcrafting | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Pindo Palm

Pindo Palm TreePindo Palm trees originated in Argentina and grow well in Florida, Zones 7-10.  They are a very hardy  palm that will grow in almost any soil type.  The large palm trunk forms slowly and is topped by a massive circle of leaves that vary in color from deep green to shiny silver.  The Pindo Palm Trees’ graceful form and arching blue-green fronds make it excellent landscaping.  You do not have to go far in Florida to see a Pindo Palm growing in yards or public spaces.

In summertime I go looking for the beautiful yellow fruit of the Pindo Palm.  These large clusters of round yellow fruit are easy to spot and usually easy to pick due to the low growing habits of the Pindo Palm tree.  Pick the fruit when they are starting to get a little soft and are falling off the cluster.  Pindo Palm fruit taste like an apple with a pineapple finish to me.  A wonderful tasting fruit that usually goes to waste because most people do not know they are edible.  There is a large fibrous seed in the middle to work around, but the great tasting fruit is worth the effort.Pindo Palm Fruit

The Pindo Palm is sometimes called the Jelly Palm.  The fruit has a natural pectin that will make a great jelly when properly prepared.

I plan to save the seeds from my Pindo Palm fruit this year to plant at the 40 acre woods.  Get out and look for this overlooked treat while they are hanging in the trees this summer.   I found this one at the entrance to my subdivision in Lakeland.

Posted in 40 acre woods, Cooking, Homesteading, Permaculture, Skills, Sustainability, Wildcrafting | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deer Crossing

There are many deer living at the 40 acre woods.  They do most of their traveling at night, but they leave behind their tracks.  Here are some tracks June and I found crossing the road in front of the 40 acre woods.

Posted in 40 acre woods, Hunting, Permaculture, Skills | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Strawberry Pot

Strawberry pot JulyMy Strawberry plants are looking great this summer.  The pot built from the bottom of a old barrel is working perfectly to keep them moist and healthy.

Looks like they are trying to escape.  The runners hanging down the sides are how the strawberry plant reaches out to fill the space around it.  Strawberries make a great ground cover.

I am planting strawberry plants around the edges of the woods to establish a ground cover that will keep the weeds down and provide a sweet treat in the spring.

Posted in 40 acre woods, Homesteading, Permaculture, Skills, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hexagarden July Update

Hexagarden JulyThe Hexagarden is enjoying the wet summer in North Florida.  The sweet corn and sunflowers are growing tall while the herbs and vines grow below.

The Hexagarden is six raised beds arranged in a circle. I can work from the inside and the outside to easily reach all the plants.  The inside of the circle is a safe place for the vines to run down off the bed without the rabbits being able to get in.  I also have a few roses in there to attract the bees.

inside hexagardenSome of the small sunflower plants were attacked by pest while they were small, but it appears the local insect predators stepped up and took care of them for me.  By the time I found the damage, they were long gone. nothing else was touched and the garden is looking better every day.

Spaghetti SquashThis young spaghetti squash is enjoying the cool shade under the large squash and watermelon leaves.  Purple basil is peaking through the openings in the leaves to catch the sun.

The layered polyculture of this garden does not give the weeds any space to grow.  I am looking forward to trying new things in this garden in the fall, but for now I am going to enjoy the harvest.

Posted in 40 acre woods, Homesteading, Permaculture, Skills, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Carpenter Bees

carpenter beeThe Eastern Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa virginica) has been busy at the 40 Acre Woods.  The Month of May is when the females start looking for a fine piece of lumber to drill a hole in and make a nest, unfortunately the lumber is part of my porch.  Often mistaken for a large Bumble Bee, these bees can cause a lot of damage if you do not protect your wood structure.

They are good polinators like the Bumble Bee, I just wish they would do their nesting in the trees.  Carpenter Bees like a wood surface in a protected spot like my porch or pavilion to nest out of the weather.

Carpenter Bee holeThe easiest way to tell the difference between a Bumble Bee and a Eastern Carpenter Bee is the abdomen.  Eastern Carpenter Bees have a shiny black abdomen, with the only yellow hair present being at the base next to the thorax, while bumblebees have a very fuzzy abdomen, and usually large areas of yellow hair across the middle.  Female Eastern Carpenter Bees have a much broader head than a Bumble Bee.  Male Eastern Carpenter Bees have a patch of white or yellow cuticle on the face, as opposed to females, whose faces are black.

Female Carpenter Bees make nests by tunneling into wood. They make an initial hole in an overhang, eaves, or similar structure about a half inch wide and tunnel upward if the grain is horizontal and sideways if the grain is vertical.  Then, they make one or more tunnels at a right angle. Unlike Termites, Carpenter Bees do not eat wood. They discard the bits of wood, or use them to make partitions (walls) inside the tunnels of their nests. The tunnel functions as a nursery for brood and the pollen/nectar upon which the brood subsists.  If you see a pile of sawdust on the floor, look up for the hole.

Male Eastern Carpenter Bees are curious and will check you out if you come near their nest.  The curiosity is often interpreted as aggressiveness and scares the heck out of me; however, the males are only aggressive to other male Carpenter Bees.  They do not have stingers and cannot cause any real harm.  The female Carpenter Bees tend to be busy with floral visitation and nest provisioning, but have the ability to cause a painful sting if captured.

carpenter bee trapPutting poison on the wood does not help much with Carpenter Bees since they do not eat the wood.  I have found that these Carpenter Bee traps and a fly swatter do a good job of lowering the threat.  The Carpenter Bee trap presents the bee with a ready made hole in a block of wood.  When inside the bee is confused and goes down into the plastic bottle to exit following the light.  They are then trapped and cannot find their way out of the bottle.  These are simple, but very effective and a treat for the chickens.

Always dealing with something at the 40 Acre Woods.

Posted in 40 acre woods, Homesteading, Permaculture, Skills, Sustainability, Wild Animals | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments