In the summer of 2018, I sold my idyllic beach house tucked in a jungle setting walking distance from the beach, and bought a 5 acre farm nine miles inland. I remember pulling in the driveway after closing and thinking, “What have I done?”

I rented back the beach house for a month so that I could get some things done to this neglected farmhouse, move some boxes in and make the move easier on me. I drenched the walls in luscious Mediterranean colors, put up ceiling fans, altered lighting, moved plants and got my kitchen ready. When I finally moved in, I wandered around this sprawling farmhouse feeling I had lost my mind. Fortunately, the next morning that feeling was gone and I got to work. I adhered to my knowledge of the permaculture principles, and began with Zones 0 and 1, the house and kitchen garden. The house needed a screened porch before I could see how to layout the garden. In six weeks, the porch was completed and I was knee deep in the dirt building my kitchen garden off the patio.

kitchen garden

The days ahead were busy: cutting back and trimming trees, designing the kitchen orchard, planting fruit trees, building a food forest, reworking neglected beds by the house, removing too many cattails from the pond, rewiring fences and getting to know my four chickens.

When we were clearing an area with deep weeds, I found several small banana trees and two Chaya trees buried in the weeds. It seemed to be an old orchard area, so I decided to bring it back to life. I created several beds that I planted with more bananas, some fruit trees and filled in empty areas with various herbs and flowers. It did not take long for my new kitchen orchard to spring into life. I later created an arched entrance using cattle panels that is now covered in grapevines. I lost one of the Chaya trees in a hurricane, but the other tree is now about twelve feet high. The orchard is thriving and ever morphing as I experiment with new ground plants.

fruit trees
kitchen orhard

The house needed help: a new roof went on, hurricane windows and doors replaced standard ones, Bahama shutters covered the rest and one bedroom was remodeled. Then back to the farm and garden for more: old concrete pathways were transformed to look like stone, old paver pathways were replaced with river stones, the chicken coop was extended with a large enclosed run, the open shed was enclosed and barn doors added, lots of bamboo was planted as windbreaks, a new culvert was installed with low stone walls to protect it, a load of gravel helped the driveway along with a new front gate, the lath house was built and a new stone patio replaced old pavers.

chicken coop
new coop

I planted Blue bamboo on the south side of the chicken coop for shade and wind protection. Then I planted Graceful bamboo along the front fence, and later planted Sea Breeze bamboo along the entire south fence. The south side of my farm is low lying and prone to standing water from heavy rains. Thus, all this bamboo was planted in berms, and it was no small job to build all these berms before planting. Now, it is one long, bending row of bamboo that is both beautiful and functional, providing a good windbreak for the future mango orchard.

bamboo row

I moved to the farm with about sixty tropical plants that had been living in my greenhouse at the beach. Most of them finally got planted in beds, but then, permaculture introduced me to the world of Florida native plants. It wasn’t long before I started planting these natives around the farm, then moved my tropicals to a new bed by the front gate and replanted my front beds with all native plants.

native plants

Unlike the non-native tropical plants that require soil amendments, pest control and regular fertilizer maintenance, native plants are at home in the Florida sandy soil and hot sun. They need minimal care while their blossoms attract rare butterflies and produce berries for birds and wildlife. Their lack of fertilization and pesticide needs is a vital aspect for the health and preservation of local ecosystems, as these toxic chemicals end up in wells, drinking water, lagoons, rivers and the ocean. I use no toxic chemicals here on the farm or in the garden, and while that is sometimes challenging, the plethora of bees, butterflies, birds and wildlife that visit here is worth it. It is a good trade.

native flower

The time came in 2021 when I had to decide whether my next project would be building the pool or planting the mango orchard. I opted for the pool and a pool house. The pool house started in March 2022, the pool in September of 2022, and after many delays, both were completed in May 2023. I was the owner/contractor for the pool house, it was a grinding project and the pool more so, but it was the right choice. The warm salt water pool, cold plunge and sweet little pool house offer me a healing sanctuary where I can rest and rejuvenate. The warm pool soothes my whole being in winter after a long day of farm and garden work, and the cold plunge invigorates me on hot summer days. They are a gift I thoroughly enjoy with my family, grandchildren and friends.

pool contruction
new pool

There is much more to come for me to complete my vision for the farm and garden: a greenhouse, the mango orchard, a bamboo forest, wild spaces, redoing the pond waterfall, a patio off the south side of the house, more fencing and more trees to plant. Patience is needed.

I walk this land often, grateful for how far I have come in five years. At sixty-nine years of age, I am as fit and strong as I have ever been. I love the bounty from my garden and orchard, the beautiful eggs from my hens, to watch the trees that I have planted grow and the exquisite herons and egrets that visit the pond. I thank permaculture for teaching me its way of life, to live harmoniously with nature such that both people and the planet benefit.

rainbow ecalyptus

I am now offering Permaculture consultations for those who want assistance in creating a vision for their land, I will also be teaching a basic Permaculture course here at the farm for those who are ready to dive in and work their land.

I am delighted to give back all that I have learned from the farm and garden.

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