Hey guys! How is it growing? I am set up
before the sun rises, as the sun is rising at Cynthia Schaefer's house, & I
can't wait for you to meet her. I like to call her the queen of South Florida
[Rooster Crows] & that's one of her roosters. The queen of South Florida organic gardening, but she would never claim a title like that for herself.
She's very down-to-earth and she does not really like the spotlight. But today
she deserves the spotlight. She's put together a number of community programs she has such a big heart. She's very caring and compassionate.
We need more
people like that. [Music] [Chickens clucking] >>She's been broody, that means she's been sitting for basically 3 weeks waiting for eggs to hatch. >>Cynthia Schaefer is an urban homesteader,
& she's going to talk about what that means as well as some community
programs that she's put together. >>And now she's got the other hen is taking turns. I don't know if you'll be able to see it in here. All right, so we've got a newborn. I've been an urban homesteader since about 2013. I really have always loved nature & being with plants & when I started doing this it went from having a plant here & a plant there or maybe just a garden, to… it became this entire beautiful system. I didn't do it all at once. I did
it in stages & as I did it it became more & more addicting & energizing
& you just feel different when you wake up in a place where you're part of
the natural system.
[Rooster Crows & Cat Meows] >>So what is that thing you're doing?
>>Well, I'm doing Elderberry so this time of year I'm always doing Elderberry. She's
one of my favorite medicinals. She's great for as an antiviral & she
shortens the duration of colds & flus Elderberry is a great preventative. I
have a lot of health care professionals that purchased from me on a regular
basis, & they take the tincture every day when they go to work, & it keeps
them healthy. As an antiviral it's going to work in the body to work against that
virus before it has a chance to replicate & it's just an incredible
plant. And she planted herself. She just showed up one day. And it's just really
You know as humans we used to be doing these things on a regular basis
shelling beans or always working with our hands & it's really a mindful
practice & whenever I'm sitting & talking with people, if I have things
like this to do I'll just grab a bunch of Pigeon Pea & start shelling 'em… or
whatever needs to be done. One of the great things about being in South Florida, this is Asian Winged Bean & she produced like mad
all last year. She went dormant for part of the winter & then she came back so
a lot of things you plant once & you have them for a really long time.
Comfrey is great in the garden.
She's a deep medicinal for broken bones
for sprains. She helps to increase cell turnover so
she's going to heal very rapidly & she's a great chop & drop. So she's a
dynamic accumulator. She's pulling up nutrients from deep within the soil &
when I harvest her, if I'm not using her medicinally, I just chop her up &
leave her in the garden. People try to make chop & drop complicated.
And it's super simple & part of it is I describe myself as being a really lazy
gardener. So when I chop a plant when I'm trimming I'm just going to cut it up &
leave it right where it lays. And I use the motto: What would the forest do?
So in the forest, no one is cleaning up the forest. No one is fertilizing. No one's
doing anything everything just naturally falls down & becomes part of the next
soil cycle. One of the things that's really important when you're homesteading is to know the plants your area.
This plant is Sita acute. It's also known as Wireweed & if you look it's
very different from the Bidens that most people think it is when they first
see it. Sita acuta is anti-malarial, antibacterial, antiviral. It is high in
protein & it sells for $88 a pound in the herbal shops.
It's used a lot for Lyme disease, & it's one of the top herbs in Stephen
Buhner antiviral, antibiotics book. & I also like to put root vegetables
everywhere because to most people this looks like an ornamental.
Malanga. My core philosophy really is: What would the forest do? I trust in the system that nature has provided that has been effective for us since the
beginning of the planet. And the thing that I really think is important is I
think that we don't understand even a reasonable portion of how the system
works & I have seen miracles in my garden, because I've let things be &
let whatever needs to happen happen. I lose plants sometimes & that's ok,
because I'll either put the plants somewhere else or I'll try a different
plant, but the more you work with the system the more you let the natural
intelligence of the natural world do the work for you the more time you spend
harvesting & just enjoying the aliveness & the paradise of nature the
way she's meant to function This is Jackfruit & she was gifted to
me at a plant swap.
She was about this high when she got here, & I'm pointing her
out because if you'll notice some of the leaves have been problematic & the whole plant all the new leaves were appearing like this & I treated her
homeopathically. And a lot of people haven't embraced homeopathy for plants
yet. But it's been really incredible in my yard how I can take things & turn
them around with absolutely no impact on the rest of the system. The new growth
looks beautiful so clearly something worked. Urban homesteading is unique in
so many ways because in urban homesteading you have a lot of
outreach you can do. I live in a great neighborhood. My neighbors are fabulous
people who don't mind that my yard does not look like theirs. And I always try to
engage the neighbors by offering a taste of this, or a taste of that.
A lot of my
neighbors bring their children & their grandchildren to experience the garden
& the butterflies & all the exciting things & it's also a great opportunity
for us to revision the way we live as human beings. There's nothing wrong with
having a lawn, but the totality of our food system, as we've seen recently
is being challenged by a lot of different things. Besides the monocropping
& the problems with supply chains, there's really a quality issue
& the food that you eat from your own garden or your own neighborhood or your
own small region is so much better for your body than anything that you can
get in the grocery store. Everglades is the only tomato that I really grow because it grows itself. I planted it once several years ago & it just continues
to produce. I've got some of them that are 7 or 8 feet tall, & they
just go wherever they want. This is Jewels of Opar. It's a nice
When the flowers are open. It's beautiful to just pluck some of those
& put those in the salad & she's self-seed. She comes back every year so
another plant that really takes care of herself. She's really happy underneath
Moringa, & of course everyone loves Moringa. And then the peas over here
every morning I'll just grab the peas & I let them the things that are going
to dry I just gather them every day & I put them in a pile & then one day
I'll shell them all. There's so much that I wish I had known when I first started.
I wish I knew how many things thrived here. I really fond of letting plants
find a way to work together & solve their own problems. This is
Chayote & she gave me so much fruit this year & then the main vine died
& a second vine came back up. I don't think she's gonna fruit a lot this
summer but by fall she'll be full grown & ready to continue to give me tons of
fruit. And as long as they don't let her over grow the canopy of Moringa. Moringa
is perfectly happy to host her. I think the thing that still fascinates me every
day is the way that the system takes care of itself. So underground you've got the Mycorrhizal Network & it's
transporting resources & it's moving water & it's breaking down things so
that the plant can uptake it. And it's really funny because in the Facebook
group you can tell who's a new gardener because they see a mushroom in their pot
& they get worried that it's a problem.
When in fact, it's a sign of a super
super healthy system. And then above ground you have all these chemical
signals going on. So a plant in my front yard, if for example a Tomato Hornworm comes in the front yard that plant will set
off a chemical signal to attract the predator for the hornworm. The plants in the backyard, even though they're not under attack, will send off that same
signal. And that's why even though it's really frustrating as a beginning
gardener I always tell people that the system self-correct,
because if you let itself correct then you've solved problems for the long term. One of the things I love about this time of year is the Turmeric popping up everywhere.
This is Blue Turmeric, & that's the traditional Orange Turmeric.
You know when you raise a child you don't solve all their problems you encourage them to self-reliance. And I feel the same way about the plants. I
want to encourage them to be self-reliant. I get a stronger plant, I
get a stronger system & I happen to believe that the nutrients in the food,
because the plant is stronger, are better for me. The second hive is a swarm from the first hive. So the first hive split. We captured this swarm, put it in the second box but then the first hive did not have
a queen. And when they don't have a queen sometimes they get a worker layer &
the worker layer was laying eggs so the hive thought that it had a queen. Long
story short, my mentor on the beekeeping says he's never seen anyone be able to
take a hive with a worker layer & get it to make a queen again. And that I did
that so it's really like a beautiful relationship with the bees because when
the queen was out in laying I could feel the difference in the hives just by
observing the way the bees were coming in and out I could see that the bees
were happier and things were going better for them.
It's kind of hard to
explain. But it's a really deep relationship with the
bees if you take the time & I come out here every day & I look at them &
you can tell just by observing how healthy the hive is. And of course I'm
always grateful when I'm able to get honey from them. Everybody hates Balsam pear, right?
But it's food & in some cultures it's called Cerrasee, & in some cultures it's
highly valued for its medicinal properties. This is Quail Grass, or Lago Spinach. It's a Celosia. It's in the Amaranth family & it's completely edible. The flowers are gorgeous when they get
to the full spire & itself seeds. So it comes back every year when it's time
to eat it.
Everyone has different things that they love to do, right? You saw my rain barrels. I don't have those skills so I engaged community in
people who had those skills came & did the rain barrels. I was able to pay them
because I make my living as an herbalist & I can barter or I can create, you
know we're still on the monetary system. I think it's really important in urban
areas that everyone consider getting a side hustle. You know doing something
that is… Juliet Schor who's a great economist calls it acts of self
provisioning & basically you know we used to spend our days doing things that
provided us with food, shelter, medicine, & art & entertainment.
can still be a rich & valid part of our lives but instead of being hobbies
they can be ways that we create revenue & things that we can barter. So in an
urban area there's so many opportunities for trade, & interaction, & a little
bit of more of a specialty in your homesteading. And I also want to say that
homesteading does not necessarily have to be the full chicken, bees & have a
garden like I do. Homesteading can be as simple as beginning a fermenting
business, or jams, or jellies, or anything that you want to do that
creates self-provisioning for others. So there's
a lot of ways that homesteading can start & you don't have to think about
something this extensive because it happens a little bit at a time.
start with you making some jam from something that a friend gave you from
their tree & maybe you have a pot or 2 on your balcony & that is
homesteading also. I just want to point out this little weed. It's very distinctive the seeds, because these little suckers will stick to you but
this is called Guinea Hen Weed, AKA Animu. And I'm gonna let you
taste it. It has a really strong flavor of garlic
& when it finishes with like a really spicy mustard. It's being studied in
Jamaica for its anti-cancer properties.
But in herbalism we say that the taste
tells the tale & this with all its sulfites tells you that it's really good
for someone who needs to be warmed up & who needs something that is
antibacterial. Of course I love all my plants equally but my pride & joy is breadfruit.
I don't know if you can see but there's 2 there, there's 1 there,
there's just right in this little cluster about 8 or 9
fruit. And she's like that all over the tree.
So I will be freeze-drying &
eating a lot of Breadfruit this year. And I'm super excited about that because
it's a fabulous fruit. So one of the things that I'm really excited
about creating is an actual framework infrastructure for our community. How do
I find the people that are a couple miles away from me that are doing what
I'm doing, & Grow Social, which is GrowSocial.org is a web platform that
we created with a team of people a few years ago & it's a great resource
where we can store data & get to know each other & post things for sale. It's
an empty room right now.
There's some people in it, but it needs a team of
people to help bring it to life & it needs people to go in & create
profiles & put in data & that way we have this centralized area where we can
keep plant information. So when someone comes into the community & they want
to know what this is we can have a post in the local pedia that talks about
Mexican Sunflower, Tithonia, & what value she has in the garden.
just announced an initiative called TCC sprouts. TCC stands for The Caring
Community, & the nonprofit we do in schools. TCC sprouts is microlending &
it's not a big program we're gonna be loaning out no more than $500 per person
but what we're looking to do is we're looking to help people create those side
hustles whether it's some sort of worm composting or worm casting business or
whether you want to start a rain barrel installation business or compost
collection. There's so many possibilities of things that we need as a sustainable
urban community where we need people that are creating these worm castings. We
need people doing cottage industry things like fermenting. So for example a
lot of farms & CSAs & even places like my own property have greens that
are just we have too many greens & they start to go bad, somebody can make a business out of
fermenting those greens & selling fermented greens.
lot of ways that regenerative side hustles could be started & then maybe
expanded into main businesses. As the world automates & as we continue to be
challenged with these conventional jobs it would be really beautiful if we could
lift more people in our community up to the point where they can have ways of
taking care of themselves & their families that are dependent on their own efforts & nothing more. So applications are
being taken for mentors for this program as well as for loans. Will be a
announcing an exciting event later on in the summer. And we hope that more
& more people just jump into sustainable regenerative community living & we
live in paradise, & we can all make it paradise for ourselves & our community.
This is a Sapodilla. What I hope that people take away from this
video about me is really nothing about me everything about the miracle of nature
& the system. We've done a food bank garden together & created this beautiful fresh food going to a local food bank we're working on a
community garden in the town of Davie in one of the local parks. In our community
we have groups of volunteers that go out & pick fruit & take it to a food
bank when we work together just like when the system works together we create
this harmony & it benefits all of us.
So I hope what people take away from
this is that everything that each of us contributes to community no matter how
small or how large is important & when we all give what we have to give
we're all exponentially stronger as a community & healthier. [Music] Cynthia is very hard core when it comes to "Earth & everything on her," as she put it. I have to admit I'm not there yet. And that's ok. She & I have a deep mutual
respect for each other in spite of the fact that we don't agree with everything
& we have a different approach to pest control last winter I tried her approach
with my cucumbers & I got a decent harvest before the aphids took over &
you know why it wasn't the end of the world. There was a season and a time for everything under heaven. And you know what? It was a time to pull up those
vines & grow something else. I think every gardener will agree every day
in the garden is a learning experience. So we can learn from the garden, but we can also learn from each other, whether we agree with everything or not.
As Cynthia mentioned, as an herbalist she makes & sells tinctures in ghee, & other incredible
products that are home grown & homemade. If you got something out of
this episode please do me a favor subscribe to the channel like the video
share it, &… let's grow together! [Music].