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GROW INSPIRED: HOMESTEADING IN CENTRAL FLORIDA

Our #GrowInspired series features our innovative and creative garden partners. Whether they’re working with two acres or 200 square feet, we are constantly in awe of their hard work and kick-ass gardens. These are some of our favorite gardens and gardeners who inspire us to get out and play in the dirt.

Eva Rodriguez, known on Instagram as @GreenBellaJourney, started her journey to “modern-day urban farmer” just six years ago, and in the process has learned how to grow her own healthy food and raise animals to help feed her family. Growing in Central Florida, Eva has sparked a following on Instagram for her gorgeous garden photos, helpful tips, and darn-cute animal photos. We chatted with Eva about her homestead journey and her faith, which is a driving factor in Eva’s life. 

The Scoop on Eva’s Homestead

Our little homestead is located on two acres in Central Florida, zone 9b. Right now our dedicated vegetable garden space is about 1,000 square feet with LOTS of room to grow. We love growing our own veggies but our primary focus is on growing our fruit/food forest. The goal is to have most of our property to look like a tropical jungle full of fruit trees.

We have a vegetable garden area, which we use 6x3x12 galvanized steel beds for, and we always focus on what is in season. We can grow year-round in Central Florida so that is always a blessing! We also have many fruit trees scattered across the property. Our fruit trees include mangos, plantains, avocados, bananas, peaches, guavas, oranges, lemons, papayas, pomegranates, dragon fruit, and passion fruit. I am certain I am missing some, but I can’t remember what I am missing! We also have some staple plants/trees like gandules beans (pigeon peas), many types of Yuca/Casava, sugar cane, lemon grass, and various types of malangas. 

On How She Got Interested In Gardening And Homesteading

I’ve only been gardening for about six years. I started getting interested in gardening after learning about our broken food system. I was shocked about everything I learned and really wanted to try to grow a few things to see if I would like it. I asked my husband to build me one bed to start off. That one bed quickly turned into five and eventually we moved to a more rural area just outside of Tampa, Florida, to start our homesteading journey.

We are still in the beginning stages of our homesteading journey. It is definitely a process that takes time and lots of work. The goal is to be able to cut our grocery bill down to just essentials and grow/raise as much as we can. I want to walk outside my front door and feel like I am in a tropical oasis full of food and beautiful flowers with bees and butterflies buzzing around. I also would like to process more of our own meat, can our excess harvests a bit more than we do now and also continue to hand make all of our soaps. I am so excited to answer this question again in a few years once our trees are pumping out crazy amounts of fruit!  

The Various Animals On Her Homestead 

Right now we only have chickens, guinea fowl and a pig. We raise two types of chickens. Our laying hens are here all of the time. We have a flock of 12 chickens right now. We also raise meat birds occasionally. The guineas are just here for hen protection. They are great for sounding an alarm if there is a predator close by. Our sweet pig is a pet. Her name is Betty and she is best friends with our dog, Chewy. We used to raise goats for milk. We don’t have any goats on the property now but hopefully one day we will again! In the future I would love to expand our farm animals to include some ducks, turkeys and possibly mini cows.

Eva's pet pig, Betty, and her BFF Chewy, the dog

Eva’s Favorite Animal 

I love our pet pig because she is incredibly intelligent. I am amazed at how quickly she learns and can be trained. But I have to say I don’t think I would ever want to be without chickens. They are so entertaining and fun to watch and of course you get free eggs! Can’t beat that!

The Biggest Challenges In Eva’s Garden

I would say battling bugs organically, Florida summer humidity, and sandy soil.

Why Eva Loves To Garden

Eating the food! There is something beautiful about feeding your family with something you grew. I never knew it would feel so rewarding. After all these years I still feel excited about harvesting.

On Garden Successes 

I don’t have a favorite plant, but I am always most proud of seeing a fruit tree flourish from a seed we planted or clipping we propagated from our own established trees. I just love seeing our little fruit jungle grow! 

Eva’s Gardening Advice  

Two things. First, you can’t win them all. Some plants are going to succumb to the elements. Whether it is bugs, disease or its weather related, not all of them are going to make it even despite your best efforts. Don’t let that get you down. It happens to even the most experienced gardener.

Secondly, don’t let Instagram fool you. Your garden doesn’t have to look perfect to thrive! I promise you 90% of pictures are edited or the ugly is cropped out somehow. Just get your hands dirty and have fun with it.

 

How Eva Uses C-BITEs In Her Garden 

I love how easy C-BITEs are to assemble and how you can build almost any type of plant support you need from them. Right now I am using them to hold up a huge Cuban Oregano plant I have. This spring I will be using them on my tomato plants. I am excited to discover more ways to use them! They are so handy! 

On Eva’s Faith And Homesteading

My faith is the most important thing in my life. It has become the driving factor in everything I do, especially in the last few years. I started gardening to grow food for my family. And if I am being transparent, for a while, I lost sight of that. I was more focused on gaining followers and cool pictures than harvesting. A lot of things went to waste during that time and my garden wasn’t as bountiful as I’d hoped it would be. But there was a shift in me when I felt the nudging in my spirit to change my focus. I started getting back on track with my faith and really spending time with God and building that relationship. I feel like that was a turning point for me when I got back focusing on what was important in my homesteading journey and how blessed we are to be on it. I don’t post every single thing I do around the homestead because that is not the reason I do it. Now I post when I remember and alongside my husband, we just enjoy the labor of love and delicious harvests this homestead brings. I truly feel my faith is what got me through that and why we have been successful in our homestead.  

You can follow Eva on Instagram at @GreenBellaJourney or read her blog on GreenBellaJourney.com


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