Another Week Gone by in the Trailer Park

28 02 2009

Since we have to work in the morning I consider today to be more like a Sunday instead of Saturday.

It’s past 3:00pm and I’ve yet to do anything productive. This morning was cool and the light was nice so I took my second mug of coffee outside and hung out with the cats. Once they had all been sufficiently fed and petted I picked up my camera and took a tour of The Oasis. Yesterday I spotted a red-tailed skink in the compost heap. I looked it up online and decided that it must be a Peninsula Mole Skink (Eumeces egregius onocrepis). I also saw a Carolina Anole (Anolis carolinensis) hanging out on the shed, and a Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor priapus) which casually glided into a shrub and then quickly propelled itself upwards at a brown anole, missing by only an inch or two before it continued on along it’s hunting trek.

This morning it was too early for most reptiles to be active, but I did capture a Brown Anole (Norops sagrei) sunning himself on a bamboo stake in the garden. We have built a fence, a garden enclosure and trellises with locally grown bamboo. The anoles immediately set up housekeeping inside the hollow tubes and can often be seen peeking out from the tops of the poles.

Brown Anole (Norops sagrei)

Cuban Anole

The Sweet Basil and Dill are also taking advantage of the mild weather and are steadily growing.

Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Sweet Basil

Dill (Anethum graveolens)

Dill

Jorgi, the gray tuxedo cat, does not allow me to inspect The Oasis without his assistance.

Jorgi

The recent cold weather and wind has taken a toll on the banana trees. Even in their worst condition, these lovely tropical plants are elegant and interesting. Backlit, this dead banana frond resembles a piece of burlap.

Banana Frond

The Bromeliads have shrugged off the recent weather and are doing nicely.

Ball Moss (Tillandsia tenuifolia L.)

Tillandsia recurvata


The endangered Giant Wild Pine (Tillandsia utriculata) which I rescued from the asphalt of a parking lot, where it had fallen from its host tree.

 

Tillandsia utriculata

Although I have plenty of important work to do, I believe I will take another tour of the property and try to roust up the native reptiles.





Llami and the Devil Eye

28 02 2009

Llami in 2005

Llami Pre-Injury

Llami and I came together at a time when both of us were struggling to get by. In a stormy and verbally abusive relationship I was feeling isolated and miserable.

My best friend Christy called and informed me that she had the cat that I needed. My protests went unheeded as Christy appeared at my door with a skinny gray Manx she had found wandering her neighborhood. When Christy sets her mind to something there is no use arguing; and her mind was set upon this cat and me having each other. The cat was spayed and de-clawed and Christy suspected she had been abandoned by a family who had recently moved away. Both of us were in fragile states of transition. The cat spent two weeks under a table and I passed the hours drinking wine and writing in my journal in-between bouts of yelling from my boyfriend. I named her “Llama Butt” because with her long hind legs and tuft of fur for a tail she resembled a llama. My boyfriend, despite his hostile outbursts, had a soft spot for animals and insisted that “Llama Butt” was not a fitting name for such a graceful creature. Thus, her name was shortened to “Llami”.

The vet estimated Llami to be approximately six years old. Eight years later she is still agile and playful at fourteen plus years of age. She weathered every move and disruption with her trademark steadfast poise, and soon we found ourselves in much happier circumstances when AJ entered the scene. Llami was fond of dogs, and when AJ and I lived in St. Augustine, many neighbors walked their dogs past our house just to visit her. She especially liked large dogs and would rub up against their legs and then roll over as though to be tousled by them. More recently she was nipped by a neighbor’s husky, here in the trailer park, and seems to have lost her penchant for pooches.

She is a cat with an eating disorder, which I imagine comes either from growing up with dogs and having to eat fast, and/or from being abandoned and having to scavenge on the streets. As a result of her food obsession, Llami has ballooned up to fourteen pounds. She no longer resembles a Llama so much as a furry gray lemon.

I didn’t mean to write so much about this cat, but damn I adore her! And so does AJ. When I met him he had no interest in cats. AJ is a true man’s man: masculine, technically minded, outdoorsy and short on sensitivity. Yet, Llami instantly wedged her way into his heart with her gentle affection and comical demeanor. He caters to the old gray cat as though she is a queen, struggling with his allergies to let her knead his belly, and making sure she has a comfy pillow for her throne and fresh water in her dish. It’s clear that she prefers his company over mine and I am fine with that. The gentle side she brings out in him always melts my heart.

She has traveled with us everywhere and looks after her adopted son Jorgi (the gray tuxedo cat); since he is as frantic as she is mellow. When we bring Llami to a strange place she does a cursory inspection and then finds the softest place to take a nap. Just like her human parents, she is unfazed by change and settles in comfortably wherever she happens to land. She also likes to go “visiting” and has let herself into all of our neighbors’ homes. The couple directly behind us are what I can best describe as mature hippies. They have an enclosed compound with scores of tropical plants and a fish pond/stream encircling their trailer. They have done their best to fence off the sanctuary, as it appeals to the numerous cats in the park. I know they have a super-soaker and I have heard them use it right before a cat bolts from beneath the lattice enclosure of their refuge. Yet, Llami seems to have scored an all-seasons pass to the kitty wonderland, and frequently returns home smelling of patchouli incense and hounding us for a snack. Picture a cat with a food obsession getting “the munchies”. They tell me that they enjoy her company and that she loves to sit by their stream and observe the goldfish. If I had to use only one word to describe her it would be “Observant”. She is always watching with her enormous golden eyes. You can almost hear the gears turning in her little brain as she examines your every move, waiting for you to create a warm, soft lap or to open the magic door to the cold world where the cheese treats are stored. I sometimes wonder if she is an alien spy fitted with a surveillance device in one of her eyes.

This makes the recent tragedy all the more disturbing. On December 11th I came home and fed the cats (our two and a neighborhood interloper). They eat outside and spend the majority of their time out there. Llami never misses a meal, but I was so exhausted and distracted from the hard workday, that I failed to realize that she had missed breakfast and dinner. It wasn’t until I was in bed at 9:00pm that AJ mentioned her absence. We traced our steps through the past 24 hours and realized that neither of us had seen her since the previous evening. I panicked, threw on some clothes and flip-flops and (with an LED headlight) raced out to search for her. I knew something was wrong when I got no response to my increasingly frantic calls. Both cats come when called, and neither responded. I was certain that she was either locked inside someone’s place, dead, or seriously injured. Her voice is very small and squeaky so I listened carefully as I searched.

My calls escalated as I grew more desperate. Jorgi is a very vocal cat, yet he too remained silent. I was drawn to one trailer, in particular and returned to it for a closer look. As I approached I looked underneath and saw three glowing orbs reflecting my light. As I drew closer they silently remained in place. I crawled beneath the trailer where I got a shocking view of my two cats. Jorgi (AKA “Scaredycat”) was steadfastly holding his post as protector, although I could sense that his heart was racing and he wanted to bolt. Llami looked up in a daze, but made no attempt to rise. This is when I realized why I only saw three glowing eyes. Where her right eye should have been was a mangled, bloody mess. Horrific scenarios raced through my mind as I grabbed her up and stumbled back home. With an eye this bad, she must be bleeding internally, have broken bones and be on the verge of death. Was she hit by a car, attacked by a dog, injured by a human? By the time I reached the door I was a wreck. I wasn’t ready to lose my precious Llami, especially not like this.

AJ quickly grabbed a towel and we placed her on the couch to assess her injuries. Unresponsive and clearly in shock she made no attempt to move. As the smell of necrotic flesh reached my nose I was flooded with guilt over having not looked for her sooner. Her eyeball was not visible and folds of bloody raw flesh protruded from the socket. I feared that she may not survive, much less keep her eye. Dollar signs spun through my mind as I anticipated the emergency vet and ensuing expenses.

The next thirty minutes passed in a blur as I got online, found a 24 hour animal clinic and rode with her in my lap as AJ raced us there, seemingly hitting every bump and pothole in the road. The vet was just about to go home when I called. He stayed and was waiting for us when we arrived. Never had he seen an eye injury like this, and was clearly disturbed. They gave her anaesthesia and kept her overnight. Although she seemed swollen and wheezed a bit with breathing, the eye appeared to be the only serious injury. The vet worked to save us money by avoiding expensive tests. She appeared to have no broken bones, and internal injuries can only be resolved with time, so we did not order X-Rays. Her eyeball was intact, but there was a chance that she would have permanent blindness and that it may have to be removed. Even in her pathetic state Llami managed to endear herself to the staff at the clinic. When we picked her up the next morning the technician described her as the sweetest cat she had ever cared for.

Here she is a day or two after coming home. She really hated that collar.

Llami-Collar

With drops and creams applied every two hours, her protruding eyelids began to recede. Within a few days her eyeball was visible. Over the next two months it changed from black to raspberry red. In February we started to notice a bit of gold as the red began to clear. It has been heartbreaking to accept that she will never again be as beautiful as she was with her expressive golden eyes. She clearly struggles with the new blind spot created by losing her vision on one side.

Two months after the injury. I called her “Devil Eye” because the eye looked so disturbing.

Llami Devil Eye

Despite her obvious pain and discomfort, Llami has taken this injury in stride. In this photo taken in early February her eye is bright red, but still full-sized. Over the past few weeks I have been dismayed to notice that the eyeball appears to be shrinking. I had found a website describing this condition, but can no longer locate that link. I continue to use the steroid and antibiotic eye drops, but am fairly certain that the damage is irreparable. We keep a close watch on her and insist that she stays inside at night.

Llami today.

Llami Eye

Her eye is now a mix of colors including black, greenish-brown, smoky gray and a touch of the original gold. The vet says the optical nerve is detached and that all we can hope for at this point is that the eyeball does not have to be removed. She wheezes when she sleeps, but otherwise has returned to normal. Llami is now more spoiled than ever and each moment spent with her is a treasured moment reminding us of the fragility of life.

Fortunately this injury was not life-ending. When this special cat does pass we will be heartbroken beyond description.





The “Bubba Effect” & Heirloom Seeds

23 02 2009

THE BUBBA EFFECT

FOX and Glenn Beck are like that couple you always knew belonged together. Perhaps FOX was your friend and Glenn Beck was your partner’s friend. The two of you would get together and conspire to invite them to the same parties in the hopes that they would recognize that they were soul mates. When he switched from the propaganda machine by the name of CNN to the one called FOX it took me a moment to realize what had happened because I always imagined him at FOX. Now he is home and cranking up the garbage to new heights.

I have a work site where conservative talk radio is cranking 24 hours per day. One morning I got to listen to Glenn Beck as he ranted about the financial collapse and how we should all prepare before it’s too late. The only time I’ve been able to tolerate this clown is when he interviews my hero Dr. Ron Paul. You’ve got to give Glenn Beck credit. He had the sense to recognize the current of Libertarianism pulsing through the generation set to inherit this financial disaster. When all other talking heads set about to marginalize Dr. Paul by outright mocking, Glenn Beck stuck his paddle into the current and used it to propel his vessel into new territory. Now like a shepherd who has caught a few strays Glenn Beck is using Ron Paul’s message like a staff to hook them back into the herd. I must admit, I was almost hooked. I actually started to think that Glenn Beck may have caught the liberty bug and was truly interested in speaking out against the oppressors. This didn’t sit well with my understanding of the mind control mechanism that is the media, and as my motto is “Question Everything” I began to wonder how far Glenn Beck was really going to take this course.

In this YouTube video clip of the Glenn Beck Show (posted by jbranstetter04), Army Command Sergeant Major Tim Strong describes how “The Bubba Effect” will come into play when the Collapse is in full swing. When I first watched the clip I was surprised to see that the military is willing to show the card that they are concerned about us “Bubbas”. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. This is just one more of the divisive tactics used to keep us all suspicious and fearful of each other.

I don’t know how this will all play out, but I do know a lot of people who have willingly dug their heads into the sand.  As unemployment, homelessness and hunger seep in with the tide the desensitized masses still jabber on about American Idol and their kids’ athletic events. If every person spent every free moment cultivating their survival plans they might have a chance. As is stands I envision a huge lot of ugliness, the likes of which this country has never seen.

HEIRLOOM SEEDS

I almost forgot to mention: I ordered a bunch of goodies from The Victory Seed Company.

I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about the arrival of a package. I hope it comes soon, and I hope I get everything I ordered.

3360011 – Spinach, Bloomsdale Longstanding – 4 gm. Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3030391 – Bean, Fordhook 242 Bush Lima – 1 oz. Sampler    @  2.05 =  2.05

[1]   3050041 – Broccoli, Atlantic – 0.5 gm. Sampler    @  1.85 =  1.85

[1]   4000261 – Parsley, Italian – 2 grams    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3240011 – Lettuce, Buttercrunch – 1 gm. Sampler    @  1.85 =  1.85

[1]   3240041 – Lettuce, Oak Leaf – 1 gm. Sampler    @  1.85 =  1.85

[1]   3240171 – Lettuce, Winter Density – 1 gm. Sampler    @  1.85 =  1.85

[1]   3090071 – Carrot, Nantes Scarlet – 1 gm. Sampler    @  1.65 =  1.65

[1]   3310131 – Pepper, Ancho (Poblano) Hot – 0.25 gm. Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3160051 – Cucumber, Marketmore 76 – 1 gram Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3110021 – Celery, Golden Self-Blanching – 0.25 gm. Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3250491 – Watermelon, Dixie Queen – 1 gm. Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3250031 – Muskmelon, Hale’s Best Jumbo – 1 gm. Sampler    @  2.25 =  2.25

[1]   3030081 – Pole Bean, Kentucky Wonder – 1 oz. Sampler    @  2.05 =  2.05

[1]   3170011 – Eggplant, Black Beauty – 0.25 gm Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   4000141 – Mammoth Dill – 2 grams    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   4000301 – Sage – 1 gram    @  1.65 =  1.65

[1]   4000271 – Parsley, Moss Curled – 2 grams    @  1.55 =  1.55

——————————

——————————
$31.00  [– Sub-Total
————————————————————
$7.92   [– Continental U.S. Shipping & Handling Estimate

————————————————————
$38.92  [–## GRAND TOTAL

These seeds will be planted in addition to the other things already planted or growing in The Oasis. I have put out a call for more containers so that I may build more raised beds.

Here is The Oasis as of this afternoon:

The Oasis on February 22, 09





Week in Review: A Week of Natural Gifts

22 02 2009

It’s been a lovely week here, with temperatures dipping into the low 40°s and reaching the 70°s.

The Oasis is progressing nicely. I will take a week ending photo once the light goes down a bit. Yes, the sun is blazing out there and I have the door and windows open (as I have had most of the week).

PAPAYAS

Earlier in the week I was pleased to see that the papaya seeds I planted, before the last cold snap, had sprouted up with a vengeance.

Papaya Seedlings

I replanted a good number of these seedlings, tasted one (sweet and peppery at the same time), and gave the rest to other people in the park.

Papaya Seedlings Replanted

After giving them away (which I don’t regret) I learned that the sprouts are recommended as a salad topping, and that the dried seeds can be ground and used like pepper. Since I had another papaya on hand (gifted from my business partner), I saved those seeds and am drying them now.

Papaya Seeds Drying

COCONUTS

My business partner and his family went wildnerness camping on an island last weekend. His yard is full of papaya and coconut trees. He brought along some coconuts and experimented by roasting them on the fire. I was the beneficiary of two of these beauties.

Campfire

On Monday I cracked one open and proceeded to scarf down more than half. I couldn’t stop because it had a great smoky, roasted aroma and flavor. The next morning I wished that I had stopped before I ate so much. The old saying “Too much of a good thing” certainly applies to coconuts; and that’s all I am going to say about that!

VOLUNTEER TOMATOES

The papayas  and coconuts were just the beginning of the natural abundance I enjoyed this week. I took a look at my poorly managed (see “neglected”) compost heap and noticed some strange looking sprouts poking out. Surely this is sign that no composting is taking place? It’s OK, because I got a bunch of volunteer tomatoes for no effort (other than burying some kitchen scraps and ignoring them).

Volunteer Tomatoes

The little rascals have since been relocated to The Oasis where they are getting plenty of water. As soon as I planted the newbies my first tomato plant (purchased from the flea market) has stepped up to the plate and started to flower (I think it may be showing off).  I have no idea which variety  any of these tomatoes are, but I hope to get a good mix.

CITRUS JUICE

Another gift from my business partner was a big bag of locally grown Indian River grapefruit and oranges. Since we have orchards to the west of us, the fruit flies are plentiful. The bag of citrus has been attracting fruit flies all week and I finally got annoyed enough to do something about it.

Yesterday I washed the fruit (although it doesn’t look like it) and proceeded to make juice.
Oranges & Grapefruit for Juicing

This handy little juicer strains the seeds and pulp and collects juice in the cup with a pour spout.
Juice Production

The lid holds the fruit in place while you twist to squeeze.

Squeezing


Pouring Juice

Here is the aftermath. I added a little raw sugar to take away the bite and ended up with 3 1/2 quarts of excellent juice.

Juice Aftermath

OKEECHOBEE BASS

To top off a week of goodness we got a knock on our door yesterday. It was our neighbor, Fred, bearing a nice bag of filleted Okeechobee Bass. We sell wild caught Florida shrimp and have a bartering agreement with Fred.  We get our fill of shrimp and he gets his fill of bass so every now and again he comes by for a trade. He even brought some homemade batter! Since last night was our fifth wedding anniversary (we don’t make a big deal out of spending money to celebrate) we had a little fish fry and enjoyed the tastiest, freshest, most delicate bass you can imagine. Sorry, no pictures. We ate it too fast.

OUR ANNIVERSARY  PRESENT TO EACH OTHER

A couple of weeks ago AJ’s mother asked us to sell our Volvo to her so that his sister can have it. This care is safe, runs well and is in great shape. It has a few cosmetic issues such as a bad headliner, cracked dash and peeling paint. It is also two colors, since I smashed it up a little and AJ had to replace a fender and some other body parts. Still, it’s a great car and perfect for a young, “carefree”  person, such as his sister. Our perk for letting go of this car for super cheap was that his mom would finance our purchase of a “new” car. Neither of us believes in paying the outrageous price of a new car only to have it depreciate immediately; so new to us means “old but in great shape”. The hunt for this car and the surprising result will have to wait until we pick it up. AJ will immediately get to work sprucing it up (although it is already stunning), and when he is finished I will post the story of the search and some nice photos of the gift we got each other on our fifth year married.





I’m Turning into my Grandmother.

21 02 2009

As early as I can remember I have been interested in sustainability and preparing for TEOTWAWKI, although I don’t think it had an acronym back then.

I was a teenager during the booming 1980s and although there was that lingering fear of nuclear annihilation it was the farthest thing from my hormone addled mind. However, I had frequent dreams on a recurring theme. These dreams have continued to resurface throughout my adult life. They would usually start with a mushroom cloud going off in the distance. I would briefly look on in horror and amazement before calculating where my loved ones were in relation to the blast zone and which ones I thought would survive. Depending upon whether or not I was in a relationship at the time, I would desperately attempt to locate that person. Next I would go about the business of leading people to safety and teaching them how to survive in a Post Apocalyptic world. Sometimes the dreams would take a violent turn and I would find myself in firefights with warriors who were trying to take over the country.

I’m not sure whether these dreams are a result of my survivalist mentality or if they are partially responsible. Regardless I find myself looking to the future in horror as an economic mushroom cloud balloons into the sky on the horizon. The horror comes not so much from knowing what’s about to happen as it is from the realization that so many people in my life is oblivious or in blatant denial. I have harped as much as I care to harp. My warnings fall on deaf ears. Fortunately (and I write this on the date of our fifth wedding anniversary), my husband is of like mind. I will have to dedicate a future post to his incredible skills and abilities. I’m very fortunate to have found him when I did. Together I know we will survive what the future throws at us and will be the tribe leaders of this park and our families.

I have an ongoing TEOTWAWKI supply list, but there is no way I can afford to buy most of what is on it. Today I started another list called “Pre-Collapse Preparation”. This is a list of the immediate projects I need to take on in order to deal with the possibility of power outages, fuel shortages and the store shelves being wiped clean. As hard as it is for most to imagine, this can happen in a single day. During the Hurricane Season of ’04 people waited to the last minute and panicked in the face of the approaching storms. Overnight the shelves were depleted of water, generators, ice and canned goods. After the storm supply lines were cut off, and with no power people became desperate for food. Grocery stores were closed for weeks and although the gas stations had fuel there was no way to pump it. Those who prepared as instructed by purchasing two weeks worth of supplies (which I don’t believe is nearly enough) found themselves running short as they helped out those who did not prepare.

And so (finally), I come to the topic of my post. I am turning into my grandmother and assorted other elderly women who have factored into my life. After my mom’s father passed on her mother sold the farm and moved into town. Suffering from severe depression she had difficulty coping. My stepfather was a truck driver and gone for weeks at a time. My mother was overwhelmed with me, my little brother and another on the way; so it made sense to the adults involved to send me to my grandma’s house for a week or so at a time. Grandma Merritt lived less than a mile away, so it was convenient for everyone involved. I enjoyed it because I got to be the center of attention again and she had all kinds of fun stuff like a piano and a table with animal feet, both of which I found absolutely fascinating. Ever thrifty, she spent much of the day sewing and tending to her tomatoes and geraniums. She fed me orange sherbet and Cheerios, although the sherbet was often freezerburned and the cereal sometimes had bugs in it. Little did I know what she had lurking in her freezer…

At night she would tuck me into bed next to her and proceed to start talking about how much she missed Grandpa and how she wished she could die soon in order to be back with him. This monologue would always progress into a fit of sobbing which would last for what seemed like an hour. I would try to comfort her, but it was pointless as she was in another state of mind and hardly seemed to acknowledge that I was there. I learned to dissociate by replaying entire episodes of The Pink Panther cartoons in my imagination, starting with the theme song. Eventually, I was able to drown out the crying completely and fall asleep.

My grandmother eventually moved away to live near her son and his wife. I suspect that my mother was hurt because she knew that her brother was favored; but also glad because after a lifetime of rejection and verbal abuse she had little love for her mother. I never got to see anything like the abuse my mother described, but I don’t doubt it, based upon my mother’s reaction.

My grandmother lingered in her depression and prescription drug abuse until I was in college. She had wrecked her car one too many times and was forced into rehab where her system was cleared of the toxic chemical cocktail she was getting from multiple, unwitting doctors. While she was being detoxed my aunt and uncle  scoured her house and removed all of the pills.

Shortly afterward, I got a call from my mother. Somehow, a bottle of sleeping pills had been overlooked. Unfortunately, it was a fifteen year old bottle that my grandmother had stockpiled from when she still lived on the farm. Although she only took a regular dose the aged pills sent her into a coma. She was brain dead and lingered on life support until the family finally agreed to pull the plug.

As her belongings were divided up we learned the extent of her hoarding tendencies. “From the Farm” became the phrase used to describe the 15+ years that she had hung onto certain items. The next time I talk to my mother I will get more detail; but for now I will give you an idea of some of the things they found. Over the years since Grandpa Merritt had passed, she had crammed every corner of her trailer (including the spare bedroom from ceiling to floor), with certain items in duplicate.

  • Frozen meat “From the Farm”. Yikes!
  • Hundreds of rolls of toilet paper.
  • Over 200 pairs of unopened pantyhose, disintegrated with age.
  • 15 Electric chocolate pots.
  • Multiples of every personal care item you could possibly need.

Grandma had lived through The Great Depression and had always been thrifty, but the entire family was astonished to discover the extent of her hoarding.

Over the years I have come to live with three other elderly women of the same generation. All were much the same: strong proud and obsessively thrifty. Mrs. Miller had so much expired food in her refrigerator and pantry that it took me a full week to clean it all out. She also shocked me with her insistence upon washing and reusing plastic food storage bags. Now I have excessive guilt each time I throw out plastic of any sort. She and her late husband were avid outdoorspeople and had a nice library of old books. On her shelf I found and read “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” by Eull Gibbons. This book opened my eyes to the natural and abundant pantry hiding in plain sight once you step outside your door.

My stepfather’s mother wasn’t quite so excessive, but she did keep almost every margarine container and coffee can that passed through her door. She also had a basement with shelves full of dubious looking food in jars. Two memorable experiences were the time I spent an hour sorting out her plastic containers and throwing out the individual lids and and bowls that had no match, and the time she taught me how to can plum preserves. This was great because she was a natural food enthusiast and would take us on excursions where we would trespass on someones abandoned homestead and harvest the feral plums from the old orchards. I guess that’s an even more memorable moment.

An elderly woman I stayed with, and cared for, in 2001 was a Depression survivor with some great stories to tell. Mrs. Bowen grew up in Vilano Beach, Florida and her parents owned a huge tract of land, which they sub-divided and sold off. She lived in the original house her family built in 1916. Although she didn’t hoard like my mother’s mom she did have a drawer full of string, wire-ties etc. and a cabinet full of recycled plastic containers. The behavior I found most interesting was how she conserved water as though it would run out at any moment. She insisted that I use two dish tubs, one for washing and one for rinsing. When the washing water got too dirty I was to pour it onto the plants. Then I had to promote the used rinse water to wash water by adding soap. Needless to say, her dishes were never very clean. I took to pretending to use her system while I secretly washed everything for real. I will devote an entire post to this lady and her interesting life once I dredge up her historical pictures that I scanned.

I did live with another elderly woman (my stepmother’s mother) for brief time, so I guess that really makes five. She grew up on a farm in Kentucky, married a Coast Guard Captain and became an successful interior designer. She lived a prosperous and comfortable life until her later years when her drug addicted son and his multiple children destroyed her house and her finances. Now she lingers, bedridden, in a nursing home with only my stepmother, her son’s first wife and me to visit her. Since I live three hour’s drive away I make it to see her rarely. The last time I was there I asked her how she did during The Depression. She said that they did fine because they had a good-sized farm and raised everything they needed. Her mother made all of their clothes and canned food to store in the cellar. Her father butchered the meat and smoked it in their smokehouse. I asked her if they had trouble with transients and thieves. Because of their remote location and the fact that the neighbors were also self-sufficient they had no trouble. Occasionally a transient would come through looking for work or a place to sleep and they would put them up. Since they had extra, her mother would put out food by the road for those in need.

“Turning into my Grandmother” is really a compilation phrase to describe how all of these women have affected my survival philosophy. I am fortunate to have studied so many of these strong, resilient women and to see how easily the threat of scarcity can push one over the edge. As I promote the ideas of conservation instead of conspicuous consumption and as I beg my loved ones to educate themselves about the economic precipice upon which we stand, I realize that I could be perceived as having lost touch with reality. Other than my husband and a couple of friends and neighbors, no one else seems to believe that everything could change drastically in their lifetime. So, for now I will be the kooky “Conspiracy Theorist” and begin planning for my own survival and that of as many people as I can help when the shit hits the fan. I would rather be wrong and the butt of a few jokes than be hungry and lost if the worst happens.

Here is my Pre-Collapse Preparation list:

  • Order heirloom seeds and plant as much as possible.
  • Locate a polyethylene barrel and set up water collection and drip irrigation system.
  • Collect plastic buckets indefinitely. Get lids whenever possible.
  • Get handgun, shotgun and find BB gun. Stockpile ammo.
  • Apply for concealed weapons permits.
  • Help AJ finish wind generator. Still need a mast and blades.
  • Put together a community permaculture program.
  • Download and store survival info from internet.
  • Stockpile useful goods.
  • Stockpile biodiesel for the car we are buying today (Stand by for another post about that).

Later today I hope to have time to make those recordings I mentioned yesterday. I need something to lighten up the dour mood that has permeated my recent life and this blog post.





The Oasis

8 02 2009

OK, I’m finished pounding in the bamboo border around the garden. Heretofore I may refer to my little patch of paradise as “The Oasis”. I pulled a few weeds and next I will get some plants in. The banana trees did not fare well during the cold spell, but some of the other plants did just fine. I would like to order heirloom seeds, but that may take a while. For now I’ll have to do with what’s available, locally.

The Amaryllis and the Green Pepper have shrugged off the recent weather like the troopers that they are. I expect great things from these plants, and they are already producing. We won’t talk about “Puny” the tomato. I’m just happy that it still seems to be alive. Warm weather and lots of water should bring it back. That’s what I get for planting a garden before the freeze.

This $2.00 pepper from the flea market is making me proud. His $5.00 tomato brother is letting me down.

Amy Rillis, as I like to call her, was a volunteer I rescued from the Weed Whacker. Each year she gives me more plentiful and more beautiful blooms.





February in Central Florida

8 02 2009

It looks like a year has vanished since I started this.

For some reason, a few people on reddit.com have expressed an interest in reading my blog.  I’ve given a good deal of thought to what I should write to keep it interesting. I know blogs are supposed to have a set theme; but the only theme I can stick to would be “Whatever happens to pop into my head or my world on any given day”. So, I’ll give it a go and see what happens.

One year later we are still in the same spot in the same park. A lot of moves have been in the works, including the time we were accepted for a mortgage on a house we couldn’t afford. A couple of days before closing the loan was rejected, not because it was unwieldy for us, but because of a zoning issue. We could have changed financing vehicles and continued on, but common sense set in and we decided to take that as a message.

Good move that was, on our part. The housing market and economy took a huge dump immediately thereafter. The house is still for sale and has been marked down about $30,000.00.

We also got a wild hair about having a lagoon view and got ready to move to a park right on the water under a beautiful canopy of oak trees. It was $90.00 more per month than here, but the view was great. We made some observations and decided that we couldn’t handle the horrendous noise from the constant swarm of Bikers who frequent the bar just up the road. I guess enough people enjoy having their eardrums ruptured by idots gunning their pipes to show off how inefficiently their cooling systems work that the noise ordinances are overlooked.

So, here we are still in the same place. Acceptance has kicked in and I got to work on a garden. This park is built on a leveled sand dune and there is nothing resembling fertile soil anywhere around. All the soil I have brought in quickly leeches away with the heavy rain we get in the spring and summer.

My garden began when we first got here, with some concrete rings we salvaged from one of our construction sites. Filled with good soil they were perfect for my herb collection. Gradually we became more and more interested in the idea of growing some vegetables and my current layout evolved.

Over a month or two I collected 5 gallon buckets from delis and restaurants and placed them in a large oval. My husband (AJ) picked up two truckloads of topsoil which I used to fill in the buckets and center section, as well as my recycled concrete rings. Next, AJ went out and collected a great stack of bamboo, which he cut into workable lengths. I pounded these bamboo stakes into the ground around the buckets (which I had painted black), to create an attractive fascia. We ran out of bamboo and he recently picked up some more to finish the job.

In the meantime I planted some things. I’ll post a list later on. Next, we got a record cold spell (two actually). The garden survived, due to being covered, but not much has begun to grow. Today I will finish inserting the fascia stakes and then post some photos. The next project is to pick up some truckloads of gravel for the yard and driveway. I will finish the garden with white gravel and washed shell gravel (which is a nice fossiliferous material containing shells and coral). You will eventually find out that I am a fossil hound, so the idea of decorating my garden with them is a thrilling one for me.

I’m off to finish the garden and will make a new post with the photos. For now, take a look at the painted bunting that has been visiting our feeder. I joined a site called “Painted Bunting Observer Team” which tracks painted buntings at feeders throughout their breeding sites and migratory routes.

So far, I’ve logged two sightings, but I am out of food and have been too lazy to go get more. This week I’ll get more and try for some better photos. This one was shot through tinted glass on an overcast day, so the light didn’t allow for sharpness.