31 05 2009

OK, maybe he’s really more of a teenager. But isn’t he adorable?!

This afternoon AJ came running in to tell me that he had cornered a baby opossum. I grabbed the camera, raced over to the cottage and saw this little guy. We started to rescue him but decided to let him go. After checking the internet I found out that opossums this size are just fine on their own. We brought him over to our place and let him go, so now we will have one more midnight visitor to the cat food dish.


Found this baby muskmelon hiding under the vines today. More like another teenager, really. I’m guessing 30 days ’til melon time.


Here are the new guests to the garden. Anybody want to make a stab at an ID? Here’s a hint…that’s the mammoth dill. These little critters are one of my favorite photographic models, so you will get to watch them grow up; provided the invasive lizards don’t eat them up.


Baby collard didn’t take well to the transplant. It was so happy in the nice Miracle Grow soil of the nursery; but I decided it was time to graduate to the garden. I think it will be fine and soon on its way to becoming a Collard Tree.


Perhaps I’m overdoing it on the bananas, but isn’t this thing gorgeous? I have been standing underneath it, mentally willing the bananas to ripen. AJ tells me that he expects it to be even bigger than previously stated. If it is one of his grandma’s trees then the clump of fruit could end up weighing 150+ pounds. We’ll see, soon enough, if that is an exaggeration.


I harvested a couple pounds of tomatoes this afternoon. Sorry, the photos were too blurry to post. Next, I sprayed everything with Atomic Grow™.

I was working towards rolling out some news about Atomic Grow™, and my part in the company; but I haven’t gotten my ducks in a row just yet. I’m sure that you can tell that I’m very thrilled with this product and am anxious to be a part of its ascent in the world of gardening!

And finally…If AJ would make himself a blog these things would get better coverage. Of course he went about fixing things again today. This project started out as a simple truck wash. His eagle eye caught the clouded headlights, so he dropped what he was doing and sanded and buffed the headlights and tail lights. They look great, don’t they? If you want to see more of this stuff leave a comment and tell him to get on that blog!


Week in review – A reprieve from the rain

31 05 2009

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Everything is green. The yard is packed with baby grass, and the garden is growing fast.

If you read Things are a bit Spotty, you may recall that I was having a fungal issue with the tomatoes. I’m calling it Grey Leaf Spot until someone tells me otherwise. Last year this stuff completely ravaged my tomato plant to the point that I had very little yield.

Last week I treated the plant with Atomic Grow™ and trimmed off the terminal branches. I left a few of the branches with the initial stages of yellowing to see what would happen. One week later, the leaves are virtually unchanged and it appears that the fungal invasion has been stopped in its tracks. The new growth is green and healthy. I’m not going to go overboard with excitement, but things look promising!


I know I said I would make my next Atomic Grow™ application yesterday. I reserve the right to change my mind, and so I have declared Sundays to be “Atomic Sunday”. I will make the application this afternoon and post some quick photos. There are some new guests in the garden (one for which I have planted a specific herb), and I will not be spraying that plant because I want to encourage the guests. Sorry for the vagueness, but I think I’ll let you watch them progress and see who can guess what they are. Their momma dropped them off on Friday, so stay tuned for some baby pictures this afternoon.

Here is the Oasis this weekend. Doesn’t everything look happy?


A closer shot of some of the herbs. This is my first year with celery. I’m learning about self-blanching and how celery needs to be grouped together. I had thinned out the clump and moved some plants to outside areas. They are easily identified because they turned pale yellow. The central clump is still green. I guess we will wait and watch to see how they turn out.


The cherry tomato plant has officially reached tree status in my book. It is upwards of 5′ tall and growing by leaps and bounds. If it didn’t make those yummy tomatoes I’d think it were a weed.


Time for a salad.


The succulent garden is doing great. Notice that green grass in front?


Over the course of the week our banana flower has opened up and exposed the first hand of six bananas.

AJ explained to me that this is only the beginning. Each layer of the pod will open up in succession and reveal another hand. He estimates five or six more to come. This has been the highlight of my week.




The poblano peppers got off to a rocky start, but now they are loaded with babies.


Can I have more than one highlight? The Marketmore 76 cucumber has exploded in size.

Marketmore 76 Cucumber

And I found three new babies on a single branch. I’ve got to keep my eye out for those pickleworms. They are not allowed to eat our cucumbers.


The muskmelon took a beating from the winds this week. The older leaves are fairly shredded, but there is so much new growth that it hardly matters. This plant is loaded with babies.

Muskmelon Vine

Dead frog walking. Yes, here is another Cuban Tree Frog. This one has set up housekeeping inside one of the bamboo stakes. The stake has filled with water, thus forcing froggie to poke out of the top in the daylight. These are nocturnal frogs, so you can see its determination to stay home. I was able to get extremely close and the frog didn’t budge. I’m still building the fortitude to round up and kill these invasives. I even bought some Benzocaine to put them gently to sleep before popping them into the freezer. AJ is promoting the idea of just stomping on them. Is he mean or what? Actually, it would probably be the most humane way. I just don’t think I could do it.

For now I am building a collection of photographs for their memorial. Eat up little froggie; your days are numbered!

Cuban Tree Frog in Bamboo

Mr. Fix It is still at it. This week the rains exposed another problem with the car: leaking tail lights, which allowed water to get into the trunk. AJ took them apart and found that they were both crazed and that one was cracked in various places. Here he is trying to salvage the blasted thing until we can afford a replacement part. Anybody want to buy a 1985 Mercedes 300D? 😉


I’ll leave you with “Gravel Cat”, Jorgi.


Check back later for a harvest update and some shots of the baby guests.

Storms, Beetles and a Silly Cat

27 05 2009


The last two days have graced us with some exciting thunderstorms.

This was yesterday’s front, although today and just about every other Florida afternoon thunderstorm looks much the same.


The clouds looked ominous and we got about 1/2″ of rain; but the lighting was minimal and the whole thing passed within a few minutes. The most interesting part was the smoke in the clouds. Apparently the storm brought remnants of a fire that it may have whipped up on the way.


Today’s storm was much more impressive. The NOAA weather radio went off and mentioned Micco (which it never does). The clouds rolled in fast with a good display of lightning. We got 3″ of rain within one hour. The yard turned into a temporary pond and the road was transformed into a river. We even heard some hail tinkling on the roof. Another quick mover, the storm was gone and the sun back out in just over an hour. Within a few more minutes the puddles had dried up.

We unplugged everything during the storm, but got a good show by looking out the windows.


AJ’s anemometer clocked the biggest gust it has ever measured:62.6 mph.



Grapevine beetles (Pelidnota punctata) have been visiting my blacklight. They are common, but their size and mellow demeanor makes them fun to capture and inspect. I enjoy them because they look as though they are made of wood.



And last but not least…

Smokey the Silly Cat


Just One Week Behind

24 05 2009

Like the title says. I’m a week behind. I have lots of things to post and will surely run out of time before I cover everything. You may actually appreciate my brevity, especially if you don’t like snakes.

Warning: Snakes Ahead!

The baby lovers will want to stick around, though. And who doesn’t love a baby; especially one as absolutely precious as sweet Madeline Mae Dailey.

Attention: Cuteness Ahead!

Christy and Chris came to visit last weekend. We had a good time and I got to spend the whole of Saturday with Mady while they went to Ikea in Orlando. This child is an angel. She smiles and giggles constantly and only cries when she has unmet needs. She is spoiled though, and thinks that one of her needs is to be held all day long. How do parents get anything done? I quickly learned to time all my chores during her frequent, yet brief naps. It was good in a way. Only having a few minutes to get something done eliminates the urge to procrastinate.

Mady turned six months old while she was with us. She is acting like she plans to skip the crawl stage and go straight to walking. She will be talking before you know it. Maybe then she can tell me when I put her diapers on backwards. Those things have gotten complicated since the days when I last changed diapers. The last victim of my diaper changing just graduated from high school this weekend! Do I ever feel old.

Well, enough of my rambling and on to the pictures.

“Come here and pick me up!”


Christy & Madeline. How could she not be cute with a mom this beautiful?


Chris & Madeline. Of course, she got her father’s dominant genes. Good thing he’s easy on the eyes, too.


She even wakes up smiling. What a darling!


While all of the cuteness took place inside, AJ spent most of his time outside. He finished up those bamboo wind chimes.



They look and sound great. Ever the perfectionist, he is still tweaking them for that ideal sound.


We all came out to enjoy a little sunshine and heard the strangest noise. It was a faint, yet desperate shrieking that none of us could identify. We traced it to the palm tree that AJ had just trimmed earlier. Up at the heart we saw our neighborhood Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor pirapus) eating something. I climbed up on a chair, but could not identify the victim. Within moments the entire creature had been consumed. It may have been a baby bird, a small rat or squirrel, a frog or even a bat. All we saw was a long leg sticking out as the snake finished its meal. Sometimes nature is hard to watch. But the snake was content and took its time descending from the treetop.

Southern Black Racer in Palm Tree

I was allowed to get close enough for a macro; which is no easy feat with these typically speedy snakes.

Southern Black Racer in Bromeliad

Thanks for humoring my putting snakes and babies in the same post. I’ve still got a week to go and the day is growing short. Check out my next post for the results of the deluge we enjoyed this week.

PM Critters

17 05 2009

I have so many posts to catch up on. It’s Sunday night again, and almost bedtime; so I may not get to everything tonight.

I’ll start with my nocturnal trek on Thursday night. Although the days have gotten very hot, the evenings have been beautifully cool and breezy. It’s still bone dry, but the yard is lush because we hand water the plants. It rained last week. Although only a trace, it was enough to moisten everything just a bit.

This seemed like a good time to bring out the black light and see what type of insects might be lurking in the shadows. I will get into this more on a future post dedicated to blacklighting.  On this evening I had few visitors; the most interesting being this longhorn beetle, family Cerambycidae.


I put on my LED headlight and took a nocturnal tour of the yard. Around the back of the RV my light caught the reflection of two large eyes on the bumper. I was startled because I didn’t expect to find such a huge Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) sitting there. These guys are not shy, but this one was especially bold, and/or blinded by my light. I raced inside and popped the macro lens onto my camera. I returned with the LED set on red (so as not to disturb him) and started snapping shots with the flash (which should have disturbed him).


The frog sat there unfazed, like a stoic, bumpy gargoyle. It didn’t even budge when I put my hand next to it for perspective.


Eventually the little giant grew tired of my harassment and sprang away…or should I say “towards”? With a slimy “Splat” it bounced off of my camera, leaving a sticky smear all over the lens. Feeling bad for the creature, I picked it up and placed it back on the bumper, unharmed. Although this may seem like an act of kindness, it was actually somewhat irresponsible. Cuban Tree frogs are invasive, warty, bottomless pits which eat up every creature they can fit in their big mouths. Native frogs, toads, lizards, insects and spiders are all on their menu; and are all declining as the Cubans take over. It is recommended to humanely euthanize these adorable little monsters by placing them in the freezer until dead. I’m sure you can see why I was unable to do it.

The UF Florida Wildlife Extension has a great page about these little buggers, including identification tips, a recording of their call (which I liken to wet balloons being rubbed together) and how to put them down painlessly with Benzocaine and freezing.

Encouraged by my find, I continued around the yard inspecting the foliage for more critters. As the Cuban Tree Frogs come out at night, the Cuban Brown Anoles (Anolis sagreis) go to sleep. These feisty little lizards spend their days zipping around, fighting for territory, eating insects and having promiscuous lizard sex. At night they seem to congregate and doze together. I think this escaped tropical houseplant reminds them of a homeland bed and breakfast. There are five in this photograph.


As the name alludes, these too are an invasive exotic species, which have taken over urban landscapes and displaced precious natives. One of the reasons I haven’t killed the Cuban Tree Frogs is that I have seen them eating these guys. I try to convince myself that they are helping to keep the population in check. As outlined in this article by The Institute for Biological Invasions, the Cuban Brown Anole is responsible for the drastic decline in the population of native Caroline Anoles (Anolis Carolinensis) due to predation on their food supply, their young and eggs. Euthanasia is also recommended for these invaders. Perhaps one day, when I’m in an especially dark mood, I will go on a rampage and try to make the yard “Invader Free”.  I do see the occasional Caroline (or Green) Anole and would love to give these lovely, gentle reptiles the chance for a comeback. Perhaps I will dig a mass grave and place the headstone “Invasive Species Rest in Peace”. For now they just rest peacefully.

Next I found this little guy on one of the banana trees. Not positive about the ID, but I’m pretty sure this is a juvenile Cuban Tree frog.


Finally, I wandered around to the far side of the yard and over to the Jasmine on our neighbor’s trellis. There, like a scaly exclamation point, I saw the appropriate finale to this story: The skin of our local Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) which had been outgrown and shed in the tangles of the flowering vine. This lovely and sleek native makes its frequent rounds through the yard, chasing and eating those conspicuous Cuban Anoles amongst a variety of other critters. Stay tuned for an update on our resident snake and a recent feeding encounter.