Happy New Year!

9 01 2010

What the Heck?! It’s almost mid-January, already?

Well, we made it through Christmas relatively unscathed, thanks to a couple of unexpected cash windfalls, including a bonus from the honorable “Mike, the Guy Who Pays Us”. Thanks Mike!

We were able to make it to Jacksonville for Christmas and Christmas Eve at Aunt Anne & Uncle Norman’s. Glad that we got up there, because a bunch of important things took place, including the Engagement of AJ’s mom, Karen Swinson and her darling Mark Werbil on Christmas Day. Congratulations!

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The next day we attended the wedding of AJ’s dad, Allan Ricketts to his new bride, Caroline. Congratulations to the two of you!

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We got to see Judith, although she was sick, and also enjoyed the Palmrose clan Christmas party at Uncle Pete’s and Aunt Melanie’s. Between the festivities, I was able to squeeze in a few moments with two of my dearest and best friends Christy and Kim. I missed a few people, but I’ll see ya’ next time (I promise).

After the whirlwind, we spent a quiet New Year’s Eve in bed before the ball dropped. Wish that I could have stayed there, as it has been cold and/or rainy ever since!

Cabin Fever

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It is cold outside and it’s drafty in here. We are both in our flannel jammies, with¬† warm socks. AJ is wrapped up in a wool blanket, and I have on my warm fuzzy slippers and house coat. At one point I even had on gloves and a stocking cap! No, I will not post pictures.

In South Florida, the Iguanas are losing their grip and falling from the trees. My favorite part was the one about the man who took the opportunity to cull them by picking up the stiff lizards and tossing them into the back of his station wagon. Unfortunately, the warmth brought them back around and he almost wrecked as they crawled on his back!

We are going stir-crazy in here! Especially AJ, whose projects all involve being outdoors. He and Llami appear to be competing for the restlessness award. Llami hates, hates, hates the cold. She curls up, trying to stay warm.

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She snuggles up, trying to stay warm,

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and stares at me as though demanding “Make it warm!”.

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She insists upon going out, only to turn right around and knock on the door.

I love them both dearly (AJ & Llami), but I can’t wait for the hot sun to return!

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The Fallout

I was already having difficulty in the gardening department. Thanks to the evil nematodes and various other inclement circumstances, the winter plantings have been a bit sketchy. The Marketmore 76 cucumber produced one, big fat specimen (which was quite tasty) right before the vine croaked. Most of the heirlooms do not seem to have any resistance to the nematodes, and were suffering, even before the cold spell.

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Ironically, the broccoli (which suffered attack by caterpillars all summer) is flourishing; and even though we have had some hard freezes, the plant looks as though it couldn’t be happier. The same goes for the collard greens and a few other hardy plants. The verdict won’t come in until it warms up and I take the covers off. What I do know is that the beautiful bananas and papayas are taking it pretty hard. I guess that I shouldn’t complain too much. At least it hasn’t snowed…fingers crossed. The garden did yield some interesting characters. I present to you…

Frankensquash!

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Earlier this year I attended a seed swap, where I was given seeds for a Seminole Pumpkin Squash.

At this seed swap I learned two valuable things:

  1. The native Seminole Indians were pretty good gardeners, who developed a hardy strain of squash that was perfectly suited to the sandy soil and numerous pests of Florida. The Seminoles were said to have trained the robust vines of this prized plant to grow up into palm and oak trees. Since they ripen in the winter, I like to picture the thought of the Native American’s version of a sub-tropical Christmas tree, drooping with golden globes of sustenance. As long as it didn’t go below freezing, they could leave the squash hanging on the vines and pluck them as needed.
  2. The second thing I learned is that when you plant seeds, the product can be drastically different from the parent. As if this weren’t confusing enough, there is a serious degree of myth and misunderstanding surrounding this fact. At the same meeting where I picked up the Seminole Pumpkin Squash seeds, I overheard the statement that plants of a similar nature could interbreed if allowed to cross-pollinate. “If you plant cucumbers and watermelons too close together you will get a normal looking fruit, but the seeds will produce a hybrid of the two, and you’ll end up with some nasty-tasting cucumber-melon.”

This idea fascinated and confounded me. Why had I never seen such a thing? Surely, someone would be growing them by accident, or for the sheer novelty? I couldn’t wait to get home so that I could get to the bottom of this. Sure enough, it was an old wives’ tale. Although Watermelon, Cucumbers, Squash, Gourds, Cantaloupe and Pumpkins all belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, they are different species, and cannot inter-breed. However, varieties of the same species can cross-pollinate. This means that salad cucumbers and pickling cucumbers will blend to create a seed stock that produces some mixture of the two. The frustrating part is that, in some cases, a plant over one mile away can contaminate yours. For the standard gardener this is not a problem, as it only applies to the product grown by the seed of the cross-pollinated fruit. However, it is a problem for collectors of heirloom seeds.

I planted the Seminole Pumpkin Squash seeds that I got from the seed swap. Not long afterward I visited John Roberts, “Bamboo John”, who gave me a gorgeous specimen from his own garden. I ate that squash and planted a seed from it, as well. All plants grew rapidly, and looked identical. It wasn’t until the squash appeared that it was demonstrated how easily an heirloom can get mixed up. I had researched the Seminole Pumpkin Squash online and had noticed that there are at least two distinct varieties of what is supposed to be the same plant. The fruit from the first seed were of the bell-shaped variety. They got very large and heavy (almost 5 lbs.) before I was forced to pick them due to a variety of circumstances. The plant from John’s squash produced a single specimen, which looked exactly like the smaller, round squash that he had given me. As both were blooming at the same time, it is quite possible that the seeds from these squash would produce something in-between. I plan to roast the seeds when I cook the squash, so I will not have to wonder what they would produce. Well…maybe I’ll save a couple.

Roasted pumpkin-squash seeds do seem like a fun cold-weather treat. Anyway…the verdict is still out on what exactly a Seminole Pumpkin Squash is. What I do know is that Llami might be part squash, herself, based upon this quick comparison.

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Yogurt

The only other (remotely) interesting thing that I have to share is about yogurt. Those of you closest to me know that I have been suffering from a serious bladder infection that was causing me undue pain and inconvenience. I went to the clinic (another blog post in itself) and got some antibiotics. They didn’t work. I know it is unpleasant to read about, but I was peeing what could easily be mistaken for curdled milk! (I exaggerate, but only slightly.) Doctors sometimes get offended when we go online to look for remedies; but my doctor can get indignant all he wants, because if I hadn’t gone searching I would still be suffering. The doctor did discover that I have glucose in my urine. This means that I either have undiagnosed diabetes (doesn’t show up on blood tests), or a congenital kidney disorder. The only other explanation is pregnancy (which I assure you does not apply). So, I got to thinking “Sugar feeds yeast. What if I have yeast in my bladder? What kills yeast? Acidophilus!” I got some plain yogurt, and within an hour my suffering was over!

What I don’t like about store yogurt is that although you can find all natural, plain yogurt, it is impossible to find anything but lowfat or nonfat in the regular store. Besides, it is not cheap. So, I found a blog post about how to make your own yogurt. It is incredibly simple. All you need is a crock pot, a towel, a gallon of milk and two tablespoons of yogurt for a starter. I didn’t add gelatin, so the yogurt I made is not as thick as the store brand. This is fine with me, as it is perfect over cereal. I bought a box of Paul Newman’s Own organic cereal (with no corn syrup) and have found my new breakfast treat. Yum! The bladder problems that plagued me for over one month have disappeared.

Well, I applaud anyone who made it this far through the rambling post. Hope that you all are staying warm and safe!





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.