food, Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life

Catching Up is Hard to Do

I was gone for the past two weeks, up north in New Jersey where I got to visit the burgeoning autumn weather. You’d better believe that fresh, tart Winesap apples were stowed into my carry-on for the trip home. When I pulled out the sacred bag of Apple, Spousal Unit dove into one right there at the airport, while we waited for luggage to arrive on the carousel. Mmmm, the things you miss when you move…

Visiting fall was wonderful. Apples in season (I made two apple pies!), fall foliage turning lovely, cool nights that brought out blankets and closed windows (one night dipped to 38F), and recipes that matched the season–braised root veggies with chicken, mushroom risotto, currywurst. Bracing winds one day, lovely weather the rest of the time. Even though I was kept busy, I really enjoyed my time on the Shore.

But this weekend brought another kind of fun: the Gainesville Orchid Society’s Orchid Show at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens! I only joined GOS after last year’s show, and am happy to admit I’m a rank novice and total beginner at this “orchid thing.” But it’s a lot of fun, and I’m learning so much about an amazingly diverse group of plants. And the show was amazing. So many types of orchids on display, and more for sale from various vendors. I couldn’t pass up one particular plant–Bratonia Shelob ‘Tolkien.’ I mean, really, could I consider myself a fantasy writer if I didn’t buy one of those?!? Here’s a link to what it will look like should I get it to bloom. (Some report it has a slight fragrance, too–extra bonus!) Just now, mine is a tiny bit of green–healthy, but nowhere near sending up a bloom spike. Cross your fingers that this little spider orchid will grow and bloom wonderfully for me.

But it’s time to dive back into writing. I’m looking forward to it, especially since the dog seems to have gotten over his “stick to her like a burr to flannel” phase. I’m behind on where I expected to be at this time, but life happens–as it should–and I’m okay rolling with the flow. Good writing is ahead of me. I can feel it. Like fall, it’s in the air.

Now I’m off to eat a persimmon. You know what they say–whether in NJ or in Florida, eat your local seasons. Happy fall.

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life

Rooftop Madness

So, solar is coming. Yup. Honest, it is.

But before the panels can be installed, we need to prep our metal roof by tightening all the exposed-seam screws, and replacing those that are stripped, and using a special 50-year pliable caulk. Because once those panels are up, we won’t be able to tighten those screws ever again (our roof had a few…um, issues during installation, it seems). And if a screw wriggles loose, water seeps in under the metal, and then…bad things happen.

Husband and I have been dodging rainy days, morning dew, and mid-day heat when we can, climbing onto the roof, and testing/removing/replacing all the screws used on the portions that will get solar panels. It’s pretty time-intensive work, though not too physically demanding. Wet or dew-coated metal roofs are like Slip-N-Slides, just not as fun once you hit the edge and fall off the roof. The heat up there is extreme, and all radiating back up at you. By 10:15 or so, I can no longer touch the metal roof with my bare hand. It’s just burning hot. And we can’t get up there before 8:00-8:30 if there’s been any kind of dew, and not at all if it rained…. So. Yeah. This is taking longer than expected. We have one last section to proof. It’s a smaller section, so we’re hoping it’ll go fast once we can get to it. But this is known as the rainy season for a reason, ya know…

In other garden news: the pineapples are growing nicely, with the one that used to be a bit too shaded by the laurel oaks now glorying in its full sun, and putting on size much more quickly. Inside the lanai, my small potted coffee tree bloomed earlier, and now it boasts about 6 small, green coffee beans–or what I think are coffee beans–where a few flowers had been. Now I’m wondering: how much coffee comes from 6 beans? Wait, I don’t even like coffee! At least the spousal unit does. He’ll have the most premium thimbleful ever if I can get them to ripen.

Over the weekend I took the dog out to do some business around 10pm and found a hummingbird moth going absolutely crazy on the 4-o’clock right beside the “business area.” It completely ignored us (clue #2 that it wasn’t an actual hummingbird, the first being — it was totally dark!). I called spousal unit out to watch. You could see it’s long tongue glisten in the alley light as it slurped up the nectar-y goodness from flower after flower. It’s antennae were hard to see between the poor lighting and the little creatures unceasing motion and speed, but once in a while, I did (clue #3, since yeah, actual hummingbirds don’t have antennae!). There was no way to get a photo of this, sorry. But the link above will show you what they look like. Here’s more information.

Rustic Spots aug2017

Finally, here’s a picture of my lovely Brassolaeliocattleya (Blc) “Rustic Spots” in bloom. Notice that lovely ribbon attached? *blush* I joined the local orchid club last November, and last night took this delicate beauty in for the monthly bloom table–where it won first place in the cattleya category! I’m a complete noob at this orchid stuff, and this was the first time I’d taken in an orchid, so this was a wonderful, wonderful surprise! From impostor syndrome to squee in 4.5 seconds. (Well, okay, I still have impostor syndrome. But the squee was real enough. That’s why I’m sharing it here!)

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life

Last of the Shade Trees

The figs are gone; we ate them all, and now we’re sad. No more figs for a year. Now the pineapples are growing–still green, but getting larger. The hibiscus shove out new blooms daily, and the butterfly ginger scent the side yard. Around us, the air is heavy with sweat–ours, and nature’s, as if even the skies can’t stand the heat and humidity of north central Florida in August. Never before have I been so glad for air conditioning, and shade.

And yet…next week, we’re losing two trees–laurel oaks, which are short-lived “weedy” trees. But trees nonetheless. They are the last two “big” trees on the property that I loved for its “beautiful trees making such shade.” Sigh. But they are coming down for a good reason–we’re installing solar panels on the roof! These two trees, already a bit lank and long in the tooth, are blocking the southern exposure. So out they go.

While I’m sad, the neighbors two laurel oaks will still shade our side yard, and I’m going to plant two smaller trees there. Probably chickasaw plums, which won’t grow tall enough to block the sun from the rooflines, but will protect the shady garden plants below. If they grow like the Scarlet Beauty plum tree did, they’ll be full and lovely in less than 2 years!

So there it is. Another month run away. Butterflies are everywhere, and hummingbirds argue over who has rights to the nectar feeder, and the dog pants, sleeping in the sun until the afternoon rain drives him indoors.

I sip lemonade. Dwell in the shade, savoring the trees until the trees are gone. Consider the sun that will soon be powering my air conditioner. I cannot help but smile.

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life

April Update

I’ve been missing again–sorry. Life has taken a rather “full to the brim” tack, keeping me jumping.

First there’s been an injury to my knee–no surgery, thankfully, but it still hurts, and limits my motions and actions. I’m not good with this. 😦  Unfortunately, I’m learning.

A rare moment of peace in the sunshine, as Karla waits to steal the bone from Dasher.

Then we did a 2.5 week dog-sit stint. Karla is a pup, bouncy and active and big and strong; basically, all the things Dasher is not. They get along fine, mostly, but Karla sometimes forgets that Dasher’s “no” really means “no,” not “pester me until I give in.” And Dasher sometimes needed reminding that he really does need to share the toys, not need to possess whatever Karla wanted (and vice versa!). We also don’t have a fenced yard, and the dogs wouldn’t walk well together, so it was double dog-walking with a sore knee. Let me tell you, two weeks of this wore me out!

On top of this, the day Karla went home, I discovered termites! Not in the house, fortunately, but far too close by! They swarmed out of the raised garden’s vertical posts, blossoming up and out like endless dandelion seeds, their wings glinting white in the morning sunlight. Kinda pretty, actually, in the way a nuclear mushroom cloud from afar can be pretty. Formosan termites are destructive invaders, and I’ll be happy to see them gone!

Anyway, it’s not all doom and gloom. Strawberries have been ripening in my garden, and the hummingbirds are back. The feeder is filled, and I’ve already seen them hovering there, sipping their fill. Also, my hibiscus are blooming once more, including the expensive true tropical I bought last year. It really suffered through winter, and I wasn’t sure it would make it, which made me very blue. But it’s popped back vigorously as recent temps have soared, and put out its first bloom. To top off the good news, yesterday it poured, raining for hours. We needed that rain so badly! Yay.

On the writing front, I’ve managed to keep writing most through all of this, but ran into a snag with the ending of the final Jessamin book. I needed a bit more oomph–action–going on. It was an easy thing to sketch out once I realized it, but it took me two days of struggling to write to realize what the problem was! I only needed to backtrack two scenes, restructuring them a bit to fit the new layout. It’s going well, and is sooo much more satisfying already.

On that note, I need a bit more “action” myself–on to writing fiction! Happy April, everyone, and if you’ve been having the terrible winter, Happy Spring, as well.

Magic of the Everyday, Nature

Worms in my Kitchen? I’m So Glad!

My worm composter arrived yesterday morning. Yesterday afternoon, the worms themselves arrived, neatly bagged, then boxed and delivered into my mailbox! Now, the composter is assembled, and the worms are making themselves happy after their trip from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm in PA to north central FL. I’m sure they had quite a shock going from whatever temps PA had, to the upper 80s we’ve been having of late!

Nonetheless, they’ve quit seeking an escape and have settled nicely into the wet coir-and-shredded paper base. Their first light meal is scraps from the previous night’s beets along with mixed used tea leaves and coffee grounds. I’m hoping that they consider it gourmet treats and start digesting it quickly–I can’t wait to start using worm compost on my plants!

Why worm composting? Well, we don’t really freeze here, not for long enough to kill bugs. And, while I was using the neighborhood community garden, each time I went to the compost stack, roaches scattered. I could hear them, not just see them fleeing! It just grossed me out. Our yard is pretty small, so any composter I could get would be close enough to the house to be an attraction to bugs…and you can guess where that goes all too quickly. No way. Uh-uh. I don’t want roaches in my home.

I’ve been depressed about this for some time. We go through quite a bit of compostable material every week, once we return from the farmers’ market–peels, carrot tops, mushroom stems, etc. All that stuff just going to waste, instead of feeding my gardens, made me want to cry.  Then it just dawned on me–I could do worm composting without drawing bugs inside!

I haven’t figured out where it’s going to sit yet; this is still a work-in-progress, and it will probably change with the seasons. For now, I’m keeping it close so I can keep an eye on the worms’ adaptation to their home, making sure they survive, thrive, and begin to feed as expected. With any luck, soon you’ll see me taking piles of gorgeous compost out and feeding my plants worm tea!

Worms are in my kitchen, and yes, I’m very, very excited!

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life, the dog, Writing

Where Went October?

Pears and persimmons–fall is here!

It’s already the end of October? My neighborhood is already fully invested in it’s over-the-top Halloween decor. We put up our (more reserved) decor offerings yesterday, in the cool and lovely 76F day (except for the cardboard bats–they’ll go up the afternoon of Halloween, so the damp doesn’t do them in). This week, it’s off to buy 1000 pieces of candy for the trick or treaters who’ll show up at our door (did I mention that we always run out early, even so?). Mind-boggling, but true, and let me tell you, it’s so much fun to watch these kids all dressed up literally take over our streets, and to see the gusto that the neighborhood throws into this entertainment. I’m not sure who has more fun–the kids, or the adults!

The weather’s been unseasonably cool in the evenings. It’s dipped down into the 40s the past few nights, and got down to 42F last night. That’s just too close to frost! I’ve started  pulling some potted plants inside at night, and closing windows, and am shifting things about in the garage, getting the frost blankets out for the in-ground delicates should it grow any colder. And doing this in October, especially after the extended heat of summer? Just crazy. We had a bonfire on Saturday evening, and huddled around the bright flames as dark coolness settled in all around us. I toasted a few marshmallows, and we drank cider, and life was good.

emptyThe night before that, spousal-unit and I had “date-night”–an actual dinner out at a nice restaurant, just the two of us. It was lovely to talk and enjoy one another’s company without doing dishes after, or shopping and cooking it all. We both had delicious meals, too–proof of the fact is this photo: I couldn’t stop long enough to take a pic until the plate was clean! Trust me, it was that good.

We also visited Payne’s Prairie. The water levels are remarkably low right now–the lowest they’ve been in a decade according to a ranger who chatted with us. No one really understands why; the whole regions infrastructure of sinks and springs is pretty poorly understood even today, so what affects the water levels, and how, isn’t always apparent.

freerideWith less water to hide in, we saw more alligators sunning and swimming. And some babies were clearly visible in the shallows on the right side of the diked trail. The low waters also mean that the wild cracker horses have to come closer to alligator-infested waters to drink, like these beauties with their “riders.” You know that’ll mean some equine–and alligator–casualties to come.

Yum on the way!

My tiny little tangerine tree is bowed over with its load of fruit, which has begun to change from orange to green! Hurray! As have the orange and tangerine trees in the neighborhood. Our Meyer lemon tree has just started to show yellowing on a couple lemons. We got a bunch of persimmons from the orchard just down the road and have been feasting on them. I bought a few gorgeous pears at the grocery store, as well, and they’re looking gorgeous here until they finish ripening and we eat them up–yum!

And then we come to Dasher. Ah, poor Dasher. He started limping again. Just a bit, at first, so we suspected it was his patella slipping out of place. Until one day, he started hobbling 3-legged again. And didn’t stop. A trip to the vet and a set of x-rays later confirmed that no, his patella seemed fine, but his remaining ACL was ruptured. And so–another surgery.

Checking in at UF Small Animal Hospital for surgery–again.

He’s in recovery now, but we have another concern. His seizures aren’t being totally blocked by the meds he’s on (3 different ones at this time). Small near-seizure ‘episodes’ slip through, on about a 10-day to 2-week cycle–way too frequently, especially given his med dosages. And his liver isn’t able to handle more of these meds. In fact, we’re doing another monitoring blood test later this week. So in November, he’s going for an MRI of his brain, to check whether there is some physical (correctible) reason for these seizures. And honestly, I’m not sure what to hope. “Yes” means he might have a chance of getting off all these meds. But it also means another surgery–quite literally, brain surgery! I’m really tired of putting him through these things (he’s not quite 3 yet, and this is surgery 5 that he’s recovering from now), of feeling guilty for his pain and confusion, even while knowing that it’s the right thing to do. But a “No” means we have to keep looking for meds and dosages that will control the seizures without killing him or making him sick. And we’ve been through 4 common medicines already, so what are the chances of this happening? Sigh.

Around all this, writing has been happening (but not by zombies)! Honest! I’ve made good progress on Book 2 of the Jessamin trilogy, and have edited 2 short stories–one newly written, and one that needed a final (I hope!) thoughtful (and therefore slow and difficult) edit to sharpen and hone. One is out on submission now, trying its wings for the first time. The other is waiting a bit, the timing not being right for its next submission quite yet. But soon… .

Nature, Personal Life

Autumn Equinox

Tomorrow is the autumn equinox, that time when daylight and nighttime are given equal 12-hours portions of the day. It’s nature’s divide between summer and fall, here in the northern hemisphere (and winter and spring in the southern hemisphere).

When I lived further north, it was always a bittersweet time for me. I loved summer’s warmth, the long nights spent lounging outside on the deck watching the stars arc overhead and raccoons traveling by “aerial highways” made from electric wires strung at the back of our block’s properties. But I also loved the cooling weather, the gorgeous fall foliage, the brisk breezes and the calls of migrating geese passing overhead. Cider, pumpkins, and the first lighting of the wood-burning stove were all things to be gladly anticipated.

Here in north-central Florida, it’s still the fall equinox. But now I look forward to different things: cooler weather, yes, but now it’s simply pleasantly bearable, not crisp, that I’m looking forward to. Mid-day walks without needing a shower afterwards?  !!!  What bliss! And I’m looking forward to having the windows open at mid-day, again, too. Fresh air inside–hurray!

Persimmons will be coming into their too-short season, and afterwards, fresh citrus will arrive at the farmers’ markets. On walks, large Golden Orb Spiders and their often 3-dimensional webs are seen along the paths, which I admit kind of creep me out even as they fascinate me. It’ll be a long time ’til we’ll need to use the fireplace for warmth, but we may have a fire in the outside fire pit some evening, just for the joy of it.  Instead of geese flying overhead, I’ll start craning my ears to hear the returning Sandhill Cranes sometime in December. And now I can start planting veggies in the garden again, overwintering crops like spinach, leeks, broccoli, and beets quite easily in this milder climate.

Here’s to a blissful autumn for us all, wherever you may be.