Monday, January 14, 2008

The Bread Store

January 14, 2008

Its always so peaceful and beautiful along the small road. Not many people drive through here, perhaps because the speed limit is so slow. You have to want to see everything to choose to drive 25 MPH. There are these little strips of land and small islands within the water all along both sides of the road. The water goes very deep away from the road, reachable only by boat.

Just like a trip to the bread store is just an excuse to drive through my "bird alley", the name is just an excuse to talk about the park. SaddleCreek Park is simply a 25 mph road which goes through many acres surrounded by and filled with water, divided by small strips of land and small little islands. It was created by strip mining for phosphates. I'm told most of these are very deep and lots of fishermen go there hoping to catch the big one.

There are aligators, but apparently well fed on fish and/or birds since there has never been an incident involving people. I can't imagine many fish surviving here with all the birds. Each time I drive through (with camera in purse) there are birds everywhere.

At one entrance to the area there are usually hundreds of big black vultures. I suspect they are hoping that the fishermen will have cleanings for them. I think my favorite birds are the big great blue herons. It was surprising to find how deep blue the markings on their head and wings were.. amazingly beautiful. I love when the wind blows and you can see all those fine little feathers. The little mud hens, or gallinules... or coots are all around the water's edge - rather skittish and swimming away as soon as you approach. I've noticed the herons will slowly edge up to a quiet, sitting fisherman. Perhaps also in hopes of a handout. The sand hill cranes have become rather people friendly over the past few years. You can come within 30-40 feet, quietly and slowly, before they begin to edge away.

There is one kingfisher who is usually on a wire in one section. He's difficult to catch for a photo as he 's always on the move looking for insects. The cormorants look so funny to me. They find a spot and stand for so long spread winged to dry their feathers. I read they are also called the snake bird.. when in the water the only thing showing is their neck and head.. just as a snake. I was surprised to find how beautifully their feathers are marked.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Veggie Gardening!

I know most people have wonderful veggie gardens going. We've been in Florida for over 25 years and I've yet to have a "successful" real, garden. This little cluster of tomatoes is one of the first successes. In the past I've had plants that gave us 2-3 little tomatoes a day for several weeks, but this one has hundreds of tiny little promises waiting to swell and turn rud. I am EXCITED.

In my envelope are seeds for rainbow chards, chives, mesclun - and numerous other tomatoes. Getting together the correct timing for seeding, passable 'dirt' and the required energy usually leaves the seed in the envelopes. This year our grand daughter has come to stay with us for a time. She's 25 and hopefully has some of her grandparents genes that inspire gardening from way back.

During the freeze last week, most of the movable plants made it either onto the dining room table or the kitchen floor. My husband thought 4-5 days on the table was quite enough and gently suggested that they travel back out the way they came. lol.

I love the suggestions on the Garden Web, Florida Forum. So many helpful, experienced voices with timing and tips for any section of the country or state you might choose. Its time to begin reading again and hopefully plant things in the right time table this year.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


To everything there is a season. If we cooperate with the seasons instead of going against them, how much more pleasant our journey is. Last night I was considering picking an orange from a neighbor's tree. He offered 'all we would like' since they didn't use many of them. It was such a kind, generous offer and yet they are just out of reach. I thought about years gone past when it would have been nothing to jump up and grab a branch to bring them within reach. I can go without, or take a small stool over there and reach them - carefully.

In Florida our gardening times seem to be opposite most of the rest of the county. In summer heat, we slack off a bit because no one wants to be out there gardening any more than required. Fall and spring are wonderful. Excellent weather, happy plants. Winter - now till the end of March is a big difficult. Days are nice enough to want to be outside and yet if you prune or plant tender little things now, you'll feel guilty and go right back to filling in those spaces with something else, namely food.

The other morning I went out with the idea of enjoying each day holding whatever was meant to be at this time of year.

The first thing was such a beautiful sunrise Christmas morning. I thought what comes to my mind each time I wake up very early "Early in the Morning will I rise up and greet thee" I love that thought when I can't sleep early in the morning. When I get up and go out, this is one of the rewards. We drove a few miles to the park nearby and on the way was a spectacular sight. The wild orange trumpet vines has escaped and grows wild here and there. I believe this tree is about 70 feet high and festooned (such a descriptive word) with masses of this beautiful vine. The sun catches it perfectly in early morning and draws your attention.There were 3 sand hill cranes feeding and resting near one of the small areas of water. Many of them nest at the end of our road. When we're outside early we hear their 'conversations' as they prepare and go off to their feeding grounds. We joke that Mom is making sure her kids are prepared for the day and aware of the dangers. They are extremely loud and 'talk' constantly. These 3 allowed me to come within 20 feet without becoming nervous. I think this must have been Dad as he continued to stand even when the others sat down to rest.

We went to see our daughter Susan who always has beautiful roses. No matter what our weather there are some roses that seem to flourish 12 months of the year. This one starts with a perfect yellow bud and opens brilliant orange, gradually turning into a perfect deep pink. I never noticed this tiny inhabitant of the rose until when I took the photo out of the camera.
These red roses are always perfect - dark dark red with such a velvety texture and amazing fragrance. When we worked together doing medical billing from her house we would occasionally bring one inside and it would stay fresh looking well over a week. Sadly the name of the rose is long missing.
As we came home, the sky was beautiful - filled with all sorts of glorious colors. It was bring yellows, oranges, turning to beautiful lavenders and pinks and blues.. The days have been very cold, many people lost lots of their tender plants. We were blessed and only lost a few leaves and branch tips here and there. Looking at a day like this makes me thing of my own life. I can lament the loss of things that no longer are in my life, or I can open my eyes and see the amazing opportunities each day holds.. with beauty just as fulfilling as anything gone by.

Monday, December 17, 2007

December's an in between month

December 17, 2007 - - almost the end of another year and its gone by SO quickly!

A few weeks ago I took some cutting from a red hibiscus plant planted long ago much to close to the house. Because of too much shade creeping in over the years, it seldom blooms. Doing dishes I noticed that there was a very tiny blossom from one of the cuttings. Not only was it about 2" instead of 4-5", but it was a beautiful shade of orange/peach instead of brilliant red. I never saw the spilled pollen before taking the picture.

It makes me think how often we miss the most important things because we're seeing only the big undetailed picture. I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions, although the beginning of a new year always makes me want to make big changes. One thing I'd like to change is noticing the details of the people I love. I'd like to make sure I notice and applaud even those small wonderful things.

I planted a package of Magellan Zinnias because of the raves on Garden Web, Florida. After so many years of failing to garden .. I thought about the seeds and harvest. If you never plant those seeds they are not going to give you any blooms. I have so many seed packets just waiting to contact earth and show what they can do. I continue to buy and not plant seeds fairly often. This year was a change. I planted many tomato seeds... and have only 4 living plants, but that's 4 MORE plants than I would have if the seeds remained in their packets.

We have two choices to get to the drugstore, grocery store, etc. Down the main roads or through the nearby park. When the weather is great for gardening but you know the frosts are coming, it gives you the perfect excuse to spend a bit of time at the park. There are always so many things to see, particularly at dinnertime when most of the fishermen have gone home. One is the "Common" Egret.. I love the way they can stretch their neck out, or tuck it in and look like two totally different birds. There was an egret and a Limpkin together this night. I loved how the reflections in the water and the background nearly made the bird disappear from sight. Wonderful camouflage.

I think I love some words. This otherwise rather plain looking bird is just that, plain. Giv ehim a wonderful name like Limpkin and he becomes interesting. He's mainly a wading bird, constantly stirring up meals as he walks along. The egret remains motionless over and over, apparently waiting for his meals to become 'careless'.

One of the sweetest things in all the local lakes are the "marsh hens" or gallinules. They are constantly 'talking' among tghemseles. They seem to be very social animals and usually seem mesmerized by their own reflections. Wonderful addition to every shoreline.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Out and About

Still struggling with this camera. I look at others cameras and the wonderful sharp images and wonder why I can't achieve that. Others with the same camera are. Only a few on mine have so far. I'm still hoping its that thing about old dogs learning new tricks.... and I can. I'm finding that not only are gardeners really wonderful, friendly helpful people, but also photographers. Most are so willing to answer any questions you might ask. I think first you have to know enough to know which questions to ask. I've waited 3 years to choose which camera and now that I have it, apparently expect instant success. LOL

These are some of the most beautiful red roses I've ever seen. Most roses in Florida have to be grafted onto a floribunda type rootstock.. These are dark red with an incredible fragrance and will last 7 to 10 days inside in water. I love these roses and wish I knew the name of the variety.

Hibiscus, Turk's Cap. Someone said that most of the original homesteads in Florida had a bush of this variety. I love them especially when the sun shines up through the blossom. My daughter doesn't care for them and chops them down at every opportunity. They've rewarded her with covering themselves in blooms this year.
And another hibiscus. I think someone said this was called Fancy Lady.
This was such an odd site - hundreds of wood ibis lines up as though waiting for handouts at the back of a field.
Beautiful bird - a Sparrow Hawk. I think he was browsing for brunch as I watched him.
This is "Charmie" One of my daughter's horses. She has a mind of her own and is a bit stubborn, but beautiful.

I can't believe people going shopping at the crack of dawn, let alone camping out as these people did the day before at Best Buy in town!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Trimming the Oaks

I love my birds!

Isn't he beautiful !!! Most of the birds in our tree are tiny, twittering little things such as the titmice and assorted migrating warblers. This one that was so striking is a Yellow Throated Warbler.
We have MANY mourning doves in the area. In spring we see flocks in the back part of the property, no doubt harvesting some of the unwanted insects in our lawn! I love how the sun picks up all the different colors in her feathers as she warmed up.

There is an assortment of woodpecks - a pileated woodpecker who somehow finds something interesting in the telephone pole at the end of the driveway every few days. This one is a little downy woodpecker - so similar to the hairy woodpecker. The Downy has a shorted bill, slightly smaller body and seems to have a lot more spots for markings on its side.

This male hairy woodpecker spends a lot of time in this particular tree. The picture isn't great, but I loved how he was balancing himself on the trunk with one wing.

This last little bird is a BlueGray Gnatcatcher. Sweet song and hardly ever still. It seems to be in the company of the black and white warblers - no pictures yet - nuthatches, wrens and some un-named warblers.

November 25, 2007
On August 3rd we hired some tree trimmers to thin out our 3 big oak trees. His wife was sick and so they left early promising to return and finish the next day. While they were there, Kim and I had a wonderful time sharing and seeing how many things we had in common, mainly our passion for the things of God.

When they did return, friends said they were long gone because we paid them at the time. In my heart I would look to God and trust that He would get those trees finished.

Yesterday they came back. I was overjoyed to see them again, not only because we had to have the trees finished before we put on a new roof, but also to know that I hadn't believed in them in vain. It felt like a gift from God to have them come back on their own. Trees are now well trimmed and now to start the roof. All I could think of was my grandmother telling us "good things come to those who wait" I think she forgot to add "expectantly". Several crisis had arisen in thier family and they were needed in Georgia until the time of his father's death 3 weeks ago. They had left instructions for someone else to finish the work, but apparently instructions weren't clear, because he never came.

If I had my choices, I would not thin out trees, "limb them up": - We have too many high wind storms and my husband was concerned about a hurricane rocking a tree onto the house. I love the shelter under the low hanging limbs of the old oaks. I don't care for those crazy little spiders that hang down waiting to scare you as you walk by. I told my husband as I looked at the loss of shade gardens... perhaps I'd just been waiting for more spaces for bright sun loving flowers.

This is the Spiny Orb Weaving Spider. - only as large as your small fingernails. It is said to incorporate tiny bits of silk into its webbing so that birds don't fly into it. I'm thankful, also. HATE running into spider webs hanging down!

I think I've used the tree trimming as an excuse not to garden more. I didn't want to put in plants that might be harmed by limbs coming down, or men dragging tree parts... and now there is no excuse. I find myself totally exposed now. No more low hanging branches for hiding. LOL. Probably a great thing for me as I tend to be one of those birds who stays out of sight. LOL.

I'll be able to see more of the migrating little flocks of birds that are a source of endless song during the fall, winter and spring here. These are just a few of the ones in the oak over our side porch. No doubt as I learn to use my camera I'll find lots more.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. There are so many thing for which we can be grateful. sometimes it used to upset me that it took a special day for us to truly look and see how blessed we really are. Not I think its a good idea.. particularly for those going through things that seemingly overshadow their blessings. I'm thankful for each person who openly shares their gardens and bits of their life and affections through these blogs. I'm grateful for the flowers that dot my yard - for the always present hope that next year there will be more. They have a saying in Florida.. I've heard it several times on GardenWeb "First year they sleep, second year they creep and 3rd year they leap. It seems to be a tried and true saying because all the plants I've put in seem destined to peter out the first year, the second year they have a few false starts and the 3rd year they tend to outdo themselves.

Mikey loves to be outside with us. Although when he's disappeared to the other side of the house and comes back with that pseudo innocent look, we know he's thinking.. "what makes you think I've been eating dirt"There were very few squirrels last year compared to our first here. This year there have been two families of little ones racing through the oak over the side porch. This one was particularly cheeky this morning while we were out there.. snatching bits of spanish moss and branch tips, showering us with acorns as she prepared a new nest for the "winter".

Our lawn is alive with white peacock butterflies. They must have found some sort of weed to their liking in the grass, and they love the lavender lantana. Its outdone itself this year. Making a huge display for the neighbors. Since the fence faces south, the flowers do also.

I read several places about which plants would attract hummingbirds. Red flowers seemed to be the most recommended and salvia was one of them. I ahve yet to see a hummingbird and the butterflies pretty much ignore it. I'm hoping this is another of those 3 year charmers.

The cuban tree frogs have destroyed the majority of the little green Florida Tree Frogs. They are said to feed on the smaller frogs and little native lizards. Some say the only remedy is to kill them, but I don't have the heart for that. Ours seem to stay fairly small and no doubt eat a lot of insects.

Our daughter is cooking dinner tomorrow and she likes to do it ALL by herself. I've learned to love that! We share expenses and she gets to do the full dinner. Happy Thanksgiving to anyone who reads here and celebrates this day.