It’s A Jungle…

With all the rain we have been getting, the oneacrewoods is turning into a oneacrejungle faster than I can tame it.  Letting it go too far is a mistake that take twice as much work to correct.  I broke down and got Joe to come help me today and we began cutting things back.  You people who live in other parts of the world have no idea what I’m talking about.  The vegetation that we remove gets hauled back to a corner of the yard where I hope it will eventually break down and disappear but right now it is a giant pile higher than my head.

Vegetation mountain
Vegetation mountain

I was working in one of my pineapple plots which had become a grass plot and suddenly I heard a curious squeaking noise.  So strange, it seemed to be coming from under my feet and I finally located it.  Two small critters about four inches long with big ears were panicking in the dirt where I had just pulled up a big grass plant..  They could barely move and were entirely at my mercy.  I called Joe over to look.  We decided they were rabbits.  I’m not sure if they were just hidden in the grass or in a shallow burrow but I had evidently taken away their cover.  Joe kind of camouflaged their little depression in the soil with some grass plants and we hoped Mama rabbit would come and fetch them to another home.

An hour or so later I was talking to Joe and he said ” di you see billow ge rabbage?”  I am often clueless as to what he’s saying due to his unusual English dialect and rely more on gestures and pointing and good guesses when conversing with him.  He pointed to the pineapple patch and repeated the cryptic message.  I pondered and came up with “rabbits?”  “Yes, big billow take them rabbages.”  And since he was now pointing up in a tree I’m assuming he actually saw a hawk get the baby rabbits.  Like I said, it’s a jungle out there and everybody has to eat.  But I’m sad because they were so cute and had such a short life.

Scene of the abduction
Scene of the abduction

I raise lots of pineapples in the yard and can’t really eat them all when so many are ripe at once.  The squirrels and rabbits help me out and I guess I don’t mind as long as they leave a few for me.  But something I don’t want them to have is this nice bunch of bananas that is nearly the right size to come ripe.  It’s only a few inches off the ground and I don’t know how to protect it.  I’m glad I have a picture of the bananas, in case that is all I get.  Because it is a jungle, and we all have to eat.

Proof that there were bananas in my yard.
Proof that there were bananas in my yard.

A Small Gift

It’s Monday morning.  I’m dressed and sitting at my desk thinking about the day ahead. Last week I repotted a houseplant and brought it to live on my desk in front of the  glass doors where it would get a lot of southern exposure.  I noticed a large drop of water at the tip of a leaf.  And then I saw that every leaf that was turned in the same orientation had a large crystal clear drop of water – the whole plant was decorated at the tips of these leaves only.  The rest of the plant was dry.  Such a beautiful thing… just sayin’.

I could have missed it.  Thankful for eyes to se...
I could have missed it. Thankful for eyes to se…

Things I Put Off: Episode 2

Busy people (like me) are able to procrastinate in pretty nearly every area of life. Cutting back on my work schedule allows me the opportunity to look for these “put off” things and experience the wonderful satisfaction of getting them done after months of having them on the “to do” list.  If you have never gone through this cycle you are missing out.

Having made great headway scheduling my “every 7 year” physical exam, this morning I turned to the oneacrewoods, which has been… well, neglected at best.  If you don’t love nature, gardening, dirt and sweat go read somewhere else right now because you won’t understand.

It’s the compost bin.  The compost bin is where you can put all your vegetable scraps, lawn clippings, leaves, etc… in the hope of making new, rich soil.  Presumably you are making this soil to put somewhere else where the ground needs improvement.  However, if you never do anything but put stuff in the bin, there is not much point in doing it. Ideally it should be fluffed up, turned over and watered once in a while too but I never get around to that.  And because I have such a big yard I actually have two compost bins to play with. Lately they have been looking full.  I can’t remember that last time I emptied them.  It’s a nasty job.

Did you know that cockroaches fly? Did you know that some of them are actually white like albinos? They love, love, love compost piles and when disturbed they take off in flying, jumping swarms to find some new place to hide (up a pant leg, under a shirt collar, in hair, aaaghh!)  I have absolutely no cockroaches in my house and I think it’s because I provide this much more favorable place for them to live.  I think of it as pest control.

I chopped and shoveled through both my bins (after the roaches left) and there was some pretty good soil in there.  I added it to my small garden area which is fallow – fancy word for nothing growing in it – because we are already in the hot season here. Lots of things do grow in this season but not many traditional vegetables. I’m preparing for September when it cools off.  One more thing off my list, and truly, it was so beautiful outside this morning that I didn’t even mind the roaches, much.

 

Compost bins after being emptied.  No "before" shot - too gross.
Compost bins after being emptied. No “before” shot – too gross.
New, rich soil layer on this bed.
New, rich soil layer on this bed.
Pineapples are about the only thing growing now that we can eat.
Pineapples are about the only thing growing now that we will be able to eat.

Spring Up North

NOTHING compares to a fully loaded lilac bush
NOTHING compares to a fully loaded lilac bush

flowers seem more exciting and glorious after 6 months of winter

flowers seem more exciting and glorious after 6 months of winter

hello tulips, glad to see you
hello tulips, glad to see you

I’ve been “up north” waiting to see spring come, hoping I had my timing right. I think it’s here. The children have lessening interest in their schoolwork, rain has made greenness appear everywhere and swollen the ponds and marshes. The woods are full of trilliums and fiddle head ferns. Mosquitoes follow us in clouds and dandelion seeds float in the air like snow. The garden is 80% planted and the reliable onions and radishes are already making their rows visible. Tulips and petunias are in place. And the lilacs have purple buds almost to the point of opening up – one of the things I wanted most to experience. The sun brightens up the horizon at 4:30 am and it’s still light at 9 pm, reminding me that the longest day of the year is less than a month away. It’s spring, but only for a little while.

fiddleheads
fiddleheads
trilliums
trilliums

There are no days to waste, no extra hours in the spring. Last night the weather cleared after an all day rain. My brother had bought seed corn and potatoes and was not willing to wait until today to plant – after all, he had to work at his “other business” during the day and there was no guarantee that it would not rain again. Best to get at it. He could hardly sit still through supper. We planted 12 rows of corn and put up the electric fence to keep the deer from eating the tomato and squash plants. I know it works because I tested it accidentally. The gardens have a good start this year, almost two weeks ahead of last year’s schedule. Hopes are high. It’s hard to realize that it still could freeze and one cold night could set everything back.

But today is beautiful and sunny, alive with birds (and mosquitoes) and plant life. Spring up north, how I have missed it and how wonderful it is. Just sayin’…

 

garden, with precautions for possible freezing weather (No, no, no!)
garden, with precautions for possible freezing weather (No, no, no!)

 



 

A to Z Challenge: E for Eh?… Ecology?

one of many leafy villains
one of many leafy villains

 This would have to be ecology of the yard, not the university classroom or workplace. And although this subject would seem to have nothing to do with my evolving theme of “family”, it does. It’s really meant to be a torture diversion for my family up north as they savor their 10 inches of new snow. (he he he, you could have stayed down here longer.)

Ecology defined:  the scientific study of interactions among organisms and their environment, such as the interactions organisms have with each other and with their abiotic environment. Topics of interest to ecologists include the diversity, distribution, amount (biomass), number (population) of organisms, as well as competition between them within and among ecosystems.

In other words, looking at the yard to see what grows well and what doesn’t, and taking care of it so it doesn’t completely bury you in vegetation. I’ve been working on this for years in the oneacrewoods. And this is the time of year where I stage for the growing season to come. Plants aren’t mean on purpose but they are. Mean.

This morning I spent four hours and got about 1/8 of the way around the house, cleaning gutters of leaves and flowers from the oaks, raking, pruning, and washing dirt and pollen off everything. Everywhere I look there is a plant needing attention and I could just keep at it for days but for the sake of a more balanced life, I’m breaking it down into sections.

As I’ve said before, we do have fall in Florida – we have it in the spring. My oak forest drops tons of leaves on the lawn, house, driveway, and garden beds. Some people like to rake, bag and send their leaves to the landfill. And then they buy mulch to keep their soil moist and protect their plantings. I’m just not going to do that 1) because I don’t have that kind of money for labor, bags and mulch and 2) ecology tells me that there has to be something good about leaves falling on the ground around trees or the trees would all be dead by now. I use the leaves as mulch and most of the time it works.

Another ecological move on my part is to quit fighting nature and grow only things that like living in my yard. Ferns love my yard. Flowers, most of them, do not. They are slug food and it’s pitiful to see them disappear one bite at a time. I also have bromeliads everywhere because they multiply like rabbits and like to grow around trees where it’s hard for me to mow anyway.

Okay, northern friends, come in and have a look at my green, growing, sunny, warm Florida yard.

Prune me, please
Prune me, please
Me too
Me too
Bromeliads move from here...
Bromeliads move from here…
...to here.
…to here.
One of several mega fern beds
One of several mega fern beds
a huge plant finds its favorite spot
a huge plant finds its favorite spot
Roses? not so much.
Roses? not so much.

Lessons from The Natural World

The Natural World

I could feel the blisters coming up, but I couldn’t stop.

We have a beautiful tree in our yard, a somewhat rare tropical Kapok tree.  It’s very tall, having grown up in a grove of oak trees – it had to go up to get the sun.  Most of the year we don’t pay much attention to it, other than to admire the trunk.

What  a beautiful trunk you have!
What a beautiful trunk you have!

But in the spring it flowers, and for two to three weeks  the ground below is showered with the red blooms.  These are not like the delicate white dogwood  flower but the type that will put a dent in your car should it happen to land there. We put a parking area under this tree. What were we thinking?!

big, juicy, heavy flower capable of doing damage
big, juicy, heavy flower capable of doing damage

The mat of squishy, slippery rotting vegetation is hard to walk on or drive on and it creates a brown, moldy looking paste that is death to a car’s paint job.

Die, paint job, die.
Die, paint job, die.

I was considering all this while raking the debris into heavy piles of “stuff” and my usual outdoor thought surfaced.  What is nature teaching me? Could it be that we are all parked in places in our lives where “stuff” is falling on us that is damaging us? I had no trouble connecting that to some relationally toxic environments that I’ve been in lately.  And I had just read a blog post about dealing with self-absorbed people who drop words and thoughts on others without awareness of the effects.

I’m not exactly proud that this was my first evaluation of the nature flower bomb situation, because the next place my thinking went proved more valuable.  What if I am the tree?  What’s happening to the people who are parked in my vicinity during the hours and days of my life? What kind of clean-up chores are necessary after I’ve been around?  Now there was food for thought.  It gave me a whole new perspective on spending an afternoon doing crafts with a child, or taking time to shop for my quadriplegic client, or the contacts with people in my study group.  There are a lot of people “parked” under my tree of influence and I can make decisions on how I affect them, for good or bad.

Yes, the blisters are there.  On other days, it’s a sore back, or a sunburn or just being dog-tired.  Is it worth it? I say yes, as I look at the results – a clean drive and parking area and new incentive to interact in a better way with my friends and neighbors on planet earth .  Surrounded by trees, plants, sky, dirt and fresh air we open ourselves to hear some really valuable messages.  I’m just  sayin’, whoever created the natural world had a really good idea and today I get it.

Dirt

I have noticed that I feel so good after spending a day outside working in the yard, and I’ve decided it’s the dirt. Therapeutic dirt. I always make sure I have a lot of contact with it – wear my sandals and shorts, and somehow manage to get smudges from head to toe.

Today’s dirt was AMAZING stuff.  Two years ago it was a huge leaf pile and now it is all broken down, dark brown with nice fat earthworms crawling through it.  It grows healthy looking weeds, which I pulled out and put in next year’s compost pile.

In Florida it’s the time of year to plant the spring garden.  At the vegetable stand where I get the weekly fresh things for our meals, they also had tomato plants so I decided to get some instead of growing my own.  An interesting aside – the stand is at our church and is “donation only” for whatever you want to pay and goes to the orphan homes in Cambodia that I visit. I call that a win-win transaction when I can support my special kids and get something to eat at the same time.  I know the farmer who supplies it and he farms very successfully. Bet his tomato plants are going to do wonderful things for me this season.

So I pulled my earthboxes to the only sunny spot I could find in the oneacrewoods.  It happens to be right near the fence line.  The neighbor has cut down a lot of his trees and has a much sunnier yard than I do and some of the light sneaks through to my side of the fence.  I think that my somewhat “iffy” results from the gardening I do is because there is so much shade.  Good for keeping cool, bad for growing plants.

The other outside chore for today was harvesting my carrots.  They have been growing for a whole year and are pitiful.  This is what happens when you don’t thin out the seedlings.  I’ve never been able to get carrots to germinate in my Florida gardens so I was really excited about all the fluffy greenery and couldn’t bear to pull any of it out.  This is probably why they are so small after a whole year! (could also be the shade, or the inconsistent watering, or the general inattention they received).

wpid-20140202_164956.jpg

So, other than the fact that some bug is eating all the leaves off my strawberry plants, things are looking much better in the garden today. And I feel great.

Proud to Be Silly

I was debating whether to adopt the practice of having a certain type of post on the same day of every week, which seems to be common practice on many blogs, say like Silly Saturday. .  But I decided no.  This is my chance to not copy others.  So I’m going to be silly whenever I feel like I need to be, which would be tonight.

I name things. Sometimes I name things because it is easier to remember a name than it is to remember what the thing is.  For instance, Ted.  Ted is a piece of furniture I’ve had for over 20 years. I’ve never been able to figure out what exactly Ted is but it sits in my dining room and holds dishes and tablecloths, batteries and flashlights.  Not a china cabinet, not really a buffet, it became easier to just call it Ted.  Especially when trying to tell someone like the husband where to find something in it.  “Look in the drawer of the…. of the….. that thing in the dining room!”  So much easier to say “Look in the top drawer of Ted.”  And now, after nearly a quarter century he’s finally figured out who Ted is.

I also like to name my vehicles.  They are with me for so long that they become disturbingly like family members – they may as well have names.  My last vehicle, the Aztek, was named Sunny which was short for sunshine, being that it was bright, schoolbus yellow.  I’ve had my new old car for almost three weeks now and have been unsure what to name it.  I wanted something meaningful.  Today I decided to call it LC (Elsie).  LC stands for little car which is my first thought almost every time I interact with the thing. “My goodness, this is a little car!” I think, as I try to figure out where to put my coffee cup, my cereal bowl, my purse, my workbasket, my sunglasses, and my lunch. “My goodness this is a little car!” I think as the husband bangs his head climbing into the passenger seat.  “This is a little car!” I say to myself as the pump only puts in 9 gallons on a fill-up and goes twice as far on that as the previous vehicle.

I have a daughter with the “naming gene” too.  Her present truck is named Nemesis.  We bought it for her rather hastily, without her input and she pretty much can’t stand the thing. The car she had before Nemesis was named Claire.  I know she named her very first car too but I can’t remember it’s name, Patty or something like that. I didn’t really bond with that car.

I’ve named my houseplants (because I can never remember the word “hydrangea”), several notebooks, my kindle, and my property (the oneacrewoods). I have a cat I call Gray Kitty, which is a very practical name for a gray cat.  So you see, naming things is kind of an adaptive mechanism as well as being a bit odd, and it serves me well.  I’m just sayin’, I’m kind of proud of being silly when it comes to names.

Have you ever named an inanimate object? C’mon, fess up.

Get Out!

I’ve been out in the oneacrewoods, which is what I call my yard because… well, you know why.  It’s the time of year in Florida when outdoors is like a very, very big room with perfect air conditioning and perfect lighting and pretty much perfect everything else.  On days like this I just want to live out there.

I was out weeding the strawberry beds before the husband left for work this morning.  I got it all done. And in preparation for possible colder weather in December and January, I re-positioned my greenhouse supports to better fit my square foot garden boxes. I took down all the shade cloth since we now have the opposite problem of not enough sun.  I raked, hoed, got dirt under my fingernails. I smelled the arugula and the citronella. I watched the squirrels (population explosion there).  I tried to figure out where all the bees were coming from (still don’t know…) I counted how many different sounds I could hear – 10, counting the far away traffic.  It was a sensual workout.

As lovely as it can be inside our houses, I think we were meant to be outside a good deal of the time.  In practically every part of our world, life of some kind thrives outside where there’s sunlight and water and nutrients. Quite remarkable really, that everything we need is here. After a couple hours of fresh air and sunshine I feel like I’ve had an attitude adjustment as well – there’s something freeing about all that’s going on out there without my having to be in control of it, or even give it a thought.  I’m just sayin’, I wish everyone could be here this morning (although it would possibly get a little crowded).  I think I’ll quit writing and get out.

square foot garden beds
square foot garden beds
strawberry pineapple patch
strawberry pineapple patch
Image
salad patch
Image
flower frenzy
Image
texture and color

Lawn work, friend or foe?

I have to say that I need to learn how to protect myself from lawn work. It’s always out there (in my lawn) waiting for me and I never meet up with it without coming away sore and feeling beaten up. I was just going to blow some leaves off the drive today and instead spent a couple hours in the One Acre Woods, which by the way is what I have decided to name our place. The first work that caught me was pulling vines out of trees and chopping off rogue palm trees. There was a bit of raking under the kapok tree, and a few bags of cement rocks and debris from an old project to get rid of.  Four big trash cans full of sticks, moss and rotting grapefruit later I started feeling a little damaged in my arms. I went in for my Ibuprofen fix – after blowing the leaves off the driveway. More work jumped up on the list for tomorrow, as if I’m going to fall for that.