Myakka, strange name, great place

Myakka State Park

Years ago when I was a teenager my family would take winter trips to Florida. All seven of us would travel in a pick-up camper which made it prime bonding time. I think we usually stayed about two weeks, about as long as we could stand to bond, and in that time, we would park in private and state parks along the way. Myakka was often one of the northern-most state parks we would visit in our search for sunshine and beaches. The Myakka River is one of the national wild, scenic rivers and a small weir widens the waterway out into Myakka Lake.

Two of the memorable things about Myakka that are still going on today are the tram ride to look for wildlife and the airboat ride, also to look for wildlife. I’ve done both. We were always successful seeing the “a” animals, armadillos and alligators, but there are also occasional deer and lots and lots of birds.

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Me and three old trees

This park is always pretty busy in the winter when the weather is cool and conducive to camping and hiking. There are over 39 miles of trail in this park. I’ve hiked there once and you also get a good idea what Florida’s pine flats are like. As the name suggests, very flat, lots of pines and palmetto. The park does a good job of controlled burns and maintenance of the trails.

I mentioned in another post that in the 30 years we’ve lived here, the husband had not been to this park at all. People would visit us and I would take them to Myakka but Dennis would be working. That has been remedied, and none too soon. On the Friday before Memorial Day we visited the park with our good friends who go there quite often. This weekday was a good time to beat the crowds, although there were quite a few there by noon when we left. This was also an unusual time since we had just started having seasonal rains and the river and lake were FULL. Some campsites were underwater and the water level was way above the tree line.

 

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Chef at work

My friends usually take breakfast or a snack to a picnic table close to the lake, but this table had been removed so we chose one of the pavilions for our breakfast spot. I had no idea this was going to be such a feast, but my friend is an excellent host and planner so all the bases were covered. Her husband was soon cooking bacon and eggs over a charcoal fire while the three of us sat watching him with our coffee and homemade biscuits. The picnic area is well appointed and close to parking and restrooms.

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Hostess and the husband, holding down the table

While there we watched people arriving for the airboat tour, the first one starting at 10 a.m. We could see the new gift shop and boat dock from our picnic table. I made a quick trip up there (it’s on stilts for obvious reasons) to look for a hiking medallion which I had never gotten before and they had them, along with tons of other interesting stuff. The airboats claim to be the largest of their kind in the world and they do hold a lot of people. The tours are guided by knowledgeable park staff – I have always come away knowing more about the lake and ecosystem.

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Great shop for souvenirs but you have to walk up the steps to get there. Tables beneath in the shade. (There may be wheelchair access but I didn’t see it.)
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The big fan in the back powers the boat so it can get in very shallow places (where the alligators are…)

This park has rustic, old log cabins for rent as well as various types of campsites. The cabins have been refurbished and are very comfortable. You have to rent them well ahead of time because they are very popular.

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part of the boardwalk into the marsh

This park is great for birdwatching and we saw a lot of high tech cameras and tripods being lugged around. There is a long boardwalk out into the marsh, and also a canopy walk high in the trees. We went to the end of the boardwalk, but the water was so high that there were few birds to be seen. It was getting hot and the husband was getting tired so we didn’t go up in the canopy this time.

We rode through the park from the south entrance to the north entrance on this visit. The north entrance is not always open – you can always drive out but can’t always come in – so visitors need to check the schedule. It’s safest to enter via the south. Lots of large oaks shading the road, lots of water views, opportunity for kayaking, canoeing, fishing – it’s a great place to get a feel for central Florida waterways. Pack some food. Go there. Enjoy.

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My hiking staff with medallions . The dark one with the alligator is from Myakka.

The Last Day of May

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This last day  of May 2018 – the perfect morning to sit with my cup of coffee and my book. At this time of year the sun in the east finds a break in the wall of trees between us. It shines through the translucent blades of grass, lighting them up. It shines through my dusty windows, to the floor and back up into my eyes. The husband thinks it’s too bright and shuts the blinds. But what on earth is light? Why can’t I see it, but without it, I can’t see anything else?

It’s a wonderfully quiet time of day. I can hear the cardinals, a mating pair, that live in the backyard. I can hear the refrigerator running and the faint hum of my “device” as I sit and think and type. It’s a wonderfully quiet time of the year, as the number of summer tourists is much less than the number of winter tourists. The traffic problems are lessened, noticeably. It’s the last day of May and I realize that summer is starting and the slower pace and the heat affect everything, in a good way. I find it easier to relax. I have slept well.

I can sit here and think so many different thoughts. Am I hearing all the electrical synapses as they connect and bring up memories, phrases, mental pictures? (I think I can!)

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you. “

 I don’t want May to end but I don’t know how to hang on to it either. Time is like light, another thing that I can’t quite comprehend. Some people think they know all about light and time, but I don’t believe them. If that were true there would be nothing left for science to explore. We will never have it all down. Light and time are actual creations of someone not like us. Someone “other”.

“Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

 It’s not just me. People have been thinking thoughts like this for a very long time.

The Bible, Psalm 139 (My new memorization project)

 

 

Three Day Story – Conclusion

Day Three

Florida in the rain. Darker than usual with the clouds. Everything green, almost fluorescent. Humidity almost like being underwater. Frogs coming alive, tropical croaking sounds from all quarters. Smells of  damp leaves and rotting vegetation. Hello Open House Day.

It was pretty much a bust. Four people went through the house. One was the next-door neighbor (the one under the tree branch) and the other three were friends of the realtor’s son who came to see him more than the house. We did get a lot of talking time with the realtor though. He came up with a couple of things he thought would be simple improvements in the rental house which he thought Joe could take care of for me. When he left at 2 pm, I couldn’t quit thinking about them so I texted Joe and he called back, then came over.

It was still raining off and on, but the work was inside so we spent a couple hours doing that. I could tell he was thinking about “the branch” because he kept looking out at the tree and the ladder. Sure enough, a break in the rain and that’s what he wanted to do.

Joe is Mexican and his “English as a second language” is adequate for his work but not always understandable to the average person. Even though I have developed an ear for it, I often put on a knowing look and nod while trying to figure out what on earth he is saying. He does have a phrase which I understand perfectly because he uses it often and it describes a common action which we use a lot when he pressure washes the house. It’s the “jumping over” method. He jumps (throws) the rope over the roof and hangs ladders to reach the high places.

The plan for the branch was to set the ladder as close to it as he could and jump the rope over it, hoping it would catch so he could pull it down. The thing that was troubling him was where to put the ladder. The trunk of the tree was too far from the dangling branch, and the ladder wasn’t high enough to reach outlying branches. Joe credits me with the idea we went with, although I had moments of being sorry I suggested it. I drove the truck under the tree and we put the ladder in the bed, making it almost four feet higher. It touched a nearby branch, just barely.

I sat at the base of the ladder, hoping to hold it in case it slipped, while Joe climbed slowly to the top and strapped the top rung to the branch with a bungee cord. He came part way down and I passed him the end of his rope. Going back up, he straddled the branch, got himself stable, and hauled the rope up into coils. His “jumping over” procedure worked after the third toss. The rope was caught in the branch and wasn’t coming down unless the branch did too. All the commotion was bringing down other dead twigs on me and the truck, along with a lot of water. It was getting dark and starting to rain again, but Joe was excited, having roped his branch at last.

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Our big dead branch, no longer dangling above our heads.

He came down out of the tree and we took the ladder off the truck. I have to admit I gave a sigh of relief as I got myself and the truck out of the way because Joe was pulling and the branch was making some serious cracking noises. It finally came free and fell. We have quite a pile of wood now, which Joe wants to come and load in his friend’s truck. I don’t know what he does with all the things he gets rid of for me, but he and his community find value in everything. Wouldn’t surprise me if he sells it.

I think the most fun part for me was taking Joe home and hearing how excited and satisfied he was that he had conquered that branch. He talked about it all the way there. I think there are other workmen who would have said no to the job, unless they had more equipment or more money – the job itself wouldn’t have drawn them like it did for Joe.

Joe is definitely part of what we will miss about Florida. The husband says we should pack him up and move him to Wisconsin with us, but frankly, I’m having enough trouble getting us there. Just sayin’…

Three Day Story continued…

Day Two

We have lived in Florida for thirty years now and the husband mentioned a while back that he had never been to our closest state park, only twenty some miles away. I have been there numerous times on family outings and could hardly believe he had missed them all. Since we are soon to leave Florida, we had planned a visit to the park with some dear friends on Day Two of this story. We had to leave early, which is why I had asked Joe to come the night before to get instructions on work to be done in our absence. We left, knowing that he would come and get things done. He is that dependable.

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A long boardwalk out into the marsh along the Myakka River is an excellent place for bird watching.
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The husband watching birds. Well, maybe not birds, watching something. I don’t know.

We returned around noon and found Joe busy setting posts around our parking area, paying attention to spacing and leveling, like he always does. I was glad to see that he had already mowed the lawn because it was starting to cloud up. Our realtor had scheduled an open house for Saturday (Day Three of this story) and I wanted the yard to look as good as it could. We are getting into the time of year when rain often comes in the afternoon and getting grass cut around all the wetness becomes a little summer game. In addition to that normal weather pattern, we had a tropical disturbance bearing down on our coast making it even more rainy than usual.

I had asked Joe not to go up on the ladder when there was no one around to call 911, but now that we were back, it was the first thing he wanted to do. He fully extended the ladder and set it against the trunk of the large oak and went up, armed with his heavy black rope. His plan was to throw the rope into the lower dead branch and pull it free.

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My special friend, the ladder, that has it’s own spot at my house and spends a good deal of time here.

It started to rain, but just enough to make the ladder and the tree slippery, not enough to make Joe quit. My job, as I mentioned, is to be ready to call 911, and occasionally to steady the ladder. A couple tosses put the rope where he wanted it and a good jerk brought the smaller limb down with a thud. I say “smaller” but it amazes me how something that looks little way up in a tree looks a lot bigger when it lands on the ground a few feet away from you. Joe was pleased.

If it were not for the approaching roar of serious rain, he would have continued with the job, but no. I think Joe is well aware of the dangers of lightning in Florida since he’s often up on a roof, having to get down quickly. He came down the ladder and we did our best to pile up the debris where it wouldn’t be visible to the hordes of people coming to the Open House the next day. We left the ladder where it was, up against the tree, and ran for shelter.  Joe comes and goes by bicycle or rides from friends, so Day Two ended early with me taking him home in the truck, in the rain.

It’s a three day story and tomorrow is the last day!

Three Day Story: Day One

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Chris’s house and the offending tree

Chris is incidental to the story, but it started with him. Chris is the new neighbor to the south of the oneacrewoods. He appeared at the door a week ago to introduce himself and, “oh by the way, you have a large dead branch hanging in your tree right by my house and I’m afraid it might fall on my roof.” I’m all for preventing things like that, especially since hurricane Irma last year. A large branch from that same tree did fall on that house and poked a hole into the attic. The previous owner and I split the repair costs.

Living in this grove of old live oak trees requires regular tree maintenance because they are always growing, limbs get heavy or diseased and weakened, they rot and fall off. Some owners prune heavily and leave only the clean canopy. We have followed the more natural path and let the trees self-prune, except the ones that could damage our buildings. You have to understand that it costs a lot of money to hire people willing to climb up in your trees with saws or bring in their machinery (cherry pickers). I’m talking thousands here.

I did check around with neighbors to see if anyone was planning to bring in an arborist, thinking we could add our little problem to his “to do” list, but nothing was scheduled.  So, I told Joe, who is the main character in this story. I’ve written about him before, (here: A to Z: Selling Our House (Letter H)) but I have never explained his devotion to the DIY lifestyle. I suppose it is the reason Joe can do so many things because he just never thinks of hiring someone else for a task. If he can’t do it himself, he doesn’t have it done. It is an interesting philosophy. I’m a little bit that way myself which is why I like Joe’s work. We are a dangerous combination.

He immediately began thinking, planning how he could get the branch down. The challenge had a hold on him and we walked around the tree, looking at the height of the dead, dangling debris. There were two branches, one completely detached and caught in another that was larger and higher but still partially attached. Joe started talking options. He always says “if you want, we could…”, and even if I reject some of his options because I don’t want him to kill himself, I do want the branch down, of course I do.

All the options involved his ladder, so we went in the truck to get it.

Joe’s tools are all over the place because he doesn’t have a home of his own. He stays with one friend after another and has a large community of people who evidently like to host him. The ladder was in the yard at his present abode. It’s a large aluminum extension ladder which has spent a lot of time at our house actually, and I treat it like a friend. We put it in the back of the truck and weighted it down with a huge stump. Since it was now dark and starting to rain, Joe stayed and promised to be at the house the next morning to work on several things I had asked him to do.

I drove the ladder home and took it out. I left the stump in the bed of the truck, primarily because it weighed a ton, but also because I already had a couple of other things in the yard that we have used to weight the ladder in the past. I didn’t want to add this one to the collection. So ended Day One of the story.

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The husband made me take the stump out of the truck. Another yard ornament, oh well…

 

And We Wait…

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Yep, that’s our house.

Life is strange now. I want to be out of Florida before hurricane season, but I’m horrified by the finality of a sale and having no home. It has taken so long to get ready and yet something about it seems to have happened so fast it’s scary.  Hurry up and wait is an accurate description of what has happened.

Having a house for sale means we are in a state of constant tension. Showings are requested at random times, and of course we don’t want to say no so we must be ready. Part of the tension is being ready and then having nothing happen when it seems that something should be happening, or being ready and full of anticipation only to have the showing cancelled. It seems to happen frequently.

We’re eating out a lot. People want to see the house over lunch or dinner time when they are free, so we make the house presentable, turn on all the lights and make sure the AC is going, then we vacate so as not to interfere. The logical place to go? A restaurant where we can sit and eat and not mess anything up in the kitchen at home. It works for every reason except our so called “diet”. We have pretty much left that behind for the time being.

Last night we went to the local diner, “The Recipe Box”, during a showing and I was feeling a bit frazzled. I noticed immediately the relaxing music – soft jazz, recognizable songs, like at a piano bar. It was such a different sound from normal restaurant background music, because it was live with a real person playing a keyboard. She played during our whole meal and it was a gift from God to my house selling soul. She was so good that I bought her CD. There were only a few of us having dinner and we all clapped and commented on the songs.

The immediate result of all this showing is that we find out new reasons why people don’t want to buy our house. They have reservations about getting their RV down the one lane drive, reservations about the kind of neighborhood we’re in, reservations about whether they could remodel the way they would “have to”.  Hmm… I don’t remember having any reservations when I moved here. I thought it was heaven on earth and could hardly believe it would be my new home. Was there something wrong with me? Thankfully, most who have looked have felt it was unique and fairly priced.

At this point, I can honestly say that I’m not upset about waiting. I am expectant of something interesting, and happy, and good. I fully trust that the process was started by God, in his timing and we’ll be looking back on it at some point and marveling at how it came about. Something is going to happen. I can hardly wait. No, wait, I am waiting. Whatever…

A to Z Reflections, 2018

I knew April was going to be a difficult month. My full time job was going to be getting our house ready for the market and there was not going to be time for researching blog posts or coming up with clever (worthwhile) subjects. But I did not want to forgo the famous A to Z Blogging Challenge, which I have come to view as my April habit. The only solution was to blog about what I was going through and knew best. It turns out that it was not only the easiest subject to write but it also helped me to vent a lot of frustration and angst.

I didn’t go in for every bell and whistle offered. I skipped the daily logos, opting for the general one which stayed on my sidebar. I didn’t use a lot of hash tags, which I would have if I had been more familiar with Twitter and other social media sites. I thought the master list, and the daily lists were easy to use and not at all time consuming. I posted often on the night before since the list was always open at the earliest time zone. I never missed a day. It was probably my easiest year.

My theme was not one that garnered as much interest as other years, but I did find a few friends and appreciated them all. I had interesting comments and I think I answered them all. I was able to read some, but not nearly as much as I wanted to. I have a catch up goal of doing two or three a night for the next month. I like that the lists give each blogger’s theme or category, although I don’t just read the categories that match mine.

Our house prep was timed just about right to fill up the month, and I’m happy to post one last picture on my theme. We are finally listed for sale! The video and photos are awesome and we are hoping for a buyer soon. I’m sure I will probably blog about that too, so stay tuned…

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Finally.

Selling the House: Photo Shoot

To me, a landmark is a memorable object or moment marking a significant change in direction. A couple of whirlwind days (and nights) have resulted in what I would call landmark moments. In fact, it seems there have been amazing events, one after the other, most of the month as we progressed toward the listing of our house for sale. The most satisfying deadline came this morning – the taking of the pictures.

As scheduled the photographer was here at 7 am.  That’s really quite early for people who are still living in their home to be ready, completely staged and photograph worthy. Clearly we were those people who weren’t quite there. Our realtors arrived and helped us hurry around and clear last minute items (the morning coffee cup), unfinished cleaning (the windows in the re-roofed area), and stuff we just plain forgot (the vacuum cleaner left in the middles of the floor). All this in a great hurry because the sun was coming up and putting a whole different light on things that wasn’t as photo friendly.

After we got out of his way, the photographer did a video panning the neighborhood and then proceeding through the house, to show the general layout. click here for video tour

Next he took still photos in each house. click here to view stills

Multiple listing service allows a video and 25 stills. This didn’t allow for shots of the garages. We were thankful. That’s where we hid all the personal things that didn’t belong in the pictures (think like a giant junk drawer).

We, on the other hand, got taken to a much-needed breakfast. This was the first time in several days that I’d actually sat at a table for more than five minutes. We signed the listing papers over our coffee cups. It was a landmark moment.

Another thing that made this a landmark day was later, watching two of my favorite “friends” go down the road to a new home.

One of the days that our realtor helped us as a handyman, he noticed my kayak and asked about it. He wanted to get one for his wife, so we bartered for his labor. Also, we had decided that we wouldn’t need my car in our new location and would sell it. In another conversation he asked about my husband’s truck. It wasn’t for sale but when he found out I wanted to sell the car, we immediately began to discuss that. He needed a “first car” for his daughter.

That’s how it turned out that after our signing breakfast, we went back to the oneacrewoods, put the kayak on top of the Mazda, and drove down to his house to complete the sale. I followed in the truck and took this picture.

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The kayak and “zoom zoom” en route to their new home.

Changes seem to be coming fast. I’m now a truck girl. Although I don’t have my boat anymore, I can still rent a kayak if I want to. More likely, I’m going to concentrate on hiking plans. And the biggest change, of course, is that we will probably not be living in Florida much longer.

Still Burning

Still burning after three weeks.

Last month, on the 12th to be exact, I decided I would dispose of some old financial records that weren’t needed any more. I also had a stump in the backyard from a tree that was cut down this spring. It seemed to be a good idea to me to burn the papers and possibly the stump at the same time. I started the fire right on top of the stump and probably spent an hour getting rid of the paper. The stump was perhaps two feet in diameter and began to burn a little around the edges so I put some dry wood on it and kept it going.

It did eventually begin to burn all the way to the middle – over the next week! We would think it had gone out but a wisp of smoke would go skyward every time the irrigation would water it, so we knew there was still heat there. A couple of times I would find downed branches (we live surrounded by trees) and throw them on the stump and in an hour or so we would see flames again.

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The stump itself was about two feet in diameter but the roots spread out quite a bit more. Today it began to flame again.

We had one really good rain and a couple shorter ones, and still the stump burned. It began to look different, kind of like a volcano that had blown its top. The husband was always looking out the glass doors to see if it was smoking. I was worried that the constant drift of smoke would get the neighbors upset, but maybe, like me, they kind of like the smell of a wood fire.

For the last week the fire has seemed to be out. The caldera, as the husband likes to call it, is huge, black and ashy and surrounded by its rim of large roots. We have been poking it and trying to see if we could make it level with the ground around it, but it was still needing an axe or a chain saw to break it up. As the irrigation ran this morning I was surprised to see it start smoking again. Something in there, underground, was still hot.

I have heard how important fire was to nomads who moved their camps frequently, how they would carry coals in special containers to have a fire starter when they needed it. The longevity of my burning stump must be something like that. Joe came today and cut what was left of the roots in pieces and set them on top of the hot area. Late this afternoon it flamed and our volcano is glowing hot again. I don’t know why fire and its attributes are so interesting to me, but there it is. Burning. Glowing. Fascinating.

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A to Z: Selling Our House (Letter Z)

I was hoping we’d be listed for sale by the end of this challenge, but no. However it is close. Today the Pack Rat storage container was delivered and I struggled to figure out where to put the thing so it wouldn’t dominate the 360 degree photo shoot. The big truck kind of tore up some grass too. But it’s out there and tomorrow I can start loading all those boxes!

Z Zillow

Many themes do not easily suggest words for letters like Q, or V, or X, or Z.  I have real estate sales to thank for an easy last day to this blogging challenge, because of Zillow.  I have no idea where they came up with that name.

Zillow is an online real estate search tool that has come about since 2006. Not surprisingly it was started by some Microsoft guys. They gradually bought up other companies and their real estate data bank grew and grew. They have information about individual houses in every major area of the U.S. whether the house is for sale or not. They can “Zestimate” what your house might be worth if you are thinking of selling it. They can tell you what the trends are in your area and what comparable houses around you are selling for. They do this same kind of information sharing for rentals as well.

Of course, they don’t always do it perfectly. Our lot was listed as having only one house, when it actually has two. I don’t know how they missed that. I had to update it, which they allow owners to do. It’s a very interactive site that offers video tours of many homes – a very nice feature for buyers since it gives the ability to rule out many places as if you were actually there looking around at the house and neighborhood.

When we are finally on MLS I will put a link in the Reflections post, up on May 7th.  And of course, if we’ve gotten an offer, or a sale, I will be sure to be deliriously celebratory.

Also today, the problem roof got nearly completed. Two buff guys and their paint rollers made a nice deck for us. These are the only pictures I have for today, but who doesn’t like to look at two buff guys working hard? I’m putting them up.

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Put the railing back up, get situated in a deck chair and it’s just like sitting up in those giant oak trees.