Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fire Pit in Use!

I've been looking for an inexpensive way to get some wood for the fire pit. So when Tom mentioned he was having nine trees removed from his property, I asked him if I could have some of the resulting logs. He agreed! Last weekend I went to his house and loaded up my hatchback. He had the most amazing wood pile I have ever seen.

Here's the bones of an old fire.

I had another picture of a roaring fire from the other night but I accidentally deleted it. Doh!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

This is what my compost looks like these days. A friend of my neighbor's brought over a huge garbage bag of Starbuck's coffee grounds--apparently they give them to anyone who asks--so I added that and water and stirred it up a bunch and I think it's going to be superfertile in there now. I want some of the scraps I throw in there to sprout seeds. Then I get free plants.

Those vines I planted (passionflower and wild honeysuckle) to beautify it are slowly coming back to life. Here's the passionflower. Probably the latest freeze killed it, but now I'm pretty sure it'll bounce back.

It's going to take a while, but by God I will have a vine-covered compost heap with pretty flowers eventually!

More Winter Veggies

I will admit that I have doubts about whether I will actually get some vegetables this winter. I may have planted seeds too late, I don't really know if the media is tapped out, and I'm not totally sure the sprouts're getting enough light.

BUT. It never fails to thrill me when seeds sprout.


No idea what this is. Spinach?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Emily's Farm

This weekend Emily had a holiday party at her house, which is on her in-laws' farm just south of town. It's such a special place. The family has been on the farm some ridiculously long period of time, from back when settlers were unironically named "Innocent" and "Charity." (Well, maybe it was just a pre-irony time altogether.)

Anyway, Em's husband, John, took me on an awesome extended tour of the farm, and I got to take some photos.

This is two huge live oaks that decided to live in peace and harmony by growing away from each other. How do trees know to do that? It amazes me.

When I see live oaks draped with Spanish moss like this, it makes me think of how North Florida must have looked in prehistoric times.

The sun was going down and the light was really beautiful on the cabbage palms as we looked out at the prairie.

Sadly, a lot of farms like this are quickly disappearing from the Florida landscape. Family agriculture is always pretty marginal, and developers pay a lot of money to get their hands on this pristine land. People move to places like this for the beautiful green spaces and "nature," but buy houses that preclude the existence of viable habitat.

Agriculture is important to the state because the green space it provides allows rainwater to soak back into the aquifer (from where we get almost all our drinking water), unlike paved areas. Green space also produces oxygen and helps cleanse our air, raises the value of our homes, and provides important wildlife habitat.

Besides a bunch of recalcitrant cattle, on our drive we saw alligators, several flocks of sandhill cranes flying in to roost for the night, and a large red-tailed hawk on the hunt. I'm sure there are also plenty of foxes, deer, and bald eagles around there--and even bobcats, panthers, bears, and whooping cranes.

Random Plants, No Flowers

My mom gave me this plant about a year ago, and it's grown a lot since then. I like how it has pink foliage. I found out it's called a red slipper spurge or devil's backbone.

This enormous rosemary bush just appeared at the end of my driveway one day. I ignored it for a few days, figuring its presence would be explained eventually, until my friend Tia asked if I had liked her gift. Then I started watering it. I need to find a recipe I can use rosemary in.

My woodland blue phlox (purchased at a native plant sale this year) was looking pretty rough for a while, but is now sporting a lot of new growth, which I tried to take a photo of:

It sort of just looks like a big mass of green. Sometimes digital cameras really mess up perspective. Oh, well--I tried!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Winter" Bloomers

Supposedly it's winter now, but tell that to the mosquitoes. It's been in the 70s or 80s consistently for weeks.

My garden actually has a lot of blooms right now. I didn't have any of these particular plants last year this time, so I don't know if this is typical of December or what.

The giant camellia bush got its first flowers!

My winter annuals (violas, etc.) are really thriving.

My strawberries are going to town!

This is a plant I got from work and put in a large planter. It's a bush daisy.

Ditto this one. It's a buttercup.

And my wax begonia is pretty happy, too.

It's nice to have so many flowers around! Not that it's gray and gloomy out. But still.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Indoor Plants

Moving is always interesting because you have to start over in basically every way. By the time I had left my old house, I had finally figured out how much light all my indoor plants needed and had them all strategically positioned.

It's taken me a month or two, but I think I've got all my plants where they need to be in the new place to thrive.

This is my Christmas cactus. I bought it last year at our department's holiday plant sale. It's by my front door in a really low-light place, being the only plant I have that would be ok there. But because it gets light at night, it doesn't know when to bloom--its circadian rhythms are all out of whack (kinda like mine).

I would like for it to bloom next year; for that to happen, I need to bring it into work where it'll be exposed to light only during the day for at least a few months before the holidays. But I want to find another plant to replace it in that spot in my house first. Maybe I'll take a cutting from one of Emily's office plants, because they seem to do ok in low-light situations.

This summer killed my basil plant. So I got a new one a few weeks ago, and put it in the kitchen window next to my African violets. I'm going to make a pesto lasagna soon, and this plant'll come in handy. It really needs to be trimmed, anyway. It's looking scraggly.

This is my favorite indoor plant. When my mom gave it to me, it was very limp and droopy. But she had it outside, and I really think it's a city plant, because when I brought it inside it freaked out with happiness and new, upright growth. I don't know what it is, though.

This silver philodendron came from some cuttings from one of Emily's office plants. It probably shouldn't be on top of the microwave, but so far it seems to be free of any radiation-related illnesses. Whenever it starts to get long, I crudely break off the vines and stick them in the soil. In this manner I hope to eventually fill out the pot. It's about time for a trimming.

This was a tiny free plant that I got from work. Since then it has really grown. I'm a little worried it's not getting enough light--since I moved it's let a few leaves rot off. I'm keeping an eye on it. Tom says it's a pipe vine.

This year is the first one that I've really had indoor plants, and I love it. They make the house seem really warm and inviting.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I know I don't have the best memory, but I don't remember there being this many leaves changing color this early before. There's a beautiful sycamore tree in the yard of my friends Pat and Sally that I photographed this weekend.

It's not blooming or changing colors, but here's a photo of that enormous Southern magnolia tree in my backyard. I really love it, except for the wafting smell of rotting vegetation that I'm convinced comes from the carpet of leaves and fallen branches below it. I don't know if it's apparent in the photo, but the trunk's diameter at the base has to be about three feet.

Next Crop of Veggies

I finally planted some more veggie seeds this weekend.

First I pulled up two more radishes and considered that the end of my first crop of seeds. Those buckets have been sitting out for about a year, so the soil was pretty compressed and weeds were starting to thrive. That's why I think the other seeds I planted a couple of months ago--besides the radishes, which, as Tom is constantly reminding me, are extremely easy to grow--haven't been thriving. (I also haven't been that dilligent about making sure the seedlings were getting enough sun.)

Before I planted, I pulled out the stunted vegetables and large weeds and put them in the compost. I then emptied all the containers of their media into a large bucket and stirred it up with a shovel to aerate it. I should have had the media tested at the county Extension office to see if it's pH-balanced and what nutrients it might need, but I wanted to go ahead and plant. I'm guessing that there're still enough nutrients in the media (a mixture of perlite, peat moss, and lime) to have at least one more season of veggies. (And I am using a small amount of slow-release fertilizer.) If these don't thrive, I'll start over with new media for spring gardening.

I planted one container each of radishes, carrots, spinach, red-leaf lettuce, kale, onions, green onions, celery, broccoli, and a salad mix:

One of these days maybe I will bring home the other containers at work and plant them, too.

My neighbor brought home some plants last week. She says they're garlic and some sort of berry (it has thorns that poked me). She transplanted them into some of my pots and I added a little slow-release fertilizer. I'm not sure if they'll be ok. They seemed a little wilty.

Finally, I watered everything and moved all the containers into the sun. It was a good weekend for gardening--absolutely gorgeous and not too hot. It's weird to be grateful for that in mid-December. This has got to be the warmest December on record.

Monday, December 3, 2007

St. Petersburg

I went to see my best friend, Sheila, and her husband this weekend in St. Petersburg. The weather was amazing--warm, breezy, not a cloud in the sky. I can't believe it's December.

Sheila and Nathan have a bass boat with a huge outboard motor, and we took it out Sunday. We went to Egmont Key State Park, an island at the mouth of Tampa Bay.

Everywhere we looked were gopher tortoises eating grass enthusiastically and ignoring all of us annoying people.

Apparently the island was an outpost during the Spanish American War, and earlier was used to imprison Seminole Indians before transport to Oklahoma. This was at the end of the third Seminole War, in 1858. All over the island are the concrete ruins of Ft. Dade.

There are stairways that lead seemingly nowhere.

The ruins are strangely beautiful.

There were other curiosities on the island, which is a National Wildlife Refuge. The palm forests were covered with millions of fallen palm fronds. It looked like rat heaven. There were also many decapitated palm trees, and palm tree grave yards--presumably left by hurricanes.

I've never seen so many huge century plants.

This is my favorite photo.