Friday, May 30, 2008

Payne's Prairie

Payne's Prairie is a 21,000-acre preserve just south of town. I sometimes go hiking/birdwatching along its trails. But the other day, I just drove through on a beautiful day.

Santa Fe River at Poe Springs

I went to a meeting Wednesday at the Poe Springs lodge. I love meetings where I can stare out huge picture windows at the trees and river when I need to daydream. At our break time, I went down to the riverbank and lay in the grass.

Fish were jumping like crazy and I heard woodpeckers, a family of hawks, two barred owls, and countless songbirds. You can hear some of them in the short video below .

Bamboo Heist

When I moved into my current residence, I brought with me a fabulous large outdoor table set. My neighbor enjoys it every day, and since our yard doesn't get hardly any shade -- the reason why I barely garden anymore (my plants keep dying from the sun) -- she decided to create an umbrella for the table.

I saw her effort lying in the lawn the other day and asked her about it. She said it wasn't working because the structure wasn't sturdy enough. "That's an easy fix," I said. "Just get some bamboo for a frame."

Long story short, I asked my friend Rob (who collects bamboo) if I could get some bamboo from him. He said better yet he knew a "secret site" where we could get some. So we drove there last weekend (before I got completely knocked on my butt by an awful summer cold).

We pulled over to the side of the road next to a ditch, which was next to some woods. (I really have no idea who owns this land.) Rob said, "There's a trail back there if you want to drive. I take my truck back there sometimes." Reader, I do not have a truck. Did that stop me? No! I am a Southern Woman. Off-roading is in our BLOOD.

So after first looking around for the fuzz, I propelled the Honda forward through the ditch and into the woods.

We approached a large bamboo stand.

We stealthily procured a few stalks and hightailed it out of there. I think my new muffler is still intact...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Back in the South Week in Review

This week has been all about catching up on various tasks at work and home. I won't bore you with work, but at home there have been a few small but pleasing developments.

Garden. I moved all my plants (again) because they were still getting baked in the shady-ish site where I had placed them a few weeks ago. I'm beginning to wonder if most of them are permanently dead (sounds redundant, but you never know). There's one spot that's shady all day and I've placed them all there, in a long line along the driveway to see if they'll recover.

Kitchen. I started cooking again. That was the odd thing about traveling -- I only cooked twice! Something I haven't mentioned here before is that for all of this year I've been keeping a cooking diary. The librarian in me was curious about how much I cooked in a year and what I made, so I've been [mostly] taking photos of every meal I make -- and when I forget to take a photo, I write down the meal.

This was the first meal I made after getting home. It's a mushroom pie with a spinach crust (you may have noticed I've been obsessed with savory pies for the past few months) and a salad made with locally grown organic mixed greens and lots of toppings, including feta, currants, coconut, green onions, toasted nuts and seeds, and sprouts. Oh, and tahini-watercress dressing. It was taaaaasty.

Living room. I still have some straightening up and cleaning to do, but I've been missing fresh flowers in my house, so I cut a fresh magnolia off our backyard tree. I picked off all the leaves, except three, ikebana-style. It smells like heaven.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Older and Colder (Selected Photos from My Trip, Some of Which Are Gardening-related)

I went to Boston and NYC to see friends for my birthday. Here is Boston from the plane.

It was colder than I expected. It was mostly windy as all-get-out and varying degrees of rainy on more than a few of the days.

But there were some truly beautiful moments, like this one at twilight by the wharf section (or whatever it is called) of Boston. The big red and white boat was a Puma boat about to compete in some round-the-world race. Apparently Salma Hayek had broken the champagne bottle over the bow a day or two before.

Luckily, I hit the Boston Commons on a beautiful day.

There were some great signs. Note the creepy "Big Brother is watching you" eye logo in the corner.

I enjoyed Big City Arts & Culture, like the Museum of Fine Arts.

This is one of my most favorite paintings in the whole world. It's called "Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?" and it's by Paul Gauguin. It's around twelve feet long by four feet tall -- enormous. And beautiful.

Also went to the Boston Aquarium (I love aquariums). I know jellyfish are bad for the ecosystem and people and stuff, but they shore are lovely.

And I love public transportation.

There were a ton of bulbs in bloom, including tulips. These won't grow in Florida -- not cold enough -- so I enjoyed seeing them sway in the wind.

Then I went to New Yawk. I stayed with my friend Joel in Brooklyn, where there are a lot of trees (in certain places).

Brooklyn also has a few community gardens, part of a city-wide Parks & Recreation program called Green Thumb.

In Manhattan, green spaces (except for Central Park) are harder to find. This tiny plot in SoHo (or somewhere nearby ... geography isn't my strong suit) had a sign reminding people that trash attracts rats. Speaking of rats, I had one run over my foot in Penn Station. It was pretty big.

Here's another public garden, this one in the East Village. I thought this structure was really cool, but Joel said it's going to get torn down soon.

In Joel's neighborhood, Park Slope, there seemed to be a competition for who could create the cutest garden in the tiny plots in front of brownstones. This one had a cool garden sculpture.

In Williamsburg, one street randomly had some sod just, oh, laid out on the sidewalk under some containers made of old tires.

In New York I continued to enjoy more Big City Arts & Culture, like the Museum of Modern Art, which had a free night that was (as might be expected) an absolute zoo.

Sometimes I prefer street art to museums.

A street fair in Brooklyn was fun.

There were cool old bikes and cars.

Throughout my visit, we ate delicious food in restaurants with beautiful decor.

I walked around a lot. This is Gowanus Canal, which is supposed to be one of the most polluted water bodies in the country. It smelled sort of like a public toilet.

There are great views of the city from certain parts of Brooklyn. As you might be able to tell from this photo, it was raining sideways, and it was in the forties plus wind chill. The umbrella I had didn't work. I probably walked about ten miles that day.

Of course, the World Trade Center is missing from the skyline. I went to Ground Zero to pay my respects and check out construction. There were cops everywhere, just standing around and looking for suspicious activity.

I also visited Wall Street at rush hour to pick up Joel. Everyone looked beaten down. Once again I am grateful for my job!

All in all, an awesome trip and a wonderful birthday. Thanks, Keith, Amy, and Joel!

P.S. It's good to be back in the warm, sweaty bosom of the South.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Dirty Thirty

I'll be gone for the next week or two, as I am taking a vacation to celebrate my 30th birthday. I'll miss you, Florida!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Man Up (Summer Survival)

So I decided I'm going to try to get through this summer without turning on my A/C window unit. I lived without A/C of any kind for all three years of college (at UF), and I liked it. I've gotten soft in my old age and it's time to toughen up. (Plus I don't want to shell out the cash -- A/C is costly and right now my electricity bill is below $50 a month.)

Today I went to the store and bought two fans, which are going to save me.

One's for my bedroom, and one's for the living room/kitchen. I have ceiling fans in each room, but sometimes they're not enough. Lately I've been having trouble sleeping because of the heat. Enter fan. Added bonus: white noise covers sounds of neighbors partying late at night. It's a win-win. I love summer.

More Springs Adventures

Tuesday my friend Jenn was in town from Seattle, so I took the day off and we went to Ichetucknee Springs State Park. The Ichetucknee River is a tributary of the Santa Fe, and it's spring-fed -- totally clear all year-round. It's an incomplete summer when I don't go down this river in a rented inner tube at least once. But I've never spent much time at the springhead, which is a series of swimming holes at the north end of the river -- the origin of the river, I suppose.

It is, of course, unbelievably beautiful.

Inbetween sunbathing/napping/reading episodes I went swimming several times, using my mask and snorkel (thanks, Alex!) to look at the fish and underwater caves.

I didn't want to leave.

The wildflowers are in bloom along all the roads in rural North Florida. I'm pretty sure the yellow ones are Coreopsis lanceolata, the Florida state wildflower.

Update: The DEP used to have a map on their Web site of all the springs in the state, but since I can't find it, I'm linking to the The Orlando Sentinel's map of many springs.

If you're looking to go to a spring, you should know that some springs are privately owned and are not accessible to the public, while others are privately owned but charge a fee for the public to use them. Still others are owned by counties or municipalities, and some are state parks.

Other spring facts: There are several springs that are right on or just off rivers and can be accessed by canoe or other watercraft only. Some spring-fed rivers include the Rainbow, Juniper, and the Ichetucknee. The largest concentrations of accessible springs (at least from my experience) seem to be in Gilchrist and Suwannee Counties (North Florida) and in Marion County (in the Ocala National Forest).

Aha! A helpful person answering comments at just emailed me this site, which is more comprehensive than anything I've ever seen about Florida springs.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Ginnie Springs

My neighbor and I went to Ginnie Springs (on the Santa Fe River) on Saturday. It was a gorgeous day. I alternated between swimming in one of the springs and lying in the sun (protected by sunscreen, of course). After I exited the water (72 degrees year-round), my skin would vibrate for twenty minutes. It might be one of the best feelings in the world. I think I'm going to try to go to one spring or another every weekend possible this summer.

Florida has more freshwater springs than anywhere else in the world -- geologists estimate more than 700. They're literally windows into the aquifer (the glowing blue spot in the center of the above photograph is the Dogwood Springs cave). Under pressure from the many layers of limestone that emerged from the sea a long time ago, they pump out water constantly -- sometimes as much as 60 million gallons per day. When we overpump water from the aquifer (where do you think bottled water like Coca-Cola's Aquafina comes from? Yep, they have at least one plant along the Santa Fe River) or let fertilizer and pesticides leave our landscapes, the state's water supply is endangered and we risk losing our amazing springs.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


I love comments. I don't always remember to respond, but I definitely read them. Sorry for my bad blog etiquette.

Making a Radio Show

So I write this radio show called "Gardening in a Minute." A lot of work goes into the show, which airs every weekday on NPR stations in about half the counties in the state (we're working on syndicating it throughout the rest of Florida).

I've estimated that it takes about ninety minutes of my time (from writing to recording) to make each minute-long show, plus a lot of time on the part of our host, our producer, another writer, and all of our faculty reviewers.

We record shows about once every two weeks. It takes a whole morning, and today I thought it would be fun to document the process.

"You're acting like an annoying tourist," Tom said. I reminded him that he's the American going to Holland in a few days.

After I write between ten and twenty shows and we review them a few times, we record them.

We drive across campus to WUFT-FM in our ghetto state car. Note missing hubcap; the passenger-side front window doesn't roll down. Also, it makes a clunking noise on the highway. Oh, and the turning radius means you get to practice your six-point turns in any space, no matter how large!

Our producer, Ben, lets us into the fortress.

We go upstairs to the studio.

Tom and Ben talk about sports for a little bit and I give them their copies of the scripts.

Tom enters his chamber of seclusion, separated from us by a pane of glass.

Ben and I hang out in the control room.

It has a nifty control panel. I can push a button on it and talk to Tom.

This is what Ben and I see as we record the show.

If I get closer to the window, this is what Tom looks like.

I look at my script as he reads, to make sure he doesn't ad-lib anything (happens all the time, especially if he forgot to bring his glasses that day).

Between scripts I do a crossword or stare out the window.