I stayed home for the holidays again this year to work on the new Floridata 2.0. As consolation for not having holiday fun I allotted time for catching up on garden projects. As it happens, this proved to be a lucky decision because my family lives near the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport where you might recall from the news that they had huge snowfall around Christmas that clogged the roads. At the same time a computer crash at Com air Airlines aggravated the situation and closed down the region completely. By car or by plane I would have been stuck all the same. I wouldn't have got there anyway - at least not in a happy festive mood.
Here in Florida's Big Bend, early December was cool but pleasant but right before Christmas we had some freezes and by Christmas Eve a gray, drizzly, dreary cold set in - we even had a few snowflakes. It was just the kind of weather that I moved to Florida to avoid. But since it was Christmas and there was chocolate and cookies and I was inspired to once again bedeck the old Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla) with strings of those little white lights. It didn't take much effort to decorate since all of my big tropical container plants were already huddled in the living room taking refuge from the freezes. So the the Christmas spirit shone brightly and I even listened to Christmas carols on the radio as I hacked code for the new site. It was actually the most festive I've been in years.
Goats share the same Satanic stigma but I like goats. I even had a pair named Laverne and Shirley and I can report that there was nothing devilish about them - although it was a little disconcerting when we sold them to young couple and their daughter. L & S both hopped into the back seat of a little Honda Accord without hesitation and sat calmly and politely as they drove off - and never looked back... Anyway, however much I don't like snakes coming in my house I didn't even try to kill it but instead pushed it out the window with a stick. If these things would eat the squirrels instead of my frogs I might have a better opinion of them. No I don't like snakes.
But I really like birds. A huge horde of robins have been hanging around here so it was disappointing when the cold snap struck at Christmas and chased them farther south. But as consolation about a dozen new wood ducks appeared in the neighborhood. My neighbor JM makes duck houses for them and sets out snacks of corn so I suspect that last years ducks are spreading the word of our neighborhood's gracious Southern Hospitality.
We were buds. He was always muddy but didn't really smell bad or anything. This wasn't true for the manure as it was way too rank for even me to gather for compost. The interesting thing about this hog was that he'd come to the fence just inches away and we'd look each other in the eye and grunt (mostly him doing that). I'm sure we were communicating. While no information (or anything else) passed between us I think there was a connection, a sort of empathy and shared perspective on life. It's possible that he liked me only for the snacks that I brought him - especially that memorable Christmas when I brought him a big bag of fermented tangerines. They had been frozen and were now alcoholic. Just smelling the fumes coming off them gave me a buzz. He of course pigged them down and got totally wasted (I could tell by his eyes). That pig really liked me after that.
Then one Saturday, on one of North Florida'a brilliant bright winter afternoons, I drove past and he was gone, all 600 pounds of him so I knew he wasn't out jogging or anything. That's when I saw his owner (a surly, drunken rednecky guy whom no one liked) across the yard with Big Pig (my name for him). I was shocked to see half of Big Pig hanging from a tree and the other half hanging from a different tree. Sure, I know all along this would be his fate but but I wish I didn't have to witness his entry into the food chain.
Reinforcing this decision was that shortly after Big Pig was "processed", I sat down to a delicious Sunday dinner of roast chicken. At that time we had a big flock of chickens (ducks, turkeys and geese too) and I went out to throw them their evening scratch feed. Conspicuous by his absence was Melvin (aka "Melman") a young, semi-tame trick rooster. He had a handsome profile, nice disposition (for a rooster) and killer crow and literally ruled the roost. Long story short: a certain family member had tired of the company of our socially outgoing rooster.
He was right. I walked back to the house, the harshness of it all weighing on my spirit, where I finished Melman's last drumstick - after all he was succulent and delicious - but I tried not to enjoy it that much. But lessons are learned from unfortunate events and to this very day, I'm careful to specifically ask if the main course is anyone I know before accepting dinner invitations.
I intended to plant some cool season annuals but the weather turned too cool and I caught a cold early in December that wouldn't go away for a week. When at last it did, I enjoyed a whole Saturday outside raking and mulching. On Sunday I was sick again from overdoing it, so no annuals here yet. It's just as well, because it is best to take advantage of this time of year, when it's cool and the mosquitoes are rare, to do the heavy work like trimming, clearing and edging - in general cleaning up the overgrown masses that have appeared since last year's winter cleanup.
Winter is a great time to transplant woody trees and shrubs. Fifteen years ago I optimistically planted a a trio of Hollywood junipers (Juniperus chinensis 'Torulosa') back by the Catfish Pond in some nasty hardpan fill dirt. They somehow managed to survive but they're no bigger now than when I planted them (others planted elsewhere are 12 ft high).
The month's most major project was digging up a clump of monster pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana). There are altogether six clumps up on The Hill that I want to remove because they're crowding stuff that was planted to eventually replace them. It was a major garden accomplishment removing the largest clump which was about 6 ft in diameter and 4 ft tall after trimming the leaves back. It is a horrible back breaking job that I dread.
The day of the Asia Tsunami I got so depressed that I wanted to do something miserable - somehow if I felt rotten one of the disaster victims would feel better. I know it doesn't work like that but I donned my protective clothing, gloves and cap and attacked - I chopped, dug, hacked and pulled on the monster clump. Before long I pulled away the first pieces (don't be impressed I had already dug a trench around it two years ago but was just now getting around to actually digging it up!). The center was dead and mostly dry and rotted but was surrounded by a 2 ft band of living stems.
I rested and surveyed my subject and puffed satisfyingly on my asthma inhaler. Once sufficiently oxygenated I picked up a maddox and began chopping slices out of the clump like slices out of a coffee cake ring only sweatier.
The rugged tea olives have no problem with a bit of freeze and continue to perfume the place with their light fruity fragrance. I dug up some tender Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac) last fall and planted it in a pot (they freeze here). I coaxed it to produce a few of its ugly (but fabulously fragrant) little flowers by regularly juicing it with liquid fertilizer. It accomplished this even though it spent a third of the month taking refuge with my other container plants in the utility room.
That's about all that's happening here which is pretty weak. I'm going to plant some annuals in January fersure.
On December 13 the meteor shower called the Geminids reached its peak at around 11:00 PM. It's said to be one of the most satisfying to watch because there's about 80 meteors every hour at its peak. I walk the dogs around that time every night and without even trying I saw three meteors in about 10 minutes!
I was just standing around waiting for Bubba to finishing sniffing pee residue on a flower pot. I turned to look at a point in the eastern sky that I had read was the "radiation point" from where the meteors enter the earth's atmosphere. At precisely that moment, a brilliant light streaked across the sky directly at me! Head on! Right at me! Tilting my head up to track it, I saw it explode in a big beautiful burst directly above me! Startled, my body jerked, Bubba jumped and we both almost took a tumble. He saw it too! It was like the universe had tapped us with a magic wand - or maybe it was more like St. Paul being struck with blindness and insight while on his way to Ephesus. Fortunately I didn't go blind but I also didn't get any wisdom or insight. Neither was I chosen by God Himself for anything and I didn't even acquire any arcane knowledge from visiting aliens. But unless I'm mistaken, I do get a wish.
Since it was a shooting star (i.e. a meteor of unusually long duration) I believe a compound wish is appropriate so here goes:
I wish everyone will visit Floridata and share with everyone they know
1/10/04; repaired 2/27/08