Thursday, January 28, 2010

The emu and the orange tree

I've mentioned a few times that we live in a pretty rural area of Florida. It's nice because in an hour I can drive to the beach or to any of the theme parks, but my day-to-day life consists of driving past cows, horses and orange groves.

Here in Central Florida orange groves are a dime a dozen. Around these parts lots of people with a decent amount of property have a little grove in their front yard - maybe 30 trees or so is pretty common. I enjoy the smell of orange blossoms at some times of the year and we often buy a 1/4 bushel of oranges and marmalade from an older couple with a small grove past our house, but other than that, I don't even think twice about the groves.

But there's an orange grove by our neighborhood that also has fancy-looking black and white sheep that graze amongst the orange trees. It's a funny thing to see, but something I have also become used to since I pass it at least 12 times a week thanks to trips to and from school.

The other day my youngest son yelled "WOW! That's one big turkey!" and pointed at the orange grove.

And he was right. There in the grove trotting around with the sheep was a big brown bird. I got closer and noticed that it's an emu. I don't know how long the emu has been living among the sheep and the orange trees, but now that I know to look for him (or her?) I see her everyday.

It's a strange site for sure, yet I'm getting used to seeing it. It's funny how your "normal" can change so easily.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wildlife Weekend :: The corpse arrived before 7 a.m.

Early Saturday morning I woke up at around 6:40 a.m. after a long sleepless night thanks to a sinus infection, and came out to see my oldest son who was already bopping around the living room. I immediately let the dogs out into the backyard to do their business while I chatted with my oldest son, the consummate early-riser. Rommel came running back inside first and disappeared to begin his morning nap.

A few minutes later Saffie came charging in with something in her mouth. It was still quite dark out and I could see she'd grabbed a dark stick from the yard. I reached down to grab it to throw it back outside when I could see legs. Stiff long legs.


I screamed and grabbed the scruff of her neck and she dropped it.

The "it" was now clearly a stiff, dead, big, long-legged frog - I'd guess about 7-8 inches long. When it hit the ground all the ants and bugs that had been feeding off this early morning breakfast buffet scattered all over the floor of the living room.

I had to scoop the thing up - and all its surrounding beasties - with a stick-down floor tile I happened to have nearby, and chuck it outside. The best part was coming back inside and gathering up the remaining bugs and flinging them outside as well. The icing on the cake was going back outside about an hour later and finding the petrified frog corpse and this time flinging it over the fence so that it didn't end up in my living room again.

Looking like this is her only saving grace.

Friday, January 22, 2010

And They Call it Puppy Love...

There is a reason they make puppies so you keep matter what they get into. Even when you give them a bath and they're all fluffy and wonderful and you let them outside for 5 minutes alone and they discover their first mud puddle.

And you look outside and think, didn't I have a yellow lab? When did I get a black lab?

And the belly is sopping wet with stinky, gloppy mud.

And the paws... oh the paws.

So I went inside to get a big towel and came out to find out the source of her happiness.

Because two young boys, two strange cats, three chickens and an overzealous German Shepherd just weren't enough excitement for me.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Sunday Morning Chicken Show

I've been a bit busy this week trying to thaw out from our cold snap. I thought I'd post some video I took of the chickens this morning so you could see a peek into their little lives. Of course the sun was shining right into their window making the video a bit washed out, but I thought it was still cute. Clementine was a bit camera shy this morning so she's not visible, but Maggie and Sookie ham it up. Is it appropriate to say chickens ham it up?

Here are Maggie and Sookie after they layed their morning eggs inside the nest box area of the coop.

And here are Maggie and Sookie trying to eat my phone in the chicken run. They're so used to me giving them treats that they peck anything in my hand when I visit them in the mornings. My boys find it insanely hilarious whenever the chickens peck at my fingers - as you can hear.

Monday, January 11, 2010

We got Florida snow!

It finally happened. Saturday morning - the day of my 4-year-old's birthday party - we sat there staring out the window waiting for "it" -the wintry mix/sleet/snow that the weather forecasters had been promising. It was cold enough and cloudy enough and we'd seen photos of snow in counties just north of us… the anticipation was insane.

Then I heard some rain that sounded a bit thick. I went outside and it was some real live sleet. We waited until it passed and went out to check on the chickens and we saw it. There were snow flakes on the slide and a few lines of snow on the ramp to the boys' playset.

It was really quite a sight to see. The boys were intrigued and excited. My oldest son ate some and they both touched it and poked it and shuffled it from hand to hand. I'm kicking myself for not having them make a microscopic snowman like I keep seeing on the news. They ran in with tiny snowballs to show my mom. We all ooh'd and aah'd over the whole thing.

Now I know many of you Northerners will scoff at our snow, but please try to remember that this is Florida - the state of palm trees, beaches and sunshine. Not the state of sleet and snow. I think this is the coldest weather the state has seen since… the ice age? I've lived in the state for 26 years and never seen it snow here (although I've seen flurries on the news before in random locations), so this is a very rare event for sure. We seem to be setting records every day from the most consecutive days under 60 degrees to the coldest day to snow to sleet to ice… it's just the strangest experience.

My poor chickens were shivering in their coop. I went to see them that night and they were shivering so hard that I could barely hold onto them when I picked them up. I ended up wrapping their coop in old comforters and drop cloths and then jamming chairs and wood against the edges to keep it from blowing up. I know many people also laugh at that since chickens survive fine in cold climates, but remember, we have a warm weather open coop - not one designed to keep the heat in and the cold out. Their drinking water has been frozen in the mornings too - another first for us.

Just today at Noon I went outside and found ice on the garbage can in the backyard. My youngest son told me to be careful with the piece of glass I was holding. This real-live-ice thing still isn't quite clicking for him. Please don't be too jealous of my awesome green hoodie sleeve and multicolored 99 cent stretch gloves.

On a side note, Farmer B completed the Disney marathon on Saturday. We're so proud of him! It was the coldest day in the history of the marathon. He said the cups of water and PowerAde they were handing out to the runners were frozen on top and slushy and the bananas, raisins and chocolates were also completely frozen. He said it was dangerous near the water stations because the spilled water from the runners had frozen into sheets of ice on the road and the runners were slipping and sliding like Bambi on ice. Even though he was numb he completed his first marathon in 4 hours and 4 minutes!! Here's my oldest showing off daddy's newest medal.

The weather isn't so funny to local wildlife and crops though. There are many stories of animals suffering terribly from the cold - especially turtles and manatees - and all the damage to the citrus crops that is just devastating to the farmers. Better enjoy your OJ now - it'll be pricey pretty soon!

Stay warm everyone!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kamikaze iguanas and credit cards on ice

I'm t-t-t-too c-c-c-cold to t-t-t-type. This Arctic Blast was fun for a moment and now it's stopped being fun and is just downright horrible. We're not equipped for such low temperatures here in Florida, especially not in Central and Southern Florida. We're thin-skinned sun lovers and we know it. We've had low temperatures in the 20s and 30s for days and days and days… and I am ready to move away from the frigid confines of Florida at this point.

We don't have the clothes for it and we sure don't have the patience for it. No one owns a real jacket around here and I don't even have any fleece-lined Croc's. I have two pairs of jeans and three long-sleeved shirts. It's all a bit too much. I'm calling it quits on this weather. Hmph.

Farmer B is running in his first ever marathon this weekend and temps and windchills are expected to be in the 20s. That means he'll be running in weather that's 70 degrees colder than what he's been training in!!!! He's very stressed to say the least.

Yeah, we're a mad, mad mess.

Just how cold is it?

It's so cold that iguanas are falling out of trees in South Florida because the cold puts them into a state similar to hibernation. They're calling them kamikaze iguanas because they're just dive-bombing to the ground.

It's so cold that my boys were almost late to school today because our car was frozen. We don't own ice scrapers here in Central Florida so when the car is frozen we stare dumbly and numbly at it for awhile before scraping off the ice with our credit cards. That takes a long time, by the way. I saw an ice scraper once and asked my mom why someone had a kitty litter scoop in their glove box. Also, recess is cancelled in school because it's too cold for the kids to play outside since many don't own jackets.

It's so cold that the chickens get warm cooked oatmeal for breakfast instead of just the as-is oats scattered around their run. Yes, I'm aware that I cook my chickens oatmeal when it's cold. Please just gloss over that.

It's so cold that I think the garden is history. I threw a tablecloth over my best-producing tomato plant just in case, but I'm afraid to look under it. I fear it'll be like lifting a sheet in a morgue - just too gruesome to take right now. Everything else outside is a funky shade of grey, including my oh-so-cute flowers by the front door.

It's so cold that our local weather guy is predicting a *chance* of snow/sleet/wintery mix this Friday night into Saturday morning. SERIOUSLY? And we're about to set a record for the most days with temperatures under 60 degrees. Oh and airplanes are stuck at our airport because they have ice on them and of course, we have no deicing equipment. I should call them and let them know about the credit card technique.

Well I'm going to go and curl up with a cup of tea, a warm puppy and a blanket and try and thaw out before I have to trek outside into the bitter Florida weather again.


Monday, January 4, 2010

An Olive Branch

It finally happened today.

The warring factions seem to have come to a peace agreement. An olive branch was extended and happily received as both parties seemed willing to work things out. It was a ratty old tree branch to be exact, not a legitimate olive branch, but the results were the same.


Who knew a ratty old stick could bring them together?

He even let her climb on top of him and straddle his neck. That's HUGE in dog language.

And he laid down so she could get the stick and allowed her to hold one end and walk next to him when he could have easily taken off and left her behind.

She chased him relentlessly.

But they ended up wandering around the yard together happily playing with this stick like they've been pals for life.

It was amazing! And it only took 14 days - a fortnight to go from bitter enemies to friends. If only us humans could work things out so well...

Maybe we've found the key to world peace??

Sunday, January 3, 2010

All she wants for New Year is her 2 front teeth

They grow up so fast...

Seems like just last night she yapped all night and kept us up for hours. Oh wait...that was just last night.

Two needle teeth down, a mouthful to go...

Friday, January 1, 2010

The First Day :: A Fresh Start

I always enjoy the first day of the year. There's something about the newness of it all that feels quite refreshing to me. I decided to take Saffie out into the yard to check out the garden before a big cold front comes through later tonight.

It was a cool morning, with a slight drizzle, lots of leaves on the ground and a darkening sky. The cold front should bring highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s. It just felt like a New Year to me. I'm sure I won't be waxing poetic tomorrow when it's cold and I'm fetal on the couch unable to move because it's under 70 degrees.

When I walk through the yard, my view looks like this. I trip a lot these days.

If she gets distracted by a falling leaf and I get away from her, it doesn't last for long.

When you live in Florida you learn to really appreciate any little thing that smacks of winter. For me it's the changing leaves on the backyard trees.

We made it out to the garden, but something spooked Saffie.

The curled lips. The threatening bark. Are you quivering with fear? She was not a happy puppy.

Turns out the garden gnome is evil. It's something I've suspected for a long time.

With the cold weather coming, I'm sure I need to protect my garden. I've got lots of green tomatoes that won't handle a freeze well.

And how about these black-eyed peas? Any idea if they're ready to pick? Some pods are brown, some are green and some are greenish-brown. Any black-eyed pea experts have any advice for me?

I'll pick my bell peppers today and harvest some chard for another quiche.

But how about these strange little sprouts from the edges of my broccoli plant? Do you eat those? Do I cover them? We ate the big broccoli from the middle, but then these mini-broccoli started to grow.

Farmer B has modified the chicken coop to handle the cold weather so the only thing I need to worry about is the garden. I assume I can just chuck a sheet over it, but I think I need to read up on it all first. I've learned that going with my instincts is rarely the right decision when it comes to the garden.

The first day of 2010 was a very good day.
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