Thursday, August 25, 2011

Canoeing with teenagers 102

YES, I got them to do it again!  And only a week after the "three hour tour".  They are suckers for adventure!
This time we did the Silver River.  It is very mild as compared to Juniper Springs Run.  For starters, you don't have to move your canoe that far to get it the water.  The river is wide and deep.  There is a strong current that you have to paddle against on the way up to Silver Springs, but the way back is mostly steering if you are tired and want to go slow.  There is no shade, so bring a hat and sunscreen, plenty of water and snacks for good measure, if you plan to be out there for a while( it takes about 2 1/2 hrs to canoe up and back at a leisurely pace).
There are plenty of birds, fish, gators, monkeys and turtles to be seen on the river.  We saw 6 gators the day we went, and we even "had lunch" with one of them.  This time, I was in the back, and Zman started out in the front.  I figured we could switch around if we needed to.  The paddle strokes needed on this trip were different than last trip and I tried to instruct him how to hold the paddle and make the strokes needed to beat the current.  Believe it or not, he didn't want to listen to me!  : )  Ahhh, teenagers...   So, whatever, I ended up doing most of the work steering, propelling and correcting the whole way.  But isn't that what the back seat does anyhow?
The river was beautiful that day.  We got out there about 11am, just in time for the heat of the day!  By the way, NOT A CLOUD IN THE SKY!  The Silver River takes you all the way into the head spring for Silver Springs.  It is a huge spring!  One of the largest artesinal springs in the world producing 550 million gallons of water a day.  Timucuan Indians used it and settled around it, until the Spaniards came and ruined that.  In current history, the TV show I Spy was filmed there along with several movies like Tarzan, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon, as well as some James Bond movies.  A small portion of Hoot was also filmed there and gets the mention because the book was written by one of my favorite Florida authors, Carl Hiaasen.
As you get into the Silver Springs attraction, the glass-bottomed boats come by and you can hear some of their spiel.  They don't kick up that much wake so it's not a problem, however they do have the right-of-way on account of them being bigger(and they are making a buck off the tourists).  The head spring is kind of hard to see real well when you get there, on account of  being so close to the water.  There is no dockage so getting out is not an option, and it's busy there because that's where the glass-bottomed boats take off from.  We did go over to the side to stabilize the canoe while Zman and his friend changed places.  While there, I think we rousted this little guy(he was only about 3ft long) from his hiding spot.  There's a dragonfly on his head! : )
After we left the main spring, it was time for lunch.  There are many minor springs and coves along the way that make for good places to hang out and eat lunch.  We shared one such spring/cove with a gator and a couple tour boats.  It was field trip day for area summer camps so there were alot of children gawking at us from the tour boats.  We made the most of it by making faces at them and waving to them.  The gator was not a problem either, even though he was really big!  He watched us and the boats a bit and was just there.  Generally, they don't bother you unless you bother them.

Usually, the rhesus monkeys make an appearance at some point along the way.  I don't know if it was too hot for them, or if they were just tired of the tourists for the day or what, but we didn't see any.  On the way back, we fed the fish, and saw a few more gators.  
The boys stayed in the canoe this time.  There is only one spot where it's feasible to actually get into the water and on the way back it was occupied.  Otherwise, it's just too dark and bottom mucky to try it, besides, who knows what's lurking down there!
At one point, everyone was quiet and we could hear some people around the bend coming up the river.  The boys thought it would be funny to "mess" with them by making weird, loud noises and then acting like nothing happened when we came up on them.  I don't think it worked, but I got a really funny video of Zman's noises.  I wonder what those people thought?
On the walk back to the parking area( which is about 1/2 mile!), I asked the boys which canoe trip they preferred.  They both said Juniper Springs Run.  I am proud of that!  It's not that they didn't like this trip, the other one was just more adventurous!  This canoe trip will be an after thought in their minds to the first trip.  It was fun, but without incident to make it an adventure. 

 I am planning for the next one...muwha haaa haaa ha!(evil laugh, screen fades to black)

Canoeing with teenagers 101

Juniper Springs Run is not a place you want to take an inexperienced paddler(much less 2!) if you have a timeline and you are a serious paddler.  If you want to have a good time and laugh so hard it makes your belly hurt for the next three days, take two inexperienced paddlers who happen to be of the male species in their teenage years and put them in charge of all the paddling.  That's what I did and all I can say is... well, actually I am speechless!
Oh! The fun we had on this trip!  I have been wanting to do this every since my sister-in-law did this and raved about it!  The boys were psyched up about going canoeing and they(nor I, really) had no idea what they were in for.  I have heard it is a challenging run, and the day before we went I looked up a couple blogs about it.  One in particular had the most information and one of the commenters called the run the "divorce run".  In fact on the ride back to the launch area our driver confirmed that several area churches bring their couples that are in pre-wedding counseling to paddle this run to see how well they work together.  I know why...

The canoes can be rented from Juniper Springs for $33+tax with a $20 cash deposit that is returned if you make it to the end by the last pick up which is at 4:30pm.(FYI, you must also pay the entrance fee which is $5 a person)  We left the launch at about 11:15am and made it to the pick up by 4pm with half an hour to spare, and the driver was EARLY! The park rangers check for disposables, which you can not bring. Everything(food, drink and ice wise)must be packed into reusable containers.  I hid some plastic bags which we put our phones into to keep them from getting wet.  They also say that there are gators in the run, and to stay in the canoes.  We didn't see any, and so the boys and myself were in and out of the canoe along the first 1/2 of the trip.
The run is narrow, shallow and shady about 2/3 of the way.  It takes alot of cooperation and forgiveness to maneuver it well and even then you will still run into the banks and trees.  There are alot of submerged trees, and hanging trees which you have to go under, over, or around.  Sometimes you have to lift the canoe over the trees, which involves either rocking the canoe or getting out and pulling it over.  A couple times we were standing on a tree to get the canoe over another tree...  See what I mean by challenging? (I would love to take Sweet pea and the Rocket on this trip but I am afraid they would be too afraid.  I'll wait till they are teenagers.)  As it was, Zman and his friend were about to come to blows over steerage of the boat.  Zman was in front and his friend was in the back.  Zman was doing most of the work because he could see what was coming.  He kept getting angry 'cause his friend wasn't doing his "job".  I was in the middle, helpless, because they didn't want to turn anything over to me, I'm just a girl after all... (nevermind that I have been canoeing for waaaaaaay longer than them!) So I took loads of pictures and video and laughed and laughed and laughed! BOY! That was fun!

It is beautiful out there though, I kept taking picture after picture.  It exasperated the boys. (Makes me wish I had a DLSR kind of camera, although that is harder to put into a plastic bag to keep safe, or rather, keep from getting wet.)  So peaceful and quiet, if you can keep the others in your canoe quiet for 5 seconds! We didn't see any wildlife on account of us having too much fun(in other words, being too loud!)! 

At about half way we stopped and had lunch and played in the water for a while.  I heard thunder rumbling off in the distance("Uhhh, guys?  I think it's going to rain soon.") so we packed it up and and headed on down the river.  We had no idea of how much further it would be to the end(HA! It was pretty far.).  It started to get cloudier and cloudier, the thunder steadily rolled closer and then finally it started pouring. Lightning cracking all around us, LOUD thunder instantly and in some cases I think it even preceded the lightning it was so close!  And of course we are in water, in a metal boat, with NO PLACE TO GO BUT FORWARD towards the pick up point.  We can barely see in front of us because it is raining so incredibly hard!  The boys finally got it together with their paddling, and we really were moving at times.  Zman said "This is a disaster"  I replied "This is not a disaster, this is an adventure!  A disaster is if someone gets struck by lightning or eaten by an alligator, but until then, it's an adventure!"  At one point(close to where a gator had eaten a woman 2 years before)we had to pull over and empty the water out of the canoe because we were sitting so low in the water and the boys were working too hard at paddling while getting nowhere.  It was a combination of dripping bathing suits from playing in the water, and rain.  Every bend we came around I was praying we would see the bridge which meant the take out point, but it seemed it never would come.  I was praying hard that God would keep us safe and please, please, please let that bridge be around this bend!  Oh I swear the Hallelujah chorus played when we finally did see that bridge!  Thank God He was lookin' out for us!  To Him be the glory that He got us to the take out point safely!  It was a lesson for the boys, and me.  Wanna know what that lesson is?
Don't dilly dally on a one way, 4 1/2 hour canoe trip in Florida in the summer(DUH!) and if you do, God will look out for you, He'll scare you half to death, but He will look out for you!

I am also proud to say that the boys agree with me on the adventure! It is likely a trip that we will never forget.  Zman's friend has a story now that rivals a few of his dad's stories of raising hell while growing up in Ocala.  It doesn't come close to most of them, but it's a start!  Zman has yet another memory of a crazy summer trip with his crazy mother!  And I have the memory of two precious teenage boys learning something about themselves and God, all the while having loads of fun!

I asked them, on the way back into town, if they wanted to do it again the next day.  They looked at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears! : ) Always keep them guessing...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Garden update

Ok, this update is actually out-of-date, by about a month, but I've been busy...

Things have been growing and growing like mad because of all the summer rains we have had.  And now, since I have procrastinated so much for the past month, all the plants are even bigger!  Here's proof:

Turk's cap( Florida Native) to the left. Lion's tail in the center. 

Shiny, happy faces of Black-eyed Susans! 

Milk weed for the Monarch butterflies.  Some dead sunflowers that I have since pulled out.  On the right side of the picture is what's called Beach sunflower, it's a Florida Native and has yet to bloom, I think it does in the fall.  We'll see...

This whole wild flower area has gotten bigger too.  I have been deadheading the flowers and throwing the seeds back into the beds so they should be thick as theives soon!  Those orange coreopsis make such a pretty arrangement in an indigo blue container!  : )

Here's a closer look at that wild flower area.  Zinnias, Blanket Flower( FL Native), Beauty Berry( FL Native), Firebush( FL Native), Orange Coreopsis( don't know if it's a native or not..), Butterfly bush, and in the far left corner is a Duranta, otherwise know as a Golden Dew Drop.  This bush is covered in butterflies, bumblebees, and all manner of flying, pollinating insects all the time!!!  The lantana(not shown) is the same way, covered all the time!
Tomato bushes, as usual, they have been dissapointing.  The Topaz tomatos that promised good taste are bland at best, and I have only gotten one of the choco-stripes version that was blissful.  The bugs got the next one I was so looking forward to... A photo of it is below...I am kicking myself for waiting just one more day for a bit more ripening.....
Doesn't it look lucious?
These are the Running Conch beans.  Aptly named if you ask me, they have run all over the place!  They are LOVING this heat and moisture, and I have alot of beans to cook for this winter(think Black-eyed peas)!  I harvest them when the pods dry out, open them up and empty them out on a cookie sheet.  Then I pop them into the oven at a low temp for a while to dry them out completely. Usually they get put in after I have already baked something and turned off the oven, they get the leftover heat in the oven, and sometimes if I have forgotten them, they get the warming up heat too!  To store them, I got these great glass containers at IKEA(Sweds are just brilliant, and excellent at interior design/storage options!!) that I have been putting them in.  I sure hope my kids like black eyed peas, we will be eating them alot...

I pulled out the waning collards and kale and planted the pineapple plants my mom got tired of growing.  They may die if we get another really cold winter...  Oh well, if you can't survive what winter throws at you and fend for yourself, you have no place in my garden.  I don't baby plants planted in the ground.
I also planted the struggling swiss chard in the ground, but it was too hot for it.  I'll plant it again in September probably.  There is one that is braving the heat and defying the odds, I don't have the guts to pick any of the leaves for fear that it may up and die from the stress! 

This is the melon patch.  These didn't do well either.  They would get to the size of a pomello and then split if you so much as looked at them crosseyed!  One got a little bit bigger and just showed the pinking up inside and had great potential for taste, but it was not ripe enough.  I have to do some reading on growing melons, cause evidently I did it wrong.  I have since ripped out all the vines...  The loofa on the other hand is doing fantastic!  I have some giants out there!  I am planning on incorporating some into the soap I am going to make(one of these days, in my spare time...HA!)  Scrub-a-dub-dub!
I also have some work to do on the decorated bottles.  All the "grout" has melted off and the glass pieces I had so artfully grouted on, have all dripped off.  Maybe I should glue them first, then grout?  After I make the soap , I'll get right on that...

I would like to announce, that I have been accepted into the Master Gardner class here at our extension office.  It is a 13 week intensive course in gardening.  I am so looking forward to learning more about plants and how things grow!  Hopefully, I will be able to complete all of my homework and pass all the quizzes and tests and get my certification!  In the process I am sure I will learn what I did wrong... 
Wish me luck! 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Linger Lodge

I purchased a book earlier this year in anticipation of summer travels. It's called Meals Worth Stopping for in Florida, by The Gourmettes. You can get a little more info about the book and order it here(check out the reviews it got down at the bottom of the page!). It contains oodles of local restaurants within 10 miles of the 4 major interstates in the state: I-95, I-75, I-10, and I-4. I keep it in my car and have consulted it on the way down to and back from Granny's thus far.
S and I tried this place by ourselves last time we came back from Granny's. The description is what called us in... "Where Weird Rules" Linger Lodge Restaurant and Bar.
This sign located inside the restaurant, and the letters are made of snakes! How creative! : )
I had a close encounter with a resident black racer at the front door! Kinda ironic... : )

Located at 7205 Linger Lodge Road in Bradenton, you would NEVER find it unless you knew where it was!  It is in the middle of an RV park, that is in the middle of a neighorhood!  The directions given in the book are exact and still I was wondering...  But we made it just fine, and we were ready to eat!  
The inside of the establishment is COVERED(I do not use that term loosely here either!) in "taxidermic masterpieces"!  Now, Al Roker is the one who said it was one of the five wierdest restaurants in the US, but he's not a Florida native, so I'll cut him some slack.  It's not wierd, it is really cool
The bar-area display case
If you have lived in Florida for a while, I am sure you have come across Floridian taxidermy at some point.  If it's big or unusual, and we kill it, we want it mounted on our wall, preserved for all to see and to be passed down for generations to come!  All manner of animal, natural and not-so-natural, are diplayed in cases and ceilings and walls and tables(read: if it can be attached to it in any way, it is displayed there).   So if you are not accustomed to this type of thing, prepare to be amazed, or creeped out! 
Rattlers in the bar area

This is a not-so-natural taxidermy piece(sorry for the poor photo quality). 

Baseball squirrel
(We have really talented squirrels here in Florida! There is also one playing golf!)

View from the porch of the Braden River( through the screen-sorry).
There is inside, outside screened, with live band at times, and bar seating. 

An excerpt from the book:  "Also don't park in the space that says "Senators only."  That spot's reserved for Florida Senator Mike Bennett, who bought the place a few years ago on an emotional whim after having vacationed here as a boy.  Seems fitting somehow; the place is as wild and wierd as Florida politics."

I have to say that the food we had was not spectacular, it was ok.  S's hamburger, though good, was a "bubba burger".  I had loaded chips with pulled pork and cheese.  The pulled pork was good and the homemade potato chips were good, very crispy(think- kettle cooked).  In all fairness we just ordered bar food, not an entree or any specialty, so I can't judge on that.  We will be taking the kids to visit the taxidermy splendor and I will order something more entree-ish.  I like the close proximity to the Interstate, the fact that it is a local eatery(read: NOT Mcdonalds!), and it's cool!

Check out the book and the restaurant and go on your own adventure!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Appalachicola Nature Center

The Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve has a new home, and it is beautiful!  As of right now, it is still FREE!  However with Florida's budget woes, who knows for how long... 
I posted about the old place here last year.  We were looking forward to visiting the new place and checking out what was new.  Keep in mind they are closed on Sundays and Mondays. Their hours are 9am to 4:30pm Tuesday thru Saturday.   
The building is LEED certified at the silver level.  Some of the qualifying aspects of the LEED certification include, compact flourescent lights on motion sensors, design and construction of the facility with much of the property left undisturbed, pervious materials on parking areas, and rainwater capture system with storage cisterns underneath the building allowing the water to be collected for flushing toilets and irrigation.

This is the nature walk to the center, along this walk you will learn about pine flat woods, oak hammocks and marsh areas.  Nice and shady.  I love the sound of crushed gravel underneath me while walking in nature, don't you?
As you come to the visitor center, after you climb the steps, there is a local oyster boat built and donated by a local resident.  
As you enter the etched double doors, the first thing you notice is the mural stretching across the entire wall.  It tells the story, in picturesm, of the Apalachicola river traveling to the Gulf of Mexico. There are all sorts of critters depicted in this mural, and they are all labeled for your education.
The aquariums that were previously housed in a separate building are now new and incorporated into the general area in the new building.  They are very nice, and allow you to see underwater alongside the habitats.  The diversity in the old building is lacking in the new facility, however the presentation of what is there is very nice and we liked it better.  
Sweetie Pie making faces at the Alligator Gar that guards the front door.  No kidding, he sits right there and watches the front door! 
The Rocket making faces at me through one of the aquatic displays(That is a white terrapin.). 
A peek at the Gulf and Barrier island part of the mural.  There are mounted pelicans "flying" over head just like they do down the coast over Highway 98.  The sounds associated with the different areas of nature represented in the mural are playing in the backgound. 
The education room, is MUCH better than before!  We definitely enjoyed this room the most!  Here is The Rocket playing the matching game, matching up adult sea creatures with the "just hatched" babies.  It's harder than you think... 
Microscope area with slides, for your viewing pleasure. 
All of their preserved specimins, shell collection and bones are out on display for you to touch and examine!  The collection is vast and showcased in the way they should be!  Stadium seating is here in this room for educational presentations for kids.  My kids used it as a stage instead...complete with "spotlight"!  
Did you know that a dolphin's teeth are made of ivory? 
Whale bones and baleen display.
Overall we are pleased with the new facility, however, what's missing is the bird watching area.  I do hope they will eventually incorporate this area again.  There is also an auditorium with a short movie playing daily, but sometimes there are people giving presentations or special movies playing.  They have monthly meetings and programs for the public to enjoy and get educated about their unique setting in Florida.
If you are ever in the Apalachicola area, please stop by and check out this wonderful nature center!
The website for more information about the estuarine reserve is here

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hamburger Update- no news

The hamburgers are still above my freezer in the garage, I kinda forgot about them... I took a peek at one the other day and EWWWWWW! I DID NOT open it! They are still rotting away, liquidity is setting in.

I sent e-mails to the Biology Dept at UF two more times, and didn't even get so much as a "you're crazy lady!" from them. : ( Well, they missed their chance at making a little more of a Gator fan of me. I do not like the Gators as a whole, but parts of them I have liked. Shands Teaching Hospital has taken very good care of my father, and Tim Tebow is(so far... no one is perfect!) admirable and a great sportsman, and I employ the knowledge of the Extension office at times also attending their plant sales of native plants. *sigh* I guess they missed the boat on that one....

I took a couple pics of the burgers. Here they are:

I apologize for the size, for some reason the picture loader isn't working properly...  Disappointment is all around...*sigh*
PS I have a post about a recent trip to my parent's house last week, however I have lots of pics to share so I think I will wait till the photo loader is working properly!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

3 little birds, on my doorstep...

The wrens that visit with us every year came back.  I like to refer to them as "our wrens", but I don't know for sure they are the same ones. Any how, we had babies again, 3 this time!  Daddy was scouting for a nest site and when he found theirs was still there and in very good condition, he was VERY excited!!!
The pics are as follows...
The first shot is for perspective...behind the radio is where the nest is.  Up by the ceiling, and very safe.  No cats or other animals are going to get up there and disturb that nest!

May 7 - I know there is more than one egg in there...  Aren't they pretty eggs?  Momma disposes of the shells and the poo the babies make as she goes along, amazing!

May 12- looks like one has already hatched...

May 13- three little mouths!!!! that make a LOUD noise!

May 17- WOW, look at those mouths now! The noise that came from them is also louder and more incessant!  When anyone comes out the backdoor it's " Mommy? FEED ME!!!!  NOW!
Now, in between these pics, a neighbor found another baby bird that had fallen out of his nest in his yard.  The nest was too high for anyone to get up there and put this bird back, so we put it in with these birds.  Thinking that it was the same type( WRONG!!!) we thought maybe the momma wouldn't notice a fourth bird in there....  NOPE(What momma, I ask you, doesn't know her own kids, or at least how many she has?!?!)!  It ended up dying.  Sweetie Pie and The Rocket were sad, but it's an invaluable lesson about nature, it doesn't always have Disney endings...(They know this already, but I always welcome reminders of how good they have it!)

May 25- My, My, My! Look at how they have grown!
(Sorry guys, I am not the chuck wagon, she will be back soon!)

May 28- We are now officially empty nesters...
We missed the flying lessons, however, S did see the momma and daddy out on the porch calling to the babies to come out for their flying lessons.  They would sit on the back of a chair, and look up at the nest and call for them to come out!  Really cute!  Now they are gone and we can reclaim our back porch. 
Can't wait till next year!

Has this ever happened to you?