Friday, January 22, 2010

New Discovery

So yesterday, after more than a month of occupying my house, I discovered that I have a starfruit tree. Last Saturday we were at Flamingo Gardens and they had a starfruit tree with fruit all over and Natalie was talking about how much she likes starfruit. Well I was planting my new bananas yesterday and I noticed some starfruit on the ground next to what I thought was a bush of some sort. I was actually going to just wait until I figure out what this thing was and then decide if I'm going to pull it out or not. Well after finding the fruit on it, I don't think Natalie is going to let me take it out. It's a sad looking tree so I put some more stakes in and tried to stand it up because it's leaning over, the fruit almost pulling the top of it all the way to the ground. We'll see if I can get it looking like a tree instead of a bush.

Also while planting one of my bananas by the baby's future room I noticed what I first though was a nasty looking black worm. It was an inch or so beneath the soil. But then it kept appearing as I was digging and I noticed it has orange stripes on one side. The head was small so I couldn't tell which side was up but one side was black and the other side is black and orange strips. It's a baby snake. I didn't want to pick it up though since I didn't know what it is. So I looked up the possibilties this morning and it's either a South Florida Swamp Snake or the endangered and thought to be possibly extinct Rainbow Snake. Most likely it would be the South Florida Swamp Snake since those are common down here. I need to find it again because if it is a Rainbow Snake and I can prove it's not extinct, well, hmmm..... I would say Nobel Peace Prize but we all now that is meaningless. LOL.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Albino Alligator

So this weekend Natalie and I decided to renew our membership at Flamingo Gardens. They were having an amphibian and reptile expo like they normally do a couple times a year but this time they featured an albino alligator. Among the other things there were dart frogs, snakes, turtles, tarantulas, etc.

A lot of these creatures were for sale, not the alligator though. The albino alligator is very rare. They cannot survive in the wild. They would sun burn and even if they were to survive that they would go blind. So needless to say, if they find them in the wild they kill them. There are 65 captive albino alligators in the world though. One of the others is at Jungle Island, it's a pretty big one. The one they had at this show was named "Lady Godiva", like the white chocolate, and she is worth $25,000. Normally alligators are black, despite Disney cartoons drawing them green. This one is white, so naming it after a white chocolate makes since, right? Lady Godiva is 9 years old and this guy rescued her from a zoo. He said she is very small for her age because at the zoo they were just doing maintenance feeding, basically feeding her just enough to keep her alive and not grow. She is a very calm alligator and he said she has never tried to bite him. He did however have to put clear tape over her mouth because of all the kids petting her. One kid was actually squeezing her neck and poking her right before I got to take my picture with her and I don't think she liked it too much.

Anyways I hardly ever carry cash on me and Saturday was no exception. I had no idea they would be taking pictures with this alligator. I get there and Lady Godiva is on the table and there is a sign saying that we can take a picture with her for 5 bucks. They didn't take credit so I went to the gift shop, snack bar, and nursery, thinking I could get cash back on a purchase. Flamingo Gardens is a non-profit sanctuary though so I couldn't get cash back and there is no atm there. My only option was to leave if I wanted to get some cash. I decided to leave. It's a very rare opportunity and I was not about to miss it. So we left and went to CVS to get some cash and then came back to get a picture with the alligator. I think the guy was a little surprised to see that I actually came back with the money. However he did comment that it's such a rare opportunity when he took our picture, I guess he was just a little surprised that I knew that and was willing to leave to get the cash when most people would have just walked away.

So here are so pictures of us holding the albino alligator. I didn't plan it but I happened to be wearing my shirt that says "Overly Caucasian, "Do not place on a dance floor". It got me 10% off my lunch at Pollo Tropical, and it was pretty funny taking a picture with it. Who's the whitey, me or the alligator?






Walking around Flamingo Gardens after seeing the alligator. Natalie is showing off some Blue Chungi Bamboo.



Having A House Is A Lot Of Work

So I've had one project after another around the house lately. I tore out the huge bush on the side of the house and repaired the sprinkler. I've been working hard on the pool trying to get the water at the right ph. That's coming along good but it's a lot of work. I've now had to clean the cartridge four times, and it takes a while to get it really clean. It's the difference of the barracuda just sitting on the bottom of the pool though and that thing going crazy moving around the pool sucking up everything in it's path. When the cartridge is clean and the intake is good the barracuda sounds like a jet is flying by whenever it surfaces. I went to the pool store Saturday and the guy said my water is doing better now with me doing it than with the "splash and dash" pool guy that had been doing it before.

I have been spending a lot of time on my yard too. All my plants survived the freakish cold we had last week, although a couple look like they are gonna need some work.I put in a second veggie garden on the south side of the house and added two "beef steak" tomato plants. Those are suppose to be good for salsa. I also potted up a couple ginger rhizomes, not the fragrant ones, the edible ones.

So here are a couple close up pictures of my flowers in the front yard. I said in a previous blog I am picky about the flower petals. These are the kind of petals I mostly like. Petals with irregular patterns or petals that look really bold. I don't like it when they look like one solid boring color, like a bed sheet.

I bought a water lily at Flamingo Gardens this weekend. I'm trying to attract more frogs to my pond.


Pentas. One of my favorites because of the center of the flower. These grow on small bush like plants with dark green leaves and hundreds of flowers.


My African Daisy (Osteospermum). I had one in San Diego that had purple petals, I don't know which ones I like better. These are called Ostica Blue Eye.



Plectranthus-Mona Lavender



Salvia Farinacea-Blue Salvia


An Orchid I bought at home depot. Thought it would look good hanging on the patio. I also bought one for indoors.

My Solenostemon plant. Commonly known as Coleus. Natalie's aunt gave it to me.


My variety of colored Kalanchoes. These grow like the pentas. On little bush like plants with dark green leaves and hundreds of flowers.






Sunday night I heard noises in the walls. Not normal house expand and contracting noises either. I was in the attic a couple weeks ago and spotted what I suspect are rat turds. So yesterday I got a staple gun and fixed the two opened screens into the attic and put four spring loaded rat traps with peanut butter folded in a cardboard taco between the springs. I also put up a couple glue traps. If I did have a rat problem, it's going to be a thing of the past. And these are the kinds of things that keep me busy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

BRR

So everyone knows I hate the cold and I love the typical Tropical South Florida weather. Well the last two weeks were anything but typical weather here. For only the second time in recorded history we had snow flurries down here and it was miserable cold. Yes, it was about 30 degrees below normal. Normally we get cold for a day or two, and by cold I mean 40s at night and upper 60s to low 70s at night. Normal here is 78 in the day, 60 at night in January. Well for only the fourth time in history Miami didn't even break 50 as a daytime high last week. It was just one low front after another. Freezing temperatures at night and lots of crops lost. Stores were all sold out of space heaters, gloves, you name it. People here don't even know how to use a heater! It's actually the first time I've turned on my heater since moving here. People ask me about the weird smell when they turn it on. LOL. Yeah it's called burning dust.

Anyways I found this dead Knight Anole in my backyard yesterday. He's a lot bigger than the picture makes him look. Not quite full grown but about a foot long. It appears this thing has been living in my palm tree in my backyard. They live in the trees and never come out. Cubans call these things Chipojos.


We have a big problem here with invasive species. Marine Toads, Cuban Frogs, Burmese Pythons, Iguanas etc.... If one good thing came out of the cold it's the fact that now scientist get to finally see what they have been waiting decades for, how all these exotic animals will hold up to the cold. They have tried to trap and exterminate these animals but it's impossible for man to do. Well when it drops below 40, so do the Iguanas. Tons of dead Iguanas around South Florida right now and they are looking to see how all these other creatures held out. I've even heard stories of them trying to claw their ways into peoples homes.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year

So I had quite the weekend. Thursday, New Year's Eve, I got out of work early. I decided to use the time to clean my pool, take a quick swim to recover a screw for my whale brush, clean up the house a little before our party, and then cook the most awesomest turkey in South Florida.

I also took some time to take these pictures. Every afternoon I have dozens-hundreds of Ibis come into my yard and dig their beaks into the ground for food. I decided to chase them and have my cuñada take a picture of them all flying off.








That night we threw our first party in our new home. We had Natalie's family over and had quite the party. Our neighbor to the north probably let off a couple hundred mortars that night. The night before Natalie and I were playing Pacific Rift and we heard a loud explosion outside. A couple seconds later we saw what looked like a red explosion in my pool. I went outside to check it out and my neighbor was outside with his daughter but then he went inside. I thought maybe he let off a firework since I have the nose of a bear and could smell the gunpowder, but why only one? So we were a little paranoid about what the explosion was the rest of the night. Well on New Year's Eve it became apparent that the previous night my neighbor was just doing a test run and what looked like a red explosion in my pool was actually the firework reflecting on the water. Everyone that has been to my house knows I'm a big fan of fireworks, but I used up all my mortars and other good stuff when Cassandra and her family came out. Well my neighbor made up for my lack of fireworks and put on a show for everyone. I played with my bottlerockets and other small stuff but my neighbor took the cake for the block. The funny thing is there was no wind at all that night so when we lit up fireworks the smoke cloud hovered in the backyard 3 feet above the ground. It was kinda spooky looking.

The weather was pretty normal for this time of the year so everyone was outside most of the night. I put out a couple of my tiki torches on the lawn to give it a Hawaiian look. Funny thing is when I bought them Natalie said those things are lame but when I set them up she decided that they are really cool. They are pretty cheap too and the fuel last a really long time. I was pretty occupied all night so I didn't get a whole lot of pictures of the party but Natalie's family got some and maybe one of these days I'll be able to get the pictures from them.

So awesome turkey, good weather, and lots of fireworks = really good party.

We were a little worried about being too loud that night in the new neighborhood. It's a really quiet neighborhood on an average day. Well we learned that holidays are an exception there. Our neighbors all throw some big parties. We had neighbors setting up hot dog stands on their driveways for block parties. In the big house behind us with the big windows they had a lot of people over with cruise music and someone on the microphone. We were all laughing at their choice of music and made jokes about being on a cruise. The back yards are all opened so it looks like a big block party outside with all the neighbors setting up and enjoying the South Florida New Year's weather.

I didn't get to bed until almost 5 New Year's morning. I woke up around 10 and it was nice and sunny. Not long after I went back to bed until 2 and when I got up it was raining hard and the wind had blown my bromeliads out of my gumbo limbo tree and knocked over my nice new lychee tree. I was able to fix the damage though. Shortly after waking up I got a call from my Aunt Suzi in Colorado. She called to let me know that she was looking at my blog about the house and her son Danny had just landed in Ft. Lauderdale and she didn't realize how close we are. So I called up my cousin and we were able to meet up with him and go to dinner at the beach in Ft Liquordale. I hadn't seen Danny since he got out of boot camp and was stationed at Camp Pendleton about four years ago so it was good to meet up with him. He's out here for a cruise and hopefully we'll get to meet up again when he gets back next week.

Saturday I decided I needed to get some yardwork done. That is after wasting half my day waiting for directv to come out and fix their effed up setup. Long story short, lazy guy didn't want to run cable and lied to my wife that he had to put the dvr in the bedroom instead of the living room or it would eff up the whole cable setup in the house even though they are unrelated. I wasn't having any of the BS lies so I called them up and told them to get their @$$ out there and do it right and they actually filed a complaint on the first guy without me requesting it. My wife felt bad when I told her that because she didn't believe the guy was lying until the second guy came out and confirmed what I already knew. That's 2 for me in one week. Yes, my sprinkler got fixed by the cable company after I called them up a fourth time and threatened action if it's not fixed immediately. Anyways the Directv finally got fixed in the afternoon and I hit up Home Depot again.

On this trip I decided to by myself a pruner, but not a hand pruner, the attachment that goes on my Ryobi edger and it looks like a mini chainsaw on a long pole. So once I got back I decided that I am going to take out the overgrown bush on the south side of my house. I'm sick of having to walk into the neighbors yard to get to my backyard. The previous owner didn't take care of this bush so it was ten feet high, 4 feet deep, and close to ten feet long. The neighbor mentioned maybe I could cut it back like a hedge, I don't think he wanted to see it go, but at the end of the day it's my yard and I'll do what I want. Cutting back the bush wasn't a real solution because the branches are so thick and there would be no leaves. It's not the right kind of bush for a hedge, especially a hedge in such a small area. That bush would only be a good hedge if it had more room to grow out. Anyways I had the bush cut down in just over an hour and it got dark so I had to leave the mess to cleanup later. I got it down to the stubs, four of them, and I knew that the fun part was over and cleaning up the stubs was going to be hell. My arms were already sore from all the work with the pruner.

That night I happened to get my plants that Natalie ordered me for Christmas. I got 2Grand Duke Of Tuscany Jasmines, 1 Maid Of Orleans Jasmine, 1 White Butterfly Ginger (a plant we found on our honeymoon in the El Yunque Rainforest and we could smell the peachy/floral fragrance from far away), and a Jasminoides Gardenia "Mystery". I planted all of my flowers that night except my Gardenia, this was set to go where I just ripped out that bush.

Yesterday afternoon I had to clean up my mess. I bundled up the bush and took it to the curb and started the process of taking out the stub and root. This took a couple hours to accomplish. It's close to the FPL lines and I didn't want to kill myself if I hit one of those and I have no idea how deep they are. So I was digging in as close and I could then cutting the roots with my hatchet. Some of the roots I pulled out went a good 20 feet, all the way into the neighbors yard. I managed to get all the stubs and roots out and only broke one sprinkler pipe doing it. I don't have the pipe on hand because it's bigger than the rest of the sprinklers so I'll have to fix that later. I was able to get my Gardenia planted though so I should have a nice, fragrant, controlled hedge that actually looks good and full without expanding over my property line within a couple months.

So that's my weekend. A lot of fun and a lot of work. I'm really sore right now. This is why I decided I'll take care of my own yard. It cost me less, it looks and smells better, I don't have to worry about idiots destroying stuff, I can customize it to my liking, and I can get one hell of a workout. Going to the gym is no longer necessary. I've heard that gardening is good for people with back injuries. A lot of people doubt that since it's a lot of bending and lifting. Ever since my surgery though the only thing that bugs me is sitting around and being lazy. Apartment life was a killer! Living in this house, being active, and working in the yard has done wonders for my back.

And now it's back to work...

Like I said, it's miserably cold here this week. It actually feels like Southern California and I'm not liking it. We normally recover from a cold front in 2 days but have to suffer with it for over a week right now. I actually turned on my heat last night for the first time ever in the three years I have lived here. Hopefully this won't last long. It's good weather when I'm working hard in the yard, but crappy weather for anything else. I'm hoping it won't effect my new plants and the weather will shape up for the weekend.