Tuesday, March 30, 2010

March 2010

Well it's been another busy month. I keep finding more and more work to do around the house. With vacation coming up it was crunch time to get stuff done, not only because it needed to be done before vacation, but because it's gonna hot when I get back. I've been working on my butterfly garden, my veggie garden, making new veggie gardens, planting more fruit trees (4 more papayas and a Nam Doc Mai mango), fixed my rusted out sprinkler timer, fixed my pool filter and replaced the cartridge (saves me hours of cartridge cleaning time every month), etc... I have been removing sprinklers that are getting the house wet and putting in bubblers so my house doesn't get discolored. I have my vacation to SoCal coming up and I didn't want to leave without my veggies getting enough water so I installed drip systems. This will also save me time during the week. I'm getting sick of spot watering where the sprinklers are doing their job so I went through and fixed a lot of the problems with my irrigation. Then one day I was pulling weeds by the pool deck and found out I had a drain in the back yard that runs to the canal.

A couple months ago I was thinking of putting in a drain there, right under the downspout so I don't get flooding. I never got around to it though. But when I saw this drain I thought I would see if it works. It didn't. I found the problem half way down the line. The idiot that patched the pipe didn't glue it and the pipes came apart and had mud in them. So I decided instead of patching it I was going to pull out all the 2 inch pipe and do it right with 3 inch pipe. The 2 inch probably was enough to do the job but it's better to go overkill because we live in a place that can get up to six inches of rain in a single hour. Might as well go big and hope we never need it rather than do the minimal and have problems when a nasty storm comes in. I figured it would be easier to dig since it's already been dug out before. I had no idea what I was getting myself into though.

Some of the stuff I've planted this month
My butterfly garden. I still have some work to do on this. Eventually I'm going to tear out all the grass around it up the the circular drive way and make the whole area covered in flowers.

I tore out the ugly, thorny, bush here and redid the sprinklers. I got rid of the sprinkler and added two bubblers so my brick won't turn black and my driveway won't get sprayed. From left to right, Blue Spike (I broke the spike planting it, it's suppose to be one spike running straight up), Nemesia, Delphiniums.

My lavender flowers

My new purple African Daisies. I'm trying to make a small flower hedge along the brick.



Before accomplishing this task though we had to spend a Saturday getting a new car. Natalie's Civic was becoming a death trap, no joke. Her master cylinder was shot(brakes), power steering was whack, windows didn't roll down, air conditioner didn't work, alignment and balance kept getting thrown off, windshield wipers didn't work correctly, etc. Needless to say, there was no fixing this car. So we took in that clunker and got a nice new 2011 Camry. This car is fast, drives smooth, has lots of safety features, good gas mileage, it's just an all around great car. It's green but it's not one solid color so depending on the lighting it could have a gold or black look to it.

So after getting the new car out of the way it was time to focus on the house again. Nothing goes as smooth as I expect it to either.

First off the Home Depot here is a joke. They sell catch basins but not the pipe to go with it. I had to go to Lowe's, 15 minutes away, to get the right sewer pipe for the catch basin. And even there it was hard finding someone that knew what they were talking about. So I started the digging last week. I didn't want to dig the whole trench, 99 feet, all in one day so I started doing bits and pieces after work. Then on Friday night I went all out but got slowed down by a couple problems. A couple feet from the pool deck I ran across an electrical pipe. It's not a Florida Power & Electric pipe, that runs on the side of my house, so I have no idea what it's doing there but it was in the way. I had to dig two feet on both sides of my trench so I could push the electrical pipe down far enough so that my drain would run downhill over it instead of uphill, which would have made it useless.I would have done more that night but Suegrita came over to drop off Cuñada to spend the weekend with us. I woke up early Saturday morning and thought I would finish it. Yeah right. It was hot and muggy and on top of that this is when I noticed all the problems with the drain and what I really got myself into. These people were so lazy that they didn't do the job right the first time. The pipe, which was gravity fed, had no downhill pitch because they didn't want to put in the energy to do it right and dig through the limestone. They were actually so lazy that they left the pipe level all the way to the canal, went over all four sprinkler lines, and then put all the drop in the last couple feet of the run. Complete morons! So once I got the pipe out this is when the digging got tough. I had to pick my way through limestone, cut sprinkler pipes, run pipe under them then patch them, etc...After 3 hours of it I had enough. I was drenched, tired, and hot.

I had to go to Toyota to finalize some stuff so we decided to take a break in the afternoon and go to a park about 5 miles +/- from our house afterwords. It's a nature center with miles of trails. So we get to this park and we go to the picnic area to sit down and this raccoon comes right up to my feet and starts sniffing. I tried to scare him off but he wouldn't go. I had to set down my food and wave my arms to scare him off. I notified the park workers and they said they are aware and they are going to have to remove it because stupid people have been feeding it and it no longer has fear of people. It was hard convincing Natalie to sit down and eat after but she finally did and then the raccoon went over and harassed someone else.

After eating we decided to hit a couple trails. They have over a mile of elevated boardwalks along with several trails that branch off and go through dense forest and a prairie. It's a nice scenic walk and there's a pretty nice scent of flowers throughout the trails. There were a lot of butterflies flying around but other than that we didn't see a whole lot of wildlife.

Pictures from Fern Forest

A Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly

Zebra Longwing Butterfly

Slash Pine. I have 7 Slash Pine sapplings in my backyard. Maybe in 25 years they'll look like this.

If it wasn't for the high voltage power lines running across the prairie you wouldn't even know you're in the middle of the city. It actually looks like Africa.

Cypress Creek

Anyways after our trip to the park it was back to work in the yard. I didn't think I was going to finish because of the heat so I called up Tio Jose to come over and help out Sunday afternoon. I actually got a lot farther Saturday night than I was expecting. I got all of the hard work done. I had installed the catch basin, 70 feet of pipe, and dug 94 feet of trench. I was pretty sore though, the digging took a toll on my body. I had bad blisters, even though I wore gloves, and my right shoulder was so sore I couldn't sleep that night.

Sunday after I got home from church Tio Jose came over and we finished up the job. The digging part was easy this day, the weather was cloudy and much cooler, and things went better. Even though I had already done all the hard stuff the day before I don't think I would have finished that day if Tio Jose didn't come over because I was too tired and sore from Saturday. Five hours later we were done. We had finished laying the remaining 30 feet of pipe, covered the trench, watered it up good to compact it under the pipe, and we even got another project done. I wanted to add bubblers to my banana plants. They weren't getting enough water from the sprinklers. Bananas need 100 inches of water per year and we only get around 60-65 here. So I need to supplement 35-40% of the water. So we tapped into the sprinkler in the same trench and ran the pipe to my bananas and put in three bubblers. I still need to do the same for two more banana trees on the other side of the yard but that can wait until another day. Those plants are still small and the rainy season is coming soon so I'm not in a hurry.

After another hard day of work, and dinner, Tio Jose and I decided to take a swim. No one else would get in the pool so we did a double cannon ball to splash them all. :)

My handywork
The old pipe(left) and new pipe(right).

The ditch I dug to the canal to lay pipe for my new drain. This is at the original depth. I dug it much deeper, over 3 feet deep by my bananas.

Old drain(left), new catch basin(right)

My drain got tested the day after I finished it. Monday morning we got hit with a nasty storm, very rare for something with this kind of intensity in March. The non stop thunder woke me up at four and I finally got out of bed at five and decided that we need to go into work early so our new car doesn't get pelted with hail. We left just in time and missed the worst of the storm by just 15 minutes. Two tornados touched down less than 10 miles away and we got 3 inches of rain dumped on us in just a couple hours. My pool is actually full to the rim. My drain did it's job though and I'm proud of my work.

Other noteworthy items to discuss from this month.

I invented Joe's Famous Teriayki Burger. I take sliced pineapples and cover them with brown sugar and cinnamon. I bbq them just long enough to warm them up and melt the brown sugar. I cook my burgers with Teriayki glaze, not sauce, but a thick glaze. Then put the pineapple, lechuga (lettuce), tomatoe, and onions on it. Killer!

We took Suegrita Segunda, aka, Tia Fior or as I often call her Tia Frijole, to Flamingo Gardens and got her an annual pass so she can take Adriana. We happened to go on a day when all the citrus where in bloom and you could smell the citrus before we even entered the park. Brought back memories of going up to Grandpa's.

I got a "merit raise" for $1,237, which puts me right up at 70K.

And that was my month..... Now it's time to clean up the inside of the house, pack my bags, and prepare for vacation.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Joe's Winter of 2010

So it's been a busy last couple of months around the house. I have been tearing apart and rebuilding my yard one plant at a time. First I took out the evil monstrously huge bush on the side of my house. This required my gas powered pruner. Taking the bush down to stump was easy. Then it took me three hours to dig out the four stumps. Afterwards I replaced with two gardenias. A small one (Gardenia Mystery) and a bigger one (Miami Surprise) that I'll be using as a hedge there. They haven't really started to grow yet, but the weather has been crap this year (about 10degrees below average every single day). This summer I am going to take out the other evil bush by my pool. It is too bare and drops leaves in my pool. I'm going to replace with a much denser bamboo palm that provides 100% privacy and won't make a mess of my pool. Plus it adds a tropical look.

Next was the Century Plants (Agave Americana). These are evil little buggers. These are related to the Blue Agave, the plant used to make tequila. I thought they were cactus. I ripped out the first one by hand. Used a hatchet and a shovel, took me about half an hour. A lot of work. The next day I had a horrible rash up both my arms. I thought it was because I got poked a couple times. Lucky for me I have really powerful prescription cortisone that almost cleared up the rash completely overnight.

So the next weekend I had three more to take out. I did these three with my gas pruner. Took out all three in ten minutes without getting cut but again got a horrible rash. This is when I decided to investigate what I had there and I found out they are not cactus but they are Century Plants. These things grow looking kinda like aloe for 7-10 years before blooming. Then they grow a 40 foot tall stalk with flowers (the stalk is what they use for tequila in the Blue Agave or in this plant for a syrup or sugar substitute), and they die after they bloom. Well, I'm glad they are gone. They are evil. I don't have a current picture of my butterfly garden but I have replaced the Century Plants with pentas and butterfly weed. Next month I want to tear out all the grass around the butterfly garden and replace with a flower called wishbone, aka, bluewings. Those are annuals and in Miramar I planted just one. I came back from vacation and it was dead but a couple weeks later I had 200 of them. So maybe at the end of this month I'll take on that project.

I planted 8 pine trees in my yard. I bought them from some kid in Parkland. He was selling them for 2 bucks a piece so I got 8 of them for 15 bucks. I accidental cut one of them in half with the weedwhacker though. It pulled me in and next thing I knew my tree was cut in half. Oops :( I also accidently cut a sprinkler in half with the weedwhacker by the pool pump. This is good though because the sprinkler was just watering the pump. Morons installed it. When I replaced it I raised it up 2 feet so now it actually waters my lawn and my Papaya tree.

The same day as that I was mowing my lawn for the first time. Apparently a self propelled mower can pull you into a canal. I learned that I need to do things the slow way and hit the canal straight on, pull the mower back, side step, and repeat. I was trying to go with the canal and I fell in. I was just walking and next thing I knew the mower hit a bump and pulled into the canal. The mower is fine, only one wheel got wet. But I had to jump in to save the mower. My whole left leg and half my right leg went in, I pushed the mower up, hit the gas, and it pulled me out. Natalie and her sister were in the kitchen watching and laughing. I learned that my yard is bigger than I though. A whole hour just to push the mower, without the bag. I'm going to have to start using the bag on half of the yard though because when the wind kicks up all the grass starts blowing in my pool.

I took down the baby guard around the pool. I figured I wouldn't need that until the baby is big enough to get into the pool which is for quite a while. I'm keeping that in my garage attic. It makes the yard and pool area look a lot more open. Of course, previous blog, I also acid washed my pool last weekend.

I cut out the evil juniper tree in the front yard and replaced with a nice fragrant ginger plant. It's still small but buy summer should be a nice full plant loaded with flowers. My yard can actually look tropical instead of Mediterranean.

I have been doing a lot of planting. I have a picture of the side of my house, not current though. My veggie garden is full and I just added more bananas and sugarcane. Once I crop some sugarcane this year I take a stick with 4 nodes, place it on it's side, cover in soil, and I'll get four more. My banana trees will reproduce like crazy on their own. One tree turns into 5 in a year. Here is a complete inventory of my fruits and veggies. Hopefully in another month or two I won't have to buy produce anymore.

Summer Squash
Beef Steak Tomatoes
Roma Tomatoes
Cherry Tomato
Sugar Cane
1 Ice Cream Banana Tree
1 Kru Banana Tree
1 Red Jamaican Dwarf Banana Tree
10 Manzano Banana Trees
2 Passion Fruit vines, both yellow and purple
an unidentified mango tree
Madame Francis Mango tree (Haitian mango, one of the best. the ones in the store are crap, Tommy Atkins Mangoes. They are only sold so often because they are very durable. 3 out of 5 stars and too stringy. Haitian Mangoes get 5 out of 5 stars.)I got this tree for free from a Haitian friend at work.
Papaya tree (not the big Mexican Papayas that taste tart. I have the good ones. The little sweet Hawaiian ones)
Lychee Tree
Naval Orange tree
Lemon tree
Starfruit tree
Pomegranate tree
6 Strawberry bushes
multiple green, yellow, and red Bell Peppers
Monster Jalapenos
11 pineapples
Lemon Grass

My yard is done for a couple months. This summer I want to add some JackFruit, a Nam Doc Mai Mango tree, and Miracle Fruit.

I finally got my gym cleaned up and ready for use. This is my mask room. My garage is clean, my office is clean, and I only have one bedroom left to clean up.

I got a new propane bbq in January. Took me two nights to set it up. A month ago we had a bbq with some friends from church in Hollywood and our neighbors on the north side. That was a lot of fun. Then this weekend we had a bbq with my coworkers. My boss's boss just moved to federal so we threw him a bbq. 2pm-8pm. Round after round of eating. That was a whole lot of fun. It was a hot morning but we had a front pass around 3pm. The clouds were coming in low and forming and reforming and it started looking crazy. So we pulled the bbq under my patio and kept going with the bbq. The wind was insane. Patio furniture went flying, hundreds of leaves went into the pool, but we were able to continue the bbq regardless. Everyone loved the patio because no matter what the weather is like you can sit outside and enjoy it. Once the storm passed we all went out by the canal and all my coworkers said "the wildlife is insane there". Lots of wildlife to watch out back.

Natalie's Aunt is crazy about planting stuff just like me so she has been bringing over stuff as well to add to the yard. By summer I should have more of a jungle look going on out back. Eventually once it all fills in I want to add a brick trail through my jungle.

Here are some pictures.

Nasty rash on my arms. This is the first time I got the rash, worse than my second outbreak the next week.

Side of my house after I removed the bush. The garden where you can see the dirt, well you can't see dirt anymore. My veggies are huge. Almost all the grass along the house has been removed for my banana plants and my sugarcane. There are two gardenias by the ac unit where I took out the evil bush and there's another one by the bano. The one in front of the bano has big flower buds but so far I haven't got them to bloom. I'm working on it.

Yellow Pentas

I forgot what these are but they are by my front door

Backyard without pool fence

My baby pomegranate tree

Plant that Natalie's Aunt (Suegrita Segunda) gave us.

Butterfly weed. I have a couple of these in my butterfly garden. They look very similar to fewflower milkweed, only with better foliage, flowers are nearly identical (I can't see the difference). Fewflower milkweed is found all over the everglades.