After The Rains Come The Blooms

Apparently last night we had a bit of weather.

When I am awakened by the rains, it is rather out of the ordinary.  The National Weather Service said that we had gotten a rain of 4 inches an hour around 3 in the morning.  Total rainfall over 5 inches was most likely, and as always your rainfall will vary.

This morning I went outside for the dog walk and found nothing really wrong.  There were still large ponds of water waiting to percolate through the sand that we call soil here.  It’s more like a sieve.  People had their mulch wash away and into the street.  Wilton Drive was covered with the mulch of many businesses along with the plastic cups from the parties at the bars the night before.  There was a tent in front of the bar that served drinks and it had collapsed in the rain and lay there rumpled.

For the most part, while the Northeast suffered massive power outages from downed trees we had very little to mention.  Once you got off of the island that is the majority of Wilton Manors, the story changed.  Many homes were flooded and some cars will be a wreck as a result.   Here at arguably one of the highest point on the island, we were high and dry.

Literally.

Later I went out to inspect the damage.   One or two new palm fronds got knocked off the tree.  My Baker Christmas Moose figure was knocked off of the table by the pool.   It didn’t even shatter.

So with Camera in hand I snapped this picture of the Orchids.  You see, up North I struggled to get Phalaeonopsis “Moth Orchids” to flower until I discovered one micro-climate window that they liked.

Here they grow like weeds.  The maroon flowers I have were from a “seedling” we bought in a garden store on discount.  House plants that produce beauty simply when tacked to a wall and fed ground water on a drip feed irrigation line. 

In case you’re following this sort of thing, the storm that was Hurricane Rina broke into three pieces.  The Low Pressure Cell lost all of its rain.  The rain broke into two parts, one went to Belize and had a few drinks on the beach.  The other half of the rain went through the Keys and dumped rain there and last night hit here.  If you are going to get a hurricane, this is the best way to do it.  I’ll take five inches of rain and a few blasts of wind over a full category whatever hurricane any day.

The Haircut

Not so much Humor as this would be an allegory.   A Story designed to state a point.  Velma had sent me this particular one and I thought it was deep enough to hang onto.  Over the last few weeks, it seemed even more so.

Since I don’t have any more Halloween-y posts, I thought this would be a good day to post it.

The Haircut               

One day a florist went to a barber for a haircut. After the cut, he asked about his bill, and the barber replied, ‘I cannot accept money from you, I’m doing community service this week.’ The florist was pleased and left the shop. When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replied, ‘I cannot accept money from you , I’m doing community service this week.’ The cop was happy and left the shop. The next morning when the barber went to open up, there was a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

Then a Congressman came in for a haircut, and when he went to pay his bill, the barber again replied, ‘I can not accept money from you. I’m doing community service this week.’ The Congressman was very happy and left the shop. The next morning, when the barber went to open up, there were a dozen Congressmen lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the politicians who run it.

BOTH POLITICIANS AND DIAPERS NEED TO BE CHANGED OFTEN AND FOR THE SAME REASON!

So, what are you doing on Halloween?

If you’re like everyone out there who procrastinated, you’ll need some suggestions on what to dress up as for Halloween.   I’m set, how about you?

A bald man with a wooden leg gets invited to a Halloween Party.  He doesn’t know what costume to wear to hide his head and his Leg, So he writes to a costume company to explain his problem.

A few days later he received a parcel with the following note:

Dear Sir,
Please find enclosed a pirate’s outfit. The spotted handkerchief will cover your bald head and, with your wooden leg, you will be just right as a pirate.

Very truly yours,
Acme Costume Co.

The man thinks this is terrible because they have emphasized his Wooden Leg and so he writes a letter of complaint. A week goes by and he Receives another parcel and a note, which says:

Dear Sir,
Please find enclosed a monk’s costume. The long robe will cover your wooden leg and, with your bald head, you should really look the part.

Very truly yours,
Acme Costume Co.

Now the man is really upset since they have gone from emphasizing his Wooden leg to emphasizing his bald head, so again he writes the Company another nasty letter of complaint.

The next day he gets a small Parcel and a note, which reads:

Dear Sir,
We have TRIED our very BEST
Please find enclosed a bottle of molasses and a bag of crushed nuts. Pour the molasses over your bald head, pat on crushed nuts, stick your Wooden Leg up your tail and go as a caramel apple.

Very truly yours,
Acme Costume Co.

Show Me – Training Dogs for Freethinkers

Not that the picture particularly shows intelligence, I just like it.  You see that dog over there is mine.  She’s a McNab Dog which is a breed derived from the Border Collie.  McNabs were bred for intelligence from an intelligent breed.  I got her from a shelter and picked her because she’s just a beautiful dog and the picture spoke to me.

However, she is amazingly smart.  Just like the breed says.   I’ve got no proof she’s a purebred McNab other than she looks like one, acts like one, and is smart like one.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

She even has the webbed feet and opera gloves.

That aside, there was a question on the “Mcnab Dogs Are The Best Kind of Dogs” group on Facebook that was asked by one of the admins “Have you taken advantage of your dog’s intelligence?”. 

While I try not to make this into a Dog Blog, I realized I write a lot about my Lettie simply because she gives me so much to write about.  That was followed by my mind flashing back and forth between the different ways I have taken advantage of her intelligence.  In fact, if you want to see just how much I write about dogs, search one of the labels at the end of the article.  They’re all tagged with Border Collie or Mc Nab Dog, or just Dogs.

You see if you have one of the breeds that isn’t known for intelligence, you can usually train them to do things but it is the trainer that has to be patient.  After all, the dog is excellent at being a dog, you’re trying to teach a dog how to be human-like.  “Sit”, “Stay” and “Fetch” are for our convenience, not for theirs.  So it stands to follow that the dog has to see a benefit for doing an action that may be quite unnatural.

My little free-thinking dog had a lot of energy when I got her.  She was running all over the house and making everyone a bit crazy like an adolescent dog would.  Obviously that energy would have to be burned off or she’d turn into a mess barking at things.  If there is one thing she isn’t, it’s a “Barky Dog” – in fact she’s so quiet she’s the original StealthDog (TM).   How we got her there was another story.

I realized just how smart she was when I had her in Philadelphia in a three floor house.   She had free run of the house and when she was too wound up, I’d wait for her and play hide and seek with someone who wasn’t here.   This went on for a year or three, I’d tell her to go upstairs and find someone and she would.  Up and down the stairs she’d charge convinced there was someone else in the house doing a Perimeter search and return with someone and ears perked or ears down when she didn’t find the person.  She therefore Told Me that there was nobody in the house.   Useful if I needed to know if the place was safe or anyone else was home.

Later on, the energy changed and she’d stare when she needed something.  Tell the Human by staring.  Not terribly clear but it began a progression.  You see if you start needing the Alphabet, start by getting past “A”. 

“A” was stare at the big dumb human and get his attention.

We took it to “Z” with “Show Me”.

It started with my standing up and saying “what is it” or “what do you want” and finally “show me what you want”.   “Show me” for short. 

Knowing that she hit pay dirt and that big funny looking guy was going to get up and give her something she wanted, her facial expression changed from relaxed to focused and excited.  Ears would perk and she would lead me to whatever she needed whether it was out, food, water, or play.

Granted it can be a little repetitive.  There isn’t a dog that won’t ask for more food especially if you realized a long time ago that a lean dog is a long lived dog and “right-sized” her meals.  She is right at 47 pounds, carrys only a little fat, and at 11 years after two strokes or episodes of “seizures” she’s only now just beginning to slow.   At 4 in the afternoon, that stare and “Show Me” act will get you led to her food bowl. 

She isn’t always about food though.   Once there was a guest in my Florida Room here in Florida.  I suppose that could be redundant.   A black racer snake came into the house.  They have no venom and are terrified of humans, and certainly don’t belong inside.   Instead of her shredding it like a toy, she came over to me and got insistent.  “Show Me” led me to the Florida Room and after opening the sliding glass door, the snake stopped beating its head against the glass and went back out into the yard where it belongs.

Show Me is a very useful command.  I’ve taken it for granted, but it was a stroke of luck that we figured out that we were trying to talk with each other.  She does take advantage of me once in a while, but it is that intelligence that makes it an amazing relationship.

In fact, I swear she reads my body language and knows that I am writing about her right now.  She just came over and … I guess she decided that I’m done here!

Purple Grass in the Park

The day after going to a lecture on the native species that were planted in the local M.E. Depalma Park, I got to thinking. 

Typical yard plantings are basically hedgerows.  Mowed grass cropped close, hedges and flowers along the property lines.  Depending on where you are, it’s going to be the same thing over and again.

The problem with that is that a lawn does not lend itself to the ecology.  They are expensive to upkeep.  Think of all that water you pour onto them, all of the effort you have to put into them to mow, the gas, the pollution, fertilizer that leeches into the water table.

Every so often you have someone who has decided to step away from the lawn and do something different.

Different means that you’re on your own.  Many cities won’t allow you to simply stop maintaining your yard – with good reason.  On the other hand, slowly converting your yard into a meadow of wildflowers has been done.   Pennsylvania, was a leader in this.  What they did was to select areas to start with to do something different.   They removed the existing grass and planted in those areas a mix of wildflowers that would bloom at different times of the year and reseed the area for next year.  It was so successful that many cities and other states followed suit.  You can now get cans of wildflower mix and scatter them in the hopes that you’ll have a yard of blooms instead of weeds.

Mostly that can is native or naturalized species and will do well with minimal care.

All those thoughts came to mind when I walked through the park the next day.  Some of the plantings are so successful that they’re encroaching on the sidewalk.   When you have something that is perfect for the conditions, that is what you get. 

In front of my house there’s a tree that isn’t doing so well.  Parts of it got “freezer burned” last year when the temps hit one degree above freezing.  There were snow flurries spotted in the town North of me, Oakland Park.   It was surrounded by some rather nondescript Liritrope grass that did nothing but look uniformly green.  As it was patchy and some of it was edged out by some more vigorous weeds, I was wondering what a little color would do for that spot.  At that point my mind came back to the grass in the picture.

Yes, native species can be beautiful if not spectacular.  They can also replace something bland with something quite easy to grow that gives a shock of color just where you need it, under an old tree.

Is it possible to love a hedge that bites you back?

This plant probably sold the house.

When I first came here, I looked through the front window, through the house, to the back of this hedge.  It is currently a 15 foot tall Bougainvillea that is on a frame behind the Florida Room and this is the day AFTER all of the trimming.

Beautiful plant really, but the problem is you have to care for them.

There’s also another wrinkle.  A Tropical Storm that May Or May Not come in for a visit.

Sorry if this turns into a bit of a rant, but there you are sitting listening to me… so pull up a chair and have a “cuppa” and enjoy.  I’m going to serve some cheese later with this wine.

So it’s time to get out the hedge clippers.   Rather, it WAS time.  You see, after a solid week of rain, and a week of growing, the four bougainvilleas in the yard needed attention.   The one that is bound up to the fence had grown so tall that it was forming a wind break and leaned against the fence with each gust of wind that came in off the ocean.  Each lean meant that the whole affair creaked menacingly.  If a wind storm hits, we all the sudden have the neighbor’s dogs visiting the pool for a midnight dip.

The one on the fence had grown so tall that it was another 10 feet above the power lines in the yard.  It clearly had run amok.

Over the week I went out and got the weed eater and hacked away at its outside thinking I could do it easily as I walked by.  No way pal!  It was fighting me back.  After getting pinched by the thorns on the plant on Monday, I pulled out the big guns.  The Jeans and Long Shirt and Garden Gloves. 

Tuesday that nasty plant was going to meet it’s match.

Climbing on a ladder, all 6′ 4″ of me was another 5 feet above the ground.  I got to the top of the hedge and lopped its head off.   Each time you chop a limb off this plant, it has a nasty habit of falling right on top of you.  The plant may only have limbs as thick as your finger for the most part, but the thorns are twice as long as it is thick.  With each fall down the pole saw of a limb, it was another scrape down your arm and leg.  Pulling the plant out of your clothing meant you ended up with quite a few scrapes.

Trust me if the storm does hit here and kills the plant, beautiful though it is, I wouldn’t mind.

After 3 hours of hacking, I have 40 scrapes that drew blood on my two arms.  I counted.   There were another 20 on my legs.  All of this happened through the jeans and shirt I had on. After finishing on that one plant there were three others.  So much was cut down from the first plant near the power wires that I used the electric hedge clippers on the pile as I climbed down to create a place to step.   Coming down another branch went up the pant leg leaving a nice long scratch on the left calf muscle.

Lovely plant but really it is The Plant that ate South Florida. (cue dramatic music)

The last straw of it was when I cut one limb high off of the last plant near the bedroom window.  It got stuck in the cable pulled “cutter” of the pole saw and had to come down.  One tug and I heard the whole thing go CRACK! 

You guessed it, I nearly fell in the pool as I ran from 15 feet worth of Bougainvillea that was careening down almost on top of my head, thorns and all.  One third of the plant was now on the ground complete with a Grown-Man’s-Arm thick trunk.

Time to quit.  Leave the nasty plant to it’s own devices.  Next year we get a little man in to trim that monster.

Ruined your Cream Cheese in the Freezer? Here’s the fix

I bought a 3 pound block of Cream Cheese at the wholesale club a couple weeks back.  Being obsessive and compulsive about keeping food fresh, I thought lets cut it down into pieces and freeze that. 

Don’t.

If you do you end up with some of the whey leeching out of the cream cheese and the texture gets lumpy and gritty.   It tastes the same and you can use it to bake a cheese cake, but sometimes you just don’t want to eat a sweet confection. 

Besides I bought bagels with the cream cheese.  Yum.

After suffering through some bagels where the cream cheese was gritty and rolled off the bagel like a pile of sand, I decided to try the only suggestion that sounded plausible.   I put the lot into the food processor and pressed “ON”.

It worked.   Not only did I get back my cream cheese in a creamy cheese, but the added benefit was that it was now aerated.  The cream cheese was now easier to spread than the original brick.  It only took about 90 seconds.  You may take longer or not – this depends on just how smooth you wanted it.  Mine looked like a rich fluffy white icing when I was through, much better than that crumbly mess that distantly resembled feta cheese.

It turns out that cream cheese will keep for three to six months in the refrigerator.  You really don’t need to freeze the block if you actually do eat the stuff.

So keep it in the freezer, or put it in the food processor to pump some air back into it and make it easier to deal with.  The choice is yours.

I know it worked because the food processor is in the dishwasher now getting cleaned as a result.