Meet Mothra, My Mystery Moth

I keep telling those folks Up North that Florida has weird wildlife.

Ball Pythons and other snakes in the Everglades.

Iguanas grazing in my backyard.

Those damn Muscovy Ducks all over the place.

This is much more benign.

I’ve grown accustomed to seeing large flocks of birds around town.  Green parrots shrieking at Dawn and Sunset call to flock.  Flocks of white Snowy Egrets hunting for grubs in the yards around here and sometimes standing on the roof of a car from time to time.

So when I see large things flapping around my front yard, I tend to only give them passing notice.

It rained for a couple days straight this week.  The first sunny day we have Zebra Mosquitoes that can carry you off.  The second one it’s the dance of the Dragonflies that dine on those evil creatures.  All the while it’s Zebra and Swallowtail Butterflies and my Monarch Butterflies dining on the flowers.

This was a bit of a shock.

Moths in my mind are wee little coin sized creatures.   They silently fly around eating things that they can get at but are never too numerous.  It isn’t a case of running for the hills, it’s more like, “Oh. There’s a Moth.”

I thought there was yet-another bird confused and fluttering on the front porch.

Nope.  I finally looked up from my Big Green Chair where I was practicing my Spanish and taking tests and I saw this total Unit of a Moth.

I mean huge.

As in the size of your hand.  Flip your hand over and look at the palm.  Then have your fingers touch each other at the outstretched flat tips.

Six inches, 15 CM of absolute moth.

I have never seen a beast like this.

I allowed its privacy while it could probably see me.

Buenos tardes, senor, como estas?

Good afternoon Mr Moth.

Or Mrs, I don’t know how to tell.

I did get curious, so next trip off my perch, I walked out front with the camera and did the tourist thing.

It visited me for a day and a half and one moment it was gone.  Flapped its bird sized wings and flew off into the Florida Sunset.

Sipping my Iced Tea.  “Weird freaky wildlife we’ve got here.  Most of it is introduced.  That’s a story for another day.”

In Florida Even Your House Gets Sunburn

We’ve been here long enough, it’s time to do some home repairs.

Yeah, don’t start on the kitchen.  Replacing a kitchen towel may mean a $30,000 upgrade and color change there.

It’s hard to find a good carpenter, and once you do, you don’t tell the neighbors until the job is almost done and you’re satisfied with the results.

We’ll let you know…

So the squat box of rocks that has weathered a couple hurricanes, more tropical storms, countless thunderstorms and sunny days needs a bit of care.  That soffit that is in the back of the house has made me nervous for years, and my carpentry skills are not up to that job.

It makes you look around.  Take stock of things.

With the sun beating down on the house most days of the year, things get exposed.  Just like I did.

The other day I was out skating.  I do that.  I have been doing that for 21,000 miles, 30,000 Km, 25 years… It was one of those low humidity days where there was just blue in the sky.  The Orb has chased the clouds away.  Sunglasses required.

My short 9 mile workout was fun, the winds were just enough to cool, not to challenge.   I got back in the Jeep and realized that I Got Sun.

Up North in Philadelphia, I would do 30 to 55 mile workouts without sunblock and never think twice.  Down here, I won’t do that again.  The sunblock sits in my skate bag and exposed areas will get that.

Driving home I notice that the front hoods of cars and roofs are often bleached and faded, although mine is not, luckily.

All that sun you folks come down here to experience takes a toll.

Under the lanai, the paint has faded the least.  We took a picture of that to the paint store, they made a guess at the color, and found a very close match of the current state.  Then ran that picture through a reverse-aging process and found something that looks very dark.  In the light, they look quite a bit different to what has been bleached now.

Then again, I see my own hair going a bit blond due to that same sun when I am skating.  I’ll wear a helmet, I promise, especially since there’s a lot of chaff on the trail lately.

Personally, I would prefer pure white on the house and blue trim, but that would make it look like a refugee from Santorini in Greece.

On the other hand… maybe painting the entire house in the same rust color from the ground water we water the house with might be a good idea.

Hmmmm…..

Just remember if you can’t use sunblock, you’re going to have to paint it.

 

…Even your own sorry hide!

Peanut and Banana Sandwich by Squirrel

To quote a wise man from San Juan, Costa Rica:

We live in the tropics.  If you drop a seed on the ground, it will grow.

I noticed that here years ago when I moved in.  People have plants dripping with plants dripping with more plants.

If you don’t want a giant mess in your yard, if you’re looking for something a bit groomed, don’t blink.  That “clean” look takes a lot of work here in Florida.

I could go a while before weeding my backyard in Philadelphia.  The soil was somewhat fertile, but things took their time to grow.  Sun angle up there is 14 degrees lower at any given moment than it is here so it will be proportionally less effective, proportionally less bright.

I have a yard inspection every morning, on a clear morning, at 7:30.  I have to inspect the irrigation systems, clear out the palm fronds, remove any debris that falls from the trees into the pools, and basically police the perimeters of the yard.

I have help with me.  Mr Dog, my one and only Dingus, Rack the SuperDog (TM)  will follow me around the yard, and go into places that my own nearly two meter height will not fit.

I found out that he will answer to Dingus because when someone does something a bit wrong, a bit silly, and a bit dumb, I have a habit of calling them a Dingus for doing it.

I am not exactly sure that it is even officially a Word according to the O.E.D., or Webster, or anyone else, but I use it.

Frequently.

 

So much so that my Dog adopted it as one of his names.   He figured out that he is Mr Dog early on, so why should I be surprised?

Stepping outside, we hear chattering and rustling in the Utility Easement behind the property.  It is, predictably, very thick with plantings, even though Rack goes back there for relaxation.  Yes, we shall call it Relaxation.  As in Rest Stop at mile marker 108.

I see something grey flash in my right eye and go on about my own business.  Spray the Milkweed for Aphids.  Wiggle the drip-feed water bubblers to clear them from any debris inside that blocks the flow.  Inspecting the pots in the backyard is a daily occurrence.

I get to the banana tree that I have been babying and think “What on earth is going on back there” when I spot that the tree had been planted itself.

 

There was a peanut.  Wedged deeply enough that it would have to be removed or else I’d have a Peanut and Banana sandwich there about chest height.

Then I woke up.  I realized what was going on.  The chattering got more insistent, so I walked to the corner of the yard.  Deep Jungle, or what passes for it here in Florida.

I had Squirrels.  Arguing.  Loudly.  For dominance.  Who knew?  I thought they were a peaceful species.

Squirrels arguing was like a pillow fight with Marshmallows.  Nobody really was going to get hurt but they were really going at it full blast.  It looked like a Cartoon.

I threw that errant peanut into the corner hoping the squirrels would break it up and move on, but it wasn’t enough.  I was within a yard of them as they’re running up and down the telephone pole and the palms and the bamboo back there.

Realizing that I am taller than my banana tree without the peanut, I had to back up.  They were running on the outside of the plants back there instead of back in the brush, and I was concerned that they’d mistake my own self for a tree.

Luckily I was dressed in Blue, not Green.  Squirrels are not terribly smart.

Shrugging, I thought to get involved.   I clapped my hands loudly.

They stopped for a second.  Then I got cursed out in whatever Rodential Squirrelish Language that they use here that I am not aware of.

Back to it they went.  Running up and down the pole when one of them, the smaller of the two, ran back to the other side of the yard, up my banana tree, looked around then ran off into the distance.

Argument was over.  It was now about time for the drip-feed irrigation to stop for the day.  Today’s Squirrel War had ended.  Who knows who was victorious, whether it was about a Peanut and Banana Sandwich, or whether anyone really cared.

Peace was once again supreme in my strange little yard full of constrained banana trees, Bonsai, and cultivated plants.  Rack got to my side, leaned into my right leg, and looked up.

“Yes, boy, it’s time to go inside.  Coffee is calling.”

The Colder The Weather, The Tighter The Dogball

Cold is relative.

No really, it is.

You ask someone who lives in a place where they get wild swings of temperature when you don’t, they may tell you you’re crazy.

But if your dog gets cold, it gets cold, no matter where you are.

In my case, my dog got cold, and so did my relatives.  Rack, the McNab SuperDog (TM), handles it in style.  He simply rolls up into a dogball and parks himself in the corner.

He does it wrong, but he doesn’t care.

Last night, watching an old sitcom, I saw the ritual of the nest.  I’ve got a mat for him to lay on to protect him from the cold slab that the house is built upon.  Yes, I know, Cold is Relative.  In this case, it’s relative enough for me to be wearing a pair of Doc Martins any time I am not in bed, or a shower, or shaving in front of a mirror.

But that’s normal for me.

The one time I tried to put my own Docs on my dog’s feet, he looked up at me with all knowing brown eyes and basically told me I was an idiot.  Taking one foot out of each shoe, he slipped away.

Good for me, I was able to finish dressing.  Sitting on the edge of the bed means that I generally have a 46 pound, badger black and white dog weaving his frame in and out of my legs.  Like a cat.  Which I can’t.  I’m allergic to cats.  That’s why we have a dog.   A Good Dog indeed.

Who’s a good boy?  Hmmm?  You are!

So as he’s pawing on a mat that has to weigh as much as a bag of flour, not having much luck, and basically making a mess, he manages to roll it up into a ball.  Then, Plop! He’s settling in next to it to sleep.

That Dog Sniffing His Tail position that McNab Dog owners are so familiar with.  The tighter the dogball, the colder the weather.

But cold is all relative.  My relatives.  One in the Philadelphia Area, My Sister Pat at least doesn’t laugh at me when I tell her it’s cold out.  She does remind me that while I may be feeling cold and it’s 50, I also went to Kelly Drive and would have a skate workout when there was ice on the trails in a T Shirt and Boxer shorts with a sweatshirt if it was windy.

Just a short workout, mind you, only 9 miles, but you can do it too.  Come on, it was only 25, and I wasn’t crazy.  Really I wasn’t.

The other one is in the middle of the great plains.  The Middle of Nebraska.  Les Nessman’s dream state.  Where it was minus-freaking-25 Farenfreakingheit.  Too Freaking Cold.

So cold that it doesn’t make too much sense to take the effort to convert the temp to Celsius because it is roughly the same.  And my mind may be going from all that cold anyway because I could be getting the temperature wrong, oh never mind, let me have my damn coffee, it’s too cold to think about that!

Replace Freaking with whatever intensifier you wish.  I have one in mind.  Four bold letters.  Describes the situation perfectly.  Survival gear to go to the mailbox cold.

No.  Just No.  I’ll take solace in that it will only get colder here, and we’re expecting two degrees above freezing.  Yes, 38F or 2C.

So this is the dry season.  How I know is that it has been raining for two days in a row, and my banana tree sprouted a flower that just popped open.  Just in time for near freezing temperatures.

The storm forms in the Caribbean, where the water is still warm, relatively.  It does that pirouette dance to spin up into what my Sister will be calling a Nor’Easter, and wondering if it will get above freezing before the storm hits there.

Dunno, Pat, I remember once riding my motorcycle this time of year through the NJ Pine Barrens with just a T Shirt and Jeans because it was 70 with snow banks on the side of the road and ice patches in the shadows.

Dress for the Slide, not the Ride.

So it’s all relative.  I will hide from my cold.  You hide from your cold.  Here, have some coffee.

Did I tell you that the freeze line is 8 miles north of me?  Yeah, Clint Moore Road in Boca Raton according to the National Weather Service is as far south as freezing temps get.

Take that Boca!  Hah!

Cooler Weather, Potatoes, and A Weird Dog Walk

Roasted Potatoes Picture from Wikimedia.com

I am not expecting any more hurricanes this season.

No, it’s not like Granny saying her “Rheumatiz” is firing up and predicting the weather.

It’s more like the pool is cooling, the house is cooling, and the windows are open.

There are just some things you don’t want to do when the weather is hot.  Roasting a chicken or some potatoes, or both is one of them.

Of course I know some people who would say that they would never want to do that, for various reasons.  But if the temps are in the mid 90s and will be for two months, you tend to hold off doing that sort of thing.

It’s that “Who Needs More Heat” mindset.

But this week has been what passes for cool here.  High in the 70s and warming to the low 80s.

Blistering hot for anyone living in the northern latitudes.  For us here in Sunny Florida, it’s perfect weather to roast those root vegetables.

No, it’s not a recipe, but since you asked.  Scrub the potatoes well, score the flesh, rub with a little olive oil and perhaps salt or pepper or both.  Wrap in foil.  Toss in the oven at 450F for an hour.  Should be close enough.

Larger potatoes take an extra 15 minutes to 30.  Test with a fork.

That’s how I have been heating the house.  Or at least I did when what passes for cold here arrived.

Yeah, cold.  Get out the survival gear, it’s 56!

Someone who is Farenheit Impaired would wonder what on Earth I am talking about.  Then do the conversion and wonder why I am complaining about a 15 C Day.

Here, when that happens, we’re all in black, and sunning ourselves on a rock.  Yes, Florida turns you into a big lizard.  We get cranky and dress for sub freezing temps when things are merely “cool” to the rest of the world.

Tropical countries would agree.

So when we go to the market later this week, I will look long and hard at that Roasting Chicken, and debate getting more potatoes to “Heat the House”.

Wandering around town, I noticed that the people aren’t the only ones noticing.

Rack the SuperDog (TM) also has more energy.  The walks are getting crazy long.
Having a smart dog means that they aren’t just a lump of cute.  You see, my boy learned the neighborhood.  He knows its bounds.  He knows where to go and where not to go.

I got up that morning and said “Lets go, Show me walk”.

Bad idea.

I was cold and cranky.  It was two hours to sunrise.  I just wanted to get back inside.

We went out, and got walking.  He did his business quickly.  Now normally a lazy middle aged dog coupled to a cranky and tired man means a short walk.

Nope.  We got out a half mile from home.  He turned back toward the house.  When we got to the turn to the house he stopped, looked up at me, smiled, and did a 90 degree turn wrenching my arm out of my socket.

I bent down, picked up my detatched arm, slid it back inside the leather jacket that would have been unnecessary had we lived in a more normal climate, and attached it into position.

Turbines whirred, lights flashed, pilot noises happened with servo noises and beeps.  My arm was reattached with a metallic click.  Handy to have a way to take a trip into the future.

“Rack!  Wait up!”  I plodded after him.

We walked another half mile out.  Usually at this point he is ready to go home.

Or so I thought.

We got to walk back to the house, but when we got there, he spun up his robotic space-legs, and pulled me through a warp in Space-Time past the welcoming abode.

“Boy, are we going for more?”

He looked back at me, smiled again, and I shrugged as we passed into another dimension.

Or maybe not.

Total walk was a three mile long one.  Five Kilometers.

He is a herding dog after all.

But that’s the thing.  Take advantage of the day, whether it is blistering hot, or frigid cold, or what ever you call it.

There will be fresh potatoes waiting for you when you’re back.

Jewfish Creek Bridge, The Video

Once upon a time, I made my trip to the Florida Keys.

There is a very stark break between the mainland and the Everglades in Florida City.  Everything simply “Stops”.

You get past that and there are a very few businesses way off in the middle of nowhere.  A cement factory and a quarry come to mind.  A marina is just on the other side of the Monroe county line.  But until you get to Key Largo, there’s practically nothing but grass and nature.

And this one massive scar through the landscape called US1.

Granted it is a scar, but you actually need it there to get to the Keys.

I am sure some people who are more ecologically aware would say that it does not belong there, nor do we in an ecological niche like those beautiful little jewels, but there are also people that would argue that nobody should live below the I-4 line where the land ceases to be land but more like a swamp.

Like I said, I’m not that ecologically aware.  My own feeling is don’t expand it, and contract development in the keys where possible.  But no draconian solutions, please.  They are beautiful and we can enjoy them if we play nice with nature.

Just before you go onto the island that Key Largo is on, there’s one big deep water gap.  A “Cut” so the larger boats can go into or out of the Florida Bay.  That is at what is now the Jewfish Creek bridge.

I realize I am being a small bit imprecise, but grant me that.

Since the old drawbridge was replaced years ago, they built an improved structure and then the bridge we have now.

The bridge itself is kind of minimalistic, maybe a bit stark, and painted in aqua blue, which is befitting of a place as knock down beautiful as the keys.

One of my earlier trips I took a picture and wrote about it.  For some strange reason in all the 8 or more years that I have been writing, that particular article gets read frequently.

What I did was revisit it.  I was down there for my birthday, a few days later.  Knowing that I was going there,  I brought my little video camera for the trip.  Hopefully this video will satisfy the area’s fans.

Hopefully my color commentary won’t offend too much and that my very shaky hand is not too awful.  But for now, I present the video.  For your pleasure or disdain.

The Beauty At Your Feet

The Japanese have many artistic traditions that we in the West are beginning to notice and take into account.

Of course we will get them wrong from time to time.  A Minimalist aesthetic can be wonderful.  Walking into a place that looks clean and polished where every fine detail is meticulously fussed over will immediately draw you in and have you pay deep attention to the space that isn’t used in comparison with the spaces that are used.

Then again, sometimes we get it wrong.  The mass market plasticization of society and public spaces can simply look stark and uninviting.  An Apple Store always seems cold and sterile to me instead of a place to draw you in and invite creativity.  After all, that is what a computer is used for, to Create.

Maybe I am digging a bit too deep.  My own wanders over my own patch of beach sand here never ceases to amaze me.  Having grown up in the Prairies of South Jersey, I was used to a certain look and feel of things.  My split level house of my youth was plucked out of a life of The Wonder Years.  The Pin Oaks planted along the street would change with the seasons but were very much of the place and grew with the time.

Here things simply look different.  I live in a town that will never freeze, or so I am told by the USDA and their zones.  I have never seen it below 34, and it may not have been quite that cold since I am rather close to the beach. 3 Km or 2.3 Miles to be specific.

So things are not adapted to lose their leaves in winter.  Flowers can occur all year around.  If you like that sort of thing, and are observant, you can find beauty in just about anything.

My own yard for example.  I find things that look like what the mother of a friend of mine called Wandering Jew.  She told me that if the conditions are right, they will bloom.  That sounded simply insane that a house plant would bloom like that to me since you just can’t leave things outside in the cold weather.

Here, it is a weed.  And it blooms.

A tiny little dot of blue in the field of green at my feet.   All I have to do is be patient and wait.  In this case it was in late February, but no matter.

Other times, there’s a spot of yellow.  Most likely from the shamrocks that grow in my yard, it could also be sorrel.  Either way, these things are predictable.  I almost always see them out there.  Bright yellow or a pale lavender, they are in the sun, growing all over the place.

I have taken notice of them as they end up in my plant pots.  How that happens, I have no idea.  The flowers tend to be cut with the lawnmower, they reappear quickly, and they disappear.

Again, it blooms and brings beauty to a uniform green, if you know where to look.

That would be the key.

 

Open your eyes, pay attention.  You could be missing something quite special.