Mango Musings In Wilton Manors

Being up an hour and a half before Sunrise in summer means Stupid O’clock.

I’m up with the ends of the creatures of the night, walking my dog.

No, seriously.  My body has been waking up at 4:45AM.  My eye opens and stares at the Chumby that serves as an alarm clock or clock radio that someone thankfully put on top of a box saying “Free to a Good Home” and sees it in big 5 inch tall numbers just about every morning.  Sleeping in means after 5 or even 5:30AM.

No idea why.

But the creatures of the night are normally quiet and don’t bother us often as we have the city to ourselves.

Rack, the McNab SuperDog would warn me if anyone were nearby.  He’s way too social and will react either with fear or friendship depending on whether there’s a creepy vibe or not.

One of the last places I passed by on the long walk of 1 3/4 miles is an “empty lot”.  The city bought the lot last year and the eventual plans are to pave it over and put in a parking lot here in paradise.  On the corner is a mango tree.  It is a grand tree, by any definition of the words.  Shading a wide area, it is at least 30 feet tall, and drops one pound plus “Banana Mangoes” on the ground when they tree ripen, or when a good stiff breeze hits the tree.

I know that the tree is due to go because one of the city commissioners is strongly reputed to “hate that tree” and wants it to go.  Strange because that is the commissioner mostly attributed to Green Efforts to improve the environment.  City Governments do not like fruiting or nut trees because all the food that is grown never gets eaten.  Some gets damaged, some falls and breaks the windshields of the Snowbird that was too stupid to park under the tree.  It all has to be picked up and dealt with.   So they put in bland trees that give shade and shelter but no food.

I was thinking about this the other day.  I have a gentleman’s agreement with an apartment building owner a short hop from my house.  This particular place has a massive tree on the corner of the property.  It is a Hagen Mango tree that bares fruit that can reach two pounds each.  Consider what a solid fruit that weighs a Kilogram would do to a head if it struck you falling from 32 feet in the air.

So I go in with my Mango Picking Pole and harvest what I can.

It’s not the best because I can only reach about 20 feet high.   This tree is about 40 feet tall, mature, and quite frankly a beautiful tree in its own right.

However it was not trimmed with picking in mind.  They “elevated” the tree so you can walk under it and allowed it to grow tall.  To allow picking, they would have to lop the top ten feet off the tree.  It would make for a very ugly tree, however the energy of impact of falling fruit would be lessened by not having that extra ten feet to fall.

Each year that I have lived here, I am out there, picking fruit.  Most years I am able to get five buckets of fruit.  This year is a bad harvest.  I managed to only get one bucket of fruit.  The ones there are very large, but few and far between.

To give you an idea, the Mangoes you see in a supermarket are about the size of an orange.  The ones I picked are the size of a large “gift quality” grapefruit.

And of course they are a fixture in my kitchen.  Taking about a month to ripen on the table, I wait until I can cut them with a butter knife.

Never the less, I truly enjoy those things.  Last year I made up enough Mango Jam that I finished the stuff in April.  The flowers for this year’s fruit had just appeared on the tree when I washed out the last jar.

It won’t be quite that much this year, which will be fine.  After all, how many Peanut Butter and Mango Jam sandwiches can you eat?

Oh and the fridge jam tastes much better.  You aren’t changing the flavor of the fruit by cooking.

The recipe you ask is simple:

  • 4 cups Mango Chunks
  • 1 package SureJell
  • Sweeten to taste

Process

  • Add Mango and SureJell to the blender.
  • Blend until smooth.
  • Taste.  If not sweet enough, add sweetener of choice to the blender and reblend.
  • Refrigerate and use promptly, I recommend within 2 to 4 weeks.
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Butterflies and Mango Trees

Walking out to the backyard, nature will present itself.  Always take a camera.

Mind you, opportunities to take a picture of nature in South Florida are common.

I didn’t expect just how common it was when I made the decision to pitch it all in Philly, and fly to Florida for a new home.

Having had Black Racer Snakes in my Florida Room, more lizards than I can count on any given wall both inside and outside of the house, and spiders that are larger than a small car in the eaves, I have grown both amused and expectant of the creatures.

After all, I ran a Frog Hotel for quite a few years until the Impact Windows got put in.  The frogs left and I am disappointed that they haven’t come back.

This particular afternoon, I was being dive bombed.

Oh sure, there were Monarchs everywhere as usual.  After all there were two caterpillars turning one plant into sticks at the same time.

This was something different.  This Orange and Black creature was not a Monarch.  It was a different kind of Florida Butterfly.  It was insistent that I follow it.  After all, it was orbiting my head like stars after a cartoon character gets hit in the head by an anvil.

No, I mean literally orbiting my head.  Round and round as I walked past the spa.

I got about half way down the yard and it left me.  The silly creature fluttered over to my Mango tree and parked itself there.

The Mango was a tree that was imprisoned in too small a pot for years until I finally freed it by chopping the pot away from its roots.  On a very hot day, I dug a hole in the yard and stuck it into the ground.  They say it is a Condo Mango and won’t get more than 10 to 15 feet tall or so, so I’m hoping.

The Mango immediately showed its appreciation by dropping almost every old leaf and then following with a complete coat of deep green leaves.  It’s a very happy plant that went green almost in a day.

Overnight.

The butterfly decided it liked it too.  It was there, on a Mango leaf and I swear it turned its head to watch me.  Reaching into my pocket, I was able to get exactly one picture out of the encounter.  Then the little orange and black creature fluttered away.  Over the house and into the beyond to live out its fluttery existence.

“One is all you get” it seemed to say.

Wildlife encounters are best when the wildlife insists on a selfie before it goes.

Bill, Why Are You Eating Mangoes in the Laundry Room?

It all started with a hello.

More like a couple hundred hellos.

I was safe with the first course.  I guess Biscuits and Gravy wasn’t interesting or he was just distracted.

Rack, my dog, doesn’t really care.  He knows that typically I will stand at the kitchen sink or sit at the small table in the kitchen and stare out of the windows while stuffing my face.   Once through, he may get something if he doesn’t beg.   He will go to the backdoor and stare at me through the glass into the kitchen and go out to water the plants and sniff the dog on the other side of the double fence.  Besides I’m not having yogurt today.  That’s when Rack gets insistent and I eat all of my food under cover.

It usually gives me time to have the majority of breakfast.

Oscar, on the other hand, is weird.

My parrot has realized that me in kitchen means food.  Food can be in a bowl or on a plate.  He’s starting to realize that I’ll give him something just so he will shut his beak.

Hello in a shrill little girl voice repeated can be quite obnoxious especially when repeated at a volume that reminds me of my neighbor’s motorcycle.

On the other hand, it is Mango Season, so I can’t completely blame him.  I have had the first harvest of these sweet orange fleshed sugar bombs and am wondering when I can get the next one from the tree.  That tree is a neighborhood gift.  The owner doesn’t eat mangoes so we pick the fruit so it doesn’t fall from the sky. 

A two pound mango falling from the skies can leave quite a dent when accelerating at 32 feet per second squared.   Two seconds from the top of that 60 plus tree.  Pick with a long pole, and don’t stand under the fruit.

It just got weird in the kitchen.  I did tell him that he shouldn’t be begging for what I had.  Really I did.  It’s just too strange when a parrot is begging for a piece of egg salad sandwich. 

No, Oscar, this is your cousin from Maryland.  Eggs are not good for birds.

Second course had him fully warmed up, repeating Hello constantly.

I sliced up 12 ounces and set aside the broad flat pit.  It’s a deal, Oscar, you get the skin and a block of the fruit, plus the pit and some more orange flesh.  That should keep you quiet for a bit.

Walking to the cage, I open the door with sticky hands.   Orange drops of mango juice hit my right foot and splatter on the recently cleaned floor.  I’ll have to mop that up, it will only be the second time today that the floor gets attention. 

Oscar’s eyes pin.  The pupils shrink down to almost invisible.  His excitement is obvious.  I put the skin and the pit on the paper in the bottom of the cage commenting “I hope this shuts you up for a while”.

Grabbing the bowl, I take my mango into the laundry room and finish it while looking at the video feed from the security camera systems.  The night speeds by in a few segments where cars pass by the house in the wee hours.  No, nothing strange happened, and it really is a safe neighborhood.  The strangest thing that happened overnight was a moth that tried to mate with the camera over my Jeep.  No cats to catch and rehome, no dogs lost, no weird neighbors having a party at 3AM.

At least for now, the neighborhood is quiet.

My mind flashes to the week.  I’m having house guests so I have to make bread.   Sourdough rolls take a longer rise time so I have to make the pre-ferment.  Add everything but two cups of flour to the standard recipe, then let it sit for a half hour.  If I see action in the mix, it will rise, if not add yeast.

Adding the sourdough starter to the bread machine’s bucket I hear it as I feed Mother for her trip back to the refrigerator.

Hello!

Bloody freaking hell… Oscar you have had enough, eat your mango!

Add sugar, oil, salt, lukewarm water…

Hello, Hah Hah Hah!

No Oscar, you don’t want this!

A cup of flour, press start to mix the pre-ferment and walk out of the kitchen.

Oscar stops.   Just like a light switch.  Life goes quiet and back to the routine.  Late 90s Pop playing on the internet radio and the clock ticking loudly in the background.  Back to normal.

Except… time to add those two cups of flour…

HELLO!  URP!

It’s going to be a noisy day.

The Windshield You Save May Be Your Own – Humor

Up North, people will drive in circles.  They burn overpriced Speculator inflated prices for gasoline in giant SUVs in massive parking lots looking for the closest parking space to the door.

Lazy, but it’s human nature.

Down here in South Florida, you’ll notice that the first spots to fill up are under a tree.

Those spots all have the local license plates, or plates from someone who lives in the Sun Belt. 

Why?  Well, I’ve gotten into my Jeep that was facing into the sun once and found that the foam rubber on the steering wheel that Chrysler put there 10 years ago had become somehow molten and now I was holding onto a rubber snake that would twist in my hand.

Yes, this is the land of Rubber Cobras and people baking cookies on the dashboard of their cars.

Why not?  After all, a cookie sheet will protect the dashboard just as effectively as that piece of carpet.  Besides who doesn’t like a tasty snack?

That’s all well and good but the malls and shopping centers have only so much room to put Islands for Trees, and unfortunately they don’t do a good job of covering the pavement area when there is a tree there.

On the other hand there public planners have to be very careful of what they plant next to a car park.

That was illustrated everywhere in this little patch of Paradise this weekend.  We had a windy day.

Mind you this wasn’t really anything to get excited about.  It was only 35 mph gusts.  20 or so base winds.  I can bike that fast on flat ground, 20mph isn’t really that fast.

Except… I’ve got to be Good Guy Bill again and warn a neighbor. 

You see, they’re renters.  They moved in with Northern Plates on the cars and they got changed out to White and Green Florida plates.  They are planning on setting down roots.

So letting them in on the details of living here in the land of roaming Ball Pythons and falling Iguanas is our duty.

These renters have a rather nice little mini SUV.  The badge of a Suburban type.  Quiet folks, I can’t say I’ve actually seen them more than once in the last few months.

That rather nice little mini SUV is parked quietly on their property.  Right under the tree.  It stays cool there.  Cool is good.

Except…  The tree is the neighborhood Mango.  It’s a magnificent tree, about 40 feet tall and about as broad.  It’s a mature tree that I wish was on my own yard.  You see, that tree is in full fruit, and will have two crops this year.

Take one Mango tree in season and you will get about 100 pounds of fruit, plus or minus a couple pounds.

So the wind kicks up and the fruit becomes the picture perfect definition of a Windfall.  Mangoes fall from the tree in all stages of ripeness.  It just depends on how the wind hits them.  Immature fruit are about as soft as your average piece of granite.   Falling from 40 feet, it will take about a second to hit the ground.  

Now, if you have a good fruit baring year, those wonderful mangoes on that magnificent tree become quite large.  

I managed to collect a few of those fruits that hit the ground, the owner of the property knows I really enjoy mangoes.   So I walked out to the kitchen and grabbed the largest fruit.   It weighed 17 ounces.

Yes, 17 ounces of a green granite grenade flying at your head from 40 feet.  That works out to be about 21mph.

Now, while 21mph isn’t exactly fast, the force of a one pound, one ounce block of granite colliding with your windshield would be like if I had taken a brick and hurled it at the same spot.

Hilarity would ensue.

So folks when you decide to come down for a visit with your nice shiny SUV and park here under a nice big broad tree that is seemingly the only open place for you to park, take my advice.

Look up and check for falling fruit.  The windshield you save may be your own.

What does a Country Bar and Jamaican Mangoes have in common?

Last night I had a walk.  All by myself, and not with the dog, I went out the door in the evening warm.   The weather had ended its fitful rains and all that was left of Tropical Storm Debby was a lot of wind coming in the wrong direction, off the Everglades. 

It was a bit like walking in a hairdryer toward the end of the walk but that’s part of living in Subtropical South Florida in late June.

I was alone with my thoughts, walking North on Northeast 6th Avenue toward Oakland Park when I stumbled on something.  Looking down at my right foot I noticed the familiar orange color of a squished fruit.  I laughed at myself thinking, only I could be walking around town and have Mangoes find me.

This was a massive tree, more than 30 feet tall, shading the yard and draping over their privacy fence and sidewalk beyond.  Making a mental note of the location, I walked onward to the bar.

My friends were not there, despite my arriving late after having three different people ask me why I was alone and wanting to share their own drama.  One friend worried about where Mrs Dog was.  Another about his pending move.  A third saying hello and asking about how I was doing.  It’s nice living in a small town, even if it is surrounded by a much larger neighbor.

After hanging around and watching the instructor do her Country Line Dancing routine for about 10 minutes, I left.   Country music is neither.  I really can’t abide Country Music preferring the static of my own thoughts to that prattle.  Like the old joke goes:  Play the song backward and get your dog back, your wife back, and your truck back.

As I was walking back toward the house, I was thinking about that tree and how amusing it was to go out for a walk alone for the first time in recent memory and stumble across a small pile of fruit.  Literally a windfall, I thought, for the neighbor.  Enjoy it.

Going back more than 20 years in my thoughts I was trying to remember the name of a woman with whom I worked.   I couldn’t remember her name, but I could remember the story and the love she showed in the story.  Like most stories of that kind, she was probably romanticizing it, and after all this time, I only knew of the highlights.

She was a born Jamaican.  Beautiful tall and statuesque woman with deep brown skin.   Sweet of demeanor, and pleasant to speak with.  One day we were talking over lunch and she started talking about the differences of what it was like to grow up in Jamaica and living in Suburban Jenkintown PA.  You couldn’t walk long distances in Jenkintown, the roads didn’t have reliable sidewalks for the task, but you could in Jamaica.  Where she lived, she’d walk down the road and said that if she were hungry, all she needed to do was reach up and pick a Mango and go on her way with sweet juice dripping down her arm.  On Jamaica, people didn’t plant trees for decoration like we do here.   A tree had to have a purpose.  If you plant a tree it needed to give back to society more than the protection and shade it offers.  It should give forth fruit or nuts.   Apparently where this woman grew up, the streets were lined with gold in the form of mangoes.

That thought stuck with me to this day, especially as I bent down to pick up one choice mango from the swale for later enjoyment.

I’ve got a bottlebrush tree in front of my yard, but it is old with termites and dying.   When it goes, I’ll have to choose what to plant there.  When I plant it, you can be sure that it will give something back.

Morning Rain brings Barky Showers

I awoke at 6 in the morning as it was my habit to do.  I was even able to get partially dressed before Mrs Dog decided that she heard me and came to investigate. 

The pleasures of an older dog.  When they’re puppies they’re under foot and don’t know why it is a problem.  When they’re adults, you tell them they’re under foot and learn not to be quite so close.  Now that she’s 10 and her hearing is getting selectively worse, I’m noticing that she isn’t quite as aware of what I’m doing any longer.  I can even get out of The Poang Chair and get standing before she opens her eyes.  Sleep is the number one activity.

I got out of bed, dressed, and padded my way into the Kitchen to roast a half cup of coffee beans.  Seven minutes in the roaster cum popcorn popper and I had time to feed her and grab all the gear we needed for a walk.

Finally, we were able to step outside and were greeted by a light mist of rain.  More like someone was standing on the roof and spraying a bottle of water into the air above my head.  I called to Lettie, and she decided that she didn’t hear or really didn’t need to hear what I was saying so I pulled her back into the door.  Inside the door is where we keep our umbrellas and this was going to be a wet walk.  We got to the corner where the 25 year old grey and maroon umbrella was opened and we walked into the progressively degrading conditions. 

By the time I rounded the corner the fourth time, I could see the sun rising over the ocean front condos, the ocean itself, and the Bahamas.  It was still raining but not so hard as I didn’t take the time to close the umbrella and use it to knock two mangoes off the tree on the corner on the rental property.   The people who live there are from Minnesota, they won’t mind, they don’t know what good mangoes are!

I walked inside and prepared a mug of coffee, a biscuit and a chicken pattie and continued to watch as it got progressively worse.  The rain danced across my swimming pool making the little rubber duck thermometer that floats there look as if there was someone draping some gossamer sheers past it in rapid succession.  The pool lost its sheen and the water’s surface became a uniform layer of grey from the droplets.

It was this time that I realized that this little storm would have the weather alert radio in Philadelphia sounding off about heavy storms and low visibility, but here in South Florida, the land of Hurricanes, nothing.

Then it began.  My little summer shower flexed its muscles.  While I had a mouth full of biscuit, chicken, and coffee, the world flashed brilliant white and the note of a giant bass drum sounded off.   The lights in the house flickered off, then on again.  My power conditioners snapped into use while the shoddy FPL infrastructure surged into the forefront of my consciousness. 

And the dog started to bark.  Barking from Mrs Dog is a rare thing.  Even when she was young she almost never barked.  I never quite understood why dogs bark at thunderstorms but it is a thing I’ve grown used to and accept as I have this wonderful creature living with me.   If she barks, I pay attention.  There’s a reason for that.

One dog trainer I read at some time in passing said “Make Storm Time, Fun Time”.  So I reached over onto the counter and found the Pumpkin Orange bottle of soap bubbles.  Now Lettie was barking for joy.  Not just one bark when the BOOM! happened, but a steady stream of baritone barks that showed she was really happy to play and take her mind off of the horrible maelstrom outside.

Not really a maelstrom, I can only imagine how she’ll be when we get a hurricane…

Holding the bubble wand near my lips I blew out a stream of about 20 bubbles and she leaps for joy snapping at each and every one while jumping like a puppy.  Reminding myself to blow bubbles out away from my body, I watched her ivory teeth chomp each impending bubble as a lightning strike happened with the BOOM! and she merely went on happily chomping away at soap.

I doubt that having a dog eat soap is a good thing, but the tiny amount that she gets in from snapping at bubbles and only occasionally getting one can’t be a life threatening situation, I swallowed more shampoo last night after I climbed out of the shower after using the pool.  She seems to enjoy it greatly, and its mental health benefits outweigh the little bit of soap that are in those shimmering spheres of soap that mysteriously fall from the sky.

Here we are, an hour and 45 minutes later, the storm is beginning to fade.   The sun is now higher in the sky, the Bahamas are sunny with only scattered red blobs over the radar near Freeport, over 60 miles away.  Our own rain storm will fade away into canine memory and the rainbow over Wilton Manors won’t be so redundant.

Godzilla on a Mango Leaf

Two of my favorite about Florida things in one shot.

This little guy was in my back yard.   Geckos and small lizards fascinate me.  They’re completely harmless and sometimes are quite friendly in their own fearful way.  The worst thing that ever happened to me was I had a gecko mistake my leg for a tree trunk and it climbed into my shorts.   Luckily my back yard is secluded because in order to get the confused beast out of my pants, I had to take them off.  Getting the lizard out of the shorts it then proceeded to climb to my elbow and then jumped to the grass and ran off to its destiny.

I think this one realized that the guy with the camera phone meant it no harm and stayed in the sun in the middle of the afternoon while I was able to take this shot.

The gecko is only about the size of your small finger, and is on a leaf on a tree in my back yard that I’m nurturing.  From a casual look over Wikipedia it looks like a Common House Gecko, they’re found world wide and I’m quite surprised to find that they can be found indoors in Philadelphia.   I guess they eat roaches in those homes in the city.  A nice way to keep the pests down if you ask me!

The tree is a Mango tree that I drove all the way down to the edge of civilization, Kendall, to get.  This tree is in a pot near my pool and is all of three feet tall itself.  I’ve got a Condo Mango of the Cogshall variety.  I have been told that if I take proper care of the tree it may get all of ten feet tall and bear fruit in a couple years.   I could plant it in the ground if I had room, but I really don’t since that pool takes up the majority of my back yard.

I could plant it in the front yard if I didn’t want to get any fruit since people do like Mangoes.  That would be why I have the tree since I am one of them.  To say I like Mangoes would be putting it mildly, I may indeed be borderline obsessed.   It is probably my favorite fruit.  Some of the postings last year would bear that out.  My neighbors know of it and have been kind enough to give me fruit from their trees, and I am very thankful for that.   I’m looking forward to getting shopping bags full of them from trees throughout the city and having months of smoothies and puree.

Until then I’ll watch my little tree grow and see these little lizards climb the thing looking for insects to eat.