Welcome to Florida. We Have Snakes In Bougainvillea

Yeah.  I didn’t expect this.

Then again, why not?

I have watched my fair share of nature documentaries.  I have probably watched enough for your fair share of nature documentaries.

I simply did not expect this.

But I will say I did what I’d expect of anyone else.   I took a few pictures, then walked away.

No, I won’t whack a snake like in the BC Comics.  I’m no caveman.  I think these Black Racer Snakes are actually beneficial, and I know they are not poisonous.

I did need a reality check about pulling weeds though.

Yes, whack your weeds first.  Then pull them.   The critters will move away unharmed.

That includes Black Racer Snakes.

I walked out my back door for this little wildlife encounter this particular morning.  I take Rack out after I have my breakfast so he can water some trees.

Usually my big palm tree behind my bedroom window.

Behind the bedroom window there is a post with a struggling bougainvillea.  Since you can root bougainvillea with a thumb sized piece of branch with a few leaves on it that were carelessly dropped in your pots that are watered regularly, there is no reason why this plant should struggle.

That is neither here nor there.  The Spanish Moss I threw into the thing a couple years ago was so thick that it looked like a herd of ZZ Top impersonators had left their fake beards in the thing and walked away.  I tore out a full trash can of the moss one afternoon on a whim, and it’s growing back happily.

It also made a great place for this little snake to warm in the sun.  It was just high enough to catch the early rays as the sun came up over the Bahamas, so there it parked.

I just didn’t expect it.  I should have.  This is the place where the waters are beautiful and run slowly to the sea but you should never swim in them because an alligator will eat you.  If not an alligator, we have ball pythons, and I have heard of piranhas from time to time, although that could be an urban legend.

So, if you’re going to the yard to do a little weeding, get a bamboo pole.  Whack the ground a few times.  The creatures will move on their way.

It’s also why Code Enforcement will cite you if you let your grass grow too long.  There be snakes in these woods!

On the other hand, this video will prove that they’re not poisonous.  At least they aren’t to a 12 year old girl.  I’m not a 12 year old girl, so my recommendation is for you to let them be where they are.

The Return of the Tree Frog

Oh Little Kermit…

I actually miss these frogs when they don’t show.

In the morning, about an hour before sunrise I hear them approach.

They herald their presence with a soft thwack against the house.  Usually it’s against the windows.  Then all is peaceful and what passes for quiet here.

We share our house with these frogs.  They’re entertaining to watch.  I have a small cavity between the windows on the back of the house.  Lined with plexglas on our side, its wide enough for you to slide your fingers into with a little room to spare.

The tree frogs found the spot a couple years back and I get visitors from time to time.  The thwack of their bodies announcing their presence as they sidle into position for a daytime sleep.

In this case there was a conversation it caused here.

“What was THAT?!”
“Just the tree frogs.  They’re home for the night.”
“Don’t they usually come here to sleep all daytime?”
“Yes, but it’s out of sync.  It will be fine, it’s probably just repositioning itself for whatever work a tree frog does”.

At that point, it was announced that I was going to get my picture via email since someone went on a backyard safari.

“Watch for the opossums, have fun, and don’t disturb my guests!”

This picture was the result.  It reminded me of some strange B Movie quality in ways, but that’s what you get from an iPhone.

They were staying with us for a long block of time, a full season plus a bit.  I guess in the warmer weather, the cool from our house leaking through the single paned plastic was a welcome respite from the heat.

Enjoy it while it lasts my little friend, and do give our best to Miss Piggy.

As for the track below?  One of my favorite early trance tracks.  “Tree Frog” by Hope.  Plus it’s got some pretty cool pictures of a green tree frog doing it’s thing repeated throughout.

Yellowbook: Now Easier To Throw Out!

You just can’t make this up.

I didn’t have to.

I came home from a workout.  Pulling into the driveway I notice some trash by my trashcan as I roll past.

Getting my workout gear out of the car, I walk over to the can and just shake my head.

It’s the annual delivery of trash better known as The Yellowbook.  Yellow Pages.

Does anyone actually use this anymore?  Do we really consult the dead tree directory in this day and age of smartphones, ubiquitous computing, and widespread wifi?

I actually use it for one purpose.  There is a collection of old phone books under a credenza in the living room.  They sit there to block my dog’s toys from rolling too far under so he can get them back.

That’s it. 

I don’t have hamsters to chew them up. 
I don’t use them to line the parrot cage. 
I don’t use them to start a fire. 
I haven’t looked inside of one in need of a service in years.

Technically speaking, they are litter.  I would expect that if a lawyer wanted an easy fee, they could sue for damages or some such insanity.  I didn’t ask for them.  I don’t even have a landline.  My cellphone is “unlisted”, or at least it was a decade ago when I got it as a snowbird.

Yes, I wanted a 954 area code when I still lived in Philadelphia.

I tried last year to surf https://www.yellowpagesoptout.com but it didn’t work.  I will opt out again and wonder if in another year I’ll come home and they will helpfully put their “publication” next to the trash can so I only have to bend down to bin the stupid thing.  The website demands that you register your name, address, and phone number in order to opt out of their trash.  I’ll make something up later.  There is no way on this earth this bunch of fools will get my phone number. 

A victim of the internet era that still lingers on.  Someone please tell the advertisers that their presence in such a publication merely implies that they’re not really one of the more technologically savvy of companies.

Just for a laugh, even though it was a small one, I turned to the yellowpages section on computers.  To prove my point there were three ads for computer services in there.  Those would be three companies that I would skip over.

Jus’ sayin’!

How to Fail At Pizza Crust Without Really Trying

I have a lot of recipes.  Many of them I share, some others I don’t.

Oh come on, you know you hold back one or two of your favorites if you really like to cook or bake.  After all, how would you know what to bring to a party?

My chocolate chip cookie recipe is one of those.  I’ll let you in on a secret though.  Churn your own butter.  It really makes the flavor pop!  Five minutes in the cuisinart later you have butter and buttermilk.  Make biscuits.

But the thing is that nobody ever tells you of the failures.

For every successful cook, there is a trash can full of fallen souffles, burnt biscuits, and wooden roasts.  Things that got undercooked, or overcooked.
Things that got the wrong proportions.
Things that went into the oven and the power went out.
The yeast might have been bad.

Any of those things!

The recipes I share are tested.  I have done them more than once.  I don’t do them rushed.  I take pictures.  I marvel at the color of the crust, the flavor of the crumb, and the mouth feel of the flake.

But I have done them before.

Some of them I have done many times before.

Many many.

Really, that many.

But I am on a quest.  The quest for the Grail?  No Monty, not the quest for the Grail, for Camelot is a very silly place.

The quest is for the simplest recipes I can find for a given menu item.  They may take a little extra time or be quirky, but once I get it figured out, they’re golden.

Fudge, for example, is dead simple.  Three ingredients for the basics, then toss in your goodies and you’re done.  It can even be done in the Microwave by a bright five year old as a treat for mommy.  Doesn’t even need daddy’s help, and may even be better without it.  You really just have to “warm up” the chocolate and stir it until smooth.

My friends that are non-cooks or even anti-cooks are those who I find the simplest recipes for.  Cooking is one of those things that everyone, without fail, can learn, but they do have to at least try.

I went onto a search.  A quest!  No, not for that damn Grail, Monty, go sit down in the corner.

I was searching for “Three Ingredient Recipes”.  Those usually are the ones that you mash together with a fork in a big bowl and then toss in the oven at an appropriate temperature.

Usually 350F.

For about 30 minutes or until done.

I found a lot of them.  Just go to your favorite search engine that doesn’t track what you are doing, type in “Three Ingredient Recipe” and find what you are looking for.

At least that was the theory.

I was planning on a two ingredient pizza crust.  It was easy they said.  A cup of Self Rising Flour and a cup of Greek Yogurt.  They warned it will be sticky and they warned to make sure you used the real Greek yogurt and not the crap that has corn starch to thicken it.

I have everything on hand on a daily basis for that. 

The whole weekend I was thinking about trying this.  Seriously.

Ok, I don’t have a life.  So give me one, I’ll make failed pizza crusts for you, honest!

Finally I decided it was time to do it that day.  I waited until it was time.  I even had someone here who wanted to watch.  “Drop In” friends will do that.  They will help you if you have a task to get done if you make a hint.

So I got out the mixer. 
Dough hook. 
Self Rising Flour. 
Proper Greek Yogurt that was one step removed from Cream Cheese.
The dog got interested and joined us in the kitchen at this point.
Turn the bloody mixer on.
Get the parchment paper and line the cookie sheet while I’m watching the magic happen.
Dust the cookie sheet liberally with flour so it doesn’t stick.

They always tell you that when you make a pizza.  Pizza crusts tend to be drier than bread dough.  Put down a lot of flour and knead well.  It is like playing with clay, you have to work it.

Blah blah blah, this is two ingredients, right?

Finally I get bored with watching it spin and switch off the mixer.

I end up with something that looked more like biscuit batter.  Thick and sticky.  I could use it to spackle a wall.

No, really.  I have a hole in the wall I could have slapped this puppy into and it would have sat there on a vertical surface just drying out and …

Pouring the batter out onto the flour I began to roll it out.

That would be when I found the problems starting.

It stuck to the paper so I added more flour.

It stuck to the wooden rolling pin so I added more flour.

It started making holes in the crust so I added more flour.

At this point it was about a cup and a half of flour total.  This wasn’t right.  The parchment paper was turning into a wet sticky mess and fully bonded with the bottom of the pizza dough.

After about 5 minutes more of this silliness, I got another piece of parchment paper and dusted it heavily with more self rising flour.  I was expecting, that, if I ever got this in the oven, it would burst open in a scene that I Love Lucy would have been proud of as the crust would fall out onto the floor and ask for asylum here in South Florida.

Taking the dough and parchment paper, I flipped it on top of the new parchment paper.  A parchment paper sandwich now, I began to peel the dough off the older paper onto the new.

I began to grumble at this thing.

Cursing everyone from the Doughboy on the commercial to the inventor of commercial yeast, I started to pick at the sticky goo.

Thirty minutes later, I was still picking.  I had peeled about a half of the dough off the paper and I simply gave up.

You see, life is a learning process.  You win some, you lose some.  I’m sure you heard that before.

In this case I probably should have simply added more flour to the mixer until I got to where I could work the dough.  At least that was what my baking skills told me.

I didn’t.  I wadded up both layers of parchment paper, the glue like batter, and tossed it unceremoniously into the trash bin.

With. A. Thump.

We had Chicken Parmesan sandwiches instead.
With Home Fries since they cook well with no fuss.

I was beaten but not done.  I know I will have that pizza.  Just with my fool proof yeast risen dough.  After all, it is my sister Pat’s pizza dough, and I know that recipe like I know the back of my hand.

All the way down to the piece of dried pizza dough that I found stuck to my fingers when I was eating that Chicken Parm Sandwich.

Mmmm Chicken Parm on Home Made Rolls.

Let me tell you the story of Pat’s Pizza Dough….

The "Have You Lost Your Mind" Art Installation

Walking around town, I find things.

Odd things.

Some things you don’t want to think about and pass by on your way and hope that either someone cleans it up, or the weather changes and it magically disappears with the next strong rain storm.

This was a nice thing. 

This particular walk, I was on one of the avenues in my quirky little island.  Something caught my eye in the predawn hours.  It was a quarter.  Heads up means good luck, heads down means give the luck away and you will get more in return.

Nice fable, but it doesn’t seem to always work that way.

My trusty sidekick, Rack, the McNab Superdog watered a tree and I saw the second find of the day further along the walk.

It was a purple propeller.  It had blown off of a yard whirlygig at one point and fluttered in the breeze to the center crown of the street.

Oooh, Purple!  Spinny!

I did a look to see if anyone had obviously lost this oddball contraption out of their yard.  It didn’t seem like anyone had lost anything, and I know the neighbors in that particular block.  Since the traffic was beginning to heat up for the day, this found bit of strangeness would come with me.

Getting back to the house before anyone else was awake, I set the propeller on the porch and went about my day.

Later that afternoon, I came out and saw the purple prop.

The light bulb in my head fizzled to brilliance.  I thought that I had something that I could set it on and make a pinwheel out of the thing.  The first try was a fiberglass pole that was too large.  That would have been perfect, but it didn’t fit.

The second time was the charm.   I was going to make a bamboo contraption.

We have a stand of Bamboo in the yard.  About as thick as a finger, I have used it to build oddball things like lamps.  It holds a thin piece of LED light in it and as soon as I can figure out a mount, it will make for a hanging lamp or a desk lamp.  Haven’t decided.   But it will allow me to make my gadget and smile.  Besides, LED strips are great lighting for hurricanes and other power outage.

Not that we don’t have enough emergency lighting in here.  If I turned on all the LED Flashlights, torches, votive candles, and strips at once, it would glow bright enough to be seen from space.

Cue the Choir Eternal, there’s a lot here.

The bamboo poles I have here are long though.  10 foot tall sections that narrow to a point. 

Just what I need.

I cleaned the narrow end off of this fishing pole, slid the propeller onto it, then held it up.  It was tall enough to be in the sun and catch the wind that comes steadily off the ocean once you get above the tree line.

Yeah, this sucker was tall.

I immediately got a silly idea.  It was going into the front yard.

Walking 10 feet of pole with a purple propeller through the house, my house guest asked me what that was.

“Art.  I am having an art installation.  It shall be in the middle of the front yard.  If anyone asks, it is for the Art betterment of the city, what else would you think it is?”.

I walked to the front yard with a snicker and promptly stuck it in the grass.   It was well above the house and started spinning happily in the breezes.

Placing my camera next to the pole, I tested the Voice Operated Shutter Feature.

“Cheeze!”  The camera popped.
“Capture!” The camera popped again.
“Camera” and “Shoot” worked as well.

Beautiful blue skies, a purple propeller and shaft were captured for posterity.

I walked inside and giggled saying “Kevin will think I am nuts!”.

I have a weird Dr Seuss inspired piece of whimsy shining in the South Florida Sun.

Doesn’t everyone?

The next email I mentioned the Bamboo Contraption in the front yard.  This really wasn’t the best day to be late from work.

When he got home, opening the door he started asking.

“Have you lost your mind, and why are you videoing me?”
“I have no idea what you mean!”
“You know what I mean!  That bamboo contraption in the yard!  It’s not December!”
“I know it isn’t December, and that isn’t a Festivus pole.  It is Art!”
“Art?  That is Art?”
“I am sure Constance and Krishan will approve!”

At this point he started covering the lens of my camera with an empty bag of dog treats and laughing as he walked out of the room.

Yes, I have a 10 foot pole.  In my yard.  With a purple propeller on top.  Doesn’t everyone?

For Art’s Sake?

Someone, Anyone, Beuhler?

To witness the art installation, do drive by the house.  It will be there through the week or until I’m told to take it down by an art critic with differing taste.  And if you have lost a purple whirlygig looking propeller thing, look up.  If it’s yours, knock on the door and I’ll let you have it.

Besides, Festivus Poles don’t have propellers and are made from Aluminium.  It is the Cadillac of all Metals!

My Pet Frog’s House

I hate to say it, but I don’t believe in “Outdoor Pets”.  If you truly love something, especially something as social and as intelligent as one of the species we keep as pets, you will want them around you.  Otherwise you’re asking your neighbors to keep a pet as well, and they may not want your choice in a pet.

There are exceptions.  I’m sure I will hear them.  But for the vast majority, keep your pets safe, with you, and inside your house.

I think this may be one of the exceptions.

Of course I do, after all, I’m special, and I count, right?   Short yellow bus kind of special, perhaps, but special nonetheless.

Here in Wet Season Florida, wildlife is living fat and happy.  There is plenty to eat, lots of places to hide to sleep and shelter, and the living can be easy.

Unless there’s a hawk overhead, then you had better duck and cover.  My parrot will tell you about that.  He doesn’t like Opossums either since they tried to eat his food that one time.   He stays inside the house making a mess on the room divider.  He prefers it, I would prefer if he learned to clean after himself.

Sometimes that wildlife makes its presence known.  I’ve had snakes get in the house, and although that itself would have been fascinating to watch, it would be better if the black racer stayed outside.  I should say “Snake” since it only happened once.  Black Racer.  Maybe it mistook the meal I had cooking in the crock pot that day for a tasty mouse. 

Mmm, Tasty, Tasty Mouse.

That says more about what I cook than its homing instinct.

I had noticed a while back that there was a frog on my window.  The Florida Room in the back of the house.  It was well before sunrise, I heard a sound on the window like someone slapping a piece of meat on the counter.  Going out to investigate, I found Kermit’s Cousin out there glued to the glass.  Taking a picture of the little creature, I smiled, and let it go on its amphibian way thinking little more of it.

A couple days later, in the middle of a gap between thunderstorms, Kevin spotted another frog on his vehicle parked in the drive.  Using a flashlight, we managed to get a picture, laughed, and we let it go on its amphibian way thinking little more of it.

See a pattern here?

The frog kept showing up. 

I’m about two weeks into the future.  Or wait, maybe time has marched on.  I know the frog hadn’t.

I was in the dining room of the house and looking into the Florida Room one morning.  Having turned on

the lights, I noticed something stuffed into the corner of a little nook in the woodwork.  The whole area was only about as long as your hand, and maybe as wide as your palm.  Not more than 6 by 3 inches.  But it was a gap.  That wood on the outside of the house had a small air gap there of about an inch deep. 

No I don’t know why they did it that way, it seems strange to me too, but it is there.

No I don’t think we will ‘fix it’ just yet.  It’s treated and not prone to anything nasty.

Just frogs.

Our friend, the tree frog from weeks gone by, has adopted our little air gap as its home.  I think it may be able to see me inside the house, but only because it has eyes that rotate on bulges.  It really doesn’t have enough room in there to twist itself around and actually look at me.

Or that’s what I tell myself.  Having Kermit whisper “I see you and I know what you do” is a bit creepy, even if it is just a tree frog that took a liking to my strange Florida Architecture.

Mid Century Modern.  Painted Salmon, faded over the years, stained by rust from the irrigation in spots.

Yeah?  So is yours.  Or it will be.  So there.

Every morning for a couple weeks now there is a ritual that we go through.

About an hour to a half hour before sunrise, the house is fairly quiet.  If there is any music playing, it’s not too loud as if to rouse the house.  The parrot won’t allow that anyway, he’d try to sing along.

In this quiet I hear a familiar sound.  “Thwack!” as the frog’s body hits and sticks to the window with the pads on its feet. 

I know it is climbing the walls.  Trying to get to one of the two little cubby holes that it has claimed as its own, it makes its way up the glass. 

By the time sunrise happens, our outdoor pet frog has sidled into position, in the corner, and settles in for his daytime sleep.

This has happened every day save one in the last few weeks.  That one day, I found myself missing the frog.  It wasn’t there, and something wasn’t quite right.  Laughing at myself, I realize that it will probably go somewhere one day, burrow into what passes for soil here, and hibernate until the wet season returns in May or June and we may have this happen again next year.  It’s possible that its children may try the same thing, and it is also possible that my Froggy Florida Room will be Frogless forever.

Or something else that starts with the letter F.  You choose.  But for now, it’s for Frog.  As in Frog House.

Have You Ever Felt Like You Stepped Into A Disney Movie?

I got restless Sunday Morning.

I simply didn’t want to sit in the chair doing “regular things” and got up from the computer.  

Usually when I do that, I go into the kitchen and make something off the wall.   I could still do that, I have enough Butterscotch Icing to roll out and ice a cake.  More of those Krimpet tasting cakes that I love so much.

Rack was laying in my bedroom on his mat in a pool of sunlight.  I walked out to the main house and I’m sure he read my body language as if to say “Something’s Up!” since he followed along.

Grabbing two “dog bags”, the camera, and all the gear I would usually have when I take the dog for a walk with the camera, I thought I’d take a walk around town.  Nothing planned.  I had wanted to get to the park and get some shots before the sun got too high in the skies.  At that point, South Florida starts to look a bit Over-Exposed and the colors can wash out.

I didn’t have to call Rack.  He was glued to my right calf muscle.

Dressing him up for a walk, he went to the front door.  I looked outside and stepped into Technicolor.  The riot of colors that is Florida assaulted the senses.

We both gathered our minds together, and begun the trip.  I dropped Rack’s leash, on purpose, and gave him an Off Leash walk around town.

He spotted someone well down the block and didn’t care for him.  Acting the fearful dog, he would follow behind me.  We put some distance between that person, who was completely harmless.  I know the guy and see him often since he walks through the neighborhood twice daily.

Silly mutt, come on.

I turned down the block, camera in hand.

I could hear Snow White singing sweetly inside the empty cavity of my mind.  “I’m Wishing!… I’m Wishing!… For You!… For You!”

The first place I looked to take a picture was a fence.   The bird perched there watched me take my camera out, push the zoom button full and allowed me to take one picture.  Looking at the tiny view window afterwords, I had missed the shot.  Not to matter, the Cardinal flew off in a flash of red feathers.

I was disappointed but not for long.  There was a Curly Tailed Lizard watching me.  It allowed me to get rather close and squeeze off a few shots.  Dinosaur’s great grandchild living on my block.  They almost never let you get anywhere near them, let alone close enough and long enough to take pictures. 

As soon as I got enough, it darted away before I had even turned off the power.  It knew.

I was going to take another picture of a different Curly Tail and it knew I didn’t need it.  It strolled away.  Not so much as a Curly Tail normally skitters away, but strolled.  Slowly ambled away.

“I’m Wishing!  For You!”

Ok, Snow White, this is getting odd.  Very odd indeed.

At least the flowers didn’t need any prompting and I managed to get a few of those.  Flash went off on one, disappointingly I got a second one that was actually natural light, clear and perfect.  What I needed but no more.

Head South on the street, the lizards were ambling away in great herds of raptor’s children.  Not concerned of this giant approaching, they merely got out of the way of my size 11 feet.

“I’m Wishing…”

We reached the park.  Rack was still close, now relaxed since the other guy went North a while back.  Off leash and enjoying the freedom of the walk, he went into the little vest pocket park and sniffed at the plinth.  Rack pointed out a Cuban Brown Lizard on the sunny side of the plinth at the tip of his nose.  Neither were concerned with the others presence.

“For you…”

Instead of harassing each other, Rack merely walked to the back of the park and sat down.  He was off a good distance from me, watching me take pictures of Spiders, Butterflies, Bees, and Lizards.  Flowers in a riot of color seemed to stop nodding in the ever present breezes when I needed them.  The Butterfly I wanted to get a picture of hovered, then landed on my finger on the shutter trigger of the camera.

Not terribly helpful, but quite amusing.  The Butterfly helped me notice that the Lizard was trying to get into the act.  When I spotted that, the Butterfly went behind the big copper Butterfly chair as if to say I was taking the wrong shot.

The Lizard slowly walked to the corner of the plinth.  Posing for me, it waited.  I readied the camera and he began doing some slow pushups and what passed for Cuban Brown Lizard Gymnastics.   The little guy really wanted its picture taken.

When I had gotten enough of those, it simply walked out of the sun and stayed in the shade as if to say go look at the dog.

Rack had decided to pose.  Sitting in front of the Butterfly, he was looking from side to side, enjoying the day.  No longer hyper-alert, he was relaxed and enjoying the scene.  I managed to get off some more shots, perfect for what I needed.  You guessed it, he decided I had enough and walked over to me.

“Rack?  What’s Up?”

He simply walked out of the park, sat at the end of the little walkway and beckoned me forward.

I was really beginning to expect Thumper and Flower to show up any minute.  Maybe Bambi would join me and I’d thank Snow White for taking me out this morning.

The entire rest of the walk was like this.  Rack stayed close, never really went very far.   I ignored the leash until I got home.  Removing the leash from his harness, I washed the road grit off and told him to go walk in the grass.  Our routine was to wash his feet before he goes inside, and this was no more different.

One last Disney Moment.  Rack did exactly what I asked him.  Off leash, he walked out into the grass, around the car, and down the other side as if I had been guiding him.  Never mind that I was on the porch and merely gave him that little instruction, he did it flawlessly.

I think the ending credits started to roll at that point.  I opened the door, Rack stepped into the cool dark interior and we left the Technicolor movie behind.