Sunrise on Wilton Manors

I get up whenever I feel like it.  Unfortunately I tend to feel like it as early as 4:30 AM.  A late day is getting up at sunrise.

Part of it is habit.  I would get up on weekends back in the day.  First it was for rowing on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.  Later it was for running in the Valley Forge National Park, or to the trails for biking and Inline Skating.

I miss the Skating the most.  South Florida with its drivers that aim for anything out there including other cars is not conducive for putting any decent distance on inline skates.

Decent distance for me is 100 miles per week.  That is 162 km for the Imperially Impaired.

But the habit continues.

Lately it is a two mile, 3 km dog walk every day, rain or predawn shimmer.

That predawn shimmer can be quite beautiful.

I’m out there with my faithful side kick and shadow, Rack the McNab SuperDog (TM) every morning and we cover practically the entire Wilton Drive.  It’s a coping strategy.  You see, Rack is quite fearful and having little traffic before 7AM, we’re out there to try to do some distance to keep in shape.   It works, but it also serves to allow him to get a taste of what he is afraid of without truly having a major panic attack.

The minor ones will trip you up enough anyway.  To get out and explore your own town at a time of morning when there are few others out there truly is a privilege.  On the one hand, you get a weird zombie movie or post apocalyptic vibe where there are tumbleweeds rolling down the main drag.  It’s dead quiet, and there are only a few  people up.  You can ignore them.

But there are the changes as you walk along.  The skies go from indigo to purple to blue.  You get a Subtle Hint Of Mauve, whatever color your eye translates that to be, on everything, and the buildings begin to glow.  The flowers begin to pop.  Later you hit the golden hour and the world wakes up.

So does the traffic, and that can be a distraction for a fearful medium sized mostly black dog.  He gets more insistent to get

Off The Drive and turn back into the neighborhood to head on home.  It’s a 45 minute or more wander.  Later walks are always longer.   You need to take care getting across that street that you didn’t when you left home.  People wave, the officers in the patrol car flash their lights or chirp their sirens to say hello, dog walkers emerge.

I am living my own version of the intro to the movie Roxanne as all the sudden I am smiling as a baby Beagle and a Pug are wrapped around my legs begging for attention and Rack is snuffling around the owners looking to be pet.

We’ll end up home soon enough.  Herd a few ducks, watch the last clouds turn from golden to white, and ponder whether the rain will come on shore before you get home.

Another dog walk at sunrise ends with the cool of the living room.

Hello!  I’m home!  What’s for Breakfast?

There Is Quite A Lot Of Wildlife Watching Me

I admit it.

Actually I admit it frequently.

I’m fascinated by the wildlife that we have here in South Florida.

Walk out into the yard and I’m being watched.

Lizards, literally everywhere.  I had heard there were a lot of them around, but coming from a “temperate” climate like South Jersey, I never really believed that they existed.  You just don’t see a lizard staring back at you from a Pin Oak tree in Cherry Hill, NJ.

Here, I walk to the front door and there are lizards sunning themselves on my driveway watching me back through the glass.

I’ve seen Muscovy Ducks on my front porch more times than I care to count, and I’ve taken to inviting them to leave.  They’re way too messy to be a good house guest.

They are perfectly fine on the water and near it, but the one night that I stepped onto my porch after sunset and found myself interrupting some seventeen of them making funky Duck Love and smelling the pungent aroma of what happens when you startle them, they needed to move on.

Did you know a bird will lighten the load before flying by making a poop?

Some other places have alligators in their swimming pool.  Key West, Florida has Chickens.  I suspect they are fine until they get to be a bit too populous, but people brought them there to begin with.  If you don’t want chickens, help yourself to the eggs they leave under your shrubs.

I wonder if they will trade a few chickens for some ducks?

They came there because their many generation removed grandparents were used in fighting.  That’s not at all allowed these days, but some did escape and settled in.

So I did get to see the chicken cross the road, even if I am still not quite sure why it did.

You end up with wading birds deciding that it is time to perch on your Jeep.  It doesn’t happen too often, they aren’t out there every day.  Luckily they are some of the more shy creatures out there.  If you get anywhere near them they fly off.

I have seen these Snowy Egrets, or what ever they are called, walk across lawns in long herds like something out of a Disney Movie.  They’re also the reason why I don’t tell the landscapers to spray the yard.

We get so many of them here that the grubs I see them going after are kept well under control.  Along with the Black Racer snakes in some rare occasions.

But we do get quite a few visitors.

In the morning, being awakened by the song birds that show up in my bottlebrush tree is a normal happening.

Some of them are louder than others.  And some are more insistent than others.

It’s also why I  have a habit of waking early, or at least an explanation.

Go on outside and have a look around.  The sheer volume of things that I see in my own little yard here in suburbia always has me wondering just what am I missing.

I’ve been told that there are scorpions here, and if I leave my boots outside for some strange reason, I bang them on the pavement to make sure I don’t bring any hitchhikers in.

I’ve found way too many lizards to count.  They do keep the spiders at bay though and that’s a welcome aside.

After all, a Banana Spider in the house at the size of a Volkswagen is a but of a shock.  For a while I was fortunate.  My old windows had another predator that took up residence in one small nook.  Then the house was upgraded to Impact Resistant glass.  Hurricane Glass they call it.  But it also took the nook away and my frog was gone.

I do kind of miss the frogs after all that is said and done.

Really, Frogs, since I saw three there the day before the nook was taken away a couple years back.  Funny how things like that end up in unexpected places.

At the moment though, there are the butterflies.  Sure, I have all of those creatures cohabiting with me, the dog, the parrot, and the humans in this house.  But the plants are all scattered with a dusting of butterflies in various stages of life.  They all will hatch as time allows them, and I am surprised that they spend more time in that chrysalis than I would expect.  After all, hanging on a leaf just means you’ll get spotted and the leaf could get brought inside for an incomplete photography project.

But I am sure that you all have heard that before, haven’t you?

Wildlife Photography Takes Forever Or How A Monarch Pupa Took Up Residence In My Living Room

I suppose it was meant to be.

I figured out that if I cut a length of Mexican Milkweed about the length of your longest finger and put it in wet soil, there was a good chance it would root and grow.

About 80 to 90% chance of success I have noticed.

Then if you planted them in a sheltered place, they would get to the point where they would look appetizing to a passing Monarch Butterfly, and eggs would get laid on it.

Knowing that the life cycle of a Monarch was short, and that I had only a few Mexican Milkweed plants, I watched them get decimated back to sticks.  They even sampled my Mango tree and some of the Coleus that are near by.

I noticed that I had three pupae forming in the plants that I had found, hopefully more than that.  There were 16 caterpillars feeding on that one sad last plant.

It hasn’t really recovered.   Give it time.

Some of them made it into strange places.  That Mango tree in a pot had one in a very visible spot.

I began video taping the Chrysalis when it began to turn translucent.  They go from a beautiful jade green through translucent, then transparent, and will crack open so that the butterfly can emerge.  It takes about two weeks.

 

I had that camera out there so long that South Florida began to come out of the Dry Season and into the Wet Season that we’re “celebrating” with a vengeance.

Seven Inches of Rain yesterday.

That last dry day though.   The pupa that was on the little Mango tree is no longer.  I went out and checked it and the pupa had vanished.   Bringing in the camera, I looked at the time lapsed video and there was a flurry of action when the disappearance occurred.  A female Cardinal bird had spotted the camera, perched near it, and spotted the pupa hanging under the leaf.  One peck and the pupa was gone.  The bird actually looked into the camera and if it is possible, she smirked at it.

Fine!  Be that way.  I took things into my own hands.

There was a second one that managed to find a home up in a set of wind chimes.  I’m leaving that one alone.  The third one, on the other hand, is now in my house.

But that third chrysalis I am taking care of.

It was on a leaf in my garden.  Specifically a red dracena plant that I had planted as shrubbery under the windchimes that are home to that second chryaslis.

The leaf got cut, brought inside and adhesive taped to a mat that my dog uses for the background.    I had a set up.  I could put the camera on the table and instead of walking all the way to the tripod on the back of the property next to the shed, I could simply turn it on and let it be.  Every time I would walk past the camera, I would inspect the camera and my little companion, and make changes if needed.

That was about 3 days ago.  I’m starting to get cabin fever.  There’s a rhythm to this sort of thing.  It needs to be observed if you want a chance at any success.  A Monarch won’t emerge late at night, so I am effectively “off duty” after dinner.  They want to have the sun to dry their wings and get ready to fly off.

It does not happen in seconds, rather a few minutes to dry, and flap about.  Then they take off.  I will be able to switch off the ceiling fans, and re-position the camera for that scene.

But for now I wait.

It’s not even a guarantee that I will get a successful video.  The creature could die.  There are no errant Cardinal birds in my house, but things sometimes just don’t “hatch”.  It’s pretty reliable that at this point it will hatch, it’s in a controlled environment at 76F and household humidity levels.

It could wander off the frame of the camera, which is close and only as wide as the leaf is.   It could do that when I am out of the house, which I have been fortunate enough not to have to go anywhere for a bit.

But at least I will get the emergence.

If you look closely, you can actually see the distinctive orange and black pattern of the Monarch’s Wings inside the clearing skin of the chrysalis.  So I believe that this one is still alive, and still growing.  Percolating perhaps.

Give it another day or three.  After all, it’s their movie, isn’t it?

And sometimes the story is in the journey and not the destination.

The Broken Poang Story or You Want To Drive Across The County For A Bolt?

The story started once upon a time in the dark ages called the 1980s.  I have a friend from way back then who got a job with Ikea when they opened their very first store here in the US in the fabled land of Plymouth Meeting, PA.

He was a fan of some of their products and since I had a major car accident where I was “laid up” for an entire summer, it was years before my muscle mass was strong enough that I could get comfortable in a chair, I would need to look for some furniture.

My friend suggested trying out a Poang Chair.

“A what?”

He described this weird flat pack thing that you get to assemble.  You select the upholstery you want with it, put it all together, it looks stylish and has clean lines.  The one I am sitting in now has a leather cushion and fits in quite well. I did eventually get one, but it was quite a few years before I did.

I went to a store and saw it and did like it but somehow managed to avoid getting one through the Apartment Stage of Life into my first home.

Then, I moved to Florida.  Then being in 2006.  One of the first things I managed to get was a Poang.

You see, Poang Chair frames are so sturdy that people tend to give them away rather than throw them out, or they end up at a better thrift store.  That is how I got both of mine.

 

I did go back to Ikea and upgrade the padding and upholstery on the first one – they are designed to be replaced by simply pulling them off the velcro on the frame.

 

It was a strange synthetic blue that looked like it belonged in a frat house basement.  When I put on the smooth and supple chocolate colored leather covering, it dressed it right up as well as the matching ottoman.

Yes, I do like them.  The second one serves as a desk chair.  Although my back is

much much better now, I can’t just sit in any old chair all day long.  The Poang is the exception.

The other chair has the original cotton fabric covered foam upholstery.  I’m fine with that.  Some of the upholsteries can be machine washed depending on the care instructions on the tag so you might be able to toss the covering into the washer, cold, and it comes out clean.

 

Some are dry clean only, and leather needs its own cleaning regimen.  Your mileage may vary.  Consult your owner’s manual.

 

Just let it air dry.  If it shrinks because you used Hot, you’re stuffed.  The original Frat House Blue covering shrank, I haven’t been bold enough to try to wash that beige one since it goes well with the colors in this house.

The other day though, I found out what the weak point was on the chair.   I was watching some drama on TV when all the sudden I was on the floor.

You see, there’s this bolt on the shoulder of the chair.  It holds the part you sit in to the frame of the chair.  Since everything is built very efficiently, remove one part and it just becomes a pile of bent wood.  They are built to bounce slightly while you are moving around in them but I guess 10 years of bouncing took their toll.

In my case, it was a pile of bent wood, reclining at a strange angle, me on top of it all and grateful that the dog did not get crushed under it.

That fabled bolt simply sheared.

“Help.”

I heard running from the other room.  “Are you alright?!??!”

Yes, it’s fine, I’m just at a strange angle.  Can you help me up?

I had to wait for my friend to calm down after I got rapid fire questions about how it happened, what caused it, why did I do it, and other minutia.

Obviously I didn’t break my favorite chair on purpose.

“Well I’ll have to make a trip to the hardware store.  They keep parts for these things.  Barring that, it’s back to the Ikea Mothership and get a bolt.”

I was told not to do anything, he’ll drive me to Ikea, we’ll get the bolt.

“All the way across the county to get a bolt?  I know Ikea stands behind their products but we don’t even know if …”

I was cut off.  It’s a treat to go to that giant blue barn of strangely named the merchandise.  “We can get a Right Sized Dinner there and get your bolt.”

*sigh* OK, I’ll give you a couple days and we can go otherwise I will start looking in the big box hardware stores.

Only my pride was harmed in the collapsing of my chair.  I waited a few days and we went out there.  Sitting shotgun in the car listening to that mechanical woman’s voice on the car’s GPS try and fail to figure out a good route to the store and tell us for the first half hour to “Make a legal U Turn” over and again.

“Come on, you silly voice.  It’s West out Oakland Park, South to 136th st after the curve!  Keep going until you see it just shy of I595.  It’s South Florida!  Locals Don’t Take Interstates at Rush Hour!”

We got there, got a Right Sized dinner, explored the items that were named at random by tearing pages out of the Stockholm Phone Book.  There were a few things I would not mind getting, and the Poang Rocker caught my eye yet again but the house really is Full of Things and I don’t need to shop.

Getting to the end of the maze I walked over, took a number and waited for one of the ladies at the counter to call “165!”.

“Hello, I need a Bolt!  My Poang collapsed and I was dumped on the floor!”

I got a bemused look and the tiniest hint of a smile.

“Ten years to a bolt, good gas mileage.”  She looked at a parts explosion for the chair.  They actually do stock all the parts to make their products in case you lose one or are shorted one.

Or in my case, ten years of use, the chair decides to shear one.  I’m a big guy, but not outlandishly so.  I understand that the load capacity is well north of my own 6’4″ and 225 Pounds.  They used to have a display where they were pounding a Poang chair with hydraulic lifts to illustrate their strength.

Good to know that I am not too big to use a chair!

She came back holding two of the bolts plus my sheared bolt.  Part number 146654, and no thank you I don’t need the special Ikea Allen Wrench part number 100001.

“Thank you! I can fix my favorite chair with that bolt!”  as I took both.

You never know when you need a spare bolt!  Maybe some time in another ten years I will be going back out to Sunrise, FL, to get another Right Sized Meal and some other parts after replacing the other bolt.

Just don’t know.  But it’s better than ending up on the floor with a surprised look on your face and a broken bolt to extract.

Now… if I could find a piece of plywood here around the house.  About 18 inches by 20 inches.  I could firm the seat up a bit.  Ikea products are very hackable.  End tables for $10 that work as computer racks are well known, and someone once built a man cave under a platform bed constructed from bookcases.

 

I still have my eye on that rocker for next time…

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.

Green Onion Flower, or When Internet Memes Bloom

We have all read them.

Internet Memes that promise that you can grow your own food forever.

Guess what, they’re right.

Actually, in some cases they are.  Others depend on how good a gardener you are.

When I was a wee brat, I had pots and plants all over my bedroom.  Along with fish tanks and the sort, there was always something growing, living, bubbling.  The room was always a little more humid than the rest of the house which was great in Winter I guess.

Those Suburban South Jersey split level tract homes could be rather dry, even if you had the bedroom over top of the garage.

I guess I had some luck with growing flowers.  I had a marigold bloom that grew in a thimble sized pot once with a tiny little flower that surprised me.

But this was a surprise.

The meme said that there was a list of food plants that you could grow from the root portion of the plant.  This promised to be a “forever” thing, if you got it right and used them well.

Carrots, Onions, Green Onions, and Celery, as well as a laundry list of other things.

Green Onions.   We would get a package of them and end up tossing some of them every time.  There is an ongoing “discussion” here about green onions.  When I was growing up you used up the entire plant.  Green leaves and the bulb.  Nothing was wasted.  Others would only use the bulb and leave the leaves in the trash.

I decided to stick those extras in a pot.  They started to grow.  I would cut a leaf off when I needed some green onion for my Pizza or what ever else I was making.  They kept growing.

In fact, the problem I have now is that the plants are a bit too prolific.  I have two pots that have green onion in them and we don’t use that much in the way of greens.

One of the plants in particular must have been very happy because it sent up a little spike that bloomed.  I never thought too much of a Green Onion as a garden flower, but this was a rather beautiful white and green tinged puff that came up in the pot.

All of this out of some plants that I rescued from the trash.

So yes, as for this Meme?  You can grow them over and over.  If you do, you can just stick the extras in the soil.  As for recipes, the green portion tastes the same, the white is there for crunch.

Simply leave a little bulb on the bottom of the white portion of your Green Onion and you may get good results.  The suggestion with regular onions is to slice about 1/2 inch or 1.5 cm above the bottom root portion, and stick it in water until you see growth.  If you do get some root stock showing, then you can plant that and later get another onion.

Bottomless, never buy vegetables again?  I won’t go that far but I certainly can’t see buying Green Onion in the next trip to the grocer, that’s for sure!

McNab Dogs Are Just Too Polite

I don’t really have a dog.  I have a shadow.

Rack is my rescue.  Actually his full name is Rack The McNab SuperDog (TM).  He told me to put that TM there.  I’m on the fence about that.

Thing is that I’ll be in a room doing my thing and I notice he’s watching.  The bedroom door is across from the bathroom.  His mat sits there so he can watch both.

I’ll get up off my chair doing whatever it is that I do in the course of the day and wander into either room.  Do my thing, and turn around and there’s a mostly black with white accents dog looking back under all seeing brown eyes.

Watching.

If I happen to go into that bathroom in this little house and close the door, and I do close the door if there are other humans here as a polite man is wont to do, Rack will make his presence known.

He’s worried that I may Fall In.  I hear paws on the tiles. Walking.  Pacing.  Back and forth.  Too long sequestered, I have heard some gentle little whining at the door.

Watching.

This particular day was a very active one.  My normal routine was a bit upset.  You see my elbow got hurt.  If you have a foam mattress you may find yourself in the same position.  In my case, I was in a bowl.  Sleeping on that foam mattress, I found myself sinking down into it slowly until when I wake.  My elbow was hyper-extended by sinking so I will try to re-position.  Back to sleep.  Elbow wakes me up in pain again.  It got to the point where my elbows were both in pain all day.

I went to get a new mattress.  It was not an option, but a requirement.

I put this new one on the bed and flattened it out.

Mind you I am a very creative person.  I realized that inside the old mattress was one inch of memory foam and another five or so inches of upholstery foam.  I started carving it into shapes for future pillows and so forth filling the master bedroom with oblongs and rectangular shapes, odd specks of foam hitting the floor and bouncing over the distance to land near Rack’s nose.

Yes, he came in and was busy watching me make a mess of things.

I realized it.  He was doing his job.

He also has a bed.  That bed needs to be replaced a good six or seven times over.  Sure, he has mats that I can toss in the washer on Hot Wash Day to kill whatever is inside, but he prefers this slightly bowl shaped contraption that is a hand-me-down from a long since moved away neighbor who insisted that Rack would like it.

I got the bright idea to take some of the smaller scraps and filled the dog bed with it.  Eventually he will learn to like it as he melts over the side in a position that only a Bendy McNab Dog would enjoy.  Never complaining, melting over the side like a Salvador Dali painting of an impossible clock, he would find a new position.

All the while I was breaking the one cardinal rule of having a herding dog.  I was changing routine.  Listening to a radio station called 4TO in Townsville, Australia for their coverage of Cyclone Debbie, they sounded the hour.  I looked at the clock here and realized that it was already Noon.

Lunch would be late.  I had to make a pot of rice and warm the curry.

Putting the rice cooker back on, I looked around and realized that he had moved into the kitchen and was watching for some food.

“Sorry Rack, chicken makes you sick and this curry has onion in it.”

I got a disappointed look and he circled around to lay down, Sphinx-like from the little hallway.

 

Once the rice was on, I asked “What is it, Rack?  Show me!  Show me what you want!”

Nose in the air, I responded “Sorry, boy not for dogs.  How about something else.  Come here!”

Gently, he padded across the tiles on his cat like feet and wagged his tail at me.  I bent down to his ear and whispered the magic word:  “Yogurt.”

Got a solid wag there.  Never a bark, those are reserved for the intruders like UPS Guys and those rather insistent Duck that roam the yard.  I started to pour out the yogurt, he was going to get a treat…

OOPS!  A solid pint of home made plain yogurt?  This should be interesting.

I set him back on his way.  He downed the yogurt as I went back to stuffing his bed.

The rice cooker, later, snapped to the finished position.  I put the curried chicken on top and sat down at the little rolling table.  Rack was well tall enough to be able to bend down to eat right off that plate, but no, he got a conversation instead.

“Rack, you know this is chicken and onion!  Curry is too spicy for you.  Not for dogs, I’m sorry”.

I got the most plaintive look back from him.

“Rack it will turn you into a soft serve dispenser.  Let’s not have any of this here.”

Sad expectant look walked away slowly.  I was able to finish the plate of Chicken and Chick Peas, Onions, Sauce, Peanuts and Rice without an issue.

Watching.

Of course he was.  That’s his job.  Me.

If anyone tells you that you can’t have a McNab dog in the city, just tell them that they simply need a job.  You can be their job.  Best job a dog ever had.

Oh!  And as for the beds?  Both are fine.  My new one helped my elbows out greatly, it’s amazing what a good mattress will do for your back too!  Rack is still on the fence about it, but I took a giant cartoonish kitchen knife and cut the foam inserts I made down to one half thickness.  He’s on the bed now.