Friday, December 25, 2009

Another Christmas, Another Linderia columnata

Every Christmas the sweet smell of carrrion wafts across the field and we think, "Ah, something has died and the dogs will be rolling in it soon," but alas it is only the Columned Stinkhorn.  A consistent Christmas visitor for the past four years, they disappear as quickly as they appear.

Handsome cabbage grows in the garden.

Buckley takes a short break from sleeping on the porch.

Mutinus elegans, or the Devil's Dipstick, produces its own olfactory lure that apparently works to attract a variety of insects.  The devil has produced quite a few dipsticks this year, but this was the only yellow one.  

Lula keeps dry during a rainy Christmas morning.

Charles is working on a large wall of sketches for a local show.

Without a powerful enough Sun, the solar fountain rests for the winter.  The fish don't seem to mind.

Nothing says Christmas like Free Donut.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Art Basel, Miami, sort of...

The graffiti park where several large finished and unfinished murals could be viewed.

Random street art being created in the Wynwood district.

Cymande and the Miami Mounted Police watch the graffiti artists work. Notice my careful positioning. You have to think like a cop to allude jaywalking on my rap sheet...yet!

The Shepard Fairey Mural.

A small sculpture park in the Wynwood. Cymande would like one of these in the field of our Ipswich property. We have property in Ipswich?

We could have spent days exploring the galleries and art spaces, unfortunately our time was limited and I had developed a criminal record.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

This is Not a Mid-Life Crisis; This is Thanksgiving

My dear old friend Gio travelled from Berkley to spend a week on Old Wire Road. I'm not implying that Gio is old; geologically, he is very young and he has repeatedly assured me that he is not having a midlife crisis. I'm starting to believe him, but that might be due to the lingering hypnotic effects of a wine-fueled outdoorsy week-long ramble.

Gio's first two days were spent developing a deep bond with Charles while Cymande and I worked. To assist in Gio's enculturation of the local dominant paradigm they took a four hour long walk to aquire beer. They were successful. After this experience he was able to fully invest in awakening his dormant inner drummer. Again, success was his. The next day we hosted Thanksgiving dinner with Anthony and Faye in attendance. It was a briney good time. The rest of the week-long visit was spent mostly on outdoor adventure, eating, imbibing, creating a certain undescribable genre of music and watching horror movies from the early 60's.

It was only a week, but it could have gone on forever...or until Cymande keeled over from testosterone exposure.

Gio and I made an excursion to O'leno park where we visited the mysterious water-filled sinks covered in duckweed. These sinks are part of the Santa Fe river which travels underground, emerges nearby and eventually joins the Suwannee River.

This is Jim's sink.

We saw a lovely little blue heron that contrasted with the intense green duckweed. I scrambled along the steep banks (some over 10 feet high) to get a photo, but the little blue protested my attempts.

Gio was introduced to our competetive badminton matches and put up a pretty good fight. He then challenged Buckley and Lula to a version of badminton that only Gio understands. 

Our next daytrip was to Paynes Prairie just south of Gainesville. Paynes Prairie is a savanna drained by a system of sinkholes. In the past, the sinkholes became blocked and it transformed into a large lake which eventually drained, stranding boats on dry ground. The boats are gone, but if you're lucky you can see descendants of DeSoto's horses and bison that were reintroduced in the 1970's. It was here that Gio got to check one beast off his wish list.

From the Paynes Prairie viewing platform we watched harriers, glossy and white ibis, and herons work things out. We also watched Charles, utterly bored with nature, sleep on an uncomfortable corner of the decking.

Gio kept a safe distance from the large alligator that slithered beneath the surface. As we approached the pond I thought that someone had carelessly left a tire on the shore, until the tire unwound itself into the water.

We ended the day with pizza and beer at Satchels. Gio and Charles...Cheers!

Gio and I woke early the next day to paddle down the Ichetucknee and the Santa Fe River. We were the only humans on the Ichetucknee all morning. We saw deer feeding on the shore, countless birds and a small group of river otters that swam next to my kayak while munching on snails.

Gio paddles under a fallen tree on the Northern portion of the Ichetucknee.

Further down the Ichetucknee widens and we spent some time with a vocal limpkin, a couple great blue herons, cormorants and a gregarious Anhinga.

A good egret? No, a great egret.

On the Santa Fe I tried to fulfill Gio's dream of meeting a wild manatee. We didn't find one, but as we paddled a passing boater mentioned that manatees were seen at the convergence of the Ichetucknee and Santa Fe on the previous day. So, Gio almost saw a wild manatee.

The next day we volunteered with Four Rivers Audubon at Ichetucknee State Park. We collected wildflower seeds and learned about the sandhill ecosystem. I developed a strong opinion about goldenrod seeds and I refused to collect them.

The joy of seed collection. Notice that Gio is mocking me by not collecting seed and instead attempts to uproot a scorched sapling.

To the novice observer one might think 'kitty litter,' but this is no kitty litter. These containers are full of seeds with scientific names I can't pronounce and common names I can't remember.

Band practice. Gio informed us that he could make us famous and that we could not enjoy fame without him. He is the 'frontman' he repeated. When I pointed out that he was the drummer and that being the frontman would turn him into a Phil Collinsesque figure he just shrugged it off...always the optimist.

On Gio's last full day we decided to kayak the northern portion of the Ichetucknee again.

One of three handsome limpins that we spotted on our second trip down the Ichetucknee.

As I write this Gio is stuck in Miami and is at a hotel for the night. We've been pacing around the house singing songs such as 'That Girl' or 'Lake City Moonshine.' Gio hasn't left yet...the madness lingers.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How to Restore Peace to a Stump

One of our batshit conspiracy-theorist neighbors has been forecasting the end of days since the election last year. He posted a sign on an old stump that read 'mpeach' approximately 5 minutes after the inauguration. It annoyed me because we live on a lovely tree-lined dirt road. The stupidity was disturbing my peace of mind. Thankfully, 'mpeach' mysteriously and thankfully disappeared. Peace was restored until...

A new sign appeared on the stump. It was getting under my skin until I made my very own sign. I feel my sign conveys a happier future... one with lots of ice cream.

11/15/09 Super Deluxe Update!
Well, it turns out fantasy man doesn't like ice cream after all!  My sign has been reduced to a pile of angry splinters.  I guess that works as a form of anger management, but honestly, who doesn't like ice cream?  It seems almost un-American.  How about this sign idea:  I don't like ice cream...yum?      

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sam Rivers and the Rivbea Orchestra

It's been over ten years since I last saw Sam Rivers play at the Sapphire Supper Club in Downtown Orlando.  On Saturday night we were lucky enough to attend a performance of his big band, the Rivbea Orchestra, in College Park, Orlando. Thunderstorms threatened and Sam forgot the sheet music, but all problems were resolved and it was an amazing performance. There were a few confused folks expecting a Salsa band and not quite expecting the somewhat avant-garde Sam Rivers sound experiments...oh well, too bad for them.        

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sisters and Satchel's Pizza

Sisters in Haile Plantation

I've decided to review two local restaurants that we've become recent fans of. They are located in two separate socioeconomic universes. Sisters is in Haile Plantation, a semi-phony New Urbanism development west of Gainesville, and while a bit contrived, it remains pleasant, tree-lined, dog-filled and very upper-middle class. Sisters serves a great breakfast. I appreciate any breakfast place that actually cares about their coffee and they do, serving Sweetwater, a fair-trade local roaster. Their ingredients tend to be local and organic and they present a creative and appealing menu. This is no simple task, remember we live in Florida. I guess this is why I like this place so much. It could be on any corner in Ipswich or Beverly or Gloucester. Anyway, the food is great and the service is very pleasant. We've had the Blueberry Blintzes and Mascarpone/Banana Crepes (both very rich with appropriate portion sizes), the Eggs Benedict (tasty roasted red pepper hollandaise) and the French Toast stuffed with ham and gruyere. Sit outside and watch all the college professors walk their dogs. If you go on a Saturday morning shop at the farmer's market and buy samosas for later in the day.

Eggs Benedict with spinach and roasted red pepper hollandaise.

Satchel's Van.

Our recently discovered and favorite pizza place ever, Satchel's, is located on the Eastside of Gainesville (which can be translated into the African-American side of town where there is not one bank. Not one.) The environment is very casual, with a pleasant punk-hippy-smarty pants feel. You can eat in the old ford van. The salad is fantastic with apples, sunflower seeds, almonds and their own dressing. The pizza, oh the good, too good. Again, remember we live in Florida, but I am pretty sure that this is the best pizza I've eaten. Cymande, however, feels that North Beach Pizza in San Francisco, circa 1990 was pretty darn good. Anyway, the service was friendly and helpful and if you visit us we will take you there.

Lightnin' Salvage, a great junk shop behind Satchel's.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawling's Home in Cross Creek.

Buckley surveys Old Wire Road from the porch table.

A toad, born of Swilly River and now off to inhabit the world.

The new F725 mower, sweet.

Lula sleeps outside of the front door.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Again, Technical Difficulties...

Well, I had hoped that I could squeeze in a September entry full of wit and interesting phenomenon that have occured since the last entry. I suppose I still could, but somehow without the photo evidence it seems less appealing.

I could describe in agonizing detail how one fine day I was mowing the lawn with my tired old Craftsman mower when suddenly it started making a hideous noise followed by a thick malodorous grey smoke belching from the exhaust, then stopped operating. I tried to turn it over, but more smoke poured out and finally the engine turned into a block of molten metal. The photo might show the mower meeting its smokey demise amongst the pear trees.

Two weeks later, Charles and I drove down to Sebring to pick up a John Deere F725 mower that I purchased on ebay. It required a couple of parts (fuel pump, ignitor), but I do believe that I got a very good deal. A suspiciously good deal. OK, maybe it is stolen, but the guy seemed nice and honest and grateful and he gave us pina coladas. I suggest that if you own a nice mower, such as the one in my barn, then consider locking it up. You might avoid a bidding war on ebay and actually earn the value of the mower if you set a reserve price. I hope this serves as my confession and that all my lawn mowing and ebay sins will be forgiven. The photo would be of the F725 parked amongst the fig trees.

I also planned on finally revealing Swilly River and all its teeming biodiversity. It's been an interesting 6 month experiment. I'm impressed by the number of fish, frogs, toads and insects that stormwater and bathwater support. The photo would show the meandering path of Swilly River.

I might have mentioned a couple of handsome chicks that hatched after losing four hens and a rooster to a coyote attack (there is a price to pay for having the freedom to range willy-nilly.) The photo would show two fuzzy chicks under the constant supervision of their mother.

For those of you not interested the the superficial distraction that I attempt to provide here, or if you are seeking more profundity, or more existential dilemmas, or maybe you are seeking more discussion about reproductive endocrinology then I would have reminded you: Cymande and I have been busy. The photo would be of two happy blastomeres.

Upon resolution of our technical difficulties all these topics and more will be explored appropriately. Until then you will just need to use your imagination. Lawn mowers, rivers, chicks, blastomeres...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cash for Clunker

Big Blue Van, you served us well.  Yes, you achieved 12 MPG on a good day, and yes, I worried that a tire might explode at any moment, and yes, you scared little children as you drove by the bus stop, but you performed admirably in your tasks.  You helped restore our house, hauled a piano, served as a dump truck, pulled down a barn and miraculously increased in value.  Thank you BBV and goodbye...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Spanish Moss

Tillandsia usneoides

Description: Spanish Moss is neither moss, nor lichen. It is a bromeliad with ariel roots and small inconspicuous flowers that propagates through fragmentation, seed dispersal and by birds using it as nesting material. One strand can grow up to 7 meters in length. It is not parasitic, but can obscure sunlight to host trees and can increase wind resistance during hurricanes. It grows primarily on live oak, bald cypress, crape myrtle and sweetgum because these trees leach nutrients which aides the moss' survival. It is home to several creatures including: bats, rat snakes and a species of spider found only on the moss. It is often associated with Southern Gothic imagery, as are several unpleasant aspects of Southern US history...the moss is a lovely silvery green and appears mysterious in the morning fog!

Range: Spanish Moss can be found from the Southeastern US to Argentina. In our yard, it is primarly found in the live oaks on the southern side of our property. It grows abundantly during the humid summer, but thins out during the dry winter and spring.

Human Uses: It was once used as mattress stuffing and is still used as mulch in floral arrangements. It is also used as a textile by some folk artists. It is dried, spun and used in knitting (this art form is almost lost.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Brent Butler, 1967 - 2009

Our Friend Brent recently passed away after a long illness. We met him last year at Chantal and Noah's Wedding, but heard about him for many, many years. He was a kind, creative Vancouverite with an incredibly sharp wit. He told us that during his treatments he would use Old Wire Road as a safe idealized place that he could escape to; A place where the chickens roam free, ripe fruit falls from trees and the warm sun always shines. We were honored by this. We tried to keep OWR free of the clutter that innundates this world. We will miss you Brent. The following is the obituary that he wrote:

September 2, 1967 - March 9, 2009. Brent Butler died driving impressively fast on the forbidden highway of danger, showing a clear disregard for the status quo in an inspiring act of sheer, fearless bravado. He looked thin. Brent is survived by his loving parents, Patrick and Barbara, his younger brother, Bryce as well as his many dear friends. In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to the BC Cancer Foundation, Lymphoma Research.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Our Commute: Lake City to Jasper

Five Points


The Bicycle Association

The Suwannee River

White Springs


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