Posts Tagged With: Florida

A Florida Friday: Time for some yard work?

Florida ‘snow’ (aka Florida pusley and Mexican clover)

It’s hot as blazes out today and hot, sunny weather is expected through next week, which may be a good thing since UV rays kill viruses. But with America on quarantine, I am asking myself: what am I going to do for the next few weeks so that I don’t go stir crazy? And the answer seems to be to get out and do some yard work. The local tree-trimming company we’ve used is happy to drop off 11 cubic yards of mulch for free to the home that is closest to its last work stop of the day, and we are on the list to have that mountain delivered. It would be fantastic if it came during this nationwide stoppage.

Our yard most definitely needs lots more work. Hurricane Irma’s wrath whipped up enough water in this part of Florida to leave many yards at least partially submerged. Over two years later, many homeowners are still struggling to free their properties of all the weeds that washed in and never washed out. The most obvious invader at this time of year is “Florida snow” (aka Florida pusley and Mexican clover)—its little white flowers are everywhere. Our yard is no exception! It’s easy to remove when you find the main stem, and then you can just yank it up out of the ground with all its tentacles trailing after it. But when your yard is 90% Florida snow… well, if you choose to fight back, brace yourself—the flowers produce seeds rapidly, allowing “Florida snow” to spread uncontrollably.

Major respect for this ‘little’ yellow flowered specimen whose roots go a mile into the ground

Instead of fighting, we are strategizing ways to minimize its presence through the creation of a Florida-friendly landscape that relies on native plants and lots of mulch and pine straw. Regarding the “snow,” which is an invasive species, we are going with the flow and looking on the bright side: the plant’s flowers attract a ton of bees—so many bees, in fact, that I don’t dare walk across the grass in wide-bottomed trousers or a long skirt. And the flower itself is actually quite pretty. Don’t get me wrong—we are on a quest to slowly eliminate it. We are mulching over segments of our yard as we install all sorts of native plants. It’s the natives that easily grow and thrive here. Why plant species from elsewhere, as beautiful as they are, when they’ll require a lot of maintenance in the summer rainy season and lots of water in the dry winters?

Pretty yellow flowers atop, but just see what is below. It takes some muscle to pull these sweethearts out

Plus, water is expensive if you don’t have your own well, which we do not. And, of course, if you water your lawn in the winter to keep it green, you also have to mow it.  We just go with Mother Nature’s flow and by doing so have only had to mow the lawn 3-4 times since September. That’s how dry it is and how slowly things grow this time of year.

Fortunately, we don’t live in an HOA-run community that makes homeowners keep their yards free of weeds. Having and maintaining a perfectly manicured grass lawn here is challenging. A chemical called Atrazine can be used to eliminate “Florida snow,” but who wants to use chemicals on their lawn especially given how sensitive Florida’s environment is? Fortunately, I’ve heard that someone in Tallahassee has introduced a bill prohibiting HOAs from banning the presence of “Florida snow” since it is so ubiquitous.

A tour of our front yard this past week alerted me to some more pretty little surprises, and before leaving you, I must point out the weed with the swirling pale-yellow flowers (see photo). It’s a Florida native called “common wirewood” (Sida acuta), and it is a BEAST! Check out that root. This is one tough cookie, and it takes real muscle to pull it from the ground. I’ve read that it can get quite large if allowed to grow unfettered and that it is high in protein, making it good deer food. In Florida’s natural settings, property owners are encouraged to let this plant grow. Anyway, gotta have respect for this one. My husband says to leave it where we find it; it’s earned its place here!

Some day when we are finished with our Florida-friendly landscaping project, I will share our “before and after photos”. Meanwhile, heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s back to work we go…  Stay safe, everyone.

Native succulent: Portulaca pilosa (pink purslane)

Spanish needles (Bidens alba)

Categories: Florida, Native plants, Nature | Tags: , | 4 Comments

A Florida Friday: Some thousand-year-old oaks

For this “Florida Friday” post, I’m sharing a few scenes from a recent visit to the 9,000-acre Highlands Hammock State Park, which is located outside the town of Sebring in lower central Florida. Established in 1931, it was one of the first state parks in Florida. Here, some of the oaks are said to be over a thousand years old. The Civilian Conservation Corps was responsible for building many of the structures and the numerous boardwalks and trails. The park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2018. Though it is off the beaten path for most visitors to this state, it is well worth a visit—as are all the Florida state parks, actually! Have a great weekend.

 

Categories: Florida, Hiking, Nature, Trees | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

A Florida Friday: Flowers, flamingos, and a feeling of serenity…

Some images from a recent stroll through the historic Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs, Florida. It was the end of the day, and I had this small zoo/botanical garden to myself. Nothing like nature to lift one’s spirits and relieve the stressors of the day.  I hope you have a chance to spend some time this coming weekend in the great outdoors.

Categories: Bonita Springs, Florida, Miscellaneous | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

A Florida Friday: Sometimes all you have to do is look UP

We often travel to nature preserves near our home to try to catch glimpses of birds like pileated woodpeckers. A few weeks ago, I heard lots of tapping, walked out the front door, and looked up! And, there they were… not one… but TWO!

Categories: Florida, Nature | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A Florida Friday: Subtle seasonal changes at the Six-Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

We’ve visited the Six-Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers twice. Once last March and most recently this past January where we spotted the above alligator coming out of the cool water to sun itself. The cypress trees were bare and missing much of the water they are used to standing in during rainier times of year.

Many people think of Florida as the land of eternal summer, but that’s definitely not the case. The seasons here are distinctive, as any year-rounder will tell you. Of course, we don’t have the extremes experienced in more northern climates (and most of us probably like it that way), but if you live here long enough or visit at different times of year, you do notice the differences, especially if you come in summer. As you scroll down the photos below, you can see the changes between January (left) and March (right) – (or, perhaps, top/bottom, if you are viewing this on a cellphone/tablet); we visited at the same time of day, but you can see the lighting looks different; summer is on its way.

Categories: Florida, Nature | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

A Florida Friday: Wood Stork on a mission

This is perseverance… at one point this Wood Stork drops the fish and seems to momentarily question the wisdom of what it’s doing… meanwhile, another wood stork ambles by in the background, along the water’s edge… when I drove by an hour later, this little fellow/gal was still at it.

Categories: Florida, Nature | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

A Florida Friday: Relax and watch some manatees float by…

For a little Friday relaxation, you may enjoy watching some manatees floating down the springs at Blue Spring State Park on their way to the St. John’s River. On cold winter days, manatees are typically abundant here as the springs remain a constant 72 degrees year round. Blue Springs State Park is in Orange City, Florida, an easy drive from Orlando, if you ever happen to visit the area. We did not see many on the day we were there, even though it was very chilly, but the sight of these three floating by made our trip especially worthwhile.

To see what’s happening right now, check out the live webcams! In 2018, 485 manatees spent the winter here–imagine that!

Dr. Charles B. Jaques, son of Isaac Jaques and Wealthy Ann Cushman, and brother of my second-great-grandmother Wealthy Ann Jaques Angus

On a family history note, these springs (of which there are many in central and northern Florida) are not far from Enterprise, FL, the place my second-great-grandmother’s nephew, Charles Jaques Jr., passed away on May 10, 1886, at age 22. He was the son of Dr. Charles Jaques and Katherine Louise De Forrest.

Enterprise is just 7.5 miles from Orange City, and I can’t help but wonder whether Charles came upon these springs in his travels around this area, which back then (mid-1880s) would have been frontier land and just starting to get populated.

From the 1850s – 1880s, the St. John’s River was an important transportation route, and steamboats would have landed regularly at Blue Springs Landing. It seems possible that Charles would have made his way here via a St. John’s River steamboat, and I’d like to think that he saw manatees in the springs and the river along the way, sightings he would surely have reported back to friends and loved ones, and hopefully he had a chance to do that.

There is something very special and memorable about manatees, and if you ever get a chance to visit Florida in the winter, do your best to try to see some.

Categories: Florida, Jaques, Manatees, Miscellaneous | Tags: , | 3 Comments

A Florida Friday: New Year’s Day at Silver Glen Springs

Happy New Year to you all; I am resurfacing after a pesky December health-wise, and a New Year’s Florida ‘staycation’ spent in and around the beautiful Ocala National Forest, north of Orlando. Today, I’m sharing a few scenes from the forest’s Silver Glen Springs at the south end of Lake George—its trails strewn with palmettos, its trees festooned with Spanish moss, and its crystal clear springs a steady 72 degrees F. year-round. Spectacular! I hope to gather steam as the month progresses and get back on track with some family history posts. Meanwhile, to all my many cousins (no matter how distant) among this blog’s readership, please feel free to write a guest post or submit information that can help me develop a post for you. Let’s get those stories ‘out there’!

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Rome Daily Sentinel, 7 March 1916 – The river being referred to is the St. John’s which starts down south near Melbourne and runs north through Lake George, eventually meeting the ocean at Jacksonville. (Credit: Fulton History dot com)

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Categories: Florida, Nature, Ocala National Forest | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments

A Florida Friday: Mangrove tunnels

map

Cropped from Colton’s United States of America. Published in 1865 by J. H. Colton. No. 172 William St. New York. Credit: http://www.davidrumsey.com

We recently took a canoe ride along a portion of the Blackwater River which starts at the 7,271-acre Collier Seminole State Park on the western edge of the Everglades and takes you out several miles through a vast mangrove swamp until you reach the Ten Thousand Islands. Were it not for the fact that the mangroves produce tannin, the water would be crystal clear (which would be much more comforting for the purpose of alligator spotting!). It’s an incredibly peaceful experience; just remember your bug spray and sunscreen and to stay in your canoe so you don’t bring home any physical souvenirs (or lose a limb!). We’ve done this trip several times, and the mangrove tunnels where the river narrows are (for me) the most special part of the journey. The water is like glass and the reflection of the mangroves on the water makes for some heavenly scenes. In winter there’s the added benefit of seeing lots of birds.

When you go through such uninhabitable terrain, it is easy to see why the Seminole Indians were never defeated, and also easy to see why the author of the below small article on the Ten Thousand Islands, published in 1886, found this part of Florida “desolate” and “gloomy” in comparison with the northern part of the state, which was fairly well inhabited and offered comforts that clearly would have been absent in south Florida at that time. Coming here in the hot and humid months of the year especially, one can be eaten alive by no-see-ums and mosquitoes and burnt to a crisp by a relentless and unforgiving sun. The article was printed in November, so hopefully the author escaped the worst of the bugs and weather—in any case, he lived to tell his tale!

Thankfully, we 21st-century South Floridians are able to enjoy these wild  environments by day and return to the comforts of our homes at night.

Have a tranquil weekend, all.

mangroves

Blackwater River mangrove tunnel, November 2016

Starting point for the Blackwater River with canoe/kayak launch area in distance

Starting point for the Blackwater River with canoe/kayak launch area in distance

ten_thousand_islands1Daily Alta California, Friday, November 12, 1886 (Credit: California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside - . All newspapers published before January 1, 1923 are in the public domain and therefore have no restrictions on use.)

Daily Alta California, Friday, November 12, 1886 (Credit: California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside – . All newspapers published before January 1, 1923 are in the public domain and therefore have no restrictions on use.)

Mango [sic] trees on the jungle trail, Palm Beach, Fla. - Detroit Publishing Company, 1910-1920 Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Mango [sic] trees on the jungle trail, Palm Beach, Fla. – Detroit Publishing Company, 1910-1920 Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Categories: Florida, Ten Thousand Islands | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

A Florida Friday: Birdhouse welcomes new tenant

After being vacant for almost three years, our bird house finally has a new tenant… he’s not what we were expecting, but we’ll take him. Rumor has it that he thinks his new digs are toadly awesome!

birdhouse(P. S. Apologies for the lack of ‘family history’/history-related posts in recent weeks. Things have been quite hectic here, and I am flying in a holding pattern at the moment!)

Categories: Florida, Nature | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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