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Showing posts from October, 2014

Don't Cage Me In

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October 31, 2014 – Many people in southwest Florida put cages over their swimming pools.  These metal frameworks support screen panels that keep bugs and other critters out of the pool area.  The screen also blocks some sunlight, enough to make it difficult to get a sunburn inside a pool cage.  Since the screen blocks light, it also obscures the view a bit; that is I something I do not like at all.  Fortunately, the two community pools in our neighborhood are not caged.  They weren’t even fenced until several years ago, when an insurance company insisted on fencing.  My husband Tom was president of the homeowners association when that happened. Our neighborhood, which has traditionally prized its natural landscape and setting, resisted fences for aesthetic reasons.  Scholar that he is, Tom studied other pool fences on the island and, together with the groundskeeper, Ray, came up with a plan for an almost invisible fence for each pool. Tom’s observations taught him that black chain link …

Wildlife and a Wild Life

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October 28, 2014 – Even the short and routine walk down the street to the community pool can yield surprises.  Several days ago, a small alligator (4 or 5 feet long) was sunning itself on the grass between the lagoon and the dirt road where I walked.  The alligator’s mouth was open, giving the impression of the gator smiling, or perhaps getting ready to bite something.  But that’s not the case; gators usually do this open-mouth thing to cool off.  
What surprised me was that the weather was not hot; the temperature was a comfortable, dry 72 degrees F.  I didn’t think the gator should be that hot.  I hope he/she is okay.
After I swam my 2 kilometers, I walked back to the house.  On the way, I noticed that the gator was gone.

The next day (Friday), I decided to run in the deep end of the pool.Suspending myself vertically in the water, with no floats, I literally run as fast as I can for an hour.This is more difficult than swimming 2 kilometers, and it is much more difficult than treading w…

Conservation, Champagne, and Mahogany

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October 23, 2014 – Bailey’s General Store is at the heart of Sanibel.  Literally, it is in the middle of the wide part of the island.  Functionally, Sanibelians go there often to acquire the basics for everyday life – namely, groceries and hardware. Bailey’s is in a ground-level building that pre-dates hurricane code, and it has a long covered sidewalk in front, part of which is decked out with rocking chairs, a few small tables, and other chairs.  
The other part of the covered front walk is where all the doorways into the grocery and hardware store are located.  The center doorway is the most frequently used entrance, and that’s where the manager/owner Richard Johnson (married to Mead Bailey Johnson) often permits nonprofit organizations to set up a table from which raffle tickets are sold or information is dispensed.
My friend David and I were scheduled to sit at a table there on Monday, for two hours at mid-day, to dispense information about Amendment 1 – an item on the ballot for No…

Knowing the Natives

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October 21, 2014 – My friend Phyllis conducts tours of the grounds at the Sanibel city hall, where numerous native plants grow.  The tours are not about city government; they are about what grows well on this fragile barrier island – plants that do not need fertilizer and that can survive droughts. The tours are free and no reservations are needed.  For property owners, it is a bargain and a joy to listen to the information that Phyllis provides.  In her sweet voice, she tells little stories about each plant.  She needs no notes; she knows it all by heart. Phyllis is the chair of the city’s vegetation committee.  She devotes much time to this volunteer job.  The committee's members inspect properties that are being developed; they help to ensure that native plants are protected and replaced when necessary. That committee also does much to educate new property owners as well as longtime residents like me, who have forgotten what they once knew. When we first owned our Sanibel home, and…

A Magic Forest and Divine Dinner

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October 17, 2014 – Introducing someone to Cooley Hammock delights us.  We gave Jim H. a tour of the hammock on Tuesday afternoon.  His reaction?  “Oh, this is SO COOL!” True south Floridians know I’m not talking about one of those woven-rope things that you can fall into for a perfect nap on a warm afternoon.  I’m talking about a tropical hardwood hammock – a type of woods found throughout south Florida. You could say that hammocks are found around, or next to, wetlands, or you could say wetlands are found around hammocks.  It makes no difference.  Hammocks are just a few inches higher in elevation than their neighbors, the wetlands.  The term “upland wetlands” can include hammocks, and so can “uplands” – some of what defines a “hammock” is the soil drainage. Jim H. unwittingly had a role in our finding this hammock for sale.  He’s a realtor who had a home listed for sale in a west-end Sanibel subdivision.  In the spring of 2013, Tom and I saw that house, which was a low-country style, a…

Tom plays the washboard with the Dixie Strollers at Fleamasters

Good and Easy

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October 13, 2014 -- High noon on Sunday – that’s an hour before the weekly farmer’s market closes.  That’s the time I ceased working at the computer and dashed out the door.  We did not “need” anything from the market.  But I was thinking about Sunday dinner, and how nice it would be to have some of those gorgeous green beans I saw at last weeks’ market.  I did not know what main course I was going to cook for dinner, but perhaps I’ll be inspired by something at the market, I thought.  If not, I could follow up with a trip to Bailey’s General Store. From among the many produce vendors, I found the one with the most beautiful green beans.For some reason, the beans were placed far back in the booth.They should have been right out front, like last week, to entice shoppers like me!Several people worked in the booth, but one man in the back corner was giving instructions to the others about lowering prices.He had a special price at the end of the day for batches of 10 bananas.I don’t rememb…

Of Ceiling Fans and Washboards, in Another Time

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October 12, 2014 -- My husband Tom is a travelling man.  He doesn't travel far at all without me, but because of his hobbies and avocations, he leaves this island more often than I do. Yesterday, he had a gig.  The Blue Dirt Dixieland Jazz band, for which Tom is percussionist, played at lunchtime at Fleamasters, an indoor flea market on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Fort Myers.  For this gig, the band was in its “strolling” mode, so Tom played the washboard instead of his drums. Tom has customized his washboard so that it includes a cowbell, a little cymbal, and other things.  He uses extra-extra-extra large thimbles on his fingers to play this contraption.  He needs more huge thimbles, so if you see any, please let me know. Later, at home, he said, “You know, I think I’m even better at playing the washboard than the drums.”  Clearly, he had a great time. When the gig was over, he engaged in another of his favorite past-times:  shopping.  He went to several big box stores to buy a …

Choices Based on Science

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October 11, 2014 -- Florida is often mocked for its historical role in national politics.  But much of what is critical to life in this state is determined by our state and local elected officials.  Tom and I take voting very seriously.

For years, I've been involved with the political process although I have not run for political office.  My past involvement and attention to these matters means that a number of people who know me will ask me how they should vote.

Some choices are so obvious, and some are so partisan, that choices are made by those individuals without any advice from me.  But there are those seemingly "obscure" positions on the ballot, like hospital board representatives, mosquito control district representatives, judges, and even school board members for which people seek my opinion.

Regardless of their requests, I put plenty of time into researching these options, and making my choices. The requests from others apply another layer of responsibility to m…

Let It Be

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October 10, 2014 -- I am honored when I see snakes like this in our back yard.  This is a southern black racer, and its favorite food is rodent, although it also will eat frogs, toads, lizards, birds, and fellow snakes.  Because I dislike palm rats, I have come to love snakes that prey upon them.

This racer was catching the last few rays of sunlight in our back yard yesterday evening.  Its scientific name is coluber constrictor priapus, but it does not constrict its prey; it swallows the prey alive.

This past April, in my butterfly garden I saw a racer like this in the act of swallowing a black-throated green warbler alive.  I'd prefer this snake would keep to a steady diet of rodents instead of having the variety of the occasional precious songbird.  But I don't mess with nature; I did not attempt to save the bird.

My copy of Florida's Fabulous Reptiles and Amphibians says, "This slender, graceful, and fast-moving snake is often found near human settlements and in c…