Thursday, August 6, 2020

You are not welcome here!!

We have run across two unwelcome amphibious critters who have made their way to Florida.  Geesh! Everyone is coming to Florida!

The first is the cane toad. These toads secrete a toxin through their skin that can kill dogs. Luckily, neither Gypsy, nor Tucker, find any fascination in investigating any toads or frogs they happen upon. Many times, after rain storms, we come upon a variety of toads and frogs on the road. They are totally ignored by my dogs. Unlike this snail, who gets a thorough going-over by the guys!


The other invader is the Cuban tree frog. We recently became aware of their existence from an article in the newspaper. This guy is a bad dude! He eats indigenous tree frogs and lizards. 

We have lived with tree frogs for years. First, in SC (34 years) and now here. I kinda like the guys, except when they jump on me. Their icky-sticky feet, and the cold, clammy feel, are kinda creepy! I have discovered one who lives in the doggie poop bag dispenser down the road from us. Twice,  I stood in front of the dispenser to get a bag, only to have him/her jump on me! Yikes! Yeech! I now stand to one side, wiggle the bag a bit to give him a chance to move to the side, before extracting a bag san frog!! 

We moved a free-standing umbrella from our lot at the RV resort to the "cage" around our pool. When we opened the umbrella, three tree frogs jumped out. I caught two, and threw them outside where they would have more luck catching bugs. Number three eluded capture. We didn't see him/her for quite some time. Then, one day, I noticed the frog hunkered down in a channel in the frame of our sliding door. Ah hah! Now the smudges on our sliding door made sense! Those were his footprints where he foraged on bugs attracted to the lights inside our home! He became my pal. I began to watch for him, and enjoyed it when he stopped by every few days. 

However, after reading a newspaper article about the invasive Cuban tree frogs we became suspicious. Our pal seemed to fit the description they provided. In part because he was the largest tree frog we had ever seen; he was easily 2 1/2" in length, and because of his coloration; he was almost white! Of course, after reading the article he disappeared from his hiding spot in the channel of the sliding door frame. He heard us talking about his fate. But, I had become used to his comings and goings, and was confident he would return. 


This is a picture of the Cuban tree frog from the University of Florida. Yup. This was our pal. They are large; usually over 2" in length. Check. They have small bumps on their back. Check. They have large toe pads. Check. 

The University requests that Cuban tree frogs be humanely euthanized and disposed of. I really don't care to see animals die, especially a healthy animal. However, the information made it clear that these cute little guys, if left to their own devices, will destroy the native species and expand their territory. Our little guy was dispatched. He was sprayed with benzocaine spray and within moments he succumbed. His information, size, sex (undetermined), picture and location of capture will be sent to the citizen frog project at the University.  




 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Animal Experimentation

                    Disclaimer: 
No animals were maimed, damaged, cut, burned or tormented (well maybe a little) in this experiment. 
No animals were denied affection or food in this experiment. 

A friend posted a video on FaceBook showing a cat and several dogs negotiating a pathway among a marker and pen landmine. The cat negotiated the obstacle, with little or no hesitation, much like a pinball, taking different paths, but knocking down nary a pen. Each of the three dogs balked at the obstacle and eventually came through, knocking down one or more of the pens. It was entertaining to watch the dogs and how they reacted. 

I was curious about how my own dogs would handle this test, so set up a carefully planned scientific experiment!

Title: Tiptoe Through the Tulips; How Two Dogs Negotiate a Path With Objects Standing on End



Hypothesis: Tucker, the bold Australian Shepherd, will not hesitate. He will negotiate the barrier, knocking down many of the pens. Gypsy, the Border Collie, will hesitate to study the situation, but will then pick her way through the barrier, knocking down no pens.

Materials:     30-40 thin, cylindrical objects such as markers, pens or pieces of tubing.
                     A passageway 3 - 4 feet across

Procedure: Remove the test subjects from the area. Place each cylinder on end, about six inches from each other, covering an area in a hallway that extends about 4 feet in length. 

Data:
  • Test 1 (Tucker) Tucker approached the barrier, turned in a circle. Stood at the edge. He would not cross.
  • Test 2 (Tucker) Tucker approached the barrier, turned, left the area (He may have been influenced by Gypsy barking in another room)
  • Test 3 (Gypsy) Gypsy approached the barrier, walked through it. She knocked down several pens, but I think they were hit by her tail, not her feet.
  • Test 4 (Tucker) In this experimental run, Gypsy was on the other side of the barrier. Tucker approached, hesitated, and would not cross. 
    
Results:  Tucker would not cross the barrier. Gypsy crossed the barrier with no hesitation.

Conclusion: My hypothesis was incorrect. The "bold" Aussie was a chicken and never attempted to cross the barrier despite having me, and his pal, Gypsy, welcoming him. Gypsy did not hesitate, and although pens were knocked down, were it not for her fluffy tail, that might not have been the case. 

Gypsy

 
Tucker




Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Shady Lady

We had to remove a tree in our front yard to allow equipment to have access to our back yard to construct our pool and lanai. The tree we removed was called an Orchid tree.  It has beautiful, pink orchid-like flowers throughout most of the year. It is a messy tree. It drops leaves and flowers all of the time. It is not truly a native tree. It originated in Asia and escaped from cultivation, so it is occasionally found in the wild in Florida. 

front yard specimen tree

Yeah, it's pretty, but we wanted its replacement to be a true Florida native.

We both began reading about native trees. We wanted something with a pleasant shape. We preferred not to have a deciduous tree. We did not care for a tree that dropped fruit, seeds or leaves. 

We read about the Black Olive tree (which doesn't produce olives), also known as the Shady Lady. The South Florida Plant Guide says:

The exquisite Shady Lady black olive tree, with its lush layers of tiny leaves on zigzagged stems, is one of the most beautiful South Florida trees. With the look of a natural bonsai, this tree lends an Oriental garden appeal when it's young. It grows in layered tiers with a distinct space between each set of horizontal branches. The tree matures to form a beautiful, well-shaped rounded crown.

We wanted to see this tree. It sounded like it would be perfect. We asked around, and lo and behold, we actually had one in our back yard already! How embarrassing! However, we had both admired the tree, so it seemed like the perfect replacement. 

We arranged with the local landscaper to get a large tree. We awaited its arrival... and watched, in awe, as it arrived and was transported and transplanted. 




We love our new tree, and can't wait to see it grow, providing wonderful shade in our yard!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Meet the Monarch

After our pool was complete we had to restore landscaping to meet the requirements of our HOA. Our community requires that 75% of our plantings be native. However, they do allow a bit more leniency in back yards where the landscaping isn't quite as visible. At the last minute we decided to disregard "native" and install butterfly gardens on the east and west corners of our pool "cage". Our landscape maintenance guy gave us the names of a number of plants that attract butterflies,  as well as the name of a wholesale nursery. Off we went. Among the plants he suggested we purchased: salvia, tickseed, scorpion tail, milkweed (lots of this), sweet almond and lantana. 

As always happens, I regret not taking pictures of the back of our truck becoming an instant garden. The plants were placed and planted and our back yard looked truly finished. 



It wasn't long before mama monarchs came. We noticed them laying eggs on the leaves. Then the magic began to happen!

Do you see the newly hatched caterpillar? He is about 1/8" in length. His egg case is directly below. The "eyeball" in the center right side of the picture is a caterpillar that is about to emerge. The black dot is his head. Before they are ready to emerge, the eggs are tiny, creamy white balls 



More very young caterpillars


We bought some more plants to bring onto the lanai. 
We placed them in a butterfly "cage"
It was fun to see the caterpillars grow, and grow, and 


grow!


We watched them form chrysalides. 
This one became detached and after taking the picture I pinned it to 
the top of the butterfly cage.


We had a "run away" caterpillar, and finally found the Chrysalis on the floor of the lanai. I meant to attach it to the cage, but didn't get around to it. Then... I noticed the coloration of the wings showing through the chrysalis. I needed to mount it so the emerging butterfly would have space to spread its wings.


When I picked it up to attach it to the screen of the butterfly cage, it popped open in my hand and the butterfly began to emerge. 


The miracle of life!

We took it outside and superglued the top of the chrysalis to a leaf of the milkweed plant. 


The story of the Monarch does not stop here. This is only one generation of four that this species goes through. There are four generations each year. The final generation butterflies are the ones that migrate to Mexico, via Texas, living seven months!




CAUTION

A protozoan parasite of monarch butterflies, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha or OE for short, can travel with monarchs visiting the plants and become deposited on leaves. When caterpillars hatch and start eating the plant, they ingest the OE. ... Tropical milkweed can also interfere with monarch migration and reproduction. -Xerces Society

The Mister is a voracious reader and researcher. Soon after we became intrigued with the Monarchs, he discovered trouble in paradise! Most of the nurseries in our area sell Tropical milkweed. It is a perennial in this part of Florida, and has pretty orange and red flowers. Because it doesn't die back in winter, the protozoan lives on and can infect future generations of Monarchs. Additionally, the fourth generation Monarchs may resist the urge to migrate if there is a supply of milkweed where they are living, or along their migratory path.









Friday, June 26, 2020

By the Sea

Many of the homes we looked at in our exploration of the area had swimming pools in their back yards. The house we purchased did not. I wasn't keen on having a pool. I know how to swim, but I've never really enjoyed it. However, the Mister wanted one. So, we contracted to have a pool installed in our back yard. 

Here's the story in pictures:











I am so glad that we went forward with this project. I love having the pool. What a surprise! I find it amazingly refreshing to simply jump in, paddle around for a bit, and then get out. (Especially this week with temps in the high 90's and a heat index in the triple digits!) Our project has also given us a beautiful outdoor room where we spend many hours each day. 



Monday, June 22, 2020

This Little Piggy Stayed Home

We are staying pretty close to home. We are taking the Coronavirus threat seriously, especially due to our ages and infirmities. Funny how a microscopic spec can change the way one views herself. I have come to think that I might be old, instead of steadfastly denying it! But regardless of what the years say, I stay active and can't find enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on my list!

The dogs help me. They make me go out at least twice a day, and due to the nature of their breeds, they need long walks to keep them from going mental.



Luckily, at 10 and 10+ years of age, they are slowing down a bit so I can keep up with them. Were they younger, I'd never be able to walk them enough!

Our new community has several trails, lots of roads and open spaces, and a large, underutilized dog park.



 There are also many acres of cleared land for future development. We really aren't supposed to walk there, but I'll venture out there on Saturday or Sunday.



We come across all manner of interesting things:
  • Dogs: Naturally, there are other dogs all around us. Tucker is very friendly, but aggressively enthusiastic in his greetings, which is a bit off-putting for some dogs. Gypsy is very watchful of her younger brother, and wades in with her teeth barred and a bark that is definitely worse than the bite, if she feels things are getting out of control with all of the sniffing and wagging going on. So I assume a straddle-armed stance trying to let Tucker visit, and hold Gypsy back, and not let the dogs and leashes become entangled. It's awkward. It's physically taxing. I avoid it. Most often if I see another dog we change our course.
  • Food: Gypsy manages to find, and scarf up, every scrap of food that has been dropped by anyone along the sidewalk, in the middle of the road, and as we pass construction sites (we are living in a new and growing community. The homes pop up like mushrooms after a rainstorm, even with Covid-19.)  Gypsy especially loves construction sites! The workers drop all manner of yummy things on the ground. Especially bones; ribs and chicken wings and legs. Oh my! We get into quite a struggle as I work to pry Gypsy's mouth open and dislodge and remove the bone. Then, while I'm involved in that battle, Tucker usually has the time to find one for himself, and I enter into another battle. Before the virus shut things down, our community had "Food Truck Friday". Over a dozen food trucks would park around our central square and folks from near and far would arrive to indulge in a great variety of food choices. Naturally, some of this food found its way to the ground. Gypsy took it upon herself to be the official DFCU: "dropped food cleaner upper" in the community. She loved taking late walks on Friday, or cleaning up on Saturday morning, and can't wait for this event to begin again.
  • Scents: I wish I could wire the dogs' brains so that I could see what it is that they smell. I especially love to watch them when they catch a scent in the air. Neither dog is much on tracking scent, but on occasion I have been encouraged to keep up with them as they swiftly follow a trail. 
  • People: Tucker is the unofficial people greeter in our community. He talks to everybody. Some folks even talk back to him. He loves that most of all!
  • Critters: Tonight it was a rat. As we turned the corner on the trail, he was gathering up some sort of something in the middle of the trail. He scampered away. We see bunnies. The dogs used to chase bunnies in our yard in Colorado. The marsh bunnies here are better at freezing, and we can often walk right by them. There was the morning of the alligator: 
Can I go for a walk with you?
 And the evening of the gator; I wasn't far from the house, walking through a newly cleared area destined to become wetlands, mitigation for wetlands that were filled elsewhere for development 


Newly created wetlands. They were dry when I saw the gator.
purposes. We were about to turn into a large open area when an alligator charged across in front of us, heading for the lake. He was at least 8' in length, maybe even 10. He was moving fast. The dogs wanted him. I turned and dragged the dogs back. We won't travel in that area again! 

We have also had a few run-ins with pigs. Yes, we have wild pigs in the area! Of all the critters we have encountered in our years of walking, I think the pigs evoke the greatest reaction from the dogs. They go nuts! I didn't have time to take pictures on the three encounters we have had. Once it was a piglet running in the scrub next to us. I'm sure the rest of the family was nearby. Another time a group dashed away from us in the brush. The third time I came around a corner to find 4 or 5 piglets and about that number of adults rooting in freshly turned earth in the wetland development area. I was thankful they were more afraid of me and turned hastily to leave. The pictures I have included are from the Babcock Ranch Eco Tour which is about 5 miles from our home. I have to say they are kinda cute, at least from a safe distance! And heck, these lands are their home. We encroached on them!















Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Pretty Colors to Completed Quilt

Last spring I took it upon myself to help a quilt shop owner who was moving her shop. I decided I should lighten her load by buying some fabric. I had no plans. I just thought the colors were pretty.


In the fall I looked for ideas for quilt blocks using only four colors. I came up with this Jacob's Ladder idea. But, then decided I needed another color... or two! The half square triangles that make up the Jacob's Ladder are too similar in color, and it's difficult to see the pattern. Later I began incorporating other colors.


I knew I wanted to have a center "medallion" set on point. I changed my central blocks, then added some "Flying Geese" around the border, followed by a sashing. I began building the Jacob's Ladder pattern around the medallion.


Of course, I did have some help! Gypsy added her suggestions frequently. 
Tucker would simply barge in to rearrange my blocks. 


This is getting exciting! It is really taking shape now!


Next I added some pieced borders to create the drop for the quilt. Oh, and of course, I had to go shopping for more fabric, several times!


I'm not sure I love the additions. They take quite a departure from the size of the other pieces. But... done is better than perfect, and the colors are bright and refreshing!

The quilt is growing so large that the top of the quilt will not have the last pieced border, as it would not fit on my long arm sewing machine at that length!

I pieced scraps together and made the backing, and then loaded it all on the long arm. 


Now, to quilt it.



I can't wait to have the quilt on our bed. I selected a bamboo blend batting, which I've used once before. The finished quilt should be quite light. Perfect for our Florida home!

It's taken just about a year.
It is finally completed!


A friend of mine just told me that a near-by quilt shop is having a 40% off sale..... 


You are not welcome here!!

We have run across two unwelcome amphibious critters who have made their way to Florida.  Geesh! Everyone is coming to Florida! The first is...