Saturday, November 22, 2014

Manatrees



I had to run into town after work yesterday for bread and milk, but I got distracted.
A short walk into Manatee Springs State Park revealed this. 
The fact that the artist, Claude Monet popped into my head as I edited these photos means that "Art History", the most boring college course I ever slept through, must have done some good.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

LIVING ON THE FREEZING EDGE IN NORTH FLORIDA


It's freezing outside on this mid-November night.
No, I'm not just cold-whining Floridian style.
It really is freezing, just at 32 degrees F and the predicted low for this long night is 22 degrees F.

I've just come in from an hour or so of running around in the dark doing the things that we do here on the DMZ of the Tropical and Temperate worlds.

Step One: All outside faucets must be set to a slow drip.
Normally, I'd try and find one of my LED headlamps for this work, since I need my hands free, but this freeze is giving me a chance to try out the "light cap" that Emma and Kyle gave me last Christmas.
The verdict?
AWESOME!
A warm head and illumination in one step.
I love it.

After the faucet dripping was completed, I needed to take care of the citrus.
I only grow cold-hard citrus like kumquats and satsumas here on the edge of citrusnicity.
Although there are rumors of a grapefruit farmer in a mythical northern kingdom called "Ohio", North Florida is pushing the limits of the orange kingdom. So, when it freezes, you must act.

I covered an older kumquat with a big tarp and carried in a baby satsuma that I had not put in the ground yet. The goji berries were still in pots also (a new purchase) so they came inside as did one datil and a few pineapple starts.
Our dining room looks like a mini-greenhouse right now.

Tonight, because it will be SO COLD for so long, I decided to not just cover the newest kumquat, but to use the high heat capacity of water to help my baby 'quat make it through the night.
As you remember from your science classes, water has an extremely high heat capacity.
In plain English, it heats up slowly and cools off slowly.
This is why, right now as I type at midnight, Cedar Key is a balmy 44 degrees, while here at PFHQ, just a few miles away, the temperature is 32 degrees.

To make this happen, I would need a large amount of water that could hold lots of thermal energy. Being the chowder king of the Gulf Coast, I immediately knew what to use.
This was a job for my Tybee Island low country boil pot, aka my seafood festival chowder pot.

I filled the pot to the top and fired up the propane cooker. Once the giant pot of water was at boiling vigorously, I transferred the huge pot to a rug that I had placed near the fruit laden young kumquat.

After that, it was a matter of a couple of layers of plastic ... which kept trying to float away due to the convection coming off the pot of hot water.
A little twisty tying and weighty weighting later, the whole apparatus had the look of something that might just work.
It was super toasty in that plastic, which is nice, but all it has to do is stay above 28 in there and that kumquat and its precious cargo should survive.

If you're still reading, you are probably thinking, but FC, what about your datil peppers?
Yes, I had to do an emergency total harvest of the peppers.
(Yet another task where the lighted cap was invaluable.)

T
he plants are expendable at this point. They are simply holding peppers, not blossoming and were living on borrowed time, awaiting this first real freeze.

In the dark, I stripped every pepper I could find... the purple blush ones, the green ones, and the ripe, full term seed bearing orange ones.

Those are the most precious to me.
They contain the mature, viable promise of next year's datils, one more link in a family heritage that snakes back through time to the late 1700's here in Florida.

So, that's about it. I'm up way past my workweek bedtime, but some things need to be done when they need to be done, not later.

It's a cold night here in north Florida.