Monday, May 23, 2016

Some Datil Peppers, Some Basil, Some Lizard Tail, ... some Aquaponics too!

There is something about a healthy Datil Pepper pup showing great foliage and vigorous roots that just makes me smile.
That's a good thing, because I have seen a lot of the them this Spring. 
Presently, (using the same seeds I sell to you folks), I have a little over a hundred datils growing in various stages.
Some are 18 inches tall and budding out, while about a dozen are still in the original seed tray they were born in.
Those are losing their patience.

If you're looking at the photo above and counting, (hmmm, he said over a hundred ...), just know that I have potted even more since that picture was taken.
Also, you might notice a few basil and tomatoes in there. 

Rest assured, it's the datils that are the stars in this garden patch.
So far, I'm a big fan of these 5 gallon grow bags. They were super economical compared to 5 gallon pots, although they certainly won't last as long.
I'm expecting one season out of them, but secretly hoping for two.
We'll see.

The tall fencing around these datils is to keep the deer away, but ... being deer, they found a flaw in my defence.  

This datil was too close to the hog panel fencing and some enterprising whitetail stuck his snout through, fed, and tugged the plant out of the soil.

So, I adapted and moved everybody back from the fence and replanted this little guy.

I keep reminding myself how cute the spotted fawns are this time of year and how I love to see them grazing here at PFHQ.

Meanwhile, at Cedar Key School ...

The sweet basil growing in the Science Department aquaponics system are all fat and happy and waiting to be harvested.
That will probably happen tomorrow. We will just give them a severe trimming of course. The basil will give us multiple crops, much to the delight of the CKS teachers.

Not shown in the basil photo are the tanks of bluegills and goldfish whose enriched tank water flows through the gravel basil bed and back into the fish tank continuously.
The fish make fertilizer.
The plants clean the water and grow.
It's a beautiful thing.

This year I stuck 2 datil seedlings in the grow bed and they are thriving ... as are the red mangrove saplings who are now 2+ years old and putting out prop roots.

I'm sure they are heavy nutrient suckers and we'd probably have even better basil production if they weren't there, but hey ... they're MANGROVES.
How cool is that?

Hang on,  we are switching locations ...

Speaking of aquaponics, back home at PFHQ, our little goldfish pond was often a green slime pond in the past.
Last year I added more gravel to the waterfall pools and sprigged in iris, lizard tail, spider lily, and mint.

Problem solved.

Like the basil system at school, the plants in the waterfall soak up the fish nutrients so the pond water stays clear and clean.

This, ... well, this is just a gratuitous selfie by the iris.

I couldn't irisist posting it.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

The Perils Of Being A Private Trail Pooper In Rattlesnake Country

PFHQ sits smack in the middle of 10 acres of Florida oak and palm hammock, and those 10 acres are just one small piece in a much larger forest owned by other folks.
We'll call them "neighbors" although I hardly ever hear or see any of them.
Point is, PFHQ is no island. 
Lots of wildlife move under, through, and over the patchwork of fences that delineate our little human kingdoms.
Most of that wildlife is welcome here, and those that aren't are not summarily executed...even the dangerous ones.
Over 30 years, I've taken the time to move coral snakes and even a rattler to bigger, safer, wilder our 20 acre pine plantation a few miles from here.
I've taken in less dangerous refugees too and released them here at PFHQ.

You walk a fine line when you try to live and let live with rattlesnakes though. Mostly, I never see them. Yet, I know my 10 acres is ideal habitat for them with a mix of open and forested land, a pond, palmetto patches, and gopher tortoise burrows.
Last year, I found a 5 foot freshly shed diamondback skin draped over saw palmetto fronds ... it was still moist.
Not counting the pygmy rattler I relocated last year, it has been years since I've come across a rattlesnake on the property.
Until today.

He's beautiful.
He's also dead.
Here's why...

We have 2 Labs, Bear and Coquina.
The dogs and I walk our woodsy trails multiple times each and every day. 

I always walk them on two 15 foot retractable leashes because the property is not perfectly fenced and they are big powerful dogs who I would never catch if they gave chase to the deer that frequent PFHQ.

Plus, if they were roaming about during the warm months, unsupervised, they could easily come across a diamondback in the scrub or a moccasin by the pond.
Bear has a particular peculiarity that adds a little more danger to this scenario.

He is the most private pooper I have ever seen. Coquina will drop a load just about anywhere away from the house, but Bear ALWAYS has to go behind a tree, a bush, or most scary, into the palmettos to poop usually with his back to me.

Never had a dog that was such a shy shi... well, you know.
So, he basically goes into the most likely rattlesnake places each time he poops. I use the leash to limit how far into the bush he goes for his constitutional.

I was home sick with a nasty sore throat and cold today, so we took more walks than normal. On our midday walk, Bear stopped to investigate a tiny clump of brush. Coquina carried on down the trail just a bit until the two of them had me straight armed like a cross with Coquina ahead and Bear behind.
I told Coquina to stay and turned to urge Bear to come on.
As I did, He jumped back and the buzz of a diamondback filled the air. Curious, he stepped forward, ears up, as the snake buzzed and struck.
The snake missed, partly because Bear had not regained his original position and partly because I came close to jerking Bear's head off via the leash.
It was WAY too close.
Ahead of me, Coquina heard the commotion and dashed back to Bear's side, so now I had both of them in the danger zone.
Luckily, Bear responded to "LEAVE IT!", (thank you Petsmart, puppy obedience school!)

I checked Bear thoroughly while the snake continued to buzz, and then ran them both back to the house where I checked him over and over again for any signs of a hit.
There was none and he was his usual frisky self at post walk treat time.
About 15 minutes after getting him back to 
the house ... AFTER I was sure he was fine, 
I went back into the woods with my Glock and located the snake. It was about 10 feet from where we had encountered him.
I wasn't in "live and let live" mode ...
Like the human death penalty laws, this wasn't about justice or prevention, it was about vengeance.
Simple angry vengeance.
The rattler had only done what instinctively, (and I would argue innocently) all rattlers do in defense, ... I know that. The rational me knows that.
I just wasn't in a rational mood at the moment.

Tonight, I can lie on the floor in the living room and rub this sleepy face,and more so than usual, I know how special that simple pleasure is.