Monday, March 26, 2018

SUWANNEE SPRING ... with Fangorn

Let's go for a Spring walkabout at Suwannee River State Park. Do it now while the new foliage has that Spring glow to it, the humidity is down, and the mosquitoes are few and far between.
Like most Florida state parks that border on water, the boat ramp at the park is excellent. I was "sans kayak" on this day as my goal was just to revisit a park that I had not been to in a very long time.
There's a trailhead near the boat ramp, so after inspecting the ramp, I headed off into the river forest. 
The trail flows through the floodplain of the river than into some uplands and back along the river bank. 
This walk was Spring 2017 and the river was low, so much of the floodplain was exposed.
The floodplain trees, buttressed against the river which often covers their base, were easy to access.
These old giants have met the challenge of years of living in an ecosystem that was alternately dry, like now, but also submerged when the rains come.
This is a gnarly old tree lover's part of the trail. (So, what I mean by that is it is a trail for folks who love gnarly old trees ...not a trail for gnarly old humans who love trees.
If the shoe fits though ...
I was glad I came during a low river stage and could walk among the trees and the exposed rocky sinks.

Of course, big trees have big knees.
I mean REALLY big knees.

After dawdling in the exposed floodplain for a ridiculously long time, I hit my stride through the uplands section. It was pretty, but very similar to my personal habitat here at PFHQ.
Besides, there was a river and a spring to see.

 The trail back to the boat ramp offers great views of this beautiful National Scenic River.
As you walk along the river trail and approach the boat ramp again, you can hear Lime Spring before you ever see it.
Lime Spring is a treat.
It bubbles out of the river bank and tumbles into the Suwannee. Seeing the spring like this depends on the river's level of course.

If you go to Suwannee River State Park and you are very lucky, you might meet the Ent below.

 Believe me, I was as surprised as anyone when Fangorn strolled up and asked for a selfie.
Seems he's a fan of Pure Florida, so I had to oblige.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Reclaiming The "Garden".

We were going through some old home videos not long ago and I was flabbergasted to see how sunny and organized my garden was when we first moved onto our beloved PFHQ.
We had a toddler, a Labrador, and a new baby all in a 2 bedroom, 42' single-wide trailer.

On top of that, in August of 1988 I had walked out of the National Park Service and into a classroom without any real "teacher training".
I was working every night at the kitchen table until 11pm just to be ready for the next day.

And yet ... somehow in the videos, I had a big sunny garden with neat wide rows and actual plants growing.

The garden evolved (devolved?) over the years into raised beds outlined by PVC drainage pipe, but over time, even those became weedy monuments to gardening failure.

A recent photo shows its decrepit state of being.

In the photo above are "fossils" from the different garden eras.
  • PVC lined beds with a crop of seed grown coontie.
  • The green "Mallard Mansion" chicken/duck house.
  • A rabbit cage which doubled as a chicken tractor.
  • Fence remnants.
  • A gate to nowhere.

And, if I turn around and look South, there is the scene below.
This 16' by 16' cage is all that remains of our FFA show pig days. After we graduated from that period, I raised the fence posts higher, added extra fence height and created the only deer proof zone (all 256 square feet of it) on our 10 acres.
For years now, this is where I've grown my datil pepper plants. 
The photo shows the remains of last seasons pepper planting. I need to dump all those pots and replant.

One of the most shocking things about those old home videos was the tree growth in those 30 years.
In the videos, spindly young oaks are visible on the edges of the garden, but they cast no problematic shade.
Now ... they tower 60 feet high and in some cases branch out over the garden.

Some of this shade issue I caused.
I went through a wood carving period when the kids were little and black cherry was a favorite. So I started a bunch from seeds and transplanted them out into the woods, except for one...

Look at that straight beauty below.
I never moved her and now she is at the South end of my garden.

I can't bear to cut her down ... maybe someday for lumber, but not now.
So, I'm compromising.
I have trimmed lower branches before to reduce the shade on my datils, but now a V-notch branch is growing out over the garden.
Time for the very long ladder, some ratchet straps, gumption, and the Husky chainsaw.
That branch must go while it is still "small".

Back to the original musing ... how was I able to create and maintain a sweetly neat garden in those early days.

The answer is ... I had a Tiller.

As soon as we moved onto the property, I bought a used Troybuilt Horse rear-tine tiller from a guy in Gainesville for $800.00.

It was a beast and served me well.
Once it finally gave up the ghost, the garden slowly reverted back to wildness.
I just could not keep up.

In the picture above, I have begun reclaiming sod-covered parts of the garden.
Curse you St. Augustine grass!!
I've been able to do that thanks to the Husqvarna beast in the picture below.
160cc's of dirt munching Honda power!


Next step is Tenax Deer Fencing and some tall posts.
The good news is I can tie that into the new yard fence that is not shown, but just to the right of this photo.
I will at least get some potatoes (blue ones of course) started, I don't think Deer munch on the Nightshade family.

Updates to come.