Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Porch-spit Seed-grown Orange Tree Flavor Mystery ...SOLVED.

A lot of things go over the porch rail here at Pure Florida HeadQuarters (PFHQ).
Things like coffee grounds, vegetable scraps from making salads, onion peels, and a host of other plant-based compostables.
All of this is considered sheet compost for the sandy,nutrient-poor Florida "soil".

This dumping is socially acceptable here, where it might not be in your suburban yard because we have no neighbors in visual range.

PFHQ sits in a hole in our forest, smack in the center of our 10-acre kingdom.

You could sip tea on the porch in your birthday suit all day and maybe only surprise the UPS guy on rare occasions.

Every once in a while, I throw a little dirt on the composting veggie scraps and turn the soil. We call this a flower bed, but it's really made up of perennials like amaryllis, daylilies, plumbago shrubs, a lemon tree, and cape honeysuckle.

Point is, it's more green than flowery anyway and all this green hides the compostieness of it all.

But what about the Porch-spit Seed-grown Orange Tree Flavor Mystery?

I'm getting to that... just setting the scene.

See, there is one other thing that gets launched over the porch rail.


Got a juicy peach or pear?
Eat it over the porch rail and spit seeds.
Watermelon slice? 
Same SOP.
Juicy orange?

It's that last one that started the mystery.
Sometime, about 8 years ago, an orange seed arced over the rail and landed in just the right place beneath the plumbago where no weeding or tilling ever happened.
And it grew.

I remember first spotting it and thinking, "I should dig up that little guy and move it."
But I didn't.

When the little seedling survived the record-setting winter of 2009-2010, I decided 2 things.

1) This must be a sour-orange tree. They are notoriously cold hardy.
2) Any citrus that survived weeks (1-inch thick ice in the goldfish pond that lasted for 10 days!) of below-freezing temps deserved to live.

The thing about citrus tree varieties is that many are hybrids and seeds from that supermarket orange often don't produce the same fruit you ate. In fact, they seem to revert back to sour orange.

So I expected the tough little tree baby to eventually produce sour oranges.

Over the years the tree grew taller than the porch roof. It had all the signatures of the sour orange trees you sometimes find in the woods.

Those being wicked 4-inch woody thorns and being impervious to North Florida Winters. 
As it grew, I trimmed away branches that overhung the porch and all thorns below 6 feet.
If you've ever raised up after weeding and rammed your head into a 4-inch long wooden thorn, you know why.

The tree grew lush and green and I became its lawyer when it needed defending. 

 I've got your bark, tree.

"Someday it will bloom and won't it be great to sit here on the porch and smell that magic."
"Yes, it will probably be a sour orange, but there are all kinds of Cuban recipes that require sour orange, so win-win if it is."

Along the way, the tree hosted swallowtail larvae, a cardinal nest, and countless anoles.

Eventually, the tree won over everyone, when it bloomed earlier this year. 

Not just one bloom, but a host of them from top to bottom.
The green fruit soon followed. I worried that Hurricane Irma might take them with her winds, but they hung on.

Recently, after a series of strong cold fronts came through, the once green oranges completed their change to orange.

It was time.

Time to pick that first orange, slice it, taste it, and solve the Porch-spit Seed-grown Orange Tree Flavor Mystery.

I was totally sure that it would be sour as I sliced through the thin skin and quartered the test orange.

The thin skin separated cleanly for an easy peeling experience.

I raised the section to my mouth and bit into it ...


I would have been happy either way, but yes, I was hoping against hope that it would be a sweet orange tree.

Mystery solved.

Friday, November 24, 2017

FLORIDA FALL SAVAGE RACE 2017... a review.

Although Pure Florida is primarily a nature and Florida rural life blog, it's no secret that I love Obstacle Course Racing (OCR).
So it is time for another OCR review.
This time it is the SAVAGE RACE and specifically the Florida Fall Savage Race that was held on November 11-12, 2017.
Let's not waste time here ... I LOVE SAVAGE RACE!
Here's why...

Look at that course map above.
The folks at Savage jam 29 obstacles into 7 miles.
By comparison, I ran a Half-Tough Mudder in October, and while it was fun enough, the 5 mile course had 10 obstacles.
About 5 of those were challenging or at least creative. It was fun, but for a similar length run, it had much fewer real obstacles.

I run Savage every Spring and every Fall, so I think this recent run was number 8 for me.
So I know something about this course.
Savage likes to advertise that their race is "the perfect length", and I have to agree.
With a 7 mile course, you have more bragging rights than the typical 5K run, and with Savage it's never long until you come to the next obstacle.
At 59 ... almost 60, I appreciate the break in running offered by lots of obstacles.

Below: Not every Savage obstacle is super challenging, but these timbers aren't made of Balsa wood.
This year there were actual mud/water obstacles at the Savage Run thanks to a very active 2017 hurricane season.
Mud and water are fun, but the main focus at a Savage Race is upper body challenges.
They do a superior job at this, and every season, new tougher obstacles are added.

Above, I'm getting my "mind right" as Tony Horton would say, before I start the "Wheel World" obstacle.
The score so far is Wheel World 1, Powers 2. I failed it the very first time I tried it, but have had 2 victories since then.
The pinwheels spin and their are 4 or 5 of them to navigate. The important thing is to not lose your momentum. 
If you get hung up on a spinning wheel, you are probably toast.

Above, that's my, "Holy Smokes, I've lost my momentum!" face. It happened on the next to the last wheel, and it felt like an eternity before I could calm that spinning wheel down and make a lunge for the last wheel.
It was close, but I beat it again.
The nearly vertical slide is your reward after you beat the warped wall known as "Colossus". It is ridiculously fun and fast.
I'm just holding my nose so that when I hit the pool of water below, I don't have filthy water forced up into my sinuses.
No need to risk inviting one of our Florida brain-eating amoebas into my head.

I do the same thing on the 15 foot high water leap obstacle too.
 It's the biology teacher in me.

Leaping over fire near the end of the run is not difficult, but it can result in some cool, "Yeah, I leap over fires all the time" sweet pics.

So let's talk about race photographs before we close this review. 
I always wear a GoPro and I often run solo, so my video is almost 100% POV.
That means I really count on those free race pics that most OCR's offer post race.
This Fall Savage Race had the best pics of any race I have run and I've been OCR'ing for 5 years now.
Rugged Maniac and Spartan do a good job with this too, but Savage is holding the first place spot currently when it comes to quantity and quality of free pics.
(TIP: don't pin your race bibb to the back of your shirt or too low on the front. You find your post race photos by bibb number, and if it doesn't show in the photo, the software wont' match the photo to you. Also, a low on the front bibb may get rubbed off crawling through obstacles.)

I'm ending where I started, I love the Savage Race. 
Some reasons in a nutshell:
  • Extremely well run.
  • Very reasonable price.
  • Reasonable bag check and parking prices.
  • "The perfect length"
  • A multitude of obstacles
  • A beautiful venue (in FL).
  • The right mix of obstacle difficulty.
  • New creative obstacles every season.
  • Great post-race pics.
  • Great volunteer staff.
One change I would make is reinstate the corral fencing aisles at Colossus. These used to be present and they offered just the right amount of static crowd control. Without them, the crowd of runners are kind of a an unorganized blob and they are too close to Colossus, so the "run-up" distance is shorter than it used to be.

Savage Race is a gem in the crown of OCR and I already have my ticket for the next one in the Spring.

But, before that, I have to survive the "12-14 mile" Spartan Beast on December 9, 2017.
I love Spartan Race too, but ... what the hell was I thinking when I signed up for that one?

A few highlights of my Savage Race follow: