Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Beetles Boring? Darwin didn't think so... he was right on that too.

Disclaimer: These phone shots do not do justice to this awesome uparmored HumVee of an insect.

One day after I destroyed the softer parts of a 3 foot tall, Laurel Oak stump as part of the fence project, this huge beetle showed up on the porch table.
The big stump was all that remained of an oak I cut down about 3 or 4 years ago, because it was too close to the house.

This guy was huge and solid. When I first encountered him, he was so still, I thought he might be dead, but when I tapped him on the Thorax, he spun around to face the threat.
I may have jumped at that point ... actually, the short video clip proves that I jumped ... or at least my finger did.
(video not included, but soon come)

Think for a moment about that beetle's reaction to my tap.
Turning to face the threat ... the gigantic threat of ME.
This would be like Godzilla tapping you on the shoulder and you spinning around to face off with him.

He seems to be a "Stump Borer"(Stenodontes dasystomus)  beetle based on a quick internet search. I think I disturbed him when I peeled away the rotting outer layers of that old oak stump the day before.
I'm still kicking myself for not grabbing the Olympus Tough camera with its killer macro, but apparently I was in lazy photographer mode.

Still, you get the picture ... this is one cool beetle ... not as cool as my red and black Pure Florida carrion beetles, but still worthy of Pure Florida post time.

I couldn't leave him on the red table cloth, so I picked him up ... which took about 2 minutes since every leg ended in a fish hook shaped claw. 
All 6 claws were stuck in the weave of the table cloth. 
Every time I got one free, another foot hook reconnected. Once I solved that puzzle, I dropped him off the porch into the flower bed where he immediately scuttled off under the swamp sunflower plants.

I do love these unexpected encounters... my friend Julie calls them "gifts".
I think she's on to something.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


 A few years ago, when someone asked me, "Do you use Pinterest?"
I would snort, sneer, and say, "Um no ... I have testosterone."

In my defense, early Pinterest did seem pretty girly, and I didn't find much to interest me ... at first.
So that has all changed now and I ate those earlier "testy" comments with a dose of datil pepper hot sauce.

This is not a post about Pinterest ... (sorta seems like it so far), but rather a post about my dog fence.

One of the things I learned from having kids in FFA ... (besides being sure to drink strong heavily caffeinated coffee before an end of the year FFA banquet) ... is that something called "hog panel" and "cattle panel" exists.

I love this stuff ... as does Pinterest and YouTube. At both of these sites you can find all kinds of projects using these panels in ways never intended at the "panel factory".
The cattle panel fences on Pinterest were very creative and some were downright beautiful.
My wood budget doesn't allow as much extra wood trim on this fence as the prettiest Pinterest pics showed, but Pinterest was definitely a source of inspiration and instruction.

My goal is an attractive, Labrador Retriever proof fence surrounding the back and side "yards" here at Pure Florida HQ.
 Right away, these 16 foot long panels present a challenge.
How the heck do you get them home?
This challenge gets more challengy when you drive one of the shortest vehicles on the road ... A JEEP Wrangler.

Hey, no problem, I have a trailer ... which is barely 7 feet long.
Did I mention I also needed to buy two 16 foot 4X4's for my Ninja Warrior Salmon Ladder project?
Well, I did and that both helped and complicated things.

In the trailery-cattle panelly photo above, this may not be obvious, but I took an old 14 foot extension ladder and strapped it into the trailer fully extended.
Allowing for a little overhang at the JEEP end and beaucoup overhang at the stern, my system worked like a charm.

 Of course, once I got home (multiple trips by the way), there were a bunch of post holes to dig.
 With the exception of some VERY rooty areas in one section, digging post holes here is pretty easy. 
"Easy" in the sense that the soil is sand with no rocks or hard clay.
The photo above is just a sample and it also shows one of the minor challenges ... the humps.
Scattered around PFHQ are occasional humps of richly dark, charcoally soil. They rise above the surrounding ground by only a couple feet at most.
My hypothesis is that a long time ago, when they cleared parts of this land for cattle, they pushed piles of trees and brush together and burned them in situ.
You can still see that practice in any rural area today.

Above is a comparison of the hump soil and the native sand beneath it ... all from the same post hole.  I'm trenching and then swaling the ground wherever a hump arises. 
On this project, that's only 2 places, but the second one is big, forested, and SO DAMN ROOTY!

 IF you are going to do this kind of work during the humid 100 degree heat of a Florida Summer, it's important to fuel up for the task at hand.
I call this "The Fencer's Breakfast" ... bacon, Key Lime Cake, coffee, and milk.
 The devastated brown area to the right of the line of fence was a shrubby, briaralicious, grapevine encased jungle that extended out past the where the fence now lies. 
A bit of machete mayhem at the end of the day pushed it back so the fence could both proceed and ... turn a corner.
 (Important note from the fencer: None of the fence in these photos is finished. It's all just hanging and the future trim has yet to be added.)
The photo above shows the fence passing through a large hump of that dark, charcoal-rich soil I mentioned earlier.
It's pretty good dirt for Florida, so I'll be harvesting some of that as I swale the fence line.
The trenchy look is temporary.

 This is a fencer's rootiest nightmare.
On the bright side, I've made much progress since I first stared down this line, and that makes me feel good.
 Don't forget to take breaks if you are trying this at home... and remember, it's not a fashion show.
Wear what works.
Easy for me to say ... I don't have neighbors :)
Turning the corner ...
 I'm going old school on this big log that lies across my fence path in the jungle zone.
I only need to move the part across the fence line, and I COULD chainsaw it, but it's punky on the outside and in the dirt, ... I try to never let my saw chain touch the ground.

So while I work nearby, I let a slow and low fire saw through the log. When it gets done, I'll just move the section under the fence line.

That's about it for this PFHQ fence update. This one is more for me than you dear reader. This blog is many things and one of the most important jobs it does is keep a running record of projects in and around Pure Florida HQ.
I can't tell you how many times that history has come in handy.
And remember ... when your head starts to smoke, well, it's time to take a break.