Sunday, July 27, 2014

Vacation in North Florida

Recently RetroMan and I went to North Florida for a few days.  Of course we spent a lot of time at Tree Ring.

While traveling around, we passed many fields of watermelons and trucks carrying them to market.

We met with the County Forester to discuss the next 5 year plan for Tree Ring.  We're going to leave the land fallow for 2-3 years and then plant native Longleaf instead of Slash pine.  He recommended a fire lane be cut around the perimeter, and the Forest service can do this for us pretty inexpensively.  That's good, because before the clear cut it took us about 2 years to cut the tiniest fire lane.  We began clearing a lane again after the clear cut, but each 100 feet took about an hour - those logs are heavy.  It's about a mile around Tree Ring, so I am glad for the Forest Service's help.

We are getting more serious about building a cabin at Tree Ring - layout coming in a future post.  Since we live about 2 hours away, we wanted to spend part of the trip asking the locals about people they trust - architects, people interested in some weekend work helping RetroMan build, site planners, well diggers, the electric co-op, the county building department, etc.  We met a lot of awesome people and have made some good connections.

One of the things we wanted to do during this visit was to stake out the perimeter of the cabin - 24x38 feet.  We were having trouble doing this with all the log debris, so we hooked the trailer up to the van and moved a bunch of logs to a burn pile at the back of the property.  

The stakes were too tiny to really get an idea, so we tried to pulling the trailer across the spot the cabin would go.  We never did get anywhere near it, but we got to sit on the pretend porch and check out the view.

All we needed were some banjos and some grass to chomp on.


It took about 2 hours to move all the logs, and this great idea may have been the beginning of the air conditioning problems we've been having ever since.

Note to self:  The van is not a truck.

City people are so stupid.

Lots of flowers on this trip.

Beardtongue - Pentstemon

Clockwise from left:  Bog Yelloweyed Grass - Xyris difformis
Lance-leaf Arrowhead - Sagittaria lancifolia
Marsh-pink - Sabatia

A field of Carolina Redroot by the dry pond.

Up close.

Carolina Redroot - Lachnanthes caroliana

Fleabane - Erigeron annuus

St. John's Wort - Hypericum prolificum

I think this is a weed, but it's very pretty.

Meadowbeauty - Rhexia mariana

It had a little spider on it that I thought was cool.

A purple flower I haven't identified yet.

And a pretty pink one.

I took all of these pictures with my new Samsung S5.  They look great on the phone, but after downloading, I don't like the pictures taken when it's cloudy.  It was so convenient not having to carry both a camera and a phone (in case we got bitten by a snake), but I will next time. 

We did a lot of other fun things on this trip like tractor shopping, visiting Cedar Key, and 'The Swamp', but I will save it for another post.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Nearing The End Of Spring At Tree Ring

Here in Florida, we've had the most amazing Winter and Spring.  Usually the air conditioner is cranking heading into May, but this year it has been much cooler.  I thought this might delay Spring, but that hasn't been the case. 

The Sand blackberry bushes are right about where they have been in prior years.  We should have lots of blackberries by the middle of May.

The Florida Scrub Frostweed, also known as Clustered Rock Rose, is in bloom.

As are Purple Twin flowers.

I have spent hours trying to figure out the name of this flower.  If anyone knows, please share.  I think it's a weed, but it's very small and pretty - almost like a small ground orchid.

I think it is what creates this beautiful carpet of color in the cow fields.

The Horrible Thistle is flowering.

The resurrection fern is open throughout the live oak.

Native wire grass (I think) has popped up across the clear cut, and by fall will be thigh high.

This is salad that fell out of its container turning into Tree Ring during our last visit.  

I put some lettuce in front of all of the gopher tortoise holes I could find.

 Soon summer rains will be here, and there will be even more flowers to blog about.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Clueless Logging 101

RetroMan decided it was time to teach City Girl how to use a chainsaw.  It wasn't quite the Blind leading the Blinder, but ....   I will let you decide.

First the safety lesson.

Uh oh.  We may have created a monster.

Here are a few short clips of her practicing on a short tree stump.  The chainsaw noise is annoying, but the videos are funnier with the sound on.

Getting acquainted with the saw (22 seconds):


Switching sides (26 seconds):


The final cut (56 seconds):


It looks like some more practice is in order.

And eye protection.

And different pants.

And then she wouldn't stop (53 seconds).


She's not quite Paul Bunyan yet, but she's getting there.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Coolest Camping Trip - Day 2

Sunrise is always beautiful at Tree Ring.

RetroMan likes to sleep in, so I always take a walk to see what's up at that hour.

As I left the camper, a deer scampered off.  She looked big and healthy. 

I made my way to the dry pond and noticed the spiders were busy.

At the dry pond it became obvious what the partying had been about the night before.  It was no longer dry.  We've owned Tree Ring since 2009 and there's been very little water at the dry pond - none at the end of winter.  Now there was at least 6 inches, and the summer monsoons haven't started yet.

I noticed the deer have eaten a path through the blackberry bushes.
And other sun worshipers were watching the sunrise too.

I  took off in the Polaris to see what sunrise looks like in the rest of the Preserve.

This picture does no justice to the beauty of the ferns among the water and the trees.

The mullein were flowering.

There were white flowers on some lily pads.

And yellow flowers on others.  If you looks really close you can see a frog between the twin flowers.

A woodpecker motel.

Phlox are everywhere along the roadways.

I waited while the turtle crossed the road.

Once back at Tree Ring, RetroMan and I started blazing trails through the piles of wood left after the clear cut.  At one point we got side tracked for an hour moving a 300 pound tree stump we thought would make a great bench under this tree.

Note to self:  Don't sit on a bench made out of freshly cut pine or you will get tar butt.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Coolest Camping Trip - Day 1

Turning into TRC's gate, we came upon this:

We stared at each other in stunned silence.  It seemed like a cross between a monkey, a squirrel, and a kangaroo.  Perhaps it was the skunk ape we knew was there but could never find.  It didn't move one whisker.  After a lengthy discussion, we decided our friend Ron put a toy on the post as a joke.  

And then it scampered off. 

Not like a City squirrel "oh my gosh - oh my gosh - oh my gosh - I gotta get outta here".  Nope.  He was just on his way down the hill to check on a horse.  

At first we were sure we discovered a new species, but no, it's a Fox Squirrel.  Just something City folk have never seen.  Fox Squirrels can get up to 3 pounds and I'm thinking this guy has been eating a lot of chunky monkey.  I hope he decides to stick around for a while.

We set up camp, and decided to take the Polaris for a drive around the Preserve just before sunset.   

It's hard to tell, but that's an alligator in the lower right of the picture.

I don't know what happened, but he wasn't alive.

It was overcast, but cool and beautiful.  

As we drove around, the we noticed pockets of very pronounced smells.  We've never noticed this during our daily drives, but that evening you could smell night blooming jasmine, animals, a musky smell, a swampy smell.  

Just awesome.

Then we went back to start the fire and eat some hot dogs. 

I made a double wiener stick.

Retro Man made fun of me all night for doing a selfie, but I wanted to show the super cool sweatshirt I bought at the dollar store. It's the best 15 dollars I ever spent. The weather was beautiful when we left the City, but I forgot to bring a jacket. Nights can get really cool at Tree Ring.


Shocking isn't it?  I've always been afraid of hunters not seeing me, but I don't think I have anything to worry about any more.

That night as we sat by the fire, the sound coming from the front of the property was louder than a Bucs game.  It seemed as though every animal and insect was partying at the dry pond.  Frogs croaking, birds screeching, animals grunting, cicadas humming and cicada killers buzzing.  Chuck Wills widow was singing.

All in all a wonderful day.  I'll post Day 2 later this week.