Sunday, April 25, 2010

Things I Don't Know About Farming #1: Where Are Pine Seeds?

Retro Man and I noticed that a lot of pine cones had fallen on Tree Ring since the last time we were there, so we brought one home.  We thought we could plant the pine cone and grow a Country slash pine on our City property.  

But we looked closer and thought maybe there were seeds in the pine cone.  

So we looked for the seed.

Not knowing what a pine tree seed looks like, we figured that you plucked one of the wooden thingies from the pine cone and the seed would be attached.

Nope.  That thing wouldn't budge.

So we looked it up on-line.

The wooden thingy is called a scale.

Turns out there are male and female cones (duh, of course).  The male cones are called catkins and are very small and fragile.  They release pollen in the Spring to fertilized the female cones and then fall off the tree. 

Female pine cones take 2-3 years to mature.   While the female cones are closed and growing, they develop little winged seeds close to the center of the pine cone.  When the pine cone opens, the seeds fly out and disperse seeds up to 150 feet from the tree.  Many pine cones require fire to open and free the seed, which is true for the Longleaf Pine (my favorite), and one of the reasons that Longleaf is no longer prevalent due to the unpopularity of burning.  A picture of some longleaf pine seeds can be found here.

The pine cone we brought home was open and didn't have any seeds.  But we pulled apart some unopened scales at the bottom and found tiny winged seeds.

Something I didn't realize is that pine nuts are truly edible pine seeds.

So now we know where pine seeds are.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Living In The City #3: Weddings On The Water

We went to the St. Petersburg Pier the other day, and saw something up close we had only seen far away before.

It's a church on the water, and it is used for weddings.  As I turned to Retro Man to say what a great idea, we should..... 

Mr Romantic saw the look on my face and pointed out that it wasn't free, and he was already married to me.  We need the money for other things, like a trailer for the Polaris.

I have to admit it, I want the trailer more than another wedding.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


A huge Queen's Wreath is located about two feet away from the car I use to go to work.  For the last month, I've been dodging the bees as I get in and out, trying to make sure one didn't become a passenger.  I'm kind of scared of bees.

In my rush, I never actually looked at the bees, but last week I noticed that there were many different types of bees.

This one was the prettiest.  It has a shiney green body.

This is one is the most common type of bee I see on plants in our yard, and one I would term a honey bee.

But this one was totally unexpected.

He seemed like more of a schizophrenic bee, because he never actually stopped long enough at a flower to do anything.  More like a librarian bee.  He is what I would call a bumble bee, but definitely smaller than the type in Virginia where I grew up.

Even though I'm scared of bees, I hope to work that out, and have a bee hive at Tree Ring one day.  If any of you know what type of bees these are, please let me know. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I Love Spring!

It has been really busy lately, so there are more pictures than prose.  

Some may think that is a good thing!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Smell of Spring In Florida

At the City House, the Grapefruit tree has finally bloomed about a month later than usual.  It smells devine!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Living In The City #2: Tow Be Or Not Tow Be

Cell phones aren't allowed where I work, so when I came out and saw City Girl had called 9 times, I knew something was up.  As I called her back, I was trying not to think worrisome thoughts since she just got her license a month ago.

Fortunately, it was nothing like that.  It is Spring Break this week, and City Girl went to the beach.

There was no parking, so she parked here: 

She and her friend returned an hour later and the car was gone.

Yep, it was towed.  I commiserated with her on the phone about life's hard lessons, how much money did she have in savings, blah, blah, while she waited for her dad to pick her up.

Clearly, she shouldn't have parked in that spot, but there were no towing signs and the lot was nearly empty.  She went into the store to ask about her car, and a young clerk said a freelance towing service came in, asked if any cars needed towing, and even though he said no, they towed her anyway.  After she called the towing company, she called the manager that had been on duty at the time.  The manager said it was all right for her to park there.

My husband and his Mom took City Girl to the towing lot.  Two tow operators were pretty intimidating, as my husband pointed out big scratches on the hood.  "You can't prove it, and besides the air bags would have gone off", they said.

Retro Man asked to see their contract.  They said it was none of his business.  They wanted cash - no checks, no credit cards.  Thank God City Girl's Gramma was visiting and always has cash, because they were about to close, and it's a $400 storage fee if it stays overnight.  I think that is a nightly fee, so in a short time the towing company can essentially own your car.

They paid, and then, with his hand covering to top of the contract, the tow operator said to sign at the bottom.  My husband asked to read it, and the operator pulled the top printed copy off, pointed to the carbon and said "read it".  There was nothing to read.  The operator put the top back on, covered the top with his hand, and said "sign it".  Parts were scratched out, like the "Auth By".

Retro Man signed it.  It was the only way we were going to get the car back.  It seems we have a trend of having our cars held hostage.

Retro Man found a consumer protection agency that is a watch dog for towing operators, and we're fighting it.  Not because City Girl shouldn't have parked there, she shouldn't have.  But because they scratched the car, and wouldn't let us see the contract we had to sign to get the car out of their lot.

In case you've never been towed, the consumer agency advice was to call the police if there are no towing signs.

I hope this story is useful for anyone who gets towed in the future.  Hopefully City Girl will get her money back, but I'm not thinking she will.

UPDATE:  City Girl will probably never get her money back, but it was a little sweet justice seeing that the towing company just got collared for towing other cars unlawfully.