Monday, December 28, 2009

After getting thoroughly lambasted by all our family at Christmas for not posting since October, we're finally back to it. Part of the reason for the lapse was due to end of semester and holiday craziness, and part was due to the lack of things to post. I mean, is it really that exciting to read that our carrots have grown a quarter inch? Happily we now have some garden news worth writing home about: our first harvest. The salad greens needed thinning so we grabbed up some of the baby greens, added parsley, cilantro, chives, and fennel from our herb garden, and had a nice little salad, made all the more tasty because we grew it.

Gardening seems somewhat magical to me; I marvel at the fact that I can throw some ten-cent seeds into the ground and weeks later pull up vegetables that I'd pay ten dollars for at the grocery store. It makes me realize how far removed I am from the daily existence of just a couple generations past. Our grocery stores would seem (and, indeed, are) far more magical to my great-grandma than a simple vegetable garden would, and yet it's the garden that amazes me.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Camelias in October?

Okay, so I heard a million times that the weather in Florida was going to be different. Everyone warned us, but we were dubious. Sure, it might stay warmer longer (which it did) and there might not be as many cold(ish) days as in Wilmington, but how different can it really be? We were still in the South after all, and at the beach, no less.

Last week convinced me. Camelias are in bloom. Azaleas are in bloom. Wilmington's Azalea Festival is in April, not October. It seems that the combination of several 90 degree days (yep, in mid-October) and clearing off the vines and ferns that had been choking them off was enough to set the bushes into full bloom. My Pedagogy professor swears her azaleas bloom twice every year, so apparently this isn't a fluke.

Now, however, we've got the best of both worlds. The temps have dipped into the 60s and 70s and flowers are gorgeous.

On another note, now that the tree is finally out of the back yard we've started on the butterfly garden which we've planned to grow up around, on, and in the remaining stump. Of course, we won't get too many butterflies this time of year, but we can work on the area in preparation for spring. Y'all know how I love my planning : )

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Garden!

We finally have the beginnings of a proper garden in place. We were waiting on a big water oak to come out, and it has, so today I looked at the area we have available and settled on a plan. The total space amounts to a rectangle that's 16 x 12 (with options for a couple more small beds outside this). Eventually there will be 6 raised beds that are 3' x 7' with paths of 18" between. The dimensions are the result of the total area and practicality. I could have done fewer and larger beds, but working them would be a problem without stepping into them, which we don't want to do. Three feet is easy to work with from both sides, and is probably more than enough space for just two people to grow veggies to augment our grocery shopping. Today I got in one of the beds and marked off and prepared the soil for the second. I used available materials for the borders of the beds (cedar beams that were laying around and leftovers from the herb garden border) and 5 bags of gardening soil to fill in. All of the beds will be mulched with pine needles. I'm not sure what we'll mulch the paths with. Pea gravel would be nice, but once it's in, it's a pain to take out. I think we'll be able to mulch and plant it this weekend. It actually works out nicely to stagger them, both financially and from a planting point of view. If we can plant a bed every two weeks we should be eating well all winter, right from the garden, and we'll be totally set up for spring to do heavy plantings of peppers, tomatoes, cukes, and miscellaneous other veggies. In the meantime, arugula, here we come.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

House Color Help

Now that the weather has finally broken (highs in the 80s instead of 90s), we're thinking about tackling our next big project: painting the house. Something about the current two-tone blue feels a bit dated. We're not averse to adventurous colors - after living downtown across the street from a sage green house, a pink house, and a purple house we've come to like bright house colors - but since we don't live in a historic downtown and we want to sell the house in four or five years, we need something a bit tamer. We've thought about yellow, red, green, white, until we're blue in the face. Anyone got any suggestions?

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Guess my thumb might have a little green in it after all:

Or, maybe Josh has a green thumb and I just want to take credit for it. All of you who know my history with indoor plants can be the judge.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Interesting Caterpillars

Yards in Florida are strange places. I've noticed that we have a number of scary looking caterpillars in the yard. The top one I found near the herb garden today. As luck would have it, there was a guy here to look at a tree that's got to come out. He said it was a "fireworm." I haven't been able to ID it further online yet (all the fireworms appear to be aquatic and feed on coral), but he said that the sting is very very painful. It certainly looked threatening enough. The lower photo is a saddleback caterpillar that I came across while weeding on Sunday. It's quite striking, and also very painful. We're going to have to be careful when we're handing plants out there so as not to get stung. In my research to figure out what these guys are, I found out that I had gotten rid of some caterpillars that would become black swallowtail that were munching on our parsley. That's too bad. Next time I'll let them be and lose the parsley just to watch them and see what happens. Ah, well. We've plans for a butterfly garden, which seems like a weird thing for me to be into, but what the hell. I like bugs. I like gardening. I must therefore like bugs that are good for gardens. And besides, butterflies look cool.
I added Greek Oregano, English Thyme, and Spanish Lavender to the herb garden today. I also finished mulching it and made a border by laying down cedar rails (the kind that serve as rails in a split-rail fence). Cheers.


Saddleback Moth Caterpillar

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Yard Work

We spent the afternoon working in the yard today. Pulling up all the vines that are choking off the azaleas and camellias and miscellaneous other plants could well take weeks. Luckily, among the things left by the old owner were an electric lawn mower, which I used for the first time today, and a really good set of gardening shears that are sharp enough to cut through 1" thick branches on the crepe myrtles like butter.

We've got two hummingbird feeders up, and both are regularly visited. There seems to be one bird that's staking a claim though. He often perches nearby and chases off any other hummingbirds that swoop in for chow.

The herb garden has expanded to now include silver thyme, garlic, and tricolored sage. We also had some cuttings from the African Blue basil that sprouted roots and will make nice trans-plants to the beds in the front yard. Aimee got a banana tree, which we haven't put in the ground yet, as we're still figuring on the best place to put it. The jalapenos are coming along very well (two obvious peppers and about 14 more budding, it's amazing how fast they grow). No tomatoes yet, but we're keeping our fingers crossed that we didn't plant too late and that they're getting enough sun. We'll see. We started clearing the area that will become the vegetable garden today. It's going to take some work, but we'll get there. In addition to the hummingbirds we have woodpeckers (red bellied and pileated), and lots of frogs and lizards, and cardinals, and wrens, and crazy looking caterpillars with thorns. It's an interesting yard. Cheers. Photos of plants to come as soon as I can get some decent shots.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lemongrass and Thyme

Today I added some plants to the herb garden. I also got the kayak rack up, finally. I've read a book by Lee Reich called Weedless Gardening, which gives us a conceptual framework to work with. Such things are important for cerebral people with little to no gardening experience. There seem to be thousands of mosquito's living in our yard. The lemongrass will hopefully help with that, as it's called citronella in french. Cheers.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I've never been so excited about a washing machine. We went two weeks without a washer and dryer, and in that short span I developed a hearty appreciation for a good old spin cycle. I have been told by various family members that my grandma never wanted a washer and dryer because she preferred going to a laundromat and filling seven machines at a time instead of taking all day at home with just one washer and one dryer. (I'm guessing that the unsaid part of this equation had something to do with the socializing potential afforded by the laundromat, but that's another story.) In any case, I did not inherit the laundromat-loving gene. I could live without a dryer - there's something very romantic and nostalgic about clothes outside on a line - but the washer is essential. But we don't have to live without either anymore; a set of brand-new Whirlpools were delivered yesterday. Yipee!
[Amendment: those brand-new Whirlpools would not be gracing our utility room if it weren't for my brother, Brian, who gets an amazing discount and felt slighted by my not mentioning him. Alas, I am happy.)

On other fronts, I had three days of orientation last week. I'm genuinely excited. The classes I'm taking sound fascinating - Caribbean Women Writers, Teaching Theory, Gender and Disease in the Victorian Novel, and a Speakers Colloquium - and I'm trying a new approach to the class I'm teaching. Classes start Monday, so this is my last weekend of relative ease for a long, long time.

I really want to bike to campus, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to work up to it. The best route for me has some killer hills. Actually, anywhere you go in Tallahassee has killer hills. The minimum elevation on my route is 75 feet. The max is 279. I don't know how much longer this will be "my" route - I'm going to keep my eyes and ears open for another one.

Finally, as promised, more pictures of the house.

Living and Dining Rooms

Guest Room (makes you want to visit, right?)
Master Bedroom - with Bug

And, just because it's funny, this is what we found under the couch when we moved:

Cat Toys

Thursday, August 20, 2009


We had Kathy from the Tallahassee Nurseries out to advise us on our landscaping this morning. TN is 70 years old this year and did the original plan over ten years ago. The previous owner was nice enough to leave the landscape drawing on the counter for us, so we had an inkling of what was there, but no idea of how to take care of it. Furthermore, things are a little overgrown right now. There's a lot of work to do, but it's mostly pruning and cleaning things up. We'll be pulling up weeds and vines and trimming back trees and bushes for a couple of weeks. There's a big oak that's got to come out. But after that happens we'll have enough sun to plant a real garden rather than the small facsimile we're tending now. The area beside the back slab will be a full-time herb garden with a huge lemongrass bush to fill in the corner, and the area across the way will become a veggie garden. Equally awesome is that there's an open area on the back right part of the property where we can put a blackberry bramble, blueberry bushes, a pomegranate, and even some banana trees! We're stoked. The more interesting things that are already on the property are lots of azaleas and camellias (both will remind us of Wilmington). We're going to learn a lot about plants and maintaining them.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Welcome to Florida

It was a long time coming, but the day finally came and we've moved into our new home in Tallahassee. It's pretty hot and muggy, and there's a storm almost every day, but that's not altogether unfamiliar. The house is pretty amazing. Here are some photos:
The House, Yard, and Driveway

Backyard, Facing the House

Backyard, From the House

Living Room

We haven't been here a week yet. It went roughly like this: Friday started at 3 am, on the road by 4, long drive to Tallahassee, in town at 2. Aimee and her folks went to closing so Dad and I started unloading a truck. We actually got all of one trailer and most of another in the house that night, which was pretty fast. For the first time in a week, we got to sleep in our own bed. Saturday was spent unloading and unpacking. Both of our folks headed back to NC. Sunday more of the same. We got a bedroom, a bathroom, and kitchen/dining area set up pretty quickly so we could live in some modicum of comfort. Monday I called the bike shop I hoped to work at, and the owner wanted me to come in that afternoon and talk to him, which I did, and which worked out great, so I started work on Tuesday, which was perhaps a little too soon (due to the amount of work at home I still need to do). Since then we've been getting settled in, hanging stuff on walls, getting cable and internet rigged, and just trying to orient ourselves to a new place. We'll post more as it occurs. Right now we're just happy to be reasonably comfortable and settled. I'm thrilled to be working (I was out of work for less than one week, which is pretty fantastic in this economy). Aimee is getting ready to start school. We've put some plants in the ground and in pots, included basil, spearmint, chives, parsley, rosemary, tomatoes, and some hot peppers. It's our first real gardening experience, and we hope it'll be a big part of our new life here.

We both own a huge debt of gratitude to our families and friends, who housed us, fed us, and helped us get down here. Without all of you, this move would have been so much more difficult and less fun. Thank you. Stay tuned for more.