My new vegetable garden

We’re not farmers and don’t pretend to be.  We can keep tropical plants alive (outdoors) and have had gardens before.  The last time we tried to grown vegetables was in Hernando MS the year before we moved here to Siesta Key.  We had bird feeders and grew (unplanned) beautiful and huge sunflowers.  So, I thought, why not something else.  I planted pumpkins on the southwest side of the house.  There was a faucet nearby for watering and plenty of sunlight.  The vines grew long.  We watched daily as they grew, constantly turning them back toward the house or along side the house to the back yard.  We didn’t have huge fruit or very much, but we had some and we had a lot of fun.

Before that, in Myrtle Beach where the soil was all sand (like it is here), we had several huge containers on the back patio (southwest facing).  We grew tomatoes, potatoes, herbs, carrots.  The only thing I remember eating were the cherry tomatoes.  But it wasn’t an easy task (container farming) and we didn’t do it again.

Here on Siesta Key, we’re trying the container garden again.  This time with smaller pots, which I think will help them stay watered.  I bought a “self-watering pot”.  It has a reservior at the bottom and I can see the water level.  I asked around to my 4H friends what would be the easiest of the expensive vegetables to grow.  Hands down, broccoli won.  So that’s what we planted today. 

My husband and I already grow basil, mint and rosemary.  He’s in charge of those plants.  We talked about what else to grow.  Perhaps we’ll try tomatoes again using this reservoir pot that our broccoli is in.  I looked up “how to grow broccoli” and “how to grow tomatoes” on the internet.  For simple advice I went to www.ehow.com.  I looked further into growing tomatoes and found a site explaining that you should have very little leaves on your tomato plants in order for the plant to produce an abundant crop.  Sounds like a science experiment to me, so we’ll try one plant with leaves and one without.  I don’t have a hypothesis so we’ll just see what happens.  Hopefully either way, we’ll end up with lots of tomatoes for salads, guacamole, and all those other things you put tomatoes in.  Yum.

Sarasota Shell Show

How could I forget to put this on the calendar? I love shelling and hope anyone that comes to Sarasota does, too. The Shell Show is this weekend (Feb13-15) at the Municipal Auditorium in Sarasota. If you missed it today, it’ll be open Saturday and Sunday from 10am-5pm each day.

Siesta Fiesta Craft Fair February 2009

I just got back from my walk through the Village. Siesta Fiesta Craft Fair was a lot of fun. The artists have incredible talent and I applaud them all. This isn’t the original Siesta Fiesta, though…that one is in April.  See my post: https://lifealongthegulfcoast.wordpress.com/2009/04/22/siesta-fiesta/ for the April 2009 info.
I always enjoy art/craft fairs because I’m artistic, although I have spent more time on raising my children than “doing” my art. I love looking at other artist’s work and thinking in my head, “how can I do this”, “can I do this”, “what would I do differently”, “should I just abandon all ideas of artistry and just raise my kids”?
Well, this year I went with my neighbor, Sandy (the Sunshine Everyday artist) and we picked and scrutinized and discussed and decided we’re just going to have to take a beading class together. We’ll have to brush up on our painting skills together (no pun intended). We’ll have to be crafty together (Ok…that pun was intended). All of the art was so inspiring.  Keep checking back to see what we’ve been up to…you just may want to purchase one (or more) of our creations.
In summation: Fiesta was great, put it on your calendar for next year and bring lots of cash.

Nature Trip

We headed to Singer Island on the east coast for Super Bowl weekend so we could watch the game with my in-laws. These trips east always involve some incredible nature sightings, like the time we saw a 4 foot (maybe larger) green iguana on the beach and how we can watch the manatee swim by from my in-laws balcony over the Atlantic Ocean. We can watch sharks swimming about, too. We always find an abundance of Portuguese man-o-war on the beach; tiny ones the size of your fingernail to some that look like party balloons; there are shells of all kinds 2 feet deep near the coquina limestone. You get the picture.  Well this time was no different.

I first found out that a magnificent frigate bird had nested along the intercoastal waterway side of Singer Island, just across the street from their condo. My father-in-law told me how they had watched, for weeks, the birds flying around, then the fledglings, but to my disappointment they were gone by the time I had arrived to visit. We were planning a day trip to Peanut Island but the cold front and strong wind kept us indoors. Instead we took our usual walks on the beach mid-day when the sun was beating down on us with warmth.

Along the wrackline, I saw what looked like tons of purple finger nails. At a closer look, I discovered the beach was covered with these hydralike animals called By-The-Wind-Sailors. They are in the phyllum Cnidaria, like jellyfish, but are not a jellyfish. They float on the open sea and have what looks like sails on them, so they float directionally with the wind. By-the-wind sailors also have tentacles. 

Well, if that wasn’t exciting enough, among the by-the-wind sailors I was examining, I found several purple sea snails. Now, I had given up on ever finding one since I had bee reading that I could only find them in Key West, and I had no plans of traveling there. Defeated, I had bought one at a shell shop in Sanibel. But, this day, I had a hand-full of them. My favorite actually has the bubble raft attached. The bubble raft keeps them buoyant. I should have done my homework better and not given up so soon. Purple sea snails prey upon Portuguese man-o-war and by-the-wind sailors, so I was bound to find them here in the West Palm Beach area.

I added to my seabean collection, too. I finally found the following: 2 brown hamburger beans, several Hog plum mesocarp, and some more bay beans.

Another thing we saw that was so cool and caught the attention of my boys: a beached tree trunk covered with both goose barnacles and duck barnacles.  I found a 5 inch piece of drift wood with goose barnacles attached for my collection.

We didn’t see any new birds on the trip although I did spot a total of 4 crested caracaras along the way home.  There were plenty of osprey and hawks as well.

What a great trip!

Blue Bell Ice Cream Celebrates 4H Centennial

Florida 4H is celebrating 100 years and Blue Bell Creameries is honoring this celebration with its 4H Centennial Cup Cake Ice Cream, available now in Florida grocery stores. 

Blue Bell Creameries, located in Texas, created this flavor to celebrate 100 years of 4H clubs around the country.  This year it’s Florida’s turn to celebrate with a yummy cake batter ice cream filled with yellow cake pieces, chocolate icing swirl and green 4H sprinkles. 

Blue Bell is donating a portion of its sales of this ice cream to promote 4H programs.  I hope you’ll stop by your local grocery store (I’ve only seen it at Publix) and buy a half-gallon.  Before you go, register at www.bluebell.com for a  $1.00 off coupon that you can print from your computer.  Thanks for supporting 4H.

http://www.bluebell.com/The_Little_Creamery/Press_Releases/press_Centennial_Cupcake.aspx

Florida 4H celebrates 100 years!

From the Suwannee Democrat: “The year-long celebration themed “Florida 4-H: A Century of Youth Success,” begins with a kick-off event at the Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 U.S. Highway 302 N., in Tampa on February 5 – 16, 2009 daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Florida 4-H Centennial exhibit will be in the Agricultural Hall of Fame building on the fairgrounds. The general public is invited to attend.

“The Florida 4-H program started in 1909 with corn clubs for boys in Alachua, Marion and Bradford counties by J.J. Vernon, dean of agriculture at the University of Florida. A few years later girls’ tomato clubs were organized. Extension work with African Americans in Florida began in1915 and was headquartered at Florida A & M University.

“Today, Florida 4-H is about much more than corn and tomatoes. It covers just about every area of interest, from animals to workforce preparation, and from computers to performing arts. While agriculture, horticulture, family and consumer science and livestock remain projects in Florida 4-H, new interests, such as environmental science and rocketry, are now included.

“For more information about the state kick-off event, contact Julie Wilson at (352) 846-0996 or visit http://www.florida4h.org. To learn what your county is doing to celebrate Florida 4-H’s 100th anniversary, contact your local county Extension office. Portable Golf Solutions is an event partner.”

My boys are members of a local club here in Sarasota. My youngest son is an activity co-leader. He and another member plan “get to know you” type activities and games for each monthly meeting. At the end of the year he’ll earn a pin for his involvement.

My other son is both a co-reporter and co-historian. He and the other reporter take turns writing for the monthly extension newsletter about what the club is involved in. He also keeps a scrapbook of activities. At the end of the year he can earn a pin for each position and, after turning in a record book for each position, he can earn a ribbon for his work.

The boys are also working on record books for Aquaculture.  Since we began keeping a salt water fish tank for the club, the boys have learned a lot about marine life and hope to earn a ribbon for their activities and record books.

The boys are now working on projects for the  4H Mini-Building at the County Fair. They’ve both signed up for a lot of things and I hope they can get them all completed along with their project reports. Among these craft projects are sculpting, sewing, woodworking, photography and displays of some of their prized collections: Star Wars Lego and Pokemon Cards.

The County Fair is March 13-22, 2009. For more information go to http://www.sarasotafair.com/