It’s Spring in Fairhope

It’s only January 19th and even though Bill Finch, gardening writer for the Mobile Press-Register says our Gulf Coast Spring officially comes mid-February, the signs of spring are here. And why wouldn’t they be?  This is the sub-tropical Gulf Coast.

I saw tulips poking their heads out of the ground.

The oaks that hold onto their dead leaves all winter are starting to let them go for new growth.  My street was covered in dead leaves that weren’t there yesterday and my deciduous trees are finally starting to look bare.

I was greeted at the front door this afternoon by a leaf-footed bug.

My over-wintering grass is starting to green. An actual clover appeared through the unraked leaves in the back yard.

I guess spring in Fairhope isn’t officially here for a few weeks, and maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part, but I saw the signs.

My Reading List

I homeschool my two boys so I’m naturally interested in what they can do to improve their education. What (aside from the regular list of things to do before graduation) can they do to keep them ahead of the average.

I enjoy reading and believe that reading is the key to knowledge. The more you read the more you know. Even if it’s about someone’s adventure or life, it’s something that you might not have encountered in your own life without reading about. We read the Bible, stories that reflect what they’re learning in their school subjects, magazines on topics they enjoy and good books. Well, I have to admit the good books idea went out the window for a bit. The boys went through a phase where reading was just not fun.

Now were back to the “grind” and they are starting to enjoying it again. My younger is curently reading Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; my older is reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Both are cool stories.

When I was looking for a reading list years ago to start the boys on I came across the many lists of classic reading.  I settled on two lists: one from www.schoolofabraham.com, which is the Thomas Jefferson Education website which I highly recommend, and the other is “College Bound Reading List” by the American Education Services at www.educationplanner.org

Well, I had decided that I want to catch up on my reading, too. There are a lot of books that I’m familiar with because I’ve seen the movie.   Who hasn’t seen the cartoon version of The Hobbit, Disney’s production of The Jungle Book, or Liz Taylor in National Velvet?  But have you read the books?  I hadn’t and it was delightful to find they were written so well and the stories were a bit different from what I had “seen”. 

I have always tried to enforce a rule with the boys: if you want to see a movie that’s based on a book you have to read the book first.  As they got older it was actually fun talking to them about the differences; how the characters interacted in a particular scene, how the ending was different, how some new characters appeared in the movie.  I still hold that rule, but the movies recently haven’t been worth seeing. 

I’ll be keeping the list running for them since I have to for their school records.  For me, I’m keeping the list, too.  And I’m having fun doing so.  I’ve deviated a few times, finding other books that interested me.  “Frankenstein” was very different from the scarey guy portrayed in movies terrorizing cities while walking like a zombie.  “The Secret Garden” was exciting but ended abruptly joyful.  I was waiting for something else to happen, I guess.  And, “The Lost World” seemed very real.  I just finished C.S. Lewis’ “Out of A Silent Planet”.  Now I’m reading James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small”. 

Some books on the list I remember from college so I’ve checked them off.  These include Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”, Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabbler”, and Miller’s “The Crucible”.  Others I wish I had paid more attention to, so I’ll probably read them again.  And then there are the one’s I only know by the movie such as “Dr. Zhivago”, “Cyrano de Bergerac.”  I recently finished “The Jungle Book”.  I could picture, distantly, King Louie and his monkey friends dancing, Baloo scratching his back on a tree, and the elephants marching, but it was a stretch.  The book was well written and not in any order that Disney put together to make it’s movie, which (by the way) we are all fans of.  I recommend that you read the book. 

I’ll continue to read from these lists because it’s rather fun to tackle a list of things to do, especially one that requires me to relax.

How to Grow a Pineapple Plant

Growing a pineapple plant is something we moms are told is a really cool thing to do with our kids. Lots of the what-to-do-with-your-kids magazines and books seemed to place this project with high regard.

And I agree: it is a cool thing to grow (or try to grow) a pineapple. I admire those who can do it. A friend of mine told me about her relative’s pineapple plantation.  I’ve heard about  how long it takes to grow one fruit from seed to harvest; too long.  I’ve admired my neighbors on Siesta Key who lined the fence in their front yard with pineapple plants.  The soil was just right.  One of our Junior Master Gardener projects is to grow a pineapple plant; seems easy enough.  I have tried to grow one with the kids many many times but without luck.

This year, prompted by the Jr. Master Gardener project (I’m the instructor), I simply purchased a plant from Home Depot. I got it in August and it was really small and easy to take care of for awhile. I left it outside since it’s very warm here and sunny. But in the Fall, the sun shifted south and the pines and live oaks along my yard’s southern border offered me a challenge.  My yard was just too shady but I left the plant outside hoping it would still do well.  I watered it, fertilized it, talked to it and watched it.  The fruit didn’t seem to grow.  It just sat there upon its stalk looking quite small, quite round and quite green.

When the freeze warnings were issued I brought it inside and sat the plant near the only window that gets a bit of sun.  The ends of the leaves turned brown which I read was due, probably, to salt in my water.   This I don’t understand because the plant recieved rain water and the remaining liquid of unclaimed spring water bottles left around the house.  Is there a lot of salt in spring water?

My family left for vacation mid-December and just returned December 30.  I had a neighbor take care of my house plants.  To my surprise the pineapple ripened while we were gone, turning from a bright green to a bright yellow.  I touched it and it fell off of its stalk.   We’ll have it for dessert tonight.

Patience is what you really need if you plan to grow a pineapple plant.  I kind of cheated by purchasing one with a fruit but since I’ve killed many over the years before they got to grow a fruit, I felt I deserved to bypass the hard part. 

If you want to grow a pineapple plant just google “how to grow a pineapple plant” and you’ll get some great advice.  Good luck.

Flotsam and Jetsam

I just finished reading “Washed Up: The Curious Journeys of Flotsam and Jetsam” by Skye Moody. 

One of my favorite things to do is walk the beach to find unusual items that have washed up.  I have collected, from along the Gulf Coast, the usual sea beans, shells, drift wood, sponges and other sea critters.  I have a great collection of shark teeth, fish bones and sea glass.  Last year I found a piece of broken china with a crown stamp on the back, and a piece of fired pottery.  And just last week in Palm Beach I collected a toy scuba diver, the handle of a broken oar, a ball of carnauba wax and blisterpod and cocoplum seeds.  What I left behind amounted to some rope, part of a plastic toy car and 5 feet of worn, hollow bamboo.   This book was right up my alley.

In case you’re wondering, flotsam is basically the wreckage and the cargo from the wrecked ship that floats on the surface of the sea.  Jetsam is the stuff thrown overboard to lighted the vessel.  Ocean storms are responsible for a lot of the flotsam and jetsam.  During rough seas, cargo boxes from shipping vessels can fall overboard, break open and then you’ve got items such as Nike shoes, Lego building blocks, furniture floating around the ocean currents.  This stuff can get caught in the current and circle the ocean several times or end up on the nearest coast.   Things that sink and need a scuba diver to retrieve is called lagan.  I suppose wreckage from hurricanes can count as flotsam, unless it sinks.  I’ve never encountered a furious hurricane that allowed me to walk the beach shortly after.  I don’t know how long it takes for house parts and contents to wash up. 

The Washington and Oregon coast is a great place to beachcomb if you’re interested in collecting the unusual and Skye Moody does a great job describing what, how and why lots of things wash up along the northwestern coast.  She also spends a great deal of time describing the history of flotsam with legends and native tales of superstition and gods.  She chronicles shipwrecks and messages in bottles, rubber ducks, flotsam and density, Japanese fishing floats, ambergris and beach whistles.  There is an interesting section on the Great Garbage Patch.

Even if you’re not a beachcomber, this book makes a great read.  You never know what you’ll learn about our oceans, our beaches and why people collect things.