Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Hot diggity!

For years, my mom has grown these wonderful hot pepper plants.  We call them pili pili from when we lived in Africa, but in looking it up online, they are also called African bird's eye chili. They look a lot like Thai chilis, only smaller. They are only about an inch or so long, and thin. And they pack a punch. Not quite as hot as ghost peppers or habaneros, they are still pretty much up there in the heat factor. 
So,  my mom, she would harvest the peppers, dry them out, and then grind them into a fine powder. For a while, she had so many peppers that she had a few jars of this stuff in the pantry. I mean jars as in 32 oz jars. We would easily give it away because a little goes a long long way. These peppers are hot! The lifespan of the plant would be a couple of years, then my mom would replant from the peppers and the cycle continued. 
Until it didn't. 
All of a sudden, the seeds, which always grew so easily, no longer grew so easily. They would sprout, grow to maybe an inch or so, then die. In the meantime, the older plant from which we harvested the seeds was beginning to fade. One year, my mom had about 4-5 seedlings that were doing pretty well and she gave them to me to take care of while she went out of town. I brought them home, and put their little pots outside next to some other potted plants. Everything was going well at first. Then one plant disappeared. And another. Something was eating them!! No!! 
So I moved the few remaining ones to another area, which worked for a few days. Then, another disappeared. And the last remaining survivor started wilting. When I looked closer, I noticed that it had been chewed at the base. Nothing more to be done. It was dead. 
And the stockpile of dried powder went down. I had given some seeds to friends, who grew it easily, but whenever we got a plant growing, it faltered where once it thrived. We were stumped. 
So, this year, I grabbed one of the few peppers that the old plant produced. I bought these nifty little pods for seedlings, and followed instructions. Put 2-3 seeds in each pod, water, and keep covered (the little kit came with a clear plastic lid) in a well lit area. I did all this and since the weather outside was still fluctuating too much, I kept them inside in my kitchen under the lights. And I waited. And waited. Finally, after a few weeks, the first little sprouts peeked out. Eureka!
I would check them every day. At first it was just 1 or 2. Then another. And another. Soon, I had 17 little baby plants. You can see them below (obviously, I took the lid off to take the picture.)

Soon, my babies were getting tall! They were beginning to reach the top of the lid. I tried leaving the lid off one day. I had my misgivings as my cats love plants. In fact, I no longer have any plants inside the house precisely for both the plant and my kitties' protection (some plants are highly toxic to cats.) I had hoped that being on the counter, towards the back of the counter, that the kitties wouldn't get to them. But no... I came home and found that three of the babies had been sacrificed. Back on with the lid, at least until I could get another solution, which actually presented itself at work! 
We have these large plastic jars of pretzels available for snacks. Bingo!! The mouth of the jar was big enough to fit the plants and the whole jar was big enough to hold the whole little kit and give my seedlings room to grow without getting eaten by the cats. 

They stayed in there for a while, growing happily. I poked a few holes in the top of the jar, and as the weather got warmer, I'd put them outside in the shade to start getting them acclimated. Always with the lid on to keep them from being eaten by whatever critter could possibly be outside. I didn't want them to end with the same fate as their previous siblings. At night, they would come inside. If it was cold out, they would stay inside. Soon, it was warm enough that they were outside most of the time. The jar acted as a really great greenhouse. Finally, it was time to transplant them. 
As usually happens, a few died during the transition. They just weren't strong enough. I placed the surviving plants on a small table away from most of the other plants. I also put a few things in front of them to deter any curious squirrels. I also placed coffee grinds in front as I'd read somewhere that it acts a bit as a deterrent to bugs. Whatever might help. 

When watering them, I would use the mist option, spraying the whole plant. Call me crazy, but I think it's better for the plant, as that's how they would normally be watered in nature (ie rain.)At first they were a bit weak, whenever I watered them, they would flop over under the weight of the water on their leaves. I figured they need to get stronger and eventually they'd be able to hold their own. 
And they grew. 

I kept them watered, and protected. Off the ground, in a safe area. They would get the morning sun and by afternoon, when the sun gets super hot, they would be in shade, still getting plenty of light. 
And they grew.

Now, nearly 5-6 months later, they are doing so well. Some of the pots are smaller and dry out faster, but soon it will be time to give them bigger homes yet again. 
Look how they've grown!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Food Trucks at Carlin Park

Wednesday are not only yoga night, they are also food truck night. I mean, what better way to end a session of yoga than to go get some food?
The choices are great. For example, there was a grilled cheese truck. I thought, how many ways can you make grilled cheese? Well, apparently quite a few! Other choices included Greek, a donut truck, ice cream, burgers, and even a vegetarian truck! 

Here, you can see one of the rows of trucks.

My friend and her kids went straight to the ice cream truck. 

I love the white shirt and red bow tie. Very retro.

The boys, ice cream in hand!

It was time for me to keep looking around.

This one caught my eye. What can I say? I'm a sucker for newsprint.

I ended up ordering the Tribune-grilled chicken breast, applewood bacon, mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, mayo. They were actually out of lettuce, so they put spinach on it instead! Even better!
Here, Jimmy brings me my sammich.

It was amazing! Honestly, I meant to eat half and have the other half for lunch the next day.
But, well, yeah...I couldn't resist. I ended up eating all of it that night.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

The woodpecker and the blackbird

One great thing about Florida is the wildlife. We have a slew of different critters-from bugs to snakes to gators to birds, and that's not mentioning the sea creatures. My sister puts food out for the birds every morning. One day, this little guy showed up.

He started up in the tree.
woodpecker in tree

Then made his way to the feeder.
woodpecker at feeder

 Then, after a little while, this other guy shows up, the blackbird. Although this photo is a bit blurry it makes me laugh because the woodpecker was not happy. Here he was screaming at the blackbird.
a woodpecker and a blackbird at a feeder

The blackbird did fly away. And then came back, a little further away.
blackbird at the feeder

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Monday, May 02, 2016

Clouds over land and sea...

I never fully appreciated how amazing clouds are. Until they were no longer there. The sunny days of California were marked by an endless blue stretch of sky. But where were the clouds? The big puffy clouds that seem ever-present here in Florida? The rolling storm clouds? The wispy? The unusual? Where, o where could they be?? Usually not in California. Unless they were endless gray, or the fire clouds, neither of which were really that appealing.
Ever since moving back to Florida, my love and appreciation of these massive cumulonimbostraticumulocirrus darlings in the sky continues.  Yes, I realize that is not actually a type of cloud, but that's how I feel about them. Driving back from California, my friend G. was amused by my exaggerated enthusiasm as we entered Florida and-Behold! Clouds!!  She and I have now traded places; I am in Florida, and she is out in California. She now understands. Whereas other places might have hills and mountains,  or some other geologic features, Florida is blessed with the most amazing array of clouds. 
I mean really, look at this… oooh, clouds! It just wouldn't be the same without.
clouds over the ocean at Juno Pier
Juno Beach Pier
On Singer Island, a storm moving in from inland

And here, a storm moving in over the ocean

Or this…like an angel's wing...
It's not always about the storm clouds though..

And these? Surreal.

Taken in Tampa. Reflections!

And finally, shot at night-an amazing storm out in the ocean.