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    January 2017

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    The good thing about having blogged and taken photos all of these years is that it is an excellent way to be able to revisit the garden to see the changes, good and bad. Over the weekend I managed to weed and mulch the two beds on the side of the house and I thought it would be fun to do a little photo history tour of the side yard garden beds. Here we go!

    A week ago—right after the freeze

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    November 2016

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    August 2015

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    March 2015
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    September 2013
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    July 2013

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    February 2013

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    October 2012

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    September 2012 — we moved in last few days of June 2012.

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    <a href=http://www.sproutdispatch.com>SproutDispatch</a>

    <a href=http://www.sproutdispatch.com>SproutDispatch</a>

    May 2012 — when we went to view the house for the first time

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    Pretty crazy, right? I need to take more photos—and I may have and just didn’t process them all out of RAW into .jpg for viewing.

    I’ll probably do another round up of the front flower beds and the vegetable garden as well, so look for that in the coming weeks.

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    Saturday morning we got out for a bit to do a little hiking at WG Jones State Forest. We’ve been there many times but this time we opted to park in the eastern parking lot on the south side of FM 1488 instead of the usual parking lot on the western boundary. This entrance was hopping with trucks towing horse trailers entering through a locked gate to park about a half mile down the dirt road at the horse parking lot. There were a lot of riders out that morning!

    We crossed over Rice Branch, seen in the photo above, and I think both Chris and I wished we had boots on to go exploring down the creek. He wanted to scout for mussels and I wanted to scope out scenic photo opportunities. Forest would have loved splashing in puddles!

    Down the trail we walked through several red-cockaded woodpecker clusters—thinned out woodland areas that support the habitat needed for the woodpecker to forage and nest. There were a few nest cavities and sap wells on the trees and on our way out we even spotted a woodpecker, though we were unable to get a good photo or video to share with y’all.

    The trail system at the state forest is set up on a logging road grid with some smaller single-track trails that weave through the woods in various locations. Those single-tracks aren’t usually on the maps so you just have to stumble upon them. Forest enjoyed seeing all of the horses coming by! It was a great morning to get out and stretch our legs without having to drive too far for a hike. I will be looking forward to spring when plants are blooming again!

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    Oh man. We left town Friday evening prepared for the weekend deep freeze with what we thought was going to be mid to high 20s and instead woke up Saturday morning in Dallas with Chris checking the temperature for our town to find out the low was 20*. There’s a good chance it was a little lower than that, too, but either way, the damage was done. Saturday night was more of the same, a double whammy. Chris has prepared by putting up all of the orchids, bromeliads, and other tropicals, and covered the sensitive cactus but we left everything else—including the vegetable garden—up to its own devices because our previous experiences with the mid 20s and high 20s had left everything else in decent, if not a little nipped back, shape.

    Needless to say, that 5-8* difference was enough to ruin several things in the vegetable garden and severely nip back several plants in the flower bed. It remains to be seen what will and won’t recover. My hopes of the African blue basil, which had several branches surviving the freeze in December, pulling through until spring are completely toast. Other plants, we won’t know for a few weeks or until spring. The citrus appear to be affected somewhat but they should pull through just fine. I’m most heartbroken about all of the tropical milkweed plants that had germinated from seed in the garden as well as had already started resprouting from being cut back. I was hoping for a thicket for the monarchs this year. I only took six cuttings, well, six are what rooted, so I am hoping the pull through and the rest of the sprouts can recover enough for the caterpillars this summer.

    I have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks. This weekend I need to start tomato seeds and a few other things including resowing some greens in the vegetable beds. I want to get the flower beds completely weeded in mulched before the end of January so they are ready to go into spring and there are seeds to sow in there, too.

    Lots of garden chores among many other things I need and want to do!

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    A few days ago I received the fall issue of Footprint, the magazine of the Florida Trail Association. It was a big issue, at least to me, one where the call to protect to the trail and be a trail advocate was once again in the spotlight. The trail recently celebrated its 50th anniversary with a celebration at the first blaze in Ocala National Forest and the placement of a plaque to commemorate the historic blaze that began the Florida National Scenic Trail. In addition last year, a new monument at the northern terminus at Fort Pickens was erected. Two very exciting events!

    This post is being published today on the 6th anniversary of the start of our thru-hike on the FT. I get a little somber about our AT and FT thru-hikes now that we’re firmly in a different life mode and look back with fondness of those months we spent hiking from Georgia to Maine and from Big Cypress National Preserve to Gulf Islands National Seashore. When we went for our little six mile hike a week and a half ago in Sam Houston NF I got the itch to get back into backpacking. The itch has been coming for awhile but with my recent purchase of a new pack and our intention to get out and try to backpack with Forest once or twice this spring, I’m really looking forward to it. With all of that, as I flipped through the magazine, and as I see updates from people in the hiking and outdoor community in Florida, I get a little wistful, wishing I could pitch in more to promote and help the trail. Alas, that’s hard to do when you are living in Texas! So, I have been doing my best to be a trail advocate from afar and cheer along the progress being made by others.

    There’s definitely been an uptick in recent years in interest of the trail, especially from hikers who have been to other long distance trails but have found the FT to be something worth sharing to the hiking community. A little part of me also wants to keep it a secret, the little gem that only a few people know about—but I know better than that. If the trail is to ever be fully protected and off road connectors, it will take more people sharing about FT, pitching in with monetary donations, or volunteering time where they can.

    I’m not sure where I want to go with all of this, just to say that the trail and its community is always on my mind in some manner and I’m always hoping for its continued success! Maybe this year I will do more to share news and tidbits I find out about the trail so that it can be passed on to others—I think that’s a good intention and goal to set.

    With that, here are a few items of note:

    • ‘Jupiter’ started the Eastern Continental Trail in Canada back in July and is currently somewhere around the Kissimmee Prairie area in Florida (I had to come back and edit—he’s already done! He finished 1/7/17 and as I type this I’m not seeing an update on his official time and if he is now the FKT holder.). Once he arrived at Fort Pickens in Florida he began a quest for an unsupported FKT (fastest known time) of the Florida Trail. Since he already had thousands of miles under his belt, he had trail legs AND the fact he was in his home state—well, I bet he can capture the FKT. You can follow him on his blog and via his Instagram feed. —-Ohh, ok, here we go, an update from Florida Hikes: He set the record!
    • While it seems like more trail keeps getting moved to the road due to land owner and easement issues, particularly in the panhandle sections of the FT, there was new trail added in Nokuse Plantation in the panhandle, eliminating a roadwalk in the area near Bruce. I remember that roadwalk! I liked the section that we did get to walk in Nokuse so that’s exciting more trail was added to the property!
    • A 26-mile hike 50 years ago led to 1,400-mile Florida Trail via the Ocala Star Banner

    Edible Garden Tour

    Flower Garden Tour

    A conversation with my brother kind of lit a fire under me to make more videos of the garden this year. Actually, I’ve been really lax in making videos of any kind over the last year, even with Forest, and I kind of regret it. I think I did so much that first year of Forest’s life that I really wanted to pull back a little there for awhile. I do miss being able to watch videos so I’m planning to be more proactive this year. Expect more!

    The last week has been quite the lazy one around here. Chris and I were off work and the first half of the holiday week was warm and pleasant and we spent a lot of time outside playing. However, by Wednesday Forest’s cough that had started developing last Monday grew worse and we had a camping trip planned for New Years weekend and I didn’t want to go without getting him checked out. So, off to the pediatrician we went. She prescribed some cough medicine—so nice that we’re finally getting into the ages where more medicine can be prescribed for him!—and thought it was RSV or some similar virus and said there wasn’t much we could do but alleviate some of the symptoms with the cough medicine, Zyrtec, and an inhaler. But Thursday came and his appetite started plummeting and a cold front blew through. By Friday morning we knew it wasn’t going to be good to trek to the Hill Country for a camping trip with iffy weather and a sick kid, so we stayed home.

    It’s been a mostly grey weekend with some rain sessions which meant we’ve been inside bouncing between upstairs and downstairs toys and watching a lot of television. I’ve tried to do some of the items I wanted to get done this week but they’ve mostly been the inside goals. My gardening goals have mostly been on hold. But now I’m starting to sneeze and I felt little wonky this morning so I’m just crossing my fingers that I’m not getting sick just in time to return to work! In all, it is probably good that we’ve just been homebodies this week.

    I’ve done a little looking forward to 2017, planning and goal-wise. I settled on my word last week, Peace. In 2015 I chose mindful which was a good start and I learned quite a bit about the word but I think peace could be a good one to grab hold of this year. Another thing I’m using for 2017 is Elise’s Daily Goal Tracker. I’ve loved this goal tracker since she introduced it a few years ago but never bought it. When she sent her November newsletter announcing it was going to be free for December readers I was excited! I modified mine to print small enough to fit into my Moleskine Bullet Journal and washi taped it inside. I actually made four different ones to keep track of various things.

    One thing I worked on over the break was putting my podcasts on YouTube as another outlet for listening. My goal is to also start incoporating gardening videos over there once or twice a week. If you are a regular YouTube user please subscribe! My brother is also planning to do more on YouTube this year so you can check out his site as well. We recently chatted about gardening on the podcast to wrap up our gardening year.

    I got out for a few minutes yesterday evening to pick collards for dinner and took some photos of the vegetable garden. Here’s what is going on out there!

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    Recent rain brought up the Clathrus fungi!

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    Forest got two sets of gardening tools for Christmas so one is now out in the vegetable garden in his very own digging plot!

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    The okra were in this section over the summer and down below I kept seeing a weed pop up that I would try and pull. Well, the okra have been gone for a month now and I haven’t done much maintenence. Turns out the weed is a lawn orchid, a plant that is not native and usually spread by mulch.

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    We have a serious abundance of greens!

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    Collards | Chinese Cabbage

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    We planted onions on Christmas day as well as the snow peas.

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    Happy 2017, friends!

    I tried to find a post for my ‘word’ of 2016 but I guess I didn’t end up writing one. I decided my word would be ‘read‘ which seemed more actionable and doable than anything else. If I had chosen ‘run‘ I’m not so sure I would have been very successful. I have yet to figure out a word for 2017 but it may be a phrase instead.

    So, here’s my round up of total number of books read for the year and what they were. I was aiming for about 25 books, approximately two a month; let’s see how I did!

    In alpha by author:

    1. The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron
    2. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
    3. Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors
    4. Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
    5. A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows by Diana Gabaldon
    6. The Space Between by Diana Gabaldon
    7. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
    8. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
    9. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
    10. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
    11. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
    12. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
    13. Hiking the Florida Trail: 1,100 Miles, 78 Days, Two Pairs of Boots, and One Heck of an Adventure by Johnny Molloy
    14. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
    15. The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
    16. The Backyard Parables by Margaret Roach
    17. The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
    18. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield
    19. Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout
    20. On a Farther Shore by William Souder
    21. The Florida Trail End to End: A Father and His Sons Two and a Half Year Adventure Hiking 1100 Miles Across Florida by Mike Umbarger
    22. The Lady Elizabeth by Allison Weir
    23. The Care and Management of Lies by Jaqueline Winspear

    23, not bad! I probably started at least another 10 books that I either abandoned or put down in the middle of them. I will try to finish some of them next year.

    Out of this list I’d say the top three books would be Big Magic, Fire Season, Lab Girl, and oh hell, a fourth book because I cannot leave it out, The Girl on the Train. 11/23 were non-fiction, 12/23 were fiction; I’m a little surprised at the nearly even split because I feel like I tend towards non-fiction these days but maybe I did make a decent effort for fiction.

    Next year I would like to make the effort to read more of the books on my bookshelf as well as take the year to re-read the entire Anne of Green Gables series. It’s been a good while since I’ve done that and its time to bond with Anne again. Based on how this year went, I think what I averaged is plausible for next year, too. Some months I barely read anything and other months I read more than two books which evened that spread out. If I listen to more audiobooks instead of podcasts there’s a chance this could up the numbers a little more but we’ll see.

    How about you? How much reading did you do? What was your favorite book(s) of the year?

    We went for a hike yesterday afternoon on the Lone Star Trail and really enjoyed the warm weather!

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