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  • Archive for March, 2014

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    Dividing onions about to bloom.

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    The dogwood in full glory.

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    A red columbine.

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    A yellow columbine.

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    Forget me nots….finally a mystery plant solved. They came in the seed packet we spread last year and just now bloomed.

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    Creeping phlox from my mom.

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    Trilliums coming up after we put them in the ground last spring. Thought they had just disappeared but they waited a year to make an appearance.

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    An iris about to bloom. We lost one blossom that came up too early and were knocked over by the freeze so I’m glad this one decided to come up.

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    I took this photo of Chris when we were in Florida three weeks ago. It is at the location where he was chased out of the swamp by a Florida black bear. Yes…you read that right!

    Back when we lived in Florida, Chris was out exploring an area in the swamps in search of ghost orchids and also to see what might be out in that area. Many of these sections in the wildlands of Florida are very little explored, particulary the wet cypress domes and sloughs. As he was approaching what he now calls ‘Bear Slough’, walking through dense vegetation and only seeing tall ferns and brush up ahead of him, he heard rustling noises very nearby. Perhaps 150 yards ahead he heard splashing and thrashing in the water. His first thought was that he had scared an alligator, which is something to be cautious of in itself. Then a few seconds later he saw something running through the vegetation but couldn’t tell what it was. Soon he realized it was a bear, running full speed towards him! After the recognition of what it was, he finally began yelling at the bear by the time it was approximately 10 feet from where he was standing. As he tells it, the bear was not afraid of him but Chris was very afraid for himself. Up until that time and until very recently, there had been no documented cases of a bear attacking a human in Florida. (This appears to have changed in December, but was in a populated location, not the wilderness.)

    After the bear had stopped charging him, Chris noticed the hair on the bear was bristled like a cat when it is spooked or mad. Not only that, the bear was bouncing up and down on its front paws and growling. He believes it lasted about 10 seconds, but of course it seemed like longer. When it stopped bouncing it sat there staring at him angrily. Chris backed away slowly and then turned around and walked back through the brush the way he had came. Completely spooked, he continued turning around to verify the bear was not following him! Thankfully, it wasn’t.

    He ended up going back out there the very next day and found alligator flag that had been pulled up that the bear had been eating on the roots. There was no bear in sight, but all of that scare ended up being worth it as Chris discovered a population of narrow strap-leaf fern. The plant had been thought to be extirpated from Big Cypress National Preserve and his finding put it back on the books for being in the Preserve.

    So, we went back to the location of the encounter as Chris had no photographs of the site of the encounter. I had actually never been to that slough so it was a new adventure for me. I’m just glad the event turned out to be nothing, but it definitely reminds one to keep their eyes open when out in the woods!

    Last year on Sprout Dispatch I wrote about the two ‘Yellow Bird’ magnolias we planted out in the front of our yard. Unfortunately both were hit up by the deer, the bucks thought it would be cute to rub their antlers on them and thus broke some branches off of the trees. One was damaged much worse than the other and we opted to give it until spring to see if they would come back. One of them is, although a little bit shakily, but the other we thought was completely toast. At one of our local nurseries we saw a really magnificent replacement tree that would be a great fit for that spot but didn’t want to pay the price for it. Upon returning home and looking at the tree that was planted we realized it was probably a better idea to just replace it and suck it up cost-wise. The tree was pretty awesome!

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    We replaced the buck-torn tree and did find out that the base of the original magnolia was still alive. Instead of throwing the tree out we opted to give it a home in the backyard and let it have a second chance of surviving. It took over the place of a dogwood that bit the dust in the ice storm three weeks ago. The dogwood was alive pre-ice storm and was even budding out, but apparently it couldn’t handle the storm, which is completely weird since the tree is a native specimen and the brugmansia planted a few feet behind it managed to survive with quite a bit of neglect over the winter. Plants….they are weird sometimes!

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    I’m liking that this will perk up the front of the yard a bit this spring and can only hope that the other two magnolias up front will put on some growth this year and bit a little more robust for next winter!

    Oh, and we *will* be attempting to protect the tree from the deer until it gets to a reasonable size!

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    Back in 2008 and 2009 we dogsat Baloo while our friends Marc and Eliana went on a crosscountry roadtrip. During that time Baloo became part of the pet family and we really grew to love the dog. He went on hikes and adventures with us and was a lively and entertaining addition to the household. I don’t think Samson and Leo thought that, but we did!

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    We hadn’t seen the doggie since we left Florida in 2010. We attempted to see him in 2011 when we went on the Florida Trail but when we dropped by Eliana wasn’t home. Eliana and Marc weren’t home this time around either since they were traipsing in Eliana’s native Colombia, but I coordinated with her sister and mother and was able to drop by while here mom was there checking on the rest of their pets (1 dog, 6 cats, 20+ tortoises, some sugar gliders, and I feel like there’s another animal in there somewhere…). I was worried that Baloo wouldn’t remember us after four years but oh boy, he did!

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    We were lathered in licks and pets and tail wags…it was great!

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    He was too worked up to do some of his tricks like yowling while we yowled with him. We were able to get him to ‘shake’ and ‘high-five’. We taught him the high-five when we were watching him!

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    The pooch has definitely gotten a little older in his later years, with some white hairs mingling wit the charcoal-grey in his coat.

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    It was really difficult to leave without him! I was bawling as we left and still feel like we should have brought him home with us. I’d forgotten how much I loved that little doggie! You can see older photos of Baloo here.

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    Since the last time we were at Fairchild they have added an exotic butterfly conservatory. After touring the conservatory we realized that they had taken away the back room where Mr. Stinky used to be and converted it to part of the butterfly area. I’m not sure where they display Mr. Stinky now.

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    The butterfly exhibit was great, and there are a series of doors that are opened only by the push of a button in order not to let any escapees attached to anyone from exiting out into nature itself. It’s the effort to prevent non-natives from invading where they shouldn’t.

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    It’s really difficult to visit Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens in only an hour, but we did. Thankfully we were already familiar with the park otherwise I can’t imagine recommending anyone not familiar to visit it in only an hour. Really, you should spend half the day there if possible. It’s even more fun when they have their tropical ice cream vendors there!

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    We started off with the vines on the west side of the park near the road. This is a chalice vine, a succulent-like vine that we once grew in our garden in Ft. Lauderdale. I wrote about the jade vine over on Sprout Dispatch on Monday.

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    I’m not sure how I feel about this installation that is going on under the vines. A group of tourists pointed out a sign that stated Yoko Ono had started the Wishing Grove at the garden. Part of me likes it, part of me thinks it is tacky.

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    We cut through the cactus garden and stopped for a few photos, particular for this cactus which we have in our garden here. It’s a native to the Florida Keys and did not take kindly to our wet and cold winter. We covered it but there was some heavy damage. I don’t think we’ll ever see it get this large in our garden.

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    We didn’t get a chance to hit up the other baobab trees in south Florida other than the ones here at the garden, so I took the chance to give it a hug. I hug my favorite trees (two other favorites in the garden are the rainbow eucalyptus and the Bailey’s palms).

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    One of the Bailey’s palms.

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    After we left our paddling adventure we drove towards the Atlantic ocean and Jonathan Dickinson State Park, home of many camping and hiking adventures over the years. (see photos here). Our first stop was the parking lot up front by the park office and a short walk down what used to be part of the Ocean to Lake segment of the Florida Trail.

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    Lupinus diffusus

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    Sand pine

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    Orange blazes turned to bright green blazes??? We were thoroughly confused until we got back to the trailhead and I looked at the paper maps stowed in the map box. Apparently this section of the OTL had been turned into a loop and the main through trail was moved to the north. I asked someone about it later and found out that the state park had wanted to make some sections of the trail multi-use which is against the standards of the Florida Trail, so it was renegotiated to go elsewhere.

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    The real reason we went down this trail was to check out this paw-paw. Chris had thought it was the four-petal paw-paw, which is endangered. He had wanted to take photos of it if it was the rare plant. Instead it was the common paw-paw, Asimina reticulata and he took photos anyway!

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    That didn’t stop us from enjoying the plant anyway.

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    Typical scrub habitat within the park. It was fun to be reminded of plants that I’d sort of pushed to the back of my memory. Chris told me to watch out for the hog plum and I was like ‘Ohhh, yeah, hog plum!’ I’d completely forgotten what fun those are to be stuck by! Chris found a semi-ripe fruit to eat but it wasn’t all that tasty according to him.

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    False rosemary, Conradina grandiflora, according to the IRC’s plant list for the park.

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    I think this is Opuntia humifusa.

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    Cnidoscolus stimulosus, nettle.

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    A few of the pinelands closer towards the Loxahatchee river. We drove the road towards the river slowly and just as we were getting close to the parking lot where we were planning to get out and walk down to the river, the skies opened up and rain poured down. Needless to say our explorations of the park were cut short.

    I love this state park, it is one of Florida’s gems. It is huge and most don’t see a lot of the backcountry. If you ever get a chance to check out this park, do it!

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    Sapsuckers have been working on this tree

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    In case you missed part I: go here.

    Looking back at these photos taken a month ago I realize that spring has really come, despite it still feeling a bit delayed. The flora has woken up and and begun its new growth for the year, at least some of it. Also while looking at these photos I remember the feeling of quiet and remoteness I felt while walking in the woods off the trail. I wondered how often anyone came this way, much less went off trail as we did, even if we only went just a little ways. It reminded me of some of the field projects I’d done in the past, where we’d just barrel through the woods where few humans really went. That’s where the good stuff is, where the nuances of life in the forest takes place.

    I think I need to get back into the wild again soon.

    OK, so there actually is one digesting in my stomach since we had fajitas tonight, but according to the fruit-of-the-week I get in my weekly pregnancy update emails from The Bump, this week the baby is roughly the size of an avocado! I told Chris this at our midwife appointment yesterday and he was like ‘Wow, that’s pretty big!’ Now, we’re not talking the size of those wonderful, large green and smooth skinned avocados you see in many yards in Florida, we’re talking more of the medium sized Haas avocados from the grocery store. Which…I mean, still. It’s kind of crazy to think about.

    16 weeks
    So, I like this photo of me from this vantage point. I’m wearing a maternity top I am borrowing from my coworker, and the jeans are still my pre-pregnancy Levi’s that sit lower on my hips which is why I can still button them and wear them comfortably. She lent me some of her maternity clothes which I’ve only worn a couple of tops thus far. Other than that I haven’t bought any maternity clothes. I should be able to get clothes from two other friends and then after that I’ll decide if I want to buy anything further.

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    Here’s a photo of me two weeks ago, at 14 weeks, while we were at Fairchild Botanic Gardens in Florida.

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    Now, here’s the profile view from this afternoon at lunch. There’s definitely a difference. I’m not really fond of this profile photo because to me it just makes me feel like I’m a vastly overweight and it is time to work off the belly. I know that is not the case, but it is hard to look at and I know it is only going to get bigger.

    I’ve decided I’m going to stick to monthly blog posts about Teddy instead of more frequent updates. While I enjoy reading the weekly updates I see when I Google pregnancy blogs, I’m not really into writing them myself. Mostly because there’s just not a whole lot going on.

    Yesterday was our 16 week appointment. It was a relatively quick appointment but the biggest thing was getting to hear the baby’s heartbeat. I’ve been in this limbo state of worrying for the last few weeks since now that my ‘morning’ sickness is mostly over with (still have bouts with gagging thanks to the toothbrush and morning snot) but I’m mostly feeling myself once again. Without the morning sickness to remind me I’m pregnant and since I haven’t felt the baby move yet, I’ve been wondering if everything was still good in there. And it was! The nurse took my blood pressure, then got the doppler as she had me lay back, put the cold gel on (not as nice as the ultrasound tech who had warm gel!) and within the first few seconds we heard a ‘whoosh whoosh’. Chris immediately said “Is that the baby?”, which the nurse replied “Yes.” I wasn’t giddy yet since it was such a short blip, but soon she found it and we listened for about a minute. It was a lot more “whoosh, whoosh, whoosh” and she said the heartbeat was about 140bpm or so. And then our little peak into the life of the baby was over and she wiped the gel off and I sat up.

    The midwife came in and we went over the blood tests from last time which were all good. The only anomaly was that I am not immune to rubella despite having had the vaccine as a kid. They said that after the baby was born that they would recommend me having the shot, which I’m fine with. I searched online about not being immune to rubella despite having had the shot, but it seems that it can happen. I know some vaccines require/recommend a booster shot every so often, such as pertussis (which I’ll get in my third trimester to protect the baby since it can’t have it until, I think, a year), but I didn’t think rubella was on that list. At least rubella doesn’t seem to have the outbreak issue (so far) that pertussis and measles does due to anti-vaxxers.

    Anyway, I had only gained about two pounds, though my home scale has said I’d lost a pound or two, so I will just call it about even. I was sent with a write-up to have the quad-screen blood test done, which is optional, but looks for genetic issues such as Down syndrome and the other Trisomy problems. We dropped by the lab and it was packed so I opted to schedule an appointment and go back later this week. Hopefully all is well with that test.

    Other than that, I’m feeling just about the same though I am noticing the belly more. Now that we’re back into later sunsets and warmer weather I’ll be starting up my walks again. I guess the biggest thing is that we only have three weeks until we have the next ultrasound and to determine the sex of the baby! That will definitely be an exciting appointment!

    When Chris and I were planning out our Florida trip we knew we wanted to go paddling somewhere. It was a tie between the Loxahatchee River, one of Florida’s two National Wild and Scenic Rivers, or Fisheating Creek. Fisheating Creek was at the top of our list but the shuttle service to complete one of the runs came with stipulations that the water levels had to be at a certain height for them to drop us off. Unfortunately when Chris called the water was lower than needed for us to do that run, and while we could have paddled downstream or even upstream a certain length and got out and walked, we opted for the Loxahatchee River instead. (Older photos of a trip on the Lox).

    We were on our layover in Tampa when we thought about asking our friend Tom to join us on the paddle, as we knew he was retired and was always out and about exploring natural areas in his neck of the woods. By the time we got to Ft. Lauderdale we had made contact with him and he was game to go. Unfortunately the place we were going to rent our canoe from was closed on Wednesdays but it worked out as Tom had extra kayaks he could bring for us to use. We met at Riverbend Park, the upstream launch site for running the river, and chatted as we gathered up our gear for the paddle trip. We hadn’t seen Tom in four years so it was nice to catch up on life and goings on in the area.

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    After launching out into the river, Tom thought it would be better if we did the kayaking trails that are inside of the park instead of staying directly on the river itself. The river was flowing well and paddling back up stream would have been rough. There are approximately five miles of paddling trails inside of the park, including a section of trail that Tom said he believed was the old river. Map here. The Loxahatchee further north from where we launched is channelized and more canal-like, not in its natural riverine state.

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    As we settled off down the waterways I instantly at home. The air was warm, the sun was out….ahhh, it was nice!

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    The first of many encounters with island apple snail egg clusters. I didn’t see a single native apple snail egg cluster in the park!

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    Ahhh, cypress!

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    Just beyond the paddling path is a walking path. There are many trails thorughout this park and even the Ocean to Lake segment of the Florida Trail winds through here.

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    Twice we had to portage our kayaks over pathways to get to the rest of the trails.

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    Freshly deposited eggs straight from the snail herself! The invasive island apple snail has caused a bit of a problem in a lot of ecosystems in Florida. Part of the problem is the Everglades snail kite, a highly endangered raptor that lives in south Florida. Their predominant diet includes the native apple snails and when the invasive snails began overtaking the native populations there was great fear that the juvenile birds wouldn’t be able to handle the size of the snail and would end up starving due to lack of a food source. That was four years ago and I thought this was still the case but before I left for Florida I was reading up on general Florida invasives and found a bird blog that mentioned that the snail kites were actually rebounding in recent years, supposedly in part to the island apple snail. I was a bit dubious about this claim but it was echoed by our friend Tom who also said that the limpkin populations were also devouring the snails. When we asked if there was any big plan for trying to eradicate the invasive snail Tom thought that they were sort of on hold on that issue due to the snail kites actually eating the exotic snails as well as the beneficial use by the limpkins. Definitely a predicament, but Tom didn’t feel any ounce of guilt by swiping any egg clusters he saw with his paddle, smooshing them into the water!

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    Out in the open at West Lake.

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    Hey, a water lily!

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    A crooked cabbage palm over the water—a quintessential Florida scene.

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    Bromeliads! How I miss seeing these everywhere!

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    A Habenaria orchid.

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    Camoflauged in the floating flora are quite a few fauna…

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    Do you see them? Their mother was very nearby and slipped beneath the water.

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    We briefly pondered actually paddling downstream on the river to the first spillway but after paddling up the channelized portion to see a house that was made out of shipping containers, we decided that the flow was not worth trying to find getting back afterwards. Plus, Chris and I wanted to head to a local start park for a few minutes before heading back to our hotel for the evening. In all, it was a wonderful paddle! I certainly miss this area of Florida and I think if I were to move back to Florida I’d chose the Treasure Coast or SW Florida as a place to reside.

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