Saturday, February 26, 2011

Springtime blooms in SW Georgia/SE Alabama

 Forsythia, one of the first signs of spring everywhere.

Red Bud Trees just bursting into bloom.
My "Best Trees for Georgia" book says Bradford pear is a poor choice because the branches are fragile and break too easily.  However, if you have ever seen a row of them blooming in the Spring or bright red in the fall, you plant them anyway!
Camelias are nearly done blooming, but we love them because they keep our spirits up in the cold weather as they start blooming in late December or early January.
Daffodils- so sunny and bright letting us know spring is here!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Peanuts of Dothan

 The closest city to our winter home is Dothan, Alabama, one of the fastest growing cities in the South.  We can find every major retailer, many options for eating out, recreation, and one of the most artistic cities we have seen anywhere.
Half of the peanuts grown in the United States are grown within a 100 mile radius of Dothan, so peanuts are very important to the community.  The National Peanut Festival is held the first weekend of November every year.  Businesses have jumped on board with the peanut theme, so throughout the city, peanuts greet customers at the door.  It has probably created a cottage industry for artists designing peanuts.  Here are some examples:
Dothan Eagle

AT&T Cellular

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Getting the Boat out of the Water February 2011

Did you ever have a big job looming that you put off week after week?  We keep our boat on the lift on our dock and sadly, it isn't used for months at a time while we are gone from Georgia.  Nothing benefits from being out in the weather year round and not being used. When we put the boat in the water this fall, we discovered that the water pump had died.   We couldn't even use the engine to get the boat to a ramp to get it on the trailer so we could take it to the Yahama dealer to get it repaired. 

Across the cove from us, we can see the private boat ramp for the Bonaparte community.  It is not a public ramp, and the gate to the ramp is kept locked.  So we went out knocking on doors in Bonaparte to see if we could find a good Samaritan to open the gate for us.  Most of the people in Bonaparte are seasonal, so finding someone at home was the first job.  Everyone we found over there was so neighborly and friendly that getting the gate open was the easiest part of the job.

We hadn't used the trailer for six years, so Ron spent one day unburying it and cleaning it, greasing the bearings, adding air to the tires, and figuring out which hitch (we have several trailers and the proper hitch was in Washington) and finally going to town to get a new hitch.

We put the task off based on wind and weather for months, but finally, spring is here and our excuses vanished.  Today was the big day.  My step-dad, Dick, and I took the boat off the lift and paddled it across the bay while Ron and my Mom drove around with the van and boat trailer.
Dick looking ahead to the ramp.
Looking back to our dock - with the white roof in the distance.
About half way across, we decided to hold our position in the open water and wait for Ron and the trailer. 
 The strap that tightens the boat up broke when Ron tried to finish bringing the boat to its proper position on the trailer.
Fortunately, we had lots of help as most of Bonaparte turned out for the entertainment we provided.
Lots of men, lots of rope, and we ended up with the boat secured to the trailer.
Ron added one last layer of "Redneck technology" with the come-along when we got the boat back to the house.  Hopefully, it will be adequate to get the boat to the boat dealer  so we can get everything fixed properly.

For now, I am just happy to have the first segment of this task complete - I will worry about the rest another day!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Southwest Florida February 2011

This orange processing market is famous for its ice cream that comes in all kinds of mixtures.  Here we have orange and vanilla and lime and chocolate.
Some of the flowers in bloom:
Sand hill cranes in one of the many sanctuary residential communities:

Fisherman's Village in Punta Gorda is a great place to enjoy dining while watching the boats in the harbor.
Great shops and local artisans fill the boardwalks to the waterfront cafe.

We watched the sun set over Charlotte Harbor from the yacht basin at Fisherman's Village on a balmy night in February.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Myakka State Park, Sarasota, Florida

We had been to Myakka Lake State Park near Sarasota in the past, but we had never stayed overnight at the park.  Since we have had a very cold and rainy December and January, we decided we needed a get-away from our get-away and made reservations on line.  We felt fortunate to get the last available cabin and didn't ask too many questions about the accommodations.  "It looks pretty rustic," my husband, Ron, observed when we drove up.
My folks at 85 and 92, are pretty tough, so I wasn't too worried about them, but Ron wasn't too thrilled with the two beds that we thought would be two bedrooms.  I used the clean sheets in the plastic bag on each bed to make up the beds and cover the pillows, all of which were encased in heavy plastic. One blanket was provided for each bed - what must have been flannel at one time had been washed so many times that it was hard to distinguish the blankets from the sheets.
The main room had the two beds on one end and a fireplace, couch, and table and chairs on the other. 
A small kitchen with stove, fridge, and microwave and a full bath completed the cabin.
Ron, who is a bit of a news junkie, had to live without any news from the outside world for a few days, but we all survived, and the park is so beautiful that it was truly worthy.
An oak canopied road winds along the lake and through the woods of the 38,000 acre state park.
We saw a variety of critters and birds.  Here is an armadillo hunting for food on the forest floor.
One of the many deer we saw. They actually are quite tame as they are protected although not fed.
A small alligator guarding his nearly dry pond.  We saw bigger gators in the big lake.
Like this one, who seems to coexist with all the water birds.
Like this Wood Stork
and a Great Blue Heron
immature Little White Heron - distinguished by his greenish beak and green legs that will fade as he becomes pure white.
Wood stork on left, Roseate Spoonbill on right.
A walking trail through the palm/oak hammock leads to two towers (one 75' tall the other about 30') with a canopy walkway between them.  From the top of the 160 step tower, most of the park is visible, but mostly all you can see is the tops of the trees.  All the roads and buildings disappear under the canopy of the trees.

The canopy walkway between the towers
Looking at the stairway from the top
Dick and Millie at the bird watch overlook platform
Overlooking the main lake.  For more pictures, see Millie's blog.