Monday, September 23, 2013

Porch Project

While taking a break from laying patio blocks, we decided to get some stain on the deck boards on the front porch. We were already seeing some grey-ing of the wood along the west edge that gets blasted by sun in the afternoon. So we ordered deck cleaner and stain and went at it:

The little black spots are a million or so Love Bugs that kamikaze'ed into the wet stain. Fortunately, I was able to get them mostly removed after the stain sat overnight. Now if the humidity would get below 100% so the stuff would dry completely, we could move the porch furniture back where it belongs.

We also made some changes to the planting bed in front of the porch. It's gradually becoming un-Simon-and-Garfunkel-ized, first by the Black Swallowtail butterfly larva eating the parsley to the ground and now with the addition of two versions of Croton (Codiaeum variegatum) called Petra and Red Mammey. We'll see how they do. There are quite a few of these around the park and they seem to tolerate a wide variety of lighting conditions. They do add a bit of color:

Oddly, the mostly-red plant in the center is called Petra, while the two on either side that have almost no red in them are called Red Mammey.

It's very hard to see, but while I was scratching around, we also planted new thyme and sage plants we were able to start from the other plants, and we started layering the rosemary so we can have a full hedge across the front of the porch.

We also removed some aloe plants that my parents had given us from the south side of the porch and put them off in a back corner in the shade. They are supposed to do well in any light condition, but the full sun had bleached the leaves completely out and the plants had done absolutely nothing in nearly a year. We really wanted something else there anyway, we had an empty hole, and so we made a command decision and moved them. We're browsing through native plant catalogs looking for a vine or bush that will give the porch some shade and privacy. There are several candidates that will attract hummingbirds and butterflies, assuming I can find a local source.

Yesterday was an indoor day so we could make some progress on the piles of paper that have built up while we were playing around outside all summer, and today I've been trapped indoors by rain of Noachian proportions. Normal rain in Florida is massive amounts of water falling from the sky for five minutes or less, then it's all over until the next day. Today, it started raining around 11am, and as of 6pm, still has not stopped. And it ain't a gentle shower, either. The retention pond across the street is getting alarmingly close to the top and according to the radar, there is plenty more to come. If you see two old people huddled in a row boat go floating by, it's probably us.

Well, time for dinner.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

More of the Same

Friday the 13th was on a Friday this month, but I was too busy power-washing to post anything. At least the place looks a bit cleaner:

The gunk was really thick along the trailer. It took all day to work down to the side of the shed.

All the patio blocks that we have are now on the ground instead of in piles. I need another pallet to finish up, but that will have to wait for the credit card to close in a couple weeks:

Next phase will be to fill in between us and the trailer behind us. That will cut out about half of my mowing and trimming.

Debbie has been kicking out cards in preparation for the busy time of year. Something like half the birthday and anniversary cards she makes get sent out in the last three months of the year:

Don't look too close if you have a birthday or anniversary coming up in the next few months.

We actually had clear skies one night last week and got a shot of the moon and Venus while we were out wandering the park for some reason:

Not bad for hand-held with our glorified point-and-shoot.

In the meantime, the deck cleaner and stain arrived via Fed-Ex, so we cleared off the porch and got ready for some scrubbin':

Everything is out of the way and waiting for me to quit messing around on the internet and get to it.

Of course, after a week of no rain, we have thunderstorms lined up one after the other, so we'll have to give the deck several days to dry completely before we can start staining.

Speaking of thunderstorms, Mama Gaia gave us quite a light show last night. The lightening was more-or-less continuous for almost two hours. We were trying to finish up the mega-once-a-month-OMG-we-have-nothing-left-in-the-house-besides-Ramen-and-some-sour-milk shopping when the storm started rolling in. (Have I mentioned before how much we hate shopping and put it off until we have no choice?) Getting home was interesting to say the least; imagine driving at night with strobe lights flashing at you. We barely made it to the house and unloaded the car before the rain started. With all the lightening, we decided to shut down and unplug everything, even though we have multiple layers of protection for the important stuff. We haven't heard if there was any damage in the rest of the park; all the neighbors seem to still be hiding inside.

Anyway, I need to make some bread, help finish up the laundry and get the deck scrubbed down so it can start "drying" (a somewhat ambiguous term when the humidity never goes below 90%). More photos when everything is all purdied up.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Another Quick Update

We're still flingin' patio blocks everywhere:

All done under both clotheslines.

There are still 70 or so patio blocks to go in this batch. Then we only have a hundred or so to finish up. Once this is done, the only patio block work left will be to level some of the areas that were here when we moved in. Then on to the next project(s).

We were able to take a break from yard work to spend Thursday at Animal Kingdom so we could visit the kitties:

Grandma Boris tongue! And yes, the big cats are just as lazy as the little one living in your house. After at least a dozen visits to Animal Kingdom over the last three years, we only have a handful of pictures of them not sleeping.

And also visit the kiddies:

We didn't get a good pic of Jabali, but that's him in the back getting a hug from one of the younger females. I think that's mom's butt at the right of the frame. Jabali turned two years old August 24th.

New to the park: a pair of baby giraffes.
Well, I need to go finish up dinner. And I probably should batten down the hatches and turn on some lights; it just went from full sun to night in less than a minute and I can hear thunder.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

What We've Doing This Week

Of course, I'm still plopping down dozens of patio blocks:

Making sure the two sides are going to line up.

Still a big pile of patio blocks left....
One section all squared off and blocks positioned for the next phase.

A bit of cheating: Rather than try to cut curves, I just used some concrete.

The blocks in the foreground will take me to the corner of the neighbors place. Eventually, the entire space between the trailers will be block, but that will have to wait for the next load.
We moved all the patio blocks from where I had tossed them out of the car so that a) they would be closer to where I will be using them and b) so we could do a bit of cleaning:

The black gunk is mold, a Florida specialty. It had gotten so thick, we were slipping on it.

Cleaned up the path to the front door.

Close-up of the contrast between clean and Yuk!!

The break room. Nice thing about living on a dead-end street is being able to use the street as part of the yard.
And that is pretty much all we did this week. Other than the usual lawn care, which was extra-fun this week because a lot of the grass hadn't gotten mowed last week because of the siding guys and all their stuff in the way. Two weeks of growth in Florida in August means waist-deep grass. It took three and four passes to get everything back into shape, plus a lot of trimming. But it got done, so I can forget about it for a couple days.

Oh; almost forgot: Debbie had a visitor on the window right over her desk while she was working.

Six-inch grasshopper enjoying the shade.
We don't see them often, but Florida has a couple types of giant grasshopper. This one looks like a regular grasshopper, only hugerer. There is another one that I've only seen twice; once when we lived in Sanford, and once here last summer. They're entire body is bright, shiny gold. The first time I saw one, I thought it was some kid's toy dropped on the sidewalk until I tried to kick it out of the way and it flew off. Talk about needing to change your Huggies. We also have giant cicadas that are doing their best to deafen us. And yesterday, I saw and even gianter hornet flying with a giant cicada that I assume it was going to stuff into a hole to feed it's young 'uns.

Fun fact about the giant cicadas around here: Apparently, my saw cutting through concrete sounds enough like their call that I usually have at least one either wack into me or fly into the saw blade when I'm cutting patio blocks.  Not sure if they're trying to run me off or mate with me.

The plans next week are more of the same. Today, we're off to a barbecue at the Moose Lodge and will likely hang out there most of the day. Tomorrow is supposed to be a work day at the Lodge, but I might beg off. I would love to get more patio block on the ground instead of in piles, and get the rest of the Yuk!! off all the old patio blocks.