Eastern Lubbers

My education with the locals continues. couple of days ago I saw a really big grasshopper in our yard.
And then noticed that our tomato plant, the one with dozens of yellow blossoms, now looked like this:
The little monster is called an Eastern Lubber Grasshopper. It's bright stripes warn animals that it's toxic and it's short wings limit flight ability. Although they look big enough to be a plague, once they get to this size, they are loners. And apparently they are hard to kill. An article in the Orlando Sentinel summed it up: "'About all you can do is hit 'em with a 2-by-4,' said Pris Peterson, master gardener at the Lake County Agricultural Center."

There are a couple of variations on that theme: you can stomp on them, or pick them up and throw them into a bucket of soapy water.  Until then, we are trying bird netting to save what is left of our tomatoes.

A new "friend"?

Yesterday we spent another day at Renniger's. This time Pete and Donna joined us, and we checked out the annual yard sale before walking through all the regular buildings. There is a lot of stuff outside, too, but it was so hot that we just stopped to talk to the guy at the Bone Shack, then went to lunch at Ichiban Buffet. 

Today after church we put the cover on the boat. It took awhile because the cover fits snugly, and while we were doing it, we got a visitor - a little alligator.
Perhaps someone has fed him, or perhaps he is just curious. He disappeared when we got too close but always showed up again to see what we were doing.  He's the first gator I've seen who hangs down into the water, almost like he's standing up, with just his head above the water. We will never feed him and may have to scare him away as he gets bigger, but for now I like him. Wonder if he knows that Randy has named him "Appetizer"?

Orange Blossom Opry - the young version

Donna found another good show for us at the Orange Blossom Opry. After we met for dinner at our house (leftover meatloaf dinner from the night before, and still good the second time around!) Pete drove us to the Opry in plenty of time to get a good parking spot. We were glad that the building is air conditioned - it's gotten sweltering hot here again. 

The show featured several young people who have appeared on this stage in the past year. They ranged from age 12 to 17, and all were really good. Cheyanne Van Over is just 12 but she has a powerful voice and sounds amazingly like Loretta Lynn. 16 year old Sophie Noelle sang and played guitar, as did Rachael McCormick. Rachael's brother Colton (the senior of the group at 17) did too, but Colton's forte is the banjo. He challenged the house band's banjo player to "Dueling Banjos". They both had a lot of fun while playing some excellent banjo music, and Colton more than held his own. 
16 year old Brittanie Powell was amazing. She was the opening and closing act, and she blew us away. 
Her parents were sitting in front of us and were justifiably proud of her. Most of these performers have been singing since they were pre-school but Brittanie started at her 5th grade talent show. She has a couple of voice coaches now and has made a run at "The Voice" and "America's Got Talent". She didn't get on those shows yet, but her mom is willing to accept God's timing without worrying about it. Brittanie's final number tonight was "My Heart Will Go On" and she got a standing ovation for that. 

The show closed with Cheyanne singing "Amazing Grace" surrounded by the rest of the performers. Great show!

Selling the RV, backyard alligators, Griffin Lake State Park and Rennigers - keeping busy

It's been an eventful week. Saturday we went back to check Rennigers's Antique and Farmer's Flea Market again. I think this will be a great spot to sell my jewelry. 

Sunday we went to Griffin Lake State Park again. This time I was found the big 400-year old Live Oak I've heard about. For such a huge tree, it's completely hidden in the jungle growth. But if you ask the gate guard, they point you to a short trail takes you right to it. It's so big and the forest grows so close that I couldn't find a spot to get it all in frame. The best I could do was get Randy in the picture, for scale!
This tree isn't as big as the Angel Tree nor as amazing in it's scope, but it's beautiful. 

And on Monday we sold our RV! This RV has been home since 2008 and we made a lot of changes to it, to turn in into our home. The red-and-gold paint job was a big improvement over the original white and gray
Inside Randy remodeled the bathroom and replaced the main living area's floor, which suited Julienne just fine. 
He took out all of the kitchen appliances and replaced them with standard household units.
So this RV is very special to us, and we'll miss it a lot. But it's time for us to enjoy our new house and boat, so we'll let someone else enjoy this RV. We will almost certainly go RVing again and probably soon, but we don't need to take everything we own next time, so we can use a smaller RV. 

Tuesday we did a little pet-sitting for Pete and Donna. Their two little pups are cute and friendly. 

Wednesday we went out to lunch, but not together. Randy went to the men's lunch to Cody's, while I joined the ladies at Ruby Tuesday. 

Today Randy fixed meatloaf dinner and we invited Pete and Donna over again for dinner and Mexican Train. In between these two events, Pete went out to look over our dock. He called us out to see a big alligator near the boat. It was a large one, probably between 6 and 8 feet. It was wonderful to see a wild, free alligator this close; it looked very primitive. I love this place - we have gators in the back yard!

Renninger's Antique Center & Farmer's Flea Market

I never knew there were so many big flea markets in central Florida! Renniger's is the latest one we visited, just past Mt. Dora. Like most flea markets, it has a food court. Renniger's is a little different, though: they also have a fresh seafood counter!
We didn't get any fish, but we did get some pickles. The Pickle Guy has a loyal following and there were several people in line. That usually means a good product, so we joined the line. 
The line moves slowly because he chats with each customer while he selects individual pickles to fill and over-fill the plastic containers. When it was our turn, Randy tried a few samples. Most of the pickles were not as good as what Randy can make at home, but he did buy some Sweet Hotties pickles.

Inside the building are the usual array of sunglasses, hats, t-shirts, etc. But outside are individual stalls with individual wares. My favorite was Bill's Bone Shack. He finds animal bones laying around and combines it with other random things to make stuff. Like these crab fishermen:
We kept walking around and found a big garden nursery, run by a helpful Filipino man. He has a ton of plants, like this beautiful thing called a Curcuma. I am not putting in flowers yet, but it sure is pretty. 
And he sells pineapple plants, too. Apparently these grow a lot closer to the ground than I thought. 
We didn't get this, either. But we did buy a small Meyer Lemon tree to plan by the side of our house. 

A short drive away was the Renniger Antique Center, where there are several buildings full of nice and expensive things. There were a few things I wouldn't mind having, but mostly I just liked looking at stuff. 

Work First, Then Play

Yesterday we tackled the cover over our boat dock. For some reason the previous owner put on a cover that just barely clears the sides of any reasonable boat. 
Besides the uncomfortable height, the tarp was badly torn on the far side. So we took the tarp off, then set about raising the frame and reattaching it to the six posts.  
Afterwards we pulled a new tarp over the adjusted frame. It's not as heavy-duty as the previous one, but now that that the dock cover is raised, we'll start using the boat cover. 

And today we put the boat to good use, taking Pete and Donna to explore the lake out for a few hours. We went to Lake Griffin Park first, then turned around and went back to big Lake Griffin. We went all the way to the top of the lake before turning back. Along the way back we looked for a marina. It's a good idea to know where they are in case of emergency, plus we thought we'd get some gas today. It's very hard to see anything from the lake; I don't know if there is a law against having signs on the shore, but they are few and far between. And the shoreline vegetation is so lush that canals aren't visible until you are right on them; even then they can be seen only from a certain angle. But we finally did see one sign for Twin Palms Marina. It's a pretty place, although the slips are tricky to get in and out of.
But the gas price was $4 a gallon! I think it would have to be an emergency before we came back here.