This morning we tackled the remaining tree limbs. Randy cut them up and Donna and I moved the pieces onto the growing stack along our driveway. 
And it was a good thing we did it this morning, because later in the day the park's staff came by and picked it all up!

Later in the morning we went over to Donna's to check out their antenna situation. The storm had broken their existing antenna and it wasn't working anymore. Donna had bought a new antenna; the only problem was the thing needs to go up on that roof. 
With a borrowed ladder and a dose of courage, Randy got up there to see what he could do. 
Since the antenna hadn't been worked for a while, it took a bit of work to loosen it up enough to drop it down low enough to be worked on. 
But it came down and the new one went up. After a little adjustment of direction and it was good to go. So two storm-induced problems fixed today!

Cleanup starts

Have been away from a computer for awhile, so I am capturing what happens now and will work my way back as time allows.

Today we started the cleanup from Hurricane Irma. First things first, and that means breakfast. But since we didn't have any perishables in the refrigerator, we went to Walmart for a few groceries. It turns out Walmart hasn't recovered from the hurricane, either. No bread. 
No eggs. 
No cheese either, and the only milk on the shelves were a couple of gallons of skim milk. But because the shelves were so bare, we could see back into the stock room behind the shelves where there were pallets of milk waiting to be put out. Randy found a nice person who got him the milk he wanted, although they still didn't have creamer. He was able to get enough stuff to fix a good breakfast, and then we started on the yard. 

The flowering plants by the car port have been laying down for a week. We gently straightened them and tied them up, hoping they will recover.
The row of Marigold along the front of the house won't survive. I originally thought they were just bent over, but they were broken. I guess a gust of wind came along the house and tore through them. Nothing to do but pull them up.
Then it was time to tackle the big job: those tree limbs. Several big limbs fell across the back deck and on the side yard.

The amazing thing is that, although the limb hit the top of the boat dock cover and bent the frame in a couple of places, it didn't hit the boat. It completely fill the dock walkway but didn't damage the boat at all!
Nevertheless, those big limbs were a pain to clean up. We started on the side yard, cutting the limbs into manageable pieces and dragging them up to the edge of the driveway, where we hope they will be picked up. Then Randy got out the saw and cut the bigger limbs. 
After several hours our pile had expanded from the end of the driveway to along the edge. Like many people here, we are building a hedge of yard waste.
Next we trimmed some tree branches that had not fallen but looked likely to next time. Randy stood at the edge of the boat and used a pole chain saw to get at them. When they fell, they usually fell into the canal, so then we had to snag them and drag them up on shore.
Not all of them fell into the water: one dropped down hard on the dock walkway and crashed right through. Good thing this didn't fall on the boat! 
Then we started dragging submerged branches out of the canal. There is no way to tell how big a branch is when most of it's underwater, but all of these were big. And water logged. Eventually we ended up with even more yard waste than we had already cut up. So these will wait until tomorrow. Because it's still mighty hot here in Florida.
That was enough to make us hot, tired and filthy dirty. But after taking a quick shower Randy went out to the carport shed to clean the chest freezer. Over the summer our neighbor across the canal gave us fish, and what we didn't eat we froze. The bottles of ice that Randy packed on top of the food before we left kept most of it from thawing completely, but the fish smelled anyway. Randy threw away all the food that hadn't been moved to Donna's brother's freezer, defrosted the freezer, and sanitized it with bleach.

A first look after the storm

We got home at long last! In spite of how much we enjoyed our friends and family and in spite of the reassurances from our friends here, we have been anxious to see for ourselves what it looks like. 

First and foremost, thank God! 

Along the front of the house there was not much damage, except all my marigolds are flopped over. Nothing else was touched. 

Along the side of the house, two of the three big Hibiscus are almost laid down. I think they can be saved.
But looking towards the back, something looked odd....we didn't have a tree there when we left. 
And we don't have a tree now; we have part of a tree. Another part was laying across the back deck.
And the biggest part was lying on the walkway between the dock and the boat.  
Amazingly the boat was untouched! The frame that holds the tarp up over our boat got dinged when the branch fell but the boat was not harmed at all. 
The water in the channel is up quite a bit. County Lake folks came by today in an airboat and sprayed something to control the weeds which were already growing out of control even before we left. 

As to the house, we lost some trim on each side of the house and along the back. 
None of this matters: it is so good to be home!

Water things

This morning Randy called me out to the boat dock to see something. It was a large fish that was swimming so close to the surface that its back was out of the water. We watched it a moment, trying to figure out if it was eating, or sick, or what. Suddenly from across the canal came an alligator, swimming straight for the fish. 
He swam within 3 feet of it and paused, and the fish moved away. Suddenly the alligator turned, caught up to it, and went for it! I've never seen an alligator catch prey before so I decided to watch it instead of trying to take a picture. This guy launched himself completely out of the water, like a killer whale, and dived head first on the fish with open jaws. Then he paused, motionless. I expected to see the fish hanging out of his mouth until I realized he'd swallowed it whole. He stayed still, watching us to see if we would move. We were close enough to see instead of laying horizontally in the water, his body was hanging down vertically from his big dinosaur head.
After 2 or 3 minutes he decided not to worry about us and moved on further up the canal. Randy, who was outside longer than I, said he caught another fish later. I love it here!
Later in the morning we took Carlo and Ana out for a boat ride. Shorty quickly decided he liked Ana, who gave him lots of attention. 
The amount of rain we've gotten has turned canal water coffee-colored, but it's not mud. The rainwater picks up tannins from the forest floor before getting to the canal, and when there's a lot of rain, it can get a lot of tannins.
We boated into Lake Griffin Park, then turned around and went into Lake Griffin, where we dropped anchor by an island and relaxed. We had a lovely visit but after awhile the darkening clouds prompted us to head back. 
Ahead I saw a white line on the lake; this is where rain was pouring down. There was no choice except to go through it. 
We had the canopy up but it didn't matter. It was raining really hard and the simple act of moving forward got us all soaked to the skin. All in the game of boating!

Florida Life - good food and alligators

Randy's in a high-gear baking mood again. He started with puff pastry things, filled with Nutella, Raspberry Jam, and Apricot jam, each in a dollop of cream cheese. These were awesome.
And he's baking most of our bread again.  This homemade bread is so good that I could live on it; seriously, just this and a little butter and I've got a meal.
Then he revisited palmiers. He used to make these a few years ago but since he loves to try new things, sometimes it's hard to fit in an oldie-but-goodie. In this case it was worth the wait because he improved on his original recipe. The only problem with these is that I want to eat the whole plate. 
This morning I looked outside our bedroom window and saw the largest alligator I've ever seen in our canal! These animals are amazing; in spite of their size they move through the water without making a wake. In fact, the only alligator wake I've seen was from very young ones, who may not have learned the trick yet. However, we've learned that a mass of tiny bubbles may mark the spot where they submerge. This guy went under and in the black water he was invisible. But a group of little bubbles marked where he went under, and soon he appeared nearby.
I don't know how long he was, but he had a very long snout. The little bump of his nose was far enough away from his eyes that I almost missed it. They say that an alligator's length can be estimated by the distance between the eyes and nostrils - for each inch, calculate one foot. Now I want to know how to get close enough to measure that. 'Cause he's not having any of it.

Hanging around with Friends

We have been thinking about taking a trip, but in the meanwhile are keeping up with friends in the area. Beth and Dick joined Pete and Donna at our house on July 3rd for an early Fourth of July dinner. The next day Pete and Donna drove Randy and I to Venetian Gardens for the fireworks. We went early to get a good parking spot, then waited for 3 hours until it got dark.

Shorty has been a little spooked by thunderstorms since Julienne passed away; he doesn't like to be home alone in a storm. Fireworks are the same thing to him, so we brought him along with us. Even though he was closer to the fireworks, he wasn't alone. We set our lawn chairs up at the back of the car and Shorty found a corner in the open trunk where he could watch the fireworks. He really did watch them, too. But I don't think he enjoyed them as much as we did. 
This week we had dinner with Cindy and Jerry, a lovely couple we met at church. They, like most of our church family, live in The Villages.  We really enjoyed spending time with them and soon we'll have them over to our place, but we have to find a time when we are all here; in this heat people travel north a lot.

Saturday was "Service Day" at the church. Randy helped in the kitchen, as part of the "Taste of Grace" service, which meant preparing food for people who were attending a funeral at the church in the afternoon. 
I opted for outside work; even in this heat, I'd rather work in the yard than in the kitchen. After doing a bit of cleanup on the church's walkways and shrubbery, we moved to the elementary school next door. Their staff had bought mulch and flowers, in hopes we would spruce up the front of the school. Several of us pitched in and got it looking good before the hottest part of the day arrived.
Monday we wanted to spend time with Pete and Donna, and we all wanted to go somewhere. We ended up at the Lakeridge Winery for a tour and lots of samples.  And a good time was had by all! 

Fishing with Liam

Recently some of our family moved to Florida! Lance moved his family to Lake City, about 2 hours from us, so we drove over to visit with them in their new house. Liam is almost 4 now and has grown up a lot since we saw him last year. His Uncle Randy still doesn't know how to hang on to him, but Liam loves him anyway.
A few days later they came to our place, although unfortunately Jordan was under the weather and couldn't make it. Liam has decided he is a fisherman, so his Uncle Randy got him a new fishing pole. 
Then we took them out on the boat, looking for some fish!
They put in a good effort, but the fish just weren't biting that day.
If fact, we got rained out. So Liam settled for being captain this time, and we'll try fishing again another day.

Gardening in Florida

It's HOT. That sums it up. 

We will landscape everything eventually but I wanted to plant something now, even though it would be temporary. We are still digging up the grass in the front yard, section by section, and dumping rocks or mulch on it to keep weeds down until we are ready to landscape. But it's looking so much better already than it used to.
Randy found some Purple Heart growing wild in a corner of our yard and decided he really like it. So we transplanted bits of it around the Crepe Myrtle tree, and it's growing like a weed. Which it is, in my book.
I am still determined not to have any plants next to the house, in hopes of discouraging the tiny little geckos from trying to get into the house. They are very plentiful here and I don't mind then when they're outside, but I don't want them inside. So only rocks go near the house; I don't even want mulch there. But next to that I put a row of Marigolds. Marigolds seem to be the plant most hated by mosquitos and other insects. So Marigolds it is.
Along the side of the house we put in a small garden of flowers and vegetables. I painted an old step ladder, Randy nailed some pots onto it, and we filled them with kale, Nasturtiums, and greens. 
Next to that we set up a wooden trough that I found in a yard sale (Randy never knows what I will drag home from a yard sale!).He set it up on some PVC pipes that I painted, and I filled it with lettuces. When they died out from the heat, I replaced them with greenery that is hearty enough to survive a Florida summer. In front I put a lovely pink flowering viney-thing; it's my favorite thing here, so far.

In the back, nearest to the canal, we set a black Elephant Ear. I thought it might be too temperamental to grow but it seems to like it here, and has doubled in size.
Whenever we want to plant something in the side yard, Randy has to get out his reciprocating saw and saw in the dirt. The reason? Roots. They are everywhere, and just one inch below the surface so there is no avoiding them. 
And some of them are huge. Things growing near the canal apparently get big roots.
Because we were thinking of Illinois planting schedule, we put in some tomato plants in late spring (which we have since learned is too late in the year). Since we wanted to avoid the tomato-eating pests who consumed our sole tomato plant last year, we decided to grow them in pots this year, which at least gets them off the ground. We put four Beefsteak tomato plants into four Home Depot buckets, and I poured a gallon of water on them every single day, trying to keep them alive through June. 
We kept the bugs off and they rewarded us with vine-ripened tomatoes.
But they are the smallest Beefsteak tomatoes I've ever seen!