Some days are like that

Randy is remodeling the bathroom, and discovered the drain wasn't put together properly. That isn't a great surprise - a lot of things here are not correct - but it was a sad discovery because the only way to fix it was to crawl under the house. 
He disappeared completely under the house. Looking under it from another angle, all I could see was his gloved hand, applying plumbing cement to the pipes. What a crappy job.

Juniper Springs Recreation Area in Ocala National Forest

"Day out" again today. This time to the Ocala National Forest, to get passes for Pete and Donna. Unfortunately Donna forgot to bring her ID, so she will have to come back again. Fortunately, we loved the place, so she is anxious to come back.

The very helpful lady at the Ranger station who gave Pete his pass also gave us some suggestions. We took her advice and drove to nearby Juniper Springs Recreation Area. It's one of the oldest recreation areas around, built in the 1930s by the CCC. We've been to areas built by them before: Balmorhea State Park in Texas. The CCC did some mighty good work. At this location they also built a small water mill house. The water still turns the old wheel, although it doesn't generate electricity anymore. 
The pool area was pretty, and pretty deep. And cold (to me). As steady 72 degrees may be wonderful on a sultry day, but I wasn't tempted to get in today.
We walked around the pool area and behind the wheelhouse, to find a fast flowing stream where the rental canoes are launched. The water level is really low now, but some canoes were heading out anyway. Nearby was the remains of an old bridge from the CCC days. Unlike the wheelhouse, this hasn't held up, so it's off limits now. I sure would love to have those old, weathered stones at my house!
Also on the grounds were a couple of big stone cook areas. One was a chimney pillar with four cooking grates near the ground. 
And right next to it was a big single cooking area, big enough to cook a hog in. 
The nearby pavilion is closed to guests, though. I think it probably hasn't recovered from last fall's hurricane weather. What caught my eye, though, was the tree. Apparently they wanted to extend the pavilion but didn't want to cut down the tree. So they build around it!
There wasn't much else here today, so we got back in the car and drove a short distance to Fern Hammock Springs, where we parked the car and walked to the water. There are signs here warning about alligators, and sure enough, we saw one almost immediately, sitting at the mouth of a dark, dank path that led into the forest. 
He was surprisingly undisturbed by us, as we stood on a bridge talking about him and taking pictures. This must happen a lot here! The bottom of the springs is the usual accumulation of mud and leaves, except where the spring water flows in. There the bottom has a deposit of white sand, which constantly bubbles as the cold water seeps upwards. 
Besides alligators, there are a lot of turtles here. A big, bulky snapping turtle was sharing the water near the alligator. He was almost half the size if the gator, so he wasn't worried about becoming dinner. 
The other turtles kept to an area a little further away. These common painted turtles were sunning themselves, and like the alligator, they ignored us. 
That was fine with us; we were busy taking pictures of everything! Donna may have caught the camera bug; she was assuming the position of a dedicated photographer. 
And for a good cause - a lovely scene with an old bridge, white sand vents, and lush Florida jungle.

Playing Dress up

Our church operates a school, and once a year they have a benefit dinner for itl. This year the theme was "Western". Some people thought that meant "Country and Western" line, but we thought of the Wild West. Since we couldn't bring guns into the church, we went for a more dapper look.
And the next day Donna and I went to a Tea Party at the Clubhouse. The flowered bonnets were very pretty, but again, I went a different route. I took the opportunity to wear one of my Steampunk hats. It's a little odd to be in front of the camera, instead of behind it! 

Let the battle begin...

We have recently been planting flowers, herbs and tomatoes. Mindful of the problems we had last year with critters eating our tomatoes and avocado plant, everything is in a raised bed, where they will be less available to ground things and easier for us to keep an eye on. Eventually I'll cover the bright orange Home Depot buckets, but for now they are useful the way they are. 
In the front of the house I've just set some plants around a bench I love, but can't use as a bench because the wood needs to be replaced. 
This morning as I watered the flowers in the front yard I found a pretty black and red grasshopper in the pink flowers. My first thought was how clever it was, to hide in colors that would camouflage it. 
My second thought was to find out what it is, in case it's something we won't want hanging around. And lo and behold, this is the juvenile form of the dreadful Eastern Lubber! This is the beast that ate half of our tomato plant last year (a tomato hookworm finished the job). So this thing has to go! And now I know what to watch out for. It's a shame that they are so pretty at this stage.

Homosassa with Friends

Today we drove west to Homosassa to visit Brenda and Woody. Unlike us, they are still RVing, so they will head north soon, before the Florida heat arrives. We talked about RV parks, workamping, and what has happened at Hilton Head Motorcoach RV Resort, where we all used to work together. It's always fun talking to RVers who shared experiences with us, and Brenda and Woody are fun people who would do anything for a friend. When we arrived in Florida last spring, they were our guides for a few weeks, and Brenda helped me out of the blues that had settled on me. They are good folks!

For lunch we went to The Freezer. We were here in March last year so we know what to order: shrimp. Their shrimp is so good and so famous that it doesn't come with any side orders. Just shrimp. But when you do something well, why do anything to distract from it?
But we got distracted anyway. As we were finishing lunch, Randy noticed a full-grown Manatee had glided silently up to the edge of the dock where we were eating. He was half out of the water and looked huge! I scrambled for my camera but by the time I got it out, he had sunk under the water and moved out towards the channel. This guy has big prop-scars on his back. Even under the water they showed white.
After lunch we went back to their RV again. Their little Princess is such a charmer; she is bouncy and full of love, and willing to share her toys with Shorty. She didn't know Shorty is a toy-hoarder. He, as usual, stole all the toys, and put them up on the couch, which was mean of him because Princess can't jump high enough to get up there. And as soon as Princess played with another toy, Shorty jumped off the couch, stole that toy, and brought it up to the couch. I love him, but sometimes he can be a butt.

But Brenda and Princess forgave him. We had a nice visit, and then it was time to leave. It's a long drive home and we were full of shrimp and relaxed by good talk. It would have been nice to take a nap, but only Shorty was able to do that. As soon as the car got on the road, he was out, just like a 2-year old. 

A little too close for comfort...

A couple of days ago we saw a BIG alligator in our canal. Not a little guy like Appetizer - this was Appetizer's mom or dad. 
The water is murky green now. I don't know if this is common at this time of year here, but it makes great camouflage for alligators. If this one wasn't above water, it would be completely invisible.
We think this might be the alligator that hangs around the entrance to Lake Griffin. He's wandered partway along the canal before but we've never seen him this far down. 
This evening I was finishing up some gardening on our side yard that slopes down to the canal. I looked up and saw this big boy in the canal, headed right towards me. Not fast, not charging, but definitely swimming in my direction. I left quickly. This one is too big to take chances with. 

Happy Easter Greetings

Happy Easter Greetings! We went to church this morning, where the service opened with a special number by the little ones. It was a song with a lot of bouncing up and down, and they were very good at that at.
Then, during regular service, the kids went outside to see the 2 little donkeys that were brought in today. The donkeys were very sweet and the children were fascinated by them.
The smaller donkey has been working with children for 6 years, so he was very comfortable with the little hands reaching out to him.
Afterwards, around 4 pm, we went to Pete and Donna's for dinner. They were fixing the dinner, with Randy just bringing a salad. But Randy felt inspired to bake a loaf of Challah bread, a Jewish bread often baked for Sabbath.  He hasn't made this for a few years, but he hasn't lost his touch. 
Pete has been cooking yesterday and today, and served us green beans with bacon, sweet potato casserole, potatoes and peas, and tender ham. And every single thing was delicious!
Donna made her famous deviled eggs. These little eggs were almost too cute to eat! 
But we did because they were scrumptious. Poor little eggs....
After dinner there was interesting conversation and lively repartee with Pete, Donna, Donna's brother Larry and his wife Lee, but the food was so good that I had taken seconds of everything, and went into a food coma.


It seems like we've been really busy lately. Last week Tuesday and Wednesday were full of food preparation. Beth and Dick came over for dinner and a long hand of Phase 4. We attended our "Small Group" from church on Tuesday. Everyone brings something to share for dinner; this time Randy fixed ham salad. The next day Randy was in charge of the Wednesday night dinner at church for 100 people. They always have a main dish, salad and dessert. People have been asking for a menu change, so Randy fixed baked potatoes with lots of toppings. For that, he wanted BIG potatoes. And he got them!
I teach a Robotic class at the school on Wednesday and Randy teaches a Financial Peace class later the same day. We only have one car so we have to coordinate our schedules. This time we both stayed at church most of the day. While I went to the Robotic class, Randy started in the kitchen. When I got done I joined him. The dinner was served a little before 6 and as soon as that was done we sprinted over to the classroom where Randy's Financial Peace class is held. Since this was the last night of the class, he had prepared a complete pulled-pork dinner for everyone. 

Saturday was clean up at the church. I started pulling weeds, but the guy in charge asked me to take some pictures. I LOVE taking pictures! Even more when it gets me out of work!
Our church will be putting on an Easter Play this year, and Randy is in it. Sunday they asked the cast members to wear their costumes for a "triumphal procession" during the worship service. Before service started they mingled around the foyer,
 greeted guests,
 and guarded the entrance.
And after the boat ride on Tuesday, we went to the church for another dress rehearsal of the Easter Play. Randy is in it, playing non-speaking Apostle Andrew. He's got the part down pat.
They performed the play on Thursday and Friday, and everyone did a great job.

Along the Ocklawaha River

Today we were joined by Pete and Donna, plus Woody and Brenda, for a long boat ride. We took Shorty and Brenda brought their sweet little dog Princess. She is over a year old now but is still a petite thing. She had the cutest hat I've ever seen - a tiny doggie sun visor!
The water is about a foot low in the canal right now because we really need rain. So Randy navigated out of the canal before letting Woody take us across the lake. 
Donna, Brenda and I sat in the front with the puppies and talked. I slathered on my sun-factor 50 while they just relaxed and soaked up the sun. We did a quick comparision: we look like an Island Girl, a Southern Belle, and a Canadian (that would be me). 
The dogs behaved themselves while we were talking. Princess played with Shorty a little but she stayed on Brenda's lap most of the time. Shorty was getting plenty of attention from Donna, but he decided he wanted Brenda's attention, too. So he came over to her side, lay down beside her, and put his paw on her hand and stayed that way. He knows what's cute.  
We reached the northern shore of the lake and continued up the Ocklawaha River until it was time for lunch. Donna had heard of a place along here and we were able to find it - the Blue Heron Bar and Grill. It's not fancy but they serve good food, and that's what matters!
On the way back Shorty decided he was still jealous of Princess. First he jumped up on the bench beside Brenda, then he pushed his way on her lap. Fortunately Princess was too lulled by the sun and waves to mind, and Brenda has a tender heart towards critters.