Monday, March 31, 2008

Guy vs. Girl Gardening Contest

John has challenged me to a vegetable gardening contest. We have two raised beds and we're each going to take one of the beds. John decided that Tom should be the impartial judge. At the feed and seed today (before I knew about John's challenge), I bought three trays of tomatoes and peppers, so we're splitting those. And, we're starting some stuff in seed trays. We'll split those also. I told him he had to help me clean up my bed and get it ready. He planted his tonight. Or at least the starter plants that I brought home. My bed still has lettuce growing in it, so I wanted to wait to harvest that before planting mine. I won't be at work tomorrow, so the harvesting will have to wait till Wednesday. I probably won't get to my bed till this weekend, so John will be a week ahead of me. Tom would say this is a good thing because then we've staggered planting dates. (Apparently, I'm not supposed to plant everything at once so that you have vegetables all season instead of all at once.) The loser has to take the winner out on a child-free date. It should be a fun gardening season! Now, if only Tebow would stay off of my bed, I might be the winner.

Spring is here!

I think spring is finally here! We had a cold snap last week, but it's since warmed up. I haven't had much time to work in the yard, but I did look into buying a tiller. A colleague had a front tine tiller for sale, but we really want a rear tine tiller. So, we're going to wait until we find one that we like. In the meantime, I'm hoping to borrow Tom's and work on my vegie garden this weekend. I have plans to plant tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, okra, squash, corn, watermelon, and lettuce. I also need to plant my bulbs - caladiums, lilies, and amaryllis.

Tom's helping me to design some of my garden beds. He keeps telling me to go out and measure, but I just haven't done it. Maybe I'll get to it this week.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Yesterday morning, one of our great faculty here at UF, Jamie Ellis, was featured on Good Morning America. Dr. Ellis is our bee expert and has recently been putting together a bee college for those interested in having home apiaries. He's also an expert on colony collapse disorder and has been educating on Africanized bees for sometime.

I've always known bees are important ecologically. I grew up on an orange grove and we often had apiarists with hives in our groves. But, until recently, I didn't realize the impact NOT having pollinators could have. I was hand pollinating my squash plants for awhile because of the lack of pollinators around. Imagine having to do this in a 1,000 acre squash field. Wow, we may not have any squash or any other vegetables for that matter. And, I love squash.

UF Genetics has also featured Dr. Ellis with Honey Bees lesson plans and videos. I like these videos because they're short and easy to understand and really bring about the importance of honey bees.

Video: I Heart Honeybees

Video: Show Me the Honey

Video: Where are the Bees?

Video: Bee Love

Video: Honey, I'm Home

Video: African Honey Bees, Public Enemy #1

tadpoles, 5 year olds, and Friday mornings

Last night, Will was so excited about something outside. I was in the middle of putting groceries away, so I couldn't go see. He finally got Uncle Scot outside to look. Apparently, the pond outside was full of tadpoles. Will had the "perfect" bucket to collect them in, so they spent the next hour collecting tadpoles.

This morning, we're rushing around to get out the door by 8:45 (I overslept and Will has to be at school by 9) and the bucket of tadpoles is on the porch. Of course, being the good mom I am, last night I had told him he could take some to pre-K for show and tell. So, I hurried to find a jar, wax paper, and the fish net thingy. I spent the next 10 minutes scooping tadpoles, poking holes in the wax paper and making sure Will didn't spill any water. Kaity, of course, threw a huge tantrum that she wasn't getting to take any to school.

The tadpoles finally made it to school (without spilling any yucky pond water in the truck!) and Ms. Jann loved them. I doubt they'll survive, but it'll be interesting for the kids to see. Will was all into showing them off for his friends. And, we were only 10 minutes late!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Flower Power

Dr. Dave Clark is one of our horticulture breeders at UF. Not only is he really funny, but he's amazing at his job. He and a grad student have developed several varieties of very popular coleus (but I'll save that for another post). Most of the time he does his breeding through biotechnology methods. In this video, Dr. Clark talks about the interesting aspects of how people relate to flower scents.

In this video, Dr. Clark talks about the science behind the scent, specifically with petunias. If you like these, check out more info at UF Genetics. You can also find lesson plans and other info related to the Science of Scent.

Is that a monkey in the tree?

I love working in the Environmental Horticulture department. I never know what I'm going to see. Yesterday, as I was going to a meeting in the main building across the street, there was Dr. Gilman with a hard hat on. Dr. Gilman is universally known as "the tree guy" so it's not unusual to see him under the canopies. Yesterday, though, I hear him yelling at the trees as I'm walking past! This is a little unusual. I took the time to stop and look and there's a student up in a tree - probably 30 feet up! Dr. Gilman is coaching him for a student arboriculture contest on tree climbing and using the opportunity to get some of the trees pruned around the building. The student was following Dr. Gilman's yelled directions on which branches to cut. There is apparently quite a bit of research that Dr. Gilman has done on tree pruning to help with tree health and hurricane preparation. It's pretty interesting stuff. I've seen Dr. Gilman blowing trees over with two airboat engines to simulate what different pruning techniques do to trees in hurricanes. That was cool. So, now I pay more attention to my trees at home and how we prune them. Remember, if you want to be more prepared for hurricane season, don't forget about your trees!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Roadkill, Buzzards, and Eagles

This morning on my way into work I saw a bald eagle! (Sorry I didn't have the camera with me.) I knew there were eagles in the area because people often spot them on the prairie and there is an eagle's nest near the farm, but I've never actually seen one. But, there he was sharing some roadkill with the buzzards. He was a full grown one. I only spotted him because of his large white tail as I drove past. I pulled over so the kids could see him and Will got to tell everyone at school that he saw a "ball" eagle that eats raccoons. He's definitely a farm boy. Not much phases him.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Vegetable Gardening Makes Cents!

David Holmes, the county extension director for Marion County, wrote a great article this weekend in the Ocala newspaper about vegetable gardens. He discusses the benefits of growing your own food - nutritionally and financially.

I know I find this true in my garden. I haven't had to buy lettuce in weeks and I get the added benefit of giving some of the vegetables away to friends.

I cut six heads of lettuce last night. I brought several bags into work for the girls here and I'm taking some to John's aunt and uncle. I still have six or seven heads left that didn't need to be cut this weekend. Lettuce seems to be one of the vegetables I can grow really, really well!

Read David's article.

On a side note, we received 5.5 inches of rain Friday - the entire yard is under water. Will waded through a wet spot to get to Nana and Papa's house and the water was almost to his waist. Tebow, of course, loved it.

Later this week, we're having a memorial service for the blueberry bush my husband mowed over.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The view from my kitchen window

So, this is what I get to look at every morning. Pictured here are Argo, Spot, and New Horse. Yes, that's actually her name. They don't get very creative around here with naming animals. We actually have another horse, that's not pictured, whose name is New Horse 2.

It's pretty reminiscent of old Florida. John's great-grandfather built this barn in the 50s (I think). It's still used by the horses. Since this is a cow-calf operation, the horses are considered a tool. During the busy season, John's uncle rides almost every day. He can crack a whip from a horse's back. That's actually how the original Florida pioneers came to be known as "crackers" - because they would crack a whip to get the cattle out of the scrub.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

I've been tagged!

Bloggers are great at creating a virtual community and one way they do that is through tagging. Another blogger tags you and you're supposed to list ten random facts about yourself. Kim tagged me recently and I'm just now getting around to it. So here it goes...
  1. I'm a 7th generation Floridian and so is my husband. That means that my kids are really, really 8th generations Floridians! We also live on my husband's family farm that has been in his family since the 1840s. Wow - that's a long time.
  2. I love being a working mom. It's a hectic, chaotic life, but I know that I'm not gifted to be a preschool teacher. I love my job as a communicator and my other full-time job as a mom.
  3. I crochet. A lot. I make several afghans a year, usually baby blankets for my friends having kids. For Christmas this year, all the girls got scarves and hats and the guys got potholders. The potholders were bigger hits than the scarves and hats.
  4. I don't swim very well. I live in Florida, surrounded by water, and I don't really like water. How ironic.
  5. I started a 4-H club called Stars & Stripes 4-H. It's very rewarding and a lot of fun to see these kids develop and grow (without having to be a teacher). But, I was never a 4-H member as a kid.
  6. Lostie, anyone? I've been addicted to Lost since it hit the airwaves. I rearrange my schedule to be able to watch it.
  7. I showed livestock in high school. Two steers, three heifers, and one pig. I was an honors student who was also an FFA member. I loved showing livestock and now our 4-H kids are showing livestock.
  8. I love fried, Southern foods. We recently ate dinner at The Yearling restaurant which is a gourment, hometown restaurant near where Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings lived. Everything I got was fried.
  9. Superpoking is awesome! I love facebook. I started on it to be able to communicate with my sister, but now I'm addicted. I spend a lot of my day superpokin' people.
  10. My daughter is my mini-me. She looks exactly like me, but her personality is a combination of all the strong, opinionated elements of everyone in John and mine's families.

Now, I'm supposed to tag other blogs that I read and enjoy. Tagging etiquette says I should leave a comment on their blog, so that they know they've been tagged. Here are few of my favorites blogs.