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On my second official nature walk where I am supposed to be exercising, I find myself walking on parts of Mayfair golf course which is full of mature live oaks.  mayfairgca-1_edited and sometimes

the hawks and other birds are within a good photo range. What I really want to see are more of what everyone says are fox squirrels.  Well what I thought they were fox squirrels, but according to wikipedia and other sources, fox squirrels are pretty common  gray squirrel looking squirrels.  foxsquirrel So now I had to go pull up squirrel mugs and see what I was really looking for.  The squirrels at the golf course are unique – the first time I saw them I thought they were either prarie dogs or ferrets jetting across the greens. They are larger than normal squirrels, and they have very interesting faces. When I finally got my first photo of one, it had a mushroom stem in it’s mouth and looked like it was smoking.  foxsquirreld-1Today I found two that were quite a distance and I tried to make my way over close to where they were and not get whacked in the head by some golfer, (I heard that more sandhill cranes down here are killed by golf balls than anything else. )  42809foxquirrelsstanding The fox squirrels just might be called Sherman’s fox squirrels, which technically makes them still fox squirrels. I will research further. They certainly were not wanting their faces photographed, one took off and one started climbing a pole that was not too close, so I did the best I could in capturing it’s image.  42809shermansfoxsquirrela-1resix It says they can get up to 27″ long and I believe it, they are big. The funny part is, I only live about a half mile away and they don’t seem to cross the road. They seem to like it on only one side of Country Club blvd. It would be so cool to see these animals in my yard. But then again, if I had all my wishes for wildlife in my yard, there would be a mini Africa around here and probably no room for me.

I would say if Sonja’s garden were to be a song, it would be written by Joni Mitchell.  We are Joni’s Ladies of the Canyon, I am Trina, she is Annie. First you go there and you are greeted by her sweet dogs. Oscar is my favorite and he hates having his photo taken, but I tricked him.
small-oscar She has cats here and there and lots and lots of citrus which she gives to you “for free”.  She has now grown her own garden with all sorts of “vine and leaf are filagree” ; peas, green beans, cukes, squash and it all looks lovely and orderly like someone who knows that they are doing. gardena-smallThe plants seem like soldiers standing at attention, guarding their terrain.  I wonder if Sonja goes out at night and sings them a lullaby? They are truly pampered plants like her animals. And because of it, they have so much to give back. She brought over wonderful snap peas and dip, ummm, they were fresh and organic and I, the not a bigtime vegetable eater, loved them!  Sonja is trying to practice what she preaches about buying local produce and being a “locavore”. She wrote a terrific article in the Sanford Herald about needing to get more local farms working and getting fresh fruits and vegetables to our own local markets. We went to the produce docks one day and  on the docks where pallets of food waiting to be loaded to be shipped off.  We saw nothing except peanuts from the USA! The pineapples were from Costa Rica as were the bananas, the green peppers — Hondurus and on and on. We were both disappointed that our Florida soil isn’t used much for other things besides citrus and developers.
The backyard at Sonja’s is so inspiring,  besides the luscious squash, squash

there’s zuccinizucciniand wonderful lumbering trees just as calm as Sonja.  She has sentimental plantings around yard and her home is  just as luminous as she is. She brings me “apples and cheeses”, we chat about life and writing, and she is one of the brightest people you’ll ever meet.  Even when she is away, (which was a lot last year)  and…. she is not like me who goes to Tampa and feels that was a huge feat! No, she ventures down the Amazon, has hot cocoa in Switzerland, and loves climbing the hills in Greece. And she is always considerate of others and always spoils me with little things she brings back. The best was the chocolate from Switzerland, hint hint.  I am so lucky to have such a friend who puts up with me, and I am smarter just by being around her and learning so many things. There is always something fun going on in Sonja’s sharing garden.
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The baby crane was left alone today, but only for a few minutes. The folks had come to the stump to eat some seed.
dsc02483cranefamily-1resize the baby found some crevices that it could stick it’s head into and find seed for itself. They are now coming very regularly as before. I so love when I see them coming.
And as the heron and I fished, the papa crane came and ran toward the heron charging at her and sending the heron flying off for a while.  The male crane also threatened Ringo the cat too, but Ringo knows better and gets out of the way.
The crane parents must have had some nostalgia to visit their old nest in the little marsh just off my property. The water was lower last year, low enough that they hatched a baby there over a year ago.
The Papa crane flew over first and began looking  at his ‘old digs’, then the Mama followed him.    dsc02528-1parentsresize

The parents left the baby standing on the seawall crying out. It was so upset and ran back and forth shades of that sad heron baby, and this baby is way too small to be able to  jump off the steep seawall to the water below. It was distressing to watch. It’s big black eyes were frantic as it looked at me and its’ little high voice was peeping away a mile a minute.

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That seawall has seen it’s share of bird trauma, guess I might as well refer to it as the “wailing wall” instead. The folks finally flew back and the baby’s demeanor changed in an instant.  I was rather surprised that the parents would fly off and leave the baby crane so close to Ringo, but I kept an eye on the cat, and Ringo was preoccupied with his eye on the fishing pole. The fishing was great, lots of small fish and even a couple small bass. The heron, the Pekin ducks, the anhinga and even some osprey were keeping me distracted tonight.  The water was flat, no turtles and the air was a calm 80 degrees. It did look like clouds were coming in and the strong odor of smoke was thick about an hour later. Again like last year there are some wildfires close by  and the wind was blowing smoke in this direction.   As it got darker, the cranes went back to their nests, the Pekin twins went to sleep on shore possibly dsc02556resizedreaming that Carbs would come back and be with them again. Meanwhile the female heron waited for me to leave the water first, she’s polite that way.  When I walk back to the house clutching my camera bag, tackle box and 2 rods, the heron will follow me sometimes, she seems to be upset when I am going inside, but then she turns around and flies back to her nest where those two big heron brats are. Tomorrow I will address the heron and their overgrown babies who refuse to leave home. Certainly in these times, the kids ARE coming back home to live with the folks, but these big big baby herons seem to know a good thing when they see it and don’t seem to have ambitions to take off. Again, these birds are all very smart and calculating.
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I think we might get rain tomorrow, I sure hope so, the lake is way down again, the little water gauge is still covered by the water, but should be visible in a week or so if no water comes. My lawn is still mostly
dead weeds, but that’s fine, I don’t have to water dead weeds. As long as the lake is there, the wildlife will be abundant. One problem is that our county just a permit to pump 5.5million gallons of water a day from the St. Johns River. it sounds like a quick fix that might in the long run ruin the upper part of the river and bring more sea water intrusion down the road and not only that, but it sounds like the next thing you know, other Florida counties will demand their share of the water. Our fresh water is a a precious commodity and our commissioners are very easily swayed like many politicians, by things that benefit them and their pockets. The suits should hold it up for a while I assume. It is great we have strong environmentalists who go out and protect our resources. People should be made to pay a higher amount for water, especially the golf courses and big estates who have way too much grass that demands too much water usuage! At some point during the decades to come, one wonders what will happen to our water supply. We take for granted we have water at our disposal. One day there might be serious rationing, thats the way things work, they never have the foresight to figure things to conserver, only when it gets critical!
There are ways to have gorgeous landscaping without so much grass. Too bad in Florida we do not strive for making that mandatory now, that subdivisions and their developers should be required to put in responsible landscaping that does not require constant watering. Also instant hot water in every house so people don’t have to waste a gallon before it is warm!  There must be ways we can do much more to conserve!

Article below just in case you would like to read:

Seminole gets OK to pump from St. Johns

PALATKA – Seminole County is ready to forge ahead with construction of a $90 million plant that will siphon 5.5 million gallons of water a day from the St. Johns River, having won the last permit needed Monday night.
The governing board of the St. Johns River Water Management District approved the controversial plant on a 5-4 vote over strong opposition from Jacksonville-area residents concerned that the withdrawal of water will harm the quality and quantity of water downstream. Hundreds of people packed a meeting in Palatka to oppose the project, and thousands more sent e-mails in opposition.  The Yankee Lake facility, to be built near Sanford, could be expanded to pump 50 million gallons of river water a day, potentially making it a major water source for Central Florida.
Joe Forte, Seminole’s deputy county manager, said several cities in Volusia and Seminole counties could take part in a future expansion. For now, the county will focus on getting the plant up and running. As early as Wednesday, the county will begin preparing the project for construction bids. Seminole’s plans for pumping from St. John’s:

“This is the big move, the big step,” Forte said of Monday’s approval. “And this now gives our partners more hope the project will be a reality and we can move forward.” Decision seen as difficult Susan Hughes, chairman of the St. Johns district board, said it was the most difficult decision she has had to make as a member of the nine-member board but said this won’t make it easier for other river projects to follow.  “I don’t think it’s a free-for-all or the river is open game. That is clearly not what the board said,” Hughes said. “Every project will have to be reviewed on its own merits.”
Water managers have long warned that the underground river known as the Floridan Aquifer cannot be the sole source of drinking water as Florida grows and that utilities must tap into other water supplies. Florida’s largest river, the slow, north-flowing St. Johns, is considered a key future source for Central Florida.
Seminole County now pumps 21.7 million gallons of water a day from the aquifer for 109,000 customers. The county requested a 20-year permit that includes the additional water to be pumped from the river, starting in 2013.

However, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, a nonprofit grass-roots organization, several environmental groups and Jacksonville and St. Johns County led a legal challenge to the water plant.  Reviewing the evidence and testimony from a long, trial-like hearing, an administrative-law judge earlier this year supported Seminole’s bid for the plant, finding that the county had given “reasonable assurances” that the quality of the river would not be harmed by the withdrawal.  At the point where Seminole County pipes into the river, the St. Johns flows at an average rate of 2 billion gallons a day.  Attorneys for Seminole County told district officials Monday that the board doesn’t have much leeway to veer from the administrative judge’s findings. Hundreds showed to oppose plan.  Still, hundreds of people packed Monday’s meeting, urging the board to reject the permit. Many opponents drove from Jacksonville and northeast Florida, complaining that if Seminole County can take water away, it will harm them downstream by reducing the river’s flow. Several people pointed out that the lower river flow allows more seawater to push through the mouth of the river at Jacksonville, harming the ecology of the river.
“The public interest of a large portion of this state is being trampled in order to provide water that is the easiest and cheapest for a small part of one county,” said Katherine Van Zant, whose husband, Charles Van Zant, is a Republican state legislator representing Palatka.  Many of the 100 people speaking out against the project also said approval of the plant will make it easier for future projects to tap into the river. However, the current permit would allow the withdrawal of only 5.5 million gallons a day.  The water district received thousands of e-mails, the vast majority of them in opposition. Because the project is tied up in litigation, district officials blocked the e-mails from voting board members but did announce during the meeting that more than 19,000 e-mails had been received.
Opponents may push the issue back into court with an appeal, said St. Johns Riverkeeper leader Neil Armingeon. His organization will be discussing legal options with its attorneys. “We have pledged to protect the river. We take our mission seriously,” he said.

The storm left us with an extra inch of water in the lake, a beautiful blue skyand temperatures in the upper 70’s.  So what does one do? Go fishing of course. By 6:00pm my heron waits to escort me down to the lake. We caught a few bream, but the turtles kept getting in the way as I cast. They follow the bread and it becomes such a pain avoiding them. But tonight none got hooked.
While I fished, who should come swimming up but Carbs!  I thought at first it was Elvis, but it was Carbs.  41509carbs-1resize

He saw the Pekin twins and all was exciting, the Pekins were so happyand it looked like they had all missed each other. I looked around the lake and the Band of Brothers were nowhere in sight. I gave up fishing and took a few pictures and left Carbs grooming and chatting it up with the Pekin twins. I came inside to blog about having him back. Then I heard a commotion and I see Carbs near the stump completely pinned down on the ground by one of the band of brothers, with the other two taking cheap shots by biting poor Carbs on the neck. I rushed over and chased the BOBs into the water and that gave Carbs time to run the other way. I got good exercise chasing the BOBs to the left and right off the property as they kept trying to come back up. Carbs was bee-lining through the neighbors yard and avoided further confrontation.

Once again Carbs is bullied off by the mallard/mix.  41509carbsreturns-1 Poor thing, he just wants to come back here and be my duck and the BOBs keep ruining it.  What is so amazing is how the BOBs respect Elvis. It makes no sense?  Why do they hate Carbs and dominate him?
duckselvisresizeElvis walks around the mallard/BOBs and the brothers do not make one aggressive move toward him.  They seem to know not to mess with ‘The King”. It sure is a strange society these ducks have. (Elvis in photo with BOBs – the other photos are of Carbs)

So for now Carbs at least escaped more harassing by the BOBs, I wish the BOBs would fly away and find another lake.  Anyone want three mallard mix ducks? I will gladly ship them to China if anyone there is hungry – though I bet their meat is tough!

Bye sweet Carbs, for now.  carbsy-1

4609babycranec-1_edited-1 Finally, my neighbor called and said the cranes were visiting her. I drove over and there they were. The baby looks so big to me.
I took about 70 photos of the shy bird. The parents feed it well.
while I watched, it ate 5 worms!

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They still have not come to visit me, though the father crane
will fly in and eat seed from the stump and then fly back to the family.

Enjoy the family, I sure do!

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FINALLY – I tracked them down and got a few photos. The baby has been very well taught by the parents to be skeptical of all noise and older people with cameras. The baby darted out of view into the bushes and I would have to wait for it to feel safe enough to come out. I bet I was at least 75 feet from them, but the parents were fine, it was the baby who wanted my credentials before posing. I tried to hide behind a tree so it would come out, this was all I could get, but gives a sense of size of this 5 day old and he’s bigger than I remembered. The single child seems to thrive faster and grow bigger!
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P/S, so long to Carbs. Have not seen him since the band of brothers took over ruling the lake
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Elvis and Carbs March 2009

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That’s what my fence used to look like for three years. Loaded with red and purple pasion flowers. They made everyone happy. My neighbors on the other side of the fence loved looking at the blooms and would tell me that often. Today I had to go out there and perform a Paul Bunyon with my trusty shears. all the vines were dead and full of debris. I hacked and hacked and pruned and pruned and this is now what it looks like 100_0194

My grass, (what grass?) is just weeds and everything froze back. I need one of those natural no grass kind of lawns, (xeroscape) oh wait, that’s what I have, weeds have taken over and the backyard looks like crap. To make it worse, my son ran into the realtor whom I bought the place from and she gave me the old photos from the listing. The grass was so lush and green. Thank God the old couple moved 3000 miles away. He would be mad, he took a lot of pride in in yard. It’s not that I don’t, I just don’t feel like wasting water for asthetics. I need cactus and stone or something instead of grass, and a pot of gold to finance a total undertaking of what to do. I might have to consult some my ‘yardless’ friends who have let natural nature take over and have yards requiring little care. I am totally tired of weeding and pruning, I need a gardner who likes to work for free, oooo, that’s me, and you can see what a lousy job I am doing!

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