Friday, October 30, 2020

Walking Catfish

 My neighbour shuddered, "We'd had a lot of rain. I opened the garage door and there outside was a walking catfish! Yeugh! It was horrible. And it was.." she paused for effect, "Still alive!"

"A what?"  I gulped, "But we're nowhere near water!" Nearish to the beach perhaps but so far as I know, catfish don't like seawater. I took in the horror story and googled walking catfish. No, it wasn't April Fool's Day. They do exist. 

(Alas this is not my photo.) And they walk, propelling themselves along on their fins but on dry land. Or damp land, usually after it's been pouring with rain. We don't have streams in our street but we do have drainage ditches and they just love those. In all the time we'd been coming here to Florida, I had never seen one. Well just like the Number 9 Bus you don't spot one for ages and then they all come together. A few days ago my neighbour messaged me, "I think you should know that there's a walking catfish in your front garden. Not very big. About 8 inches." Correction, being American,  she actually said, "front yard." I didn't see the message for a couple of hours,  which with hindsight was a good thing. When I finally plucked up the courage to go and investigate, the creature was no longer in our front garden but in the road and also, sadly, had gone to its reward, having evidently been flattened by several cars - no mean feat on our quiet dead-end street.  It looked like the one in the picture only less shiny.  Like a bit of old tyre, actually. I messaged my neighbour thinking to point out it was slightly on her side of the street but then relented in the interests of public spirit and said that, unless she wanted it for supper, I would dispose of it. "Thank you but we have other dinner plans", she replied.

 It appears that the catfish are of Asian origin and therefore considered an invasive species. (Please do not take this the wrong way.) If alive, you're not supposed to transfer them elsewhere, though I believe some people put them in a bucket and take them to the nearest pond. Our nearest pond has several alligators so I'm not sure if that would be helpful. My Indonesian friend assured me they see walking catfish all the time over there and they are delicious to eat. However she added ominously, "My mother would never cook them". 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Hanging on to Hope

 Talking about success stories in the garden, I forgot to mention the beauty berry. 

My neighbour's advice to cut it right back in the spring bore fruit in every sense of the word. The berries are quite magnificent.

Decorative rather than edible but you can't have everything.  Speaking of decorative, hubby called out, "rainbow!" and I dashed out to get a picture. Of course the phone refused to take it until the rainbow  was nearly gone. But you can't have everything.

At a time when Covid 19 is gleefully upping its game, thumbing its nose at the world's prayers and precautions, when  the eerie echo of football without fans looks set for the duration, when the head of the Catholic Church makes remarks akin to the Chief Rabbi musing on the health benefits of bacon butties,  when the height of political debate in the world's superpower consists of two old men hurling insults like drunks in a pub and we're fast losing our grip on which way is up, we have to cling on to some small signs of hope.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Back to the Beach

 Dateline Golden Beach, Florida

It's been a while I know but the journey down was exhausting. We did it in just two days again, minimising hotel stays. It all started out well with the most glorious autumn scenery through Pennsylvania and West Virginia - sadly no time to take photos-  but then things went downhill with torrential rain and crazy drivers. I wonder if collective insanity hasn't gripped Florida-bound motorists even more that usual. 90 - 100 mph, weaving in and out, tailgating etc. We started to wonder if, unbeknownst to us,  Florida had been put under curfew and people were in a mad frenzy to get home before dark. Or something. But we survived and Golden Beach is still Golden Beach.

The garden was another story. If the weeds were bad last year,  they were ten times worse this. Perhaps the result of an exceptionally  hot, rainy summer or perhaps the weeds telling each other that our address was the place to be. Last year there were four or five of the things that looked like anaemic Christmas trees (how can something with a stem that thick grow like that in just four months?) This year there were at least a dozen. The honeysuckle had migrated from the fence and firmly rooted itself half way down the lawn. And everything was covered in a mess of stringy daisy-like vegetation that, when I scooped up armful after armful of it, left me covered in tiny spines so I looked like a hedgehog. And the porterweeds! The porterweeds had excelled themselves, spreading all over the place with their ugly wavy tendrils and complicated horizontal subterranean root systems. I spent a hot, humid morning wrenching most of then out and then saw a come-on email from the local garden centre. They were actually offering porterweeds for $14.99 each! "Fifteen dollars! You threw away all those 15 dollar plants!" groaned hubby. We could have set up a stall by the road, undercut the garden centre. Although I have to say, no one with a modicum of sense plants porterweeds. 

  There was one success story though.. 

A while ago a neighbour donated some giant lilies and this year one of them actually bloomed to welcome us back.

To be continued.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

When Bambi Met Charlie

 Allegany State Park is a great place for a long, energetic ramble.

With all kinds of interesting rock formations.

Like something from Middle Earth...

Fallen trees (tons of them - must have had a big storm)

And fungi we didn't realise were edible (they're called chicken of the woods) - we were too busy looking for non-existent chanterelles.

But wait - who's that peeping out from behind a tree?

The white tail deer seemed totally unafraid. Perhaps used to handouts from park visitors.

She (I assume) was definitely very interested in us.  She stayed around for several minutes. And came closer and closer.

But I think what she was really fascinated by was our doughty companion - the celebrity rescue Yorkie,  Charlie,  whom you may have met before, visiting from New York City and who was racing ahead of us most of the way, putting us to shame.

"Whossat? Never seen anything like you before!" 

"Don't know what all the fuss is about."

Now can we get going please.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020


 Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York state

Winterising is the word that somehow has lodged in my head regarding the pathetic precautions we are trying to take against 1) Deer 2) Icy wind 3) Deer 4) Deer 5) Deer 6) Deer ravaging the garden while we're away. This year we've got  a new kind of fencing for the rhododendrons, mountain laurels and blueberry bushes -  a lot higher, stronger and, well we'll see.

  It was inappropriately good weather for it though.

And I have to say the jungle has been looking pretty heavenly.

The colours already a contrast from a few days ago,

The chrysanthemums aka "mums" in the American way look good enough to eat

The hanging baskets are still hanging in there

Mixed with the black eyed-Susans - I swear this is the last year I'll let them go awol....

And I'm amazed at porch geraniums - why do they do so much better than the others?

But in a few days it'll be every plant for itself. They'd better enjoy life while they can.
Good bye also to the lane

And the cornfields

Because we're shortly heading south again. Not a pleasant meandering road trip as in days gone by but a fast dash with only one overnight stay. Such is the new normal. If we take care to avoid motorbike rallies and the White House we hope we'll come through OK.

Election Sign Latest

 The blog, being foreign, tries not to meddle in local politics but occasionally reports what it sees. 

The current tally of election signs in my usual highly unscientific study  - the route from the village Post Office to the house - now stands at Trump: 12,  Biden: 4.  And the prize for the biggest one I've seen yet goes to..

Well yes, you probably guessed. I expect things may be a little different in Golden Beach.  As I always say, may the best man win.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Yet More Chipmunkery

 The stripy scamps have been at it again. Things have quietened down a bit now but a few days ago the back garden was a hub of frenzied activity. All around the oak tree, acorn-laden fallen twigs. Or rather not fallen but deftly nipped off.

This is not the first year it's happened and while I once puzzled over it, I now know exactly what they're up to. It's a relay. One team member shins up the tree..

There he goes.. (Hang on, aren't they sometimes called ground squirrels?)

To nip off the twigs. While another ...

hoovers the acorns up and scoots off to the tunnel. (Or rather tunnels. There are now so many chipmunk holes that the garden foundations must resemble a Swiss cheese.)

Saving space, evidently, by dumping the acorn hats outside the door. Well at least they're leaving the few tomato stragglers alone.