Monday, January 31, 2022

The Big Freeze Hits Florida!

  All right, it's not like Up North with its bombogenesis but when Florida gets cold, it really feels cold. Once you winter in a warm climate you lose a lot of resilience. Plus you don't have the right clothes. Especially if you've just come down for a couple of weeks in the sun. (I saw a woman walking her dog this morning wrapped up in what looked like a long woolly dressing gown. "Don't look at me!" she said, "It's all I had!") Over the weekend temperatures overnight dropped to freezing. Before that, hubby and I had rushed around covering flowers with sheets - like wrangling with a runaway parachute in the blustery winds and trying to weigh it down with paint cans and hubby's boat anchor. Others had the same idea.  Some of the streets looked like one of those horror films with Egyptian mummies, except they were wrapped plants and bushes.  On Saturday, down at the beach,  the Gulf was all whitecaps and the wind shrieked around our ears.

On Sunday there was supposed to be a gathering - after a long gap - at our beach access. No buffet because of You Know What, just bring yourselves and your own drinks. It was fun but only a few people showed up. I thought it was because of the cold but it turned out there was a football (the American kind) game with the Chiefs playing the Bengals. Apparently the Chiefs got their just desserts after their cruel victory over the poor Buffalo Bills last week.  It was a lovely evening, the sea much calmer but too cold to stay for the sunset.

And this morning there was frost on some lawns, cars and roofs but not on others. And when we uncovered the flowers, we'd lost the contents of just one planter but not the others. Odd, that. Of course freezes in Florida always bring out the Frozen Iguanas stories. I notice the British media loves them.  Here they are old hat. Yes the frozen iguanas do fall out of trees but I've never heard of anyone around here being hit on the head by one. In fact no one around here has actually seen a frozen iguana. Though they do exist, I'm sure. And most of the iguanas recover. What puzzles me are the instructions to drag the iguanas to a safe pot by their tails. If they're an invasive species why are they telling people to rescue them? I hasten to add that if I saw one I would rescue it too, being an alien species myself.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

A Jaunt Through the Jungle

 There's nothing like exploring the wilds of Florida - and believe me, they're still some wilds left - on horseback. And the weather's just perfect for it now. So a couple of times recently we've loaded up the Windsong Farm trailer with its amenable cargo of Cheyenne, Digger, Teagan et al and descended on the local nature reserves. 

 First was a foray into Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park a little way east on 1-75 and which gained some notoriety last summer as the site of the police search for Brian Laundrie, who'd murdered his girlfriend out west - a sad story that captured the headlines for weeks. Then it was the summer rainy season and the park was flooded, one huge, practically impassable swamp. Grisly remains only came to light when it started to dry out. Now, in the winter, it  turns into a picturesque jungle of palm tree groves and old oak trees draped with Spanish moss, with just the occasional rustle in the bushes to remind you that this is no city park.

Soft paths meander past ditches of murky blackness. The dry palmetto fronds rustle, the occasional snake slithers out of the way and the horses are constantly on the alert, ears pricked, well-attuned to real or imagined danger. Once, on a previous ride, Teagan shot straight upwards like a firework from all four legs. I never saw what he'd seen but he may have had good reason. Fortunately he landed in the same place.

Prairie Creek Preserve is closer and here we ride  among trees trailing thick vines (the old Tarzan films were made here) along the wide, languid Myakka River, looking much as it would have done centuries ago with the odd alligator basking on its sandbanks -  or, on this particular day, swimming nonchalantly along - vultures wheeling and a heron fishing in the shallows. The water is brackish - the horses won't drink it but alligators don't mind. This last time, an armadillo trotted across the path - a little visitor from prehistoric times (I saw one once, click-clacking across the road in our neighbourhood). Here many of the sandy paths are churned up by feral hogs and we wonder at large feline footprints. Probably bobcats rather than panthers. Then briefly back to the real world and hikers smiling, "What pretty horses!' and a girl with a tiny, panic-stricken Pomeranian thrashing in her arms, "He's never seen a horse before!" Then it's quiet again, just us and the meandering river, glimpsed through palmetto fronds. "I can see bubbles!" Jennifer said, craning her neck, "Oh" she said, "Not an alligator", as a lone kayaker paddled past. Believe me I would not like to kayak on that river. You're much safer on a horse. 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Warm and Sunny January

 Dateline, Golden Beach, Florida

  The lovely weather continues apace and my year-round friends are frustrated. They'd like to have a chance to wear woolly hats and scarves. We would rather not. Hubby gleefully scrutinises the western New York weather forecast every morning. I look at it here and there and sometimes forget to change the website back to Venice, Florida. You can get a nasty shock first thing in the morning - Huh, WHAT?!  Snow and ice! High of 13 degrees! (Fahrenheit that is.) It's like one of those nightmares when you dream you're back at school taking exams. The Christmas and New Year visitors have largely departed and - until it gets busier again at the end of the month when the short-term "snowbirds" come down - life has returned to the New Normal. Well there have been some exciting moments - an alligator's been found in someone's swimming pool, local ladies have been making quilts for the tornado victims in Kentucky and they've set up a new Covid testing site at the Community Centre, the queues of cars stretching all the way round the island (well almost). 

Building everywhere continues, with an old house being pulled down, it seems,  every day and you have to weave around trucks and cement mixers and builders' vans parked along the narrow roads. - a shame for the pastel-coloured little island houses. They squeeze the new monstrosities into tiny spaces and once you've put in the obligatory glorified bath that passes for a swimming pool and giant, ugly cage over the top of it, there's hardly any back garden left. I know I should say "back yard" but I can't bring myself to do it. One of those "divided by a common language" moments. Recently the Wall Street Journal ran a feature on the British Royal Family's homes and described Buckingham Palace as having "London's largest private backyard". Ugh! That those stately gardens could be called something properly belonging to scrap metal and prisons! 

Monday, January 3, 2022

Here's to a Better 2022....


That's what everyone's saying. Sounds familiar?  "I feel like a sitting duck", my neighbour said gloomily  as we all await the Omicron Tsunami. Still, it was a beautiful Christmastide in Venice - sunny and warm almost every day and plenty of signs that people were getting together with their families. The joggers and runners appearing on the streets, kids looking for sharks' teeth on the beach and wobbling along on their new bikes, the unfortunate frequency of private jets screaming into little Venice airport and fireworks going off at all hours and not just on New Year's Eve.  Evidently the adults have all had electric bikes for Christmas - they are everywhere, creeping up on you silently with their sinister fat black wheels. A friend estimated they now constitute 80 per cent of the traffic on the bike trail. It seems to defeat the purpose of riding a bike in the first place.

Meanwhile I've been counting the different modes of transport for Santa - no electric bikes as yet but so far among the spottings this year a jet ski, an aeroplane, a steam engine, a sailing boat  and of course an elephant, which I pointed out last year.

We will keep our lights until the 12th day of Christmas as usual - though the Epiphany now apparently falls on the 2nd of January, the nearest Sunday to the 6th, because they think people are too lazy to go to church on the 6th. Not true here in Florida I'm sure.
Happy New Year!