What Happens When . . .

. . . you stay indoors, glued to your computer, busy writing a book and ignoring your garden? Well. Disaster, if you love a beautiful garden as much as I do. Oh, my! Beggar’s ticks as high as my head, roses with only 6 leaves left on the plant, coleus that look like they’ve been crawling across the burning sands of the Sahara for weeks. Just a hot mess, in general. My poor, poor back yard! 

The good news is, it was too hot to work outside anyway, so staying inside and working on my book was probably a smarter choice. (And by the way, for those who enjoy romantic suspense, Wake-Robin Ridge will be available to download FREE all day tomorrow, 9/6, thanks to Kindle Select!) The bad news is, I’m going to have to spend weeks weeding, cutting back, digging up, tossing out, and starting over. With the wicked, wicked heat we’ve had this summer, scenes like this are a thing of the past.

Belinda's Dream Rose

But have no fear. Even though it is still in the mid-to-high 90’s every day around here, the evenings are cooling down, finally, and that means temps overall will start becoming more bearable. Which,  in turn, means I can start working outside, at least in the mornings, and get things cleaned up a good bit.  

Afternoons will be spent marketing my new book and working on my book of poetry, Summer Magic. But I can do a LOT in the morning, if I get going early enough. If I prune and feed, the roses will spring back to life again, and moving the coleus into the shade and watering more regularly will probably have them looking good soon, as well. 

One interesting tidbit. Like most Florida yards, we have a plethora of lizards in ours. Tons of the invasive Cuban brown anole, and a few determined green Carolina anoles are racing around everywhere. But this week, I spotted an Indo-Pacific gecko on my back porch. He’s very sweet looking, with smoother skin than the regular lizards and huge, googly night-vision eyes. I’ll try to get a picture of him to post here.  Of course, geckos are not native to Florida, but as far as I know, they are not that common, especially in central Florida. Unlike the hideously invasive Cuban tree frogs, I’ve only ever seen one or two anywhere in the area. (This doesn’t mean that they will never become a problem, of course, but I don’t think they are right now. And so far, I like mine.)

I’m really looking forward to getting some work done outside this weekend, and to getting caught up again on all of my blogs. Writing a book is fantastic, but it is an enormous time-suck that pretty much swallows everything else in your life in one huge gulp. I’m going to plan my hours better when I start my next one! 😀

So tell me, what’s blooming in your garden this late in the year?


Winter On A Florida River


Perfect Weather!

Cool Enough For Comfort, Warm Enough For Basking Alligators

My daughter (who is seven months pregnant with her first baby) and her husband were here for four days last week, on a trip from San Diego.  They are planning a possible move back to the east coast from San Diego after the baby is born, and in addition to visiting with family, are spending some time in Savannah and Charleston, the two cities they are most interested in moving to.  When visiting home, Erin always likes to do as much “Florida” stuff as she can, and this time around, that included an Eco-Tour on the St. John’s River.  The weather was perfect, and the birds and alligators were everywhere.  We saw at least three mama gators with babies piled all over the place, in addition to at least two males in the 12 foot range.  I actually think one of them was larger than that.  It was a whopper!  Highlights of the day included several purple gallinules, a yellow-crowned night heron, wood storks, sandhill cranes, and a very hungry manatee, busily feeding on shoreline vegetation.  This is why people come to Florida in the winter.  Well, and the beaches, of course.  But for many, a peaceful, two hour glide down a Florida river can’t be beat.


Daughter and Hubby, Just Before Embarking On Our Tour


Erin, Busy Doing What She Loves

(This was one of the Mamas, though you can’t see the babies in the photo).


Purple Gallinule

(Photo Found Online)

When Erin sends me some of the really good pictures she took with her various zoom lenses, I’ll share some with you.  These are just iPhone snapshots and an online pic of the gallinule, but they’re all I have right now.  Hope you enjoy seeing what MY world looks like in January.

Critters In The Garden #3

Florida box turtle

Florida Box Turtle

(Click to zoom)

I was tickled to find a Florida box turtle, which is a subspecies of the eastern box turtle, in my front yard last week.  Florida box turtles tend to have more colorful markings than some of their northern counterparts, as this beauty does.  I think it looks like someone painted flowers on his shell. Or maybe they look like little suns, as drawn by a kindergarten artist.  What do you think?

Florida Box Turtle Shell Patterns

 I think this one  is a male, but will have to double check next time I catch him. I checked online for all the ways to tell the difference, and found that besides the shape of the carapace (top of the shell) and plastron (bottom of the shell), there is a difference in eye color, and tail size and width. 

Because he has a healed injury to his shell, I decided to move him into my fenced in backyard, where he can graze among the flower beds.  I may regret this later, but I don’t think one turtle can do anywhere near the damage the squirrels do daily, so I’m taking my chances.  Besides, it’s just so cute.  You can see the old injury on the front edge of his shell, just below his head in this picture.  (Click to see it full size).

Florida subspecies of eastern box turtle

He seems to be making himself at home out there.  Of course, Potter and Maks found him yesterday and again today.  He pulls inside and shuts his shell down completely, and they bark and poke him with their noses, jumping back instantly as though his shell is red hot.  I don’t think they can hurt him, but I still bring them in every time I see them barking at him.  For his part, as soon as he’s sure they are gone, he comes out and hightails it at a surprisingly high rate of speed…for a turtle, anyway.

Side View Florida Box Turtle

I really like this little guy, and hope he will be okay in my backyard.  I think he’s fairly young, but I will be doing some more research on him.  And I don’t want him to be lonely out there.  May have to look for a companion for him.  Don’t want him to become lovesick and sad.

Road Trip Miracles September 15, 2012

For years, I’ve played a little game whenever I start out on a road trip.  I consciously look for omens, which I like to think of as little miracles, to cheer me on the way.  Once I’ve seen one, I always feel like it’s a personal message from my own guardian angel that I will travel safely on my journey and back home again.  My husband scoffs, but I don’t care.  My little miracles make me feel good, so for that reason, I believe in them completely.  I’ll GET there, and BACK, darn it!  That’s my story, an’ I’m stickin’ to it.

Today, I headed out to Leesburg to visit my good friend, Nicki, and I started looking for my little Road Trip Miracles as soon as I pulled out of my driveway.  And guess what?  I didn’t make it half a mile before I saw my first one.  The coolest rainbow, EVER.  It spread from horizon to horizon, but was very low lying, in a way I’ve never seen before.  The closest picture I could find online is this one, which gives you an idea of how low and wide it was.

low-lying rainbow

Low-lying Rainbow

Of course, the rainbow I saw was visible from end to end, almost, and it wasn’t a double like this one.  But I just couldn’t get over how low on the horizon it was.  Now I ask you…is that not a miracle made visible?  Any rainbow makes me smile, and one as unusual as this morning’s made me feel good all over.

As good as it was, the rainbow was not the only treat in store for me this morning.  As I headed west on Hwy 46, just a few miles past the busy I-4 intersection, I spotted a flock of about 15 wild turkeys right on the side of the road, grazing in the grass.  I just love wild turkeys.  They are such interesting birds, and so clever.  (Unlike their farm-raised cousins that end up on our Thanksgiving tables.)  The flock looked very like this one.

flock of wild turkeys

Wild Turkeys Along Side of Road

And lo and behold, about another mile down Hwy 46, I spotted yet another flock of turkeys, this time, with half grown young mixed in.  The young birds looked very much like the one in this photo.  I wish I had been able to stop and take my own pictures, but there was too much traffic and nowhere to pull over that wouldn’t have scared the birds away, anyhow.  The funny thing is, on the way home tonight, I spotted what looked like the same family group in the same place.  Yeah, another Road Trip Miracle, for sure.

Young Wild Turkey

Young Wild Turkey

And two weeks ago, on our way to Gainesville to pick up my 7-year old granddaughter for the weekend, I finally, after more than 30 years of looking and hoping, saw my first Florida black bear along the roadside on Hwy 19, just south of Hwy 40.  Now I know there are lots and lots of black bears in these parts.  People see them all the time.  A friend of mine who lives in the Ocala forest area has trouble keeping them out of her bird feeders and ponds.  But for some reason, I have hiked MILES of Florida trails for years, and never spotted one.  I was so excited to see a young, maybe half grown, bear standing next to the woods, I almost ran the car off the road.  I couldn’t get a picture of him, but I promise you, he looked just like this.

young Florida black bear

Young Florida Black Bear

Now I know that many might think that while it’s nice to see some wildlife and rainbows here and there, there’s no reason to consider them miracles.  And it’s okay if they prefer to view it that way.  But for myself, I like to think that there are miracles all around us every day, if we just open our eyes and look for them.  I try to do that regularly,  but never with more vigor than when I’m starting out on a road trip.

Hope you remember to look for some Road Trip Miracles the next time you head out on the highway.  It makes the journey a lot more fun!