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Author Topic: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)  (Read 7368 times)

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Offline JuliettaRossiTopic starter

Re: New Gardening in Florida
« Reply #25 on: September 27, 2020, 12:32:03 pm »
So, once again, not much has happened over the past couple of weeks. At least it feels like that.

My hibiscus has bloomed a couple more times. The Clarke's Blue morning glories have started blooming. My eggplant is still growing and every day I'm out there trying to hand-polinate each of the new flowers hoping for more eggplants. I've never eaten eggplant outside of a couple of tries over my life of eggplant parm and I hated it. It's a mouth-feel thing I think. I found a couple recipes I would like to try if my eggplant makes it to being full-grown.

More of my morning glories have bloomed, same with the cypress vine flowers and moonflowers. I've started harvesting the seeds from the pods so I can plant even more. I think I've harvested more than I've planted. The lima bean plant I placed into the sidewalk planter has a ton of little flowers on it and it's packed with green pods. I planted cucumber seeds as well over the past two weeks and I have a bunch of little seedlings coming up.

I have a green pepper growing and a couple of little starts of green peppers. The poblano pepper is still growing and I have a fat little green chocolate habanero growing. I'm starting to see little flowers on the handful of pepper plants I have.

I cleaned up the tomato plants – doing what I've been putting off for weeks-months. Most I planted at the start of the year have not made it. It's just been too hot.

The sunflowers are gone from the planters in front of the fence. I've harvested 3 ziplock bags full of seeds. They were decimated by mealy bugs and heat and they turned a rusty color and shriveled and died. I've turned the soil and I planted more sunflowers and corn. I'm hoping the cooler weather will be better (you know...cooler than 100 degrees every day...)

I planted garlic and the beans I planted a couple weeks ago are growing well (black beans, pinto beans and dragon tongue beans) in the tall raised bed planter that I moved the chives and marigolds to. I also planted more potatoes again and they are starting to sprout.  Potatoes are crazy easy to grow and absolutely insane in how they start. Take a potato. Cut it up. Put it in dirt. You'll get these crazy green stalks that grow – out of cut up potatoes. When the stalks turn brown and die you dig them up and there are potatoes in the dirt waiting for you. That's it. It's stupid easy.

I've done a bit more baking. I actually killed my Kitchen Aid mixer. Did you know you could kill them? Ok, so it was more like I broke it's arm. Inside that metal beast of a mixer is a gear that has vinyl teeth. It's made to fail. This is a good thing. Crazy scary when it happens, but it keeps the actual motor from burning up. The mixer makes noise and you know it's still “on” but it's not turning. I was making brioche chocolate chunk pretzel dough. The chocolate had not been added yet – it was just the dough being beaten by the paddle attachment. And wasn't. I finished the pretzels literally by hand – I kneaded the last part – the butter, into the dough, then the chocolate. They came out great if I do say so myself. I had actually made strawberry jam marshmallows just before thankfully. I had played with the idea of making the pretzels first because they had to rise for a little while.

I'm not one of those who chucks the broken thing. This is more than evident in my life. I got the tools out, watched a YouTube video and opened up the Kitchen Aid. It's pretty amazing in there. Full of grease. The gear shredded and there were shards of yellow vinyl in the grease. I needed to open it up to make sure it was the gear – there are multiple pieces that can fail, but this is the main one – meant to fail and very inexpensive to replace and I was hoping beyond hope that it was the problem and it was. I ordered the replacement part (2 of them...just in case) and they arrived thanks to Amazon, 2 days later. The broken mixer sat in pieces on the dining room table until it arrived and 15 minutes later I had a fixed mixer.

« Last Edit: September 27, 2020, 01:06:20 pm by JuliettaRossi »

Offline JuliettaRossiTopic starter

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #26 on: October 28, 2020, 09:22:36 pm »
It's been a month... I feel like nothing has happened and I'm exhausted.

There has been very little in the way of gardening. It's still been too hot outside, too humid. I have still been hand-pollinating the eggplant (or at least trying to - nothing has taken yet). Most of tomatoes have died in the heat. My marigolds have bloomed and the beans are growing in the raised bed. I've been harvesting more and more lima beans out front along the walk way as well as seeds from the cypress vine and the morning glories. I've harvested so many seeds I'm considering selling them - I'll never be able to use them all!

The bell pepper never got very big but its already turning red, so it's ready to pick. The poblano is still growing well. I harvested some more okra and the one eggplant - all of which were fed to the squirrels. My two days off from work started at 5 pm today. I'm hoping to get outside and plant some more things. The weather should be turning a bit better, so I'm hoping I'll be able to tolerate being outside. I've baked a bit as well - oatmeal raisin cookies and chocolate chip zucchini bread and my first try at making Italian Rainbow Cookies. They didn't last long enough to actually get pictures of them cut... I'll be making more of those. During the next 4 days I'll also be experimenting with mirror glazing hopefully - add one more skill to the arsenal.

We are already thinking about Thanksgiving and what will be made. We are trying to figure out how we will all get together during a pandemic – if it will be like previous years, as if nothing else was actually going on. No one has traveled. This would be essentially the first time any of us will be really going anywhere or seeing anyone outside of home. Most of us have done nothing but quarantine at home for the sole purpose it feels that we might be able to do Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have a couple of recipes that are made every year that have become staples, but I'll be adding more this year I think, especially since I'm working from home and I have more time off this year than I ever have previously. Before I was always stressed for time and almost never had time off before Thanksgiving to bake. This year...I have time off starting from the Friday the week before! I'll have so much time to bake and I'll have pictures...

A couple of days ago a next door neighbor let us know that there was a baby squirrel outside. So...we have a new baby. Mom didn't make it and we found out today there was another baby that didn't make it either. The little girl is tiiiiinnnnnny! She's feisty though and she seems to be doing well. We had just released of our other squirrels about a week or two ago. Here we are with a new little one. At least she's past syringe feeding and she doesn't scream like other little ones have done. She's currently sleeping in her sock, sitting on my knee while I watch last Sunday's 60 Minutes.

I try not to bring “real life” into my writing on this blog, but I feel like politics and the pandemic are getting to me a little. The passing of RBG and the disgusting rush to push ACB into the empty position. Down to her wearing almost the identical handmaid's tale dress during questioning (Even though she's more of a wife ready and willing to give up rights and freedoms than an Offred any day). I'm just...I can't. Everything we watch is recorded so I can fast forward through the political trash. Election Day can't come fast enough. My cousin is offering help if we seek asylum in France. If I had the ways and means we would already be over there. I also can't speak French - I've tried. Everything comes out with a Spanish accent lol

Offline Oniya

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #27 on: October 29, 2020, 11:09:16 pm »
I don't know if you're aware, but Bob Ross used to have a squirrel friend.

Offline JuliettaRossiTopic starter

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #28 on: November 04, 2020, 08:17:52 pm »
Aww, I was not aware of this :) I find out more and more that squirrels are a normal-ish pet of sorts with the more people I meet. I don't know if it's just here in Florida with the storms we have - there is a propensity for squirrels raining down during high winds and storms. We have met quite a number of people who have rescued and/or kept the squirrel inside after the discovery. We get busy during hurricane season - luckily, this year has been relatively quiet and we have not been busy with critters. Things have been crazy enough without having (more) squirrels to add to the issues.

Offline RedPhoenix

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #29 on: November 04, 2020, 08:40:42 pm »
What a beautiful garden and adorable little fuzzy friend. :)

Offline JuliettaRossiTopic starter

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #30 on: December 06, 2020, 10:15:48 am »
The day after I posted the last entry our car died - while driving. Just shut off. Luckily we were not on a busy road and there was area to pull off immediately. We coasted to a stop and sat there for the next two hours waiting for AAA - around the corner from our home (because you have to be there for the tow truck). Once the truck got there and took away our car, we walked home - thankfully, as stated, around the corner from our house essentially because while Covid-19 rages, the tow truck drivers aren't taking passengers. We ended up burning out the starter trying to figure out what was going on - was it the battery? The alternator? The starter? We had it towed to a mechanic from our home. He replaced the starter, but couldn't for the life of him, figure out what was going on. It just would not turn over. There was a recall on the car. We had it towed to the nearest dealership. They kept it a week, supposedly fixed the recall issue and said it was running. Ubered to the dealership, to get back a car that now drove with a concerning knocking sound coming from the engine. The car died again while driving a week later - with the knocking intensifying and unable to go over 2500 rpm/speed up with any urgency. We had been driving between 35-40 mph most of the time during the week. When it died you could hear a "gurgling" sound coming from the engine... When it died, we were in traffic, but able to coast into a car dealership. We once again waited for AAA and Ubered home. This time we had it taken directly to another dealership location. They kept it a week before doing the test needed to figure out that it was due to the recall on their engines. Despite the aggravation and inconvenience, we are getting a new engine free of charge and we have a rental car paid for by the dealership. We have no timeline for getting our vehicle back though... Thankfully it's a really nice rental vehicle...

During this time, we spent A LOT of time at home. Very little of it was spent outside as the heat turned up here. It was mostly work and during the weekend working on side business stuff (more may be revealed in the coming months). I harvested seeds from the vines out front. The vines are looking horrible. I need to cut most of it back, replace the netting with something a bit more durable in this Florida heat - it started disintegrating and just shredding, so we pulled most of the netting down. The only parts left are those with vines, but even in that area it has started to shred under the weight of the vines.

The sunflowers I planted earlier are all starting to bloom. I think these are the lemon sunflowers. They didn't get as tal as I thought they might! I had visions of the the height of the autumn beauty sunflowers. These only grew about 2 feet tall then bloomed. I have corn coming up as well - about the same height right now.

I did harvest more okra, another eggplant and one lone poblano pepper. I have another pepper growing and the eggplant plants are full of flowers. The marigolds are blooming. I harvested what little black eyed peas grew and I'm still harvesting little lima beans out front. I did have a little lizard that took up residence on one of the leaves of the black eyed pea plants. Every day I would go outside and he was on the same leaf. It was very cute. I loaned out my seed book to a relative and haven't gotten it back so I can't plant anything right now.

Thanksgiving came and went. It was a small very strange affair. There were people missing this year - family held 3 different Thanksgivings around the state instead of us all coming together. It was the first time without my Uncle. He's pretty much my father figure. My cousins are very much like my brothers and sisters to me - or at least as close as I know to that. I'm an only child raised by a single mother. Unfortunately we don't know how to scale down...there was once again so much food - definitely something to be thankful for - it created those leftovers to feed us all for the coming days. We needed that little bit of get together time - even if it was just a handful of us, it was quality time spent with family. Everyone is back to quarantining in order for us ALL to be together for Christmas.

For Thanksgiving I made the stuffing this year - a recipe passed down from grandma. I don't know if you've ever had cornbread stuffing - raw. Yes, I mean eat it raw. It's fabulous. Screw concerns of salmonella. I think it's better raw than cooked honestly. I bought more supplies to make more this week. We had two turkeys - one fried, one smoked. My cousin did great with both. His girlfriend, who I adore, makes absolutely wonderful riced cauliflower with garlic and mozzarella and cream cheese. I need her recipe - I have all the supplies for that too! As for me - I baked. And baked. There was the yearly spice cookies and pumpkin dip, a perfect pumpkin roll (thank you British Baking Show), fresh cranberry sauce, pecan pie brownies, yeast rolls, and two kinds of French macarons - pomegranate, with homemade pomegranate jam centers, and pumpkin spice cheesecake macarons. If you've never seen pomegranates, never peeled them, tasted them, they are beautiful. The inside is packed with little garnet gems. It's one of my favorite fall flavors.

Next up is Christmas. Time to start looking at recipes and making a plan. It looks like we will be traveling south for the holiday. It's been a year since I've been home due to the virus and car issues (we were supposed to head down there the end of Oct/early Nov).

Offline JuliettaRossiTopic starter

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #31 on: January 01, 2021, 09:55:50 am »

Happy New Year from the land of falling iguanas and absolute crazy people.

We got our car back after Thanksgiving – complete with a brand new engine free of charge due to the recall. Don't buy a KIA. You've been warned.

I fell after Thanksgiving. I fell hard. Off a step-stool onto the concrete walkway while cutting down the old morning glory and cypress vines out front. I fell backward and onto my back with my head bouncing off the (thankfully) grassy ground – the concrete stopped just above my shoulders. I kinda got lucky...kinda? My back has been killing me. I think I had a slight concussion – complete with headaches and soreness, my neck aching. I also tweaked a wrist that I put out to try to catch myself (and I guess thankfully caught nothing, but hit the concrete instead).

Needless to say, I haven't done much of anything since. It hurts to stand for more than a few minutes. With walking in even less time. I'm spending a lot of time on the heating pad and have been taking an insane amount of ibuprofen (for me). I have done nothing – absolutely nothing outside since falling.

I made French macarons for a repeat customer for a baby shower and she allowed me free reign for design and sent me a picture of the cake to go on. There is nothing more that an artist, a baker, a designer, etc loves than when a client gives you a theme and says go for it.

We did go down south for the holidays. I got to see a handful of family members – all of us have been quarantining in order for this to happen. Still there were some who couldn't make it. My uncle has Covid, He likely got it from his wife who is a nurse. There are absolutely no protective measures happening in their area of Georgia. The facility my aunt is working at has no criteria except feeling well or not feeling well. They aren't testing, aren't checking temperature. I doubt they are wearing masks. This is deep in denial/hoax/”it's only the flu” country. On Christmas day my uncle was allowed out of his quarantine room to watch presents being opened by other family members. He wore a mask and sat off in the dark while everyone else didn't wear masks – with my aunt there among everyone while she is the one taking care of him. He's been in and out of the hospital with this and he has extenuating circumstances that make him more likely to die from Covid as well.

I did get some baking done for the holidays. I was really feeling those German Christmas roots this year. I made a triple chocolate gingerbread bundt cake, pfeffernusse cookies, Gingerbread men and trees complete with royal icing, and lots of marshmallows – roasted pineapple, espresso, toasted coconut, and eggnog (made with fabulous Farm Stores eggnog). I planned to make French macarons, but with the humidity, the egg whites wouldn't whip. They were going to be cute too... Oh well. We had more than enough though, which I'm more than thankful for.

Today I will be making black eyed peas with hamhocks and extra ham along with some golden cornbread drizzled with honey to usher in the new year. Hopefully 2021 will be a better year for many.

Offline JuliettaRossiTopic starter

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #32 on: January 31, 2021, 12:12:44 pm »
So I mentioned I fell during my last post. It has gotten to the point where standing for more than a couple minutes is excruciating and walking is worse and can only been done for a few minutes before my body is screaming. I ended up at the ortho doc and after a few x-rays was deemed to have no fractures, but a number of bulging discs and the doctor seemed to want to talk more about my right hip since I had been there a few years previous due to having hip pain, which he now stated "oh yeah, you already had arthritis going on back then." However...back then he never mentioned anything about arthritis. I have bad legs. Period. Just bad. As a child I wore corrective braces on my legs. I show no real trace of any birth issues now and didn't after probably age 3 or 4, but I still "feel" the problems if that makes any sense. My hips pop out of place, especially my right hip, my ankles turn and buckle at the any given point and my knees give and kill when I kneel down. When I stand, my left leg is straight, toes point forward, while my right foot points at about a 15-20 degree angle. If you weren't trained to look at how someone stands or holds themselves, you probably wouldn't notice. Ballet foot positions came easy because I'm able to turn my ankles more than the 180 degree plane, but I had bad hips... so dancing was out. Couldn't run because my ankles would twist and down I'd go. I have always envied people being able to run. It looks so "freeing" and it was something sporting that could be done alone and as an only child that was something I looked for.

I know I'm getting arthritis in my fingers. I feel it when I work on crafting things - especially crocheting which I've been doing a lot of. As of Dec 22, we have a new family member. I was taught one stich years ago by a friend and that one stitch has enabled me to make a number of blankets. I made the new baby two blankets and finally, after many years, learned a new stitch and made a crocheted dress for her out of a pretty purple yarn. I also broke out the sewing machine and made a dozen burp cloths for her - well, for mom and dad. I taught myself how to do needle felting and made a mobile for the baby as well based off one mom picked out based on the woodland theme of the nursery.

I've been taking my fiancee's medicine for a while to help with the arthritis in my fingers and he takes a muscle relaxer I sometimes take for my back, but nothing has been really helping my back. The doctor prescribed a new muscle relaxer which knocked me out, so I can only take it at night, so I'm without relief during the day still. While at my cousin's house he gave us gummies - you know the kind - the good kind. We have been discussing getting our medical marijuana card for a little while and my fiancee finally started the process on Friday. On Saturday I had my first (part of a) gummy. Wow. Well, it was more than I needed. But I feel SOOOOO much better. Every so often the pain signal from my back reminds me - "you should be in pain," "you shouldn't be able to be doing what you're doing right now" and I can't help but be thankful for it. To be able to wash dishes without needing to stop and sit or bend over to relieve the pressure in my back is amazing after dealing with this. I slept well too.

Now...seriously. Munchies are a thing. When I was younger, dumber and had a lot less responsibility in life and smoking pot was a regular for me, I never got the munchies. I never understood it. I got quiet and somewhat sleepy. It was relaxing and I could turn my head off. With the gummies, we made a pact not to cook or bake while using them. I had already baked - 2 loaves of zucchini bread (which we left half of each loaf over at my cousin's house - one with chocolate chips, and one without) and a batch of lemon blueberry bundt cakes (which left most of over at my cousins house as well). My fiancee ended up eating all of his (non-chocolate chip) half loaf. I ended up eating two of the mini bundt cakes.

Today I feel better. I don't have this ever-present pain. I should be able to get outside and actually work in the garden. I bought some stackable towers from the dollar store for planting herbs in. My goal is to get them all planted today. If I'm still feeling good after that, I plan on getting all the vines down from out front and cleaning up the plant beds. I have a lot of clean up to do out there since not being able to get outside really since Thanksgiving.

My cousin has also bought a food truck - a brand new one. He will be selling homemade small-batch artisan ice cream, some with alcohol content. he will also be doing milk shakes and fresh-squeezed lemonade, iced coffees and teas as well. I will be adding to his truck offerings, which is why my back pain has been especially troubling. If I'm unable to be on my feet, I'm unable to spend much time baking. I've been working on recipes and still have more to do. Here are some of the things I've been working on.

Lemon Blueberry Baby Bundt Cakes, Chocolate Chip Cookies (once I adjust the portion, the cookies should be around 8 oz, or half a pound. Yes, half-pound cookies...), Fresh Florida Strawberries & White Chocolate Chip Cookies. I will also be making French macarons, marshmallows and a variety of brownies, blondies, bundt cakes, etc for the truck. They already did one of their pictures with one of my vanilla bean marshmallows toasted on top of the ice cream. With more baking will come more pictures.... More goodies to come!

Offline RedPhoenix

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #33 on: January 31, 2021, 12:19:48 pm »
As someone who has bad legs myself, you have my sympathies. :(

And a half pound cookie! O.o

Offline JuliettaRossiTopic starter

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #34 on: February 28, 2021, 09:09:19 pm »
Since the last posting, I've not done much. My back has just been too bad. The netting and dead vines are down from the front walkway. I did clean up the side  yard a bit as well. Nothing got planted. I'm hoping to get some of that done today. Some of my plants have survived. I still have a bit of swiss chard growing. In fact, one of the plants bolted – a flower stalk shooting up from the center of the plant with beautiful yellow flowers with a light almost honey scent to them. I think the eggplant liked the cold weather snap we had. It's flowering like crazy and I'm hoping I'll get at least one eggplant out of it as the weather here turns HOT again already. The rosemary is coming back, as is the African blue basil. I have a bloom on one of the pepper plants.

I readied the planters I got from the dollar store last week and planted the mint plant that we got from the grocery that was near dying. It's now got new healthy leaves starting to grow. I honestly didn't think it would survive. I also planted seeds for a few kinds of basil, as well as thyme, cilantro, parsley, sage. I was able to get a flat of spineless okra planted as well before the mosquitoes were eating me alive and ran me back inside. It's not so much the heat right now as it is the mosquitoes. They are absolutely killer right now. It is warmer than normal here for this time of year - which I'm hoping doesn't foretell what the rest of the year will be like because if this is the trend, I might as well just limit what I'm going to plant right now if it's going to be anything like last year.

On a sadder note, we lost one of our squirrels - the one we have had the longest - almost 5 years. His name was RePete (my grandpa had a squirrel and his name was Pete) and he was the squirrel that started us rehabbing. He literally dropped into our lives in July 2016 at around 11:30 at night. I heard screaming coming from the back yard. The house we were living in had NO lights in the back. I opened one of the sliding glass doors and the sound stopped. I closed the door and walked away and heard it again, so I went outside with my phone flashlight shining and followed the sound to a tiny baby squirrel covered in red ants biting it in the planter bed. I grabbed him immediately, brought him in and pulled all the red ants off him and cleaned him up, put some ointment on the bites and we started looking up what to do next. The next morning we found the nest on our deck. There were no trees in our backyard, so something - possibly an owl, dropped the nest and the baby squirrel that was inside it. I ended up bringing him into work with me - which thankfully my bosses were okay with since I needed to feed him every 2 hours (The next year I brought in 11 baby squirrels during a particularly bad hurricane season, which they were also okay with - at that point I had help with people at work taking shifts during lunch to feed them and they slept most of the time anyway lol.)

We woke up one morning and he couldn't move his back legs and was very lethargic. We didn't know what happened to him - still don't. He was running around just fine the night before and we had given him paper to shred which was one of his favorite things to do. We found a local vet that also treats squirrels and took him in. With the pandemic, they were not allowing people inside, so a nurse came out to pick up our baby and his carrier. After a very long day they called to let us know that he had fractured his spine and his quality of life was nil. He couldn't urinate, so he would end up with infections and pain if we let him live like this. They allowed us to come back and inside to a room to say goodbye to him. They had already dosed him with pain medication, but he was different with the drugs in him. He was upset and stressed. We said our goodbyes and he was put to sleep.

Now, we had lost squirrels during rehab previously. They are delicate creatures prone to head trauma and respiratory problems and it comes with the territory. I cried with each one we lost. It's heartbreaking to care for a creature and even though you try to do everything you can for them, they don't make it. Your entire roll is to just get them healthy enough, old enough to be on their own (since every one of the squirrels we rehabbed were from babies), and release them back to the wild. Each one we lost was hard. I had even expressed probably a week previous that I couldn't take on another animal – I couldn't take the chance of losing another one. I didn't want to go though that again if I could help it, taking rehabbing off the table for a while if not indefinitely. I couldn't stop crying the night we put him to sleep. I couldn't sleep, couldn't get out of my head enough to get some rest. It's hard even writing about this. They are such sweet creatures – amazing, funny, each one with their own unique personality.

We still have two squirrels. One will not be released. He's too gentle and we are pretty sure he has some neurological issues. He doesn't really jump, doesn't bite, doesn't use his nails (he actually angles his paws upward so he won't hurt you with his nails), he doesn't move fast either (which would make him an easy target for other larger animals like cats and dogs in the neighborhood). We have a female though, that we are transitioning to release. She's fast and smart and she will do well outside. We should be able to release her in a couple weeks or so. She is the little squirrel in the October 28 posting – the one that the neighbor notified us was outside, orphaned, the mother killed.

Now on to other happier things. I've been playing with cookie recipes again. I found one I liked, tweeked it a bit and made some super soft cut out cookies and techniques with icing them. I can't stand hard cut out cookies  it just reminds me of eating sugary drywall. I can't tell you how much I HATE making cookies as well. They are time and labor intensive. I however, spent hours playing with these after perusing Pinterest for a while.  From piping to brushing to dipping the cookies, I played with a number of techniques. I don't think I did bad for a beginner with this. I have a cousin who's wife is an absolute artist with cookies. They are simply amazing and I don't know how she does it but if I can keep practicing, and perhaps become even a small fraction of what she is with cookies, I'll be more than happy.

My mom came up for a weekend and we went out to a Peach Blossom Festival. I didn't know we had peach orchards here in Florida, but apparently there is least one lol. They opened up the orchard for people to take portraits and such on one side and on the other they had citrus trees and a pavilion where they had people set up with crafting and food booths. I had never seen peach blossoms and they are gorgeous. I got some yummy fried donuts coated in cinnamon sugar as well as a container of dill goat cheese from Slow Turtle Farm. The kids are part of 4-H and raise their own goats, show them at 4-H competitions, and they make all kinds of cheeses from the milk. The kids are there from start to finish – including out with the booth, offering up samples of the cheeses their goats have helped to make, hawking their goods to people walking by.

We went from the Peach Blossom Festival down to see my cousin since it was opening day for his food truck and I had cookies, marshmallows and brownies to deliver. He's done well and has already been accepted to a food truck group downtown. He has really put his heart, soul and all his money into this and we are all so proud of him. We met him and his girlfriend at the truck last weekend at a new location that hadn't really worked out. Once we got there they were already packed up and ready to leave – a bit down that they had spent hours there and made very little money due to the location. We offered up a nearby park and headed out. In half an hour they made a few hundred dollars at least and I got my cookies & cream fix. We will be meeting them on Tuesday at the food truck gathering downtown to get another dose of ice cream. He was contacted by a local restaurant that wants to pair with him for ice cream so I have pralines to make for delivery on Tuesday to him. It's a pairing with one of their porter beers and they are looking for something unique. I'm sure he will offer up something wonderful to them and I'm happy to help!

March should bring more planting, a trip to the Florida Strawberry Festival and perhaps a trip to the beach. And of course...more ice cream.... Hopefully I'll have more bakery treats to experiment with as well.

Offline JuliettaRossiTopic starter

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #35 on: March 20, 2021, 02:07:26 pm »
I always feel like I haven't done much between writings. It's the weekend again. Doors are wide open, it's beautifully cool outside which here pairs with gray and overcast skies blocking out whatever sun may have a chance to shine. I love days like this here just as much as I love the bright blue, not a wisp of cloud in the sky kind of days. Cool days are few and far between here in Florida.

If my back holds up at all, I'll be outside planting more seeds. I've started going to the chiropractor. I had my first session on Tuesday. By that night I was in so much pain I couldn't sleep more than an hour at a time, passing out from simply being exhausted and helped by muscle relaxers that didn't seem to be touching the pain anymore. I haven't been able to do much of anything after the chiro session. I canceled my second appointment  and I'll go back again next Tuesday for a medical massage which another chiropractor session on Thursday. I don't start PT until half-way through April due to availability and the hours I need to work.

I did feel well enough to get outside and do some planting. I seeded the herb containers, planted lima beans, black beans, pinto beans, dragon tongue beans, two kinds of peas, sunflowers, and the peach pits I'd been saving the past couple of months to plant. Something has dug up a couple of the beans, which I'll replant again... Seedlings are already popping through the surface. Sage and basil are starting to come up. There are Spineless and Baby Bubba okra varieties coming up – squirrel food at out house.

I cleaned up a lot of the planting prep area – emptied old pots of the soil, tilled it, prepped the seedling containers, made some sophisticated plant identification devices – you'll see them in the pictures. I have actually played with writing utensils though – popsicle sticks aren't the best writing surfaces – they absorb some inks, some smear, some bleed like crazy, others wash away immediately in the rain. I'm now using Sharpie fine paint pens, letting them dry and painting over them with clear nail polish. It gets frustrating when you buy a million different tomato or pepper seed varieties and then they are growing months later and you can't read what's on the damn popsicle stick any more....

We went out to the Strawberry Festival in Plant City like I had hoped. It had been so long since I had been to something like this I didn't even care about the cost to get in and see the place. With my back, there was no way I could go on any of the rides, and quite honestly I wouldn't have even survived waiting in the long lines. I did enjoy walking around the midway area and have a new found respect for my mother having taken me as a child to the Youth Faire in Dade County. I told her this after we got back and she laughed. I didn't remember the lines. I remembered the rides! I didn't remember waiting. The midway at that festival was huge and atop asphalt. The Strawberry Festival is on faire ground – soft soil strewn with hay to help soak up spilled drinks. I have fond memories of the stupid games – tossing ping pong balls into small goldfish balls – every year coming home with a new “pet” fit for our tiny apartment that would die within a few days. I now of course, feel horrible for those small fish – how scared they must have been having obnoxious children toss a white ball bigger than they were into their temporary home, then hauled around , jostled in the car and dumped into a bowl and (hopefully) fed flaked food until they stopped swimming and floated belly-up, only to be flushed.

The Strawberry Festival was VERY different from what I remember. It was almost completely buy-sell booths inside of buildings – demonstrations of innovative pots and pans, handbags, clothing, jewelry, tchotches no one seriously needs. We did buy some honey from a local beekeeper and spent some time looking at an artist's work on metals with all kinds of non-traditional paints. There were food booths selling strawberry shortcake, fudge, tarts, shakes, skewered and dipped in chocolate interspersed between these booths but we didn't try any of them – the lines were extremely long. There were a TON of food booths outside which of course was par for the course, and a handful of livestock and plant showings inside the stadium corridors. I recall as a child there were demonstrative exhibitions – I was part of 4-H at one school in south Florida, so I didn't have an animal to show, but we did speeches about the animals we studied in class. I was always amazed at the livestock showings as a city kid. For kids like me it was a connection to your food and products you used. Most kids raised in urban areas don't get to see the beginnings. The first time I made a connection between pumpkin pie and a fucking PUMPKIN was at my aunt's house as she cut up an actual pumpkin and roasted it and MADE a pumpkin pie. Before that pumpkin pie just showed up at Thanksgiving. It came from the store. You may laugh, but quite honestly, city kids have a disconnect with their food and a lot don't have fresh vegetables and fruits because they are food deserts. These festivals were always a chance to show those kids what they had never seen or experienced before.

We bought a flat of strawberries when we were walking back to the car. I wanted a strawberry onion, but the farmers outside of the festival selling them were only taking cash and by the time we got out of the festival we had no more cash. What is a strawberry onion you might ask? Never heard of one? They are amazing large onions that are grown next to the strawberries. They have a different flavor – something a bit sweeter but not like a Vidalia. So, we had strawberry French toast, strawberry syrup, and strawberry pie!

We went out to see my cousin at his truck a few times over the past month. He's doing quite well with his new business. After one of the ice cream stops we went into Sprouts market and bought a variety of oranges and a bag of blood oranges. I've juiced the blood oranges and I'm going to make a sorbet with that. I also juiced a bag of lemons to make lemonade with.

For Pi Day I made 2 pies. I had never made either before – a French Silk Pie and a Banoffee Pie. I didn't use a normal flasky crust for the French Silk, but a chocolate graham crust which I liked a lot better. I grated my own chocolate and made the graham cracker shell for the Banoffee Pie and whipped up heavy cream for the whipped cream topping on both. I also didn't have a can of dulce de leche (I know right?!) so I boiled a can of condensed milk. At first it looked like it would work, but after a day in the fridge, it was liquidy – it seemed to de-caramalize for some reason.  It was still rich and delicious and fabulous over ice cream! I don't think I'd make the Banoffee Pie again. Its simply too rich.

Offline JuliettaRossiTopic starter

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #36 on: April 10, 2021, 12:55:02 pm »
I've started the gardening for the year. I spent a bit of money at Lowes & Home Depot – we bought a peach tree!!! I'm technically from the south, so I'm excited about this. We also bought a blackberry plant and a raspberry plant. I got some more soil since I always seem to be running out, along with more seeds. My mother contributed to my delinquency this month as well – she bought us a red maple, a pussy willow and a magnolia tree. I've included a picture of a small portion of my new seeds.

I've been planting a LOT of things. So far I'm up to 80 different plants from seed that I've started. This doesn't mean all 80 will take of course, and I'm hoping this summer won't be as bad as last and most of them will make it. I had a set back with the local birds as well. They effectively set me back an entire week by digging with their beaks and eating ALL the seeds I planted after coming home from Lowes. I have a few kinds of cucumbers, a bunch of kinds of beans, carrots, a few kinds of corn, a bunch of peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, spaghetti squash, zucchini, peppers, pumpkins, and a variety of flowers, including a variety of sunflowers. And yes, I use all kinds of things for planting - including plastic cups. It's not because I don't have an over abundance of pots, because I do, thanks to a nursery getting rid of all their season's pots last year, but because with the clear cups I can see root development. I usually only used the clear cups for corn and sunflowers - plants that get large quickly and have quick-growing roots. This way I know when to plant them into the garden beds.

I don't know what I'll do if everything sprouts/grows. I will find places for everything until I can't – and then I'll give away or sell any extras to fund my derangement.

The dragon tongue beans have taken off better than I expected and they have already come out of the starter container and I've transplanted them to small pots. They didn't do well last year, but if they will cooperate this year I'll plant as many as possible. I did replant another 6 seeds once I got the first 6 transplanted. The okra is coming up as well. The cypress vine has all sprouted and the morning glories are starting to peek through the dirt.

I ended up gifting one of the dragon tongue bean plants to a woman I met online who gifted me some of her tiny Everglades tomatoes(bottlecap for size) – a local variety that are adorable. I've already smooshed one and hopefully I will also have my own Everglades tomatoes this year.

We are working on two new raised beds and a butterfly/bee/fairy garden – which is what the flowers are going to be for. These are all in the beginning stages with one of the raised beds done, but not painted – I should be doing that today. It is already filled with my new strawberry roots and I may plant sweet white onions in the same bed as well. I haven't decided what will be planted in the other raised bed yet. I'm thinking maybe beans, and I have some very cute petite carrots I'm hoping will grow and this might be a perfect spot for them. Maybe some lettuce as well, but that's pretty temperamental here in the Florida heat.

I am working on what I will be baking for a friend's wedding next weekend. It's no where near her first time around, but hopefully this one is the last one – we like him a lot. They are kinda like the Brady Bunch – he has 3 kids, she has 3 kids and they found a huge house to buy just as everything was happening for them, so things sort of just fell into place. I'm planning on making their wedding cake big enough for just them (strawberry cake with homemade strawberry jam and strawberry buttercream and fresh strawberries)  which they have no clue about. They are just expecting to have cupcakes – which I'll be making as well – green velvet with cream cheese frosting and vanilla cupcakes (at her request) with green and white frosting. I'm also planning on soft sugar cookies in the shape of hearts and dipped in lemon flavored icing that will be marbled in green and white and French macarons in green with a strawberry jam and buttercream filling, and off-white with a green spray of color with homemade peach jam and buttercream filling. So...I'm going to be this is all while working my regular 9-5.

All of this will depend on my back & hip and how I'm feeling. I have stopped going to the chiropractor. I just didn't feel anything but pain after going. Now, the medical massage was different. I went back to him this Thursday. He did wonders for me a couple weeks ago. I was able to walk around for hours without pain. It kinda wore off as the week went on, but I felt the difference. He wasn't available this past week so I found another massage therapist that takes my HSA card and went to him. He had a completely different way of doing things. The first massage therapist was all hand-on. I was in so much pain walking in and I didn't even care about the sounds I was making – knowing he was actually helping me. Anyone walking by the door might have heard something and thought there was something a bit more naughty going on inside. He was frigging amazing. I was seriously in the start of play headspace when leaving. The second massage therapist was hands-on, but not the entire time. He also used silicone cups – which didn't hurt as bad as glass cups, stretching and an electric massager. He did this thing with his hands though that was fucking amazing – he made them feel like waves on my lower back. That is the best way I can even explain it. Like a woman doing the hula and that thing they do with fingers, but applied to your lower back and with amazing pressure. It was near orgasmic. I didn't leave going into headspace, but instead a bit lightheaded, I think it was because he actually worked on my neck and shoulders while the first masseuse did not and loosened things up a bit. The first masseuse had this new age music interspersed with a guy talking, which was bothersome, while the second masseuse talked the entire time he worked on me, which was also a bit bothersome, but also, strangely...not.

It's odd for me to have a stranger touch me while I'm near to undressed. It feels like it's been ages since I've been to the dungeon, but even then, I was only playing with my partner/Dom and in rare instance in tandem with other Doms/their subs, so to just undress and have someone work on me – while also being a very non-touchy person – is just “not me.” I'm an adherent of do not touch what isn't yours. Consent is beautiful and I've enjoyed playing with others when everyone was familiar and friends. Not knowing the person I'm about to spend half an hour with being pretty intimate – talking about medical issues/history as well as all kinds of things about your life, plus having them massage me goes against everything in me.

And some random gardening pictures...Baby Bubba Orka, Raspberry, Green Pepper, Jalapeno, Eggplant flower, and the start of Skyscraper Sunflowers.

Offline Flower

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #37 on: April 11, 2021, 04:11:36 pm »
I always look forward to your updates. Hoping you have an amazing planting season. ^_^

Offline JuliettaRossiTopic starter

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #38 on: May 02, 2021, 11:17:06 am »
Thank you so much Flower!!! It's always nice to hear people are reading my blog and enjoying it :)

Offline JuliettaRossiTopic starter

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #39 on: May 02, 2021, 12:51:23 pm »
It's been a couple of weeks. I'm running out of room and I keep running out of gardening soil....Happy May Day and Blessed Beltane!

I'm still starting more and more plants even though I don't know where I will put everything. I've put off planting the tomatoes to the end now and this will likely bite me in the ass later as the Florida heat ramps up. I spent the day outside yesterday planting more seeds, transplanting seedlings into larger containers, watching Hulu and listening to music, and eating a peanut butter sandwich while drinking a cold Strawberry Cider Boys. I've been cleaning up the area little by little. I swept the area out, consolidated pots (I have bags of pots), cleaned off the prep table and as I would make room on the main table by moving an entire tray down to the bench I was working on to transplant seedlings, I'd use a large paint brush to clean the table of any dirt, leaves, etc.

The raised bed for the strawberries and onions was completed. They are all growing well. If I knew strawberries were this easy I would have been growing those all along – at least I'll eat strawberries where as the bulk of what I get to grow I just won't. I'm not a fan of vegetables.... Strange, right? There's a handful of veggies I like – usually the ones that people either love or hate – mushrooms, asparagus, cauliflower (but not broccoli – yuck!), some bell peppers but they have to be very lightly cooked – still have crunch to them for me to enjoy – same with the cauliflower or carrots. I won't eat carrots if they've been cooked, but cauliflower mash mixed with cheese and cream cheese and seasonings....I love. It's then unhealthy. Corn, potatoes and tomatoes are good too. I've been unsuccessful growing cauliflower and I think I might try asparagus crowns next year. I started asparagus from seed a couple years ago, but doing it that way can take years to actually get to harvest anything.

The raised bed for the beans was also completed and I've transplanted all the bean plants into it. I have been unsuccessful with lima beans this year – which were the only ones that actually grew last year. I've not given up though. I will likely plant more lima beans as well as some pinto beans this weekend. Right now I have Dragon Tongue Beans, Black Beans, Cowpeas (blackeyed peas), Purple Hull Cowpeas, and I've grown a handful of “small red bean” plants grown from grocery store beans. We use them a lot in red beans & rice instead of kidney beans (yuck!). I've got a few of those to plant again this weekend as well.

The trellis for part of the front walkway is done and I'll be transplanting the cucumbers there. We are creating two more trellis panels for the morning glory and cypress vine for the walkway portion closer to the front door. The cotton twining from last year just fell apart and tore after baking in the sun and heat here, so these are all wood. Another trellis panel is placed on one side of the front porch and this will support the morning glory vine I think. There is already a gardenia “bush” there, so perhaps I will plant more white flowers in that spot. I say “bush” because it's honestly a sad sad gardenia. It seems to struggle in this spot. I don't know why – perhaps too much sun. It gets close to dying every year, but survives and flowers again. I will be planting more there that will hopefully give it a little shade and maybe that might help.

The flower beds in front of the fence were refurbished – we added stone and it looks completely different. I'll be adding more soil and then transplanting the sunflowers and corn there. The homeowner is supposed to be replacing the fences by May 15 per the HOA, but we haven't heard anything and we had already started building a “faux fence”... which we really like. The old fence is still there, behind it. We will be working on the back side of the fence soon. I have a feeling the HOA will balk at our new fence though. It doesn't “go with” the community. I like the raw wood look – it reminds me of Craftsman style fences.

The backyard in the actual back of the house has been completely unused the 2 years we've been here. We will hopefully be fixing that by cutting back some of the trees and underbrush, clearing out the massive amount of leaves, getting rid of the squash bugs since they only harm my plants and putting up a fence there as well as more raised beds for pumpkin, watermelon, cantaloupe and spaghetti squash. They are all plants that need lots of room to grow – for the vines to creep along. Hopefully getting the backyard under control will also get the mosquitoes culled a little. They have been eating me alive when I'm outside. I usually only have an hour or two outside after work if I'm lucky and my back feels up to it.  I've found the smallest bit of special brownies helps quiet the pain long enough for me to stay outside. It's just tolerating the mosquitoes at that point....We have citronella lamps (4) plus citronella tiki torches (3) plus mosquito spray and a fan blowing directly on me and I'm still getting bitten. I have  an Off personal fan thingie my crazy father sent me (as if we didn't have them in stores here). I keep forgetting about it but I'll be using it today.

The wedding I baked for went well. I got everything done including the wedding cake. I spent a week prepping and baking and at the end of it I could barely move. I made soft sugar cookies, French macarons, cupcakes and the cake. I was literally still piping icing while everyone was mingling in the other room. This was by far the most fun I've had at a wedding. Low key, relaxed and the evening ended with a Nerf gun fight through the house.... As an only child it was kind of amazing and terrifying at the same time watching and hearing the chaos of sooooo many children – and “adult” men running through the house with Nerf guns. Some of the men are ex-military but all are SCA members and the children are learning from daddy.... Some of it was a little disturbing honestly. No one else seemed fazed by it...just me. This was like a regular Thursday to some of them it seemed.

I made my first beer bread using some horrible vanilla craft beer. I mean, people who like beer would probably have liked it, but I just reaffirmed I still hate beer, but I can bake wonderful bread with it. I also made banana bread. I have some really ripe bananas I should be making banana bread with again later today.

We also attended a funeral/memorial last weekend. We got to see family we hadn't seen in what seems like ages mostly due to distance instead of Covid. We put to rest a woman who we have mixed feelings about. She was my partner's step-grandmother and she was 91 years old. She was blind for the most part due to how fucking stubborn she was. She put off telling anyone she was having eye problems until she could no longer see. This was a woman who sat in front of a TV for 12+ hours a day watching Fox news and sports (she lived for sports). She was crotchety and mean and at the end had dementia and alzheimers and had been in the hospital more than out due to a life spent smoking and ruining her lungs. We lived with her for a VERY long 6 months when we couldn't find a place here because of the rental market being crazy. She didn't turn on the AC – in Florida – in the summer. We weren't allowed to cook in the house outside of maybe 4-5 times because it was SUCH an inconvenience to her that someone was in her kitchen. The sink had to be dried after use – Yes – dried. We had to use a paper towel she would fold every morning at the corner of the sink and wipe down any water inside the sink so it wouldn't leave spots. At the end of our 6 month stint she was accusing us of all kinds of things – including letting squirrels run around her house.

We told family members how bad it was getting and they treated us like the bad guys – believing her because why would she lie? Then she went to live with her children – being passed off like a bad penny – staying until they simply couldn't take it any longer and were at their witt's end and called the next kid to come get her and her stuff and get her out of their house. Don't get me wrong. When she was nice and when she had her mind about her and when she was surrounded by her grand and great-grand kids she was happy. Ish... She's never been “happy” in all the years I've known her. I know from being medical field-adjacent that dementia and alzheimer's are cruel, harsh afflictions. They don't only affect one person. It's hard watching a loved-one slip into that twilight and mistake a daughter, a son, for a complete stranger...or the opposite – recognizing nurses in the hospital as their own children, stories concocted of hallucinations, lashing out because they are scared and confused. It's something I wouldn't wish on anyone. We always joked that she held on out of sheer spite...

Her funeral was her pastor son espousing how he longs for God to take him – how happy he would be to die to be with his lord and his mommy and daddy again. I will confess – I don't understand a religion where you WANT to die soo badly to be with your mystical invisible sky daddy. That you lift your arms and talk to the clouds telling them that you would be happy if Jesus took you right here and now. That you are tired of everything – especially sin in the world...and in want to be in “his” house. In front of your wife, your children and grandchildren. Hijacking a funeral to talk about sin and beg to die is a bit crazy to me. And that they would all be content with this – words of affirmation and agreement spoken in the small group. I don't get a faith that's much. It's a lot. It's cultish and crazy to me.

There is a quote from a movie I need to interject here. It's from Dan Brown's Angels & Demons -

Camerlengo: Do you believe in God, Sir?
Robert Langdon: Father, I simply believe that religion...
Camerlengo: I did not ask you if you believe what man says about God. I asked if you believe in God.
Robert Langdon: I'm an academic. My mind tells me I will never understand God.
Camerlengo: And your heart?
Robert Langdon: Tell me I am not meant to. Faith is a gift I have yet to receive.

That is as close to how I feel. I was raised as a Lutheran. I challenged my Sunday School teachers as a small child. None of it made any sense to me even then. As a teen I found Paganism more and more attractive. Teenagers long to feel control. Paganism has a way of helping you “feel control” over your surroundings. Not completely, but even a modicum of a sense of control is better than “Whatever God wills.” In college I tried attending Unitarian Universalist churches. They were as close to a compromise between Paganism and Christian I could find, but it still felt strange – too much like being trapped in a building. As an adult I find I side still with Paganism, but with the nature aspect of it alone. If anything I'm a kitchen witch and I aspire to be a garden witch. I've always felt an affinity for being among nature. I feel for animals and plants more than I do some humans. I am happiest baking something - feeding people with not just sustenance, but an indulgent treat and helping something to grow, watching a seedling break the ground, stretching toward the sun. I feel at peace at the ocean or walking in the woods. I do not feel these things in a church. I never have. In those places, with those rigid rituals and lectures I just felt trapped and repressed. (Please don't read this as a cry for help, a plea for someone to contact me to convert me or proselytize in sale of their one true way. I'm not looking. I'm not in need of something different. I'm happy where I am with faith.)

Back onto topic....I think the small bite of brownie is kicking in finally along with the medicine I took. I should be able to get outside and keep planting stuff. I should be planting the morning glories and cucumbers out front today.

Offline RedPhoenix

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #40 on: May 02, 2021, 02:00:44 pm »
Your garden is so lovely! I love that you post all the little critters that come say hi too. Look at that turtle! :)