Often when I wake up in the morning, I utter the phrase “Tempus Fugit” as it seems I am always running against the clock. Over these past several months things have been more than a little hectic here in the Swamp. For beginners, my loving 8-year-old autistic son has changed his sleep schedule in the mornings and afternoons. He seems to be four-square against taking his afternoon naps and he loves getting up as early as he can. This morning I actually heard him shout “YAY!” when he woke up and saw that it was light outside. This is in stark contract to his father who would rather utter a dastardly-worded artwork of profanity and roll over in bed. That is so not an option.
Meanwhile, my loving bride and I are once again trying to grow some vegetables in the yard and try (notice try) to bring the yard under some semblance of control. This year that was made all the more difficult with the serious spread of the bamboo forest in my backyard corner. It seems my long-time elderly neighbor has taken serious umbrage to the new bamboo shoots running into her yard near her blighted orange tree. I did some reading and I discovered that if you aggressively cut any growth of the bamboo early as it shoots out of the ground, it will eventually stop spreading in the direction it is heading. For the most part my yard is now bamboo free, but I am not cutting all the bamboo due to the presence of feral hogs in my yard.
I mentioned earlier that we had some pig problems. Well one of the little porkers seems to have found a feeding ground in my side and front yard. Less than 72 hours after we had cut the grass to make the front yard more presentable, this wee grunter rolled his happy little behind into my yard and ripped it up with his tusks and hooves. By looking at the damage and the hoof marks I doubt he is more than 40 pounds, but he is an elusive little guy. If there is an encounter I do hope it i with me and not the other members of my family. That could get ugly and fast.
Meanwhile we have decided to grow much of our crops in pots, instead of in the ground. The unseasonably cooler weather this spring led to excellent growth with my pepper plants, despite the lack of rain. We also decided to go with the smaller tomatoes because in the heat of the summer they tend to burst open just as they are getting ripe due to the heat. That was experienced yesterday as the one Heirloom tomato we were planning to harvest today was ruined before it could pick it due to the heat bursting it on the bottom wide open. I did manage to collect a couple of Grape tomatoes a few moments ago, however. What I do know is my wife and I will likely need to move all these pots to shelter tomorrow as there seems to be a Tropical Storm (Colin) heading our way within 72 hours. Who knows what damage this change in weather will do if we leave them where they are?
Because the weather was so dry this Spring, the local gators were getting stressed. You see, gators prefer not to leave the water if they can help it. With the dry conditions, they clung to their ponds longer than normal, over-hunting them to the point where these guys were getting agitated due to hunger. Not far from my office, our puny three-foot gator was displaced by an eight footer (as seen above) when we had a gully-washer come through. The rain seemed to motivate them quite quickly as a ten-footer was discovered a few miles away trying to cross a major roadway. I watched him a little the first time I saw this 8-footer and I noted he was not just actively hunting the marsh birds along the side of this pond, but he was also not afraid of people in any way. I alerted the local game warden, who placed a trap for this guy. The initial trap was rapidly trashed and, adding insult to injury, the bait was consumed outright. So a new trap was set. In this picture you can see the gator sniffing at the bait, but he was not falling for it. I will find out the latest on this saga when I return to work on Monday.
Oh and for those people who say that 16-18 footer at Palmetto, Florida seen on the news is not real, trust me he is very real. I will note that about a decade ago I was lucky enough to be able to tickle the belly of a local 14-foot gator we had caught nearby. And for the record he was tied and bound. I am not THAT stupid.
And then there are these Barred Owls. They make a LOT of noise these days. They usually arrive on scene about an hour or two BEFORE sunset and they stake out their perches for the night. The one on the left scared me fairly well two days ago when he chimed off directly overhead as I was watering the crops. Also, if you look closely along the bottom of the left picture you will see these green balls. Those are the Cypress tree seed pods that fall every even-numbered year so those will be hitting the roof of my truck and my carport within a month or two.
But in other areas the Swamp is slowly getting into its normal summer cycle. We saw our first 90-degree-plus day this week and I am sure this will be a fairly common occurrence this year. If the tropical system dumps enough rain, that should stoke the water/rain cycle well enough to have afternoon thunderstorms pop up every other afternoon. Meanwhile, the deer flies are out now, as well as the horseflies making outside work a joy. The tiger mosquitoes are down for the moment, but after some rain I am sure they will be back with a vengeance. I am sure the locals will be monitoring the usual mosquito viruses, such as West Nile, and now they will be tracking the Zika virus. Then there is word that a colony of Africanized Bees were destroyed up in my hometown area. Joy.
I will say by trying to work with the land here I have a lot of respect for those agrarian homesteaders who tried to live here in the 19th century. Nevermind the fact there was no air conditioning, I am appalled at the amount of plant blight caused by the abundance of oak leaves that give the local soil such a big acidity factor. Plant blight is now hitting my azalea bushes and other plants and shrubs in my front yard. These plants have been here longer than I have so this is new. Believe me none of this stuff was ever mentioned by the Chamber of Commerce when I was sentenced here in 1995.
So as always, we take what Mother Nature provides us. Bugs. Pigs. Gators. Heat. Humidity. Blight.
Such is life in the Swamp….