Posted by: soniahs | May 3, 2013

Friday bunnyblogging

Noe likes to participate in our Sunday morning New York Times reading ritual.

The business section might trigger her narcolepsy- we're not sure.

The business section might trigger her narcolepsy- we’re not sure.

She prefers the magazine, because it tastes the best.

Posted by: soniahs | April 30, 2013

Capybaras in a hot tub

Yes, really.


Posted by: soniahs | April 27, 2013

Snake taking a stroll

A few days ago, we encountered a Southern ringneck snake while on our way back from an evening walk:


You can just make out the yellow ring behind its head (Photo: Yan Fernandez).

This is probably the second snake of this species we’ve seen in our apartment complex at night. They hide under rotting logs- and apparently decorative landscape mulch- and eat a variety of prey types. They’re non-venomous, and very, very cute. This one was only about five inches long.

It did not care for the flash, or the attention (Photo: Yan Fernandez).

It did not care for the flash, or the attention (Photo: Yan Fernandez).

At any rate, we backed off to let this one have a clear path into the grass. Hopefully it’s enjoying a nice earthworm or slug or arthropod as you read this. Cute little snake.

Posted by: soniahs | April 26, 2013

Friday bunnyblogging

Only very secure rabbits nap in such an unguarded fashion:

Dreaming of fields of parsley, no doubt.

Dreaming of fields of parsley, no doubt.

Yes, that’s fur on the bed around her. Noe likes to lounge there a lot.

Posted by: soniahs | April 25, 2013

A brief stop in the garden

We had a garden setback for a while- the sprinkler that was supposed to automatically water our plot was  misaligned, so for several weeks it seems that our plants weren’t being watered at all. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize this until we made the connection between the excessively dry soil and the dying pak choi, radishes, and beets. We’d been watering them every few days and they were still doing poorly, and many of the seedlings died before we realized the problem. We generally go weed in the late afternoons, when it’s  more humid out, so didn’t realize how dry it was really getting.

Now that the sprinkler issue has been fixed, our garden plot is getting plenty of water. There’s a noticeable difference with the plants- though many of the younger plants didn’t make it :(. I’m not planting anything new because I don’t know what the plans for the plot will be after May 1, when the community garden program ends, so we’ll pretty much be harvesting what’s there until that point.

Radicchio & lettuce.

Radicchio & lettuce.

The lettuce and radicchio are doing pretty well- we harvested some of the radicchio leaves this weekend and had to make pesto out of them because they were incredibly bitter. Added to some Italian parsley and escarole, it was pretty good after cooking it slightly. We’re also still eating the last of the carrots, and cooking the radish & carrot leaves.

The happiest tomatillo. The small

The happiest tomatillo plant. (This one’s also pictures in this post.)

The latest thing we’ve eaten a lot of is our neighbors’ turnips- they have so much in their plot that they’ve basically given us free rein to harvest there. The escarole was theirs, as some green onions and Swiss chard have been. It’s nice to get a variety of different things.

Even the little tomatillos are blooming.

Even the little tomatillos are blooming.

One of the things I want to do before the end of the month is gather some of the herbs to make simple syrups. I’ve done that with the mint, but it might be nice to do with the lavender and lemon verbena as well. It should be a tasty way to preserve some of the different flavors.

Posted by: soniahs | April 23, 2013

Walking in Seminole County

The weekend before last, I went to the Earth Day festivities at Seminole County’s Environmental Studies Center. This is a small nature center near the southeast corner of Lake Jesup; I’d previously biked past it on the Cross Seminole Trail, but never visited.


Early afternoon at the nature center.

I took a short stroll on the center’s trails after the event- not too far, but it was nice to get into the outdoors. There weren’t too many birds, because it was pretty warm in the early afternoon.


Moss and droopy bark.

It’s apparently a good spot to see migrating warblers (and other forest birds) early in the morning at this time of year. I did see (and hear) the ubiquitous cardinals, catbirds, and blue-gray gnatcatchers. I also heard a red-shouldered hawk or two and saw a swallow-tailed kite soaring overhead.



The area is pretty damp, as it’s pretty close to the lake. I’m sure it gets even wetter during the summer.


Light through the palm fronds.

I’m not sure how extensive the trail system is, but it might be fun to go back and explore.


Thick, wavy patterns in the pine bark.

Posted by: soniahs | April 19, 2013

Friday bunnyblogging: snowshoe hares & climate change

There’s an old saying about the leopard not being able to change its spots. But snowshoe hares do it twice a year: replacing a thick white winter coat with a lighter brown summer coat.

Summer-coated snowshoe hare (Image: Walter Siegmund).

European rabbits, which is what Noe is, don’t do this- she does shed twice a year, but her fur is the same color each time.

Winter-coated hare (Image: D. Gordon E. Robertson).

For hares, the timing of the coat replacements is roughly correlated with snowfall, and it’s easy to picture how a white coat helps camouflage them in winter and a brown one in summer. But there’s a problem: climate change means that seasons are shifting, so their white coats come in too soon and stay too long. This is a big problem for the hares: white makes them stand out to predators on a brown (or green) background.

In theory, natural selection will weigh heavily on hares in the years to come: the hares that have coat-changing cycles that more closely match snowfall will survive, while those with the older cycle will probably be eaten. Over time, the hare population will adapt to the new seasons. But there are two big IFs here: this will only happen IF the seasonal changes happen slowly enough so that the hares have time to adapt, and IF all the hares aren’t preyed upon faster than the survivors can have babies.

Because hares breed like…rabbits (sorry, couldn’t resist the cliche), they will probably be okay in the long term. But there are many, many other species for whom rapid climate change will create insurmountable problems in the decades to come.

For more on the story, go here:

Posted by: soniahs | April 14, 2013

Walk through the UCF Arboretum

Last weekend, we took a walk through UCF’s Arboretum after doing some work in the garden. We’re still in spring (or we were until the last few high-80’s days), so it’s been pretty dry.

Arboretum trail.

Arboretum trail.

The arboretum is on the northeastern side of campus- when UCF was built, the surrounding land was basically farms, so the campus is quite large. There’s a network of walking trails through this undeveloped part of campus. There were some flowers blooming- like most subtropical areas, Florida doesn’t really have an overwhelming amount of giant blossoms. Flowers are generally small and seasonal.

Reticulate pawpaw (Asimina reticulata) in the flatwoods.

Reticulate pawpaw (Asimina reticulata) in the flatwoods.

Reticulate pawpaw.

Reticulate pawpaw. These have a nice scent.

Part of the Arboretum is open oak woodlands, but most is a variety of pine flatwoods. There are also some boggy areas. Again, Florida is so flat that even a few inches of elevation change can make a dry pine flatwoods into a boggy little marsh.

Light through the live oaks.

Light through the live oaks.

Yellow bachelor's button.

Yellow bachelor’s button & pipewort (with the small white flowers).

A little marshy area held some pipewort and pink sundews, as well as long-leaf violets.

Long-leaf violet.

Long-leaf violet. Those pretty purple lines help guide bees in to land.

Pink sundew.

Pink sundew, with trapped insect.

We didn’t see too many birds- the buzzing calls of Blue-gray gnatcatchers and alarm chirps of Northern cardinals were pretty ubiquitous, though. There were a variety of warblers, vultures, and a few raptors, though.


I’m pretty sure this is pennyroyal.

It’s a bit odd to be able to look through the trees and see the new stadium- while this part of campus is undeveloped, the surrounding area is rapidly being built on. There’s actually an abandoned dump in one part of what’s now a semi-protected area. But it’s a nice place to take a short walk near campus.

UCF arena through the pines.

UCF arena through the pines.

Posted by: soniahs | April 6, 2013

Spinning wheels in the garden

The garden continues to grow, though it’s been in a low-key state lately. That’s probably because of our involvement with it. The Arboretum will be discontinuing the adopt-a-plot program at the end of the month, and it seems like a lot of the plotters (for lack of a better term) aren’t really doing much lately. The garden itself isn’t going away, but people will go back to volunteering on a more communal basis.

Letting the cilantro go to seed.

Letting the cilantro go to seed.

So that’s been a bit of a bummer for us, and has definitely limited our enthusiasm for long-term planting. It’s been really nice to have the space and facilities available for personal use, and (turnip thieves notwithstanding) it’s also been great to be able to grow and harvest our own produce when we want it. But given that volunteering will now be on a set schedule, I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to participate in it in the future.

We cleared out some of the not-collards to get more sun to the carrots.

We cleared out some of the not-collards to get more sun to the carrots.

So, while we’ve done some planting since the weather turned warmer, it’s mainly been short growing plants: radishes, lettuce, pak choi, misome, arugula. As I’ve mentioned before, the tomatillo and molokhiya seedlings that we were sprouting did get planted; hopefully they fit in to whatever the new plans for the garden will be.



The misome that was flowering has now really gone to seed- I’m planning on saving some to see if it actually does grow. It would be a bummer if this hybrid went through all of the effort to produce non-viable seed.

Misome seed pods...lots of misome seeds.

Misome seed pods…lots of misome seeds.

The lettuces and radacchio will definitely be harvestable before the end of the month, though we’ll probably leave some growing. I took these photos about a week ago, and they’ve visibly grown as of today.

Lettuces are starting to look yummy.

Lettuces are starting to look yummy.

The beets really did not like being transplanted. We probably lost about half of them. Next time I grow them, I’ll seed them directly. This experience has definitely taught us some lessons about a lot of plants, so it’s been worthwhile. Hopefully we’ll be able to use some of this knowledge in the near future…

Beet survivors.

Beet survivors.

Posted by: soniahs | April 5, 2013

Friday wombatblogging

It’s been a pretty relaxing week for Noe, other than having to stay in her cage during the day a few times when the maintenance guys were scheduled to fix a few things. She does not care for that at all. Much shredding of paper has occurred.

Other than the unexpected confinement, there has been a lot of hanging out on the porch and getting yummy veggies from the garden.

Instead of Noe napping peacefully, I present a video of a man and a baby wombat. Shows that you do not need a placenta to be cute 🙂

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