Posted by: soniahs | March 29, 2013

Friday bunnyblogging

Spring has officially arrived, and Noe seems to appreciate the sunshine.

Pensive...

Pensive…

She didn’t seem to appreciate last weekend’s intense thunderstorm though- she hates thunder, and does not care for hail.

Enjoy the nice weather while it lasts.

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Posted by: soniahs | March 25, 2013

Baby peaches

The peach tree in the community garden is really, really happy. Or so it seems.

Tiny baby peaches.

Tiny baby peaches.

These photos are from last week, before we had some hail over the weekend. I haven’t been back to the garden to see what the damage is yet. I’m a bit concerned, since I just planted the tomatillo and beet seedlings. They’re definitely small enough to be easily squashed. For now, though, I’ll just pretend all is well.

Blooming radish. They're in the mustard family, like cabbage.

Blooming radish. They’re in the mustard family, like the stubbornly non-blooming broccoli in the background.

Last week’s harvest: carrots, radish leaves (from a plant that had gone to seed and wasn’t producing an edible root), dill, cilantro, Italian parsley, mint, and broccoli (from the neighbors’ plot).

Lettuces and pak choi.

Lettuces and pak choi.

The lettuces and baby pak choi look pretty good, though I think it may be time to fertilize them a bit. The seedlings are not growing as fast as they did over the summer, though that may have to do with the relatively cool weather we’ve been getting.

There seems to be a lot of variation in the spots on the ladybugs.

There seems to be a lot of variation in the spots on the ladybugs.

Posted by: soniahs | March 22, 2013

Friday bunnyblogging

Noe has been having some fun out on the patio, making herself a little fort.

You can't get me!

You can’t get me!

Really, she’s just figured out how to get inside a folded-up sheet we had draped over the arm of a chair to give her some privacy. But it is pretty cute.

I'll just be napping in here today.

I’ll just be napping in here today.

Posted by: soniahs | March 21, 2013

Easter and rabbits-think before you buy

As I’ve mentioned in my 2011 Year of the Rabbit post, rabbits are one of the rare animals who are both heavily associated with certain cultural practices and small enough to keep as a pet. While rabbits can-and do!-make great pets, they can also be ornery, destructive, expensive, and take up a lot of your time.

I’ve blogged quite a bit about Noe and her behavior and the interesting things she does. I also plan to put together a post in the near future on how much money we’ve spent on Noe in the over 10 years we’ve had her- I believe it will be…instructional for those who don’t realize just how much having a pet rabbit costs.

Easter is a particularly bad time of the year for rabbits who are purchased as impulse buys for small children, and who eventually perish from neglect or are abandoned because people realize that they won’t just sit in a basket twitching their noses all day. You should always have a realistic idea of what it will take to keep a pet before buying one. The House Rabbit Society is a good place to go for info on bunny behavior and Easter and all things lapine.


Posted by: soniahs | March 15, 2013

Friday bunnyblogging

One of my recent projects has been to make a rag rug out of some old t-shirts. I used these instructions, though my rug didn’t come out nearly as nice as the one pictured. Aside from practice, I suspect that it would take cutting the rags into evenly-sized strips and more planning in terms of color pattern to get a finished product that’s actually pretty.

But it’s my first attempt at making a rug, and it’s functional, so I’m satisfied with it.

Noe likes it too:

Nice and soft on her little bunny feet.

Nice and soft on her little bunny feet.

Unfortunately, she seems to like it too much– when I placed it in its permanent location, she hopped up to it and started to nibble! This is a big problem, first because eating fabric is bad for her, and second because now we can’t actually use the rug because there is nowhere in the apartment that Noe does not go.

I fear that our only course will be to give the rug away, but unfortunately its aesthetic limitations will make that a problem…

Posted by: soniahs | March 13, 2013

Garden after the rain

We had a nice long rain on Tuesday, though when I got to the garden in the late afternoon only about the top two inches of soil was damp. It’s been a pretty dry winter, and once again the garden’s irrigation system is saving us a lot of work.

Water beading on the not-collards.

Water beading on the not-collards.

It had just stopped drizzling when I got there, and the birds were making up for lost time and being really energetic. One robin was really going to town on the bugs in the topsoil, while a big flock of yellow-rumped warblers was picking through the grass nearby. I also saw catbirds, northern parulas & cardinals, tufted titmice, a chipping sparrow, and three woodpeckers: downy, yellow-bellied sapsucker, and northern flicker. So a nice mix of birds.

Our lavender has a single flower spike.

Our lavender has a single flower spike. In back is the neighbor’s broccoli- as you can see, it’s flowering, unlike ours.

The remaining misome that’s been blooming is now really enthusiastically developing seeds. It’s a hybrid, so I think the seed will be non-viable, unfortunately.

Misome seed pods.

Misome seed pods. They’re about an inch long.

The few beets that have survived the cold weather seem to be doing okay, though they’re a bit battered looking.

Next time I'll wait a bit later to plant beets- they're not super-hardy.

Next time I’ll wait a bit later to plant beets- they’re not super-hardy.

Our cilantro is really shooting up as it blooms. I think the cold must have triggered it. The flavor has changes quite a bit- it’s much more buttery now.

The cilantro is about waist-high now.

The cilantro is about waist-high now.

Cilantro flowers.

Cilantro flowers.

There were some visible insects out too- I saw the first few lovebugs flying around, as well as some ladybug relatives.

First time I've seen this type of beetle in the garden.

First time I’ve seen this type of beetle in the garden.

I also ran into this critter on our neighbors’ fennel. I left it in place- though given the avian density it’ll be a bit surprising if it survives to adulthood.

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Probably a Black Swallowtail.

Finally, the lettuce and radicchio are still doing well! I wonder how long it will take for the radicchio to ball up…

gg

Mostly radicchio, with one red-leaf lettuce and a radish in the background.

Posted by: soniahs | March 12, 2013

Hiking Wekiwa Springs SP

Last week, we took advantage of a warm day to do some hiking in Wekiwa Springs State Park. The park has a pretty varied landscape- aside from the eponymous spring and spring run, with its riparian swamp, there are oak savannah & pine flatwoods communities. We ended up hiking about 4 miles round-trip from the main parking area by the spring to the tiny Sand Lake.

Ferns and other plants were sending up new spring shoots.

Bracken ferns and other plants were sending up new spring shoots.

Once you get out of the swampy hammock near the spring, a few feet of elevation difference is enough to make the landscape very dry. I’ve heard peninsular Florida called a desert with a monsoon season, and we’re definitely in the dry season now (though it’s ironically raining as I write this- but the first rain we’ve had in over two weeks).

Pine-palm savannah.

Pine-palm-oak forest.

We did see a few flowers blooming, but I think the majority of the floral action happens a bit later in the year. I wasn’t able to ID these plants, but they soften this log in an interesting way:

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Spring wildflowers in the flatwoods.

The trail runs pretty close to the road- other trails do go into the parts of the park where you can’t drive, and I think we’ll explore those next time we come here. Wekiwa Spring itself is endangered by excessive water withdrawal and nutrient pollution from fertilizer use and poorly-regulated septic tanks in the area. When you’re walking on dry, sandy soil like this, it’s sometimes hard to remember that only a few feet underground there’s a shallow but wide groundwater system. Any change to that water affects the spring.

Sand Lake on a cloudless day.

Sand Lake on a cloudless day.

We saw a fair number of birds, given that it was fairly late in the day- there was a lot of warbler & gnatcatcher activity in the trees overhead. We also heard a barred owl that was probably roosting near the spring area, and saw several swallow-tailed kites soaring gracefully overhead. I’ve seen kites dip down in flight to drink water from the river at Wekiwa before- a pretty neat sight.

More Sand Lake.

More Sand Lake.

One thing that would have made the experience more enjoyable was bug spray- the mosquitoes aren’t out yet, but we were unpleasantly surprised that the population of no-see-um’s was going strong already. Though at least no-see-um bites don’t itch.

Yan walking through pine flatwoods.

Yan walking through pine flatwoods.

We saw several other people on the trail, including a few people walking their dogs. Noe is definitely not the type of pet that can go on hikes with us- especially with all the aerial predators and who knows what lurking in the underbrush.

A big pine had fallen across the path and split this sapling.

A big pine had fallen across the path and split this sapling.

One interesting thing we noticed was that in places near water, the moister air was really evident. So it’s not just the soil that has large moisture variations-it’s the air as well.

Crossing a tiny stream.

Crossing a tiny stream.

I find the oaky areas generally prettier to walk through than the drier plant communities. Though obviously this is an aesthetic preference. I like the dappled light through the branches and their clinging lichens.

Afternoon sun on the trail.

Afternoon sun on the trail.

Aside from birds, we saw a few arthropods and the ubiquitous gray squirrels. We didn’t see any fox squirrels, though they’re supposed to live in the park.

Cup-shaped spiderweb in the forest.

Cup-shaped spiderweb in the forest.

The day’s bird list: Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, Red-shouldered Hawk, Mourning Dove, Barred Owl, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Black-and-white Warbler, Northern Parula, Palm Warbler, Pine Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler

All in all, it was a nice short hike. Definitely a place to return to and explore further- both by foot and by canoe.

Posted by: soniahs | March 8, 2013

Friday bunnyblogging

Noe has been expressing her personal empowerment lately by eating feminist magazines.

Subverting the dominant paradigm never tasted so good.

Subverting the dominant paradigm never tasted so good.

Posted by: soniahs | March 1, 2013

Friday bunnyblogging

I missed bunnyblogging last week, but Noe is still up to her usual tricks.

This week, she decided to start one morning by eating a book of piano music that has been hanging out on our keyboard for four years without her paying any attention to it. It’s telling that even half-asleep I can differentiate the usual sound of her chewing on cardboard (we keep boxes around to indulge her in this) from ripping into “G# exercise Number One.”

20130301_095739

What? I’m just eating hay!

I feel justified in bothering her by taking photos while she’s eating after this latest incident. I guess it shows that no matter what routine a rabbit gets into, she will one day get bored and find any chewable products you assumed were safe.

20130301_095755

I’ll just go back to eating, then.

Posted by: soniahs | February 24, 2013

Unexpected frost

The Friday before last, I decided to finally take action about the mass of not-collards that are happily growing in the garden, and which are really too much for us to eat- even with large amounts of freezing and sharing. What I decided to do was pull out the four plants on the outer edge of the plot. This would leave another four plants, which I figured would still give us more than enough vegetabley goodness from our remaining mystery plants.

Because I was so eager to get started, I didn’t remember to take a “before” photo- though I did photograph “partway through.” I started by cutting off the leaves and bagging them.

Leaves denuded and ready to be pulled up.

Leaves denuded and ready to be pulled up.

As the bags of leaves piled up, I realized that these back four plants were the most luxuriant of the bunch. They’re the southernmost plants in our plot, so are intercepting a lot of low-angle winter sun. This has probably inhibited the growth of the inner plants, as well as the carrots and such in the interior part of this section. They’ve also been acting as a windbreak because of their density, and it would turn out that this was a bad day to remove them…

Imagine four more big paper bags of greens here...

Imagine three more big paper bags of greens here…

I ended up with six big paper grocery bags full of leaves, plus four or so plastic bags. A huge amount! Luckily some of the volunteers from the campus Wellness Center were there and offered to take some of the bags to the food pantry on campus. Several of the rest of the bags went to friends, and the remainder came home to be blanched and frozen.

Three big bags of greens = four frozen blanched sandwich baggies.

Two big bags of greens = four frozen blanched sandwich baggies.

So all seemed well in the garden after Friday’s work. There was definitely a different feel in the plot without the wall of greens at the end.

The blooming misome is now about waist-high.

The blooming misome is now about waist-high.

I noticed that the radicchio was starting to develop the characteristic thick, red, veiny leaves- it’s interesting to watch the dainty green first leaves change like this.

Radicchio at center, with red-leaf lettuce below and radishes op top.

Radicchio at center, with red-leaf lettuce below and radishes op top.

So on Sunday afternoon, we returned from an overnight trip to Tampa, and saw the ominous weather forecast: it would get down to near freezing on both Sunday and Monday nights. We decided to go to the garden and put hay around the fragile seedlings, in hopes of at least protecting them from the wind. This is where the lack of not-collard windbreak came into play.  It definitely got down to freezing- or at least close enough to it to kill or damage a bunch of our plants when the windchill factor was added in.

Cold-damaged misome.

Cold-damaged misome. The white is dead tissue, not sun glinting off the leaves.

On Tuesday, it was a bummer to visit the garden and see the damage- though we had enough cool-weather plants to avoid some of the damage that other gardeners apparently had. Our tomatoes (which had survived the last freeze inside the sheltering not-collards), bell peppers, and the unidentified giant mint-family plant were probably killed. The nasturtium seedlings completely dessicated (with the exception of the lone seedling planted under another plant), and many of the beet and pak choi seedlings died. The misome and lemon verbena had some damage. But many of the plants were actually fine: mint (of course), carrots, dill, cilantro, Italian parsley, turnips, not-collards, fennel, lavender, and most of the radish, lettuce, radicchio, arugula, and misome seedlings.

The bees seemed happy to have at least a few still-flowering plants.

The bees seemed happy to have at least a few still-flowering plants.

I suppose as far as frost experiences go, this was pretty mild. Part of the issue is that it’s been unseasonably warm in general this winter, so we were lulled into a sense that the frost danger was over. Obviously it wasn’t. It was still a bit sad to see those dead and dying plants (and no doubt worse for the people with large tomato bushes and strong-looking bean seedlings that were hammered).

At any rate, the next thing to do is get some more seedlings started. I actually have some sprouting tomatillos and molokhia (a North African green we’re trying out), but after this experience I want to hold off on planting those out in the elements. So I’ll wait a few weeks to see how the weather is shaping up for those. I’ve also started some new shiso, nasturtium, and beet seeds on our patio. I did take the chance and plant radishes in the ground directly, since those seem pretty hardy.

So this is a bit of a setback- we were especially looking forward to beets- but not a huge one. The frost danger should be over in the next few weeks, and we’ll be able to be more adventurous with the plantings.

Happy bug on misome flowers.

Happy fly on misome flowers.

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