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Archive for August, 2008

”Chrysalis

 

Note: Click pictures to enlarge.

A short walk outside my front door caught these wonders. The Monarch caterpillars are larger than ever since we got a broad leaf milkweed. They obviously still love the old kind because they stripped it first, but seem to get fatter than usual before finally tucking their necks (do they have necks?) and forming a chubby “J” right beneath the leaf they have been eating on. Seems that was as far as they could waddle. The next morning we have a bright green crysalis, and in another day the gold crown and buttons at the bottom begin to shine in the sun. I’ll try to catch the coming out party in about seven to ten days. If Hurricane Hanna comes this way, we’ll snap that leaf off and bring it inside. We did that once before and woke to a butterfly in the office.

The other shots are just flowers still decorating the yard and the surface of our glassy pond, teeming with life. Though it goes dry at times, rain brings fish and other aquatic life back into this area and restocks the pond for us over and over.

Before our house was built, the  neighborhood kids called the property Frog Bog. We’ve tried to keep it friendly to the frogs and any critters who like to take up residence. It’s easy to make your property welcoming for them. Check out my link to Backyard Wildlife Habitat and get started.

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Note: Please excuse technical difficulties below. I’m working on the gaps.)
8-21-08

8-21-08

Tropical Storm Fay dropped rain in our area for five days pretty much without pause. Rain counts were measured in feet. All around our county and adjoining counties, homes were flooded. The remark heard over and over was, “They had no flood insurance because they were not in a flood zone.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8-22-08

8-22-08

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our acre-plus plot of land includes a portion of a pond. Drainage flows into it from the street and the adjoining lake, then through a culvert on to another small lake. Thunderstorms sometimes take the water over the bank several feet, but it always recedes before rising the seventy feet more it would have to flow in order to flood our home. In thirty-two years and three hurricanes, flooding has not been a problem. Why do I mention this? Because we have flood insurance. We didn’t want it, didn’t think we needed it, but FEMA thought we did. How did they determine this? They flew over the county in a small plane pointed out areas near any type of water and said, “Let’s designate this an X zone.” Apparently there was no consideration for the fact that our area is built out, so no new constructions has gone on to change flood patterns. This is the case in many of the uninsured homes where owners are now sloshing around in their living rooms.

 

The result was that homeowners whom FEMA deemed in a flyover were at risk of flooding were required to purchase flood insurance – and at the highest rates. Why? Because no study had been done to determine base flood elevation, so FEMA policy is to assume the worst. Each of the little creatures they saw milling about below would be required to have a survey done. The purpose of the survey is usually to compare to base flood elevation. Aha, but base flood elevation had not been determined. Would they use surveys purchased by us to determine one? Who knows? There was no fighting FEMA. They say you are going to flood and you say “how high.” We all had to have flood insurance.

 

The good news is all on our street with property on the pond are high and dry. The bad news is we have collectively spent thousands on unnecessary insurance and surveys. Of course, a storm of the millennium could drop torrential rains on us in the future. Anything is possible, but we have taken steady downpours for five days and our little water way managed very well. Better than FEMA, I would say.

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So Obama is using text messaging to announce his VP in order to showcase his technological superiority over his opponent. Clever. Now if I were running McCain’s campaign, this is what I would tell him. “Listen, you Luddite, you have lost the technological battle. That’s a remote, not a Blackberry. Put it down. We are going with your strongest quality, your wicked sense of humor.”

 

Then the day before the Republican Convention McCain would announce his vice president via CB radio. “Hello, my friends. I mean good buddies. Riding shotgun with me on this journey will be **squawk squawk**. See you at the polls. 10-4, over and out.”

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It was entirely appropriate to celebrate fifty-one years of marriage with a leisurely trip to our favorite city, St. Augustine, while a possible Cat 1 hurricane was bearing down on Florida.  Marriages are like that. In times of greatest joy, there are usually winds of disturbance swirling at your feet. In fifty-one years you learn a lot about surprises, undercurrents and threatening winds, and if you are paying attention, you learn they are not unexpected and surprises at all. They are just part of the natural current. So you pack your bags and head to St. Francis Inn www.stfrancisinn.com , the oldest bed and breakfast in the oldest continuously operating city in America, St. Augustine, Florida.

 

The 217-year-old inn’s pleasantries were kicked up a notch this year by the congenial group of fellow guests. Breakfast, happy hour and dessert time brought us together during the days. We talked across the dining room and got to know each other. The crowd even endured my husband’s famously bad joke telling. Happy hours stretched on and dessert time (or any time during the day) the sitting room filled with guests kicking back and talking. Much of the talk naturally gravitated to the weather. Dull? I think not. Not with Fay doing the two-step around our state and some of our homes in its path, others wondering if the plane would fly or cruise ship take off. We would all be safest, no doubt, in our 217 year old building. It surely had weathered other storms. Also, St. Augustine has not been hit directly by a hurricane since the cross at Nombre de Dios was erected in 1965. Coincidence? the citizens ask.

 

Most guests lived in other parts of Florida, though one couple was from New Hampshire, another Alabama, and still others from Ohio and South Carolina. Those of us calling Florida home were, of course, overwhelmingly from another state originally. There was the young couple who had come to look for a home in St. Augustine. He grew up there and longed to come back. We all understood why.

 

The St. Francis Inn offers a Seniors Inn Love special in August, so it was no surprise several anniversaries were being celebrated. They spanned the years: 38, 41, 51 and 10. The couple married the shortest time had been married at the St. Francis Inn. They got extra points for that.

 

A group was celebrating the birthday of one of the three ladies. This is no Holiday Inn; this is a place you go to celebrate. Carole Drost Lopez, an Ocala artist, was among that group. She seized whatever light penetrated our courtyard on mostly cloudy days. Just a glint of sun on the red rocking chairs resulted in a beautiful pastel. We will watch her website for the results of yet another pastel of a charming statue in the courtyard. You might want to check out her website at www.artdrost.com. 

 

I won’t even try to say all that needs saying in one blog, so keep coming back for the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey says. Those will highlight the ancient city and even ghost residents in St. Francis Inn. And yes, “Lily” just may have made contact with me. Stay tuned.

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A local news story stuck in my craw the other day. That phrase from my Texas upbringing came to mind, and perhaps appropriately. The TV news reported a real stink in a neighborhood pond in the Orlando, FL area. Dead fish had floated to the surface and almost covered the pond. The resident interviewed was very upset. She could not open her doors or windows because of the smell. (Like we do that in Florida in August, anyway.) She pointed out that adding to the terrible situation were flocks of ugly, horrid, black birds all around the water’s edge.

 

I am, of course, yelling at the TV screen. “You *&#@. They are vultures, the clean up crew!”

 

Next day there was a follow-up report. Amazingly all the fish were gone. So were the vultures after filling their bellies. The lady was much calmer and surprised that BOTH her problems were taken care of. I will accept an apology on behalf of the vultures!

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I understand wanting to put a positive spin on a celebrity’s condition when they enter that hospital door, but did someone go overboard this week? “Elizabeth Taylor,” we are told, “is in the hospital, and will return home. She is surrounded by family, friends and her fabulous jewels.” Really? I hope she has armed guards because one of the first things you are told when getting that hospital bracelet riveted to your wrist is to send your jewelry home. As far as “and will return home” is concerned, I’d be a bit worried if someone stressed what should be a given to me. I’m just saying.

 

I wish you a speedy recovery, Miss Taylor. And how about getting a new press agent?

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