Saturday, April 30, 2016

Zen Moments

Zen means so many different things to so many different people.  For me, Zen is just fleeting moments of peace and harmony, symmetry, tranquility, inner peace, and solitude while searching for a hint or a touch of Divinity.

I am taking this moment to say Thank You to all who have read my blogs.  My A to Z Challenge for this year has come to an end and it is back to the Back Forty and my garden.  T.S. Elliot wrote:

And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

It may be easier to say what Zen is not.  "Zen is not a theory, an idea, or a piece of knowledge.  It is not a belief, a dogma, or  religion."  From What is Zen on

"If you wish to know the Divine, 
feel the wind on your face and the warm sun on your hand."


Friday, April 29, 2016

Yard Work

April is a busy month for yard work and we have been sprucing up the yard, back and front, on the Back Forty.

Early on, we started by raking up the pine straw to be used as mulch around a scraggly hedge of Red Tops.  The hedge, of course, had to be weeded out first before the mulch could be put down.  So it goes.

What do you do first and where do you start?  Somehow, we feel that it is important that the Back Forty present a neat and clean public face which means that the when a visitors, mailman, sanitation workers, and delivery men see a well kept place.

The reason, I added "Park" to my blog title is that so many people said that our back yard was like a  park--a naturally kept park.  There weren't any manicured lawns or well trimmed hedges.or trees in a perfect row.

As you walk along in the back yard, you discover an overgrown pond with goldfish swimming around and greeting you.  They know that you will feed them.  Keep on going and you end up by the small tidal creek where you may discover turtles, a heron or two, and other water birds.

I like the yard to be a surprise to visitors.  It is always a surprise to me because I don't know what I will do when I leave the house.  There is always something to explore.  There is always something that needs weeding, cutting, or trimming.

There is a bench in the woods where you may sit a spell and do a little bird watching.  You are well immersed in the wilderness of the Back Forty.and I thank you for visiting.

Thank you for visiting my blog.
One more time.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


Xeriscaping, or water conservation in the landscape, sounds like a great idea if you live in a place where water conservation is imperative or the climate is dry and arid.  In my blog, it is basically smart planting using drought resistant plants and those plants that are appropriate for the area, not necessarily native..

Some time ago, I heard about this neighbor who used xeriscaping and I went to take a look and, indeed, it looked interesting and different from other yards.  These homeowners used a lot of rocks, pebbles, sand and a lot of cedar chips and pine barks.

If you do live in a neighborhood with a "homeowners association," there may be a problem with xeriscaping because it does not adhere to the association's rules and regulations.

Also, it you live in an area that is not conducive to xeriscaping such as Florida where it rains just about every day, the sun shines strong and hot, and it is hot and humid.  It seems to me that no matter how much mulch you use, the weeds are eventually going to make themselves known.

The picture is snagged from Wikipedia depicting a Japanese Rock Garden

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wind Chimes

Our wind chimes are soothing with no harsh or high notes grating on our frayed nerves.  Sometimes the chime is so faint that we can hardly hear it and other times it is distinct, loud and furious, depending on the wind.

The wind chimes are calling us to slow down and listen to the wind play its songs for us.  It is calling us to our sanctuary that is surrounded by tall pines and blooming bushes and trees.  It's a place where many of God's creatures as well as my true love and I find solace, comfort, and shelter.

Susan Griffin wrote:  "Will we let the wind sing to us?  Do our whole bodies listen?  When the wind calls, will you go?"

.Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Vegetable: Swiss Chard

The Swiss Chard is a colorful vegetable that is loaded with vitamins and minerals.  "Eating chard regularly has the potential to lower high levels of cholesterol and blood sugar", writes Milo Shammas in Dr. Earth Home Grown Food.  Such a statement will ensure that this vegetable ends up in my garden next fall.

I was not sure about the chard after a failure last year, but I sowed seeds this time and they did well.  But now, what do I do with it?

It is suggested that you tear off the leaves because cutting with a knife makes the stems bleed.  Leave the bulb in the ground and it will continue to produce edible leaves.

I also found out that I could pickle the stems, so I did.  For the brine, I used one cup f white vinegar, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of water.  For spices, I used mustard seeds and coriander seeds and a pinch of dried red pepper.

I heated the brine and then poured it over cut up stems in a jar and put it into the fridge for later use.

For cooking, I treated the laves like any other greens e.g. kale and collards.  After removing the leaves from the stems, I cooked them for 3 minutes as stated in one recipe.  Oh,no!  It was too tough for my tender palate.  It does require a much longer cooking time.  I tried 8 minutes and kept cooking.

The chard is still growing in the garden and I am afraid the huge bulb is going to explode.  
Boom!  Boom!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Utility Shed

Early this spring, we had a spell of warm weather but it was too early in the season to plant a garden; however, the utility shed was in need of a paint job.

It took much longer than I had expected to prepare the shed for a new coat of paint.

We had the shed power washed about a year ago so it was fairly clean and free from debris.

The old spackle needed to be removed and new applied.  The nails had rusted so I sanded them down and filled them in with Rustoleum--a tedious undertaking.

When we first bought the shed, we went all out to have flower boxes and shutters--cute, you know.

A cute utility shed to store our garden and yard equipment:  tractor and carts along with fertilizers and Christmas goats and bucks.

We had some discussion about the color for the boxes, shutters, and doors.  We finally settled for Persimmons.

I had old paint left from another project that I used for the inside of the doors--a hint of lilac.

We removed all the utilities to make room for a chair and my husband helped me hang lacy IKEA curtains at the main entrance just to see what a she shed may look like, if I should get one some day.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Three-storied Tree House

When my granddaughter visited for for New Year, we found that our neighbor across the so called scenic creek was building a three story tree house.  We were both impressed with it and we began to make plans for our own tree house.

She could play with her dolls in the tree house and serve them tea while her grandparents could climb up to the top, have a glass of wine, and see the sun set while listening to some songs by Prince.

What a lovely view from the top story.  What a great place to sit and see the sun disappear in the west and leave a lovely yellow and pink hue.

Soon after our discovery, all work ceased on the tree house.  What happened?  Did the neighbors on this side complain?  Did they not have a permit from the city?  Did they leave the country?

Like a nosy neighbor, I kept my eyes on the tree house that is nestled among the tall pine trees.

"Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world."--John Muir

Last week I heard hammering from across the ditch eh, I mean the creek, and I saw workers bringing in cedar shingles and boards.  The building of the tree house is going strong again.

Thank you.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Snakes and Sulfur

Snakes and sulfur are both above my pay grade but to be a gardener you have to be a bit of a chemist, a botanist, a philosopher, or how about believing in old wives' tales?

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting out on the porch reading a book, minding my own business.  The cat was under another chair in the shade, minding everything that crawled.

Lo' and behold, she was chasing a small corn snake under the carpet!  This resulted in a lot of screaming and yelling on my part (imagine that!).

My husband, the brave one, determined that it was a corn snake and I was supposed to be relieved.

He also told me that he had seen "Snake Away", a granular, at the Seed Store the other day.  Well, maybe we can pick a bag up at Ace; however, the price was prohibitive.  We decided to go back to the Seed Store.

We wanted to protect the Cardinals that had a nest in the Crepe Myrtle.  Snakes are known to curl up in tree branches and bird eggs are certainly a delicacy.

We talked to our favorite and most helpful person at the store and told her about our problem.  She suggested that we dust with Sulfur, mix in ground up mothballs, and distribute in a ring around the drip line of the tree.

Caution:  If you should decide to use Sulfur, please read and follow the direction carefully and do keep away from children.

Thank you for visiting my blog.
Be kind to the environment today and every day.
Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Rising Sun

It's past midweek and I want to get out of the house.  I also want to get away from the garden.  Oh!  This is not E for Escape?  What the heck!  Let's go grab a large cup of hazelnut coffee and go down to the beach and greet the rising sun.

I need to go down to the water's edge to see the sun rise.

Let's make ourselves comfortable on a sand dune and listen to the waves crashing in ever so gently.  Let's listen to the seagulls scream for a good spot to hunt for food.  Let's skim the horizon for dolphins as the sun is making its escape from the blue and dark waters.

It's all right to kick your flip flops off and wade in the water.  Chase some waves and let the water get your pant legs wet.

Nah!  Don't chase the birds!

Then there is the haunting House of the Rising Sun!
Oh, sweet Lord!  What did I tell my sons?

Thank you for visiting my blog!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Quality Time

There are too many times when the house is a mess; I didn't take anything out for lunch; and we have been working in the garden and around the yard:  we are tired, we need to get away.  Mayport!  We come back refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to go back to work.

We pick up a pizza or sandwiches from fast food stores, bring our own iced tea, and drive out to the boat ramps in Mayport where we sit quietly in the car and take in the view of St. John's River flowing by ever so quickly.

We check for dolphins frolicking in the river.  The dolphins usually go out with the tide and come back when the tide returns.

The pelicans make themselves comfortable on the ramps while waiting for the shrimp boats to return with chum or "trash" fish.  The seagulls have learned a long time ago not to beg from us.  They let us know what they think about us not giving them even a small crumb.

We watch fishermen and pleasure boaters put out their boats without mishaps.  We are always surprised how expertly they handle their boats.

A few times, we have caught a glimpse of a loon diving under the piers, fetching his own lunch, and minding his own business.  It is time to leave, when he starts laughing at us.

Thank you for visiting my blog and sharing some quality time with me.

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The dolphin is a borrowed picture.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


The other day when I was in the grocery store, I decided to buy a papaya.  The cashier said that it looked very nice and should be just ripe for eating.  The papaya was more yellow than green but still firm to the touch.

When I got home I took out my sharp kitchen knife and while holding the papaya in the other hand, I wondered what to do with it.  

I began cutting it in half, lengthwise, and removing the small black seeds--a surprising lot of them.  

I continued to cut wedges lengthwise and then slicing them up into bite size pieces without cutting all the way through the green papaya shell.  

I finally ran the knife from one end to the other of the wedge and ended up with some nice pieces of sweet papaya. 

The only drawback about the papaya is that it mostly comes from Hawaii and that is a long way to travel to reach the east coast of Florida.

Don't even think about planting the seeds unless you live in an area where the soil temperature is 80 degrees F year round.

The reason I got the papaya was really to show that I am quite able to try new things once in a while.  Aside from that, I enjoyed the papaya immensely.  It does have a fresh and intense but pleasant flavor.

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Blogging for the A to C April '16 Challenge.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Orange Blossoms

 The orange blossoms do give out an intense and distinguished aroma that will knock your socks off.  Floridians only wear flip flops and now you know why.

It seems that the citrus trees have been in bloom for a long time this year and there have been tons and tons of blossoms attracting large bumble bees.  Hopefully that is an indication of lots of fruit for much later this year.

The strong aroma is easily carried on the wind and when it hits you, there is no escaping.  We don't have an orchard out on the Back Forty but the smell could easily fool you.

 On the way to the garden, we pass two small trees putting us in the middle of essential orange blossoms--uncut.

We have one Parson Brown on the left and on the right is the lovely and sweet Valencia.  The latter gives us juicy oranges in February.

Writing about the orange blossoms reminds me that it is time to fertilize the citrus trees to provide them with nourishment and minerals to give them a boost of energy for their fruit production.  A gardener's work is never done.

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Northern Cardinals

The Northern Cardinals are the most beloved and best recognized birds in the south eastern part of the United States but they have also been seen up north.  The lure of bird feeders filled with sunflower seeds have spurred on their flights to a cooler climate.  No less than seven states have the red Cardinal as their state bird.

This past week a couple of cardinals have visited my Crepe Myrtle tree many times.  It is difficult to tell which one of the birds follow the other, but they make an interesting team.

What I like about the Cardinals is that they stay together for life and that the male is very protective of the nest and the young ones, even feeding them.

The cardinals have been building a nest in the Crepe Myrtle tree, the same tree with the hummingbird feeder.  It seems to me that the less colorful, brownish, female has done all the building.  She carries small branches and straws and strings to the nest.

The Cardinals that come and visit the Back Forty are my working birds:  they work for the privilege of having a safe environment with access to water and "food" free from pesticides and herbicides.

The birds hunt for insects and bugs on the ground, in the trees, and in the air.  They like berries and seeds, beetles and grasshoppers and so much more.

We don't feed the birds or other wildlife on the Back Forty:  we do not want them to become dependent on us.  But the brilliantly red cardinals keep coming back along with their less colorful mates to feast on what is available in our backyard.  They are so welcome.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Mayport Shrimp

Mayport is a small fishing village at the mouth of St. John's River in Duval County, Florida.  There is nothing fancy or quaint about the village.  It is rustic with good working people.  The shrimp that comes out of Mayport is out of this world:  it is sweet; it is outstanding.  It is good!

Whenever we have company, we take them to Singleton's Shrimp Shack for a treat--steamed shrimp.  The interior consists of unpainted tables, odd chairs, and plywood floors.

Before seating or after the shrimp feast, it is always interesting to take a look at the many carving of various shrimp boats on display.

Any time I go out to Mayport I buy a pound or two of shrimp from the fish market.

Well at home, I put the stock pot on the stove and fill it with water and add Old Bay spice and sometimes a bundle of fresh dill from the garden.  Once the water is boiling, I dump the shrimp in, head and all.  When the shrimp is pink, it is ready.

Other times, I may cook the shrimp in beer if available.  If not, I also like to cook the shrimp in water with apple cider vinegar added.

There is no need to doctor up the Mayport shrimp too much and there is no reason to even try elaborate recipes.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

The picture of the shrimp boat coming into Mayport is yours truly,
the other two are borrowed.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

My Labyrinth

We had looked forward to having a Labyrinth near our garden on the Back Forty.  We had the plans for it, but it was not that easy to construct.  My husband, the mathematician, figured on a 24 inch wide path that would be easy to cut with the lawn mower.

We initially outlined the Labyrinth with pine cones and small branches.  They soon disappeared into the earth.  We tried large seashells.  They looked nice but they made an awful racket when cutting the grass.  We finally decided to go with grass on grass.

The entrance to the Labyrinth was at the north end and we walked to the east, following the sun.

The "middle" of the Labyrinth is really not the "Middle".  We had a difficult time figuring out how to mark that spot or rather what do we mark it with--something special, for sure.  Our dear friends came to our rescue and gave us a sundial that fit perfectly.

Time went by and we found the Labyrinth to be a lot of work.  We didn't particularly like cutting the path in +100 degree F weather with high humidity.  The Labyrinth finally grew out of control and became a maze

Seeds for a Labyrinth

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My other Kitchen

Some time ago i got the idea for a summer Kitchen while glancing at the real estate pictures and captions touting summer kitchen in large beautiful mansions.  Come to find out their summer kitchens were every bit as large as my whole house.

To keep up with the neighborhood, we added a screened in porch with sliding glass doors by our bedroom and one thing led to another and before we knew it, we had ourselves a summer kitchen.

We didn't have to go through the house to make coffee:  we could make it in our summer kitchen and have our breakfast out on the screened in porch, watch the sun come up over our garden and shed,  We often linger for long stretches in our summer kitchen.

We got all the makings of a kitchen:  fridge, micro, TV, coffee maker, and a toaster.  We picked up an inexpensive cabinet from a big box store. What else do you need?

Needless to say, we enjoy our other kitchen:  we read the newspaper and an occasional book out there; we watch the red Cardinals flying about; and observe the squirrels chasing each other.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Jamming in the Kitchen

How many pounds of strawberries is enough for two people?  How much can two people eat?  As you know they soon start to decay and I do not want for them to end up on the compost pile.. Not only once but twice did I end up with three (3) lbs of sweet Florida strawberries.  What to do?

Let's do some serious strawberry jamming in the kitchen.  Here it goes:

Wash, hull, and cut/slice two (2) lbs, about one kilogram, of strawberries and put them in a large pot with two (2) cups of sugar.  Stir.until well blended.  Let it come to a full roiling boil and then turn it down to a simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Stir often to keep the jam from burning.

I added half an apple to the strawberry
jam to aid with pectin.  Thin peels of a small lemon and its juice will also do very well.

When the strawberry jam has turned into a much darker color than it started with, try dipping out a tablespoon of the jam to put on a small plate.  It it does not "run," it is ready to be put in clean jars.

If the jam is going to be used soon, store in the fridge.  Enjoy the jam!.

While waiting for the strawberry jam to gel, how about a listening to the Beatles?  This is totally awesome!

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Keep checking for interesting blogs for A to Z Challenge.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Interesting Immunity

Immunization, any kind, is a serious matter that should be carefully considered; however, I want to share with you an interesting article about plant immunity that I read in The Times Union (Jacksonville, Fl) back in the beginning of January this year.

As you may know, Monsanto genetically engineered corn and soybeans to make them immune to its best-selling weed killer.  "Instead of relying on older, more harmful chemicals, farmers could douse their fields with Roundup, a product that Monsanto once advertised as less toxic than table salt" (TU).

I want to quote as stated in the Times Union article, just to show that I am not making this up all by myself.

To continue with the article:  "Two decades later, overuse of Roundup has spawned weeds that can survive spraying to grow 8 feet tall with stems as thick as baseball bats."

When I first read this article, I had to laugh.  I found myself rooting for the weed!

I had to go to the garden shed to look for weed killer.  Nope!

The weeds on the Back Forty grow freely and happily.  They certainly are not immune to me and my shovel.

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Friday, April 8, 2016


The other evening my husband and I were sitting outside on the porch, talking, and enjoying each other's company when we saw a very small bird landing on a nearby hummingbird feeder filled with sugar water.  The bird sat upright on a small perch on the feeder so that it could easily reach the water.

It was a hummingbird!  What surprised us the most was that it did not flutter its wings.  We have never seen a hummingbird sitting still on a perch on the feeder.  Oh, how sweet!  It was such a privilege!

The hummingbirds don't waste their energy flying about all the time and flapping their wings at an enormous speed.  They actually do rest to conserve their energy.

I've always had a feeling that there is a hummingbird or two in the tall cedar tree where they are well protected.

The picture of the hummingbird is from Wikipedia and it best resembles the bird that came to our feeder  When they do come and visit us, they don't stay very long.  There is no time for me to take my own picture.

Thank you for visiting my blog.
I'll be off tomorrow so that I may get in sync with the rest of the bloggers for the 
A to Z Challenge 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Garden Gnomes

It's a funny thing about gnomes:  either you like them or dislike them.  Some folks think they are plain ugly and do not appeal to them at all.  For other people, the gnome (any gnome, almost) bring out a smile if not a laugh.

Some time ago, my son and his wife gave me a Travelocity gnome for my garden.  I placed him in a small herb garden.

As with any Travelocity gnome, he was kidnapped.  He left his pointed cap in the drive way.  I have never seen or heard from him since his conspicuous departure.

My son and his wife found out about the disappearance of the gnome and they did not want me to be without the company of a garden gnome, so they presented me with another--a naked garden gnome.

I couldn't just set him out in the garden:  I had to dress him first.  I painted his coat green but he was not happy with that color.  I had to change it and used a more traditional color for a garden gnome.  I painted his coat blue;  I painted his pants brownish; and his hat red.

He was happy.  I was happy.  He laid himself down, crossed his legs, and started to read his garden book about planting flowers.  Good for him!

I had hoped that he would share that information with me but he just crinkled up his face and laughed.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Fig Trees

Early spring is a great time to plant fig trees in fertile and well drained soil with plenty of commercial compost or compost from your own pile.

Fig trees like a protective place to grow and develop--a shelter from the wind.  They also like plenty of sunshine and plenty of room to grow.  They make good shade trees in the summer.

Fig trees require an annual fertilization of common garden fertilizer such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10.  I divvy it up between now and late May, each time a four-cup dose which is rather conservative.

The fig trees do not require much pruning but I have cut off branches that obstruct the reach for the lawn mover.  The pruning should take place in late winter.

The fruit is ready to harvest when is softens and changes color.  It does not ripen after it is picked.  You may have to share some of the fruit with birds, too.

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Keep checking out other blogs for the A to Z Challenge.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Endless Summer

The state of Florida has such a delightful car plate.  It makes me happy when I see it, especially on a Jeep Wrangler with a surf board sticking out the back.

It also reminds me about last summer when my granddaughter was introduced to surfing by the Super Groms group.  The introduction only lasted a day but at least she learned how to get on and off a surf board and catch a few waves.

All the parents and grandparents lined up on shore to take pictures of the kids out in the waves, those teaching and those learning.

A proud mother asked about my granddaughter and we found out that her thirteen (!) year old son was teaching her how to surf.

I like endless summers because I am able to grow vegetables year around.  There is always something growing in the garden.  I can carry food from the garden to the table -- an endless supply of fresh vegetables.

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Keep checking the endless list of interesting blogs.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Daffodils for My Wedding Bouquet

When I got married a long, long time ago, I basically wanted to make the marriage legal--no fuss, no muss--just pronounce us man and wife.

My mother was most disturbed to hear that I wasn't going to have a bridal bouquet, no flowers.

Of course, I should have flowers.

She called the florist and found out that the only flowers available were daffodils and that was fine with her.  After all, it was April with plenty of snow.  It was still winter.

I must confess that the daffodils were also fine with me.

Ever since, I have loved daffodils.  It makes me think about my wedding and it also reminds me about my mother.  I will always remember her.

Unfortunately, daffodils don't grow in Florida.  It's too warm.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Cole Slow from Green Cabbage

I have been making a lot of Cole Slow because it's fresh, quick, and easy to make from the green cabbage that I still have in the garden.  Grated green cabbage alone makes for excellent slow but a carrot and/or red cabbage will add a hint of color.   have used finely minced white onions from the garden.

I grate as much cabbage, carrots, and onions as needed for two people at one meal.  I try to avoid left overs.

To make the dressing, I mix mayonnaise with a little bit of fat free milk to keep the calories down (ha!).  Some cooks like to add a pinch of sugar into the mix while others like a pinch of salt.  The salt draws the liquid out of the cabbage and I believe that makes the slow soggy.  Others believe it makes the slow crispier.

My husband likes to have a tad of homemade minced watermelon rind and its juiced mixed into the slow.

Cole slow goes well with any meat, fish, or poultry.  It makes for a nutritious side dish to enjoy.

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Check out interesting blogs for the A to Z Challenge for 2016

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Blue Tailed Skink in my Sink

The other day I was doing the dishes, deep in thought, and minding my own business when a blue tailed sink appeared in the sink for the grinder and its drain hole.  He was just as scared as I but I did not hear him scream.  I did.  The skink disappeared down the drain opening.  I left the dishes and the kitchen.

Sinks have an ability to pop off their tail when frightened.  This one may have been too frightened to do so.  The sinks like to always have a hole available for hiding.  They are useful little critter that eat bugs and insects.

I went back to the kitchen after a few days believing that the skink was gone or dead.  I did more dish washing and the skink appeared again.  Help!  Help!

My  husband came and told me to hold a glass so that he could put the skink in it after he caught it and take it outside.  He did  catch the skink and put it into the glass that I was holding.  Crash!  I dropped the glass to the floor and it shattered.  The skink fled. My husband cursed.

My husband wondered how the hell can I be so scared of a little bitty skink?

I "borrowed" the picture from

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Friday, April 1, 2016


A is for April with new beginnings.  It's a time for hope, love, and adventure.  For an avid gardener, it's a busy time with the early vegetables sprouting, blooming, and ready for digging and picking.

Love is in the air and it was touching to hear on the early news this morning some of "A Happy Man" singing to his wife, declaring his love for her.

April is for hope, hope for a wonderful summer to come with lots of sunshine; a time to spend with friends and family; and a time to make memories.

April is the time to plan for your adventures and only you can determine and decide what they may be, where, and when.

Today, be careful about happenings around the April Fool's Day.

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