Thursday, November 12, 2009

Travels throughout the Summer and Don't be afraid of the Bats!

Well, Well, Well I guess I will get back into it. I have really been waiting to post so I can post pictures of all the fun events that have happened over the past few months, but my camera has been broken. Waiting for it to get fixed my life passed by. Turns out it's my card that holds my pictures that is funky. Anyway! Since my last post we have had a family reunion in Big Bear National Park, spent a summer weekend in Chicago, two weeks in the Outer Banks and a weekend in Austin, TX for a wedding!! Oh yeah, we also have had some arrivals from Cuba knock on our door one summer morning! So, here is the low down for those of you who were asking. When Cubans arrive on American soil, they can stay. As far as I know, they stay and they get a chunk of change. Some times they build rafts, sometimes they pay someone to take them here. As long as they make it, they can stay. But, everyone else from everywhere else gets sent back. Thats that. It was funny though, they kept asking Evan to call the news, because they wanted to be on the news! Unfortunately, this isn't really news round these parts!
Next. Another really cool thing I want to share from our travels is the bats in Austin. Over 1.5 million bats have made a bridge in Austin their sleeping spot during the day. They are there from March through November, I believe. WELL, at sunset, through these months they make a mass exit. Everyone gathers to watch this, and let me tell you, it is AMAZING!! We went down two nights because I wanted to see it again. It takes about two hours for all of them to make it out from the bridge. When they built the bridge, they had no idea these bats would make this home. There are tiny slits in the bridge that seem to be a perfect size for these bats to sleep. The bats go to Austin to have their babies, and teach them to hunt before migrating in November. A SINGLE BAT CAN EAT 600 MOSQUITOS PER HOUR! Can you understand why these might be gods for me? I mean, the mosquitos eat me, cause me pain, discomfort, they eat the mosquitos. Ah, them and the dragonflies- as Martha would say- good things. Don't be afraid of the bats! They have a such a bad reputation and it is so unjustified. Bats are beneficial and areas where bat populations have decreased, the insect populations have dramatically increased. Think about it! Plus, they are really so darn cute! Here is a picture of the bats, but it is so much more exciting being there! Go!

Also, discovered this fall, while my parents were visiting, a little gem in the middle of Homestead called Schnebly's. It is a winery, and they have all these fun, sweet, Florida wine, made of avocado, guava, passion fruit and all kinds of tropical fruit. Love it! Yum! The place is also like an oasis in the dessert. The atmosphere is really fun. They just had a guacamole festival at the winery in which they broke the Guinness book of world records for the biggest vat of guacamole. It was like 4, 000 pounds, or something like that, don't quote me on it.
And I must not forget the Rib Festival. Another Homestead annual event, in which you can taste various ribs in the best rib contest while listening to various music acts as Joan Jett and Blue Oyster Cult. I must say, delicious ribs. I can imagine all the pigs and cows who lost their lives to have this fest, may they rest in piece in my belly. But no, I really feel bad. I also have no idea who won, but I do know some of the booths put fake trophies outside their booth to make it look like they were winners in the past. Tricky.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th!

Just when I thought the rest of my 4th would be tortuously spent deciding between watching the fifth hour of "The Revolution" on the History Channel, the four different Michael Jackson biographies or "Lockup" (I think I know more now than any one human should know about the petite nosed, king of pop- no more I say! my eyes)- Evan calls saying he wants to take me out on the boat to to go watch the firework show. Rescue! I had earlier decided to stay on the island for the fourth, seeing as I had no plans, and I figure Homestead and the greater Miami area would be crazy. Best if I stay safely, comfortably island bound. I am amazed there are a few campers willing to risk their flesh here this weekend. I thought well, we have a good view of about 3 firework shows from here, I will suit up in the bug suit, grab a glass of wine and go out to enjoy. But being out on the boat was all the better- we could see all the firework shows from Key Largo to Miami. Pretty awesome, I was glad to have some type of independence celebration! The only thing that would have made it better was to have playing my favorite 4th song: You're a grand ol flag! (any other favorites out there?)Mostly I spent my fourth curled up as a couch potato, Lola by my side (she actually slept all day, all day, belly up.) But by celebrating the 4th in this way is probably the true American way. Didn't the forefathers want us to gain our independence so we could have the right to be lazy, while getting chubby on our hot dogs and hamburgers, watching the boob tube about a fellow american who couldn't stop getting plastic surgery on his face? Yikes! I was in desperate need to be saved to enjoy some pyrotechnics and it was delivered! Evan worked a long 12 hour day for the 4th, so after the fireworks we decided to jump in the ocean to cool off. The water was great, the moon was almost full- only thing, wouldn't you figure, I jumped in right on a jellyfish and got stung on my arm. Even though it hurt quite a lot, and it was dark so I couldn't see if I was getting away from it or getting more entangled, once I got out, I have to admit, I felt a little tough. Yeah, I got a jellyfish sting, yeah no big deal, I survived, I mean barely, there was probably potential for amputation, but I toughed it out. I made Evan turn on the light on the boat so I could actually see my wound. I couldn't stop looking, two distinct tentacle marks. Well, the correct treatment for stings, according to Dr. Oz, salt water and vinegar. Vinegar actually neutralized the toxins. So, when I got home I smelled like red wine vinegar. I got away lucky. A woman earlier in the day had gotten attacked by a shark off of Elliot Key. Now nurse sharks don't usually bite people. Evan and I check them out all the time while snorkeling. This one, though, had been caught by a fisherman on a boat, thrown back in the water and then bit a swimmer near the boat. The swimmer turned out to have a bit of a flesh wound, but survived. All in all, an exciting fourth.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Chicks rock out on the roof!

My girlfriend, who works for the state, called me to see if I wanted to travel down to Marathon, in the keys, to help band tern chicks last week. I think she thought I might jump at the chance to get off island, and knew I was missing the birds this season. She was right I have banded tern chicks before, and they are adorable, vulnerable, and pretty easy to handle in order to band. What was so cool about this banding experience was this; usually these birds lay their eggs on sand, they are colonial nesters (which means they nest in groups for better protection), they need a good part of the beach, uninterrupted, for their nesting efforts. Well, down in the keys, because of lack of large, sandy beaches, terns have taken to nesting on top of buildings! The top of buildings have been perfect because they gravel the roof, making the nesting perfect for the terns. It also gets them up, away from some predators, such as cats. I love this, I love how they have adapted! The businesses in these buildings seem to take to being protective and proud of these nesting birds too! So, we went up on the roofs and put the silver bands on their little legs. This chicks aren't flying yet, so we chase after them, carefully, while the run as fast as they can while shaking their little rumps.
They are cute little buggers. Banding is a messy job though, the chicks get nervous and let the bird poop fly. The parents also get protective, circle around, and let the poop fly. But it so doesn't matter as you are holding this cute little chick, and it's squeaking at you, and you just want to get the little band on without hurting them. One chick had just hatched out, I bet a minute after we got up on the roof and grabbed it, it still had egg shell on it's head. I thought, what a welcome to life for this little guy! I think we banded over 150 chicks.

Adult Roseate Tern

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Best Surf Move

HOLY COW! I think I have seen Evan do this numerous times!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Island entertainment

This cracks me up! This should included in one of those, "can you guess what's in this picture?" contests. This is, not the sharpest crayon in the box, does not completely have all her marbles, cat, crammed in a cereal box. She thinks I can't see her, a minute later she jumps out of the box acting like she is attacking, only to run, sliding across the floor under the bed, safely hiding out of sight, only her tail happens to be sticking out from under the bed. Sneaky! Good job! Maybe when you live on a deserted island it doesn't take much to entertain. But this cat brings me hours of laughter. I admittedly may be a little weird about my cat. (No! Really?!) I have no doubt I will probably be the old lady they find passed away in a house full of cats. (This future scenario only happens if Evan goes first, he seriously holds me back from my cat saving.) Reminds me of a little ditty my dear friend Maggie told about observing a crazy woman roller blading, while pushing a stroller, which contained a caged parrot. Would I push Lola around in a stroller one day if something happens to her and she can't walk?..... Darn right I would.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Being blue over Miami Blues

The reason we cannot spray for mosquitos is this little guy. Miami Blue Butterfly. They are beautiful, unique to the Florida Keys and ENDANGERED. The shimmery blue tint on their wings gives them their name. About the size of a dime, they are hard to identify and rare.  The one and only time I have seen them, they gave me a burst of serotonin, my thoughts went to; spring! Here comes summah! Fun! Preeettty! These guys are hard to see though, they never want to land on anything, sit still to show what they really have to offer visually.  More like insects with an attention disorder, they flitter around spastically, touching down and taking off in second long spurts. They use and depend on an annoying little plant called nickerbean to lay their eggs and make their cocoons. Nickerbean gets it's name because as you walk by it- it "nicks" you (more like tears your flesh. Lovely! Where can I get some you ask?) Many thorns from this plant conveniently stick out, shaped with a nice C-curve, so when it sticks you and you continue to walk forward it sinks deeper into your skin. It's not really pleasant. The result is offering protection for the various stages of the butterfly. It makes me realize that things that occur in nature that seem like a nuisance, inconvenient and annoying to us have a use in creating something beautiful like the miami blue butterfly and one may not even realize it. (Feel free to expand and observe how this could also relate to life, right?) The butterfly depends on the nickerbean for survival. It becomes a bit sweet, you know, the relationship of the beautiful butterfly and this hated plant....
Anyway, we had a couple that volunteered on the island for the winter. Nickerbean bothered their hikes through the woods, searching for washed up trash to treasure items.  They saw no good use for it, HATED it. For the time they were on Elliott they made it their job to cut down every nickerbean they could find, spending all day in the woods with their machete hacking at the nickerbean without realizing it's significance.
My one nuisance right now on my beautiful island is the bugs.  It's hard to describe the mosquito experience on Elliott. I like to use another image so people can maybe understand a bit better. Imagine walking out of your house and being swarmed, by let's say- a swarm of bees or maybe bats, they are in your face, in your hair and you can hear the buzzing of blood thirst- first instinct is to run, waving arms, screaming until you find sanctuary. This is me, I run from house to boat, boat to house, house to workout room, workout room to house. It can bring tears to my eyes I hate it so much. In the blazing hot florida summer, I wear a bug suit, covering my arms, face, head so I don't get eaten alive. (Is it a urban myth that you could die from swarming mosquitos?)  I try to be an organic person, I don't want to use chemicals all over the place, but I find myself being pulled while walking around in Lowe's or Target to buy the most toxic, poisonous items I can find to use to get rid of the mosquitos. I read the labels, the directions, picture myself hooking up the hose and where I would spray. What brand looks best, what picture on the front of the bottle looks most deadly, would the mosquitos make little sounds as the poison slowly sinked in their bodies, which poison would make them most suffer.... But then I think of the blue and what's right, what's fair, just because I can and get away with it, should I? If this is the small sacrifice I have to make for the Miami Blue, then why not? I could go on and on about why insects are so important, list amazing facts from my entomology class, how without honeybees we wouldn't last very long, blah blah. But when people scouff at what I am living with on Elliott Key in the summer, I say, it's not so bad, look what I do have- I share my island with a unique butterfly only found in the Florida Keys, a little bit of beauty I get to admire.

Getting off the Island.... and out of Florida! Girls Road Trip

MPLS watch out! MPLS in the summer time, what a happenin' place! This city has so much character and things to do. Holly, Beth and I drove up to visit Mags in the twin cities! Girls summer road trip and "The Margaritas" reunion (our rock band name, creative I know, I have no idea how we came up with it... !) The short weekend so far has been full of sightseeing and makings of good stories. Trip started with a must stop at the world's largest skillet in Brandon, Iowa, a burger from Hamburg Inn in Iowa City and a look see at Beth's sold house in Iowa. Since arriving in Mpls, we have eaten and drank well. Meeting Maggie and her friends for happy hour and sushi we stuffed ourselves before heading to get ice cream at a little place I believe was named Crema Cafe. Ah, sitting outside with the cool temps, eating creme brulee ice cream, and catching up was a rockin' good start to the weekend. Went to Mill City Market in the morning, spending time there mostly eating up all the free samples. Maggie bought some chocolate bar at the "healthy, I use raisins in place of the sugar" stand. Holly bought about 12 jars of pepper jelly, so we all could take some home and then have some for ourselves- it was some darn good jelly jamey jam. We strolled across to watch the boats and canoes coming across the lock and dam, all while Maggie is giving us a half remembered history tour of the flour mill. Later in the day, after some pedi's, we managed to make it to Rock the Garden, seeing about 1 1/2 bands. It felt good to listen to some tunes, drink a beer and soak in the atmosphere for a bit. Alas, now, it's time for bed, I look forward to Beth picking more strawberries from Maggie's garden for our cereal in the morning. Yum, darn I wish my island garden was doing better. There is so much to update on Elliott Island I don't know where to begin. I am going to try and be a better blogger, since this weekend the girls and I read through blogs and I found out from Beth and Holly how hip it is just to read blogs... a lot of blogs... all the time... oh, and they also told me I need to do something with my hair, like color and condition. ah girlfriends. The salty ocean water and Florida sun is not good for the hair, my hair hates me, but what swim cap? I don't know. I can just see me wake boarding and snorkeling with a swim cap. Thank god for friends though, because who else is going to keep me in shape on Elliott- where I have the best hair, and only hair and no one sees it anyway- because if I am outside, I am wearing a bug jacket, which covers my face and head.... so cool, updated blog. Lesson to take away readers: visit Mpls.
Beth and I as bacon.