Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Just like our front yard our back yard had exploded over the past couple of weeks! So after cleaning up our front yard we decided to tackle our back yard as well, for good measure.
While we do have some landscaping plans tucked away with a vision of how we want the backyard, well, actually our whole landscaping to look once we're done with it, it's not anywhere near our priority list. Most of the time I grab a plant or two and a bag of mulch perhaps when I'm out and about which makes for very very -very- slow progress but that's okay. We have no plans for moving any time soon so it's all good.

Our yard isn't big. In fact, it's more on the smallish side and there are time when I wish we had a little more outdoor room but once I'm done mowing, weeding and raking I'm convinced that our little yard is plenty big as it is.

There is room for a pool, room to romp around with the dog, room to shoot BB guns and do some archery, room to plant vegetables and to keep bees (and maybe down the line a chicken or two), room for a little patio with table and chairs, and room for a BBQ grill. Really, what more do you need?

There is nothing really pretty about an above ground pool BUT we love it all the same and for summer in Florida, it's the best thing to have in your back yard. Nothing beats a quick splash when it's hot and humid! But visually? Visually these things are just a big blue eye sore. I may have an idea on how to make it tie into the landscape a bit better but for now this is it.

I did, however, add some white marble gravel as well as ferns and Liriope plants to soften the whole deal a bit and make it look a little nicer. Still not great, but a little nicer.

Over the summer, those ferns had gotten out of bounds - they were everywhere! Instead of a clean planter bed with nicely alternating lush ferns and Liriope, lush and green against crisp white rocks, I had FERNS!

So, I ripped them up. Not all of them, mind you, but just the offshoots from the mother plants. That also allowed me to clean up all of the yellow and brown leaves that had gotten trapped in the fern tangle and tidy up the rocks.

Can you believe I removed enough 'fern spawn' to fill -three- hanging baskets? Yeah, I couldn't either.

That's the other side of our yard, opposite our splash zone. As you can see I have begun to add to the perimeter planting slowly moving into the area curving toward the pool and around the Crape Myrtle (not visible) to creating both a pathway from the side into the back yard and an almost circular area in the far left corner as an 'outdoor room'.

It looks very GREEN, but, really, there are plants blooming - there are bright fuchsia Pentas, red Vincas, yellow Florida daisies, pink and yellow Lantanas, two types of Jasmine, orange Bulbines, and more!

Now that front and back are back to looking halfway decent again, it's time to go back to praying it'll stop raining so we can paint the house .... sheesh

Monday, September 16, 2013

Changing Colors

You will hear a lot of people in Florida complain that "there are no seasons." That there is only "hot" and "hot and humid." Well, up here in North Florida that's really not true. Granted you have to look a bit more closely and the signs of seasons changing over aren't quite 'in your face' like further up north, but - newsflash! - we do have four actual seasons.

Right now, we are at the beginning of fall. Summer is in its final death throes throwing heat and humidity at us during the day but clearly running out of steam because the nights have started to cool down again. And the leaves. Ugh, the leaves!

Mrs Massive Crape Myrtle in our front yard has clearly joined the fall movement and is dropping everything. Every.little.discolored.leaf.
And there are a lot of them.

Combined with the heat, humidity and a lot of rain it made our front yard look like crape ...err, crap!

Ugh .... just ....ugh. Brown leaves everywhere, the grass is taking over the crow (or death strip - I really like death strip, heh, so dramatic!) and there are weeds!

More brown leaves, more weeds.
And the lilies that won't die. No matter how often I cut them back and try to dig them up, they keep coming back. Short of excavating the entire front yard there is just no getting rid of them.

Last weekend I finally found time to take care of the front yard - it was in dire need of a major clean-up - and after picking up a few fresh, bright pink Pentas, buckled down and went to town!

[See the little green Anole taking a sunbath on the flowers?]

Armed with my trusted Japanese gardening knife Little Man and I dug up buckets full of weeds from between the pavers and along the walkway. We raked and swept trying to remove as many brown leaves from between our ground cover plants so they'd have an easier time filling in.

We'd originally considered other types of ground covers such as thyme and even perennial peanut but thanks to those cuttings from a generous neighbor we ended up with this dark-green, daisy-like spreading plant that fares equally well in both shade and sun and even underneath the trees, no matter how much we neglect it. That stuff is definitely a keeper. It's slowly filling in the front, a slow and steady process sped up by my cutting and creating new cuts every now and then.

Once we'd tackled the weeds, things were starting to look up! The Pentas we planted added a nice pop of fresh color amidst all of the lush green and they have the added benefit of being bee-, butterfly- and drought friendly perennials.

Ferns, variegated Liriope, Azaleas and (struggling) hostas make for a nice pattern and texture mix in our planting bed in the front yard.

After the weeds we tackled all of the brown leaves the Crape Myrtle had dumped on our little front yard. Boy, there were a lot of leaves with more still to go. We'll be sweeping for a little while longer.

Husband laughed at me when I bought the leafblower but I love love love how giving everything a quick 'blow' makes it look so nice and clean and tidy! I let him play with it while I was finishing up a quick tidy-up on the porch, and he seemed to be having fun with my toy.

Ta-da! All nice and clean and tidy and fresh! I'm still holding off on changing everything to fall colors and introducing pumpkins and their ilk, because, y'know, it just doesn't feel right yet. I know retail stores are lightyears ahead, the shelves arlready packed with Halloween and Thanksgiving but, man, it's just September ... eh!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fireplace decor

This year, summer was a truly Floridian summer. When I moved to Florida almost ten years ago, you could set your clock to the afternoon rains. Every day, usually between 3pm and 4pm the clouds would move in, the skies opened up and it rained buckets. BIG buckets. Half an hour later, the sun was shining again from a bright blue sky and you would be none the wiser unless, you know, you left your car's windows open or forgot to close up your convertible ....ahem. Not like the husband would know anything about that ...heh.

Anyways, drought set in and had been plaguing Florida for the past years. There were sometime weeks between rainfalls and wildfires raged all over the State. We had days where ashes would fall from the sky like snow flurries and the sky was cast in a dirty pink glow from the distant fires. Apocalyptic, in one word.

This year we are obviously back to good ol' times. It's been raining.
I don't think we ever had a week with more than one day of no rain. Combined with the sun and the heat it created a true greenhouse effect for all plants outdoor. Wee whacking has never been so demanding - weeds wouldn't stop growing and all the plants in the backyard were trying to outdo each other! It's absolutely crazy!

One of the things that grew almost as tall as I am is my blue salvia in the backyard. It had grown so tall that it started falling over and so I decided to cut it back.

I loved the armful of salvia with its tall delicate spires of bright royal-blue flowers and rather than throwing it on the compost pile, I brought them inside.

Here's where Pottery Barn meets Restoration Hardware again - I plunked my bounty into a white ceramic pitcher and simply placed it on the fire place mantel - much to Inky-Binky's delight! She had to photobomb this display and continued to love on the flowers all day.

I don't know what it is about this cat and flowers. The moment I present her with a bouquet she goes into pretty-pretty princess mode and lounges right underneath the flowers. She is really good abut not trying to eat them or to rip them out, but her behavior is slightly odd.

Yes, Binky is in this picture; she is actually hiding behind the flowers. Silly cat! I really like how the decor on the fire place mantel came together. It's simple, I'm not big into knickknacks and decorating rules and staging but this looks pretty neat, if I may say so myself! It really makes me think about growing a few more cut-type flowers in the yard ...

I know that stores are going nuts already with fall decorations, and even Halloween displays, and so is pinterest but I just can't make myself break out the typical fall ingredients just yet. I mean, it's just September, right? Gah, it's already September! Only 126 more days until Christmas!

Everybody run for their lives!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

This Florida Life: Ichetucknee River Tubing

Only in Florida is being stuck on a floating raft in the middle of nowhere for four hours one of the best things you can do on a hot summer day. No, really! You've got to try this next time you are in the area!

We love going tubing on the Ichetucknee River. It's a 1.5hr drive to beautiful Ichetucknee Springs State Park from our home and you have to head out early to beat the crowds because the park limits visitors at the North End to 750 a day, but tubing is really one of the most relaxing things you can do.

When you get there, you head straight for the North Entrance. That is where the spring is and where the fun starts. Well, unless you would like to tube for a shorter time; then getting in on the fun at the South Entrance is the better (and shorter) option. Just before you get to the North Entrance you will pass the "Ichetucknee Tube Center". That's where we always pick up our tubes. They are very nice, the tubes are in great shape and their rental prices are very reasonable! They have a neat little Tubing Tutorial on their webpage as well as a great coupon for $2 off (check 'Specials).

Once you have picked out your tubes, they tie them to your car, and you are ready to roll! You enter the park at the North Entrance, drop off your entire party and tubes and have JUST the driver take everything that can't go with you on the tube take the car back to the South Entrance. He will park your car there, deposit your car keys for safekeeping at the kiosk for $2 so you don't have to worry about losing your keys along the way, and then takes the shuttle back to meet you up at the spring at the North Entrance.

That takes a while so you have plenty of time to run to the bathrooms one last time, and to explore the actual spring. The water at Ichetucknee is a refreshing 72F all year long and crystal clear.

Seeing the spring peek out between the lush vegetation is just heart-stoppingly beautiful, especially on a sunny day.

Swimming in a natural spring pool is amazing: the water is brisk, clear as glass and sweet (none of that saltwater nastiness like the ocean - hah!). It is so clear, you can see little fish and even the silvery bubbles rising from the spot where the water rises to the surface. It's just gorgeous!

When finally your driver catches up to you, it's time to hit the river. It's a brief hike through the forest to the little landing area where you get into your tubes. You pop your butt into your tube and that's it!

For the next 3 hours all you do is sit in your tube and float downstream like on a lazy river!

It's one of the most relaxing family activities ever! Little Man went tubing for the first time when he was just five years old (they have tubes with bottoms so you don't have to worry about your little one falling through it ...heh, but bring a rope so you can tie their tube to yours because paddling back to help a stranded tuber from a kink in the river is really really hard *L*)

The weather was gorgeous, a bright-blue Florida sky dotted with little feathery clouds here and there. Don't forget the sunscreen, by the way. Parts of the river are in the shade of large trees overhanging the water but other areas aren't!

The Ichetucknee is an actual river, and so you will see wildlife along the way. Butterflies flock to bright blooms, birds swoop down to catch fish, fish will jump out of the water or swim next to you, and turtles will be sunbathing watching you float past.

Turtles! Little Man counted 102 fish and 13 turtles along with snowy egrets, and a large bird of prey we couldn't identify.

Lazily you float down the river through beautiful Florida wilderness. The current is very gentle and just right to lull you to sleep!

So, next time you are in Florida and you want to see a little bit of almost untouched true Florida, head on over to Ichetucknee and get your float on!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Wait - What??

What do you mean 'summer is over' and 'You haven't posted since Independence Day' ?

Double Ack!

So, yeah, sorry to admit, but summer kicked my (our) butt. Time flew by even faster than usual, a lot of stuff was crammed into eleven weeks of summer break, and the constant afternoon rains put a serious cramp into our house painting project.

Now, summer break is over and while summer itself is in its final death throes presenting us with a last barrage of blazing hot, muggy days, fall is right around the corner with hopefully drier days and beautifully cool(er) nights which always seem to invigorate our DIY spirit. Case in point, I actually have several projects going on right now, with first pictures taken, so semi-regular postings should resume soon at Chez Little Old House!


So for today, I will leave you with a few impressions from our summer:

There was some beekeeping before it got too hot ...

Little Man turned double digits!

We went to Virginia Beach to hang with the family ...

Surfing the waves!

We spent lots of time on the porch, and so did the bees ...

We helped to "Make it Happen" and worked on mothballing Dancy Terrace in Springfield

Little Man turned into a Baseball-batting monster ...

We enjoyed new toys on vacation ...

and had many lunch dates ...

Little Man is excited about starting 4th Grade, and the new teacher, classroom, new friends and all those exciting things that come with it (and so are we)

And finally we went tubing to send summer off until next year ...

DIY-wise, not much happened because for the most part afternoons looked like this ...

...or this ...

... and you can't paint a house or build a fence in a mess like that. Meh!

How was your summer?
I hope you had a great time!