Oyster Balls

This morning I joined a dozen other volunteers to help create oyster balls at Tampa Bay Watch, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting our local watershed.

I had volunteered for an oyster reef restoration project back in Texas so I was curious to learn about Florida’s methods. The underlying problems are similar, oyster populations have taken a hit from over harvesting as well as pollution and other human-caused disturbances.

The main difference in this area is the amount of boat traffic in the waterways, from not only recreational vessels but also cargo ships and cruise lines. The oyster shell bags we used back in Texas wouldn’t stand a chance against the larger wake, which is where the oyster balls come into play.

The balls, made with marine-friendly concrete, are placed side by side in the intertidal zone and help dissipate wave energy. Oyster shell bags are tucked in behind the balls to add additional habitat (for oysters and other small sea creatures).

We carefully assembled 28 oyster ball forms and once they are cured they will be utilized in a restoration project at nearby Lassing Park. It was a wonderful way to spend a beautiful morning!

Sweet Reminder

I grew up in the Sonoran Desert surrounded by the fragrant puffballs of the Sweet Acacia (Vachellia farnesiana). Not only do bees and butterflies love the flowers but birds favor the thorny, tangled branches for nesting, and lots of animals dine on the seed pods.

As you can imagine, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this small tree is native here as well. The one I planted in my yard this past spring just started blooming and while not as showy as some of the other plants around here, it certainly makes me smile.

Doin’ Laundry

While most of my house has the original terrazzo floor throughout, for some reason the laundry room had a bare concrete floor. I decided on vintage wood vinyl plank flooring awhile ago but never got around to purchasing it. My procrastination turned out to be a good thing.

I’m always on the lookout for items by the curb (people place stuff out that they no longer want and it either gets picked up by someone who does want it or by the garbage truck). So I was delighted to find a stack of planking curbside recently.

Yesterday I tackled the floor. As usual, it was not as simple and straightforward as I had hoped. Which reminded me of the t-shirt my friend Karen recently sent me:

My walls are uneven, the concrete wasn’t level, and I had to cut around the water heater (it’s too old to move). Regardless, I finished the floor today. I’m pleased with the outcome and I am relatively unscathed.

Portraits

This afternoon I finally took the opportunity to tour the 31 acre Largo Central Park Nature Preserve. And boy, am I glad I did as there was an impressive array of wildlife on display.

They were unusually tolerant of my presence, allowing me to capture some nice closeups. I presume they are used to people, not only those wandering the preserve but the golfers on the course adjacent.

I will certainly be back for another visit!

Top to bottom, left to right: Snowy Egret, Eastern Gray Squirrel, Reddish Egret, Tricolored Heron, American White Ibis, Limpkin, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, American Alligator, Green Heron.

The ‘Christmas Display’

Last night friends and I toured this 1/2 acre, light-filled property in the Oakdale neighborhood just south of downtown St. Pete. Ted Kresge and his wife (along with several dedicated volunteers) decorate their yard with lights, tv screens, an extensive model train display, and dozens of animatronics.

As we wandered the pathways I was distracted by the logistics of it all. According to their signage, they use roughly half a million lights which are connected to three electric meters that incur a bill close to $5000 for the month and half long event. This is the 45th year for the extravaganza and what a labor of love it is!

When Ted took a break from playing the organ he explained to us that he also built by hand all the extensive canals, ponds, fountains, and waterfalls that twine throughout his front yard. My dad, who was born and raised in the Sonoran Desert, is also fond of creating water features – the house he built when I was a child had a waterfall inside and a large pond outside while their current property has at least four ponds.

Story of My Life

To commemorate the season, I started putting up holiday decorations shortly after the beginning of the month. As you might imagine about the woman who has moved five times in the past five years, I didn’t have very many items.

So, a couple weeks back when I saw these exterior lights on sale I decided they’d be perfect for my front porch. What I neglected to remember at the time was that I do not have an outside outlet on said porch.

Well, the solution seemed easy enough: turn off the breaker, open up the outlet under the living room window, drill through the block wall, connect a few wires, install an exterior receptacle, and flip the breaker back on. Piece of cake, right? (Insert eye roll here.)

After two trips to the home improvement store (and a few choice words), I finally hung and turned on my lights. As is the case so many times in my life, things may not be easy but I do manage to persevere in the end.