A Different Delightful Find…..

Vinny and Samantha at Angel's Haven Ranch I Homestead

Vinny and Samantha at Angel’s Haven Ranch I Homestead

I do not ride, however, I enjoy horses and in fact, in the Small Town Quilting Series, one of the members of the quilting circle is very much involved with horses. I had the great pleasure of going out to Angel’s Haven Ranch yesterday where Manager Samantha Turner showed me around. The five acres at 34551 SW 218th Ave, Homestead is continuing to add features that will be especially nice for special events, but there is plenty to do right now. Lessons, (and Samantha’s background is English as well as Western), boarding, and trail rides to the Everglades for experienced riders are all available. Their website of http://www.angelshavenranch.com is also being tweaked, but you can get the essential information or email angelshavenranch@gmail.com

As we strolled around the wonderfully laid out grounds, the horses certainly seemed happy and Samantha was scheduled to give a lesson that afternoon to a four-year old. As someone who has been riding horses since the age of six, Samantha’s love of horses is obvious and she also has experience with equine therapy. Send her an email or give a call at 305 245-8782 for a tour or to set up a lesson.

The ranch is located about a five minute drive from the wonderful fruit stand, Robert is Here. Instead of turning left to go to the Everglades at Robert’s, you continue straight and when you cross SW 217th Ave (the road sign might still be missing), you look at the partially paved road ahead with a little trepidation. That’s okay, cross on over and just a short distance, a double gate on your left will be open. You cut through there on, yes, dirt and grass and Angel’s Haven Ranch is on your left with the sign clearly displayed. The complex is gated so be sure and call or email to make sure someone will be at the ranch.

A Delightful Find……

Quarry Machinery at Windley Key Fossil Reef Park

Quarry Machinery at Windley Key Fossil Reef Park

I have passed by the Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park many times with the thought that one of these days I (or we) would stop in to see what it was all about. That day came yesterday and what a delightful place it is. Not dramatic, mind you, but quite interesting and pleasant. Well, bug spray is needed during much of the year and my lack of it yesterday did shorten the amount of time I walked, but it was long enough to get a sense of the place.

A few facts and figures first. The original 30+ acres was owned by a family that sold the property to the Florida East Coast Railway in 1908. Henry Flagler, owner and President of FEC, needed the quarries in order to carve out tens of thousands of tons of stone for fill during the long process of building the famous Overseas Railway. The beauty of the stone was finally noticed, particularly when it was polished, and it became a popular choice for builders after the railroad was completed. In the common fashion of land, however, a developer began to eye it and local citizens went to work to preserve the area instead for its historic and natural attributes. It joined the list of state parks and more acreage was added over the years. Now, more than 40 types of trees can be seen that provide a haven for tree snails, butterflies, birds, reptiles, and other insects. Multiple, well-kept trails wind through the trees and to the quarries and you can watch geckos and lizards either sunning or leaping from branches to the ground as butterflies flit about. By the way, spiders are not my thing, so when I noticed the webs, I walked past without checking them out. The compact Alison Fahrer Environmental Education Center is nicely laid out with interesting information. This is not the kind of place where you want to bring a child who insists on a “wow” factor, but it’s great for one who likes trees, plants, lizards, and bugs. There is a lot of overhead cover because of the many trees and there is often a breeze. Admission is only $2.50 per person over the age of five and there are guided tours for $2 Fri-Sun, at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Yes, you can take your leashed pet, but you are required to stay on the trails and not wander into the woods. The park is open Thursday-Monday, 8-5:00.

Windley Key Park 1

 

Going Full Circle…….

Drummer Making Music

Drummer Making Music

There are delicious little ironies in life as well as those that bite you in the butt and this post is about one of the lovely ones. If you follow the blog, you know that I am actively involved in and support Homestead Center for the Arts and that we initiated the Music Series, MuSe, last year to bring another type of venue to the area. In most cases, it’s music in the garden of the White Lion Café where people can enjoy an outdoor setting with different genres – jazz, blues, blue grass. It’s been a hit and as we have explained, it really all started one day at lunch as we looked out onto the garden and I said something along the lines of wouldn’t it be great if we could set up a jam session some time. Just work out a time frame and invite whoever to come play and folks could listen in. My two companions are far more musically attuned to genre, etc., than I am and it did not take long for them to conceive of MuSe in the form it has come to have.

One of the gentlemen who puts groups together has an interesting number of musicians he can call on and he always comes through with a great group. It so happens that this week as we did R&B, I was not aware that this particular group of highly talented men wasn’t actually a group. It so happened they were individually skilled in R&B and came together for this performance with virtually no practice time. You wouldn’t know that from they way they blended and while it wasn’t quite a “jam session”, I could easily imagine seeing them doing something like that. It was a great night with wonderful music, great food, and lots of people having fun.

Super Bowl As It Was Meant To Be…..

No, I don’t mean the outcome for my sad Seahawks fans. After all, only two teams can go to the Super Bowl and that means the fans of the thirty other teams are disappointed at some level. If you have multiple teams you enjoy either because you have lived in different places or perhaps players/coaches you admire move to a different team, then you increase your chances to have some emotional investment in the game. Otherwise, what fans want is a good game, played hard, with a fairly balanced score and enough excitement to say, “Did you see that?!” In theory, all Super Bowls should be that way since the playoff system is supposed to allow the two final teams that make it through to be fairly evenly matched. There have, however, been a number of blowouts through the years and in those cases, unless your team happens to be the one winning, you tend to focus on the commercials and maybe the halftime show.

Last night started with the scoreless first quarter and that’s okay, too. The teams were fresh, the defenses determined to do their parts and the coaches taking measure of what kind of plays they were facing. The excitement started late in the second quarter and I made the classic error of seeing the play clock with little time left before the half. I dished up the chili and moved behind my husband’s recliner where I said something like, “I don’t think much is going to happen in the next 11 seconds so we can move to the table.” He corrected me as he pointed to the screen and sure enough, there it was – one of those – “Did you see that?” – moments as the Seahawks made their touchdown. Nice way to tighten the game.

In watching New England fall behind, looking as if they might not catch up, then the push to go forward again, and then the crucial minute where the entire game shifted in an incredible catch – this was what the Super Bowl is about. The actual play that sealed the game was equally spectacular unless of course you were rooting for Seattle. The sheer timing of it though was enough to warm the hearts of those who just wanted to see a good game (and naturally thrilled all Pats fans).

 

 

When Birding Is Like Scuba Diving…..

Spoonbill (183x276)No, I’m not talking about the birds that dive into the water for food. Nor am I at the stage where I can say that I am a birder other than in the sense of I enjoy them and always keep an eye open to see what I can. Yesterday was a rare treat for me. We were on the way back from Key Largo and in looking out over a wide expanse of marsh grass (or whatever it actually is) I saw a flash of pink and realized that I was seeing a roseate spoonbill in flight. How I longed at that moment for a camera and some kind of stop action! I was able to at least relish it briefly and that brings me to the comparison of diving.

One of the fascinations with diving is that you don’t know what you might see while underwater. Oh sure, there are the “usual suspects”, yet every time you submerge, there is a chance that something extra special will swim by, perhaps languidly if you’re lucky or in such a flash that you hope you either captured it on camera or someone else saw it too. Here, those types of sightings are larger sharks, manta rays, dolphins underwater, very rarely a whale shark. Other creatures such as sea horses or certain types of fish can also be a “treat” that are never guaranteed. The way to compare is that diving in the Keys, you will see snappers, grunts, squirrels just as with birds you will see egrets of all sorts, doves, mockingbirds – all enjoyable yet routine. The other common thread of course is the region-specific species that you travel to go see. After all, you aren’t going to get a California Condor stopping into South Florida nor will you see a leafy sea dragon. Destination diving, like destination birding is about going to a place that is the native habitat of a specific species and then hoping that you actually get to see it/them. One of the reasons that we chose this part of Florida is because we are fortunate to have a wide variety of marine life and bird life to keep things interesting.

Scrawled Cowfish have pretty colors

Scrawled Cowfish have pretty colors

Focus On One Thing…..

This is a post for all my readers who love photography. Among the reasons for us to change our plans and remain in South Florida for the foreseeable future is that hubby is getting more into photography, to include above the surface. (Anyone who knows me is aware that the photos I take with my Iphone is it for me.) Hubby though has been greatly inspired and two gentlemen here have recently established the South Florida National Parks Camera Club as a part of the Homestead Center for the Arts (http://homesteadcenterforthearts.com). By partnering with our two local National Parks, and Big Cypress not far away, members of the club have access to parts of the parks that are not normally open to the public. This benefit doesn’t seem to help keep mosquitos away, but it is South Florida.

Anyway, yesterday hubby attended an all day seminar by some well-known photographer that I’m not familiar with. In telling me about his day and how much fun he had, he mentioned that the guy talked about choosing to focus on one thing and becoming as proficient with that as you could with whatever equipment you could afford. His point was that most people shoot a variety of subjects and yet, if you selected one particular subject and really spent time with it, you would develop (no pun intended) as a photographer. In his case, it happened to be sports, but someone else might choose birds or flowers or sunsets. It wasn’t that you stopped taking other photos, rather that you spent extra time with whatever your “specialty” was. Hubby hasn’t decided what his will be, although race cars are pretty high on the list. How about it photographers? Have you done this already?

A Cleaner Look and More…..

New Look to Our Front Yard

New Look to Our Front Yard

Okay, an immediate apology to followers who have been posting photos of snow in their yards. We are now 98% finished with the new look in the front yard with the intent to do two things. The first was to completely clear out the weeds that were truly out of control. The second was to have a cleaner look that also requires less maintenance. For those that live either here or in another climate where tropical plants thrive, you know that we have super weeds. The same environment that allows orchids to bloom lets weeds shoot up quickly and take hold. If you are the least bit inattentive, you have a mess on your hands pretty quickly. Then, fs as we had done, you have other plantings close together, it becomes that much more difficult to get at the weeds. Our new plan takes those factors into account and hopefully, we will now be able to snatch (or spray) those pesky weeds soon after they poke their heads through the mulch. As for our palms, it’s hard to say. Three palms in each front yard was what the developers put in as part of the initial landscaping and a lot of the neighbors have lost their palms over the past few years. We’ll see what happens with ours.

When I wanted one more plant for the front, I was going to maybe get a ground orchid or a bromeliad, and then this different type of succulent caught my eye. I accidentally threw away the tag, so I don’t know what the variety is, but I thought it would work nicely with the aloe vera we had planted. The leaves have a pinkish hue to them.

New Plant - Don't Know the Variety

New Plant – Don’t Know the Variety

Change of Seasons….

During my quick trip to Maine last week, the leaves had not yet begun to change and it was quite pleasant and sunny. That 46 degree morning was a bit of a startle, but the rental car had heated seats and my first meeting was at a Dunkin Donuts so it wasn’t a real issue. Next month when I go to Louisiana and then later to Northern Virginia, I anticipate seeing actual Fall.

The thing is that notwithstanding the fact that I am fine with hot weather, what we don’t get in South Florida are the beautiful colors and the crispness that comes with those gorgeous autumn days you have in cooler climates. You know the kind that I mean; that clear blue of the sky, the sun slanting through gold, yellow, orange, and red leaves that haven’t fallen yet. In early mornings, there might be the curl of wood smoke coming from chimneys. There is a brightness to the days like that you can’t find at any other time of year. And yes, for me, slipping on a sweater, or putting a wrap around my shoulders, taking a book out onto the porch or deck with a favorite beverage and relaxing is a memory that I hold dear no matter where it is that I live now.

So, how about it? What are your favorite fall memories, places, events?

Homestead Book Fair…..

The Homestead Centennial Book will be one of many available during the 2014 Book Fair

The Homestead Centennial Book will be one of many available during the 2014 Book Fair

The Second Annual Main Street Homestead Book Fair will be Saturday, 11 October from 1:00-5:00 p.m. in Losner Park on Krome Avenue as it was last year. I’m posting this early for two reasons. First, for you to save the date since that is a long weekend and there are usually a lot of activities going on. Second, we still have room for a few more authors and it is a great opportunity if someone does have a book (or books) for sale. It can also be an e-book as long as the author has a flier and can interact with attendees about the book. There is no charge for authors which makes this an ideal platform for authors who may not have access to bookstores. There is a simple one-page application and anyone interested can contact me at charlie@charliehudson.net

We will have some returning authors from last year such as Roger Hammer, Marjorie Doughty, Angela Thomas, Bob Jensen with the Homestead Centennial Book, and others. REEF will be sending someone with their Lionfish Cookbook and while the theme this year is about being the Gateway to the Everglades and Biscayne National Parks, we will have multiple genres of fiction and non-fiction for children, young adults, and adults. Selected authors (to include yours truly) will give 30-minute lectures across the street in the Historic Town Hall Museum. Robert Chaplin and Stephen Shelley will also have some of their beautiful photographs that they have taken in and around the National Parks.

Other vendors will be set up on Krome Avenue and with the event ending at 5:00, the Homestead Hot Spot of Stick and Stein, Fat Monkey Bar, and the Martini Bar will be open. The other downtown restaurants of Chefs on the Run, Casita Tejas, El Toro Taco, and Las Aztecas, and Whistlestop Café in Hotel Redland will have been open earlier. Please help spread the word and come join us.

Hooray for Happy Endings……

I was in a brief, but interesting discussion yesterday about happy endings and “formula” books in fiction. Without drifting too far into literature theory, let us, for the sake of this post use something like the big romance chain as formula – the story varies little more than in what setting, age, and socioeconomic level are used. It’s like any franchise restaurant – you know what the menu and décor will be and that’s what you expect. A series by an author is somewhat of a formula because you expect the main character and the recurring characters to be consistent and the “pace” of the book is often the same. Surprises come in with new characters that may be introduced precisely to stretch the boundaries perhaps, show a different side to the main characters, and plot twists are the other means to keep the reader’s interest. Because the author totally controls what happens in fiction, the author also makes the choices about having a happy ending or not. Again, there are “mega-happy endings” to use the quote from the movie “Wayne’s World”, as well as happy, and bittersweet endings. Any of these can work depending on what the author wants as a conclusion. Deciding on a tragic end is fine, too if that serves the purpose of the author, for whatever reason that may be.

The tendency, however, is for some people to say that happy endings aren’t “realistic”. Of course they are, to include mega-happy ones. Are there tragedies everyday in life? Certainly, just as there are wonderful triumphs over adversity. If I want to read tragedy, there are plenty of well-written non-fiction books that can deliver that. When I am looking to relax and be entertained, I don’t want to wade through loss, and sorrow, and cruelty where the “bad guy” wins. There are times when I am in the mood to deal with that in fiction because I enjoy the particular writing style, setting, or whatever, but I want to be aware that is what I’m getting. I don’t want the main character killed off at the last minute unless there are  redemptive qualities attached to his or her death. (Think the character that dies while saving the life of another.)  So, if the back cover says, “Tragic story of”, “profoundly emotional”, etc., then I know what I’m getting into.

If someone wants to narrow their definition of “good books” to minimize or exclude those with happy endings, that’s fine. I, however, don’t view it in those terms.