Mini-Farming in Florida!

Alright, three months later, and I am back! 2015 was a year filled with excitement, happiness, and new experiences! To top it off, in early November I moved from Massachusetts to the panhandle of Florida!

My sister bought ten acres in the suburbs of Pensacola, and I moved down here with her and her fiance to start a “mini-farm”.

She named it Prickly Pear Plantation, because of these little cacti called prickly pears, which are actually edible… in theory. I have yet to get more than a couple nibbles out of the center, because they must be cooked to the point where all the bristles, and small bristly hairs are gone. But by this point they have shrunk and shriveled so much, that it is nearly impossible to get any meat out of them. What I usually end up with is tiny hairy bristles stuck in my tongue and lips. I think some grow much larger than the ones on our property though, so hopefully I can find a better specimen to try.

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We will be growing vegetables, and started double digging out garden plots which we will plant in February. We will be keeping chickens for eggs as well; we got seven baby chicks three weeks ago and already built the chicken coop.

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They grow up so fast!

We have also cleaned up the property, built a shed, planted a few fruit trees, built/ repaired fences, and built a “catititat” (habitat for cats) all in just about six weeks!

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Don’t worry, there’s a shelf for them to jump back through the window if they want to go inside.

Everything is going great so far, and we are getting a lot accomplished. We keep moving towards ours goals, and even though some days are slower than others, we can already look back over the two months and see tremendous progress! For instance, the piles of trash the previous owners left all around the yard have been cleaned up.

Pensacola is a beautiful coastal city with a nice little strip of bars and restaurants. We have been to the Wednesday night runs at the World of Beer a few times, where after a three mile run the bar provided runners some complimentary food and beer specials.

The dogs are enjoying the large property as well, pouring seemingly endless amounts of energy into sprinting around the fields and roughhousing with each other. When I arrived a week after my sister and her fiance moved into the house, I surprised her with Leo, her cat who I had been looking after in Massachusetts while she moved.

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Well… I guess they tire themselves out sooner or later.

It all feels like a dream come true. The work we are putting in is already starting to show, but we also have lots of toil ahead of us. That is okay though, it is just part of building something to be proud of. Getting down here was a big step, and now we just need to keep the momentum going to keep building (and growing) our dreams. And with beautiful warm weather, it is easy to stay in high spirits!

And it gets to be a little harder to pull myself away from the outdoors and plunk myself down on a computer. But hey, that’s a good problem to have!

Be sure to follow Steph’s blog, “Steph Matt Stella Become Southern”!

How Quickly We Adjust, for better or worse

After the February that Massachusetts had with the snow and cold, it was nice just to be warm! Pumping gas suddenly had a refreshing quality to it. Just being able to walk to the car without your hands aching was a treat. And hiking around outdoors was nirvana.

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The funny thing I noticed though, is how quickly I get used to something. Not just the weather, but also the stimulation; no matter how much is going on, it seems to level out, and I return to my typical demeanor. Shouldn’t I have been energetic and filled with excitement for the entire cruise?

There’s a lot of pressure when you have committed time and money to a vacation. I need to have fun, I need to not waste my time, I need to make the most of it! But this can make it less enjoyable and more stressful sometimes. Sitting in a pub on the lower decks of ship suddenly becomes boring. Sitting in a pub in Massachusetts a week before was my entire plan for the night, and possibly the most exciting thing I did all week.

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But on a cruise ship, I wasn’t contrasting the pub with work or shoveling snow, I was comparing it to swimming in crystal blue waters, and scaling a rock climbing wall. This relates to an earlier post about stress levels: it always seems that no matter how great we have it, the amount of stress on us feels relatively the same. And it didn’t matter how awesome this vacation was, there were still going to be highs and lows.

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Even though the low of the vacation is still higher than a typical high in a winter week in Massachusetts, it is hard to recognize that in the moment. How quickly I forget! Two weeks ago I couldn’t imagine ever being warm again, and one week ago I couldn’t imagine ever being cold again.

Likewise, the first couple days in Florida were spent doing things like lighting a large bonfire in order to clear some brush and junk wood from my cousin’s land. Now, I just so happen to like this sort of activity, but I can’t express through words the joy and satisfaction I felt spending all day outside doing yard work. I hadn’t been outside for that long in three months, possibly longer! And when I was outside in New England, it just hurt.

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And yet a week later I had adjusted and strolled lazily around a beach in Mexico, napping in a hammock under palm trees, standing just feet away from huge crocodiles at an exhibit. How drab. Yet if I could immediately teleport back to that hammock right now, my elation would be untamable. I would probably even go swimming, even though it was only about 74 degrees, and breezey.

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It all gets back to appreciating things and making sure to enjoy each moment. I certainly never complained about the heat down there, and when I felt annoyed that it wasn’t warm enough, I had to remind myself where I came from. The psychology of it all is fascinating; you would think everyday on the cruise I would feel as alive and happy as I did burning dead wood at my cousin’s house. But it is easier said than done.

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Really, it was an awesome vacation. But again a comparison poses a problem: last year’s cruise was even better. Had this been the first cruise I ever went on, there would be nothing to rank it against, and therefore nothing to be disappointed about.

My main takeaway from this is that without effort, things call fall into dreariness. It actually takes work to have fun and enjoy yourself sometimes! But stepping back and having appreciation for the opportunities offered can always kick me back to that place of gratitude. I had an awesome vacation, and I have an awesome life, for which I am grateful everyday!

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Did I Accomplish My Vacation Goals?

Before I went to Florida I wrote down a short list of things to accomplish, just to get me into vacation mode. Overall I think I did pretty well. Let’s go through it point by point to be official.

  • Starting conversations with strangers was pretty easy. I knocked this off day 1 in Savannah, and then kept going through the rest of the vacation.
  • Find out someone’s unique philosophy on life. I am going to call this one accomplished, because I did get some good perspective. Think of this: depression is a luxury. I’m not trying to minimize anyone’s suffering, and there are some real reasons to be depressed. But general short lasting depression could be considered a luxury in the sense that you have time to be depressed. Most people starving to death trying to scrape together enough food don’t have time to be depressed. They may think, I’m sad, I’m in pain, but they probably won’t be thinking, “what does it all mean?”
  • Not only did I get to the coast, I got to two coasts, the Gulf and the Atlantic (in Georgia). I also flew over the Gulf of Mexico in a small plane.

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  • So I may take a technicality on the foraging goal. I found a few wild edibles, but I didn’t actually forage any. My cousin has a bunch of bamboo in her yard, and I’ve had bamboo in some Thai dishes. But when I looked up bamboo, turns out there are over 1,000 varieties, and only about 15% are edible. They all may be fine if treated properly, but I didn’t want to take the risk this time. I did however find some edible glasswort on the beach in Georgia on my drive home. I didn’t pick any, but now I know for next time.
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Glasswort

 

  • Got a picture of the sign that warns you to use the historic steps in Savannah, at your own risk.
  • I’m going to use this as my picture of something Florida. Turns out bamboo burns really well. But I think I was being a little prejudiced when I said I wanted a picture of “something Florida”. I didn’t see anything that bad. But I did go to an auction where the specialty item for the night was frozen food. And a dancing, singing, mechanical 4 foot tall Santa sold for over a hundred dollars.

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  • I don’t think I did anything that redneck. I really failed on this front in fact. I could have at least ridden my cousin’s horse without a saddle, or grabbed an ATV for a ride through the mud. Well I’ll be back there in February, hopefully I will get to go mudding then. (I got a pedicure, which is essentially the 100% exact opposite of doing something redneck…)
  • I accompanied my cousin to a horse supply store that is 3 minutes from her house, which she had never been to. But I figured I would use the roller skating rink for this accomplishment: to go somewhere nearby my cousin had never been. I went with her to her friends’ daughters’ birthday party. Roller blade rentals were $3, and after making sure I would not go down hard in a heap, I thoroughly enjoyed gliding around the rink for an hour. It was probably the first time I rollerbladed in a decade.
  • Eating something unique to the area: I totally blew this one out of the water! I tried raw oysters and alligator from Apalachicola, a coastal town on the pan handle. I also tried home made (and hunted) venison summer sausage, and deep fried turkey. I enjoyed all of it, though the turkey tasted the best. I guess it is hard to make something taste bad when you deep fry it in a vat of oil. I still didn’t try boiled peanuts, but I hear I’m not missing much.
  • As for doing some suggestions from the comments, as I’ve mentioned, I ate gator. But I also went to the Pirate’s House in Savannah.

And that is that. It was kind of fun checking things off the list. Maybe I will make up a sort of scavenger hunt adventure to do over the holidays in order to try to capture the vacation feeling while at home.

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Wait, Why Did I Leave 80 Degree Sunny Florida?

I am now back in the desolate tundra that is wintertime New England. It was a great trip. I realized how much easier it is to drive around in most of the country. Straighter roads, fewer people, and you can keep an eye out for the cops from a longer distance. No exaggeration, I saw more revenue collectors cops during the hour or less I spent driving through New York than the entire rest of the trip. Seriously.

From the radio, you would think there were only five songs ever written, two by Taylor Swift. Quite the percentage. But it was a good drive; my Mustang made it, and now has over 230,000 miles on it… time for an oil change. Here are a few highlights from the last couple days of my vacation.

My Aunt and Uncle were kind enough to take me on a trip in their plane up to Apalachicola on the pan handle. I felt like a little kid I was so excited. The only other time I have been in a plane that small was when I went parachuting.

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My Aunt (a lawyer) said they call these doctor/lawyer killers because they are affordable enough, but when you’re busy with work, you don’t get a lot of practice. Her husband was flying this time.

 

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See how legit I am: I even had the headset. (It was really loud without those noise canceling headphones)

 

Flying low, approaching the Apalachicola airport

Flying low, approaching the Apalachicola airport

Hard "likker", or as we would say in New England, Hahhd Likka.

Hard “likker”, or as we would say in New England, Hahhd Likka.

I tried raw oysters (not bad, but next time I'll probably have them cooked)

I tried raw oysters (not bad, but next time I’ll probably have them cooked)

I also tried alligator puff pastry. Tasted like chicken.

I also tried alligator puff pastry. Tasted like chicken.

...might have come from this guy.

…might have come from this guy.

And finally on my drive home near Savannah, I couldn't resist one last stop to soak up the sun. Here is the little piece of paradise where I ate lunch.

And finally on my drive home near Savannah, I couldn’t resist one last stop to soak up the sun. Here is the little piece of paradise where I ate lunch.

Tomorrow I will go through my list of goals to let you know how I did. 🙂

Joe Jarvis’ Bogus Journey

On Wednesday I will be departing the north once more to drive down to Florida for a visit with my aunt and cousin, and to spend Thanksgiving with them. Vacations, especially this year, have been what invigorates me and keeps me flowing with energetic and hopeful blood! And hopefully, this time I won’t have to drive through a snowstorm until North Carolina.

So fully expect my posts when I come back to be better. Better in the almost delusional tone that was presented when I started this blog, fresh off an amazing week in the New Hampshire Mountains at a campground with so many other likeminded and friendly individuals.

In February, I went on my first cruise, which besides Canada was also my first time out of the country. It flicked a switch in my mind. I knew I liked to travel, but I didn’t really know to what degree. Maybe it was the vitamin D, or the magic of the Caribbean, or perhaps those Mexican beers had a special ingredient, but when I returned, I was happier, more talkative, extremely positive, and invigorated!

But that was without being inspired at my core. Yes I love everything about vacationing, cruising, and tropical islands, but the event in June appealed to my base values and worldview. PorcFest (which has nothing to do with meat, it is short for Porcupine Freedom Festival) is like a cross between the annual summit for my political interests, and burning man. It is Woodstock for my ilk, hippies for freedom, survivalists for peace. And strangely enough this political type event inspired me to create a blog devoted to everything but politics.

I already had my politics shtuff going, and what ran through my veins after PorcFest was a life force. There was so much I wanted to do with the information and feelings that came to me over that week! But political avenues are notoriously frustrating and often futile. So I decided to spread my positive energy via another platform: this everything-but-politics blog.

Now I am generally a positive person, and I like to be outgoing. Some might find this shocking, but I am not actually the most naturally outgoing person. So sometimes I need to almost trick myself, or at least set myself up so that my future self will do what my current self wants him to do.

You see, it would be easy for me to think of all these cool quirky things I want to do on my way down, back, and in Florida. But if the only thing holding me to that is… well, me, than the only person I could let down is… me.

Thus, I am creating a list, almost scavenger hunt-y, and sharing it here for my little goals during my trip. And once I tell the internet about my plans, I feel to ignore them would not only let myself down, but others as well.

On the way down I may be like, “Uhg, I don’t feel like talking to strangers!” But if it is on my list, I might force myself out of my comfort zone. And in the end, that type of situation almost always ends with me glad I did socialize, or whatever the circumstances.

This is even more important since I am going it alone this time! Which is also a big step out of my comfort zone; I’ve never taken a road trip this far by myself. But that’s part of growing as a person, busting apart our comfort zones, and experiencing things without our embedded reservations. It’s worked out for me so far.

So here are some ideas for me. Nothing crazy, just got to get my Excellent Adventure juices flowing.

  • Start at least 2 conversations with strangers, preferably during the drive down. (A stranger starting a conversation with me does not count towards this)
  • Find out someone’s unique philosophy on life and compare it to my own.
  • Get to the coast, and take in the beach and ocean. Try to scoop in enough to last me until February.
  • Find a wild edible/ medicinal plant to forage and use.
  • Get a picture of a sign that tickles my fancy.
  • Get a picture of “something Florida”. Need I explain more?
  • Do something redneck. (This should be easy, I’m a hick at heart)
  • Enlist my cousin’s help to check out something close by that she has not seen/ done. (You know, the old, “I’ve lived here for ___ years and I’ve never ___”.)
  • Eat something unique to the area (I’m thinking boiled peanuts, but I could find something else?)
  • Do at least one suggestion FROM THE COMMENTS! (I NEED YOU GUYS TO SUGGEST STUFF IN ORDER FOR THIS ONE TO WORK. DON’T LET ME DOWN).

That should be a good starting point, just to get me out of my shell. If it goes well, then perhaps I will make a new list for week 2 of the vacation.

In addition to checking some of these things off my list in order to cast me into the fray, you can expect some other things over the next couple weeks. Expect pictures of me with lots of animals. These thin pictures of me on the sides and top of this blog; the Alaskan Malamute and the horse are my cousin’s. She also has another horse, and now another dog. And then there are my aunt’s three Akitas, a pig, some cows… well you get the point. I like animals.

And if all goes according to plan I will be stopping by Savannah, at least for lunch. I want to check it out for a second time, since there is a possibility that I will move to the area within a year. Also, my second fiction book (the first is in editing stages), which I am currently working on, takes place in the Savannah area. So I need to do some scoping out for that as well.

I am well aware the tone I present here fluctuates. I feel I can no longer as naturally cast forth good will and life giving energy with such ease as I could on July 1st. But like the cruise, the road trip to Indianapolis, PorcFest, New York City, the road trip to Vermont, and camping in Vermont, I fully expect to return invigorated with the same natural energy emanating that gave this blog birth. And if that fades, well I only have to wait until February for another cruise, to restart my cycle.

I started this blog with Joe Jarvis’ Excellent Adventure. If all goes well, this will be Joe Jarvis’ Bogus Journey!