Monday, July 28, 2014

It's a Girl!

The Papaya that is...

I was checking out the backyard to see what might have cropped up over the weekend and lo and behold, we have flowers on the papaya!  Girly ones at that!

I've been waiting patiently for the papayas to flower to see if I have male or female plants and I'm thrilled that this one is a female.  I have a second papaya very close to flowering and that one is also female.  It would be tragic to have to chop them down.  I have 4 papaya but the other two are quite a bit smaller.  It's annoying how one plant can be 8 feet tall and other plants only 2 feet away are only 4 feet tall.  Oh well, at least they're not dead.

Another discovery I made is that one of the sunchokes has finally flowered!

That's not a giant elephant ear top left in this photo, it's a velvet bean vine (I think!) that's choking the sunchoke!  It's the tubers I'm looking for, not what's above ground so I haven't bothered rescuing it.

My rose bush is also blooming again and quite happy!  I'm simply amazed at how well it's doing in such a short period of time.

Crap Picture of Rose Bush

Here's another shocker - the crepe myrtle I literally tried pulling out of the ground a few months ago because it looked dead as a door nail has flowered!  I guess it needed a good shaking!

Pay no attention to the washed out looking bit at the bottom of the photo! I was going to crop that bit out but Hubby showed me where he knocked a few of my border bricks out of place last night with the lawnmower and I see that I caught a bit of the upheaval in this shot.

All that excitement from a quick walk around the yard!

Is Summer Over Yet?

I had another non-gardening weekend. Not even a wee bit of speed gardening. Harumph.

We celebrated my older brother's 60th birthday this weekend on the east coast of Florida with my two older sisters (who live just south of Melbourne), my Father (who flew down from NH) and of course the birthday boy and his wife (also from NH). My two younger siblings missed out on the sweltering heat party.

I always dread going over to visit the family, particularly in the summer, because the sister who threw the party (and where we stayed the night) sits on her back patio all day and all night, no matter the temperature.

Hubby and I aren't fans of sitting in 95 degree heat and humidity.  The winter isn't as bad. We bring blankets.

When we arrived late Saturday afternoon a thunderstorm followed us in so we were blessed with cool temps for the evening.  But yesterday was a different story.

The birthday boy wanted to have lunch on the water, so older sister's idea of "on the water" was to sit on the deck at a restaurant on the water, not a "window view".  And so we sat on a deck in the sweltering heat. For two hours.  I was mostly in the shade, but when it's 95 degrees and the sun is still glaring at you through the trees and off the water, it still sucks.  Everyone complained, so I didn't feel like the spoil sport.

After we ate and had gone inside the restaurant and were standing around waiting for those who were using the bathroom, my brother says to me "a window seat in here would have been nice"!  I could have wrung his neck!  But he's like me and doesn't like to make waves with older sister and her plans!  So we had a laugh, said our goodbyes and hubby and I headed home.

Needless to say, the heat sucked the life out of the hubby and I.  It was a struggle to drive the 4 hours back home but we made it safe and sound with just enough daylight left to mow the lawn.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Final Update on the Kitchen!

I worked all last weekend cleaning the dust from the cabinets, inside and out. First we had to make sure the dishwasher didn't leak.  Check.  Then I did some pretty serious dishwashing.  Glasses/plates in the dishwasher and pots and pans by hand.  I took the opportunity to weed out some glassware we never use.

Thank goodness we put a tarp up between our dining room and kitchen.  Every single cabinet had to be emptied and cleaned.  15 cabinets in all, not including the 3 base cabinets hubby rebuilt.  The only thing in the kitchen that didn't get dusty were the cookie sheets and cooling racks which I had shoved into the oven when we emptied out that base cabinet, for lack of anywhere else to put them really. Oh, and the 4 drawers (silverware and utensils) - those had been placed in our spare bedroom with the door closed the whole time so those were good to slide back in too.  Phew!

We finally got a settlement check in the mail from the insurance company.  We ended up with $3100 and change! WOWZA!  We were some shocked.  We expected about $500 after the deductible.  We weren't figuring in the labor and tear out that they included in the damages.  Their total came to $5600.

I added up what we've spent so far, not including the flooring and a few odds and ends still needed, and it's just under $1,000, which includes the plumbing bill.  I am so happy we were able to do the job ourselves.

The tricky bit was that the check was made payable to us AND the bank which holds our mortgage/escrow.  When we went to the bank to see about getting them to endorse the check, the young girl said we'd need to provide photographic evidence that the repairs had been done, give them the receipts for our expenses and they would write us a check for what we spent and they would keep the difference.  Er...excuse me?  We just about jumped down her throat!  What gives the bank the right to keep the balance?  We pay the premiums not the bank. Seriously? The young lady could see that we were a wee bit agitated! She decided she should probably check with the branch manager.  Ya think?

She came back and said all we needed to do was bring in photos of the repairs and the receipts - the repairs to the plumbing had to be done by a licensed plumber - and they would endorse the check.

So I made all the copies and photos they needed and they signed the check today.

Case closed!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Dragon Fruit Imposter!

Hubby brought home a fruit from this cactus:

The gentleman whose yard this plant is growing in doesn't eat the fruit and has no idea what it is.  It was in the yard when he bought the house.  It's a cool looking cactus from above!

From my quick bit of research, I believe it's a Peruvian Apple Cactus.  The images match the plant and the fruits:

The fruit is smaller and smoother (no wings) than the Dragon fruit.  The edible innards are similar in appearance to the dragon fruit, but the seeds are larger and the flesh isn't quite as sweet - it's got a different texture as well.  It's perfectly edible, nonetheless.

Here's a quick video:

I'm not keen on prickly plants in my yard, so I'll have to figure out where I could grow this "out of the way".  What I like about the Dragon fruit is that it's a climber.

Here's a picture of my neighbor's Dragon fruit.  Talk about magnificent!!!

It was out of sight, out of mind.  Just growing happily away in my neighbor's back yard for years and years.  Just look at all those droopy flowers!  I just took these pictures a little while ago.  This is growing up a giant Royal Poinciana tree, probably planted when the house was built in the 60's.

The Dragon fruit was planted by our ex-door neighbors who were living in the house next door when we bought our house in 1992.  We believe they bought theirs in the early 80's. They moved away (hence the "ex-door neighbors") in the late 90's. There have been two owners since then.  We have no idea when the Dragon fruit was actually planted, or how long it has been bearing fruit.

All I know is I am secretly hoping our neighbor didn't care for the fruit we picked and left on her porch last night!

Friday, July 18, 2014

My Citrus Trees are Toast!

When we bought our house in 1992, the yard was pretty much naked.  It had a coconut palm, pygmy date palm, and two crinum lilies.  Oh, and some cabbage palms lining the back yard at the woods.

We planted an orange and grapefruit tree the first year and scavenged as many plants as we could find - firecracker plant, areca palms, dracena, gumbo limbo and tropical almond trees.  We even found a dozen or so liriope in someone's trash. It's amazing what people throw out!  Perfectly fine plants that just need a bit of TLC.  The kids thought it was fun to jump out of the back of our Suzuki Samurai, grab and go!

We were gifted a tangerine tree, surinam cherry bush and black sapote by three different neighbors and they're all between 18 and 20 years old.

About 5 years ago we bought a persian lime and meyer lemon tree and I repotted them and basically forgot about them.  The meyer lemon tree was finally planted last fall.  The lime tree got moved out of the shade and has been growing (in its pot) like crazy - full of fruit.  I had good intentions of planting it the past few months but I just never got around to it.

Hubby and I were marveling just a few weeks ago at how well all the citrus trees were doing out back now that they've been getting plenty of water and fertilizer.

Sadly, this is what my limes look like now:

All ruined!  Every single one of them.  And the leaves are looking sickly too.  The meyer lemon looks pretty much the same.

The tangerine in the front yard is toast.  Last year's fruit looked like this lime tree's.  We assumed it was "canker".  I wouldn't eat any of the tangerines, but left it alone hoping this year's fruit would be okay. It's rather hidden in a clump of jungle out front but since my cleanup of the front patio last week and a bit of weeding in that jungle last weekend, it was plain to see that the tangerine tree was pretty much dead.  The branches were dry and brittle, no fruit whatsoever. After a quick bit of research, it's most likely citrus greening. It clearly died from the inside out.

We suspect that the rest of the citrus in the back yard are toast as well, just not showing signs other than the pock marked fruit.  I guess we'll be having a citrus burning party in the back yard soon.

We lost 4 of our coconut palms to lethal yellowing after Hurricane Charley so we are used to suffering losses. But it still sucks.  We really shouldn't be surprised though because citrus trees are dying in droves all around the State.

I guess I'll need to find some replacement fruit trees - mango and fig come to mind.

The Nerve(s) of my Hubby and Dragon Fruit

I think I should change the name of my blog to Sheila's Little Drama's, or Sheila's Little Worries, or Sheila has fallen (asleep) and can't get up...

On Wednesday we went back to University of Miami Hospital for hubby's autonomic nerve testing.  We learned a few more things about hubby's weird symptoms and we have a few more pieces to the puzzle.  The testing determined he has autonomic neuropathy and sensory neuropathy.

The doc confirmed that the autonomic neuropathy is affecting his heart and sweat glands.  It's quite possible his lungs are also affected but he wasn't able to verify that.

The nerves in his left arm are completely "cut off" which also seemed to cause some alarm.

The sensory neuropathy is affecting both feet, both hands and both elbows.  He's been advised to be careful when barefoot since he's not feeling pain in his feet. And he also cautioned about crossing his legs or placing his elbow on, say, an arm rest.  He's at high risk for "foot drop" and some sort of palsy in his hands.

The cause of the nerve damage could be from long term use (20 + years) of cholesterol lowering drugs (statins).  The next step will be to see an endocrinologist and test his blood to see what specific fat(s) is/are causing the high cholesterol so they can better target the cause and eliminate the "broad spectrum" statins.

Although it's not good news, we are relieved to be finally getting some answers.

Yesterday, whilst walking around the back yard, I made a discovery...

My neighbor has DRAGON FRUIT!

I was so excited when I spied these lovelies!  The funny thing is, I got the dragon fruit start from Susan at and realized that's what was growing on the big poinciana tree next door.  I'd never really paid much attention to it.  But my bit of research showed that they flower at night, for one night, and you need to pay attention or you'll miss it because you'll only see the droopy spent flower the next day.  Then the fruit will form over the next several weeks. Well, I've been paying attention the last several weeks since the season for the fruit is NOW. And boy am I tickled pink (pun intended)!!

There were two ripe fruits so hubby asked the neighbor if she knew she had Dragon Fruit and as we suspected, she didn't have any idea what he was talking about.  Drats!  He could have snatched them both and she wouldn't have had a clue! But as usual he did the right thing and asked her.  So he got both of them down, left one on her front porch (she was leaving as he was getting home) and we ate half of ours tonight and we'll eat the other half tomorrow.  There are at least half a dozen more fruits growing, in the green stage. Very exciting!

I LOVE this fruit!  Can't get enough of it!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Plumber is Here! The Plumber is Here!

The plumber is starting to wrap things up.

What a beautiful sight:

There is soooo much dust in there - I have quite a cleaning job ahead of me.

We installed the drawer hardware last night and put the dishwasher and range back in place, so I can simply slide the drawers back in.  We'll reinstall the doors tonight.

I am so thankful that my kitchen will be back in operation shortly!!!

Friday, July 11, 2014

I Like Bricks!

In 2003 we built a brick patio in front of our house.  We really like bricks.

It is still serving us well!  The fountain was our 25th Wedding Anniversary present to ourselves in 2005.

The bricks I'm using in the back yard border are inexpensive and made of cement.  Much heavier than these "real" bricks in the front patio.

We built working shutters (vs. useless decorative ones) after Hurricane Charley in 2004. We were very lucky - we had nary a scratch on the house from that storm.

We built the shutters when Hurricane Ivan was headed into the Gulf.  Charley scared the life out of us. These shutters are fantastic! Just unhook them from the house, close them, and voila! We have metal shutters for the rest of the windows which are small enough that I can install them by myself.

I'm amazed the little brick walkway to the big patio has survived all these years. We used up most of the little pieces of brick from the cuts we made - you can see all the little bits of brick on the left. They haven't budged an inch!  I love bricks!

Before I took this picture you could barely see the patio it was so full of weeds. Ugh.  I wish I had taken a picture of the weeds so you could have seen how horrible it was before my two night weeding spree.

Hubby worked hard getting the cabinets finished and bolted into the wall today. We have a few more things to do tomorrow then the countertop gets reinstalled with the help of a friend on Sunday!  YAY!  The plumber is scheduled for Monday at 8:30. Boy have I got some cleaning to do once I get my counter and sink back!  Dust EVERYWHERE!

After hubby's long day working on the kitchen, and after my weeding and sweeping, we sat out front and watched the full moon rise. It was lovely to sit out there again.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Brick Border is Nearly Finished

I could have sworn I added an update to the border, but I guess I only posted about my splitting a brick (tee hee!).

I was determined to add the last 10 bricks I had on hand last weekend and when I finished I made it nearly to the steps off our deck.

I'm guesstimating 30 more bricks should finish the job.

Kitchen Update

We've made good progress on the kitchen cabinets.  Hubby works today and Thursday but he's off Fri/Sat/Sun so our plan is to take the weekend and have everything ready for the plumber to come back on Monday.

We have one more box to build (the corner which is dead space) and we need to drill the holes for the power/water lines.  We'll find someone to help us put the countertop back on and get that screwed down.  We should be ready for the plumber to come back on Monday.  

We also need to add kickplates and install the doors and drawer hardware in the cabinet to the right of the dishwashwer.  The new floor will be installed by hubby's coworkers in a few weeks.

Hubby has unexplained low oxygen levels which causes severe fatigue and dizziness.  It's definitely been a challenge for him to work on this project.  Here's where his oxygen level seems to be stuck at most of the time:

It will go down to 87 and up to about 93, but generally when he checks it, 90 seems to be the magic number.  Not easy to live with.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

I Split A Brick!

I added about 10 more bricks to the border this morning. The curve messed up the overlapping pattern I had started so I made a gap about half a brick wide and continued to add a few more bricks.

I came inside to cool down a bit and decided that rather than bother hubby with splitting the brick for me, I'd look it up on the interwebs and figure out how to do it myself.  Once I read a few instructionals, I found the three tools I needed out in the garage.  It's amazing what we've got laying around for hand tools.

I chiseled around the brick as instructed, used a different (heavier) chisel to whack it, and ta da!

It's not perfect, but it fits just fine so I'm calling it done!  And now I know how to do it!

I've read that sprinkling baking soda in the gaps keeps weeds/grass from growing. I might try that.  Lots of gaps on the curves.

This morning's half hour of fun in the garden was a much needed distraction for me!  I estimate about 36+/- more bricks ought to finish the garden border.

One of David the Good's seed bomb seeds has flowered!

What a lovely plant.  The foliage is as nice as the flower!  I'm ashamed to admit I have no idea what this flower is. The leaves aren't right for tickseed or cosmos, at least not the ones I have grown.  It's not a poppy I've ever seen, although it might be a form of mexican poppy. Please leave a comment if you can identify it.  I'm definitely going to gather the seeds and spread it around.

My bird feeding area is coming alive with the ginger, turmeric and caladium bulbs I've planted. I'm very happy with how this is looking now.

The caladiums along the deck will be moved to the bird area.

Crappy picture of Caladiums

They'll be much happier out of the full sun.

And one of my sunchokes is budding!  Yay!

I'm still patiently waiting for the Roselle to bloom.  It's very healthy and happy so hopefully soon!

I'm hoping we get a cloudy/rainy day tomorrow so I can get back out in the yard for more than 1/2 an hour.  Fingers crossed!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Kitchen Cabinets, Clove Mosquito Spray and a Bit of Gardening

Hubby had a bit of vacation time available so he was able to take a few days off to start building the three base cabinets we need in order to get the countertop/sink back on.   

Here are the two that have been built so far:

I know.  Bad picture.  Wierd angle.  Blah blah.

Hubby is working his 12 hour day today so we'll be building the third one tomorrow.  Now that the darn dehumidifier is out of the kitchen and it's not 90 degrees in there, I'll be able to help with this one.

We need to go back to Home Depot to get more wood for this last cabinet. I could go do that today while he's working but I'm not sure the measurements we came up with last night are correct. We should remeasure, just to be sure. Our wonderful Home Depot cuts whatever you need with no charge!  How awesome is that?

If we don't get the last cabinet finished tomorrow, that's fine with me.  I'd rather we took our time and did it right.  The difference in cost to build the bases ourselves is worth it.  $1350 vs. $200 for the replacement cabinets is a no brainer!

It felt great to get back out in the yard for a bit this morning.  I used the regular deet type mosquito spray on my arms and back of neck, and I sprayed the clove/alcohol/mineral oil spray I made a few weeks ago on my legs.  I doubt I sprayed my ankles, and that's the only place I saw mosquitoes on my legs.

In the half hour or so I was out back I planted my "knockout" rose (finally!), a pot of lantana, 3 shoots of simpson stopper that grew in the pot with my lime tree, and 3 blue sage plants.

I bought 20 more bricks for the border project the weekend before "the disaster".
I hope to get back out later today to set those bricks.  I'll also retest the clove spray again, making sure I spray my ankles! I'm guardedly optimistic it's going to work. I do need a better spray bottle though...note to self.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Best Friends and Disasters

My best friend invited us to dinner last night.  It was a much needed break from what we've been dealing with.

The sink base cabinet worked out fine so he'll go ahead and build the other two. That is such a relief.  It will cost us a few hundred instead of a few thousand.  We estimate that the insurance claim will only pay out $500, if that, due to our deductible.  Lesson learned - don't bother with insurance, just get the job done. We were delayed 3 days getting the soaking wet floor out of there!

I had an idea this morning about what to use to "waterproof" the cabinets against a future water disaster.  My son sprayed some sort of "rubberized paint" on his car's wheels.  It is amazing stuff.  It can be peeled off but not without quite a bit of effort.  So it really "sticks".  I think it would be perfect to spray on the bottom and inside of the newly built cabinets!

Here's the reason we won't be reusing, even temporarily, the damaged cabinets:

Oh My Word!  Disgusting!

Here's the disaster that is our kitchen:

The stove is in the fridge hole and the dishwasher in front of that.  The big metal thing is the infernal dehumidifier and then there are two of those blue fans.  That's the sink base in progress, and the hole in the wall.  Because the company who brought the dehumidifier and fans hasn't come back or given us a clue as to when they'll be back, we decided to let the hole in the wall dry out as much as possible before we fix it since the leak wrecked the wall as much as the cabinets and floor.

The funny paint job made us laugh though.  We had forgotten about that!  We painted the kitchen a light green, but it looked awful once we got the cabinets and countertops installed, so we repainted it the darker green - post installation.

I'd really like to go back to bed and have it all magically repaired when I wake up. But I guess I'll go to work and leave hubby to the disaster in the kitchen.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Progress on the Kitchen!

We got the leaky drain pipe fixed yesterday.  It was a two step process.  The plumber came first thing to cap the pipes so we could remove the countertop (with sink still attached), dishwasher, and remaining damaged cabinets.  Then the plumber came back later in the day to replace the broken pipe.  It was the original 1965 copper drain pipe.

Yuck.  The pipe was worn paper thin.

A friend came to help hubby lift off the long countertop/sink.  As we had hoped, by keeping the sink attached to the countertop it all came out smoothly and didn't break that small section in front of the sink.  That was a major relief!

Today's job is to fill the holes in the wall, both inside and outside, and clean up the floor where the cabinets and appliances came out.

As for the cabinets, there are a few problems.

The Claims Manager called back yesterday to say it would be next week before they made their final assessment.  WTH?

The second is that once we order the new cabinets it will take up to 5 weeks to be delivered!  It's just not possible to be without a working kitchen until then.

The third problem is that the sink base cabinet was totally destroyed between the wet and needing to remove the back to get at the wall to find the leak.  So we can't put the countertop/sink back on until we build a new cabinet box to fill in that gap.

Our original idea was to just put the yucky cabinets back in now that they've been completely dried out and use them until we can order the new cabinets.  But with that sink base destroyed that's no longer gonna fly.

So we're going to Plan B.  Hubby was able to remove the cherry wood facing from the sink base without any trouble.  He'll be building a new sink base today and will reinstall the cherry facing and doors.  If it all goes well, and is acceptable to our eye, we'll go ahead and do the other two and call it a day the plumber!