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Monday, 2 April 2012
Rain at Last

When I first thought about moving to Florida, I was amazed at the rainfall figures--from eveything I read it seemed that 60 inches per year was the norm.

I don't think we've ever had that much rain since I moved here, but we've had some pretty wet years. Our pond, Oak Lake, was full to the brim when we moved to our property in 2006. Every spring we would sit out on our screened porch and listen to the frogs singing. Where I come from in Africa, frogs croak, they do not sing. Here, they make wonderful music, with the deep bass tones of the bullfrogs harmonizing with the high pitched tree frog sounds.

Since then the pond has slowly dried up, as have so many of the lakes in Florida, and this winter we had no frog music. We didn't have a rain storm of any worthwhile significance for five months. Our well has started to "draw down". This means if too many people take water out of the aquifer, or underground lake, the water level goes down, until it is below the level of the pipes in the well, so they can't suck up any water.

I heard mutterings like "We need a hurricane. Florida hasn't had a hurricane since 2005." Yeah, like a hole in the head, I thought.

This Saturday afternoon the clouds built up, lighting flashed and thunder cracked. And then finally the rain came down in sheets. Oh joy!

After the storm everything was just so clean and fresh and it smelled new. Now we just have to hope we'll get more of the same.


Posted by trishjax at 3:06 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
The Recession as I see it
The Great Recession  1.      The greed of the money lenders started it all. Hundreds of thousands of people were not properly qualified for home loans and were allowed to buy houses and get mortgages with very low down payments. 2.      The easy availability of money caused an explosion in real estate sales.3.      Real estate values are determined by supply and demand. The huge demand and relatively small availability of properties drove home prices up to unrealistic levels.4.      Speculators bought additional homes with a view to flipping them for a higher price.5.      Banks sold bundled mortgages to insurance companies so they could free up more cash to make more loans.6.      The people who did not earn enough to repay their loans defaulted. Hundreds of thousands of them.7.      A snowball effect followed.8.      Money lenders and insurance companies foreclosed on the unpaid mortgages and now owned real estate inventory. They were not geared to maintain them. They sold them at what was owed just to get rid of them.9.      Banks stopped providing easy qualifying loans. The market was flooded with cheap foreclosed properties. 10.  There were too many properties on the market and not enough people could qualify to buy them. Many were foreclosed properties sold at a reduced price. Prices started to drop. 11.  The demand for housing came to a grinding halt. Too much supply, not enough demand.12.  Builders had over built and over extended themselves and were unable to pay their suppliers or contractors. 13.  Thousands of industries tied to the building industry—manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, contractors, real estate agencies and mortgage brokerages had to lay off personnel.14.  The laid off personnel defaulted on their mortgage payments because they had no jobs. 15.  The value of properties dropped some more.16.  Banks and insurance companies were in financial trouble. They were not receiving the repayments of their loans nor the interest, and they had property inventories they were unable to sell.17.  They laid off personnel. The small ones went under.18.  People who had bought expensive homes during the good times found their mortgages were higher than the value of their homes, so many of them simply walked away. Why pay off a $300,000 mortgage if the house is only worth $200,000?19.  Their homes were foreclosed on and more properties flooded the market.20.  Consumers stopped spending.21.  Small businesses went bankrupt.22.  Insurance companies lost the income they would normally get from all the businesses that went bankrupt.23.  Very large insurance and banking institutions got into trouble and were bailed out by the government.24.  Smaller ones went bankrupt.25.  Consumers stopped running up credit and credit card companies went under.26.  They stopped buying cars and General Motors had to be bailed out by the government.27.  Consumers turned to cheaper suppliers and expensive stores went out of business. Walmart flourished.28.  No new jobs were created.29.  The federal government agreed to pay extended unemployment benefits.30.  Banks took their foreclosed homes off the market to try and stabilize the supply.31.  The value of most homes in the U.S. have been cut in half.32.                        Many older people applied for early social security benefits.33.  Jobs are scarce. The government became over extended and got into debt.34.  Where will it end?

Posted by trishjax at 11:59 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 7 March 2012
Mild Winter and Drought

Florida has had its mildest winter since we moved here in 2005.

Last year alone, we had more than 22 days of below freezing temperatures in north Florida. This year we've had two.

Most of the time, the weather has been very mild, 50's at night and 70's in the day, and it's been perfect for hiking on the weekends.

The only down side to the story is the drought. Florida usually has around 60 inches of rain every year. Last year I think we only had about 20.

We've not had a major hurricane since 2006.

The water level in our well is way down and if we use the sprinkler system to water our lawn, the well "draws down" and we run out water totally for a coupleof hours.

Most of the lakes all over the region are really just depressions in the ground below the groundwater level. Since this drought started, 90 percent of them have gone down exponentially and many have dried up completely.

So, the general consensus is--we need some big storms to replenish our water. Slow-moving tropical storms are the best. They don't come with strong winds, but they do dump a lot of water in their path.


Posted by trishjax at 1:20 PM EST
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Thursday, 16 February 2012
Hiking -Bayard Point Conservation Area

Having recently become interested in hiking, I have found that the Saint Johns Water Management District here in north Florida have multiple conservation tracts which are available to the public for hiking, bicycling, horse riding, and hunting.

They also have a great website where one can print out maps showing the trails, with distances and a description of what to expect in every tract.

We tried out the Bayard Point Conservation Area in Green Cove Springs last weekend, and found the trails to be well-maintained and well blazed.

The land borders the Saint John's River on one side, where there is a picnic table and primitive camping facilities. A couple of other campsites have hand-pumped wells for water, although it is not potable. One had tiolets.

The trails mostly wind in out of tracts of planted pine, and natural pine and oak canopies. We did not see any deer, but a hiker we passed said he had seen some. We followed the longest route and ended up doing just under 10 miles.

 

 


Posted by trishjax at 11:31 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 16 February 2012 11:41 AM EST
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Wednesday, 25 January 2012
HIking

My husband has recently encouraged me to go hiking with him, and now that the weather is condusive, I'm really enjoying it.

"Hiking" in Florida does not really challenge one that much, I guess, because there are no mountains. The toughest thing for me to negotiate is the thick, white sand, where you just can't get any traction, like a beach. It's good training for more challenging terrain, though.

The first thing I had to do was buy some hiking shoes, but the only women's hiking shoes at Academy Sports were those brown leather ankle boots.They may be great for climbing mountains with snow on the top, but they are definitely much too hot for Florida.

I ended up choosing women's trail running shoes. I was really picking up on the term "trail" and hoped that meant they helped correct rough ground.

We are lucky enough to have two state forest preserves within 5 minutes drive from our house. Belmore State Forest is new. It was private land until just a couple of years ago, and so far they haven't made any trails, but there is a network of roads one can walk on.

Etoniah Creek State Forest is totally different. It has a vast network of trails which provide quite diverse scenery and terrain.

The wildlife is mostly quite nervous, because hunting also takes place where we hike--We just have to hope nobody mistakes us for deer on those days. We have seen deer a few times, though, and wild turkeys with the emphasis on wild. The tracks we've seen include deer, turkey, raccoon, fox, coyote, bears and Florida panther.

We started doing about three miles at a time, and have built it up to 12 now. We keep challenging ourselves with greater distances every few weeks. So far the most beautiful hike we've been on was along the part of the Florida Trail that runs along side Etoniah Creek. The creek drops into a 60-foot deep canyon, with enormous trees and crystal clear water. The trail also includes a winding pathway through thick forest on a bed of pine needles.

The next step is to travel further afield, and we are very lucky to live where there is a huge choice of hiking trails. Now all I'm waiting for is to see some of the pounds fall off!


Posted by trishjax at 2:17 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 25 January 2012 2:36 PM EST
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Tuesday, 27 December 2011
The Quiet Country Life

People often speak about moving to the country for some peace and quiet.

I've got news for them-- the country is not all that quiet.

True--the city sounds of never ending traffic, sirens, and horns are non-existant in the country and maybe that is what people are specifically trying to escape.

However--in my neighborhood it is definitley not quiet, and I live way out in the country.

Firstly, just about everyone has chickens. Roosters do not crow to herald the new day. That's a myth. Roosters crow any time of the night they feel like crowing. What's worse, they keep crowing until they get the answer they are looking for from other roosters in the neighborhood.

Everyone in the country has dogs, and there are no laws out here in the country to make people keep their dogs quiet. Wild life is everywhere--raccoons, possums, squirrels, owls, deer, coyotes and armadillos to name just a few, and dogs bark at them.

In our neighborhood, someone has peacocks. It's not clear who they belong to, because they wander around visiting whomever has food for them. At night they make a very loud noise that sounds something like "help, help!"

Our next door neighbor used to keep horses. Now they've moved on to donkeys. It's hard to imagine that such a cute little animal is capable of making such a loud and unpleasant noise.

They also have guinea fowl, which I used to love. They apparently do not like being locked up and they let everyone know. Their noise can go on for longer than 24 hours without a break. I know. I've timed them.

Most country folk own guns -- and shoot on a regular basis just for fun at any time of the night or day.

One of our neighbors is a trucker. Every Friday night he has a party with his trucker buddies and plays his truck radio as loud as it can go. When everyone is nice and drunk, they get into their trucks and have truck drag races, with revving engines and sqealing tires.

Cows, if there are enough of them, can also be pretty noisy, and if you happen to be near a dairy, you know they start milking at some ungodly hour when you thought you were going to be sleeping.

So--if you come to the country for peace and quiet, just don't count on it.


Posted by trishjax at 2:48 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 27 December 2011 2:51 PM EST
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Tuesday, 20 December 2011
Christmas Tree

For the first time in many years my husband and I will be alone for Christmas.

 Children make Christmas so special, and we've had the privilege of being able to spend the last 6 Christmases with three of our grand children.

 Over that period it has become a tradition to let them choose the Christmas tree. On our 8.40 acre property we have about 1,000 pine and juniper trees, many of which are around the right height.

Usually, we all take a walk up to the patch of most likely trees and everyone discusses the good and bad points of each possibility. When we agree on THE one, David cuts it and transports it down to the house with the tractor and trailer. The kids love to ride with the tree. 

This year they moved back to California. We had the perfect tree, there was no need to search any further. I felt really lonely decorating it without the kids to help me, but I got it done, and it looks quite festive and has helped to put us in the Christmas mood.

We have decided not to go and visit for Christmas because flying is just such a nightmare at this time. Next year we might just take a road trip to California in December.

Meantime, we'll enjoy a quiet day together. Maybe we'll skype with the kids, which will, in way, put us all together.

I am really happy that our daughter will be with her brothers for Christmas for the first time in ten years, and I wouldn't change that for anything.


Posted by trishjax at 10:28 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 20 December 2011 10:30 AM EST
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Monday, 28 November 2011
Hiking Weather

Summer is not a good time to go hiking in Florida. Three reasons: heat, humidity and bugs.

Fall after the deer flies have stopped hatching, winter and spring before the deer flies hatch, are great times to enjoy the outdoors here.

We are lucky enough to live a couple of miles away from two state forest reserves. Blemore State Forest is new. It was donated to the Florida forest service only in 2008, and so far they have not made any hiking trails.

The network of old county roads and logging trails that criss-cross the thickly wooded tract are sign posted and provide adequate places to hike or ride on, though.

Etoniah Creek State Forest has been managed by the state for much longer, and has several hiking trails and a variety of terrain and flora, including pine forest, oak forest, and some open ground.  

We had a great hike Thanksgiving weekend Sunday. The weather was perfect, and we took a circular route about 6 1/2 miles altogether. We didn't see any wildlife, but tracked three bears. Lots of deer, turkeys, wild boars, foxes and possums also live in the reserve.

Hunting season is in full swing, and we always make certain we are wearing bright colors so some half blind trigger happy hunter doesn't mistake us for wildlife.


Posted by trishjax at 2:39 PM EST
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Friday, 18 November 2011
Redneck P.I.

I recently got some wonderful feedback on my novel Redneck P.I.

Helfried, a guy from Germany who lives in Clearwater Florida read it and  said he could not put it down.

He is one of many men who have enjoyed reading it and I'm excited that men love my book just as much as women do.

Check it out at:

http://www.amazon.com/Redneck-P-I-1-Trish-Jackson/dp/1461036585/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321625308&sr=8-1

(Print version)

AND

http://www.uncialpress.com/Redneck-P.I..html

 


Posted by trishjax at 9:11 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 18 November 2011 10:26 AM EST
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Thursday, 17 November 2011
My Wood Burning Stove

I am not particularly good at handling cold weather. Probably something to do with being born and raised in tropical Africa, where we thought we would freeze to death if it got down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

A major disadvantage of growing up in a place like that is that one never learns how to dress for the cold. I had to live where it snowed in winter before I really started to understand what a difference layers can make. Also, after a lifetime of always having the windows open to let in the "fresh air" it is hard to sit in a totally closed up house.

I guess this is partly why I love our wood burning stove. During our nine year stay in southern California, we fired up the forced air once in a while, and when it got really cold by California standards, we lit a wood fire in one of the fireplaces in our house.

It was when we moved up into the mountains in Young, Arizona that I first experienced the joy of a wood stove. Surrounded by millions of acres of national forest, or a seasonal permit to cut and haul out any "dead and down" wood cost a grand total of $25. My husband spent days out in the middle of nowhere (in gorgeous country with forever views) with his chain saw and truck. The result was that our heating bull for the winter was $25. That's it.

When the temperatures dropped to freezing and below, that little stove kept us toasty and warm. The house sometimes became so hot that we had to open the windows, often during a snow storm. And when the power went out for three days we were warm and cozy.

Now we live in north Florida, where winter temperatures drop down into the twenties (Fahrenheit). Our house was minus a wood burning stove when we bought it, so we had to buy one, and it is worth every penny and much more. We live on large acreage with lots of trees, and now every winter my husband cuts and clears the dead and down trees on our own property. That means our heating bill is zero.

Sure, a wood burning stove is messy and has to be cleaned out every day, but I would not give it up for anything.

http://trishjax.hubpages.com/hub/Do-you-Need-a-Wood-Burning-Stove-this-Winter


Posted by trishjax at 4:37 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 17 November 2011 4:40 PM EST
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