Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Easy Bloomin' It

Well, the garden so far has had mixed results. The first few squashes formed and promptly fell off and rotted away. And then the plant came down with what I think is powdery mildew.

The lettuce has been a success and I have harvested a little for salads. The spinach just up and died overnight. And the carrots, I think, are going to make it.

So I was jazzed to open a Christmas package from Amanda Stinnett the other day. It was an Easy Bloom Plant Sensor. It will tell you when the plants need water, diagnose problems and help decide which plants to put in empty spots. (Thank you, Amanda, it's AWESOME!)

It's been hard at work since the day we got it. The first day it told me I needed to water every single plant. It literally beeped with everything but the banana trees. Then I set it to monitor mode for the squash. It determined that everything was fine as far as light, water and temperature. (But we have had the coolest week of the year here). The plant sensor is now monitoring the carrots. We'll see what the report is on those.

My lingering problem is getting the squashes not to fall off before they grow. After a little research I found that they weren't getting fertilized. I guess there aren't enough bees around. So next time a male and female flower bloom, I'm gonna have to hand fertilize them. Hopefully that will happen soon!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The garden finally grows!

We had a little soil snafu when we planted the original garden. All the squash and zucchini died and the lettuce and carrots sprouted, but never really grew at all. We figured it must have been the soil because another squash plant in a container was growing like crazy.
So we begrudgingly dug out half of the old soil and replace it with better -- um, more expensive
-- soil and replanted. Everything sprouted really fast and we planted some butternut squash plants that were in small pots. So far so good....

Then yesterday I noticed below one of the squash flowers was.......a tiny squash!!!!!!!!!

I was really beginning to think I'd failed on my first gardening attempt. Our window box lettuce has done really well, too. Hopefully in a few months we'll have carrots, too.

We also have watermelons sprouting as well as spinach, zucchini, and a plethora of pineapple plants.



Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gardening...Florida style

We decided to start growing our own veggies at the house, and Scott has said he will eat whatever comes from the garden.

So a few weeks ago I ordered some seeds online and a container for planting seedlings. I got carrots, spinach, 2 types of lettuce, butternut squash, zucchini and some herbs.
Yesterday we got 30 cubic feet of compost and planted the squash and zucchini seedlings and planted seeds for carrots and lettuce. We're hopeful that the experiment works.....

Here's a photo of the seedlings...

Monday, June 29, 2009

On the road again

Well we're driving in SC now after a night with Kylie, Mark, Noah and Emme in Richmond, VA, and a short visit with my dad and Judy. Noah and Emme are doing great and are two of the cutest kids on the planet.

Yesterday we drove from Portland, ME to Richmond. It took us 13 hours, and we hit plenty of traffic from NJ to DC. The rest of the trip should be traffic free in comparison.

Scott and I LOVED Maine, but were not as impressed with Portland. It was a big city compared to the other small towns we visited and it didn't have the same charm. It probably didn't help that as soon as we drove into town it was foggy yet again. The fog made the city look dark and dirty.

On the way to Portland on Saturday we stopped at two lighthouses -- the Owl's Head Light and Marshall Point Light. They were having a special event event at each, so we got to go up in the lighthouses and hear about their history from some very sweet volunteers. The fog lifted briefly when we got to Marshall Point, so I got some decent photos there.

We then got a sandwich in tiny Port Clyde and headed back up the peninsula to US1. After a few towns we went down to Orr's Island and Bailey Island, which were beautiful. As I was taking a photo of a fishing shack along the main road, a woman stopped her truck and asked if I'd like her to show me one of her favorite places on the island. She took us to a trail along the island's rocky coast that had beautiful Cape Cod-style homes and spectacular rocks.

After the trail, we went over to the harbor where a wedding had just started. It was a picture perfect location. It's kind of sad to be driving home, but it will be nice to sink into the couch tomorrow when we get home.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sun! Then more fog.

Yesterday we drove from Southwest Harbor to Camden after visiting the town of Castine, an observatory on top of a bridge, the town of Belfast, and the tiny village of Bayside. The sun came out a little as we left Mount Desert Island and the sky was blue once we got lunch in Castine.

Castine is a beautiful little town on the Blue Hill peninsula. A lot of the buildings are from the 1700s and it was just the perfect little town with flowering gardens in every yard. We stopped at the tiny farmers market, where we saw a baby sheep nibbling at flower petals on the porch of the church on the town green. It was probably the quaintest thing I've ever photographed!

We ate lunch on the dock at the town harbor. I had a mini lobster roll (very good) and Scott had a hot pink hot dog (with mustard, of course). After lunch we drove over to a little lighthouse that's now privately owned and then stopped by a giant field on purple lupines. This town was straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

After Castine, we went to the bridge observatory where we got our only clear view of the coastline so far. Then we kept on US 1 to Belfast, which was a very cool and artsy town with lots of interactive art and cool shops. We drove through Bayside after that, which has charming cottages on the hill leading down to the ocean.

Then we got to Camden. It's a picturesque town with a great harbor filled with lobster and sail boats. We got a little sun here but the views out to the ocean were, of course, fogged in. Our hotel room overlooks the river, which flows under several downtown buildings. It's one of the craziest things I've ever seen. There are window baskets everwhere here. Today we explored the area and had a foggy picnic at Camden Hills State Park.

Tomorrow we're off to Portland. Hopefully this fog will lift and we'll get some decent photos of the lighthouses along the way.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Less rain, more fog

Today was a looooong day. We got up early and went straight out into Acadia National Park to start hiking. We did the Wonderland Trail first, which was a beautiful trail leading to the rocky coast. We had planned on climbing a mountain (yes, there are small mountains here -- about 1,000 feet), but it was really foggy. Next we went over to the Asticou Azelea Garden. Some of the flowers were still in bloom.

We did see our first peek of blue sky at about 11:00 a.m. But that was quickly wiped away by more fog. After the azelea garden we went back out onto the Park Loop Road and pulled into the Jordan Pond House for lunch. I had the most amazing lobster quiche and Scott had lobster stew. All of this plus their famous popovers -- soooo gooooood!

After lunch we hiked around the area and continued on the park road. We hiked up to the summit of one of "the bubbles" which sit on Jordan Pond. On top there was a rock balanced on the side of the cliff called Bubble Rock. Here's Scott trying to push it off! Ha Ha....
In the afternoon we drove up the road to Cadillac Mountain which was so foggy that you couldn't see five feet in front of you. It was a little claustrophobic.

After that experience we saw a deer ahead of us on the Park Loop Road and stopped to photograph it. Then two fawns came over and started nursing right there beside the road! It was amazing.

Tomorrow we'll get up early for the sunrise if the clouds are gone. Otherwise we'll sleep in and head south to Camden.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The rain in Maine stays mainly on the ... coast.

We're now in Southwest Harbor on the "quiet side" of Mount Desert Island. Last night we stayed just outside of Bar Harbor after driving up from Boston mostly on US 1 and other back roads. York Village and beach were stunning and the shopping in Freeport was great. In Freeport we had lunch at Jameson Tavern, which is the birthplace of Maine.
It's been raining or misting the entire 36 hours we've been in Maine, but it's still really beautiful and lush. Every little town is more quaint than the last. We're hoping for some sun at some point tomorrow so we can take some better photos and hike. Here's a few photos....

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Almost to Boston....

We've been driving and driving and driving today. Wilmington was great. We spent a night on Carolina Beach watching the surfers from our fourth-floor condo overlooking the beach. It was very beautiful and great to see my dad and Judy.

We just passed Hartford, Conn., only about 1 hour and a half from Boston, where we'll stop for tonight. We thought it would be fun to take the George Washington Bridge on 95 through NYC. That was quite an adventure. 10 lanes of cars cramming into very few toll booths and then onto the bridge. We did get a view of Manhattan, though. We'll be avoiding the city on the way home for sure. We took some scenic roads in Connecticut that were beautiful. Stay tuned for more...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wilmington, here we come

We just left Daytona Beach after visiting Amanda, Robert and Evan. Evan is so cute and has grown so much. We miss them already ):
Here's a photo of Evan.

We're on the way to Wilmington, NC, for my cousin Leslie's wedding on Wrightsville Beach. I think the Florida heat is following us up there because it's supposed to be about 97 there tomorrow. Oh well, just a few more days of sweltering heat.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Off to Maine... 6/18/09

We're driving up to Maine today after I get off work. The plan is to visit Amanda, Robert and Evan Stinnett in Daytona tonight, then continue on to Wilmington, NC for my cousin's wedding. After that, it's on the Richmond, VA, to see the new addition to the Williams family. Then a night in Boston and on to Bar Harbor, Maine. I'll try to post daily with some photos!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Appalachian Trail- We did it!

This is a repost of a blog I did for The News-Press while Scott and I hiked the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee in June 2007.

A Week on the Appalachian Trail
Friday, June 15th, 2007

We limped out of the woods today after hiking more than 20 miles in the back country onto a busy Highway 321 and walked toward Hampton, TN to catch a side trail to bypass a difficult section of the Appalachian Trail. We had been warned of the difficulty of the section from other hikers we met on the way, so we decided to save our knees and ankles from a long and difficult climb up Pond Mountain.

On the way to the side trail we met a bicyclist who warned us of severe weather approaching. Then a very nice woman stopped and asked us if we needed a ride and we jumped at the chance to move at more than two miles per hour. Before we knew it, she drove past the trail head of the side trail and we ended up in Hampton. I can’t say we were disappointed about the mistake.

She dropped us off at Brown’s Grogery, and we looked for the owner, Sutton, to shuttle us up the mountain to our car, which was parked at Kincora Lodge — a favorite place for thru-hikers to stay. While we were waiting at the store, we got some Cokes for $.50! It was very exciting to have caffeine after none for almost four days. We finally found a nice resident of Hampton to drive us up the mountain to our car where we dumped our 40-pound packs and set off back down the trail toward Laurel Fork Falls feeling blissfully light on our feet. I really wanted to see the falls, and I was thankful for the way our day turned out.

We left for the hike Monday afternoon, June 11 after filling up on fired bologna sandwiches at Hampton’s internet cafe. Bob Peoples, the owner of the Kincora Lodge, took us to our start point where Tenn. 91 crosses the AT near Shady Valley, Tenn. Peoples is a legend on the Tennesee section of the trail, because of his goodwill toward hikers and his wealth of knowledge. He maintains a lot of the trail in the area.

He told us stories about the trail on the 45-minute ride and told us to make sure to fill up our water bottles whenever we saw a spring, because the mountains, like Southwest Florida are in a drought. “The Appalachian Trail is the great equalizer,” Peoples said. He added that millionaires and homeless people often hike together. It makes sense because everyone you meet our there is going through the same thing as you. Everyone is carrying their home on their back and pushing their body to the limit.

It was a tough 4.6-mile hike up to Iron Mountain Shelter. My back and shoulders hurt almost immediately from the weight of the backpack. On the way we met talked with thru-hiker whose trail name is Mouthpiece. (Most people go by their trail names while on the trail.)

When we got to the shelter three hours later at 7:30 p.m., there were already seven others there. Six were from different parts of Florida. One of the Floridians, Jenny Eckenrode, grew up in Fort Myers and attended Tice Elementary School. She now lives in Gainesville. “Backpacking is a lot harder than running a marathon,” she said. She and her friend were hiking to Daleville, Va., from the Roan Mountain. Eckenrode, who is a elementary school music teacher, hikes during her summers off from school. “Being on the trail is something I look forward to,” she said.

The second day was probably the most difficult, especially because we didn’t sleep well on our first night in the woods. It was about a seven-mile hike with lots of ups and downs. We were really feeling the pain in our backs and knees. We met some hikers that were planning to do 22 miles that day, and I could not imagine planning to do that! It was all we could do to make it to Vandeventer shelter. On the way I tried my to see if my cell phone would get a signal, and by the time we made it, my phone battery was dead. That is why you’re reading about the trip all at once.

There was a beautiful view of Watauga Lake. It is a man-made lake that was built by flooding the town of Butler (now Old Butler) in 1948. More than 700 families were displaced from the town that is now under 100 feet of water. The trail guide said that when the lake is drained people go back to visit the old homesites and school.

It was nice to relax, watch the sunset and talk to the other hikers on the rocks behind the shelter. We met two more people from Florida there. We were able to give one hiker some of our extra food, because it became apparent that I’d packed way too much. We were happy to get rid of the extra weight. In the morning we had to hike straight down — and straight back up — for a half mile to filter water for the day. Then a mile or so into the hike we passed a spring right on the trail!

The hike was all downhill to the lake. Tough on the knees!
Scott was getting a little grumpy.

We reached the 320-foot high and 840-foot long Watauga Dam at 1:00 p.m. Only Appalachian Trail hikers can cross the dam. There were beautiful views of the lake and surrounding mountains. It was nice to be in a more open area after being surrounded by woods for two days. We continued to hike around the lake to the Shook Branch recreation area, where there is a swimming area and public bathrooms. We got there just in time to miss a thunderstorm. Perfect timing.

After waiting out the storm we backtracked to a campsite on the shore of the lake and set up camp.

We could feel the stiffness setting in after a nine-mile hike — our longest yet. It rained a little more during the night, and I had to run out to get our packs and my boots and put them under our tent’s rain fly. In the morning, I cooked myself some oatmeal and hot chocolate to warm up. Then we hiked out………
At the park where the Appalachian trail crosses US 321. After this we hitched into town.

Trying to hitch a ride back to our car so we could hike Laurel Fork Falls.

Appalachian Trail blog - June 2007

This is a repost of a blog I did for The News-Press while Scott and I hiked the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee in June 2007.

A Week on the Appalachian Trail
Sunday, June 10th, 2007

We made it!

We got to the Laurel Fork Lodge around 8 p.m. after a long day of travel from Pinehurst to Raleigh to Boone and finally through Hampton, TN, to the lodge. It’s such a cool place.
We arrived to find no one home here and looked around in the small rustic cabins and the hiker bunkroom. There are several cabins for rent or you can sleep in the bunkhouse for $6 a night. When the family running the lodge returned to check us in, we opted for a cabin to ease ourselves into roughing it.

our cabin

The first thing I noticed is the silence up here. It’s deafening yet absolutely wonderful. All you can hear outside is the creek. It’s nice after a weekend of wedding activities. But it is a little creepy. As I started writing this blog from the common room in the lodge, we heard a loud crash outside by the trash can. I wasn’t sure if it was the manager emptying the trash or an animal. We slammed the door shut, and after a few minutes I gingerly peeked outside to find the trash can’s contents scattered on the ground. I hope it was only a raccoon.

The second thing I noticed is that there is no cell phone service. That means no wireless internet service! A fancy laptop with a sprint card means nothing up here. So here I am on the lodge’s laptop on dial-up. It’s been a while since I had to wait so long for a page to load. Tomorrow morning we’ll head down to Hampton to the internet cafe, and hopefully I can send some photos of the lodge before we start our hike.

We also have to arrange a shuttle to get to our starting point about 30 miles away. I hope we won’t have any problems on such short notice. We originally thought we’d drive Jack’s car to the start and leave ours at the end. But since Jack couldn’t make it, we now need a ride. If all goes well we should be hiking tomrrow afternoon. If not we have time to wait until Tuesday morning.

Appalachian Trail

This is a repost of a blog I did for The News-Press while Scott and I hiked the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee in June 2007.

Amanda Inscore
A Week on the Appalachian Trail
Saturday, June 9th, 2007

Today I’m in a pretty nice hotel suite in Pinehurst, NC anticipating the wedding of my best friend, Amanda Evans (yep, she’s Amanda, too). Tomorrow she’ll be heading to Hawaii, and Scott and I will drive to Hampton, TN. Jack Hardman decided not to go on the hike, though he really wanted to go. He had family obligations. We will certainly miss his company on the trail. There is never a dull moment with Jack.
Amanda and Robert

I feel like I’m prepared for the hike, but I still have the nagging feeling I forgot to pack something I’ll really need. Luckily we’re going to meet our friend, Chal, tomorrow. He leads groups on hiking trips in the Grand Canyon, so he’ll make sure we have everything we need.

Besides gathering all the stuff we need, I did a little physical training to prepare. For Christmas, Scott got me the Nike plus kit with some new shoes. I decided to train for a 5K to get in better shape for the hike. Of course Southwest Florida has no hills other than bridges, so I’m hoping that running on flat ground will help a little. I did read another hiker’s blog and it said the only way to train without hills is to run steps until you puke. Well no thank you! I did work my way up to running an entire 5K, and I was excited! I’ve never been a distance runner even though I tried to run cross country my freshman year in high school.

A couple of weeks ago, I hiked eight miles on the southernmost section of the Florida Trail with our outdoor writer, Byron Stout. I thought it would be a nice test to see if I was prepared. It was a great hike through the Big Cypress National Preserve — better than I thought it would be. The only animals we saw were birds — no panthers, no gators, no bears.

Within about five minutes of starting the hike, my shoulders hurt under the weight of my day pack. I figure I’ll be carrying much more weight on the Appalachian trail, so I’m a little worried about ending the week with an aching back. Since we don’t have our packs yet I have no idea how much mine will weigh, but the average weight for a hiker’s pack is 30-40 pounds.

After finishing the hike on the Florida Trail, I was glad to be sitting in the air conditioned car on my way back to Fort Myers for a hot dinner at home. On Monday evening we won’t have the luxury of air conditioning, but we will have a hot meal. We’ll be rehydrating some dehydrated potato soup over our tiny little stove and hoping a bear doesn’t come to investigate.

When we get to the Laurel Fork Lodge tomorrow evening, I’ll post some photos of us at the lodge and with the trout we catch in the nearby stream….if we can catch them.

Appalachian Trail Blog - June 2007

This is a repost of a blog I did for The News-Press while Scott and I hiked the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee in June 2007.

A Week on the Appalachian Trail
Wednesday, June 6th, 2007


If anyone had told me a year ago that I’d be planning to hike for five days in the mountains of Tennessee, I would have said they were crazy. Last year for vacation my boyfriend, Scott Whittamore, and I spent several days in Blowing Rock and Asheville, NC, hiking various short trails that led to waterfalls or panoramic views. We were always grateful to retreat to our hotel at the end of each day to sleep in a comfortable, warm and dry bed.

After four consecutive days of hiking and exploring our legs were tired, and we decided to kayak down the Nolichucky River. In our quest to rent kayaks we were pointed to Uncle Johnny’s in Erwin, Tenn. Upon arrival, we realized it was a hiker hostel with a little camp resupply store and that the Appalachian Trail was just through the woods. As I was using their restroom, I encountered a woman who told me she was hiking the trail and hadn‘t showered and washed her hair with real shampoo in a week. I thought, “There is no way I could do that.”

Fast-forward a few months. Scott began reading Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods.” He’d laugh out loud at Bryson’s misadventures with his hiking buddy, Stephen Katz. After I read the book, we decided to try a section of the trail for our next vacation. I thought that if a middle-aged slightly overweight man could attempt to hike the whole trail, then we cold make it for a week. Part of me really wanted to do a thru-hike of the entire 2,175-mile trail from Georgia to Maine, but with limited time and money we decided to do a section of the trail in Tennessee. We’d have to take six to eight months off of our jobs and find a wealthy benefactor to pay the mortgage in order to hike the whole trail.

Around Christmas I ordered the guidebooks for the North Carolina-Tennessee section and the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. We were going to be in North Carolina for my best friend’s wedding June 9, and planned to hike for a week after the wedding. We couldn’t decide which would be the best section Shenandoah National Park is great because you’re never too far from civilization, i.e. supplies and real food. It crosses the Skyline Drive many times along the section. The N.C.-Tennessee section is also great because it give hikers the opportunity to see some great scenery (waterfalls, Watauga Lake Dam), gives beginners a good feel for the trail without being too strenuous and the opportunity to stay at a hiker hostel.

We invited our friend and freelance photographer Jack Hardman to come along. He’s going to be photographing my best friend’s wedding in N.C. Plus we thought his boy scouting experience would serve us well, and we’ve been trying to plan a camping trip together for quite some time.

After much thought and consideration, we decided on a 30- to 40-mile hike in Tennessee from just south of Damascus, Va., to the Laurel Fork Lodge near Hampton, Tenn. We felt this section would offer the most scenery for the amount of time we could be gone. The only thing we wanted and couldn’t get from this section was a stop at a trail town such as Damascus, Va., or Hot Springs, N.C. The Appalachian Trail goes right through these towns, and thru-hikers use them to rest and stock up on food for the next leg of the trail. On other parts of the trail you have to hike or hitchhike into a nearby town or rely on a shuttle service at a hostel.

We realized that no matter how long we hiked, this would be a major investment. We had to get backpacks, sleeping backs and pads, a lightweight stove, a water filter, tents light enough for backpacking, food, hiker-appropriate clothing, hiking boots, special socks to prevent blisters, lightweight plates and utensils, a first-aid kit, rain gear, headlamps, water bottles, a fishing rod that would break down small enough to strap onto our packs, and plenty of other little things. We got a little stressed. This was supposed to be a chance to escape the hustle and bustle and heat of everyday life, and we were about to spend the equivalent of a Hawaii vacation to rough it in the woods.

When I expressed my concern to my Dad, he said he would ask his friend, Chal, for advice on how we could save money on the equipment. Luckily Chal is an experienced hiker and guide and was more than happy to lend us some of his equipment, a tent, sleeping bags, backpacks, and a water filter.

With that settled, and in order to stop myself from going crazy with planning (I tend to go a little overboard), I had to try to forget about the trip for a few months or risk information overload. I’m obsessed with avoiding bear attacks and hypothermia, yes, even in the summer.

Two months ago, I resumed planning. We finalized our route and began to purchase the little things we needed for the trip. I bought a food dehydrator to make beef jerky, dried fruit and dehydrated meals that can be warmed quickly on the trail. Our house is filled with the constant hum of the dehydrator. I’ve made venison jerky (thanks to one of Scott’s students), a dehydrated breakfast of hashbrowns, eggs and sausage, potato soup, and seafood stew. I ve also dehydrated bananas and strawberries for snacks.

A few weeks ago Jack came over with the camp stove he borrowed from his sister so we could make sure it still worked. We sat on the back patio and watched intently as the water began to boil over the dehydrated potato soup. It took a little longer to rehydrate than I expected, but it was quite tasty.

We plan to hike June 11 through June 15th, and stay at the Laurel Fork Lodge the night of June 10 and June 15. If cell phone service permits, I’ll post daily with our adventures.

Posted in Gulf Coasting Live