Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

What a Great Time of Year
by James Glaser
January 3, 2010
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Here I am in the South, and I am sure I can appreciate winter down here more than the natives. After spending most of my adult life near the Canadian border in Northern Minnesota, being able to walk outside in a tee shirt in December is still pretty unreal.

This past week I have been riding my bicycle every day, working in the garden, and taking my woodworking projects outside to work on the studio's back deck. Last night it did freeze, and we had to cover our flowers and my tomatoes, but the sun came out and we could have a month before we get another frost.

Up North, in late fall you knew it was a waste of time to try and save the garden, because it wouldn't get warm enough in the day time to get the plants growing, even if it did warm up some. Down here it can frost at night and hit 70 the next day.

I do feel though if things do freeze hard, that is OK. After all, I am still getting green peppers off the plants I put in last February, and I would like a short break from weeding and watering. It is always kind of nice to clean out the whole garden and add some manure and compost, till the whole plot up, and start fresh with new plants and try different vegetables. Last year I put my brussels sprouts in too late. They actually matured, but it was way late in the heat of summer, and they didn't look as nice as they should have. Actually they are a cold weather plant.

This was our first year with blueberries, and this coming year we should get more berries on our plants, and we added a few more. It is really starnge for a guy from the North to see plants starting to bloom this time of year, but our Camellias are just now starting to bloom, and we have several plants and will have hundreds of flowers about Christmas time. The flowering dogwoods are covered with bright red berries right now, and the buds for this year's flowers are starting to form. Our rose bushes are covered in blooms. One rose has a couple hundred bright red blooms on it now. You can walk within ten feet of it and smell the fragrance.

Having a frost means no bugs for the next several months. We have a lot of trees that have changed color, but also many that don't lose their leaves. But there are enough trees that lose their leaves that we can see into the woods better. This afternoon when I went bike riding, and I saw my first wildlife on the trail. I didn't get as close as I thought I would, but I got a good look at a doe on the bike path ahead of me. It is hunting season down here, and the deer are very alert.

The last of our building project is going on right now. Two carpenters are putting on the soffit and fascia on our addition. I have done that in the past, but to tell you the truth, that and roofing were probably my least favorite thing to do. This is the only thing these two guys do, and they have been doing it for years. Sometimes it is better to hire a professional, than doing it yourself.

I am making progress on the studio. I'm still moving things around as I figure out where the best spot is for each tool. I am putting on a deck on the east side so I can slide my table saw out there to make cuts. A table saw takes up a lot of space inside. You have to have a lot of empty space around it, and with the shop being smaller than I have had in the past, I can't devote that much space to one tool.

As I go through the boxes of tools and supplies from moving in, I find things that have always hung in my shops and studios over the years, and hanging them up in this new one makes it seem more like my own place.

Tomorrow I going to the VA Clinic in Tallahassee to see the Plastic Surgeon. I'm not going to get any work done, but because of so much time down here in the sun I wanted to see a dermatologist, and here in Florida in the VA system, appointments are hard to come by. My VA primary care doctor said that this guy was first trained as a dermatologist, and he could give me a look-see. I had a bout with skin cancer up North, and after they cut that out, they said I should be checked over every year. Well that doesn't happen with the VA down here as skin cancer is way more prevalent in the South, and getting to see a doctor is a lot harder.

Saturday, Wanda and I are going to Betty O'Tools' Herb Farm to learn how to use herbs in cooking. Betty has several chefs giving classes, and this is quite the opportunity for us. I have started an herb section in my garden, and we are good at growing them, but we are novices when it comes to adding them into our cooking. I think it will be a fun day.

Also, this weekend we are putting up outdoor Christmas lights. We decided to do the garden fence and the potting shed. It is a more manageable project than trying to do our house.

Yes, it is a great time of the year now in Northern Florida, and with the weather we are having we have no excuse we can use about getting outdoor projects done. Maybe Sunday afternoon I'll be able to get a few hours in on the tree house.

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