After six weeks in Florida where it was unseasonably cool but pleasant, Carol and I returned home and had to acclimate to winter again. Now we are heading back south to Belize where we have gone on winter breaks nearly every year since 1990. We look forward to temperatures in the 80s, sun, trade wind rattling the coconut trees and seeing our Belizean friends again. Of course I'm writing this with great anticipation after another below zero morning outside walking the dog and getting in firewood.
Large floodplain rivers and salt marshes are among the most productive ecosystems in the world. There's an explosion of life where the Lower Suwannee River meets the sea on the Big Bend on the west coast of Florida. The historic Suwannee River flows about 246 miles from the Okefenokee Swamp on the Georgia-Florida border to the Gulf of Mexico. The Suwannee is one of the wildest and most undeveloped river systems in the country. It meets the shallow Gulf in a broad salt marsh estuary with two main outlet channels and dozens of tidal creeks, sea grass flats, islands and oyster bars.
Although we aren't freezing our faces off in Cedar Key, Florida, the northern Gulf Coast is rather chilly for this time of year. Air from the brutally cold north has found its way here. High temperatures are barely into the 60's with colder days forecasted for this week. Water temperatures in the shallow sea here have fallen from 68F last week to 54F yesterday.
We loaded the truck and boat in a snowstorm on Wednesday last week and drove on slippery roads south to Rochester, Minn. We lost the snow cover in Iowa. A 30 mph tailwind from the north chased us down to Hannibal, Mo. It was still cold with a north wind the next day when we stopped for the night in Elvis's home town of Tupelo, Miss. Pine branches were down near Meridian, Miss., where several inches of wet snow fell earlier last week. A cold north wind followed us south to Pensacola, Fla., where we stayed with friends on Perdido Key.
I've often wondered how people deny the overwhelming scientific evidence that our planet is warming, weather world-wide is getting weird and that human activities are causing it. I guess it's that many of us would rather deny overwhelming evidence than admit that we need to change our ways. But there's more involved in climate change denial.
The great jazzman and comedian Jimmy Durante was known for his schnozzola, a huge zucchini of a proboscis. He said "Da nose knows." Despite his big honker, Durante couldn't detect odors anywhere near as well as a common yard dog.
Our apple crop last year was near zero because the blossoms were killed by late-spring frosts. This year our orchard produced an abundance of apples of good quality and size. We enjoy picking our orchard and making apple juice. Our cider press is a low-tech machine with a hand-cranked apple grinder and a screw-jack oak barrel press. We set it up in front of the shop to grind and press bushels of apples.
My paternal grandfather was a tall guy who grew up in upstate New York and was an avid hunter and fisherman. He coached me in fishing for trout when I was 6 years old standing in the Oswegatchie River near the outlet of Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks. We were using his bamboo fly rod and a wet fly that he had tied. He showed me how to read the currents and to spot the places where trout were feeding. I remember his quiet observation and patient manner. I was thrilled to catch a brown trout. That outing with my grandfather led to a lifelong interest in rivers.