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2014: Our Year in Review

Posted on December 31st 2014 by Arthur in Personal

2014 has been a great year. We got many things done around the house, did lots of fun stuff here in Florida, experienced our first cruise across the Atlantic and had an amazing time in Spain and Holland. Here are some pictures of our year, mostly for myself because I love looking back at these year-in-review posts of previous years.

We started the year camping New Year's Eve at Tomoka State Park and did a bird walk early on January 1st.
In January I worked in the yard putting irrigation pipes in the ground as the first part of my grand plan for the backyard.
At the end of January Kim visited us and we went to Epcot for a day and did several excursions at the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival.
On 25 February I had 7 pallets with bricks, concrete fines and sand delivered from Pebble Junction in Sanford.
From February to April I worked on putting a path between our two sheds.
In March we discovered mold under our living room floor and we spent many days cleaning it up, then redoing the whole room with a newly textured ceiling, paint the walls and tile floor, which wouldn't be installed until June.
It ended up being a ridiculous amount of work to get the wood floor off as it was stuck with the most obnoxious glue and I ended up sanding the floor with a huge concrete sander to get everything clean.
On March 29 the Sun Rail station in DeBary opened and I went to have a look at it.
On 31 March this Great Egret came to check out what I was doing when I was preparing food for the gopher tortoises at the MSC.
In April, with the ceiling re-textured and floor removed, we painted the walls and ceiling in the living room.
On April 1st we went to Magic Kingdom to check out the new Festival of Fantasy Parade.
On 11 April we had some new highly needed gutters installed, just in time for the rainy season.
On 12 April I finished my paving job.
On 19 April it was Turtle Day at the MSC, and it was super crowded.
On 22 April we had a new yard bird, this Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
On 27 April we left on a 12-day transatlantic cruise on the Norwegian Epic from Miami to Barcelona.
We stopped only once along the way, at Madeira, a Portuguese island where we did a birding tour and saw several new lifers.
On 7 May we arrived in Barcelona and met my parents and brother Patrick.
On 9 May we visited the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, which is beautifully located in the mountains outside Barcelona.
On 10 May we did a balloon ride in Vic and saw the Pyrenees in the distance.
May 14 through 18 we were in Paris.
On 20 May we went to the Efteling theme park in the Netherlands with my family.
On 22 May we went to Leiden for a day to look back at the place where we used to live.
On 25 May we had a family reunion with my aunts, uncles and cousins. We did a boat tour and visited Slot Loevestein.
26 and 27 May we went to Amsterdam and spent a day at the renovated Rijksmuseum.
Back home in June we had tiles installed in the living room and kitchen to finish the long renovation project. Here a tiny baby gecko is checking out the new floor.
Through the summer the neighbor's peacock Frank visited us regularly. Unfortunately the bird was hit by a car and killed later in the year.
On 18 June a bike path connection close to our home was opened. Now we can bike much further going east.
On 26 June the first Trader Joe's opened in the Orlando area. We missed this store since we moved down from Illinois and it's great to have one nearby now.
On 4th of July we saw fireworks from the beach at the Polynesian Resort.
In July we went to Illinois to help Amy's parents move to Florida.
On my birthday we went to Downtown Disney where I got a free Earl of Sandwich.
In September I broke my small toe. Ow!
Amy raised a monarch from caterpillar to butterfly.
On 8 September we had a baby Black Racer in the house.
On 21 September Amy found a cat with 3 kittens at Gemini Springs. We named the mom Sam and the kittens Pokey, William and Timmy. Amy's parents ended up taking Sam and Pokey and we kept William and Timmy.
Here is Timmy wrestling a moray eel.
On 23 September we found a black bear going through our garbage. We got a bear-proof container and haven't seen him since, although we've heard that he's still in the neighborhood.
I had started a vegetable garden earlier in the year, but everything died in the heat. In October I expanded and tried it again.
On 4 October I found an old Indian arrowhead while working in the garden.
On 2 October we had these Sandhill Cranes in our yard.
We had a couple of snakes and frogs die in our A/C unit, so I got a cover and replaced the grass and weeds around it with pavers left over from my path.
With the 7 pallets from the pavers delivery I made these two compost bins.
On 5 October we took Amy's parents on the Orange Blossom Cannonball scenic train ride in Apopka.
On 10 and 11 October we went to Sanibel Island and did some shelling and birding.
The MSC volunteer gathering was on 19 October and we went up the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and did a boat tour of the inlet.
On 22 October we had our big oak tree trimmed, which was hanging over the house.
On 26 October we took Amy's parents on a boat trip at Blue Spring State Park.
This is William and Timmy on 27 November, now a couple of months old and grown a lot since we got them.
On 4 December we went to KSC to view the Orion launch from the Saturn V building, but it was scrubbed. The next day we drove to Port Canaveral in the early hours and watched the launch from our car at sunrise.
On 16 December we took Amy's parents to some Disney resorts to look at Christmas decorations and we had dinner at Trail's End at Fort Wilderness and looked around the Christmas lights at the campground.
On 25 December we did raclette / gourmet with Amy's parents.

That’s it. Happy New Year!

Air Conditioner Cover to Prevent Snakes, Frogs and other Critters from getting Killed

Posted on December 10th 2014 by Arthur in Florida, Home Improvement, Yard

It has happened twice in the last year that I heard a loud noise coming from our A/C unit outside as if there was a rock banging around inside. Both times it turned out that a poor snake had crawled inside and was killed by the spinning blade. We have also found dead lizards and frogs inside as well. It is a terrible death for the poor animals to be cut into small bits by the spinning fan blade, and it also stinks when the corpses are rotting in the bottom of the A/C.

I started looking around and couldn’t find anything specifically to keep critters out of air conditioners. I did find this Air Conditioner Cover on to keep leaves out and decided to give it a try. The product has some good reviews but none of the reviews nor the product description itself mention anything about keeping snakes or other animals out. It turns out that it works perfectly:

The cover has been on the A/C unit for several months now and there is no way a snake, frog or lizard can get into it anymore. The four bungee cords hold the cover tight so that nothing can crawl under. On the sides and bottom I don’t see any openings where animals could crawl in either. I love this product and recommend it to anyone who has this problem. As a bonus it also keeps leaves out so the inside stays nice and clean. You can get this air conditioner cover on Amazon. I highly recommend it.

Trimming our big Live Oak tree

Posted on December 3rd 2014 by Arthur in Florida, Yard

For a while I have been wanting to get a company to cut some branches off the big Live Oak tree in our backyard. Some branches were hanging over or very close to the house. In the front we also had a live oak with a large branch almost touching our electric wires. A few weeks ago a guy rang the doorbell and asked if we needed to have our palm trees trimmed. I said that that wasn’t necessary, but I asked him if he would be able to do the big tree in our backyard. After an estimate we decided to hire his company and a couple of days later he and two other guys came by to do the work.

Here are two before pictures:
One of the guys climbed into the tall tree with ease. He tied a thick rope to each limb before cutting it off with his chainsaw so that it could be lowered down slowly.
We found some Florida Rough Green Snakes in the branches that fell down. They were okay and Amy relocated them to another part of our yard.
We asked if they could leave some of the wood, so they cut them up and left us a nice little pile for our fireplace.
And here's an after picture with two large branches removed.

Visiting CROW on Sanibel Island

Posted on December 2nd 2014 by Arthur in Florida, Wildlife

We recently visited the Education Center of CROW, or Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, on Sanibel Island here in Florida. CROW is a teaching hospital dedicated to saving wildlife. They have a veterinary hospital and visitor education center open to the public. I found the visitor center quite impressive with very informative interactive exhibits and really enjoyed looking around and learning about the work they do at the clinic. Every year over 4,000 sick, injured or orphaned animals are treated at CROW.

Our car parked in the shade under the Education Center
This map inside the visitor center shows how CROW has expanded over the years to become a world-renowned wildlife hospital and rehabilitation facility. Only the building marked "CROW Education Center" is open to the public.
The interactive exhibits of the Education Center teach you about the work done at the clinic and the importance of saving wildlife. There is a timeline of CROW's history, patient rescue stories and information about testing, treatment methods and past medical records.
Each exhibit area talks about a different part of the rehabilitation process. This stations is about radiographs, with sample x-rays of different animals.
Check out the fractured skull on this Loggerhead Sea Turtle. Surgery was performed to align the fracture pieces and the turtle was released back into wild just five months after arrival at CROW.
There are three large monitors that show live views from cameras in the clinic. We saw them take in some newly arrived baby possums.

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