I have suddenly gotten very busy with my real estate business in the last couple of weeks. I have several active customers, and a good number of potential ones as well. This is wonderful, except that I am trying to go out of town for the next week, since my mother’s birthday is two days before Thanksgiving and she lives in Pensacola. So, today, the day I am planning to leave, I ended up having to let a termite inspector into a home one of my customers is considering buying in Hawthorne, before heading to my floor duty back here in Gainesville.
On my way to the home, the inspector called with an ETA a little later than I expected, so I stopped by to take some photos at a boat ramp in Hawthorne. The last time I was out here, I shot a few of my favorite photos ever. It was still beautiful, but very different this time. Last year, we were in the middle of a drought when I went there, and the edges of the lake were very marshy. That drought is over now, so there was much more lake and fewer marshes.
This is still a place where the birds love to be. Vultures congregated in the parking lot, and sunned themselves on the benches, while anhingas chose to use the branches of submerged trees to do the same.
Although I love to see birds and wildlife on my adventures, often it is the flora that really ignites my imagination. You, my faithful reader, will probably remember my love for cypress knees. Dappled with sunlight, they make my heart beat ever faster.
Oh, and scrims of trees that let the light shine through, how could I not love these after taking Professor Charlie Hailey’s porch class? The perfect poetry of layers that let in just enough to tantalize.
Not too long ago (okay, you know it was a long time ago because it has been more than a MONTH since I blogged here), I wrote about the Haile Village Center rather scathingly. It is true that there are things I dislike about it, but it is also true that there are many things I do like about it, and that they have gotten right. One amazing thing that they have managed to do in this part of Haile is to get people to actually walk around in Florida, without anyone thinking it’s odd. For those of you who live in cooler areas, or less industrialized areas, that may seem like a small thing, but here in Florida, it’s rather huge. Nobody walks in Florida, unless they absolutely have to.
Saturday morning in the Village Center is the a wonderful buzz of activity, with the main street closed to traffic but open to a green market. Those of my faithful readers who have been with me for a while will know that this is not the only farmers market in town, there is also the Alachua County Farmers Market on Saturdays at the corner of 441 and 121, and the Wednesday Downtown Farmers Market that I have blogged about, as well as several that I have not ever been to. The Haile market has its own feel to it; more like a neighborhood gathering than just a place to sell.
There are dogs who frequent this market, many of them. Every once in a while as I am sitting in my office, I will hear some unfriendly dog noises, but for the most part, the dogs seem very well behaved, strolling casually about with their owners and greeting each other as friends.
At this time of year, the bounty is amazing. In other cities, harvest takes place much earlier, but Florida has nearly-year round harvests, with the down time being in the middle of summer, when even tomatoes and peppers can’t take the heat.
The root vegetables arrive in jewel-tone colors, advertising their deliciousness with their own beauty. There are no needs for words, or dyes, or even a wash of wax to make these mouthwateringly wonderful.
Squashes are ripening now, in startling variety. Butternuts, many kinds of pumpkins, and more are all available.
Ahhh, the pride of Florida and the reason for its being. Pure, juicy citrus has made its appearance. Glowing oranges, ripe and sweet, lead the early citrus crops. Soon baskets will overflow with tangerines, tangelos, and grapefruits as well. For those of you who are stuck with the meager selection found in grocery stores, I’m sorry. Come down and visit us in Central Florida sometime between now and February, take the time to find a farmers market (not a roadside tourist stand), and eat your fill of these glories. Then you can go visit the beach and do all those tourist things.
More sweet golden goodness is available in the form of honey. Cross Creek Honey, the best honey on earth, sets up shop in Haile as well as at the 441 Farmers Market, with all their beautiful honeys ranging from pale gold Orange Blossom to the dark Everglades. Nancy Gentry, the leader of the endeavor is a Master Bee Keeper, and takes great care of her hives and honey. If you cannot make it to a farmers market around here, you can order the honey online. If you have a local farmers market, go there and find the honey. It’s well worth it to buy local honey, since honey is the most commonly adulterated food there is. Grocery store honey has often been found to contain sugar and corn syrup, rather than pure honey.
One of the things that tends to sell out quickly are farm fresh eggs. While I can appreciate their beauty, these just aren’t for me. Unless they are cooked in a baked good, eggs kind of horrify me. But if you are an egg lover, the fresher, farm raised eggs are bolder and brighter than anything you will find in a grocery store. The fresher they are, the fluffier they are, so fresh eggs are wonderful for making meringues and souffles.
Many people probably do not realize that Florida is also a major nut grower. While most operations around here are larger and sell their nuts directly to Blue Diamond or other nut distributors, there are small growers who show up at farmers markets sometimes. Nuts will keep for a long time, and taste good even when they get older, but fresh ones are remarkable. There is a plump sweetness that shines through even in baked goods and candies.
More than just a farmers market, I came across booths with Italian rum cakes, breads, cheeses, handmade pens, and knit goods. Right in front of the office, a masseuse offers chair massages, just a few booths down from a booth with fresh roasted coffee. Who knew Gainesville had a coffee roaster right here in town?
We trekked over to St. Augustine today for a Greek Fest, which is a wonderful celebration of food, food & more food. That was what I thought I would blog about, but when we got there, I really didn’t feel like bringing out the camera, and since I had just discovered that Instagram isn’t really all about making pictures look old (although you can certainly do that), so I stuck my phone in my pocket and Instagrammed the Fest. If you want to see that, I am starkwe19 over there (can you imagine, starkwe was already taken!?).
My youngest, who turns 16 this weekend, got bored quickly and wanted to go to a beach, so after eating our fill and buying half the baked goods they had, we headed off to find the beach, just as the sun was sinking and the shadows were lengthening. I had recently gotten a new lens and thought this would be a great time to try it out. This was my first time using a lens with such a short focal length, so I was excited to about it.
The first thing I noticed is that with a lens like this, you have got to be careful with your horizons. All three of these photos were shot from the same position, i just tilted the camera a bit for each. It’s pretty easy to see why this type of lens is known as a fish eye lens!
In addition to the strangeness of this new lens, the angle of the sun demanded care to frame my shots. Shadows were long, and it became a challenge to find ways to hide my own shadow. Other than turning slightly, one way I worked with this was to find shadows to hide myself in, such as this shadow of one of the beach pavilions that I used in the example above.
Despite my pledge to bring you the lesser-known parts of Florida, I always love to find myself at a beach. People come from all over the world to visit these beaches that are so close to me, and with good reason. The natural scenery is gorgeous, but the man-made interventions are also often stunning.
It was a beautiful day for the beach; low 80s and still sunny. The sky was a stunning blue and the water had just enough wave to be fun. I’ve laughed about the idea of surfing in Florida, because I know the waves are nothing like the California and Hawaii waves I’ve seen on TV, but there were plenty of surfers out there, and they really looked like they were having fun.
It is officially Fall now, and I have seen a leaf or two change color, but what Fall really means in Florida is that the weather is not too hot to bear, and there are flowers everywhere. It was almost exactly a year ago that I told you, my faithful reader, about my son’s sunflowers and ginger. He has since moved out to his own apartment with some of his friends, but his garden is still here.
The sunflowers mirror the sun itself, turning to face it and lifting up their golden heads. Throughout the course of the day, they move their faces to soak up its warm rays. These have much smaller heads than the sunflowers we usually think of, with longer petals and nothing in the way of seeds. Every year, their gawky stems grow in an ugly mass, and every year I think I need to get rid of them. Then suddenly, one day I look out the back door, and there they are! The profusion of blooms makes the earlier ugliness all worthwhile.
In another part of the yard, my son planted bitter ginger. This is not the kind you eat or make ginger ale out of, it is just for beauty. Ginger loves slightly swampy soil, which means it grows very nicely in Gainesville. It’s an amazing plant, with bright green leaves, which unlike the sunflowers are always pretty.
Less obvious are the ginger flowers. Around this time of year, a cone emerges, which oozes a gingery-smelling liquid when squeezed (imagine that, ginger smells like ginger!). From that cone, a small pale yellow flower grows. Like many tropical and semi-tropical plants, the blooms are tucked away like secret treasures beneath the large leaves.
I have been trying for almost a week to get this post done. For some reason, I have been having trouble uploading my photos recently, but I finally have them for you! After all, who wants to read a photography blog with no photos?
One of the things I do as a Realtor is to take floor duty, which is when I sit in the office and hope someone calls in to see a house or list their house. These can be very lucrative calls, but there is no guarantee that you will get any calls in a given day. The other day, I was on floor duty in our Haile Plantation office, and took the opportunity to wander around the Haile Village Town Center once I was done.
For those of you who do not know the area, Haile Plantation is a planned community that gets rave reviews. My architecture professors loved to talk about it, because there are actually homes designed by architects rather than builders. That’s very nice, as far as it goes. Haile Village Town Center is full of charm. It echoes an old town, with storefronts and promenades designed to be walkable.
Except as far as walkability goes, brick sidewalks really aren’t. Especially when an attempt to create more charm means that they are bumpy and wavy. Can you imagine being in a wheelchair and trying to navigate this quaint street?
All of the pretty touches designed to give this area charm end up annoying me. The towns that are echoed in this modern bit of nostalgia were built as modern towns, with new ideas, not as something already stuck in the past. They were built of the most modern materials in the most modern way possible. Creating a new community out of old ideas feels false to me, as does the use of modern materials to re-create old embellishments.
The biggest problem I have, though, with many of these new urban neighborhoods is that they are built to be walkable, but don’t include so many things people need. Grocery stores are often many miles away. In fact, often, these communities are built so far from any other neighborhoods that they cut themselves off from the world. Part of the idea of new urbanism is that everything necessary is available within the urban core, so leaving the grocery store out in favor of boutiques makes little sense. Haile is beautiful, but I wish it were more honest. Can you imagine how much more beautiful this could be with current building sensibilities and methods?
Today was the opening day for college football all over the country. Sure, there were a couple of games yesterday, and there will be a few tomorrow, but the ones that matter happened today. Well, the only one that really matters happened today – the Gators played Toledo and scored a nice victory.
For all the years I have lived here, I have planned my weekends around Gator game day traffic. Most of the time, I was planning to be on campus early, so that I could park somewhere near my studio. Because this was my life before I graduated. Architecture students do not have time for football; they are always working to a deadline.
When I didn’t have to be at the studio working, I did everything I could to avoid being near the university before or after game time. However, since my daughter now has a job on campus, and since she does not have a license yet, and since she had to be at work across from the stadium at 5:00, I found myself wandering onto campus soon after the game ended.
Although the crowds were gone, evidence of the game remained as I wandered through the stadium and out onto the field. Discarded souvenirs, empty food containers, and general debris marred the perfection of the stadium.
Come Tuesday morning, the campus will be restored to its normal beauty.
Well, I had a few photos I was going to use with this post, but they won’t upload for some reason, so I will have a non-photo post. Hopefully I will be able to figure out what’s going on and do another post tonight or tomorrow that includes photos.
This past week has been pretty exciting for me. I’m finished my formal training with Bosshardt, and I’m actually picking up floor duty here and there. My first two floor duties yielded very little, but suddenly, on my third attempt, I got two very good calls. Or technically, one call, and one email.
I ended up making both a showing appointment, and a listing appointment. The showing resulted in me writing up my first offer (I’m still waiting to hear whether it will be accepted). It was so easy; he knew what house he wanted to look at, what he was looking for, and what he would offer for it. I wrote up his offer and submitted it. It would be wonderful if I everything was that easy, but I know it won’t be.
The listing appointment made me nervous, and I kept trying to practice my presentation to talk them into listing with me. I made a nice slide show and printed it out, got my paperwork together, and talked it all over with my broker. Then I got to the home, and was invited in. Before I even had a chance to go into my well-practiced spiel, they asked me my advice on listing prices and what work they should focus on. We looked through the house together, and I made a few suggestions, and we went over the recent sales in the neighborhood, and how they compared to their home. Based on that data, we chose a listing price, with the understanding that it could be adjusted as needed.
So, I now have an offer on the table, and a listing, and I am feeling like I am really on the road to success!
I think it’s safe to say that Gainesville is a football town, and you could even go so far as to say that University of Florida revolves around football. That’s not to say the academics are not first-rate (they most certainly are), but what brings it all together is the football team.
Today I found myself on campus right next to the stadium and thought it would be a fine subject for a post. So I wandered into the stadium and up the ramps, happily snapping away. Stadiums are all exposed structure and repetition that just makes me so happy.
When I got to the bleachers, I was thrilled to see that there was a practice going on! Gators all over the field! I snapped a few shots of the players (which will NOT be posted here, other than that one up there where they aren’t doing anything) and proceeded to my real purpose, the stadium itself.
All of a sudden, someone came running up the stadium steps, and told me to put the camera away. No cameras allowed during practice! He told me that I could keep the ones of the stadium, but not the players. So I walked back out of the stadium and down the ramps, still snapping photos here and there.
I decided to challenge myself with composing a post on one city block, down near the university. I chose the block bordered by University and SW 1st Avenues, and SW 10th and 12th Streets. It’s kind of a large block, since there is no SW 11th Street to break it up, and it’s a very interesting block, with both residential and commercial areas. Gainesville is a very green city, both in color and attitude. Nearly everywhere you go, there are trees, vines, and plants.
At the corner of University and SW 10th, you get a glimpse of this attitude. A garden has been planted here, just beyond the city’s main street. This area of the city is full of older homes, mostly converted to student rentals.
One of Gainesville’s finest features, its abundance of trees, adds to the beauty of this urban neighborhood. Everywhere you look, trees line streets, branches shaking hands to create a tunnel of green light.
Crepe Myrtles bloom forever in this climate, starting in early spring. Although they come in several colors, the magenta is perhaps the most common and the longest lasting. Most of the white blooms have died off by now, but the magenta still blossom.
Another common flower is the Lantana. There are cultivated Lantana and wild Lantana, leggy Lantana and bushy Lantana. When I was younger, I loved Lantana for their size and perfection. Each cluster of blossoms is just the right size for a doll’s bouquet.
At the outset of my wanderings, I thought I would do a whole post on doors. I love doors and am fascinated by them. Other things caught my eye, however, so the doors will have to remain just a small part of the whole. Many of the homes around here are still graced with their original doors, or replicas of them. Before the big box stores, even the humblest house had a handmade door, with its own personality. Doors are still available in a breathtaking variety, but so often, price rules the day.
Gone are the days of the white picket fence, when a front yard fence was a mother’s helper and an introduction to a home. Fences like this are a remnant of another era, a time of neighbors that weren’t walled off from each other.
Despite a new emphasis on Front Porch Communities in urban planning, the front porch is another feature that is falling by the wayside. Originally built as a cooling device that would both catch breezes and shade a home’s windows, the porch became an emblem of southern hospitality. Porches became gathering places, almost as important as the house itself. As air conditioning has become more prevalent, the porch’s meaning has lessened so that scenes such as this are hard to find.
Around the corner, back now on University Avenue, city life is thriving. Relatively quiet in these weeks between semesters, at this hour between bankers’ hours rush and retail openings, the traces of heavy traffic are still evident.
Although fewer trees line the street along University, pockets of green are still visible. Vines almost entirely cover the Alligator building, which is set back from the building line, so that from the sidewalk, the hint of green looks as if it might be a pocket park.
Mothers, if you have sent your student off to University of Florida, there is a good chance that this is where you will find them. No matter how grown up they are, they are never far from a Mother’s love.
It has been a long time since I did a trail post, hasn’t it? Today, I headed out to San Felasco State Park, the one on Millhopper. San Felasco can get a little confusing, since there are several entrances and areas to explore. Up in Alachua, there is a horse trail and a bike trail that are part of San Felasco. Across the street from this part of San Felasco is a bike trail/running path that’s about 5 miles long. Back over by the Cox building on 43rd, there is a city park that is also called San Felasco. That is the one to go to if you’re in the mood to really get lost in the city. Literally lost.
This part of San Felasco is always a little difficult to capture, and today was no exception. Aside from the fact that my camera’s battery ran out before I finished the trail, there are many beautiful areas that really lack a focal point. The green canopy here is amazing and beautiful, but so much more so in person than in a photo.
The small things along the trail are always interesting, however. It has been a very damp year, so fungus is growing everywhere. I love these mushrooms, which my husband identified as oyster mushrooms. They look like clam shells to me, as if they could be growing at the bottom of the sea.
Delicate flowers can be spotted along the trail here and there, although the heat of summer means that they are few and far between. As refreshing as the green of the forest can be, the occasional spot of yellow is a welcome sight.
The delicacy of the forest does not end at the flowers. Mosses grow on tree limbs, lacy and light in beautiful shades of turquoise. It’s easier to miss these bits of lace, but if you slow down and look, you will find them.
I moved to Gainesville FL to earn my degree in architecture and never left. You can often find me wandering the many trails with my camera, always on the lookout for our famous gators. When I'm not on the trails, I'm probably walking the streets of a neighborhood, discovering the beauty that each one offers.