Warning: This post has been brewing for awhile and is a bit, well long-winded would be a kind way of putting it. You may want to just skip to the bottom three paragraphs. Or skip it all together, for that matter. Sometimes you just gotta say it.
I am a Florida girl to my bones. Not only was I born and raised here, but my family has been here for as long as we have family memory. So, I get a little impatient with those that move to the state and then complain it 'doesn't feel like Christmas.' If you want icicles on your eaves and snowmen in your yard, Florida is not the place to make your home.
And I vehemently disagree with the oft-repeated statement that there 'are no seasons' here. There are, actually, very distinct seasons in Florida. I will agree they are not nearly as dramatic as they were when I lived in DC, but they exist. They simply take a more discerning eye.
I know it is Fall when the sticky nights of summer suddenly give way to cooler temperatures that are a relief from the heat of the day. You are still in short sleeves during the day, but the sweaters are out at night. And we put the blankets back on the bed. The vegetable plants that burned up in the summer are suddenly vibrant and prolific, but the prolific flowering vines wither up for a period of dormancy. This is a time when we venture back outside, lighting a fire on the patio and enjoying the crisp air. Plenty of gardening, hiking and camping get done in this weather.
Winter comes when the regular rains stop and the plants are now more green than colorful. The air is cold at night and it smells of the dry oak leaves and on the best nights wood smoke. You need the sweaters all day now, and the coats fairly often. The air conditioning is completely off, and the heat often on. The bed now has a comforter, and the indoor fireplace gets some use. Gardening slows down, but doesn't end all together. You have to protect the plants from the occassional freeze and now isn't the time to put new plants in the ground, but there's a bit of maintenance. The citrus trees, on the other hand, are heavy with fruit. Its almost dark when I get home from work, so I pack all the yard work in to the weekend.
But Spring is right around the corner, heralded by the blooming of the azaleas, the smell of orange blossoms and the falling leaves. Yes, falling leaves - our trees lose ours when the new growth pushes off the old. Gardeners are out putting in the new plants for the season, and everything that was dormant springs back to life. We quickly rush out for our pruning, because the new growth will take off just a week or two after spring comes.
Early summer - because our summer is definitely two season - is here when I come home from work and change in to short sleeves and a skirt, and do not realize an hour later that this is still premature. Our blooming plants are in full swing now, and the first vegetable crop of the year is happily producing. This is the time of year I can't help but spend every free moment outside, even though the insects are beginning to return. The garden is a happy place to be and, if we're getting our regular rain, seems to grow with no help from me. The days are long, and it feels like I have all the time in the world to get things done.
And then there's late summer, definitely the toughest season for those not used to the rhythms of our state. It is hot and sticky, with incredible humidity that is barely helped by the afternoon rains. And by rains, I mean monsoons. While many of our tropical plants thrive in this weather, many others burn up or drown. It is definitely not the time to put anything new in the ground, but that's okay because its too hot and buggy to work outside anyway. This is the time for lazing in the shade or, better yet, finding your way in to a body of water. And since there's one around every corner, it's not that hard. This is also hurricane season, and it pays to keep an eye on what NOAA has to say.
It's not a northeastern change of seasons, and I know its not for everyone. But, it has a charm all its own. I happen to prefer it to short summers and bitterly cold winters myself. The only problem is, everything I've just described to you has gone out the window. I don't know if its freak weather patterns or global warming, but I want it to stop. We are, literally within three days, swinging from highs of 40 degrees (with a frozen pond in the backyard) to 80. Its January, 80 is high even for us. Today it is 65 degrees and even I am relieved that something approaching winter has come. I haven't had to resist the urge to roll my eyes at the northerners all winter, and I'm agreeing with them. (I'm not sure I can express to you the magnitude of that fact.) This is not winter.
And it wasn't our summer, either. Oh, it was plenty hot enough. But where were our monsoons? It felt like the dry season in the rainy, and now that the dry season is here we are in real trouble. They've enacted water restrictions from Orlando straight down through the Keys. We're a long state, that's around 390 miles and at least two, probably three temperate zones. You never take water for granted living in a state like this, and the faster our population grows the more we think about it. But, this scares me.
I've been working on building more sustainable practices in to our life. Using canvas grocery bags in all stores is second nature now, as is bringing my recycling home from work. My compost is still a work in progress, but we're actively working on it. We replaced the leaky faucet. The thermostat on the air conditioning keeps the house from being over cooled, and the timer turns it off while we're at work. We didn't feel the hybrids were ready when we bought our cars, but we chose small, gas efficient ones. (We're particularly pleased with that decision as gas prices continue to rise.) I enjoy reusing and repurposing, and what I don't goes to goodwill rather than the landfill. That was the easy stuff. I'm going to have to start looking more closely now. But, I want to continue living here, in this wonderful but somewhat fragile state, so I'm going to have to do something more.
I just don't know where to start.