Letter from America 18th December

Hi Guys and gals,

We have never experienced a Florida like this before. The first 15 days of December in Central Florida where we live have been the coldest since records began. No snow like you have all been experiencing but five or six nights where temperatures have been below freezing with high winds. By covering up Pam’s flower beds each day the geraniums, heathers, amaryllis, gardenia and the Texas Sage shrubs have survived but the large poinsettias in pots we moved into the shelter of the car port have not. The citrus industry employs over 140,000 with a turnover in excess of $1 billion was in panic mode. If the temperature drops below freezing for over four hours the oranges and strawberry crops are ruined. In an effort to avoid this from occurring the orange groves with sprinkler systems spray the bushes with water to cover the leaves and the fruit. The ice that then forms apparently avoids the fruit getting any lower than 32F enough to prevent them from freezing. The fruits that get frozen are useless even for juicing. The strawberry crops get the same treatment and this year they have even employed helicopters to push the warm air down to prevent freezing. Apparently the air 50 feet up above the ground is warmer than the air near the plants. The helicopter blades push the warm air down and the temperature goes up. The warmer air prevents frost from settling on the plants. Not so sure that this was such a good idea as there have been three helicopter crashes as a result so far, pilots falling asleep with boredom maybe? It will be at least two weeks before any damage to the bushes or trees comes to light but a number of the smaller palm trees such as the date palm and Texas sabla palm are looking the worse for wear. The irony of all this is that for the last part of November we kept the air conditioning busy and for these two weeks in December the heating in the evening and overnight has certainly been very welcome. Fortunately energy costs here are relatively cheap. All this cold weather and it isn’t even officially winter yet! At the same time due to the lack of rain and the low humidity there is a constant risk of brush fires. The National Weather Service is issuing “red alerts” warning people amongst other things from burning rubbish etc which if not observed can lead to a penalty of 60 days in prison and/or a $500 fine.

I am in trouble with the Head Honcho as I did not include in last week’s Letter from America Pam’s gardening experience some two weeks ago now. She had something of a shock when putting mulch on the flower beds using two half bags left over from last winter. When she opened the first bag a snake of about twelve to fifteen inches long and about half an inch thick had its sleep disturbed and quickly scuttled away out of sight never to be seen again. In the second she disturbed a small family of frogs that followed the snake quickly disappearing from view!

The other thing I omitted to mention was that our Canadian friend competing in the 60-64 age group in the Florida Senior Games Championships at Cape Coral shattered the all time record for the 5K time trial in a time of 6 mins 34.873 secs. The previous best was 6 mins 59 secs back in 1998 and 2003 by riders in the 50-54 age group a reduction of some 25 secs. In his own age category he beat the existing record by some 41 secs. Again in the 10K time trial he set the record for his age group of 13 mins 20.423 secs beating the previous record by 1 min 26 secs. Well Done Dave, now you know why I only ride with him on his recovery or rest days!

Some of you may have already seen the list of best ever quotes from Lance Armstrong but the following two were the ones I liked the best: “This is my body, and I can do whatever I want to it. I can push it, study it, tweak it, listen to it. Everybody wants to know what I am on. What am I on? I am on my bike busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?” Nike commercial, 2001. The other one read: “If there was a god, I’d still have both nuts.” ET magazine, 2004.

By the time you read this it will officially be winter and the shortest day will have been and gone. At the moment over here it gets light just before 7am and is dark by 6pm so we are all looking forward to the lengthening of daylight hours in the weeks to come. Trust you all have a good Christmas despite the weather, and with best wishes for a Healthy and Enjoyable 2011.

Bryan Staples

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