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Articles Lodging on the Santa Fe River, Alachua County, Florida

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Spring Cleaning in the cabin on Florida's Santa Fe River
Caterpillars, Butterflies, Hummingbirds, and Anoles
April 2011
 
            I am an armchair traveler, perched 14 feet above the Santa Fe River on the balcony of the Historic Cabin. It's the first day of April. I am chuckling about misadventures elsewhere, instead of shrieking. Reading Bryson's In Sunburn Country, I feel no dread. Temperatures above 110, travel on rutted roads, home of the most venomous insects and spiders on the planet in the outback of Australia, need not alarm me. 
            Temperatures in the 60s and breezes tossing the spring green leaves on red maple and cypress remind me that I live in paradise here on the Santa Fe River. With excitement from the printed word, I can be comfortable close to home. I travel the mere 38 miles from Gainesville's pavement, restaurants, and congested traffic to bask in simplicity at the historic river cabin. You can come too.
            Small adventures surround me here in North Florida, if I just keep my eyes open. Distracting me from my book I watch curiously the foreplay of two lizards. I've been told the lime green anole is endangered, if not gone, from south Florida, but I see them daily here in NW Florida. Reading of Australia's 1890s drought brought on by overgrazing of sheep, which the British brought to that country, I continue to sigh about the invasive white man. 
            Evidently a stronger lizard type is wiping out these green anoles, but here I see something curious. That lime green miniature dinosaur lies flat against the deck boards, then does his push ups, rising so that comparatively massive red disk in his throat can swell. Not to be anthropomorphic, but the smaller gray female seems more frightened than impressed. She keeps her distance, but like all females really relishing attention from males, she creeps closer when he seems disinterested. But as soon as he's within striking distance, she streaks away. He's after her like lightening; what they do the moments they are under deck, I cannot see. Soon though, he's back on task, lurking, waiting to pump, and she too soon appears topside...flirting?
            I learned from a more knowledgeable friend that lizards eat the fleas that bother the cats who eat the lizards. No bell or method I know can keep cats from eating lizards. I'm happy when I see those lizards chomping on a moth, who eats my wool carpets. Seems like more animals than humans disturb a food chain which is to their advantage.
            Closing the book, I grab the rubber gloves, broom, dust pan, and rag. Trudging downstairs, I pass the blue eyed grasses, their tiny blue petals spreading at the ends of slim green stalks. Woods violets have faded, as have the twirling red maple seeds, yet the yellow cluster flowers, Hawkweed, I transplanted from the woods, still brighten my natural landscape. The British brought it here too when they came to transform North America.
            There they are. The hummingbirds let me know they're back. I stop to heat a jar of water in the microwave oven, pour it into the last of my winter's sugar supply to feed the hummers. Those red throated beauties fearlessly beat their wings and squeak when they see me on the balcony. 
            I've planted the tomato seedlings I get from Darwin up the road 10 for $1. I repeat: ten seedling plants for one U.S. dollar. Last year he raised his price fro m 12 to 10 for $1. You'll see his sign on US 27 not far from the Ichetucknee, and you can get some too. My cherry tomatoes lasted in one pot through all the cold weather here near the Santa Fe River, and I ate the last of them in January.
            I open the screened room beneath the cabin on stilts. When I bought the house in 1995, the bottom level was a cement slab of the then two-room cabin. The house had been held up by metal jacks the size of my wrist. Over the years, I've added porches and decks front, side, and back upstairs and down. Downstairs I closed in the area with screen, and added light, portable furniture. Of course, I attached the detached jacks to the house and added sturdy 6x6s to support the new rooms above. In 1998 the worst flood in my history here kept this space underwater for nine months. I learned why the previous owner kept nothing down there. Still, we don't have memories longer than last Tuesday, so after each flood, we return using the downstairs like it will never flood again.
            As I pick up the rugs laden with yellow pollen, gather the quilts off the hammocks and one single bed, I wonder who might enjoy living in this space only 75 feet from the Santa Fe River. Just right for one or two people, I think, as I enjoy the breeze blowing off the river, through the little kitchen, out the street side. As I get my exercise with strokes of the broom over the painted concrete floor, a breeze blows all the pollen and leaves right back at me. Still, rather than use the shop vac, I prefer the old fashioned way to clean. I listen to nature’s sounds instead of machine’s.
            When I carry blankets and rugs from the banisters where they sunned and aired, I pick caterpillars from them. Black and wooly, green and spotty, or those lime green ones that twirl from an invisible line exuded from its mouth, I'm curious to learn which will be Monarchs, which Gulf Fritillaries, which Buckeyes. I see them all, as well as varieties of bees, on the native flowers which flood waters deposit on my river land. 
            To have a natural landscape, all I had to do is not mow for a few years, and certainly not fertilize, not here by the river. Fertilizers promote algae grown which smothers native plants; we all should know that.
            Still with cool nights causing visitors to wear stocking caps sleeping on the cabin's screened porches, spring is here. It's warm enough to tube in the Ichetucknee and cool enough to enjoy the ambient air.
            Come see. The historic cabin is only 45 minutes from Gainesville.
 
 
           

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