After a few days rambling we finally arrived at our winter destination in one of my most favorite places, Cedar Key, FL. We made a few stops along the way — Asheville NC, St. Simon's Island GA (we enjoyed and will probably stop there again on our travels back and forth), and St. Augustine FL. We actually left St. Augustine a day early. It was really nice there and seeped in history but it was too "city" for us. Too many tourist attractions, busy traffic ... just not our thing although I would still recommend a visit to our oldest city in this nation. The old town part of St. Augustine is very fun but be warned, parking is limited. We just couldn't wait to get to small town, old Florida, peaceful Cedar Key and so we left a day early. Cedar Key is not for everyone either. It is rumoured that once you cross over the No. 4 bridge you are either "welcomed home" or are "looking for more." I was immediately "welcomed home." There isn't a whole lot to do here. There isn't shopping unless you count the one souvenir store, two art galleries (one of which I hope to join next year), the new and very attractive Bonish Studio, and the small grocery store. There aren't many restaurants and bars either, zero clubs, and most tend to open and close on a whim. Nightlife tends to end at 9pm. There IS the very ambient sunset tiki bar. There IS a fantastic new coffee shop called 1842 Daily Grind & Mercantile where I will be undergoing coffee therapy. There isn't a huge beach with parasailing rentals, jetskis, etc. but you CAN kayak all over the islands many of which are wild, which is what I love. Kayaking depends heavily on the tide. There IS a whole lot of bird watching. There IS a whole lot of clam farming.
We stopped in Gainesville to stock up on groceries not that the little store here is not well equipped. Just that we both eat a plant based diet and well, hey, not every place sells tofu and nutritional yeast. Gainesville has it all — Trader Joe's, Publix, Earth Fare. All beautiful stores that carry things we have grown accustomed to. And best of all I can buy wine in the grocery store again!
We stopped at a storage unit we rent to supplement our rental home with things like nice pots and pans, sharp knives, linens we prefer, bikes, my painting table that my grandfather built, beach chairs, etc.
I have set up my little painting area and my husband has set up his little office and we are finally settling in and getting at it a week after our arrival.
I decorated for Christmas this year — actually carting down some of my Christmas decor rather than leaving it sit on the shelf at home. I orderd a fake tree considering my allergy breakout the last time we put up a live tree. I ordered a white one off of Amazon — I figured if it's fake, I might as well go all the way and white would look good in a tropical atmosphere. I am hoping it arrives today but the day is waning so maybe tomorrow. What you see on my painting table above are my Christmas designs which are a little different this year. I wanted something spontaneous, fun and beachy if not cheeky. I used oil pastels — my second favorite medium to watercolor. I am having them printed as postcards for mailing. I created 6 different designs. If you know me, and sent me a card here last year so I have your address, there's a good chance one of these will show up in your mail box.
Another added venture this year is that we have a half plot in the Cedar Key Community Garden! It is the best community garden I have ever encountered and I planted my little half plot up today. You can leave the garden at home but you can't leave the gardener! Plots are at waist height or ground level. I took a ground level because I'm able and that is what was available.
I joined because I feel the way to learn about gardening in another climate (a dreamy zone 9!) is to jump right in. This time of year I can plant cold crops so I planted peas, spinach, kale (Lacinato), chard, lettuce and watercress. I added a few calendula seeds in there, too, for color. They seem to sprout quite early in the spring up North and bloom into frost so we'll see. I was generously given a few plants alreadly growing so I have a good head of cabbage going and some curly kale.
I only brought two tools with me — my good pruners and my beloved hori hori knife — but the community garden has tools for everyone to use as well as a nice stockpile of compost. Water is also very convenient. It's surprising to be sowing seed in December with butterflies fluttering about but a girl can get used to it quick!
Cedar Key is a kitschy, artsy community and that personality shows up in the community garden, too. Just look at these beautiful floral arrangements!
So, already I have learned my zone, that this is considered "Northern Florida" in general, that shade is almost as important as sun here. Planting seed I do not have to worry about shade but if I were to transplant some little babies, they would need shade until they began growing. Gardeners here are very resourceful and use shedded Palm fronds for shade, netting, and bamboo stakes.
I can't help myself — I am researching Florida plants. I have another entire world to get to know. I stupidly left my Florida plant books at home — I always forget something! But google is a vast world. I would plan a Florida garden much like the Violet Fern Garden — using a structure of native plants at all levels that are bee and bird friendly, and filling in with a few "can't resist" plants always making certain that they are not invasive. Someday I hope to have a garden here as well and that day maybe be arriving sooner than I thought!
To be continued ...
Author Kathy Sturr
In this blog I may write about the garden, flowers, plants, and the garden ... mostly the garden, but also new art and inspiration.