Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Florida and Kids
Well, if that keeps the bozos away, then let them believe it!
I'm including this picture, sorry its sideways, to prove that our grass is perfectly safe for little one's feet. Its a fight to keep shoes on them. We DO have patches of stinging nettles and sand spurs, but those are PATCHES and kids quickly learn to stay out of there if they're not wearing shoes. If you have a small yard, its easy enough to yank the offending grasses. Stinging nettles are quite nutritious so I'm actually looking for some right now, but they only occasionally pop up in the garden and we've never had them in the yard. And if they keep popping up despite yanking, sow some perennial grass seed densely and let that keep them out.
And is it too hot for kids? Well, that all depends on your kids. We have friends whose kids will play outside all day when the weather is scarcely over 40 and hate it over 82. My kids look at me like I'm nuts if I drag them out with me on cold days. In the worst of summer, we go out early in the morning to do chores but are almost always in by 11. Farmer Boy 1 doesn't much care for the heat. He's usually inside playing by himself when the thermometer tips 90. Farmer Boy 2 would stay out at 110. We also find ways to beat the heat. Kiddie pools are a summer essential. We fill it up every couple days and they usually splash around in there if I have extended work to do outside. If its a morning where I'm merely doing the barest of chores, we'll be back inside before it gets hot. Does it seem like we're always living inside to get away from the heat? Well, maybe for 3 months or so, but the other 9 its quite comfortable to be outside all day.
Gardening is a tricky thing in the heat though... you can't bring the plants into the AC. There are some select things that really thrive in the heat. Our summer staples are sweet potatoes (that we don't harvest until the first freeze), okra, collard greens, pole beans, cow peas, cherry tomatoes, and amaranth (for the greens). Many herbs will need to be shaded in the summer to hold out. I'm putting in a new herb bed just for that purpose right now. We won't get the yields that our northern friends do, mostly because of those blasted nematodes I just wrote about, but also because of the sandy soil that doesn't hold nutrients. But the key is finding the foods that work, not trying to force what doesn't work while the only thing growing is frustration.
But the biggest benefit I see to homesteading in Florida is for animals. While the winter was hard on everyone else and I spent many a morning waiting for the hose to thaw, it certainly beats wondering if I have frozen goat kids or how to keep the waterers from freezing while I'm gone all day. Our animal housing is minimal and they do fine. Yes, we have a harder time with parasites. No, some animals don't handle the heat well. But its all things that are easy to work with.
Now, with that said, I'm a southerner. My grandparents moved here for my grandmother's health when my dad was in high school. My dad headed back north and met my mom. They came back to Florida to thaw out when I was 2. Despite divorce, neither ever left. I went to college in northern NY, working on a farm there during my summers. Then moved to a northern area of China after that. I came back to Florida and don't regret it one bit. There are things that are nice about the north, but I'm very familiar with the south. I'm accustomed to sweating, not shoveling snow. I'd rather run my AC for 5 months than my heater for 8. I feel quite comfortable with the thermostat set at 82 but our winter temp of 58 is grueling. Running through soft sand feels far more natural to me than trying not to slip on ice.
And there ARE some places in Florida that I would NOT recommend for raising kids though the natives will sternly disagree. I'm not big for cities so Miami and Orlando and much of the over-grown south Florida regions would be out for me. But saying Florida is bad is like saying all of NY is bad because New York City has a high crime rate. Anyone who's ever been to northern NY will find that thought preposterous. But Florida is growing, in some places rather unwisely. I can't say what it will look like here in 10 years. Walmart is building a superstore (which I vow to NEVER step foot in!). Whole new developments and neighborhoods are planned. Things are changing and the only thing more certain than that are the taxes we'll pay on those changes.
But for now, Florida is home. And its a nice one.