Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Water Tower & Windmill at The Brownwoods front entrance

The Villages. For those of you new to this blog or to our now defunct The Villages blog, here are some things you need to know.

It is a 55+ community but to abide by the law, 80% of the homes in The Villages must have at least one person 19 years of age or older, living in it. Persons under 19 are not allowed to live in The Villages.

It all began with a guy named Harold Schwartz from Michigan who bought up a bunch of land in Central Florida. Through a series of legal machinations, he was able, some 30 years ago, to begin building the first community, known as Spanish Springs.

Schwartz's family still maintains control and owns all of The Villages. Living expenses are high for it takes a lot of money to keep the place going. Today it remains the fastest-growing community in the U.S. Not that that is a good thing. It has become a traffic nightmare.

The Villages now sprawls over 32,000 acres, and covers 25 miles. Each development area (Spanish Springs, Lake Sumter Landing and Brownwood) has it's own "downtown" with a square of sorts which offers entertainment and liquor every day of the year, weather permitting.

These "downtowns" also provide a number of shops and restaurants. Please note also that everything is designed to give it an old-timey feel; most of the buildings have some faux notice on them indicating they were built in the 19th century. None were.

Spanish Springs has more of a Spanish style to its architecture; Lake Sumter Landings is more like a small lake town; and Brownwood, was built to resemble a 19th century western settlement.

There are 39 golf courses in The Villages, but most of them (32) are of the Executive type - small, par-3 courses. It is so difficult to get a tee time in The Villages that many residents end up playing golf in Ocala or other nearby communities.

The population has doubled since 2010 and is now over 104,000. Most of the folks get around by golf car, and most streets in The Villages with the exception of state or country roads are golf car friendly.

The Villages is overwhelmingly conservative and Republican so any candidate who wishes to win an election makes sure of at least one stop in The Villages during his/her campaign.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Main Street - Clermont, Florida

There is so much growth in the Orlando area, especially west and north, that recent orange groves now feature massive housing projects.

Clermont is about 20 miles west of Orlando and while it still has a small town vibe, that is changing rapidly as more and more developments take shape and people move into the former groves by the droves. The Clermont area is also of interest because it is very hilly country and thus very different from other areas of Florida which are basically flat. There are trails used by bicycle riders which are very nice but because of the large hills become a real test of one's strength and stamina!

My feeling is that all this construction and all the people moving to Florida are a disaster of enormous proportions. The reason we have so many sink holes in central Florida is due to the stress originated by this development. The nature of Florida's limestone is such that when water invades its infrastructure already weakened by construction of homes, businesses and schools, it caves in. While we've had some spectacular sink holes, you ain't seen nothing yet.

In 1985, when we moved to Florida from Texas, there were about 12 million residents. Today, we're closing in on 20 million. Ocala, which ten years ago, was still mostly a sleepy little town, has become a busy metropolis with all the attendant problems of traffic gridlock, burgeoning schools, hostile political networks which pitch those who would preserve a little sanity against those with a Chamber of Commerce mentality who insist more is better, the constant need for new medical facilities, and crime, among other things.

Clermont represents that movement and those problems as well as any city in Central Florida.

I remember some years back asking a woman tour guide in The Villages, who was singing the praises of The Villages, (which is a little further northwest) insisting it was the best place in the world to live, when she thought we'd reach the point where so many people would turn her paradise into hell on earth. She didn't like the question and simply insisted the developers of The Villages would never allow that to happen. Then I knew we were in trouble.

Now, understand that none of this takes into account global warming and climate change which is already sending 3-4 inches of water into downtown Miami during high tide. Salt-water intrusion into the water supply will soon make that water unusable. Our ocean-front cities and homes are in a critical situation, especially as the most recent reports from climate scientists insist that the seas are rising faster than they originally assumed and by the year 2100 much if not most of south Florida and almost all the beachfront areas will be under water.

People will find 1) their property no longer has any value, and 2) they need to get the hell out of Dodge, soon!

How, you ask, has our state government handled this crisis? By hiding their collective heads, ostrich style, in the sinking sands. In fact, an executive order has gone out instructing state employees never to use the words, "climate change," or "global warming."

My fear, living high and dry in Ocala, is that we're going to not only be inundated by folks living north of the Mason-Dixon line, but by all those sopping wet souls who currently reside in Miami and Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton and Palm Beach and Cocoa Beach, and Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, and Naples, and Ft. Myers, and Charlotte, and Tampa Bay, and all areas in between.

But then again, I may have a beach in my front yard. That would be cool. I could charge a fee to use it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Bench and Coffee Table

You will find these pieces and other works of wood at the Yard Stop in Ocala, Florida.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Christine's - Brownwood, The Villages

This building may look like an old-timey church, and it may even have the name, Abundant Life Church on its facade, but none of that is true.

The building was built just a couple of years ago and Christine's is a fancy gift shop. There never was a church here.

If you're looking for "abundant life," you're going to have to go elsewhere.

Welcome to Disney for Adults aka The Villages, Florida.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Friday, September 25, 2015

Raw Milk at the downtown Farmer's Market

Personally, I want my milk homogenized and pasteurized. There's a lot of discussion as to the benefits and risks of raw milk. Just give it a Google.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Bird Condo - Central Florida

Condos and townhomes are being built on the shores of the many lakes in central Florida.

As is almost always the case, they get more expensive the closer they are to the water. This particular condominium was only a few yards from Lake Sunnyside and thus the individual units demanded outrageous prices!

Middle-class birds have been priced out of the market.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Herb Shoppe and Day Spa

If you were visiting Clermont, Florida, for the first time, you might, at first glance, think this was a government office building or perhaps a bank. It is not.

Whatever its past, today it houses the Clermont Herb Shoppe and Day Spa.  I like what they've done with the tiles on the steps.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Two Lights, Two Speaks, Big Brother in Brownwood

Two lights to help you find your way.  Two speakers to provide you the latest information from Big Brother.  Five Guys, should you cross the street, offers a variety of hamburgers and various condiments.

All this is located in The Villages hometown of Brownwood.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Jesus lives here...

...well, maybe not.   This name plate may merely indicate the family name of the people who live here.

Usually, though, Spanish speaking people would use the name, Jesus, as a first name; Jesus Rodriquez, for example.

It is also possible that the residents thought this name plate would be a good way to evangelize the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, it's my neighborhood.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Yard Stop

On Highway 40, just west of I-75, is The Yard Stop, "Ocala's premier full-service lawn and garden supercenter. Our garden center is a one-stop location, offering plants, groundcovers, pavers, and outdoor living areas with complete design and installation services. Additionally, our showroom features a variety of premier lawn equipment for residential and commercial customers."

The photograph above shows about one-half of the showroom.

We buy pine straw from The Yard Stop to use as mulch around our bushes and trees.  

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Florida Racoon

This little critter was hiding in some bushes at the Florida Museum of Natural History, located on the campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville. He offered me a bit of his apple, but I declined as I'd already had breakfast.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Brownwood Cattle Drive

 At one of the main entrances to Brownwood in The Villages, a new group of sculptures representing a cattle drive has been added in recent months.  The sculptures are well-done and quite realistic. 

Unfortunately, it was a hot, bright, very sunny day when I took the photos, so they are very contrasty.  Mea culpa.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tree Tumor

This post could also be titled "Tree Tumour" for my UK and Canadian friends. Take your pick.

It is obvious the tree died. It also seems obvious it died from this huge, very hard, tumor (tumour) found inside of it.

Well, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Car load on Highway 301

We were heading home on Highway 301. The day, which dawned in sunshine, had turned dull and cloudy. A few miles south of Interstate 10, traffic jammed up in one of the many small towns, most of which were notorious speed traps. We waited at a light behind this behemoth. As I recall, under those wraps were new BMW vehicles. We hoped the driver would take off slowly so the cars didn't roll backward and land on us! He did.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Organ - Brownwood, The Villages

As most of you know, The Villages has grown into a huge metropolitan area over the past 30 years or so.  There are now about 80,000 residents and at least that many golf cars, who live and park in a wide variety of housing.  Some Villagers live in small villas, or town homes.  Some live in large, elegant villas or town homes,  Some live in more modest single-family dwellings.  And then there are those who live in large, very expensive single-family dwellings.

The first part of The Villages, called Spanish Springs, has its own downtown, shops, and restaurants.  The second phase, known as Lake Sumter Landing, also has its own downtown, which is located on a small lake, Lake Sumter.  You will find many nice shops and restaurants in Lake Sumter Landing.  The latest phase, still under construction, is known as Brownwood.  Brownwood's downtown is built around an old country theme. 

Each of these downtowns has a town square where live music, dancing and drinking are available every evening of the year (weather permitting). 

Brownwood is just now coming into its own.  More and more shops and restaurants have opened up and more and more people are visiting the Brownwood downtown. 

The Brownwood sales office is a beautiful 1800s building with an elegant and delightful interior carefully calculated to make you drool and immediately ask if you can buy a house in The Villages.  This sales office carries out the country theme.  It offers potential buyers various drinks, and plush couches, chair and settees upon which to relax.  There is also a gift shop in the sales office where you may buy shirts and glassware and other gifts with the Brownwood logo on them.

In the hall leading to the gift shop you will find this gorgeous old organ.  It's a magnificent instrument.  I wanted to try it out but didn't dare.  I was fearful some old coot may have come around the corner with a revolver in hand! 

The second photo is an attempt to show what it would have looked like with an old-timey camera.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Up High in a Bucket

To be up high in a bucket is not on my "Bucket List."  I've got other things I'd rather do. 

At the back of our lot is a stand of trees.  The trees are on county property.  One day this fellow, along with another worker, drove their bucket truck on the six feet of land that separates our property from the county's property.

Then he got into the bucket and was raised up high where he proceeded to "trim" the trees.  The problem is that he didn't trim anything that needed trimming.  He might have trimmed the tree tops or he might have trimmed branches that were close to some telephone wires, but it appeared to be just random; hit or miss.

On the ground, his partner picked up his trimmings and fed them into a wood chipper. 

After about an hour, they packed up and left.  Haven't seen them since.  So far as I could tell, the trees looked exactly the same when they left as when they came.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Searching for the Northwest Passage

I have it on good authority that these folks are Canadians. They went looking for the Northwest Passage, got lost, and somehow ended up here in central Florida. But they are an intrepid group, and refuse to give up. But it's a long haul. They're heading down the Silver River, which will run into the Oklawaha, which runs into the St. John's River, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean. I'm guessing once they get to the Atlantic Ocean, they'll just head north and take their chances.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Twisted on the Trail

During my lifetime I've read a number of weird, twisted tales. And I've walked some trails which offered their own twist on things. This is one of them.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Florida Panther (Wooden version)

You will find this beautiful critter at the Homosassa Springs State Park.

Florida panthers have been protected for a number of years as their numbers were dwindling.  But I read recently that protection may be lifted, which I think would be a shame. Nobody needs to hunt Florida panthers!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Curious Allah Van

The Allah van is usually parked in this driveway.  It is a curiosity, sticking out like a sore thumb in this central Florida community, which features religious groups of all sizes and colors (mostly Christian), but is notably knee-deep in Christian fundamentalist rednecks. 

We have over 200 Baptist churches, several Roman Catholic churches, a couple of Anglican churches, two Episcopal churches (one of which is a breakaway and won't accept gays), the usual mainstream churches (Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, United Church of Christ, etc.), a bunch of large independent churches, and lots of small store-front churches tucked away in strip malls.

There are, I believe, four Jewish temples.

I don't think there is a mosque.

The theme for September 1, is "Curiosities."  You can check out what other City Daily Photo bloggers have posted to honor this theme here.
"Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again." — Henri Cartier-Bresson