Sunday, April 13, 2014


Polo!!!  Yes indeed, at The Villages we have polo.  The real deal.  And like most every place in TV, it's golf cart accessible.  Who'da thunk it when we moved here?

The polo season here at TV runs from March through May and then again in October through November.  Our summer humidity is simply too brutal for man and beast to play such a fast paced game.  And these horses are fast!

Friday Denny and I drove our golf cart up to the polo field for our first experience in watching the match.  The folks on either side of us were quick to explain a bit about polo and the end referee wandered over to show us a polo ball and also to explain that the horses sometimes jumped the boards at the edges of the field when the rider was chasing after the ball so that we needed to be aware of the movement of the players and to stay back from the sidelines.  The ref also informed us that when a ball was knocked out of bounds (on the other side of the boards) we would be allowed to keep the ball but only after the players were away from the sidelines and there was no chance that a horse might step on us.  Fair enough. (Note: we were not lucky enough to be close when a ball came out of bounds, although one lucky fellow got two.)  Lumpy little plastic balls that can go 160 mph when struck solidly.
The basics of the match are that the two teams start in the center of the field where a referee on horseback tosses the ball and then the team tries to get it to the goal they have chosen at the beginning of the match.  After each goal, the teams switch ends of the field so that the next time they have to shoot the ball in the other direction to score.  Each segment of game play is a chukker and there are six chukkers in a match.  Each chukker lasts seven minutes.  There is a half hour break after the third chukker, at which point the audience traipses onto the field to stomp down the divet marks and gouges on the field so the ball can roll smoothly when struck.  Audience participation AND a chance to move around a bit while waiting for the second half of the match.


 Watching the action from the sidelines.  A golf cart view.

Most of the beautiful animals being ridden at the polo fields are American thoroughbred horses.  Each team member brings several horses with him and the horses are switched out multiple times throughout the match, giving the animals time to catch their breath.  The riders get their break midway through the match.

There are two matches each on Fridays and Sundays; if you arrive and pay for the first match you can stay for the second match for free.  On Fridays, $5 a person gets you a seat on the sidelines in your car or golf cart and tailgating is allowed and even encouraged.

And so goes another day in The Villages.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Convertible Club Makes Wine

When the newsletter for The Villages Convertible Club came out and I saw that there was a day trip to a make-it-yourself winery, I thought "where do I sign up?"   Over a period of two days there were eight different groups from the club (because we are 700 strong) signed up to create bottles of merlot, shiraz, chardonnay and pinot grigio.   I signed Denny and myself up for the shiraz; Denny only drinks white zin so I pretty much figured I'd get all the wine for myself.  Hee. 
 On the day of our wine making adventure, we gathered in the front room of the Corkscrew Winery in Ocala, Florida where we met the youthful owners, Joe and Kelli Carvalho. We were shown the "back room", where Joe built a 20 foot long table from recycled wood surrounded by twelve mismatched and reupholstered chairs.  The walls are lined with jugs of wine in various stages of fermentation that have been made by other groups.

Our wine starts off in a plastic pail surrounded by a wooden barrel and lid.  Our shiraz mixture is one of grape juice and pulp, pre-mashed and from Australian grapes.  Joe explains the process we will be going through while Kelli offers us samples of the varieties of wine they have on tap this week.  Joe and Kelli offer wine tastings and wine by the glass available during the evening hours along with small snacks.  The Corkscrew Winery also does special events such as a Valentine's Day wine making where they made strawberry wine, even allowing some folks to "stomp" the strawberries for the wine.  Today our experience was much tamer.  The group equally participated in the various steps of the process of creating the wine, from choosing how much to water down the grapes (not one iota because we were going for wine that had a higher alcohol content) to choosing the type of charcoal we'd add to our wine (since the wine isn't being casked, we had our choice of a variety of wood charcoals which would change the flavor and aroma of our wine) to reading the hydrometer which showed how much sugar was in the grape mixture to checking the temperature of our batch to make sure it was staying cool enough to adding the yeast which would add in the fermentation.  One of our group created our temporary logo on a brown paper bag so we'd know which wine jug was ours and then when our batch of wine was stirred one final time we all headed out to lunch.  We wouldn't return for our wine for eight weeks.

One March 18 the Shiraz group once again met at The Corkscrew to bottle our batch of wine.
We are bottling the Topless (for the Convertible Club) Shiraz.  The afternoon group has the Top Down Pinot Grigio.

Sanitation is paramount; we sanitized our hands and sanitized the bottles prior to bottling as well as prior to corking the final product.

Filling the bottles came next--it was a totally automated process once you placed the bottle on the filling station.  You simply pulled down on the top lever and the bottle filled itself with a tiny bit going into the overflow bottle.

Next up; corking the wine.  A simple press which required a little arm strength and keeping your foot on the press to hold it still.  Smooth as silk.

No classy wine is complete without a seal, so we picked out which color of seal we wanted,placed it over the end of the bottle and then slid the bottle into the heat lamp for a count of 4.

After the bottle cooled for a moment, we grabbed our labels and stuck them on our bottles.  Voila'.  Topless Shiraz, vintage 2014 and bottled by TVCC.

For those who aren't fans of wine, the Corkscrew Winery also has the capabilities of brewing craft beers--one batch makes about 52 bottles if you're a beer lover or if you want to get a group together to make some.  For the wine making, one batch of wine will come out to about 29-30 bottles depending on whether it is white or red.  Each couple took home two bottles and the remainder of the wine will be held for next year's annual party, giving the wine time to age since we added sulfites to the remainder of the batch once we had bottled some for our personal use.  Our group chose to only have the natural sulfites in our wine, meaning we will have to drink the wine before six months to make sure it doesn't turn to vinegar.  Some of the group said theirs would be gone by evening, so that was okay. ;)

This certainly was a fun way to spend the day outside of the bubble (an inside joke of Villagers.)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Playing Catch up

I've added three posts tonight, one of which is current, two of which are not.  I've gotten out of the blogging habit and it's hard to jump back on the bandwagon now that our life on wheels is in a golf cart instead of a RV.  But jump back to December 6 and see a couple of our day trips.

As for our regular life here in TV, we're still a work in progress.  Denny is trying out for one of the 200 softball teams here, I'm taking yoga instruction and participate in two different watercolor painting clubs and we're still playing a little golf.  I'm still adding some furnishings to the house by way of estate sales, garage sales and private sales by Villagers.  It's a good way to learn my way around the various Villages here.

Now I have some Superbowl commercials to watch.  I'll fast forward through the actual game and watch the commercials only.  Football--pfftt.

A Day Brightener

Our youngest son, Darby aka The Darb, flew down from Columbus, Ohio last week to visit.  He was looking forward to a week of sunshine, shorts and exploration.  What he got was record breaking cold temperatures, rain and wind.  The only good news was that our weather here was consistently 40 degrees warmer than back in Ohio where one morning the temperature was -11 degrees.  So the kid wasn't complaining too much.

Friday, the last day of Darb's stay, had a weather forecast of sunny and 80 degrees so I planned a stop for lunch at a restaurant on the banks of Lake Weir, followed by a visit to Blue Spring State Park to see the manatees and then Denny and I would take him to the airport to return to Ohio.  Oh the best laid plans....the day dawned foggy, dreary and cool.  Crap!

Determined to make the best of it, off we went for a very tasty lunch at Gator Joe's.  On a nice day, we would have sat outside on the deck over the water and enjoyed the view.  This time around, we simply enjoyed the company and the food.
 About an hour's drive along county roads took us to the Blue Spring State Park where a large group of manatees had arrived during the frigid Florida weather.  The spring that feeds into the St. John River here dumps about 100 million (read that again) gallons of water into the river and the water temperature from the spring is a constant 72 degrees.  You see, manatees will die when they are exposed to water temperatures in the 60s so they search out areas where there are warm springs.  On this day, the staff had counted 264 manatees in the river.

I have to admit, in the madness that precedes a person packing up and preparing for a flight out of town, I forgot to toss my camera into the car so the following photos were taken with the camera in my phone.  Which is never an acceptable substitute but it was all I had.  Sigh.

I have no idea what a group of manatees is called, but a magnificence of manatees would be good.  If you click on the photo below you might notice one manatee grasping the tree limb with his flipper and pulling the leaf-filled branches to his mouth.  Manatees are herbivores, eating the grasses and algae available in the waters and leaves that they can reach. 
 Manatees surface every few minutes for air and can remain underwater for 20 minutes or so.  The largest of this group were noisy blowing out water and sucking in air while the babies were virtually noise-free.
 A lovely statue of a manatee done in mosiac tile.
 Slow, massive and peaceful, manatees grow up to thirteen feet long and can weigh as much as 1300 pounds. 
 The river is also home to several species of fish.  We watched tilapia flashing their silvery sides and these Florida gars kept the manatees company.
 The worst enemy the manatee has is man and his power boats.  On the manatee on the left you can see the scars from the boat propellers.  This one is surfacing for air while the other manatee rolls while luxuriating in the warmth of the water.
 The obligatory tourist shot; me, Darb and Denny.
 Mama and baby; as we approached the deck where this pair was resting I overheard a lady say she saw the mother nursing the baby.  Darn!  Notice once again the propeller scars on the mother's back.  A simple cage over the propeller would help prevent a lot of the injuries but boat owners apparently aren't fond of this fix.
 The manatees seem to derive a lot of pleasure in rolling over and over in slow motion.  They are just so much fun to watch in their placid movements and obvious pleasure in the warmth of the water.
In the winter you can't enter the waters of the St. John's River near the Blue Spring but in the summer the river is open to swimming, canoeing and kayaking.  There is a campground with water and electric hook ups, nature trails and the Louis Thursby house can be toured several days of the week.  The Thursby family was one of the first to settle in the area and to plant orange groves.

Despite the cool temperatures and overcast skies and the fact that Darb had to return to Ohio, we had a really nice time at Blue Spring State Park.