February 22nd, 1891
Rock Ledge Sunday Feb don't know the date
(the envelope is postmarked February 23rd)
A cold, windy, showery day. If this week of rain is a fair sample of Indian River weather, it is very changeable. Yesterday sweltering in the heat, tonight sitting by a grate fire, but the thermometer does not indicate the changes, being 70 degrees tonight and only 86 yesterday.
Took a long walk with Mr. H today down to one of the oldest groves, where orange trees have attained their greatest size and fruit producing qualities, Mr. H estimating that one tree would yield 10 boxes of oranges. And then on further down the river viewing the queer formations of shell rock and the even stranger and fascinating
tropical foliage and scenery, passing through various groves and thickets of virgin forest, until we passed beyond the Hammock Lands into the pine clearing and the district where the raising of garden truck(?), cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, peas, beans, etc. is the principal business, and had the pleasure of picking and eating some ripe strawberries in Feb and in the open air.
Have also had several walks with Mrs. H, who has a number of interesting things to show in the shape of a queer old oak, gnarled and hollow and festooned with long streams of moss, banana groves, pineapple patches, shattuck trees with fruit resembling pumpkin in size and color, citrus trees, etc. and points where particularly enchanting views of river scenery
may be had.
There is much more labor connected with picking and packing of the oranges than I supposed. The oranges are cut from stem with shears, put into bag swung from shoulder of the picker, carried to wheel barrow and emptied into boxes, then wheeled into packing house, where they are run through a sizer, each size being packed separate, that is 96, 126, 150, 176, and 200 to a box. They are then sorted into two or three qualities, bright, fancy, and gilt edge, there being however very few boxes of gilt edge. They are then wrapped in paper and packed in boxes, previously nailed together by Mr. H, the top put on, stenciled with grove label, no. and kind in a box and shipping directions and then wheelbarrowed down to pier about one block and shipped north.
Besides, the grove must be hoed all over twice a year, trees pruned, fertilized and sometimes washed and watered. Altogether I think it keeps Mr. H very busy at all times and overworks him at harvest.
Think however he has made a good investment, as groves have advanced greatly in price and his is a choice one.
Mary is very lonesome and discontented down here, is mortally afraid of snakes and bugs and will never be enticed far from Chicago again. The folks are in mortal terror lest she leave them and go North. The impression North is that owing to the mild winter there that little traveling is being done
in Florida, but it is a mistake. The country is overrun with tourists, there are 3 hotels at Rock Ledge, one of which accommodates 300 guests and they are all overcrowded, people sleeping in cots in parlors, halls, and even on boats lying at wharf.
Did not visit Mrs. Carter coming down, but may on return trip, which I am ready to make.
I have always had the impression that Florida was one vast flower garden, but there are almost none. Only two flowers appearing common in this section, the hibiscus and poinsettia, both large red flowers. Of course, the orange trees are in bloom
and the air is heavy with the perfume, and the trees look lovely combining the pure white of the blossom, the golden yellow of the fruit, the bright green of the new growth and dark green of the older.
Have seen very little of the famed Florida bloom the magnolia and honeysuckle, and birds are not numerous. The only song birds now here are the red birds, which are very pretty of a vivid red color, and having a sweet note or two of a song. Other than these are nothing but a few dull looking cat birds, crows, buzzards, and now a very few stray ducks in the river.
There are 2 or 3 squirrels in the trees surrounding the house, and they frisk and run and jump through the branches, very lively, flirting their tails and helping themselves
to an occasional orange. They are tame and will allow you to almost touch them.
Fish are very plenty in the river, and can be occasionally seen leaping out of the water or nosing around the banks in long processions. Have had considerable fish for meals.
It seems quite a problem to get material for a meal, the supplies at store being very desultory and cannot depend on getting fresh meat, and must rely on staples and canned goods.
Will surely not get the gout down here. Eat lots of oranges, or rather suck them, as where there are so many, one becomes fastidious and selects only the thoroughly ripe, juicy fruit, takes a suck and throws away. Where the fruit is so juicy one has to be careful eating, not to get the juice all over you,
and they have a phrase, "hanging over," as describing the attitude assumed.
Am helping some, reading a little, loafing a good deal, with an occasional walk, row, or sail, and this next week expect to make a few short excursions down the river and into interior in search of novelties, and hope to start North last of week or first of next, but cannot tell whether will get away.
I find this a place where one can very easily catch cold. It may be that I expose myself needlessly, but changes in temperature are rather sudden and marked.
How about new girl(?)