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Monday December 17, 2007

Whoa: Homestead’s city commission just passed a moratorium on building in the city’s eastern portion.

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Wednesday July 25, 2007

The Homestead Housing Authority is kicking a Miami-Dade Public Schools program for the children of migrant workers off its property and getting ready to tear down their portable classrooms. The CBS4 report and DeFede commentary twist words to make it sound like it’s a full-fledged school, when it’s really a summer camp, after-school, and pre-K program, and omit the fact that there are other similar programs offered. Even with a more complete picture though, this seems incomprehensible — why not allow the free program that people obviously want? And why are the classrooms being razed; isn’t the whole point that they’re portable? Update: I love Jim DeFede as much as the next guy, but does this indicate that he’s as willing as anyone else to play word games and twist facts to spin a story a particular way?

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Wednesday April 18, 2007

Redlands real-estate album

where the ultra-rich now live
Click image for slide-show.

These images were made for an e-bay auction of some property down in the Redlands part of Homestead, and they show how quickly that area is being transformed from agricultural to suburban use. In fact, Gabriel, who discovered the set, bemoans the transformation. I’m mainly appreciating them for their inherent beauty, and so they’re presented here in a full-resolution slideshow.

They’re a sort of weird Dan Graham and Barbara Kruger. Apparently photographed with a disposable film camera, they were lovingly scanned and overlaid with magenta all-caps boldface text. One of them even has a line connecting the text to a spot in the picture.

The photographs depict McMansions, both cookie-cutter and outrageous, being constructed, as well as some photos of the surrounding streets and farms. We get a real sense of being between two places, for example in the 4th image, where a dirt country road and a wrecked fence suddenly find themselves juxtaposed with a house that will soon be occupied by an upper-middle-class family. Occasionally we get a glimpse of a slice of the realtor’s car, and in one picture a man spreads his arms invitingly, standing on farmland that will no doubt not exist in another few years.

Gabriel is right — there is a real melancholy to these images. But this is the reality that has always been Miami — people are moving here all the time, and large-parceled suburbs have been swallowing farms since the 1920’s. The transformation in downtown is a part of this too, and while I wish more people liked living in urban high-rises, the truth is that owning a big fat house is a pretty standard human desire. As went Miami, Coral Gables, and Aventura (they didn’t name it “Ives Dairy Road” out of whimsy), so go the Redlands.

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Monday March 5, 2007

Strawberry fields forever. Frances Nash visits the pick-yourself fields in Homestead. The usual great mix of gorgeous photos and idiosyncratic commentary.

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Monday February 5, 2007

Fruit and Spice Park

Fruit and Spice Park, in the Homestead Redland, is part exotic plant sanctuary, part park, and part tourist attraction. $5 admission gets you an hour or two of wandering around, tasting strange fruits, and checking out a few little exhibit type things. Here’s a little collection of old farm equipment. No information or anything; they’re just sort of sitting around.

Tasting

Funky fruit tasting (click through to see what’s what). The gourd-like thing in the middle is Black Sapote, which tastes shockingly like melted chocolate. The little glass dish towards the back contains Miracle Fruit, little berries which have no flavor, but which will make your mouth impervious to bitter flavors for about a half an hour (try one of those grape-looking things, which are super bitter, then try the Miracle Fruit, and then eat another berry, and it won’t taste bitter anymore). The lady was super-nice and let us sort of pig out on everything. Then she sliced open that big gourd thing and let us try that.

Then they set you loose to wander around the park, or you can take a “guided tour,” which is on a horrible motorized trolley thing. This is one of many weird banana-like trees that dot the park.

The rule is that you’re not allowed to pick anything, but if it’s fallen to the ground you can eat it. Here’s a big Canistel that we found. It’s got a very strange consistency, sort of like dry dough, and a flavor a little like cooked squash. It’s such a bizarre bright shade of yellowish orange that my camera freaked out and made everything else dark trying to understand it.

Squash

The spice section in the middle of the park has raised planters with all sorts of little plants and spices. Here are some baby eggplants.

Catalina and Ross. This is the park’s only real concession to tourist trapyness.

Poisonous Plant Collection

The poisonous plant collection was a little disappointing. Hey, isn’t “poisonous” the botanical word for “hallucinogenic”? Just kidding — don’t eat that. (Actually, they tell you not to eat anything in the park unless you recognize it — apparently some of the plants in the regular area poisonous too.)

Greenhouse

The best thing about the greenhouse is that when you leave, going outside feels like walking into an air conditioned building. It’s hot in there.

Strangeberries

These are the bitter berries again, which grow, unbelievably, attached directly to the branches of this tree. Never seen anything like it.

Fruit and Spice Park on google maps, and here is the official web page.

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Thursday January 25, 2007

Schnebly Redland's Winery

Schnebly winery

Oh, the mystery. Wine doesn’t grow in our climate, so how can there be a winery in Homestead? On the drive, the signs say “Winery” and even have a little picture of a bunch of grapes. But Schnebly Redland’s Winery in fact makes “wine” out of tropical fruits such as lychee, passion fruit, and guava. The winery itself is a bit of a tourist trap: housed in a pair of trailers (a new visitor facility is under construction), and charging $6 for a wine tasting and another $6 for a tour, wtf? We opted for the former and skipped the latter.

The short pour

How’s it taste? Pretty good, actually. They all look like white wine (except the guava). And they taste much more like the juice of their respective plants with a little alcohol then actual wine. The closest to real wine was the oak-aged version of the carambola (starfruit) wine, but it wasn’t great. We agreed that the lychee one was the best, and ended up getting another bottle to drink outside, which was the best part of the whole thing. You can save yourself the trip and just order a bottle from their website if you’re curious.

Tourist feet

The tour also gets you the privilege of doing a wine fruit-stomping contest. Like I said, tourist trap. There’s also a “Boo-Boo” wine, supposedly a heirloom blend of fruit to which the recipe has been lost, so “once it’s gone it’s gone.” It actually is delicious, but at $35 for a half-bottle . . . well, I guess you have to set your own priorities.

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