Square Foot Gardening x 3

March 21, 2012

If you haven’t heard of Mel Bartholomew and his square foot gardening method, then you are missing out. Don’t think you can have a real garden here in sandy Florida? Think again. I am.

After reading his book, aptly titled Square Foot Gardening, I’m convinced that I too can grow my own salad and more. Mel has a real method that eliminates a lot of the guesswork and the requirement of having a green thumb (lucky for me!).

The method is based on 4’x4′ squares, and we have three of them all connected. So far the frame for the raised beds is built and filled with a special mix of vermiculite, peat moss and compost.

We start planting lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and more this weekend.   A local nursery, Full Moon Natives, has great information on their website on what to plant when, and how. Perfect for our area here in north Florida. After that, we’ll complete the fence. With the ever elusive armadillo in our yard, and bunnies in the neighborhood, we have no choice.

I can’t wait for that first fresh salad, made from the day’s pickings.


Meet the Gator Boys

January 11, 2012

After a busy Sunday I slid onto our leather sofa with the intent of finding a thirty minute show to watch for mindless entertainment. What I found instead was a reality type show called Gator Boys.

Animal Planet's Gator Boys in Action

Nuisance alligators in South Florida neighborhoods are not new and, although I’ve seen other shows where gutsy individuals go out and capture them, this one was different.  

When one of the Gator Boys donned a  wetsuit, snorkel and mask and entered the water in the Sunday night episode, I was truly taken aback. I have never seen or heard of anyone going underwater to trap an alligator. What if that gator is 10 feet or more? He can eat you, or rather clamp on to you and take you on a death roll that I’m pretty sure you won’t survive; that is unless he has clamped on to a limb and rips it off during the roll, and you manage to get away and receive medical attention pronto!

The Gator Boys capture these nuisance alligators then take them back to their park where they perform shows for visitors.  I don’t know about everyone else, but I think taunting alligators for a live audience (and for money) is pathetic.  Maybe you can learn something about the creatures this way, but why not learn from biologists out in the field, or in a natural habitat for “lost” gators? Why should animals be slaves to humans thirst for entertainment?

Since development has so encroached on nature that we have alligators in our backyards, it’s no wonder we need services like those offered by the Gator Boys.  Now if only they would find a place to release those  beloved gators, I might become a true fan.

Fishing for Dinner

November 16, 2011

Groupons are great for getting you out of your comfort zone and into something you know nothing about. Back in April we bought a Groupon for a 7-hour fishing trip out of New Smyrna Beach. With only a few weeks left to use it or lose it, we finally signed up.

The Pastime Princess is 100-feet long and can accommodate 150 passengers. On Saturday though there were only 73 of us, including many last-minute Groupon users like ourselves. We arrived at the dock early and picked out our spots on the back rail.  

After a fun, yet cool, cruise out, we lined up like little soldiers all around the boat and waited for the Captain to give the order. When he did, I let my hook down, careful not to  cause a backlash in my reel. Then I waited. It wasn’t long before everyone around me started pulling up Sea Bass after Sea Bass. Although they had to throw every one of those back, at least they were catching something.

I have been fishing maybe 2-3 times in my life, all here in Florida, all off of Matt’s boat.  If I recall correctly, I caught three pinfish at a mooring buoy on something called a sabeki line. Here, however, I wasn’t having much luck. I resigned myself to admitting that I am indeed my father’s daughter and my brother’s sister. When we were young and visiting Florida, my Dad and brother would go out on a boat like this one with my Uncle Jim and cousin Jimmy.  My uncle and cousin always caught fish, but my Dad and brother never seemed to have much luck. I guess it’s in the genes.

At the third fishing site people continued to catch fish right and left of me, starting with a high schooler named Brenda who brought in the first keepable fish of the day– a Trigger fish. Others brought in cobias the size of  small children.

Finally I felt the nibble and reeled my line in as fast as I could (which wasn’t very fast but was unbelievably clumsy). My first catch of the day was a small grunt.  We threw it back in. After that I caught a few Sea Bass, and another grunt. My only claim to fame on the boat was being the only person to catch a Lizard Fish, which no one wants to catch, much less eat. 

By now everyone was catching huge Red Snappers but these too, unfortunately, had to be returned to the sea. Then Matt landed not one, but two, Lane Snappers. Finally fish we could keep.


Once back at the dock, the crew swiftly and expertly cleaned everyone’s catches.  We felt lucky to have something to take home for dinner when so many others didn’t.

I think we’ll be doing this again.

Enchanted Forest

October 5, 2011

With the first hint of Fall in the air, hiking has become a desirable activity once again.  And the first hiking of the season took place in an Enchanted Forest. 

The Enchanted Forest Sanctuary in Titusville that is.

The 462-acre forest is part of the Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Land (EEL) Program.  This EEL Program consists not just of one designated location but several. According to their website, an EEL Sanctuary is:

  • A place of wonder, contemplation and discovery
  • A resource for environmental education
  • A preserve to protect biodiversity and natural resources
  • An opportunity to experience Florida as the early inhabitants did

I agree with all of these, and more. For several years I lived in apartments and my only sanctuary was out in nature, mostly in parks. So I’m a strong advocate of outdoor areas being preserved, yet open to the public.

The hiking around the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary is more of a walk than a hike, as the trails are easy, and if taken separately, relatively short. We explored five of the trails, walking a total of just over 3 miles. 

Our Titusville Forest

Near the intersection of two trails, we came across this unhurried soul, fresh from his underground abode (if the sand on his back is any indication).

The Education Center located at the Sanctuary provides interactive exhibits on the  biodiversity that makes up this small pocket of Florida. In one, you choose an object and place it under a microscope. In others, you test your knowledge with trivia.

This is a new find, and I’m excited to explore the rest of the locations being preserved by the Brevard County EEL Program.  It seems there really is more to Florida than just concrete jungles full of flashy rides and rows and rows of junk food.  Floridians do care about what’s in their back yard. Brevard County is proving just that.

Fall in Florida

September 28, 2011

Now that it’s officially Fall (at least on the calendar), what does it mean for Florida?


Starting this weekend, festivals abound across the state. Not all seem Fall-related, but are festivals none-the-less.  These include the Central Florida Peanut Festival (Williston), Rattlesnake Festival (San Antonio), Fantasy Fest 2011 (Key West), McIntosh 1890s Festival, Mount Dora Craft Festival, and the Miconopy Fall Harvest Festival.


Blooming Oakleaf Hydrangea

There are certain plants that react to the Florida Fall by changing colors, producing berries or flowering.  These include Goldenrod, Beach Sunflower, Cigar Plant, Lion’s Tail, BeautyBerry, Muhly Grass, Mexican Sage, Forsythia Sage, and Silver-Leaved Aster.  Another, the Oakleaf Hydrangea, sounds perfect for a shady spot in our backyard where nothing ever seems to grow.


I’m  a big fan of Fall vegetables, including beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, kale, mustard greens, onions, radishes, squash and turnips. Floridians can plant them for themselves, or hold out for the bounty at a local Farmers Market.  Apparently Fall is also the best time to plant strawberries in Florida.  As for the flower garden, it’s time for chrysanthemums and marigolds.  And, if you live in South Florida and are up for the challenge, it’s time to plant those high-maintenance rose bushes.


I’m not a hunter, and rarely think of hunters inhabiting Florida.  But Florida apparently does have hunting seasons.  It appears to start with Fall Archery Season (Sept. – October), followed by Crossbow, Muzzle Loader, and General Gun seasons.  There’s even a time for hunting alligator, which is something you won’t find me participating in.


Another event taking place this Fall in Florida is the opening of the LEGOLAND park on October 15th.  Although I’m not a fan of theme parks, for a kid (big or small), this one might be worth at least a visit.

Swamps, Surfers, Cheeseburgers and Politics

August 31, 2011

Labor Day weekend is always synonymous with the end of summer, although that’s highly debatable here in Florida.

So, what’s going on around the state  this holiday weekend? Here are a few events that caught my eye.

Swamp Walks:  Take a swamp walk into The Big Cypress Swamp with nature photographer Clyde Butcher.  The walk begins behind Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery in the Everglades. All you have to bring with you is a pair of long pants, a hat, old shoes and a sense of adventure.  Oh, and be prepared to get wet.

Pioneer Florida Days Festival 2011:  Check out the celebration at the Pioneer Florida Museum in Dade City,where you can experience early Florida history.

26th Annual NKF Pro Am Surf Festival:  Cocoa Beach is the place, National Kidney Foundation is the cause.

Jimmy Buffet-Style Music in Jacksonville:  Throughout the Labor Day weekend, the “margarita-flavored tunes” of Jimmy Buffett can be heard at The Jacksonville Landing courtyard.  On Saturday, come “decked out like your favorite Buffet song.” (Cheeseburger in Paradise anyone?)

Flashback, the Classic Rock Experience:  Experience the re-creation of the classic performances of  Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and many more, by Mystic Orchestra, a group comprised of 14 rock musicians and singers, and an 11-piece string and horn section.

Spirit of the Suwannee River Music Park: Pull out the tent, or pack up the RV, and head to this music park just north of Live Oak for a weekend of musical celebration. Listen to Southern Ruckus on Friday and Honkeytonk Hitman on Saturday and Sunday.

Fight for Florida:  Apparently a new movement is organizing here in Florida and its called the Working Families Movement. The movement will be hosting Labor Day weekend events across the state, including ones in Palm Beach, Ft. Myers, Tampa, Orlando, Daytona, Ocala, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Pensacola. If you’re looking for “a little fun, a little politics” and want to build the camaraderie needed for “the struggles that lie ahead,” check out one of these events.

It’s a great weekend to get out and do something a little different.

Jaws Comes to Florida

August 3, 2011

Another year, another Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.  This year’s episodes, beginning on Sunday, July 31st, offer more unique opportunities to learn about these incredible animals. Every night we sit glued to the television, looking for new information and enjoying beautiful shots of the sleek creatures we often scuba dive with. 

At the same time, I’m looking for a Florida connection and it doesn’t take long to find one. A brief mention of Florida in the show entitled “Jaws Comes Home”  (so titled because it is shot in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, an area where part of the Jaws movie was filmed) quickly catches my attention.

The show documents the research of an enthusiastic U.S. Fisheries scientist in Cape Cod where Great Whites have been showing up with more and  more frequency. The scientist manages to tag the sharks and learn where they go once they leave the Cape Cod area.  It seems they head south, along the contours of the U.S. shoreline, including down and around the Florida peninsula. 

I know there are dangerous sharks in our Florida waters, such as the Tigers, Bulls and Lemons.  But I always thought Great Whites were concerns for Californians, Australians and South Africans, not Floridians. Now I want to know if these traveling Great Whites are just passing by Florida on the long highway to somewhere else, or have other plans in mind.

A quick search on Great White encounters in Florida reveals that most reports are by fishermen, and many are located in the Gulf of Mexico.  According to the International Shark Attack Files in Gainesville, between 1920 and 2010  there have been no recorded attacks by Great Whites in the state of Florida.


Great Whites were at one time common in Florida waters, most likely due to an abundance of their favorite food source — seals. More specifically, Caribbean Monk Seals. Since the seals extinction in 1948, it’s anyone’s guess as to how many Great Whites are here in Florida now, and why.

The show’s revelation about the travel of the Great Whites gave even my dive buddy Matt a moment to pause, reconsidering those solo dives he does off his boat, 19 miles out in the ocean.  After a few moments of silence, he finally proclaims that I need to dive with him from now on and that we’ll find someone else to stay on the boat.


While shark cage diving with Great Whites in Guadalupe, Mexico is on my bucket list, being surprised by one in a dive off the coast of Florida is not.