Earth Barrels

March 28, 2012

The days are getting longer and longer yet I’m still focusing on growing rather than wandering.  In addition to the Square Foot Gardening which I mentioned in my previous post, the concept of “Earth Barrels’ has snagged my attention. This appears to be a different take on the Earth Box which has been around for a while.  Both are self-watering containers.  

I was first introduced to the barrel version at a small local nursery and was immediately convinced it would work. I have a tendency to over-water or neglect to water anything and everything plant-like.  That, along with the notoriously long, hot, dry weather here in Florida means disaster for any plant in my care. With tomatoes in particular being thirst driven plants, my luck at growing them would be non-existent without a little help.

The Earth Barrel is made out of a plastic barrel and a PVC pipe.  You fill the container with soil (in my case, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 compost), then place the hose in the PVC pipe to fill up the reservoir.

When water starts to run out of the small spill hole drilled into the side of the barrel, you know the reservoir is full. Then plant your plant.  It’s that simple.  Just be sure to add water to the reservoir via the pipe on a regular basis.

Although we purchased these ready-made for $30, if you feel up to the challenge, the Instructables website has step-by-step directions to make your own.  Or, for a simpler project, you can go the route of a Tomato Pail. Find out how at the Full Moon Native nursery website.


Facts to Inspire

March 14, 2012

I’m feeling somewhat uninspired so far this week, so I’m looking for something to capture my attention and maybe motivate me to plan my next Florida exploration. Fortunately there are many ideas out there.  And many of them start from such lists as this one, compiled by the Fizber real estate agency.


  1. Greater Miami is the only metropolitan area in the United States whose borders encompass two national parks. You can hike through pristine Everglades National Park or ride on glass-bottom boats across Biscayne National Park.
  2. Saint Augustine is the oldest European settlement in North America.
  3. The name Punta Gorda, which means, “fat point” when translated from Spanish. The moniker was given to the city because a broad part of the land in Punta Gorda juts into Charlotte Harbor. The harbor itself is somewhat unique, as it is the point where the Peace River meets the ocean.
  4. Orlando attracts more visitors than any other amusement park destination in the United States.
  5. New England Congregationalists who sought to bring their style of liberal arts education to the state founded Rollins College, the oldest college in Florida, in Winter Park in 1885.
  6. Cape Canaveral is America’s launch pad for space flights.
  7. Florida is not the southernmost state in the United States. Hawaii is farther south.
  8. A museum in Sanibel owns 2 million shells and claims to be the world’s only museum devoted solely to mollusks.
  9. The Benwood, on French Reef in the Florida Keys, is known as one of the most dived shipwrecks in the world.
  10. Safety Harbor is the home of the historic Espiritu Santo Springs. Given this name in 1539 by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. He was searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth. The natural springs have attracted attention worldwide for their curative powers.
  11. Niceville is home to the famous Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival celebrated the third weekend in October.
  12. The United States city with the highest rate of lightning strikes per capita is Clearwater.
  13. Gatorade was named for the University of Florida Gators where the drink was first developed.
  14. Young aviator Tony Jannus made history on January 1, 1914 when he flew the world’s first scheduled passenger service airline flight from St. Petersburg’s downtown yacht basin to Tampa.
  15. Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola invented mechanical refrigeration in 1851.
  16. Miami Beach pharmacist Benjamin Green invented the first suntan cream in 1944. He accomplished this development by cooking cocoa butter in a granite coffee pot on his wife’s stove.
  17. Neil Smith and his brother of Montverde developed the first Snapper riding lawn mower.
  18. Key West has the highest average temperature in the United States.
  19. The Saint John’s River is one of the few rivers that flows north instead of south.
  20. The largest lake in Florida is Lake Okeechobee.
  21. May 20, 1970 Florida lawmakers passed and sent to the Governor a bill adopting the moonstone as the official state gem. Ironically, the moonstone is not found naturally in Florida…nor was it found on the moon.
  22. In 1987 the Florida legislature designated the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) the official state reptile. Long an unofficial symbol of the state, the alligator originally symbolized Florida’s extensive untamed wilderness and swamps.
  23. Miami installed the first bank automated teller machine especially for rollerbladers.
  24. Ybor City was once known as the Cigar Capital of the World with nearly 12,000 tabaqueros (cigar-makers) employed in 200 factories. Ybor City produced an estimated 700 million cigars a year at the industry’s peak.
  25. Plant City, the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World, holds the Guinness record for the world’s largest strawberry shortcake. The 827 square-foot, 6,000 pound cake was made on Feb. 19, 1999 in McCall Park.
  26. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is a cable-stayed concrete bridge. Opened in 1987 the bridge coasts through the clouds at 190 feet above water. Its bright yellow support cables spread from the two center pillars. The structure gives drivers unobstructed view of the water during the 4.1 mile trip over Tampa Bay.
  27. Nearly 80 percent of the states intake of sweet Atlantic white shrimp is harvested in Amelia Island waters. Two million pounds of shrimp are delivered to Fernandina docks annually.
  28. A swamp such as the Fakahatchee Strand in the Everglades functions in three major ways. First, its vegetation serves as a filter to clean the water as it makes its slow journey southward. Secondly, it’s a major habitat for wildlife and plant life. Finally, it actually prevents flooding by slowing down the flow of water after heavy rains.
  29. DeFuniak Springs is home to one of the two naturally round lakes in the world.
  30. The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens at Delray Beach is the only museum in the United States dedicated exclusively to the living culture of Japan.
  31. Fort Lauderdale is known as the Venice of America because the city has 185 miles of local waterways.
  32. Fort Meade is the oldest settlement in Polk County. It dates back to 1849 when a settlement grew up around the United States Cavalry fort during the Seminole Indian Wars.
  33. The Fred Bear Museum in Gainesville is a tribute to the accomplishments of Fred Bear a promoter of proper wildlife management and the founder of Bear Archery Company.
  34. The Hawthorne Trail a part of Florida’s Rails to Trails program and attracts many outdoor enthusiasts to walk, cycle, or ride horseback through its 17-mile length.
  35. Just north of Haines City is the Baseball City Stadium the spring training home of the Kansas City Royals. Haines City is known as The Heart of Florida.
  36. The city of Hypoluxo’s name comes from the Seminole expression water all ’round — no get out.
  37. Islamorada is billed as the Sports fishing Capital of the World.
  38. Key Largo is known as the Dive Capital of the World.
  39. Marathon is home to Crane Point Hammock, a 63.5 acre land tract that is one of the most important historical and archaeological sites in the Keys. The area contains evidence of pre-Colombian and prehistoric Bahamian artifacts, and once was the site of an entire Indian village.
  40. Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West was built between 1845 and 1866. Controlled by the Union during the Civil War, the fort was the home base for a successful blockade of Confederate ships that some historians say shortened the conflict by a full year. The fort also was active during the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.
  41. The first graded road built in Florida was Old Kings Road in 1763. It was named for King George of England.
  42. During the 1991 Gulf War the busiest military port in the country was Jacksonville. From this location the military moved more supplies and people than any other port in the country.
  43. When first completed in 1989 the Dame Point Bridge became the longest cable-stayed span in the United States, the longest concrete span of its type in the Western Hemisphere, and the third longest cable-stayed bridge in the world.
  44. The longest river sailboat race in the world is the Annual Mug Race. The event runs 42 miles from Palatka to Jacksonville along the St. Johns River.
  45. The Olustee Battlefield State Historic Site commemorates the largest battle fought in Florida during the American Civil War.
  46. Venice is known as the Shark Tooth Capital of the World. Collecting prehistoric sharks teeth has been a favorite pastime of visitors and residents of the Venice area for years
  47. The Florida Museum of Hispanic and Latin American Art in Coral Gables, is the first and only museum in the United States dedicated to the preservation, diffusion, and promotion of Hispanic and Latin American Art.
  48. The Pinellas Trail, a 47 mile hiking/biking trail connecting St. Petersburg with Central and north Pinellas County, is the longest urban linear trail in the eastern United States.
  49. Titusville, known as Space City, USA, is located on the west shore of the Indian River directly across from the John F. Kennedy Space Center.
  50. Florida is the only state that has 2 rivers both with the same name. There is a Withlacoochee in north central Florida (Madison County) and a Withlacoochee in central Florida. They have nothing in common except the name.

The Way of the Pineapple

March 7, 2012

It’s pineapple season!

My first pineapple plant

Usually I just see pineapples at the supermarket but last year I noticed they were growing on the grounds of the Jupiter Lighthouse. That made me curious. Can they really be grown here in Florida? Shortly afterwards, my Mom mentioned she had saved the top of a pineapple she bought at the grocery store, and potted it for me.  I finally got around to planting it in the backyard this past weekend.  

Each night now, I head into the backyard, flashlight in hand, to check on it, and make sure no nutcase squirrel, armadillo or mole has attacked it. And I’m kinda addicted to the thought of it.

Apparently pineapple plants adapt to the warmest areas of Florida, along the SE and SW coasts.  But lucky for me they can also grow in protected locations/landscapes throughout Florida.  The optimal temperature for growing pineapples is 68-86 degrees (F).  Temperatures below 28 degrees (F) aren’t tolerated, and slow plant growth may occur as a result of temperatures below 60 degrees (F) and above 90 degrees (F).

How to Grow Your  Own Pineapple

According to the FloridaGardener, it’s easy to grow pineapples from store-bought fruit.  Simply:

  1. Cut or twist off the pineapple crown.
  2. Allow it to dry for a day or two.
  3. Plant in sandy, well-drained soil (or container; see below), and in full sun if possible.
  4. Water weekly. Pour water into the vase-like top.
  5. Once plant is established, pour a cup of balanced, diluted water-soluble fertilizer into the top of the plant monthly. Avoid getting dirt or sand into the buds at the top of the plant as it may kill it.

Container Planting

  1. Choose a 3-7 gal. container with drainage holes. The larger the container, the greater the potential for a large plant and fruit.
  2. Fill container to within an inch or so from the top with well-drained potting soil mix.
  3. Water the soil mix before planting the plant (you should see water draining from the drainage holes).
  4. Plant pineapple crown in the center of the container, then water (in the vase-like top of the crown).
  5. Place container in full sun for best growth.

Pineapples are slow-growing, but if you’re going to buy a pineapple to eat anyway, instead of throwing the top out, why not give this a try?

Wacky February Weather

February 29, 2012

Wacky Weather is the only way to describe this February in Florida. One day it’s in the low 50s, the next it’s in the high-80s.  Last Saturday was my parents last weekend in Florida before returning to the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina. And what did the wacky Florida February weather do?  

I think these photos say it all….

I can’t wait to see what March has in store for us.

Are you Prepping for Polar Pandemonia?

February 22, 2012

Last night I watched Doomsday Preppers on the National Geographic Channel.  According to the website, a Prepper is:

An individual or group that prepares or makes preparations in advance of, or prior to, any change in normal circumstances or lifestyle without significant reliance on other persons (i.e., being self-reliant), or without substantial assistance from outside resources (govt., etc.) in order to minimize the effects of that change on their current lifestyle.

This “change in normal circumstances or lifestyle” could be caused by a natural phenomenon such as an earthquake, or manmade as in an economic collapse. Maybe it will be in the form of a worldwide pandemic. A Jacksonville family portrayed on last night’s show, however, is prepping, and leaving the state, for another reason. They believe Florida will be under water soon, or at the very least, iced over.  That is, the earth is due for a magnetic polar shift which will wreak havoc and change the landscape of Florida, and the world, forever.

I never call anything crazy until I know more about it. 

And what I know so far is that this is not make-believe. Research apparently shows that the north magnetic pole is shifting towards Russia.  But how or when it will affect us is another matter.  Interestingly, though, back in January of  2011, closure of the Tampa airport was attributed to the magnetic polar shift. According to one article,

 “The Earth’s poles are changing constantly, and when they change more than three degrees, that can affect runway numbering.”

Craziness or reality? You decide.

Prepping is a smart idea in this state simply because of the hurricane potential.  And with the economy in such disarray, prepping is a smart idea for other reasons as well.  For more on prepping in Florida, check out the Florida Preppers Network.

And to see how Hollywood would portray the polar shift scenario in Florida, check out the movie Absolute Zero. That’s what we’ll be watching this weekend.

What do a beach resort, a ballpark and a research library have in common?

February 15, 2012

African-American history.

It’s African-American History Month and Florida has a lot of history to offer.  VisitFlorida has compiled the following list for Floridians and non-Floridians alike to visit and learn. 


  • American Beach, Amelia Island. Florida’s first black-owned beach resort, it still belongs in part to the founders’ descendants.
  • Julee Cottage Museum, Pensacola. Part of Historic Pensacola Village, this African-American history museum resides in the circa-1805 home of free black woman Julee Panton.
  • John G. Riley Center/Museum for African-American History & Culture, Tallahassee. Housed in the circa-1890 home of a local African-American citizen, it scans the history of black Tallahassee and the nation from Reconstruction through the Civil Rights movement. Its historic black neighborhood, known as Smoky Hollow, was home to cookie-maker “Famous (Wallace) Amos.”
  • Kingsley Plantation, Fort George (near Jacksonville). Past the row of haunting slave cabin ruins, Kingsley puts human faces to the horror of slave plantation life by introducing some of the African inhabitants, such as Anna Madegigine Jai, the owner’s freed African wife, and slaves Gullah Jack and Abraham Hanahan.
  • Lincolnville, St. Augustine. St. Augustine’s historic African-American district, originally named “Africa,” boasts the city’s largest concentration of Victorian homes. Here Martin Luther King stayed while supporting local civil rights movements. It was also home to the man who taught Ray Charles, a student at the local school for the deaf and blind, to read music in Braille.


  • Jackie Robinson Ballpark, Daytona Beach. Robinson scored a home run for his people as the first African-American to join an all-white team. It happened here, where a sculpture and park commemorate the 1946 event.
  • Mary McLeod Bethune House, Daytona Beach. Dr. Bethune, a civil rights leader who advised presidents and fellow educators, lived here in the early 1900s. Visit her home (renovations were done in November 2010) to view her personal library, artifacts and photographs on Bethune-Cookman University, where some of the buildings are designated national historic landmarks.
  • Howard Thurman Home, Daytona Beach. Howard Thurman lived in this home until he moved to Jacksonville to attend the Florida Academy Baptist High School, the closest high school available to black Daytonans in the 1910s. Thurman is the author of over 20 books and provided spiritual guidance to prominent civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Parramore District, Orlando. A reviving downtown row of African-American shops and restaurants selling African wood carvings, caftans, masks, jewelry, reggae paraphernalia, barbecue, greens, roti, jerk and other African- and Caribbean-inspired food, art, clothing and gifts.
  • Wells’ Built Museum of African-American History & Culture, Orlando . Bo Diddley, B.B. King and Ella Fitzgerald were among the performers of “the Chitlin Circuit” who boarded here. The hotel has been restored to house a tribute to notable local and national African-Americans.
  • Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, Eatonville.  Named for Eatonville’s famous Harlem Renaissance writer and folklorist, it exhibits the work of changing African-American artists and hosts an annual winter arts and humanities festival. Ask for a walking tour brochure of Eatonville’s historic sites.


  • African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, Fort Lauderdale. The ultimate word on black history, it contains an art gallery, research document collection and book and photograph libraries.
  • Bahama Village, Key West. In the Florida Keys, proximity to the Bahama Islands meant free interaction between the two lands. Bahama Village grew up after the Civil War as home to the “Conchs,” as the Bahamian immigrants came to be known. Today, Bahamian restaurants, roaming chickens, shops, an 1865 church and a park keep the neighborhood lively.
  • Old Dillard Museum, Fort Lauderdale. Once a segregated school for black children where saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley directed band, it traces the history of the city’s jazz scene and displays masks, musical instruments and other archival artifacts.
  • Overtown, Miami. Soul food restaurants, historic churches and the circa-1913
  • Lyric Theater mark the cultural importance of “ColoredTown,” as it was originally known. One of Miami’s oldest neighborhoods, it dates back to the 1890s.

A Coconut Cure?

February 8, 2012

When I think of the tropics, I think of coconuts falling from trees. And although I don’t consider Florida the tropics, coconuts are figuring prominently here these days.  But not for the reasons many might think.  Sure, coconuts grow in South Florida, but it’s a certain Floridian who’s getting all the attention, for her message on what they can do for us.

Dr. Mary T. Newport lives in Spring Hill, FL with her husband Steve.  When Steve reached the severe stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, Mary sought out something to help him.  What she found was coconut oil.  Her video has been circulating via email and is definitely worth watching at her website,  Although her findings  first came out in 2008, Dr. Newport’s book Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was A Cure, only became available in August of 2011.

In the video, and in numerous articles online, she explains that Alzheimer’s is like a “diabetes of the brain” in which the brain does not accept glucose. A certain substance is found in coconut oil that can serve as an alternative fuel for the brain, and that is MCT Oil which the liver breaks down and turns into ketones.  These ketones are what the commotion is all about.

Ketones appear to also  help those with other neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s, which is what my Dad was diagnosed with four or five years ago. 

Armed with articles I found online by Dr. Newport and others, I bought the same brand of Coconut Oil shown in the video, and gave it to my parents. My Dad is a harder sell on such things, but after reading the materials I brought along,  he agreed to give it a try. I hope many others will as well.