Field Trips


This is where you'll find our adventures
wandering out of our neighborhood
and into the great big world.
They are posted in calendar order.
Enjoy!


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It was a mild, yet overcast weekend.
We've been wanting to get back into letterboxing.

Somewhat like our promise to visit state parks,
we hope to add this activity to our monthly schedule.
It allows us to enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors
and spend quality time as a family 
with absolutely no distractions,
while getting some exercise and fresh air.






 We took off mid-morning on the Fort Frasier Trail
which starts in Bartow and ends up in Lakeland,
some 8 miles long.
We managed to rack up some mileage,
but Lil' Guy wasn't up to completing the whole trek.




This time 'round, Big K wanted to try using the GPS, 
which is known as geo-caching.
It's a high-tech version of letterboxing.



 If you visit this site, it will guide you through the process.
You need a GPS and a good sense of direction.
Coordinates are given for each hunt.



Along the trail, we found scenes like this.



This was one of the sites where the GPS took us.
On this plot used to stand a soft drink distributer.
Can you imagine how much you could get 
for returning all those bottles?



 We didn't find the container supposedly located here.
In fact, we didn't find any of them on our list.
We'll probably just go back to the standard letterboxing
and leave the GPS at home.
We've had lots of success with following the clues that way 
to locate the buried treasure.





 We enjoyed the rest of the ride 
and all of Mother Nature's gifts.












We even spotted a wild orange during our travels.







Along this trail, signs explain the roots of the area.
We always welcome an opportunity to learn something new!
 


















Even though the goal of finding buried treasure 
wasn't achieved,
we had a great time together.
We're looking forward to our next venture.
We hope you'll give letterboxing or geo-caching a try
if weather permits, 
or start planning now for a Spring treasure hunt!

~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Spring Obsession Festival was lovely. 
The weather was absolutely perfect for an outdoor event. 
  We got a late start and I had to get back home for work,
so I didn't have as much time to amble through
as I would have liked.

It was wonderful to spend time among
so much grace and beauty.
The best part of the adventure was that
I met a local native gardener
who does her own propagating for resale! 


The first stop at the festival was the free sample table!
I picked up two small starters of pansies for the garden.


It felt so good to know that I was surrounded by
folks who love gardening as much as I do.


Some real bargains were to be had!


Several decorated rain barrels on display
were also for purchase.


Booths carried everything from ferns to orchids
to Florida-friendly to artistic container arrangements.


Wouldn't these be a treat to have not only to
irrigate plants, but for kids to play in
on a hot summer day!
Not too water-wise though...


These glass orbs caught my eye as the light
reflected through their mottled colors.


This yard art was simply amazing! 
I could see having a few of these pieces some time in the future!


I'm a sucker for an old wash tub.
Wish I had gone back for one of these.



This piece seemed unusual to me.
I wonder what its original use was?
What a great plant stand or rain barrel it could make.



The only native plants I found were here.
I spoke with Leslie Zambito, the owner,
who was very knowledgeable
and equally supportive about my wanting
to plant mostly natives.
She is a master gardener who promotes
the use of natives and Florida-friendly plants.
She is presently working on her website,
but you can reach her at
A new alliance was made and we will be
visiting her very soon.
Don't cha just love the name?


Here's what came home.
I am looking forward to seeing
how they look in the backyard.
A coontie was finally acquired.  It's one
of the plants I remember first learning about
when the decision to go native occurred.
Everything purchased was based
on the desire to support wildlife
and the need to grow in full sun.
The bamboo tepee was just too cool not to get!


~~~~~~~~~~~~

Having visited many of the local state parks
over the past two years as part of a family goal,
we decided to take time to become more familiar
with some of our county parks,
especially those with biking trails.
Yesterday we visited the Circle B Bar Reserve 
in Lakeland.




 

This park is a favorite of nature lovers.
Many species of critters can be found here.
Bring binoculars and a camera and be ready!




Most trails are dirt paths and are utilized 
by bikers and pedestrians alike.




There is plenty of shade to be found,
so even in warmer months, 
it's quite comfortable.


It was a good day for birdwatchers,
as we saw a variety of species.
Looks like we found the lunchtime rush.



Even in winter, 
Mother Nature provides color and beauty.



Several piers are available for fishing and viewing.



I collect otters,
so this sign must have been just for me.



The Discovery Center hosts classes and displays
to learn more about the outdoor spaces
and their inhabitants.



We took a quick peek inside.



The paved roads inside the park do not have 
a designated lane for bikes,
so we were grateful that the park was not too busy.



Swampy areas create the perfect habitat 
for a myriad of critters.



Fish and fish-eating birds frequent the tall grasses
that encompass the lake .



Yeah, that's a real gator.
This one was only about 5 feet long.
In the warmer months,
many more grace the banks along the trails.




It was a cool, dry day 
and we enjoyed the peaceful surroundings.



We saw several blue herons wading 
and hoping a bite to eat would swim by.



Native plant species can be found 
everywhere you look.






Remnants of some flying creature.



Every plant species must be able to survive on 
whatever water Nature provides.
We haven't had a good rain in weeks,
yet this lovely specimen blooms profusely.







Another wonderful day outside
with time to appreciate all that God provides.
We are blessed indeed.
Enjoy your surroundings today 
with those you treasure.


~~~~~~~~~~~~

This weekend the local Master Gardeners
hosted their annual plant sale.






Most activities were outside in a nearby field.




One of the first tables I came across displayed orchids.


Never saw one with this shade of brownish-red before.
Glorious!



Orchids have a bad reputation for being difficult to care for,
but in our humid climate, they thrive with very little effort.




There were edibles for sale,




as well as a vast array of beauty for the eyes.





Textures were varied.



The contrast between the leaves and the blooms 
on this lovely is stunning!



Just look at the center of the blossom.




Zinnias are a personal favorite.
These were exceptionally large and vibrant.



There were many I'd never seen before.




The foliage was as diverse as the blooms.





There was a demonstration about worm farming on a small scale.




These critters can really improve your garden soil.
It's something I'd like to try.



There were a couple of garden design displays...



to give ideas to those of us who aren't so good at designing.




Rain barrels and mulch could be had for a small price.




This is perennial peanut.
Our city landscaper has used it in town
along the sidewalks throughout the downtown area.




It's drought tolerant, takes sun, heat, cold and some traffic.
It can die back with a freeze, but bounces back.
It's a great choice for the city, 
as it saves money on water and maintenance.




Here's what I brought home.

The perennial peanut will be tried in a test area in the backyard.
If it were up to me, I'd plant it everywhere we currently have sod.
Since we live in a deed-restricted community, 
I don't want to fight the HOA,
so we'll keep it in the backyard, away from prying eyes.
The Asiatic Jasmine will be planted under our weeping elm.
The Society Garlic found a place in our mailbox planter.
The Bald Cypress will be given to a friend 
who has the space to let it go.
Three more blue-eyed grass plants were brought home as well.
(Forgot to get the picture of them.)

All of the new plants join the rest 
of our growing native and Florida-friendly menagerie.
It makes gardening easier and provides habitat for local wildlife.
Enjoy your natives!


~~~~~~~~~~~~


With the temps starting to climb,
we decided to get in a family bike ride
before summer hits head on
(that's about April 25th here).



We headed to Dundee, a little town about 8 miles from here.




This was the first time we'd been to this park.
There were several lakes to enjoy while touring on the bike path.






Plenty of wildlife made the ride that much more interesting.



One of the few shady areas was accompanied 
by a comfortable spot to have a picnic lunch.



Even the sky managed to put on a show for us.



The entire ride took only minutes,
but it felt good to be out and about in nature's bounty.



We weren't alone in relishing the tranquil surroundings.



This amazing structure must have been a foot off the ground
and two feet in diameter.
Someone's been busy!



One lone bridge greeted us as we made our way around.



We noticed an unusual home from a distance.
We had to see it a bit closer.



What a quirky looking house.
You just know the occupants dance to their own beat.
Can't say that's a bad thing.

Hope you have some new places to explore with your family soon!

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Last weekend, I had time to stroll downtown Bartow,
which is about 20 minutes from where we live.
It's the county seat and once a month
they host an antique fair in the street.
Nothin' wrong with browsing, eh?


It was just cool and shady enough
to be able to wander through
the various offerings. 
I have a need to be outside at least part of each day.




Love the retro look of this set.



I wished I had asked the vendor
what this thing-a-ma-jig was.
Anyone know?

Hope you can enjoy some outside time today!


~~~~~~~~~~~~


To celebrate Father's Day last weekend, 
we took a family bike ride.
We headed back to Lake Kissimmee State Park.




This park is located in Lake Wales,
and takes us about 20 minutes to get there.



With temps expected in the high 80's,
we knew we needed ample shade to enjoy our adventure.




Soaring pine trees greeted us on the long, 
winding road into the park.





There are picnic facilities, a campground, a playground
and a multitude of walking and biking trails.





We enjoy investigating what nature has graced us with.



At the marina, there are canoes available for rent,
as well as plenty of space to launch your own watercraft.



Something we hadn't seen before
was the availability of Segway rentals.



The nature was much more interesting.





This visit was short and sweet,
as the heat of the day was upon us quite early.
Glad we got to spend some time celebrating together
in a very special way.


~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our town has a farmer's market that is open once a week.
Unfortunately, there is nothing organically grown
and the vendors are not the growers. 
The folks who sell there
buy from other folks in another city.
It's still local food,
but I so long for dealing directly with the farmer.

The Lakeland Farmer's Market is open on Saturdays.
It's the next biggest town over.
We get there on occasion.
With the cooler weather ensuing,
we may have to make it a more frequent event.



There's nothing I like better than being outside
and visiting the market is a great excuse to do just that.




A few vendors sell a variety of plants.
At this point, I'm not looking to add anything to the garden.




There is food and drink to be found as well.
Love that fresh-squeezed lemonade!




Unique gifts can be found from handmade soaps and candles
to reusable bags, backpacks and kid's clothes.
A friend gave me one of these shopping bags as a gift
and I absolutley love it and use it all the time.




This is Debbie and Edit from EcoFarms.
Since the price of gas went up,
Debbie is no longer able to visit our town to deliver her organic produce.
She is one of the few vendors who not only grows her own crops,
but they are grown organically.
Well worth the trip for us to get the good stuff.



Here is one of the beautiful calabaza pumpkins she grows.
This time I saved the seeds so I can grow some too!

Hope you have a wonderful farmer's market to visit soon!


~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

We took a little trip over to Gastonia yesterday,
which is about 30 minutes from where we are staying in Charlotte.


We found the farmer's market.




Inside there were quite a few vendors.
Most were carrying the same exact produce,
and with the exception of one, nothing organic.
Unfortunately, we found no peaches.




This caught my eye as soon as I walked in.
I love Hoosier cabinets and have always dreamed of owning one.
This looks like it could use some TLC.






We ended up buying just a few homemade treats
and a bouquet of gorgeous flowers for my sister.




We came upon this place on our travels.
It's right around the corner from the farmer's market.




These lured me in.
I have a thing for outhouses.




They are sheds, but I absolutely love the idea
of having one of these on the homestead.





Then we found the house of our dreams.
It's for sale.
The price is right.
It's surrounded by trees.



It's in a neighborhood.
No sale.

We've decided that we will end up having to rent
when we do move.
How does one find their ideal spot
when you relocate from another area of the country
and don't know exactly where you want to be?
I just hope we have a good realtor
when we are ready to make the move.

We'll be heading home tomorrow.
It's been a wonderful trip.
We are blessed to be able to travel and visit family.

Hope y'all are enjoying these last few days of summer!


~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

The local extension center
sponsors a few demonstration gardens
throughout our county.
These gardens feature native or Florida-friendly plants
and exhibit ways to enhance public places
using drought-tolerant and low maintenance plant materials.

This garden is directly outside of the extension office
in Bartow, the county seat.






This beautyberry is loaded
and surely must be a favorite of the birds.




The leaves on this amazing specimen
were as big as my hand!
They prefer swampy conditions.










This beach sunflower is not only drought resistant,
but is salt tolerant as well,
for those who live near the coastline.







This mimosa was simply amazing.
Its blooms remind me of "Horton Hears a Who".




So many textures, colors, varieties.





Garden tips are sprinkled throughout the area.




It helps that plants are identified.










It's no wonder the bees feel very welcome here.














I'm not big on roses,
but these were really sensational.




These gallardia look so vintage.




With such a variety of plants,
all kinds of visitors can find what they're looking for.




This perennial peanut is a wonderful ground cover
that can tolerate dry spells and heat.
It is affected by freezes, but it bounces back.
Would I love to replace our St. Augustine sod with this!







Read about the 9 principles here.




These homemade planters were a clever idea
for growing herbs or strawberries.
What a great use of recycled materials!




A large composting demonstration area
shows how to use common items to complete your project.




Whenever I visit these gardens,
there is always something new to see.
What a gift to the community and
to gardeners who crave to learn more!


~~~~~~~~~~~~

This weekend, instead of Farm School,
I helped out at Pioneer Days in Lake Wales.





It was still dark when we arrived to set up our booth.


The farmer's market usually meets twice a month 
on one of the main streets in Lake Wales, 
but this week it was combined with the Pioneer Day event.


Faye & Lynn set up their tables with a lovely selection
of locally-grown goodies.
They gave out tastings of the key lime basil,
had herbs and a little okra and a few bunches of radishes for sale.
They also brought a collection of plants to sell.





These giant pine cones were being sold for 50 cents.
Whatever remains will be for sale at their yard sale next weekend.
I'll be posting about that event,
as it is part of a local 39-mile long yard sale along Scenic Highway 17 .


There was a small display of the Florida Flywheeler's.
Love those shiny tractors!


A little farmer's dream.


There were even John Deere toys and collectibles for sale.


will host their next event at their park in a few weeks.  
We never miss it.


Pioneer Days is all about learning how things used to be done.


Craftsmanship from days of old are featured.


Anyone ready for s'mores?


Many handmade items were also for sale.





Big K and Lil' Guy met up with me to check it all out.
We took a tractor ride through the historic district.


Most of the homes were built in the early 1900's.


This bungalow is so inviting.


The charm just goes on and on...


This historic hotel is currently being renovated.


Chocolate or vanilla?



It was a wonderful day spent with family and friends.
We love learning about the history of our country,
one little town at a time.
We appreciate those who take the time
to plan, create and foster our learning opportunities.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fall ushers in more outdoor activities.



The Food Truck Wars were here recently.
Vendors offered a variety of meals
from seafood to gourmet burgers to soft serve ice cream.



Even those with special diets were able to find something to eat.
Our town is small and fast food is king.
But from the turnout, I'd say things could be shifting.



Maybe folks are starting to wake up to the importance
of eating local, REAL food.
A gal can hope anyway.


Legoland had a display table there
with areas for the young to explore and build.


Forget the food,
the boy was  
IN THE ZONE!



Every other weekend, a nearby town, Lake Wales,
has their farmer's market.
It's a quaint little square 
with lots of Mom-and-Pop stores.
My friends Faye & Lynn sell their goodies there.


I paid them a visit.
On this particular day, they were selling herbs, okra and seeds.
In a few weeks time, 
they will have an abundance of fantastic produce to share.


Of course, I didn't know they were giving away 
free samples of pickled okra.
That just made the experience even better.
That's the way to reel 'em in!

Hope you have something fun planned this weekend!


We do not stop playing because we grow old; 
we grow old because we stop playing.
-Source Unknown


~~~~~~~~~~~~

After having to postpone our yearly trip in August
due to family obligations,
our vacation got underway on Friday.
We're visiting family for a couple of weeks
in North Carolina, our favorite destination
and hopefully soon,
our new home.



Road trips are so much fun.
I remember when we were kids
we used to have to actually talk to our parents,
as there were no DVD players, video games or Ipods.
It's a great way to make connections as a family.
Even though it drives your kids a little crazy.




One of our first adventures
was to hit the farmer's market in Davidson, NC.




This charming lil' town's market 
boasts an impressive variety of produce,
baked goods and grass-fed beef and poultry.


These glorious shitakes were picked up to be added
to our pizza dinner.




The berg is picturesque,
especially with the added beauty of fall foliage.





Downtown hosts a bevy of shops and eateries.
What a wonderful way to spend a weekend morning.
Sister and I hope to make it back here
on our own to stroll and grab a bite.



We made a visit to the library too
and picked up 5 books for a dollar at their used book sale.
What a perfect start to new family memories.

On to the next venture!



~~~~~~~~~~~~


One of the communities we are considering
for our relocation is Matthews.
We're hoping to find a semi-rural area
with a strong local and organic food source
that fosters homeschoolers
with a rich history and cultural diversity.



is one of the largest in this area,
and one of the only year-round venues.
The best feature of this market is that
all of the produce sold here must be grown within 50 miles.
Now, that's local!



We got a late start,
so many of the vendors had already
sold out and left for the day.
We were still able to find fresh produce, grass-fed meats
and homemade baked goods.
Next time we'll get there earlier.



The local bees found something they liked too!




One of the treasures on the main drag
is Renfrow's Hardware & General Store.








This place is over 100 years old
and completely no frills.




This old canner and a few other relics were on display.




Limited hours keep the store hoppin'.




Along with a newer, fantastic library,
Matthews offers the charming small town feel
we're looking for,
with rural pockets that are still
within an easy distance from Sister's in Charlotte.
We hope to go back and explore on another day.

Relocating can be exciting, but daunting.
We plan to take our time in the choosing,
because we want this to be our forever home.

How did you decide on the location of your homestead?


~~~~~~~~~~~~


At a recent visit to the Lakeland Farmer's Market,
I met Carol and Rodger, who own the
They have created a successful CSA
about 30 minutes from our location.
After talking to Carol for a bit,
 arrangements for a farm tour were made.



The farm qualifies as a Certified Naturally Grown resource,
which is an alternative to certified organic.
You can find out information on the difference
between these two designations here.




Beautiful lettuce as far as the eye can see!





Romaine has to be my favorite salad foundation.





Some crops are grown on white plastic,
some on black plastic,
and some come right out of the soil.
Through trial and error,
Rodger has found what works best for each crop.
Everything here is grown sans pesticides.




Look at this tasty morsel.




One unusual variety found here
is this ebony-hued tomato.







Bilbrey Family Farm grows everything from
arugula to turnips.
Rodger told me that Swiss chard is becoming more popular.
Seems that those of us with low iron
should be eating it regularly.







Everything looks so healthy and vibrant.
You can see the passion in every plant.









There's always another crop going in.
We are blessed in Central Florida to be able to garden
nearly year-round.




Black-eyed peas on the vine




The Bilbreys have a greenhouse
to give seedlings a great start.







Scallions anyone?





It was a beautiful way to spend a couple of hours.
I'm so excited to see that even here,
where fast food seems to be King,
the message of slow food is trickling in.
There's hope for this place yet.

What wonderful food sources have you found?

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