Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Snake Plant

I have several of these inside, but I had transplanted a few outside on the north part of the house. So far, they have been doing fine. Today I noticed some blooms coming up. I didn't even know this plant had blooms! I have so much to learn...
I hope the upcoming cold snap doesn't kill the chance to see it bloom. They seem to like moderate temps(they are most often considered indoor plants), so I'll be covering them
with a sheet tomorrow night.
Here's some more information on them:

Black-eyed Susan vine
This has always been one of my favorite blooms. The contrast of the dark green leaves and the sunny yellow-orange flowers are a sight for sore eyes. I can imagine how lovely it would be covering a fence or an arbor. This one took its time sprouting, but try stopping the blossoms once they get started! Easy to grow, self-seeding and prolific flowers. What more can a gardener ask for?


Monday, November 29, 2010


I don't know about you, but I always make resolutions for the coming year. One of the best decisions we ever made as a family is to apply to the Adopt-a-Road program. Not only are we spending time together as a family doing something really meaningful, we are helping to preserve and enhance our community. It really takes very little time, and if every family participated in this worthwhile endeavor, our roadways would be much improved.

Keep Polk County Beautiful Program
Volunteers “adopt” a 1-mile section of a county road
and remove litter at least four times a year.
All materials are provided.
For more information, call (863) 533-8423
Be part of the solution!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Just Thankful...

There's a reason why this is my favorite holiday.
But each day in the garden helps remind me that every day is worth celebrating.
The variety of foliage, the shades of blooms, the changes through the seasons,
even the very miracle of the sun rising each morning.
Each and every nuance allows us to appreciate what God has provided
for all of our senses.
Blessings be this Thanksgiving Day!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Homemade Nut Butter

Peanut Butter
1 C peanuts (or nut of choice)
1 T peanut or corn oil
1/4 t salt
1 t sugar
We bought a big bag of roasted peanuts
(unsalted) and spent some time this
weekend shelling them. Try to remove
all the skins as you shell. 
 I had some
neighborhood helpers, so the job
went fast (in between sampling).

I use my mini-processor for this job. This has
been one of the most useful tools in my kitchen.
A blender might work just as well, but I find this
lil' gizmo does a great job. Just throw the cup
of nuts into the mixing bowl and let 'er rip!
Here's what it looks like after you add the oil.

We didn't have peanut oil, so we used corn.
This got whizzed for about 2 minutes.
The salt and sugar was added (you can omit either
or both). Continue whizzing until you get the
consistency you desire. 
We like ours kinda on the
smoother side.
It took about another minute or so to look like this.


The peanut taste is sooooooooooo intense! 
We spread some on rice cakes and gobbled it up. 
I'm always looking for foods to expand my
lil' guy's diet. 
He hasn't had peanut butter in years, due to his sensitivities
with other foods. 
We are adding things back slowly. He raved about
this stuff! 

Guess I know what's for lunch!

Key Code: T=tablespoon t=teaspoon C=cup

Saturday, November 20, 2010

'Round the neighborhood

A neighbor's bird of paradise in bloom.

I've long admired this beauty. I think this is an agave plant?

Living in a new development is not my ideal, but thankfully,
we have a few natural areas that the developer was wise enough to leave alone.
We often use these ponds to observe nature as part of a school project
or just to get out of the house when we need to reconnect with the natural world.
We frequently see sandhill cranes, egrets, and herons searching for lunch
and even a frolicking otter was spotted once a few years back.
I'm looking forward to living in a more rustic setting.
Sometimes, ya gotta find nature where ya can...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Precious Pumpkin Puree

I bought a couple of lovely Calabaza pumpkins from
Debbie at Barefoot Gardeners this week. After roasting
them in the oven for about 45 minutes each, they come
out an even more appealing shade of rich amber.

After cooling for 15 minutes or so, the pulp is then
scooped out and pureed in a food processor. This stuff
is like gold around here. I make soups, stews, breads,
muffins, and cookies out of it. I even sneak it in as a
secret ingredient in our regular dining fare. Hey, what
the boys don't know won't hurt them, right? Anything
I can do to add a bit of extra veggies to their diet is good.

The golden puree is doled out into serving-sized
containers and placed in the freezer. Each package
holds just enough to add to any recipe. Many of the
gluten-free baked goods I prepare for my boy are as
dry as the Sahara (it's the nature of the beast), and
this luscious mash adds not only nutrition, but
much-needed moisture. A double whammy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hard Times in Paradise by David and Micki Colfax

Hard Times in Paradise

Spend time at Shining Moon Ranch with the Colfax family. In this fascinating account, follow this hard working and determined family as they leave academia and the suburbs to start their own homestead. When David loses his job as an educator and has no hope of being hired by any other university due to his support of social justice issues, he and his wife, Micki, must transform their lives. After a series of ill-fated events, they find themselves in California building their own home, living without electricity and running water, and homeschooling their children.

I found this book absolutely inspiring. The utter grit and determination it took for these city-slickers to fashion a life for themselves in the middle of nowhere is amazing. Not only were they successful in creating a home and income from their efforts, they managed to raise four boys and put them through Ivy-league schools. The story included two of my favorite subjects, homesteading and homeschooling. I loved every word.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Crock Pot Polenta

I had never thought of cooking polenta in the crock pot! This recipe turned out so well. I wish I could have shown you the final product, but it was gone so fast, I never got to take a picture of it!
With the cooler weather coming, I will be using my crock pot at least once a week. I've found so many great books at the library on the subject, it'll be easy to incorporate this useful tool into my weekly meals. Enjoy!

(Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cookerby Robin Robertson)

2 C cornmeal
6 C boiling water
1 garlic clove
1 t salt

1 T olive oil
Step 1:
Lightly oil insert of crock pot. Add olive oil & garlic
and turn on high. Microwave water for 3 minutes
or on stovetop to boiling. Pour into crock.
Add salt and slowly whisk in cornmeal.

Step 2
Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours, stirring

Step 3
cooked polenta into lightly oiled baking dish
and smooth out top.

Step 4
Refrigerate until firm, 30-40 minutes.

*Polenta can be eaten in the first stage of creamy
mushiness. Anything can be added to compliment
this most satisfying dish. I added homemade gravy,
mushrooms and parmesan cheese.

Traditional Tuesdays Logo

Friday, November 12, 2010

Florida Flywheelers Club

What a beautiful day we had to spend at the Florida Flywheeler's Antique Tractor Club.
This organization is composed of folks who remember how things used to be 
and work on restoring the past. 
Not only are the tractors on display, you can find all sorts of antique tools, simple working machines,
 a flea market area and a host of tinkerers who are willing to tell you just about anything you want to hear about their treasures.

There is a goldmine of history in this event.

 It does my heart good to know that my boy is able to appreciate where we've come from. 
His favorite place on the property is Mr. Batcher's Barn. It is filled to the gills with handmade wooden toys and gizmos. 
He is a fellow tinkerer, and has created a huge warehouse of amazing moving playthings that entertain and teach. 
We can't wait to go back in January!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mailbox Math
One game we have played to or from a walk or bike ride is Mailbox Math. As all the mailboxes in our development are pretty uniform (yuk!), it's easy to turn them into a math lesson. They all have the numbers displayed clearly on at least one side.

Here are some versions of the same game:
1. Stop at the first mailbox with only odd (even) numbers.

2. Stop at the mailbox that adds up to ____(pick a number).

3. Stop at the mailbox that has a "3" in the hundreds (or tens or ones) place.

4. Stop at the mailbox that has a "9" in it and is on the right (or left) side of the street.

5. Stop at the 5th (3rd, 8th) mailbox from the corner.

You get the idea. You could also incorporate letter recognition, phonics and rhyming words into the game, especially if neighbors have their names on their mailboxes. The thing I like best about this game is that kids don't even realize they're doing a learning activity. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Cool Change
The recent change in the weather has enabled us to get outside more for our learning opportunities. This morning, after making several observations about the birds and bugs in the backyard, we decided to take a trip to the pond out front. Bags and pickers in hand, we thought we could add some community service to our day by tidying up any leftover Halloween candy wrappers we found along the way. My lil' guy rode his bike back and forth surveying with his eagle eyes, helping to find each piece of litter.

 We noted the size of several of the lily pads in the pond and how some of the seed pods dried right on the stalks protruding out of the water. Surprisingly, there weren't too many birds hanging about today while we were there. Sometimes we get lucky, and we can spot several different species of birds and other critters there. I even happened to spy an otter about two years ago playing in the water. What are the chances of that? (I've been collecting otters for years.) 

There was ample time to snap photos of our surroundings, paying attention to where the light made shadows. Later in the day, we had friends over and dissected one of the pumpkins we had grown in the backyard. Lots of worm holes, but not a worm to be found! (They must've known we were coming.) So much variety in our lessons, so much flexibility in our schedule. We are truly blessed to be able to homeschool.

Florida Wildflowers

I found this fabulous website with loads of information about using wildflowers
native to Florida in the landscape.

There's nothing I'd like better than to completely lose the St. Augustine turf that takes so much in the way of time, energy and resources to maintain. But I realize that's not gonna happen in this neck of the woods. Unfortunately, this community is not overly concerned with the amount of water it takes to maintain this very thirsty ground cover. I may just fill out their lil' application about changing the lawn to groundcover, just for the kick of it. I wanna see what they say about us putting down perennial peanut in the backyard.

Why fight the drought when there is an available and easy solution?
I will acquire as many natives as my budget allows and place them in the backyard, so that they should not be an issue with our HOA.
Wait 'til they get my request for puttin' up a clothesline!

No deed restrictions, covenants, or similar binding agreements running with the land shall prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting solar collectors, clotheslines, or other energy devices based on renewable resources from being installed on buildings erected on the lots or parcels covered by the deed restrictions, covenants, or binding agreements. A property owner may not be denied permission to install solar collectors or other energy devices based on renewable resources by any entity granted the power or right in any deed restriction, covenant, or similar binding agreement to approve, forbid, control, or direct alteration of property with respect to residential dwellings not exceeding three stories in height. For purposes of this subsection, such entity may determine the specific location where solar collectors may be installed on the roof within an orientation to the south or within 45° east or west of due south provided that such determination does not impair the effective operation of the solar collectors.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rain Barrel Redo

I ended up moving the rain barrels around-again! As I was forced to move this one to the backyard, I decided to place it on one side of the patio and connect the two remaining ones.
I have planted morning glory seeds in front of the trellis. That should disguise it
well enough to keep snoopy Board members at bay.

I had placed the other in the corner of the garden by the pineapples, but since we don't have gutters, it wasn't able to catch any rain water at all. The solution? Add on!
Now the runoff from one barrel will go into the other.

Here's all ya need to accomplish this task.
The other ingredient is silicone.

Drill a small hole in one of the barrels using a drill bit.
After we had completed this step, we realized that it
probably would have been better to place the holes near the top.
We put it near the bottom, so that each barrel fills up
simultaneously. It works, either way. One of our barrels
is directly under the corner of the roof, so it manages to
catch all that precious liquid.
Here's one end. Don't forget to put silicone or some other
type of sealer around the tubing, so it won't leak.

Here's the other end. Being clear, it's hardly noticeable. Added bonus? My lil' guy likes to watch the water make its way around...

The plumbego started here should soon cover these two. I have the spigots off to the side, for easy access. I'm still thinking about adding a drip irrigation system to the barrels, for the veggie garden and surrounding plants. Poor fern here looks like it could use it! It'll come back.

Thanks to hubby for hookin' us up!