Posts Tagged With: Florida

Sailing School: Captiva Island Yacht Club

My sons, 15 and 13 are spending two weeks in sailing school at Captiva Island Yacht Club. I cannot say enough good things about this program. It is open to the public and there are several sessions throughout the summer. Our boys are in the beginner session. The kids are there from 8:30-4:00 for ten days. The program has small class sizes, is very well organized, and Lauren, the director of the program stays in close touch- sending photos and emails to let us know how the boys are doing. When the wind dies, they kayak. When it rains, there are classroom activities and instruction. I believe there are even some scholarships available for kids! The photos here were sent to me by Lauren- thank you for helping our boys develop skills they will carry with them for a lifetime!






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Tropical Research & Education Center

I had the good fortune to visit UF-TREC in Homestead, Florida.  “The University  of Florida, Tropical Research and Education Center (UF-TREC) was established  in 1929. UF-TREC is dedicated  to research, extension and teaching in the areas of ornamental, vegetable, tropical-subtropical fruit and biofuel crops, and natural  resources.

UF-TREC is the premier research, extension  and teaching institution in Florida focusing on tropical fruits, vegetables, ornamental crops, and natural  resources in the warm subtropics. .The core programs  are divided  into five main categories: 1) tropical  fruit  crops ,2) vegetable crops, 3) ornamental crops, 4) biofuel  crops, and 5) natural  resources.”

The IF-TREC mission statement is as follows. “The mission of the UF-TREC is to develop and disseminate science-based information about subtropical and tropical horticulture and natural resource through basic and applied research, extension and teaching to sustain and enhance the quality of human life and the natural environment.”

Not only was I able to visit the tropical fruit grounds, but I happened to be in the company of many tropical fruit experts. What a wonderful day of learning! Here are the few photos I was able to take- I was so overwhelmed with learning, ran out of time to take photos!

July 2014

Roy Beckford at UF-TREC

July 2014

Frank O’Neill and Roy Beckford at UF-TREC Guava

July 2014

Mango at UF-TREC

July 2014

Pani Varaka Jackfruit macro UF-TREC

July 2014

Pani Varaka Jackfruit UF-TREC

July 2014

I cannot remember what this one is- the flower is huge and stunning! UF-TREC

July 2014

Velvet Apple UF-TREC

July 2014

Velvet Apple UF-TREC


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Connect With Natural and Wild Florida

If you love natural and wild Florida make that connection, no matter where you are in the world, through the photography and thoughts of Mark Renz

2014-06-18 21.11.12

Forget career, riches and fame
Give me a lowly position
as a single soft strand of broom sedge
growing next to an island of palms
where I can spend a lifetime
experiencing the sun
as it rises
in the wilderness
and again
and again
If not a sedge
then the next best thing
a lowly human
with the desire to live simply
and witness the wild
with all my human senses
to hear the silence
taste the dew
and feel that vast yellow ball
as it begins to bathe me
and welcome me to the morning
This is the gift of life 
that I will embrace
until my final sunset
And if it’s not an imposition
to the living
Do you think you could scatter
my ashes 
in the broom sedge grasses
facing an island of cabbage palms
where I can continue
to know what it’s like
to really live?

   -Mark Renz
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Taste of Lee Fruit Festival

Capture 2


Taste of Lee Links

Taste of Lee

IFAS Extension Office Calendar




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Kayaking Commodore Creek in Tarpon Bay


Had fun out on Tarpon Bay today. Put in at Tarpon Bay Explorers and paddled Commodore Creek. It’s an easy trail for the kids; with loads to see and learn.

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Pattern and Texture From The Sea

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Childhood Memories of Florida

I was born in 1965, and grew up in Homewood, Alabama. From the time I was a little girl, my family vacationed in the Florida panhandle.panhandle_map

My family, and people we knew went to Ft. Walton beach or Panama City. I didn’t know much about the rest ofpost card of florida with mickey mouse Florida. I knew rocket ships launched from a place called Cape Canaveral; that Mickey Mouse  lived somewhere ‘way down there’ and from TV ads, that oranges grew in great numbers somewhere in Florida. A farmer put a sticker on every one of those oranges before he sent them to our Piggly Wiggly supermarket! Between government land for rocket ships,  farm land for oranges and whatever land Walt Disney had, there really couldn’t be room for much else, right?

APOLLO1lWe vacationed in the Florida in the heat of summer. I never questioned the logic, this was just something we did.  Every year my parents got so excited about those trips, so I too, was thrilled to leave a hot and sticky Alabama for a hotter, and stickier, Florida; where, at the very least, there was the ocean.  Thinking back, I am pretty sure the anticipation and planning of the trip was at least as much fun as the trip itself.  I remember planning all the games we 3 kids would play in the car on the way, what clothes we would wear; packing and repacking our little suitcases and bags to fit everything we would need.

There are memories from so many years and trips, but really, they were all the same. On the day of our trip, Momma spent the morning gathering what seemed like half our house; and the afternoon ‘fixing’ her hair and makeup. She would don a new ‘vacation dress’ just as we were ready to leave. My dad liked to drive at night when it was cooler, so after he got off of work we would load the car and go. In the early seventies we had  a green square-back Volkswagen. In the early eighties, a blue ford station wagon with wood paneling on the side, and jump seats in the back.  All the windows would be down in the car. My sister, brother and I played games to pass the time. We would wag our arms up and down at truck drivers whizzing past us on the highway, jumping up and down (no seat belts in those early days) and squealing with delight when they obeyed our signals and sounded big truck horns. We played I Spy; punched each others arms when one of us saw a VW bug. On the back roads, in the twilight hours, we held our breath and stuck our thumbs to the ceiling as we passed a cemetery. We played at these games till our playfulness disintegrated into irritated squabbling, which would inevitably lead to a smack from one or another parent.  Silence would be ordered, then sweaty, restless napping would eventually fall over each of us.

A 4.5 hour drive to Ft. Walton Beach, Florida seemed like an eternity.  When my younger siblings were sleeping, daddy would let me sit by his side and steer the car.  As far as I knew, I was the one driving, and that was thrilling for a little kid.  Because we always arrived at our destination at night, we smelled the ocean before we saw it. To this day the smell of the ocean on a warm summer night is the most wonderful one I know. Though my parents referred to it as ‘the beach house’, we always stayed at a teeny, pink cinderblock house a block away from the actual ocean.  I suppose, when you only see the beach once or twice a year, that little pink box was close enough to count.

The walk to that crowded beach was always a misery.  It started on the steaming hot pavement and transitioned to sand so-hot-it-blistered your feet (why did we never wear shoes?)  I remember my mom slathering my white skin with coppertone, then tying a big floppy hat to my sweaty head.  I don’t know how vigilant my parents were about sunscreen back then, but we could have protected our skin better had we just rolled in sand after applying the coppertone. We always came home sunburned except for the places where sand had stuck to that oil.

After a day at the beach, there were afternoon naps, charcoal grilled hamburgers or a BBQ chicken dinner, and we had ice cream every night.  There were rainstorms at night that sent us running to the safety of my parents bed.  Thunder rattled that little pink box with wind and rain so fierce I knew we would all wash away by morning. Daddy would always calm us down by counting the time between lightning and thunder. Though we never did so at home, we sat outside in the dark every night with my parents; slapped mosquitos and watched meteor showers, or just counted stars. One year there was a total lunar eclipse. I remember my brother running around with sparklers while my sister and I sat between mom and dad; each of them pointing toward the moon and explaining what was happening.

My memories are bits and pieces of many trips to Florida with my family. Though I live ‘way down’ in Florida, I am grateful to live, full-time, in an environment where my parents, siblings and I shared so many happy times.

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Sanibel Lighthouse Sunset

Shot with my iphone 4s and processed with mobile snapseed.

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Fossil Hunting on the Peace River with Mark Renz

I first heard of Mark Renz through a fellow rock hound, who invited me to hear him speak at a Rotary Club meeting in Ft. Myers. Having recently moved to the area, my sons were enjoying their holiday break from school, and were not enthusiastic about spending their time at a lecture. Mark’s passion and enthusiasm for paleontology, nature and life, shined through his every word. The boys wanted to learn more about fossils in the area, so we decided to take a guided trip with Mark on the Peace River, in search of fossils.

I cannot say enough how much we enjoyed our time with Mark. His conversational approach to teaching allowed the boys to have fun while learning, and wow, we learned a lot! Not only did we learn how to search for fossils and identify our finds, but Mark painted a picture for us about what the area might have looked like over the past few million years, and how the animals whose bones we held, might have ended up where we found them. Our day was also filled with laughter- Mark is a funny guy! Darwin, one of his cattle dogs also came along for the ride. He was calmly reserved, well-trained and mannered fellow.


Spending several hours on a dig was great for the grown-ups, but when the boy’s attentions waned, Mark gently guided them to explore the area in ways that kept them safe and engaged. He is one of those gifted and rare people who truly seems to enjoy sharing his considerable knowledge and ideas. I asked the boys to help me think of words to describe Mark- here is some of what we came up with- Smart, funny, tall, inspired, adventurous, kind.

Mark and Darwin

Unfortunately, my little camera took a dip in the Peace River on this trip, so not too much to share in the way of photos, the few here are from our iphones..

Thank you Mark for sharing with us your passion and knowledge and for inspiring us to see and do and learn! You can reach Mark and Marisa Renz through their web site Fossil Expeditions


Here are some of our finds-

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Dugong rib fragment, Juvenile megalodon fragment, barnacle

2014-07-14 21.48.52

Puffer fish mouth fragment, Whale inner ear bone, Turtle shell fragment, sting ray grinding plate fragment

fossil shark teeth

Possible fossil alligator tooth

worm tube, coral and turtle carapace fragments

Possible shoulder bone

Deer antler fragment

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A Day In The Life

As I mentioned, every exploration of flora and fauna on Sanibel is a beautiful confusion of the senses. I am happily overwhelmed in my early days of learning about what grows and lives here.  I am first ‘wife’ and ‘mom’ and this part of my life keeps me very busy.  But every day (okay almost every day) I leave my ‘real’ life behind for an adventure.  I need only step into the sunshine and look about to find a tiny ambassador for the natural world.  A brown anole or tree frog is inevitably perched on a bromeliad or hanging on the wall of the house, head cocked, eye upturned, gaze steady. This ambassador usually bids a quick adieu, skittering off to more important matters, and I am free to explore.

Leaving home for the beach I am barefoot, having left my winter boots a thousand miles from here. I walk down the middle of our street because here, I can. For the first few steps I am acutely aware of the absence of familiar noise.  Little, if any, traffic. Rarely do I hear the distant mechanical rumblings I associate with all my days of city living. There is just the hush of the wind, and the warmth of sun on my skin.

I walk in silence for only a few moments when overhead the screech of an Osprey awakens me from my delusion of  quiet. Suddenly, it seems each of my senses is  competing to take in something from this ‘other’ world I have entered. Feet leave pavement, and toes sink into almost-but-not-quite too hot sand.  Everywhere my eye lands there are tiny explosions of color and texture. Flowers wave brilliant red and yellow petals in the wind, motioning me towards calm, aqua water.

Ocean breeze blows.  Sea Oats rustle.  The smell of the sea signifies my arrival at water’s edge. The rolling body of a dolphin breaks the surface of water then disappears, leaving my eye searching for another graceful pass.  A squadron of pelicans slide silently across the water in a precise single file, then rise high into an unbroken expanse of blue sky. They target a school of fish, and fall, one splashing after the other into the sea, where they fill their pouches with wiggling, silvery mullet.   My ears are full of the sounds of nature. Shells tumble in the surf, each begging me to look and touch. Waves break around me, endless in their song.  I step into the ocean, splash cold clear water on my face. I taste salt, feel the sun upon my shoulders and sand between my toes.  I close my eyes and know that  I am home.

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