Sunday, May 21, 2017

Free Things to Do: NC Botanical Gardens at UNC Chapel Hill



As the weather increases in warmth, gardens are coming alive with activity. Before the heat really sets in, my family has been visiting as many local gardens and nature parks as possible. The best time to go to gardens are early morning. If your schedule permits, week days are best. We’ve done exceedingly well at finding the free ones and who wouldn’t go for that? Whether you want a nice morning stroll, want to spend quality time with family, or exerise your photography skills, there are so many options. It was well work the 45 minute drive out to UNC Chapel Hill. It is very well kept and tended for. You won’t be disappointed!!

Website for North Carolina Botanical Gardens at UNC Chapel Hill: 

Visiting hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9 am – 5 pm
Sunday: 1 pm – 5 pm
Closed Mondays and University Holidays.


A spot you won’t want to miss is The Mercer Reeves Hubbard Herb Garden. There is said to be 500 species and cultivars. An important addition to the collection is the rosemary collection from the herb society of Americas. The herb amove is chives which is known for its oniony smell and flavor. I love adding a sprig of it to many different dishes.

IMG_7142pitcher plant

You won’t want to miss the carnivorous plant colection complete with pitcher plants, sundews, and butter warts which are all a part of the southeastern United States.


Herbs attract beneficial insects like this ladybug going for a spin on this cilantro plant.


Other gardens to highlight are the native plant border gardens with a variety of native perennials, shrubs, and small trees. Native plants are vital to our ecosystem. They provide homes for many creatures large and small. They are the plants that have resided here long before any ornamentals were brought in. They may not have the largest and showiest of flowers, but they belong here where as invasives can desimate a habitat literally squeezing the life out of plants. So do your research when choosing flowers!

red spotted purple2

What I found most invigorating was the botanical garden’s commitment to using environmentally responsible gardening pratices. They work closely with local, state, and regional conservation organizations. They put to practice their mission which is “To inspire understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants and to advance a sustainable relationship between people and nature.” When we support gardens, farms, and local places that are promoting environmentally responsible practices, we aren’t making an impact just a day or even a week, we could quite possibly be making an impact for generations to come. For it is one choice that can have a dominoes affect that will inspire other to make positive changes in their life. The NC Botanical Garden at UNC Chapel Hill is inspiring that kind of change.

Please drop me a comment and share with me your favorite gardening spots in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Durham area. If you know of any sustainable projects locally, I might be able to take a trip there and feature it on my blog.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Historic Tour of NC State Capitol


capitol front

Stepping foot in the North Carolina State Capitol is like entering a whole other era as it is so well preserved with the originality firmly entact. It was completed in the year 1840 with a Greek Revival style of architecture. The Capitol housed the General Assembly until 1963 which they moved into the Legislative Building, but the office of the Governor and Secretary of State have remained. The Capitol proudly holds the title of Raleigh Historic Landmark and sits in the center of Capitol Square. If you desire to visit you can join the 100,000 visitors that come each year. You can be part of public tours at designated times or take a self-guided tour which is especially nice if you like to take your time with photographs and observing.

Capitol tour: 


The Rotunda is a key focal point of the Capitol. Upon entering, you will see the 1970 copy of the George Washington statue by Antonio Canova. As you can see, my visit took place during Christmas which is one of the prettiest times to visit in my opinion. There are several plaques around the Rotunda giving tribute to several important people and events from North Carolina’s history.


The Rotunda has a beautiful ceiling at the top of this three story building.

congressional area

The second floor contains the House of Representatives Chamber and Senate Chamber which comerced there until 1961 when it then moved to the North Carolina State Legislative Building. Both are a tribute to the important decisions made for North Carolina state.


The third floor was my favorite. This is where the State Library Room was located from 1840 until 1888. It has a staircase that leads to an upper level lined with shelves after shelves of books. The collection grew from 2,000 volumes to almost 40,000! It was in 1888 that the overflowing library had to be moved to a larger building that could contain it. Now what remains is a showcase of what it looked like back in the day. The main collection is now located in the Archives and History/State Library building on Jones Street. History comes alive when you get to visit destinations that are preserved in a way that is memorable for all.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Overlook at Pilot Mountain



In late afternoon, I began a road trip with a group of friends with our destination being none other than Pilot Mountain. The sun was beginning to set as the Hybrid we drove struggled to reach the top. We followed the road as it took us on curves and closer to our goal. The air grew thinner, but the excitement thickened.


When we arrived, there was a slight coolness in the air. Though we didn’t get a clear view of the sun set, you can see some pink on the horizon in this picture. This is a view of Big Pinnacle Overlook from Little Pinnacle Overlook. The mountain befoe us was a white quartzite monadnock. Pilot Mountain is part of the A.V.A Yadkin mountain. It rises up to 2,421 feet above sea level and expands across 3,703 acres! A combination of hours in the car, tiredness, but a feeling of amazment washed over me as I gazed at the valley directly below us. 


If you look out and beyond, you can see some pristine, untouched forest along with homes resting in the valley. It looks so peaceful and almost undisturbed. Further out you might even catch a glimpse of Hanging Rocks State Park which we conquered the following day.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Summer Awakens Garden Life



It is that time of year when the heat of the summer is upon us, but it is also the time when flowers are blooming, bees are buzzing, and butterflies are beginning to emerge. This year, I’ve got squash, large tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, and butterfly plants in my garden. The chocolate mint has really been a sensation this year. News of it has been spreading around the preschool that I work at and my dad has been drying it to distill. Other exciting happenings, are that my hollyhocks (picture below) are blooming with it being their second year and my native Common Milkweed is getting flowers. I’ve been waiting two years to see them bloom.


Hollyhocks getting ready to open.



A bumble bee enjoying lavender.


Yarrow which is a herb used for fevers.





The squash and zucchini have started producing. I’ve got an entire row for them, though it looks like the squash borers might soon steal my family’s feast. With gardening, you’ve got to get used to the fact that you will have to compete with insects and animals in the battle for food. It is all part of the journey. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing pictures from my garden.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Our Gentle Giant Blizzard



I guess you could say it was love at first sight. A bond between our sheep and a young puppy. Blizzard isn’t just any dog. He is a Great Pyrenees, a giant of the dog world. The breed has been used for hundreds of years as a guard dog. They can be gentle and affectionate, yet highly protective against strangers or animals that would harm the animals they are protecting.

Blizzard is part of our family. He can be stubborn though. Mom used to take him up our stairs to say hello, but one day he decided that it was not time to return to his domain. I had an idea. What if I could lure him back into the fence? I grabbed a spring of parsley, doubting it would be found appetizing, but boy was I wrong. Blizzard took after me. Our neighbor starred as this large dog chased after me with my mom close behind. It did the trick. He ate the parsley and then went for my pocket knowing that another parsley leave was inside.



Blizzard is now 7 months old and still growing! He will continuing getting bigger until 2 years of age. We are teaching him not to jump on us and have manners. I was sitting on the bench one day and then all of a sudden Blizzard was licking all over the back of my hair. He is quite the licker.


Blizzard spending time with Cody. Blizzard came home July, 2015.

Blizzard with momIMG_5243

He will always be our puppy. You can see the video of him coming home here:

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Ray of Hope for Pollinators


 bee on flower

We hear a lot about the decline of pollinators, but how often do we hear people speak of the ray of hope that remains amidst the negative news? There is much to be concerned about and it may at times feel like we are swimming against a raging current, but saving our pollinators is worth the struggle when you consider that 75% of our crops rely on them. They fly from flower to flower carrying the pollen that will develop into fruit, vegetables, nuts, and more. Surprisingly, there are 20,000 bee species with only a few that our in charge of pollinating our crops and so it is important to save them.

Tiger Swallowtail

First, let’s consider the greatest threats to pollinators and then optimistic side. Habitat destruction is among the leading causes for population declines, but an even greater enemy threatens their health and even ours. What I’m referring to is pesticides. Our crops are laden with cancer causing pesticides. If workers have to wear masks when they spray these lethal chemicals can you imagine how they effect bees, butterflies, and other wildlife? Our mentality needs to change. We need to step back to get new perspectives.


Now that you’ve heard the bad news, what is the good news? The good news is that even if you aren’t a gardener you can do great things to help. You can slowly or quickly incorporate organic/local produce into your menu. You can support organizations that are working towards saving pollinators. The greatest thing though is starting a butterfly garden. Planting a garden of native wild flowers is ideal. Include a variety of annuals and perennials. Try looking at their different bloom times so that you have flowers from spring to fall.


Cosmos flowers are just one example of many that you can plant for butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.


Sunflowers are very popular among bees. I get a lot of small native bees and bumble bees that come for a visit.

08-flies on flowers

I was surprised that flies like to visit flowers. This is a flower on the herb Yarrow.


This Gray Hairstreak butterfly is also enjoying Yarrow flowers. You are sure to make great discoveries when you start a garden. No matter what, never lose hope.

Monday, September 21, 2015

A World Without Butterflies



When you see a butterfly, what do you feel? Do you feel happiness? Maybe even a sense of peace? Now, consider for a moment a world without butterflies. Would the world really be all that different? Yes, the world would go on, but at what cost? When we skip the recycle bin for the sake of convenience or use paper plates because its been a long day, we are living in the present and not considering the future. The choices we make effect the whole environment and especially the butterfly. The butterfly is such a fragile creature and it truly reflects the health of an environment. The slightest shift can cause a decrease in the butterfly’s population. We grab round-up instead of old fashioned weed pulling just to save some time, but do we consider the fact that our laziness could decimate a population in our local area. I get passionate when I speak of such things. To think that the choices I make every day really do effect all creatures large and small. You see, I really want you all to feel the disparity of us ridding the world of butterflies. If they do go extinct, there is no one to blame, but ourselves. Each year, we see less and less until one day not a single one may be left. What a shame that would be, but only if we let that happen. I believe that you like me will do everything possible to keep that from happening.


I will not give up until I’ve made every possible effort in conserving the butterfly. You see, when we start caring about the butterfly, we start caring about a lot of other things. We start thinking about the plants and trees that are essential to butterflies to complete their life. God has used the butterflies in many ways to start me on a journey that is passionate about inspiring people to take action. I pray it takes me on many other journeys that goes far beyond just butterflies. My mom has been taking me to libraries in North Carolina to share this passion about butterfly conservation. It has really been a blessing to meet people that are also concerned about butterflies. If you are interested in how to help butterflies, please leave me a comment or check out my book.

Library presentations: