Friday, January 28, 2011

The Butterfly Estates Eco-Attraction in Fort Myers, FL


The Butterfly Estates in Fort Myers, FL is striving towards making a positive difference in our environment as we face habitat loss, increasing species extinction, and the harmful effects of pollution. They believe that the fragile condition of butterflies and their state of well-being serve as warnings of an unhealthy environment. The Butterfly Estates partners with earth-friendly organizations and is involved with providing public awareness about our environment and ways to make more sustainable choices.

inside conservatory waterfall 


The Butterfly Estates is helping in the effort of preserving native butterflies in South Florida. One of the ways they promote butterfly awareness is by providing an educational butterfly guide (link below) for teachers to use when leading school excursions through the conservatory. The Butterfly Estates encourage visitors to start their own backyard butterfly garden and hope that their garden design will help visitors when planning their garden. Many of the butterfly host and nectar plants are labeled to provide easy identification. 

The Butterfly Estates Teachers’ Guide:

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In the lobby, developing larva are displayed for children and adults to observe. You can even take time to experience a butterfly release at the conservatory. Special events are held in the conservatory with an appointment. More information can be found on their website. 

butterfly  Monarch butterflyqueen butterfly  spicebush swallowtail

The amount of butterflies present in the conservatory tends to change with the seasons and food availability. They raise about ten different common species native to South Florida. Butterfly favorites such as the Monarch and Queen gracefully land on exotic nectar plants as classical music plays in the background. It comes to no surprise that they find a thrill in dancing to the soft music which adds a special touch to the peaceful surroundings. Cascading waterfalls and relaxing benches add to the tranquility.

Queen caterpillarchrysalis

The 3,614 square foot glass conservatory has become the perfect habitat for the developing Queen caterpillar and chrysalis above.

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Exotic flowers are not shy when it comes to displaying their vibrant colors! Oranges, reds, pinks, and whites all work together to fill the conservatory with a host of colors.

outdoor gardens

The garden outside is just as pleasant. Visitors can enjoy Florida’s warm weather as they relax on a bench or stop by the southern style veranda restaurant. The butterfly conservatory has multiple attractions such as the Flutterby’s Cafe’, Mother Nature’s gift shop, Caterpillars Ice Cream Shop, and Fudge Factory.

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The Fudge Factory and Caterpillars Ice Cream Shop are both delicious homemade treats. We jumped on the opportunity when offered a free sample of fudge!

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Our last stop was the Mother Nature’s gift shop which sells a variety of items including framed art (with butterflies of course!), winged jewelry, and butterfly displays. This was a great conclusion to our visit to The Butterfly Estates.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, FL


Thomas Edison was an American inventor, businessman, and scientist. According to Wikipedia he holds more than 1,093 patents to his name! He had great intelligence and invented the phonograph, motion picture camera and electrical light bulb. When Edison wanted to create a winter retreat to escape the cold winters of his home base in New Jersey, he decided upon a property along the Caloosahatchee river. To create his winter retreat, Edison created a sketch that included elaborate homes, exotic gardens, maintenance shop, and laboratory. (The Edison estate is in the picture below to the left behind the row of quilts.)

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One of the highlight events during October at the Edison and Ford Estates was the Estates Clothesline Quilt Show. Each quilt was unique and had a story to tell. My favorite was the quilt that looked like a face! The designer of this quilt had a sense of humor and great imagination.


I even got to meet Mr Edison, his wife, and Henry Ford! They looked really young for their age! In the background, several antique Ford automobiles were displayed on the lawn for visitors to see.


This is the Henry Ford Winter retreat that was purchased in 1916 to provide a place for him to vacation with Thomas Edison. This property was called “The Mangoes” due to the abundance of mango trees.

Inside Ford’s Estate

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 Inside Edison’s Estate

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The view from the estates includes the relaxing waters of Caloosahatchee river.


The Moonlight Garden was designed by Ellen Biddle-Shipman for Mina Edison in 1929 and is located behind his office.

 cottage shop

The Ford’s Caretaker’s cottage has been restored and turned into the Estate’s gift shop.


The Edison’s botanical gardens contain thousands of plants from around the world. Edison used the different tropical plants in many of his experiments. He studied plants for their industrial purposes and his research also included the search for a plant that produced latex to solve the “rubber crisis” of the time.

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The educational experience is taken a step further inside the Edison and Ford Museum. The museum features a collection of inventions and artifacts inside its air conditioned premises. The seven different galleries inside the museum are each a different category that takes visitors through history.

For more information on tours:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tour of Echo’s Global Farm in Fort Myers, FL

echo sign

Echo is a non-profit inter-denominational Christian organization that is working towards fighting hunger and improving the lives of poor. Their vision is to honor God through sustainable hunger solutions. They are accomplishing this by providing access to ECHO documents, supplying seeds, and teaching appropriate agricultural techniques to farmers in poor countries who are living in difficult growing climates.

ECHO works in 180 different countries. Their main office and demonstration farm is located in North Fort Myers, Florida. To provide education and training, ECHO has an internship program and teaches workshops. They host an annual conference for networking. Echo earns income through their bookstore and nursery. For running the demonstration farm, ECHO has 30 permanent staff and 200 volunteers who are currently involved. Echo also accepts donations for use in operating their mission.


The photo to the left is the plant nursery which showcases a variety of plants available for purchase. Pictured to the right is the fruit cart lined with a selection of tropical fruits including star fruit, papaya, and others.

Global Farm

The Global Village demonstration farm at ECHO simulates different climates including hot humid lowlands, tropical highlands, tropical monsoon, semi-arid tropics, and an urban garden setting. The ECHO farm is located on 50 acres of land. 

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ECHO has integrated tropical sheep, goats, Naked Neck Turken chickens (looks like a turkey due to its “naked neck”), ducks, tilapia, and rabbits into its Global farm. The ducks and tilapia are raised in the same environment. Ducks are reared in a wooden complex that is raised over water (pictured left). The duck’s waste produces growth of phytoplankton and algae in the lake. The tilapia then feed on the algae.


For an insecticide in foreign countries, the leaves of the Neem tree are soaked in water and then used as a pest repellant on plants. The leaves can also be used to prevent tooth decay. Seeds can be ground to create oil used for healing skin disease. Neem can be purchased through the internet or at a Home Depot store in the US.


Worms are reared in various containers ranging from plastic bins to old rubber tires. Worm tea and casting provide nutrients that can be applied to crops. Extra worms can be used for fishing in poor countries.

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In rainy climates, raised beds can be incorporated to supply drainage and improve the soil’s fertility.


Vines such as cucumbers and beans are provided additional support through the use of sticks and branches. These supplies are readily available in foreign countries.

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Water availability can be a problem in the dry climates of some countries. To solve this a bucket drip irrigation system can be set up. It can be elaborate or simple depending on the supplies available.


In the urban garden demonstration, rooftop gardening is applied to make use of space.


A variety of containers were put to use in the demonstration farm. Ranging from rubber tires to plastic bins.

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Mulching can become an exciting experience when old items regained new life. Plastic bags, pine cones, pop cans, and pebbles were all incorporated for mulching.

For more about tour hours go to