Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Audubon Birds of Prey Center, FL


The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey is working towards promoting the conservations of birds of prey and their habitat. The center helps injured or orphaned birds of prey and helps in the rehabilitation process. Birds that cannot be released back into the wild serve as environmental ambassadors in the education for children and families. They each have their own stories and names. It is sad to see how pollution can reek havoc on the delicate balance in nature. The release of rehabilitated birds of prey is a symbol of hope to show what can happen when caring people work towards environmental stewardship.

Visit their website to learn more: http://fl.audubon.org/audubon-center-birds-prey 

Below are a few of the many birds that are receiving care at the center.


eagle 2

 falcon 3

    falcon 2

falcon 4 


little owl     

 bird 1

3 falcons

The day on which I write this is Christmas so I hope you all enjoy your time with family and friends this year. May you all enjoy your Christmas feast and sharing gifts with each other. And may you be blessed as we celebrate the greatest gift of all, the birth of Jesus. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I look forward to another year of sharing my adventures with all my readers.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday Tour of Home and Gardens Sanford, FL


I had the opportunity to represent my friend Sheila’s garden for the Sanford Holiday tour of Homes & Gardens. The tour was Saturday, December 1, 11 a.m – 4 p.m and it was their 24th annual event. The tour featured several gardens, historic buildings, and homes decorated for Christmas.

Website: http://sanfordhistorictrust.org/ 


I had the privilege of meeting Sheila during an Earth Day festival at Lake Eola. We quickly became friends when we discovered that we were both butterfly enthusiasts. I shared with her what I’ve learned about butterflies and she bought one of my recycled purses that I make by knitting with grocery bags.


It was exciting to meet many people who were interested in learning about raising butterflies. Sheila asked me to come so I could show visitors her garden and educate people about how to create butterfly friendly gardens in their own neighborhoods. At least 150 – 200 people walked through. There were so many people coming through, I lost count! The table was interactive with live monarch butterflies and caterpillars.


I was able to meet Betty Best the author of the novel Don’t Call Me Poor. You can view her book at www.createspace.com/3625419 . Betty inspired me to put my book on Create Space as well. My book, “Elizabeth’s Secret Garden” A Study of Butterflies in North America is now available on Create Space and Amazon as well! Buy my book on Amazon here: http://tinyurl.com/bvxjv52 It’s a great gift for butterfly enthusiasts.

book cover


Butterfly Document Sheila

Information sheet I passed out at event.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Aquaponics in Orlando, FL


This aquaponics system is  a sustainable project that I had the pleasure of seeing as a student of the Orlando Permaculture Design Course. Our tour was led by Zak Marimon who owns his own business Agarian Land and Pond. This was a unique experience that displayed how much can be done right on your own property. Much of this project was done by recycling materials. Craigslist is a great place to find materials for cheap or even free. I was impressed by the creativity and great knowledge of science behind this project. I learned that chemistry plays a big part in creating a system as grand as this.

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The system operates by pumping water from the fish tank into the Grow Beds and then pumping it back into the fish tank. It is a symbiotic relationship that benefits the fish and the plants. The fish wastes provide nutrients for the plants and waste plant materials feed the fish. The water is distributed through pipes that run through the Grow Beds. The fish water is filtered through sand, gravel, or river stones and then it is pumped back out to the fish tank. Tilapia are a great fish of choice because of their hardiness.


A variety of vegetables can be grown in the Grow Bed. It does take experimentation to get the right amount of nutrients to the plants. If done right, a bounty of produce will be harvested.



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During the class, there was a demonstration of assembling a filtration system for the turtle tank.

group photo

I graduated from the Orlando Permaculture Design Course! Here are the garden designs I presented as part of our group project for the Simple Living Institute property. This video shows the butterfly and herb garden drawings I presented.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Seminole Springs Herb Farm Faire


My family went to the 16th Annual Herbal Faire on Saturday, November 10. The participants for this year’s event included Trout Lake Nature Center, Slow Turtle Farm, Saturday Night Soaps, and others. To read more about the event visit. http://www.rosesandherbs.com/events.htm  Below are pictures from our family visit to the Herb Farm and our experience of attending the 16th Annual Herbal Fair.


We enjoyed taking a look around the large greenhouse with a nice selection of herbs. Most of them are started from seeds as well as cuttings taken from their own stock. It was nice to encounter familiar herbs that I’ve studied and personally have grown from seed. Some of the herbs at the Herb Farm are hard to find at other nurseries and a rare find. Herbs like Holy Basil and yarrow are both great herbs that I’m fond of and they can be purchased at the farm. Holy Basil is a great herb for anxiety and depression. Yarrow has many uses, but is especially useful for fevers.


All the herbs are labeled to make searching easy.






We enjoyed a wonderful class by Lavon from the Trout Lake Nature Center about insects. http://www.troutlakenature.org/  It was called “The good, bad, and the beautiful.” I really enjoyed it and learned some interesting facts.

coffee house

Olivia’s Coffeehouse at the Herb Farm offered lunch or a daytime snack. We selected some scones and cookies for our trip back home. http://www.oliviascoffeehouse.com/ 

group photo 

It was a pleasure meeting Traci (green shirt), owner of the Seminole Springs Herb Farm. I also ran into Emily Ruff and her husband. Emily Ruff was my teacher for becoming certified in Family Herbal Medicine at the Florida School of Holistic Living. http://www.holisticlivingschool.org/

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Herbs for Home Gardening

 gardeb pic resize

My garden this fall is productive and flourishing. I have learned and experienced so much during the 4 years I’ve been gardening. I now grow herbs, vegetables, and butterfly plants. Many of my herbs and vegetables are started from seed which allows me to experiment with different and unique varieties. When I first started, I could hardly get seeds to sprout and many of my plants dried out. So if you feel that you are lacking a “green thumb,” don’t be discouraged. Start out small and then expand. I learned that growing plants in pots in Florida doesn’t work well because the heat dries out the soil too fast. We converted to raised beds in our family garden which works much better.  Also, as a beginner gardener, I suggest buying seedlings from the store and when you feel more confident than begin your journey with seeds. Beware though, seed shopping is addicting!

The joy of herbs! So many choices.


Starting herbs from seeds can open so many different opportunities to try new varieties. Old heirloom varieties are especially interesting and are fun to try. This heirloom amaranth is Joseph’s Coats “Perfecta and adds splashes of color to my garden.

amaranthamaranth drying

Red Hopi Dye Amaranth is a fun plant to grow. It’s leave and flower heads are a vibrant red and add color to the garden. The leaves make a great addition to salads. Collecting the seeds is another option, but it requires a lot of work. It gave me a great respect for pioneers who collected and thrashed their own grain! It requires drying out the seed heads, shaking out the thousands of seeds, and then separating the chaff from the seed. It was a fun activity to do with my dad, but I decided once is enough with this endeavor.

   cinnamon basilbasil

Herbs have so many different varieties and flavors to choose from. For example you can buy cinnamon basil, sweet basil, lemon, thai, licorice, lime, and the list goes on and on. The multitude of flavors can make cooking a pleasure.


Tarragon is another great addition to the garden. It begins to bloom in august. I like to add tarragon to salad, soups, and chicken dishes. It is great in soups if you like strong flavors. Tarragon also makes a great companion plant for pest management.


Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs. I throw it on pretty much anything. It’s aroma reminds me of Christmas trees. The bees enjoy pollinating the flowers when in bloom. For cooking, it can be used fresh or dried and goes best with Mediterranean dishes.


Stevia is an amazing plant that is 200x sweeter than sugar! I like to take the leaves and uses them as a sweeter in tea. To make a tea infusion, place herbs and stevia leaves in a jar. Then, poor hot water over the herbs and screw on lid. The lid keeps the medicinal volatile oils of the herb contained inside. When it is cool, you can poor the infusion into your cup and you have a homemade tea.


Some plants are not available at plant nurseries and must be started from seed. Yarrow is one of those plants, but is well worth the extra effort. It has medicinal value for use during fevers. It helps to open pores to release toxins, raise temperature, and increase over all circulation. It also has value as a biodynamic accumulator. That means that the plant gathers up nutrients from deep down in the soil and makes them available to other plants.


This last herb is a unique plant that I had never heard of until getting the seeds. It is called the toothache plant and is rightly named. Yesterday, my gums and teeth hurt after eating. As soon as I got home, I rushed to my garden and washed off a few leaves. I chewed the leaves and then moved it to the area that was hurting. The leaf juices caused some numbing on my tongue and helped to relieve the toothache. That is one amazing plant! Herbs are incredible for culinary, medicinal, and decorative use.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How to Start Worm Compost Bin

This fall I am participating in a Permaculture Design Course through the Simple Living Institute http://www.simplelivinginstitute.org/. Tia and Terry Meer are teaching the course and have discussed a wide range of topics. For day 4, we discussed propagation from seeds and cuttings, composting piles, and worm composting. All of these are important in applying permaculture and integrating sustainable living. It is a way of life that takes time and is constantly developing.

Steps to Building Worm Bin


The bottom container has a tap that allows worm compost tea to be released. The worm tea is very concentrated so I water mine down to a ratio of 1 part worm tea and 10 parts water. It is a wonderful liquid fertilizer for plants. I use it for plants that need a little extra boost in nutrients. Then I lay down a thin cloth before adding the first tray which will be where the worms and food scraps are added. At the bottom of the tray, I put ripped up paper. This is a great way to recycle junk mail and newspaper!

Buy worm bins and red wiggler worms at http://vermifactory.com/ 


The next step is adding some soil and coconut coir that came with the kit our family bought at VermiFactory.com. Adding soil from the garden will add microorganisms that will assist in the breaking down process.


And now the best part, add the worms and scraps from the kitchen. The video at the beginning of the entry discusses what to feed worms.


Next, top it off with more paper. Using a paper shredder is the best method, but shredding by hand will work as well. Finish it off by watering it in. The kit I have comes with three trays which can be stacked as needed. The worms multiply rapidly so the more food you add the more worms you will have. When a tray is almost ready to harvest, I put it at the very top so the worms start crawling to a lower bin in search of more food. I leave the lid off so the bin will dry out. When it is ready, you can harvest the worm compost and add it around plants.