Saturday, March 31, 2012

Seed Nursery at “Elizabeth’s Secret Garden” 2012


Starting plants from seed is one of the most rewarding things in gardening. Seeing a seedling push itself up through the dirt has never lost its excitement for me. Every new seedling is a victory. My first time starting most of my vegetables from seeds was in the fall.

This year the vegetables are even more productive. I have had only one pest problem this year which was a cutworm hiding around the dirt of my eggplant. It was relentless as it consumed the leaves. I have found that starting plants early and keeping them in the seed greenhouse above, gives me a head start so that by the time the pests really get bad, the plants can fight back. It also makes it easier for the plant to recover while a small plant would be quickly defoliated. 


This tomato seed has just reached the surface.

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It  took five weeks for my tomatoes to reach transplanting size (see tomato flower in right corner). A good tip is to cut toilet paper rolls in half and use it as a collar to help protect plants from cutworms. This is especially helpful for tomatoes and eggplant. One of my squash plants was badly chewed up at the stem, but to my amazement its stem fibers repaired itself, but it still has a scar. After using the toilet paper method, none of the other squashes have been damaged.

squash veggie

My first squash! It is so exciting to see the first vegetables begin to develop. I have a good head start this year since our Florida winter was short and I started many of the plants in the seed greenhouse.


After using my pots, I like to sanitize them with some Green Works soap and water in a large bucket. It does take a bit of elbow grease, but is worth it if it saves seedling from a host of fungal disease. I mainly do this for seed trays. I don’t worry as much if I’m just transplanting a larger plant.


These carrots were ready to pick after the light frosts helped to make them sweeter. I planted more this spring, but they are not doing as well as my fall carrots did.

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Lots of times I have way more fun gardening then you’d think. I can spend hours gardening and before I know it, two hours have gone by. The picture above is one of the “rarities” my garden has produced. It is a Siamese carrot with style and a love for the beach.

Collard Madness

Having fun with GIANT collard leaves.


I hope this entry has inspired you to start your own garden as you begin the journey towards a more sustainable life style. I am so happy with the results that my raised beds have provided. I am using the square foot gardening method which involves marking off square feet with twine. I hope you enjoy the same success this year. If you have any questions, just send me a comment.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Econ Farm, Permaculture Example, Spring 2012

This entry will take you on a tour of the Econ Farm which is applying sustainable practices and organic gardening techniques. As the Econ Farm strives toward self-sufficiency, its owner, Tia Meer, is using practices such as worm composting, rain barrels, chickens, organic gardening, and more to accomplish her goals. This is the essence of permaculture which means the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.


The Econ Farm is five acres of Florida Land located on the Econlockhatchee River, between UCF and Christmas. The Econ Farm was purchased in 2003 by Tia Meer, and is used for the educational classes on topics such as organic gardening, permaculture, and sustainability.

Tia Meer has a wealth of knowledge on the proper care of plants and how to use the land in a way that benefits nature as well as the grower. In this century it is becoming increasingly important to learn how to live off the land as our ancestors did. Tia shares her knowledge through teaching classes and coaching others on sustainable living and organic gardening. She also has her own business where she assists others on starting a successful gardens and also offers a variety of plants, produce, and products for organic gardening.

Econ Farm: 


These Seed trays and flats are useful when starting the spring garden at the Econ Farm. Starting from seed takes more effort, but it saves money in the long run and gives you the flexibility to try different varieties of plants.

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A rain barrel is a great contribution to any garden. A spigot at the end makes the barrel more handy. They even can give you a chance to exercise creativity such as painting the barrel. This rain barrel has lilies growing in the top which help with keeping down the amount of mosquitoes. This also makes a nice environment for the mosquito eating fish which are part of this small ecosystem.


Butterflies are always welcome pollinators to have in the garden. This Tiger Swallowtail is feeding on an orange blossom.


This Purple Flag Iris was captured just at the peak of its beauty. It reminds me of this upcoming Easter holiday. I am looking forward to celebrating this Easter as we remember the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Petting farm at Westgate River Ranch, FL

baby goat

In my last entry I shared our stay at the Westgate River Ranch.  We had so much fun walking around the ranch and trying archery. In this entry I will share pictures of the petting farm and rodeo we attended Saturday night. Above is one of the new baby goats. They were so cute!


Mama goat is looking after the kids.


The horses were very calm and friendly. My sister, Andrea, was thrilled to spend time with the horses.

leading horse

My brother was able to lead some of the horses to the pasture.


The donkeys weren’t too anxious to leave the pin.


I wasn’t too eager to get near to the llamas for fear they would decide to spit!


Wow! That is a big turkey.


The Watusi Cattle are native to Africa. Their horns can reach up to 8 feet from tip to tip. This is not the kind of cattle you want to mess with.

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The last night of our stay was spent at the rodeo which is every  Saturday.


The bull competition was rough. The goal was to stay on for 8 seconds. During the second session one of the riders stayed on long enough to win. We were all cheering for the riders. It was difficult to capture the moment because the bulls were kicking so violently.

hold flag

The Rodeo started with a parade and the singing of The National Anthem.

riding two horses 

One of the neatest tricks was this gentlemen who rode two horses at one time while standing! It must have taken a lot of practice and courage to do this trick.

Elizabeth’s Traveling Tips: The Rodeo is on Saturday nights and costs $15 for adults and $6 for children. Afterwards there is a DJ who plays tunes such as “Electric Slide” for both kids and adults. The after show entertainment is right outside the River Ranch Saloon. You can find out more at the following link.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Westgate River Ranch Resort, FL


The West Gate River Ranch has its own community in Central Florida two hours south of Orlando. The western architecture style blends right in at this authentic “Dude Ranch”. The ranch has a few options when it comes to eating. There is the Westgate Smokehouse Grill, the general store with its own deli and ice cream selection, and the Saloon which has line dancing every Friday and Saturday.


The interior of the general store is western themed as well with a nice selection of necessities, food, candy, deli, and a large frozen desert selection. My brother Joshua blended right in with the cowboys!


The marina offers fun for the whole family. They have boat rentals, fishing, swamp buggy rides, and airboat rides. Right beside it is the Westgate Smokehouse Grill.


For those who want to go camping and have a RV, the ranch offers RV parking and tent camping as well. This is a nice strip of land to be along with the view of the river, but just beware of alligators!


Golf carts are available for rent, but these privately owned carts are really cool!


Our two room Villa was amazing. It felt like a home because it was so large. It had two kitchen areas, dining room, two living room, two restroom, two bedrooms, and two porch areas. There are other accommodations available such as the Inn room, Studio Cabin, and One-Bedroom Cabin.


We had a great view from the porch. We were able to watch the horses graze while the buffalo roamed in the background. You don’t see buffalo much in Florida! With 1,700 acres of land on the Ranch, there is plenty of space for wildlife and humans to enjoy.


The ranch has plenty of activities to try. Our family decided to try archery. It was so much fun! We made a few bulls eyes. There are other activities such as Horseback riding, petting farm, trap & Skeet Range, and more. Another plus is that we were about an hour away from LegoLand so my dad and brother were able to go while we ladies went shopping.


Overall we had an enjoyable vacation. In the next entry, I will be sharing pictures of the petting zoo and rodeo. Be sure to come back next Saturday to see more of our adventures.

Elizabeth’s Traveling Tip: When visiting the ranch, be sure to bring all your kitchen food and condiments because the grocery store is a long way off, unless you find what you need at the General Store.