Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mead Botanical Garden, Winter Garden, FL



Mead garden has much to offer with its butterfly garden, diverse habitats, abundance of birds, wildlife, picnic grounds, and overall welcoming setting. The garden is well kept and offers an ecology that supports many different birds, animals, and plants in the 47.6 acre park. It offers various facilities including an amphitheatre, boardwalk, bike trail, 40 picnic tables, recreation center, environmental center, and restroom buildings.



The large pavilion is an eye catcher. It is quite large and full of beautiful exotic plants.


This is one of my favorite pictures that captures an image of the beauty that is within Mead Botanical Garden. It is a small glimpse into a Secret Garden…

Mead Garden’s Medicinal Plants

As part of my Family Herbalist certification, we learned about several plant specimens that hold value in the medicinal plant community. The photos below will take you on a journey through the many plants we see regularly and they possess medicinal properties. One thing to be remembered is that whenever you collect plants, be mindful of environmental health. As you collect, leave enough fruits and seeds for wildlife and natural propagation. Third, be certain that the plant species are safe for consumption and you should not collect herbs within 50 feet of road if you will ingest them. Lastly, ask permission from owners or park before collecting herbs and other plants.


Elderberries in Florida are a common roadside sight. The fresh berries are poisonous so be sure they are dried or cooked before using them! They make great jams or syrups  for coughs, flus, and upper respiratory infections. They are useful in reducing fevers. After collecting, remove stems as you prepare for dehydrating, drying, or cooking.


The berries make a  reddish-brown dye.

beauty berry

Beauty berry is another native to Florida. The leaves can be rubbed on the skin as a pest repellant. The berries can be used for production of dyes, teas, and even fish poison. Plus, the birds find it a tasty treat!


Wax Myrtle is used internally for fevers, colds, catarrah, jauundice, and irritable bowel syndrome. It can be applied externally to sores, itching skin conditions, dandfuff, and more.


I was surprised to learn that pine trees in our area have edible leaves! I chewed on one and it reminded me of Christmas. It has antiseptic properties, has use in respiratory infections, and sore throats.

Weeds can be Medicine?

Yes, many common plants that we refer to as weeds  have medicinal properties. So before you grab a weed wacker, read on and see which weeds you have and their medicinal uses.


Yes, dollar weed is edible! That annoying weed that spreads, well, like a weed! It  takes over by means of of rhizomes. It can be added to salads and is tastier as it grows bigger. It has the medicinal value by balancing blood pressure and blood sugar.


Creeping Charlie or Florida Water Mint, is a nice addition to salads, if not sprayed with pesticides. It is useful for indigestion and kidney diseases.


The leaves of Muscadine grapes are both antiseptic and anti-bacterial. The leafs can be used as a poultice for wounds. The leaves can be boiled or sautéed.


Spiderwort as a tisane (tea) can be used in the treatment of kidney and stomach ailments. A poutice can be applied topically for stings, insect bites, and cancers. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. Bon appetite! Some of the other herbs we explored were Tropical chickweed, Spanish needles, Betany, Clover, Wax Murtle, and Gotu Kola. I hope you enjoyed the tour!

Elizabeth’s Traveling Tips: Bring an identification book for wildlife, birds, and plants to make your tour more enjoyable. I brought a notebook to record the different herbs we covered during the day.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bees R Us in Winter Garden, FL

Bee men
My brother Joshua, sister Andrea, mom, and I all went on an educational experience to a bee farm. Bees R Us is in Winter Garden, FL and participate in the Winter Garden Farmers Market. They have about 75 hives and have hives in four other places. As part of our experience, we walked through an orange grove with hundreds of trees to reach the hives.
Bee outfits
The three of us dressed in white bee gear, mask and all.  The outfits remind me of the clothing worn during fencing. They were hot in the heat of Florida as you can imagine, but we all felt so professional and protected. The mask was a key part of the bee apparel we wore. The mask makes it difficult for a bee to enter, but if this does occur, step away from the hives and wait for someone to assist you.
Before checking out our insect friends, the smoker had to be lit. Bees communicate by pheromones, so the smoker works by covering their scents and thus confusing the bees. Bees can get moody and this is a good thing to keep in mind especially if you wear perfume (or wear anything with a strong scent), you decide to wear black which irritate bees, or you happen to be near hives on a rainy day. Bees are insects, but they still can have attitudes!
Bee frame
Bees stay busy. With plenty of honey to collect and babies to feed. Just one bee frame can hold 2,000 cells.
The queen is the one who keeps the hive in business. She is the largest bee in the hive and can lay up to 2,000 eggs in a single day (enough to fill a bee frame).
I may appear brave with a bee on my finger, but this bee is a drone and does not have a stinger.The drones also play a role in the production of eggs. Their duty is to mate with the queen and keep the hive active with baby larvae. They do little else, except ventilating the hive in summer.
Elizabeth’s Tips: Bees are aren’t picky when it comes to a home-sweet-home. They’ll make homes in boxes, trees, giant pots, and even on the side of homes. Bees R Us can help with bee removal if that becomes an issue. You can contact Paul Allison at 407-982-0774 or e-mail him at 
bee home IMG_5529

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Knitting Project in Haiti


knitting ladies

My dad and I went  to Haiti April 28 – May 4. It was my first time going there. We stayed at the Eben-Ezer Mission in Gonaives for the duration of the trip. While we were there, I was able to teach the ladies in the orphanage how to create cell phone holders by knitting with plastic grocery bags. The children helped by cutting the bags into strips and tying them together. While in Haiti, I also worked for three days on an agriculture/permaculture project. To see that blog entry go to 


The children and I worked together to make the plastic yarn.



This lady is sewing the cell phone holder together.


The small children at the orphanage were full of laughter and joy. We had so much fun building a house out of cardboard. It is amazing what a difference you can make just by being present.


While in Haiti, I went to two different churches to present the different hand crafts that I make. When we go back in spring, I will continue to teach different skills. Our family is also hosting Judith Emilien from Haiti to come to Orlando to receive training in running a small business, learning various crafts, pottery, sewing. She will take home what she learns to share with women in the co-op. If you would like to support this endeavor go to

Knitted Recycled Grocery Bags


In 2009, I created my own pattern for handbags by recycling grocery bags. It takes 50 grocery bags for each purse. The handles are made by recycling various bread bags, mulch bags, and even disposable rain coats. Each hand bag is a unique design and takes 8 hours or more to complete. My latest recycled creations are water bottle and cell phone holders.

Knitting has been one of my passions since my grandma taught me when I was eight. Since then, I have taught many young children this ancient art and was excited when offered the chance to teach Haitian ladies how to create cell phone bags out of grocery bags. To help fund my trips, I have started to sell my “Elizabeth's Secret Garden” line of recycled projects. To support my work, you can purchase one of my bags.

To order bags, contact Elizabeth Mann at:

Handbags for donation of $25
Water bottle holder: $10 donation
Cell phone holder: $5 donation

Shipping is $5