Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Yesterday in the evening the girls attended their first meeting of 4-H.  They have been excitedly awaiting this day for awhile.  In California we had chickens that were good layers, but since they were a bit older when we first got them they were never ones that let you hold them or care for them more than feeding or when we had to chase them down to clip their wings  .

The 4-H is a program that began at the turn of the century as a means of teaching animal care skills,
home skills like sewing, electrical and cooking.  It has citizenship courses along with public speaking programs.  It had been a part of public school programs until the 1960's when it went to an all volunteer, extra curricular program.  Because of the reduction of farm land the program has changed to more domestic animals or centers that can still teach as well as house the various farm animals that are a part of the particular program.  Some of these include cows, goats, swine, poultry, rabbits and horses.  The one that is closest to us includes rabbits, chickens, carrier pigeons and pigs.  In addition they are growing sugarcane and have a garden for animal feed and those involved in the program.

Meeting area

Pig enclosure

The kids learn the care and feeding of these animals and when you decide what area your child wants to specialize in they will eventually have their own animal that they will be responsible for and learn how to show at the county fair.  If your property is designated agricultural like ours is you can keep the animals at home or you have the option of keeping your animals at this 4-H facility. In order to show your animal you have to have had it for 6 months, and since we haven't even been here that long we won't be eligible this year to show at the fair, but it will be fun for the girls to participate and be able to experience there fellow 4-H'ers showing their  Our girls will probably have chickens, since that is what we plan to add to our property.  This time around they can start by helping with the chickens that are already at the 4-H property, then when we get our chicken area and coop built, they can get them as chicks so they can learn to handle them from the very beginning and the chicks will be used to being handled and easier to care for as they get older.

Gene Gregory letting the girls pet a rabbit and answering their questions

The rabbit area

As part of  the program the girls will be exposed to the care and feeding of the other animals that are at the facility since each family has one day a week, every other month to take care of the feed and watering duty for the animals kept here. It's a good way to get started and ease their way into this responsibility.

The 4-H Pledge recited after the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag at the beginning of each meeting.

Both girls are really hoping to build some relationships here with kids they'll have similar interests in common with.  It should be a good learning experience, and in this forum communication is a key component since the kids have to explain about their animals and in preparation for the fair have to learn public speaking skills as they participate.  So this program will be a part of our homeschooling, that will incorporate part of their science and social studies.

Girls before we left for our meeting, sporting the old hats of mine I gave them for playing dress ups.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Liquid Sunshine

This could also be titled Liquid Gold, as it's the key to the abundance of greenery and lush growth in our new home State.  We are currently in the wet season and are learning to plan our days in this climate.  A typical day can start with beautiful sunrises that remind me of the saying for boaters,

"Red skies at night, sailors delight.
 Red skies in the morning sailors take warning".

I'd heard that for years, but have a new appreciation as I've seen so many mornings start with skies like this:

Then as the day begins the skies will go from sunny and suddenly darken to this:

Followed quickly by the skies opening and pouring rain such as we've had these last few weeks. With 2 to 5 inches of rain dropping within a short period of time.

Photos from various windows around the house as we got over 5 inches of rain from this downpour!!

Then almost as quickly it moves through leaving the sun shining, air clear and the ground soaking up the moisture that creates the lush environment we're learning to love as well as having to control so our landscape doesn't become a jungle. 

Rain ends and the sun begins to peak out again

Kevin and Cameron have been getting lots of experience with taming the jungle that is part of our yard.  As we move in and clear I love some of the plant and critters we come across hidden under all that green growth.  It's also amazing that the area that is brown from it's initial clearing, begins to green so quickly with all the rain and the way the grasses sprout up so fast.  I've been making regular rounds of the yard and practicing my photography with my new camera of the absolutely fascinating life big and small that can be found around this property.  Will absolutely be sharing these in future posts.
Cameron getting his work out in the yard and Kevin deep in the overgrowth.

Kevin getting a good amount of practice with his new machete

That's all for now.  Have a great day and will share more later.  God Bless - Lynda


Monday, August 19, 2013

Property Overview

Our Property on Google Earth

I decided to walk around our yard today and take what will amount to "before" photos as I begin the process of planning the landscaping and garden areas for our property.  I've been busy lately trying to learn about growing in this area.  Finding plants that are natives that look nice or others that will grow in this climate without becoming invasive. 

Growing in Florida takes getting used to compared to the conditions I'd been familiar with in our old home in Southern California.  Though this area is considered the same zone temperature wise, the soil, weather and water conditions are quite different.  I've been checking out books from the library and scouring websites and blogs to try to educate myself on plants I like the look of that will do well here. 

Our property is just under 5 acres, but really only 2 of them are truly usable.  We back up to a lake and the trees at the far side of the property behind the house are on an island that is part of our land. The picture from Google maps taken before we bought, shows a few years of drought conditions that seem to be breaking with all the rain we've received this season.  The larger trees on our property are a mixture of pines and live oaks, with a lot of smaller palms and other trees and shrubs I've yet to learn all the names of.

 I began my walk around by spotting this little guys who hangs out in the plants I have sitting on my front patio waiting for their permanent spots in the yard. He regularly stops to look at me as I water, curious about what I'm doing in his space.

I walked to the front of the property close to the road to take pictures and as I got there spotted these beauty berry plants.  It seems there are a whole line of them under the pines and live oaks. 

Love the color of these as they get to this purple when ripe

You can see how thick the understory growth is and how much we really need to clear to restore some order to the look of things.
Next I turned to the trees lining the property in front of the house nearest the street.  Again we have a lot of pines and live oaks with a thick growth of palms, shrubs and vines that need some sense of order to them.  Closer to the lawn are a crape myrtle, sea grape and three orange trees.  There's one lone apple tree that did produce some fruit this year, but the darn squirrels managed to get them first.
Haven't found the name for this wildflower growing under some of the trees.  It's about 4 feet tall and is pretty

Looking towards the front of the house from the tree line

Trees and street beyond from front of house. The crape myrtle's not in bloom anymore.
As you move to the side yard there is a large open space with just lawn, until you come to the tree line again.  Our property extends another 150' or so further into the trees.  It's back on this side that I want to clear a bit and set up our chicken area.   

Next as you stand along the edge of the above set of trees and look back towards the house and the dog yard in back you can see the trees and shrubs that have become quite dense in this area.
Looking towards the back with dog area fenced in
This little guy was on the fence and not so sure about me as I stopped to take a picture.

Back by the tree line looking towards the front yard
In the back of the house where the pool and sunroom are, the view should be of the lake.  However, with how dense the trees and brush have become from all this rain this has become obscured.  I want to put in a garden in the area where the trees are behind the dog yard.  I plan to really thin the smaller trees and shrubs and allow for some areas in the garden to be protected from sun and wind. We'll build raised beds in here for growing in.  This will all happen over time, but you have to start laying out your plans and that's the stage I'm at right now.
Behind dogs fenced area and pool enclosure.

The lake is through all the brush and reeds now blocking the view unless you're up higher in the house.  The trees and brush will be thinned to create our garden space pictured here on the left of this photo.
So with a bit more work around the yard to prepare, and my plans worked out on paper we will set about creating the environment that we had hoped for when we first decided to buy this home.
Stay tuned and eventually it will all begin to unfold.
Think we have our work cut out for us, so I definitely wanted to be able to document our progress.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Armoire Finished

A little over a week ago I found an armoire at a garage sale.  It was in decent shape, but the dark wood finish doesn't work with my current trend of white and the wood had damage from regular use over time.  So after an initial cleaning with TSP to get the film of cleaners that had built up off and the smell of incense the former owners liked to burn out of the wood, it was ready to paint.

Forgot to take a before picture with the doors and drawers still attached, but you get the idea of it's dark wood and basic appearance from this.  The interior has shelving on the left and the hangar space on the right.

Dark wood color and some of the finishes damage I had mentioned.

I used a couple coats of primer first and then once that was dry several coats of Country White Satin finish paint.  Once all this was done I really thought it needed a little something more to finish the look I had in mind.  I remembered we had decorative mirrors that have moved with us since our first apartment in Connecticut. (We're talking 29 years ago!!)  They were still wrapped and marked from our various moves.  Think we still had them since they didn't take that much room and I always felt I'd use them again at some point.   Glad I'd saved them though because with the addition of a couple of decorative covers for the holes the screws go through to attach them they were the perfect finishing touch for our new armoire.

Here it is and, the extra storage it provides is really welcome

We're getting to a point where I have almost all the pieces needed for bedrooms.  I'm still looking for a more decorative bookshelf for Hannah's room and one more chest of drawers, a smaller one for our bedroom.

I've picked up another cabinet I need to paint to use for the microwave and storage in the kitchen.  I found this last Friday at a garage sale.  This will be my next project now that this armoire is done. I'll do a post on that once I've finished.  Then I have another armoire currently in our room, that we moved from our California home.  I'll be painting it to match the white pieces we currently are using in this room.  I think I'm trending for the white since it's neutral and right now with the old carpet still in place the white furniture and walls just make the place seem cleaner and more open.  Once we get ready to change the flooring I'll find a paint color for the walls I want and then we'll take up the carpet and lay new flooring. 
Will be picking up Kevin's mom early tomorrow morning to head out to a few more Estate sales in search of more treasures!!  Have to admit a part of me will be disappointed once we've found everything we need. It's been fun going to these various sales and trying to find real bargains. How about you do you enjoy "treasure hunting" at garage sales or giving new life to old pieces?


Monday, August 12, 2013


Last Friday was Grandma's birthday and she and Poppie's anniversary was Saturday.  To celebrate we took them to the Olive Garden restaurant Friday evening.  After a nice dinner it was back to their home where Grandma had insisted she'd bake some cupcakes and not to get her a cake.  So we enjoyed these and sang "Happy Birthday".

Without any one specific activity to focus on I'll update on the many little things that we've been up to.  To begin with I gave the girls some school time off this past week so I could spend some time to go through our teaching supplies and see what I need to order for our upcoming year.  Hannah will be starting 4th grade and Lauren 2cd.  

Kevin downloaded from the Home School Legal Defense site the form letter required by Florida law of our intent to homeschool.  We filled this out then sent it by certified mail to the local school administrator.  This is very different from California where we needed to file an affidavit with the State as an independent private school.  The record keeping requirements are far simpler here as well, but since I'm in the habit of maintaining more complete records I will continue this for the sake of keeping track of all the girls have completed for me to be able to review when I need to remember all that has been covered and what we might still need to complete.
I have my list pretty well set for the supplies I need to order to be completely ready for starting our new school year.  I have ordered the majority of my supplies through CBD since I began homeschooling 16 years ago with Amber.  They have a wide variety of companies and curriculum they carry and their prices have always proven competitive.  This year with Hannah's new laptop I'm also looking into software to supplement the text and workbooks we have.

Got Hannah a laptop like this for doing her school work

Postcard update from our original post on the subject here Postcards, is that the girls wrote and mailed off all the cards on their original lists.  All together their were 32.  This exchange was supposed to be a one for one exchange.  Meaning when you sent a card that another child on a similar list to yours would send you a card.  So that you would receive as many as you sent off. Needless to say Hannah has received 11 cards and Lauren 5.  I'm hoping that some of the kids are just a bit slow in responding, because the girls really enjoy getting these in the mail.  Hannah has a newer list of 10 and we mailed a few of these off today with Australia and Spain as addresses of some of  the latest recipients.  The forever international stamp is this:

It runs $1.10 each, so between the cost of the 40 postcards, the international stamps and the regular postage stamps our little adventure in postcard sharing has run about $33.00.  Not a bad investment considering the experience of learning to use the snail mail system, the excitement of receiving a card from another child and learning about where they came from in China and where they each live now.
Hannah still has another 4 on this newest list to write and mail off.  Have seen some parents have to be creative as postcards can be harder to find in places that aren't tourist destinations.  We didn't find any locally.  It was on our way to Disney once that we stopped at a gift store and loaded up on Florida postcards.  Here are the girls with their cards and letters they've received to date.

As a final note I FINALLY found out what the bulbs I pulled out of the planting beds on the side of the house are.  They were crowded and in an area that needed to be cleared and when I pulled the large bulbs with thick leaves out I couldn't figure out what these were.  I've kept the healthier ones in pots without soil and just a bit of water until I could find out what they were and where would  be the best place to relocate them once I begin to set up my new planting beds. 
I was able to determine what they were when a few began to flower and then in looking online at a Florida plant site I spotted the same flower!!  They are called Spider Lillie's and are surprisingly hardy for how delicate the flowers appear to be.

This is the plant with it's large bulb.

Flower head as it begins to open.

And here it is - the Spider Lilly
So that's about it for now.  Life goes on as we continue to get projects done and prepare to settle into the new school year and life as the Summer rapidly comes to a close and Fall quickly approaches.