Monday, June 29, 2009

When You've Got It, Flaunt It

~ An article written for the June issue of Moonshine online magazine.~

A few mornings ago I took my daughter on our third blueberry-picking trip of the season. Less than ten minutes from our house is Lundy’s Blueberry Patch, a little plot of heaven on earth where Doc Lundy (a retired veterinarian) offers beautiful blueberries to the picking public from late May through mid-July.

“The blueberries are waning now,” Doc Lundy warned us, “but I think I saw some good ones out on row 57 and 58.”

I smiled at Doc – knowing how blueberry spoiled he is – and said we’d take what we could get.


Ha, ha, ha!

Rows 57 and 58 may have been “waning”, but the bushes were still heavy with ripe, blue fruit. Hundreds of gleaming indigo orbs smiled at us as their juice-filled weight pulled branches down toward my pre-schooler’s eager little hands.

Abbey and I picked till our fingers were blue and our tongues deep purple. (Doc encourages his customers to “sample” while they pick, and we wouldn’t want to be rude . . . so we “sample” with abandon.)

Each bush had dozens of ripe berries on it because folks never remember to grab the berries from the shady center of the bush, where they grow extra fat and sweet. I don’t blame them for this, though, because a) there are so many berries on the outside of the bush to keep you busy picking and b) that means other folks leave the center berries for me.

I try to pick each bush thoroughly before moving on to the next, but most often a particularly rotund little sapphire will catch my eye on a neighboring plant and off I’ll go like a butterfly – fluttering blissfully and hungrily to the next pretty flower.

My daughter and I compete for who can find the biggest berry, all the while I’m smiling to myself between popping berries into my mouth, savoring the sweetness of the sun and fresh air, the trill of birdsong, and joy good company. (Abbey, though not quite three, has been known to pick over a pound of berries all on her own.)

Then, on the way out, my pink-cheeked and glistening little girl will turn the parental tables on me – it’s her turn to cajole “Let’s go! Hurry, hurry!” because I’m going slow, trying in vain to pick all of the berries I missed on our way to the end of the row.

The prices at Lundy’s are incredibly low and I always feel we should have picked more, even though blueberries and countless other gorgeous fruits and vegetables are available at rock-bottom prices at our weekly farmer’s market.

But that’s not what gets me. The part of the whole experience that really gets me is this: abundance.

Blueberry bushes are the definition of abundance.

Nature’s abundance is, perhaps, her greatest gift to us in summer. An abundance of flowers, of fruit, of vegetables, of animals, and, most profoundly, of light and color.

Summer is the time when Mother Nature is showing us that she’s got it and she ain’t afraid to flaunt it.

I say we use those extra summer hours of light to capture and reflect this glorious abundance, fullness, and ripeness. Though I remain the tree-hugging, reduce-reuse-recycle conservationist, I say that now is the time to use more paint and bolder colors. Take more photographs, create more sculpture.

Let your summer art be full and abundant, rich, bright, multi-hued and sparkling with the joy of nature’s annual promise fulfilled.

In fact, here’s a suggested color palette: Eggplant Purple, Rhubarb Magenta, Watermelon Pink, Strawberry Red, Georgia Peach, Bell Pepper Orange, Cantaloupe, Lemon Yellow, Banana Pepper Chartreuse, Cucumber Green and, of course, Blueberry Blue.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nature Quote - June 25, 2009 -Farm Fresh

This afternoon Abbey and I went out to visit Hicks Honey Farm. Just five miles outside of town and on a few acres we had an adventure better than the zoo.

We went to pick up beeswax tea light candles (I've gone completely off of paraffin candles - too many toxins, too much petroleum usage), but came home with so much more!

"Mr. Bee Man," as Abbey quickly named him, not only let her pet his sweet calico cat, but also held a big white goose for Abbey to pet its soft down feathers, dressed her in a beekeeper's hat (more like a dress on her) and showed her the bees coming back to the hive with their sacs full of pollen, and then took us to the hen yard so Abbey could pet a hen, too.

Abbey had already tried to catch several different roosters running around the property, but to no avail. Note to self: show Abbey the chicken catching scene from Rocky for encouragement.

So, Mr. Bee Man went into the hen house and gently grasped a hen that was currently laying. He brought her out and taught Abbey to pet her mottled black and white feathers gently and with her whole (little) hand.

And I didn't take any pictures. I just hope it's engraved on my brain.

On the upside, though, Mr. Bee Man was able to gather 10 eggs laid fresh today for us to buy for a paltry $2. I was so excited that I declared we'd have breakfast for dinner (a family favorite), whereupon he went into his home and collected another 12 to give us for free that had been laid a couple of days ago and he couldn't eat because - here's the kicker - he has high cholesterol.

Here I feel bound to note that cage-free and free-range hens lay eggs that are significantly better for you (lower in cholesterol and higher in omega-3s, I believe) than caged hens.

But, enough about me - I have a belly full of delicious eggs and a camera full of egg pictures (and blackberry pictures - picked up two pints at the Farmers' Market earlier this week), both of which need processing. So I'll leave you with this quote:

"It may be the cock that crows, but it is the hen that lays the eggs."
Margaret Thatcher

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mourning Dove Chick Pics

Two shots of our little hanging basket chick taken today:

Mourning Dove Chick

After all of that waiting, my husband was the first to spot our little mourning dove chick!

The chick was first seen Friday evening at dusk and appears to have doubled in size already. I'm charging a camera battery now, so stay tuned for pictures!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Gorgeous Gulf (Photos taken May 31, 2009)

Thinking about adding one of these to the collection of gift photos. Which one is your favorite?

Comment on this post to let me know which one you "vote" for!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Learning Curve

Today was the first day of environmental camp. I teach 8-12 year olds all about our excellent earth and our fabulous Florida ecosystems for six weeks every summer.

These are the best six weeks of my whole year!

This first camp started off particularly well - only five students, so I had lots of time to interact with each of them. They were smart, knowledgeable, kind, and eager to learn.

Pure bliss.

We discussed the elements of survival (air, water, food, shelter) and how to record data about wildlife in order to properly identify individuals (size, number of legs, body covering, activity, habitat, etc.) and all of the reasons WHY we want to "save the planet."

The best part, of course, was the time we spent outside. With little prompting from me, the kiddos were all over, finding damselflies and tadpoles and trumpet vine flowers and frogs and pill bugs and spiders and beetles and junebugs and all manner of wonderful things.

They turned over rocks, looked up at overhangs, poked at sap dripping out of the slash pines, and were absolutely psyched about it all.


Their sense of wonder is a lesson in itself. More than I could teach, but something I am all to happy to foster.

So, here's to the beginning of a new adventure. A few quotes from the kids to revive your own sense of wonder:

Question: Why do we need lots of different kind of animals?
Answer: To eat them. (I loved this one. It was so authentic!)

"Oh, look! There's a mushroom!" "And there's a bug on it, too!"

"I think it's an American crow, because it was all black and it had a skinny beak." (He was comparing the crow to the raven in the bird identification book to try to figure out what he saw. And he was right, he had observed a crow.)

There are tons more, but my teacher brain and toddler-mommy brain are both terrifically tired and I must take myself for a time out.

Contented sigh.