Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Lionfish on the Menu

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on August 23, 2012 by PickMeYard

Have you seen a lionfish?  I’m sure you have.  They’re beautiful and graceful with their wistful and feathery fins.  Their venomous spines make them even more seductive to me.  I could stare at an aquarium and watch them for hours.

This is my fake lionfish on a stand.

So are they lethal if you’re stung?  It seems to depend on several factors such as how bad the sting is and the victims reaction to it.  If the victim is allergic to the venom then it could be lethal.  However, according to the FWC, a sting isn’t usually deadly.  Check out for some excellent facts on the lionfish (Pterois volitans and Pterois miles).

Lionfish are indigenous to the Indo-Pacific region. Unfortunately they were let go in our South Florida waters (probably from the aquarium trade) and are increasing in numbers at a rate never seen before.  They will rapidly destroy our marine ecosystem because they have a HUGE appetite for our native fish such as baby grouper and snapper. They’ll soon devastate our fish populations which will affect our algae growth balance.  This is a serious problem.

Please click here  for an amazing slide show with maps on the progression of the lionfish invasion.

They have no predators in U.S. and Caribbean waters… except man.  And the good news is that they taste super delicious!  I highly recommend The Lionfish Cookbook by Tricia Ferguson and Lad Akins.  The book is full of easy recipes, great information and loaded with tons of pictures.  The book also gives detailed instructions on catching, handling, cutting the spines off with scissors, spearing and of course… the preparation from start to finish with pictures. I bought my copy at Guy Harvey’s flagship store in Grand Cayman, where the lionfish are also a terrible problem.

In Grand Cayman, they are trying to assemble teams to hunt down these fish.  I’ve noticed lionfish on the menu more and more.  They’re being really proactive.

This young man in Grand Cayman hunted these fish with help from his father. I watched them from shore as they emerged with a bag of lionfish and their spears. Awesome!

How do we get rid of them in our waters?  There’s no recreational fishing license needed when using a pole spear and no limit to the amount you can catch in Florida (at least through August 2013).  It’s always open season for lionfish.  If there was a big demand for lionfish meat, then maybe there would be some chance to eradicate them… because there’s no other solution.  So go get a spear or find a restaurant with lionfish on the menu.

Speared lionfish for dinner.

More speared lionfish.

Come grow with us!

Hatching a Dinosaur Egg

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 27, 2011 by PickMeYard

We hatched some modern-day, baby dinosaurs out of their eggs this week … alligators!  It’s a fantastic experience, but it’s only legal at Gatorama in Palmdale, Florida (it’s the only place I know of in Florida, anyway).  Gatorama only offers this to the public for 11 days at the end of August.  We try to go every year, but sometimes we blink and miss it.

Alligators are a part of our life in SW Florida.  We have to be careful in our yard because they tend to lurk in the bushes at the edge of our riverbank.  We are always alert when walking around our yard.  It isn’t a frequent occurrence to see one in the yard, but it is very common to see them coasting around our yard.  It’s kinda like a moat that doesn’t quite go all the way around our castle.  So, forget the dogs, beware of the gators… it’s a dead-end.

Alligators are a threatened species in Florida, even though there seem to be a lot of them.  Apparently, only 2% survive into adulthood in the wild.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grants a special license or permit to handle the gators.  It is illegal to harass or feed alligators in Florida.  If an alligator is fed, they lose their fear of humans, and then we’re really in trouble.

Alligator feeding at Gatorama... Yikes!

A little girl holding a young gator at last year's Swamp Cabbage Festival.

An alligator nest... and big moma's always near-by!

That's me helping a baby alligator out of the egg.

Loring & Grayson hatching baby gators.

Helping baby alligators into the world.

The baby gator is still attached to its egg with an umbilical cord.

Enormous alligator skulls.

The owner of Gatorama holding a baby gator.

Alligators are a part of our environment in Southwest Florida.  There’s a lot of water around here.  We try to stay a healthy distance from them.  However, if you ever find yourself face-to-face with a gator on land, you can toss something to the side of its snout and it will go for whatever you tossed to it.  It might buy you a few seconds.

Come grow with us!

An Eight Legged Summer

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on August 18, 2011 by PickMeYard

This summer seems to be the summer of the spider in Florida.  Yes, the sunshine state is home to many, many species of spiders throughout the year, but they seem to be everywhere this summer.  My friends and family have noticed that I’m unusually obsessed with the eight legged critters lately.  My son has become equally enamoured.  We’ve spent a lot of time taking photos of them and researching them online and in books.

We have a regal jumping spider that hides inside her thick, cottony web on our gate and she is very perturbed with us. We know her hiding spot and check on her several times a day. These spiders are considered to have the best eyesight of all bugs.  We have one living in our mailbox too.  I think I know why they’re called jumping spiders… because they make me jump!

A Regal Jumping Spider that lives on our gate. Can you see her in her web?

The highly venomous black and brown widows have also made their homes all around our yard.  I admire them for a second and then I quickly squish them.  There’s not enough room for both of us for obvious reasons.  I’ve run across several of them in my garden and I don’t let them out of my sight for a second, not even to get my camera.  Their egg sacs are a tell-tale sign that they are close-by.  The eggs look like mine bombs… round, light-colored and spiky.

Widow spider egg sacs in our macadamia nut tree.

A spider that we are seeing in every square foot of our yard (not really, it just seems that way) is the beautiful and intimidating orbweaver.

The tropical orbweaver weaves her massive web every single evening at dusk and then removes her entire web every morning at dawn.  It took us awhile to figure out what she was doing.  Since Grayson and I milk the goats late at night, we’ve gotten used to the nocturnal critters, (especially the skunk that the dog keeps bothering).  We analyze the spiders every night and try to get as close as we can to get a good look.  It’s never comfortable though.  All it takes is a quick tap on the arm and a “watch out!” to send me to the moon.  Either I get Grayson or he gets me but it always ends with a scream.  I know he’s going to do it too and it still scares me.  I think we freak these poor spiders out way more than they freak us out.

A big, beautiful and nocturnal tropical orbweaver.

A tropical orbweaver in her nighttime web, right next to my car.

The garden orbweavers build their webs every morning and take them down for the night.  Isn’t that amazing?  As the female gets older, she gets bigger and scarier looking.  They’re colorful and big and build elaborate webs.  They are as intimidating as a spider can be, in my opinion.  However,  they are not venomous to people and are rarely known to bite.

A colorful garden orbweaver.

A garden orbweaver on the riverbank. She is one of hundreds along the bank.

I was wrong.  The Golden Silk Orbweaver is as intimidating as a spider can be.  They tend to have huge, golden bodies and long spindly legs with tufts of black bristles… yikes.  Every Floridian knows this spider well.  They’re very common here. They look like they would be terribly venomous, but they’re not (to people).  I’ve been told they will bite, but a wasp sting will cause you more pain.  Fortunately, I don’t have first-hand knowledge of this.  However, I have had them land on me many times when trail riding with my horses as a kid.  The spiders would always want off me fast.  The frantic screaming must have scared them away.

We have a golden silk orbweaver living outside our back door now.  I keep holding my camera up close to her so I can get a photo, but she starts to bounce up and down on her web when she sees me.  Sooo, there’s no photo.  These spiders are often referred to as the Florida banana spider as well.  I found a great website that has lots of Golden Silk orbweaver photos and great information about them… click here.  The site says they always have banana spiders throughout their barn in the summers.  On one particular summer, they took notice that every spider packed up and disappeared a week before a major hurricane hit.  This might be a good reason to keep them around.  If the spiders are too much to handle though, they can easily be relocated without touching them.  Tear down their web and they will rebuild it somewhere else.

For a really fun bug blog, check out The Bug Lady.  My favorite post is the one about the Brazilian Armadeira spider… it tries to kill you.  It is also referred to as a banana spider, but this species is the most venomous spider in the world.

I hope I didn’t give you the heebie-jeebies with this post.  We all live with spiders, even in the big cities.  If it makes you feel any better, Florida’s Fabulous Spiders says that bees and wasps kill more people in the U.S. every year than spiders and snakes combined kill in ten years.

A garden orbweaver spider in our garden with her dinner... a lizard!

Come grow with us!


Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 17, 2011 by PickMeYard

I love St. Patrick’s Day because I don’t feel pressured to buy anybody anything.  We can just enjoy the holiday and wear something green.  Is it a holiday for the Irish only?  Does it matter?  Click here for a history reminder of St. Patrick’s Day.  It was my favorite holiday when I was a kid because we went to school ready to pinch people who forgot to wear green.  I don’t think that’s tolerated in schools these days.  It’s reserved for family members now.

A bunch of clovers. She picked them for our table centerpiece.

A clover leaf. We heart St. Patrick's Day.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Come grow with us!

Chalkboard Art

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 18, 2011 by PickMeYard

I’m straying from my usual topics today to show you some chalkboard art that my daughter and her friend worked on.  I think it’s just too cool.

Finally, a reason to jump on the bed.

I painted one of the walls in my children’s bedroom with chalkboard paint that I bought at Home Depot.  It seems like the chalk dust would settle on the beds that are pushed up next to the wall, but I haven’t had a problem with it yet (I painted it about 5 years ago).  My kids and their friends are always creating works of art on it.  My original plan was that Grayson would use the chalkboard to practice spelling words and other school related things.  That never happened.  It’s always been used for fun instead. (The chalkboard paint comes in many nice colors, not just black).

The girls drew picture frames, a light switch, an outlet and a chandelier.  I got the idea from a clothing catalog, forwarded the idea onto them and … voila.

The dots at the top of the chalkboard are painted-on dots with glow-in-the-dark paint.  The dots spill over from the ceiling which is covered with “stars”.  When the lights go out at bedtime, the kids feel like they’re sleeping under the stars.  They dots are barely visible during the day on the ceiling, but they’re a bit noticeable against the black chalkboard paint.

Come grow with us!

Water Kefir

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2010 by PickMeYard

Water kefir is our latest obsession.  We love it!  I  recently heard about it for the first time and I had to get some.  I wonder where it’s been all my life.

I find water kefir to be very, very interesting.  Some refer to it as “grains” and some call it “crystals” because that’s what they look like.  The water kefir culture is a mixture of friendly bacteria, yeast and water in a cute little compound.

Water kefir grains… really, really good-for-you bacteria.

The water kefir grains are  loaded with millions and millions of probiotics.  Probiotics kill off bad bacteria and are proven to be beneficial to your health.  A lot of people pay a lot of money to buy probiotic supplements in the stores.  They lose their effectiveness each day that they sit on a store shelf.  Water kefir grains are a fresh source of probiotics.

I researched for hours to find out where water kefir originates.  I’ve found stories about it coming from Mexico, the Caucasus Mountains, Tibet and England.  I’m not sure what to believe.  I do believe that it has been around for centuries… maybe even dating back 1,ooo years.

Are you wondering what to do with them?  The water kefir grains are added to water and sugar.  The grains eat the sugar and create a delicious, carbonated, lacto-fermented drink.  It’s basically a homemade soda.  If we add vanilla, it turns into a cream soda.  Our favorite flavor is ginger-ale made with our backyard-grown ginger.  We also really enjoy it when it’s fermented with dried prunes.  Sometimes, we like to add a slice of Meyer lemon from our tree (we know there are no pesticides on it which would kill the kefir grains.)  

This brew was fermented with dried prunes, dried currants, dried cranberries and dried raisins. The color varies depending on what is in it.

Water kefir grains require maintenance.  They need non-chlorinated water and sugar about every 2 days.  I try to filter my grains out of my current brew and add them to a fresh batch of water and sugar every day.   They always stay at room temperature on my counter, not in the refrigerator.  The grains need oxygen to grow, so the top of the container should only be covered with a paper-towel or cheese cloth and secured with a rubber band.

Jars with fermenting water kefir grains, sugar, dried fruit and water in them. They’re covered with cheese cloth so they can breathe. They are placed in pans with water to keep out ants…just in case.

Once the grains are filtered out of the beverage, then it can be put in the refrigerator.  It’s really refreshing when it’s cold.  If we want to make a really bubbly drink out of it, we leave it at room temperature in an air-tight container for about 1-2 days.  (The kefir grains have been strained out of it at this point and will be used to start a new brew).  I’ve had it produce so much carbon dioxide that the bottle popped like champagne when I opened it.  The fizz hit the ceiling.  My family laughed, but I wasn’t laughing with them.  I had to clean it up,  though it did taste yummy. 

The water kefir grains  grow and mulitply like crazy.  My son has already started a science experiment with his share.  I’ve given some of my extra grains to friends and family and I’m starting to do my own experiments with it. 

My grains love dried fruit.  I make sure it’s unsulphured (sulphur is anti-bacterial) and preservative-free.  We never ferment the grains with honey either.  Honey is an anti-bacterial.  The honey could be added to the drink when the grains have been removed.  I try to use sugar that is made from dried sugar cane juice.  The grains love that too.  I’ve recently started adding a few drops of trace minerals and a smidge of liquid coral calcium to my brew.  This has to be one nutritious drink!

Almost every website that mentions water kefir on the internet says that it shouldn’t come into contact with metal.  That means no metal spoons, containers or filters.  However, Dom’s Kefir website says that he can find no evidence that metal damages the grains.  Dom’s website has a wealth of information on kefir… it’s my favorite. 

I’ve found several recipes for making water kefir.  I’ve been sticking to 4 cups (1 quart) of non-chlorinated water and 1/3 cup of sugar.  I don’t measure my grains, but I’m probably adding about a 1/4 cup of them.  The grains feed off the sugar to produce lactic acid, alcohol (ethanol) and carbon dioxide.  The grains look like they’re alive as they move around the container.  The CO2 gets trapped in the grain and they float.  When the bubble escapes, the grains fall to the bottom.  The longer the kefir ferments, the more folic acid it will have… and alcohol.  It can have from .5% – 2% alcohol depending on how it’s made.  Increasing the sugar, dried fruit and fermentation time will increase the alcohol content.  Brewing it in an air-tight container will also increase the alcohol content. 

I ordered my first batch of water kefir grains from Marilyn Kefirlady.  She also sells the dairy kefir grains, which are an entirely different culture.  I paid $15, plus $5 shipping.  It’s been worth every penny to us.

The best part is… the grains last forever.

Come grow with us!

*Note to Lynne – please contact me again.

Garden Boots

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 7, 2010 by PickMeYard

We’ve been outside enjoying our beautiful weather all week… just in case you noticed that my blog posts have been lacking.  It’s time for Florida vegetable gardeners to get seeds in the ground, so that’s what we’ve been up to.

I planted some succulents in my husband’s retired, Red Wing boots about 9 years ago.  I put them in an out-of-the-way spot and pretty much abandoned them.  They’ve been moved a couple of times, but always forgotten about again.  I just moved them to a new spot where I can see them every time I walk out my door.  After 9 years of zero attention, I can’t even believe how great they look. 

My husband's retired boots.

Garden Boots.

I’ve got another pair of retired boots that my husband just gave me.   

Grayson's next container for his succulent garden.

Come grow with us!