Posted by: Robin Draper on Sunday, November 24, 2013 / 5:00:00 pm / Comments (0)
Gratitude. It runs deep in my nature. It gives me a joy for living. There is so much that I am grateful and passionate about as I live my authentic Florida life. And I am also grateful for all of my loyal readers and friends. You give me inspiration and terrific ideas for travel and living.
My short gratitude list is: faith, family, friends and Florida. My other list, the complete list, is really long, so there is not enough space here to get into it - like most of us, I have a lot to be grateful for. My list, my joy for living, is all about appreciating what we have and sharing our blessings with others. When it comes to Authentic Florida I am grateful for:
• Florida’s top quality state parks, preserves and natural areas, and our abundance of wildlife - so precious in our circle of living
• Florida’s locally grown produce, seafood and fresh agricultural products
• Native flora & fauna, especially food bearing plants, trees and herbs, creating a connection from the Florida soil to my home and kitchen
• The Florida outdoors and the ability to exercise year around whether hiking, biking, paddle boarding, kayaking, horseback riding or yoga on the beach
• Florida artists and authors who inspire us with their creativity
• Authentic Florida homes and decor – bringing the outside beauty into everyday living
All these deepen my passion for Florida living, bringing me joy as I appreciate the treasures of our beautiful and wondrous state.
Thank you for sharing the good life in Florida. From my family to yours, have a delightful and joyous Thanksgiving.
Posted by: Robin Draper on Sunday, November 17, 2013 / 12:00:00 am / Comments (0)
While the rest of the country is preparing for colder weather, we in Florida are fortunate to have a much longer growing season – actually two seasons, fall and spring.
Not only does our state have a rich agricultural community but we as individuals can grow our own food, in small containers, on patios or even in our yards. We can also grow beautiful lawns and landscapes just about all year long. And we can care for our yards using a practice called “Florida Friendly.”
What does that mean?
That means we can create outdoor spaces that adhere to what the experts call a “Florida Friendly Landscaping Plan.” It’s basically a plan to help Floridians develop their yards using common sense ecological principles while protecting our state’s precious water resources. And by the way, the plan saves you money!
The smart plan was hatched by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the University of Florida Institute of Food & Agricultural Science, in cooperation with the state’s water management districts.
I became familiar with the “Florida Friendly” concept when I recently completed my Master Gardener training. I love the concept and have found it to be very helpful as I strive to develop and enhance my Florida yard.
The Florida Friendly Landscaping Plan adheres to nine basic principles that are easy to follow and good guidelines for planning your yard.
Principle #1: Right Plant, Right Place
It’s common sense that certain plants are more suited to areas of your yard than other places. Think about it. If a plant is properly placed, getting the proper amount of sunlight, irrigation and soil conditions, it will require less from the surrounding ecosystem, and will inevitably thrive. Just ask your local nursery to help you choose the right place for your plantings.
Principle #2: Water Efficiently
Properly watering plants when needed is not only smart, but saves you money. It’s common for many of us to over water, which hurts the plants and ultimately costs more. Knowing how much water your plant varieties require is key. Also, during the rainy season checking and adjusting your irrigation system is especially wise.
Principle #3: Fertilize Appropriately
Fertilize your garden at the correct time of year and with the right amount. Pretty simple. This also helps to prevent fertilizer runoff and environmental leaching which gets into our water supply and disturbs the ecosystem.
Principle #4: Mulch
Mulching your yard when appropriate prevents soil runoff, reduces weeds, and retains soil moisture. Consider using natural mulch - pine straw or leaves will protect your plants, while retaining moisture. Another no-brainer.
Principle #5: Attract Wildlife
What could be better than having nature in your yard? Certain practices attract birds and butterflies, and other innocent critters. Plant berry bushes and flowers, install birdbaths and use certain plants, thereby encouraging nature to enjoy our yards while we admire them.
Principle #6: Manage Yard Pests Responsibly
Taking a more cautious, holistic approach to pest management assures that toxic materials do not hurt the environment, nature and humans. This careful approach pays off for all living things.
Principle #7: Recycle
Recycling yard waste from mowing, pruning and raking will save money and enrich your yard. When possible, use a compost pile that provides a perfect place for recycling your yard waste. Then, use the compost as a soil additive for your plants, again saving you money.
It all really does make sense, and when you apply all the principles to enhancing your yard, you’ll see the difference. Happy Florida gardening!
For more information on developing a Florida Friendly Yard, contact your nearest County Extension Office or visit the website http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu.
Posted by: Robin Draper on Sunday, November 3, 2013 / 12:00:00 am / Comments (1)
I remember the first time I saw a Clyde Butcher photograph. It was years ago and I had accidently found his photos while goofing around online.
It was a defining moment for me as my website Authentic Florida was beginning to take shape. Looking at his landscape photographs reminded me of an unspoiled Florida that I remembered as a child. I recognized many scenes, and some I had never encountered. My mission is to discover “real” Florida and I knew that I had found a special inspiration through his work. Wherever Clyde went, I wanted to follow.
There is something so visually magical about black & white photography. For me, the simplicity and purity of the dance between light and shadow allow me to create my own love story with Florida. And I find that I can visualize my own beauty of the particular scene - even without color.
I became so profoundly influenced by his work that it led me to his Venice Gallery. There, I admired his large black and white photos of Florida’s Big Cypress Swamp and many enlarged landscapes of places I wanted to visit in the future.
Based on that trip, I decided to journey to his other gallery, the one down in the Big Cypress Swamp, for something called a “Muck About” that I had learned of during my gallery visit in Venice. It was through the Clyde Butcher Swamp Walk that I became an “active participant” in creating my own personal relationship with the Everglades. I am so grateful for that experience.
Eventually I met him and began a friendship with him and his wife, Niki and daughter, Jackie. Clyde then became a speaker at my Authentic Florida event to benefit Oscar Scherer State Park.
I am grateful for the work of this committed and dear couple, and appreciate their devotion to Florida as well as the direction their work has led me in my own authentic discoveries.
Thank you Clyde and Niki. Viva Florida!
Posted by: Robin Draper on Saturday, October 19, 2013 / 7:00:00 am / Comments (2)
I hear things. Not necessarily things in my head (although possible) but more like the sounds of Florida. That’s because I finally turned off the air conditioner, opened the windows and can now let an authentic Florida fall into my home. I hear birds chirping, squirrels running up and down trees, leaves falling and the wind creating a soft, gentle breeze. It’s almost startling.
People joke that there are no seasons in Florida. But I know exactly when summer ends and fall starts. Fall brings in the splendid beauty of Florida…vibrant purple beautyberries dot the landscape, citrus is beginning to color the area with yellow and orange fruit. The resident red-shouldered hawk has landed outside my kitchen window and it’s time to throw the traps out for stone crab season. The days are shorter and cooler. The sunset is moving south and the rainstorms have lessened.
My vegetable garden is almost planted. It’s also that time of year when local farms are beckoning my return after a long summer while they bring fresh Florida ingredients to the weekly markets.
My cookbooks are stacked in piles with post-its attached to my favorite recipes. My family eagerly anticipates the new dishes I create to celebrate the fall bounty.
It’s also time to plan a wildflower hike and another trek to the Everglades. My binoculars are close at hand as the birds are now migrating and creating a plethora of beauty.
I hear things. The sounds and beauty of fall are everywhere in my Authentic Florida. Can you hear them too?
Posted by: Robin Draper on Saturday, October 5, 2013 / 12:00:00 am / Comments (0)
As I drive around the state, one of my favorite things to do is admire homes that fit well in Florida. What do I mean by that? I enjoy homes that have been designed to suit the lifestyle in which we live. In Florida, we are more relaxed about our way of living because our weather creates an opportunity to design and dwell uniquely, incorporating “Florida” as we see and interpret our own unique space.
I enjoy any dwelling – whether it’s a tent, trailer, apartment, condominium or house that is well placed, well designed and well suited to our individual lifestyle. No matter where you are - north, south, east or west in Florida – central, coastal or in the back woods, every home has a style reflective of our personal taste and surroundings.
Some dwellings are smart, or “green spaces” that utilize and save energy by using shady porches and windows to channel the cross breezes and produce lovely temperatures from fall to spring. Many capture the light, utilizing windows or glass sliding doors with interior spaces that bring the “outside – inside”. Some consider space as a luxury more than a necessity, adopting a philosophy that “less is more”. Others feel more is more. Whatever your choice, it’s yours to live and enjoy.
Nineteenth century Florida cracker homes have experienced a renaissance in the past decade. These wood frame homes, with pre-air conditioning designs, often have high ceilings, metal roofs, raised floors, plenty of windows and large porches for energy efficiency and ventilation. Hallways often go from the front to the back of the house, creating a breezeway.
Modern architectural design often follows an open yet minimalist theme using light, glass and a feeling of spaciousness. Outdoor patios are usually the norm while architects use pocketing glass sliding doors and large openings to make inside rooms and outside patios one big contiguous space.
Today many homebuilders and homeowners are in tune with using recyclable materials such as glass, metals, plastics, and masonry products (Check Florida’s Solomon’s Castle built from recycled metal, car parts and reusable materials). Some homes are brightly colored to reflect our sunsets, ocean views and beaches. Others are more subdued to reflect a greener, woodsy style. For colder areas of the state, bricks and heavier materials protect from cooler temperatures. Many of us have porches to enjoy the outdoors and nature.
Some homeowners plant native trees, grasses, bushes and flowers requiring less water, thereby adding to the health and well being of our environment.
Any way you live, it’s about making it yours, using your own unique creative palette. Most of us know, the “smarter” and more sustainable the home, the better, to protect our state, the environment and nature.
What’s your home like? How does it fit into your Florida lifestyle? What makes it unique? Share your story. We’d love to hear from you.
For information on making your dwelling a smarter Florida home, go to www.flhouse.org, a non-profit organization with a mission to help us create more sustainable living spaces.