Mother’s Organics engineers compost

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If you’re a gardener, you probably have a compost pile. I know I do. Mother’s Organics has the mother of all compost piles. They are banking on the grow-local movement in a big way.

The Bay Area Daylily Society took a field trip there this past Saturday, March 20th to tour the facility that is on the site of an old marrow pit scraped down to its solid clay floor. They get most of their natural material from Hillsborough County’s yard waste recycling pick up.  It’s piled, ground up, sifted and piled again into “highly engineered” compost rows. Finally, they get high quality soil mediums. In operation for only three years, they’re still experimenting with making a nutritious potting soil. So, what they sell is an amendment.  They also sell mulch, natural fill for erosion control, storm water treatment and grow systems.

I belong to two garden clubs, The Bay Area Daylily Society and the St. Petersburg Garden Club. Both clubs are my main source of earth-friendly information. The garden clubs provide a fix for my addiction to pretty plants to satisfy my eyes and tasty plants to satisfy my palate.

I have always been a little bit “granola,” but I can’t say I’m a vegetarian. In spite of collecting a whole closet full of vegetarian cookbooks, I still can’t make tofu tasty.

Recently, friend from up state New York sent me a magazine she thought I’d like, Edible, with a note attached: “I can’t believe I don’t see more about eating local down there.” Ever since she mentioned that, I have noticed that Sweet Bay advertises produce grown locally. My New York friend wondered whatever happened to all the farm stands she used to see at the intersections.  In fact, the corner stand I bought all my tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, squash, onions, garlic and in-season fruit closed about 3 years ago. I miss them.

So, I did what any gardener would do, I planted my own backyard veggies. Gardeners know it’s all about the soil. Since, the ground in my backyard is mostly sand, I use Earth Boxes (I have 3). The boxes come with a reliable soil recipe, so I’m almost guaranteed success.  But, I digress.

To my New York friend, here’s one way that recycling in Tampa Bay is helping the grow-local movement take root from the ground up.

Hands Across the Sand Could be seen for Miles!

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I joined hands with nearly 1000 of my fellow beach lovers today to show we Love Tourists, Not Drilling! This Florida-wide event took place at 1:30 this afternoon. People showed up wearing black from head-to-toe to symbolize what we want to prevent, a devastating oil spill. Phil Compton, Regional Representative of the Sierra Club showed a map of the oil spill in the Timor Sea superimposed upon the eastern Gulf of Mexico – demonstrating what can happen to pristine beaches and vital water resources if oil drilling is allowed in the eastern Gulf.  Patricia Plantamura, Seminole City Council women & Scott Maddux, candidate for Florida Agriculture & Consumer Services Secretary, each spoke about their opposition to drilling and commitment to clean energy development.  Finally, Robin Grabowski, CEO of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce reiterated the Chamber’s longstanding opposition to drilling & support of coastal protection.

As I looked down the beach from Upham to St. Pete Beach, a black dotted line could be seen all the way down to the Sirata Beach Resort and beyond. It was a great way to show that Floridians are opposed to drilling!

Kayak Trip Cures Cabin Fever!

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The put-in at the end of Weedon Island Park Drive

Here is a 2 minute video of the trip!

I’ve felt like a northerner all month as most days have been gray and cold. For a Floridian, that can cause a serious case of cabin fever.  A sure cure is to get out on the water. That’s what I did this past Saturday, January 23. I joined a group of 11 who booked a trip with professional guide Mike Siebel of Canoe Country Outfitters on a tour of the Weedon Island mangroves. The day started out a little foggy and cold, but blue skies soon opened up a clear view all the way to Howard Frankland Bridge. Experienced kayakers warned me to stay away from the mangroves in low tide.  But Mike made sure we didn’t get out there just to get stuck in the mud and clam beds. At this time of year, the shallow water is pristine. The sky was a cloudless winter blue not often seen in Florida. Herons watched from a safe perch as we paddled by.

Even though trail markers direct kayakers where to go, it’s a confusing route through narrow tunnels that open up to a series estuaries.

Navigating through the mangroves

So it is nice to have an experienced guide leading the way. There is nothing like paddling among these sturdy roots to appreciate how important they are to Tampa Bay.  I’ve sea kayaked in the saltwater marshes off the coast of South Carolina, but I am ashamed to say this was my first trip in my own St. Petersburg backyard.

Towards the end of our three-hour adventure, we broke into a clearing just in time to see the mullet jumping like crazy. I wonder what got them all stirred up? Never did see what was happening, but the mullet were busy! Overhead a flock of white pelicans circled. The area is so rich with fish and wildlife, the Weedon Island Culture thrived here for over 800 years.

If you have a bit of cabin fever, call Mike at Canoe Country Outfitters and book a trip. By the way, he brings all the gear you need.

I went to Cicely, Alaska on my summer vacation

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Wow, it has been three weeks since I made an entry to iblogtampabay! I could have written about Seattle and Ellensburg, WA.  I went to WA on August 31 and spent a week out there. My daughter, Kate is moving to WA to go to graduate school at Central Washington University. She had lots of business to take care of and I went along for the 5 – hour plane ride and subsequent 2- hour drive (it is a long way from Florida!).

I was delighted to discover that the town of Roslyn, the setting for Cicely, Alaska in the 1990’s TV series Northern Exposure, was only about 30 minutes outside of Ellensburg. I had to go! I was a big fan of the show, so it was cool to actually walk into Dr. Joel Fleishman’s office. They will be having a big 20th Anniversary Celebration next year in Roslyn. Maybe I’ll make it!

Dolphin Feeding Frenzy!

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Set up for a day at Indian Rocks Beach

Set up for a day at Indian Rocks Beach

IMG_2709When my kids were little, some of the neighborhood moms and I would get together and take our kids to the beach the week before school began. I must be missing the tradition, because I went out on the kayak again last week. This time my friend Kay and I went in search of dolphin. Wow! We managed to paddle right into the middle of a feeding frenzy! There must have been about 20 dolphins just off Indian Rocks Beach. All I have is this wimpy shot of a dorsal fin to prove it. I was safely back on shore when it occurred to me that dolphin aren’t the only sea creatures with dorsal fins!

Cruising in a Kayak along IRB

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I have kayaked in the salt marshes off North Carolina and canoed down several rivers on Florida’s west coast, but I have never kayaked in the Gulf  off our own beaches! So when a friend invited me to meet her for a kayak trip taking off from her Indian Rocks Beach house, I said, “I’m there!” We launched the kayak at about 9:00 a.m. and already there were many people out. Most were walking. Some were fishing.  It soon became clear that something in the water close to the shore was attracting a lot of attention.  It turned out to be stingrays.  The orange tape surrounding two turtles’ nests on shore was clearly visible from the water. The early morning storms we saw on radar off shore  were moving in. The wind picked up and we saw the dark clouds, lightning, and heard thunder. So we decided to cut our trip short. Within 15 minutes of our return, it was pouring rain.  I rarely go boating, so cruising down the shore in a kayak, as opposed to driving down Gulf Blvd. was a fun diversion.

Do the stingray shuffle

Do the stingray shuffle

Jeweler Evander Preston makes news with beer !

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Pass-A-Grille celebrity  Evander Preston is now serving up  Evander Beer! I’m always  up for trying a new local beer, so I’ll be sure to order it next time I’m at Salt Rock Grill (among other restaurants listed on his web site). The label is kind of scary, but very cool. By the way, you can discover the history of  Pass-A-Grille, one of the last  isolated little beach communities around here. Check it out on the Pinellas Beaches Tour.  Or, you can download just the Pass-A-Grille track for 99 cents from iTunes or Amazon.

No Doubt about it, Doubt is good!

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I went to see a Sunday afternoon performance of Doubt, the play by John Patrick Shanley at the new American Stage Theatre. I went with a friend who is a first grade teacher. She was lamenting that the summer has slipped away because she’s already gearing up for the new school year. Half the fun of going was inviting her. She really needed a day of escape. First we went to Café Alma for brunch. Then we walked about 4 blocks to the new American Stage Theatre. I know, you’re thinking it’s too hot to walk anywhere in the middle of the day. But, the 4- block walk really wasn’t bad.  The show is a 90-minute production without an intermission. All the actors are good, but Christine Decker as Sister Aloysius was the absolute embodiment of righteousness! This play will get you talking! It’s on stage until at least until August 16th. Rumor has it that it might be extended.