Myakka River State Park – Sarasota FL

In in May we celebrated 9 years of marriage with a kid-free camping trip to Myakka River State Park!  My husband, who just started his own blog, wrote about our trip here!  But I wanted to share this unique state park with you too.

One of the oldest state parks in the state, Myakka River State Park is located in the Sarasota area.  I grew up on the East Coast, so Florida’s west coast ecosystem is a new, exciting place to explore.  My favorite part about the park was the 76′ observation tower, as well as the park’s delicious Pink Gator Cafe!  We have been to a lot of state parks, and I never seen such a nice park cafe.  Florida craft beers, alligator stew, and many other healthy choices were on its awesome menu.

We are looking forward to bring the kids back to this beautiful park in the fall!

Hello Blog! Hello Summer Garden!

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Wow, time flies! We haven’t written since spring!  We have been enjoying the summer and all the season brings to our Florida backyard! Sunflowers, tomatoes, and elderberries have been the highlight of our gardening efforts. Florida’s beaches, state parks, and local farms have been our sources for summer entertainment.

We purchased a new blender, and have been exploring the world of green smoothies.  My little gardeners delivered a few salad baskets to loved ones, and we are anxiously awaiting our first harvest of pineapples!

 

But the best thing I have to report since I last blogged… is my husband and sweet girls gave me a lemon tree for Mother’s Day!

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 Happy Gardening, Bee

Children’s Book Review: Green by L. V. Seeger

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I am passionate about children’s books. We visit our local library at least once a week, and if you looked at my Amazon account you would see most of my purchases are for childrens books! ;)

One of my 2014 blogging goals was to sit down and share some of our favorite books. All book reviews will focus on environmental themes in children’s literature.

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Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

A satisfying homage to green, the color of all creation.

Subtle cutouts on each beautifully illustrated page of Green gave surprise and delight to my little readers. This book promotes curiosity and attention to detail.  The die cut pages hidden among the richly painted images keeps the audience lingering on each page.

Most children think of primary colors and this book gives a beautiful insight to shades and hues of colors.  Our favorite hue of green mentioned in the book was the ‘khaki green’ lizard.

Green does an excellent job promoting care for our environment while teaching colors.

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Another one of our favorite Laura Vaccaro Seeger books for children is First the Egg–a Caldecott Honor Book and a Geisel Honor Book.

Happy Reading!

Gardener’s Giveaway: Aquarian Bath

We are super excited to announce another spring giveaway, perfect for all our gardening friends and followers!!!

Aquarian Bath is another backyard Florida gardener, and an excellent soap maker, who has graciously offered to give away some amazing handmade items on our blog!!!

One lucky winner will receive these beautiful items:

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Aquarian Bath‘s gardener’s soap is made with fine pumice, ground rosemary and poppy seeds. Use it after gardening to gently remove dirt. This soap is scented with an herbaceous blend of Lemongrass, Rosemary and Lavender.  This soap just received a new look; each bar is hand stamped with Aquarian Bath’s 3D printed ‘gardener’s soap’ stamp.

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This flaxseed neck pillow would make a great gift for a gardener with its whimsical garden themed print. Aquarian Bath makes these pillows unscented or scented with 100% Organic herbs. Pillows can be used hot out of a microwave or cold out of the freezer, which is a really great option for a Florida gardener. Aquarian Bath pillows make great cold packs for injury as well.  These herbal pillows are packaged in Biodegradable Cellophane bags with microwave instructions.

Excited?! You should be, I have personally used Aquarian Bath products and they are amazing!!!

Just click on the link below to ENTER TO WIN!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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One of Aquarian Bath’s beautiful garden beds!

Shop Aquarian Bath or visit her booth at the 18th Annual Seaside Herb Society Faire in Ormond Beach March 22nd.

This giveaway is open to US residents age 18 and over. Good Luck!!!

Fennel Thoughts & Recipes from the Garden

Black Swallowtail caterpillar on blooming fennel. Copyright 2013 Backyard FL Gardening.

Anyone eat fennel?! I have lots in the garden right now, and I am always looking for new ways to get my little gardeners to eat it. It is a great host plant for Black Swallowtails. The plant attracts the entire life cycle of the butterfly (eggs, larvae and chrysalis), which my little gardeners love, but some of it needs to be harvested this spring!

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Fennel tastes like a combination of celery, licorice and leeks and is used in many Mediterranean dishes. It can be eaten from the top to the bottom as all parts are useful.  The bulb part is our favorite and should be pale green and firm when harvested. Flowers on the stalk indicate that the plant is past its prime and should not be selected.  Unwashed fennel bulbs should be stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.  When ready to use it, wash and cut bulb in half to remove the hard core.

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Young fennel

Our favorite way to eat fennel is in our chili and lasagna! The little gardeners never notice.  Here are some other delicious recipes I have found online:

Fish with Fennel & Tomato This recipe calls for tilapia, but any white fish will do!

Braised Chicken with Fennel and Apples

Tomato – Fennel Soup with Brie Toast

Please feel free to share your fennel recipes in the comments!!!

Congratulation to Kayla, Dee, and Irineo! They were selected as the winners of our spring seed giveaway!  We are excited to announce another giveaway next week!  Sponsored by the awesome Aquarian Bath! Stay tuned for details…

Early Spring Update & Seed Giveaway!

We have been enjoying another mild Florida winter. Our backyard gardening efforts have been successful and our little garden has big plans in 2014!

2014 Online

I spent some time updating our website and renewing our url in January. I added a local Florida Seed Supplier page to our website, and I am working on a new Local Nurseries page this month!  However, I am most excited to share the new photo collection on our (right) sidebar. I love the collection of photos available after years of posting here.

Early Spring in the Garden

We have had lots of fresh broccoli for dinners this first part of the year.  Our cauliflower and red cabbage should be ready in a few weeks!  The herbs all came inside for the winter, and I love having their smell in the house. One of the larger garden beds is getting new soil and getting ready for spring seeds, and we are still eating fresh lettuce and carrots from winter’s efforts!

Even though it has been a mild winter, we still have had some frost.  I am surprised at the number of flowers still blooming in our backyard. They have been protected by the fence and house, so they have continued giving us a little bit of color all winter long!

Seed Giveaway!

My little gardeners think we have too many seeds… and they just might be correct!  So here’s a seed giveaway to make room for more, and to support our Facebook page! Win some flower seeds for your garden! We will send three winners a variety pack of flower seeds, all organically grown in our backyard, and collected by our family! Let’s plant some flowers and make the bees and butterflies happy this spring!

Just click on Rafflecopter link below (if entry box is not appearing).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway starts February 19th, 2014 at midnight and ends February 26th, 2014 at midnight. Good Luck!

Black Elderberry Magic

As we gear up for the winter holiday season, we should also be preparing for the cold and flu season.  I’m not writing to you about any Black Friday deals this week, I’m talking about Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra), one of the most underestimated berries out there!!!

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Black elderberry has been used in medicine for hundreds of years, and many published studies are demonstrating it may effectively treat the flu, alleviate allergies, and boost overall respiratory healthy (among other things). A quick Google search and you will find lots of information!  Two years ago we decided to grow our own elderberry (Sambucus nigra subspecies Canadensis). The flowers smell lovely and we use them in our summertime teas!

Here are some ways you can incorporate this amazing herb into your diet! Since I started my elderberry hunt, I have come across the following:

Fresh elderberries (summer time)

Elderberry juice

Elderberry teas

Elderberry liquid extract

Elderberry gummy vitamins

Black Elderberry extract spray

Elderberry syrup

Elderberry jam

I have also found elderberry wine, although I have not tried it yet. ;)   Elderberry is being incorporated into more and more products each year. Check with your local specialty food or whole foods store to find all of the products listed above.  Or grow your own! It is very easy to grow in Florida, although it can get up to 13 ft in height so make sure you have the space.  Here is an article on growing Elderberry in Florida.

I would like to note here, I am not advocating any company or product, just the berry itself.  Personally we use an alcohol-free extract spray and my little gardeners really like Dino Elderberry Yummy Gummy vitamins. Our western culture needs to re-discover this native plant! It has so many uses, and is a wonderful attraction for birds, butterflies, and pollinators in any garden!

Wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday season!

~Bee

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