Florida Nature App for Kids: mom reviewed

Nature Viewing Along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail,

by Natural Guides, LLC  439MB

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This is a great family app we discovered for the backyard.  Designed with non-experts in mind, this is great for my little gardeners. They can search for and identify flowering plants, butterflies, and birds found in sunny Florida. There is also a nice section on Florida’s unique habitats and state parks.

The app uses child friendly icons and images to identify flowers, butterflies and birds by color, size and appearance.  You can even select the seasons to narrow your searches.  My seven year old says her favorite thing she has identified is a male Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Mom’s favorite thing is how independently they can use the app and still come up with proper identifications.

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Nature Viewing App is supported by:
Florida Museum of Natural History
Florida Wildflower Foundation
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
to name a few.

Hope you are enjoying your own backyard this summer!


bug catching and yard work

Florida summer’s make landscaping and yard work a tough task.  Most summers my husband and I let everything grow wild and then we spend a few weekends in September trimming, clearing, and taking back our property.

While cleaning up the backyard, I gave the little gardeners some free time to do whatever the liked, as long as they stayed out of the way.

My littlest gardener, who is three years old, loves to catch frogs! So, she and her sister built little habitats in some of their beach buckets and spent hours chasing after frogs and lizards. They were so pleased with their efforts! 😉

…and mom was so pleased to get the yard work done! 🙂

Surprise Swallowtails

Last year we started milkweed from seeds hoping they would be ready for the monarchs this summer. We were thrilled when the six plants attracted tons of beautiful monarchs throughout the summer months.  However, we were pleasantly surprised to have swallowtail butterflies join in the fun!

I had harvested more fennel then I could make my family eat, so I decided to let some bolt and seed.  Little did I know the fennel would attract a handful of unique butterflies.

Florida is home to several species of swallowtail. I was never able to get a clear photo of the adults, since it was the larvae that surprised us.  I would have to guess that they were the Palamedes Swallowtail from studying them while they were drinking the zinnia.

Just like the monarchs we found the tiniest swallowtail caterpillars eating the blooms.

Then they would eat and grow, eat and grow.

Then unlike the monarchs, the swallowtail would build their chrysalis on the host plant, or just a few feet away.  This made it easy for the little gardeners to find them and witness their metamorphosis. 

Here’s two hanging in their “J” formation.

They were quick to metaphorize, and we often found the empty chryralises.  One wasp ate a swallowtail that was emerging.

 The little gardeners were amazed with TWO different types of butterflies in our backyard showing us their life cycles.  What a great summer with nature!

It doesn’t take much to excite a Florida gardener about Fall gardening!  Temperature cools off to the lower 90s, a few tiny green acorns on the oaks start to appear, and the raintree blooms yellow in the backyard… AND I have the fall gardening seeds purchased and the fall garden planned. 🙂   This week we’re sowing seeds and working hard, so our next post I will have photos of all our gardening fun.

May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun
And find your shoulder to light on,
To bring you luck, happiness and riches
Today, tomorrow and beyond.
~Irish Blessing

Have a great weekend!


Sweet Potato Teepee

While on Pinterest the other day, I came across this adorable bean teepee:

We weren’t planning on growing beans this year, but sweet pototoes were on the list so we are giving it a try.

First we sprouted some delicious sweet pototoes from our local farmers market.

The sweet potatoes are growing!

And growing!


And starting to grow up the old reclaimed bamboo we had in the shed. I’m thinking I will add a little hemp twine to help support the shoots has they climb.

My little gardeners have lots of plans for their growing teepee. They can’t wait to get their dolls & fairies inside to play. They think they are going to get our cat in the teepee too. ha!

I will post updated pictures as the sweet potatoes continue to grow this summer! Seems summer is already here with temperatures in the 90s and a dry backyard.

Happy Gardening!

Ladybugs on Easter Sunday

For my daughter’s sixth birthday we had a little party, and one of the presents was Pink Spotted Ladybug larvae (coleomegilla maculata)!  Our oldest LOVES raising and releasing insects!  After a week or two of observing their life cycle, we released our ladybugs on Easter Sunday.

Ten little ladybugs arrived in their larva state. They turned yellow in their pupa stage, and then went still as they became adults.  One didn’t make it and one was released a few days after the others.  My oldest enjoyed giving them water and soaked raisins as they molted and became adults.

Things we learned during this experience: 

They really aren’t ladybugs, they are called ladybird beetles.

They will eat aphids, mites, and small caterpillars.

They can be found on the map from South Canada to South America.

They can be white, yellow, pink, orange, red and black.

And some species can have no spots!

It was better to release our ladybugs in the morning time, so after observing and feeding them for a week, we released them in the garden.   My oldest decided to share the experience with her two year old sister, and together they released the ladybugs in my two year’s old garden box. 

The girls ran back and forth to the garden all day and would find one or two ladybugs still crawling all around.   Our Ladybug Land is all washed and cleaned and ready to raise some more.

Happy Gardening!


Giving Thanks


So our little gardeners were under the weather and we had a last-minute change of plans for Thanksgiving this year. We didn’t get to spent the day with family and friends, but we got to do the next best thing… We gave thanks by spending most of the day in the garden! The temperatures really haven’t dropped here in Florida. Mosquitos are still a concern and no one has been able to take the cover of the outdoor fireplace yet. However, Thursday was windy, temperatures were in the low 80s, and it was such a beautiful day!


This year, the day after Halloween, we scored a ton of free pumpkins from our local pumpkin patch!  We have decorated and played with them all month long.  When our Thanksgiving plans canceled we decided to cut them up!  The little gardeners enjoyed comparing the difference in the each pumpkin’s pulp and seeds.  Then we decided to plant some of our marigolds in them (and a lettuce sprout in one too)!  The little gardeners love their new gardening pots.


We transplanted some celery sprouts into the garden (above left), and we are experimenting with a cool variety, Organic John Baer Tomato this fall.


We harvested a couple pounds of collard greens (above left) for our Thanksgiving dinner.  It was the first time I have grown them in the garden.  They were delicious! Today we will harvest our first head of lettuce this season (above right, Bibb).

Cauliflower or Broccoli? We’re not sure, but we hope to find out soon!

Our seaweed mulch has worked out great.  It quickly starting breaking down and our lettuce beds seem to love it!

Seminole Pumpkins 

We had started Seminole pumpkins in the late summer hoping for Halloween or Thanksgiving pumpkins of our own.  Two caterpillar attacks in the garden and I thought I had lost the crop. They have come back beautiful and even though the holidays have passed, we are still hoping to harvest some by Christmas. I have a few excellent recipes for fresh pumpkins…soup, muffins, pancakes & more!


What a beautiful day! Hope everyone had a special Thanksgiving day.

Florida Caverns

Yes, Florida has caverns, even one that you can tour!  We took the little gardeners on their first camping trip to the Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, FL last weekend.  It is about an hour west of the state capital.  The park is the only Florida state park to offer cave tours to the public. We saw limestone stalactites, stalagmites, and soda straws on our tour!  The park is also popular for camping, fishing, canoeing, boating, hiking, and horseback riding.   It was a nice weekend in the wilderness, well as wilderness as I’m going to get with a two year old and a five year old. 😉

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The park and cavern tour were beautiful! It doesn’t matter what nature is gardening, it is always so amazing.

Community Gardening…

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We spent a wonderful morning in the community garden. My little gardener dressed up as a monarch caterpillar for Halloween this year, so she really enjoyed the monarch caterpillars all over the community garden’s milkweed this morning! So cool!

Happy Gardening!

October in the Garden


Since we last posted we have lots to report!  I’m so happy Fall gardening has finally started. I was so over the heat and bugs of the summer!  We added a tiny garden box for my littlest gardener. She is very excited for her own personal gardening space. 😉  We also had a school project that involved the classroom mascot doing a little gardening with us.

We have pulled up the sweet potatoes after having a second caterpillar attack. The vines had taken up more space that I wanted them to, so next year I will plant them in a different area. I was able to harvest a half-dozen sweet potatoes for dinner.

We had to start seeds twice this season, partly because I think I started them too early. The second round is going well! Here are pics of our Bibb lettuce, purple dragon carrots, and collard sprouts. Sprouts not shown: celery, green leaf lettuce, and orange carrots.


Our mystery plant turned out to be a pumpkin. Still not sure how it came to be, or what type of pumpkin it was!?!  The pumpkins were quickly attacked and eaten during our second caterpillar attack.  So I pulled up it, plus it was not planted in an area where it would have had enough room to grow. 


We do have Seminole pumpkins in our backyard, see below. They have recovered well from the caterpillar attacks and we are hoping for Thanksgiving pumpkins!


We do have TWO more mystery plants. I let the little gardeners plant wherever they pleased this season, but I didn’t take the time to label them.  The one below on the right is a seedling from some guerilla gardening seed balls, made by Wall Flower Studio.  I have a seed list of what it could be, but I still don’t have a clue at this stage. Current Guess: some kind of herb. My oldest gardener thinks she planted milkweed in the red pot below.  I do not.  Current Guess: ? It isn’t strawberries.


Some Gardening Troubles:

Our avocado plant is having problems.  I’m looking into brown spots and wilt. I’m thinking I should get it in a bigger pot or in the ground soon.

I have also lost some thyme that I purchased at the farmers market, and some potted parsley that got too dry! Here is a little ICU section of my garden. These are plants that I need to keep an extra eye on. 😉

Lastly, I am happy to report some garlic that has sprouted, almost forgotten from last season. It will be an additional bonus in this season’s harvest! Yum! 🙂

Happy Gardening!

Coloring on the River

While spending the day on the river, I brought along these very cool eco friendly crayons I purchased on Etsy.

Earth Grown Crayons are hand-made from soy wax. Crayons are 100% biodegradable and eco friendly and safe for young artists. Soy is pesticide and herbicide free, and contains no genetically modified material. Tinted with nontoxic pigments, each set is shaped in a design that celebrates one of earth’s treasures.  I selected the fish set for my little girls.

While on our day long boating adventure, we decided to picnic on one of the Intracoastal islands.  After lunch, I brought out the crayons to surprise the girls.  When they asked for paper I told them we were going to draw on nature today. We ventured off into the woods to find some nice pieces of palm bark and wood branches to color. 

While my husband fished and I read a field guide on identifying mushrooms, the girls colored on nature for hours!!!


When it was time to go home, we left the colored wood collection for the fairies. The little ones believe they would come dance around them at dark. 🙂

It was nice to know the cute crayons were both safe for the girls and the environment.