Walk Leaf-strewn Trails in a Florida Forest

Walk Leaf-strewn Trails in a Florida Forest

My dogs like walking the Sand Hill Trail at Silver Springs State Park in Ocala. Often we’re the first ones walking the leaf-strewn path and that means our chances of seeing wildlife are pretty good.

florida forest - inside silver springs state park
Sand hill pine trail at Silver Springs State Park, Ocala

A fact of life – the first one down the trail sees the wildlife, which promptly vanish now that humans have arrived. People who come along later are left saying “What? Did someone see something? What?”

One early morning we saw something quite wonderful – three white-tailed deer came out of the woods about 50 feet ahead of us.

Here’s what happened next: All three bounded into the air at the same time, legs bent, their white tails flashing straight up. With that leap in unison they looked just like Lipizzaner Stallions. Running for a few steps, they crossed the trail and leaped up into the air again all at the same time. I’m thinking they had secret walkie-talkies tucked somewhere and a director giving dance directions.

My dogs sat down to watch the show. The three deer leaped again in unison and disappeared into the trees. I felt like clapping.

Take a walk on the wild side in a Florida forest

It was a “you had to have been there” moment. You only get those moments by venturing into the trees, walking trails in the woods, hanging out in wildlife habitat.

A walk in Silver River State Park can be found in Chapter 26 “Two Rivers Run Through It” in my guide book “50 Great Walks in Florida.”

florida forest
gnarled trees at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

There are plenty of opportunities to go where the trees are. Florida has 35 state forests , 151 state parks, 11 national parks, 28 national wildlife refuges and three national forests ( Ocala, Apalachicola and Osceola). Add to this city and county parks, Greenways, plus the Florida Trail and the possibilities get really interesting.

florida forest
florida forest

Right now forests are in winter mode. Leafy trees are pretty bare, their naked branches opening up sky vistas not seen before. Some late fall color shows in the leaves fallen to the ground.

florida forest - pine cone

Pine cones are scattered everywhere. Pine trees show off green needles against a cloudless blue winter sky. A breeze kicks up. Late fall leaves spiral down to the ground. We walk on a carpet of pine needles and leaves.

Ah, big plus coming up – the cooler weather means no deer flies and no mosquitoes. No bugs? That is a reason to lace up your walking shoes and get going.

One warning – national forests and conservation areas allow hunting in certain areas in winter months, always check their Web sites or phone before you go. I do not advise walking in any area open to hunting.

The dogs and I walk all seasons of the year. It never fails to surprise me that you can get just a short way down a forest trail and the thickness of trees blocks out the city sounds of traffic. So quiet at first then the forest sounds take over.

I’ve come to appreciate that forests are a huge part of this simple statement – everything is connected.

At Silver River State Park, for example, all of the park, and the land on which we walk, is a water recharge area for the Silver River. In Ocala National Forest the “jewels of the Ocala” – Alexander Springs, Juniper Springs, Salt Springs and Silver Glen Springs are vital natural resources protected by being part of a national forest.

florida forest - horseshoe lake
Canoes at Horseshoe Lake, Marion County


Forests are diverse ecosystems with diverse recreational activities. Walk, bike, use the OHV trail system, go where there are horse trails, take a canoe to the water’s edge and start paddling, swim, camp, scuba dive, snorkel, picnic, bring your paint box and paint a stately oak tree, fish, sit quietly and commune with nature. Pick one or more.

Whew! What a great way to start 2012.

Florida Favorites
In my Florida travels I meet fantastic people who are travel writers, residents, newcomers, guides and entrepreneurs, all are digging into the Florida places they love and finding treasures worth keeping. Here is Joan Landis, a Florida Audubon member who is just starting out her writing career. Her bio is below with an e-mail address to comment on her contribution to this month’s forest theme:

About Joan:

Joan Landis grew up in Texas spending summers fishing in South Padre Island, exploring the seashore and imagining the adventures the sea and world would bring her. Her career in sales brought much travel and new trails to explore. Fishing, Scuba Diving, Hiking and now Birding, Joan has spent her life enjoying nature and learning from it. Joan has experienced a wide variety of wilderness habitats from living in the Florida Keys to the Inside passage of Alaska. While living in Juneau, Alaska she joined the sisterhood of “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” learning skills that led to wonderful adventures and people that will be forever friends. Camping has been one of her passions and over the years, she has taken multi-day trips in the Alaskan back country where there are more bears than people and paddling trips through the 10,000 islands in the Everglades. Along the way discovering, experiencing and meeting some of the most interesting people and places one can only imagine. Joan’s passion for the wilderness and conservation has been a thread throughout her life and now she’s sharing some of her wonderful and life-changing experiences. You can reach Joan at: [email protected]

A Symphony in a Florida Forest

Tourists swarm like mosquitoes come January in the Everglades. Craving relief, I decided to try the Pineland Trail. As soon as I ducked through the big gate, I knew I’d found my sanctuary.

I was overtaken by the silence of the woods. An old logging road jutted through the forest, barely visible under a thick carpet of pine needles. The brown needles muted my footfalls and provided a dramatic contrast to the riot of green under story and the tops of the slash pines above. Through the open canopy, I could see the sky gathering clouds.

florida forest

A few steps in, I entered the world of the forest and the outside world disappeared. Seemingly silent at first, I soon became aware of my surroundings and began to hear the woodland sounds. A giant striped dragonfly skimmed right in front of me, its wings softly fluttering as it worked the tall grasses. The sound of its wings was rhythmic. A crunch and rustle got my attention next and I followed the sound to a small squirrel darting across the forest floor. As it raced away, the skittering sound faded and created a backdrop to the cadence of the dragonfly wings.

florida forest

Each step further into the forest, I heard more of the melody the forest played for me. The raspy sound of leaves moving across a limestone formation introduced another layer to the riff. Studying its ancient fissures, I wondered what might live there now when so long ago this rock was caressed by the Atlantic. Mesmerized, I stepped further into the enchanted forest.

I saw a standing dead tree and the forest symphony grew louder as it played back the cacophony of a ravaging lightning fire that ripped its bark and threw it in chunks to the ground, gnarling its crown. The rattle of wind through a stand of pines that were leaning but not toppled lent percussion to the verse describing Hurricane Wilma’s blustery visit.

The sounds that the forest gave up were its signature opus. The symphony I heard that day had been evolving over eons, with all the changes in the forest both subtle and grand tuning and refining its chorus. No two-day’s songs are ever the same. So the next time you’re looking for a retreat, go out and listen to the sounds of the forest. It will play for you its newest notes.


Jan. 13-15 – Eighth annual Southwest Florida Nature Festival
Jan. 13-15 – 35th annual Art Deco Weekend, Miami. Read about taking an Art Deco walk in North Miami Beach in Chapter 44 “The Delight of Deco” in my book “50 Great Walks in Florida” available on my Web site.
Jan. 14 – Edison Day of Discovery 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Florida Gulf Coast University, free, Fort Myers
Jan. 28 – Gasparilla Pirate Festival, Tampa


Sholom Park in Ocala has peaceful paths

Tarpon Springs gives a taste of Greek life

Florida history makes a great walk in DeLand

Peace River Seafood & More in Punta Gorda

Peace River Seafood & More in Punta Gorda
Peace River Seafood - blue crabs
Peace River Seafood – blue crabs, Punta Gorda

Got crabs? The Peace River Seafood Market & Restaurant in Punta Gorda does. Lots of them. Stone crab claws in season along with whole blue crabs that turn from blue to an outrageous shade of orange when they’re steamed.

Peace River Seafood - waiter Chris Molinet
Waiter Chris Molinet serves a container of blue crabs at Peace River Seafood

Ah, to me a meal in this old cracker house turned restaurant is heaven unfolding. A bucket of steamed blue crabs arrives. Let the serious eating begin.

Peace River Seafood – let serious eating begin

From the water to your plate, the seafood here is that fresh. After dinner, surrounded by blue crab shells, blissfully full and impressed with a friendly, efficient staff (they keep the crabs coming) – I realized this meal inside an off the beaten path restaurant spoke volumes for the city of Punta Gorda itself – a vibrant, energetic, off the beaten path place that hums with friendly people who care about their community plus, and this is a big plus, Punta Gorda has a full catch of delights from waterfront walks and gallery walks to serious fishing, elegant places to stay and fresh seafood.

Historic Downtown Punta Gorda has this motto: “It’s happening on the Harbor.”

Indeed it is happening on Charlotte Harbor. Devastated by Hurricane Charlie in 2004 that caused $3.2 billion worth of damage in Punta Gorda and Charlotte County, the spirit to rebuild includes the theme of connectivity.

One result: The Punta Gorda Harborwalk is a long walkable/bikable connection. It goes from the west end of Gilchrist Park next to Fishermen’s Village east about 2.3 miles and ends near a medical center.

Peace River seafood and more -harborwalk Punta Gorda
Punta Gorda Harborwalk

What a great promenade – the Harborwalk has winding wide sidewalks, trees, benches, overlooks. On some parts you can walk your dog, other parts are a no-no. Watch for signs.

Harborwalk is a great promenade in Punta Gorda

Plans are to eventually have a Ring Around the City, about 18 miles of bicycle and pedestrian trains and paths connecting Punta Gorda’s neighborhoods, parks and commercial areas. Super!

While cars whiz by overhead on two bridges (US 41 going north and south) walkers, joggers, and bikers can go under the bridges in style. For those who like a bit of uphill, there are walkways on the bridges. Left your bike at home? Not to fret. There are free canary yellow bicycle loans with three locations on this walkway – Fishermen’s Village, Four Points by Sheraton and Dockmaster’s building at Laishley Park.

Peace River seafood and more - loaner bikes downtown Punta Gorda
Punta Gorda has a free bike loaner program

I stayed at Four Points by Sheraton and literally walked right out the front door, turned left, and there was the bike rack and the Harborwalk. Perfect.

Everyone I passed on my early morning stroll, walkers, joggers and bikers, said “Hello” or “Good morning”. What a great way to start the day. A crabber had a full bucket of crabs. Wading birds worked the shoreline. Dolphins swam in the Harbor.

Peace River seafood and more - breakfast at Elenas in Punta Gorda
breakfast at Elena’s, Punta Gorda

Later I had breakfast at Elena’s, 615 Cross Street, phone (941) 575-1888, a friendly, family place with funky turquoise and purple booths. Located in the Cross Trails Shopping Center, it came recommended by locals and I can now add my two thumbs up, especially the hash browns.

Punta Gorda is the kind of place where you come across it by accident or design, take a look around, and end up staying for the next 20 years or more.

“I sailed into Charlotte Harbor 20 years ago to see my brother and stayed,” said Charles Peck, a fine artist who turned his talents to murals. He has just finished a mural of the old hotel in downtown Punta Gorda, and has others to his credit.
“We are in a transient society,” Peck said. “These murals create a sense of social continuity.”

Peace River seafood and more - charles Peck, mural painter
Charles Peck, artist, with hotel mural, Punta Gorda

All murals, 22 and counting, have a historic theme and are presented by the Punta Gorda Historic Mural Society that has its office at 715 Monaco Drive, Punta Gorda, phone (941) 575-0785.

Peace River seafood and more - murals in downtown Punta Gorda
Cattle Drive down Marion Avenue mural section, Punta Gorda

In a different vein, for a look at wildlife rescue, visit Peace River Wildlife Center at 3400 West Marion Avenue, phone (941) 637-3830, inside Ponce de Leon Park.

With each new find it became obvious that Punta Gorda can’t be seen and experienced in a day or overnight, give yourself several days to soak up the vibes and the smiles.

Note: Many thanks to the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau for coordinating our trip and to the Four Points by Sheraton Punta Gorda Harborside for providing accommodations.

Jennifer Huber, Tourism Public Relations Manger for the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau sums it up well:
“There are lots of reasons to be here, very active in the wintertime from November to Easter. People here care about conservation. They care about each other. People have specifically chosen to live here and they bring their values with them.”

Upcoming in Punta Gorda:

Annual Christmas Light Canal Tours, Friday, Dec. 2-Saturday, Dec. 31, call (941) 639-0969.

Annual Peace River Lighted Boat Parade (941) 639-3720, begins at dusk on Sunday, Dec. 11, free. Location: Charlotte Harbor.

Festival of Lights, Fishermen’s Village, through Dec. 31


Art and food go together in Puerto Vallarta

Mount up -horseback riding in Florida

Key Largo has conch fritters calling your name

Olde Englewood Village Plus Charlotte Harbor

Olde Englewood Village Plus Charlotte Harbor

Come to the second annual Authors Book Fair!

Admission is free. Parking is free.

Saturday, Oct. 15 from 11-3 at the Deltona Regional Library.

It is an event so full of energy and creativity you will come away inspired and hopefully loaded down with new books.

I’ll be there with my new book “Florida Gardens Gone Wild”.

Stop by my table!

There are authors reading, classes, a sweet lunch place, lots of authors to meet and all this happens inside a library!

How cool is that?

See you!

A feature story from Lucy

Olde Englewood Village has artist’s point of view

New energy. That is exactly what blew into the Olde Englewood Village art scene five years ago and quickly fanned new expressions – exhibits, galleries, an arts learning center, murals and fantastic benches – this outdoor seating is both lovely to look at and even comfortable for sitting – a rare combination.

Englewood - painated benches
Englewood – painated benches

Twenty benches are installed in Olde Englewood Village on Lemon Bay. Twenty more are on the way. These benches are original from the ground up.

These benches were designed and built structurally to last, with a normal bench look in the front and reinforced metal structure in the back. Artists paint the benches while words are embedded on the sides – there are quotes from famous people and quotes from locals too.
Benches cost about $700 each, the money coming from donations and development funds.

Historic Dearborn Street, the main drag for Olde Englewood Village, is a good venue for this public art. The street is lined with old buildings from fishing village days, now housing antiques, art, boutiques, dining and that vital ingredient for caffeine addicts like me, a really good coffee shop called Roasters Coffee Bar.

Roasters is across the street from the Arts Alliance of Lemon Bay, a big exhibit and learning center, and you could say this is where the new breeze originated.

“It always takes a couple of people to come in with new energy and make things happen, ” said Stephanie Borchard, president of the Arts Alliance of Lemon Bay. Founding members five years ago include Borchard and Diane Davidson.

In addition to bright benches, check out the murals on Dearborn Street and nearby. Just a two block walk from historic Dearborn Street takes you to the Tiki Bar at the Royal Palm Marina in Lemon Bay, right on the Intracoastal (ICW Marker 30).

Olde Englewood Village - fish murals
Olde Englewood Village – fish murals

Over the course of a month different artists painted twenty murals. Using large slabs of seawall as their canvas, the themes were either nautical or historical Florida. It is well worth a walk around to see them all.

Olde Englewood Village - fish mural

The new arts wind in Englewood found easy acceptance in a town that likes its artists and says so on street signs.

Olde Englewood Village - artist street sign
Olde Englewood Village – artist street sign

Just drive along and check out the street signs with names like Artists Way or Van Goth. You get the idea.

Artist Lois Bartlett Tracy painted masterpieces here and her legacy continues at Artists Acres in Englewood. Her grandson Todd Tracy and his wife Mary Tracy, a residence designer carries the artist community spirit, including residence cottages, forward. Her vibrant, tropical homestead is preserved along with her studio, which can be visited by appointment.

Olde Englewood Village - artist home
Olde Englewood Village – artist home

It comes as no surprise to see the street outside Artists Acres is named Artists Avenue.

I know you are going to ask – where is Englewood? Definitely off the beaten path, Englewood is one hour south of Sarasota and one hour north of Fort Myers. It is well worth a visit.

Come to see the vibrant art scene, stay to put some sand between your toes at their great beaches.

Olde Englewood Village - beaches nearby
Olde Englewood Village – beaches nearby

©2011 Lucy Beebe Tobias


In my Florida travels I meet fantastic people who are travel writers, residents, newcomers, guides and entrepreneurs, all are digging into the Florida places they love and finding diamonds. Here is Jennifer Huber, Public Relations Manager, Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau, telling about her job in her own words:

Jennifer Huber – Telling the Story of Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands

Navigate a kayak through a mangrove tunnel. Whack a steamed blue crab with a wooden mallet while sitting in a Florida cracker house. Cheer on the Tampa Bay Rays during spring training. These are some of the stories I tell as public relations manager for the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau.

“You have a difficult job,” a travel journalist once told me. Why? “Because Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands is geographically large and diverse,” she said.

Three days was not enough to experience all there is to do. During her stay, I arranged for her to enjoy the serenity of Don Pedro Island, a beach getaway only accessibly by car ferry or boat, and see the renaissance of Punta Gorda.

charlotte harbor things to do

She rode a swamp buggy with Babcock Wilderness Adventures (www.babcockwilderness.com), ogled over one man’s affinity for speed at Muscle Car City (www.musclecarcity.net), viewed where many retired circus and abused exotic animals live out their lives at Octagon Wildlife Refuge (www.octagonwildlife.org), and saw tender care administered to native wildlife at Peace River Wildlife Center (www.peaceriverwildlifecenter.com). A boat tour up the Peace River and a self-guided mural walking tour of Punta Gorda rounded out her trip.

Charlotte Harbor - things to do

My job is to connect with travel journalists and encourage them to visit then share their Charlotte Harbor stories with their audience. I work with a variety of electronic and traditional print travel journalists and pitch story ideas, plan itineraries to fit their story needs, and stay connected through old fashioned means and social media.

It’s a great sense of accomplishment picking up a newspaper, magazine or guidebook or opening a website link and reading a travel journalist’s Charlotte Harbor story. It means we’ll soon be welcoming more visitors to our part of Florida.

Jennifer Huber
Public Relations Manager, Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau
[email protected]


October 2-9, 2011 — Amelia Island Jazz Festival. The Amelia Island Jazz Festival always kicks off with a FREE concert for the community and visitors. During the week long festival, music fans enjoy a diversity of styles ranging from traditional New Orleans jazz and big band swing to bebop and contemporary. Presenting a full slate of established jazz recording artists, past festivals have featured Grammy Award-winning musicians like saxophonist, David Sanborn and pianist Ramsey Lewis. The 2011 Amelia Island Jazz Festival features Grammy Award-winner Buckwheat Zydeco plus Nicole Henry. Expect a full roster of talented musicians and venues at Amelia Island’s Jazz Festival in 2011. Check out the official Amelia Island Jazz Festival website for all details or call 904-504-4772.

14th annual Greek Festival
Friday, Oct. 7 – Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011

St. Augustine, FL 32084

Local Phone: 904.829.0504

Website: http://www.stauggreekfest.com

Come join the fun and experience St. Augustine’s fascinating Greek Heritage at the 14th Annual Greek Festival hosted by Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. Enjoy a delicious assortment of Greek foods, pastries and beverages along with nonstop entertainment with live Greek music and performances by Greek dance troupes. Location: Francis Field Hours: 4 to 9 p.m. on Friday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission: $2, children under 12 are free.

La Florida Festival
Saturday, Oct. 8 – Monday, Oct. 10, 2011
Paul Morris Park , 1401 South River Road , Englewood
La Florida Festival

Forgotten Coast Black Bear Festival
October 15, 2011
Sands Park, Carrabelle, Florida
The festival is an opportunity for Floridians of all ages to learn about wildlife and the environment around them. This years’ celebrations will include favorite programs such as the “Procession of Species” parade produced by Carrabelle Cares, bear and bird field trips to Tate’s Hell State Forest and a workshop on living with bears and bear-proofing your trash. We are adding some terrific new programs such as our “Bear Banners” created through a program with local school children. We will be giving a nice prize for the best home baked pie brought to the festival. Prizes will also be offered for the best original painting and sculpture displayed at the Festival. The festival will have live music, stories and tall tales told and read by local residents and authors. There will be food, arts and crafts for sale, a raffle and lots of fun for all.


Art and food go together in Puerto Vallarta

Hogtown Creek Greenway walk in Gainesville

Seeing sandhill cranes at Paynes Prairie

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in Cross Creek

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings  in Cross Creek

marjorie kinnan rawlings - typewriter

She often started her day on the front porch. A small manual typewriter awaited her words. But I like to imagine Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings ignored the typewriter at first. I picture her comfortable in her chair at the big round wood table, coffee mug in hand, easing into the morning routine one sip at a time.

Marjorie inhaled the fragrance of orange blossoms right outside her front door and worried how she was going to afford living in her piece of paradise.

And worry she did. We forget that part. At the beginning of her Cross Creek years Rawlings was not rich and famous. She had not yet written “Cross Creek” or won the 1939 Pulitzer Prize for “The Yearling” – a book written on this very porch.

She came to Cross Creek with her husband Charles Rawlings in 1928 hoping to make a home and have a place to write. The dream faded. They divorced in 1933. Charles moved on, leaving behind his hunting dog, a black and white spotted hound named Mo. I picture Mo on the porch with Marjorie, tail thumping the wooden boards when she reached down to scratch him behind the ears.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings found her home in Cross Creek

Marjorie stayed at Cross Creek after the divorce. How could she not? Here is what she said in 1928 when she first arrived:

” When I came to the Creek, I knew the old grove and the farmhouse at once as home.”

Like many women suddenly left to their own devices through divorce or death Marjorie got creative in a hurry. This was not an easy assignment in the Great Depression years. She and her help raised chickens and planted a vegetable garden. There were orange trees on the property. She doubled their number. For a few years oranges provided the main income.

Writing was secondary. One of her early novels was serialized in a magazine – one chapter a month. Pecking away at the typewriter on the porch, she sent chapter by chapter off in the mail then anxiously awaited her checks.

Inside her home, now a National Historic Landmark, one room is set aside to showcase her books. On a top shelf are copies of “The Yearling” translated into different languages. Park Ranger Sheila Barnes tells me Rawlings was fortunate to write at a time when reading ruled. Television and computers didn’t exist. Readers devoured books, especially novels and writers made a living.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings - books

For the second edition of “The Yearling” famed illustrator N.C. Wyeth came and stayed three weeks at Cross Creek. It was his first visit to Florida, the first time he ever painted Spanish moss on a tree or captured the quality of late afternoon sunlight on Orange Lake. His illustrations are displayed in a calendar in the reading room.

When I visited recently Barnes came walking towards the gate wearing a period dress from the 1930s. Trotting alongside her was a dog that looked a lot like the old photographs of Mo standing next to Rawlings.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings - Sugar the dog

This dog is Sugar, a spotted hound rescued from a shelter. Since park personnel interpret the seasonal life at Cross Creek, it was determined a dog could be added to staff interpretation if it got along well with people and fit the description of dogs owned by Rawlings. Sugar fills the bill beautifully.

Rawlings died in 1953. Her Cross Creek homestead is southwest of Gainesville on County Road 325 and it is a state park.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park
is described in its brochure as an “inspirational literary landmark”. A large plaque informs visitors that the house and farmyard were designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006. And in 2008 Marjorie even got her own U.S. Postal Service stamp as part of honoring the literary arts.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote her books while sitting on the porch

When I visit this piece of Old Florida I always feel I’ve stepped onto sacred ground, sacred for a writer anyway, especially the porch. I look at the little typewriter, the vase of fresh flowers nearby, a large glass ashtray next to the typewriter and it seems so immediate. Perhaps Marjorie will be back any minute, sit down at the typewriter and tap away.

The staff clearly loves this place, keeping the kitchen in working order and planting the garden with seasonal vegetables. Both Barnes and Park Manager Valerie Rivers dress in period costume. Staff plus a dedicated group of volunteers contribute to the sense that the past is present.

Visitors can become enchanted easily. You can almost hear Rawlings saying these words:

“I do not understand how any one can live without some small place of enhancement to turn to.”

Enchantment is a marvelous word. Cross Creek was Marjorie’s enchantment.

At the end of the day Rawlings came to understand something quite profound – that we are all caretakers, not owners, of this earth we call home. She closes her book “Cross Creek” with these words:

“It seems to me that the earth may be borrowed but not bought. It may be used but not owned. It gives itself in response to love and tending, offers its seasonal flowering and fruiting. But we are tenants and not possessors, lovers and not masters. Cross Creek belongs to the wind and the rain, to the sun and the seasons, to the secrecy of seed, and beyond all, to time.”

©2008 Lucy Beebe Tobias. All rights reserved. For reprint information, contact [email protected]
Lucy Beebe Tobias is the Authentic Florida Expert for VISIT FLORIDA and the author of “50 Great Walks in Florida.”

What: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park, 18700 S. County Road 325, Cross Creek, Fl. 32640, phone: (352) 466-3672
Hours: Farmyard and trails open 9-5 every day.
Park Admission Fee: $2 per vehicle
House Tour: A tour inside the house from October through July on Thursday through Sunday at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. and each hour from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Tour Fee: $3 per adult, $2 children 6-12, under the age of six are free
Next door: M.K Rawlings County Park with boat ramp access to Orange Lake


Cedar Key is at the end of the road, literally

Florida art museums are cool

Hogtown Creek Greenway Walk in Gainesville

Pumpkin Pie from Scratch is a Winner

Pumpkin Pie from Scratch is a Winner

We thought it was cool to raise one eyebrow really high and cock your head to one side, like your face was saying “WHAT? YOU EXPECT ME TO BELIEVE THAT?????”

I’d practice in front of a mirror but both eyebrows shot up. Hey, we were teenagers with time on our hands. It was before computers and cell phones.

The other day I told a friend of mine that I was going to make a pumpkin pie from scratch. She raised one eyebrow so high it almost touched her hairline and, in the classic pose, she tipped her head to one side. Then she said “How in the world do you make a pumpkin pie from SCRATCH?” and I knew she was really thinking “YOU EXPECT ME TO BELIEVE THAT?”

Pumpkin Pie from scratch is fun to make

It surprised me that even after all these years I could be jealous when someone could raise just one eyebrow. Plus, silly me, I’m surprised about the pie. I thought everyone made pumpkin pie from scratch. It is the best. Beats canned by a country mile. But no, all over America men and women are waiting for the canned pumpkin to go on sale so they can stock up to make a bland uninteresting pie.

Well, why wait? You can do pumpkin pie from scratch. Let’s be authentic. Take my hand. Together we’ll make the real deal step by step:
1. First, buy a small pumpkin. These have the best taste. The big ones are good for Halloween, that’s about it.

2. Cut it in half. Use a big, sharp knife. Do this carefully.

3. Scoop out the seeds with an ice cream scoop. Some folks like to roast the seeds. Roasting and eating them is too much trouble so I don’t do this part. But I am going to plant some in the garden and see what develops.

4. Place the two halves in a baking pan. Put in about one inch of water. Bake about 45 minutes at 325 degrees or until done (a knife goes in easily)

5. Turn cut halves up. Put aside to cool. When cool scoop out the pumpkin meat with the ice cream scoop. From a small pumpkin you will get about one cup of delicious, cooked, fresh pumpkin. Recycle the pumpkin skin into your compost bin (don’t have a compost bin? Now is a good time to start).

6. Use in the pumpkin pie recipe of your choice. This time I used one from Epicurious, a pecan pumpkin pie recipe first published in Gourmet in 1983 then again in 2003. I had never put pecans on top before but they are delicious.

Yum and double yum. You will be the talk of the neighborhood and some of your friends may even raise one eyebrow. I’m still working on that part.

©2008 Lucy Beebe Tobias. all rights reserved


Pancakes at your table at the Sugar Mill, then wildlife and a boat ride

Four travel journalists find great food on the open road

Have a blueberry thrill in Florida


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