Sunday, September 15, 2019

Finding Treasures on the Trail - Bill's Memorial Trail

We spent part of the weekend in Tallahassee and on Saturday morning (before the heat set in) we were up and out early to take a walk. A little exercise combined with bird and butterfly watching with a surprise thrown in for good measure.

Lafayette Heritage Trail Park is located at the east end of Heritage Park Blvd. in the Piney-Z subdivision. You'll find picnic tables, a playground, bathroom and drinking water at the small parking lot. Also lots of trails for walking and biking. You can even bring your pooch as long as he's on a leash and well behaved.

A New Trail for Us

As we ventured around Piney-Z lake we crossed the railroad tracks and found a trail we'd never walked before. 

In the summer of 2013 this trail was hand cut with a machete by Karen Harvey the running coach for Florida State University. She named the trail for her late father and marked it Bill's Trail on a hand painted Frisbee. Later the trail received a professional sign. 

"Bill's Memorial Trail: Designed and Maintained by a Loving Daughter"

The trail completes a 2.7 mile loop around Piney-Z lake. The loop includes a beautiful covered bridge and wooden walkway that winds through the woods. But it's on Bill's Trail that you'll find the art lab. A covered pavilion with a picnic table and all kinds of material for arts and crafts. You can paint rocks, pine cones and pictures. Leave your mark in one of the many journals or take a book from the little free library. A fun way for families to get out and enjoy nature. Even the adults in our group took time to paint a rock. 

There's a watering station at the art lab for thirsty dogs and you'll find boxes of dog bones in the little free library! 

The art lab is thanks to John Kalin, a long time trail maintenance volunteer with the City of Tallahassee. When Karen Harvey moved away from Tallahassee in 2015 she asked John if he would maintain the trail and he readily agreed. John's the one who added the art lab and stocks and maintains it. What a great way to encourage families to get out and enjoy nature. 

Part of the raised boardwalk. A nice shady walk under beautiful oak trees. 

There's always something new to find when you get outside and take a walk. Keep your eyes open and you might find a treasure or a surprise along the way! 

Finding treasures along the way.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Walking With the Birds

Monthly Beginner Bird Walk 

Our local Audubon Society hosts a monthly walk at a local park to share their knowledge and love of our local birds. It's mainly for beginner birdwatcher but experienced birders join as well.

We met up at 10 a.m. at Fort Caroline National Memorial and joined 25 others on a walk around the fort loop. It's September but still hot as Hades and super humid here but we were a hardy group ready to conquer the Florida wilds on our bird quest.

We've walked that trail before and the 1 mile loop usually takes about 20 -25 minutes. Add a little more time if you want to check out the fort. Today however it took us almost 2 hours!

When you bird watch on a walk you walk 10 steps and stop and look up. Walk 10 steps, stop and look up. Very slow going. But it really makes you stop and take the time to look around and focus on not just the birds but the trees, plants, butterflies and spider webs.

This is my third time joining this walk and I've observed there seems to be two types of participants. Those who really want to learn about birds and expand on their hobby and those who just want the social experience.

The social seekers tend to bond quickly and move just as quickly keeping pace not with the birds but with their conversation. And that's not a bad thing. We all need social connections and a bird walk is a great place for just that.

The serious wanna be birders tend to gather around one of the two leaders trying to soak in their vast knowledge.

Did you know that you can identify a bird by the song he sings? Or that some birders can name a bird as it flies by in a blink of an eye just by the color or the stripe on it's wing? Or that you can find all kinds of little birds flitting among the Spanish moss because it's full of bugs that the birds feed on? How about the fact that some birds migrate and some live here year round? Is that little bird a Pine Warbler, a Magnolia Warbler or a Yellow Rump Warbler?


So much to learn and there's no better way to learn than by joining up with experienced birders. I'm sure there are some highly competitive birders but so far the ones I've met are just as excited when someone else spots a birds as if they spotted it themselves. I like that.

So today our walking was more like standing and shifting to the next spot but it was still a walk. I'm looking forward to a great season of bird watching and walking.

The Birds I Saw Today

(I've only listed the ones that I saw with my own two eyes)

3 Snowy Egrets 
1 Turkey Vulture (soaring overhead)
1 Red-Bellied Woodpecker
2 Downy Woodpeckers (male and female)
1 Pileated Woodpecker
1 Great Crested Flycatcher
8 Tufted Titmouse
2 Carolina Wren
1 Brown Thrasher
1 Northern Cardinal 

Get outside and see what you can see!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Day 15 - Write 31 - Downtown Art Walk and Lunch in the Park

Downtown streets are deserted on a Sunday morning.

Sunday morning was clear and cool so we decided to head downtown for a walk. The streets were quiet with none of the hustle of workers going from their designated parking spots to the high rise office buildings. Everything is closed up on a Sunday morning so we had much of the town to ourselves.

Many of the buildings in downtown Jacksonville are covered with colorful murals. It's delightful to see them peaking out from between buildings and around the corners. I captured a few of them on our walk.

After a four mile stroll around downtown we headed over the bridge for a picnic beside the river. It was easy to pick up a plant-based sandwich at the local deli and enjoy it on a bench in the shade.

A simple sub with lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, banana peppers and onions. Eating plant-based doesn't have to be complicated. 

A writing challenge every October every day

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Day 13 - Write 31 - Time to Check In and Take a Four Mile Hike

Today is check-in day. 

Every Saturday I step on the scale, take my blood pressure and a dose of Vitamin B-12. 

I used to dread this ritual. Not being sure of what the numbers would show. Now? It's no big deal. I don't count calories, points or even keep a log of the food I eat. 

I just eat. Yep, potatoes, rice, corn, veggies, fruit, legumes...Until I'm satisfied. 

And my weight stays within my goal weight by 2 or 3 pounds up or down and my BP is always well within the normal range. 

I take a dose of B-12 because it's the only thing missing in a plant-based diet. But don't use that as a reason to not go plant-based. Most meat eaters are lacking in this vitamin as well but that's for another post. 

After the check in we packed up some water and a snack and headed out for a short hike. 

Fernandina Beach is home to a beautiful beach on the Atlantic Ocean. There's also a protected area that runs north and south along Egans Creek. Over 300 acres alive with deer, alligators, birds, and snakes.

We took a one mile walk on the beach and three miles along the creek. 

All powered by plants!

Lots of shells washed up on shore

This was just one of the gators we spotted. Most of them keep pretty hidden.

Lace up your shoes and get outside and take a hike!

A writing challenge every October every day

Friday, October 12, 2018

Day 12 - Write 31 - Took a Walk This Morning

Went for a walk this morning. Only one mile but what a glorious walk!

It was actually cool.

Sixty-seven degrees and it's only October. 

That's life in Florida. We don't have Fall or much of a Winter. Spring is pretty nice but Summer is relentless...

What a difference a drop in temperature makes. I almost returned home to get a long sleeve shirt but I didn't. I decided to just enjoy the cooler temp. 

Everything looked happier. There were dozens of tiny birds - Finches maybe - flitting from tree to tree. I heard the Mocking birds singing away as they taunted the little birds. High in the pine trees I could hear the Red Shouldered Hawk cawing for its mate. The squirrels were racing each other along the telephone lines. The trees even looked happier to not have the oppressive heat bearing down on their leaves. 

And I was happier.

 Even though I've walked this road more times than I can remember this morning it seemed like a brand new experience. Enjoyable and not just getting another mile in for the walking chart. 

What does this have to do with plant-based eating?

Nothing really. 

Or everything. 

It feels good to know that I can nourish my body with good food and no animals are harmed in the process. (Not that I would eat a Finch or Hawk and never a squirrel but you get the drift.) 

So I took a walk this morning and God's world is glorious!

A writing challenge every October every day

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Day 7 - Write 31 - Out of the Kitchen - Tips for Eating Out

Getting Out of the Kitchen

If you're trying to improve your health by changing your diet then cooking at home is the best option. In your own kitchen you control what goes in to a dish and how it is prepared. However there are those times when you just want someone else to do the cooking and the clean-up! 

So off to a restaurant we go.

Remember just because a dish doesn't contain meat or dairy doesn't necessarily make it healthy. Take french fries for example. No matter what type of oil they are fried in they are still deep fried. Not a 'health' food, 

Let's take a look a couple of common type restaurants found in most cities and see what's good to eat.


Best bets:
Steamed rice
Steamed veggies such as broccoli and snowpeas 
Veggie stir fry (ask if they can use a small amount of oil)
Veggie Lo Mein (ask if the noodles are made with eggs)
Tofu dishes

Veggie Lo Mein

Beware: Typical Chinese restaurant food may be high in sodium and oil. Always ask that the dish be prepared using veggie broth and no fish or oyster sauce. 


Best bet:

Pasta and marinara sauce 
Pizza with veggies, sauce and no cheese
Our favorite Italian place will make eggplant Parmesan or cauliflower Parmesan without cheese but not the veggie lasagna. You can always ask.

Pizza is from Blaze Pizza - they have restaurants all around the country. Completely Vegan including the crust. They even have a Vegan cheese.

Simple pasta with a light marinara sauce.

Beware: Most Italian places love their cheese.

Might not be as healthy (of as cheap) as you can make it at home but with a little planning and thought you can find plant-based foods when you eat out.

Happy Eating!

A writing challenge every October every day



Friday, October 5, 2018

Day 5 Write 31 - A Little Food for Thought

A Little Food for Thought

Do you ever think about the food you eat. Where it comes from or how it's raised? I had never given it much thought. You go to the store and pick it up, pay for it, bring it home and enjoy. Even though we started this plant-based journey for our health the more I read and research I find I've learned more about how animals are treated than I really want to know. 

I did some rough calculations and figure that I've bought at least 2000 gallons of milk in the last 25 years. I wish I'd known back then what I know now. 

A cow must give birth in order to produce milk. In most commercial dairies the calves are taken away from the mother shortly after birth.  I've seen videos of this happening and the mother can be heard crying for her baby. Some of these babies end up as veal. 

In a natural setting a mother cow would produce about one gallon of milk a day to feed her baby. In order for the cow to produce larger quantities of milk they are often give growth hormones. The commercial dairy cow can then produce up to seven gallons of milk a day. 

On our walk through the Cotwolds in the UK we got caught between the fence and the cows being driven back to the barn. I was slightly terrified because they are huge! My husband said we didn't have anything to worry about because the cows knew we were friendly and didn't drink their milk so they wouldn't bother us! And they didn't.

At least these cows were allowed to graze in the pasture for part of the day...

A writing challenge every October every day