All posts by Jennifer Odom

Crotalaria Killer

by Jennifer Odom

My sister was our town’s self-appointed crotalaria-killer. In her childhood quest to persuade my dad to get her a horse, she scouted every inch of our back field. She located and yanked out every crotalaria plant she could find and then some throughout the neighborhood. If she ever did get a horse it would never be poisoned. Not on her watch.

Well, sad to say, that field was ready for a horse, but Dad never was.  

Showy Crotelaria is an attractive weed, and tall like a snapdragon with yellow sweet-pea-like flowers. It grows up to six feet tall.

The flower looks like a sweet-pea.

In the fall it grows in small clusters or scatterings along the roadside among the goldenrod and Johnson grass.

Crotalaria can be found along Florida roadways in the fall.

Another name for the plant is showy rattlebox. Its seeds grow in cylindrical cases that look like inflated English pea pods. The dried pods produce a rattling sound when shaken. The green pods we called poppers. As children we gave them a squeeze for a different kind of noise. (For a similar noise, for children raised without the benefit of living in the country, they might substitute bubble-wrap).

The green pods were called “poppers” by kids, and make a nice little snap when squeezed. When they are dry during the winter, the pods rattle. The seeds inside the rattling pod are the most poison part of the plant. Old dead plants do not lose their potency if mixed into an animal’s hay.

Crotalaria, a legume, was brought over from Asia for use as a cover crop (like beans and peas are commonly used), to fix nitrogen in the soil. This seemed like a great thing. It worked.

So lovely……

However, farmers soon found that showy crotalaria is toxic to game birds, dogs and many farm animals, including cows, horses, mules, goats, sheep, pigs, and chickens.

Crotalaria will kill sheep.

My sister may have been mistaken when she told me that eating crotalaria would result in a horse’s or cow’s stomach swelling up and exploding, but she got her point across.

Crotalaria does contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, substances which can cause photosensitization in some animals, and liver disease, including tumors. Symptoms can appear within a few days after consumption or up to 6 months later, and seeds are the most toxic part of the plant.

You do not want crotalaria in your farm animal’s field.

Despite these facts, one can still purchase the seeds online for their flower gardens. (Imagine, buying a poison weed! But I get it. The flowers are pretty.)

If one does decide to plant crotalaria in the flower garden, they should be sure to keep their pets away.

Oh, and sis did grow up and get the horse she’d always wanted. But that’s another story for another day.

You can be sure, though, there was no crotalaria in that horse’s field.

Carol Postley and her Florida Cracker Sheep

by Jennifer Odom

“We’re shearing sheep at the farm. You and your daughter come on out,”  Carol Postley told me. We’d struck up quite a chat while sitting back to back working our demonstration tables at the KidZone, part of a Master Gardener event in Ocala. I’d asked about her display of wool and sheep interests. It turned out she’s the founder of Meat Sheep Alliance of Florida.

Sheep in Florida?

Sheep in Florida? Wasn’t our state too hot? Aside from zoos, I thought sheep lived up north. So yes, we wanted  to visit. I couldn’t resist.

A week or so later Gabbie and I set out in search of her farm. We followed the old Knoblock Road, a shady lane of beautiful ancient oaks and green pastures to her turn-off at the sign that said Florida Cracker Native Sheep.

Farm workers directed us past the barn to a pavilion where we found Carol, natural-born teacher and sponsor of the event, busy about her business of educating and inspiring newbies and fellow farmers about sheep. Her program began with professional sheep shearers demonstrating sheep-holding techniques and proper use of the electric clippers.

Ready for this? Professional sheep shearers Jonathan Hearne and Charlotte Crittenden joke around before the shearing.

A shearing begins by turning a sheep upside down. I’d never seen the underbelly of a sheep before. It surprised me to learn the that the udder, unlike a cow’s, only has two teats, suitable for the twins a sheep usually bears. From there the shearing process moves up and around the legs and back, leaving the sheep very bare, and probably feeling a little chilly. It is customarily done at springtime.

The professionals begin. They start the sheep upside down.
Carefully maneuver around the tender areas. Pull the skin tight with the left hand.

Move around this way.
Take a little off here. The leg under the sheep’s haunches keeps her from slipping away.
Don’t do this in the winter, the sheep will be cold!
Amazing. It is all off in one large piece.

The fleece, or wool, comes off in one large piece, and can be rolled and laid out on tables to allow workers to pick out any undesirable elements or burrs, leaving the choicest part intact. 

This looks good.

Though it looks like something else, the very noticeable yucky stuff on the sheep’s wool is lanolin, a thick oil that helps him resist parasites. Don’t worry too much about that, it can be cleaned up. Weeds, seeds, and prickles would be a worse problem. It’s very difficult to clean that out of the wool.

Pick out the undesirable tidbits.

Did you know that hair among the sheep’s wool is an undesirable trait and breeders attempt to breed it out? Those sheep are sent out to be used for meat.

There’s a major difference between hair and wool. Hair, stiff and straight, has a distinct look from wool and after some practice is easy to spot. Its presence in a fleece makes it unsellable, and in a hat or wooly garment will render it itchy and un-wearable. Hair in rugs, though, is quite acceptable.

Who knew?

Decorating the pavilion were woven, knitted, crocheted, and other artistically produced garments and hats. Experts at demonstration tables showed us how to use fiber-straightening machines, carding machines, and how to do peg-weaving.

Skeins of yarn made from sheep’s wool.
You don’t want your fingers caught in the teeth inside this straightening machine.
It comes out the other end, not a matt anymore, but wooly fluff. Next it is carded.
Weaving with pegs.
Neolithic wool-cleaning in a jar. This can be done in a barrel. It gets stinky.

And if the mention of that yucky stuff still lingers in your sensitivities and bothers your mind,  rest easy. A primitive “neolithic wool-cleaning” method using fermentation to get rid of those undesirable impurities was explained by another expert. So rest easy, one doesn’t have to handle dirty wool.

Gabbie reminded me that King David of the Bible herded sheep and was probably familiar with simpler methods of all the skills mentioned above, and most especially this neolithic method of cleaning.

Carol circulated among the guests, and from our common interest in the Master Gardener event, our conversation turned naturally to plants. She was full of information.

No stranger to the use and benefits of scientific testing, Carol informed me of two special and very nutritious forage weeds on the farm. “See that Spanish needle over there?” She pointed toward the lamb pen.“Tests show it contains 25% protein.”

The Spanish needle weed, common all over our central Florida fields and roadways is 25% protein. Great fodder for sheep.

Evidently that’s a very good number.

“People hate that stuff,” I said, recalling how its needle-like burrs stick to everything. “They mow it down and plant pasture grass.”

“And why would they want to do that when it’s got all that protein?” she said. “There’s another nutritious plant like that, the day-flower. It looks a little bit like a wandering Jew.”

“Really?”  I couldn’t quite picture this one.

 “I’ll see if I can find you one.” Off she scampered to find a sample. In a few minutes she returned with a long stringy weed in her hand.

The common day-flower, a low crawling weed is also 25% protein.

“Oh, I’ve seen that,” I said. “I pull it out of my flower beds all the time and throw it in the burning pile.”

She grinned. “Again, twenty-five percent protein.”

To think, I’d been burning up good forage. Of course, I don’t have sheep, either.

Carol is not just busy collecting trivia about nutritious forage. She is actively trying to help other farmers in the pursuit of naturally healthy pastures.

Carol is currently busy lining up an experiment on pasture-improvement through the Marion County Extension office in Ocala. It’s especially targeted for farms with sugar-sand, and it’s not too late to volunteer. (To participate, see contact info at the end of this article).

And Ahem…Who in Florida doesn’t have sand and need pasture improvement?

Carol’s simple experiment requires no more than a plot of land about 50 x 50 feet. Carol will provide the already purchased crab-grass seeds, and Agent Mark Bailey (see below) will supply the details.

Nutritious crabgrass, hated by some, but loved by Carol.

The experiment will involve discing the land and planting crabgrass seeds. The owner will have little or no work to do. For those interested in participating and improving your pasture, see the contact information at the end of this article.

Carols’s Florida Cracker Sheep and Their Long History in Florida….

Fairmeadow Farm is all about heritage Florida Cracker Sheep

At Carol’s farm, Fairmeadow, she raises a specific breed of sheep I’d never even heard of before. They are called Florida Cracker Sheep.

“The Spanish brought them over,” she informed me, and rattled off a handful of  interesting facts about them. She made me want to know more.

After some research, I discovered an article by Ralph Wright, historian of Florida Cracker Sheep Association. It seems that on four or five different occasions Spanish explorers brought sheep over to this continent, and for a variety of reasons released them. These heritage sheep likely descended from the churra sheep of Spain’s estuarine marshes and date back to the 1200’s. The Cracker Sheep Association homepage states: “Florida Cracker Sheep are a heritage breed that developed naturally over the last 400 years and are uniquely adapted to the harsh Florida environment. With their parasite resistance and ability to handle the heat and humidity, they are great for organic farming.” (

What didn’t kill the sheep in pioneer Florida, then, must have made them stronger. To me it’s amazing, with all the wild animals on the Florida frontier, how anything as mild and gentle as a sheep, who don’t even run fast, could survive at all.

To read Mr. Wright’s complete paper see

So sheep, it seems, are not an unusual phenomenon in Florida. And these cracker sheep are particularly suitable for Florida’s environment.

Carol Postley recognized this fact a long time ago. She is an amazing woman full of hard-earned knowledge,  and part of a smart group of farmers who steer away from artificial contrivance and diligently work at finding ways to use our God-given nature to best advantage.

I’m privileged to have visited Fairmeadow farm. Great job, Carol, and thank you for the delightful invitation!

If you think you might like to participate in Carol’s pasture grass improvement experiment contact Ag agent Mark Bailey at the Marion County Extension office in Ocala. His contact information is and phone: 352-617-8400. This experiment will cost approximately $55 to conduct the necessary soil tests before and after the summer forages have been planted.

To contact Carol’s professional sheep shearers, see below:

Jonathan Hearne-

Charlotte Crittenden-

For participation in the crab grass experiment: 352-617-8400

Captain Debbie cruises the silver river and ocklawaha

                    by Jennifer Odom

This real-life river rat and Coast Guard-approved Captain is Miss Debbie Walters, a darling along the Silver and Ocklawaha Rivers where she owns and operates Captain Tom’s Custom Charters.

Captain Debbie of Captain Tom’s Custom Charters offers educational pontoon-boat Eco-Tours along Florida’s Silver and Ocklawaha River near Ocala, Florida.

Her clients’ favorite tour is along the Silver River where crystal blue waters lead into the back door of Silver Springs and its world-famous headwaters.

Other tours take an easterly path along the darker Ocklawaha River. Both waterways abound in manatees, turtles, gators, monkeys, gators, anhingas, and all types of herons.

The riverbanks, festooned in native Florida plants, are rank with sabal palms, rare orchids, cypress, hollies, spatterdock and pickerel weed, scenery unique to the river and which Debbie and her fiancé Adam McQuaig delight to point out.

The tours glide past the hunting and fishing grounds of the great Seminole Indian Chief Osceola, the same waters that tourist and commercial riverboats plied from the St. Johns River in the 1800s and 1900s.

Captain Debbie offers fishing charters on almost any waterway in the area, including Lake Weir, Harris Chain, Lake Miona, and will soon add adventures on Lake George and the Gulf of Mexico.

For tours and details contact her at

Debbie purchased Captain Tom’s Custom Charters, from Captain Tom O’Lenick (1948-2018) some time before he passed away.

Captain Tom O’Lenick (1948-2018)

Captain Tom’s legacy, his native love of Florida, fun informational tours and folksy ways had garnered quite a following. Those who knew him now sorely miss him.

But how did Captain Tom recognize Captain Debbie, a school-teacher, as the right buyer for his beloved business? Before Captain Tom met Debbie, he sat down with his girlfriend and prayed that the right person would come along to buy his business.

Soon after, he met Debbie and learned of her life-long passion for water and boats. Debbie’s stream of life-time events flowed clear and straight from her land-locked childhood of Pennsylvania to her desire to run a boat-charter business. From her first exposure to the water at age 9, Debbie was hooked. “There is something soothing and calming,” she says, “about being on the water.”

Debbie has recently purchased her own houseboat and loves sleeping on or near the water. “It brings (me) closer to nature.”

What sparked her interest?

“My parents won a cruise on the radio and one of the stops was Puerto Rico. They fell in love with the idea of living an “island life” so my dad started inquiring about jobs.” Sure enough he landed a newspaper job in Puerto Rico, and the family packed up and moved. “That’s when I fell in love with the ocean. Every weekend we would go to the beach. My parents bought a sailboat and started racing Hobie Cats.

“My dad found an old sailboat hull, pieced together parts from other old boats, bought an old sail, and made my brother, sister, and me a sailboat.

“We didn’t know any better and would take the boat out in the open ocean off the coast of Puerto Rico like it was our own back yard.”

Eventually the family moved back to the states. “We moved to Florida, which, of course, kept us going back to the water. Even as adults we would charter a large sailboat and spend family vacations on the boat in the Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands.

“It never really mattered if it was salt or fresh water, I just needed to be near the water. “

When I got a little older I started fishing with my husband (now deceased) and we would go every weekend we had a chance on the large party boats with 30-40 people.

“I always thought being a deep sea charter captain would be the ultimate job. It was just one of those dreams you knew you would go for, but just dream about it.”

She did venture out once when she talked to a captain on a charter and asked him if he could use a female mate. “He just kind of laughed at me,” she said.

“So I bought a boat and started going fishing on my own. I never really thought of doing it as a career after that.”

Along the way Debbie studied elementary education and became a teacher in Marion County. “ I loved sharing my fishing stories with my students and they always thought it was pretty cool their teacher would go out in the ocean fishing.”

Yet deep in her heart the embers of her dream still glowed. The flames just needed a little “fanning.” One day a fellow teacher bought a small business. “I was stunned and asked her what in the world was she thinking?”

The embers incubated. Then, suddenly, “a light bulb (more like a firecracker) went off in my head and I thought, Why not look into an existing small business to buy?”

That’s when ran into Captain Tom’s business for sale. “There was a picture of this little white-bearded man in a captain’s hat on a pontoon boat with passengers.

“I read through the description and saved the ad. I didn’t do anything with it for a few days, but Adam, my fiance, kept bugging me to at least contact (Captain Tom).” With Adam’s and the entrepreneurial friend’s encouragement, Debbie gave in and sent Captain Tom a message.

That Saturday they set up a meeting. She told Captain Tom she was a teacher but really wanted to do something else. “I just need a break,” she explained. They chatted a while, and Debbie told him she thought he was a blessing in disguise. “He got all choked up and said it gave him goose bumps.” That’s when she learned what Captain Tom had prayed the night before.

The deal is sealed. Debbie is the right choice.

“He thought I would be perfect.”

And it turned out Captain Debbie is perfect for the job.

Following Captain Tom’s legacy, she said, “we want to keep the business low key, laid back, a family type business.” In the meantime they continue adding fishing charters that work best for them and their guests.

Looking back, does she have any words of advice for others? “I would tell anyone that has a dream, and they have the opportunity to realize it, go for it.”

Captain Debbie recognized the risks of giving up a steady paycheck with benefits and insurance. “I was scared and worried I might end up losing everything. I gave up a lot, I am learning to live within a very tight budget, but one thing I did learn was that all the material things we hold on to are all just that…things.

“I would have never known if this was the right thing if I had not taken the chance, but most of all, I would not have met Captain Tom and formed such a wonderful bond and friendship. For that, I will always be grateful. Captain Tom O’Lenick changed my life forever and I have never looked back or regretted a single moment.”

“My dream is to be on the water and I guess I can say I am living my dream.”

Visit for more cruising details.

Carl Kautz, a Good-Natured Inspiration


by Jennifer Odom


Carl intrigued me from the start. With his easy laugh and jolly demeanor, here he was, 60 years old, in a sign language class, at the Center For Independent Living (CIL). Why? Yes, he had a wheelchair and difficulty speaking, but certainly wasn’t deaf. So, why bother with the sign language?


One day I noticed Carl, some distance away, lifting his wheelchair into the back seat of his van.  A young lady stepped up and offered to help. He gave her a smile and seemed to dismiss her. With the chair in the van, he edged himself around and climbed into the front seat. The sliding door closed automatically and he drove away. An independent sort, he seemed to take his challenges in stride…

US Army emblem on the back of Carl’s wheelchair. He lifted this chair into his van, then scooched around to the drivers seat and pulled himself in, where he drives using manual devices.

Impressed and curious, I wanted to learn more about this inspiring character.

Carl graciously agreed to an interview. First off, he explained that he was always interested in sign language. “I’d see it on TV. It’s so expressive. I fell in love with it and have taken (classes) on and off (at CIL) for years.

When Carl was a child, his father was in the U. S. Air Force and traveled. Carl, born in England, moved with the family to the states at age 1 1/2. He has lived in California, Alaska, Massachusetts, and Florida.

In his teens, Carl was a bit of a rebel. When his father suggested he join the Air Force, Carl joined the Army  instead. He laughs, “I thought I’d get to go to Germany and see Oktoberfest.  So where’d I end up? Ft. Benning, Georgia. What an armpit!”

How long was he enlisted? He grins. “Two years, eleven months, and a couple of days. The Army was an eye-opening experience for a kid wet behind the ears. But it gave me a career I could build on . It exposed me to life in general.”

In the meantime, Carl returned home. His father retired from the military and moved the family  to Ocala, Florida.

Carl, a civilian now, wisely used his GI Bill to earn an AS degree at CFCC, and eventually worked as a surveyor/subdivision designer for a private enterprise while practicing long distance running, (60-70 miles a week) and taking continuing classes at night.

Then in 1985 came the near-fatal accident, and consequently,  the wheelchair.

While driving his 65 Mustang, Carl was broadsided by a drunk. “Mom got the phone call at 2:00 in the morning, ‘your son’s dying.’ They performed  emergency surgery at Munroe Memorial Hospital and  transferred him to Orlando.

“I spent two months comatose in a fetal position. I had physical therapy, but it wasn’t much help at that point.

Fortunately he was in good physical shape. “Doctors said the running is what saved me.”

He laughs. “You lose all your modesty. They say, ‘Come on, you’re taking a shower,’ and you have to go.”

He spent 1 year in the Orlando rehab. “That time was hard on my parents. They’d drive down from Ocala to Orlando every weekend, bring me home, then take me back to rehab.” Two trips a week.

Carl dropped from 145 lbs to 120. “They said, you’re too thin, so I ate and ate. The flap over my esophagus was paralyzed and food went down the wrong way. I ended up with pneumonia and a feeding tube.”

Now he has what he calls a “second bellybutton.”

He laughs about it. “The grandkids love it.”

A paper airplane attached to the back of Carl’swheelchair by a doting grandchild. Maybe it was put there the help him move a little faster.

Some time before his wreck Carl had  worked for the City of Ocala.

“After my year in rehab,” he says, “My mom was reading a newspaper. She saw where the city needed a draftsman.”

He chuckles, “I guess they were hard up. My motor skills and reflex capacity were diminished. But the city was just at that time getting into computer drafting. I got in on the ground floor.”

Single until 5 1/2 years ago, he married Tammie, a friend he’d known for last 18 years. She came with ready-made children and grandchildren. “His heart of gold,” she says, is what attracted her. And, she adds, it was “his warmness, his willingness to do anything for anybody. The grandkids love Carl. They love him. They think the sun sets and rises on him.”

“They like my scooter,” he jokes. “Free rides.”

“And he’ll do anything for the grandkids,” Tammie says. “When Madison (a grand-daughter) was in gymnastics, or school plays, there was Papa.  He’s a very frugal person. But not with the grandkids.”

After her recent knee surgery she was unable to pick up the grandkids at school. Carl pitched right in.

Carl retired after 25 years with the City of Ocala as  a computer draftsman

Carl landscapes at home now, and is proud of his many fruits and flowers. Above his head are clusters of green bananas.

where he took plans from the engineers and drew up sewer plans, road-works, water plans, and landscaping. He worked extensively on Easy Street near the college, as well as 17th Avenue to the Interstate and out to 60th.

His wheelchair may slow things down, but it doesn’t stop Carl from enjoying his hobbies. His yard contains roses and fruit:  bananas, raspberries, figs, pecans, and  blueberries.

Carl’s fruiting pineapple plant.


He even jokes about the experimental pee fertilizer he has applied to his roses, and claims that it has really helped the blooms.

Carl is proud of his roses and readily shares them with friends.

But he warns, “It almost killed the raspberries.”

Carl warns, “It almost killed the raspberries.”

Besides his continued physical therapy to improve his hamstrings that were damaged during his coma, he works out twice a week at Too Your Health Spa. He works his upper body, lifts weights, works on his quads, does leg presses, and stretches his hamstrings. He is making progress, he says with another wide grin, and “not going backwards.”

Carl’s determination, his independence, and his willingness to keep on learning and being involved in life, seems to be the secret to this happy demeanor. His self-effacing humor goes a long way too, and wins him many friends.

Thank you, Carl. You go. You’re an inspiration to us all.





Brother and Sister Blacksmiths Follow Creative Paths

by Jennifer Odom

Right away I was captivated  by this adorable brother and sister blacksmithing team.  Heinrich Hole (38) and Heather Fordham, (27),  Members of FABA, or Florida Artist Blacksmith Association, are the perfect representatives of the organization.

I first located Heinrich Hole,

Heinrich Hole, creative blacksmithing teacher at Barberville Pioneer Settlement for the Arts, hammers iron on an anvil.

a teacher of blacksmithing with the Barberville Pioneer Settlement for the Arts, while gathering research for a novel.

Wow! I jumped at this opportunity to come down and experience via the five senses, just what a blacksmith actually does.  I quickly emailed and asked to visit. Mr. Hole very graciously agreed and offered several possible dates. (But he kindly enlightened me that his name was not Mr. Faba, which I’d assumed from his email).

Shaped iron is cooled in a cooling bucket.

(More about the FABA organization and the pioneer settlement below). Upon arrival I met several delightful people, but these two fascinating siblings had wonderfully entwined blacksmithing pasts .

Decorative leaf twist added to handle

For Heinrich, the seeds of blacksmithing were sown at a young age by his father when he took him to the FABA meetings in Barberville. The fulfillment of Heinrich’s keen interest, though, would be delayed.

Heather, a skilled blacksmith, says, “You don’t have to be a big muscular man to get the job done. “

Heather recalls an early fascination as well. “I used to go to the Pioneer Art Settlement as a kid for the Fall Jamboree. (See more on the Jamboree below). Every year as soon as we got there I would hound my parents to take me to the blacksmith shop and I convinced them to leave me there while they enjoyed the rest of the event. I was in awe and fascinated by the work. After several years of doing this, just parking my butt in front of the blacksmith, they finally acknowledged that I was getting old enough to actually get involved, and I was invited to meetings and shown the basics.”

Heinrich, an avid enthusiast of astronomy, physics, math, and a student of many “how to” subjects, says, “All my life I have been exposed  to handy man type of working skills. Even before I was able to really do the work (my father) was already bringing me along so that we could have some father-son time. He really put a lot of effort into my growth as a craftsman.” These skills linked naturally to working at the forge.

When six years ago, Heinrich’s sister invited him to a FABA conference, it rekindled his interest in working with hot iron.

“ I’ve never looked back,” he says. “The ability blacksmithing gives a person to enable themselves to do what they want is incomprehensible.

“I’ve always had to be making things to be happy in life, and what you get is a lot of output. I’ve been making items from wood, beads, stone, and anything else I can get my hands on for as long as I can remember. Now consider that I’m that guy that has to show each thing I’ve made to EVERYbody I know, and what you get is a super creative, production, demonstrator, blacksmith.”

And no surprise. His talents led to 3 years of teaching and assisting  at the FABA conferences and a chance to instruct at Barberville Pioneer Settlement for the Arts.

Besides this, Heinrich is now the N. E. Regional coordinator for FABA, and says he considers it an “opportunity to take my quadrant into whatever direction I think will make it the best it can be.”

Implements created by Heinrich













Heather, with her own multiple interests, enjoys the outdoors and most things hands-on. She’s spent the last two years playing roller derby with the Thunder City Derby Sirens, and reads a lot, mostly sci-fi and fantasy.

Her training in iron work started out 9 years ago, when she studied under Lewis Riggleman. “It was probably the best weekend I ever had. That’s when I learned I would always have a place in my heart for this craft.” She especially enjoys making slightly decorative “handy house items and fire place tools. Anything I make, though, I want to be useful, not just art.”

Her next goal is to work on forge-welding. “There have been too many times that I saw something I wanted to make and backed down because I’ve been too intimidated by the welding aspects.”

The brother and sister team started their iron-work together underneath the shade of an oak tree. “You can’t work hot metal if you are in the sun.” Henrich says, “because you can’t see its color. You don’t know how hot it is and that’s a really big deal.”

They soon moved the operation under their dad’s vacated shade structure, which now protected them from the rain as well. At first they shared one anvil and a brake-drum forge. Now, Heinrich says, “we each have our own tool for most of the things we do and can do most of what we want.”

The siblings plan to always be learning the next thing and growing together in their craft skills.

In fact, they’ve already selected a corporate name, and Heinrich and Heather hope to one day have a full shop of their own in a “proper manufacturing setting.”

Their advice to beginners?

“Don’t look at the shops you see in videos,” Heinrich says. “You don’t need that. In the beginning you will need to develop your skills in improvising, but you can get by with a hole in the ground and a sledge hammer head half-buried in the ground for an anvil. In blacksmithing your creativity will determine your limits more than what tools you have. If you don’t love problem-solving then just put the hammer down and back away slowly.”

“If you don’t love problem-solving then just put the hammer down and back away slowly.”

Heather advises, “Just go for it! Find a class, take it. Find out if it’s something you can be passionate about.”

Most importantly, she assures us, and as evidenced by the women attending the FABA meeting, “It’s not as hard as it looks. You don’t have to be a big muscular man to get the job done. Don’t let people discourage you from trying. It’s totally worth it!”

“If you do love problem solving,” Heinrich says, “and can’t find enough creative outlets to satisfy you, then come on over to the dirty side and see where you can take it. Blacksmithing has changed my life forever, and I’d love to share it with anyone that is willing to show an interest. Come see me on second Saturdays at the Barberville Pioneer Settlement and I’ll share my love of the craft with you.”

For visits or lessons you can contact Barberville Pioneer Settlement of the Arts at 386-749-2959 or visit the website at


What is FABA?

Florida Artist Blacksmith Association (FABA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to teaching and preserving the art and craft of the blacksmith.  First formed in 1984, FABA is an affiliate of the Artist-Blacksmith’s Association of North America (ABANA).

FABA is a group whose purpose is to “promote the art and craft of forging metal.” They are “a group of people from across Florida who meet to teach and learn about blacksmithing and related metalworking skills,” and declare that “all interested parties are welcome at all meetings.”

My daughter and I attended and were warmly welcomed. We found that FABA is not a group of stuffy, grumpy old men, but a vibrant gathering of interesting, clever individuals, both men and women, who are  interested and willing to teach and share their skills.

John Hare, one of the many friendly faces of FABA, holds a rounded hammer he crafted.

Barberville Pioneer Settlement for the Arts, where this quadrant of FABA meets,  has several forges. During  the meetings the blacksmiths take turns demonstrating, practicing, and teaching.

For more details, see

Their annual conference will be held in Ocala, Florida October 26, 27, 28, 2018 . For more details see

What is Barberville Pioneer Settlement for the Arts?

Just the best kept secret ever….!

Barberville Pioneer Settlement for the Arts, a non-profit historical village museum, is a collection of buildings and artifacts on Hwy 40 between Ocala and Ormond Beach, Florida. Founded in 1976,  their mission is to educate and entrust the public and future generations with knowledge of the pioneer lifestyle of our forefathers, through hands on experience, folk life demonstrations, preservation and historical exhibits.

There you’ll find many activities: music workshops and lessons, blacksmithing and lessons, square dancing, weaving, candle making, chili cook-offs, ice cream churn-offs, raising of farm animals, and so much more.

Their big event coming up is the Fall Jamboree on November 3 and 4, 2018. See

for more details and a flyer.

But don’t miss the main webpage. There is so much more!

See you there!





Golf Course Wildflowers in Out of Play Areas a Benefit

by Jennifer Odom

Coreopsis in out-of-play golf areas.                                                     Photo courtesy of Matthew Borden

Really? By planting certain flowers on our golf course’s out-of-play areas, the golf course can actually reduce the presence of harmful insects? Yes! The very ones that gobble up the golf course grass, and the ones we’ve been dumping all the pesticides on.

That is exactly what a study by Dr. Adam Dale (Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Turf and Ornamental Entomology at the University of Florida), and students Rebecca Perry and Grace Cope, set out to determine.

Grace and Rebecca at work. Photo courtesy of Dr. Adam Dale

Dr. Adam Dale inspects coreopsis on golf course. Photo courtesy of Dr. Adam Dale

The study’s three goals were to see how these plantings would affect the conservation of vital pollinators (bees, butterflies, and other needed species), how they would affect the pests’ natural enemies (predators ), and if that translated into reduced pests (like turf worms).

It absolutely did. Pollinators and pollinator diversity increased.


Bees are one of the essential pollinators attracted to these areas.                                                    Photo courtesy of Matthew Borden

Biological control of pests increased. ( In other words, pests decreased).

Pest on golf course turf grass. Photo courtesy of Dr. Adam Dale

Think of it. Reduced pesticides!

Did you know that 40-70% of golf course acreage is out-of-play? What a huge opportunity!

And there are other benefits.

According to Matthew Borden, MS Entomology and Doctor of Plant Medicine Student at the University of Florida, “…careful selection of plant choices, including native species, can translate to significant savings for the golf course.”


Besides the reduction in the need for pesticides, other likely economic benefits would include reduced mowing and irrigation areas. In Borden’s article Golf Courses as a Source of Habitat Conservation in the Urban Landscape, he cites several golf courses in arid regions of our country who have saved a million gallons a year each by optimizing their natural landscape.

Golf course and other wild flowers.                                                     Photo courtesy of Matthew Borden


Not only that, golfers would enjoy a beautiful flowerscape all year, thanks to the wise selection of flowers.

As Floridians, many of us are stunned, even frightened at the rapid building and urbanization of the Florida landscape.

Directly related to that, imagine the impact all this building has on our native wildlife. The natural Florida we once knew is disappearing into roads, concrete, and the cutting off the wildlife corridors (paths for native animals). This creates a desperate predicament by shoving the wildlife into a corner and endangering animal lives.

Imagine our 1,100 Florida golf courses and 525 golf communities. The proposed natural areas across this great span could alleviate part of this problem by allowing a  series of natural corridors to connect over a great many acres.

The simple measures above are an easy way to return a portion of what’s been taken away from all of us.

What can we do?

Fortunately, golf superintendents who collaborated with the UF/IFAS Dale Lab, demonstrated an eagerness in finding ways to reduce environmental impacts and to provide environmental benefits. Yours could, too.

First, learn more (see the links below).

Second, talk up the ideas with other golfers and golf superintendents. Remember, the educated public knows it  is NOT cool to waste natural resources like water, over-use pesticides, or obliterate animal habitats and corridors. Golf courses have long been scorned for doing just that,  and for hurting the environment. They can redeem themselves through cooperation.

Third, show your superintendent how to be part of the solution. Encourage him to become pro-active, to become a leader in conservation, and to keep track of changes and resulting savings. Encourage him to publicize his efforts and successes and to stand tall as a leader.

Dr. Adam Dale, a voice of reason and common sense.                    Photo courtesy of Dr. Adam Dale

Where will Dr. Dale’s research go from here? “We are currently working on publishing this research in a multitude of formats,” he says. His purpose is to “reach as many people and as diverse an audience as possible.”

He added that his team has started new projects…investigating monarch butterfly conservation habitat strategies and plant species that do well in wetland habitats that will also provide conservation and ecological benefits.”

How is Dr. Dale reaching the greater public with these creative ideas? “We are traveling around the state giving presentations about the research results and methods to golf course superintendents. We are also publishing this information…and working with IFAS Communications to publicize and market these practices.”

It’s a great idea and I hope it spreads like wildfire.

If you’d like to get on board to spread this information, contact him:

Dr. Adam Dale, Or view his website, Landscape Entomology at UF,

Golf Course Ecology

Photo courtesy of Matthew Borden


Kayak Cedar Keys Ecotours



by Jennifer Odom

Wow! Are you kidding? A private kayak nature tour at Cedar Key… led by a Florida Coastal Master Naturalist? Yep! Dr. Paul King tailors each interpretive tour to your individual needs and stamina. Paddle along with him to discover what makes Florida’s Cedar Key so special and important.

Clients paddle in onne of Cedar Key’s peaceful coves.                                                     Photo by Dr. Paul King


Learn about nature surrounding this historic coastal town, a gem along the longest stretch of unspoiled coastline in the nation. Investigate its islands, rookery, and lighthouse. Get a peek at UF’s research station. Or, closer to shore, learn about Cedar Key’s estuarine environment that overflows with flora and fauna.

Dr. King, a retired veterinarian and sailor/kayak/Cedar Key enthusiast from way back, might even toss in some local history. (Have you heard about Cedar Key’s railroad, its two historic industries, its part in the Civil War, or seen relics that remain of those things?)

Okay, this sounds great, but what is this Ecotour going to cost me?

Well, besides the kayak rental through Kayak Cedar Keys, (or use your own kayak), the tour is free. However, after the tour, donations are gratefully accepted. Every cent goes to benefit the upcoming rotation of aquarium exhibits to be housed at the public education center at UF’s Nature Coast Biological Station at Cedar Key, and to provide educational literature for the public.

University of Florida’s Nature Coast Biological Station located in Cedar Key                                                                        Photo by Tyler Jones






Not only will Dr. King’s Ecotours delight and educate, but benefits extend beyond your personal experience.






Kayak Cedar Keys located on the right end of  the public beach and on the east end of Dock Street at Cedar Key                                                                                                                                                  Photo by Jennifer Odom



And…your safety is foremost. Kayak Cedar Key vessels are Coast Guard approved and equipped.

Paul King and Logan Rooks of Kayak Cedar Key Ecotours, and Gabrielle Joy O.

Make reservations with Kayak Cedar Keys at 352-543-9447. You will be contacted by text or email to collaborate with Dr. King on weather-safe conditions and tides . As he says, “No guarantees, but I will not place anyone on the water if I don’t like the forecast, radar, or what I see.”








All Because of Vince-Blueberry Downs in Anthony, Florida

by Jennifer Odom

It all started with her friend Vince on that fishing boat at Crystal River.

Lenore Black loved fishing, horses, and scuba diving. But being a single woman, she always had to work, work, work. “I couldn’t go here, I couldn’t go there,” she said.

But that one day, the day that changed her life, she wrangled a little time off from her horse training/spa responsibilities to hang out with Vince.

Vince tossed his hook into the water…and out of nowhere said, “You ought to grow blueberries.”

That thought had never crossed her mind. In fact, she says, “I knew nothing about blueberries until I started this blueberry business. I never even tasted a blueberry until about 6 years ago,” when it all started to come together.

Now, she says, “I wish I’d started (the business) years before, just to get this ball rolling more.”

After a 35 year career in the thoroughbred industry, she noticed the business declining and the economy sinking. “I had turned 50 and physically it’s a lot of work.” There are the hay bales, the cleaning of the stalls. “It’s a 7-day a week thing unless you have help. I’ve had injuries, broken bones over the years due to horses. My joints hurt. I can’t do it anymore.”

Black knew she needed to make changes, ones she could continue in ten years.

“I knew people would not always be able to afford luxuries but they would always have to eat.” So she considered Vince’s words, wondering if blueberries would be a good thing to retire to. At least it would maintain her property’s ag designation and keep her taxes down.

Vince offered her some contact information, and she connected with a blueberry grower to get advice.

“The nice thing about blueberries, is you can call any blueberry farmer and ask them a question and they will help you in any way. Very seldom do you find this in the horse business. The blueberry farmers work together in their area.”

Her first contact recommended going commercial, tearing down fences, barns, everything on the property, getting rid of her horses, and planting all 17 acres in berries.

After 20 years, “It was scary. I wasn’t sure I wanted to get rid of the horses. I built this farm, the barns, the fencing. At that time I didn’t know if I could, in my heart, take it all down and be completely done with horses.”

Still, she contacted another grower from Island Grove.

“He advised me not to start too big, to start small and see if I could even grow blueberries, then gave me all the irrigation and plan contacts.”

“I was so relieved,” she said, at this less drastic advice. “I thought I could handle it then. I think this is better, it’s just the right size I can take care of it myself. Meeting the right people was the key thing.”

Her farm, Blueberry Downs, is small and immaculate, and a thing of beauty. How did she manage?

“I have been blessed with a couple of friends and my boyfriend, who comes by when he can, and at times friends who live on the property, temporarily. They pitch in and help.

“In the beginning I hired professional people to put pipes in and the plastic down and create the raised beds to incorporate the mulch into the soil.”

The tricky part came with putting the holes in the plastic and planting. “I had to do that myself.  The plants came in large 3×3 crates, with the plants lying on their sides. “I had to take them out of the boxes just to put water on them. We laid them out in the field for placement,” and the race was on, since the roots can’t be allowed to dry out.

“Three really close friends helped. We started on a Wednesday. On Saturday and Sunday I had ten to 12 people all day long who helped me put the plants in the ground.”

Vince, who’s an office kind of guy, stopped by to help on Saturday. “Man, Lenore, it’s hot out here. This is hard work.”

“Remember, it was your idea,” I reminded him.

“Well, my idea was you would hire workers to come and do all this, not that we would come and plant the plants.”

I had to grin.

We finished on noon on Monday. Another friend cooked hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill for everyone.

“If it wasn’t for all my friends I wouldn’t have gotten the plants in the ground. They would have died first.”

That first year, the day before I opened, my boyfriend David and I took a stroll and another long look across Blueberry Downs.

“What if nobody comes?” I said.

“That would stink.”

“Hey, you’re supposed to pat me on the back and say, ‘no worries, it’s going to be ok.’”

But the next day came, and so did the people, just like they were supposed to.

Now, four years later, aside from hungry squirrels and birds, and a few missing signs, things are going well.

“So many people appreciate me being here. I’m really amazed at the reception I’ve gotten. I’ve met so many nice people from this area I wouldn’t have otherwise met. And they keep coming back. Each year I catch up, and find out how they’re doing. I see the kids grow. They’re part of my family.”

Her personal life has changed as well. She’s cut back on her horse business. “It’s allowing me to do more things, and spend more time with friends and family that I had neglected before. I have ten times as many friends now.”

I think God is looking out for me and helping me find my way again.

“If I had not gone fishing with Vince that day, the conversation would have never come up and I would have never started what I started.

“I have to think I am so fortunate that I have been able to do this and had the means to be able to switch my career.”

Her advice to others? “There are different things we can try. I would say don’t be afraid to try something, to think outside the box and don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself, no matter what age you are.

“If it doesn’t work, don’t take it as a failure, but take it as a learning experience.

“You just don’t know unless you try.”

Negative Words Rejected-Eva Marie Everson

by Jennifer Odom

The question was simple, straightforward. Like all children, Eva Marie had answered it many times before this fateful day in seventh grade. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Eva Marie waited her turn as Mrs. X went up and down the rows calling on each of her students to declare their future career: doctor, lawyer, secretary… She nodded at each student’s response and commented positively as if each would surely succeed.

Eva Marie had no doubt about what she wanted to be, something she had wanted to be as far back as she could remember.

From early on, her “Norman Rockwell childhood” had pointed her in that direction.

“I always loved to tell stories. I could often be found creating plays and entertainment for the mothers of the Sylvania, Georgia neighborhood. I “directed” my neighborhood playmates and I created the shows, even choreographing them.”

Eva Marie as a young child

Though not directly encouraged by her parents to take up the career she wanted, they recognized her talents and inclinations. Her father even tried to steer her into radio and television.

Surely this lithe, well-spoken, brown-eyed southern girl, active in swimming, biking, Girl Scouts, church groups, VBS, dance classes, and piano lessons, knew her heart and could not be confused about her direction!

At last Mrs. X called on Eva Marie. “And what about you?”

Eva Marie answered, “I want to be a novelist.”

Mrs. X gazed directly into Eva Marie’s eyes. “Well. You can’t do that.”

Can’t do it? But…

Mrs. X turned away and directed the class to open their textbooks.

What was wrong with being a novelist?

Eva Marie’s face burned. She quickly turned to escape the stares of her classmates and blinked back tears as she located the book in her desk. Disappointment cinched her heart like a band. Eva Marie could hardly wait for the bell to ring.

The teacher’s damaging words clung like a leech. “I believed her. I kept my dream to myself for the most part. I felt that no one would take me seriously as a writer.”

Eva Marie continued to write, though, even producing a “novel” in the 8th grade, which “most of my friends read,” she says. “They loved it, which should have told me something but it didn’t.”

Eva Marie in 1977

Oddly, when once Eva Marie turned in a less-than-her-best assignment to another teacher who said she “‘believed I could do better than that.’ It inadvertently encouraged me. The fact that (the teacher) believed in something I could do meant everything to me.”

Additional support came through another teacher who gave Eva Marie the lead in a school play.

But Mrs. X thoughtless remark  nearly caused irreparable damage.

As a result, “I became a nurse. I kept writing but I didn’t follow that (writing) career path.”

Eva Marie as a nurse

Though “nothing is ever wasted,” she says, “I wish I’d perhaps chosen a different path. Fortunately, no one ever died because of my choice. I quit working in the “outside world” when I became very ill in my late thirties. It took five years to get well, and in that time period I began to write. The rest was an amazing experience of watching one door swing open and then another and another.”

After a long series of events, Eva Marie sat with an editor at a large book sellers convention. This led to a discussion of a book Eva Marie had considered writing. “Nine days later, (the editor) called and said, ‘I’d like to offer you a contract’…and here we went.”

Eva Marie’s career was launched, and today, she has many, many books to her credit. She’s written and ghostwritten dozens of books, her latest being The Final Race and the upcoming The Ornament Keeper.

Her page on Goodreads states,Eva Marie Everson is a best-selling, multiple award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction. She is the president of Word Weavers International and the director of Florida Christian Writers Conference. She enjoys teaching and speaking at writers conferences across the US as well as coaching new writers via her company, Pen In Hand, Inc.”

And that is only the tip of the iceberg, Mrs. X! Through Pen in Hand, Eva Marie encourages others to become writers in their chosen genre.

Romans 11:29 says, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” They are irrevocable.

I’m so glad Eva Marie has re-discovered her gift and is working it obediently. In God’s economy the nursing detour was not a complete waste, though, for “…all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28b.

And to all of us who’ve accidentally walked in Mrs. X’s shoes while not intending to, let us now begin to encourage one other in our gifts and callings.

In the meantime, keep one eye open. It would not surprise me one day to hear that Eva Marie has written a screenplay or directed a movie. After all, she has already taken a screenplay (for the 2012 movie, Unconditional) and turned it into a novel!

You go, Eva Marie!  










To find out more about Eva Marie, her books and organizations, click the links below:




Nana’s Wisteria Cologne


by Jennifer Odom


Beautiful lavender wisteria vines. March bloomers

Nana handed me the bottle with its scant  leftovers of eau de cologne from her younger, fancier life. I took a sniff.  Wisteria! I caressed the chipped label with its lavender grape-like flowers. I was only ten, but this container was an antique, and inside it was my first blessed encounter with the sweet fragrance of  wisteria. In fact, it smelled so delicious, I feared it would run out, so I treasured the bottle, unused, for years until its few precious drops  grew dark and gummy from evaporation.

I’ll never forget the real wisteria vine, either, that grew up the trunk of Nana’s pine tree. Its flowers were so high I could hardly see them at the top, and of course couldn’t smell them. I wanted a vine like that, too, with lavender petals falling on my yard.

So I asked my daddy.

“Oh, no,” he said. “Not a wisteria vine. That thing can choke a tree.”

He wasn’t exaggerating. The vine can run wild if left unchecked, and is hard to destroy if that happens.

Disheartened, I continued to harbor the thought that one day I’d own one.

My husband, an inveterate vine-hater, has also discouraged the idea. I admit,  the vine does need  just the place to flourish, and it isn’t my yard. So I hold off from actually gathering seeds or purchasing a vine.

Though the vine is unruly, some people do have a knack for keeping it under control. Wisteria will only climb to the height of its trellis or tree. It can be trimmed and cultivated…away from trees.

I especially appreciate the people who do make the effort.

And this year, 2018, has been an especially good year for wisteria, maybe because of all the cold weather.

Even after wisteria’s short blooming period has expired, its old blooms will shed a beautiful purple carpet beneath the vine.

At this time of year, whenever I spot a nice wisteria growing along the roadways I’m sure to point it out.

The wisteria bloom is beautiful on the vine but does not work in a vase.

Sometimes I’ll stop the car along an undeveloped woodland and pick a bloom to lay across my console. Of course, it falls right to pieces and makes a mess. Even in a vase the bloom slumps and falls apart. Yet it’s worth my trouble just to inhale a few minutes worth of that heavenly scent in the car.

Thank you, Nana, for that little antique bottle with its precious drops of wisteria cologne. I have no idea where it disappeared to, and I’ve never found a good wisteria cologne since, but I’ll never forget it.

I can truly say, I am thankful that God created the beautiful wisteria vine, and if you see me picking a flower out by the road or sniffing around at your wisteria trellis, well, sorry. I just couldn’t help myself.

Learn more about wisteria and types that might not be so fragrant, but are Florida natives and aren’t so invasive: