Category Archives: Places in Central Florida

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.

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


Orchids, No Longer Afraid


by Jennifer Odom

After the confident way Suzanne Farnsworth of Sazanna’s Orchids demonstrated repotting orchids and snipping of the keikis (pronounced kay-kees) which is the Hawaiian word for child, maybe I could do it too. It didn’t seem such a scary operation.

This little keiki (or shoot) has roots and is about big enough to clip from the parent and transplant.

I’ve always heard, “Just forget growing orchids, they’re too complicated and finicky. Orchids are tricky to grow, and you’ll just lose out.”

But, like with other plants, it’s less about the green thumb and more about understanding the plants. And Suzanne gave the visiting Master Gardener group plenty of tips.

For example, keep the plant out of direct sunlight, but give it nice bright light, (enough light to read by). For the phalaenopsis planted in sphaghum moss, don’t give them too much water, just  1/2 to 1/3 cup. Orchids do not like wet feet. And do not use soft water. How often? If you stick a finger in the medium and find it too dry, then water it.

 It’s perfectly fine for the roots to grow out of the pot. That’s how they act. In fact, many varieties are grown on a metal hanger for support, with their roots completely exposed, just like in the jungle! They also need air movement, the more the better. It cuts down on disease. Make sure to feed them  orchid food according to package directions. 

Is the orchid plant loose in its planting medium?

It’s about time to repot it, which comes around about every two years. Use the proper bark medium made of sequoia, sponge rock, and charcoal.

Do not use pine or oak. Oak and pine bark are going

Don’t plant the orchid too deep.

to rot too soon. Peat moss will retain too much moisture. Just buy the mix, which is available at Sazanna’s in Weirsdale, Florida or wherever orchids are sold.

Orchids grown on a mount such as cork, cypress boards, or redwood cedar are more natural than in pots. After all, they hang on trees in the jungle. (If you must use a pot, some of Susanna’s customers prefer clear pots for phalaenopsis orchids so they can enjoy the beauty of the roots. And too, says Susanna, the roots have a relationship with light).

Another trick Suzanne revealed is that when she must make a cut, such as separating keikis, or trimming up some roots while repotting, she uses a brand new sterile razor blade. Any tools must be cleaned so disease is kept at a minimum.

On all cuts Suzanne uses a light dusting of cinnamon powder which acts as a natural fungicide. Yes, regular old spice-cabinet cinnamon.

When dealing with young plants, an inverted u-shaped wire can be inserted into the medium to prop up bent leaves until they develop the proper memory for shape. But all orchid plants are delicate and can snap like young asparagus if handled roughly.

Because of that, when staking a flower stalk that is hanging low, you will have to do this in stages over a period of days or weeks. A quick change in direction can break them. Use a brown or green twist-tie to blend in, but do not twist. Wrap the stem smoothly and gently, remembering that the stem will grow in girth and you don’t want it to strangle.

Wrap the twist tie smoothly. Avoid garish red or yellow that take away from the plant’s beauty.

Maybe now you’ll feel more confident too, and venture out to find an orchid or two to play with. Until you try it, you’ll never learn to understand their beautiful ways.

And stop by Sazanna’s. She’d love for you to see her beautiful greenhouse and the gorgeous varieties for sale.

Sazanna’s Orchids & Supplies

15730 S Hwy. 35

Weirsdale, Florida 32195



Suzanne shows visitors that the real orchid root lies inside a surrounding spongy layer.

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose see is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day. KJV Gen. 1: 11-13