Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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:




Marion County Master Gardeners serve at Epcot

If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Marion County Extension Office at 352-671-8413. The 2017 Master Gardener Orientation will be held May 24th, with master gardener interviews beginning only a few weeks later.

Click the link below for full article.