Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

The Three Rs of Fishing

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

If there were a fourth R of fishing, it would be recycling. For example, unwanted fishing line should be recycled, not thrown away. If it ends up in a landfill, it is hazardous to birds and other animals in the area. It should be discarded in designated receptacles found at many fishing shops, parks, boat ramps and piers. Metal pieces also can be recycled, such as lead weights, spoons, hooks and blades.
© istock/mokee81

I’ve mentioned Pop a time or two before. He was a fishing legend where I grew up.

He is worth reintroducing here because he was a firm believer in the three Rs of fishing gear: repair, repurpose and reuse.

Pop accumulated a trove of fishing gear in his 80-some years. It was as if he never threw anything away. Despite how that may sound, nearly all of it was in perfect working condition. That’s because he always followed these three principles when challenged by broken, aging or worn out gear.

Restore it. It’s easy—and satisfying—to repair a broken rod tip, grip or guide. A reel restoration is more challenging, but it is well worth the trouble if the reel is one of your old favorites. Manuals with exploded parts views for many brands and models of reels are available online. You also can sharpen hooks, polish spinner blades and restore suppleness to plastic baits with a few drops of glycerin.

Repurpose it. I’ve seen earrings created from old spinners, back scratchers made from broken rods, and keyrings assembled from crankbait and diver plugs. The uses for old and broken fishing gear are endless. But, perhaps, the best use is to repurpose it as loaner gear for children or other novice anglers.

Reuse it. A piece of fishing gear may not work properly, but that doesn’t mean it has to be discarded. Reuse any parts that do work still—such as the body, spoons and treble hook of a lure—and discard the rest. Often you can take the working parts of two broken items and combine them to make one that works.

The Outdoor Workout
Ever wonder how many calories you burn outdoors? The actual burn rate depends on the activity. For example, hiking and biking burn more calories—410 and 574 calories, respectively, for a person weighing 180 pounds—than fishing and hunting, which burn 164 and 328 calories, respectively.
Duration and intensity of the activity, body weight, age, gender and metabolism also play a role. The good news is almost every outdoor activity burns more calories than sitting or puttering around the house. So the next time you go fishing, if anyone asks, it’s OK to tell people you are going to work out.

To get a better idea of how many calories you burn, check out the calorie-burn calculator at

A Hiker’s Delight
Do you want to find trails near home or when exploring new areas? There are many trail directory apps and websites, but one of the most comprehensive is You can browse the site by location and activity type. The site also is interactive, and you can post your comments and photos, or see those posted by others.

What Makes April Special
Keep America Beautiful Month.
April 8: Draw a Picture of a Bird Day.
April 28: Arbor Day.
April 28: International Astronomy Day.

Show-and-Tell Time
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected for publication, we will send you $25 for one-time use of the item. When sending a photo, identify people and pets, and tell us the story behind the picture. Email your submission to

What’s Your Score?

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Winter the dolphin and her caretakers prepare for a tail therapy session with the mammal’s prosthetic appendage.
Photo courtesy of Clearwater Marine Aquarium

USA Today’s Readers’ Choice poll recently ranked the top 10 tourist attractions in Florida. Disney’s Magic Kingdom made the list, but have you visited the others?

1. Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Clearwater ( Home to Winter the dolphin, the star and inspiration for the Dolphin Tale movies, the aquarium is a rescue facility for sea turtles and other marine life.

2. The Ringling, Sarasota ( The Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey Circus tour ends in 2017, but you can still experience the thrill of the big top at the Circus Museum. Also visit the Ringling Museum of Art and the Cà d’Zan—the family’s Venetian-style mansion.

3. Everglades Holiday Park, Fort Lauderdale ( Get up close with airboat rides, wildlife encounters, the Gator Boys Alligator Rescue and regular alligator shows.

4. Discovery Cove, Orlando ( Swim with dolphins, snorkel with tropical fish and rays, play with otters and marmosets, hand-feed exotic birds and float along a scenic river at this SeaWorld partner.

5. Magic Kingdom, Orlando ( Opened October 1, 1971, the Magic Kingdom started Disney’s love affair with the Sunshine State.

6. St. Augustine Historic District, St. Augustine ( History oozes from the nation’s oldest city, not just on historic St. George Street with its shops, restaurants and museums, but also all around the town—from the Lightner Museum and Flagler College to the black-and-white barber pole at St. Augustine Lighthouse and the Lincolnville Museum located in the city’s first public black high school.

7. Seashells of Sanibel Island, Sanibel ( Walk 15 miles of beaches on the Gulf of Mexico to collect more than 250 kinds of shells and see more than 230 varieties of tropical birds.

8. Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg ( With more than 2,000 works, it is the artist’s largest collection outside of Europe.

9. Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine ( Affectionately called “The Old Fort” by locals, the coquina bastille was built more than 107 years after the nation’s oldest city was founded by the Spanish.

10. Beaches of Daytona Beach, Daytona Beach ( Florida is all about beaches, but beyond the waves of the Atlantic and the International Speedway, visit the Halifax Historical Museum or take in an oceanside concert at the Daytona Beach Band Shell.

Off Into the Sunset
Say goodbye to a roadside attraction. The Airstream Stonehenge is no more. The octet of upright silver Airstream trailers along I-4 near Dover has been removed.

Former RV dealer Frank Bates got the eight Airstreams from a junkyard in 2007 and “planted” them on his land.

For a decade, the display attracted the attention of locals and tourists—some positive, some not so much.

The new landowner, Tampa RV, is expanding its dealership, so in February the Airstream Ranch was demolished.

Oddly Quaint
An entire town in an aircraft hangar? That’s Danville B&B ( Located in Geneva, Danville not only includes a single-occupancy B&B, but a streetscape complete with a pub and theater. Danville can be rented for special events.

Florida native Pamela A. Keene is a freelance journalist who specializes in travel, gardening, personality profiles and feature writing. The avid traveler also is a photographer and accomplished sailor. Her website is

What a Photograph Cannot Do

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Four views of Frank, from left: The cheerful Frank I see most mornings. He talks about a former girlfriend, an Italian woman. Frank grows more serious as he explains how he came to Italy via Morocco and lost his passport. He sleeps on the streets and, at 66, is losing hope of ever leaving Italy or being able to get a job. “All I want is a simple life—a room to stay in and to live,” he offers. He has been stuck in Italy for 32 years with no hope of ever leaving or changing his existence. He says he cares deeply about me … and that we are both crazy.

I have written about what photography means to me and how it helps us cope and heal from traumas. But for all of the wonderful things photographs can do, they have limits—things they cannot do.
How often have we heard, and maybe even said, a photograph “captured” an individual’s spirit or character?

I feel like that trite expression is grossly inaccurate.

Last year I wrote a column, “I am not Richard Avedon,” confessing my inability to share painful or revealing photos of subjects without their blessing, however honest the images might be.

Space would not allow me then to elaborate on another acute realization: No single photograph—even the best ones made by the best photographers—can capture a person’s spirit any more than a mirror can capture the essence of our complicated selves.

No human is one thing, one way, all the time. We laugh, we cry, we are happy and we are sad. Between these extreme passions are myriad subtle feelings and expressions—each a tiny blinking star in a vast galaxy of emotion, each a fragment of the fleshly paint of an immortal soul.

We humans are far too complicated to be captured on film or a digital sensor. As with photographing the wind, we can only hope to capture shadowy glimpses of the spirit.

When people ask me how I am doing, I often tease, “I am fine, as long as I stay away from a mirror.”

Though this is meant to evoke a laugh, there is deep truth in what I am saying. Who I see in a mirror does not look at all like the real, intimate, internal, invisible, eternal me—at least not what I feel in my spirit.

This does not minimize the power of a good photograph or work of art. On the contrary, a photograph can trigger or awaken emotions within—sort of heirlooms to memories—that remind us or connect us to meaningful moments in our lives.

Some portraits—whether made with camera or paintbrush—offer clues about the subject’s inward person, granting us a peek at their soul.

But portraits shared publicly have context. When possible, multiple images are published to give a greater range of emotion and expression.

For me, seeing a single portrait of a person is a little like watching the tip of a snake’s tail going down a gopher hole and saying I saw the snake. I prefer to study multiple images of a person from one sitting or shoot to assemble a more complete profile.

Like it or not, we make judgments about people often based on a single image, without knowing the context of the photograph. What was the circumstance, the climate of the photo shoot? What was the question? What was the facial expression in response to?

One of the exercises I use with my students is to have them shoot a self-portrait. Then I ask other students to tell the class how they see and feel about the person.

I miss those days when publications printed a panel of portrait images from a sitting. Each individual photograph offered a different expression, like a piece to a jigsaw puzzle or mosaic, that contributed to the overall beauty of the person’s spirit and character.


David LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He applies many of the lessons he learned during his magical boyhood years in rural California to photography. For more information, visit

Six Steps to Get Your Finances on Track

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Assistant Editor Justin Cupler works at The Penny Hoarder offices. The personal finance website has attracted more than 6 million active subscribers.
Photo by Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Take control of your money instead of letting your money control you

It is easy to talk about personal finance, but how do you take this talk from passive to active? Here are six steps to help you start your financially conscious lifestyle.

Step One: Financial Fire Drill
Before you can start saving, you have to understand your financial situation.

“First, figure out where you are financially,” says Teresa Mears, executive editor of Living on the Cheap. “What is your income after taxes and what are your fixed expenses every month?”

Assessing your monthly expenses helps you distinguish between monthly wants and needs. This amount does not include luxuries such as cable, entertainment and eating out.

Step Two: Create a Budget
Budgeting means assessing how much you need to spend on monthly expenses such as rent/mortgage, car, child or pet care and groceries, and establishing a place for money left over.

“You have to really look at how much you have, your earnings and how much you can afford,” says Karrie Truman, creator of Happy Money Saver blog.

Groceries can be a big budget breaker, says Karrie.

“Often times food is the No. 1 huge budget breaker because everyone is on the go and coming home tired around dinner time,” she says.

Instead of ordering a pizza or going out for dinner, this mom of four encourages people to coupon to help with the expense and prepare freezer meals for easy dinners at the end of the day.

Step Three: Cut the Fat
Once you have established a budget, address the monthly luxuries you could do without.

“Cut everything that you don’t need and can live without,” says Justin Cupler, assistant editor of The Penny Hoarder. “If you have a Netflix account, but only watch once a month, or have a car you’re paying on, but only drive two times a week, start cutting those expenses and you could save several hundred dollars a month.”

Step Four: Save
Whether it is a savings account, 401(k), IRA or mutual funds, everyone should be saving for the future. Saving every month can be as easy as “set it and forget it.”

“Automate your savings,” says Justin. “There is Acorns, Digit and multiple other apps that take money and stash it away for you.”

Acorns monitors your bank account and automatically invests the change from your daily purchases into an investment portfolio of your choice, from moderate to aggressive.

Digit connects to your checking account and analyzes your spending habits, bills and deposits. It then determines how much money you can afford to have transferred into a savings account every two to three days.

Both apps are federally insured and protected.

Step Five: Change Your Financial Mindset
Paying off debt and getting finances in order takes time. Your financial mentality plays a big role in your success.

“There is no shame in using your money wisely,” says Teresa. “Find happiness in making plenty of money instead of spending on a daily latte. Maybe save for vacation or your children’s college. Save for things you really want to do. You want to be the one controlling your money, not money controlling you.”

Step Six: Reward Yourself
As you move toward your goal of living a more financially conscious lifestyle, save for events and vacations.

While this may be ingrained into your financial plan every year, Gary Foreman says saving while you are young leads to greater adventures later in life.

“Sacrificing a little bit early on in your life means the reward later on is so much greater,” says Gary. “There were times my wife and I sacrificed in our 20s, which lead to opportunities later that we wouldn’t have had if we hadn’t.”

When it comes to taking control of your money, it is an active process that should be given priority every month.

“Start now,” says Justin. “Don’t start next month. Start today.”

Cut Down to Save Big

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Thrifty living can be born from a frugal upbringing or be the result of a life situation that makes it a necessity

In 1996, Gary Foreman took a leap of faith and started his own business. As a financial planner and purchasing manager, Gary knew how to get value for every dollar he, or a company, spends.

The Dollar Stretcher—a personal finance website—is a way for Gary to share his expertise, make money and carve out his own independent niche.

“I’ve always tried to be very practical,” says Gary, who lives in Bradenton. “When it comes to personal finance, I know many people who either don’t believe they can understand the topic or believe that they can’t do it.”

Given this perceived idea about money management—and in a society driven by the desire for the latest and greatest—Gary recognizes the need for personal finance education.

“It is actually critical for people today to understand their finances,” Gary says, noting he strives to offer information in a way everyone can understand.

Personal finance stretches beyond retirement plans and stock options to simple, everyday lifestyle changes and money-saving behaviors that result in substantial savings.

For some, it is breaking the daily latte or shopping habit, or cutting monthly grocery costs in half. For others, it is viewing debt as a financial emergency and strategically planning to pay it off.

“I get emails from too many people who have put off saving for too long and want to turn back the clock,” says Gary. “No financial planner can do that.”

People are Seeking Help
Since the 2008 recession, many people have turned to online resources, such as Gary’s blog, for tips and tricks to save money. Personal finance websites, such as The Penny Hoarder, are thriving.

“We focus on keeping more money in our readers’ pockets, not so much stock markets,” says Justin Cupler, assistant editor at The Penny Hoarder, headquartered in St. Petersburg.

Since it started in 2010, The Penny Hoarder has attracted more than 6 million active subscribers with posts ranging from money management to food freebies.

“We cater to the masses,” says Justin. “Everyone is looking for ways to make money. We try to catch on to trends where people can find real-life ways to earn money and save money.”

The first principle to personal finance is you get out of it what you put into it, says Justin.

For every person, regardless of age, the first step to managing money is paying off debt. Justin says there are two approaches to effectively tackling what you owe.

“The debt snowball is paying off the lowest-balance credit cards first, then once that card is paid off, rolling that payment into the card with the next-lowest balance,” Justin says. “Debt avalanche is the same concept of rolling payments, but you focus on paying the highest interest cards first.”

Easy Ways to Save
Paying off debt often means cutting back on spending. Blogger Karrie Truman is an expert on household savings. Her blog, Happy Money Saver, gives readers easy ways to save at home, ranging from making homemade laundry detergent to building a dream house on a budget.

“In 2009, I first started blogging because I was finding so many good deals,” says Karrie. “I love to experiment, so I started doing tests of whether making your own laundry detergent really saves money. I made my own (version of) Burt’s Bees for 12 cents a tube. I’ve been frugal a very long time. I think I just love saving money.”

Karrie’s blog has grown so much that she pays 10 people to contribute to and help manage her site.

“I have some people do recipe creation,” she says. “Some people help me with photography. I have people that help with writing thrifty articles, and I have somebody that manages all the different social media outlets.”

Karrie’s most popular blog section is about freezer meals. She says preparing meals ahead of time is a great money saver.

“You may make multiple trips to the store every week, which leads to impulse shopping,” says Karrie. “When you do freezer meals and make 30 meals all in one day with one batch of groceries, you save all that time you would have been cooking when you get home.”
By living a frugal life, Karrie was able to make her dream of owning a piece of land and farm animals come true.

In February 2016, her dream home on 5 acres was completed, and she started her own homestead.

She blogged about the process.

“It takes a lot of research to save a lot of money when building a house,” says Karrie. “I was constantly researching everything—from the best quality and least expensive options. There’s so much research involved, but it pays off. The amount of work you put in it will pay off.”

Teaching the Art of Budgeting
Whether it is saving on groceries or planning for retirement, setting a budget is an important part of personal finance.

Carolyn Wyatt knows budgeting can set a person’s life on a new track.

The Hardee County extension agent teaches money management classes at the Hardee Help Center in Wauchula. Classes attract five to 10 participants, who learn the basics of budgeting for weekly and monthly expenses.

“The way I structure it is I have a virtual family I have made up, and we as a group develop a budget for this fictitious family,” says Carolyn. “I have set criteria and have that listed on a sheet of poster board. Then we talk about how we are going to go about creating a budget for this family.”

Carolyn sets a monthly income of $1,200 for the single-parent family. Participants get cards with specific budget items on them, such as food, rent and gas. As a group, they determine how much should be allocated to each budget item.

“I say during the class and at the end of class, ‘You’re giving every dollar a job. It must do that job and no other,’” says Carolyn. “If you have $15 designated for your child care expenses, that is the job the $15 has to do and nothing else.”

Participants go home with their own set of cards, which have an area where they can track what they spend on each card’s budget item every month, along with a money management wall calendar to track expenses, bills and money spent every day.

Since starting these classes more than 15 years ago, Carolyn has seen a change in how she lives her life.

“It made a big difference in my life because you can’t teach something as long as I’ve taught it and not have it become embedded in you,” says Carolyn. “I am very, very cautious about where my money goes and making sure I keep to my budget.”

Recession Prompts Lifestyle Shift
Educating the public about personal finance means practicing what you preach. Sometimes that lesson comes about unexpectedly.

Teresa Mears always lived a frugal lifestyle, but the 2008 recession sent her career and life in a new direction.

After being laid off from the Miami Herald, Teresa thought she could turn to the property she owned and find comfort in her 401(k). But three months after leaving the Herald, the recession hit.

“This came at a time where my personal finance situation wasn’t that great,” says Teresa. “My partner died the year before—and she was sick before she died—so I struggled financially before leaving the Herald. Then my 401(k) lost half its value. My property lost half its value.”

On top of it all, the 2008 recession had a ripple effect and prompted the newspaper industry to drastically downsize.

Teresa knew she could not count on getting a job at another newspaper.

In early 2009, she made the move to online publishing and started Florida on the Cheap, which is part of a network of Living on the Cheap websites throughout the country.

Teresa had not worked in online publishing. It took her eight days to build her WordPress website. Then she started learning everything she could about online publishing. Teresa is now executive editor of Living on the Cheap with its more than 30 local city sites, and publisher of Florida on the Cheap.

“I had been raised to be frugal,” says Teresa. “This was kind of a good time to go back to my roots and look at what really matters.”

Florida on the Cheap gives tips on free attractions, travel deals and more, all broken into the state’s regions.

“We actually cover a pretty wide variety of topics because we consider our audience to be all ages,” says Teresa.

Teresa also freelances for US News & World Report, writing about personal finance, real estate and retirement.

In a recent article, “A Beginner’s Guide to Investing,” Teresa gives readers a step-by-step guide to start investing.

She encourages everyone to invest.

“It’s never a mistake to save money, but you can earn more investing than you can earn from a savings account,” says Teresa. “The easiest way to start investing is taking advantage of your company’s 401(k). If your company matches, you’re not going to get that return on investment anywhere else.”

In the past seven years, Teresa’s life has drastically changed.

“I think we all learned a lot from the recession—that experiences and relationships make us happier than things do,” she says. “There is no shame in using your money wisely. You want to be the one controlling your money, not letting money control you.”

For Gary, having control of his finances allowed him to recognize the lifestyle he wanted to lead.

“A lot of spending is just wasteful,” says Gary. “It doesn’t buy happiness. We remember money spent on experiences as opposed to money spent for things. Quite often those experiences are just as good if they are not that expensive.”

And the Question is …

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Mari Hanley’s playfulness came out on the show, but at school she is serious about hitting the books.
Photo courtesy of Stetson University

Who is the Florida college student who fulfilled a lifelong dream to be a contestant on Jeopardy?

If personality factored into the Jeopardy! College Championship, Mari Hanley from Stetson University would have walked away with the grand prize of $100,000.

From singing her question about song titles to doing a little dance on set, the junior history major charmed viewers with her positive attitude.

Host Alex Trebek even got into the act, singing his affirmation of her correct response back to her.

For Mari, competing on Jeopardy! was a dream come true.

“I started taking the online tests when I was 8 or 9, first auditioning for Kid’s Week,” says the 20-year-old from Lighthouse Point, Florida. “It took eight tries, but I finally made it.”

Mari kept her quest under wraps. Officials at Stetson found out about Mari’s acceptance after she returned from auditions in New Orleans.

“No one even knew that I was taking the Jeopardy! test except my roommate,” Mari says. “But as soon as the college found out, I became a marketing tool very quickly.”

She is the first student to represent Stetson on the classic game show.

Mari is active in her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Phi Alpha Theta—the national history honors society. She also participates in weekly Dungeons and Dragons competitions with fellow students at the home of one of her professors. She works in Stetson’s School of History as a department assistant. Her hobbies include baking.

An avid reader, Mari speaks six languages and is fluent in sign language.

More than 250 students were selected for initial auditions in several U.S. locations.

“I found out on my birthday I’d been selected for the tournament,” Mari says. “My grandmother died last year on my birthday, so it was going to be a sad time this year. But when I heard I’d been selected, I decided that it was part of her birthday present for me from beyond the grave.”

Leading up to her appearances on Jeopardy!, Mari prepared with fellow students, faculty and Stetson alumni.

In January, Jeopardy! paid Mari’s expenses for a four-day trip to Los Angeles, which included two full days of taping. She took her sorority little sister, Tyler Thomas. Mari’s parents traveled to Los Angeles at their own expense. All were in the studio audience.

On campus, friends tried to get Mari to fess up about her experience, but she had signed a non-disclosure agreement prohibiting her from spilling the beans.

“People teased me to try and find out, but once they realized I wouldn’t say, they accepted it,” Mari says.

When the quarterfinals episode aired February 22, friends and sorority sisters hosted a viewing party. Mari finished second, which left her status for the semifinals in limbo. But her score secured one of four wildcard positions.

“We found out on the last day of the quarterfinals taping who would move on to the semis,” she says. “I was so nervous. They called out everyone’s name in alphabetical order by their school, so I was the next to the last one to be called. I was praying the Pater Nostra really hard in Latin the whole time.”

For her semifinals appearance, Mari faced Netanel Paley from Yeshiva University and Gary Tse, a freshman at the U.S. Naval Academy. Gary advanced, finishing second overall and winning $50,000. MIT senior Lilly Chin from Georgia won the title, the $100,000 grand prize and a berth in the next Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions.

With her pixie haircut and round, tortoise-shell glasses, Mari appeared to be a mixture of seriousness and fun.

That came through in a story Trebek shared with viewers as he introduced Mari in the quarterfinals.

“We were asked to send in about 10 stories so that the producers had choices for Alex,” Mari says. “They picked my butterfly release at my high school graduation. What we didn’t get to talk about was that I sat through mass, three speeches and about one-fourth of our class being called before I walked across the stage and released the butterflies. All that time I had the butterflies that had been frozen in a little mesh bag under my robe. They were really warmed up and ready to go by the time I walked the stage.”

Has her brush with fame changed her?

“Not really,” Mari says. “But I am so thankful that I finally was able to compete on Jeopardy! Someone asked me which was tougher: Stetson final exams or being on Jeopardy! and face-to-face with Alex Trebeck. The answer is Stetson finals. After all, we’re the Harvard of the South.”

The One That Almost Got Away

Monday, February 20th, 2017

 Dan Echols shares the story of his grandson’s big catch

For some, little compares to the sight and sound of an early morning top water explosion, administered by a giant largemouth bass.

It was just getting daylight in mid-March last year, a little foggy with a slight chill in the air, as my grandson Louie, his buddy Simon and I quietly eased into one of our favorite fishing spots on Lake Istokpoga. The water was mirror calm. It was one of those quiet magical times as nature was just beginning to wake up.

Louie was standing next to me at the bow and Simon, who was relatively new to bass fishing at the time, was in the back of the boat. I quietly let down the trolling motor as we approached a large area of flat lily pads and immediately heard that familiar zing of Louie’s swim bait rocket past my head and out into the fog and into the middle of those flat pads.

This was where the calm serenity of the early morning was suddenly changed to absolute chaos. As Louie began his retrieve across the top of those pads, there came a huge wake up behind his lure followed by one of the largest explosions I think I’ve ever seen in all of my 65 years of bass fishing.

As he set the hook on this monster, and began what was to be an epic battle, suddenly his line snapped. We all just stood there in silence for a moment. We could not believe what had just happened. This was 65 lb. braid! Suddenly, Louie started yelling, “There’s my line, there’s my line!” I looked down and sure enough there was his line moving across the top of the water. I put the trolling motor on high and headed for the line as Louie was stretched out as far as he could trying to reach it. Simon was still standing in the back of the boat in what seemed to be a trance as he watched all of this unfolding.

As we reached the line, Louie snatched it up and began pulling.

“She’s still on there,” he yelled as the giant leaped out of the water like a missile. “Get the net, get the net!”

I ran to the back of the boat past Simon and grabbed the net. As I made my way back to the bow, my feet went right out from under me and I found myself on the floor of the boat, flat on my back looking up at the sky with the net across my chest.

“She’s wrapped up in the trolling motor,” Louie yelled.

I remember looking up at Louie’s backside as he bent over trying to untangle the monster from the trolling motor. As I made it back to my feet, with the net in my hands, the next thing I saw was Louie, with a bloody finger, pulling the behemoth over the bow of the boat and right into his lap.

What a fish! Twelve pounds and twelve ounces of bucket mouth fury. We weighed her, marveled at her, took some photos and set her free right back where she came from. She turned out to be the largest bass registered with TrophyCatch Florida from Lake Istokpoga during their 2016 season. This was surely one for the journal and one that Louie, Simon and I will never forget.

Want to submit your outdoor photo and story? Email

Oh, Deer! What’s Eating You?

Monday, February 20th, 2017

A fawn ignores pavement to feed on an especially delicious grassy lawn.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Implement three primary strategies to keep those four-legged interlopers from feasting on your foliage

The succulent plants you so carefully tend in your garden are like an oasis in a desert—a feast for the eyes and stomach, waiting to be harvested at just the right time.

Sometimes, though, the fruits of your labor are prematurely usurped by a garden intruder impressed by what it sees as a gourmet, all-you-can-eat buffet.

“Deer are looking for the highest-quality food, and our yards often offer the best smorgasbord,” says Dana Sanchez, a wildlife specialist for Oregon State University Extension Service. “When taking loving care of our plants—watering well and fertilizing—we’re producing a really superior plant compared to what’s in the natural environment. They are more tender and have more nutrition and water content.”

How do you keep deer from feasting on what you want to enjoy?

According to nationally recognized gardening expert Joe Lamp’l, creator and host of the award-winning PBS television series “Growing a Greener World,” there are three primary strategies: exclusion through physical barriers, repellents and making appropriate plant choices.

“There’s no foolproof method for keeping deer from eating your landscape if they’re hungry enough, but there are some ways to minimize the damage,” says Joe. “It takes persistence and a few tricks, but you can keep deer at bay.”


Fence Them Out
The most reliable way to address a deer issue is to create a physical barrier or a way to exclude deer from your landscape, Joe says.

“Building a fence around your vegetable garden will do a great deal to reduce deer damage, but not just any fence will do,” he says.

Joe suggests building a double three-strand fence, like those used for livestock protection. Mount plastic insulators on 36-inch wooden, fiberglass or metal stakes. Make two concentric circles around the area, 3 feet apart. String together the stakes in each circle with wire strands, placing the wire in the outside circle, 18 inches from the ground. Then put two strands on the inner stakes at 10 and 24 inches.

“A deer’s depth perception is not good, so they will sense the presence of the two fences, but will be very unlikely to attempt to jump both,” says Michael Mengak, wildlife specialist professor at the University of Georgia. “You’ve created a visual and physical barrier against them without putting up an unsightly stockade-style fence. A deer may try to jump the fence, but it won’t be able to clear both circles. It will most likely jump back out than attempt to cross the inner fence’s 24-inch barrier.”

Electricity—either through solar power or a battery-operated source—can be added, but Joe says that is not necessary in most cases.

If a double fence is not practical from a space standpoint, he suggests building a standard fence from posts and chicken wire, woven field wire or welded mesh wire at least 8 feet tall. Make sure the fencing is tight against the ground. Deer will not burrow, but they will look for an easy way to go under it.

Individual plants or smaller plant groupings can be protected by draping them with lightweight netting. Loosely secure the netting around the base of the plant to prevent the deer from nibbling on the leaves.


Carefully Consider Repellents
Frustrated gardeners have resorted to a variety of techniques to try to deter Bambi and friends from foraging and grazing on prized roses, vegetables and hydrangeas: human hair, Irish Spring soap shavings, aluminum pie pans suspended on string, motion-activated lights and water sprinklers.

Others have tried crushing garlic, concocting a mixture of fragrant herbs or spraying capsaicin oil onto plants to keep the deer away.

“Some of these methods may work for the short term, but deer are creatures of habit and they’ll adjust to these attempts to add a human scent to frighten them,” says Neil Soderstrom, author of “Deer-Resistant Landscaping: Proven Advice and Strategies for Outwitting Deer and 20 Other Pesky Mammals.”

“We’ve heard of people using powdered baby formula, homemade concoctions that contain rosemary or other herbs, hot sauce, and even human or animal urine,” he says.

Neil says commercially available repellents have a higher success rate, but the key is to alternate their use.

“The odor will dissipate over time, so you must be diligent in applying them every 10 days or so, and after it rains,” he says.

Recognized brands are Liquid Fence, Deer Away, Deer Out, Deer Stopper and Hinder. They are applied directly to leaves and the stem to create smells and tastes offensive to deer.

Repellex offers two types of repellents: a liquid spray applied to the plants and leaves, and systemic tablets or granular forms put into the soil, then absorbed into the plant, making it bitter to animals.

The process takes several weeks, so it is important to use a spray on the foliage the first few weeks.

Most box retailers and nurseries offer a choice of products in liquids, concentrates or powders. Completely read the labels, including cautions, before using to ensure the product is safe if used on fruits and vegetables.

For an organic deer-repellent that is marketed as fertilizer, try Milorganite—a wastewater treatment byproduct that has been produced by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District for more than 90 years.

Milorganite is the result of recycling nutrients in the city’s wastewater by using microbes that are then kiln-dried, bagged and sold. The organic nitrogen-based slow-release fertilizer produces an odor offensive to deer.

“I’ve seen it used as a fertilizer and deer repellent, and the deer don’t seem to browse in areas treated with Milorganite,” Joe says. “I find it to be very effective.”


Pick Native Plants
In the wild, plants develop defenses such as waxy leaves or prickles that make them more adapted to surviving grazing. Even when they do get nibbled, natives are more likely to survive than the succulent plants in our gardens.

“We’re often selecting plants from other parts of the world that didn’t get to learn through evolution about the herbivores in our ecosystem,” says Dana. “They’re naïve. Even roses that have prickles don’t have them around the beautiful blossoms, which the deer just snap off. They easily take what they want.”

Choosing the right kinds of plants—those deer typically do not like—can reduce the likelihood of free-range foraging in your landscape.

“Native plants are among the best bets for your garden and landscape,” Joe says. “Native plants evolved at the same time as your area’s wildlife and developed their own resistance to deer feeding to survive.”
Some plants are more appealing to hungry deer than others.

Daylilies, hydrangeas, hosta, azaleas, rhododendron, roses, fruit trees, arborvitae and Leyland cypress are ready-made food sources. Garden experts recommend not planting these if you have a high-traffic deer area.

Instead, look for plants and trees on the less-likely-to-be-eaten list, including boxwoods, hollies, ornamental grasses, hellebores/Lenten roses, ferns, butterfly bushes, cedar trees, redwoods and hemlocks. Consider planting them in the outer reaches of your landscape.

“Deer are determined and persistent when it comes to filling their tummies,” Dana notes.

Sometimes combining deer-desirable plants with those deer do not like can reduce the chance of having your colorful flower beds mowed to the ground. Mixing marigolds with pentas or lantana or Angelonia with impatiens tends to keep deer from grazing. Some gardeners intersperse pansies with spring onions to make deer work harder to sort out the plants they like to eat.

“Use ‘decoy plants’ around your landscape to attract deer away from your valued plants,” Joe says. “For instance, give up part of your property to deer-friendly plants in hopes that they will focus on this readily available food source. However, if the deer are hungry enough, they will eat anything, so no method is completely effective.”

As creatures of habit, deer tend to feed in the same areas for generations—which can be problematic when invading their territory to create new neighborhoods, compromising their food and water sources.

“The key is making sure we have a way to live with wildlife,” says Michael. “It may mean habitat modification, but it’s important to strike a balance between the needs of people and the needs of animals.”

Check your local county extension office website for plant recommendations specific to your area.

Simplify Your Routine With Innovative Tools

Monday, February 20th, 2017

Pop-up covers protect plants from weather extremes.
Photo courtesy of Gardener’s Supply Co.

Gardening is a wholesome task of manipulating the soil, planting favorite flowers and vegetables, and watching nature take its course—with plenty of nurturing in between.

While the process of gardening may be the same, the tools used continue to improve. Stay true to your love of weeding, watering and reaping, but make the process easier with these innovative tools.

Easily Protect Plants
Keep spring plants and vegetables safe from cold temperatures and wind with pop-up plant covers. The covers pop open and close for easy use and storage. Gardener’s Supply Co. says its product can help plants grow 25 percent faster, leading to an earlier harvest. | $13 to $20


The Ultimate Leaf Rake
Say goodbye to straight wooden hand holds and inflexible rakes, and hello to ergonomic, lightweight and flexible, specially designed tines. Fiskars’ 24-inch leaf rake makes sprucing up your yard a breeze, while getting optimal results with every swipe. | $20


Water When You are Gone
Take the stress out of watering your garden with a water timer. The Orbit Single-Dial Hose Faucet Timer has a large dial that allows you to easily program it for your watering needs. It is battery operated and weatherproof. Orbit also has models with multiple hose valves for large-scale watering. | $30


Keep Your Wheelbarrow Organized
Make one trip with the Little Burro wheelbarrow organizer. Multiple partitions and rack and shovel rests allow you to keep all your gardening tools organized and safe when rolling into your garden. Your keys, phone and sunglasses make the trip in a closeable compartment. | $60


Garden Know It All
The Edyn Garden Sensor lets you know what is going on with your garden at all times. The solar-powered garden sensor connects to your home’s Wi-Fi to send you data on your garden via the Edyn app. The sensor tracks garden light, moisture, humidity and nutrition. | $100


Compost Organic Matter Faster
If your compost pile is not producing fast enough, try a tumbling composter. The Yimby composter’s dual chamber allows for fast and efficient homemade compost. Turn the tumbler every few days to break up material and help speed up decomposition. | $90


A Better Shovel
Much like the handy rake, a shovel is an essential gardening tool. The Radius Pro-Lite Shovel has a round point, ergonomic handle and works in all soil types. Along with being sturdy, it comes in multiple colors such as green, purple and blue.
www.radiusgardencom | $31

Lipizzan Legend Lives On

Monday, February 20th, 2017

Gabby Herrmann trains Argento at Herrmann’s Royal Lipizzan Stallions near Myakka City.

Following a family legacy, Gabby Herrmann makes her life mission to care for and show the regal horses

America fell in love with Lipizzan stallions—aristocratic performance horses rescued from Austria during World War II—thanks to a Disney movie, “Miracle of the White Stallions,” released in 1963.

Marguerite Henry’s children’s book, “The White Stallion of Lipizza,” furthered their fame in 1964.
But Gabby Herrmann, a descendant of a family that helped save the horses, has loved them her entire life. She continues to train and perform with them from her base in Myakka City, east of Sarasota.

“Toward the end of the war, my father and grandfather rode at night and hid by day with a handful of the family’s horses, keeping these treasures alive,” says Gabby. “They covered the horses with mud so their white coats wouldn’t give them away.”

At the same time, U.S. General George Patton initiated Operation Cowboy—a clandestine mission to smuggle Lipizzans from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

Colonels Ottomar Herrmann and Ottomar Herrmann Jr. and other rescuers feared that hungry Russian soldiers might eat the Lipizzans as they advanced into Austria. They delivered the horses safely to sections of Germany held by the Allies.

After the war, the Herrmanns transported them to the Caribbean. In 1962, they relocated to Sarasota, drawn by temperate weather and the opportunity to join circuses that winter in the area. Circus-goers raved at the stallions’ “airs above the ground”—classical dressage moves like the capriole, a leap with all four feet.

Eventually, the Herrmanns took their own show on the road.

Gabby’s grandfather and father have died, but Gabby carries on the tradition at Herrmann’s World of Lipizzan Stallions, where 16 stallions live on 200 acres of lush, year-round green pasture and live oak trees with a few mares to produce enough colts to sustain the business.

“Lipizzans have been part of my family for 300 years,” Gabby says. “These horses are people-oriented. They love attention and love to perform. They’re good boys, but they will test you. We always respect that they are stallions.”

Only stallions perform, since mares and neutered males—called geldings—don’t have the same spirit and fire.

Each summer, Gabby and her daughter, Rebecca McCoullough, tour the country with six other riders and 12 stallions. December through April, bleachers at the Florida farm’s outdoor arena fill for shows Thursday through Saturday.

Lipizzans are late bloomers. Born with dark coats, the colts turn white at age 7, when their training begins. The stallions often live to the age of 40.

The Herrmann barn is a vibrant place. Stallions whinny loudly to each other, but a stern word from Gabby quiets them.

Signs in front of each stall list names such as Apollo, Magic and Duke. Daily duties for each stallion, including training and pasture time, are listed on a whiteboard.

The royal Hapsburg family developed Lipizzans from Arab and Spanish horses in 16th century Europe, making the elite line available to generals and royalty. They designed the breed’s heavy bone structure and muscle mass for battle. When guns replaced swords and warhorses were no longer essential, their maneuvers became the foundation for dressage.

Through the decades, the horses have been rescued from war-torn countries such as Croatia and Yugoslavia, but only about 3,000 registered Lipizzans exist today, with just half of them in America.

The Spanish Riding School in Vienna leads the way in keeping Lipizzans and their graceful, athletic moves alive.

Gabby’s lifestyle seems far removed from a Hapsburg palace.

“My friends can never understand why I clean stalls,” she says, “but that’s when you bond with the horses and the crew. It’s also good exercise.”

Young apprentices who want to master dressage and become part of the show help her. Gabby’s husband, Jerry Caudill, runs concession stands.

“Keeping this operation running is a financial challenge, but the horses are my passion,” Gabby says. “The big reward is the people’s faces in the audience. Our horses love an audience, and the audience loves them.”

Gabby dreams that the family business will continue. Rebecca works another job, but spends much of her free time training and performing. Rebecca’s daughter, Sydney, 7, already handles stallions.

“We watch Sydney carefully, but working with the horses is already second nature to her,” Gabby says.

For information about Gabby Herrmann’s shows, search Facebook for Herrmann’s Royal Lipizzan Stallions, visit or call (941) 322-1501.