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Friday, June 19, 2015

We're Traveling - Florida! (Part 1)

We planned a month-long trip to Florida for March, but things got in the way and made us postpone until April.  GOOD THING! We could never have pulled the RV out of the driveway in March. SNOW. ICE. WINTER. OHIO.

So I said, "At least it won't be July weather..." WRONG. Check out the temperature on the mirror.

Last year I spent six weeks there with below normal temps from February through April. The locals froze, but I loved it. This year made up for that.

Last year, I also spent those six weeks living out of a motel room. UGH. It was so nice this time to have my own 'home' with me.

Twelve Oaks RV Resort in Sanford was our home-away-from-home for most of April. I reserved it for the whole month, even though we wouldn't be there the entire time, it saved us $$$ by paying the monthly rate over the weekly. And in the hot Florida sun, it only cost us around $40 in electric to run the AC 24/7.

We spent a few days in Sanford visiting family before heading south to Bonita Springs. I didn't take any photos of our campsite there, but here is one from the website of Bonita Lake RV Park. It's not a shady village like the Twelve Oaks, but it was roomy enough and in a good location.

Ray wanted to visit the Everglades and take an air-boat ride, so I booked three nights here. (I have been through the Glades and had an awesome ride years ago.) I had an ulterior motive for staying an extra day...

I got to not only meet, but spend several hours with my favorite author! I became friends with Terri Tiffany through her blog, and after many years, we finally got to meet face-to-face. Our husbands enjoyed visiting, too. We met for dinner and, as you can see by this photo, we sat and talked until late in the evening.

If you aren't familiar with Terri, I wrote about her on my other blog here and here. (There's also a better picture of us there.) I look forward to spending time with her again when I'm in Florida. Her and her husband are the nicest couple!

  Ray did get his air-boat ride. 
We went to Cory Billie's which wasn't far from Bonita Springs, 
just outside of Naples.

You can tell from this photo...
 He. Wants. One.

 This business owns acreage in the Everglades, and had canals cut through for the tour. It was a little disappointing. My first ride was through long grass, across bogs, etc. This tour just winds back and forth through their canals, except for a few spots where it opened up. Most of the area looked like this photo.

In several places we rode through narrower passages lined with mangrove trees. Aside from birds and the 'kept' gators at the office, we didn't see any wildlife. Our guide did point out some trails through the sand that he said marked the path the gators took across the land.

The people were really nice and we had a good time. I would give it three stars.

From Bonita Springs, we headed north to Manatee State Park near Bradenton. Some friends of Ray's were camping there, so we grabbed a spot for one night before heading back to Sanford. Would have loved to stay for two, but they were full for the weekend.

State parks are so much nicer than private RV parks. They might not always have a nice laundry or pool, but the sites are typically more separated. This park was more spacious than the average park. We will probably stay here again, as it is very near Tampa Bay.

 It looks open behind the camper because the lake is back there...

I had a view of the lake from
 the back bedroom window!
There was nothing between our campsite 
and the lake--just wilderness.

This guy had a lot of relatives in the area.
Sorry I didn't get a better picture of them.

The park was close enough to
the coast that we drove out to
Anna Maria Island.

The traffic was enough to convince me I would never live there.

Bucket List: Put my feet in the Gulf of Mexico.  Check!   :-)                                                       Ray and I had a wonderful walk to the tip of the island with his friends. The white sand was beautiful. And except for the areas very near parking lots, the beach was fairly empty. 

 I love the dunes! I wish I could park our RV here at the point!
I wonder if I would love living there as much as I do our farm...

Look what Ray found swimming at his feet!

He quickly returned it to the gulf waters.

We could have stayed much longer,
but our fur baby was waiting for us...

...so we headed back across the bay to the mainland and Manatee State Park.
Of course, we went back for the sunset! I'll post those pictures next time.

For now, I'll leave you with this random photo of Florida cattle.
I felt sorry for them having to live in such a hot place!

Monday, May 18, 2015

We're Traveling - Shawnee State Park

 In late October, we spent a few days at Shawnee State Park...by accident. Accident?

We had seen photos from Shawnee Lookout Park near Cincinnati, and wanted to spend a few days there before all the leaves were gone. It was one of those late-night internet research things, looking for a campground nearby. I booked our site and went to bed. The next morning, I realized the address was southeast and not southwest--115 miles from our intended destination. Oops! How the heck did that happen?

So the first thing I learned from this trip was to not book late at night...
...unless we're ready for adventure!

After looking at the map and photos from the park, we decided to go there anyway. The 1,095-acre park is deep in the middle of 63,000-acre Shawnee Forest--the largest forest in Ohio, and the trails are along the edge of 51-acre Turkey Creek Lake. The hiking trails take you completely around the lake, with a side trail leading to the hilltop lodge and conference center.

The park has a very welcoming camp office.

 The campsites weren't as secluded as 
some state parks, but their sites 
were all a nice size.

Across the lane, the sites backed
up to a beautiful stream.

The weather was perfect!
The skies were clear and blue!
Ray was more than ready to explore!

The trail head was pretty.

We hiked from our campsite (D) around the north side of the lake (C to B) up the hill to the 
lodge (A) back down and around the south side of the lake, past the campground and back.

I mentioned in my last post
about the lousy camera.

A new one is on my
shopping list.

But trust me, this
creek was pretty!

I spotted this creature
just ahead of me
on the trail.
They are very rare.

 Even though a lot of the leaves had already fallen, there were plenty of colorful trees remaining.

The lake was so inviting!

(Note to self: take the 
rowboat next time.)

Electric motors only.

Just like when we go shopping,
Ray finds a bench and
waits patiently...

...and waits...

...and waits...
I love that this side of the lake has a few places to sit and enjoy the view.

At the end of the lake,
we found a stretch of moss
laid out like a pathway
to the Emerald City.

I was tempted to slip off my sneakers!
It felt like the cushiest carpet.

I could really bore you 
with tons of photos of  
trunks, leaves, rocks, 
roots, bark, fungi, etc.

I'll spare you.

But I had to share this photo!

Isn't this so cool?

There is an advantage to 
being a late riser...

By the time we reached
 the end of the lake,
the sun was at a
nice angle for

After hiking up the hill to the lodge, we were ready for the downhill hike back to camp.
The reflections of color on the surface of the water were amazing.
Imagine these scenes in peak color!

I really loved the way
this lone pine stood
on the point.

I'm not a hunter,
but looks like a nice
spot for that blind.

I imagined throwing
a sleeping bag there,
and counting the stars...

This branch hung so far
out over the still water,
and then decided to
shoot for the sky!

Imagine peak color here...
It was late in the afternoon and the sun was getting low in sky.
It made for beautiful pictures from that side of the lake.
But there was a downside to our timing...

It turns out that the trail on that side weaves up and down the hills,
away from the shoreline in many places. Even though it was not yet
late in the day, it was growing darker in the woods. The trail was
rougher on that side, and I was growing anxious to reach the end!
The dog got so tired that Ray had to carry him up a few hills.

I started to worry about getting lost. You hear those stories...
We didn't know it would take us so much longer on that side.
I don't know if we passed a fork in the dimming light,
but we ended up past the campground.

I was quite relieved when we looked
down and saw the tops of campers!

I was tempted to leave the trail
and head straight down the hill.

Next time, we will start out on
the other side of the lake, while
the sun is bright in the sky!

After we're tired from hiking,
we can take the easy route
back to camp.

But we will go again.

Note to campers: the electric on these sites was by the road instead of at the back of the pad.
If you're newbies, make sure you have extra length on your power cord.
We now carry 75 feet! Next time we can get farther off the road.

Monday, May 11, 2015

We're Traveling - Hocking Hills

The hubby and I recently took an almost-month-long trip to Florida. I'll be sharing that adventure next time. However, you can read about one exciting evening I had HERE on my writer's blog.
Let me start sharing our travels with our first of two short trips...

Last fall, shortly after we bought the RV, some friends got married at Hocking Hills. This photo is the happy couple with their fur babies.

 Ohio has a lot of beautiful scenery, and Hocking Hills is right up there at the top! Since it is less than 100 miles from home, we thought this was a perfect 'trial' trip to haul the mini-house.

I grew up camping and boating.
It has changed. A lot.

Instead of staying at the State Park, we chose a private campground with full hook-ups. We learned a lot from this experience. We now carry lots of extra wood for leveling, along with 75 feet of electric cord and water hose. Full hook-ups (sewer) is a waste if you're not staying more than a few days.

So many private campgrounds we've seen are wide open fields, with campsites crammed together. Other wedding guests were camping next to us and were in awe of the 'great outdoors'. We felt like we were back in the city! It will be an adjustment for us, since we're used to not even seeing another human being from our house. We are spoiled. We can't even see our neighbors house until the leaves fall. But, on the upside, we can see and do wonderful things while taking our beds, kitchen, closets, etc. with us! I do love traveling with a fifth wheel!

Across the road from this campground was a very old church and cemetery.  I would have loved to explore the markers, but we didn't really have time, and I don't think anyone is allowed inside the fence. If we go back to that area, I will definitely check it out!

I would love to turn this place into a home! (If I had the money, and there wasn't a cemetery in the lawn.) It's sad to see something so beautiful become an abandoned eyesore.

 Even though it was their wedding,
we got the gifts! The bride so loved this shot of me and Ray dancing that she had it framed for us. She also slid in another shot of our hiking family.

We learned another valuable tidbit on this trip: we need a better camera! I took most of our photos with my old Blackberry Torch that has been dropped in the barn so many times, the paint is chipped off the case. The camera has seen better days, so I apologize about the quality in these next photos. 

This is the main attraction for some.
There was a drum circle performing this day.

Of course, I took many shots
of my two favorite guys.
That's hubby with Boo
below the stairs.

I love the rock formations 
along the paths. Wouldn't 
this be a beautiful backyard?

This big boulder is perfect
for a serious thinking spot.

As found in many of the gorges
in our home area, trees shoot tall
from the very edge of the rugged cliffs.

I love how the exposed roots
seem to be gripping the rock.

A few trees will even start
growing out the bottom!

Hocking Hills has miles of beautiful trails.
Whether you like rugged terrain 
or wide easy pathways, there is 
plenty of room to explore here.

This area is very popular in the fall 
when the leaves are in full color.

We will definitely be back!
...with a better camera.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

New Horizons!

click photo for origin
Last year was tough. 
We lost some friends.
Too young.
Far too young.

As Christians, we know this life is just a temporary stop in the big picture,
but we still want to savor the 'blink of an eye' we are here.

In my last post, I told you there were changes coming. 
Our lives have taken a turn in another direction. 
We have left the role of caretaker behind.
We look forward to a new adventure away from the farm.

As often happens when people stare death in the face, it spurs them to make changes--which for us was buying an RV. There's nothing like losing friends at a young age (from our perspective) to make you realize how really short this life is. Suddenly, priorities shift and those unfulfilled dreams become urgent.

As much as we love our life in the country, we have always wanted to see 49 states. I've seen a few--Ray has seen more--but now we want to check them off the proverbial bucket list.

Both of us have camped and boated a lot in our separate pasts.
Now it's time to make those memories together. 

We did a little bit of traveling last fall. 

We hope to do a lot more this year. 

We plan to do it almost full time next year.

 Eventually, I'll make our own map, 
and slowly fill in the blocks.

We plan to take an extended trip out west next year, hitting many landmarks, but also scoping out our next address. Could it be in Colorado? Utah? We've talked about being snow birds, but we would miss the four seasons. A place with milder winters would be nice. Our friends out west have told us to come. "There's land waiting..."

My future posts will be mostly about our travel adventures (and misadventures!) along with memories we've made here on the farm.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Time to Move On...

Remember this?

This crazy photo served as my title cover for all these years--a little tweaking now and then. You'll never know how much thought I put into designing it.

This blog was to be about a middle-aged couple that decided to buy some land and learn to raise critters and food.

I wonder if anyone noticed the type of garments on the clothesline. The pink dress was symbolic of my life off  the farm. Get it? Yeah, I'm that obsessed. And that little spot for the pink dress--fairly proportionate of the time I spend off the farm. I am a homebody. I love it here. Why would I want to be anywhere else? Each little branch and twig is part of an actual photo from our farm. The cherry blossoms bloom near the garage. That pine branch tipped with a perfect cone stands in the yard between the house and barn. There's our barn and garden in the background. Nekoda, Sadie, Derby and Nanny, Chubbers and Paint Girl, Mr J and Buddy all got special placement on my cover.

Why would I want to be anywhere else?

 Oh, yeah. Winter.

I used to call it my favorite season.

Maybe many of you know what I'm talking ablout.

These last two winters have been killers--record lows every other day, record amounts of snow fall, record number of days below zero, record number of days with wind chills below zero degrees kelvin...
Okay, that last statement might have been an exaggeration, but the others weren't far from the truth! I was ready to pack up the RV and head to Florida--but I would have never gotten it out of the driveway! That's reason #1, but let's just try to forget about winter for now.

Situations change. Goals change. Dreams change.

When we moved here, we were both employed making pretty good money. I planned on this place being paid off before retirement. Things changed.

The place we worked at was closing and we didn't want to transfer. Seeing the writing on the wall, Ray and I retired. We adjusted our belts and stayed. But slowly, we are being taxed out of our dream.

We could probably stay here for the rest of our lives, but it would mean doing little else. Between taking a chunk of our income and all the upkeep, we are pretty much tied to this farm. Not a bad situation to be in, mind you, but nonetheless, tied.

We have been here for over eleven years without a vacation together. It's not easy finding critter sitters. We didn't mind. It's like vacation where we live. But we still wanted to see the country some day (reason #2--We made a big step in that direction this past fall. That will be the subject of my next post.) so we're planning on down-sizing in the next year.

It was hard to change my cover photo...hard to say goodbye to a time that was so wonderful. But new wonderful things are on the horizon, and I wanted my blog to reflect that. The old 'blahwg' name is also gone. I was reluctant to change the name, but most of my regular followers are no longer blogging. So I guess it truly is time to move on. I can't wait to tell you about my plans for this blog, and for the future! But this post is getting rather long, so you'll have to wait.

Monday, June 16, 2014

I'm bored...NOT!

My daughter shared this post on Facebook about the advantages of letting kids get bored. I think we will all agree (and have many times by 'liking' all those posts with the same theme) that kids today are spoiled. I'm not talking about the hasn't-this-bratty-child-ever-been-disciplined kind of spoiled, but the over-indulged, have-everything, be-chauffeured-everywhere, sit-and-be-entertained kind of spoiled.Their lives are so structured that they have no idea what to do when the square on the calendar is blank. Or maybe it's because the parent has no idea what to do when the kids ask, "What is there to do?"

I used to boat and spent almost every weekend in the summer on the water. The kids learned really fast not to say those forbidden words--I'm bored. There were things to do! Scrub the hull. Gather firewood. Suddenly, lazying on an air mattress sounded like a good deal. And it always ended in everyone trying to flip the air mattress and lots of screams and laughter.

As a kid, I never played soccer or softball, or took dance lessons, etc. (Okay--once a week piano lessons for a few years, but I rode my bike across town to get there!) Never once did any of my brothers or I say, "I'm bored. What can I do?"

The un-mowed grass of an abandoned field provided us with rivers to swim, out-maneuvering the wild river creatures that stalked us, or jungles to discover while scouting for carnivores. We galloped around on our broomstick horses while shooting each other with our fingers. We died and fell over. We really did climb trees! With our friends, we created clubs that had secret passwords. We also created some crazy games to play with rocks and jump ropes. We learned to whistle loudly (a skill I still possess) with a wide blade of grass. We made our own musical instruments out of trash and trash cans. We built palaces from cardboard. We lay down on our backs in the grass and stared at the sun--wondering if it really would make us blind! We watched the animals form and disappear in the clouds. We ate wild berries and apples that weren't ripe. We once paid a boy twenty-five cents to eat a bug. We camped out under the stars and awoke cold and damp with dew. We never thought about asking Mom what to do...

When my grandgirls visit, they quickly get super bored. The boredom manifests itself in arguments over Legos and who gets to cuddle the dog. And when they get bored enough...

They take a walk in the woods with the goats. They go catch things like tree frogs and fireflies. They pick wild flowers to bring to Nana. They stomp in the muddy creek, forgetting they have on their Sunday pants. They make memories that at least I will treasure long after I've forgotten what they did on the soccer field.

Like this one: