Sunday, February 5, 2017

ECHO - Reducing Hunger Worldwide

Did you know there is a 50+ acre farm right in North Ft Myers dedicated to reducing hunger one small-scale farm at a time?

ECHO staff and interns develop, test and utilize techniques to promote sustainable hunger solutions throughout the world. Who knew?

I was fortunate to take a guided tour of the farm recently. I learned first-hand what is grown and why. Local sustainability is key. How do farmers get water where needed or vice versa control it? What is the nutritional value? Where do the seeds come from, and how quickly do they mature, critical information for desperately starving people.

I learned something about the fast growing moringa tree. The guide caught my attention when he described the moringa tree as a miracle tree edible from its roots, flowers, leaves, seeds, gum, fruits and bark. Nutritionally speaking leaves are 27%protein and offer 7 x the amount of vitamin C as oranges, 4x the vitamin A of carrots and 4x the calcium of milk by dry weight. In addition to offering more nutrition than spinach, it is used to treat many conditions including malnutrition, inflammation, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, gastrointentinal and hepatorenal disorders as well as compromised immunity. As you might imagine I had to have one of these trees for my Florida home. I will keep you posted on its growth.

So much more to know from creating manure tea for fertilizer to producing methane gas for cooking to creating watering systems to growing in unfriendly conditions. Carpet gardening? Check out the techniques.

There is even a community garden.

I highly recommend the 90-minute tour. Visit the bookstore and shop the global nursery. For hours and additional information check


Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Walk in the Park in Ireland

John F. Kennedy Memorial Park & Arboretum
Did you know there is an arboretum dedicated to the memory of John F. Kennedy located in County Wexford Ireland between Kilkenny and Waterford?

After Kennedy’s death in 1963 US citizens of Irish origin initiated an idea for a memorial in Ireland. The Irish government suggested it take the form of an arboretum. The Arboretum was opened formally in May 1968 and today boasts 252 hectares, which is 25,200 acres. There are 4500 species and varieties of trees, shrubs, climbing plants and woody ground cover acquired from around the world.

My sister and I had the good fortune of visiting this park on a recent trip to Ireland. Although my photos don’t really do it justice, the views are incredible. The visitor center offers highlights from his family’s life during his time as president.  We were touched by the quality of the exhibits. We loved that the park is a celebration of trees.

There are roads, trails, picnic areas, tea rooms and a lake making this an ideal place for locals to spend the day enjoying. Seasonally, you can even take advantage of the sites via a miniature railway as well as a pony and trap service.

Check out the ongoing activities.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hangin' with Alice (my adventure buddy)

Autumn Leaves at Gilsland Farm   

Mary "adventure buddy" Murray
 I'm a SW Florida gal, and i had the good fortune to spend 4 weeks in Maine late in summer. I spent the last 4 days with Alice and John at their camp on Little Lake Sebago.  What a great time we had! 

Alice and I kayaked the first afternoon and got to watch Mama Loon and her now pretty large baby hunting in the cove.  Mama still fed him but not every time she dove, and he is making an effort to hunt. Mama came up with the perfect size fish for that chick every time.  We were quite close to them – what a treat. 
Little Sebago Loon chick

Second day we watched cheese being made at Pineland Farms Creamery  It was fascinating.  Best of all, the owner (Head Cheese?) was there squiring a visiting cheese maker around. We eavesdropped and learned they were trying a new process today.  Who would imagine one could spend a couple of hours glued on cheese making - true!  They have great lunches in their cafeteria too.  Afterward Alice and I walked off our lunch while John shopped for cheese for us. YES!
The Raven at Gilsland
Mama turkey and brood at Gilsland
We had other great hikes too.  This is a portion of Maine I’ve never visited and the woods are beautiful – a mix of hardwood, pine and fir.  Leaves are beginning to change, the air was crisp, temps in the 50s low 60s perfect for hiking.  We tried out trails at Maine Audubon Gilsland Farm that was hosting an outdoor sculpture exhibit.  Over 80 sculptures placed in the fields and woods along the trails.  We found most of them. After picnicking at Gilsland, we headed to Mackworth Island, also in Falmouth. What a lovely trail overlooking the Portland Harbor and housing a community of fairy houses. 
Fairy house at Mackworth

Last day we hiked about 7 miles at 2 sites, Morgan Meadow and Libby Hill Forest Outback Trail – not bad for a couple of seniors. We High Fived ourselves.  I was so hoping to see a Moose but they hid from me in very moosey places.  Turkeys, ducks, songbirds, jays, crows – lots of birds on tap. 
All of these great adventures took off from Alice and John’s cozy cabin where John cooked us a great chicken casserole dinner and loads of homemade cookies. 

Sunrise on Little Sebago
I also learned how to play “Hand and Foot” a very fun card game reminiscent of canasta.  My bed was on the sun porch facing east and I got to see gorgeous sunrises every morning.  Lots of stars at night too.  Perfect.
Thank you Alice and John for a great vacation in a beautiful part of Maine!!  I look forward to exploring more trails and creeks with you back in SWFLA when you return. 

           Mary Murray
Deck dock on Little Sebago