A couple years ago when my niece and hubby were still living in Colorado, we planned a visit out to see them. I don't remember now why we cancelled, but we did.
Finally, the stars aligned. Christine and Dale moved to the panhandle of Florida. Time for a trip to see the Gulf Coast and my niece. It had been almost four years since the last time we were together for her Dad's 70th birthday.
It was lunch time when we arrived. Christine was at work and since I wanted to see her work place anyway, Dale took us there before going to pick up some sandwiches for all of us.
Christine is the manager of Marianna's new Habitat for Humanity Restore. While she works hard to get more donations of building/remodeling/housing supplies for resale, the store continues receiving income from being more the 'thrift' store it was in its uptown location. I admired this lovely chandelier pole lamp. "Wouldn't this look great in my reading corner?" I asked Bud. "Sure, but it won't fit in the car", was his reply.
Bud relaxing on the back deck. Their home sets on an acre of land. Besides a big front yard, they have a huge back yard which had been allowed to become overgrown. Dale & and Christine may be fighting a losing battle trying to get all the weeds and undergrowth cleared. With Florida's wet and warm weather, things grow pretty fast.
While Christine was at work, Dale was an excellent tour guide. This is one of Habitat's current new homes under construction.
He also took us past the infamous Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. The school was closed in 2011. Because of the ongoing search for and exhumation of graves, the school grounds are closed and a guard is on duty at the gate. If you haven't heard/read about this and want to, you can start here.
Christine had given me several possibilities for things we might want to see/do. The Caverns State Park and Jackson Blue Springs were the two I definitely wanted to see until I heard that friends of theirs had a farm and goats not far from Blue Springs. I said, "Goats! I'll trade the Caverns for a visit to the goat farm."
I think at first they thought I was kidding. (No pun intended.) But after I convinced them I meant it, Dale made a phone call and wrangled us an invitation to Les' farm. I believe my interest in once having my own goats helped me ask somewhat intelligent questions and make knowledgeable comments about the herd.
This fellow's name was Zorro. I think the name fits him. Les said he raises his animals strictly for the manure to use as fertilizer in his gardens - no milking; no eating; no selling.
Walking around the yard and garden followed visiting the goats. I was able to have my questions about various plants and flowers answered. When I spotted this bush and asked what flowering plant it was, the reply was, "That's a blueberry bush."
Which was when I noticed the tiny blueberries forming. This is the first time I have ever seen a blueberry bush.
Les also had one of those wisteria trees on his property.
At last, a tree I could recognize on my own - even though I've never seen one before and no koalas were present - a fragrant eucalyptus tree. Yes, I came home with some leaves from this tree.
Dale and Les and ? Sorry. I've forgotten the dog's name. She reminded me a bit of Mom's dog, Cricket. In the background you can see one of the gardens. Les is retired FBI, now a Master Gardener. He said that when he retired what he really wanted to do was farm. So he is living out his dream on his 25 acres.
Not far away from there is Jackson Blue Springs Recreational Area. A popular swimming hole, it wasn't open for the season yet but we were able to walk around the gate and down to the springs only to find a dozen or more people there canoeing, kayaking and scuba diving.
Close-up of the Sylvania Plantation sign so you can read it.
I am fascinated by these blue springs and blue pools. I've been visiting them and taking pictures whenever and wherever we encounter one. You can read more about this one here.
More of the pool and facilities. You can see some of the scuba divers walking toward the pool while some others have already entered the water.
And right in the middle of this picture you can see the bubbles coming up from a diver who is already in the cave beneath the concrete diving board area.
It really is true that there's nothing more important than love and family. It was so very, very good to visit Christine and Dale. We had a wonderful time. I loved seeing them and their dog, Anya and the cats as well as Dale's office at the college (Where I didn't take any pictures, duh!), Christine's Habitat Restore and their home and yard - where scarily enough there is a sink hole.
And I really felt welcomed and right at home when I saw this quilt on the bed in our guest bedroom. It was one of my mother's quilts from my own childhood. It was so good to see it at one of her granddaughter's.