Experiencing our nation through its environments, animals, people and history.

Galatians 5:1

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Meet Joseph!

Guess what!! We are camping in central Florida and look who lives right behind us!!

We call him Joseph, because the pattern on top of his shell kind of looks like Egyptian artwork and Joseph in the Bible went to Egypt. His full name is Joseph Lettuce Burrow.

He comes out to sun himself or eat. He usually has a reason for coming out so we try no to disturb him.

He moves by lifting himself up on his strong paws and then walks along.

We think he's cute when he eats because he has a little pointed tongue.

He is actually a "Gopher Turtle" and is on the protected list. He is called a Gopher Turtle because he burrows into the ground like a gopher. When we first got to camp one of the other campers told us that he likes lettuce so we fed him a few times and even touched him. We later found out that feeding him is not a good idea because when we leave he may forget how to find food for himself. It's also not a good idea to touch them so that they lose their fear of humans because not all humans will treat them with respect.
Gopher Turtles live in colonys and are happy to share their burrow with other species in times of crisis such as wild fires or flooding. Joseph has some friends not too far from us. One day one of them came to visit Joseph. He was huge. We think it may have been Joseph's dad. Or maybe his grandpa. They do live to be 60-100 years old!

See you later Joseph!!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

West Indian Manatees, by Shayna

While we were up in Crystal River we met some wonderful new friends, who blessed us with a tour around the city and a trip to the Homasassa Wildlife Park (thank you Joyce and Barry!!)Homasossa Springs are one of the aproximately 600 natural springs found in the aquifer that covers all of Florida and most of its bordering states. Springs occur when an underground water system comes though a crack in the limstone bed. The water is a constant temperature and much warmer than the ocean, which is why Florida is an attractive spot for the migrating animals. Manatees come up into the rivers and canals and can be seen all over the Tampa area. Now here is Shayna, to tell you more!! (C)
Manatees are slow, gentle mammals, sometimes called Sea cows. These peaceful planteaters live around the West Indies, Amazon River, and West Africa. Not all know to migrate to warmer water in the winter, such as Florida, so many die from the cold water of the ocean. Unaware motor boats going thru manatee areas often hurt the slow moving manatee. Even though they are not prey to any species, they are endangered, as they only have one baby every two years. Like all sea mammals, manatees come to the surface to breathe. Their nostrils seal while they are underwater, and their lips can expand to eat. One of their relatives is the elephant, another is the dugong, which has a fluked tail like a whale, wheras manatees tails are rounded. Growing 10-13 feet long, manatees were mistaken as mermaids by sailors many years ago!
While we were at Homosassa, we also got to see other native Floridian animals- and one non-native Floridian resident, Lou. This Hippo was granted resident status and likes to scare people after he eats.
(We didn't get splattered, whew!) Great big hug out to Joyce and Barry for the trip, and please, turn off your engines, and don't feed or harm the manatees!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Crystal River

Greetings!! The weather report last week just said "another nice day" all week, so we decided to spend mom's days off on the gulf. We went an hour and half north of Tampa to a place called Crystal River, where the West Indian manatees hang out (next blog) and we took a day to enjoy the sun.
The boys are getting pretty good with their beach toys (impressing the locals, even....)
And daddy's got "his toes in the water....."
( Life is good today....)

Florida wildlife

We're going to be in Florida for awhile so we wanted to introduce you to some of the critters we meet. First, our favorite....

The anole!!
These little guys are everywhere and they don't mind being held (though they do shed thier tail if they need to get away.) One even went for a bike ride with JJ.
Another common friend is the Ibis...
and lots of turtles.

Sometimes we find things we can't touch... like big fuzzy yellow caterpillars and

We also see lots of ginormous bugs, some prettyand some not so pretty. We also see these signs every which way we look...
But when we find them, they usually look like this...

and not this.

Can you imagine, swimming in the river and one sneaking up on you like this?
(no thank you.)

We'll stick to our anoles...
and the pool!!

Friday, November 20, 2009


Not to over Disney anyone, but we do want to tell you about Epcot. It stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. It was originally designed to be the place where all the cast members for the Magic Kingdom live, so its connected by the monorail. It ended up as this "place to showcase modern technology and the future." The big globe has a space ride that takes you through history according to the written word and language, ending up with the cyber world. Pretty cool. There are also environmental studies done here, and attractions that showcase the earth, the sea, etc. Very educational!

The there's the "World Showcase" where they have little mini versions of 13 different countries. Disney has an exchange program where those real countrymen come and work in their little "city." It is really amazing, hearing all the accents, learning from the people. We loved our long talk with the gal from Norway, and the overall effect of traveling through Europe in a day.

They had a kids program where you could make a mask, and get a stamp on your passport in each country. They got their names written in different languages and learned different ways to greet people. It was all very authentic, actually, or at least probably as authentic as we'll ever get!!

The boys loved making their masks and I went shopping for you in Norway, mom. And did you know William Shatner was Canadian? You probably did... anyway, we learned a lot. Hugs!!


Well! Little did you know that when you joined us on this journey we would take you to such far off places like Africa. Well, with Disney's help, we sure can....
Welcome to the Animal Kingdom, featuring Africa and China. We spent most of our time in Africa!
Where we even had school. This native woman from Botswana told us all about her country. Did you know Botswana got their independence from Britain in 1966? Since we had just been learning about American independence, we asked several questions about how her country got theirs. Apparently in 1959, the chiefs of their tribes got together and decided it was "high time to govern ourselves." So they asked. Apparently Britain thought about it, went and gathered all the diamonds from the land that they could, and granted independence seven years later in 1966.
We also got to play some African instuments and then went off to the Safari.

They let the animals out everyday to roam and make it look like a real Africa. They even have fake Bao Bob trees (below). They had a real one too, but then it became illegal to take trees from Africa, so these are fake.
We learned all about elephant poaching and even helped the guy on the radio catch the poachers in our safari car!! Each and every time we rode it!! (it was daddy's favorite)
Of course they end the day with a little safari boogie right before they take all the animals to bed for the night. All the kids loved the animals, Shayna's favorite was the Yeti ride (Everest-- a much improved version of Matterhorn) and the boys also loved the white water rapids.
Rock on!