What Do You Do for Fun Where Agriculture Is King?

Live the Dream

Big L RanchToday after church my husband said, “I want to go out and see a new U-Pick blueberry farm I saw on Facebook.”

U-Pick Blueberries

Big L RanchBig L Ranch hosts events and has the truck set up for those who want to take photographs.

Big L Ranch

The Botanical Garden’s Berry Festival is next Saturday, so this was a perfect time.

Off we went to find Big L Ranch at 20899 Avenue 322 in Woodlake, CA. We had so much fun.

Like Avila Barn

We arrived on the second week of their ranch adventure.

Big L RanchOne of the owners, Jada Lee, told us that her model is Avila Barn, one of my favorite spots when we go to the coast.

Big L RanchLike Avila Barn, have activities for the family to enjoy while you pick berries.

Big L RanchIt was fun, friendly, and homey.

Big L RanchJada Lee is an artist. She and friends create and sell handmade items. A friend of hers made these. I did not write down her name.

Big L RanchThe bowl took dozens of hours. If I had done it, I’d still be working on it from my childhood.

Big L RanchThese cups are adorable.

Big L Ranch

They even have artwork on the bottom.

Big L Ranch

The ranch has four acres in blueberries and will be open Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00am to 7:00pm through early June.

Big L RanchThere is more to do than pick berries. They serve the most delicious blueberry treats like muffins, scones served with homemade vanilla ice cream.

Big L Ranch“Did you say ice cream?”

“Yes, Jack, there’s ice cream.”

Jada made unique cabinets from discarded materials.

Big L Ranch

This is Lee’s first harvest. They are not new to the area but have lived on the ranch for six years. Watch the video to hear how they got started.

Big L RanchMatt Lee teaches at the Tulare County Office of Education Court and Community Schools. It was fun to learn that we knew several people in common, including my friend Elane Geller, who survived the Holocaust and Scott Dakers, who taught with Matt.

My husband knows his cousin, realtor, Robert Lee.

Big L RanchWe enjoyed a fabulous hour or two hanging around visiting and eating. You and your kids can have a great time here.

Big L Ranch

They expect to enlarge and have even more fun activities. You can also schedule events at Big L Ranch. Contact Matt and Jada Lee at biglranch@outlook.com 559-280-2767. We thought they were delightful, and think you will also.

Big L Ranch

 

 

How to View Potential Rather than a Pile of Rubbish

Fascination With Old Buildings

When I visited Hockessin, DE two years ago, the site of the first Catholic Church in Delaware caught my eye as I drove on Lancaster Pike Road. It looked like a pile of rubbish. Old rubbish is so photogenic, so I knew I had to come back before I left town to do a photographic study of it.

However, Pastor Steve Trader from Trinity Community Church saw potential in it that most of us would have overlooked. Today, as you will see, the dreams are coming to life.

The First Church Building

According to one source, in 1772, the Catholic base in the area purchased the 16.5 acres at the order of Father John Lewis, a Jesuit missionary familiar with the area from his mission travels.

pile of rubbish

According to Deleware Online, the first log chapel on the site was built 12 years later beside a hilltop cemetery that remains there today. Probably only the cemetery remains today, but here are two decrepit buildings that stood on or near the property two years ago.

A mystery writer might use this setting for a scene for a murder, a buried treasure, or some ghostly tale. What would you write about this picture?

pile of rubbishFor a time, the property housed the only Catholic church within some 100 miles, according to Joe Lake, president of the Hockessin Historical Society. That would have been a trek for people without modern transportation. Local historians doubted if they attended church weekly.

The Old Barn Ruins in 2016

One sign on the property called these piles of crumbling rubbish the “old barn.” The two signs also confused me because I don’t think of barns and churches pairing up in the same building.

Since childhood, I have loved old barns. My grandfather used large machinery and worked out of their garage. It became the family joke that on every trip through rural Indiana, we played the game, “A New Shop for Grandpa.” It kept my brother and me busy and peaceful pointing out the most decayed buildings we could find along the two-lane highways.

Our family particularly loved the advertising painted on the sides like Eat at Joe’s Get Gas, or Dr. Pierce’s Pleasant Pellets.  This stone barn resembled none of those.

Using my best investigative skills, I noted the candy wrappers and fast food containers on the dirt floor. My weak imagination conjured up pictures of kids playing castle in the pile of rocks. Barnyard animals keeping warm when ten inches of snow pressed against wooden doors and church services were the furthest images from my mind.

pile of rubbish
St. Mary’s First Catholic Church in Delaware

I wondered how anyone could save this pile of rubbish, but the sign said that it was being reconstructed. At the time, I saw no signs of any construction activity except for the yellow caution tape around the entire project. The tape was no more sturdy than the crumbling walls.  Camera in hand, I plowed through the mud and darkening skies, like a reporter onto a big story for the evening news.

Life is no respecter of dried up bones.

The windows and doorways looked beyond repair.

‘This would not be the safest place to stand during an earthquake,” I reported to my imaginary audience.

April 2018 The Old Church Takes Shape

It was 4:30, the start of the golden hours for photographers. The cold April wind bent the trees making them groan as I pulled up my hood and picked my way cautiously across the boggy ground to check out the reconstruction site I had loved two years before.

Shadows of large nearby trees spilled across the cemetery and beckoned me to explore the reconstructed building. How could I resist?

pile of rubbish

 

The Mystery of the Barn Solved

With my limited imagination, I wondered who would turn a church into a barn? It seemed sacrilegious.

It turned out that the Mundy’s purchased the property from the Diocese as farmland in 1912. The Mundy’s maintained the old barn property as a dairy farm until the 1960s. Bill Mundy kept it as a cattle farm into the 1990s. Locals at that time called the property Mundy’s farm. I don’t know what they called it on Tuesday-Sunday.

Between the 1990s and 2010 property managers neglected the property. In 2010 it was burned and vandalized by teens.

Under New Ownership

In 2018 with a sturdy composition roof and completed walls, this edifice looked like it would withstand the winds and the rains. Trinity Community Church, an interdenominational Christian church that holds its roots in the Assemblies of God, plans a multi-use complex on this 16.5-acre parcel.

pile of rubbish

The windows and doorways have been shorn up. They look very tiny now compared to the more expansive stone walls.

pile of lrubbish

The recycle police would be proud to see the pile of stones that the builders have used to create the new building. The ongoing pile of rubbish still looks like a daunting work to me. But my only tool is an iPhone. Bancroft Construction Company has a few more resources and talent from which to draw.

pile of rubbishAs the afternoon shadows deepened, the headless shadows seemed to raise their arms and praise the Lord. Upside down they looked like headless dancers. Either way, the bid me farewell from the 1880s burial place of locals and Irish immigrants killed in nearby powder mill explosions.

The Diocese of Wilmington still owns the resting place for the heroes of the past. But the future looks lively for the Old St. Mary’s Church, Mundy’s Farm and new Trinity Community Church in Hockessin, Delaware.

Additional Posts About Delaware

 

What You Should Know About Alligators: Instructions at Gatorland

Want some advice about alligators?

#3 Orland0 Florida

Don’t come to me. I’m visiting here in Orlando, Florida with my California neighbors, Carmen and Taliah and friend, Janice from Tennessee. And we’ve come to Gatorland to see and learn about alligators.

GatorlandDo you love Strange Inheritances? This is not Gatorama, but Gatorland is farther north,  18 miles or 30 minutes from Orlando, also a family-owned business.

Gatorland

When to Visit Gatorland

I’ve been to Florida in August, and I don’t recommend it. However, going to Gatorland in March is perfect. There weren’t many mosquitos. The day I wore body lotion, the bugs loved me, but as long as I didn’t smell, the bugs didn’t bother me.

It’s warm in the sun, but walking through the covered pathways is pleasant even in mid-afternoon.

Gatorland

The covers provided some shade to the alligators as well. Unlike dolphins, which you will read about in another post, alligators don’t have sensitive skin. Their black coloring makes them almost invisible in the water.

The next gator would have been tricky to see if he had been cruising underwater.

Gatorland groups gators by age and color. The young ones are first in line.

Bigger than Life

Towards the rear of the walkway lives the Brutus of Gatorland, Chester. Just as I was closing in to take pictures of Chester, Carmen swooped in and shooed us down to the Gator wrestling show, which was well worth the rush. Poor Carmen, she had to mother all of us to keep us on track to see everything.

When we came back, Chester was pooped. Here is Diego Centeno’s YouTube video of Chester.

Real Gator Wrestling

Sure, it’s easy to wrestle a gator if you watch the actor. No sweat. He chose a volunteer to come out on the sandy platform with him to pick out a lazy gator. The youngster refused. So the youngster pointed to a swimming alligator instead of the sleepy sunbathing gators.

Mr. Gator Wrestler grabbed that little gator by the tail and dragged it ashore. Kicking the other gators aside, he began his show.

Gatorland

Miss Gator seemed to be dragging her feet a bit. She was not the shining star that Nicholas is. You’ll see him in another post.

The G-Wrestler asked the crowd to name the most dangerous part of the alligator. Some poor soul shouted, “Tail.”

Probably the respondent was a plant in the audience. Either that or he didn’t watch Mr. G-Wrestler drag Miss Gator out onto the sandy stage.

Mr. G-Wrestler proceeded to show us how easy it was to lose fingers and hands in the G-wrestling business. He somehow pried open the gator’s mouth and withdrew as it snapped shut.

Gatorland

It doesn’t take much pressure to hold a gator’s mouth shut. The trainer held it with his chin. I hope the gator smelled good.

Other Animals that Repulse and Intrigue

The next actors thrilled the audience by letting volunteers participate, usually with their eyes closed at first. The rest of the audience responded with appropriate scared noises, which didn’t seem to bother the volunteers. They had probably checked out someone’s blog post before going to Gatorland and knew what was coming.

Gatorland

You can’t see what he’s putting on her hand. It’s a tarantula.

Gatorland

Taliah’s favorite, though not venomous, was the snake. We saw the same snake curled up in his house, and we could have crawled into the house with him if we had chosen to do so.

Gatorland

White Alligators Are Rare

Three of only twelve leucistic gators exist here at Gatorland.  Apparently, they are not personable.

Gatorland

It was hard to get up close, so I let Taliah take the first shot at him. She got a little annoyed with me taking pictures of her taking pictures, but it was fun watching her quickly manipulate the image with her thumbs before saving it.

GatorlandUp close, he didn’t look too scary since there was a glass wall between us and he had his eyes closed.

Gatorland

Birds Kicked at the Gators

A gator could snap a bird’s leg off in a second, but that fact did not seem to worry any of these feathery creatures. We saw one bird kick her spindly leg at a gator swimming towards her with his mouth open. The gator turned and swam away. That was not the response I expected.

This mutton-headed bird dared to bark orders to the alligators on the feeding deck. Don’t you love its geometric shadow?

Gatorland

Gatorland rated lower than Bloggy Creek but higher than most of the Animal Kingdom on the Entertainment Scale.

Gatorland

Related Floridian Posts

For more Journeys and Walks

Check out these blogs.

 

 

 

Why You Don’t Want to Overlook the Boggy Creek Airboat Ride

How Far Ahead Do You Plan Your Travel Activities?

#Orlando Florida #2

Think you need to plan activities months in advance of your next trip?

Think again.

My neighbors Carmen and Taliah (mother-daughter) from California and grandmother, Janice, from Tennessee, and I  started planning our trip to Orlando, Florida months ago. We bought tickets to Disney World and Universal Studios for several days (a mistake for us!)

Though I’m glad we went, the enormous crowds and hype at Disney World overwhelmed even Taliah, (12) the youngest of our all-girl travel party.

Boggy reek Airboat tours

Finding the Perfect Activity

Taliah lights up when she talks about anything with big nasty-looking teeth or venom, so Carmen found a couple of activities that looked promising.

First, she booked the Boggy Creek tour at  2001 E Southport Rd, Kissimmee, FL 34746, a mere twenty-four miles away from our resort. We packed sunscreen, and snacks, and headed out from Orlando to Boggy Creek.

Thanks to my expert driving and Carmen telling me to quit gawking and speed it up a bit, we arrived right on time to walk on to the boat.  Instead of standing in 120-minute lines for a three-minute ride, we enjoyed a relaxing half hour or more trip into alligator territory. I lost track of time, and we never felt rushed.

Boggy Creek Airboat Tours

The day was a perfect 82-degree March day in Orlando, ideal for spotting alligators.

Heavenly!

Boggy Creek Airboat tours

Once on the boat, we all donned our protective ear muffs. Across the channel, you can see the big fan thingy behind the driver that makes all the noise.

Boggy Creek Airboat ToursWe couldn’t see through all the plants, but our guide recognized animals bopping up their noses in the bog from miles away. We zoomed towards them in our noisy airboat.

Helpful Florida Swimming Tip: Learn to Recognize Alligators From a Distance

“How did you see alligators from so far away?” we asked.

“You learn to recognize them from a distance when you swim with them every day. I grew up around here,” he said.

Yikes, swimming with alligators. There’s an adventure you probably haven’t considered. Unfortunately, this park doesn’t offer a guided tour of swimming with alligators. Sorry!

Soaring Over Boggy Creek

Have you ever taken the Disneyland ride, “Soaring over California?”

Boggy Creek Airboat toursSoaring over Boggy Creek felt about the same.  You thought you would stay in the watery pathway, then suddenly the driver plowed the boat through various plants growing wild in Boggy Creek and Lake Tohopekaliga. Unlike “Soaring over California,” we actually felt the spray as we soared – best ride ever!

Boggy Creek Airboat Tours

This shallow freshwater lake, covering 22,700 acres reminded me of what early settlers must have experienced on Tulare Lake in Central California where we live. The difference is that California settlers drained the shallow 13,670-square-mile Tulare Lake in the 1800s to farm it.

Like Lake Tohopekaliga, Tulare Lake once housed thousands of turtles and fish. Unlike this lake, there were no alligators, or were there?

Boggy Creek Air boat tours

Remember I told you how noisy the boat is?  Apparently, the noise doesn’t bother the alligators. They didn’t budge when we approached them. We also did not get too close.

Gator and Snake Sighting

boggy creek airboat tours

Taliah wanted to see alligators and snakes. Maybe you can see the alligator here, but it is too hard for me. Taliah got a better picture of it.  She took a picture of her screenshot, which enlarged the photo.

And there he is, Mr. Al I. Gator.

Boggy Creek Airboat Tours

Do you think you’d want to swim in Boggy Creek and Lake Tohopekaliga?

Snaking  Our Way Through the Lake

Our trip didn’t stop there. After oohing and ahhing over Mr. Gator, we zoomed off and came across this black snake.  Again I marveled at our guide’s eyesight.

Can you imagine seeing this little guy from a half of a  football field away?

Despite humans being his biggest enemy, this black racer didn’t move a muscle as the boat clamored down on him, Nor did he squirm away when we parked inches away.

Would you want to kill this sweetie?

Boggy Creek and Lake Tohopekaliga.

Notice, he posed agreeably for pictures. His lack of venom disappointed Taliah. If he had white inside his mouth instead of on his chin, then we would have been looking at one of Florida’s most venomous snakes.

You would not want to swim around with cottonmouth snakes also known as water moccasins. Even the venomous snakes rarely bite humans unless they are provoked. I’m not sure if cottonmouths would consider a noisy water boat as threatening to them.

After we left the boat, we stopped to see the other attractions, mostly gators.

Don’t forget to tip the driver.  He was awesome!

Gator Wrestling

This next picture may be too traumatic for you. I wrestled a gator while I was there. I’ve since healed, but it took a while. I don’t think I’ll go into the gator wrestling business like we saw at Gatorland.

Boggy Creek and Lake Tohopekaliga.

Most of the gators sat quietly within a fenced area sunning themselves. These gators look young and healthy, unlike the one I wrestled.

Did you know that some alligators are white? I’m going to show you those in one of my next Floridian posts.

Boggy Creek Airboat tours

Other Native Floridians

There was another surprise for me when I turned around from gator gazing. This man stood almost nose to nose to me. Glad we both brushed out teeth that morning, though I’m not sure I smiled.

Boggy Creek Airboat Tours

After wrestling an alligator, nothing much scared me anymore. I think he was disappointed when all I said was, “Oh, hi,” and moved out of his way.

Boggy Creek Airboat Tours

Voted “Best Activity” By Our Party

We enjoyed our day at the humongous Theme Parks. However, I hope I’ve convinced you to go places other than Disney World and Universal Studios if you visit Orlando, FL

Even my young friend voted this as her favorite activity until we went one more location. I’ll tell you about that one in another post.

Related Florida Posts

#1 Thrill of a Lifetime

Though this isn’t a walk in the park, it is a journey. For more walks/journeys check out:

 

 

 

Thrill of a Lifetime: How Novice Kayakers Navigate the Mangrove Tunnel of Doom

Kayakers Achieve Instant Expert Status Upon Successful Exit

It was the perfect day to earn our Kayaking Certificate of Achievement. The weather at Cocoa Beach in March is ideal for kayaking and seeing wildlife. Taliah and her mother, Carmen, grandmother, Janice and I celebrated Taliah’s twelfth birthday with a manatee-dolphin party in the mangroves of the Banana River.

Banana River Kayaking

We paddled along the Banana River with our guide on a balmy 70-degree day hoping to catch a glimpse of some dolphins out fishing. Our guide first spotted a lazy manatee cruising along in the canal through a housing area hoping to find some friendly humans.

Meeting Mr. Man-T

Manatees have a terrible habit of approaching boats and befriending people even if the people come via propeller boats. Their backs bear the scars of such friendships.

Today, Mr. Man-T discovered a kindred spirit in Taliah. When she tickled the water with her fingers, he maneuvered himself in place saddling up to her kayak. Somehow he knew she would pet him. You can see his white propeller scars on his back to the right of Taliah’s hand.

If Carmen moved the boat, Mr. Man-T moved too. Finally, our guide had to tear us away from Mr. Man-T to get into the open waters to see dolphins like the ads promised.

Following the Private-Eye Birds

These birds did not read their pelican briefs and led us astray on our first quest to see dolphins. But other birds ran their operation with more precision. Soon we spotted two dolphins on a fishing expedition.

Banana River Kayaking

The result was that during our two-hour tour, we saw the most dolphins our guide had spotted in his thirty years of dolphin  tours. Once we got on the high seas, there were many more dolphins, but they were farther away and harder to photograph.

While that may be a slight exaggeration, I don’t apologize because he had his “best show in thirty-years” attitude, even if it was just an attitude.

Every time he spotted a group of birds sitting on the dock inspecting the water below his enthusiasm exploded. He would lead us through the water towards the next school of dolphins. We paddled towards them as quickly as we could gliding in gentle circles and S-curves through the water.

Entering the Mangrove Tunnel of Doom

Nearing the two-hour mark, our guide thought he could lose us in the Tunnel. Leading us in single file, we battled the barnacle-covered mangroves slathered with barnacles. In spite of a few false starts and nearly losing a paddle or two to the aggressive water trees, we emerged unscathed.

Exiting the Banana River

By the end of the second hour, my wrists hurt, but my heart was full. Our guide started speeding towards our landing spot just as the sky let loose of the future waters of Banana River.

Banana River Kayaking

Weighed down by all the water, it was all I could do to emerge ungracefully from the kayak without going for a swim in the brackish water. Carmen tried to lend me a hand. After nearly pulling her in, I decided to turn and push myself out using the boat as a solid surface. (That’s funny, by the way!)

No picture (hahaha).

By that time it did not matter how wet I got. If the river below hadn’t soaked me, the river above our heads did an excellent job.

Banana River KayakingWhat fabulous activities on one of your trips gave you the thrill of a lifetime?

Though this isn’t a walk, it is a journey. For more walks/journeys check out: