Happy Mother’s Day y’all. Today I wanted to get out of the house to do something different. Several years back, we had traveled throughout Tuscany looking for sunflowers. I never realized they were right in our own state in such numbers. “There’s no place like home,” it’s been said. Traveling to Sledd’s u-Pick Farm in Mims reminded me of that saying. Although the sky was cloudy, the bright yellow sunflowers provided a beautiful contrast against the otherwise dreary day. It took my breath away when we pulled up to the farm and saw sunflowers in such number.

Sledd’s is a pick-your-own farm in Mims, Florida, offering a large field of sunflowers that you can pick yourself, as well as a sunflower maze this time of year. While many of the sunflowers have already been picked and some are past their prime, more sunflowers will be available to pick again in June.

Sledd’s charges five dollars per person for entry into the field and then charges for the sunflowers you pick. Prices are two dollars for the first sunflower stem, three dollars for two sunflower stems, and five dollars for three sunflower stems. Remember to bring your own scissors, as none are provided for you. Also, come prepared with cash, as this is the only form of payment they accept. Plan ahead by checking their Facebook page, as hours change greatly due to weather and unforeseen circumstances as well. Keep in mind, also, that there are only port-a-johns on site and only a little structure under which to make payment. This is a small family farm without any kind of gift shop or visitor center that offers other pick your own crops at different times of year, such as tomatoes, berries, and vegetables as well.

Like a single sunbeam on a warm summer day, there is an exuberance and a brilliance of a sunflower.” -Author unknown

When we arrived, we were amazed at the numbers of people that were standing in line (without six feet between them) to pay for entry into the field. No attempt was made to remind the visitors of the need for social distancing, and we saw only two other families with masks. We were glad we brought along my husband’s N-97 mask from his workshop, which we took turns sharing and went into the field one at a time. Once we got into the field, however, we could stay apart from others to keep our social distancing.

I’m thinking that this place might be less crowded on a week-day or any other week end than Mother’s Day. Seems as though lots of people came with their mothers for this charming pick your own activity. Social Distancing might be easier at another time.

I couldn’t help but notice my daughter “Teen Traveler’s” tee shirt, which suggested the need to “Bloom With Grace” when she was walking around the field. That’s my girl; such attention to detail. Such sage advice. My daughter, the old soul.

Sunflowers are symbolic in China for longevity and long life, and I am reminded of the pandemic which began in China while walking about the field, hoping for long life for the citizens there and everywhere. My mind wanders also to Vincent Van Gogh, who said he found “comfort in contemplating the sunflowers.” I also found comfort among the sunflowers after being essentially cooped up inside for weeks during our “safer at home” pandemic orders here in Florida. It felt so good to be among such a bright backdrop of living, thriving beautiful plants today. There were lots of bees on the flowers, and watching them on the sticky sunflower heads was fascinating. There was such peace for that moment in time, and it felt wonderful to be a part of it. It felt like life goes on, despite all that is going on around the world at the same moment.

“…You’re making it feel that everything is alright
You’re my sunflower, you’re my sunflower
In a world that’s crumbling, all around us everyday
You are, all the inspiration that I need to find my way…

You’re, making it feel that everything is alright
You’re my sunflower, you’re my sunflower
You’re, making it feel that everything is alright
You’re my sunflower, you’re my sunflower….”

-“Sunflower” by Lenny Kravitz

Helen Keller, an inspirational writer who was born both deaf and blind once wrote

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.” ~ Helen Keller

I contemplate this as I think about the days ahead with the pandemic. Helen Keller’s advice, along with the old Maori proverb that says to “Turn your face to the sun, and the shadows fall behind you.” I look forward to brighter days ahead when we can return to some semblance of normal after the Covid pandemic is behind us. In the meantime I remember that life is still good, even now.

Carpe diem, friends……..and turn your face to the sunshine today while you get out to live fully again. May the shadows fall behind you, or may you at least not SEE the shadows today.


photo courtesy of C. Boucher

One of my favorite things to do here in Florida is to go Alligator hunting. Not REAL hunting, but hunting with a scavenger hunt. There is a wetlands near my house in central Florida where we drive along a loop road to play a little game like “Where’s Waldo” to see if we can find “Where’s the alligator” instead. The wetlands near our house is closed because of the pandemic, but the Black Point Wildlife Drive in the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge is open. Black Point is a seven mile drive where you can see all kinds of beautiful wildlife, including wildflowers, birds( including a bald eagle), snakes, river otters or bobcats if you are lucky, and the most beautiful alligators I’ve ever seen in the wild. Here in central Florida, we are in the midst of alligator courtship season, which typically runs from April to May, and mating season is normally in May and June. Eggs are laid in mounds of soil or vegetation in June or July, and the average alligator can lay around thirty-two to forty-six eggs. Eggs hatch from mid-August to early September, and during this mating season alligators can become territorial. It is wise to stay inside your car in this loop, as it is recommended to stay at least twenty-five feet away from any alligator in the wild. Florida is a great place to see alligators in the wild, as it is estimated that there are approximately 1.5 to 2 million wild alligators here.

sign at the beginning of the refuge
sign at the turnoff to Black Point Wildlife Drive

The entrance fee is normally ten dollars per car and is payable with an honor system envelope provided at the little blue sign below at the entrance. Visitors retain a stub from their payment voucher in the car and deposit the remainder of the voucher in the envelope at this sign. Because of the pandemic, however, there is currently no admission fee necessary.

brochures and ticket envelopes are found here

It always amazes me to see so many wildflowers in the midst of our “moderate drought” this spring in this part of Florida.

beautiful wild gaillardia flowers line the sides of the loop road
infrequent wild pink gaillardias are found among the mostly orange gaillardia wild flowers
a wild butterfly on yellow wild flowers takes my breath away
more beautiful yellow flowers along the banks of the water
the root system of the mangrove is impressive to see
beautiful purple flowers amidst the vegetation on the banks of the water
HERE is Waldo!
Is that a log or an alligator? Sometimes it is hard to tell until you look for a while to see if it moves.

The vegetation (mangrove) grows in some of the most inhospitable substrates I have seen, and the landscape is literally dotted with young plants which grab hold of the arrid land as well as the brackish water to flourish.

possible bald eagle sighting

One needs to drive VERY slowly to see the alligators swim silently in the waters or hiding among the reeds. Sometimes they are even on the banks of the water, laying out in the sun. At times, the alligator at first appears to be a floating log, but then you see movement or the swish of a tail.

Today we were fortunate enough to see an alligator near his den, which is cleared by the alligator’s snout and feet and can be up to twenty feet deep/long. Alligators are such formidable and amazing creatures.

On the way out of the Wildlife Refuge, you can see the Vehicle Assembly Building in Kennedy Space Center. This building is where the Apollo, Space Shuttle, and Saturn V rockets were assembled and completed. It is also the world’s tallest single story building.

There is nothing like the “thrill of the hunt” when looking for alligators here in central Florida, on the Space Coast. It is a great place to get out of the house, too, during this Covid pandemic and a wonderful day trip from most of central Florida.

Life is good; enjoy the sunshine and the day. Carpe diem, friends……..