We drove down to Fort Myers for a few blissful days spent with family at the beach. The first half of our drive we endured torrential downpour, though the rains eventually dried and left us to enjoy a cool afternoon. Immediately we headed over the causeway toward Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel Island, where we befriended another family relaxing seaside in the same overcast weather. The water felt surprisingly warm and welcoming as ever. Sanibel beaches are wonderful if you love to collect seashells and can endure some choppy water. The following morning we pressed on again through what looked like more rain but cleared just as we arrived at the beach. In the water, Will bravely reached down when he thought he felt a large shell – the rest of us stuck to the shoreline, which is covered with plentiful shells that have washed up from the depths. We found beautiful Disk Dosinia, Cross-barred Venus, various beautiful Scallop shells, a small Florida Fighting Conch, and our favorites: Atlantic Slipper Shell and Cat’s Paw (we call them Boats and Tiger’s Paw). If you are curious as to how I know so much about shelling, I’m more than happy to say that a ranger provided us with a local shelling guide to help us identify “The Gifts from The Gulf”. We also found a number of Whelk egg casings along the shore, which may look alarming but in all actuality is just very fascinating and exciting. Lighthouse Beach and Bowman’s Beach are both wonderful destinations for nature lovers, especially children, who have an affinity for the wild from the start. Piper loved digging in the sand and building castles, washing tiny shells in seawater and placing them into buckets like coins, and kicking her legs in the water as we passed her back and forth amongst ourselves. We enjoyed long, fruitful days in the sun and returned in the evening to our room only to collapse exhausted into the soft, billowy abyss that was our bed. We may have eaten a vegan brownie hidden beneath heaps of frosty coconut ice-cream.
Fort Myers is also home to a pretty little butterfly sanctuary at The Butterfly Estates. We saw a variety of caterpillars and beautiful green chrysalises with glittery silver lines across their tops. Butterflies hung upside down to dry their wings before taking flight. We learned about the specific plants butterflies like — milkweed comes to mind — and how the breathtaking migration has dwindled due to unfortunate environmental circumstances. On the final day of our stay in Fort Myers, we headed out early to see some more estates — this time, those of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. The Edison & Ford Winter Estates are truly breathtaking from the moment you drive along McGregor’s Royal palm lined street up toward the properties, which are expansive and beautifully marked with various large trees such as banyan and figs. Lovely white Orchids grew happily in their nooks between tree branches. Tourists stopped to smell the leaves and fruit of a wild Lime tree. We could not have seen it all — but we enjoyed peering into a couple of houses and the laboratory, as well as taking a peek at a few on site Model T, A and B cars. At the gift shop we bought lots of heirloom seeds, and I also couldn’t resist a quirky hanging glass light bulb terrarium for only $6 or so.
We’re home now and for the past few days we have been kicking up dirt in the garden! I got up early yesterday and weeded the entire vegetable patch, and when the rest of the family woke up we were able to start some seeds. I’m super excited to be planting again. I harvested a huge batch of tomatoes and have had just about enough of them already (not really), so the prospects of new growth is enthralling. We mostly used the seeds we bought from the estates, including: Pimiento de Padron peppers, Lemon Drop Peppers, Lemon Balm, Genovese Basil, Paprika pepper, sunflowers, eggplants, and Tuscan kale. As you can see, we love peppers. I’m looking forward to the Pimiento de Padron, which are described as being mostly mild but every once in a while surprisingly hot — which is like playing a game of Spanish roulette – ha! Delicious. Will worked very hard to help plot out a little sunflower enclave which I hope will grow successfully so that Piper can play amongst the tall blooms. We also have to plant some marigolds that we bought, and I would love to plant some peas or long beans. So much work, but so satisfying…
We have also been eating fairly well since returning home. I made a surprisingly delicious quinoa lunch with some peas and lots of the garden fresh cherry tomatoes. We had some cilantro and limes left in our fridge, so I put together a quick cilantro lime pesto with almonds and lots of good olive oil and some salt and nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor without the dairy. I stirred a spoonful or two into the warm quinoa and the bright flavors really hit the spot. The next morning for breakfast I stirred some leftover pesto into a couple of eggs and the resulting green flecked scramble was also lovely. We also enjoyed a buckwheat loaf from some buckwheat groats that have been in the pantry for a while. It always feels good to use something like that up. Now we are all resting!
What inspires you recently?