Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Heritage Village

FORWARD: Well folks, I tried to be all fancy with the placement of my pictures on this post, and it worked out horribly for me... the way things looked in my EDIT window are NOT how things looked on my PUBLISHED window. So, I apologize in advance if things look a little weird. I tried to fix it as best as I could (without uploading everything all over again) and I hope it works out in all of your browsers. If not, feel free to berate me and complain about this blog that you wasted your time reading.

I normally don't like waiting so long after an event to post because things aren't as fresh in my mind, but I just had to write about the volunteer project I did on Sunday.

This project was at a place called Heritage Village which is located in Largo. It was a slightly farther drive than Safety Harbor, but it was DEFINITELY worth it!

Heritage Village is a historic museum located on acres and acres of land... It's set up with buildings that look like they were taken straight out of Little House on the Prairie.

Most of the people who volunteered for this project were repeat offenders, which was fantastic because they knew so much... and I learned so much! The majority of the houses and buildings that currently make up Heritage Village were removed from their previous locations and lovingly put back together in their new home. Walking through the village and perusing through the buildings was like being flung back in the 19th or early 20th century.

My volunteer activity for this project mainly consisted of sweeping dead leaves, pine needles, and dirt off of the rustic porches, which was an easy enough feat, but what I really enjoyed were the conversations and tidbits of info I learned from my two sweeping buddies. Some were relating to Heritage Village itself, but not all of it! Two of the more interesting stories I heard I will tell you after I show you a few pictures. (Please note, these pictures were actually taken AFTER the project was over. I walked around the park with two other volunteers before it opened to the public. Okay, I guess you didn't really need to know that. But I'm nothing if not honest.)

On the below picture is a gazebo (which was full of pine needles). I was told that sometimes there are weddings held with the gazebo as an alter. Can you imagine a couple having their guests dress up in 19th century garb and leaving in a carriage instead of a limo? Fun!

The picture above was just one of the houses... I can't know remember what was special about the house. But I took a picture, so it must have been something GOOD!

Here was the school house. We had fun in here playing evil teacher/terrified students. OK, She was not really an evil teacher. I am just an impossible student! There was a really old fashioned map on the wall (unfortunately I do not seem to have gotten a picture of it) that had a flaw in it's timeline. Alaska and Hawaii were on it as states. Now I'm no
geography whiz, but I'm pretty sure that ain't right! Early 20th century? Get with the program people!

One of my favorite little details in the classroom? A carving on the desk. I am not sure if this was done way back yonder or if it was vandalism of Heritage Village property, but I do know that their must be an interesting story to it. At least, I want to believe there is.

Tuna was here.

I think the scarecrows were my favorite part of our picture fest.

There is just something about scarecrows I love!

The picture on the bottom looks a little bit like it's ready to get up and start dancing and singing about having a brain...

One of our last stops was the train station. We did more picture posing in here, including getting this unsuspecting volunteer on the first picture to play ticket master. On the next one, my two partners in crime for the day are trying to determine if they missed the last train... Shoot, January 16, 1911! A hundred years late. I knew I shouldn't have stopped for that soda pop... And the last one? Well chief, that would be a train crossing sign. (Do I really have to explain EVERYTHING?)

That was pretty much the end of our fantastical photo adventure. I had a lot of fun looking around this fantastic historic village. And the other volunteers were awesome people.

Well, since I am out of photos... as I promised earlier, here are the two interesting stories I learned while sweeping away!

1) Forbidden love among whooping cranes...

A wild whooping crane known as "Romeo" has consistently broken into the enclosure of a captive female whooping crane named "Peepers". Whooping cranes are one type of bird that mates for life, and unfortunately Romeo had lost his two prior mates to predators. But he found love in Peepers, and decided that she was the bird for him. Why is this a problem? Romeo is part of a program to increase the number of wild whooping cranes in the world. This means he can not have any human contact... In fact, from the time he was first hatched to when he first migrated, the only human contact he had was through whooping crane puppets or humans wearing whooping crane costumes. Even when they first got him to migrate, the 'crane' he followed was actually a small disguised aircraft. Peepers on the other hand does have human contact, being a captive bird. Romeo visiting her was a big problem for the project. So for each of the six times he broke into her enclosure, the humans had to costume up and remove Romeo... but he kept coming back. They finally decided to pull him from the wild crane program... but they will not be placing him with his one true love, Peepers.

If you are interested in reading the story:

2) SHOOT! I can't remember the second interesting story. I knew I shouldn't have waited so long to post this. I sort of remember that it was about frogs. Or alligators. DARN IT!

Ok... Moving on. I also learned about this really amazing photographer (Jerry Uelsmann) who does some remarkable photography, all without the aid of computer editing. Everything he does with his pictures is done while taking the pictures and in the darkroom. It is extremely hard to believe this when you look at some of the pictures... it's incredible! Here is a link if you want to see some of them:

Check him out!

So in conclusion, I really enjoyed this project... and I think this is another one where I myself will become a repeat volunteer. I've actually already signed up for the next one in February.

Well, that is it! I do have another volunteer project on Saturday, but I am not sure if I will post about this one as I've already been there once and I don't want to bore you with repeats! I am going to once again be doing the Personal Energy Transportation job. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this time they will let me use the power tools... or the heavy machinery! And hopefully I will leave with all of my body parts intact... But if I don't, that will certainly be something worth posting about!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Safety Harbor

Today was part one of my busy volunteering weekend. I met up with 4 other volunteers at the Safety Harbor museum in Clearwater. It was about a 45 minute drive to get there, but wow, what nice scenery driving to it! Beach views are the best, especially when the water is pretty and blue like it is in Florida.

After all 5 of us had all arrived at the museum, we met Jim the curator, who instructed us on what we would be doing that day. The grounds had dead leaves everywhere, and wood piles near the firepit that needed to be tidied up. There was dead undergrowth that also needed to be taken care of. We were given two rakes, one broom, and a leaf blower for our use, and we got right to work!

Just for a bit of back history on the place I was volunteering, (I learned all of this today too!) the Safety Harbor Museum is an archeological museum, which means it is chock full of arrow heads, mammoth teeth, and history. We were able to peruse the artifacts inside after our cleaning duties were over, but I'll get to the inside of the museum later. After all, outside is what I saw first!

There were a lot of interesting little areas outside the museum. There were sculptures throughout the grounds (one of them is in the picture above), and there was a 'sacred area' which we were not supposed to tread on. It was a fairly small roped off area that one of the volunteers told me was an Indian burial ground. According to a sign in the front of the museum, the town of Safety Harbor was actually the Native American town of 'Ucita' in the 1400's, which would explain the Indian Burial ground, but I was a bit confused by the size of it. It looked like it could have perhaps 2-3 graves max, unless they were all just piled on top of each other, which didn't seem right to me at all.

None of the other volunteers could explain to me why it was so small, but I made sure to ask Jim later in the day. He told me that it was actually an Indian REburial ground. About 3 years ago, someone left a shoebox full of human bones outside the museum. The caretakers of the museum sent them off to be identified, and they turned out to be Indian remains - though they never had them carbon dated to find out their age. I asked Jim if they ever found out who had left the shoebox, but he laughed and shook his head. "Most likely someone just found them on their property, and they didn't want the hassle that would come with finding human remains, so they just left them here for us."

The remains were reburied in a traditional ceremony by the ancestors of the Florida Native Americans. Jim said that it was actually this ceremony that had brought him to Safety Harbor, and he'd been there ever since! I searched a bit online to see if I could find the story of the shoebox Indian, and I did find an article from 2007:

While working outside, I came across another little sculpture that looked like a tombstone. However, this one was not roped off, and nothing was posted about not walking over the grave. I am not sure if you can see it, but at the bottom it also says something about the guy named being chief surgeon in Napoleon's army. I later asked Jim about this marker (and whether there was really a body buried there) but, as I think I suspected anyway, it was NOT a grave. It was more of a tribute to the man (who was actually named Odet Philippe - despite it being spelled Phillipi on the stone). Jim also told me that he was actually never in Napoleons army, that the dates would have been all wrong. (Again, I looked up this information online when I got home, and I found this site (
which states that while rumors say that he was a childhood friend of Napoleon and then grew to become his chief surgeon, this is highly unlikely as they were 20 years apart in age. What IS true about Odet Philippe was that he was the first person to cultivate grapefruit in Florida, which is a huge thing in itself! Why people would need to make up anything about Napoleon is beyond me!

The museum grounds outside had quite a few trees with a type of moss (which is also an airplant) growing all over them. I had seen this plant throughout Florida, and I loved the mysterious look it would give to whatever it was growing on. When I first moved to Florida, I had thought that these were specific types of trees (like weeping willows) that had leaves that drooped down towards the ground. I only learned the truth a few months ago. I mentioned to one of the other volunteers that I thought the look of that moss on the trees was beautiful, and asked her whether she knew what the name of the plant actually was. She told me that she didn't know the name, but that those plants were actually invasive and damaging to the trees. During the rainy season, they would weight down the tree with all the water the moss absorbed, and cause branches to break. So, I guess the moral of that is - things that are beautiful... can also be dangerous. Kinda like me. *cough*

OK, so after an hour and a half of raking and blowing leaves, hauling wood, and throwing out trash, the place looked fantastic. Jim congratulated us on our work, and asked if we wanted to take a look around the museum. Of course we did!

The museum was fairly small compared to other museums I had been to, but just because it was small did not mean it was any less interesting than some of the bigger ones. It had some really cool exibits... including one area that talked about a prehistoric armadillo that was as big as a volkswagon:

One of my favorite things to look at were the prehistoric masks:

The early Floridian (post-Native American era) sections was really fascinating to see too.

I can almost picture the kids that would have been playing with these toys... (which looked a lot more adorable in person than they do in these pictures by the way!)

"Jenny! Can you ring doctor Jones for me? Lassie bit the neighbor boy again."

We all got a kick out of this alcohol still. The card says: "The Moonshine Sting - This still was seized by the Florida Department of Alcohol and Tobacco in a sting operation in the early 1960's. It was reported that over 200 people became sick or blind, and that some even died because of contaminated moonshine. The cause of the contamination was attributed to lead used in welding the seams and dead animals added to the liquid to speed up fermentation!"

Mmmmm, dead animals added to the alcohol. Bottoms up!

There was lots more to look at in the museum, but I don't want to ruin it for anyone who might want to go for themselves! I highly recommend it, especially if you have an interest in history, or ancient artifacts. In a few months, they are going to have an exhibit on the Berlin Wall which I am certainly going to come to see! I know I am showing my age, but I do remember when that wall came down.

As we were getting ready to head out to our respective homes, I mentioned to Jim that I thought one of the areas in the front yard would look nice if it had stones around the sculpture. He thought about it, and said "Well, I think you are right, that would look nice. Why don't you guys do that the next time you come here?" Of course, I wasn't signed up for the next Safety Harbor at that time, but I signed up for the next one (not until a month from now) as soon as I got home. I definitely want to see my idea put into effect!

Just as I was about to get into my car, as an afterthought I turned back so I could ask Jim whether he knew what the mossy airplants on the trees were called. "Oh, you mean the Spanish Moss? Isn't it beautiful? It gives everything kind of the look of the deep south." Thank you Jim, for not focusing on the dangerous, but noticing the beautiful!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I'm a little bit late...

I know I said I was going to update on a weekly basis, but so much has happened in the last month or so! First, I went home for Christmas, so I wasn't really able to post whilst visiting with my wonderful family. NJ tried to keep me there by having a snow storm the day before I was supposed to leave. I was lucky enough to get onto a flight to Tampa after numerous delays, but it was close for a while!

Almost my entire family was sick when I visited them, and just about at the time I had breathed a sigh of relief for not catching anything, it hit me, HARD! I was sick for a good week and a half to two weeks. I still went out for New Years (How could I miss my first New Years in Florida, where I would be comfortable wearing a dress outside in January?) and I am pretty sure that attributed to me being sick for even longer. Then there was about a week of me being to lazy to write in my blog... I just kept putting it off and putting it off...

Well, now here I am! Did you miss me?

Hmmm, besides being sick, what have I been up to? Well, last Saturday, I had another volunteer opportunity. This one was fantastic. We helped to build "Personal Energy Transportation" devices for those who can not use their legs. I've always liked building stuff (just ask me how proud I was when I built my own couch?) so this was a perfect volunteering job for me. As soon as I got home, I signed up for the next 2 available days for this project.

At first, they had more peope than they knew what to do with, so I was one of four girls sent upstairs to sort through old clothes and put them into boxes. But, we were quick workers... we quickly finished that, then moved to cutting foam for the PET seats. Then, when there was about 45 minutes left, I went down and learned part of how to put together one of the PETs. I didn't have as much hands on with the actual building of the PET this time as I would have wanted, but next time I am sure I will have more opportunity.

If you are interested in the charity and the devices themselves, you can check out the link at:

This weekend I am volunteering Saturday and Sunday morning at a couple of other places - one a archeological museum, and the other a history museum. I believe we will just be doing some tending of the grounds, weeding and picking up trash and that kind of fun stuff. This is probably the best season to do that, there aren't as many snakes and bugs and bees outside in the winter...

Oh! Also, on Sunday I'm going to be going to the Salvidor Dali museum in St. Petersburg. They just moved to a new building, and had their grand opening on Tuesday. I'm so excited to see it! I never even knew the first one existed, but the new one is supposed to be 20 times better! I don't think they allow pictures in Museums, otherwise I would certainly share the art with you, but we will see! Maybe they will allow non-flash photography.

And now before I wrap this up, I want to thank my dad for being the first person to actually go along with my fun little calendar joke. Let me explain. When I see a calendar (that isn't mine), I always am tempted to write "Give Karen money" on a date a few weeks/months into the future. It always has to be on another page than the current month, but that is usually my only criteria. Well, when I was home for Christmas, I wrote "Send Karen money" in January, and what do I see when I get my mail today? A check from my father for $1.00. Hahaha! Everyone else who simply ignores their calendar and does NOT send Karen money could learn a little something from this. They know who they are.