What does a Walton master gardener grow?

John Kratt’s backyard in Freeport is a certified National Wildlife Federation backyard wildlife habitat. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

A look into area master gardener’s native and vegetable gardens

Many homeowners dream of a beautiful landscaped yard. Making it happen can be a daunting and difficult task. Sandy soils, bugs and Northwest Florida’s climate can be a challenge. However, creating a landscape using native plants, you can be easy on the environment along with inviting wildlife to your yard.

Ever wonder what goes into creating a native garden habitat? Where to start and who to ask? Well, who better to ask than a master gardener. It is no surprise to know Walton master gardeners boast some incredible landscapes.

Here is a look at a few local master gardeners who were happy to share their incredible gardens an knowledge.

Barbara Young – Hewitt Bayou

Barbara Young and her husband moved to Santa Rosa Beach from Michigan more than 12 years ago. When they purchased a lot on Hewitt Bayou, Barbara wanted to build a house and surrounding environment that looked as though it had always been there.

Leaving all the native trees and shrubs they could, the house truly does look like it has always been nestled in nature along the bayou.

Barbara’s garden surrounds their entire home and is an enchanting and colorful stroll.

“I can’t pass up a plant when I go to a store,” Barbara quipped as her garden also includes a few non-natives that compliment the landscape.

Included in Barbara’s natives are: magnolia, saw palmetto, wax myrtle, river birch, bald cypress, Queen Ann’s Lace, oak leaf hydrangea, chaste tree, turk’s cap, milkweed, indian blanket, cross vine, honeysuckle, royal fern, coreopsis, beauty berry and more.

Click here to continue

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Local couple restoring long leaf pine habitat in North Walton

Natural habitat of longleaf pine and wiregrass. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Bob Reid and Betsy Clark are on a mission to bring back long leaf pine habitat to their land in North Walton County. Both avid naturalists, the couple has been working on land stewardship since acquiring acreage north of Mossy Head in 2000. Now at 890 acres, Reid and Clark stay busy with their efforts.

Stewardship Landowners of the year in 2003, Reid and Clark understand the process of maintaining and developing a healthy habitat through prescribed burns and replanting longleaf pine with native grasses such as wiregrass, bluestem and pineywoods dropseed. Restoring and managing longleaf pine forests provide healthy habitat for a variety of plant and animal species.

One of the many active gopher tortoise burrows at Little Creek Woods. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

The restoration is an ongoing process at Little Creek Woods; the namesake of the creek that runs through their property. Most recently, a 120-acre area previously a planted loblolly plantation, has been clear-cut and replanted with wiregrass and longleaf tubelings.

Since the couple started the Stewardship Program with the Florida Division of Forestry and the University of Florida Extension Service, the land has been the focus of studies by U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Long Leaf Alliance. Most recently, the Long Leaf Alliance is doing a comparative growth study at Little Creek Woods. The growth study is designed to see how each pine species fares under identical growing conditions on the same sandhill site. The planting consists of one acre of loblolly, one acre of slash and one acre of longleaf pine to monitor over the next 15 years. Click here to continue

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Tracking dolphins for science on Choctawhatchee Bay

A bottlenose dolphin near Tucker Bayou in the Choctawhatchee Bay. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Research documents life patterns and health of bottlenose dolphin

Steve Shippee knows about dolphins. Studying the mammal’s behavior since he was 17, Shippee, a marine biologist, is currently the marine mammal research and stranding team coordinator for Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, and currently in the University of Central Florida PhD program in Conservation Biology. Shippee is doing his dissertation on dolphin habitat use and feeding ecology in two connected estuaries, Pensacola Bay and Choctawhatchee Bay.

Shippee has been doing research in the area since 2006. As a result of funding provided through the Florida Institute of Oceanography this summer, he has been working with Dr. Graham Worthy at UCF, the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program at Mote Marine Lab, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute to study the potential impacts of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill on bottlenose dolphins in the two connected estuaries.

Bottlenose dolphin are identified by unique markings. Photo courtesy Steve Shippee

The study is to assess population size and genetic discreteness of oil spill impacted bottlenose dolphin communities in the bays; determine their feeding habits; and examine the relationship between feeding habits and trophic interactions as a diagnostic tool in assessing the potential impacts of oil/dispersants throughout the region. Click here to continue

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History revealed at Hogtown Bayou

Shards of clay turpentine pots along the shoreline on Hogtown Bayou. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Low water conditions expose shards of turpentine pots along bayou shoreline

During winter months, water levels in the Choctawhatchee Bay and adjoining bayous are lower than other seasons. Northerly winds blow water out into the gulf, exposing more bay and bayou shoreline.

Combined with low tide conditions, Hogtown Bayou in Santa Rosa Beach reveals a bit more, as shards of old turpentine pots can be easily found.

Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s the area of Hogtown Bayou was the community of Santa Rosa, home to a general store, sugar cane syrup factory, a cannery, hotels and a variety of businesses. It was also the location of two turpentine mills. No doubt discards from the days of the mills operation, these tiny pieces of history remain on the bayou floor to this day around Cessna Landing.

Low water levels expose more shoreline on Hogtown Bayou. The piles of oyster shells are part of the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance reef restoration project. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Turpentine was harvested from long leaf pine trees all over Walton County and Northwest Florida back then, and evidence of the activity may be found in the area forests as well.

To view a collection of turpentine pots, visit the Coastal Branch Library, 437 Greenway Trail, Santa Rosa Beach.

About the turpentining in our area:
Naval stores was the term for products that were essential to the production and maintenance of wooden ships such as tar and pitch, which were used to seal the bow and deck. In the 17th and 18th centuries, both the English and Spanish made profits by exploiting the vast pine forests in Northwest Florida for this purpose.

Turpentine is a derivative of tree resin used in paint and varnish solvents, disinfectants, liniments, medicated soaps, lamp fuel, and perfume. Rosin is used to make paper, soap, and varnish.

In the 19th century, lumber mills were built along the waterways that lead to the bayous because they provided both water power and a way to transport cut planks to the port of Pensacola.
Information courtesy Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida, and “The Way We Were” a publication of the South Walton Three Arts Alliance, Inc.

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Sandhill cranes migrate to North Walton County

Sandhill cranes a welcome sight in Walton County. ©Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Winter visitors a welcome sight for local bird lovers

Clara Pittman of North Walton County looks forward to the special wintering guests she enjoys watching arrive in late fall. For the last five years, sandhill cranes have been migrating to the wetlands near her home just south of Lake Jackson in North Walton.

Typically arriving in mid-December and staying until mid-March, the cranes are a welcome sight, and have been flocking to the area in large numbers.

“I have seen as many a three dozen in the wetlands; I enjoy watching them,” Clara said.

With a wingspan of up to 78 inches and standing more than 3 feet tall, the sandhill crane (Grus canadensis) is one of the largest birds in North America. There are several subspecies of the sandhill crane with the Lesser Sandhill (Northern) migrating from the northern U.S. and the Greater Sandhill (Southern) year-round residents in southern Florida. Click here to continue

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The fine art of beekeeping alive and well in DeFuniak Springs

Jim Dietrich holds up a frame full of honey. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

North Walton farmer produces wide variety of sweet honey

As a beekeeper only in his fourth year of operation, Jim Dietrich sure knows his bees. Picking up from what was a once a hobby with his father years ago, the DeFuniak Springs beekeeper now operates several bee apiaries full-time in locations throughout Walton County. The majority of the apiaries are located north of DeFuniak Springs in Glendale, with a few in South Walton.

Producing a variety of honey throughout most of the year, Dietrich’s Honey Farm supplies the Walton County area with Tupelo in spring, gallberry, cotton and wildflower honey during the summer and fall months. Their honey can be found at Red Bay Grocery, Fannin’s Restaurant, Bruce Café and City Produce in Ft. Walton Beach.

The business of making honey is not an easy process. A typical bee will only produce 1/12 of one teaspoon of honey during its lifespan. Each bee colony hosts 30,000 – 35,000 bees at any given time with 95 percent worker females, 5 percent drones and one queen. The queen may breed with up to 20 drones and continually lays eggs. The typical lifespan of a worker or drone bee is typically 30-45 days, with the queen living several years.

If the queen dies, action must be taken immediately to keep a super (hive box) going. If the hive does not create a new queen, a beekeeper must acquire a new one or combine supers. Click here to continue

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Remnants of the Captain Fritz steamboat in the Choctawhatchee riverbed


Remnants of the Capt. Fritz. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Low water levels expose pieces of Walton history

Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s much of Walton County’s commerce was transported via water. Sown lumber, turpentine and vegetables were shipped to the mills and markets of Pensacola via steamboat and schooner.

One of the major steamboats that made a regular run between Freeport, Point Washington and Pensacola was the Capt. Fritz. A stern wheel steamboat built in 1892 the Capt. Fritz started operations in the Choctawhatchee Bay. She transported goods and passengers until she caught fire and burned at Cedar Tree Landing on the river on Sept. 19, 1930.  Historical records show that when the vessel caught fire at Cedar Tree Landing she was cut loose from her moorings. The ship floated down river to her current resting place about one mile north of Cowford Landing. Remnants of the Capt. Fritz are easily visible when the river level is low.

Walton County resident Ken Little and his wife Gator have a close connection to the Capt. Fritz.

“Gator’s grandfather and great-grandfather were skippers of the Fritz during part of the time she was in service,” Ken recalled. Click here to continue

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Much more than pet adoptions offered at Alaqua Animal Refuge

Champ, a rescued miniature horse weighed only 75 lbs. when he arrived at Alaqua. He is now close to his perfect weight. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

When Laurie Hood first embarked on starting up an animal refuge more than four years ago, she had little idea what the future would entail. With little staff and a healthy measure of volunteers, however, the 10-acre acility has grown quickly in a short time.

Within two years, Alaqua Animal Refuge expanded to provide additional housing for the animals. Funded by grants, improvements were made to an existing barn, and a new barn was added along with two quarantine buildings, two infirmary buildings, six dog buildings and two cat buildings.

Currently, Alaqua Animal Refuge houses more than 250 dogs and cats along with horses, donkeys, pigs, birds, fowl, a pair of emus and one very large bovine.

Now, with a former Auburn University veterinarian professor on board three days a week along with a full time vet tech, and a large staff of volunteers working every day, the future holds no boundaries.

The ever-expanding non-profit refuge has had many challenges with the economic down turn. In addition to the many pet owners that were forced to give up their beloved companions, animal abuse cases were also on the rise.

Once such abuse case, an emaciated miniature horse named Champ, gained quite a bit of local attention.

Arriving at the facility weighing only 75 lbs., Champ was close to death. The beginning stages of his recovery took round-the-clock nursing care. Click here to continue

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A peek inside the Walton County Animal Shelter

Puppy waiting on his new home. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Ever wonder where stray animals go after they are picked up by Animal Control? They are brought to the newly opended Walton County Animal Shelter in DeFuniak Springs. Opened since January 2010, the more than 8,000 square foot facility boasts 80 individual dog kennels and 93 cat cages. The high tech facility also houses isolation wards, examining rooms, operating room and a staff of more than 10 employees who care for the animals.

Typically the animals picked up are kept for 10 days then offered for adoption. The shelter will also attempt to find a home for the animals through agencies and rescue groups.

“We will keep them longer if we have the room,” Said Lois Marlow, Animal Services Supervisor.

For the $55 adoption fee, pets are spayed or neutered, given booster rabies shot, heatworm/leukemia check, de-fleaed and dewormed.

The Shelter is located at 365 Triple G Road, DeFuniak Springs, FL 32433 ::MAP::

Click here to read more

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Natural elements come to life at Santa Rosa Pottery

Deborah Orr of Santa Rosa Pottery demonstrates the art of throwing clay. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Local potter offers wares, instruction at Santa Rosa Beach studio

Looking for a special piece of pottery or learn how to do it yourself? Look no further than Santa Rosa Pottery in Santa Rosa Beach.

Long time South Walton resident Deborah Orr, proprietor of Santa Rosa Pottery has been an artist most of her life and throwing clay since the early 1980s (the process of forming a pot out of clay on the potter’s wheel is called throwing). Orr creates artful and functional pottery using natural elements. The finished product is food safe, dishwasher proof, oven and microwave safe.

Originally from Kentucky, Orr grew up in a country town north of Lexington where her family thrived in the hardware business since the Civil War. After deciding to leave her hometown, Orr thought she would never find a place as beautiful as the Kentucky countryside; that is until she discovered Walton County and fell in love with the natural landscape of Northwest Florida.

Orr found a quiet 10-acre property nestled in a wooded area off of Don Bishop Road and developed her homestead. After a career as a schoolteacher and raising four children, Orr now focuses full time on creating her clay wares and continues to educate at her studio.

Orr’s specialty is creating bowls crafted from natural elements and finished in a high-fire kiln. Her artful, high quality bowls truly have a ting to them. She often uses natural elements such as hardwood ashes in her glazes for a unique look and feel. Click here to read more

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Santa Rosa Beach orchid grower has the Midas touch

Encyclia Alata orchid blooming in Laura Talbert’s greenhouse. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

For Santa Rosa Beach resident, Laura Talbert, orchid growing is more than a hobby – it’s a passion.

Orchids (Orchidaceae) are epiphytes – a plant that grows upon another plant such as a tree, non-parasitically and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air and rain. Orchids typically thrive in a tropical environment.

Laura had been growing orchids for more than 10 years in Titusville before she and husband Rick relocated to Santa Rosa Beach three years ago.

Laura originally picked up the hobby from her father, an avid orchid grower. It didn’t take long before she was hooked. A member of the American Orchid Society and the Brevard County Orchid Society, Laura soon became a serious collector and competitor. At one time her collection boasted more than 200 plants.

Laura’s now 15-year-old Vanda John Dibiase, towering more than 6-ft. tall won best in show at a competition in Titusville a few years ago. Click here to continue

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Adams Florida Century Farm in DeFuniak Springs
a family tradition for six generations

Walton farm provides healthy produce to local communities

Tomatoes are almost ready at Adams Farms. © Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

The tradition of small family-run farms across America has declined dramatically over the years, as the number of family operated farms in the United States has been reduced almost 90 percent since World War II.

These days, most of the food consumers eat are produced by large corporations and shipped thousands of miles by the time it reaches our dinner table. The end market product is often packed with chemicals, preservatives, pesticides and/or is genetically altered.

However, there are some options to the dilemma such as buying locally grown produce. Without the need for a long shelf life, local farms have no need to introduce preservatives to their crops. One such breath of fresh air is right here in north Walton County at Adams Farms.

A sixth-generation family farm since 1895, Adams Century Farm is located north of DeFuniak Springs in the community of Glendale. Click here to continue

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Blue crab specialty of the house at
Nick’s Seafood Restaurant in Basin Bayou


Serving fresh seafood a family tradition for three generations

When Frank Nick, Sr. came to Basin Bayou in 1955 he was looking for a special family retreat – a place to relax, fish and enjoy living on the Choctawhatchee Bay.

Recently retired from the Army Air Corps in Selma, Ala. Frank, Sr. took over an old fish camp dating back to the early 1900s. Along with his wife Hattie, the Nick’s sold bait, beer and rented boats for $1.00 a day.

In 1963 the family erected a new building, and decided to open a restaurant selling fresh, locally caught seafood. Nick’s Seafood Restaurant was born.

The family and business thrived, and in 1979, Frank Sr., handed over the reigns to Frank Jr., and his wife Bonnie. Then, in 1998, Frank, III (Trey) took the helm.

Read More…

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Local dentist shares his love of the Choctawhatchee River

Dr. John Savage’s quait office boasts a high-tech dental office. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Beautiful smiles thrive at John’s Little Acre

To say that Doctor John Savage has lived an interesting and productive life is an understatement. Living along the Choctawhatchee River, John has brought hundreds of smiles through his dental practice and kind heart.

Born and raised in the Walton County area, John and his family spent most of their lives along the Choctawhatchee River. John’s great grandfather was a dentist who traveled via horse and buggy to treat his patients along the river in the late 1800s.

The family moved around the area living in Vernon, Chipley, DeFuniak Springs, West Bay and Destin as John’s father worked construction building roads and bridges in the area. Click here to continue

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Walton County ranch takes natural approach to raising lamb


R&R Ranch in Gaskin raises grass fed Katahdin sheep

As many folks are searching more to find locally produced, healthier food, it is a reassuring to know Walton County residents have several local farms providing quality produce.

One such local farm that takes a natural approach is the R&R Ranch. Tucked away in the small country community of Gaskin, the ranch is owned and operated by Ronald and Rosemary Prokop.

The 43-acre farm specializes in raising grass fed Katahdin sheep; a breed that is woolless, easy to care for and naturally tolerant of climatic extremes.

Click here to continue

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Smiles, comfort and blue-plate specials served at Red Bay Grocery

Red Bay Grocery serves smiles and good eats! Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

There is a special place nestled on along County Road 81 in Walton County built on a tried and true basic principle – small town community atmosphere.

Red Bay Grocery has been in operation since 1936. The store has had 28 different owners over the years, and then closed in 2008, leaving the community without a gathering spot.

In Feb. 2009, Charles Morgan, a seasoned restaurateur and homeowner in Red Bay, rallied 50 local partners, and brought the country store back to life. Charles came up with idea of the community partnership about five years ago, and when the store closed in 2008, he started a plan of action. Click here to continue

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Happy chickens lay better eggs at Walton area farm


Cages and Coops builds animal enclosures with comfort in mind

Kerrie and David Thompson along with Britany next to an “A” frame coop.

David and Kerrie Thompson of Ponce deLeon believe happy chickens make for better tasting eggs. With that in mind, the couple has embarked on a business named Coops and Cages, that manufactures comfortable living quarters for chickens, rabbits and small animals.

Leaving the fast-paced world behind a few years ago, David and Kerrie moved to Ponce deLeon to start a small farm and become more self sustainable.

Both raised in rural England, country life was something they both yearned to get back to. In three years they now have a large vegetable garden, several rabbits, turkeys, chickens and pigs. Goats and a cow will be arriving in the near future.

“It is our goal to produce as much as our own food as we possibly can and educate our children and grandchildren to do the same,” Kerrie said.
Read More…

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Living alongside wildlife: Searching for the indigo snake in Walton County


Indigo snake. Photo courtesy Dirk Stevenson

It was Monday morning and Tropical Storm Ida was welcoming us to the new week. As the early chills of fall enveloped us, dark clouds gathered in the distance, ominously blocking out the sun. Perhaps seeing the look of concern on my face, Dirk Stevenson consoled me,

“No worries, the indigos won’t mind.”

Dirk is the Director for Inventory and Monitoring for Project Orianne, a large non-profit organization dedicated to conserving the eastern indigo snake where they remain and restoring populations to areas where they have disappeared. Dirk was to be my field companion for the day, accompanying me to my field site in the Florida panhandle. He hoped to establish whether indigo snakes, often locally known as gopher snakes, still persisted in the area, despite the lack of a confirmed sighting in over ten years.
Read More…

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Local Moonlight Micro-Farm sprouts permaculture garden at Eden’s Landing Point Washington

Chandra Hartman and Eric Marcus add a layer of mushroom compost to the garden area.

The New Year brings a garden to Eden’s Landing on CR 395 in Point Washington, as local Walton County farmers Chandra Hartman and Eric Marcus of Moonlight Micro-Farm are starting a permaculture garden project at the development.

The garden is nestled in the common area of Eden’s Landing, and is designed to embrace green and sustainable living. Moonlight Micro-Farm selected a common area approximately 630 sq. ft. to implement the experimental garden. Eden’s Landing developer, Artisan Builders and its investors have donated the area for the project.

“The garden will serve to be an example of how to grow an ecologically diverse garden that provides both human and environmental needs, while using readily available natural resources, with a minimum of purchased inputs, along with a variety of gardening techniques,” Chandra explains on her online garden blog.

Click here to continue

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Finks Mill one of the last operating stone grist mills in the Southeast


Finks Mill one of the last remaining operational stone ground grist mills in the Southeast.
Finks Mill one of the last remaining operational stone ground grist mills in the Southeast.

Farmers come for miles to have their corn stone ground

Many years ago, grist mills were in most communities, as local farmers brought their corn or grains to be ground for selling or personal use.

Over the years, with the influx of large commercial operations that produce meal for the masses buy creating ready-to-eat mix, the local mills have declined to only a few surviving across the United States. These few mills cater to farmers bringing their corn to be stone ground, mostly for their own consumption.

Just past Gaskin, on the Walton County, Fla., Geneva/Covington, Ala. border you will find one of the last remaining operational stone grist mills in the Southeastern United States, Finks Mill.

The mill was originally built in 1932, and passed through two hands until the Fink family took over in the early 1950s. The mill is currently operated by Rodney Fink and owned by his father, Quin. Read More…

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Buying locally grown produce a winner for consumer and farmer

greensLocally produced food consumption a healthy and smart choice

Ever wonder why the food always tastes better when you buy it from a local farmer? There are many reasons – one being when you buy local food, you reduce your food miles. The fewer miles your food has to travel, the less environmental damage occurs, and the fresher the product. When you buy at farmers markets, farm stands, or direct from the farm, the food is usually picked that day or the day before.

Purchasing locally grown food also financially supports local farmers. According to, when you buy food in a grocery store, about 3.5 cents of each dollar you spend makes it to the farmer. When you buy directly from the farmer, 80-90 cents of each dollar you spend makes it in the farmer’s pocket.

Click here to continue and find local farmers

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Walton County area farm offers fresh vegetables, camping, fishing, agritourism and more


A pond view at Cypress Cattle Company.
A pond view at Cypress Cattle Company.

Cypress Cattle Company more than just a cattle farm

Tucked away near Ponce de Leon, straddling Walton/Holmes County line, sits 1,100 acres of rolling hills, magnificent live oaks, cypress ponds, pastures and acres of fresh produce.

Cypress Cattle Company has been a family-run farm for generations. W.J. Sapp started in the family business in the 1920s farming sugar cane and potatoes. The farm then migrated to dairy until 1991, when they switched to cattle farming, which is its mainstay to this day

Now managed by Sapp’s great-great nephew, Luke Langford, and his father Ken, Cypress now offers farm tours, primitive camping and fishing on any of their seven ponds for crappie, bass and bream. And, in keeping with all things fresh, Cypress now commercially grows produce, selling locally. Read More…

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Local naturalist tags monarch
butterflies for migration study

A tagged monarch feasts on Saltwater False-Willow.
A tagged monarch feasts on Saltwater False-Willow.

Joe Wyatt, naturalist at Hammock Bay in Freeport has been tagging Monarch butterflies for three years as part of a migration study with the University of Kansas.

So far in this year’s study, Joe has tagged 68, finding the majority of the fluttering beauties feasting on Saltwater False-Willow, Narrowleaf Baccharis (Baccharis angustifolia) along the north shoreline of Choctawhatchee Bay in Choctaw Beach.

Unlike most other insects in temperate climates, monarch butterflies cannot survive a long cold winter. Instead, they spend the winter in roosting spots. Monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains fly farther south to the forests high in the mountains of Mexico. The monarch’s migration is driven by seasonal changes. Day length and temperature changes influence the movement of the monarch.  Click to continue

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Living with Florida black bears

Local residents Jamie and Conley snapped this photo of a bear in their yard on Lake Powell.
Local residents Jamie and Will Conley snapped this photo of a bear in their yard on Lake Powell.

The presence of bears is not necessarily a problem or a threat to your safety. For many people seeing a black bear is a thrilling, rewarding experience.

Problems arise when bears have access to food sources unintentionally made available by people such as pet foods, garbage, barbecue grills, bird seed or livestock feed. Bears are adaptable and learn very quickly to associate people with food. Black bears are normally too shy to risk contact with humans, but their strong food drive can overwhelm these instincts.

The Florida black bear is a unique subspecies of the American black bear, and is listed as a threatened species in Florida and is the state’s largest land mammal. Black bears once ranged throughout Florida but now live in several fragmented areas across the state.

Since the 1980s, the black bear population has been expanding along with our human population.  Florida has grown from 5 million residents in 1960 to close to 18 million today and is projected to reach almost 36 million by 2060. Urban sprawl is encroaching on traditionally remote areas and bringing people into prime bear habitat.  As a result bears and people are encountering each other more than ever. Read More…

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A guide to Florida snakes

Non-venomous scarlet snake.
Non-venomous scarlet snake.

Florida has an abundance of wildlife, including a wide variety of reptiles. Snakes, and their cousins the alligators, crocodiles, turtles and lizards, play an interesting and vital role in Florida’s complex ecology. Many people have an uncontrollable fear of snakes. Perhaps because man is an animal who stands upright, he has developed a deep-rooted aversion to all crawling creatures. And, too, snakes long have been use in folklore to symbolize falseness and evil. The ill- starred idea has no doubt colored human feelings regarding snakes. Whatever the reason for disfavor, they nonetheless occupy a valuable place in the fauna of the region. Click here to continue

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A beautiful day at Morrison Springs

Olivia Kolovich enjoys learning about a green snake with Joe Wyatt.
Olivia Kolovich enjoys learning about a green snake with wildlife biologist, Joe Wyatt.

Kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and snorkeling were on tap Sept. 13 at Morrison Springs as Walton Outdoors and 30A Radio hosted a paddle and picnic. Young and young at heart shared the day exploring and enjoying a picnic of burgers and hot dogs. Local naturalist, Joe Wyatt shared his knowledge of indigenous flora and fauna with the group. A pleasant educational surprise for the children occurred when Joe rescued a small green snake from the water. Joe was surprised as well, as the tree snake would not of survived long in the chilly 68 degree water for long. Stay tuned as Walton Outdoors and 30A Radio will be planning some more fun outdoors soon. Click here for more photos and video



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An 18 ft. long indigo bunting greets visitors at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center.
An 18 ft. long indigo bunting greets visitors at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center.

Nature lovers flock to E. O. Wilson Biophilia Center’s grand opening and dedication ceremony

Nature lovers from across the Florida Panhandle enjoyed the grand opening of the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center in Freeport Florida Sept. 12. Developed by local conservationist, M.C. Davis on his 48,000-acre conservation land named Nokuse Plantation, the 27,500 sq. ft. Center will cater to students with curriculums that offer a better understanding of the environment. The Center will educate on the importance of biodiversity, ecosystems, and encourage conservation, preservation and restoration of our natural resources. The dedication’s keynote speaker was Dr. E.O. Wilson, Pellegrino University Professor Emeritus and Honorary Curator in Entomology at Harvard University. The center was named after him for his life-long contributions to public education about the importance of conserving the world’s biodiversity. The two-time Pulitzer prize-winner developed the phrase, “biophilia – the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life.” Click here to continue

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Busy hummingbird at work

This busy hummingbird was spotted at the Zen Garden Market in Panama City Beach recently collecting nectar from a cardinal vine. The market has many native plants available to attract hummingbirds an butterflies. Zen Garden Market is located at 707 Richard Jackson Blvd. Panama City Beach (850)234-1651. Click here to learn more about attacting hummingbirds to your home

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CHELCO offers energy saving tips for your home

chelcoDid you know?

There are many ways to save money on your heating and air conditioning bills each month and CHELCO offers some great tips to help save you money. For more information, go to

Tips to save energy:

Replace your old electric resistance heat system with a heat pump to cut your annual electric bill by as much as 50%. Replace your central air conditioning unit with high efficiency equipment to save between 14% and 40% on your annual bill. Add a waste heat recovery water heating system to save as much as 35% to 55% on water heating costs with central air conditioning systems and as much as 50% to 70% with a system using a central heat pump. Click here to learn more

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Ugh… the dog flies have arrived in the Florida Panhandle

When fall comes to our area, those refreshing weather fronts will move through from the north bringing lower humidity, lower temperatures and the infamous dog fly. The stable fly, known as the dog fly in Northwest Florida, is a blood feeding fly that is a nuisance to man, pets, and livestock. From August through November the dog fly congregates on the Florida Panhandle beaches. This fly originates from farming areas in southern Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and northern Florida and rides the northerly winds associated with cold fronts that move through our area. Click here to continue

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Susan and Peter Horn's double spiral compost garden,South Walton family builds compost garden with a twist

Walton County residents Susan and Peter Horn are at ease with being green. The forward thinking couple has transformed their entire yard into a multi-faceted ongoing permaculture project. Creative planting of herbs in a spiral-shaped compost garden had proven successful for the couple, hence the decision to expand on their existing spiral. With a little help from their friends on June 21, bricks were towered and a wide variety of ingredients were poured in to create a composting work of art. Click here to continue

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Keep up with what’s happening with the sea turtles!

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 Adoptable pet portrait by Teresa Cline. Photo courtesy
Adoptable pet portrait by Teresa Cline. Photo courtesy

A dog’s life in paradise

Dog n 1. A domestic carnivorous animal that typically has a long muzzle, pointed ears, a fur coat, and a long fur-covered tail, and whose characteristic call is a bark. Latin name: Canis familiaris Why is it that we love dogs? For many, having a dog in their life is a given, they are playful, energized with full of unconditional love. As a source of information, the following is a collection of resources for man’s (and woman’s) best friend. Click here to continue

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Old friends reminisce about the early days of Grayton Beach fishing


Gene Wesley and his friend Peck Carlton with their pompano catch.
Gene Wesley and his friend Peck Carlton with their pompano catch.

Locals in Walton County have enjoyed fishing from Grayton Beach for generations. With a panoramic view of the Gulf, gentle breezes, it doesn’t get any better. Two long-time friends Van Ness Butler, Jr. and Gene Wesley remember the days when Grayton Beach had just a handful of residents. Van Ness Butler, Jr. grew up in the area and has fond memories of the early days fishing on Grayton Beach. Butler remembers locals, Herbert and Olin Miller as one of the first to launch a boat from Grayton Beach in the 1940s. A New England style dory, with a Model A engine, was rolled over logs across the sand to get to the Gulf of Mexico. “Western Lake rarely opened to the Gulf even back then. It was hard work getting that dory in and out of the water,” Butler recalls. Click here to continue

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blueberry3smWhere to find local sweet blueberries

June and July is the time of year to head out and find tasty Florida blueberries. In addition to a great topping for cereal or salads, blueberry pancakes, muffins and coffee cakes are also a popular homemade treat for berry lovers. Click here to continue

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Photo courtesy J.L. Castner, University of Florida

It’s that time of year again, and those blood-thirsty yellow flies are here… here are some tips for armoring yourself

In Florida, the name “yellow fly” is used to describe about a dozen different species of yellow-bodied biting flies. “Yellow flies” readily attack man and are usually abundant in Florida with peak annoyance occurring in May and June. “Yellow flies” are in the family known as Tabanidae. All tabanids go through an egg, larva, pupa and adult stage, referred to as “complete metamorphosis,” the same development process that mosquitoes go through. Tabanids lay egg masses containing 50 to several hundred eggs. Most species deposit their eggs around ponds, streams or swamps on overhanging vegetation such as grasses or cattails. Click here to continue


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Bears wreak havoc, force beekeeper to install electric fences

Several of Barrettt's beehives. Lori Ceier/
Several of Barrettt’s beehives.

Local beekeeper Earl Barrett is not happy. Local black bears have been raiding his beehives in the Pt. Washington State Forest this season, forcing him to put up electric fences to protect his hives. As he worked on putting up a fence off of CR 83 in Santa Rosa Beach on May 27, Barrett said with a bit of frustration, “this is the third location of boxes I’ve had to fence in.” Click here to continue

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Locals and horses enjoy the Gulf of Mexico. Photo courtesy Lanna Williams
Locals and horses enjoy the Gulf of Mexico. Photo courtesy Lanna Williams

Local horsewoman recalls trail rides on South Walton beaches

Folks that have lived in South Walton for more than eight years, will probably remember the Brand “N Iron Corral on U.S. Hwy 98 in Santa Rosa Beach. One would often spot horsewoman, Lanna Williams, along with her young riders sauntering along the beaches and trails in the area. Williams remembers when a trail ride to the beach was a refreshing treat for both the riders and the horses. “The horses loved getting in the water,” Williams recalled. Click here to continue

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A look into the equestrian experience in the Walton area

Ceely Barfield on her Paso Fino.
Ceely Barfield on her Paso Fino.

Learning to ride – It is easy to notice that local equestrian Allison Richards loves horses. She speaks the language of horsemanship with confidence as I watched her guide two young riders during a recent lesson. With the years of knowledge under her belt, it is easy to understand why. Riding since she was 10, Richards started riding in a pony club. She quickly progressed, and began teaching the sport at age 14. Her diverse background has included the equestrian program at Sweet Briar College outside of Lynchberg, Va., and fox hunting in Cincinnati and Virginia. Click here to continue


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Paxton comes alive the first Saturday of the month

A Boer goat kid.

As times get leaner, many are looking into finding creative ways to find a bargain. One way to find the real deal, is to take drive to the Rockin S Auction the first Saturday of the month. Held at the old livestock building on U.S. Hwy 331 in Paxton, the auction comes to life around 8:30 a.m. as a stream of trucks and trailers pour into the site loaded with everything from household items and tools, to goats and chickens, to fresh eggs and preserves.CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE

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Lisa Miller and Phoenix, a red shouldered hawk.
Lisa Miller and Phoenix, a red shouldered hawk.

A look at the dedicated volunteers that nurse injured wildlife back to health

Ever wonder what to do if you found an injured bird, turtle or squirrel? As we edge closer to spring, this could be the case, as sometimes young are found abandoned, or a baby bird has fallen from a nest. It is comforting to know that there is help available, and there are two groups in the Walton area that are able to nurse the animal back to health. CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE.

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recyclelogoWalton county residents take advantage of County’s recycling programs

With more and more interest and concern for our environment, more people than ever have decided to become a part of a greener planet by recycling their household waste. Walton County does not have a forced recycling program. However, many are taking advantage of what options are available, and taking the time to recycle. Local resident Chandra Hartman and her household have reduced the amount of trash signtremendously by being conscience about usage and disposal of their trash. “I typically have one small garbage bag of waste a week and one bag of recyclables for a family of three. I’m working on reducing this even further because if we don’t make the trash in the first place, we don’t have to worry about how to dispose of it later,” Chandra stated. “I compost and vermicompost all food scraps, shredded office paper, and newspaper. All non-shiny cardboard is used in the garden for sheet mulching. Glass, plastic, and cans are put in the recycle bin. I typically have one small garbage bag of waste a week and one bag of recyclables,” Chandra explains. CLICK HERE FOR ENTIRE STORY

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Entrance to Twin Oaks Farm. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
Entrance to Twin Oaks Farm. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Twin Oaks Farm: One woman’s quest for a natural alternative

Drawn to the idea of living in a warmer climate, Renee Savary moved to Florida from Switzerland 18 years ago, initially living in Miami as a successful Real Estate broker in South Beach. When a business matter brought Renee to Bonifay a year ago, she immediately knew what her next calling in life would be. CLICK FOR ENITRE STORY