Florida Living Gardening Uncategorized

Hiring a Tampa Landscape Designer

When To Turn To a Landscape Designer

Sunny and TropicalSometimes it’s hard to see the big picture when you are looking at what seems to be insurmountable problems with your property’s landscape. Maybe you’ve just moved into the Tampa Bay Area and don’t really know what plants work here.  Maybe you desire a particular style and just want to know how to create it. Maybe your new home has “default builder landscaping” and you want something custom.  Those are all good reasons to hire a designer who can put things into perspective, evaluate your soil and sun shade patterns, suggest the right plantings and give you a list of what will thrive in your yard.

A good landscape designer will providesmithoffsetfront

  • Education
  • Ideas
  • Plant lists
  • Sourcing
  • Pricing
  • Drawings and photo realistic plans

Designers are often affiliated with or familiar with the best landscape contractors to get your job done right.  Independent landscape designers may work with more than one landscape company and can recommend or chose the one they feel will be the best fit for you and your family.  These recommendations can be priceless when considering a makeover.

When it’s hard to visualize your future landscape its time to call in a pro who can make your landscape design come to life before your eyes.  While there are plenty of designers in the Tampa Bay Area,  you might want to check out the cool photo realistic design from  HydroPro Sales and their cool outdoor Facebook page Outdoor Spaces.




Family fishing Florida Living

There’s Fishing.. Then There’s Catching

Catching is Better Than Fishing!
Catching is Better Than Fishing!

I fish more than I catch.  It’s a horrible truth that’s hard to admit.  There is nothing I love more than getting out on the water and fishing.  The anticipation, the hope, the dreams of a great fish dinner.  I can keep that anticipation and hope alive for hours, and often do, waiting for that tide change, waiting for the moon phase to bring the fish to me, trying to find the best ambush spot, praying, lots of praying.   But sometimes nothing you can do makes it happen.  You paddle or ride in with the adrenaline of the day flagging and with sad knowledge it was a blank day.  Wannh!

But then there’s those catching days where you can do no wrong. Every cast is a hookup and you feel like a champion tournament winner!   I was fortunate to experience one of those recently down in one the best fishin’ holes in the world, Englewood Florida.   Englewood is South of Venice and North of Boca Grande.  There are miles of mangroves and the famous “Stump Pass” is what makes the fishing here so great!   Fish enter and exit this small pass with the tides.  The variety and quantity can be mind boggling but the prey, in my mind is trout, redfish and snook.

This particular day, my family wanted to go the beach.  We opted to take the boat since parking at Stump Pass is so limited.  We ran out the intercoastal and whipped up ski alley where I dropped off the beach goers.    I put the Scout in reverse and just backed across ski alley to the other side, anchored up by a fallen australian pine and baited up.  The tide was ripping in.  I cast upstream and drifted down  First cast STRIKE!  Trout on the line!  Landed and in the cooler.  Second cast.. nother one!  Third cast… YEP!!!  I stopped for a minute to text the family to say “non-stop fishing action guys!”  They decide to join me so I ran over and picked em up.  For the next 2 hours, we caught sheeps head, trout and ohh la la.. that gorgeous redfish you see in the picture!  Talk about heaven!

The day was good and fish for dinner was a reality not a dream.


Florida Living Hot Tubs Hurricanes Uncategorized

Hurricanes and Hot Tubs

No Current storms! Yay! 


Aug 28 Cone: Erika

Is Your Hot Tub in the Path of a Hurricane or Tropical Storm?

If’ the storm is heading your way, you are going to be busy preparing your home for the high winds and rain that accompany a hurricane. While you are picking up the yard, stowing all things that can blow and trying to alleviate hazards that could exist when the wind picks up, how should you prepare your hot tub for a hurricane? 

Electrical Tasks To Perform Before the Storm StrikesLightning_bolt

Electrical hazards  can be created by your hot tub’s equipment area flooding.  Also power surges and transformers exploding can  damage your sensitive electronics.   The easiest and quickest way to eliminate electrical hazards in your hot tub area is to turn off the breaker that controls the hot tub.  

If you are evacuating you are probably already shutting off your main breaker to the house. Be sure to include the hot tub breaker at the main panel as well.  (In fact, a good practice is to turn all individual circuit breakers off.)   Even if you are not evacuating, always, turn off the breaker to your hot tub.  If you loose power completely, when it is restored, you do not want your hot tub to come on without your observation.  There are often intermittent power outages and surges during a storm.  You really don’t want to put your hot tub through those electrical surges and voltage drops.  Turning off the breaker is the thing to do prior to high winds and rain.

Don't Drain, It can Float
Don’t Drain, It can Float

Do NOT Drain Your Hot Tub

If wind and water is coming for you.. do not drain your hot tub!  In fact,  leave it full.  You want the weight of it.  It may overflow but that’s better than it blowing over, or floating away (yes.. that can happen!)

Keep Your Spa Cover From Becoming a flying missile

You may have to rely on more than your locking straps to keep your cover on your hot tub.  Reinforce the locking straps on the spa cover with additional  ratcheting straps to hold it in place. These straps should be placed length and width and possibly doubled up. You want to try and keep wind from getting under the spa cover.  If you are using a  tarp or an over cover, be sure it is tightly strapped down around the outside edge.  Hot tub covers easily become giant flying objects that can damage your home or your neighbors home.  Tie it down tight!  If for any reason you can not secure your hot tub cover, Your best bet would be to bring it inside so it does not become a hazard if it blows off.  If you are concerned about the cover being damaged you can put a piece plywood down on top of the cover and use your ratcheting locking straps to secure it tightly to the spa.  Don’t even think about using bungee cords or anything less than multiple strong ratcheting straps for this.

Hot Tub Water Chemistry Before the storm

It can’t hurt to add a little chlorine bleach or granular sodium dichlor to the tub before the storm. This is not critical, the tub will probably need to be drained after the storm but it is a supply of water that you may be grateful to have as a water source for flushing toilets etc if you lose water supply.

Protecting Your Hot Tub From Windblown Debris

The standard practice of picking up all objects from your yard is important when trying to protect your hot tub.  Obviously, in the worst case scenarios there will be flying debris in the air no

matter what you do to prepare at your own property.  But even though a hurricane may threaten you, you never really know where exactly it’s going to come ashore.  The Hurricane Flags can be flying for your area and you may fear a direct hit,  but 10 miles can make huge difference in the severity of a hurricane over your house!  You always want to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. There is nothing you can do about the 100 year old oak tree that succumbs to the hurricane forces and lands on your hot tub.  But, you can keep your trash cans, lawn furniture potted plants etc from battering your house or hot tub in a more minor storm event.

Your Hot Tub After the Hurricane

Before the hot tub is energized after a storm you will want to  inspect it for damage, and signs of flooding before you energize. Let it dry out for a few days too.   You also will want to observe it’s start up procedures.  If you believe your hot tub  equipment area has been flooded,  Do not energize the hot tub circuit at all.  You can usually tell this by the debris line or water line in the equipment area.  If there are signs that pump motors or control systems have been underwater DO NOT ENERGIZE.  The equipment is most likely ruined and will have to be replaced.

Don’t energize your hot tub If the area around the hot tub still has standing water. You want to be sure that the area is dry before attempting a start up. Electrical shock can occur if there are problems with the hot tub equipment.   Again, check for water levels at the equipment area before attempting a start up.

Prayers and Best Wishes to all Readers!

I know you wouldn’t be here at all, if you weren’t being threatened by a hurricane.  My best wishes to you.  Please let me know your experiences of  the storm.. As a Florida native,  I’ve prepared for 12 storms in my life, and never experienced a direct hit.  I’ve had power outages, wind and rain,  trees down but never serious damage.  I pray your experience is the same!

If you have a hot tub and are looking for a cover,  you can learn how to order spa and hot tub covers here


Family Florida Living Travel Uncategorized

Ginnie Springs: Don’t Go Without Earplugs

Kalle and I wanted to reinforce the efforts of whoever had the courage to drive over there and tell them to turn it down and we both screamed something refined, in unison like ” YES ASSSHOLLLLLES  ITS TOOO LOUD!!!”

Arriving at the privately owned  campground  at Ginnie Springs is a bit overwhelming. Ginnie Springs Outdoors LLC operates this privately owned nature park, with over 200 acres of pure woodsy Florida located on the Santa Fe River.  It is a very popular north Florida destination for campers, divers, tubers, and folks with all night partying on their mind.  Checking in on a weekend involves lines to the check in area inside a well appointed dive shop, filling out forms and signing away your right to sue the owners for any possible mishap.

Security is high.  Sneaking into Ginnie Springs will probably not be an option unless you are in someone’s trunk.  You can’t even leave Ginnie Springs park without driving past a guard.

The 7 dramatic crystal clear springs located on the property, make the park popular with scuba divers, snorklers and cave divers. All springs feed the Santa Fe River and tubing down the river from one end of the park to the other is popular pastime. Certified Cave divers can explore over 30,000 feet of passageways in the Devil’s Eye and Devil’s Ear cave system.

Fees are a bit steep.  Campers pay a per day per person charge and must also pay a per day per person charge for use of the park.  Our party, 2 adults and one child were charged over 150.00 for a 3 night stay.  In return, you are turned loose in the campground to choose from a huge plethora of campsites, plenty located directly on the river.  It probably doesn’t matter what time you arrive.. there will still be an acceptable campsite at Ginnie  Springs.  While there are a lot of sites on the river there are still more in the woods surrounding.  You will find a suitable site just about on any weekend  There is much property, all wooded all with primitive campsites set up.

Dining Family Florida Living Travel Uncategorized

The Island of Cayo Costa, Unspoiled Florida Beauty

The Florida State Park of Cayo Costa is located right across Boca Grande Pass to the South and is accessible only by boat or ferry. It had been almost 15 years since I’d visited and I suggested it for a 3 night family getaway right before Thanksgiving.   Cayo Costa has both camping cabins and a tent area, but even in cabins, it is rustic, primitive camping experience.  There is no electricity on Cayo Costa. No water at your cabin or campsite.  There are bathrooms and water is available there.

We decided we’d take the parents 17 foot Scout to the island, traveling from their home in  Englewood.   Loading the truck was a chore with a huge cooler, giant tent, a load of firewood, fishing stuff, clothes for three, cooking gear and “W” the nickname we applied to wine.  This was one vacation where everything was lugged.  We lugged the stuff outa the truck to the dock at Jim and Faye’s, staging it for loading the boat in the morning.  In the morning, we lugged everything to the boat and loaded it carefully so that it wouldn’t sink. Finally, we were set to run to CayoCosta, about an hour away by boat..