Monday, November 29, 2010

5% Day at Whole Foods in Winter Park Dec. 8th

Volunteer opportunity! Come help us our table at Whole Foods in Winter Park, anytime between 11am till 7pm December 8th.

Shayla Dougher, volunteer coordinator

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Winter Park Harvest Festival and Simple Living Institute

The park in downtown Winter Park was transformed and transfixed by the 1st annual Winter Park Harvest Festival. Pictured here, Avery and Lauressa, model volunteers. But look past these lovelies at all the greenery! Yes when we table at events, we bring plants and we speak about our passions, gardening and local food. This day, we were not the only ones!! I have the most beautiful mix of feelings about our burgeoning community collaberators! Yes, we are the leaders in this growing (pun intended) collective and I am used to being the one with the pretty plants and the big news about our awesome activities at the different events we table. No more. We are many now and the Winter Park Harvest Festival showcased all of US very well.

There were throngs of people strolling through the festival in the sunshine. Glorious! the weather could not have been better! Our table enjoyed planty of attention. And my vols were there in force, except my daughter Joanna, she was there by force (hhaha). Stacks of stuff touting our programs, projects and of course, our dynamite website flew off the table and into the eager hands of folks who are curious about Simple Living Institute and all we do. A very grateful raffle ticket buyer received a grow box at the end of the day! We sold a few plants and Seminole pumkins. Interest at our table was high and I expect the ranks at our Organic Grower's meetings to swell.

Our president, Tia meer is a leader in this bunch (of carrots!) and a star speaker! She presented a workshop on filling a grow box and she participated in a panel discussion, "Meet the Farmers". She was joined there by her brethren to explore the ins and outs and to share what's new. Both tents were active all day with several of our own members rounding out the line up. Trina Hofreiter presented, on organic gardening, Russ Rice, on orgainc weed and pest prevention, Bernie Moro, on worm composting and Stephanie Syson, on edible landscapes. All were well attended!

I stepped over to Williams-Sonoma on Park Ave to see a couple of the cooking demos sponsored by Edible Orlando Magazine Not only does this community grow beautiful food, they prepare it for enjoyment at the table in high style and simplicity. And aren't we fortunate? Edible Orlando Magazine assists us with the printing and distribution of our local food guide. See The Central Florida Sustainable Food Project on Facebook and at . I tasted raw chocolate that was creamy and dreamy! Next came Catelonian Kale, all raw, but so tender! Catelonian means sweet, with raisins, in this case. mixed with salty, Kalamata olives, combined with lemon juice and olive oil. Kendra told me the kale was picked that morning from Heart of Christmast Farms . Fantastic!

I tried not to eat too much because I knew that the Farm to Table dinner was going to offer an amazing array of foods. All locally produced and crafted together by 7 local chefs! A magnificent appetizer opening, 3 courses and a pear torte ending that was divine! I wonder where those pears came from! I could smell them and the taste of the pears popped right through the cakey dessert. Marvelous food! The music was bluegrass and the people were fun! Fran and I sat with an anesthesiologist and his pediatrician wife and a Chipolte exec here to visit his mom. Enchanting autumn table decor greeted us and set the mood for a beautiful evening!

My daughter Joanna and I helped Tia and Tom Scala set up the table at 7am. At midday, Matt from a late night radio show at Rollins radio station WPRK asked me to come on to talk about Simple Living Institute. Check the time on the clock. Yes! I went over, after that huge dinner, to crow about what a great day it was and to tell the world, I mean... whoever was listening to the radio that night about our big local food project. Matt and his co-hosts had walked through the Festival. I was happy to hear about how impressed they were! They loved all of the food and the up-beat people and suggested we hold a fest like that every quarter or so. Great idea!

When I got to the car, I found a text from Lauressa (pictured above). She had been listening to the radio! We gabbed as I drove home. What an amazing day it was!

Do this every quarter? Oh ya! What do you think Mr. Rife, founder of ?

To all who participated, especially my beautiful volunteers, and John Rife the founder, please accept my a profound thanks! This event will have a far-reaching affect for a long time to come. We appreciate all of your great efforts to make the Winter Park Harvest Festival grand! Now that we all know each other a little better, bring it on! more community, more connection, more local food!

Shayla Dougher, volunteer coordinator

Great times at the first annual Winter Park Harvest Festival

Last Saturday I attended the first annual Winter Park Harvest Festival in Winter Park, Florida with Simple Living Institute. I would call this harvest festival a huge success. The main goal of this harvest festival was to connect consumers to the farms and farmers that grow locally and organically, as well as to encourage citizens to grow organically themselves. The festival was held in the beautiful Central Park on Park Ave. in Winter Park. This turned out to be a great venue for the event. The city of Winter Park had already placed an ice skating rink adjacent to the festival, which was a great family recreational addition. Inside the harvest festival one could find many vendors selling locally and organically produced foods and herbs, as well as local artisans, and even face painting for the kids. There was several local blugrass bands including the Token Gamblers and Jubal's Kin. Inside the main tent were speakers on food and health related issues. At the main tent at the other end of the festival there were speakers on organic farming and gardening methods. Weeks before the festival, grow boxes were distributed throughout the Central Florida community for citizens to grow organic foods and herbs in. These grow boxes were all gathered and set up artistically inside the festival as a showcase for these local growers. These grow boxes were also a part of a contest for which grow box was the most appealing. Ribbons were distributed to the winners, most of whom were elementary school students. It was nice to see the excitement from the children involved. The food was amazing. There were vendors such as Wild Ocean Seafood serving up the freshest sustainably caught seafood from Port Canaveral, FL. There were cooking demonstrations in the adjacent Williams and Sonoma store, purveyors of fine dining and cookware. The festival also brought together some of the finest chefs from local area restaurants and fine dining establishments in order to showcase their culinary talents. The movie Fresh was played at sundown, which is a very eye-opening film about factory farming practices and where most common food comes from and what is in it. The film also showcases farmers that use organic practices and what organic farming really means. To top off the evening, in the main tent, the best local chefs prepared a four-course fresh local organic meal along with wine and garden mojitos. The meal was outstanding. Some of the best food that I have ever tasted. According to a speaker who is a local doctor for a living, we need to have these harvest festivals more often than annually, maybe even quarterly, for the benefit of our community's overall health. I would tend to agree. If you did not make it out to our first annual winter Park Harvest Festival, be sure to make it out to next year's.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cold protection for plants and fruit trees

Our Organic Grower’s meetings continue with a stellar presentation given by our own Simple Living Institute member, Hayri Lawrence. She showcased her 5 acre nursery chock full of fruit bearing trees, vegetable beds and scurrying chickens with a beautiful slide show and season appropriate talk on cold preparation. Her personal stories about what to do and what not to do to protect plants and fruit trees welcomed us right onto her property!

I felt a shiver as she explained how important is is to hold down the covers for the plants with heavy objects so the cold (more like freezing!) wind won’t lift them and make all the work done to cover plants, for not. Dates when cuts were made written with a sharpie on banana trees demonstrate her attention to detail. Her pictures showed acccumulations of dead leaves everywhere. She piles them up them at the base of every plant to protect important roots from the cold. A child in the audience asked, “Why don’t you just throw the dead leaves away?” Hayri’s eyebrows raised, “No I wouldn’t! They are like gold! When I see the neighbors leaving bags of raked up leaves for pick up, I pick them up! You can never have too many dead leaves!”

Even a master gardener of 17 yrs has to learn about what not to do! Hayri allows her chickens to run about the garden on sunny afternoons. Sometimes the plant protecting leaves are scattered. The time she remembered to push the leaves back up, she showed papayas that survived the cold. What happened when she had forgotten? Burnt, and split stumps!

"I have been greedy thinking that I'll save the fruits by covering just the tops" she says. But her pictures showed us that when she learned to protect the bases, many tress and plants come back to fruit again. Greedy? Hardly! Hayri showed just how many plants in pots she moves in and out (and in and out!) of her insulated shed and garage during the cold and sunny weather. It is a lot of work!

Do you have a question about cold protection or fruit trees, or gardening? write Hayri at

Thanks to everyone who contributes to our raffle table at the Organic Grower's meetings! There is Shirley making sure everything is labeled and presentable. Members of Simple Living Institute receive a free raffle ticket and many many are purchased at every meeting for cheap! Every ticket holder goes home with a treasure from our raffle table.

Our next Organic Grower’s meeting is Wednesday Dec. 15th. Stephanie Syson from Gray’s Garden, will present "What to do with herbs?" Sounds yummy! See you then!

Shayla Dougher, volunteer coordinator 407-923-4562

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sustainable Agriculture Course at Rollins College

Simple Living board member, Andrew Landis, is teaching the first Sustainable Agriculture course at Rollins College this semester. With the help of myself, Tia Meer, students planted two 4x8' garden beds to learn from. Heres the garden just 2 months after planting!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Plant Sale

The plant sale at the UCF Arboretum was great, lots of plants to peruse and choose from. I myself picked up a lemon-balm plant, for which I am very excited as the leaves produce a delicious tea! Thank you to everyone who taught a class or workshop, and if you were not able to be in attendance, be sure to schedule an event like this in next time!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Plant Sale Schedule

Hope to see you all at our Fall Plant Sale at UCF.
For more info and directions visit

Saturday October 16th
9am Conversations on Permaculture: an Introduction- Bradford White
10am Xeriscape Tour- Martin Haux
11am Garden Crop Choices- Tom Carey
12pm Growing in Grow Boxes- John Rife and Tia Meer
1pm Why Heirloom Seeds- Russ Rice
2pm- How to Start a Garden- Tina Richards
3pm Organic Gardening Basics- Trina Hofreiter
4pm Herbs- Summer Singletary
Sunday October 17th
1pm Edible Landscaping- Stephanie Syson
2pm- Community Garden Tour- Arboretum Staff
3pm- Organic Pest Control- Tia Meer

Monday, October 11, 2010

Veg Fest coming up

Central Florida Veg Fest is coming up on Oct 23rd in downtown Orlando. As many of you know, Veg Fest is a you-must-not-miss festival. I may be biased, but I believe this event really helped kick Orlando into gear back into 2005. The festival has helped bring together many local groups, volunteers, friends, and got the word out about many new businesses before they opened their doors. It has now grown to fill up Loch Haven Park with over 200 vendors.

Veg CF, the host of the festival, does a great job at keeping out cheesy, unrelated vendors that you might see at other festivals. This year includes some new things that you will have to go to find out what they are. If like me you love local music almost as much as local food then come hear some of the best musicians in town. Grab some delicious, vegan food, maybe a beer, and chillax under a tree to some jams. What better way to spend a Saturday? Oh yeah, if you have a some extra time to also volunteer then you can sign-up to volunteer at the Simple Living Institute's booth or help out the all volunteer festival staff.

Find out all of the details at Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Biointensive Gardening Workshop

Have you seen our president, Tia Meer in action?

Yes, she is a great leader! Yes, she plans and runs excellent meetings. Yes, she shares her fabulous ideas about growing and about sustainability with us. Yes, she knows about a gazillion people and brings them to all of our Simple living Institute events, activities and projects. But have you seen her do what she really loves?

Tia loves to dig in the dirt! She loves it so much that people paid (okay, it was only $20) to hold a shovel and dig in her garden. Look at these people dig!

Digging, or I should say double digging is the cruxt of what she taught eager participants at Simple Living Institute's recent Biointensive Gardening Workshop. Yes, she goes by the book, How to Grow More Vegetables: Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine by John Jeavons, but it is her passionate way of teaching people the "Florida" way of gardening that keeps the workshops she presents at standing (digging) room only!

"I can't grow anything in the sand and fire ants in my yard!" is the cry we hear from many people. Our hands on workshops like this Biointensive Gardening Workshop and our Organic Grower's meetings teach us exactly what has to be done so we can grow vegetables here in Florida in 2 seasons!

Tia teaches us to go by a "Florida" planting dates chart and she uses the best seeds and plants that have been grown here in the Florida sun. Email me and I will zip the planting calandar over to you.

In conjunction with the UCF Arboretum, SLI is holding a Plant Sale Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 16 and 17. You can purchase plants that were grown from seeds right here in our backyards and at the beautiful UCF Arboretum. Come out to see what UCF has going on out there! No parking hassels, we promise! See the flyer on the home page and stay tuned in for a list of plants available.

Our Organic Grower's meetings are held every 3rd Wednesday of the month, 7pm at Leu Gardens Come on out! We always have a speaker and everyone who attends either has a garden or wants to have a garden. Many have container gardens or keep a plot in a community garden. Learn along with us!

Are you on our email newsletter list? Monthly, we'll let you know about all the fun stuff we do here at Simple living Institute. Click over to the home page to the link there.

See you at the plant sale!

Shayla Dougher, volunteer coordinator

Tabling for our Local Food Project

Simple Living Institute tabled at the Global Peace Film Festival Street Festival. We attracted a lot of atention! Don't those banners look stellar? Thanks to Tom Scala. He brought out his tent and table and those are his strings lashing up our message for all to see.

Feel the windy and sunny Florida fall weather! And, right on schedule, the love bugs are here! They floated everywhere that day! How funny it was seeing people slapping at them. They just don't shoo do they? They suffuse!

Love bugs or no, the people who aproached our table asked questions about our Central Florida Sustainable Food Project "When is it coming out?" " Where can I pick it up?" "Will there be prices?" "How about organic vs conventional?"

This project is a 6 county, Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia, inventory of every farm, especially ones that sell to the public, community garden, farmer's market, CSA, U-pick operations, food producer and restaurant and business that sell or serve locally grown food, including meats and eggs. This resource guide will be published in print and online providing consumers with free information as to where to purchase locally produced food. We hope to influence growers who currently sell shrubs and palm trees! By showing these business owners where and how much money people are spending for local products and just how high the demand is, these growers could switch and produce more locally grown food!

We are fortunate to have friends at Edible Orlando Magazine. They are helping us with the publishing and distribution of the printed guide. As many as 10,000 printed resource guides will be available to the public early in 2011.

Prices? There will a lot of information. I am not sure if pricing will be included.

Organic vs Conventional. What is important to SLI is that information about locally produced food will be accessable so that questions and concerns can be addressed. For example: I have taken my kids out to Pappy's U Pick It Strawberry Patch for years! This is such a delight that eventhough they are teens now, they don't ever let a springtime strawberry soiree be skipped. This year, I have raised my awareness so I asked Pappy (yes, he was right there!) if he sprays for pests. "I spray lightly and then I wait 24 hours before allowing anyone to pick." was his answer. Will Pappy be in our guide? Yes. Will I take my kids out there again to pick strawberries? Yes. Now I am making an informed choice. Maybe it is not the best choice, maybe it would not be your choice, but I did have a conversation with the grower. This is one of the oportunities our work on this project will afford the public!

Do you have questions? Ask us! Find out more! Come out and help us! Comment here on the blog. Friend us on Facebook. Write in on our Community Forum We want to hear from you!

See you out there!

Shayla Dougher, volunteer coordinator

Monday, September 27, 2010

Coytown Community Garden garden set-up

Simple Living Institute, Inc. is once again involved with another garden start-up in Central Florida. This proposed garden will be the Coytown Community Garden and it is located in downtown Orlando. Brendan Wood is the organizer of this endeavor and if anyone is interested in being a contributor should contact him at . For anyone who has questions and wants more information can go to the Simple Living Institute website at or email us at

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Danielle Treadwell speaks at Organic Growers Meeting on Cover Crops

Simple Living Institute, Inc was delighted to have Danielle Treadwell, PhD from the University of Florida IFAS at our meeting at Leu Gardens. Danielle was a great speaker and is very passionate about cover crops. She recommended to plant Velvet Bean, Pearl Millet, Sorghum Sudangrass, Sunn Hemp, Sunflower, and Daikon Radish. Cover crops provide ecological services to your garden by adding nitrogen to the soil, producing organic matter that can be tilled in or composted and added later, and attracting beneficial insects to your garden (including beneficial nematodes that attack root knot nematodes!). Danielle gave us seeds for cover crops and we will be bagging them and distributing them at our next Organic Growers Meeting on October 20th. Visit our website for more at

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fall Into Fun With Us!

Hello Simple Livers!

Our Jack Johnson themed benefit was a huge success! Thanks to all who attended and a BIG thank you to all who donated their time and efforts. You know who you are. Individual acknowledgements are on the way! Check out the gallery link on the Simple Living institute website. 39 great pictures taken at the benefit by Raymond Silvasy! Thanks! That is Commissioner Sheehan being honored by our president Tia, for her contribution to our community gardens project in Festival Park.

The money we made at the benefit will, of course, go towards keeping our Organic Grower's meetings and other workshops cheap or free to attend. The best part is that we can now move forward with our BIG project: The Central Florida Sustainable Food Project

Heading it up is new board member and our official "planner" Andrew Landis (see his bio, on the website). He calls it an exercise, a mapping exercise. This project is a 6 county, Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia, inventory of every farm, especially ones that sell to the public, community garden, farmer's market, CSA, U-pick operations, food producer and restaurant and business that sell or serve locally grown food, including meats and eggs. This will be published in print and online at titled The Local Food Resource Guide. The goal is to provide consumers with free information as to where to purchase locally produced food. We also would like to influence growers who currently sell shrubs and palm trees and the like, that are not edible and maybe non-native. By showing these growers where and how much, people are spending for products that are very high in demand, they could switch and grow more food!

Data from all of these counties has poured in and we are excited to think that we could be quite thorough even concerning far flung locations. There is more work to be done! Each entry will list location and hours of operation if applicable, their contact information, basic descriptions of products and their availability. A few interesting stories or antidotes about the farms or businesses will be included! Eventually, the website will be interactive. Local food producers will have a way to convey what is in season and available. We hope to print several thousand guides (maybe even 10,00) and distribute them for free to the public early in 2011. Consumers, that's you and me! can use this important information to decide what and where to buy the absolute freshest, highest quality food available.

The power of the plate is at work here. Anyone who eats potentially, could want this guide in their hands or in their favorites on the computer. This could be the reason we have attracted over 100 people to our meetings over these last few months. Specifically, faith based organizations, and people who are making a concerted effort to to eat more healthfully to combat sometimes life threatening medical conditions have been the most vociferous. Now that there is national attention on childhood obesity, schools and childcare facilities, and parenting groups will appreciate having this information close at hand.

Participate by attending our meetings and getting on one of 4 committees: the Data committee, the Print, the Web, and the Marketing committees all would welcome your ideas and energy! Follow and comment here and on our Facebook page and on our Community Forum

All of our meeting dates and locations are listed there. Join us! This is an exciting project!

Ah! Fall in Florida! There is nothing like it and it is coming soon! Would you like to get outside and meet the community with us? Simple Living Institute is supporting many interesting events this fall with our bannered information table! Here's the line up: Global Peace Film Festival in downtown Winter Park Sunday Sept 19th. The VegFest at Loch Haven Park Saturday Oct. 23rd. The Owl Festival in Apopka Saturday Nov. 9th, also at the Seminole County Master Gardener Expo that same day at Red Bug Lake Park. We'll tout our wonderful programs and our BIG project to an eager public who wants to learn more about us at Simple Living Institute.

There is one more! This year we are teaming up with the UCF Arboretum for our annual plant sale. Mark your calendars, Saturday and Sunday Oct. 16ht and 17th. Listings of plants available for sale will be available soon. If you've never been out to the Arboretum at UCF, those of us who have will tell you it is well worth the trip. We are promising you now NO PARKING HASSLES for our event! All directions will be included on an upcoming flyer.

Which event appeals to you? Come out and give us a 2 hour shift at our Simple living Institute table! I am coordinating our valued volunteers, so reach to me please. Once you commit, we'll let you know exactly what to do and what to say to people while at the table. These events are really fun!

Meanwhile, follow us and comment here on the blog, and on Facebook and on our Central Florida Sustainable Food Project community forum (click the above links)

See you soon!

Shayla Dougher, volunteer coordinator

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A day of Mycology

On July 31st the Simple Living Institute sent a part time intern, Bradford White, to a wonderful gathering of Mycologists and plant enthusiasts in outer-Gainesville for a day of Mushroom talk. The founder of Finca Mycol, Michael Stevens, as well as retired University of Florida Mycologist Dr. James Kimbrough, facilitated discussions of mushroom identification, usages, and journeys for the first part of the day. After a delicious lunch of local sand pears, watermelon, various mushroom teas, and homemade pesto, the group gathered for a mushroom walk on the various parts of the Finca. The day dimmed down with the sight of dark overhanging clouds, but the great discussions and fun still ensued until the evening. A big thanks to Michael Stevens and Dr. James Kimbrough for having the Simple Living Institute out at the Finca!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Upcoming Benefit

Join Simple Living Institute for one of our largest events of the year... our Benefit. The benefit will feature our video contest judging, a Jack Johnson cover song contest, speakers, a raffle, a silent auction, and a kids activity area. The funds raised at the benefit will go towards our 2011 programs and our Sustainable Food Project. The benefit will be at the Cameo Theatre at 1013 Colonial Drive on August 12th, 2010 from 7:00-11:00pm.
Volunteers needed! More info at

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Food Resource Guide Meeting 7/06

Hosted at the Stardust Coffee & Video in Audubon Park, a great turn-out with a diversified crowd. Here is what was involved and how you can help.

Firstly, the WINTER PARK HARVEST FESTIVAL is scheduled for this November the 20th, 2010. Visit the website at and contact 'A Local Folkus' with your skills and community hook-ups to make this event successful.

As John Rife, co-developer of the event, said tonight, "Help raise awareness, do something cool."

July 15th at 10am the Arboretum Community Garden invites you to work in the garden. A vegetarian pizza lunch is provided for volunteers at noon and the work is open to continue until 4. Children (well-supervised) that are over the age of 5 are welcome. Head to the website,, for great directions.

Meeting Notes
The web-based resource will launch this Fall, around October, and this Spring we will print and distribute our first local food guide.

Currently, there are a lot of smaller similar projects in progress. We are producing a marketing package to centralize this focus through a comprehensive local food guide. Everyone can help ! by creating a logo, brand-recognition, promotion and the like. Contact Shayla Dougher @ to join/assist this design committee.

There is a lot of enthusiasm surrounding this project, and there is a place for you to fit into this, whether the logistical or creative type. We NEED a strong volunteer effort. We will make it easy to manage this data, but we need people going out to collect, distribute, and be liaisons.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Growing a Garden from Seed Workshop

This great event was well attended on Saturday June 26th out at The Econ Farm!

Tia began with the all important basics of soil composition. Excellent soil supports excellent plants and more yield! This is the credo we at SLI, teach and have been taught by the masters in the sciences of gardening. Tia chooses How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons as a reference because his techniques work! And Tia's spin on what Mr. Jeavons writes work for us growing in Florida. She went on to demonstrate how many and how deeply and where several different seeds and seedlings should be planted. Tia's instructions are always quite thorough. Several attendees had questions. Tia had answers!

Be sure to click on this video. There you'll see the rich soil Tia has in her garden! All my friends have beautiful gardens, but my jaw dropped a bit when she pulled the grass clippings away to reveal that amazing deep color! Tia lives what she teaches!

Reach to us via the contact page here at Simple Living Institute for exact instructions on soil mixing, or any other gardening questions. We have a planting dates chart that we can email. You have time to prepare and plant for fall harvesting! Know that we are out there (sweating!) too!

Peruse our website regularly and get on our newsletter email list! Come out to our exciting events that always include usable information. We are an institute because we teach. You can learn along with us!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Simple Living Institute on Front Porch Radio

Julie Norris from The Dandelion Communitea Cafe ( does a weekly show called Front Porch Radio on WPRK 91.5 FM every Wednesday at noon. She invited Simple Living Institute to be her guest on the show this week!

I jumped at this opportunity to crow about several EXCITING projects our dynamite nonprofit has in the works right now! And boy it was fun!

Of course Julie knows us so her questions pointed exactly to the information I wanted to share with her audience. I began with our Organic Grower's meetings. I bragged, "When we first started, we had only 10 or so people attending our meetings. But now it has grown to 60 or 70 people attending every month!" I went on to talk about how people are very happy to find help with building and maintaining a garden here in Central Florida, especially if they learned gardening somewhere else that does not share our climate and sandy soil, not to mention the fire ants! During the radio show, a call came in asking about...... you guessed it! WORMS. I was very happy, because people always ask about worms. Worm composting is gaining notoriety with no small thanks to our friends at Our Vital Earth ( I emphasized that not only does our Organic Grower's meeting always have a relevant speaker or a program, but that everyone who attends is a Florida gardener too. The tips and stories about gardening abound at our meetings!

Next I explained a bit about our Central Florida Sustainable Food Project. This is a regional inventory and mapping guide over 6 Central Florida counties encompassing all the community gardens, farms that sell to the public, farmer's markets and businesses that deal in LOCAL food. Once completed it will be up on our website and out in print, free to the public. We intend for it to be interactive, growing and expanding just like the industries it will support! This Local Food project energizes our efforts to strengthen the connections between local food producers and purchasers!

Jack Johnson is coming to town!! His nonprofit, All At Once ( has agreed to match the donations we, Simple Living Institute can collect between now and when his World Tour stops here at the Amway Arena Aug. 24th! Our BIG fund raiser will be held Thursday night Aug. 12th at the Cameo on Colonial Drive featuring a video contest, song contest, silent auction and raffle!
This sensational video contest will reward the winner with 2 tickets to the Jack Johnson concert! Contestants are to submit a 3 minute video that shares your vision of sustainability while highlighting the work we do at Simple living institute. Submission deadline is August 1st. We'll have an open mike style Jack Johnson cover song contest, with that winner also receiving 2 Jack Johnson concert tickets! The silent auction and raffle will make sure there is something for everybody. We are expecting 300 people! Every Simple Living Institute event is kid friendly. This fund raiser will serve as a membership drive as well.

Do you know of a business who'd like to donate something to our silent auction or raffle? Please ask! Have a videographer in the family? Bring us that video! Love Jack Johnson? Come over and strum and sing for us! That's Thursday night August 12th at the Cameo!

I am very grateful for this time to sing out (I didn't really sing!) about all of the impressive events and activities we are involved with at Simple Living Institute. Thank you Julie and Jeremy at Front Porch Radio! A podcast of this broadcast will be available soon on the Dandelion Commuinitea Cafe's website.

Everything we do is done by VOLUNTEERS! We have many opportunities for you to help us in very useful ways. Reach to us to find out how you can enrich your life by participating with us.

Shayla Dougher, Volunteer Coordinator, Simple living Institute

Friday, June 18, 2010

Organic Grower's Meeting: Organic Pest Control

This past June 16th the Simple Living Institute hosted their monthly Organic Grower's Meeting (free) at the beautiful Leu Gardens on North Forest Avenue. Included in the presentation were enjoyable anecdotes and helpful advice from the owners of the Fruit Dog Foods Farm, Larry & Beverly Bailey. Also a presentation on identifying the "good" and "bad" bugs of your garden, and the natural and/or organic solutions that one can utilize to maintain a thriving ecosystem.

Our raffle table yielded many prizes, including worm compost, various herb and vegetable plants, homemade balms from Gray's Garden, and more. Around the room were Our Vital Earth and Nature's Solutions, along with a plant and fruit-jam sale. The tasting table provided delicious morsels including an array of Etho's Vegan Kitchen pizzas, fresh peaches, and warm zucchini-nut bread.

All in all a very fun and informative night! If you have not yet been we encourage you to join us next month; the schedule announcements can be found here:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Local Food Sustainability Planning Meeting

Hello All, last night at the Virgin Olive Market in downtown Orlando we hosted a planning meeting for our "local food resource guide." The turnout was fantastic, so much in fact that there were a few participants leaning in to listen and contribute from the hallway.

The meeting lasted approximately one hour and following is a summary of what was discussed. If interested in the full meeting notes, do not hesitate to contact me.

The project has begun with website design and development, and is working on developing a system which will allow open access to all contributing partners. Currently, representatives at the Planing Council are collecting regional data from the six counties of Central Florida, and a comprehensive (yet unfinalized) listing can be obtained from Slow Foods. The list specifications include those farms supplying to the community and restaurants that utilize local food.

The guide, which will be online and available for print, will include a map with address and basic information pertaining to the location listed. Ideas are being accepted as to what else can be included, one example being articles highlighting relevant events and projects within our local area.

As of now, design is based around ease of access both to information and the addition of information to the system by users. As a vision of the completed product, individuals will be able to search using their zip-code and receive information on accessible food, markets, farms, restaurants that serve these foods, and companies that will assist in building your own garden. Basically, a vibrant local food economy.

A proposal was passed around and the group targeted an answer to stand as the goal and mission of the project. Such were promoting consumption of local food (without seeming weird), increasing demand and therefore supply, encouraging farmers in our region to diversify their crops and therefore break away from subsidies, transparency of the food process (growing, harvesting, transport and finally appearing on a shelf), and education of consumers.

Coming from such brainstorming was born an idea in which micro-supply can be viable by supplying personal crops to a licensed produce peddler for selling. If this is of interest to you, please contact

With a central food resource, interest and support can be generated for the project and the door can be opened to the public, garnering legislative support and renegotiation of current food legislation.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Colonialtown Community Garden Dedication Ceremony

On Tuesday, May 25th, elected officials gathered with residents of Orlando's Colonialtown neighborhood for the grand opening of their new community garden. Trina Hofreiter, garden organizer, introduced members of the garden and officials in attendance. State Representative Scott Randolph, Mayor Buddy Dyer, County Commissioner Bill Segal, and City Commissioner Patty Sheehan all spoke briefly of their support for community gardens in urban areas. Commissioner Sheehan was particularly enthusiastic, and encouraged other neighborhoods to follow Colonialtown's example. She presented gardeners with a gnome statuette as a gesture of her appreciation. Mayor Dyer was given a large basket of recently harvested produce from the garden as thanks for the Mayor's Matching Grant that helped to fund the project. Fresh watermelon was shared by all, and a local band performed while garden members showed off their plots. If you get a chance, stop by and check out the well-designed space located at the corner of Spokane Ave. and Lake Highland St.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Simple Living at Disney's Flower Festival

We recently had a display at Walt Disney World's Flower Festival. We had park visitors stop by our display to see our fresh herbs and cucumber, the pickle maker, grow boxes, and pick up literature on how to grow organic gardens. We got to meet people from all over, surprisingly alot from Florida too.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day at Anthropologie

I had a great time at the Anthropologies store in the Millennium mall What a beautiful store! Their lively front windows are decorated with flowers made from recycled plastic. Many of their clothes are made from beautiful natural fibers. The for your home things they sell are all nature based, with lots of books on gardening and sustainability. A printed blouse I admired had beets or carrots and comes with beet or carrot seeds!

I collected emails from people who want more information about Simple Living Institute and I gave away many, many brochures. One woman exclaimed “I don’t know anyone who is into this kind of stuff, but me!” Another woman, a teacher at Oak Ridge High School, told me she gardens to relieve stress. She says, “My husband thinks I am crazy! But he eats well!” Have we ever heard that before?

I enjoyed a myriad of discussions! A young girl had just seen the movie Food Inc. and wanted to talk about Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food. Others agreed that raising awareness leads to making better choices. Notice the plastic water bottle in our display. I posed it right in front of the time line for decomposition. Several people tried to pick it up and throw it away. I happily objected! This helped them to understand that it takes 450 years to really get rid of a water bottle in the land fill. I read that only 30% of all plastic water bottles go to recycling. Our display opened some eyes that day!

The vegan food from Laina’s Ethos Vegan Kitchen opened some mouths too! I heard several people say they had never eaten humus and that they loved the roll ups that were offered there that day. How nice it was to have free food to celebrate Earth Day!

Raising awareness does lead to making better choices!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Earth Day Celebration at Anthropologie

The store Anthropologie in the Mall at Millenia is having an Earth Day celebration because they are committed to being green. They have asked SLI to bring educational materials and a visual display on this day. Set up time is 10am-11am and break down time is from 2-3pm. They will be providing us with one 8x3’ table in the center of the store for our display. Display ideas we discussed are a solar panel, plants or produce, worms, and a recycle art demo. Shayla and Karie have volunteered to man the booth at this event. We will also have our canvas bags, brochures, pictures, and a sign-up sheet for emails. The store is also buying local food from the UCF Arboretum and having it prepared by Ethos Vegan Kitchen. The store will be giving SLI a donation from a percent of the sales they do on that day.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Strawberry Season is here!

I have about 100 strawberry plants and they are just now starting to produce big red sweet juicy berries. I'm growing the Camarosa variety. I went to Pappys' Patch U-Pick Strawberry patch in north of Oviedo in the Black Hammock area. They were delicious and only $2.00 a pound there, local but not organic. They say it is too hard to grow the berries organically. Their season runs till May.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Honey of a Organic Growers Meeting in March

Jean Vasicek was our featured speaker in March. Her introduction told us that she has a degree in Physics and worked in the Aerospace industry. Then the swicheroo! She told us how her interest in keeping bees turned into a bountiful business.

She created the company called Winter Park Honey 5 years ago and sells honey locally and all over the world.

Her stories of how she went from just being "interested" to being in business were full of toil and triumph! Her natural humor shone through her sometimes emotional explanations. Raising bees and collecting honey and bringing it to market are all laborious and time consuming. Her stellar slide show made her story quite vivid.

Jean wrapped up her presentation by explaining a few of the holistic and medicinal benefits of enjoying, especially local, honey. Many of us learned things about honey that we didn't know before!

Thankfully, she brought her divine tasting honey to sell. We bought 3 different kinds!!
Boy! we had fun guessing which was which by tasting and not looking at the labels. Jeans sells at many local farmer's market and on line.


Sunday, March 21, 2010


This year I am trying a lot of different varieties of tomatoes. I started eight seeds of each and then kept the biggest and best plant of each variety for myself. I got a little carried away:)

Heres what I planted:
  • Yellow Bell
  • Wisconsin 55
  • Zarnitza
  • Brandywine
  • Wickline
  • Yellow Perfection
  • Lollipop
  • Siletz
  • WA Peach
  • Fantastic
  • Spoon
  • Ponderosa
  • Stupice
  • Rutgers
  • Homestead

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Plant and Gardening Freecycle

Simple Living Institute, Inc. hosts the plant and gardening freecycle at Ethos Vegan Kitchen. A "freecycle" encourages sustainability by sharing your excess; like a free thrift store. You can bring unwanted plants to give away &/or take plants for free. It will be held out on the patio and Simple Living Institute volunteers will be there to help you get the right plants for your yard.

More info at

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Seed Exchange

This Wednesday we are hosting a Seed Exchange at our Organic Growers Meeting. It will be from 7-9pm on Wednesday February 17th. you can bring your seeds to trade for free and if you don't have anything to trade you can buy seeds 4/$1.00. This is a great way to stock up for spring planting! I will also be giving a brief presentation on how to start seeds so please spread the word about this special event.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

UCF Arboretum at Organic Grower's Meeting

Tina Richards is the Environmental Educator and Program Coordinator for the UCF Arboretum. Tina coordinates the volunteer program, conducts educational tours and workshops, and supports the internship and service-learning students.
She spoke to us at our January Organic Grower’s meeting. We meet every 3rd Wednesday at Leu Gardens, 7pm.
Tina brought a slide show that pictured the amazing, only a year old, UCF Arboretum! Her slides showcased the tons of work that has been done to bring about this fantastic opportunity for people to learn, hands on about organic gardening up close and community gardening at large. Tina Richards, on left, and her friends Sarah Benjamin, center and June Draznin, on the right spoke to us of the challenges and the triumphs of what their year with this immense project has brought them. A serious lack of funding and hungry deer who jump the fences have forced them to come up with inventive solutions. They made seed cups out of newspaper. What a great idea and biodegradable! They sell the produce at the Audubon Market in Orlando.
They give the produce and herbs and extra plants away too! Here is another reason to come out and volunteer! The public is invited to help with everything from building up the plant beds, to planting seeds, weeding, and harvesting. Check the website for volunteer information. or call 407-823-3583
Teachers from elementary schools bring their students out for field trips. Tina quipped “One of the best parts of my job is watching a little kid surprised to see where a watermelon comes from then nibble on it’s sweetness.”
Yes! Living ”simply” is showing the next generation and each other the bounty that comes from from just tickling the earth a bit with a hoe and seed and loving it with a sprinkle of water. That bounty is not only the succulent veggies, fruits and herbs that are raised but also the experience of being outside with our hands in the dirt feeling the living earth. Come over to the UCF Arboretum and grow with us!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Feng Shui at my home

I recently had a Feng Shui consultation at my home by Melinda Joy Miller from the Shamballa Institute. With the principals of Feng Shui Melinda Joy offered suggestions to make slight adjustments to my home to make it a more wholistic, beautiful, and harmonious space. She started by asking questions about what I wanted in life for my home, job, relationship, money and connection with Mother Nature. We went through each room of the house moving things around, hanging pictures to reflect the light, making my daily areas more pleasant to be in and more productive to work in. Visit to learn more!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Composting Workshop this weekend

Garbage into Gold...
Backyard Composting

When: Saturday, January 30th, 2010, 1:30-3:00pm

Tia Meer, longtime organic gardener, will lead this hands-on workshop in how to build and harvest a compost pile. Divert organic waste from the landfill while using your yard clippings and kitchen scraps to make your own fertilizer. Participants get a bag of compost to take home.

Fee $15 members/ $20 non-members
Advanced Registration Required
To Register email
Or call (321) 228-4310

Friday, January 15, 2010

Volunteers help out at Econ Farm Open House and workday

Thanks to everyone who came and helped plant at the Econ Farm Open House and workday. About a dozen people came to take a tour and we planted some seeds for the spring garden. What a good day.