Manatees, People, and Three Sisters Springs

I’m skipping my usual Friday meandering to talk about a meeting Terry and I attended at the Plantation Inn on Wednesday evening regarding Three Sisters Springs. 

I hate to be boring.  

Sorry if this falls into that category.

But, I really am trying to understand the whole manatee, eco-tourism and “save our springs” issues. So I’ve been attending any meeting I see mentioned in the local paper.  This one was particularly interesting because I had met the speakers previously.  Not that they remember me, but back when we attended the Friends of the Crystal River Refuge meeting in January, we had a brief conversation.  I had asked a question and the woman from USFWS that was speaking answered it incorrectly. During the break a man and woman approached me to give me the correct response.  I’m guessing they thought I was a reporter since I had my camera, a tablet, and was taking copious notes and they wanted to get the record straight.

No, not a reporter, just a blogger.  Looking at the world with my own little skewed view and posting about it.  

So when I saw the meeting advertised I thought it just might be those two interested and very interesting people.  

And I was right!

These two were scientists conducting a study from the boardwalk at the Crystal River Spring and this meeting was a presentation of their preliminary findings.  

First Andrew Gude, refuge manager with the US Fish and Wildlife Services, opened the session by informing us that this study was made by volunteers and the conclusions were made by the authors, not the USFWS.  

I’m okay with that.  I’m all about disclaimers.

Manatees, People, and Three Sisters Springs

Andrew Gude, Refuge Manager

I met Andrew Gude at an open house at Three Sisters Springs just over a year ago. (I’m pretty sure he doesn’t remember me either)  It was our first visit to the Spring.  I had no idea who he was but he spoke with so much passion about the refuge that I was impressed. And wanted to know more. That’s when we joined the Friends of the Crystal River Refuge. And we’ve been following him ever since.

The volunteers, Rae Ellen Syverson and Carl Wolfe, gave us a brief history of their vast education and experience and then spoke of their observations.   They, along with several other volunteers and interns with USFWS, stood on the boardwalk at Three Sisters Springs between December 10 and January 31 from sunrise to sunset and counted manatees, swimmers, and paddlecraft as they entered and exited the Springs.  They also recorded the weather, the temperature of the gulf, air, and springs, and the tides.

Manatees, People, and Three Sisters Springs

Carl Wolfe and Rae Ellen Syverson

While the study will not be complete for another month, what they observed from the boardwalk confirmed that more manatees used the Springs than had been realized or estimated; manatees were affected by the tides; boardwalk visitors love the Springs but disapproved of swimmers and boaters in the Springs; groups of swimmers with a tour group behave better than non-accompanied; and holidays are chaotic because of high numbers of swimmer and boaters.

Then the speakers continued that from their personal observation the high number of swimmers and boaters degrade the manatee experience; the Springs run is a major management problem; and current practices will not support the long-term eco-tourism business.  

Several tour operators were in attendance.  They had numerous questions and comments. It was not a hostile exchange–rather very constructive.  I had the feeling that USFWS and the tour operators work very hard to stay amicable.  It’s a win-win situation.

Well, this post is way too long and you have probably stopped reading by now.  But it was a very informative and educational meeting.  I look forward to attending more in the future.

And, by the way, if you want to get the perspective from the USFWS, they released their own findings on Thursday that you can read on their website.

Have a great weekend!


Another cool and funky pillow DIY!

I fell in love with this zebra fabric many months ago. Maybe more like borderline obsession.

I could find no reason to buy it because I usually have a project in my head before I order fabric.  I don’t like to keep a huge stash of fabric.  So I usually have to justify–to myself–exactly why I NEED to buy more!

But it went on sale and I had a birthday coupon from for 20% off and that was all the justification I needed!  So I bought it.  Along with several other pieces.  Some already have homes.  Others (like those pink pigs) are still looking for one.  Curses, now I have to get more storage!  Or open up a shop and sell stuff.


After I made the very cool leopard pillow with small pom poms, I realized it needed a companion.  A zebra companion.  With huge pom poms on the corners. 

But then I ran across some surplus piping that I made for my piano bench cushion last year. 

Perfect!  Almost better than pom poms!  Stripes!

zebra fabric and piping

So here’s the pillow!

zebra PillowAnd it looks extra funky with the leopard pillow!

zebra pillow

Just like we’re living in a very cool and funky jungle.

Like last week’s sewing project, I’m not going into great detail on how I made the pillow.  This is an envelope style pillow and I have this tutorial to make the pillow cover. 

Just a couple things that are different than last week’s version.  This is quilting fabric so it doesn’t have a lot of “body”.  I lined all three pieces–front and both backs with fleece.  Use a zipper foot to attach the piping.

Here’s the back:

zebra pillow back

Another cool and funky pillow DIY!

Just another view!

And look!  It’s Maggie!

Another cool and funky pillow DIY!

Looks like a good spot for a long winter’s nap!

When I showed it to Terry, he said it was very nice.  And wondered if giraffes would be next. 

No, silly. 

Giraffes are not near as cool as zebras. 

Or leopards.

Next should be panthers!

Out and About: Some Local Restaurants

I was planning on hitting all 50 of those restaurants that the Tampa Bay Times published last month but only made it to two so far–Dimitri’s on the Dock in Tarpon Springs and Capital Taco in Land ‘o Lakes.  Been too busy locally!  But I’ve got plenty of time–the rest of my life!

As far as I know, we do not have a top 50 restaurant list in any of our newspapers. If there is one, alert me please!  And if there isn’t one, don’t we need our own list of the best restaurants on the Nature Coast?

So I’ve decided to create one.  I’ll be the undercover occasional restaurant critic. Another one of my projects that I will most likely do haphazardly. (Kind of like our great chicken wing quest that we’ve been on for the last few years.)  

Bet you didn’t know you needed a local restaurant critic! 

I admit that I’m totally not qualified to be a restaurant critic.  We hardly go out to eat.  We actually like to cook!  Weird, right?  And Terry has been doing research on cooking with cast iron so we’ve been having fun experimenting with these really HEAVY pans so we have even more reasons to stay home and burn food!  

But once in awhile, usually when we are out gathering info and pics on things I might post about, we try a new place. We stay away from chain restaurants.  Been to all of them!

A few weeks ago we went to a meeting just outside of Yankeetown so thought it would be a good excuse to check out Riverside Inn at the Izaak Walton Lodge.  Once upon a time we had a special dinner with friends from Texas at the lodge when it was Ike’s.  And it really was special. We had to make reservations. A great view. Tablecloths.  Excellent service. Delicious fancy schmancy food. 

This is NOT Ike’s.  No tablecloths.  Absolutely the opposite, they use paper plates and plastic tableware. Both lunch and dinner menus are the same. Mainly sandwiches, fingerfood, and deep fried.  Nothing wrong with that–but plastic tableware?  We were there on a Saturday at lunch.  One server.  Wasn’t busy and then it was jammed with a large group waiting for a table.  Our food took a very long time although we ordered before the horde arrived.  My lunch was good but how can you screw up a grilled cheese sandwich? Okay, I have to admit that I really liked the former version of Izaak Walton Lodge so I might be a bit biased.  But really, plastic tableware?

Riverside Inn

Riverside Inn

When we were in Ozello checking out those crazy speed limit signs, we stopped at Backwater Fins.

It was a Friday at noon.  We were the only ones there!  Zowie!  I asked our server about the lack of customers and she said it starts getting busy about 3 pm.  It’s a bar so I guess that makes sense.  But Pecks Old Port Cove which is right down the road was slammed so they’re probably getting the lunch clientele.  

I ordered the Blue Crab Chowder and fish tacos.  OMG!  That was the most fantastic delicious chowder ever.  They make it right there in their kitchen.  Terry hadn’t ordered any but after I let him have a very teeny tiny taste he got his own bowl of chowder.  Seriously. I am wanting a bowl right now!  

BAckwater Fins

Backwater Fins


Last week we stopped at Yanni’s Restaurant for lunch.  Don’t know why we never checked it out before.  It’s right there in Homosassa Springs and we drive by it almost every day. And it was really good.  I had Wild Salmon on Ciabatta bread.  Yum.  The restaurant was clean and shiny and our server was excellent.  



Terry and I also went to the Shamrock Inn in Floral City with friends.  No pictures for this one since I’ve posted about it in the past and I left the camera in the car. (What? Me without a camera?) We both love going to Shamrock’s.  Terry likes the wings.  I just like the place.  Fun. Noisy.  Great service.  Really delicious food that will give you a heart attack if you go very often.  

I meet a friend every few weeks for lunch at the Breakfast Station that’s close to Sugarmill Woods.  While I said I wouldn’t review chains, I’m calling this a mini-chain. Only six locations–and all right in Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco counties.  Food, service and price are all great. Every time I’ve been there the place has been packed and I’ve had to wait a few times but never for long.   

Okay.  That’s my critique for February. I’ll think about some criteria for rating the restaurants.  Like the view, how fancy schmancy the place is, the decor, how quick the server asks why I have a camera.  All important stuff.  Then I’ll start my list of the 50 Best on the Nature Coast!  

Hey, I’m open to comments and suggestions!

More to come!

Three Sisters Springs Open House

Three Sisters Springs

Manatees at Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River

Saturday was the last open house at Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River for this manatee season. 

And we were there because it is such a great spot to see manatees and it was free!  The park is usually only open to one tour operator but three times a year there is an open house and we try to make it to a couple of the events.  We went to the open house in October and took son Darin and his fiancée Kathryn.  This time our little 4-year-old grandson Jack reluctantly went along.  (He really just wanted to go fishing with Grandpa off of our dock.)

After a week of chilly temperatures, Saturday was a pleasant spring day. Such a nice change.  We arrived at the parking area about 10:30 am and there were already a couple of dozen people in line for the bus. But the buses run non-stop so it wasn’t long before we were at the boardwalk.

Three Sisters Springs Open House

There were a LOT of other manatee lovers at the park!


Three Sisters Springs Open HouseThree Sisters Springs Open House

Three Sisters Springs Open House

Usually the sanctuary is open to swimmers but it was closed due to the cold weather and the high number of manatees so paddlers and swimmers were limited to the area outside the buoys.

Three Sisters Springs Open House

That dark blob on the right of the photo is dozens of manatees.


Three Sisters Springs Open House

This narrow section is where the manatees can go in and out of Three Sisters Springs. When the spring is open to the public, swimmers also use this inlet.

Three Sisters Springs Open House

An example of the bank erosion.


Three Sisters Springs Open House

There were a few tents set up. Not as many as the October Open House.

Three Sisters Springs Open House

One of the many buses that provided transport.

Three Sisters Springs Open House

And this is the line that greeted us when we got off of our bus!

Three Sisters Springs Open House

Grandpa, can we go home now?


Friday Meanderings

Chilly Maggie

Maggie in her Winter Attire

It’s ch-ch-ch-illy here.  So chilly I was shaking when I took that picture yesterday.  Brrrrr! 

Now I have to talk about the Old Homosassa sidewalks.  Sorry, I’m possibly a bit obsessed with the subject.

Since I never received a response from Jeff Rogers regarding my email from last week, I emailed everyone again.  

To Randy Oliver, County Administrator, Ron Kitchen, County Commissioner, Walt Eastmond, Transportation Project Manager, and Jeff Rodgers, Public Works Director.

I did not hear from Mr. Rogers as referenced in the attached email. 
I would like to follow up on the email I sent you last week regarding the sidewalks in Old Homosassa.  I have a suggestion.  Could the sidewalk run behind the Sugarmill Ruins?  There appears to be room there.  And that would eliminate the dangerous sidewalk crossing on Yulee Drive.  I have been down to Sugarmill Ruins twice on beautiful days in the last two weeks and both days the traffic was non-stop.  Plus the cars do not stop at the two crosswalks from the parking area to the ruins.  Taking the sidewalk across Yulee Drive then back again past the Old Mill Tavern will be very dangerous for pedestrians.  
I took these pictures on Monday afternoon.  I did not attach them to the email but in retrospect, I should have because they illustrate my point.

The cross walk will be in the area where the first car is.

Sugarmill Ruins

Here’s the existing sidewalk behind the Sugarmill Ruins.

Sugarmill Ruins Sidewalk

View from the other side.

 I received two responses…

From Jeff Rogers, 

We have provided this information to the engineer that is designing the project. We will forward their response when we obtain it, and we can have further discussions. 
Thank you for your thoughts. 
And Randy Oliver,

I will check with Jeff.  Who owns the property behind Sugarmill Ruins as the County would need an easement to use the property?

 And my response to Mr. Oliver,

The Sugarmill Ruins is a state park so I believe the state owns it. 

I’m wondering if any of our county representatives that I’m emailing have actually been to Old Homosassa and looked at the section of Yulee drive that they propose installing a cross walk.   

Okay.  On to other subjects.

What’s going on this weekend?

It will be a sunny beautiful warm weekend.  Yeah!  

We are headed to the Open House at Three Sisters Springs on Saturday.  Catching a bus at Kings Bay Plaza with two of our grandkids. There will be pictures on Monday!

This is Elvis Presley Weekend in Inverness.  Starting with Friday Night Thunder classic car cruise in with an Elvis impersonator and continues with Elvis themed events through the weekend.

There’s a Healthy Living Show at the Crystal River Mall on Saturday.

On a quest to understand the water issues in the state, Terry and I will be attending a presentation on Wednesday at 6 pm at the Plantation Resort in Crystal River.  Two retired scientists, Carl Wolfe and Rae Ellen Syverson will present a study from data collected from a 30-day period during this winter’s tourist season.  

Have a great weekend!