Tag Archives: camping

Lovely Lilies

I am back in flat Florida, just in time for my weekly blog post. It’s pretty hot here. Some people thought it was hot in North Carolina, but those people were not from Florida. If you can sleep at night without air conditioning, it’s not hot. If you’re uncomfortable standing in full sun but comfortable in the shade, it’s not hot. If you can enjoy sitting on a porch swing at two o’clock in the afternoon while drinking a cup of coffee, it’s not hot.

Here, it’s hot. Still, it’s nice to be home (home, you should know, has air conditioning). After camping for nearly two weeks, it’s nice to be sleeping in a real house. It’s nice to wake up in the morning and plug in an electric kettle to heat water for coffee, instead of pretending to be asleep until my husband gets up and puts a kettle of water to heat on the propane stove. I know how to use a propane stove; I just prefer not to.

It’s nice to be sleeping in a king size bed instead of a four-foot wide teardrop trailer. It’s nice to be able to sprawl without bumping my head or my elbow or my sleeping (at least until I accidentally jab him while trying to adjust my position) husband. It’s nice that modern plumbing is just a few steps away, under the same roof. I won’t go into the “instead of” here. It’s complicated.

Yes, I am glad to be home. I have to admit, though, that I miss my sister and brother-in-law, who are still in North Carolina, and I miss my Turk’s Cap Lilies. We didn’t know they were Turk’s Cap Lilies when we first spied the tall plants on our land. They were striking because of the whorled leaves and the many thin buds at the top, so my husband googled them. He told me what they were and then we waited for them to start opening up.

The two plants just happened to be the first thing I saw each morning as I looked out the window of the teardrop trailer. The blossoms opened one after another until there were more than a dozen of them. The last one opened up the morning we had to hitch up the trailer and head home.
I was glad we didn’t miss it.

Too Busy to Blog

I know it’s Wednesday and Wednesday is blog day, but this particular Wednesday is “load up for Willfest” day and that doesn’t leave time for a carefully worded blog post. My daughter and I spent the day gathering up all the personal things and business things we need to camp for three days and sell tie-dye at the Will McLean Music Festival at the Sertoma Youth Ranch near Dade City, Florida. That’s a long way from Jacksonville, so we want to be careful not to leave anything important behind.

I wish I had room to bring my paints, because the location is beautiful and the event is so joyful and inspiring that it opens my heart and makes me want to do creative things while I’m there. I’m there to sell tie-dye, though, and that is a job that takes most of my time and all of the van space. I will have a small sketchbook and some watercolor pencils. Maybe I can fit in a sketch or two when things are slow.

The good news is that I did paint this past week. I was out in my back yard making tie-dye and I noticed that the morning light was particularly pretty on the three trees in my neighbor’s yard. The next day, while the tie-dye was batching, I tried to paint those trees. If you’re a follower of this blog, you’ve seen two of them before. I’ve painted the tall pine and the little holly twice, but I edited out the maple because it was January and the maple was naked. Now it’s March and that tree is covered in bright red helicopter seed pods.

Three Trees

Three Trees

Here’s my new painting. I normally try to give my posts clever endings, but I’m just too tired this evening. I painted. I blogged. I’m done.

On the Road Again

This will be a quick post. I can’t believe my husband managed to save some days off so we could do a little leaf-peeping this year. Our trip out West would have been well worth sacrificing the usual North Carolina Fall Color tour, but here we are, filling our hearts with even more beauty.

The View

The View

We are camping on our own little piece of land and admiring our own golden trees. Later, will will drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, our most familiar National Park. It might just be our favorite. It’s certainly the one we know best. I hope we get to know more and more National Parks in the years ahead, but I will always be grateful for this one. In Autumn, it feels like home.

River Party

I am about to get crazy busy. In just four weeks, I will be leaving for the Florida Folk Festival. Two days ago, our yearly huge order of blanks arrived. I started pre-washing them yesterday. I continued that task today, while also beginning to put things into pre-soak. Pre-soaking is something that must be done while the sun shines, so I couldn’t waste this lovely day. There are two more sunny days in the forecast this week, so I will be pre-soaking tomorrow and the next day, too. Then comes the tying and the dyeing and the rinsing and the washing and the drying and the folding and the stuffing into bins.

I will be working long hours for the next few weeks, so I’m glad I had a chance to relax at a low-key festival this past weekend. It was the Old-fashioned River Party in Manatee Springs State Park. The festival was just Saturday, but we camped Friday night and Saturday night. Even with a portable hot spot, I couldn’t get internet access, so I was unplugged for nearly three days. Once I accepted the fact that I could not update my games, I had a lovely time just reading, singing and enjoying the great outdoors.

My husband had been working on his second handmade kayak for years and he was really pushing in recent weeks because he wanted to have it finished in time for this festival. Manatee Springs has a boat ramp and crystal clear water, so kayaking is a favorite activity there. We brought his first kayak there a couple of years ago and I had a chance to paddle a little bit, but I didn’t go far because I didn’t know what I was doing and I was alone on the water.

This time there were two kayaks, so my husband and I were able to go paddling together. That made a huge difference. I still didn’t know what I was doing but he was right there to help me learn. I will admit that I was nervous at first, but I made a conscious decision to put my fear aside so I could enjoy the delightful new experience. It didn’t take long to learn how to use the paddle to control my direction and speed. The morning was calm and we had the springs to ourselves. We paddled out to the Suwannee River, circled a small island there and then paddled back to the boat ramp in Manatee Springs.



It was heavenly. I don’t think my husband is going to be able to go kayaking without me any more. I am absolutely hooked.

Sunday morning, I decided I wanted to try to use the paints I had brought with me. My husband wanted to get most of the pack-up done early, so I missed the morning light, but I finally escaped about 10:30 and took my supplies up to the sinkhole I had spied out earlier. It’s a favorite spot for scuba diving. The surface of the water is covered with light green duckweed and the dark water shows through in places where divers have disturbed the weeds.

Florida Sinkhole

Florida Sinkhole

Painting the sinkhole was an ambitious plan. Way too ambitious, as it turned out. That’s okay, though. I learned a whole lot while I was working on it. I learned how many things I can comfortably carry along a woodland trail and how much flat space I need to set them all out and work with them. I learned how fast acrylic paints dry in the hot sun, even when there’s a Sta-Wet palette involved. I learned how hard it is to work quickly, especially when there are people around asking questions.

These are important things to know and now I know them.


We have returned from a successful Will McLean Festival. We will have a lot of dyeing to do to get ready for the Florida Folk Festival in May, but now we can afford to order blanks. This was our third Willfest and the other two had cold weather. We sold a lot of long-sleeved T-shirts and socks. This time, we checked the forecast and left the long-sleeved T-shirts at home. We took tank tops instead and that turned out to be a wise decision. It was a good weekend for tank tops.

One thing we love about this festival is that we get to camp right behind our tie-dye booth, which is very close to the main stage. We get to listen to music all day while we’re selling tie-dye and when it gets dark, we just zip up the booth and retire to our campsite, where we can listen to music as we eat supper. If we have any energy left, we can move our chairs closer to the stage to enjoy the music. If we’re exhausted, we can crawl into our tent and continue to enjoy the music as we fall asleep. I can’t imagine a more convenient arrangement.

Our booth and our tent

Our booth and our tent

This year it was particularly convenient because our space was right next to the funnel cake booth. These weren’t just regular funnel cakes, either. You could get a regular funnel cake, sure, but you could also get toppings. The one that tempted me was Boston Cream Pie. I went to get a funnel cake that I thought I would share with my daughter. As I was ordering it, she informed me that she didn’t want toppings, she wanted a plain funnel cake with powdered sugar. I wasn’t giving up my Boston Cream Pie funnel cake, so I ordered two funnel cakes. They were gorgeous.
Funnel cakes!

Funnel cakes!

The Boston Cream Pie funnel cake was the best funnel cake in the history of funnel cakes, but it was huge. I learned something new this weekend. A half-eaten funnel cake that has been stored in a cooler for two days is an abomination, but if it has Bavarian Cream on it, I will still eat it. Oh, yeah.

The Will McLean Festival is held at the Sertoma Youth Ranch, which is a beautiful place full of huge trees, a lake that attracts sandhill cranes and a meadow that fills up with mist every morning. It’s so pretty, I ached to find time to paint some of that scenery while I was there, but I just couldn’t manage it. I took a lot of photos with my iPad and I may try to use them as references for a painting now that I’m home, but I know the photos don’t capture the magic of the place.

I couldn’t pull off all the messy set-up and clean-up of a painting, but I did take out my watercolor pencils and sketch something I could see from the tie-dye booth.

Willfest sketch

Willfest sketch

I’m happy that I didn’t take art supplies all that way for nothing.

Florida Folk Festival Stories

The thing about the Florida Folk Festival is that I have been singing there for more than forty years. I have been selling tie-dye there for seven years. No matter what happens, it makes me think of other years and other happenings. This leads to conversations like the following:

“It sure is hot.”
“Yeah, but not as hot as that one year.”
“You mean the year we walked down to the Suwannee River and sat in it with all our clothes on?”
“And then we walked back to the campground…”
“And by the time we got there, our clothes were bone dry again.”
“Yep. It’s hot this year, but it’s not that hot.”

We have a story like that for every situation. If it’s chilly, we talk about the year we were camping in a small trailer with one blanket per person and it got so cold, my Mom, my sister and I ended up in one bed so we could stack the blankets. If someone skins a knee on the playground, we remember the time my niece had to be rushed to the nearest emergency room because of a wrist injury during a game on the open field that preceded the playground.

The campground itself has been the source of endless stories. It’s a landscaped wonder now, with two modern comfort stations that provide flush toilets and hot showers all festival long. Old-timers remember the years when you had to get up before dawn if you wanted a chance at a hot shower, and the septic tank backed up the first day of the festival. The pump-out guy used to camp behind the bath house in the old days, and he stayed busy all weekend long.

Even older old-timers remember when the campground was just a field with one street light, one water spigot and a port-o-let. My children can all repeat the story of the time I caught my class ring on the door of the port-o-let and it tried to yank my finger off. My finger was fine, but there’s still a dent in my class ring. The kids have all seen it, and they’ve heard the story countless times, along with countless other festival stories. They’ve added some of their own.

Every year adds something to our personal collection of Florida Folk Festival lore and this year has been no exception. It was already the year The Makley Family became the Makley Duo after unforeseen circumstances (including emergency surgery) led to cancellations by three group members.
You’d think that would be enough for one year, but it seems that was only the beginning.

Friday morning, the first day of the festival, my daughter and I loaded the things we needed for our day into my car and started to head up to the vendor area. We had barely pulled out of our campsite when we heard a sound. A mysterious sound, but a familiar sound. I stopped the car and my daughter got out to check. Oh, yeah…that was the sound of a flat tire.

Flat Tire

Flat Tire

We shifted all our necessary items into my husband’s van and took that up to the tie-dye booth, leaving my husband to deal with the flat tire. He enlisted the help of my brother-in-law and by the time I returned to the campground at the end of the day, I had a new tire. Things were looking up.

Saturday, we took my car up to the tie-dye booth and had a relatively uneventful day until about seven o’clock, when we were closing up the booth and listening to the last act of the evening on the Old Marble Stage. Suddenly, we could no longer hear the act on the Old Marble Stage. The power had gone out. We went back to the campground and found that the power was out there, too. We heard it was out, not only in the whole Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, but in the whole town of White Springs, where the park is located. Someone had crashed a truck into a very important power pole. A park employee, who was putting up signs at the comfort station saying it was closed due to power outage, told us they were hoping to have the power back on by eight-thirty. I couldn’t wait that long and I’m not a guy, so I hiked out to the port-o-let by the North gate of the park. This one did not try to yank my finger off. Of course, I was not wearing a class ring at the time.

I imagine the primitive campers were feeling quite smug until a little after nine o’clock, when the power was restored and a huge cheer erupted from the campground. Our refrigerator was back on and so was the air conditioner in our little blue teardrop trailer. Things were looking up.

Sunday was bright and hot, but not as hot as Saturday and certainly not as hot as that one year. We had a busy, fun day and were starting to pack up the tie-dye when we noticed dark clouds gathering in the sky. Instead of folding up the T-shirts and packing them in bins, we rushed to pull everything into the tent and zip up the side panels. Then we ran to the car and drove back to the campground in a heavy downpour, praying the tie-dye would be all right until morning.

It was all right, but it was all a bit damp, which is why I have racks of T-shirts in my living room right now.

Tie-dye in the Living Room

Tie-dye in the Living Room

It would have been okay to start folding them today, but the air conditioner in my house stopped working the night we got home from the festival and the repairman couldn’t come until this afternoon. Folding up the tie-dye is a big chore and we’re not going to do it in an overheated house.

The repairman just left and the air conditioner is functioning again. Things are looking up.

My Little Blue Teardrop Trailer

I’m having a busy week, but not a creative week. I’m preparing for a trip to the mountains. My husband and I own a small piece of property in North Carolina. We love our little hillside, but it has no improvements other than a driveway, so that means we’ll be camping. When this man agreed to spend a lifetime with me, I was a young woman who loved camping. I hate to be a party pooper now, but I am getting way too old to sleep on the ground. That’s why I’m delighted that my husband built a tiny teardrop trailer for us to sleep in.

We used to own a fairly large RV, but it was so big that we could hardly ever afford to take it anywhere. Even when we could afford the gas, there was no way either of us was going to drive it on those twisty mountain roads in North Carolina. Okay, there was no way I was going to drive it under any circumstances, but even my much braver husband was not going to drive it up there. We would travel light and bring a tent. I tried to be a good sport about it, but it was a lot of work and in October, it was way too cold, even on an air mattress in a down sleeping bag. I was chilled to the bone the last few times we took a tent to the Blue Ridge Parkway. When we got in the car to go sight-seeing, I would crank up the heat until my poor husband was sweating and I still did not feel warm. This led to expensive extra hotel nights. With Jacuzzis.

The teardrop was the perfect solution. We first saw them on a show called “RV Crazy” on HGTV and we immediately recognized their quirky owners as kindred spirits. My husband started lurking on a forum which provided guidance and step-by-step instructions for building a teardrop trailer. There were plans you could get for free and there was a whole community of helpful people who would answer questions. My husband bought a small metal utility trailer and got to work. He kept asking me how I wanted it to look and I kept saying the most important thing was that it had to be cute.

I think he nailed it.



I absolutely love this little trailer. The walls are insulated, so it’s toasty warm even when the only heat source is two human bodies in a small space. It has tiny cupboards over the bed inside for our personal things, and it has a whole galley in the back. My wonderful husband made all the shelves and drawers himself. He asked me to pick out the blue paint for the outside and then I made tie-dyed curtains to match.

Nice galley

Nice galley

We took it to the Blue Ridge Parkway before it even had all its cupboards and we just loved being up off the ground when we were camping. We started taking it to folk festivals, which was so much fun I ended up writing a yodeling song about it, and now that we have land in North Carolina, we take it there and make ourselves at home in it for a week. It has a sturdy RV battery that keeps the lights going when we’re boondocking and the galley holds all the tools we need for fixing meals and making coffee. Coffee is important. Ask anyone who’s seen me before I’ve had my first cup in the morning.

The RV was too big and the tent was too small. Our little blue teardrop trailer is just right.