Sunday, April 3, 2011

"Old Florida" Roadtrip: The Grove, Lithia Florida

(Thank you all for your sweet messages regarding my Friday "stomach virus" post. We contained the infected son JSmooth,  for 24 hours. He has not been sick since 4 AM Friday morning. No one else is showing any signs or symptoms of contamination. I think we have weathered the worse. I think your prayers and well wishes were a perfect RX Thanks y'all!)

Are you ready for a road trip? Well buckle up! We're going on a roadtrip of the Florida gulf coast, what I like to call the "Old Florida" roadtrip. I want to rediscover those old tourist dives that were once the hotspots back in the 40's- 60's. These were THE places to vacation before "the mouse" moved into Florida. Today these hotspots are charming little seaside villages, small on crowds but big on fun and adventure. So come along with me and my family as we explore Old Florida (and vow NOT to eat at a single chain restaurant along the way....its all local!)

After leaving Crystal River, Homosassa & Weekie Watchee, we traveled further south. In planning my trip of "Old Florida" I really wanted my children to KNOW "Old Florida". Besides beaches and theme parks, what do you relate to Florida? I put some thought into it and of course, I think of the oranges. It was really the basis of this trip. My husband and I used to live in Sarasota with my oldest son, Bama, sixteen years ago. Bama has found memories of climbing the fruit trees in his great grandfathers yard and gathering fruits of many kinds....oranges, lemons, grapefruit.
(My son, "Bama" cira 1996)
I wanted my younger two children to have those same experiences. And oranges fell into our theme of "Old Florida".
Thus...a trip to an orange grove!!!!

The Orange Grove is part of "Fort Lonesome, Vineyard and Veggies". I found the Orange Grove by doing a google search of "you pick fruits and vegetables" in the state & county we were going to be in. I always like to go and explore and visit farming communities in an area. It's something I want my children to appreciate as well. Thus the trips to area farms....even at the beach!

 At the grove, citrus fruits are ONLY available November 1st through the end of April. However, because Florida had a winter freeze much of the crop was distroyed. This forced the grove to close their fields early. But when I explained to the owner of the Grove my mission, for my children to pick fruit and how we had driven hours to do so (and maybe it was also the crazed look in my eyes), he opened the fields to us and told us to "have at it".

And that we did! The boys climbed into the fruit trees retrieving our fruit. And boy was it sweet and delicious!!!

The cost was $10 per five gallon bucket, mix or match. But on this day, as it was the entire month of March prior to closing down the groves themselves, it was FREE! The owner said that every year he allows free pick the last 3-4 weeks of the season. We lucked out!

They have several varieties of fruits: Tangerines, Navels, Tangelos, Honey Murcots, Pomalos, Red Grapefruit, White Grapefruit, HoneyBells and of course the Famous "Valencia Orange"'.

They do not use pesticides on the crops. Everything is all natural!
But the best thing about a fruit grove to me, aside from the fresh the smell of the blossoms.
It was something I wanted my children to experience. To remember.

The Grove also had vegetables, something we didn't expect. Lots of vegetables and herbs.
Aside from the fruit we picked, my children harvested onions. Some HUGE organic onions.

 They had some of the most beautiful dill and cabbage plants I have seen.

The owner of the grove is naturalist, he was wonderful in giving us a tour of his garden, and really wanted my children to learn something, something they could take home with them, besides the fruit and vegetables. 

It was about being kind to "Mother Earth" and understanding what differnt herbs can do. I only thought I knew alot about herbs, I learned much too. The owner wanted us to taste the herbs as we went. After pulling the onions, my children complained abotu their hands smelling like onion. "I have just the thing for that!", he excitedly proclaimed. He went and grabbed a plant I was familiar with, although my children we not. He gave each child a strand of the grass and asked them to run it on their hands and count to twenty. The did. "Now smell!"
"Lemony!" said J Smooth.
"You can't smell the onions at all!". Sister Sledge announced.
Lemon Grass.
I love little lessons like that. Lessons that my Great Uncle Dick used to teach me in his gigantic garden when I was a child. Lessons that my "city" children miss out on.

I highly suggest that  you check out your local farms. And if you are on a trip, do a few minutes of research and then take a couple hours to visit a farm in the area. You will probably end up bring home more than just market fresh product, but also a bit of knowledge.
And knowledge is power! (I learned that from School House Rocks)

Tomorrow we are back on the road...and headed further south. So join me for more of our Old Florida roadtrip, won't you?

For more stops along the way of our  family trip to "Old Florida", click here.

The Grove Information:
The Orange Grove
15433 County Road 39 South, Lithia, FL 33547.
Phone: 813-699-2058.

Directions: 15 minutes from Brandon, Sun City Center or Plant City. Crossroads are CR 672 and CR39, Lithia Florida (aka, Fort Lonesome) 2 miles South of Lithia State Park campgrounds, on CR 39, 1200 feet South of CR672. Call for updates, do not email. Click here for a map and directions.

Open: November 1st through April, Saturday, Sunday and ALL Holidays, 10am till 6pm. Payment: Cash, only. Please bring change, 1s, 5s, 10s. Always bring change to u-pics


Jane said...

Your children have definitely had a trip to remember... These experiences are such memory-makers. I love reading about your was fun following on FB! Maybe one day you'll get to Lake Wales and find the honey hut...right on the highway. There is no one in the's open all the time. You just drop your money into a lock box and take the jar of honey. And would you believe, these folks have rarely had any thieves?!!! They have been there as long as I can remember. SR 60 is a great way to get from here to the east coast...and there's a lot of "old Florida" there, too...the Highwaymen art center, lighthouses, Lake Okeechobee,surf shacks, and more.

Keetha Broyles said...

Yah, blame it all on JSmooth. ;-)

Glad to hear you are all feeling better, somehow I MISSED the original sickly post so I'm trying to make up for my breech of etiquette here.

Kim @ Cheap Chic Home said...

Hey, you were just minutes away from me, Leigh! We are off Lithia Pinecreast Rd. between Bloomingdale and Fishhawk Blvd. and dropped our son off at Ringling College yesterday afternoon ;). Hugs, Kim