This year Saturday September 19th is the coastal cleanup day, so mark your calendars.  Along the Gulf Coast there are several ways to register to help. 

In Florida, register through the Ocean Conservancy,

In Alabama, contact Alabama Coastal Cleanup:

In Mississippi, the date has been changed to October.  Last year, Hurricane Gustav put a halt to the project and the date was changed.  You can register to help at this link:

In Louisiana it’s called the Louisiana Beach Sweep and Inland Waterway Cleanup.  Their site for signing up is:

And, in Texas, has a call for volunteers.

Surfrider Foundation,, also puts together groups to clean up beaches on September 19.  Pick your group to join, or gather a group of friends and register with Ocean Conservancy in your area.  Anyway you help out, you help out.

All Gulf Coast states but Mississippi will hold their clean up on September 19th starting at 8am.  We’ll see you there.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, part 1

We are taking the whole month of August off from our homeschool and the boys will return to their learning September 1.  Lucky for them we have signed up for an all day nature field trip with the Fresh Air Family group that just started a chapter here in Lower Alabama (LA).  Meanwhile, we’re on vacation.  The boys did have tennis team practice on Monday, but that’s our only obligation.

This week we hung out with some friends.  After a relaxing weekend with Gary (bookstore, farm market, hangin’ out) we got together with another family in the neighborhood (homeschoolers who  just moved here from Wisconsin) and just enjoyed ourselves.  Their two children and mine get along really well.  I think the kids spent most of their time this week playing with mega-sized Nerf guns and eating popcorn. 

Wednesday was the usual pool day with the Lake Forest homeschoolers.  It was the last day of this activity for the summer because,  I’m told, the pool will now only open after 3pm when the schools let out.  There goes our pool swimming.  But the boys had their hydro-therapy and enjoyed it.  We’ll head to the beach next time.

Today we did two things: found the historic post office location for Montrose Alabama and went to Bellingrath Gardens, on the Mobile side of the bay.  It was the 141st birthday of the founder/owner of the gardens and house, and the Gardens staff celebrated with free admission to the gardens to all Mobile and Baldwin County residents.  You had to pay extra for a house tour.  There was also free cake and ice cream, which the boys both enjoyed. 

Bellingrath Gardens: beginning of the garden path

Bellingrath Gardens: beginning of the garden pathOne of two lily ponds in the rose garden

Bellingrath Rose Garden
Bellingrath Rose Garden

The gardens are beautiful.  The variety of plants, flowers and arrangement of the gardens made it enjoyable to view.  There was a hot house, a butterfly garden, plantings surrounding various  waterfalls, pools, and lakes. 101_3485

 101_3489The property is on the Fowl River and there is even a boardwalk through the salt marsh area with posted information about various types of birds, reptiles, fish, plants etc.101_3495  The walk took us probably just under 2 hours.  It was hot and at one point we hastily walked on to the end for refreshments.   A cooler day would have been ideal; we could have rested along many of the sitting areas.  Few were shaded and most had black chairs (hot) so we passed on the resting spots. We’ll go back again in the fall or winter when family comes to visit.


As for the post office:

 101_3474101_3475101_3473I live on the far north end of Fairhope, really a stone’s throw from Montrose, Alabama so when I go to the post office I use the Montrose one.  It is small, cheerful and very short lines, if any.  Its a modern building but the original one was down the street and is now on the historic register.  The sign reads that retired riverboat Captain Thomas Marshall and his family moved from Mobile to Montrose and he was appointed post master.  When he died his widow became postmaster and had this little building built on their property.  Mail came by boat from Mobile.  She would take mail not picked up during the day into the house where neighbors could stop by, during the evening hours, for their mail.  It was used as a post office until 1913.  During the 1940s it was a lending library for the community and was placed on the historic register in the 1970s.

This weekend we are off to New Orleans.  Stay tuned for more adventures.

August Events Around Baldwin County, AL 2009

Some great stuff in happening in my county this month.  So far here’s what I found:

August 6-8: Annual Professional Rodeo at the Foley Horse Arena.  For info: or call 251-975-8877

Across the Bay in Mobile is the Saenger Theatre Summer Classic Film Series.  Each Sunday in August at 3pm they show a classic film.  This year’s selections include: Gone with the Wind, Showboat, Ocean’s Eleven and Abbott& Costello meet Frankenstein.

Friday, August 21 from 6pm-9pm: Grand Opening of The Hot Shop @ Orange Beach Art Center. Located at 26389 Canal Road in Orange Beach, AL.  This is the grand opening of Alabama’s only public access glass studio.  Its a free event.  Great music, food and drink.  Glass blowing demonstrations by glass equipment donor, Joe Thompson (Bear Creek Glass), and resident glass artist, Joe Hobbs.  Bring your friends and family.  For more info:

August 22nd at the Orange Beach Parks and Rec you can learn to kayak.  Held at the Waterfront Park, classes are $65/person and you must be at least 13 yrs old.  Registration is a must.  Call 251-981-6039.  There are some other great classes held during the summer; mostly in June.  Sorry I missed them.  Call that same number for information on other events and classes they’ll have this fall.

5 Rivers has a free movie matinee on August 23 called “Life in Cold Blood: Armored Giants”.  I imagine it’s about reptiles.  The Tensaw Theatre is located in the same building as the gift shop.  Time: 2-3pm

They also have a Saturday class from 11:30-2:30 for children in grades 3-7.  You need to register and the class on the 29 is called “Fun with Feathered Friends.”  Call 251-625-0814

Monday, August 31st from 6-9pm “join the fun” in Downtown Fairhope.  They’re hosting “The Magic of Mainstreet” with a parade, fireworks, book signing (who? and where?) music, tree lighting and art walk.  For more info: 251-928-6387

At the end of the month is the reinactment of the Battle of Ft Mims in the northern part of the county. Here’s the information and the link:   The reenacments of the Battles of Burnt Corn and Fort Mims will be held on August 29th and August 30th this year.  Commemoration activities will begin at 8:50 a.m. The Battle of Burnt Corn will be held at 11:00 a.m. on both days. The Battle of Fort Mims will be at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. A $5.00 admission is requested for ages six and up.

So far that’s the info I can find.  If you know of more, please leave a comment with the info and I’ll post it.

Summering in South Alabama

School is about to start.  Actually we homeschool year-round so our vacation just started…yesterday.  We relaxed.  I took a nap.

Schools here in Baldwin County start the 10th, I’m told. 

We’re taking the entire month of August off.  We’ll be driving to the beach with little to no traffic; we’ll be in museums with little crowds;  the stores won’t be as crowded and they’ll have their end of year sales that we can shop.

Most of all, we’ll finally get to see what this area is like.  We moved here Memorial Day weekend and after emptying boxes for 2 weeks settled back to school.  We’ve taken time out for tennis team practice, swimming on Wednesday’s with the homeschool club I joined, and meeting up with friends in the afternoons once math, Latin and reading assignments were complete.  Now we have all day to explore. 

I’m hoping to get to: 5 Rivers, Bon Secour, Gulf Shores, Ft Morgan, Orange Beach, the Battleship, Dauphin Island, Weeks Bay Estuary, Foley Outlets, the Mardi Gras museum, Ft Conde and other cool places.  I want to drive to Pensacola to check out the dinosaur/creation museum I’ve heard about.  We’ll collect seaweed for our marine tank; follow the Alabama birding trail; head over to FL and do some of the birding trail in that Panhandle; go letterboxing in Baldwin County (seems a great trail of clues and boxes would start in Daphne and end at Ft Morgan); go  fishing.  Of course, Wednesday’s we’ll still swim with the homeschool club and we’ll head to the Exploreum for a science class.  Next week we’ll vacation in New Orleans (Gary’s birthday wish).  We haven’t been there in years; definitely pre-Katrina. 

And, I’ll write about everything we’ve been doing so stay tuned.

Dr. Beach’s best beaches

Dr. Beach has released his America’s Best Beaches 2009 and only one Gulf Coast beach made the top ten list.  Siesta Key came in #2. 

The #1 beach on Dr. Beach’s list is Hanalei Beach in Hawaii.  Wow, it’s gotta be the ultimate to beat out Siesta Key. 

According to a press release by the Laboratory for Coastal Research and National Healthy Beaches Campaign at the Florida International University, 50 criteria were used to evaluate the beaches.  These included water and sand quality, and facilities and environmental management. 

For more information about Dr Beach check out his website:

Alabama’s 5 Star Beach

The Natural Resources Defense Council released its ratings list for beaches around the U.S. and Alabama’s Gulf Shores Public Beach.   It’s the highest ranking available by the NRDC.

Gulf Shores recieved a star for each of the following: water quality in 2008, water quality the last 3 years, water quality testing frequency, always issues advisories promptly, posts closings and advisories online and at the beach.

There were no other Gulf Coast beaches that recieved 5 stars.  In fact, not many beaches around the country have been so honored.  Most of the other 5 star beaches are in California, NH, MN, and MD (Ocean City, where I hung out as a child).  A large number of beaches had 4 stars.  Why? Well, if these beaches had tested their water more frequently, they too would be 5 star beaches.  NRDC gives a star if you test at least twice a week. 

Unfortunately most FL beaches fell way short of the 5 stars.  Edgewater Beach, Silversands Beach,  and the Santa Rosa beaches all fell short one star.  Again it was the testing the water issue.  But that doesn’t make them a horrible beach.  They’re doing everything else ok: good water quality and diligent postings when there is a problem.  I guess NRDC just wants the beach towns to pay more attention to the water quality.

Along the Gulf Coast, Texas and Louisiana both had 2 four-star beaches.  Mississippi beaches ranked only 2 stars for issuing and posting advisories.

Here’s a link to the list of 200 popular US beaches and their NRDC rating: