ColorOcala Contest

Grab your crayons, colored pencils, watercolor markers and cray pas, and join the hot new coloring craze!

Floridians, are you ready to COLOROCALA? Create beautiful art and compete for valuable prizes in Ocala Magazine’s latest big giveaway contest. You could win tickets for four to the Walt Disney World® theme park in Orlando, a family Christmas for four at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, and more. Color us excited!

Our latest contest is specially designed with family fun in mind. With a contest for both children and adults, you and your kids will have plenty to do this summer. And best of all, you can be creative together!

You can always count on Ocala Magazine for the best in news and entertainment, family fun, and fabulous prizes, so let’s get coloring! Show off your artistic side, and you might have a summer you’ll never forget.

Feeling Social?

Visit Ocala Magazine’s Facebook and Instagram pages and Colorala’s Facebook and Instagram pages – and while you’re at it, we hope you’ll Like our pages!

Here’s How You Enter:

You must complete Steps 1 through 4 to qualify for prizes!

  1. Download, print, and color your favorite specially drawn Ocala-themed coloring page from contest sponsor Colorala. (You can download pages as many times as you like.)
  2. Fill out the entry form (below) on the Ocala Magazine website before 6 p.m. Eastern time, July 22, 2016.
  3. Upload a photo of your completed coloring page using the File Upload feature provided on the form.
  4. Post your photo on Facebook OR Instagram before midnight, July 22, 2016. Use the hashtag #ocalamagazinecontest on Facebook OR Instagram in your post. Don’t forget to tag your friends and show off your creative genius!

That’s it. You’ve entered!

Click Each Image to Download a Coloring Page! (PDF Format)

Adult Coloring Page – Thoroughbred
Adult Coloring Page - Thoroughbred
Adult Coloring Page – Silver Springs
Adult Coloring Page - Silver Springs

Children’s Coloring Page – Thoroughbred
Children's Coloring Page - Thoroughbred

Children’s Coloring Page – Silver Springs
Children's Coloring Page - Silver Springs


Entries Are Now Being Judged, Stay Tuned!

Click for Contest Rules

Official Rules

  1. By entering, you agree to abide by The COLOROCALA Official Rules.
  2. All contestants must reside in the state of Florida.
  3. The contest will be administered by contest sponsor 7Hills Communications of Tallahassee, Florida.
  4. Entries must be submitted through the online form located at and all entry requirements must be met before midnight, Friday, July 22, 2016 in order to qualify.
  5. Entries submitted will be screened by 7Hills Communications and/or contest sponsor Colorala of Newport Beach, California, to ensure all entries meet contest requirements.
  6. Ocala Magazine, 7Hills Communications, and Colorala cannot be held responsible for email that is misdirected or undeliverable.
  7. Entries that do not meet all the “Here’s How to Enter” criteria will be disqualified.
  8. 7Hills Communications may, at its sole discretion and depending upon volume of entries, notify contestants whose entries are incorrect and must be resubmitted.
  9. 7Hills Communications will send only properly completed entries to Ocala Magazine.
  10. Completed coloring pages, along with the artist’s name, will be posted on the Ocala Magazine Facebook page and Instagram profile, and the Colorala Instagram profile. If the artist is 12 years of age or younger, the artist’s age also will be published.
  11. Following the conclusion of the contest, a team of fine artists from Colorala will judge the entries and select the winners.
  12. A list of winners will be published on the COLOROCALA Contest official web page, located at; the Ocala Magazine Facebook page; the Ocala Magazine Instagram profile; and the Colorala Color Instagram profile.
  13. Winners must claim their prizes by 5 p.m. Eastern time Monday, August 22, 2016. Any prize not claimed by Monday, August 22, 2016 will be awarded to an alternate winner.
  14. Ocala Magazine and/or 7Hills Communications will make every effort to notify winners via email, telephone, or postal mail within the 31-day prize redemption period. Ocala Magazine and 7Hills Communications cannot be held responsible for winners who cannot be located for notification within the prize redemption period.
  15. Ocala Magazine, Colorala, and 7Hills Communications will hold all contestants’ personal information except name, age, and city of residence confidential, and will not reveal said information to any third party unless required by law.
  16. By entering, contestants agree to allow Ocala Magazine, Colorala, and 7Hills Communications to post their names, ages if applicable, and photographs of their coloring pages to social media.
  17. By entering, contestants grant Ocala Magazine permission to publish their coloring pages in Ocala Magazine without remuneration. Published entries will be credited.
  18. By entering, contestants grant Ocala Magazine permission to publish photos of the winners, if applicable, without remuneration.
  19. Anyone employed as a professional artist, or who holds a college or university degree in studio art or graphic design, is not eligible to participate.
  20. Employees of Ocala Magazine, Colorala, and 7Hills Communications and their families are not eligible to participate.
  21. Each participant may enter the contest only once.
  22. All children 12 years of age or younger in a single family may submit one entry each for the children’s contest.
  23. Only one contestant 13 years of age or older from a single family may submit an entry to the adults’ contest.
  24. Only one prize per family will be awarded.
  25. While we encourage parents and legal guardians to experience the joy of coloring together with their children, contestants 12 years of age or younger must color their own coloring pages without physical assistance from any third party.
  26. All contestants 13 years of age or older must color their own coloring pages without assistance from any third party.
  27. Because children must be 13 years of age or older to have a Facebook or Instagram account, entries from children 12 years of age or younger must be submitted by a parent or legal guardian.
  28. Entries submitted by children 12 years of age or younger without parental supervision and consent will be disqualified.
  29. Contestants must abide by all Facebook and Instagram rules. Ocala Magazine, Colorala, and 7Hills Communications cannot be held responsible for any adverse decisions made by Facebook or Instagram as a result of a contestant’s violations of their Terms of Service.
  30. Contestants may use crayons, colored pencils, watercolor markers, or oil pastels (cray pas) to complete their coloring pages.
  31. Contestants may not use online or electronic coloring apps to complete their pictures. All entries colored with electronic coloring applications will be disqualified.
  32. One grand prize and two honorable mention prizes will be awarded in the children’s coloring contest.
  33. One grand prize and two honorable mention prizes will be awarded in the adults’ coloring contest.
  34. Contestants, or the parent or legal guardian of contestants 12 years of age or younger, must pick up prizes by appointment at the offices of Ocala Magazine, located at 743 E. Fort King Street, Ocala, Florida 34471. Ocala Magazine, at its sole discretion, may waive this requirement for winners who are not area residents.
  35. Winners must present a picture ID to receive their prizes.
  36. Ocala Magazine may, at its sole discretion, require a scanned or faxed copy of a picture ID before shipping prizes to winners who are not area residents.
  37. The Children’s Grand Prize Package is subject to the terms and conditions of the Walt Disney World® theme park.
  38. The Adults’ Grand Prize Package is subject to the terms and conditions of Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center.
  39. While we invite contestants to be fans, liking or following any Facebook page or Instagram profile is not required to win a prize.
  40. No purchase is necessary to win a prize.
  41. All judging/winner decisions made by Colorala Color are final.
  42. All contest decisions made by 7Hills Communications are final.
  43. Questions about The COLOROCALA Coloring Contest must be submitted via email to No telephone calls, please.


Written + Styled by Robin Fannon  |  Photography by Ralph Demilio

After a year – a year! – of COVID-19 restrictions, quarantining and remote communications, we are beginning to see some glimmers of normalcy. Our pre-pandemic downtown retail establishments were thriving. It’s been a tough year for them and OM is pleased to throw some support behind these small business owners. As for the Ocala fashion girls out there, it’s time to bust out of those drab sweats and into some fantasy florals, soft pastels, dreamy knits and bold pops of color. Of course, there is the ever-present slip dress and the always-on-trend animal print, only this time is a mini with puffy sleeves. Three local Ocala beauties, and good friends, Amanda Pell, Erin Lindsey and Joy Emerson gathered downtown on the morning of the Spring Equinox, to forage at the Farmer’s Market for some healthy provisions, followed by brunch complete with Mimosas, fresh flowers, delicious food and beautiful al fresco surroundings. So, cheers to supporting local business, enjoying some normalcy and bringing some beauty back into our lives!

L-R: Amanda: ruffled mini from The Pink Hanger;
Erin: Mittoshop baby blue babydoll mini from Shannon Roth Collection, bunny rabbit earrings from
Marley Mae;
Joy: smocked maxi dress with cutout back from The Pink Hanger.
All bracelets are Meghan Browne from Shannon Roth Collection

L-R: Amanda: bubblegum pink skort and white tank top from The Pink Hanger, Consuela Tote from Shannon Roth Collection;
Erin: white trousers and green top from The Pink Hanger;
Joy; tangerine and white sundress from Zara, Megan Browne bracelet from Shannon Roth Collection

L-R: Erin: green dress from Shannon Roth Collection, headband from Marley Mae;
Amanda: knit midi dress from Zara, beaded earrings from Marley Mae;
Joy: Gilli dress from Shannon Roth Collection.
Slides on all three from DSW.

L-R: Erin: Coral slip dress from Target;
Amanda: Current Air lace skirt and Double Zero white T-shirt from Shannon Roth Collection;
Joy: Animal print dress and Julie Vos jewelry from Shannon Roth Collection

Colorful Sunglasses from Izipizi, Paris available at Shannon Roth Collection

L-R: Amanda: Flowy pants and tank from the Pink Hanger;
Erin: Surf Gypsy two piece set from Shannon Roth Collection;
Joy: Blue tiered pant and crop top from The Pink Hanger.
Meghan Browne bracelets from Shannon Roth Collection.

Eggs: the taste of spring in every bite! 

Story, Recipes and Photography by Robin Fannon

Remember the cholesterol scare back in the late 70s that had everyone banning eggs from their diets? As it turns out, eggs in fact are among the healthiest foods you can eat. They are high in protein, healthy fats and loaded with health-supporting vitamins and minerals.

In particular, they are high in the essential nutrient Choline, which supports cell production, helps the body metabolize fat, improves memory and cognition, promotes heart health and boosts metabolism. Most of us don’t think about these health benefits when we consume eggs.

We eat them because they are delicious! They’re inexpensive, portable and their recipe versatility is endless. This month we feature three egg recipes that are simple to prepare and evoke the flavors of the spring season. Here’s an interesting tidbit: Did you know that an egg will balance in an upright position on the spring equinox due to the earth’s position and the pull of gravity? Having missed the opportunity this year, I’ll have to mark my 2022 calendar!

Lobster Deviled Eggs


12 hard-cooked extra-large eggs, peeled

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/3 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 cup coarsely chopped cooked lobster

Smoked paprika

Chopped fresh dill


Cut eggs in halves lengthwise. Place yolks in a medium bowl; place whites on a serving platter. Mash yolks with a fork until crumbly. Add mayonnaise and next five ingredients; beat at medium speed with a mixer until smooth. Gently stir in lobster.

Spoon filling into whites. Sprinkle tops with smoked paprika and fresh dill. Cover and chill until ready to serve.


“Jammy” Eggs

These buttery tasting eggs make for a super-delicious  breakfast or wonderful snack. Serve with buttered toast, crackers, fresh herbs, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.


4 to 8 organic large eggs


Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Using a slotted spoon, carefully lower eggs into water one at a time. Cook 6½ minutes, adjusting heat to maintain a gentle boil. Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water and chill until just slightly warm, about 2 minutes.

Gently crack eggs all over and peel, starting from the wider end, which contains the air pocket.

Eggs can be cooked and peeled 3 days ahead. Store airtight in the refrigerator.

Herby Spinach


1/2 pound baby potatoes (6 to 8)

10 large eggs

1/3 cup crème fraîche

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 leek, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, rinsed, and thinly sliced crosswise

1 spring onion or scallion, thinly sliced

Salt and freshly cracked pepper

2 cups lightly packed baby spinach

3 ounces goat cheese

For Garnish

1 handful fresh parsley or cilantro

1 handful chopped fresh dill

1 handful chopped chives, with blossoms, if available

1/2 lemon, zested


Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). In a saucepan, boil the potatoes until fork tender. Drain and when they are cool enough to handle, thinly slice the potatoes.

Whisk together the eggs, crème fraîche, and salt.

In a cast-iron or nonstick ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leek and onion and sauté until soft and translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook another few minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the spinach and cook until just wilted. Lower the heat to medium-low and pour in the egg mixture. Cook for a few minutes, pushing the eggs toward the center of the skillet as they cook. As you work, be careful not to break apart the potatoes. Once the eggs have set on the bottom, dot the top of the frittata with goat cheese. Place the skillet in the oven and cook just until the frittata has set, 12 to 15 minutes.

Remove the frittata from the oven and cool slightly. To serve, garnish with fresh herbs and lemon zest.

and Goat Cheese Frittata

Your COVID-19 Vaccination Questions, Answered


With COVID-19 vaccination underway in the United States, many Americans are preparing to get the vaccine to protect themselves and help slow the spread of COVID-19. If you’re able to get the vaccine, you probably have a lot of questions. Knowing what to expect and how to properly prepare for your appointment can help put your mind at ease.

COVID-19 vaccine basics

COVID-19 vaccines are now available in the U.S., and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vaccines approved in the U.S. do not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19 and therefore you cannot contract COVID-19 from them. The CDC states these vaccines have been carefully evaluated in clinical trials and are deemed safe and effective by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) with a full advisory committee meeting review for all vaccines.

Preparing for the COVID-19 vaccine

Getting a vaccine not only protects you, but also the people around you, especially those who are unable to get vaccinated. The CDC offers guidance summarized below to help you prepare for your vaccination, whether it’s your first or second dose: 

1) If you’re approved to get a vaccine, talk to your healthcare provider ahead of time. You may be going to a vaccination clinic where your healthcare provider is not directly administering the injection, so if you have questions, speak with them before your appointment.

2) Do not schedule any other vaccinations within two weeks before your COVID-19 vaccination. If you feel ill before your appointment, call the vaccination clinic and ask if you should still come in or reschedule.

3) Get good rest the days prior to the appointment, especially the night before. Eat a light meal or snack before your appointment and stay hydrated. Rest and good nutrition help prepare your immune system for the vaccination.

4) Ask about side effects. While some people have no symptoms, others may experience headache, muscle/joint pain, chills, fever and fatigue that generally subside after 48 hours. Plan for several low-key days following your vaccination.

5) Plan ahead for post-vaccination care by having the essentials on hand in your medicine cabinet. According to the CDC, over-the-counter medications (like Advil) can reduce pain, fever or discomfort associated with post-COVID-19 vaccine, including mild aches or arm soreness. According to Dr. Jeffrey Fudin, B.S., Pharm.D., FCCP, FASHP, FFSMB, “Aches and fever are common side effects of coronavirus vaccination, and can easily be treated with a pain reliever like Advil.”

6) If your vaccine requires two doses, consult with your vaccination clinic or pharmacy to schedule your second dose.

While millions in the U.S. have received the COVID-19 vaccine, availability is currently limited and you may not be able to get it right away. Continue to take smart safety measures such as washing your hands frequently with soap and water, wearing a mask when out in public, avoiding large crowds, and appropriate social distancing. When it is time to get your COVID-19 vaccination, these preparatory steps will help you feel empowered as you take an important step to end the pandemic. For more information about how to prepare for the COVID-19 vaccine visit, and visit for more information on Advil.   

Vintage Ocala

Story by Robin Fannon

One of the most popular home trends that rose out of the pandemic has been a collective appreciation for all things vintage and nostalgic. We seem to be longing for home décor and furnishings that have history and tell a story. Whether refurbishing our own family’s treasures or scouring local vintage shops, people are turning away from big box, mass-produced merchandise to items that surround us with connection, emotion and meaning. Ocala and the small towns that dot our outskirts are a treasure trove of vintage boutiques, thrift stores and antique shops. While Micanopy and Mount Dora have long been the superstars of this genre in central Florida, Ocala is quickly becoming a contender. Here we explore just a small group of the many local vintage merchants.    



 The Mustard Seed Collection

“Your Unique Vintage Destination”

Mandy Bucci hails from the great state of Texas and had a 20-year corporate career until she claims there was divine intervention. Stressed out and feeling the need to spend more time with her kids and be a better wife, Mandy took a leap of faith. She jumped off the corporate treadmill and opened her own business. The Mustard Seed vintage store has developed into a must-visit mainstay in the downtown shopping experience. The shop is a unique collection of jewelry, candles, fine antiques, apparel and upscale painted furniture. They take commissioned orders for custom painted furniture and have one of the largest collections of milk paint, in a wide variety of colors. Her Instagram feed @themustardseedcollection is a never-ending source of inspiration 


White Elephant

“It’s the Thrill of the Hunt” 

Jennifer Townsend is a native Ocalan and a legend in the downtown community. It’s likely that just about every home in Ocala has at least one item from Jenn’s constantly revolving inventory. In addition to the main store at 120 South Magnolia, she also has the bright turquoise blue warehouse building located a block south at 221 South Magnolia. In fact, this building was her great Uncle’s Gulf filling station back in the 40s and 50s.  I asked her what she looks for when buying merchandise for her store, and the answer is a reoccurring one throughout this article: “I use my instincts, buy what I like, what is unusual, and that I have never seen before.”  She mostly buys from private individuals, but also never passes up a flea market and “side of the road” treasures. Jennifer lives with her two dogs Bamboo and Peco, and is awaiting her second grandchild.


“Buying and Selling Great Stuff”

PJ and Marlin Jamrock are longtime Ocala residents and owners of their vintage shop located at 122 South Magnolia Ave.  They are raising their three children, Jackson, 14; Gavin, 13; and little Addie (Miss Tumbleweed) who is 5 years old, all the while operating a thriving local business.  PJ explains how they started their shop: “I was caring for my elderly grandmother who was an avid collector and I needed a place to put all this stuff! Combined with the recession which made thrift and secondhand shopping not only popular, but necessary.”  A very entrepreneurial idea indeed! In addition to the shop on South Magnolia, they also operate several warehouses by appointment. You can find them on Instagram @tumbleweed_of_ocala


Two Sisters Vintage

“Junktique to Antique”

Mary Moody and Toni Yoder like to say that they are sisters, just not each other’s! 

This unique 5,000-square-foot warehouse of treasures that used to be a Libby’s fruit processing plant, blossomed out of the 2008 crash. The flooring business they had worked together in for many years, and still operate in their building, was sputtering.  While Toni does the pickin’ (she never met a yard sale she didn’t like), Mary does displays and staging. Their motto is “Reimagine, Restyle, Repurpose” and is evident in their shop and they specialize in bringing old furniture pieces back to a new life. They have become well known in the industry for their famous open air “Magnolia Junkin Market” where they host 50 vendors, twice a year.  Their next event is April 9-10 so mark your calendars. Check out the details @twosistersvintagethrift



Crystal Flynn

Anthony, Florida 

Originally from Virginia and raised near Colonial Williamsburg, Crystal and her husband of 27 years, Jason, inherited 13 acres of farmland in Anthony, just on the outskirts of Ocala. Together with the help of Crystal’s mom, Kate, they have set out to create their dream home. Along the way they have accumulated a menagerie of three dogs, four cats, five mini goats, two mini donkeys, seven chickens and have rescued a horse and a pony. Through the influences of her upbringing, Flynn developed a love for collecting vintage items, in particular her collection of classic cookbooks featuring the iconic Clementine Paddleford’s cookbook.  China, antique linens and ironstone are just a few of her other favorite collectables to search for. Flynn believes in taking things slowly when it comes to the development of their home.  She explains: “It’s a fluid project and I believe in letting a house speak to you. I like to imagine the story and history behind each piece.”  Flynn is a regular “picker” at the vintage shops in Ocala and has developed a friendship with many of the owners. In fact, one of her favorite projects has been her kitchen island, a White Elephant find,  that she painstakingly refurbished.  In addition to the local stores in this article, Crystal also sources from stores in Micanopy, Mount Dora and EBay.  You can follow her beautifully curated Instagram feed @sage_house_farm


Jamie Swanson

Ocala, Florida 

Jamie moved to Ocala in 1994 from Valrico, just outside Tampa. She and her husband, Richard (she started dating him when she was 16!), now have a son, Gibson, and a lovely home just outside the historic district. They painstakingly transformed their backyard into a beautiful, tropical, lush oasis. Long before its current popularity, much to her mother’s chagrin, Jamie was always into secondhand, vintage buying. “I used to beg my mom to take me to vintage stores and she would wait in the car.” Jamie is known for her colorful, eclectic style and believes that one’s home should tell their story. While her career as a home healthcare worker and her family come first, she has developed her collecting into a profitable side hustle. Just check out her Instagram page @8one8vintage and see how fast her finds are snapped up in flash! When asked what she looks for when foraging, Jamie follows her instinct: “I look for what catches my eye and what I love personally. Vintage items tend to be well made and have character. I like to imagine the history and who loved it before it ended up with me.” To find her treasures, she scouts estate sales, Etsy, eBay and is a big believer in supporting small business and shopping locally.  




Wilding’s Antiques 

1812 NE Jacksonville Road 

Ocala, Florida 34470 

(352) 816-9844


The Finicky Flamingo

640 NE 27th Ave 

Ocala, Florida 34475

(352) 867-0537


Interfaith Thrift Store 

718 N Pine Ave 

Ocala, Florida 34475

(352) 351-3541

Survival of the Sweetest

Honey bee populations are making a comeback amid serious challenges

Story By Carlton Reese

Photography by Ralph Demilio

The perfect monarchy, so long a quest of humankind never coming to fruition, has existed since long before the first spear impaled a wooly mammoth. Where man has failed, the honey bee has forged countless empires with monuments to its efficiency constructed on every habitable continent of this planet.

With selfless dedication to queen and colony – attributes more suited to the six-legged creatures among us than the contumacious hominids – honey bees provide a template of consummate organization, cooperation and production. These colonies, so prevalent in Florida and especially Marion County, exist not just to satisfy a long-lived queen or to dominate a world that fears its sting but to provide perhaps the most significant link in the chain of human agriculture.

Most everything humans consume derives directly or indirectly from the realm of the honey bee, which is why any news of a potential demise of these creatures sends waves of apoplexy throughout the public. The headlines create a picture of crisis with a desperate call to action in tow:

“Bee populations declining drastically!”
– WION, August 2020

“Study: Global Bee Populations in Decline”
– Public News Service, January 2021

“Nearly 40% decline in honey bee population last winter ‘unsustainable,’ experts say”
– ABC News, July 2019

From a population of 6 million U.S. hives in 1947 down to just 2.4 million in 2008, the headlines and alarm bells rang rather loudly as to the impending doom if the trend were to continue. The biggest problems causing the decline seem to have been various types of mites and hive beetles while speculation that man-made pesticides have played a role certainly has traction. 

Despite the mites, beetles, pesticides and the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder that ravaged the bee world in the mid-late 2000s, the numbers are now trending in the right direction as honey bees are making a comeback. The seemingly-imminent bee apocalypse feared by so many seems to be a more fortunate tale where all can more easily breathe a sigh of relief.

After all, it appears the bees have two strong allies in their fight: human beings and the bees themselves.

One of those humans helping the bee populations locally is Calvin Benjamin, who at age 80 is called upon by the Marion County UF/IFAS Extension for bee rescues. He says the volume of bee rescue missions keeps going up and predicts he will conduct over 100 rescues this year in The Villages alone.

“The native bee has adapted to stay healthy,” Benjamin says of the local honey bees which aren’t technically native, but brought to America from Europe in the 1600s. “The commercial guys had a lot of problems with the mites, but the strong hives didn’t seem to have too much of a problem.”

In Florida alone, the number of registered beekeepers has increased about 10-fold over the last decade and with that explosion has been the subsequent increase in the bee population itself. These numbers don’t even reflect the bees in the wild or those residing at un-registered locations. It is estimated that there are over 650,000 honey bee colonies in Florida, which ranks behind only North Dakota and South Dakota in honey production.

A bee colony report by the United States Department of Agriculture noted an increase in the number of colonies by 14 percent nationwide from 2019 to 2020.

All this is good news, but the numbers are still far below where they stood in the mid-20th century. It would not take much to reverse this positive trend.


“Last year when we had a drought, everybody I knew lost half their bees,” said Dale Claytor who operates hives and conducts bee rescues in north Ocala. “I believe we are going in the right direction and slowly making progress, but it wouldn’t take much to have a setback if we got some new disease or something like that.”

Because three out of four crops in Florida are estimated to be pollinated by honey bees, their well-being directly correlates to the physical and economic well-being of its citizens. Crops that remain heavily reliant on honey bee pollination include strawberries, blueberries, squash, watermelon and numerous other staples.

Through his rescues, Benjamin has accumulated over 100 hives – he started with just one about six years ago – that produce around 10,000 pounds of honey. One of the keys is to send the hives to where the resources are, which means taking them to different counties at different times of the year depending on which crops are viable for bee populations. He refers to this process as “migrating locally” as opposed to what the large, commercial beekeepers practice in sending their bees all over the country.

“We’re still trying to figure it out,” said Benjamin, who is sending hives to Steinhatchee in the Florida Big Bend region soon. “There, we’ll get tupelo honey and this stuff is fantastic. It’s high-dollar honey, but it’s only about two months of the year then we’ll move the bees somewhere else where there is another crop.”

One problem obtaining an accurate count of bees is the migratory nature of the business. Today, most of the money made by large commercial beekeepers is in shipping bees to large growers across the country. This means sending large quantities of bees to California for pollination of almond groves or to Michigan for pollination of cranberries. Upon return back to Florida, there is always a significant depletion in the number of bees, which have not died but merely swarmed in those areas.

“If they weren’t shipping bees all over the country like that and counting those bees as losses, I think we would have a better bee population,” Claytor said. “In the state of Florida, you’re required to register your bees whether you have one hive or a thousand, and I know a lot of beekeepers out there that don’t register their bees so those aren’t counted in the statistics.”

Benjamin and Claytor are a microcosm of the upward tick in the bee industry. Both have seen firsthand the positive surge in bee populations not only in the expansion of their own hive collections but in their rescue missions as well.

“I know right now bees are doing pretty well in Florida,” Benjamin says during a recent extraction of a large hive on Bird Island. “With the calls I get, I think the bee population is pretty strong.”

Benjamin’s first initiation with bees came as child with his grandfather back in Vermont. He moved to Florida in the 1980s and six years ago made beekeeping and rescuing a full-time endeavor. In growing his hive count from one to 100 he has also seen the volume of his bee rescue missions increase dramatically.

It started out as just a hobby, but Benjamin is now the main go-to guy for the county when it comes to bee rescue. He has become an expert on the subject and his observations have helped shape an opinion on how these insects can best thrive.

“I find the native bees (as opposed to commercially bred bees) to be a lot more docile, cleaner and in better shape. They’ve got it down where they know how to survive – the bees that you bring in and the queens you buy are not always that good.” 

Claytor certainly concurs with that sentiment, stating, “My observation is that those swarm queens are more vibrant than those domestic queens. The swarm queens outperform as far as laying (eggs) and producing bees than the domesticated ones.” He notes that the state requires beekeepers who catch queens that swarm are to kill them as opposed to setting up hives with them, but that is not always the best policy.

The fear of Africanized bees, known commonly as “killer bees” for their aggressive nature, has encouraged this policy, but Claytor says this far north sightings are extremely rare if any at all. To be certain, when he captures a queen, he constantly observes the hive for any unusually aggressive behavior, but so far he has not come across any that would suggest Africanized bees in these parts.

Claytor’s foray into beekeeping and rescue started as a simple desire to produce his own honey for green tea he drank. Maintaining a few hives whet his appetite for more knowledge on the subject and he has since been through the University of Florida’s master beekeeper program and started his own club, Backyard Beekeepers.

On a recent rescue in Silver Springs Shores, Claytor came upon a monster hive as proof honey bees are thriving in the wild here. From an old shed he discovered a hive beneath the floor that measured 10 feet by 2 feet with approximately 300,000 bees – all at the service of one hardworking queen.

“It was the most perfect rectangle, about a foot deep and three inches thick – just a beautiful honeycomb. All the way back it had nothing but brood and eggs and bees. That was the most adventurous one I’ve had.”

Local beekeepers such as Benjamin and Claytor serve as the human element to maintaining and expanding bee populations; the rest has been up to the bees themselves which have had to overcome numerous threats thrown at them from nature and man. Since their peak populations in the 1940s, bees have had to battle mainly the varroa mite, which burrows into bees and can cause major depletions, and hive beetles that prey easily on weaker hives. Thanks to their natural adaptive capabilities, bees have been able to stave off these predators along with the help of human maintenance.

There have been fears recently of those Africanized bees and of large “murder hornets,” but neither has been relevant in Florida up to now.

The issue of pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, presents a much more complex problem. Still a debate among experts as to the level of damage caused by these chemicals to pollinators, beekeepers on the whole are more than just wary of their close proximities to hives.

“They will kill a hive,” Benjamin says of insecticides. “If it gets into the honey, the bees will feed that back to the young, the young die and the hive dies.

“The genetic corn that has natural insecticide in it, it doesn’t just kill bees, it kills all insects. So that’s one of the worst things that’s happened. The corn is okay, but everything else suffers.”

While neonicotinoids have been largely banned in Europe due mainly to the effect on honey bees, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ruled out banning the chemicals while instituting certain protections and management procedures. Claytor says he is confident that beekeepers can avoid harmful pesticides and that registering the bees is part of the protection.

“In the state of Florida, one of the reasons you want to register your bees is because you go into the (Department of Transportation) database,” Claytor explained. “When the DOT goes out and sprays for mosquitoes and other pests, if you’re in that database they will not spray in your area.

“The state, and the government as a whole, is very well aware of what is going on with bees and has been very supportive.”

As for Colony Collapse Disorder, in which whole hives disappear seemingly overnight without a trace, no real answers have come forth. Theories range from the aforementioned mites, diseases and chemical toxins in the environment to unknown pests and poor genetic diversity. Benjamin and Claytor have their hypotheses as well:

“Bad beekeeping,” claims Benjamin for CCD. “I don’t have any trouble with it. I deal with mostly native bees and they’ve learned to take care of themselves.”

“From my own personal observations, it seems to do with resource availability,” says Claytor. “When we were losing bees last spring, we were constantly discussing it. When a whole hive just gets up and leaves, that’s not predators or anything like that coming in there and destroying them; these bees left for a reason. They’re probably looking for resources.”

The bees need the resources and the resources need the bees, which have shown remarkable abilities to adapt to even the direst of circumstances thrown at them. But as the bees go, so do the fruits and vegetables in this most vital link in the chain of agricultural production and so far it seems the future looks good thanks to their remarkable resiliency.

From the large commercial beekeepers to the bee hobbyist, attention has heightened in this industry which exists not merely as an economic engine but for human survival itself.  

Make Heart Health Part of Your Self-Care Routine


Devoting a little time every day to care for yourself can go a long way toward protecting the health of your heart. Simple self-care, such as taking a moment to de-stress, giving yourself time to move more, preparing healthier meals and not cheating on sleep, can all benefit your heart. 

Because heart disease is largely preventable, focusing on improving your heart health is important. Heart disease is a leading cause of death for women and men in the United States, and many Americans remain at risk, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). People with poor cardiovascular health are also at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. 

“Studies show self-care routines, such as taking a daily walk and keeping doctor’s appointments, help us keep our blood pressure in the healthy range and reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke,” said David Goff, M.D., NHLBI’s director of cardiovascular sciences.  

It may be easier than you think to “put your heart” into your daily routine. Each Sunday, look at your week’s schedule and carve out 30 minutes for heart-healthy practices. Take an online yoga class, prepare a heart-healthy recipe, schedule your bedtime to get at least seven hours of sleep or make a medication checklist. Then seek out support from others to help you stick to your goals.

Consider these self-care tips to try each day to make your heart a priority:

Self-Care Sunday

Find a moment of serenity every Sunday. Spend some quality time on yourself. 

Mindful Monday

Be mindful about your health and regularly monitor your blood pressure or blood sugar if needed. Keep an eye on your weight to make sure it stays within or moves toward a healthy range. 

Tasty Tuesday

Choose how you want to approach eating healthier. Start small by pepping your meals with a fresh herb or spice as a salt substitute. Get adventurous and prepare a simple, new, heart-healthy recipe. Or go big by trying a different way of eating, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan, which is scientifically proven to lower blood pressure. DASH is flexible and balanced, and it includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, fish, poultry, lean meats, beans, nuts, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. 

Wellness Wednesday

Don’t waffle on your wellness. Move more, eat a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried, make a plan to quit smoking or vaping or learn the signs of a heart attack or stroke. You could be having a heart attack if you have chest and upper body pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea or lightheadedness. You might be having a stroke if you experience numbness in the face, arm or leg; confusion; trouble talking or seeing; dizziness; or a severe headache. 

Treat Yourself Thursday 

Treats can be healthy. Try making a dessert with fresh fruit and yogurt. Then stretch your imagination beyond food. Host a family dance party, take a few minutes to sit and meditate, go for a long walk or watch a funny show. Whatever you do, find a way to spend some quality time on yourself. 

Follow Friday

Follow inspiring people and pages on social media, or text a friend to help you stick to your self-care goals. Remember to take care of your mental health, too. Two of the main hurdles to self-care are depression and a lack of confidence, according to a study published in the “Journal of the American Heart Association.” If your mental health is taking a toll, take action to show your heart some love. Reach out to family and friends for support, or talk to a qualified mental health provider. 

Selfie Saturday

Inspire others to take care of their hearts. Talk about your self-care routine with loved ones or share a selfie on social media. Having social support and personal networks can make it easier to get regular physical activity, eat nutritious foods, reach a healthy weight and quit smoking. 

Learn more about heart health and heart-healthy activities in your community, and see what others are doing for their heart health, at or follow #OurHearts on social media.   

Seasonal Selections: Cruciferous Veggies

Story, Recipes and Photography by Robin Fannon | IG: rsvp_robin

When it’s cold outside, we tend to think about hearty, stick-to-your-rib type meals, but during the winter months delicious vegetables are plentiful, in particular those of the cruciferous variety which happen to have some of the greatest health benefits. They are low in calorie, rich in folate, vitamins C, E and K, and are loaded with dietary fiber. These dynamos can lower body inflammation and have been proven to reduce the risk of developing cancer. Unfortunately, they can also be tough with strong unique flavors, so the challenge is to make them palatable and delicious. This month’s recipes are just that! One extra salad recipe consisting of fennel, beets and in-season citrus fruits is included for good measure. All are extremely delicious and packed with life affirming super foods. Here is just a fun fact: The name cruciferous comes from a latin word meaning “cross bearing” because their base petals resemble a cross.

Fennel, Roasted Beet and Citrus Salad


  • 2 medium red beets, tops trimmed
  • 3 blood oranges
  • 1 medium navel orange (preferably Cara Cara)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced crosswise on a mandoline
  • 1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced on a mandoline (about 1/3 cup)
  • Good-quality extra-virgin olive, pumpkin seed, or walnut oil (for drizzling)
  • Coarse sea salt, such as fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro and/or chervil leaves


  • Preheat oven to 400°. Wash beets, leaving some water on skins. Wrap individually in foil; place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. Let cool.
  • Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, cut all peel and white pith from all oranges; discard. Working over a medium bowl, cut between membranes of 2 blood oranges to release segments into bowl; squeeze juice from membranes into bowl and discard membranes. Slice remaining blood orange and Cara Cara orange crosswise into thin rounds. Place sliced oranges in bowl with the segments. Add lemon juice and lime juice.
  • Peel cooled beets. Slice 2 beets crosswise into thin rounds. Cut remaining 2 beets into wedges. Strain citrus juices; reserve. Layer beets and oranges on plates, dividing evenly. Arrange fennel and onion over beets. Spoon reserved citrus juices over, then drizzle salad generously with oil. Season to taste with coarse sea salt and pepper. 

Collard Green Wraps


  • fresh collard greens (these can be blanched if desired) 
  • tri-colored quinoa (cooked as per instructions) 
  • sliced fresh mango
  • sliced fresh red pepper strips
  • sliced fresh mango
  • sprouts or micro greens 
  • sour cream and lemon


  • Lay collard greens on a flat surface and remove bottom part of stem 
  • Starting with approximately 3 tablespoons of cooked quinoa as the base, layer the rest of the ingredients on top. 
  • Top with a squeeze of lemon and dollop of sour cream. Wrap all the ingredients up in the collard greens and enjoy!  

Kale Caesar Salad



  • 6 cups of 1-inch diced rustic bread (ciabatta or Italian loaf)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar (can sub apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan (use vegetarian Parmesan for vegetarian option)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper


  • 8 cups kale leaves (lightly packed), ribs removed and leaves torn into bite-size pieces
  • 2 large head romaine lettuce hearts, cut in half lengthwise, and then cut in half again lengthwise, then cut crosswise on a diagonal, to 1-inch wide strips
  • 4 Tbsp grated Parmesan
  • Instructions
  • 1 Toast croutons: Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Spread bread cubes out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven and bake until golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Toss while still warm in a bowl with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.
  • 2 Make vinaigrette: Place the vinaigrette ingredients into a blender or food processor. Purée until smooth.
  • 3 Assemble salad: Place the chopped kale and romaine leaves into a large bowl. Add the dressing and massage with your (clean) hands until the salad is well dressed. (Massaging the kale with your hands helps soften the leaves.) Alternatively, dress the salad and let it sit for an hour or two, allowing time for the dressing to soften the sturdy kale.  Add the croutons and the Parmesan cheese.

Sautéed Cabbage with Cumin Seeds and Turmeric


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds 
  • 3 pounds green cabbage, cored and thinly shredded 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 


  • In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over moderate heat. Stir in the cumin seeds and cook until they are fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the shredded cabbage, turmeric and kosher salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is softened and browned in spots, 15 to 20 minutes. 

Crape Murder

Confessions Of An Over-Pruner: How I Butchered My Crape Myrtle, and Why It Won’t Happen Again


I grew up with my hands in the dirt. My great-grandparents gardened, my grandfather gardened, my parents gardened. On my tenth birthday, I asked for vegetable seeds and cow manure. Nobody batted an eye.

I think that’s why, when we moved into our house on Fort King Street in Ocala’s historic district, I was especially excited about the yard and gardens. But the property had been unoccupied for months before we bought it, and so the landscape sat smothered under a year’s worth of Spanish moss. The azaleas were spindly, wild, and mildewed. The box hedges, normally the most well-mannered plant in the garden, were feral. And the weeds. Goodness gracious the weeds.

And then there was the crape myrtle in the front yard. A beautiful specimen of the plant: tall, graceful, dressed in satin bark and covered in showy white blooms. For someone with an informed eye, the tree looked exactly as it should look, the product of decades of immaculate, knowing care. But to my eye, unfamiliar with the nuances of gardening in the south – and of crape myrtles in particular – the tree seemed simply too tall.

And so when the time came, just as soon as the threat of frost had passed, I did to my crape myrtle what I saw so many other people doing to their crape myrtles: I unceremoniously lobbed off the top of every branch, not quite in a straight line, but almost. And with each satisfying slice, I thought to myself: “I am a good boy. I am helping.”

I was not a good boy. And I was not helping.

Folks in the know call it crape murder: the unapologetic and aggressive – but almost always well-meaning – over-pruning of crape myrtle trees every spring. Thinking back, I can identify three main reasons why I thought I was doing the right thing when I gave my tree a bad 90s buzz cut.

First, I saw other people doing it, and so I assumed it was the right thing to do (pro tip: this is a really bad reason to do just about anything.) Second, it seemed like a common sense way to re-shape a tree that, in my estimation, had gotten too big for its britches. And third, it felt intuitive to me that a good, hard prune in the spring would encourage more enthusiastic flowering come summer.

I have since learned that I was maybe a tiny bit right, but mostly – and in an impressive variety of ways – I was dead wrong.

Happily, Ocala abounds with folks who know more about southern gardening in their green thumbs than I know in my whole body, and a few of them have been kind enough to educate me on the subject. One of those folks is Cathy Steppen-Snyder. Cathy is a Master Gardener and a brilliant practitioner of natural plant propagation, soil building, and pest management. Whenever I mention crape murder to her, she winces:

“If you don’t know what to do, then it’s probably best to do nothing. Pruning crape myrtles can be beneficial in certain circumstances, but for the most part, it’s unnecessary. For me, it’s all about right plant, right place – and that’s true of any plant. If you have to brutalize your tree every year to make it fit, then you’ve probably got the wrong plant for that place. Put the loppers down and look for a different variety.”

Fellow Master Gardener and professional horticulturist/floriculturist, Suzanne Shuffitt, is equally protective of this staple of southern landscapes:

“First, let’s give credit to this genus of plants for it’s extreme forgiveness of mistreatment. Even through all the improper pruning habits, the weed eater blight, the lack of proper fertilization – despite all of it, crape myrtles just keep on giving. They refuse to give up. They are generous, gracious plants.”

Suzanne Shuffitt in front of R.J. Jenkins’ crape myrtle tree. Photo by Ralph Demilio

When asked to share with me their most trusted tips for the proper pruning of crape myrtles, Suzanne and Cathy echoed each other beautifully:

Prune to remove dead or damaged limbs, limbs that are crisscrossed and rubbing, suckers sprouting from the base of the tree, and nuisance limbs that might endanger passersby. Prune with discretion. If you’re wondering whether or not a limb should go, it should probably stay.

Only prune branches that are the thickness of your thumb or smaller. Leave larger limbs be.

Right plant, right place. Don’t try to wrestle a too large plant into a too small space. Happily, crape myrtles are very tolerant of being transplanted. And if you’re welcoming a new crape to the yard – or any plant, for that matter – take note of the mature height of the varieties you’re considering.

While it is true that pruning stimulates new growth – and while it is also true that careful pruning can encourage more active blooming – crape myrtles will bloom whether or not you prune them. If your crape isn’t blooming, it probably wants more sun. Crape myrtles are gluttons for full sun.

When it comes to pruning, timing is key. If you decide to prune your crape myrtles, try to do it after the threat of frost has passed, but before too much new growth has emerged. You don’t want a late cold snap killing your carefully cultivated new growth, and you don’t want early pruning to coax your tree out of dormancy prematurely. Nobody likes being woken up from a nap!

And if you – like me – are a convicted crape murderer, reform is within your grasp! Remember: these plants are exceedingly gracious. They want to forgive! They want to thrive! And with a little information and a lot of patience, even a severely mistreated crape myrtle can be rehabilitated. Selective pruning – choosing the strongest two or three sprouts from each stub and removing the rest, and repeating this process for several successive seasons – can greatly improve the health and appearance of a crape myrtle in as few as three years.

As my mother always said, the best apology is changed behavior.  


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