America, America, God shed His grace on thee, and crowed thy good with brotherhood,
from sea to shining sea.
I hope you don't mind but I decided to use some artistic license and display some of our pictures out of order just to set the atmosphere...you can almost hear the bombs bursting in air, right?
Anyway as you can see we got mail!
The Bacchus family sent us some beautiful pictures for our refrigerator and lots and lots of fun things. Candy, patriotic cupcake mix, bacon popcorn, red, white and blue leis, and necklaces, squirt guns. I think they probably had as much fun packing the box as we did opening it :) Thanks!!!
Okay so I have to admit when I saw this sign on the side of the road I was a little tempted to pull this sign out of the ground so I could take it home with me. It absolutely captures the spirit of FLORIDA.
Last Saturday, our Senior Missionary District decided to play like tourists and we scheduled a trip to the Deseret Citrus Ranch in St. Cloud, Florida. It was about an hour away from our apartment, but a very nice drive in the country.
The Deseret Ranch covers 290,000 acres of land and is owed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It stretches across three counties, Orange, Osceola and Brevard in central Florida. Most of the land was purchased in the 1950's so it has been around for quite some time.
The ranch functions primarily as a commercial cow-calf operation and is one of the premier cattle producers in the nation. There are about 44,000 cows and 1,300 bulls at the ranch and they actually have created their own breed called the Deseret Red.
The ranch also manages 1,700 acres of citrus, containing almost a quarter million trees. Most of the citrus consists of juice oranges, as well as some navel oranges, tangerines and tangelos. So the next time you pick up some orange juice check the label it is probably from here.
The ranch is also home to some of Florida's most beautiful and sometimes rare, plants and animals and has actually built a 500 acre man made reservoir that acts as a natural wetland and a Wood stork rockery which is currently an endangered species.
Our tour guides
Did you know that if you measure an alligator from snout to eye it will be the exact number of feet he measures from snout to tail.
Always interested in finding out how things work...
During the course of the 90 minute tour, by air conditioned van I might add, we were able to appreciate the vast area that the Ranch encompasses.
Although we expected to see deer, cows and maybe a bobcat if we were lucky.
Instead we found gators lurking in the water.
The cattle don't seem too concerned about them and the gators appear the keep their distance.
Can't you almost hear the theme song to the movie "Jaws"?
Look closely, just another gator...
Another Fun Fact:
Did you know that the word "deseret" means honeybee and stands for industrious and hard work? In fact the Ranch use a "beehive" for its cattle brand.
These are pictures of a very old cypress grove on the Ranch
Brown sand cranes-when they mate they mate for life.
Just a bunch of wannabee cowboys and cowgirls :)
From the back, Elder and Sister Sherwood, and Sister and Elder Gebs. Then on to the front row starting at the left Elder Busath and yours truly, Sister and Elder Bevans, and
Sister and Elder Marble.
Sister Sherwood and Elder and Sister Marble
It appears that one of the ranch hands had a little spare time!
After 25 years Elder Busath was unable to attend Girl's Camp this year. So to make him feel a little better we drove down the road from the Ranch and took a self guided tour of the Girl's Camp facilities here. We actually ran in to the current care taker, Elder Appel, from Ventura California, clearing some brush on his quad. Because the camp was closed for the week prior to the 4th of July his wife had flown home to spend time being a Grandma and Elder Appel was holding down the fort until her return. He was just full of information (and probably just a little lonely) and we could have spent all day exchanging stories with him. He told us that he and his wife were called to be care takers at the camp a few years ago and during the course of taking care of business Sister Appel was involved in an accident which flipped over the quad that she was driving, fracturing her pelvis, so their mission was cut short so that she could recover. A few months ago they received a phone call asking them if they would be interested in returning to manage the camp for 6 months. They were thrilled and readily agreed, so here they are!
The Girl's Camp is 35 miles from civilization measures 85 acres total, but only 30 acres are currently maintained.
Because we are talking the wild kingdom out here they have a big problem with wild pigs. Not Porky or even Wilbur, like in Charlotte's Web, but WILD pigs (think boars, but smaller) that wreck havoc throughout the camp. There is actually a bounty on killing the pigs, $20 for a large pig and $5 for a small pig and the hunting season is year round.
There is both a Shooting Range, with .22 caliber rifles and an Archery Range to keep the girls busy.
I guess we weren't the only ones visiting camp that day!
The girls sleep in little cottages that are air conditioned of course. They are outfitted with 5 bunk beds on each side, sleeping a total of 20.
Peek a boo, I see you.....
I am just speculating, but I believe this open area is where the girls would hold work shops or do crafts early in the morning, before the heat of the day or the rains come.
The main eating area is enclosed with screening to keep the girl's in and the critters out with
HUGE fans at all four corners.
The best kept secret in Florida! Barbecues!
I was wondering where they kept them.
This is on the way to the showers and bathrooms.
There is also a CORE fitness course,
a huge water slide,
and even an amphitheater for firesides and presentations.
No this is not Bambi, in fact he is not even real. Last summer he was part of a Boy Scout Encampment where they actually used him for target practice with their bows and arrows.
Of course these are the real thing, just checking to see what all the fuss is about :0
As we were leaving Girl's Camp on our way home we noticed a small sign off to the right of the road that we just couldn't resist...
Ye Ha, a real arena and everything. Okay so we didn't see any horses, bulls or even cowboys, just a couple of worker's laying cement, but we could have.
Allow me to introduce the newest member of our Senior Missionary District. This is Sister and Elder Nielson from Salt Lake City, Utah, who arrived on July 2nd.
Just a little history on the Nielson's:
They were originally called to serve in Brazil, where Elder Nielson served as a young man, but it had been over 10 months and their Visa's had still not been approved. Getting more than a little frustrated and anxious to serve they contacted our new Mission President, Michael Berry, and offered to come to the Florida Orlando Mission. President Berry was once a councilor in their Stake Presidency in Salt Lake before he moved to Draper, Utah 15 months ago so they knew one another. They even had the opportunity to serve on a pioneer trek together. He immediately said, "Yes", and here they are.
Sister Nielson will be serving as medical support in the mission because she is a nurse and Elder Nielson will be working with the Portuguese people in the area they have been assigned.
We are thrilled to have them here and look forward to getting to know them better.
For the 4th of July our Senior Missionary District got together at "The Great Outdoors and RV Nature and Golf Resort, in Titusville, where the Sherwood's live. The Sherwood's reserved the pavilion and we had a feast of Navajo Tacos, pound cake with fruit, banana cookies and of course s'mores, thanks to our California kids :)
Sister Marble, Elder Nielson, Elder Marble and Sister Moline with her back to us.
Sister Lowry, Sister Salveson and Sister Nielson in the back. Sister and Elder Gebs to the left.
Same crowd with one important addition...
I didn't want you to think that this whole "Wild Kingdom" thing was rare. This is a black snake bird, just outside the pavilion. I think the reason he is referred to as a "snake" bird is because of his long lean neck. These birds have no oil on their feathers and can swim under water for long distances. In fact we have a snake bird in the pond behind our apartment who thinks he is a shark. Every morning while I am out walking he is swimming around with one wing skimming the surface of the water. It looks very much like a shark fin.
Just chatting and waiting for everyone to arrive. From the window is Elder marble, Sister Marble, Sister and Elder Moline and Elder Bevan's.
Sister Salveson, Sister Nielson, Sister Sherwood (our host) and Elder Nielson.
The Sister Missionaries, Sister Lowry and Sister Salveson were asked to join us, for dinner and to share a lesson. Sister Salveson, in the red top is from South Africa, and was recently injured while crossing the street and walking her bike. The driver didn't see her and although the car wasn't going very fast, vehicle versus pedestrian is never good. She is currently on crutches and light duty so we wanted to help make her day a cause to celebrate.
Home sweet home...they are actually painting our apartment complex after talking about it
for the past 4 months!
Guess what, we might actually have some more ducklings :)
The Lord gave a divine promise to the ancient inhabitants of this favored country (the United States) : "Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ." (Ether 2:12)
Are we serving the God of the land, the Lord Jesus Christ? Are we entitled to His divine blessings?
Do we love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind? Do we love our neighbor as ourselves?
If not, why not?
Until next time...........