We've been just "kicking back" in Florida these past few weeks...just enjoying the beautiful blue skies, sunshine and lazy days. Ah, isn't the "retired life" great? Yup! I just keep reminding myself of this whenever I start to feel even a little bit guilty! Working steady since I was 14, raising 3 beautiful children...it's time for me to just sit back and enjoy life! So...I am! We met a lovely couple at the campground the other day, who are doing this in their 50's, wow, good for them! I think more and more folks are figuring out that life can be short, and putting off retirement/fun, etc. may not be the smartest thing to do! So, "downsizing" and living a much simpler life allows you to retire earlier and have a bit more fun than continuing to work longer just to have that great big house and all those cars, etc. Different things for different folks...
After the cruise, we decided Ft Lauderdale was just to crowded for us, and headed north to Ft Pierce where it was so much more quiet and peaceful. We found a beautiful campground...one of the loveliest one's we've ever stayed in actually. Nice big sites and a big pond in the middle where some of the guys have remote control sailboats that they race in it, that's fun to watch.
Not to much to do around here, and that was fine by us, as we just really wanted to just "sit back and relax"...read a little, take some nice walks, drive around and see the town, walk the beaches, etc. We did discover that they have one of the best Farmer's Markets we've ever been to on Saturdays tho! So much so, that it was part of the reason we stayed a few extra days here! Fantastic veggies, bakery items, spices, spaghetti sauce, coffee, so many food items to name, and the crafts were of such great quality and uniqueness! What a joy it was to shop there...we spent almost all day, just soaking it all in...and buying, of course!
Ft Pierce does have a couple of unique places though, one being the Manatee Observation & Education Center. It's a small place, but they take the time to walk around with you and show you various sea life and talk about the manatees around the world. They also shared where we might be able to observe them. We drove over to the spots, but no luck. Darn. Jack really loves those big sea cows. I must admit, they are pretty cute.
The other thing unique about Ft Pierce, is that they have a citrus packing plant. Now, your thinking, "hey, it's Florida, how unique can that be?" Well, in our tour, we found out that 90% of the citrus grown here is made into juice - so, actually, that leaves only 10% that is used for "fruit" - so out of that 10% some of it must go to stores, then that doesn't leave a whole lot for the "speciality packing", and of that, this packing company is the only one giving public tours! So, pretty special, huh? ;-)
So, we went to Al's Family Farms for a tour, and had a great time! Coming from California, where we really do grow a lot of citrus, I was surprised at how much I did learn! Like, the California fruit is "pretty" on the outside with it's bright, thick orange, perfect peel, while the inside is nice...sweet and a little juicy. While the Florida, specifically the Indian River area oranges have a thin skin, scarred (due to the wind brushing the leaves and branches), very, very full juicy (twice the weight), sweet fruit. This is the reason that they are used for juice vs the California ones! Ha!
They had several different types we got to taste - Navel & Honeybells - Oranges and Red Ruby & Pummelos Grapefruit. All delicious! They said it had a lot to do with the Indian River and the way it runs through the ground they have there - unique.
The fruit has to all be picked by hand, some sniped with clippers so that the tops don't get torn off. Then they are brought to the wet-line, hand inspected three separate times before going through the polishing (which is really just drying blowers). We then went into the packing house where we got to see how carefully they hand pack the fruit for shipping. They pack as they get an order and not before, so it's always fresh.
I placed an order for my son in New York...I thought he could use a little "citrus sunshine" right about now...
...kicking back in Florida, Marie