Friday, April 10, 2015

A Decade of Nature Blogging: Pure Florida At Ten

(NOTE: Unlike every other Pure Florida post, there are no photos in this one ... I'm just looking back on the 10th anniversary of Pure Florida.)

I started Pure Florida ten years ago on April 10, 2005.
Actually, that's a bit misleading, the roots of Pure Florida go all the way back to my teen years and the journals (logs) I filled with what is now the handwritten history of those times. 

Quite a bit of that falls into the "diary" category, which contains things far beyond the scope of nature and wildlife. There is, as might be expected, a fair amount of teenage angst, misadventures, and other stuff that will never show up on the internet.

Still, those journals, now taped shut and stacked in storage, were my boot camp, my training ground if you will for this thing called Pure Florida.

Along the way, there were also some nature articles published in FWC's "Florida Wildlife Magazine" back in the 1980's, before paper magazines became an endangered species.  I also published in a regional magazine called "North Florida Living" and "Old Bottle Magazine". 
A copy of "Writers Market", was a constant companion.

I thought, back in the late 70's and early '80's that a freewheeling freelance nature writer was a real possibility, which made my focus on my college studies more like an intermittent stream than a reliable, steady flowing river.

Somewhere along the way, life happened.
First the Park Service, then marriage, then baby one, then career switch to teaching, then baby two, then homesteading 10 acres in wild wonderful Levy County, then baby number 3 ... and for a while writing and even nature photography seemed secondary to all this amazing life stuff.

By late 2004, I was looking for an online platform to somehow share how awesome the real Florida was ... without somehow encouraging people to move here, because Florida is full and has been for some time.

During those super busy years, the internet had been maturing and becoming more user friendly. No longer did you have to be an HTML programmer to publish online. 
I tried different online programs ... remember going into any office supply store and browsing rack after rack of boxed software products?

None of the programs I purchased were satisfactory to me, and then, one day, up popped a link about "Blogger", a free, WSIWYG web publishing site.

This sounded too good to be true, but like a 20 pound redfish who knows better, I rose to the bait.
It worked!
I was hooked.

Oh, sure ... my very first post vanished into thin air after I clicked publish, but in the days of 14.4 k dial up modems, things sometimes went astray.

I rewrote the post, pushed send again, and at 10:09 am, on April 10, 2005, Pure Florida was born.

It was published by some guy who called himself "Florida Cracker". 
(Note: this was soon shortened to "FC" by some early regular reader/commenters and it stuck.)
In my early internet publishing innocence, I thought you could, and should be anonymous. 

And for a while, I was, but that vanished after a few years and no one on the net is anonymous anymore.

So a few years ago, I switched my user name to my actual name (or is it?). 
My really long term readers often still use FC when they comment ... it's our secret club handshake, and I like it.
You know who you are. 

When you first publish a blog, you are boldly going where no one has gone before... or so it seems. There's this vast internet ocean and each post is a blind cast that could sink to the bottom without ever being seen, but you cast anyway.
Certainly that is the case for a young blog like Pure Florida ten years ago. 

I'm sure some of those early posts have never been seen.

That's okay.

Pure Florida was created to be the post-paper version of those dusty journals I used to keep. A place where I could say what I needed to say and whether it was liked, or agreed with, didn't really matter that much.

This was all pre-public FaceBook, and the internet was exploding with personal and business blogs ten years ago. All kinds of people were writing posts, not FaceBook soundbites, but REAL posts about whatever interested them.

It wasn't long before I crossed paths with folks who loved the nature where they lived. We became friends, NOT by pushing a "confirm" button, but in the slow, old fashioned, true friendship manner of mutual admiration and empathy.

I have friends today from blogging who I have never met, but I have no doubt we would get along great over a cold beer and some wings. Some of those folks have been "with me" for almost the whole decade long ride and we have shared happy and sad times through blogging without physically meeting. 
I've watched their kids grow up, stressed over their surgeries, rejoiced in the new grandkid or puppy, and mourned their family losses ... as they have mine.

Sure feels like friendship to me.

My long term blog pals include a dairy farmer in NY, two older than me awesome hippies in CA, an island historian, a rascal in MO, a singing fisheries biologist in MN, an awesome young mother with multiple sclerosis who seems to let nothing hold her back, a snowbird - mountain bird retired psychologist, a first grade teacher in MD, ...too many to list and I apologize for that.

Some I have met in person and each time, they have lived up to their online persona. Warm, funny, crazy, sweet ... whatever they projected on their blogs was how they were in real life. 

I hope they saw me the same way.

Along the way, Pure Florida led me to neat coincidences ... like the email I received once from an older woman seeking datil pepper seeds. Her email had some history in it. She was of Minorcan descent (as am I) originally from New Smyrna, FL, and wanted some datil seeds. 
As I read her letter, I just kept focusing on her signature, "Mrs. Robert Marx".

As a kid in the 1960's-70's, totally crazy about the ocean, a treasure diver named "Bob Marx" was a hero of mine. He traveled all over the world diving on wrecks of all ages, like a wet "Indiana Jones" ... before there was Indy.

So I had to ask her, and yes, it was that Robert Marx who was her husband. I gushed about my early admiration and his influence on me, and she wrote back that Bob said thanks for the kind words. 

Dude! That never would have happened without Pure Florida.

Ten years of photos and plugging away can even provide the 15 minutes of fame moment.

Once or twice I've had people come up to me and ask "Are you that Pure Florida guy?" a restaurant, slinging chowder at the Cedar Key Seafood Festival, or twice now, someone driving past the school as I happened to walk out to the JEEP at the end of the day. 

And then there's Julie Zickefoose, professional nature author, painter, and blogger. I don't remember when she first stumbled across Pure Florida, but I'm sure glad she did. I mention this, not just because she is an awesome writing mentor and all round nice person, but to make the point that we simply would not have "crossed paths" had it not been for blogging.


So now it's been 10 years, 2622 posts, and almost 1,000,000 visits to Pure Florida. In that decade, a lot of blogs have bit the dust, taken out by the crack-like addictive, easy instant gratification of FaceBook. 

I get that. If your blog was mainly family posts and photos of your dog, your lunch, your trip to Walmart, selfies, etc, well then FaceBook works great.  I use it for that crap too.

... and yes, Obie Wan, it is good for increasing your blog's exposure and snagging new readers. I get it now.

As a semi-self congratulatory history of Pure Florida post, (without photos!), this one has run its course. If you've read this far, you have a picture of how this blog came to be ... and why it will keep going.

Now that the first decade is complete, my plan is to keep blogging ... to keep writing about Florida and showing what makes it so amazing and worth protecting.

Pure Florida, where every post is a first draft, is ten years old.


Julie Zickefoose said...

Well, through the newly-discovered nomenclature of "Close Friends," that ol' debbil Facebook automagically notifies me when you inhale or exhale. Not sure whether that's such a good idea, but a little box pops up to say you've put up a new post and I'm on it like the white on rice. Creepy! It's all about creepin'.

Real glad to be the first to comment here, and "like" all over it. Yes, I kicked your reluctant butt onto Facebook for purely selfish reasons, because semi-weekly PF posts weren't enough FC for me. You just do too much cool stuff and have the best family, and you all live life to its fullest, and who doesn't want more of that?

Wiping tears as I read this heartfelt celebration of a life shared, at least the good stuff, with others. I hereby promise to continue to kick your butt to get that blook written, now that the kids are (mostly) out of the house and your life is only a Fujita Class 2 tornado.

There's always room for more FC, you blogosaur, you. In for the blogging long haul, bending Facebook to your will. Was I right?? Thank you and Mazel Tov for ten years of the best nature appreciation on the Web, or anywhere. Keep on mudding, aquaculturing, gardening, cooking, chasing birds, mucking around, washing dogs, and loving life. You are deeply appreciated.

robin andrea said...

You know how we feel about this crazy decade of virtual, and yet deeply heartfelt friendship. Our lives have been utterly enriched by this fantastic window you opened into yours. It's unlikely these aging hippies in California will ever step foot into Florida, and yet we will always feel that we have spent a decade there so far. Keep on keepin' on, FC!

Anonymous said...

Hey FC,

I come over to get Selmo's dressing and leave with a tear or two. I haven't been here the whole ten years but I did go back and read every post.

I popped in on 4/1 too. Missed some classic FC.

You have been such a joy to read over the years. I feel like I've watched your kids and Beargrow!

I was so happy to finally meet you. Just what I expected. A warm and caring DUDE!


threecollie said...

I haven't been around for the whole ten, but I read 'em all...and very eagerly. I have learned so very much here. Our whole family depends on this blog for so much should have seen us frantically trying to load it on my slow, old, phone, when we visited your magical area, so we could find out more about Manatee Springs. Can't thank you enough for extending the hand of friendship across the miles and for writing so well of nature, humanity, and serendipity. Here's to many more wonderful years! And I'm with Julie on that book. I would sure buy it.

Lisa Greenbow said...

I found your blog through Julie Zigs blog. I thoroughly enjoy your love of FL. I have learned so much about FL through your blog. I am happy you still write. I hope you continue at least another 10 years. Happy blogaversary.

Wally Jones said...

Congratulations on a significant milestone! To last ten years in the blogosphere is a true testament that you found a real niche.

I am only recently arrived to the party, but as one native cracker to another, we have similar feelings about this paradise.

Looking forward to enjoying Pure Florida for the next ten.

roger said...

congrats, and thank you for all the posts. you are friend and family. i look forward to growing datils again when we next have a garden.

dread pirate roger

roger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Misti said...

I think I've been reading for most of those 10 years, the majority of it a background reader with a comment here and there. I started when I lived in Ft. Lauderdale/Miami and now I am back in my home state of Texas--giving Florida reprieve on its population growth (minorly) but missing the heck out of it in the meantime. Your posts always give me just a taste of the Florida I miss.

Elaine W. said...

Happy Bloggy Birthday FC! I don't remember if i was in from the very begining, but I know I've read every one. Keep up the good work in all the hats you wear.

Anonymous said...

You were the driving influence for my blogging! Who knows maybe I'll pick up the pen, I mean keyboard, and start writing again myself! Thanks for the last 10 years of interesting reading and positive influence!

Thunder Dave said...

Sorry, that was actually my anonymous post by accident! Danged if I haven't waited so long to blog that Blogger forgot who I was! ;-)

Robert Denbow said...

I'm am on old IT guy who retired in 2005 and with plenty of time on my hands I took to the Internet to see what was what. I discovered Pure Florida one cold winter's day and have read every post since then. Thanks for keeping us informed. I miss some of the other blogs I used to read, mostly they have left us for better parts and no longer can be found.

Moultrie Creek said...

Congratulations on 10 years of great stories. I'm looking forward to another decade of enjoyable reading from Pure Florida.

claudia taylor said...

Pure Florida is a recent discovery for me, thanks to a post by Julie Zickfoose on FB. So glad to find you, Raymond, and hubby Lee and I watched the "i go up..." video and read your accompanying blog a couple of times and were completely entertained. Learned some good stuff, too. I'll be checking PF for more goodies, and congratulations on 10 years of blogging. Lots of thought, passion, and affection for critters and folks shines through in your posts.....

Chris Fooshee said...

FC, Though I've known you far longer than ten years, it's only been within the last five or so that I have come to know what a remarkable person you have become. Congratulations on this, a worthy, though small milestone compared to all that you do. I like how the Brits say ... Brilliant!

Sayre said...

Now I need to check and see how old MY blog is! I don't remember when I started it, but it's been a long, long time. There have been some long gaps between posts, but I'm back at it. Congratulations on your 10 years! I never would have known you existed without your blog (or mine)!

MyamuhNative said...

FC, Congrats on your ten year blogoversary! I think I found you back in 2007 after I found Annie's blog and blogroll. Funny how the interwebs led me from NYers blogging about building a McMansion in Fl to Annie in Alabama ( with a much nicer home plan btw) and then to your great blog. On behalf of us nonFacebook/insta-Tweeters, thanks for hanging on in the blogosphere!

Marilyn Kircus said...

We were introduced by our mutual blogging friend, Julie Zickefoose, several years ago. I hoped to meet you in person last winter, when I was volunteering at Okefenokee NWR, but you were just a little far for a day excursion from there.

Thanks for keeping us up on the doings of the wildlife in your part of this earth.

Anonymous said...

FC, I've been reading your blog for a few years. I remember Feather and Flounder and your kids when they were younger. I found Julie through you and some more interesting blogs. Thanks for sharing your life and your peppers.
I don't have a blog. I am not so great @ writing, but I love reading about Fl. After all, lower Al. was once part of West Florida! :)

Tammy in Al.

Pablo said...

Sorry I'm so late to the party. Congrats on Ten Great Years of Pure Florida. I remember I found your blog through the Globe of Blogs website (is that even active anymore) and found a kindred spirit. All of your posts have been great, and some have been sublime. (I do wish there were more posts about your misspent youth though.)

I'm glad and grateful you've kept at it.

Mark P said...

Ten years, that's like 1500 internet years.

FC, you were one of the bloggers that inspired me to finally start my own blog. Even though I'm not a Florida kind of person, you make me understand why you are. Here's to the next 1500 years!

Island Rider said...

I'm another who started blogging because of you! When I first found your blog I printed every one of your posts to share with a friend who did not have a computer. I agree with Julie, there's a book in there! Happy anniversary! Thanks for writing and for being an all round great example of what a Florida Cracker really is!

crybrug said...

Happy Blogiversary! I am so thankful that you created this blog. It is such a joy to read especially now after leaving my Florida home.

edifice rex said...

Happy 10 year Anniversary!!! that's a great accomplishment in a world where many blogs poop out after a year or two. Thanks also, for all the readers you've sent my way. And yes, I've learned SO much about the real Florida because of you.

Deb said...

Happy 10 years! I am proud to have been mentioned as a "singing fisheries biologist from Minnesota". Wish we could have met up while I was in Florida, but my next visit will hopefully be soon.

CG said...

how funny but I was just looking around at some of the old blogs I used to follow more closely. Congrats and glad you are still around too.

R.Powers said...

Thank you all for the kind comments!
You have definitely provided inspiration!
I know how busy we all are and the fact that you took the time to share your thoughts means a lot to me.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I'm late to the party, too. Congratulations on 10 years blogging!
I know I don't comment often, but I do enjoy your posts!

Ev said...

I found your blog through Julie too. Recently finished working my way backward through your enire catalogue, it didn't dawn on me that it was 10 years worth...Congratulations.
Thank you to you and Julie for increasing my awareness and appreciation of the flora and fauna that surround us.

Nick said...

I've been reading for probably 8 or 9 of those ten years. Still my favorite blog and probably the only one I still read. Also, the datil pepper seedlings are close to transplanting here in Fort Myers!

Miz S said...

Oh jeez FC. Well, you already know that I adore you. Oh,man,this post. My favorite part? It's hard to pick a favorite part, but I loved this:

"We became friends, NOT by pushing a "confirm" button, but in the slow, old fashioned, true friendship manner of mutual admiration and empathy."

I used to see your comments on Vicki's blog,back in the day,but lazy old me took awhile to actually click on your blog link. And when I did, I could not believe what I had been missing out on.

You have a gift, my friend. Not just for writing and teaching and rasslin' snakes and raising up kids and dogs. You also have a gift for creating community.

Thanks for the thousands of posts.

You almost make me want to blog again.

Aunty Belle said...

: )

Morgan said...

Congrats on 10 years. Really enjoy reading your blog.

R.Powers said...

Thanks yet again, y'all!

And Miz S, we all miss your witty, poignant posts.
Such a funny writer.
Plus, an elementary teacher who swears as well as you do is a fairly rare thing and I rather enjoy it.