Here Wild Piggy Piggy

Florida Feral Hogs
Florida Feral Hogs

Wild hogs (also known as feral hogs) are the topic of our third installment in unusual animal sightings in Florida communities.

Wild hogs have become so prevalent in central Florida that they are becoming an increasingly large burden for state officials.  The wild hog population has reached over 500,000 and they can be found in every county in Florida.   These hogs are large (100-200 pounds) and cause problems for farmers, residents and  state officials.  Besides carrying diseases that could affect livestock, crops and people,  the hogs are causing tremendous damage to the landscape, our neighborhood gardens and crops.  They are doing this through the process of rooting, which is basically like plowing, causing millions of dollars worth of damage to Florida’s public lands, neighborhoods and farms.

To help curb the problem, the state has decided  to hire USDA approved hog control agents  as well as local trappers to deter hogs from specific land that they are trying to restore. They are hoping that this measure will help keep the pigs off the farms and out of the neighborhoods although, pig sightings have become more and more common.   If you come in contact with or see a wild pig, be cautious, they often attack when they feel threatened (which is more likely to happen near humans or household pets).  For more information on wild hogs please visit the University of Florida website

Leland Management Activities Director Chris Olney becomes a Published Author

Chris Olney
Chris Olney

Chris Olney, Activity Director for SummerGlen in Ocala, has published her first book entitled: “Whispering Quail and the Lost Ankh Ring.”  She began writing the young adult fiction/fantasy 3 years ago on a creative whim. Chris is also the illustrator for the book and designed the cover.

The book tells the story of a bitter man that is taught the act of kindness and humility with the help of a few odd and unusual creatures. He travels back in time through a spinning vortex and lands in another realm where time stands still.  The man’s journey is thwarted by an evil witch, and a conniving thief that are both on a quest for a powerful ancient ring.

You can read “Whispering Quail and the Lost Ankh Ring.” through Click Kindle books and type her name in the search engine.

    Book Promo 5

Unusual Animal Stories From a Florida Community Association

Neighborhoods in central Florida get a lot more unusual animals than you would think. In the Royal Highlands community in Leesburg, Florida they have seen it all from cows to coyotes to pigs. One resident told us that one day she got a call about a “drunk” cow wandering around the streets. She says that the cow was acting in a drunkenly manner due to the fact that it had eaten a few Lantana plants.   In the same association a landscaper saw a group of piglets calling a thicket on the main boulevard home. I think it is safe to say that both the landscaper and the piglets were both very surprised. The animals we see around here vary greatly from the local species of alligators and squirrels to the not so local species of pigs and coyotes.   In the next few weeks we will be sharing unusual animal sightings from around Florida.  Do you have an unusual animal story, please share it with us.

Pigs seen at Royal Highlands Community Associaiton
Pigs seen at Royal Highlands Community Associaiton

Resident escorts veteran on Villages Honor Flight

Written by: Mary Chartier

This article first appeared on May 20, 2013 in The Villages Daily Sun


I have always been in awe of our men and women who serve in the armed services.

The idea that anyone would willingly run towards danger selflessly in the name of others, is to me, beyond heroic.

So imagine how I felt when I received an email from resident Don Lamb asking me to write a letter to a WWII veteran he was escorting on a Villages Honor Flight.

The Honor Flight Network is a national network of non-profit organizations dedicated to transporting as many US military veterans as possible to see their Washington, D.C., area memorials at no cost to the veterans.

Don explained that once the veterans returned to the airport for their journey home there would be a surprise waiting for them at the airport, ‘Mail Call’.

“When a soldier is in a combat zone, the most important thing to him –  besides his unit –  is mail call, letters from home,” Don explained.

I was honored by the request and set about to do my best to let this veteran know how much his service meant, not only to me, but to future generations.

The letter was for Staff Stg. Douglas Quillen, who served as a flight engineer in the Army Air Corps in World War II on C-46, C-47 and occasionally B-25 aircraft in China, Burma, India and Africa over a period of more than three years.

Once I completed the letter, I asked Don if I could come down to see them return from their big day in our nation’s capital.

I was so glad I attended this joyful celebration.

Randy and I arrived at American Legion Post 347 to bright lights, music, cheering, and hundreds of well-wishers all waving American flags as they waited for the buses to return from the airport.

I was fortunate to meet Fran Into, of the Villages Honor Flight organization who was a fountain of information about the entertainment and how the evening would unfold.

Fran told me that many groups and individuals had come together to make this a wonderful celebration.

On hand were members of Clown Alley 179, the Prime Time Twirlers, the Village Cheerleaders, the Navy R.O.T.C midshipmen from the University of Florida, the American Legion Post 347 honor guard and bugler Ed Wendling of American Legion Post 330 Mid-Florida Lakes, who would be playing taps.

Excitement grew when an announcement was made that the buses were picked up at the Leesburg Wal-Mart by the Village Nomad motorcycle club and would be escorted to the American Legion post.

The excitement grew even more, as the police escort, with lights flashing and sirens blaring, and the Nomads with large American flags flying proudly behind their bikes, arrived at the post.

The fire trucks on hand shot off their water cannons as the buses rolled by in salute to these American heroes.

A very happy and tired group descended from the bus steps, some into wheelchairs, to an to applause, tears, and flags waving.

Each veteran was escorted to their seat to enjoy a short home coming ceremony.

Once the program concluded, I watched as members of the audience walked down the line of seats shaking the hands of each veteran and saying, “Thank you for your service”.

“What did you think of the day’s events,” I asked Douglas.

“I had a wonderful time.  I got to see the WWII memorial and, the changing of the guard.  All in all it was a wonderful day,” he said smiling.

“Did you get a chance to talk with the other veterans?” I asked.

“Yes, we have had a good relationship.  We bonded as brothers,” Douglas said.

“How was mail call?” I asked.

“Great!  Some were from congressmen, some from school children,” Douglas said.

Douglas also received letters from Don’s friends here at Spruce Creek, and family and friends from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Illinois, and as far away as Thailand.

In the months leading up to the flight, Don and wife Candy met socially with Douglas and wife, Shirley, creating a special bond between the two couples.

“What did you think of Don?” I asked Douglas.

“I just fell in love with Don and his wife, Candy,” Douglas said with a big smile.

I turned my attention to Don and asked what he thought of the day.

“I think it was a wonderful experience,” he said said.


Caption:  Spruce Creek Golf and Country Club resident and guardian, Don Lamb, and veteran, Douglas Quillen, seated, are just back from a Villages Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.  They are flanked by their wives, Candy, left and, Shirley.



The Florida Sandhill Crane

We have been fortunate the last few months to receive many pictures of beautiful Sandhill Cranes (and their adorable babies) from around the communities we manage.  These magnificent birds have become an unofficial resident of almost every community in central Florida, and even though they can be bothersome at times (causing complaints about walking out into the roadway regardless of traffic) they are a large part of central Florida living.  Generally these well loved birds are found everywhere in the community,  in your backyard,the playground,  crossing the street, or at a local golf course.
The Florida Sandhill Crane, scientifically known as Grus Canadensis Pratensis, is a charcoal gray color throughout their life except during breeding when there feathers become worn down and are seen as an ochre color. The average adult male weighs 10.1 lbs and the average adult female weighs 8.9 lbs. Although there large height (80 to 120 cm) may not lead you to believe it, the large wingspan of the crane (5.4 to 6.9 feet) allows them to soar on high altitude winds for long periods of time with just the occasional flap of the wings. Sandhill Cranes use loud trumpeting calls, often compared to a French rolling r, to communicate with each other. Unfortunately almost every species of this magnificent bird, including our very own Florida Sandhill Crane, are on the endangered species watch list due to the birds being to comfortable around humans. 
These birds are magnificent and awe-inspiring in many ways…they truly are a Florida treasure.  

Florida Sandhill Crane
Florida Sandhill Crane

Free Family Fun Idea 10, Harry P. Leu Gardens

In our last installment of free family fun we suggest you partake in some local culture and take the family to the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando. The gardens allow free admission on every  first Monday of the month, offering a great opportunity to learn about Harry P. Leu, various plant collections, and the lovely sculptures that are displayed there.   There is much to see so spend the day, have lunch, and enjoy the outdoors.  The gardens can be found at 1920 North Forest avenue in Orlando, for any additional information visit



Community Food Drive Gets Bigger Every Year

Written by: Mary Chartier

This article first appeared on June 3, 2013 in the Villages Daily Sun


I have said this before but it bears repeating: “We live in a wonderful, caring and very generous community”.

I received a call from resident Bob Carter alerting me to an upcoming food drive in Spruce Creek to benefit the Community of Gratitude food bank in Ocklawaha.

Bob explained that the Summerfield Post Office would be leaving plastic food bags at resident mailboxes and that later in the week volunteers would pick up the bags and take them to the Lake Vista Pavilion to be sorted, repackaged and then delivered to the food bank.

On the day of the drive, I decided to take a run up to the pavilion to see this wonderful event unfold and learn how it got started.

When I arrived at the pavilion, I witnessed a virtual beehive of activity.

People were arriving in cars and trucks, dropping off bag after bag of goods while volunteers were buzzing around the pavilion doing various tasks.

Some were looking through the donations looking for “use by dates” on cans and boxes, others were repackaging the food by category into empty banana boxes, and still others were moving the filled boxes to a POD that had been rented to store and transport the donations.

Amid this fast-moving activity I was able to share a few moments with Gene Ryan and Bob and learned how this wonderful effort got started and how it has grown in the last few years.

“This started out with six people three years ago in a garage,” Gene said.

I learned that the three couples were Gene and Carol Ryan, Chad and Linda Norcross and Frank and Rosina Burke.

“The first year we did it in a garage, and we got so much food we did not have the space to sort the food,” Gene said.

Since then, the effort has moved to the pavilion and this year there were 68 volunteers doing various tasks.

As he watched the volunteers he mused, “They don’t realize what they are doing here”.  “These people don’t realize they are saving hours and hours of work at the food bank,” Gene said.

“We just take it out of the box and put it on the shelf,” he continued.

“How many boxes do you think you will fill this year,” I asked.

“Last year we had 167 boxes.  I have 197 boxes this year and we are going to run out,” Gene replied.

Gene had kind words to say about the cooperation they received Save-A-Lot in Belleview, saying the company was, “Happy to help out” and saved many banana boxes for their use.

Bob explained how the post office got involved in this wonderful charitable effort and some of the logistics to make it successful.

“Several years ago I met with the postmaster at the Summerfield Post Office,” Bob said.  “She said if we collect it all, we could have it all,” he continued.

Bob then showed me a map and explained that he divided the community into 8 sections and put two people in a car/truck to pick up the food.

“The drivers will check their sections two or three times, because people put their bags out at different times,” Bob said.

Bob explained that the food bank uses the food as they need it and would last about three months.

“How is the food bank doing?” I asked.

In the last several years the support for the food bank from United Way and other agencies had decreased, making it necessary to search out other sources of support.

What I learned was that the commitment to the food bank extends outside the gates of our community.

“Thanks to this community, we have picked up a lot.  We also collect food at the Tuesday Night dinners,” Bob explained.

“At the Tuesday Night dinners held at the community center, the Kitchen Club asks everyone who attends to just bring one item of food each and that food is then donated to the food bank,” Bob continued.

Bob also said that two or three churches in the surrounding area also support the food bank.

“Norman Lee’s church has done an unbelievable job supporting the Ocklawaha food bank.  The first Sunday of every month they bring a whole trailer over,” Bob continued.

With great warmth in his voice Bob said, “The American people are very good”.

Free Family Summer Fun Part 9- Arts and Crafts at the Library

Summer Fun in Central Florida
Summer Fun in Central Florida
Summer Fun in Central Florida

We have already mentioned the library for storytime and reading programs, but did you know that the library offers free arts and crafts days during the summer.  Many local libraries put on these events to interest and attract children to reading.  The art and crafts projects are typically based on a specific book that they usually read to the children during or after the program.  After the program is over, stay in the library and check out some good books for your children to read.  Have some fun while nurturing a love for reading.  For more information on summer programs sponsored by your local library please visit,

Celebrating the 4th of July- An American Tradition

Across America the 4th of July has evolved to become one of the nation’s supreme holidays. The 4th of July is fun for the entire family as it offers something for everyone. Celebrations in different communities may be different, but they typically share a common threads: Red, White and Blue, barbecue, fireworks, and spending time with your friends and family.
Some people celebrate the 4th of July by spending their day around the pool barbecuing and spending time with just their immediate family, but many will choose to celebrate with an extended group of people at parties, neighborhood events and community firework displays.
The 4th of July is a holiday in which all of our nation can put their differences aside and come together to celebrate what it means to be American. It is a day meant to celebrate our wonderful country, enjoy your family and friends, view some spectacular fireworks displays (both professional and amateur), and do a lot of barbecuing.

How will you celebrate the 4th?

Free Family Fun-Go Bowling

Summer is the perfect time to dust off your bowling shoes which is why bowling is  #8 on the list of free family fun over the summer.  Did you know that there are four different bowling alleys in the Orlando area that offer free bowling for children during the summer?  The Orange Bowl Lanes in Kissimmee, Triangle Lanes in Mount Dora, Colonial Lanes in Orlando, and the Carter Family Bowl in Winter Garden.  The times and dates of each of these activities can be found at each of the bowling alleys.  Don’t delay, check it out today. Bowling is a fun and entertaining way to spend time with your children (while getting some exercise) and learning a new skill.  Kids love it because it the alleys are exciting places filled with music, and bright colors.  Parents love it because it is fun entertainment for both adults and children.     Happy bowling!