Two Month Gestation Period


Posted in Behind the Scenes, Community Relations

Back in June 2014, around the fourth, I saw and ate beautiful red surinam cherries at Cracker Creek.  Because of the plentiful rain we experienced this year, the two large bushes produced a bountiful spray of fruit.

From the handful I ate, I kept few seeds to propagate at home.


Having read the article in the link below, I planted four seeds the next couple of days after I collected them.

Then nothing happened.  I watched for weeks to find no activity.  Then two months later, there were three pups in the garden at their new home in Orlando, Florida.   Probably take 10 years to fruit, so it’ll be a while before berries.

surinam cherries pups


Preserving Future Florida: Doris Leeper


Posted in Backwoods Adventures, Canoe Adventures, Community Relations, Hydrobike Adventures, Kayak Adventures, Pontoon Eco-Tour Adventures

Four hundred and thirty-six years before Doris Leeper departed this planet, the French artist Charles Jacques Le Moyne captured the images of the Timucua Indians, like those living along Spruce Creek. Shortly after her death, Volusia County and other investors dedicated roughly 2500 acres of land to her legacy as a nature preserve to prevent habitat destruction for future generations to experience. They named it Doris Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve. Similarly, Le Moyne captured the moments in history before the destruction of the Timucua society so that today we can experience what life was like in Florida when Europeans first arrived and where they had existed for thousands of years. TimucuaTownship

This is how the Indians construct their towns: they choose a place near a swift stream and level it as much as possible. Next they make a circular ditch and fix in the ground, very close together, thick round palings the height of two men. At the town’s entrance they make the opening of the circle narrower, in the form of a spiral so that this entrance does not admit more than two men abreast at a time. The course of the stream is diverted to this point. At the beginning and end of this passage a round edifice is erected, full of holes and slits which, considering their means, are constructed very elegantly. In each, sentinels who are expert at smelling the enemy from afar are stationed. As soon as they detect the scent of the enemy, they rush out, shrieking, to find him. At this alarm the inhabitants of the town run out to defend their fortress, armed with bows and arrows and clubs. The king’s dwelling is in the middle, and has been a little sunk into the ground to avoid the sun’s heat. All around it are grouped the nobles’ houses, lightly constructed and roofed with palm branches.

The quote above is from Theodore de Bry’s 1591 plates he used to publish his Grand Voyages book with Le Moyne’s artwork to illustrate the discovery of the New World. Although preserving Timucua life back then was the last of their lifestyle during the French and Spanish invasions, Doris Leeper has provided future generations the opportunity to experience the Old Florida Pioneer environment, or New World, as it was at that time: pristine and natural.

Doris Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve Map

The aerial map above shows the outline of the Spruce Creek preserve. From the west, Cracker Creek visitors can rent kayaks, canoes, or hydrobikes to paddle into the preserve on water. In addition, Cracker Creek visitors can reserve a pontoon boat to take a two-hour tour of the preserve all the way up to US Highway 1. Alternatively, on foot, horse, or bike, visitors can use this map for directions to the preserve entrance and this map to find your way to the shorelines. For more information about the preserve, please click here to view Friends of Spruce Creek’s website.

Per the Doris Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve Stakeholder Meeting 1 October 2012 notes: “The Preserve is a 2,477 acre property bordered by Spruce Creek and Rose Bay to the north, I-95 on the west, and the Intercoastal Waterway on the east. The Preserve is a mosaic of lands owned by several public agencies including the State of Florida, the St. Johns River Water Management District, the County of Volusia, and the City of Port Orange.

The entire Preserve is managed by Volusia County.” What is very special about this land, besides preventing habitat destruction with new development, is that it contains a historical Timucua Indian middens mound. These mounds consist of thousands of oyster, clam, and snail shells that were the waste product from chowders and other seafood consumption.

These mounds also functioned as part of the hierarchy in the community with the chief positioned highest on the mound. In addition, there are smaller mounds scattered around the larger mounds indicating families populating the areas around the chief. Inside the mounds, archeologists have uncovered thousands of years of pottery, bones, toys, tools, cooking utensils, in addition to the majority of the mound constructed with millions of oyster shells. In some mounds, they actually discovered mummified corpses and heirlooms.

Timucua Camp

In their gated community, as illustrated by Charles Jacques Le Moyne, they lived in oval and circular dwellings with conical palm-thatched roof, similar to the image above, with vines woven together and covered with clay to create walls. Because they established residence along the shorelines, they consumed a lot of local fish, shellfish, snails, oysters, clams, and mussels.

They were hunters with bows and arrows, and gathered in the local forests, marshes, and rivers to keep some personalized animal and pottery possessions as heirlooms to pass on to their children. They planted and harvested beans, prehistoric corn (known as maize, before hybridizing), yucca, coontie roots, and squash. Cooking would be group events where the shell mounds would provide the venue for celebrating historic events and hosting feasts for the residents.

Timucua Cooking

The Timucua art was displayed in various forms such as tattoos, clothing, sculpture, and pottery. They spent hours creating elaborate tattoos, as illustrated below, covering large parts of their bodies. Then by using shells, bones, Spanish moss, dried animal organs, and pottery pieces, the Timucua adorned animal hides worn as loincloths for both men and women, but the women accessorized with sashes, shawls, and hairpieces.

Timucua Jewelry Lemoyne Chief and Women

Hair was uncut for both men and women. Women’s hair was loose while men tied their hair up top, as illustrated in the picture below. They wore different outfits for a variety of occasions such as tribal ceremonies, family gatherings, religious events, dances, and festivals.

WordPress forced image

In 1955, a dredging crew discovered the above totem buried in muck on Hontoon Island in the St. Johns River near the mounds also located on the island. It currently resides in the Fort Caroline National Museum near Jacksonville. “It is the largest pre-Columbian wood carving found in Florida and is the only totem of its kind in eastern United States.” – Wikipedia.

Pangea timelapse

Central Florida Indian Timeline After the Pangaea moved the continents apart, the ice age began and the waters receded to expose more land around all of the continents. For thousands of years this gave humans and animals a bridge across some continents that would later be divided by deep oceans.


This remained the same for thousands of years. It was quiet in terms of major evolutionary changes. Mankind eeked out survival in colder weather than today.   Then when the waters rose, the peninsula of Florida became what it is today. The map to the left shows the ice age outline of the peninsula expanding deep into the Gulf of Mexico.



Florida remained isolated and uninhabited on a permanent basis by humans for thousands of years. Visitors included the migratory tribes that roamed in and out during the different seasons.


Then 7000 years ago, humans became more sedentary and setup permanent residence along the rivers, migrating south from the northern continent. Today, evidence shows Timucua Indians settled in what is now Flagler County.


Over the decades, the families expanded further south into Volusia County, from Tomoka Island to south of New Smyrna Beach.   This was the age of industrial growth and agriculture.


Over the next 5000 years, Timucua Indians would inhabit and build their style of architectural mounds and sharing building methods, at the same time pyramids and Aztec temples were being built in other parts of the world.

By settling in one area, unlike other nomadic Indians, the Timucua created their own agricultural processes such as crop rotation, granaries to protect produce from weather and insects, control burn to open farmland, and hoed to plant seeds to raise for food.

As they increased in population, families would congregate to create a new village nearby that would form clusters of gated communities.

For protection, the village included a council house that the first Europeans claimed could hold up to 3000 people.



Shell Mounds in Volusia County

Shell mounds, also known as middens, have been found all over Florida and South Georgia. Of these,  11 have been discovered in Volusia and range from as far north as Tomoka State Park down to South New Smyrna Beach Castle Windy and as far west as the Tick Island mound.

Volusia Midden Map

Castle Windy Green Mound Hontoon Island Mound Lake Ashby Midden Nocoroco Mound
Old Fort Mound Ormond Mound Spruce Creek Mound Thursby Mound Tick Island Mound
Turtle Mound        

Barbarous Spaniard Massacres

Whether the explorers lost their minds in a foreign land and distant place or their bigoted and greedy leadership created beasts, the Spanish unmercifully killed 111 French settlers who first landed in Jacksonville and created Fort Caroline. This killing spree continued for hundreds of years throughout North and South America. Below is an excerpt from the French Captain, Nicolas de Challeux, of Fort Caroline, who barely escaped.

The wicket gate open, the Spanish force, having traversed forests, swamps, and rivers, arrived at break of day, Friday, the 20th September [1565], the weather very stormy, and entered the fort without any resistance, and made a horrible satisfaction of the rage and hate they had conceived against our nation. It was then who should best kill the most men, sick and well, woman and little children, in such a manner that it is impossible to conceive of a massacre which could equal this for its barbarity and cruelty.

This killing spree continued down the coast to St. Augustine that same year where the Spanish massacred or enslaved 134 French settlers and militia personnel.

Extinction of a Tribal Race: Timucua Indians

Although the Spruce Creek Timucua were not involved with the Jacksonville Fort Caroline and Saint Augustine massacres in 1565, the European plagues and disease wiped out a large majority of their populations and the rest killed by enslavement or warfare. “By 1595, their population was estimated to have been reduced from 200,000 to 50,000 and thirteen chiefdoms remained. By 1700, the population of the tribe had been reduced to 1000. Warfare against them by the English colonists and native allies completed their extinction as a tribe soon after the turn of the 19th century. They became extinct as a people.” - Wikipedia.

A Legacy of Preservation

Canaveral Seashore Park mapThis, of course, includes all of the ecological and natural beauty of the undeveloped original virgin Florida landscapes aggregated by local cities and county resources to preserve this land.

Prior to Spruce Creek, Doris Leeper spent years working to preserve the Canaveral National Seashore parks from south New Smyrna Beach down to Playa Linda Beach, in Titusville.

In the map to the left, the darker green areas comprise the Canaveral National Seashore and its inclusion of the separate mainland peninsula.   While residential developers were trying to figure out how to consume environmentally sensitive land, Doris Leeper was figuring out ways to prevent habitat destruction and preserve the native lands for future generations.

We will forever be grateful Doris was tenacious enough to save these resources for future generations.


Preserving Unique Inhabitants

Spruce Creek Conch Shell Melongena Sprucecreekensi

Spruce Creek Conch Shell Melongena Sprucecreekensi

Spruce Creek is home to a wide variety of endangered species and special wildlife breeding and rearing ecosystems. The shell image left is a unique resident in that it is found nowhere else on the planet.

It is a subspecies of the King Crown Conch snail and inhabits the mouth of Spruce Creek, in the saltwater bays. In 1994, John K. Tucker named the Melongena Sprucecreekensis in recognition of its unique location. These conch can open and eat live oysters and clams. The largest it grows to almost 7½“ with a width of a little over four inches.


A Legacy of Art

Doris Leeper photo

In addition to her preservation efforts, Doris Leeper was a prolific artist and advocate for helping students of the arts. She started the Atlantic Center for the Arts adjacent to the Spruce Creek Preserve to help elevate students into the professional world. Some samples of Doris’s work appear below.

New Smyrna Beach Art Untitled wood and metal - cropped Doris Leeper Steel Quilt @ OIA

Bibliography/Further Reading

With much chagrin this author offers the following links knowing they most likely will change and be defunct, especially with US Government unpredictable technology management and naming conventions not followed. My objective is to share the information and provide attribution to those who also contributed to history, in some form or another. Please add a comment if you have any corrections or questions.

All explorer transcriptions and engravings are from Discovering the New World, Based on the Works of Theodore de Bry, edited by Michael Alexander (New York: Harper & Row, 1976).

Canaveral National Seashore map courtesy of the National Park Service website:

Doris Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve map courtesy of Department of Environmental Protection website: Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve.pdf

History of the Byway, Scenic & Historic A1A Coastal Byway,

Pangaea Map animated GIF:

Timucua wikipedia:

LGM Florida coast map:


The Spaniards in Florida: Comprising the Notable Settlement of the Hugenots,

Spanish massacre French Hugenots:

Spruce Creek Shellmound:

Fort Walton Beach Indian Mound Museum - pottery and jewelry images captured at this location.

Friends of Spruce Creek Preserve,


Family Days 2014 - Spring Fair - Cracker Creek Tabling


Posted in Backwoods Adventures, Canoe Adventures, Community Relations, Fishing, Hydrobike Adventures, Kayak Adventures, Pontoon Eco-Tour Adventures, Tractor-Trailer Exploration

Port Orange Family Days Spring Fair
1000 City Center Circle - 8 March 2014 

Another beautiful day in Central Florida!

I arrived at the Cracker Creek office around 8am and found our tabling items waiting next to the front door.  They were waiting to be loaded into the vehicle to take them to where they ended up on the table and hung in the air, prominently displayed next to the lake.

Alligator, Backdrop Sign, and Peacock Wind-vane by Cracker Creek Front Door

Alligator, Backdrop Sign, and Peacock Wind-vane by Cracker Creek Front Door

Pat Williams, Janelle Homan, and Jill Williams tending booth at Port Orange Family Days Spring Fair 2014

Pat Williams, Janelle Homan, and Jill Williams tending booth at Port Orange Family Days Spring Fair 2014


Port Orange Library

Panoramic View of Port Orange City Hall from across the lake

This impressive lake centers between city hall and the town’s library.

Port Orange City Center Family Days Vista 2014

Booths surrounding the lake

We had at least 100 visitors stop by our booth to learn more about Cracker Creek.  There were comments and questions of all types, some had been there and some not, some saw the sign out front but never ventured to see more, and some had friends and relatives coming to visit and Cracker Creek looked like the perfect place to spend time together.

Handing out brochures

Frank Gould handing out a brochure to an interested visitor

Jill decorated the table in an attractive array of props and signs.  The alligator head attracted a lot of kids and parents.  We offered the kids to stick their hands in the gator mouth to retrieve a lollypop and a pirate’s chest full of gold doubloons for their plunder!

Full booth full of visitors

Booth full of visitors

The pace was slow in the morning, picked up after lunch, and could be busy with several visitors at a time.  No problem for the tabling crew and time to take pictures of the natural environments around the lake.

ibis in Port Orange City Center cypress trees

ibis in Port Orange City Center cypress trees


Connecting the Dots…Content Marketing


Posted in Behind the Scenes, Community Relations

As my acquaintances, friends, and family know me, I have a diverse range of skills and talent for creating all kinds of products. From carpentry, to software development, to web design, to project management, to video production, I can produce products that people appreciate and use. Well, a few months ago, I realized that I was missing an important piece that connects all these diverse product sets. Of course, the web is the most important marketing venue these days and the pieces I was missing was branding and content marketing.

Well, this Fall, my dear friend Jill Musson Williams asked if I could help her increase her video and written content for her company Cracker Creek. I had no specific ideas what she wanted but had helped in the past and wanted to continue doing so. I had an idea what that entailed but I didn’t have any scope for how far to go and exactly what to do.

Along popped up this article from Social Media Today talking about the new Google Hummingbird algorithm that is supposed to comprehend and process a broader range of data and how it “de-emphasizes specific keywords in the search/search results schema in favor of semantic searching.” Then in that same article, it mentions how to use the web to increase marketing channels and connect with web users and buyers. It went as far as to say “content marketing so helpful people would pay you for it.” A book called Youtility appeared on my screen and after downloading a Kindle ebook copy, I learned how to connect all my skills and talents to market a product, online.

Some of the concepts I learned included charts as displayed below that are from both Youtility and Epic Content Marketing.

Sources of Information ECM Hub of content ownership ECM Content Atomization

They needed results and to do that I needed a way to measure traffic with a focus on inbound traffic into Daytona, a much higher recognized brand over Port Orange, where they are located. The Daytona-brand location would increase their exposure and competition, however, target those interested in Old Florida, tropical ecosystems, kayaking, canoeing, and tours. Besides the location, Cracker Creek had, over the years, created several names such as Cracker Creek Canoeing,, and just Cracker Creek. Today, we’ve minimized the contact to and

So, I had my work cut out for me. I needed to expand the Cracker Creek presence on the web and focus the products for search engine optimization. As I had researched the different web services targeting audiences and product marketing sites to learn user popularity, I started putting Cracker Creek on the maps of watercraft launch sites, campgrounds, road trippers, and boat rental sites. I also added links on the Cracker Creek website to different vendor’s mobile apps that were applicable to the Cracker Creek products, such as knot typing apps for campers.

Having tested Google Webmaster Tools with another friend’s website, I setup Cracker Creek to recognize the Cracker Creek sitemap. Then I installed Google Analytics to start collecting accurate statistics and reporting results. However, since there were no statistics before my changes to the website, we could not see historic results prior to my website updates. Below is the graph directly from the Google Analytics view of the Cracker Creek website.


Now being new to the Google world of the internet, I learned that their software still has bugs and on many occasions, I had to wait a few days before Google cleaned up it’s data. For instance, below are two message windows about logging into Google Analytics within seconds of each other (click to enlarge image).

Attempt to get password sent to email address
Attempt to get password sent to email address
 Attempt to create new email address
Attempt to create new email address

This kind of dysfunctional behavior also happened with a file called robot.txt where the “test” resulted in being blocked from analyzing a public website. Another when sitemap couldn’t find the server which became frequent as I setup different aspects of Google web tools. The example below is when trying to setup the Cracker Creek website using tags associated with the images and text on the page as part of the semantic algorithm.

TaggingErrorThese kinds of anomalies continued to hit me across the web. Be it a rental site that on a mobile device displays all prices at hundreds of dollars too high, even too high to purchase a vessel like displayed in the ad, or fixing driving directions on Google maps where it takes visitors to a residential neighborhood instead of Cracker Creek.

Besides that, I have to have multiple identities to work on Cracker Creek accounts as well as my own personal sites. This created a delay in the creation of a Cracker Creek business account and website on LinkedIn where my first attempts failed to deliver the activation email. Finally solved this one by changing the LinkedIn email address to mine so I could activate and create the Cracker Creek business page.

I have since worked through most of the outstanding issues and we are now linked to the major social media sites with icons prominent on the home and contact pages, as illustrated below. In the lower picture, you can see the floating left social media bar courtesy of a Joomla! plug-in that illuminates the social media icon when the mouse hovers over them. The Zap Weather forecast window shows a week’s predicted weather. The Tide Forecast window, not shown below, and the weather forecast window are tools to help people decide to go fishing, kayaking, or just a day out canoeing down the creek. That was my attempt to provide “marketing so helpful people would pay for it” by visiting Cracker Creek.



To measure the website’s improvements, I took a snapshot of the Market Grader application’s analyzer in October and took another today. You can see in the snapshots below that the website’s marketing score has increased almost double from what it was when I started.

October 2013

October 2013

December 2013

December 2013

And finally, for the sake of content marketing, I just finished adding the voiceover for an online marketing campaign focusing the values of Cracker Creek for elementary students. This video required me to attend two events with local third grade classes and another event to record the different options available for teachers, organizations, and parents. To view the final version, click on the video below.

In closing, this project has connected all the dots in my skills and talents pool. I created a chart to show the different roles I’ve accomplished for this project and some product learning curves since September 2013, illustrated below. The difference today versus 5 years ago is now all of these tools are in high definition and the world is inundated with apps.


As for results, I’ve been credited with increased inbound marketing from Google searches that have brought in customer calls and has created a reservation for 40 visitors in January, from Illinois. Thus, our target market. After two months, Google Analytics shows the site is still getting over 80%  new unique visitors, and we’ve yet to start online transactions (macro conversions) that will take some time to integrate into their business operations and procedures.

Update 24 January 2014:  Over the last month, I’ve worked on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Designated Paddling Map for Spruce Creek. In it was old and misinformation about the area and no mention of Cracker Creek being an access point.

Spruce Creek Guide Old Second Map

Spruce Creek Guide Old Second Map

Today, they published the new map and copy which now includes links to Cracker Creek and more information about Gamble Place and the Russell Property that share residence on the creek. Click on the image below to see the Volusia County website and scroll down to Spruce Creek to see the full document.

Spruce Creek Guide New Map

Spruce Creek Guide New Second Map

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