Collier and Lee’s experiments offer a pioneering dose of reality


It’s you, starring in your own thrilling reality series this fall:

Dress like the pioneers did before delivery by Amazon!

Drink coffee never touched by a Keurig machine!

Let your children survive in the swamps of Florida!

Collier County’s museums and nature preserves offer all three possibilities. If they don’t do the Nielsen ratings on TV, they’ll still make you a whole lot smarter and maybe a few bucks better. And maybe a few pounds less, if you paddle the four miles round trip from the Key Mound tour offered by Koreshan National Park in Estero.

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A class tells its students how the settlers got the most out of clothes they had to reuse over and over again, and tutors in the thrifty art of darning socks to keep plugging the holes. There’s a “swamp survivor” skills course for kids ages 6-12 and a tutorial, complete with tasting, on the culinary challenge of making java with just beans, water and a pot. There are others where they come from too.

A pioneer picks food off the table

Museum Director Brent Trout, far right, offers a tour of the Roberts Ranch family home for members of the Calusa Garden Club of Marco Island, Tuesday, June 15, 2021, at the Immokalee Pioneer Museum at Roberts Ranch.

The Collier Museums are determined to give people a taste of wild Florida in a series of short courses called “Waste Not, Want Not”, and they offer a few tasty operations: food dehydration and cowboy coffee. .

There were no French-door refrigerators with chest freezers — not even ice boxes — on Florida farms in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Thus, settlers and natives dried their fruits, vegetables and meat to preserve them. The Immokalee Pioneer Museum at Roberts Ranch will show you how they did it, what foods worked best, and how you can make it today, with or without a dehydrator. The Dehydration Class, the first in a “Waste Not, Want Not” series, is on Saturday, August 20. There is also a tasting.

There is also another tasting, for a morning class with homemade java. This popular Sept. 10 course, “Cowboy Coffee,” shows you how they got to that steaming morning cup from green coffee beans, a pot, and water. No barista needs to apply.

Did you spill that coffee on yourself? Then you’ll need the third in the “Wasteless, Unwilling” series, “Laundry Day – Lots of Fun!” It’s a trip back in time to the world of washtubs, heat the water for each load, use powder or bar soap, and develop your elbow grease to make this washboard do its magic. This one comes after a useful session, “Darn Socks!” which teaches you how to do just that, one of the many ways the settlers made clothing last.

Americans consume half of the world's coffee supply and 52% of Americans over the age of 10 drink coffee.

Where: Immokalee Pioneer Museum at Roberts Ranch, 1215 Roberts Avenue, Immokalee

When: 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday August 20 for the dehydration course; 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday September 10 for the coffee course; 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday September 24 for the mending course; and from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 8 for the laundry class.

Admission: Free

Information: 239-252-2611

Something else: You can add a reminder to your online calendar from the class website page you are interested in.

No DeLorean; kayaking in the past

If you want to see the true pioneers of Southwest Florida, you’ll find it on tours of Koreshan State Park in Mound Key, capital of ancient Calusa created by its own people on a man-made island. A historian and biologist guide these exclusive hikes around Mound Key Archaeological State Park, pointing out recent archaeological finds and explaining the ecology of this unusual island.

It’s not a casual visit. First, you’ll need to get to Mound Key via your own watercraft – kayak or canoe – for the two-mile trip. (And, yes, you’ll have to paddle back.) Lovers Key Bait Shop on the east side of Estero Boulevard rents them out to those in need; 239-463-5990.

Additionally, hiking on the island is over rough terrain and participants should bring their own water. But a host of historical secrets await you. Mound Key was built with seashells at a height of up to 30 feet, where its king’s house was erected, according to Michael Duey, park services specialist for Koreshan.

Calusa Ghost Tours offers guided tours of the Mound Key Archaeological Site which once served as the center of Calusa civilization until the mid-1700s.

New discoveries about the culture of Calusa have come out of recent archaeological digs there, and Duey, or other scholars, are ready to discuss them. This is the first full season of touring, he said. Last year, the park hosted two Florida Archeology Month tours, and the excitement said it all: more of those, please.

Where: mound key; Leaving Lovers Key

When: Four tours are available, all from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on November 22, December 6, January 12 and February 7

Admission: Free, but reservations are required on

More information: 239-992-0311 or email [email protected]

The Swamp series appeals to children’s inner detective

We couldn’t resist one for the kids because the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Lesson Series looks so much fun. The only problem is that there’s no adult version of the intriguing “Swamp Survivor” class, in which the “lost” group must survive while trying to find their way out of the sprawling Everglades.

“If there is interest in adults, we would definitely consider one of them,” offered Renee Wilson, communications associate at the sanctuary. In the meantime, you’ll have to ask your kids how to do it after the January 13 program, one of four “School’s Out” day programs at Corkscrew. They are scheduled for the Collier County Public Schools vacation:

  • September 26 – Animal CSI: Critter Scene Investigators: How to tell which animals passed here through droppings, scratches, tracks and other telltale signs.
  • October 17 – Bird Brainiacs: “Spend a day in a bird’s brain,” says the description of a course that tells you if birds recognize you after repeated sightings, if they can memorize songs given to them and more.
  • January 13 — “Swamp Survivor: Learn survival skills as the class spends a ‘lost’ day in the swamp.
  • March 27 — “Corkscrew Carnivores”: Subtitled “Canines, claws and mighty big paws”, this is a class revealing the many carnivores that inhabit Corkscrew.

The classes are part of a push for summer activities to be available to the community year-round “because they’re here,” Wilson said. For adults, there’s a guided night walk that circles the sanctuary when many of its creatures have come out and you’ll see its bioluminescent plant life. Bring a flashlight and the staff will cover the beam with red plastic wrap to provide light without disturbing the wildlife you wish to see.

The staff-led tour is $40 and space is limited. Surprises are not.

When: 8am-5pm all dates

Where: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, 375 Sanctuary Road, Naples

Admission: $65, $45 for members, with sibling discounts available

To buy:

Information: 239-348-9151

Harriet Howard Heithaus covers arts and entertainment for the Naples Daily News/ Contact her at 239-213-6091.


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