Friday, August 2, 2013

Mission Accomplished, or Why We Haven't Posted in Awhile

You may have noticed it's been quite some time since a new post on My Florida Backyard. This is not because we've fallen into a sudden sinkhole or been swept away by one of those crazy waterspouts that keep cropping up in Tampa Bay this year. No, My Florida Backyard is right where it always is and even much less weed-filled than last summer. Butterflies are visiting, birds are singing, and flowers are blooming, and every trip around the yard gives us something new to discover, just like always.

See? We're right where we've always been, and not even buried under the usual summer weeds!
So where have we been? Well, right here, but very very busy. And in many ways, I have this blog to thank for it.

You see, when I started this blog four and a half years ago, I had three major goals in mind:

1) Keep my mom and other up-north relatives posted on the cool stuff happening in my garden
2) Keep my writing skills sharp after losing my job in communications during The Great Recession
3) Create a portfolio of nature-based writing I could use as I started a job search with new goals in mind

After many years working for a bank, first doing training delivery, then instructional design, and finally internal communications, I had decided it was time for a change. Like many folks, I decided to turn my job loss into an "opportunity" and pursue work that really interested me. I knew I wanted to write, and I knew I was done with corporate 9-5 jobs (especially in finance) that involved cubicles and phrases like "Interest-may-be-tax-deductible-consult-your-tax-advisor".

Isn't this much nicer than a cubicle, or even an office with a window?
Who needs windows when you can sit on the back porch and write about what you see?
So, with the full support of a wonderful spouse, I took some time to just explore what interested me. I started My Florida Backyard, and within a few months had an opportunity to blog for a larger site geared toward Tampa Bay (which no longer exists). Through this, I met the Coordinator of MOSI Outside and began volunteering, spending time at the butterfly garden and gaining a lot of specialized knowledge.  Eventually, my volunteer work turned into a paid part-time job. Now, you'll find me at MOSI at least three days a week, and online at the MOSI Outside blog.

The BioWorks Flight Encounter at MOSI, where I spend much time with sweat in my eyes and hands full of caterpillars.

After endless prodding from friends, I decided to join Facebook a few years ago, and it turns out that it was one of the greatest things I ever did. (And I don't even play Farmville!) One of the magazines I was following, Birds & Blooms, put out a request for "regional reporters" to turn in bi-monthly updates to be featured in the magazine. Eventually, this expanded into the opportunity to blog for them several times a week, and I recently had my first by-line in the magazine. (Look for "Diary of a Monarch" by Jill Staake, in the September issue of Birds & Blooms Extra! Coming soon to a news stand near you!) I've taken on some other responsibilities for them too, especially in social media, and now spend a good chunk of my time writing about birds, blooms, and butterflies - for pay!

Hey, that's my name! Check out the blog by clicking here.

I'm extremely proud of the career I've managed to create for myself over the last few years. The pay isn't the best, but the work is something I feel passionate about. I'm allowed to be creative, to dig in the dirt, to photograph butterflies and birds, and to share my knowledge with others. I've had the chance to travel for Birds & Blooms, and to make interesting contacts around the Tampa area and beyond.

Of course, this is all keeping me very busy. And when too much is happening at once, something's gotta give. In my case, it was My Florida Backyard. It's been harder and harder to find time to write posts for it, when other writing jobs (the kind with paychecks attached) are awaiting my attention. So days slipped into weeks, which slipped into months, which brings us to now.

I thought about calling it quits on this blog, and just leaving it up as a resource for others. After all, I send my mom pictures from my phone all the time, and my Birds & Blooms blog posts are frequently about things going on in my yard. Why not just let this particular blog's activity come to an end?

But I find I'm not quite ready to do that. I think that occasionally, I'll find topics that are very specific to Florida backyards, ones that I really want to write about but that only a very few people might care to read about. I love writing for B&B, but their audience isn't always the right fit for more technical posts, or for those about very specific regional species. And in those cases, for the right special people, I want My Florida Backyard to remain active.

How else can I justify posting yet more photos of white peacocks?

So you may not see a lot of new posts from this site going forward. But I hope you'll join me in several other places around the web, to see what's going on here and what I'm up to in general. And I hope you'll continue to subscribe, or leave me in your RSS feed, or just check back every once in awhile, because plenty of amazing things still happen in My Florida Backyard, and from time to time, I'll be sure to let you in on some of them.

Find Me on the Web (look for the posts by Jill):


  1. Kudos to you for following your heart.Please don't stop your blog.I,selfishly,for one,would miss it.

  2. So glad you are able to do what you love. "Follow your bliss" and you can't go wrong. We were recently at MOSI (I posted about our trip) and the butterfly garden was amazing! Enjoy!

  3. Congratulations to you for leaving the corporate world and doing something you love. I love your work area and view, very inspiring to say the least, and your work sounds just wonderful to me.

    Like Chris ~ I would miss your blog if you quit. We need Florida garden bloggers.

    Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

  4. P.S. I went to the MOSI Outside website, and saw a post you did about L. pinnata 'Serenity' lavender. How has it done for you? Did is survive June and July?

  5. congratulations!!! Well done.

  6. Lorraine - Serenity Lavender has done pretty poorly in most places around the MOSI gardens this summer... not too surprising, I guess. We have one area that is basically bone dry and in almost complete shade - and in that area it's still living, if not thriving. Lavender is just not meant for Florida, I guess.

  7. I enjoy your blog-I too, am in Tampa and blog about our back yard swamp. Just took my own hiatus from writing, so I'm back at it, glad you are too.

  8. I'm not sure whether you actually check this given that it has been awhile since your last post but if you happen to do so... thanks for all of the great butterfly posts, and I have a question. Do you ever see Gaudy Sphinx, have you ever raised them or other local sphingids or know people who do? Any help finding someone who does/has would be very much appreciated! Thanks!