“Chiggers, Sandspurs and Magnolia Blossom Wine” is about Florida, its land and people.
Florida is a land of beauty. Our landscape enfolds us in tropical foliage and inspires us with the sweep of its prairies and seas. It is a land of horrors. Our rivers are poisoned; cities are sinking under a rising ocean; our once crystal springs are turning to scum ponds.
We are a people of courage, risking family farms trying to connect with people in new ways and bring them in safe, affordable food.
We are a brave and generous people who feed the homeless despite city ordinances and billy clubs .
We are committed, professional conservationists learning, teaching and implementing non-destructive industrial, agricultural and residential practices.
We are enraged activists demanding an end to horrors carried out by corporations against the land and people.
We are writers, artists, and political organizers seeking to share our vision of the possible.
Here, I reflect on it all—in words and photos, stories, rants and recipes—as I formerly did in The Williston Pioneer, the rural Florida newspaper I used to publish. Only now, with a blog, I’m dependent only on readers’ interest, not on advertisers’ dollars. So, all you old friends in the Williston Chamber of Commerce who thought Miz Skipper was a nice little old lady—surprise!
My focus here is on North Central Florida, but scraps of Florida’s lush landscape are visible all over the state, not just north of Orlando. Echos of old Cracker life still sound throughout the state, not just on the banks of the Suwannee. People work to rescue Indian mounds down in Miami and up on the Panhandle. Florida environmentalists are as passionate about the wetlands of the Everglades as they are about Paynes Prairie.
And–Development threatens sandy beaches of the Gold Coast and fishing villages on the Big Bend alike. Corporate agriculture ravages the land and breaks its workers from the Atlantic to the Gulf. Right wing religion and politics combine to butcher all that is beautiful from Pensacola to the Keys.
The things that thrill me, the things that enrage me about Florida are not confined to this one state. People work for clean air and water, safe working conditions, healthy food and cooperative community worldwide; corporate power impoverishes all workers; climate change threatens all life. So occasionally we’ll reflect on national and international events that mirror those here and study the successes and failures of people’s struggles north of the Okefenokee.
Maybe you’ll disagree with what I write here. So let us hear your thoughts. I want this blog to be a place where farmers, service workers, writers, labor organizers, school teachers, professional conservationists–all of us concerned with what we’re doing to the earth and each other–can exchange ideas, inspire each other, plan for action.
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Hmmm. The bird’s not trespassing. It had a perfect right to drop out of the sky and sit in this water, splash around, eat whatever it is egrets eat. Sooo, the pit must be the bird’s property. Neither is the fish trespassing. Sooo, the pit must be the fish’s property. And the snake’s, and alligator’s, and frog’s, and worm’s. Is it also the property of the dog fennel, willow, hydrilla, flax and wax myrtle? What about the breeze that drifts across the water? Does the pit belong to the breeze? Or the sunbeams? In any case, it’s clear it’s not “my very own.” I got lots of buggers to share this pit with.


Hmmm.  The bird’s not trespassing.  It had a perfect right to drop out of the sky and sit in this water, splash around, eat whatever it is egrets eat.  Sooo, the pit must be the bird’s property.  Neither is the fish trespassing.  Sooo, the pit must be the fish’s property.  And the snake’s, and alligator’s, […]

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About Skipper

I was born on the edge of Charlotte, N.C. in a time, in a neighborhood where children were free to play outside. My friends and I ran, biked, explored. The entire neighborhood was stage for continuing games of pretend. Cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, British and American, Yankee and Confederate armies romped through woods, across fields and creeks, up and down streets until good guys prevailed or softball and hopscotch season arrived.

Then I grew up and went to the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, where I majored in history and economics. My involvement in a series of strikes by textile workers led first to graduate work at Cornell with a master’s degree in Labor Union History and then to several years of union organizing in the South for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

After marriage and the birth of my son and daughter, I moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, worked at jobs where I could punch a clock — stitcher, machinist, assembly worker, Harvard grad student, candy maker, database designer, assistant economics journal editor—and still have the energy needed for my real work of political organizing for social and economic justice.

My political work took the form primarily of writing and editing for movement publications, and when I moved from Cambridge to a farm in rural north central Florida, I began writing for the Ocala Star-Banner and Gainesville Sun, then founded the weekly Williston Pioneer, where I was publisher, editor, reporter, salesperson, and janitor.

Recently, I’ve come to two realizations. One, highways lead out from the tiny town of Williston as well as into; and two, fiction is always? sometimes? usually? more truthful than journalism. So my time is now spent making up stories and exploring the world surrounding my Williston farm. That world feeds my stories, here and in my novels. And I’d like to share my stories with you.

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