Hang with a photographer in the swamp
Living in Florida gives a new meaning to "getting back to the soil" -- when much of that real estate is underwater. Still, it's hard not to fall under the area's unique spell. Ask Clyde Butcher, whose photographic style is fairly reminiscent of Ansel Adams's work in the American West: surreally monumental representations of the "land" and the artist's spiritual connection to it. Butcher's no poseur, though; he works right in the middle of prime Florida swampland and with his annual Labor Day Gala, he tries to share the love. Today through Monday, September 6, his work will be on display, seminars will demonstrate photo techniques, and Sammy Tedder, Valerie Wisecracker, and Cindy Hackney will provide musical infotainment, teaching about the various microenvironments that exist west of this urban sprawl. The big draw is the swamp walk or muck-about. Guides lead hikers on a down-and-dirty stroll into thigh-high swamp water and over carefully attended but flooded trails. (Old sneakers and a change of clothes are a must.) Reservations are required for the swamp walks, which cost $20 with proceeds going to Friends of Big Cypress. Everything else is free. The Big Cypress Gallery (52388 Tamiami Trail, Ochopee) is a half mile east of the Big Cypress Visitor's Center. Call 888-999-9113 or click www.clydebutcher.com. -Margaret Griffis
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Help the garden grow
Frustrated gardeners limited by minuscule yard space and yearning for a real horticultural challenge should get to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden's (10901 Old Cutler Rd., Coral Gables) volunteer open house. There they can revel in (and help out at) what's arguably the prettiest garden in South Florida. A range of volunteer opportunities is available, from working in the sun as a gardening volunteer or an education guide to peddling the shop's wares in air-conditioned shade. Today and tomorrow the program begins at 9:30 a.m. A weekend-only volunteers program begins Saturday, September 11, at 10:00 a.m. Gates open at 9:15 a.m. One perk: Admission is free for would-be volunteers. Call Sandy at 305-667-1651 ext. 3324. -Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik