Sunday, November 15, 2009

Here in this space, I have found an avenue to share with others about what makes me happy-my dirt, my land and my gardens. Yes, there is a great deal of work to do here but a little work never hurt anyone and it is very therapeutic. As I look over the comments from readers, I must say, take time to enjoy. It’s ok to lay on the grass and look up at the sky-even if the sign says stay off the grass. Take that little bit of time and let the power of the sky fill your heart. If you do not have a green thumb, look around at the flora around you. Better yet, buy yourself some flowers-you deserve it. Receiving flowers are a great gesture on the giver’s part, but when you buy them for yourself you can look at them, smile and know that with all the ugliness in the world, you’re ok.

As I look around my property, I have so many memories of people from the past and the present. When I moved here, I had a neighbor, Mrs. Ryals, who was in her eighties and could tell you the history of any rose. My daylilies are from my friend Betty, who I have spoken of before. I always have sunflowers in my gardens. I had a very special friend, Mary, who was ill. She lived in Georgia with her son but had planned on moving here to live out her final days. She never made it here but her room is still decorated in a thirties theme to suit her. She loved sunflowers. When she died, I took some to her funeral and her children did not even know. So here I will put out for anyone that reads this, when you see a sunflower say hello to Mary.

This may be my final posting but overall, from this exercise, I have learned that it does no matter whether you enjoy quilting, heavy metal, rap, fashion, sports, Irish folk music or even “Project Runway”, we find beauty in our own way. Yes, we may look at others in a different light but Life is too short. Enjoy life, appreciate everything around you, don’t be too quick to judge but mostly take the time to smell the rose. There is nothing sweeter in life.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My world is a very very fine place!

People often ask me “why do you live so far away from Tampa?” My common answer is “I love my dirt.” That is the short answer. The first time I came to Florida was in 1992. I came to visit my father and spend Thanksgiving with him. Then at Christmas, on a whim, I came back down. I stayed for two weeks and did not want to leave. When I returned home, I decided to make the move from the cold, wet winter of Indianapolis. In May of 1993, I loaded up my furniture and pets and made the move. The only plan I had made was to set up a tent at my father’s until I found a place. After a week of searching, I found home. When I pulled in the drive, I felt at home. I looked in the window and walked around the house, tasted the water and took the place immediately and moved in shortly after.

My home is located in a small section of the county called Pineola- Translated, “Land of the Walking Spirits.” When you are here, you feel a sense of piece and tranquility that you would never find in the city. Have I seen spirits? Let’s just say that there have been many unusual things happen over the years. I have friends that will not come out to the area after dark because of the area’s history. I have never felt threaten by anything. I guess I did not mention the other reason they don’t like to come out. For over years, this area is also known for its social club, where the members wear white sheets. Can you imagine going through life afraid of linens. In this area, I cannot imagine those sheets being more that 300 thread count, who can be afraid of that? Now if we are talking about 700 count or more, I might be a little afraid. Personally, I have never had any problems with this club and in reality, they are not the club they were 50 years ago or even 20 years. If the founding families still carry the attitude of their past, they do no show it. I am grateful for this but really was hoping to get the welcome basket and a burning cross.

This land is a sanctuary for all who visits. Some of my friends come over just to sit under a tree and decompress, At night, you feel so close to the stars, you feel you can reach up and grab one. The symphony starts at sundown, as the crickets begin to warm up their legs and the whiporwill starts to practice its song. By Midnight, the entire forest has joined in and the show begins. Occasionally, they will have special guests such as a visiting owl or a crane. When you combine this with the sounds of a crackling fire and good conversation-life is good.

Writing this blog has given me the opportunity to share a special part of the world and show those who questions my reasons for living here a greater perspective. I love the city and in time will live in the city but I’ll never give up my serenity of the country. My door is open to anyone who wants to escape. Thank you for your interest in my world.

Some will ask if there is any downfall to living here, no. Granted my taxes and insurance are out of this world (this year they went up to $370 and insurance $800) but I am happy. As Ethyl Merman sings, “I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Everything is coming up Roses!

The results are in and the shit soup has proven to be a success. It has been two weeks and everything is coming up Roses. All of my plants have bursted with flowers. I think I need to buy Gumby some apples. Here are some pictures of my success.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Floats, the beads and the Gore?

I love a parade, the floats, the beads, a lot of drinking and most of the people. The highlight of the year is attending the Gasparilla parade. The one thing that I found is that people tend to become assholes not only when drinking but while fighting for those front spots on the road. We have always gone to the parade and stand at the same spot every year. Over time, I have come to realize a dream ( I think it was after some drunken idiot decided that every time I got good beads, he would pat me on my shoulder [that I just had major surgery on] to tell me good job.) I dream of walking down the street with my Husqvarna brush cutter with the 10’ saw blade and cutting every asshole at the ankles. I could cut right through the ankle in seconds flat. I may only get twenty or so people but if it is only prove a point- people should be patient and everyone will get beads. Title 18, United States Code, Section 113(a)(6) and (4) of the Department of Justice Penal code, states “assault resulting in serious bodily injury and one count of assault by striking, beating or wounding,” it further defines “that a person who is convicted for aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a felon, or burglary of a conveyance shall be sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment of 3 years if such person possessed a "firearm" or "destructive device" during the commission of the offense. “

I like to say most yard equipment is not as let’s just say a great way to silence those who disturb you, but with the exception of my blower, they all can do serious damage. I have found using high quality yard equipment is essential in working on large pieces of property. I prefer Husqvarna and Stihl equipment. When you hear, “you get what you pay for,” it is true. These brands are a little pricy but when you compare to your everyday Walmart brand, it is a difference between night and day. I have used the cheaper brands and burned them up in less than 20 minutes. Even the regular homeowner who works every so often on their property will find the investment is worth it. The better heavy duty brands are made for longevity and hard work. They also will last for many years to come as long as they are maintained. On my property, I use the brush cutter, a weed eater, stick trimmer, chain saw and a blower. I am comfortable to know I will have no worries with equipment failure and if a neighbor pisses me off, I will be able to take care of the problem. Afterwards, you find the importance of a good shovel.

Another one of my favorites, is my Gravely, bush hog. It will shred a Lhasa Apso in less than thirty seconds and tear up small trees quickly. I use it in the woods and also to cut thicker grassy areas. You can compare a Gravely to a riding more with 100 times more power.

Over all, I encourage anyone that actually do their own work on their properties to spend the extra money on the better equipment and reduce the frustrations of having to replace the junk on a regular basis. Look around, every landscape business have nothing but the best for the durability and ease of use. Most of all to use as a way to release your frustration and worries. When I look at the US penal code and think of the damage I can do with my equipment, I weight the options. Would it be worth the punishment? As I sit here and ponder that question, I think to myself-yeah!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Let's talk with the Animals

In one of my past blogs, I wrote about the garden pests and friends. I would like to expand on this subject as I have other visitors that I haven’t seen before since I moved here in 1993. On Friday as I was working in the yard, I saw something out of the ordinary a small black snake moving quickly across the lawn. It was too small for Ophelia. Upon closer inspection, I saw a small snake about 18” long that was red, black and yellow. I look at it as I tried to remember the poem that is used to determine the difference between the coral snake and the king snake. Ken Bultman writes on the website Scienceray:

“To the newcomer who has not seen either reptile coming across the harmless king snake causes many to believe they have encountered a deadly coral snake. The result is often the needless dispatching of a beautiful creature that means no harm except to small rodents and large insects. There is a poem (I did not write it) that locals try to teach new residents upon their arrival to help them distinguish between the two varieties of snakes–one poisonous, one not. “Red on yellow, kill a fellow. Red on black, friend of Jack.”

This is a great reminder but when you actually are look straight at it, you can get confused. This one was definitely a coral snake. Normally, I would kill any venomous snake that come on the property, but it was so beautiful, I just could not bring myself to do it. Not to mention, the little bastard was very fast. So I let it scurry into the woods unharmed.

As I had mentioned in the past, I have many pests on the property including several tribes of ants, spiders and tree frogs (who seem to think coming inside of the house is the safest place to be.) When I work in my flower beds, I literally, sit in the dig up weeds in the beds. I do this by loosening the soil with a potato fork and then snaking my hands through the soil to get the root system. If you can get the entire system, no more weeds. If you leave one piece of root, they continue to grow. While I am doing this, I am often attacked by angry ants and the battle begins. I through chemicals to kill them, but to them it is candy. So now I am following the advice of a friend who told me to take part of one colony and put is by another one and then they fight to the death. This is fun to watch. Although, mostly I deal with the ants, I am also exposed to every other bug in the yard. One time, a spider got me. I am sure it was a brown recluse as my leg swollen twice it size and was very painful. When I went to the hospital, I left after sitting in an empty waiting room for 4 hours and went home. I kept the let elevated and used some natural oils to help draw out the poison. It took about four or five days but like I was once told by a nurse, “you are such a man by refusing to go to the hospital.” I said, screw and waited it out.

Throughout the years, I have also witness some creatures that just add to my reasons for living here. Besides the common yard birds such as sparrows, blue jays, finches and cardinals, I have barn and screech owls. I love the owls. One night while sitting in the yard with friends, we witness one of the funniest sights you can see. Two owls that were flying down and then swooping up and bump in mid air. They repeated this same pattern for quit awhile. It was the funniest this to watch. The next day, I asked one of my older neighbors about this and was informed that we were watching the mating ritual of the barn owl. They certainly were exhibitionists, because they did not mind the audience. When they were done, they landed on some nearby branches. As the female smoked a satisfying cigarette, the male simply turned away from her and went to sleep. Men are such pigs.

I also have several have hawks, deer, raccoons and possums that share my property. Every so often, I have had some very strange experiences with animals. Once, I had a cattle stampede, of about 50 cows, run past us like we were not there. Though, the most unusual was a Florida panther that was walking through the property. It was interesting because we found that no matter how big the kitty, they are still afraid of dogs. My Rottie and lab proudly treed this cat for about an hour before we got the dogs and let it go on its way.

So as with everything else in life you take the good with the bad and find middle ground. Yes, I have found some of the really bad visitors that really could have done some damage, but, then I look at the good. Who needs a zoo when all I have to do is sit and watch the world go by and welcome the visitors as they come. The one thing I have learned, is when you talk to the animals, they will talk to you. You just cannot find this in the city.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Nature's Therapy

People often ask why I love gardening. Mostly my reply is just look at the results of my work and its beauty says it all. In reality, it is therapeutic. I go through bouts of severe depression where I just cannot function. At times, I isolate myself and have no motivation to do much of anything. My mind is like a blank screen. Television is just noise. I don’t eat or do anything to care for myself. To some people, it is easy just to shake it off and move on. Unfortunately for me, mine goes beyond that. Sometimes is it may lasts for just a few hours or a few days-life is not good.

I am blessed by good friends who check in on me and a dog that does everything he can to try and get me to snap out of it. If it does not work he lies on my lap and stays very close. Then there is my garden. As my mind slowly makes a turn in the right direction, I still may not be able to deal with people or leave the house, but I can go outside and doing the simplest thing like pulling weeds is a deterrent. The busier I get, the more; I am able to slowly come out of it. Then I get back on track. With a property my size there is plenty of things to do. A great part of the time, when I feel the onset of depression, I can get to work and this alleviates the changes going on in my mind.

Amy O’Brian writes in an article published earlier this year for the National post about how gardening benefits people who are sick emotionally or physically.,

“Gardeners believe it and studies have shown that even the view of a flower or tree can lift spirits and help an ailing body recover.”

She further refers to a behavioral research study made by Rutgers University which found the presence of flowers-at the bedside or outside a window-triggers happy emotion, heightens feelings of life satisfaction and affects social behavior in positive ways that exceeds what was previously believed.

Amy continues with an interview of Aimee Taylor, a Vancouver horticulture therapist who works with disabled adults and seniors. Taylor explains,

“If you look at the research in environmental psychology, it shows that gardening helps people recover from stress and it can help people focus less on their problems," Taylor said. "Evidence has shown that gardening makes people feel more optimistic, gives them a regular routine, a sense of purpose and achievement."

Amy O’Brian confirms with both the Rutgers’s study and the interview with Taylor, the benefits of how gardening benefits those suffering from emotional distress or illness in a very positive way. I agree 100% with her findings. Though my moods can be similar to riding a roller coaster, working in my garden does helps to alleviate the some of the pain associated with my depression. Most of all, to see the final results is enough to lift not only my spirits but anyone who comes here. In today’s world everyone is so busy with the hustle and bussel of our lives, sometimes stopping to look at the beauty of God’s creations can make us appreciate the beauty of the world around us.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The things we do for a pretty garden

Meet my new friend Gumby. Why is he my new friend? He supplies me with some really good shit. I usually put cow manure that I buy around my roses and some of my plants every year, but it seems to lose something in the processing. Fortunately I live in an area where I have an abundant supply of shit from a wide variety of animals. Mark Powell, states in his article, “Contributions to Society: MANURE-FERTILIZER.FUEL, Developed Countries,” The manure produced by dairy and beef cattle, poultry and swine contains vast amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus that in some regions can be land applied at agronomic rates on farms where it is produced. Manure provides essential and secondary nutrients for crop production, increases soil organic matter levels, and enhances soil physical properties and over all soil quality.

Many years ago I discovered this is true, Though, I found after stopping by a Circus when it came to town, they had a supply of manure from a large variety of animals. Sometime, the bigger the animal, the better the product. When I lived in Indiana I had a composed pile of the circus manure and in the middle of winter, we’re talking 0 degrees outside, the pile was 87 degree. This is some hot shit. After it sat for several months I used it around a friend’s roses and some of my own plants. These plants produced roses the size of softballs. For this reason, when I met Gumby, I was very excited.

Last week, I stopped by his home and spoke with the owners. They thought I was sort of strange, but agreed to let me come by occasionally to visit Gumby and follow him around with a shovel. Gumby, doesn’t seem to care, but I am very careful not to piss him off. Nothing like getting bit or kicked by a 800 lb animal. After I collect my treasure, I take it home and pour it in a bucket to make a “shit soup.” I’ll let it sit for a few weeks, It use it on my roses. While searching other blogs, I discovered many companies who actually take dried manure and put them in tea bags. Can you imagine to make your shit tea and mistake it for your good old fashion sun tea.
As for my other plants, I’ll still use my regular fertilizer and save the good shit for the roses.

This is not to say that I against using chemical fertilizers, I do. Britannia Encyclopedia defines fertilizers as

“Natural or artificial substance containing the chemical elements that improve growth and productiveness of plants. Fertilizers enhance the natural fertility of the soil or replace the chemical elements taken from the soil by previous crops. The use of manure and composts as fertilizers is probably almost as old as agriculture. Modern chemical fertilizers include one or more of the three elements most important in plant nutrition: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Of secondary importance are the elements sulfur, magnesium, and calcium.”

In the article “Organic VS Chemical Lawn Care” ,written on the site for Adgrand organic supplies who argue
“Traditional lawn fertilization practices certainly cause surface and Groundwater pollution, but banning the application of certain nutrients is not the answer.
The application of both Nitrogen and phosphorus can be problematic. Chemical fertilizers that are highly concentrated cause water pollution even when they are applied at the recommended rates if a heavy rain or too much irrigation are applied soon after they are applied. However, many homeowners do not calibrate their fertilizer spreaders or just throw fertilizer on their lawns by hand which is the most likely cause of most of the nutrient loading in lakes.”
Boo Hoo, Boo Hoo, We have nuclear power plants dumping in our waters, oil rigs polluting our oceans and they complain about a little runoff in our lakes. I’m willing to make such a sacrifice for my plants. I do not use large quantities and I use both for different reasons. The manure for larger flowers and healthier roses. I use a general 10-10-10 fertilizer for my scrubs trees and other plants because it is quick to apply and who the hell wants to follow a camel around for that much shit.