SPRING – 2014
Its hard to believe its been almost an entire year since our last blog post. There have been many changes here over the last 12 months, so it was time to get our plant friends up to date with the goings on!
I suppose the most important event is our retirement. Sounds like a finish, doesn’t it? We thought so too, but we’ve never been more busy! The last few months have been very productive. Our house is getting needed repairs slowly, but surely. We spent an entire two weeks scraping paint. With nowhere to go and nothing to do outside our little world, we found we actually enjoyed the repetitive sawing away on layers of paint applied since the 1950’s to the present. All of it was great consolation for people who withstood the sight of peeling paint far longer than they should have. We caulked, primed, repaired, then painted. There is much satisfaction in this business of retirement. Being able to get our little ashram/garden-paradise spit shined really lit our fires. We’re on a geriatric roll!
We also set out to pare down our possessions. Our closets were the first battlefield. We’ve managed to clear out and donate about 70% of our clothing. The dressy stuff was reduced to one or two basic items. The suits went. The ties went. At this juncture, should we be invited to the White House for a state dinner, dress slacks and a clean shirt will have to do. Any fashion pretense has been purged entirely. Sloppy shirts and pants with elastic waistbands have been moved to the head of the class. Pantyhose has disappeared. Monogrammed company work shirts were gleefully disposed during what became a kind of ritualistic Burning Man-type ceremony. As we tossed them, we hooted like savages around a fire pit, and said goodbye to all remnants of 9 to 5 responsibilities. The cultural clean slate…ah!
Its amazing how much junk human beings feel obligated to collect. Every cabinet, every shed, every garden nook seemed to contain collected oddball bits and broken pieces needing mending. The philosophy had been the eventual mending and repairing of this accumulated treasure trove. The evident reality is we’d need six lifetimes for the repairing and using. Much to the delight of our local roving junk man, our alley became a regular Walmart of metal salvage items: a washer and dryer needing repair costing more than their worth, short lengths of pipe, old tools, bits of chain, buckets of nails, old ceiling fans, a floor lamp, angle iron pieces, stray venting, anything scrappable. Decisions about our stash of found furniture resulted in a few completed refinishing jobs and a stash pile of stuff placed in the alley for a younger hoarder. Do we really need this? No. Out it went. We’ve recovered space we didn’t know we had and can move freely around the house and garden without having to turn sideways once! A major milestone.
Of course, it follows that the garden philosophy had to change too. One can become a garden hoarder as easily as they can become a cardboard box collector. The plan was to get the weeding and pruning done first. We had weeds the height of mature corn obstructing our southern view. A veritable, harvestable crop of gargantuan, useless, intimidating worthless weeds. We shoveled those suckers out, stood back and marveled at the glory of being able to see beyond our chain link fence. Oh yeah! The next task was pruning anything that irked us, stuck us, pricked us, attempted to strangle us, or had menaced other plants. We slashed with wild abandon and managed to create a pile of prunings 4′ x 20′ in width and height. It cost $100.00 well spent to haul it away. It was like week 5 on “Biggest Loser”. We were seeing the light.
The summer sun in Florida is relentless, and the soil here is nothing more than sand and whatever you can add to make it not be sand. As a result, any plant in the ground tends to suffer if left in ground for a long time. Last year, we battled slugs. I’m talking slug invasion akin to the Normandy invasion. Thousands of slugs. Slugs that cleaned the bark off brugmansia trees and decimated hibiscus to the last leaf. All of it had to come out of the ground and be repotted in big pots with good potting soil. It was also time to make selections. Which of the brugmansia were stellar performers? Which of them were duds? Which produce good seed? Which have performed beautifully by producing new varieties? Which have the best fragrance and qualities that make them a pleasure to grow and enjoy? The losers were chopped up and donated to growers eager for freebies, the rest were washed clean of old soil with a high powered stream of water and repotted with the best soil available. Same went for the hibiscus. The clean sweep.
I suppose now is a good time to discuss pain. After having come from years of our usual physical routine, all of this physical fervor resulted in: pulled leg muscles, charlie horses in the middle of the night, neck strains, shoulder strains, pinched sciatic nerves, sore elbow joints, bashed skulls, innumerable cuts, a really bad thumb cut, scratches of all lengths and depths, mosquito bites in sets of 10, busted fingernails, eye-pokings, super sore hands and fingers, occasional headaches. Ain’t it great to know you’re alive? We also slept well. The sleep of the working man is sweet – especially when you choose your work. If you work like you’re 20 when you are 60, you have to expect the occasional ding here and there.
About a week ago, we heard a lot of sawing and truck activity down the street. A neighbor was having two ancient and HUGE ficus trees removed. The advent of this situation was akin to music in the air. It could mean only one thing – FREE MULCH! Yes! After negotiating for a dump truck load of cellulose gold, we had a mountain of chips in the driveway and beds begging to be liberally dosed. Shovel load by shovel load, it went down. Our new beds and pathways are looking like the roads to Oz, all golden and moist. Another job completed and well done.
It follows that all of this deliberate paring down and re-organization was sneaking into our brain pans and regions of our minds left unexplored for years. After seeing documentaries and news clips about genetically engineered chickens with breast meat so huge they cannot stand, pigs being abused by farm workers, beef cows being abused at the slaughterhouses, and animal abuse of all kinds – we’ve decided to become vegetarians. Sort of. Its hard. We go for long stretches on grains and veggies alone, then we cave and do omelets and cheese, or low sodium chicken soup. If we fall prey to gross temptation, we do chicken tenders for a night. Hey…we’re from the meat generation! This is tough stuff! Worse yet, we come from a long line of butchers who migrated from Germany to the USA at the turn of the 20th century. Even worse, we’ve both read Upton Sinclaire’s “The Jungle”. Still worse, we’ve watched “Baraka”, “The World According To Monsanto”, “Samsara”, and “Super Size Me”. When seeking self-imposed penance, we reflect on all of that and hop back on the wagon with reinvigorated determination. Back to the Brussels Sprouts and whole grains. We’ve also decided to add vegetables this year. Nothing tremendous. We’ve planted arugula, tomatoes and the green beans are going in today. We have made a conscious decision NOT to grow a sirloin steak tree. How’s that for self control?
Having come from an artistic background, and with time a-wasting, I’ve decided to return somewhat to long abandoned artistic pursuits. I taught needlework for some years and having been a muralist (I haven’t met a blank wall I didn’t like), I’m painting needlepoint canvasses to both scratch the itch and put crunchies in our pets’ food bowls. There’s never been a rustier old arm or bunch of fingers like mine, but I’m working the kinks out with positive results. You’ll see some of these canvasses posted for sale on this site and on eBay soon. Very excited about getting my abilities fully tuned up.
Now, spring is here. Thousands of pots need categorizing and stacking. Cuttings are being made. Flowers are blooming. The spring pollinating has begun. Our powerhouse brugmansias are ready. The best of the hibiscus are ready. The vines are ready. The amaryllis are sending up their scapes. The pollen collecting is in full swing. The annual bee migration has returned. The place is abuzz, full of promise and more a pleasure garden than ever before. We’re looking at our plant friends more as the friends they truly are, rather than a means to a financial end. The garden is retired, as we are, yet it lives to continue consoling us with it’s beauty and willingness to find resurrection within itself. Our old plants, nurtured and given a repaired environment, are producing better flowers and seed than ever before…just as we hope we ourselves, given the same care, will also accomplish. We look forward to a great, productive growing season, and we wish the same for you!
We have more articles coming, and hope you’ll join us as they are published. Our photo logs are backed up. There are many new instruction videos coming. There’s more news to relate about interesting new plant groups on the web. We’re going to hammer out garden info on a regular basis. So, bookmark us and visit when the spirit moves.
All the best from us to you…