The Garden (Rated PG 13)

9 06 2009

How quickly we can go from drought to deluge. It has been raining almost every day; and the garden is showing both the positive and negative effects of this.

Let’s go ahead and cover the “challenges” first:

Gardening Challenges

Spots on Cherry Tomato leaves: I have no clue. Nitrogen issues, Blight, Over-watering? I haven’t had time to delve into it; but I did cut off most of the damage. The plant is still cranking out cherry tomatoes, so we’ll watch and wait.

Cherry-Tomato-Leaves

Cherry-Tomato-Leaves2

The stem has a white fuzzy growth, which screams “fungus” to me. Since these photos were taken, things appear to have improved. I’ll focus on this more when I get a chance.

Cherry-Tomato-Stem

Pale Celery. I’m pretty sure this has to do with the haphazard transplanting I did. I did fertilize last week and after last Sunday’s Atomic Grow application they greened up considerably.

Celery

Pale Red Pepper leaves. Possibly root-bound, over-watered or underfertilized. I’ll try to help this plant this week. It is still making peppers, so I think it will be OK.

Red-Pepper-Plant

The pickleworms are back, and are now attacking the broccoli. The advice that I have found is to either poison with pesticide or give up the idea of gardening in the summer. Well, I’m too stubborn for that. The unfortunate part is that by the time I find them, they have destroyed an entire stem. I have begun to alternate between pinching them to death, and leaving the leaf intact and dousing the entry hole with Atomic Grow™. Atomic Grow™ is not a pesticide, but it makes insects pretty miserable, so it’s worth a shot.

Caterpillar-in-Brocolli

Entrance hole with frass (poop).

Frass-Broccoli

It’s not all bad news. When I first discovered these little monsters, some were already dead and rotting inside their hidey holes. I hope they died from alcohol poisoning as an effect of the increased sugars the plant produces on Atomic Grow™. I sprayed everything today and will update when something happens.

Dead-Vine-Borer

Squash Bugs. Shown here on the cucumber plant. I suspect they are responsible for the sick watermelon vine that is not doing well at all. In honor of their name I have been busily squashing them. Feel free to drop by and stomp to your heart’s content. We’ve got plenty to go around!

Stink-Bug

Harlequin Bug. Isn’t she Pretty? Pretty evil! See that shriveled up broccoli leaf? Thanks a lot you little six-legged piece of abstract art with sucking mouth parts! She is now a “Mashed Bug”, too.

Harlequin-Bug

Are you impressed that I knew it was a female? It wasn’t hard, since she left her Beetlejuice-looking eggs under another leaf. I did a lot of squashing that day.

Harlequin-Bug-Eggs

One more downer and then I’ll move on to the good stuff. The three baby cucumbers I got excited about all shriveled up like this. Yes, that really sucks. However, I did some research tonight and learned that female cucumber flowers do this when not properly pollinated. Even though it looks like a cucumber, it is still waiting to snuggle with a bee as long as the flower is there. I figure that since these babies were buried under the big, lush leaves they didn’t get to meet up with the pollinators. I have since learned how to pollinate with an artist’s brush whenever I find one of these little gals. Speaking of sex…don’t go away. There is some sex at the end of this post.

Cucumber-Casualty

Good news and bad news: The bananas are still doing their thing; but there are only going to be six. All of the following flowers have dropped off. AJ has done some research and learned that the bananas are formed from female flowers, Usually there are multiple hands and then many rows of sterile flowers that drop off along the stem. I’m pretty sure I jinxed them by expecting a huge bunch of bananas. We figure this puny output has to do with lack of fertilizer and/or water. AJ is on the job and we will be working to ensure larger families in the future.

Bananas

Gardening Victories

The muskmelons are doing great. Nothing would irk me more than to lose these to the squash vine borers (pickleworms). I learned online that covering the fruit can prevent the moths from laying eggs on them. Paper bags were mentioned, but seemed to be messy and to fall apart when wet. Not a good option for rainy Florida.

Muskmelon

Then I found a blog by someone using pantyhose to protect her melons. Best use of pantyhose ever! I have covered a couple of the largest muskmelons and will track their progress in relation to the uncovered ones. So far, so good.

Muskmelon-covered

Despite the pest problems, the broccoli is still going strong. I don’t know whether or not I will get any broccoli, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Broccoli

The baby heirloom tomatoes are getting big. I have got to get these things planted ASAP!

Heirloom

Pole beans are finally starting to climb. So far, these are the most perplexing of all my crops. They have taken off this week, so maybe there is still hope.

Pole-Bean

Here is a detail of The Oasis last night, showing the Poblanos, Tomatoes and Carrots.

Poblanos-Detail

This is the Poblano on the left before we went out of town. It grew quite a bit while we were gone.

Poblano

Despite the issues, the Cherry Tomatoes continue to proliferate.

Cherry-Tomatoes-Lower-Part

The regular tomatoes also continue to thrive. I counted over sixty on this trellis today.

Tomato-Fest

June 3rd’s Harvest

June-03-Harvest

The Oasis as it greeted us on Sunday.

Oasis-Wet

O2. Both beds are looking a bit overgrown, as the lettuce is going to seed and the tomatoes are completely out of control. I’m formulating the next phase, once the lettuce plants are removed. Be sure to read the Palmarosa post for some great news about seeds I was given by my cousin Alan.

O2

The mystery guests are growing up fast. One day soon, you’ll be looking back and reminiscing about how it seems like only yesterday that they looked just like bird poop. They will move past this awkward stage within a week or so.

Mystery-Guests

And last but not least…

“Birds do it, bees do it, lizards on the trees do it.” Or something like that.

Lizards-Do-It

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Everything is Perfect in the Universe…

21 04 2009

We left for work this morning with Chinese takeout leftovers in the refrigerator and an unopened fortune cookie on the counter top.

When we aren’t thinking about work we are usually working to improve our simple lot (in the trailer park and in life as a whole).  A while back I mentioned that we were putting it out to the Universe for free tile. Mismatched, broken, scraps of any kind, we want it.  Since it looks like we are here for a while, we have been chipping away at all of the improvements that will make our stay more pleasant. That’s mostly what this whole blog is about.

We want the tile because our concrete pad is gouged and cracked. The more we fix up everything else the more this ugly thing sticks out like a sore thumb. We have decided to cover it in a tile mosaic. AJ replied to a recent post for free tile on craigslist.org, but never got an answer. Next, he ran the route of all the local flooring stores asking them to call if they ever had scrap or leftovers. The prospects didn’t look promising, as they all told him they rarely get anything like that.

Yet today was destined to be one of those special days, brimming with abundance and generosity. AJ’s phone rang while we were working. It was one of the flooring stores calling to tell him that there was some tile beside the building for us to have. We finished our work in excitement and anticipation for the gift we were about to pick up.

Funny thing, we didn’t even have to wait that long for the goodness to begin. We provide profit enhancement services for bars and restaurants. Since we are in the business of helping the owners curb their losses, we only occasionally find ourselves on the receiving end of free booze. However, today was one of those rare days, too. Our client had gotten three free bottles of sparkling wine from his purveyor. Claiming to have no use for them (although he could have easily used them for a promotion), he gifted them to us. I told him we would celebrate thrice. One bottle for our anniversary, one bottle for AJ’s birthday and one bottle to celebrate free champagne!

$48.00 worth of Codorníu Pinot Noir Sparkling Wine. Free to us.

Free-Sparkling-Wine

We finished up our work and headed towards home. The flooring store was on the way, so we stopped in to have a look at the free tile.

There it is: JST Flooring in Sebastian, Florida.

JST-Store

The tile was stacked by the door, just as Mickie had promised.

Free-Tile

Mickie (they guy who called us) wasn’t there, but Kathy Kragh (the president) showered us with the kind of treatment one would expect when purchasing marble floors for a mansion. I was reminded of a quote by Malcom Forbes:

“You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them”

Kathy explained that they had gotten new samples for the show room and that the old ones had been destined for the dumpster. Fortunately for us (not for them), the dumpster people had not brought a new one; therefore, the tile had been stacked there the entire weekend. Upon seeing our jubilation at receiving this great gift Kathy mentioned that she had something else for us in the back, too. We followed her to the warehouse where she presented the most beautiful aqua blue and turquoise glass tiles. She explained that she shares these with school children who do mosaic projects. I felt like a kid on Christmas because we have been planning to resurface our counter top and tile the back splash with  glass tile. This was quite a bonus!

But it didn’t end there. On the way to the warehouse we stopped to look at a pile of discarded carpet pad, to temporarily replace some missing floor insulation in the Mercedes. This weekend AJ went shopping for something to serve the purpose until he can find an official replacement piece. Home Depot only sold it in large quantities, and we needed but a small piece. No sooner did we express interest in the carpet pad than Kathy insisted upon giving us a fresh piece instead of the discards; pointing out that there were potentially unlimited varieties of contamination in used carpet pad.

Thrilled with our good fortune, we headed home to get the truck and a few pounds of shrimp to show our appreciation for their generosity. Today we are three steps closer to having a more beautiful existence.

Once we returned home with our bounty, we sorted the free tile and found some nice pieces of Travertine marble mixed in with the other tile samples. I felt as though they belonged inside, although I wasn’t sure where. I brought them in and looked around. We have a tiny metal and glass end table which I have always hated because it has such a small surface. I placed a piece of large marble tile on top of the table and another, smaller piece on the lower section. The unfortunate little table has been instantly transformed into a much more beautiful and functional piece of furniture. This was an unexpected surprise, and a solution I hadn’t even considered until I was standing there with Travertine in hand. The third piece went under my potted orchid to solve a problem with water staining the carpet. Trifecta!

Travertine and glass tile.

travertine-and-glass

AJ cuts and installs the carpet pad.

AJcutpad

Prepad

Carpet-Pad

Carpet-in

Thanks Kathy and Mickie!

If you are in the market for any type of flooring, I suggest you drive right past the big box stores and head to a local gem where great service and quality still prevail.

JST Flooring is located at 915 US Highway 1 in Sebastian, FL

Phone: (772) 589-6818

Tell them that the Trailer Park Queen sent you!

Disclaimer: The freebies that we got were really a bit of a fluke, as they were switching out floor room samples and we happened to be in the right place at the right time. Do go with intention to buy and to be glad you did. Although they wouldn’t remember us, we did use them a few years back for a construction job and got wonderful service!

Although this seemed like more than enough abundance for one day, there was still more to come.

Our friend and neighbor, Ron, called to tell us that he had a fish for us. Ron and his wonderful wife Vicki live across the road from us on the lagoon. Once a commercial fisherman, Ron hasn’t lost his knack for catching pompano and other tasty fish. AJ went to visit and returned with a beautiful pompano that looked as though it had just been pulled from the water.

Pompano

AJ filleted the fish, seasoned it with olive oil, fresh garden dill and a dash of MSG-free seasoning salt. He wrapped it in a new banana leaf and splashed it with some wine given to us by our neighbor Carrie.

Pompano-Raw

Carrie won’t let us do anything for us without paying or giving wine. We refuse the money, so we are always in the wine. AJ mowed her grass this weekend, and this is what she gave him. It tastes wonderful and was perfect on the fish.

Rex-Goliath

Next, the fish went into the smoker, cooked with charcoal for approximately 40 minutes.

Fish-in-Smoker

Wow! The pompano was scrumptious! So fresh, moist and tender. Hands down, the best pompano I have ever eaten.

Thanks Ron!

Pompano Done

Oh, and that fortune cookie…I finally got around to opening it.

Fortune-Cookie





Week in Review: Reigning in Chaos

20 04 2009

The overall theme of this week has been finding or restoring order.

If you’ve been reading along you will know that the park has been cited by The Health Department for a plethora of minor violations.  The inspector made it known that they are cracking down across the board in order to compensate for budget cuts. It’s a blessing in disguise because enforcement of park rules has gotten quite lax. We try to keep our lot tidy, but are subjected to the mess of a junk hoarder behind us and blowing trash from a few surrounding lots. The cat situation has gotten out of control creating a crisis of disease, fleas and fighting as the cat population pushes its bounds.

In The Cops are Coming for the Gray Brigade I described how the cat situation affects us and our small herd. Today (April 20th) was the deadline for everyone to get their act together, including cleaning up their lots and leash training their cats, Ha! One resident put collars on some of her cats. One seemed particularly pissed and went about kicking ass all over the park. One look at his backside tells me that he is an un-altered tomcat, or one that was not properly neutered. At least he’s clean, because he took more than one shower from our hose this week!

Even though our lot escaped the scrutiny of the inspector, we had a mess going on in our eyes and set a goal of getting projects finished before today.

Oasis2 “O2” Completion

If you don’t know about the bamboo and Oasis2 made of buckets, barrels and tires…well, I don’t know what to say. Go back and read about it.

I spent a great deal of the weekend on this chair, cutting up this bamboo with this circular saw.

O2 Work zone

I also spent a great deal of time installing said bamboo around the border of O2.

O2-progress

Finally, by Sunday evening I was finished. O2 was done, bamboo scraps cleaned up and gravel dispersed.

O2-Complete

O2-Front

O2-Side

O2-Back

Harvesting and Pruning

The flea market tomato produced the first full-sized ripened fruit.

Tomatoes-ripe

Combined with some baby lettuce and purslane, we had a nice salad.

1st-Real-Harvest

Within two days another tomato is ripening.  Yesterday morning I cut back the branches of this massive plant. It was out of control. At last count there were over 30 tomatoes in various stages of maturity. I started a Harvest Log to document the weight of all produce collected from the garden this season.

Tomatoes

The Inspector Arrives

By early afternoon I was on the couch working, and had almost forgotten about the dreaded Health Department inspection. From the corner of my eye I saw a flash of red. It was a woman in a scarlet polo shirt, clipboard in hand, walking behind our lot with the park manager.

I glanced out onto the patio and saw something that looked like this.

Gray-Brigade-another-day

Perhaps she was completely immersed in her inspection of the septic tank lid repair, or maybe she was kindly overlooking our gross violation of the cat leash law. For whatever reason she seemed completely oblivious to what I did next. Quickly, I sprang into action, snatching up each cat and throwing them inside. Jorgi was shocked and momentarily paralyzed with fear, Smokey was befuddled and Llami just thought it was time for a cheese treat. Bedlam ensued for the next 30 minutes as we waited for the inspector to leave. Once she was gone and I opened the door the cats returned to their normal routine.

Smokey wants to play, but Jorgi doesn’t understand this.

Gray-Flash

Painting

These are the neighbors who left us the box of sealers and stain salvaged from the dump transfer station. I don’t know how else to describe them other than “compulsive painters”. This is their third unit in the park. When they first moved here they had lost their house in the hurricanes. They arrived in a homemade RV made from what amounted to a utility trailer with vinyl siding and a window unit AC. As shabby as it was they painted it multiple times. Next they bought a slightly larger travel trailer in the park. It too, went through various color iterations. Last year they bought this mobile home, which they immediately set about fixing up and painting.

The driveway has been painted more times than I can count and they even bought a boat and painted it (including pin stripes). In a reaction to astronomical electric bills they are now painting their trim a lighter, and much more attractive color. I give it four months until it changes again. Looks great, though!

Painting

AJ has gotten attached to the dumpster chair and titled it “The Epiphany Chair”. It is also getting a coat of paint.

AJ-Paints-Refelection-Chair

Mechanics

A little late, but here is our anniversary present to each other. Our anniversary was on February 21st. AJ has turned into a Mercedes diesel mechanic in this short time, and now knows as much about these cars as anyone. His weekend was spent working on this car, as has been most of his free time since we got it. This project was especially chaotic as it involved removing, disassembling, repairing and reassembling the instrument panel. This was as tedious and frustrating as anything I’ve seen him do. Of course it has all been done with his trademark precision and attention to detail. He promises to start his own blog to document all the “guy stuff” he does.

For now, here’s the car:

Mercedes

Turbo-Diesel

Weed Rescue

And finally, here is a little gem I rescued from certain destruction by the mower. It must be some sort of wildflower, although I have yet to identify it. It adapted quite well to being yanked from the ground and potted. Now it graces our beautiful steps.

Mystery-Wildflower-Pot

Unknown-Wildflower

Exhausted from this grueling weekend I left for work today without my cell phone and forgetting an important piece of equipment. On the way back home I managed to lose my coffee thermos mug. Now that the outside looks great I must get busy restoring order to the inside (of the RV as well as my head). I’m only grateful that the Health Inspector didn’t look in here!





Life is Good in the Trailer Park

11 04 2009

It’s 10:28 am on Saturday, April 11.  The windows are open. The thermometer says 77 °, yet it feels like the AC is running. The sweet smell of jasmine is wafting in on a gentle west breeze.  As I sit here with my first cup of coffee (slept in until 9:45) I think about my quality of life and can’t help but conclude that life is good.

Coffee

I grew up in trailers. We were usually broke, and I started working at 12 years old to buy my own clothes, much of my own food and any luxuries I wanted, such as record albums and video game tokens.  I always swore that I would escape the stigma of poverty and rise above the “pay as you go” lifestyle in which I was raised. I did this to some degree. I moved to Florida to live with my mother and stepfather when I was 15. They were working hard, had two cars and were buying a house. They also had these magical pieces of plastic in their wallets that bought them things even when they had no cash. Wow, this was the life I wanted to live!

I graduated from high school and started working my way through college. My father and stepmother were hardworking, but they were not wealthy. I found a good-looking man who was in the Air Force, we moved in together,  started a business and we decided to buy a house. In order to get a VA loan we had to be married.  Chugging right on down the rails of the American Dream Express we shrugged our shoulders and said “What the heck”.

Young and cocky I watched the stock market and fancied myself knowledgeable about economics and human nature. Phrases like “A home is the best investment you can make.” and “The market is cyclical and based on speculation.” were prone to pepper my conversations. In truth I really knew nothing about what makes the world go round. Little did I know that my world was about to shift poles.

Within a matter of weeks my business had fizzled, my husband came out of the closet and I could no longer pay my mortgage. Luckily we had worked out an owner finance lease purchase option, so I didn’t have to default on a bank loan.  In shock because of my radical transition I began engaging in risky behavior and ended up letting a sociopath move in with me. We tried to pay the $500.00 mortgage for a short while and I soon realized that I couldn’t do this and support him (which is what it amounted to). I let the house go and moved to a cheaper place. I started delivering pizzas and waiting tables. College was now out of the picture for me, I was busting my ass just to cover my car payment and credit card bills. Due to a mis-communication with the bank my car was repossessed. Fortunately my restaurant job was two blocks away and I could easily walk to work. I picked up another table waiting job half a mile down the road and saved up to buy a bike. Since my father was a cosigner on my auto loan, he rescued the car from the bank and used it for his daily driver.

I spent a good many years partying too much and not taking life seriously. All the while my friends were getting degrees and/or starting families. I paid off thousands of dollars in credit card debt only to get new cards to start the cycle again. I lost count of the jobs I’ve held at somewhere around 30. Most of the time I had two at once and most of them I left out of boredom or frustration, but always on good terms.

Eight years ago I met AJ. We celebrated 5 years of marriage in February. We hopped on his father’s wagon and moved to East central Florida to restart his construction business. Finally, a career where I could make as much money as I liked without having to go to college. AJ and I worked together and his father was ready to sponsor him for his own contractor’s license. We stayed in a small RV while we scoped out the area for a house. I was back in a trailer park, although trailer parks in that area are quite different than the ones where I grew up. The majority of units were RVs and the park was full of transitory residents and part-time snowbirds.

I spoke to my mother and stepfather who had now bought a trailer in their park out in Colorado. Now an “expert” in the booming real-estate and construction market I told them that property values were skyrocketing and that they should buy a house. “I like living in a trailer.” replied my stepfather.  This statement confounded me. Why would anyone like living in a trailer? He elaborated “No mortgage, no property tax, no home owner’s insurance. If a tornado hits you just get another trailer and start over. I don’t owe anybody anything.”

My stepfather, for all of his laid-back tendencies is a hard working, level-headed guy and probably about as sane as anyone you will meet. When the hurricanes hit our area, right after we got the building business started, I learned an important lesson: A person’s home and their sanity are closely tied; and when they lose one, they often lose the other.

Suddenly, we saw the value in inexpensive, portable housing. For the next few years we moved around rebuilding storm damaged houses. We dealt with a number of people who appeared to have lost their marbles when their houses were damaged. Because a number of contractors engaged in criminal behavior we were suddenly the bad guys, despite the fact that all we did was help them get their insurance settlements and rebuild their homes to the highest of standards. We had to deal with people who threatened to sue us because they didn’t like the color of carpet they selected or because we discovered pre-existing conditions not covered by their insurance policy. Being treated like a crook really took its toll on my psyche and I soon began to wonder if the money made in construction was worth the stress. This dilemma quickly became a non-issue as the building bubble burst with a deafening “Pop!”.

We had lived off of savings and credit cards when we first moved down here. The money we made in construction afforded us to finance a large, used Travel Supreme fifth-wheel, a Dodge 35oo dually to pull it, an old Volvo sedan, a small Boston Whaler boat and a couple of kayaks. AJ is adamant about getting bills paid and we had the credit cards down to a manageable level. When our last rebuild customer turned out to be insane (partially due to toxic mold exposure) we spent a year trying to get her to co-operate and let us finish her house. She held our last payment and we had to initiate legal action to get a few thousand dollars. In the meantime we ended up living off of our credit cards again while we started up another business.

We saw the writing on the wall and got out of our truck payment. We actually sold the truck for a profit and paid cash for a smaller, less expensive truck.  This was a lucky break, because within a few months the roadsides were lined with trucks and humvees that the contractors had bought and could no longer afford. We sold the kayaks and kept the boat and car, since they were paid for. We have found a new, recession-resistant career and are again making a decent income.

My paradigm has shifted gradually over the past few years. Although I have never had an interest in the trappings of wealth I had always imagined that there was an “Arrival Point” at which one becomes safe and comfortable with no more financial worries. This was my ultimate goal and I bought into the lie that it is a fact of life for any smart person who works hard and makes the right decisions. In a short span we have all watched the mythical ball of yarn unravel. And at the center of that ball is reality. Through my journey of understanding and acceptance I have been called such things as a “Conspiracy Theorist” and a “Survivalist”, as though these are derogatory titles. I find it interesting to watch those, who so carelessly threw these terms around, slowly come into the realization that reality is much different than they once believed.

Your home is not necessarily your greatest investment. The government does not have your best interest in mind. There is no such thing as “guaranteed retirement”. The list goes on.

The Jasmine. Our bedroom window is visible in the background.
Jasmine

I wish I could say that I have come to my reality through wise practices and good judgment. Unfortunately, that was not the case. When all of my friends hopped into the economic hamster wheel and started running I found the latch to the cage and wandered around the house. I don’t especially recommend this. There is a big mean cat out there! But now I have returned to the cage with an understanding of what the greater environment holds while many of my peers are exhausted and still running towards that invisible goal. The difference is that that living the way we do can be frightening to so many people. They can’t imagine life without having things and giving things to their children. Many of them are dependent upon their high paying jobs while the “Layoff Monster” lurks just beyond the doors of their heavily mortgaged homes.

How can I live in a trailer? Well, it’s not even a trailer really, it’s a fifth-wheel; and it’s designed for economical comfort and utilizes every inch of space for storage and function. It is energy efficient and uses a fraction of the water wasted in most homes. It is also portable and when a hurricane looms we can pull out within an hour or two and carry ourselves and our meager belongings to safety.

No, we don’t own it outright. We are on a 15 year payment plan, but our payments are less than the taxes and insurance on an average home. Our entire income is less than most of my friends pay for their mortgage! Now that housing prices are adjusting they all realize that they are losing equity in their homes. “Equity” there’s another big lie for you. File that one right next to “Job Security”.

Over the past few years I have slowly come to realize that we can safely assume nothing about our world. We cannot trust the leaders we believe we have “put in place”. We cannot depend upon our homes, jobs or even our food to be there when we need them.

When a survival situation arrives all that anyone really needs is their health, survival skills and a community of like-minded people. Houses, cars and all the other trappings of “success” suddenly become a non-issue, if not a liability.

Speaking of community. As I was writing this post a neighbor deposited this gift in our yard. He picks up free paints and chemicals from the dump transfer station and brought us things we might use for our upcoming projects.
Gift

Wealth is nothing but an illusion. It falls into the lap of some, and they die never knowing how fortunate they were. For too many people it is a carrot that remains just out of reach. For the remainder it is something they work hard to acquire, so that they may retire to a trailer park in Florida where they can sleep until mid-morning, awaken to drink fresh ground coffee and enjoy the sweet scent of jasmine blowing through the open windows on a cool April breeze.

This is the illusion I choose until extreme survival mode sets in.





Free Bamboo and Horse Manure

5 04 2009

Long before “The Secret” came out I believed in the philosophy of abundance. It’s been my experience that anytime I truly wanted something it would come to me. I like to think of this phenomenon as asking for gifts from the Universe. It has always been a game for me to imagine some random thing that I wanted and to have it appear, within a week or so, upon a visit to a flea market or garage sale. Recently, the effects of abundance are in full swing.

The soil here is pure sand. In order to cultivate plants you need to fertilize or compost. I have a modest compost heap, but have been looking for some manure to give it a kick-start. I posted an ad on Craigslist and got a reply from someone who lives almost an hour away. Because of the distance I have not made the trip. Besides, I know there are many horse owners much closer. Yesterday I found an ad on Craigslist for free horse manure just a few miles down the road. We drive past this place many times per week, so it isn’t even out of the way. Within the next week I plan to go by and pick up a load for the garden.

A couple of years ago AJ and I gained access to a stand of timber bamboo. This is the huge stuff that is used for building in Asia. We grew quite fond of this renewable grass and began getting creative with ways to utilize it. This supplier only allowed us to cut the dead bamboo. That was fine because it was already cured (which normally takes weeks). Unfortunately, we had to separate the dead stalks from the living stand, which was a daunting task which included enduring biting ants and stinging sap, in addition to the hard labor of extricating the living stalks from the live stand. Still, our efforts were worthwhile as we (mostly AJ) built a beautiful bamboo fence at the edge of our pad.

In this picture the bamboo fence is two years old. Since we did not treat the bamboo, it has faded to a uniform gray. When the fence was new it was a beautiful array of gold and green. One of our projects is to remove the old fence (which is beginning to rot at the base) and replace with a new version constructed of bamboo rods mounted above the  ground and attached to two by fours like a true fence. We also plan to cure the bamboo properly and coat with polyurethane to prevent fading and decay. Although we have had this project in the works for a while, we have not located a new source of bamboo.

Pregravel1

The Oasis raised bed is made of pickle buckets arranged in an oval and filled with soil. The decorative fascia is comprised of small bamboo stakes pounded into the ground around the perimeter. AJ provided this bamboo from a stand he found on the river. It took him three trips in our small boat to collect enough to border this garden bed. The trellises are also made of small bamboo tied together to support the tomatoes and other tall plants.

Gravel9

The Oasis 2 is our next project. Once the containers are arranged and filled with soil I will border it with bamboo just like The Oasis. In order to hide the unsightly junk on the lot behind us I want to build a large bamboo trellis for the pole beans, lima beans and cucumbers. Hopefully, this will completely obscure the entire lot and create a nice natural screen. Next weekend we will purchase the topsoil, and with the horse manure will be well prepared to plant the beans, melons and cucumbers that are maturing rapidly from my Victory Seed stock.

Gravel5

Today I found an ad on Craigslist for free bamboo. The owner has a large tract of land with over twenty species of bamboo, all for the taking.  We will go by on Monday to have a look. I am sure that there will be enough bamboo to complete all of our projects and then some.

Even more exciting is  the project that we started today and should have finished by tomorrow. AJ’s dad (Allan Sr.)  came into town last night and is staying through the weekend. Last night I was exhausted and too tired to socialize. I got a good night’s sleep and this morning felt much better.  Today Allan Sr. proposed to finance and create a project that we have been wanting to do for four years. Stay tuned for the update tomorrow, when we should be finished and have photos to post!





The Gravel Project: Part 4

29 03 2009

UPDATE: Please see this post for important results concerning this mulching project!

AJ and I awoke Saturday feeling the pain of the previous day’s labor. He laughed when I told him “I feel like I went to the gym, used every piece of equipment and then fell asleep in the tanning bed.”

With company on the road to our place we pulled ourselves together and set about getting the place ready for company. AJ worked on some projects outdoors while I gave the inside a much needed scrubbing.

After our guests had arrived and we had all eaten dinner, we took to the yard to admire it some more. I have been a rock and fossil hound since as early as I can recall; and have eccentric collections of all sorts of items picked up from in and on the ground. This gravel excited me so much more than the common chipped marble  because this is composed of fossilized shells. We now possess an expanse of million year old relics, many of which have survived in perfect condition. Before sunset and with wine glasses in hand, AJ and I went “beachcombing” on our ancient beach to pick out some great specimens.

Here is a closeup of the #57.

Gravel-2

And, here is a closeup of the washed shell gravel.

Gravel-Detail

Here are some of the shells we found. These are true fossils, with no shell material remaining.

Fossil-Shells
Fossil-Shells-2
Fossil--Shells-3

Here is a closeup of  my baby carrots.

Carrots

And here is a closeup of the bibb lettuce.

Bibb-Lettuce

As dusk settled in I remarked upon how much better the yard smelled with the “catbox” far removed. As if on cue, the wind shifted and blew from the West bringing in the delicious fragrance from the nearby orange groves. Imagine the finest, sweetest citrus air freshener filling all of the outdoors.

Next weekend I will get the soil for The Oasis 2 and get my rapidly growing beans and melons planted. I plan to build a huge trellis out of bamboo, which when grown in should block the monstrous eyesore behind us. The Atomic Veteran is a sweet and kind man, but he chooses to collect junk like a professional hoarder.





The “Bubba Effect” & Heirloom Seeds

23 02 2009

THE BUBBA EFFECT

FOX and Glenn Beck are like that couple you always knew belonged together. Perhaps FOX was your friend and Glenn Beck was your partner’s friend. The two of you would get together and conspire to invite them to the same parties in the hopes that they would recognize that they were soul mates. When he switched from the propaganda machine by the name of CNN to the one called FOX it took me a moment to realize what had happened because I always imagined him at FOX. Now he is home and cranking up the garbage to new heights.

I have a work site where conservative talk radio is cranking 24 hours per day. One morning I got to listen to Glenn Beck as he ranted about the financial collapse and how we should all prepare before it’s too late. The only time I’ve been able to tolerate this clown is when he interviews my hero Dr. Ron Paul. You’ve got to give Glenn Beck credit. He had the sense to recognize the current of Libertarianism pulsing through the generation set to inherit this financial disaster. When all other talking heads set about to marginalize Dr. Paul by outright mocking, Glenn Beck stuck his paddle into the current and used it to propel his vessel into new territory. Now like a shepherd who has caught a few strays Glenn Beck is using Ron Paul’s message like a staff to hook them back into the herd. I must admit, I was almost hooked. I actually started to think that Glenn Beck may have caught the liberty bug and was truly interested in speaking out against the oppressors. This didn’t sit well with my understanding of the mind control mechanism that is the media, and as my motto is “Question Everything” I began to wonder how far Glenn Beck was really going to take this course.

In this YouTube video clip of the Glenn Beck Show (posted by jbranstetter04), Army Command Sergeant Major Tim Strong describes how “The Bubba Effect” will come into play when the Collapse is in full swing. When I first watched the clip I was surprised to see that the military is willing to show the card that they are concerned about us “Bubbas”. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. This is just one more of the divisive tactics used to keep us all suspicious and fearful of each other.

I don’t know how this will all play out, but I do know a lot of people who have willingly dug their heads into the sand.  As unemployment, homelessness and hunger seep in with the tide the desensitized masses still jabber on about American Idol and their kids’ athletic events. If every person spent every free moment cultivating their survival plans they might have a chance. As is stands I envision a huge lot of ugliness, the likes of which this country has never seen.

HEIRLOOM SEEDS

I almost forgot to mention: I ordered a bunch of goodies from The Victory Seed Company.

I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about the arrival of a package. I hope it comes soon, and I hope I get everything I ordered.

3360011 – Spinach, Bloomsdale Longstanding – 4 gm. Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3030391 – Bean, Fordhook 242 Bush Lima – 1 oz. Sampler    @  2.05 =  2.05

[1]   3050041 – Broccoli, Atlantic – 0.5 gm. Sampler    @  1.85 =  1.85

[1]   4000261 – Parsley, Italian – 2 grams    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3240011 – Lettuce, Buttercrunch – 1 gm. Sampler    @  1.85 =  1.85

[1]   3240041 – Lettuce, Oak Leaf – 1 gm. Sampler    @  1.85 =  1.85

[1]   3240171 – Lettuce, Winter Density – 1 gm. Sampler    @  1.85 =  1.85

[1]   3090071 – Carrot, Nantes Scarlet – 1 gm. Sampler    @  1.65 =  1.65

[1]   3310131 – Pepper, Ancho (Poblano) Hot – 0.25 gm. Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3160051 – Cucumber, Marketmore 76 – 1 gram Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3110021 – Celery, Golden Self-Blanching – 0.25 gm. Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3250491 – Watermelon, Dixie Queen – 1 gm. Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3250031 – Muskmelon, Hale’s Best Jumbo – 1 gm. Sampler    @  2.25 =  2.25

[1]   3030081 – Pole Bean, Kentucky Wonder – 1 oz. Sampler    @  2.05 =  2.05

[1]   3170011 – Eggplant, Black Beauty – 0.25 gm Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   4000141 – Mammoth Dill – 2 grams    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   4000301 – Sage – 1 gram    @  1.65 =  1.65

[1]   4000271 – Parsley, Moss Curled – 2 grams    @  1.55 =  1.55

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$31.00  [– Sub-Total
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$7.92   [– Continental U.S. Shipping & Handling Estimate

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$38.92  [–## GRAND TOTAL

These seeds will be planted in addition to the other things already planted or growing in The Oasis. I have put out a call for more containers so that I may build more raised beds.

Here is The Oasis as of this afternoon:

The Oasis on February 22, 09