It’s Monday morning. I’m dressed and sitting at my desk thinking about the day ahead. Last week I repotted a houseplant and brought it to live on my desk in front of the glass doors where it would get a lot of southern exposure. I noticed a large drop of water at the tip of a leaf. And then I saw that every leaf that was turned in the same orientation had a large crystal clear drop of water – the whole plant was decorated at the tips of these leaves only. The rest of the plant was dry. Such a beautiful thing… just sayin’.
Busy people (like me) are able to procrastinate in
pretty nearly every area of life. Cutting back on my work schedule allows me the opportunity to look for these “put off” things and experience the wonderful satisfaction of getting them done after months of having them on the “to do” list. If you have never gone through this cycle you are missing out.
Having made great headway scheduling my “every 7 year” physical exam, this morning I turned to the oneacrewoods, which has been… well, neglected at best. If you don’t love nature, gardening, dirt and sweat go read somewhere else right now because you won’t understand.
It’s the compost bin. The compost bin is where you can put all your vegetable scraps, lawn clippings, leaves, etc… in the hope of making new, rich soil. Presumably you are making this soil to put somewhere else where the ground needs improvement. However, if you never do anything but put stuff in the bin, there is not much point in doing it. Ideally it should be fluffed up, turned over and watered once in a while too but I never get around to that. And because I have such a big yard I actually have two compost bins to play with. Lately they have been looking full. I can’t remember that last time I emptied them. It’s a nasty job.
Did you know that cockroaches fly? Did you know that some of them are actually white like albinos? They love, love, love compost piles and when disturbed they take off in flying, jumping swarms to find some new place to hide (up a pant leg, under a shirt collar, in hair, aaaghh!) I have absolutely no cockroaches in my house and I think it’s because I provide this much more favorable place for them to live. I think of it as pest control.
I chopped and shoveled through both my bins (after the roaches left) and there was some pretty good soil in there. I added it to my small garden area which is fallow – fancy word for nothing growing in it – because we are already in the hot season here. Lots of things do grow in this season but not many traditional vegetables. I’m preparing for September when it cools off. One more thing off my list, and truly, it was so beautiful outside this morning that I didn’t even mind the roaches, much.
flowers seem more exciting and glorious after 6 months of winter
I’ve been “up north” waiting to see spring come, hoping I had my timing right. I think it’s here. The children have lessening interest in their schoolwork, rain has made greenness appear everywhere and swollen the ponds and marshes. The woods are full of trilliums and fiddle head ferns. Mosquitoes follow us in clouds and dandelion seeds float in the air like snow. The garden is 80% planted and the reliable onions and radishes are already making their rows visible. Tulips and petunias are in place. And the lilacs have purple buds almost to the point of opening up – one of the things I wanted most to experience. The sun brightens up the horizon at 4:30 am and it’s still light at 9 pm, reminding me that the longest day of the year is less than a month away. It’s spring, but only for a little while.
There are no days to waste, no extra hours in the spring. Last night the weather cleared after an all day rain. My brother had bought seed corn and potatoes and was not willing to wait until today to plant – after all, he had to work at his “other business” during the day and there was no guarantee that it would not rain again. Best to get at it. He could hardly sit still through supper. We planted 12 rows of corn and put up the electric fence to keep the deer from eating the tomato and squash plants. I know it works because I tested it accidentally. The gardens have a good start this year, almost two weeks ahead of last year’s schedule. Hopes are high. It’s hard to realize that it still could freeze and one cold night could set everything back.
But today is beautiful and sunny, alive with birds (and mosquitoes) and plant life. Spring up north, how I have missed it and how wonderful it is. Just sayin’…
This would have to be ecology of the yard, not the university classroom or workplace. And although this subject would seem to have nothing to do with my evolving theme of “family”, it does. It’s really meant to be a
torture diversion for my family up north as they savor their 10 inches of new snow. (he he he, you could have stayed down here longer.)
Ecology defined: the scientific study of interactions among organisms and their environment, such as the interactions organisms have with each other and with their abiotic environment. Topics of interest to ecologists include the diversity, distribution, amount (biomass), number (population) of organisms, as well as competition between them within and among ecosystems.
In other words, looking at the yard to see what grows well and what doesn’t, and taking care of it so it doesn’t completely bury you in vegetation. I’ve been working on this for years in the oneacrewoods. And this is the time of year where I stage for the growing season to come. Plants aren’t mean on purpose but they are. Mean.
This morning I spent four hours and got about 1/8 of the way around the house, cleaning gutters of leaves and flowers from the oaks, raking, pruning, and washing dirt and pollen off everything. Everywhere I look there is a plant needing attention and I could just keep at it for days but for the sake of a more balanced life, I’m breaking it down into sections.
As I’ve said before, we do have fall in Florida – we have it in the spring. My oak forest drops tons of leaves on the lawn, house, driveway, and garden beds. Some people like to rake, bag and send their leaves to the landfill. And then they buy mulch to keep their soil moist and protect their plantings. I’m just not going to do that 1) because I don’t have that kind of money for labor, bags and mulch and 2) ecology tells me that there has to be something good about leaves falling on the ground around trees or the trees would all be dead by now. I use the leaves as mulch and most of the time it works.
Another ecological move on my part is to quit fighting nature and grow only things that like living in my yard. Ferns love my yard. Flowers, most of them, do not. They are slug food and it’s pitiful to see them disappear one bite at a time. I also have bromeliads everywhere because they multiply like rabbits and like to grow around trees where it’s hard for me to mow anyway.
Okay, northern friends, come in and have a look at my green, growing, sunny, warm Florida yard.
The Natural World
I could feel the blisters coming up, but I couldn’t stop.
We have a beautiful tree in our yard, a somewhat rare tropical Kapok tree. It’s very tall, having grown up in a grove of oak trees – it had to go up to get the sun. Most of the year we don’t pay much attention to it, other than to admire the trunk.
But in the spring it flowers, and for two to three weeks the ground below is showered with the red blooms. These are not like the delicate white dogwood flower but the type that will put a dent in your car should it happen to land there. We put a parking area under this tree. What were we thinking?!
The mat of squishy, slippery rotting vegetation is hard to walk on or drive on and it creates a brown, moldy looking paste that is death to a car’s paint job.
I was considering all this while raking the debris into heavy piles of “stuff” and my usual outdoor thought surfaced. What is nature teaching me? Could it be that we are all parked in places in our lives where “stuff” is falling on us that is damaging us? I had no trouble connecting that to some relationally toxic environments that I’ve been in lately. And I had just read a blog post about dealing with self-absorbed people who drop words and thoughts on others without awareness of the effects.
I’m not exactly proud that this was my first evaluation of the nature flower bomb situation, because the next place my thinking went proved more valuable. What if I am the tree? What’s happening to the people who are parked in my vicinity during the hours and days of my life? What kind of clean-up chores are necessary after I’ve been around? Now there was food for thought. It gave me a whole new perspective on spending an afternoon doing crafts with a child, or taking time to shop for my quadriplegic client, or the contacts with people in my study group. There are a lot of people “parked” under my tree of influence and I can make decisions on how I affect them, for good or bad.
Yes, the blisters are there. On other days, it’s a sore back, or a sunburn or just being dog-tired. Is it worth it? I say yes, as I look at the results – a clean drive and parking area and new incentive to interact in a better way with my friends and neighbors on planet earth . Surrounded by trees, plants, sky, dirt and fresh air we open ourselves to hear some really valuable messages. I’m just sayin’, whoever created the natural world had a really good idea and today I get it.
I have noticed that I feel so good after spending a day outside working in the yard, and I’ve decided it’s the dirt. Therapeutic dirt. I always make sure I have a lot of contact with it – wear my sandals and shorts, and somehow manage to get smudges from head to toe.
Today’s dirt was AMAZING stuff. Two years ago it was a huge leaf pile and now it is all broken down, dark brown with nice fat earthworms crawling through it. It grows healthy looking weeds, which I pulled out and put in next year’s compost pile.
In Florida it’s the time of year to plant the spring garden. At the vegetable stand where I get the weekly fresh things for our meals, they also had tomato plants so I decided to get some instead of growing my own. An interesting aside – the stand is at our church and is “donation only” for whatever you want to pay and goes to the orphan homes in Cambodia that I visit. I call that a win-win transaction when I can support my special kids and get something to eat at the same time. I know the farmer who supplies it and he farms very successfully. Bet his tomato plants are going to do wonderful things for me this season.
So I pulled my earthboxes to the only sunny spot I could find in the oneacrewoods. It happens to be right near the fence line. The neighbor has cut down a lot of his trees and has a much sunnier yard than I do and some of the light sneaks through to my side of the fence. I think that my somewhat “iffy” results from the gardening I do is because there is so much shade. Good for keeping cool, bad for growing plants.
The other outside chore for today was harvesting my carrots. They have been growing for a whole year and are pitiful. This is what happens when you don’t thin out the seedlings. I’ve never been able to get carrots to germinate in my Florida gardens so I was really excited about all the fluffy greenery and couldn’t bear to pull any of it out. This is probably why they are so small after a whole year! (could also be the shade, or the inconsistent watering, or the general inattention they received).
So, other than the fact that some bug is eating all the leaves off my strawberry plants, things are looking much better in the garden today. And I feel great.
My Mom loves to garden. I call her Grandma sometimes because I have talked to my children about her for years and years. She is their grandma, my mom, Gwendolyn Boone Smith. Gwendolyn who never had a middle name and didn’t need one because her first name was long enough for two. Grandma keeps saying […]
I’ve been out in the oneacrewoods, which is what I call my yard because… well, you know why. It’s the time of year in Florida when outdoors is like a very, very big room with perfect air conditioning and perfect lighting and pretty much perfect everything else. On days like this I just want to live out there.
I was out weeding the strawberry beds before the husband left for work this morning. I got it all done. And in preparation for possible colder weather in December and January, I re-positioned my greenhouse supports to better fit my square foot garden boxes. I took down all the shade cloth since we now have the opposite problem of not enough sun. I raked, hoed, got dirt under my fingernails. I smelled the arugula and the citronella. I watched the squirrels (population explosion there). I tried to figure out where all the bees were coming from (still don’t know…) I counted how many different sounds I could hear – 10, counting the far away traffic. It was a sensual workout.
As lovely as it can be inside our houses, I think we were meant to be outside a good deal of the time. In practically every part of our world, life of some kind thrives outside where there’s sunlight and water and nutrients. Quite remarkable really, that everything we need is here. After a couple hours of fresh air and sunshine I feel like I’ve had an attitude adjustment as well – there’s something freeing about all that’s going on out there without my having to be in control of it, or even give it a thought. I’m just sayin’, I wish everyone could be here this morning (although it would possibly get a little crowded). I think I’ll quit writing and get out.