Adding LIFE to your years and years to your life!
My Mom was a wonderful gardener. After my Dad passed away when I was a kid we moved from Virginia to Miami Springs, Florida. Mom had grown up on a farm in rural North Carolina so I'm sure her parents had tuned her in as to how to stay alive off the land. When her parents retired from their real jobs, when they were in their very young fifties, they decided to make good use of the newly vacated house of seven kids by opening a tourists Bed and Breakfast with a resturant. Think of this; a small town nestled in a valley surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains and only about one mile from the entrance to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. What could be greater than that? Well they had several water wells that were ice cold and guess where that water came from? Yes, the Smoky Mountain tops and pure rain. So what could be better than that? Okay... they grew all of their own food. Everything including raising their own bees to pollinate their own crops and to make honey for their customers in the resturant. So what could be better than that? There couldn't be anything else. Well, maybe the perfect mountain pure air and cool summers. There is something else. Yes beauracracy and taxes were less back then, but... what else? Think. Harder. I think you're getting close. What? Yes! Yes! Yes! No FDA. No regulations. No fertilizer. How much better could it get? It couldn't. They were never harrassed. There was a bit of a downside to some of you and to our eating proclivities which would be that there was dairy involved. Yes, there were cows, chickens, and the occasional hog but they roamed around free, or in a large pature and ate grass, bugs, seeds, and drank the purist natural water I ever drank. I can remember going up there during the summers when I was in elementary school along with my sister and cousins and living there. I'd get up some mornings with Granddad and gather eggs out of the nests we'd find in the area. He'd always tell me to leave at least one egg in each nest or the chicken would leave the nest. The resturant was in what must have at one time been a very large garage. It was off the front porch of the massive two story white frame farmhouse. The resturant had a huge picture window where customers could look out and see the cows grazing in the pasture and the Smokies in the near background. Just beautiful. Also there was nothing in their food but food, and nothing in their water but water, nothing in their milk but milk, nothing in their butter but butter. In fact there was nothing in anything that wasn't originally supposed to be there. The cows were milked everyday and the butter was freshly churned. And guess what? No one got sick. From March to October each year people flocked there to stay for a few days, a week, or however long they could and enjoy a room in the huge farmhouse, eat fresh food, and enjoy nature. I know we are all eating raw and basic if not totally vegan, but what I'm saying is that this was another day when at least if you had dairy it was safe as far as pollution or hormones et al was concerned. But I've digressed too long already. Now back to Miami Springs, Florida, Mom loved to garden and encouraged us to participate. I wasn't really interested at five years old but Dad had just passed away suddenly at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. so we were all sticking close together so I reluctantly participated. This was many years before I knew who Drs. Kenneth Cooper, Caldwell Esselstyn, Colin Campbell, or Joel Furman were. I also was spared the site of any chickens being directly prepared for chicken soup and hadn't been exposed to John Robbins, THE FOOD REVOLUTION or DIET FOR A NEW AMERICA so I wasn't thinking about animals in those days. In fact I didn't know about Baskin Robbins ice cream either, although I certainly would have eaten it. Anyway back again to Miami Spring, Florida. This was paradise for me now. There were all kinds of plants I'd never seen before, at least not in person. There was no winter. In south Florida if it got below 40 degrees, mild panic began to ensue. So Mom began rearranging or enhancing our yard, The yard was at least 1.5- 2.5 acres with our house, and a guest house in the back. And the guest house wasn't small. It had a kitchen, bathroom, den, dining room, and a bedrrom. And being Miami Springs, there was already three coconut trees, a lime tree, orange tree, mango tree, avocado tree, and a grapefruit tree. How cool was that? ( Remember, don't eat grapefruit if you're taking Lipitor. Better yet, eat wisely and don't take Lipitor and then get to eat grapefruit again.) So Mom got busy and before long she had hedges of Hibiscus plants, Gardenias, Crotons, and numerous other things which die here in Dallas even thinking of winter. We had a Florida room which was basically a slab the size of a three car garage that had screening on four sides, the roof, and a door leading outside. In there, away from bugs that weren't let in, Mom filled pots with all kinds of small fruit and vegetable plants, which we ate seasonally when ripe. And it was good and fresh. This lasted for nine years. My aunt was a stewardess with Delta Airlines and lived with us and Mom. During the summers while we were on the farm Mom headed to Atlanta, Georgia to get her Masters degree in Nursing. She already had her B.S. in Nursing from Duke University, but knew to break through that glass ceiling, she'd need the advanced degree. Luckily, in those days, before all the regulations, she could fly back and forth from Miami to Atlanta because her sister was a stewardess with Delta. A few years after she had her Masters degree in Nursing she landed a big time job and we moved to Dallas, Texas. It was my sisters senior year in high school and she had her finger in every pie and knew everyone. She was miserable and crying. I still think she ended up going to Vanderbilt University instead of Duke for college because Mom move to Dallas the instead of waiting. I just thought Mom did want a mom has to do when alone... take care of your kids. As for me, I was younger that my sister and ready for a change. When we moved to Texas things were different. It was dryer so you didn't sweat as much, but it was also hotter. The climate also changed the gardening habits. Again we had a big yard but only about 3/4 of an acre, and in the ground, not in pots so Mom taught me how to garden in Texas, when I wasn't doing sports or other things. She taught me how, what, when, where, and why to plant certain things as well as when to water, feed, and pick certain things, and I learned a lot from her and continued it when I bought my own house as an adult. Since that time, I had gotten into gardening on my own but had done the foolish things like use INSECTICIDES and eat the fruits thereof. In 2005 my wife got cancer. We were really shocked. I told her at the time that I would build her an organic garden with raised beds and organic soil and organic mulch beds and fence it in during Spring Break from my teaching job. It took me nine days from sunup to sundown to complete. It took 7 yards of organic soil and mulch in a 25 foot by 25 foot floor with thirteen raised beds of varying lenths and ten inch depth enclosed with a fence and two gates and one arbor.( Here's a picture of it. I'll post more later. ) You can't imagine how tired I was after doing this. The boards are two inches thick and some are 12 feet by 10 inches wide. All boards were first painted with latex, non toxic, bright red paint to attract bees and butterflies. Planting wild onion and garlic will also draw them from miles away. They seem to love the flowers. We plant lots of things including: tomatos, onions, garlic, squash, peppers, celery, parsley, beans, asparagus, lettuce of different varieties, eggplant, leeks, mint, rosemary, basil, aruguala, kale, brocolli, caulliflower and a few other things. Outside of the garden, in huge pots, we have a lime tree, lemon tree, orange tree and two mandarine trees. The trees go in the garage for the winter by a huge picture window for light. They love it in there, and by Spring, when we wheel them back out, they are covered in blooms and small fruit. You still have to remember to feed and water them because they are not dormant for the winter like the outside trees. We also have three pomagranate trees in the ground, which bloomed last year for the first time, but the fruit never matured. This is not unusual for their first or second year of blooming. Remember the three magic words for trees you plant so you won't become impatient; sleep, creep, and leap. That's how trees grow. I'm sorry this was so long a post, but I wanted to give you guys a little background knowledge on where I'm coming from. It's January 6th and I'm going to plant lettuce tomorrow, in the winter, and up it will come and thrive even in four inches of snow like last year. If you have snow all of the time in your area I don't know how it will do but that's the luck I had with four inches that was on the ground for six days year before last. Go to sleep if you're reading this right after I wrote it. It's12:45 am.