Mirror Images

Friday, August 1, 1997

long ago well, four months ago when it last really rained I had some solid expansion plans that were to go into effect by Spring 98; now they're moved up to this Fall or early Winter. It looks like all bets are off on predicting what kind of a Fall-Winter-Spring will be coming, after such a weird Spring and a scorching Summer. Ordering in hundreds of thousands of dollars of fresh nursery stock and perennials is always a shitshoot, based upon anticipated consumer demand and expected landscape projects, but for 1998, it should be a no brainer. The real variable is the weather: it's been a most unusual past several years everywhere.

Sure, it's a little early to be thinking about Winter, but it's August and Winter's less than 4 months away. Tempus fugit.
For the past 8 years, Greenhouse #1 has been the Potting House, where plants are divided, cuttings taken and grown on, and seed sewn and plants mature until ready for resale. By November 1st, after the majority of the Gardening Season is over, I'll transfer everything of value into the Main Retail Display Greenhouse for the Winter, and allow the GH-1 to freeze out until Spring. This will naturally sterilize all surfaces inside and provide a rejuvenated place to restart the potting procedure in March with fresh stock plants. Plus, I'll save some serious money by not heating it during the cold season.
With all 4 Production and Display Greenhouses left to freeze out for the Winter, all activity will be centered in the Main House. We'll wall-off a portion of the rear and use it for horticulture work over the Winter. In the Spring, we'll clorox all surfaces in GH-1, further sterilizing it from bacteria and insects.
I'll be bringing in all new stock plants through the Fall and Winter to replace many now in GH-1, which will be composted, since they served their purpose over the years. Fresh stock plants will afford us the opportunity to regenerate all the rare and unusual items we sell to Gardening Enthusiasts. It also affords us the opportunity to do some neglected cosmetic work on GH-1s facilities, which have been used hard over the past 8 years.
I bought the very best of everything when I built and opened my business in 90; it's paid off handsomely in no downtime, repairs or structural problems in any of the facilities. Many places buy cheap just to get open quickly, and they pay a heavy price for it down the road. You do get what you pay for. Always.
I'll be constructing two more 30' x 100' Brady quonset greenhouses behind the four already used for production, growing, display and sales. The 100' x 80' Van Wingerden gutter-connected main greenhouse. These new houses will help Winter over nursery stock and receive fresh stock in the Spring in case of impending frosts and snows. Tender leaves and new growth won't then be compromised, as we've had to deal with in the past seven years. Drought or heat scorched plant material can easily be refreshed since 70% shadecloth will be covering both houses all year. No benches, fans or louvers; just a stone floor, open ends and a basic watering system in each. I should have done this years ago, but there was always another expense that took precedence.

Cumulative Effect.
The much welcomed two days of rain we had last week kept even more plants from dying, but couldn't save the ones that were too far gone. Drought, heat stress and overall exhaustion took out the weak and left the strong to survive another season.
The flip side or mirror image is that The Blizzard of 96 did the same thing to plants and, to some degree, animals. The brutal cold and snow helped many plants to decide to live or die that following Spring. That's Nature's Way of natural selection and it's worked for millions of years. It's sometimes sad to watch it slowly occur, but comforting to know that the process is sound and time tested.
The damage is now done at customer's homes; it's time to survey the results and make needed replacements where warranted. People who took care of their plants during the drought will get replacements; those who didn't will not. My 5 Year Warranty provides for those eventualities.
No one else anywhere has anything even close to the Five Year Warranty that I provide with my plants, if we install them. It's a 1 year Warranty if a customer does the install, correctly of course, and follows through with aftercare. The second best available guarrantee worldwide is two years, by a garden center right here in Pennsylvania who attended my Positioning - Marketing Warfare presentation last February before 1,500 horticulture industry members in Hershey, PA. It's nice to know that some paid attention.
For the next several weeks in addition to my regular activities I'll be visiting lots of landscape sites to determine if and when replacements get made. Most of those will be done after September 15th, when air and ground temps return to normal levels, and we have hopefully, some more moisture back in the ground.

My Own Mirror.
The older I get, I'm more sure that I know less than I think I do.
After founding this place in 1990, I ran every operation, made every decision and basically, did everything. Now, there's too much to do in an operation this size. We've grown exponentially over the past 8 years. And if I try to be involved in every aspect of everything, I can make a mess of it without trying too hard. That's why I've hired other professionals to be responsible for their areas of assignment. My concern is that they have what they need to do a professional job, make and keep customers happy and contribute positively to the corporate bottom line.
My biggest challenge is to now keep clear of the day-to-day workings and get involved in the strategic decision making portion of each division's efforts; leave the tactics to the experienced professionals who are on the line everyday. I also have wonderful people in place that handle the implementation; they line things up and dot the i's and cross the t's for me.
It's very tough letting go of all the strings that control everything, but I'm learning slowly. No one person can do everything without making a mess of some things. It's an education in progress.

Memory Leaks.
Maybe Slick Willie & Co should start taking more Vitamin E to help improve their collective memory. Documents are now surfacing from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that quite clearly show Clinton and Gore did make numerous fund raising calls from The White House, clear violations of election campaign law. How convenient that the Clinton scumbags can't recollect the truth.
Clinton's line (read outright lie) was that "he couldn't recollect making any calls from The White House, although it's possible" he did, and that his failing memory put the burden of proof squarely upon investigators. He knew; bet the ranch on it. Notes surrendered to prosecutors from former chief of staff Harold Ickes now prove clearly that he did. Ickes was fired by Clinton right after reelection in 94, so the notes could be considered sweet revenge by Ickes on the DNC and Clinton for forcing him out of power. It's most unusual for a trusted chief of staff to not destroy all evidence, unless it's a conscious effort. If only Harold would talk freely about the other real skeletons.
Next, it's a group of Bhuddist nuns' turn to testify about DNC pressure to raise money at a west coast temple where they were reimbursed for their efforts. The nuns have been given immunity for their testimony. This will impact Al (I didn't do anything wrong and I won't do it again) Gore.
Our favorite senators or congressmen are listed here, along with the money they took and from where. Everyone is listed, regardless of party affiliation, and there's some real eye openers.
The Summer is getting more and more interesting as the days go by.

Rapid Transit.
After a call from the VP and General Manager of an ISP who competes locally with Cyberia Communications, my long time ISP, I got the cable modem installation scheduled.
A tech guy named Jerry called and set it up for early morning next Thursday. If they start at 8am, it'll take about 2 hours to modify the hardware, install and configure the new software. I might not go to work after the installation that day. Imagine connecting at up to 400kbps and downloading information in mere seconds, as opposed to long minutes or hours at 28.8kbps. Wow. Like trading in that wussy 4cyl BMW for a 427 V8 Shelby Cobra. Double wow.
I don't ever find people talking about their connections on the net. I don't know why people don't talk about what kind of connectivity they have. Maybe everyone is at 14.4kbps or 28.8kbps and ashamed of it. I don't know. I've referred to my paltry connection before in these pages. No T-1 or T-3 lines, to be sure. I couldn't even get a 33.6kbps to work on my office Pentium 586-200/96; it would only connect at 28.8 and then failed completely.
Next Friday's Journal entry will have the story on cable modems vs 28.8 dial-up vs ISDN.

No, it''s not a fashion show from Levi Strauss or Dockers. It's the Pennsylvania Area Nursery Trade Show (PANTS; clever, huh?) held yearly by national, regional and local sellers of horticulture products and related equipment for garden center and nursery owners throughout the region, in Port Washington, PA, at a huge convention center complex. Over one hundred thousand people in the horticulture passed through the doors in three days to buy.
I mainly go on the last day of the show to purchase special items that some of the thousands of vendors want to sell from their booths, so they don't have to transport things to either the next trade show or back home. Good deals on good things can be had at the end of the show.
Many nurserys place their stock orders for the following Spring at this show; we've already been there, did that, thanks. We're way ahead of the pack.
It's also a social occasion to visit with others in the industry, see what's new, what didn't work and what the so-called trends will be for 98. Like anyone there really knows. The people who set the trends and cause the buying patterns aren't there; they're vacationing somewhere in the Caribbean or in the Cote de Jour, as in the South of France. Not Pennsylvania.

Shorter Hours.
Although the heat has subsided temporarily, the drought emergency remains in place here in central and southern Pennsylvania. The Midwest is getting too much water and has floods occurring all over the place; the most recent being in Colorado. I wish we could get some of that. Even the runoff would be welcomed.
I've cut back a wee bit on the hours of operation here; I'm cutting down to 14 hours per day during the oppressive heat. There's no sense in running all kinds of electric stuff computers, office fans, air conditioning, radios et al when all that's really needed are the temperature controlled greenhouse fans and automatic watering watering systems. It stresses out the power company's grid, and gets expensive at month's end when GPU's invoice comes in. I'd rather shut down early if it's an option, and save the bucks running all that extranneous equipment.
We've been lucky so far: no brownouts or major power problems. When power is lost to this complex, greenhouses can heat up to 150F in a matter of minutes, even with 70% shade cloth, if no air is being drawn through by the 4 huge fans and louvers. Plants wilt and die in minutes and whole crops are lost. I've seen it happen at other places; it hasn't and won't happen here.
In a real emergency situation, I'll manually open the doors and louvers to let air circulate. If that's not enough, I'll cut the double 6-mil poly plastic coverings right off the greenhouse frames and expose the entire structure to fresh air. That's the court of last resort, but definitely an option in an emergency.

Email Problems.
When someone joins that so-called AOL group, does something automatically destroy the email address that's been assigned to them? It seems so in 4 out of 10 notes that I get. Still.
Mail comes back as UNDELIVERABLE to many AOL addesses. It may sit on their server for a while, but it almost always comes back. Then I play with the address to see if I can get it to work; sometimes there's an extra space in the address, and closing it up works. Most often, it's an internal AOL problem. I hand reply to each and every question, but when the majority of replies are invalid because of a bad address, it makes me wonder whether the effort is worth it.
Don't people get suillegal alienious when no one returns their queries or answers their mail?
I get upwards of 80 emails a day about japanese beetle problems, disease, pruning, fertilizing, planting, transplanting, propagation and dozens more subjects. It takes several hours each evening to research and hand write the detailed answers to most, so a correct email address is critical.

Three morons from Yemen are suing NASA for trespassing on Mars. They say they have the legal documents to prove they own it, inherited from their ancestors over 3,000 years ago. Talk about loopy people.


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