On A Platter

Friday, June 13, 1997

“i never know from which direction it will come; and come it inevitably does. Duck quickly and survive the fusillade." Gen. Patton.

Incessant Calls.
Because of the drought and stress brought on by a way too mild Winter, plants are still dying all over the place. I get 3-4 calls per day about replacement plants for landscape jobs we did years ago sometimes I regret my 5 Year Warranty as well as just completed Spring jobs this year. Trees and shrubs of all ages are deciding not to live this Spring; the casualties are everywhere.

I also get calls from people who've got older landscapes dying off this Spring because of the unusually mild Winter; there's not much I can do for them or their plant material. They just have to wait and see how extensive the damage is, when the dying finally stops.

People with new landscapes tend to overcompensate for the weather; either too much water or too little. And despite being specifically told not to fertilize anything for the first year, except perennials, they always do if the plants are looking a little peaked from transplant shock. That single action causes major problems very quickly with any tree or shrub. Excessive leaf growth without the rootball's ability to handle the plant's feeding requirements will cause dieback or outright death.

After explaining the whys and wherefores to one or both of the owners, they invariably call back the next day and still complain that something is wrong with my new plants. I remind them of our previous conversation. Then they remember. Although detailed planting instructions are given to each customer, I'm working on several new sets of printed planting and cultural instructions; it's only taken me seven years to reformulate antiquated opinions and techniques of this horticulture industry into procedures that now make sense for my customers in USDA Zone 6b.

Almost to the day, the neighboring towns are setting up for yard sales aplenty this weekend. It's the same thing every year.

In addition to weekend deliveries being screwed-up because of traffic snarls, I can hardly get around to landscape appointments because of the crowds. People buying other people's junk. Well, I guess it's one way of keeping the garbage dumps and landfills from getting too full and overcrowded. At 5am on the way into work, people are setting up tables, displaying junk, pricing junk, hauling more junk out, displaying junk... It boggles my mind. These are people with way too much time on their hands; people who need to find a life.

My opinion of these junk fests is well known, so I won't get into it here in draconian detail here.

These so-called community events cause horrendous traffic problems on all the main streets, endanger pedestrians darting out between parked cars and eventually result in a few accidents and car towings. Why the authorities allow this shit to go on year after year is a mystery to me. They could be held in a community center such as baseball field or stadium, county park or somewhere else and preclude all the resultant problems that always accompany them. The Hot Rod ass'n also boasts their annual Show at The York Fairgrounds this weekend, further screwing up traffic.

I hate government involvement in anything and firmly believe that it should stay the hell out of every citizen's life. But this is an instance when the local townships etc should step-in and regulate the safety of the activity. Most of the municipalities are staffed by gutless wonders, who are afraid to take such an unpopular stand, even though the aftermath is usually fraught with pedestrian injuries, accidents, arguments, fights etc.

More Junk.
Last Fall, I bought several lightweight barn coats from a local clothing retailer. They're wonderfully comfortable and easily washable cotton, now worn by many people this Spring. But I never checked the label.

assons starting coming off on a regular basis; fortunately, there were extras sewn inside the coat. I'm no seamstress, but I had to sew them back on. While unloading nursery stock trucks, more came off. Pretty soon, I had none on the coat and a handful in the pocket.

By happenstance I saw the label: there, plainly were the words Made In China. shit. Had I been astute and smart enough to check it in the first place, I would never have bought these items. Everything coming from that stinking dictatorship is shit. shit. Junk. US corporations are flocking to mainland China to do business, despite the brutal repression and murder going on there everyday. It's the Clinton scum's fault that we've now got a $50billion trade deficit with them, and have given them Most Favored Nation (MFN) trading status when they deserve to be further isolated from the rest of the world. Actually, they deserve along with Iran, North Korea and a few other renegade countries several thermonuclear devices shoved up their collective asses and detonated. Hell, I'd volunteer to push the damned asson.

So here I am, on a Saturday morning, sitting in front of my 22" Viewsonic G800 Graphics Series office monitor, re-sewing assons that keep coming off the coat. Knit one, pearl two. Next time, I'll check the label first and buy Made In USA; no more commie shit for me. That's if I can find anything with that USA label anymore.

This past week was unpleasant: I had to fire my maintenance person. An 18-year old freshman at Penn State, she just couldn't handle simple tasks such as weeding, pruning and basic plant maintenance. She was too much of a socialite, constantly flirting with my landscape crew members; the foreman and crew chief had complained on two occasions about her actions, so I had to act. She wouldn't take responsibility for her own life; it was always someone else's fault why she was late, didn't get the job done, did the wrong thing et al. That's not a good sign for her future: she'll wind up on welfare, an alcoholic or drug addict, in prison or dead. Some future. I can only teach so much before the massive display gardens and retail display sales areas begin to suffer and look bad. In a retail situation, that's the death knell.

I re-hired my former employee who's had the job for the past two years; she'd left because of a booming quilting business she runs from her home, but she wanted to come back. Over the Winter, she'd earned a Penn State Master Gardener certificate and had really improved in her attitude and ability to work with plant material. The practical experience I'd provided here over the past two years for her was well and amply augmented by a respected classroom curriculum.

This will take a load off of me as to worrying about the condition of plants in the Nursery right now and as the Summer progresses.

Site Visits.
The calls are still coming in, but at a slower rate. Requests for landscape site visits traditionally slow down in July and August, but then quickly pick-up for the Fall season.

Our work is booked through August, so I have to tell people that their next open slot will be in September. Many don't like having to get at the end of the queue; they feel that waiting until all openings are taken entitles them to come to the front of the line. Not so. I simply remind them that there are other, though substandard, garden centers and nurserys out there who can complete their required projects. I pity them if they use such places, though. I usually get a call a year or two later asking that I redo that lousy work that was done by someone else.

Sunday Mornings
Always one of my favorite days, on Sunday I can sleep late (7am), breakfast on Eggs Benedict with fresh hollandaise sauce, sip freshly-squeezed orange juice, savor Starbuck's coffee and take the leisurely drive into work. We open the gates at 12noon, so by quietly arriving at 8am, I can get plenty of paperwork done with few interruptions.

I enjoy reading The New York Times' perspective on the world too. That's been part of the routine for the past 22 years on Sunday mornings. When I was married, I often didn't get that chance; too many other things to do in that short timeslot. Now that I'm divorced, I enjoy the respite from that early Sunday morning hectic-ness.

My two housecats Murphy and Mama Kitty enjoy some eggs, Canadian bacon and hollandiase sauce as well. But they're way too young to drink the coffee.

USA Today Story.
The story about my place is still scheduled for Tuesday, June 17th, I believe; at least the last time Friday the 6th I spoke with Christina, the editor who was writing the story.

It will appear in the print edition; unfortunately not on their website. The photographer shot 5+ rolls of film, so there should be some great examples of the rare, unusual and hard-to-find plant material that we are noted for in the story.

Summer's Here.
I think it might be here, at least. Sunday was warm; Monday and Tuesday were in the 80s with the 90s following right behind and the plant material is responding with spectacular growth. Soil temperatures need to be at least 41F for root activity to take place. When soil warms up to the 60s, spectacular leaf and root growth take place; almost overnight things begin appearing, as if by magic.

Many plants that were injured by frost, snow and continued cold are pushing other sets of leaves and beginning to look normal again. For a while, it looked as though I was selling dead material; thousands of containers of leaf-less sticks and pots. Now, at least, they're plants again.

Hundreds of thousands of perennials living in GHs 2-3-4 are fine; it was the material that had Wintered over and the new material arriving that had trouble with the weather. Adjustments were made and all is well, now.

I get the same question all the time: "Aren't you still married and how many kids do you have?" And my answer is always the same: "Happily divorced, thank you."

Defensive? No; just tired of the same questions. Been there, said that a thousand times.

Why I even bother with the discussion is beyond me. I prefer alone right now as opposed to lonely anytime; there is a big difference. I learned the subtleties back in the late 60s. Haven't forgotten those lessons.

Sunday I went shopping at several mega-supermarkets in Red Lion and Dallastown, and found a few culinary treasures. Pasta is one of my passions, so I got 11 different flavored types to experiment with. I've done them all in prior years, but all of a sudden, I've got cravings for it again. When I was cheffing, I'd make it fresh daily; I don't have time anymore. But with all the varieties of flavored pasta, who cares?

I also enjoy fresh salads with pasta. Now there's salads in a bag, ready to eat and many mixtures to choose from. I picked up one of each for a test. I'm used to making things from scratch, so this was a real treat and timesaver.

And vino, of course. I also stopped at the State Liquor Store and bought several cases of 94 Sebastiani Cabernet Savignon and 93 Guenoc Cabernet Savignon, along with several assorted bottles of California Chardonnay. After several thousand assorted bottles over the years, I believe California wines edge out French wines every time. I'll start rebuilding my collection again with all California vintages this time, exclusively.

Rapid Transit.
Recently, I got involved in beta testing very high speed cable modems for a new Internet Service Provider (ISP) in York. My ISP is Cyberia Communications and they're heavily aligned with the telcos, using dial-up and ISDN technology. I was curious as to what the other technology was all about. I'd read reviews and tech reports on both; it was a toss-up according to them.

Since I haven't watched TV in over two years, I needed another CATV connection. TV really sucks, from what little I remember of it, so I have no real interest in watching it. This is a pure cable modem thing.

I left work early to meet the installer. The cable guy arrived at 7pm. He completed the cable modem prep work, installed CATV and wired in my Sony Super-Beta (still the best format) and Sony Super-VHS (second to Beta) recorders to the 27" Sony Trinitron. I have hundreds of tapes that I haven't seen in years; it'll be like a reunion when I get some time to look at it all again.

The actual modem will be set-up and working within 2-3 weeks, I've been told. We'll see how it all goes. I probably won't get rid of the dial-up networking capability, just in case things don't work all that well.

Rainy Thursday.
After some nice, wetting late Spring rains in the past two weeks, we've been again thrust into a minor drought. The local weather bureau people count 5 inches; I recorded 3 inches. Hell, we'll take any moisture we can get these days.

After several days of wonderful warmth and sun, a cold front is again moving through the area today and tomorrow, triggering much-needed showers and storms. We don't need the cold, only the rains. I'll gladly give up several productive days of landscape work for my crews in trade for rain right now.

Democratic Espionage.
The filthy piece of shit John Huang is now back in the news. It seems that top secret electronic intercepts prove he passed government secrets to the criminal Lippo Group scum in Indonesia about several classified policy decisions and pending projects.

In their greedy zeal to raise as much money to satisfy Slick Willie's paranoia about being re-elected, the liberal Democratic lowlifes overlooked background checks, security clearances and general common sense procedures for admitting a scumbag like Huang and his criminal friends into the fold. How does a piece of garbage like the Huang dog ever get into government work? Simple: Clinton knew him and the Lippo criminals back in Little Rock and cut deals with them both to help get him re-elected. Clinton and Huang should share the same cell in federal prison.

Little by little, the shit is leaking out about Clinton's criminal activities; I believe that by the end of the Summer, Huang will be singing a long tune about the whole sordid mess. Yes, it will be an interesting next few months.