Friday, November 22, 1996

Gobble, Gobble, Gobble.

olidays have always had a special place for me, regarding family. It was a time to share things that otherwise were forgotten in the hectic days of career-oriented Yuppies. Olay, okay, I was one in the early 80s, right after growing through my Hippie stage of the 60s and 70s. Exciting, fun and very profitable times, those. But at a great personal cost, in terms of long-term relationships. It's the 90s now, and those so-called labels don't fit at all anymore.
For me, Thanksgiving is still a big family get-together on a feast-and-football day. There is no need to bring gifts as with Christmas, make and wear costumes as with Halloween; just lots of fellowship and huge amounts of food. (Quick; somebody say the blessing, I'm hungry!) It was a wonderful time and every relative who was still living came. If you were still alive and not on life support, you came for the day. I would always make an effort to get back from whatever business trip I was on for the gathering of the family that day. Or if, while living in another state, I was invited to a girlfriend's home for Thanksgiving, I'd at least call home. That's de rigeur, ya know.
Sometimes, at the very last minute I'd decide to drive across country to join the gathering after telling everyone that I couldn't make it for dinner. I'd show up just before dinner, ring the doorbell and freak everyone out. My bug-splattered BMW sitting in the driveway needed a serious cleaning after a marathon run like that. So I'd get some energetic cousins together, pile into the car and head for a do-it-yourself car wash and clean the unit up. Then I'd whack some more bugs with the car on the return trip in a day or two.

Our Best Year Yet..

1996 will be our watershed year. When it's over, we'll be about 26% or better ahead of last year, providing the "weather-gods" don't dump a too-early Winter on us again. (Hmmm; perhaps a small, furry animal sacrifice to the gods? Naaaaah.) Judging from the ever-evolving weather patterns, that's a distinct possibility. But, that's not something I have any control over and it's something I simply don't worry about it. I'm now down to my core A-Team Landscape Crew; the others have gone back to college. This is such a cohesive, 5-man unit that they finish 3 day jobs in 2 days. Perfect teamwork. Their proficiency saves money for the customer and allows me to schedule more Landscape jobs. Cool. These people get the real credit in the field. Their work is finely-detailed and impeccable. I'm very impressed with them and their work. And it's difficult to impress me. And unlike the half-dozen or so college students that work here from Spring through Fall, these guys won't be leaving in August for school. They've been to school and are now responsible citizens in the real world.
The new friends and customers that we've met through the InterNet are some very amazing people. Through the miracle of the Web, we've had the wonderful opportunity to work for them knowing that they now have realized one of their dreams through beautiful and functional landscaping for their homes. It's a nice feeling to have helped them get there. Thanks to all for letting us help you with your dream.
Controlled capital expansion is the key to success. Unlimited growth is a sure way to bankrupt one's business and oneself. I've seen it happen to too many people and companies: they ride the high waves but are quite unprepared for the inevitable troughs that always accompany such unbridled growth. assets that should be plowed back into capital expansion go for unneeded personal accoutrements. You know those types. Comfortable is nice; ostentatious is stupid.
The measured-growth approach is fiscally sound and economically solid. I follow that path.

Fall Prep and Planting.

In spite of the crush of jobs we still have on the books, I've had the Landscape Crews put the containerized and some B&B (balled and burlapped) nursery stock away in Greenhouses 2 and 3, as we do every year. This insures that all will survive the Winter in good shape for Spring sales. And it also insures that we don't get caught short by a snow or ice storm before or during the project. We did two years ago and that won't happen again.The large B&B trees and shrubs that are heeled-in the ground will stay for the Winter. Tens-of-thousands of Perennials are sleeping in Greenhouse 4 until mid-April. They're fine as is.
To complete our installations, we merely have to pull stock from those greenhouses to fill the pending landscape job projects. Overhead watering systems in each greenhouse keep the stock moist over the drying Winter, and double-black shadecloth shields the plant material from the warming, sunny days we occasionally have during January and February. Too much sun can cause the plants to 'wake-up', roots call for water and begin to push new growth and, with the ensuing cold at night, whack the plant quickly. It's happened in the past; that's why I take precautions now. I hate to waste good plant material.

Living Christmas Trees.

Customers are still coming in evenings and weekends and planting is encouraged until the ground freezes. We sell live Christmas Trees, as opposed to cut-dead ones. I just can't see the waste of millions of trees for 2 short weeks in December. I wrote an ad about this subject, called The Dead Tree Merchants. This ad really ruffled some feathers in both the horticultural industry and the general population within the region. I love it when that happens. It forces people to think about the wrong information they've been handed all these years by un-knowing nurserys, of which there are way too many.
From around now until a few days before Christmas, we push the "Live Trees" concept heavily. There are so many lowlife vendors selling dead trees and the accompanying wreaths, roping and swags at every street corner that as a commodity item, it's difficult for them to make any money on cut-dead trees. We don't even try. Our protest against this barbaric custom of cut-dead trees is to sell Live Trees that enhance one's property and add value for years to come. Why buy a cut-dead tree when a Living Tree costs only a few dollars more? How much enjoyment can you get from a cut-dead tree in the coming years? Right-you-are; absolutely none.
This is is the best time of year to plant trees and shrubs. They root-in over the Winter until the ground temperatures drop to below 40F and the root system goes completely dormant and no watering or care is required next year, unless a major drought ensues. On the other hand, if plants are installed in the Spring, continual care will be needed until that Fall; on the average of 1" of rain per week or 25gal of water per plant per week. That's a lot of watering from Spring to Fall. More and more, it makes sense to plant in the Fall for next year's beauty.

Email Problems.

During gardening season from March through October I get a lot of email; sometimes upwards of 70 letters per day. During the Winter months, it slacks off into the mid-20s and gives me a rest. I really enjoy answering all the mail personally that comes in. Even my secretary doesn't mess with that area.
But the one problem I have is that although I hand write each reply in great detail, many return as Failed Mail. There's nothing I can do at that point except re-try the transmission, which again usually fails. Maybe 10% of the notes I receive have an incorrect email domain name configuration. And that's why some people haven't heard back from me. Hey, I wrote and sent it; it's your responsibility to periodically wonder if the address is correct, especially if no one writes bak to your questions. Duh.
Please re-check your email address with your ISP (InterNet Service Provider). If it's not working one indication would be that no one ever writes back have them fix it. It's their job.

Alternatives To Turkey.

Most of the Thanksgiving-oriented sites on the InterNet right now offer meats you can serve that are turkey. However, if you're sick of eating meat dishes every year, you're a vegetarian or your annual Thanksgiving tradition is to find a new recipe nobody's ever tried before, Veggies Unite! might be the ticket.
The site offers more than 2,000 recipes; with such a concentration, you can find one suitable to just about any Veggies Unite! occasion. A special Thanksgiving menu is available. If you try a Veggies Unite! recipe, be sure to go back and tell Veggies Unite members how much you liked it. Or didn't. Critique from other cooks are linked to most recipes.
Outside the recipe realm, the site has a number of other useful items, including a weekly meal planner, a newsletter, book reviews and a number of bulletin boards dedicated to discussions about vegetarianism and living a healthy lifestyle.
The Dinner Co-op page isn't a fancy page. It's maintained by a group of people in Pittsburgh who have been dinner co-oping for years and is run on a university server.
But the recipes it compiles, which cover every course of a full meal, span more ethnic cuisines than any others I've seen, including Thai, Indian Spanish, French and Chinese. About 600 recipes are available. They are organized only by course; however, you can search through them to find ingredients that appeal to you. And a Thanksgiving menu is available.
Bon appetit!

Need A Babysitter?

When you're dialing up that person to care for the kiddie-o whilst you and your spouse are out and about on the town for an evening this Holiday Season, there's a few crucial points to consider. I won't be presumptuous and explore the requisite good characteristics, but I do know about the points to avoid. (I've watched the movies about these things!) A warning light should be going off if you even see one of them! Here's the twelve signs you picked the wrong babysitter... heh, heh, heh...

12.) S/he brings Emmanuel Lewis wearing an identical outfit.

11.) You *thought* you called Bob, but Bill shows up.

10.) By the time you get home, your daughter is a certified Amway rep.

9.) Not only are the Oreos gone, s/he also used the last of your heroin.

8.) S/he carries the baby by sinking her/his teeth into the scruff of its neck.

7.) His/her references include a pardon from the governor.

6.) Scabs around the swastika scar on her/his forehead look like they might be infectious.

5.) When you return, the kids are gone and Mrs. Brubaker has gained 200 lbs.

4.) As you're leaving, s/he asks if you know the country code for Iceland.

3.) S/he's wearing more black than Johnny Cash and Richard Lewis combined.

2.) S/he ssks for payment in advance to put a deposit on a keg.

1.) S/he offers to throw in a circumcision for an extra 10 bucks.

Just Inquisitive.

Don't like contests? Rather ask a stupid question? Something like, "Why are there interstates in Hawaii?" Or even, "Do vegetarians eat animal crackers?" There's also the oh so important, "Where did you park my car?" Fine. You can do this and more at Stupid Quest. Just remember: ask a stupid question and you'll get a stupid answer.
Visit StupidQuest for some real gems and a laugh.

J o h nS h e l l e y

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