It’s cold outside, y’all, like really cold. So it’s no surprise that a couple of our houseplants are hosting a couple tiny terrors. Nothing bad or swarmy, just irritating little gnats. Mr. Sickles did a little research and came up with Safer Brand Houseplant Sticky Stakes. And they work! I put them in a couple plants on February 6, and by February 24 we had a little gnat graveyard. I like these because they’re quick, clean, and chemical-free. Can you hear my evil laugh?
The Optimistic Gardener | Fruitful Vegetables
By Dolly R. Sickles
This week in the Chatham News & Record I’m talking to my good friend, John Davis, whose wife Jean I’ve known for 25 years. John is just the coolest guy, with a totally interesting origin story.
Born in Brazil to parents who were lay ministers with the United Methodist Church, John is a peaceful dynamo. Since his parents studied agriculture at Iowa State in the early 1950s, and their purpose in the small town of Lins, Brazil was to run the farm that supported the seminary school, I knew John would have great farming insight.
You can read about his logic for planting in the ground versus raised beds, how he fertilizes, and the cool cistern watering system he developed in the article. I wanted to use this post for a true behind the scenes look at a childhood that was so very interesting and different than most of us. The Davis family lived in Brazil until John was 14, and during that time his peaceful father, Bob, turned out to be quite the radical Renaissance man.
In 1964, when the military took over the Brazilian government in a coup, Bob Davis stepped up to the plate. “Toward 1970, when we left,” John said, “dad was spending time with other people in the Methodist Church to get information out of the country, and to help get people under surveillance out of the country to safety.” They had a small apartment out back they used as a staging area to move people out, like an Underground Railroad.
The Davis family constantly encountered exciting things—theirs was like a real-life Indiana Jones situation. There was the time when, one night, Bob was going to take a woman they’d been helping to the bus station so she could leave the country and get to safety in Argentina. Only, the police were there so she and Bob had to wait it out in the car. Another time John came home from school and headed to the vacant lot next door where he hung out, and noticed the ground was disturbed; he found a shovel and started digging. Turned out his dad and crew had been smuggling out documentation and information to US media sources that described the torture and imprisonment happening in the country. And then there was the period when Bob delivered the mail to missionaries and ministers in the field by plane—”a big, lumbering DC-3″ that needed a dump truck to start its propeller once. I kid you not, I could’ve listened to stories about John’s family for hours.
And not to be outdone, Jean’s family also has an interesting history of gardening. Her mother worked for the famed Weston Nurseries in New England, as an azalea propagator. Jean also worked for Weston, though she was out with the garden crew planting bushes. “That was enough experience to know I don’t want to work in the garden again,” she said, laughing. “I like flower gardening, but I enjoy the fruits of John’s garden.” She turned out pretty good, farming aside, because she’s the President & CEO of MCNC. She’s basically a badass with a cool origin story, but that’s a topic for another day.
So let me assure you, the people around you are interesting as hell. You’ve just got to talk to them. Checking out their garden is a good way to break the ice. Get out there and be optimistic, people. And dig in the dirt while you’re doing it.
For more information:
This week I caught up with Chatham County Horticulture Extension Agent Matt Jones to discuss poison ivy. I’m strictly of the opinion that the only good poison ivy is dead poison ivy … or maybe the poison ivy that’s still growing over in your neighbor’s house who you don’t like. LOL. But Matt reminded me there are some good things that come of the weedy native vine.
According to the Smithsonian, “Poison ivy fruits, called drupes, are an important food for birds. Deer and insects eat the leaves. People think of it as a weed but in an ecological sense it is an early successional plant that is mostly found in disturbed areas.”
As a hater of the allergic reaction my husband has to the urushiol oil in poison ivy’s sap, but a friend of nature, I find myself vacillating between leaving it alone at the back of the property and mowing it down like Bill Duke in Predator. Maybe we could get a goat like we saw at the Louvre who’s sole purpose would be poison ivy eater. Hmm …
For more information
- North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox | Toxicodendron radicans
- University of Georgia Extension Office | Controlling Poison Ivy in the Landscape
- Smithsonian Insider | A poison ivy primer
- FDA | Outsmarting Poison Ivy and Other Poisonous Plants
- American Skin Association | Poison Ivy, Sumac and Oak
- Technu | Original Outdoor Skin Cleanser
- Chatham News & Record | Evil has a name, and it is poison ivy
- Reader Question | Which Tecnu product do you use?
And finally, I have it on good authority that Matt Jones will be developing a video for poison ivy this summer. I’ll post it when it’s available, but until then, check out the Chatham County Cooperative Extension Office for all things agriculture and natural resources.