Margot And Grandpa Make a Garden For The Elf Man–A Story

Because Grandpas can’t hear an elf man but a little girl can.

One nice summer day, Margot’s momma and daddy had to go somewhere important. Grandma needed to go to a meeting. Margot’s momma said, “Now, Margot, you and Grandpa can play in the yard together. Please try to keep Grandpa out of trouble.” Grandpa had a funny look on his face.

Grandpa and Margot held hands and walked around, looking at all sorts of nice flowers and a mirror on the fence that looked like a window but it wasn’t.

mirror

The two of them planted some flowers in pots. Grandpa asked Margot to water some flowers. He had a watering can that was just her size. Time went by.

watering can

Margot wanted some rocks to play with, so she and Grandpa gathered up some pretty ones from here and there. Margot said, “I want to make a mountain and a road. She put the rocks near the corner of the deck.

rocks

Grandpa said, “I think I would like to go inside and have a cup of coffee. Would you like something, Margot?”

“No,” Margot said, “I want to make a mountain for the elf man.”

Grandpa said, “That’s nice, I’m sure he will enjoy it.”

Grandpa went in the house and got his coffee. He thought, “I was told to not leave her alone, but there is a big fence all around the yard and she’s busy playing with rocks. What could go wrong?” He sat down in his chair and picked up his morning paper.

There was a big, loud,
BANG
Grandpa said, “AWWWW, Man,” and walked out the door.

Outside, Margot was squatted down, looking under the deck. She was talking very quietly. Grandpa glanced around and that was when he saw that his brand new flower pot had been broken. A rock sat next to the pieces

elfman 1

Grandpa quietly said, “What has happened here? Now who could have done this?”

Margot stood up, looked at grandpa and said, “The elf man did it.”

Grandpa asked, “Where is the elf man?”

“He’s under the deck. I was talking to him. He said he’s sorry he broke your pot. He was trying to make a garden just for him and the rock was too heavy. He’s really sorry and he doesn’t want to get in trouble.”

Grandpa smiled gently and said, “It’s all right. He won’t get in trouble. Elf men are special. We will have to be nice to him.”

Margot smiled and squatted down to look under the deck. “He said it is all right, mister elf man….what? …OK, I’ll tell him.”

She stood up and looked at Grandpa. “He said that he is sad because he doesn’t have a garden to play in.”

Grandpa looked at Margot

He looked down at the space under the deck

He looked at the broken flower pot.

He looked back at Margot, smiled gently, and said, “Then why don’t we make a garden for the elf man?”

Margot jumped up and down and clapped her hands. “Yayy,” she said, “the elf man will be happy.”

Margot watched as Grandpa got a bag of potting soil.

“But Grandpa…” she said, “The flower pot is broken.”

“It’s all right,” said Grandpa, “The elf man left us this rock to fix it with.”

Grandpa put the broken part of the pot inside the pot and propped it up with the rock. It looked like this:

elfman 2

Grandpa put potting soil into the pot and patted it down. He put more potting soil into the pot and mashed it down hard.

elfman 3

“There,” said Grandpa as he finished putting the soil into the broken pot. “Now it will all hold together.”

“I think the elf man will like it,” said Margot.

elfman 4

“But,” said Margot, “but how is the elf man going to get up into his garden?”

Grandpa put his finger up to the side of his head and thought about it. “How about if we put something there for him to climb up on?”

“He would like that,” said Margot.

“Ok,” said Grandpa. Here’s a vine for him to climb up on. It’s called a ‘sedum.’” Grandpa planted it in the pot over the rock.

elfman 5

“Yes,” said Margot, “He can climb up that vine. He will like that.”

Grandpa said, “I guess we will need a tree. I have a nice one, it is called a ‘jade plant.’” The jade plant looked like this:

elfman 6

Margot stood on a stool and helped Grandpa plant the tree. He showed her how to pack the soil around the roots so that it wouldn’t fall over. “oooooh,” said Margot, “now the elf man can climb up into the tree and see all around.”

elfman 7

Grandpa looked at the garden. “Maybe we need to find him a dead tree trunk to sit on and a rock. Would the elf man like that?”

“Oh, yes, elf men love having dead trees to rest on and rocks to climb on.”

So Margot and Grandpa walked around the yard and found just the right dead tree and just the right rock. They put them into the garden in just the right places.

elfman 8

Grandpa and Margot found a couple of other plants to put into the garden. Grandpa said, “the one on the right is called a ‘jewel of the nile,’ the other one is something I picked up at the store. I don’t know it’s name, do you?

Margo said, “I think it’s name is ‘Fred.’”

She helped Grandpa plant the new plants in just the right places

Elfman 9

“There,” said Grandpa. “This is turning into a nice garden for the elf man.”

Margot looked concerned. She glanced up at Grandpa and said, “but, Grandpa, what if he wants to go fishing?”

Grandpa put his hand up to his forehead. “Oh, No,” he said, “How could I have forgotten about how much an elf man loves to fish. What will we do? Wait a minute. I’ll be right back.” Grandpa went into the house and came out with something in his hand. “Look,” he said, “Grandma was going to throw this away. It’s our lucky day.” He had a mirror. “What do you think, Margot? It’s not a real lake, but I think it will do.”

Margot smiled and said, “It’s all right, silly Grandpa. Don’t you know that everything is real to an elf man? If he wants it to be a lake, it will be a lake.”

Grandpa put the mirror into the garden.

elfman 10

“How’s this?” he asked.

Margot studied it from the front. She went around to the other side of the garden and looked. She pointed and said, “I think the elf man would like the lake better if it was back here.” So they moved it

elfman 11

“That’s much better,” said Margot. “Now he can sit under the tree and go fishing. But…”

“I know,” said Grandpa, “It needs grass around it and a rock for him to sit on.”

“Grandpa, sometimes you can be smart.” Said Margot.

They walked around the yard and found some moss that looked just like grass. They put it around the lake.

elfman 12

They found just the right rock for the elf man to sit on and they put it in just the right place. “There,” said Margot. “He is really going to like that.”

elfman 13

“But, Grandpa…He doesn’t have a path to get to the sitting rock and the lake.”

“Oooookaaay,” said Grandpa, “Let’s make him a pathway. We can line it with shiny rocks.”

“Yes, Grandpa. He will like that.”

elfman 14

“Look,” said Grandpa, “I have some aquarium gravel to use for the pathway so the elf man won’t get his feet dirty.” They put the tiny rocks into the pathway and smoothed it out. Margot reached out and walked up the path with her fingers. She smiled.

“It’s easy to walk on, Grandpa. I tried it out. The elf man will like it.”

elfman 16

Margot and Grandpa worked on the garden for a while longer. They got everything just as they thought the elf man would like it. They stepped back and looked at their creation. Grandpa put it near a flower bed. “The elf man will like this,” said Margot.

Margot knelt and peered under the deck. She whispered something, then, after a moment, Grandpa heard her whisper again, “Ok, I’ll tell him.”

She stood up and said, “Grandpa, the elf man wants us to walk around the yard so we won’t see him go to the elf man garden.”

So, Margot and Grandpa walked around the yard for a few minutes. Then they went back to see if the elf man liked his garden. Margot bent over the garden and whispered something. She waited, listening, and then whispered again, “Ok, I’ll tell him.”

“Grandpa, the elf man wants you to move the garden over there.” She pointed. “Oooookaaay,” said Grandpa. He moved the garden.

elfman garden

 

Later, Margot said, “Grandpa, I know an elf man poem. Would you like to hear it?”

“Yes, Margot, I would,” said Grandpa.

Margot put her hands on her hips, looked up at Grandpa, and said,:

I met a little elf man once
Down where the lilies grow
I asked him why he was so small
And why he did not grow.

He cocked his head
And with his eye
He looked me through and through.
I’m quite as big for me he said
As you are big for you.”

“That’s very good,” said Grandpa. “Now, I think I’ll have some coffee.”

–poem by John Kendrick Bangs–

Finding My Voice Through “Quotes and Notes”

In case you need to know where the “quotes and notes” came from, here is the explanation.

Recently, throughout the fall and winter, I have seen some interesting changes in my writing life. I have been finding my voice. As you may know, a couple of years ago I lost my vocal cords to a cancer operation called a laryngectomy. I spent an interesting six months not being able to talk at all and then I was fitted with a tiny prosthesis in my throat that allows me to use other muscles to talk. I have been getting better and better at talking.

I have written a book titled Sweetie Drives on Chemo Days, facing cancer treatments with humor and optimism. The book deals with questions for others who ask, “what happens when I am treated for cancer?”

Our new book is almost ready to print. The publisher is working on the formatting now. I knew the release date was coming and last October, in observance of Breast Cancer Month, I told my Facebook followers that I would post a motivational and annotated cancer quote every day for the entire month. I didn’t know if I had it in me to write such a post every day for 31 days, but I pushed myself. I succeeded.

The effort was well received. A lot of people started following and several cancer victims thanked me profusely for the help they got from the posts. At the end of October I said, “Well, there it is, I hope you liked it. I’m done.” I received a lot of requests to continue writing the motivational posts so I told Dekie that I wondered if I could do a quote and note every day for a year. It’s a daunting project but now I am over two months into it and going strong. I switched from an emphasis on cancer to one of hope, optimism, and happiness.

A lot of my friends do not use Facebook so I started sending them the daily posts in an email. Then it occurred to me that I had set up a blog page before I got sick. Last week I went back and re-worked the John Schulz author blog page and started posting my “Quotes and Notes” articles on there.  The daily articles are short, make you feel good, and leave you with the statement, “Everything is going to be all right.”

Here is my favorite post from that site. (click on the title). If you wish, you may go to the site and sign up to receive the quotes from the site in an email.

I have found my voice.

The only strength that can overcome adversity

Posted on January 9, 2015by John Schulz

Quotes and Notes, January 9, 2015

“One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.”

–Albert Schweitzer

As one may become stronger by practicing optimism, the same may be said about successfully dealing with ill fortune. When I lost my vocal cords several years ago and had to live for six months without a voice at all before getting a prosthesis, I made up my mind to become a motivational speaker some day. My voice is evident in my writing and last night I gave a successful reading for the Rome Area Writers organization.

What a good feeling that was! Push on and overcome. While you’re at it, share a smile.

Everything is going to be all right.

John P. Schulz

 

John Schulz gives a motivational talk to the Rome Area Writers.

John Schulz gives a motivational talk to the Rome Area Writers.

 

By the way, the book will be out in early February. The name is

Sweetie Drives on Chemo Days–Facing cancer treatments with optimism and humor

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man.

An Ivy Plant Goes to Heaven

I rescued an ivy plant the other day. It had obviously been a gift from a florist at one time but had been relegated to a refuse heap. I made up a story about it:

After many adventures the ivy plant is happy

After many adventures the ivy plant is happy

A creative wholesale plant grower had decided to see if he could shape an ivy plant. He worked on it for a while and after a year or so it started looking good. A discerning florist visited the grower’s greenhouse and took a fancy to the plant.

A lady needed to get a gift for a friend “who had everything.” She entered the florist shop and decided that surely her friend didn’t have an ivy plant that had been so lovingly shaped. She bought it and the florist delivered it to her friend who also loved it.

The plant eventually “died” and was thrown away. An over-worked garbage truck worker accidentally dropped the plant on the side of the road and, instead of picking it up, kicked it into the gutter. A puppy that had gotten out of its fence found the plant, shook it around, and took it off to the woods.

After these and several other adventures, the plant ended up in a pile of leaves under an oak tree in some far-distant woods. It turned out that the plant was not all the way dead but was depressed from having to live inside a house so it became introverted and quit growing.

When the plant ended up in some leaves under an oak tree it was happy and it started stretching out its limbs and trying to be pretty again.

A crazy guy named John happened upon the plant and took it home to his wife. He said, “Sweetie, I brought you something that needs fixing.” His wife loved the plant and she knew just what to do and just how to do it.

Sweetie made an educated guess that the plant would like to live under the dappled sunlight of an oak tree and she made a place for it. She cleaned it up and put it in a well-drained pot. The plant was happy.

The ivy copies the oak tree and grows a nice trunk

shape 8

Tune in next week for more adventures of John the Plant Man.

An Artist Looks at a Writing Spider With a Different Point of View

Even though it was long ago I can still picture the lady. She was bent over and wrinkled. Her skin looked like aged leather. She had a cane that had been carved from a stick that was also bent and twisted from growing with a vine wrapped around it. I was a five-year-old boy growing up in the rural south and I was busy watching, noticing, and learning about the wonders around me.

It is a vivid memory. I was crouched down staring at a most peculiar spider which was spinning a most peculiar web when I heard the old lady’s most peculiar voice as she said, “Don’t point at it.”

“What?” I asked as my hand began moving up to point at the spider. My hand was gently pushed aside by the lady’s cane.

“That’s a writing spider,” she said. “If you point at her she will write your name in the web and you will die.”

Writing spider weaving its web

Writing spider weaving its web

That’s all I remember about that particular conversation but I filed the information in my mind under the category of “things not to do.” At that age, that particular category was not over-crowded. I was brave, terribly brave, and I was much more interested in finding things to do than in finding things not to do. I was definitely not interested in dying because I pointed at a writing spider. I had pirates to sword fight with and dragons to slay. I had paint to spill and track all over the hardwood floors and I had a charred stick that I had rescued from a trash fire that I would use to practice my writing lessons on my grandmother’s white carpet. Yes, I was busy. I had no time to be pointing at spiders.

Thirty years flew by and I was walking around one day with my son, J.R. There was a basic difference in J.R. and I in that I looked at things with the literal leanings of a writer and he was an artist. Actually, J.R., at the age of five, was already an accomplished artist and I have found out over the years that an artist looks at things with a different point of view. As we walked along that day I saw a writing spider. I told J.R. to put his hands in his pockets. He did. Then I told him about pointing at a writing spider. I passed on what the old lady had told me when I was about his age. And, believe me, I made sure he didn’t point at that spider. I didn’t want him to die from a spider pointing while I was in charge—what would I tell his mother?

Then, thirty more years went by like a bat out of hell and J.R. is now recognized as an accomplished artist and he has a home of his own. He also has a new daughter. I like to visit him every now and then. I was visiting him yesterday when he told me about his new pet. It was a writing spider that was building a web on the glass door leading to the deck. He crouched down to study the web and to see how it was developing.

"Isn't she beautiful?" he asked, showing me his pet writing spider

“Isn’t she beautiful?” he asked, showing me his pet writing spider

“I’ve been feeding it and watching it,” he said. “I’ve always wanted a pet writing spider. My wife is not impressed or excited about it.”

He thought for a moment and looked over at me. “You know, Dad, I never told you because I didn’t want you to worry but after you told me about writing spiders, I wasn’t all that much afraid of dying, I just wanted to see a spider write my name. I used to point at them all the time and I never died and they never once wrote my name in the web. But I still like to watch.”

I cringed as, with a devil-may-care attitude, he pointed directly at the writing spider

I cringed as, with a devil-may-care attitude, he pointed directly at the writing spider

 

Thanks for visiting johntheplantman

I paint pictures with words.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

“Trucking Buddies” Enjoy Garden Features on a Trip up the Rivers

A Georgia boy needs a good “trucking buddy” and I happen to be married to mine which makes things even better. Dekie and I decided to take a road trip to see Cousin Jane in Des Moines, Iowa. The Midwest is beautiful and our gardening interests helped us to appreciate sights that varied from the smallest flower to the immense corn fields.

Iowa corn fields with day lilies

Iowa corn fields with day lilies

Even though visiting Cousin Jane and her husband Terry in their new dome house was the overall immutable objective of the trip, we viewed our trip as an entity in and of itself. Good trucking buddies don’t hold interstate highways in a very high regard and prefer instead to get on the back roads and see what happens. That’s how you see the good stuff.

Town green, Le Roy, Illinois.

Town green, Le Roy, Illinois.

Before we left I didn’t really think of it as a “river trip” but we departed from Rome, Georgia, where the Oostanaula and the Etowah rivers join to form the Coosa river and we visited the Cumberland, the Missouri, the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the Des Moines rivers among others. The trip was both complicated and enhanced by the fact that the northern parts of the rivers were flooded.

Flooded Mississippi from Lover's Leap near Hannibal, Missouri--childhood home of Mark Twain

Flooded Mississippi from Lover’s Leap near Hannibal, Missouri–childhood home of Mark Twain

The flooding had been moving south. On the way north we enjoyed the riverside gardens in Peoria, Illinois. We watched immense barges full of granite gravel moving down the river. Later that week, on the way home, we saw that the barges had been tied up down around Hannibal because the river was so high they couldn’t go under some of the bridges. We had to turn around at one point because the scenic highway was impassable.

River front park and gardens, Peoria, Illinois

River front park and gardens, Peoria, Illinois

We spent a lovely evening in Davenport, Iowa where my wife enjoyed trying to find out just how far my old legs could walk. I kept up, though. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. My legs ought to be a lot stronger. I sure did sleep well that night. Here’s a view of the flooded Mississippi from the bluff. I loved the daylilies.

Stairs, lined with yellow daylilies, leading down to the river in Davenport, Iowa

Stairs, lined with yellow daylilies, leading down to the river in Davenport, Iowa

We thought Des Moines was beautiful. I was amazed at the lack of traffic problems—knowing that it was the state capitol. We had a very nice tour of the city including their museum, the World Food Prize center (which I’ll write about next week), and the botanical garden that is currently being re-vamped. I was interested in the rather large water feature with islands that was in a middle stage of construction. I was impressed with the islands being built with pallets of stacked rock. I never would have thought of that one. It’s amazing what can be accomplished with a large enough budget.

Large water feature under construction at the Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Large water feature under construction at the Des Moines Botanical Gardens

The botanical garden must have a greenhouse or conservatory—especially way up north where tender plants and Georgia boys just don’t belong in the winter. Des Moines has a beautiful geodesic dome greenhouse. I was disappointed to find that I had failed to get a picture from the outside but the following picture will give you an idea of what’s going on.

From inside the greenhouse, Des Moines Botanical Garden

From inside the greenhouse, Des Moines Botanical Garden

And speaking of domes, Jane and Terry Swanson have been working on this dome home for a number of years. It is most impressive—tornado, hail, and fire proof—and I think it could be heated with a Bic lighter. Actually, the heating is accomplished by warm water being circulated through pipes in the floor. I love the thought of a nice, warm floor to walk around barefoot on. The dome will receive a stucco-like coating this summer to cover up the skin which was used to form the concrete and steel structure. It’s quite a building. Jane is working with an entire yard full of native wildflowers and she knows the names of almost all of them.

The Swanson's new Dome House near Des Moines, Iowa

The Swanson’s new Dome House near Des Moines, Iowa

Not driving on the interstate took us to a surprise—the home of Superman—Metropolis, Illinois.

Entering Metropolis, the home of Superman

Entering Metropolis, the home of Superman

I took a wrong turn and we saw these beautiful ceramic lions guarding a door.

Ceramic lions guarding a door

Ceramic lions guarding a door

I will leave you with a quote from Mark Twain. I saw this in Hannibal and thought about how true the statement was

From Mark Twain's birth place, Hannibal Missouri

From Mark Twain’s birth place, Hannibal Missouri

Thank you for visiting Johntheplantman

 

 

 

 

 

Uncommon Garden and Gifts

On Monday, April 14, Living and Giving will open at its new location on the corner of Broad Streetand Fourth Avenue in beautiful downtown Rome, Georgia. Aside from the fact that the plant and gift items are appealing and well-chosen, and not considering the beautiful smiles that accompany the attentive help and service, I just love Living and Giving for the displays. The shop owner, Lisa Landry is a true display artist and the shop is her canvas.

I was delighted when Lisa asked me to help with a couple of projects related to moving the store down the street. I have documented progress that you may see by clicking HERE(March 16)HERE(March 23), and HERE (April 6). I stopped in a couple of days early to check out the progress. There was a sign on the door that nicely said, “Leave me alone, I’m doing my creative thing.” (Those are not the exact words, but that was the perceived meaning). I found Lisa working at the front counter.

Lisa Landry working on some unknown creation at Living and Giving

Lisa Landry working on some unknown creation at Living and Giving

I was greeted warmly and Lisa guided me back to her “plant area” which was developed around the fountain that we had built a couple of weeks before. I was pleased with the transformation.

The water feature looks different with plants around it

The water feature looks different with plants around it

When we first installed the fountain the water falling was too loud. If you look closely at the picture below you can see a piece of brown slate placed so that it will break up the water fall and reduce the sound volume.

Using a rock to fine tune the sound of water falling

Using a rock to fine tune the sound of water falling

Lisa had told me before that customers liked to come in and pick out a plant and then a pot to put it in. There is always someone available at the store to repot a plant in an artistic manner. I found a table of plants basking in the light from a high window with a tray of pots below it.

Pick a pot, pick a plant, walk out with something pretty and different

Pick a pot, pick a plant, walk out with something pretty and different

Lisa was tickled with the logo and artwork on the front window and she took me outside to check it out. I think Monica Sheppard did a wonderful job of conceptualizing and illustrating the store’s message.

A beautiful logo and window dressing by designer Monica Sheppard

A beautiful logo and window dressing by designer Monica Sheppard

A couple of weeks previously we had cut down a large boxwood bush. Lisa had picked out one of the pieces to place inside the store. She researched ways to preserve the leaves. Here is a picture of the ladies guiding the installation and pruning of the tree from the outside in

Lisa standing outside the shop telling me how to prune a tree

Lisa standing outside the shop telling me how to prune a tree

The boxwood display ended up looking like this. And she’s not finished yet.

building a shop display under a tree

building a shop display under a tree

I liked the blue fountain which made a subtle, muted sound.

Decorating with sound and color.

Decorating with sound and color.

I asked Lisa if she needed any help moving things and she said, “I just want to be left alone to do my thing.” I decided it was time for me to leave. I smiled as I passed a sign that was waiting to be hung.

"If we make each other smile then we just can't lose,"

“If we make each other smile then we just can’t lose,”

Living and Giving will be open at its new location starting April 14, 2014 from 10 until 6. Tell them John the Plant Man sent you,

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what? usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Copper Troughs and Cancer Reports

I’ll start with the trough. My beautiful friend Lisa Landry owns and operates a delightful home décor shop on Broad Street in Rome, Georgia. She called me a couple of weeks ago and told me that she was preparing to move the shop to a location one block down and across the street.

The first thing she asked me about was a tree to go inside. It’s a neat idea and I have that one under control. The second thing was a water feature. We talked about all sorts of looks and then settled on using a water trough. Lisa looked at picture after picture until she found this one

A beautiful aged copper trough for a water feature

A beautiful aged copper trough for a water feature

The problem is that I know what the feature will look like and we have a lion’s head to put on the brick wall for the water to come out of—we just don’t have the trough, Can you help us find one? Email me at wherdepony@bellsouth.net, leave a comment on the blog, or find me on face book—John Paul Schulz (Rome, Georgia). Thanks in advance.

I wrote an article about Living and Giving the Christmas of 2011. CLICK HERE to see it. I’ll do another article on the shop after the move. I’m sure it will be amazing.

And on to the cancer report. For background, I have been fighting cancer for several years. I had a laryngectomy (voice box removal) in September, 2012 A few months later I was fixed up with a button in my throat that I could push when I wanted to talk. It’s pretty cool.

I am writing this on March 16, 2014, and a year ago I was going through radiation and chemo treatments for recurring tumors on my shoulder. Everything was tolerable and I got through it but it takes a long time to get over those treatments. I’m doing well but still recovering a year later.

On January 28 of this year Dekie and I went to Emory in downtown Atlanta for a CT scan. I got the scan and we had a wonderful snow adventure in the form of an eleven hour trip home.  (Click HERE to see the article about the trip).

I didn’t tell anyone at the time, but we got a call that same afternoon from the doctor’s office that there was a lymph node abnormality in the scan and that I would need to get a PET scan the next week. That sort of information is a little bit scary, but my reaction, as always, was “Oh, well. I’ll do whatever has to be done.”  The following week I had the PET scan and got the dreaded call that I would have to schedule for a complicated biopsy.

At this point I just accepted the fact that I would have to go through more chemo. Dekie and I started adjusting our spring plans around possible treatments. Another snow storm in the Atlanta area postponed the biopsy until March 12, and last week I went in for a “trans-tracheal ultra-sound guided biopsy.” It was a bit complicated. They put me out for a while.

The day before the biopsy, my friend at the bank said, “I sure do hope it comes out all right.” I told her that I was mentally prepared for bad results.

She said, “John, that’s not your usual positive approach.” I explained that I figured if I set my mind on good results and they were bad, I had lost something somehow but if I accepted that they would be bad, then either I would be right if they were or totally elated if they weren’t.

After the biopsy I was told that I would be notified in a few days. I had already accepted the possibility of chemo treatments.

And, Friday afternoon the phone rang. It was the doctor’s office.

“Mr. Schulz,” the voice said, “I have some good news. The report came back negative. You are clear of cancer. Congratulations.”

I could barely say, “Thank you.” Tears ran down my face. I am still going through the mental process of accepting the fact that the results were indeed good and that I do not have to take the treatments.

I have almost finished an inspirational book about cancer treatments and accepting them with humor, optimism, and a positive attitude. The proposed title is

Sweetie Drives on Chemo Days

–An inspirational approach to reducing fear by facing cancer treatments with optimism and humor.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

What Does a Hummingbird Nest Look Like? Ask Mabel

I always enjoy a visit with Mabel Milner. She is a captivating conversationalist and she knows so many interesting things about nature, about plants and flowers, and about gardening. I always know I will learn about something when I visit, I just don’t know what. This time I learned about hummingbird nests.

I love it when Mabel gets her glasses in one hand and starts punctuating with the other.

I love it when Mabel gets her glasses in one hand and starts punctuating with the other.

One of the reasons for my latest visit was to deliver a questionnaire that would determine “hummingbird habitat certification” for her yard. We exchanged pleasantries for a few moments—Mabel always sits by her window that looks down and out over her beautiful yard—and she pointed to an oak tree.

“A few years ago, I looked out this window and noticed what looked like a giant dragonfly hovering around a branch of that oak tree. It was about twenty feet above the ground.” I leaned over and saw that she was pointing to a tree just to the right rear of where my truck was parked.

The parlor window looks out over a wonderful, well-tended back yard

The parlor window looks out over a wonderful, well-tended back yard

“After a few days, we realized that we were watching a male ruby-throated hummingbird. It was quite a treat. He was ‘casing the joint,’ looking for a site in which to build a new home. He finally decided that he liked this location and showed it to his partner. I watched the two of them looking around. She approved.

“It seems that the male hummingbird comes to look for a nesting site early in the season and to establish his territory. He needs good perches from which to survey his domain and he wants the availability of water as well as nectar-rich flowers. There’s the nest, over on that table, under the glass dome.” She pointed. I walked over and removed the glass dome from the work of art. I brought it to the coffee table to study it.

view 1 of a well-preserved hummingbird nest.

view 1 of a well-preserved hummingbird nest.

“The male watches as the female studies the site and then she builds the nest with little or no help from him. It only takes her a day or two before the nest is ready and well-disguised. A few days later she has laid two pea sized eggs and sits on them to keep them warm. About two to three weeks later I could see the baby hummingbirds with their beaks open, looking for food.”

view 2 of the hummingbird nest. "They use spider webs and moss in the construction" She said.

view 2 of the hummingbird nest. “They use spider webs and moss in the construction” She said.

“And guess what…” Mabel said with a grin, “The daddy is done, he says, ‘no child support from me—I’m out of here,’ and he flies off to other venues leaving the mother to raise the babies alone. They are voracious eaters and momma stays exhausted.

“The young stay in the territory after fledging and the momma begins to introduce them to surrounding flowers and to the feeder by the back porch. The family remains for the rest of the season.”

hummingbird nest view 3. It must be some strong construction to have lasted for 3 years.

hummingbird nest view 3. It must be some strong construction to have lasted for 3 years.

Mabel continued, “A year later we had the same scenario. It seems that the hummingbirds often feel that it is easier to spruce up the old place than to build a new one. We watched the birds as they used the home for three years before abandoning the nest.”

“We couldn’t resist,” she said, “after we figured out that the hummers were finished with the nest for good, we used ladders and pole pruners to carefully remove the nest from the tree and turned it into a bit of a shrine under glass. It has been taken to quite a number of ‘show-and-tells’ for the grandchildren.”

I loved seeing the preserved hummingbird nest and I truly enjoyed the story. Thank you very much, Mabel Milner of Rome, Georgia.

As usual, I would just love for you to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

What is a Concept?

Years and years ago I drinking coffee in the teachers lounge at EddyJunior High School in Columbus, Georgia when I heard a teacher say,

“I really don’t care if they memorize that stuff, but if just one or two of my students could get the concept.

That statement somehow got stuck in my head—you know how that happens—and it stayed there for years.

So, for over forty years I have pondered the nature of the word “concept.” Concepts are very important and the nature of a concept is actually a concept in itself. Occasionally I would latch on to a concept which would open up a period of new and enthusiastic learning or performance (or both).

And then, over a period of time, the concept concept developed in my mind.

Eventually I was able to work out a metaphorical description of a concept.

I picture the first part of a concept as a bunch of little balls floating around in one’s peripheral vision.

The little balls blink on and off at random times. We can only see them when they are blinking on.

Sometimes, if we are quick, we can grab one of the little balls while it is “on”.

We hold the little ball gently and admire it. We know at this point that there is something inside the ball and we study it closely, figuring out how to open it.

Finally it opens and we see that the ball contains something:

Questions. It contains questions that we have never asked before.

And that, my friend, is a concept.

Thank you for visiting johntheplantman. Don’t forget to use your Christmas money to get my wonderful, sensitive, and funny book, Requiem for a Redneck installed on your Kindle for your reading pleasure. CLICK HERE

Apples, a Cider Press, and a Party

The day was a beautiful Sunday, October 20, 2013. Dekie had given me tickets to a Kristofferson concert in Atlanta and since we were going to the big city anyway we decided to stop by and visit our friends, John and Jane Kenna who were having their annual cider pressing party. John has an amusing tale of purchasing a hammer mill in Highlands, N.C. a number of years ago. As he was loading the machine he found that he had also unknowingly bought a cider press. That started his obsession with cider pressing. I have some interesting friends.

John takes his truck to Mercier’s in Blue RidgeGeorgia where they sell him a load of cider apples (seconds, not the premiums). The truck will hold 18 to 20 bushels and there will be several varieties including Granny Smith, Mcintosh, Golden Delicious, Arkansas Black, and Winesaps.

apples for cider

Apples for the cider pressing party from Mercier’s in Blue Ridge, Ga.

Here’s a picture of John Kenna with the hammer mill that started it all. Lots of people show up for the party and there is plenty of help to throw the apples into the machine that chops them up and spits the “pumice” into a large bucket.

John Kenna with his hammer mill that chops up the apples.

John Kenna with his hammer mill that chops up the apples.

One would expect a cider press to be a complicated machine, but one would be wrong. This is what it looks like:

cider press in Georgia

A cider press is a rather simple machine

The ground up, chopped up apples are carefully emptied into the press.

putting the chopped up apples into the cider press

putting the chopped up apples into the cider press

When the press is full, a series of wooden blocks are placed on top of the pumice in a manner that will force the mess down under force.

The screw pressing mechanism being installed on the cider press

The screw pressing mechanism being installed on the cider press

It’s a simple principle of screwing a plate down on top of the pumice to mash out the juice but as the pressing device reaches bottom it becomes rather difficult. John told me that these are commercial presses that can press a hundred to a hundred and fifty gallons per day

It's a combination of a lever and a ramp. Simple tools. The ramp is wrapped around a rod. We call it a "screw."

It’s a combination of a lever and a ramp. Simple tools. The ramp is wrapped around a rod. We call it a “screw.”

The cider flows out through a spout and into a strainer, ending up in a five gallon bucket. Guests at the cider pressing are encouraged to bring a jug or two so they can take some cider home.

As the handle turns the cider pours out. Ready to drink

As the handle turns the cider pours out. Ready to drink

John pours cups of cider and hands them out to all takers. He told me that the cider really tastes good with a shot of good bourbon. I tried a sip but couldn’t taste it on account of what chemotherapy has done to my taste buds. I did, however, remember past parties when I enjoyed it.

John Kenna hands out cups of cider.

John Kenna hands out cups of cider.

Jane Kenna told me that they started the parties about ten years ago. She said, “We enjoy getting family and friends together to work on making cider and learning about apples.” While looking around I found a note about cider that I found interesting.

information about apple cider

A little info I found in my wanderings.

I attended another cider pressing party in 2010 and wrote a funny story. Click here to read about the little boy on his dad’s shoulders

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Remember, Requiem for a Redneck by John P. Schulz is now available in the Kindle Store as an ebook.

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