Saturday, December 07, 2013

"Don't Major In The Minor"

Saturday, December 7, 2013
23.2 degrees here on the mountain with a 3-4 mph wind. Sunrise is a bit away but the temperature signals it with a typical morning drop. The past few days have been rain, snow, wet, windy but they have allowed me to finish preparing for a logger who will join us soon and begin a couple projects that are bigger than I can do myself. There will be more to do after he leaves but that will be late spring work as snow is sure to be deep before long. I just reviewed some pictures of 2008 and on December 20th that year I was already climbing roofs and shoveling an accumulation of snow. I wish that wouldn't repeat itself this year but the various Farmer's  Almanacs suggest cold and snow in 5 more countable storms. We'll see.
During the growing season I don't get much of a chance to read like I want to so as winter approaches I am surrounded by stacks of books and trade magazines. This past week I watched Charlie Rose interview Jeff Bezo from Amazon. Many others probably did too. Today I read these interesting thoughts by Callie Oettinger in a piece entitled "Don't Major in the Minor". I read it on  Steven Pressfield Online.  Take a look.
Our world has certainly changed and we feel and see those changes every day. Many people are connected to each other in various ways now and those connections encourage a need for spontaneous response to demand--any demand. I have always purchased from bookstores and I have a personal need to support bookstores as I want to be able to hold an actual book or magazine in my hands forever. But. But change is on the way.  Bookstores are leaving us and companies such as Amazon are changing that. I have been buying from Amazon for years because Alex is studying military history and Amazon has never let me down. It connects me with booksellers around the world and  guarantees the products will arrive as requested and within very reasonable time. For almost a year  now Alex has been studying women in the Russian armies in World War 1. Kind of a narrow topic if I say so. Amazon makes those studies get started a lot quicker than if I had to search myself silly.
Bookstores are a changing business. The little bookstore I frequented in Woodsville, NH closed this summer. Dave, the owner, did a great job but I think in the end it was sales versus rent and those two things didn't match. I have seen the same scenario played out in other stores. Alex and I were saddened when Borders went out of business as we spent a lot of time and money at the Burlington, VT and West Lebanon, NH stores. We like Barnes and Noble in Burlington and go there a couple times a month but I almost feel that change is near for them too. I don't think anyone has said "Hello"
or "Can I help you?" in the past 5-6 times we have been there.  I am a guy who evaluates a business by the way it communicates so when communication with the customer falters,  business has to slide too.
I do a lot of business at Staples too. It's convenient and they have all the supplies I need to operate a small business. They have answered all but one question I have ever asked and that is special. I have asked the tech people several times if they know how to make my Hughes satellite work  with a router so I can have Wi-Fi at the house. They tell me it can't be done with a satellite--we'll not exactly--they say it can be done but I will really be waiting for a connection then. So that's ok, one out of a bazillion isn't bad. But the other day even Staples gave me irritation when I was checking out and the clerk stated: "So you want that receipt emailed correct?" Now what? I'm not saying the clerk wasn't pleasant but when I said I didn't want to go to my computer to get a receipt she offered to provide a hard copy and email me a copy too. I was getting a little worked up trying to get a receipt and get going and as I finally grabbed the receipt, the clerk said "Maybe next time?" thank you for spending a hundred bucks, nothing. Communication.
The horticultural business is no different. Vermont Flower Farm is a part of  my life and it is dear to me but fact is, it is faltering too. Many of the family businesses that have been around for generations have closed during the past 3-4-5 years. Some of the best gardeners were those on more limited budgets. Home gardening was always entertaining, something to be proud of, something that could even put food on the table, bring the family together with sharing. Changes in our economy and attitudes in our society have  modified  how successful horticulture related businesses are. Florists are in decline, even the number of CSA's in Vermont has declined in recent years. Change is on the way.
At Vermont Flower Farm,  Gail and I are in for the long haul. We enjoy what we are doing and weren't born to be wealthy. We meet new people every year, greet people as they enter the farm and say thanks and goodbye when they leave. Gardeners return each year until they either move or they can no longer garden because they enjoy the experience we offer. In coming years do not expect to have a drone deliver a potted perennial to your doorstep but do expect that we'll help you load your purchases in your car. Until then, help support American business,  and continue to learn a little more about Vermont. How does that sound?
Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where ice now covers all the area kettle ponds and it will be that way until April 2014. Gotta get clicking here. The bird feeders are empty.
George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as George Africa and also as the Like Page,  Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
Always here to help you grow your green thumb!
Offering gift certificates year 'round for holiday and special event giving. Call Gail at 802-426-3505 or email at

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Bloggin' Around

 Sunday, December 1, 2013
Just in from working in the woods for three hours. It seems that each day it looks more and more like snow and I know that all of a sudden we will get a big storm and my woods work will slow dramatically. This morning at 5 the sky gave little promise of anything but a build up to slightly warmer temperatures and some snow.  Here it is,  3:15 PM,  and it's snowing out, right on the money. Small flakes are dropping straight down but they are abundant enough to make the birds know things will look different tomorrow morning and as such they are really eating seeds.

I like garden blogs and try to read as many as I can. There was a time when I was attaching addresses to my blog links page all the time but then I got to the point that  I couldn't even keep up with what I had. Now I am bad about writing in the summer time but get in the swing again come Thanksgiving. Guess I am almost on target.

One of my favorites to write about is stones and stonework. If I had everything to do over again I probably would have stayed in Burlington and worked on big projects. But a never ending series of aches and pains from 1982 back surgery suggested differently and here I am in Marshfield building my own gardens and selling plants.

Hardscape is something I have come to admire even though I know it can be incorporated or left aside. To me stone softens a garden and it's something not to be forgotten. I like any stone and often you'll find me climbing mountains of it, hiking over and around it or just plain taking pictures of it in a quarry or in a stone yard.

Vermont has its Green Mountains so we have a vast variety of colors and textures to choose from. We are well known for our granite but green schist which is harder than granite is also in abundance and is used a lot. But even pieces of field stone, glacial erratics , castaways from farm days--they all have a beauty and are all very useful in garden design.

Some designers find large stones or stones broken in pieces and they display them to their positive side. Stone masons and dry wall stackers are more and more in demand now and they compete for what is probably miles and miles of wall. I prefer the drywall stacker's work but the choice is personal and it has to factor in budget and underlying soil type. Vermont is known for deep frost some times and walls will tumble if frost goes deep around a wall without a footing.

Sometimes those who work in stone like to write too. Vermont's Dan Snow from Townsend, Vermont has written two excellent dry wall stacking books, the first of which, In The Company of Stone, is also the title of a blog I really enjoy. Today, during my search for interesting reading, I turned to Don Stratham's blog Rooting For Ideas. I especially like the most recent post:  Although Don lives in New York this post was about gardens in Houston. I bring it to your attention for the fine examples of how stone can be used in a garden setting. Take a look!

As the snow drops like rain, I have a few more outside chores to complete before the sun retires. Hope you're having a nice day!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as George Africa and via a Like Page titled Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
Always here to help you grow your green thumb!