Sunday, June 28, 2009


Weak *

watch it leave, feel it exit
catch the sight of something tragic
floating in a cardboard box
lightning flashes, crosses talk
shapes and shadows floating by
wrenching tears from cloudless skies
hearing soft senses, piercing glimpses
wondering ever meant never knowing
now the sad part, now the sad part
dying too was once in fashion
laid bare upon the dreams of passion
cut the heart out, gaping hole
lifeless body, bleeding soul

*Or how I felt after the death of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, David Carridine and Billy Mays

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

You're entitled to

Important Update: First Japanese beetle sighting. Where: Herb Garden (rose). When: 12:20 PM, June 26, 2009. Action taken: Squashed between thumb and index finger. Alert Status: High.

An explanation about my absence. Three words: back to school.

School bus driver school that is. I'm busy with 14 hours of book learnin, and six hours of school bus driver training. After this, comes the testing. Four written tests, and then the actual school bus driver test.

I'm not sure if I'll get a job drivin a school bus when it's over, but chances are good that I will. The decision to do this was based on a couple of things; I need the extra income, the hours are conducive for writing and gardening (summers off), I like kids (yes, I know what to expect from a bus full), and it's something I can do until my "dream job" materializes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It's rare, but I feel the need

I'm quite upset. And I know I'll feel better after writing about it. Whether you stick around for the rant or not really doesn't matter, but I hope you do. If you'd rather not, scroll on down to the photos.

I've been a member of the Garden Writers Association for five years, and will probably continue as one for many years to come (the yearly membership fee is $85, sound steep? I agree. More such figures to come). Lately though, I've been asking myself if I'm really getting anything out of it. That is, has it brought me any new writing and/or photography opportunities? Here's the real question: Has it contributed in any way to the cash flow in my checking account? Unfortunately, my answer is no. If it has, I've yet to receive the deposit slip.

Some might say, "You can't be sure because you have no way of knowing what the future holds and you could develop a connection via GWA that could provide a financial gain." I admire those who might be content waiting for a dollar to come their way in the year 2525. I don't have that much time. If I had concrete evidence of something the GWA has supplied that has brought me income, I wouldn't be voicing my frustrations as I am now.

I love writing about gardening, all aspects, all levels, everything and anything about it is a topic of interest to me as a garden communicator. And I try most ardently with what I write to transfer a smidgen of my knowledge to anyone willing to use it. I also know that I'm not perfect and will mess up from time to time, and you have every right to let me know when that happens. (Even if I'm apt to get cross about it, like most writers I know, I don't take criticism very well.)

Another thing I love about my profession is the networking opportunities, and the chance to meet a lot of like-minded folks who do what I do. And the regional GWA meetings are a great way to network and meet new friends. This is a good thing, and probably the only reason I can justify why I will continue to pay my yearly dues.

I don't have to remind anyone about the economic situation we're seeing all over the country. Layoffs, workers taking time off without pay so they can keep the job they have, folks working from home, some working for less pay, hiring freezes, company closings and layoffs, the news is bleak (unemployment in my county of residence is over 10% right now). Add to that the housing crisis with a lot of folks losing their homes, and it's enough to make even a stoic feel some degree of apprehension.

But $85 is quite expensive for a phone book (i.e., the GWA Membership Directory), and I still have to pay to attend regional meetings. The cost, usually around $35, for those meetings isn't bad, and my wife and I are attending a Region II gathering at Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh in a couple of weeks. So, although I do feel a smidgen of pride being a GWA member, it's the cost of their annual symposiums that are baffling me right now.

This year's Annual Symposium is being held in Raleigh, North Carolina. And at 5 days in length it has a tremendous amount to offer. But for someone like me who's struggling financially, the cost of attending the gala seems to be astronomical. For me to attend the entire event, the cost would be $986.96, and that's not including transportation or the cost of an optional Social Media Workshop ($95), or one of either two garden tours ($60 for one, $40 for the other). Should I decide to "rob Peter to pay Paul" (stop tempting me Satan!) the cost of attendance for the five days would be well over $1,000, probably closer to $1,500.

You might be wondering if they have cheaper options. Yes, you can attend one day's worth for $175, but with so much going on the other four days, one day's worth of activities for that price would feel like a rip off, plus for me, driving (or catching a flight) that far for only one day would be silly. (Wouldn't it? Stop tempting me Satan!)

I network on Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn, and via blogging, with other GWA members. Most of them seem unaffected by the high cost, but I have no way of knowing. I can say I've not seen but one other witty remark regarding the cost. One twitterer, cityslipper, said "I CAN afford GWA! I'll just help a dude at the International Credit Bank make a $5.5 mil funds transfer (I get 40%)!"

I hope cityslipper gets the chance to attend, it sure looks like I'll not be going. But here's a contrasting thought: If I had a full time job, and made a decent salary, I'm pretty sure I'd already be registered without giving much thought to what it cost. Does that make everything I said before irrelevant? Or does it just add to the complications of life, and both the joy and sadness of trying to figure out what it all means?

I promised pictures for those wanting to skip my lengthy rant, I hope they're a little more worthy of your attention.

$85 Phone Book

What I drive around with

Multiflora rose, an invasive species in many states, including Pennsylvania.

She gets like this when it's her time to mow.

The life I live.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

Lost but not found

I have to relate a turtle story; Long ago, on a trip to the country to see our "Little Granny," Dad stopped the car so we kids could pick up a stranded roadside turtle. We kept it as a pet for a while before it was lost. One day while we were at school, our little sister took the turtle outside to play, she was only four or five and not in school yet. When we came home anxious to see our turtle friend, we discovered it had somehow crawled away from sis, finding its freedom somewhere in the concrete jungle of a city neighborhood. Teasingly, we still sometimes refer to our little sister as "Lose the Turtle Girl." Bless her heart.

"Lose the Turtle Girl" with one of her big brothers. (Love ya sis!)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

About a day

I was out of town recently for a little refueling. A transfusion of the bluegrass blood if you will.


That's my bandmate Jim Helmetzi on the left, dear friend and fellow Kentuckian Phillip Hartsock in the middle, and bluegrass recording artist, Merrell Boggs on the right. (Merrell and Phillip are second cousins. Phillip invited me and Jim to join him for the visit for obvious reasons.)

And of course there was a backyard garden.

With hardscape features.