Thursday, May 10, 2012


Deanna at Adventure Farm brought several flats of heirloom tomatoes to work on Tuesday. She told me she was trying to give them away, otherwise they were going into the compost bin. I decided right there on the spot to try my hand at growing tomatoes. Don't you just love my spontaneity? At the moment of my decision, I had no previous experience with tomatoes (other than eating them), nor did I research how to grow tomatoes. I just had a vague recollection that you were suppose to stake the tomatoes and where in the hardware store to find those stakes.

Deanna filled me in on the various species of tomatoes and which plants were determinate (bushy and producing only one set of fruit) or indeterminate (vine and producing fruit throughout the summer). She told me it was possible to grow tomatoes in containers and advised me to stake them fairly soon.

Stream Girl's mother was also present at my impromptu decision and successfully fielded my line of questioning on growing this vegetable that is really a fruit. She told me not to use twine or any other type of hard string because it would probably cut into and damage the stems and said most hardware stores offered a cloth type of string to tie the growing plants. She also suggested that instead of transplanting the young plants in the usual upright position, I should transplant the plant lengthwise and that portion of the stem covered with soil would develop additional roots. She reassured me the plant would straighten as it grew.

I finally got around to bringing the tomatoes home today.

I was so worried about planting them incorrectly that I planted a few horizontally and a few vertically. I've done a little reading since Tuesday and while I think I've got my bases covered, I'm still feeling very insecure.  I'm not sure these containers are big enough for the plants. If any of my lurker readers have tips/suggestions please speak up! How big of a container should I use? How many hours of full sun should they receive? How do I know how much water is enough? And does anyone have suggestions on how to keep squirrels and rabbits away from my plants?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Enemy Among Us: A book review

photo from

Ever since I started volunteering at the Historic Society, I've taken more of an interest in books on local history. I'm primarily interested in western United States history and of the environmental impact man has had on the land but books on local and state history have begun to grab my attention. I plan to submit this review to the Historic Society newsletter but wanted to share it on the blog in case any of my readers are history buffs and I welcome comments and suggestions on this review.

The United States played host to German and Italian POWs during World War 2 and before the war’s end, every state except New York, North Dakota and Vermont had POW camps.  Local author David Fiedler covers the history of Missouri’s POW camps in his 2003 book, “The enemy among us”.  Through interviews with former POWs, camp staff, citizens, personal letters and newspaper articles, Fiedler recreates this aspect of World War 2 that occurred in our backyard.

Each chapter covers several aspects of a POW camp from the time it was on the drawing board until it was closed and disassembled.  From the military standpoint, Fiedler examines the risks government officials took in contracting the POW soldiers out to nearby farmers short on help, the pressures they faced maintaining the rules of the Geneva Convention’s treatment of POWs and public scrutiny in treatment of these prisoners, keeping order in the camps and educating the POWs on American democracy. Fiedler gives the viewpoint of the camp from the prisoner’s eyes, writing of the homesickness and worry for their families still in the war zones, their job duties at the camp, the tension and camaraderie between fellow prisoners and their US captors, and the dangers for the prisoners being confined with die hard Nazis and Fascists. Fiedler also covers the assortment of responses from the communities that ranged from gratitude for the employment the camps provided, fear of having POWs in their backyard, resentment over the treatment of the prisoners and the lasting friendships created. 

Fiedler does a good job providing an objective view while keeping the subject matter interesting.  The photographs and illustrations give the reader a good feel for what life was like during that time in history and it was interesting to note how many POW camps there were in Missouri (over 25). Many aspects of the war have been covered in a multitude of books: military, leaders, specific battles and theaters of the war, to name a few. Finding a book that covered how WWII affected the towns of Missouri brought the war closer to home and made the subject more interesting. A good book for WWII buffs and local history aficionados alike.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The entry where I compare myself to a cactus

It's funny where I get inspiration for a blog topic. A few days ago I went to the gas station and while inside, I got on the topic of cacti with the cashier. I have always loved cacti but could never quite put my finger on the exact reason why I loved this desert plant. I thought more about cacti on the drive home that day and finally figured out why the cacti family speaks to my heart.

This entry will be rather personal, but I will try my best to remain objective. Life isn't perfect. Everyone has their issues and obstacles. Right now, I'm going through a bit of a rough patch. So maybe my discussion with the gas station cashier was well-timed. I do love nature and always look for ways it can relate to my life. Writing helps put words to my emotions and sometimes helps put an end to the occasional self-destructive thoughts that spin around in my head.

Cacti are found only in North and South America. There are over 1500 species with most found in the drier, subtropical regions. Many species of cacti tolerate high temperatures and are capable of living several years without water. Most cacti have edible fruit and a few species have been used in the past to treat spider bites and diarrhea.

To put it simply, I didn't have an ideal childhood. It wasn't a bad childhood, but I had a father who was mentally ill and emotionally abusive. I'll skip the details but I will say, do not tell me his abuse stemmed from his mental illness. It did not. I've had years of therapy to sort through all of that and support my knowledge of that fact.  To make matters worse, I was also bullied in grade school.  I had no safe place, no shelter at the end of the day. I couldn't seek relief from the verbal or emotional abuse at home or school.

Cacti live in a harsh environment. Sometimes they receive no rain, or maybe just an inch of rain in any given year. As a result, these plants have developed amazing ways to hold on to the precious commodity of moisture. Cacti have a waxy exterior coating to minimize water loss.  Most plants open their pores (also called stomata) during the day for respiration, but to conserve moisture, cacti open their stomata at night for respiration.Everyone knows the cacti have the spines as a means of defending themselves against those animals in search of water.  However, the spines on a cacti are also modified leaves and provide a measure of shade which reduces the heat on the stem and again, minimizes the loss of moisture.


Emotionally speaking, there were times in my life, especially during my childhood, that I lived in a harsh, desert-like environment, devoid of the nurturing, praise and relief from hardships. Like my cacti friends, I developed my defenses and learned to survive in difficult environments. I made the most of what I had and eventually learned to create my own happiness and relief during the difficult times.

Some cacti have beautiful flowers that bloom in the spring and/or after a good rain. Many people will visit certain areas, such as Big Bend National Park (where I took these photos) during the spring months just to see the cacti in bloom. The cacti always make me think of the adage "Bloom where you are planted". It doesn't matter where you are, or what life has thrown at you, YOU have the means to create your own oasis in the climate of life's hardships.

Right now I am going through a difficult time. A few weeks ago I had to put my oldest cat Amelia to sleep. She was severely arthritic and had been in heart failure for over a year. I got her a few months after my sister died and that darling cat got me through some dark days of grief. Needless to say, there was a connection between Amelia and my sister. Losing Amelia was like losing my sister all over again. I've been quite depressed. Symbolically speaking, I'm in the middle of the desert, trying to cope with the blistering heat and no rain. My reserves are there; friends, nature, writing, and reading, but there is no joy or enthusiasm for the things I love. I'm going through the motions of doing the things I love with no interest or relief, but I persist because I believe on some level it's helping me. This will pass. I'll survive and bloom again.