Transitional period

By my count, there are only 26 days of summer remaining.

Ouch, that was hard to type.

As much as I may enjoy the fall – the more temperate climate, football season, apple picking, phenomenal foliage changes, pumpkin beer – I kind of hate it too.

Not so much for what it provides, but for what it foreshadows. Just the thought of winter makes me physically ill.

Trapped in the house.

The blinding glare of snow.

Frozen nose hairs.

No thank you.

In an interesting and ironic twist, if the pipeline makes its way to my property, there will be a warmer swath of land that I can lay on throughout the winter and keep my tuckus warm. Maybe it is time to rethink this thing.

*Sarcasm – harsh or bitter derision or irony 

Couldn’t resist.

As I stood out in the garden today, two emotions stood out: the last remnants of summer and the first signs of autumn.

Allow me to present the evidence:

Summer fading – The blooms of summer have transitioned to seedheads.

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Fall arriving – Sedum blooms showing their first signs of color.

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Summer fading – Blooms half way spent on Cardinal Flower and Switch Grass starting to look a tad bit worn.

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Fall arriving – First signs of stems turning red on Red Twig Dogwood. 

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Summer fading – The vibrant combo of Purple Coneflower and Russian Sage looks, well … tired.

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Fall arriving – The golden hues of Amsonia draws the eye in from afar.

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Summer fading – The blooms on Hydrangea fading to blush.

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Fall arriving – Miscanthus in full bloom.

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Fight the good fight

It is the afternoon of July 24th and I’m starting to wrap up my day at work, looking forward to attending a minor league baseball game that night. My son had just completed a week of sports broadcasting camp and was going to record himself broadcasting that evening’s game. The entire family would be there to support him. It’s the heart of summer, it’s baseball and we get to watch our 13 year old son do what he loves.

And then the call came from my wife.

If you follow this blog (and damn you if you don’t) you know what came next. Word got out that our property was now in the clear path of a natural gas pipeline. The pipeline itself was not a shock, we had been fighting it for months, but the new route was a punch to the gut. I’ll never forget zooming in on my home via Google Earth and seeing the image of a long red rectangle spanning my entire property. It felt like the yard had already been condemned.

We did our best to enjoy the festivities at the ballpark that night but something felt very wrong as we stood for the national anthem. As the song played, I felt betrayed. This f’n situation was so damn un-American. I was 50% pissed and 50% distraught. Baseball and hot dogs and apple pie, what a sham.

The next two weeks were a whirlwind. What is eminent domain? Do we need a lawyer? Who can we turn to for advice? How much do we let the kids know? We were frozen with indecision and shut off from the world.

I’ll always look back on July 24th as a major turning point in our lives. Yes the fear of our world being turned upside down was the dominant emotion, but there was also an odd feeling of guilt. Guilt not having worked harder on the fight to that point. Guilt not being more sympathetic to others who faced similar circumstances in the past. Guilt in floating through life a bit naive and blind to some underhanded shit going on. We’ll never be the same again and when all is said and done, I think that is a good thing.

Fast forward to the current week. The panic waned a bit and we became very task oriented. Refuse the request to survey our property and work with others to do the same. Keep an eye out for surveyors not following the rules. As of right now, only roughly 30% of affected landowners in NJ have granted access. That is a big deal. It makes it very difficult for Penn East to submit an application for a permit with so little info.

Get as educated as possible. Numerous comments have been submitted to FERC outlining environmental concerns from the crossing of numerous streams to the effect on endangered species to the crossing of a fault that was recently part of a local earthquake to the danger of increasing the already high level of arsenic in our well water. Heavy stuff. And these weren’t from the “radical environmentalists” (whatever the hell that means). We are talking experts who have studied these impacts for decades.

Check this article out – NJ saying “no” to the pipeline. We’re talking about harsh words from one of Time magazine’s most influential people in the world.

Color me convinced.

Now let me take a break for a minute and admit that this is an odd forum to discuss an issue like this. Admittedly, it is completely personal and off topic, but I’m doing it for me. And I won’t apologize for it. I truly hope we can some day look back on this period of my blog and say, that was kind of odd for a gardening blog but now look at where we are. He is back to posting endless photos of his ornamental grasses like they are his children.

That is the dream. Until then, I’ll be all over the place with my writing.

“For the public good”. That is what ultimately justifies the use of eminent domain. I won’t get into all of the specifics on this now, but just know that it is a crock of shit. No one in the pipeline’s path or even in NJ or PA will benefit. There is no shortage of natural gas in this area and there is no concern with high gas prices. Consider the following two facts (taken directly from the blog “The Cost of the Pipeline”, a blog written by my new hero. This guy is incredible with his research and knowledge. A “regular” dude who took it upon himself to get educated and fight back):

PennEast will be carrying 365 cubic feet per year into the state – which is again a 55% over-capacity. On natural gas demand projections – PennEast is flat out wrong. Government studies show that natural gas use is expected to decline out to 2040.

The April 2015 numbers show New Jersey with the lowest natural gas prices in the entire country. So let’s repeat the question, but with the updated data: why does NJ need a 55% supply increase when we have the lowest residential natural gas prices in the entire United States.

I rest my case.

Back to our task oriented week.

My wife and I attended a local township’s monthly meeting and became even more educated. We came away with a to-do list. We made great personal connections. It was inspiring and all Erin Brockovichy.

That meeting inspired me to approach my own township’s Board of Health to get them to adopt a resolution formally opposing the pipeline. And you know what – mission frickin accomplished.

Comments to FERC are a nightly occurrence as we identify more and more hypocrisy from the bad guys.

So we are in an interesting state of mind right now. Inspired and invigorated from the fight and actual evidence that progress is being made, or should I say progress isn’t being made on the other side. We’ve moved away from personal worry for the time being and are united in wholly defeating this unnecessary project. The odds still seem stacked against us based on past history, but that doesn’t matter. We won’t stop.

Greed doesn’t always win. Why not us?

As an aside, and you can etch the following in stone. If this pipeline is defeated we will throw a giant bash locally with the entire party hosted on the path of the failed pipeline.

And I will walk the entire pipeline path from NJ to PA dressed like a minion.

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Pinky swear.

 

Oh yeah, the garden

It’s been three straight days of research, meetings, writing, stressing and presenting to boards on all things pipeline. I’m sure I’ll be writing about it all real soon (lucky you) but for now, I’m falling back on my comfort zone – my garden.

Here is the latest:

All of my spring planted Sneezeweed (Mariachi series) are blooming already and I had no idea until today.

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Speaking of not knowing about blooming, same goes for Eupatorium ‘Wayside’ (Hardy Ageratum).

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All of the Lobelia are in full bloom. This is ‘Vedrariensis’.

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And Lobelia siphilitica.

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Chelone lyonii (Turtlehead) just started to bloom and fortunately they have nearly doubled in count over the past few years.

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The only surviving Boltonia is blooming and has yet to topple over. Maybe this one represents the survival of the fittest.

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I completely missed all of the blooming Clethra (Summersweet) the past few weeks and this is all that remains.

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What more can I say about Panicum ‘Northwind’?

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Great color on Panicum ‘Rots’ right now.

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Miscanthus purpurascens (Flame Grass) has got the silver blooming thing going on right now.

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A Grass Menagerie … cool or a mess? Don’t answer.

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Blooms fading on Pennisetum ‘Desert Plains’.

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Northern Sea Oats ‘River Mist’ looks nice and thankfully has yet to reseed.

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A few ditties

While I was driving my 9 year old daughter to summer camp this morning, I overheard her say to her friend “I’m pissed off …”. I have no idea what she was pissed about and it didn’t matter. She said it with such ease as it naturally rolled off of her tongue.  It was wonderful. It was passionate. It was heartfelt. And I love her for it. I hope she maintains that same passion and zest for life as she gets older. She is a welcome addition to our pacifist family. And maybe she can channel that into fighting the next pipeline that will be scheduled to come directly through our family room in 2019.

I just found out that my 13 year old son sent a letter to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in opposition to the Penn East Pipeline. I haven’t read it but hope to do so soon and publish it here.  Will Christie read it and does he give a rat’s ass about this pipeline? You be the judge?

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Irregardless (and I use the word in anger because it doesn’t really exist) my son has such a gift for words at a young age. He communicates best through the typed page and oh how I can relate. It is fascinating to observe the drastic differences between my two children and we love the hell out of them for those differences.

Getting old alert – This is a difficult one to admit, but here it goes: My work wife buddy and I walked the mall today at lunch so we could up the number of steps on our Fitbits. That much I will admit. However, there is no truth to the reported rumor that we were wearing matching pure white walking shoes and fanny packs. Although I will happily admit that I dominated in Bridge later that day. Maybe I should take a little breather from fighting this pipeline? It is aging me rather quickly.

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I may have been a little premature in my garden obituary from last Friday. We had family that we hadn’t seen in a long time over at our abode for a barbecue yesterday and they were exceedingly complimentary on the “landscaping”. When someone actually touches a plant and sighs with pleasure, I get a little verklempt. Yes I planted that and yes I could tell you its backstory for hours on end. And yes, I will create a garden for you wherever and whenever you want it.

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ONG no longer

I am forever changed.

I am no longer the “Obsessive Neurotic Gardener”.

Sure, I’ll continue to garden, just not “obsessively” and absolutely not “neurotically”.

I’ll continue to write, but it won’t be solely focused on the garden and my plant affection. There will be a dose of anger and whatever tickles my fancy that day. You may have realized that already but if not, my apologies in advance.

And it is all because of the threat of this f’n pipeline.

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Beware of rambling rant to come.

I spent my entire evening crafting a long winded note to FERC (The “Federal Energy Regulatory Commission”), the governmental commission that is allegedly “overseeing” the potential construction of the Penn East pipeline. With the uncertainty of what lies ahead and a constant feeling of “What can I do to fight for the cause?”, I find myself drawn to writing. It keeps my mind occupied, allows for the release of pent up anger and makes me feel like I am contributing in some small way.

It is just so hard to fathom what little say we have in this entire process outside of putting up some signs on our lawns or submitting website comments. But damn if it doesn’t feel good to put those angry words on paper (figuratively speaking). And I’ve never been more impressed by all those who have given so much in this fight even if they aren’t directly affected. We are talking passion, perseverance and intelligence like I’ve never seen before.

With the real possibility that my yard may be torn to bits within the next two years, it is impossible for me to think long term in terms of a garden. And that is exactly what drew me into gardening ever since I awkwardly planted that first hydrangea back in 1997. The long range planning was exciting with infinite possibilities (not to mention a nice way to survive the winter doldrums).

At the same time, gardening provides you with short term “wins” (not to mention a bevy of constructive “losses”) along the way while you are trying to ultimately build that dream garden. And even though we all know that dream garden is difficult if not impossible to attain, we love the process. We really really love the process.

We love the research through on-line forums and magazines.

We love that surprise bloom from a perennial we had given up on.

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We love visiting another garden and saying “I’m going to steal that idea”.

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We love tearing it up and starting all over, convinced this is the time we will get it all right.

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But now I’ve lost all of that mojo. The romanticism of gardening is gone. It is impossible to feel obsessive and senseless to remain even the least bit neurotic.

I hope this is temporary and only time will tell. I hate the fact that I’m allowing greed and the governmental co-conspirators to affect me so deeply. I’m more pissed off than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m becoming that guy that trusts no one; that happy-go-lucky and admittedly naive dude is now in the rear view. And worst of all, is the feeling of helplessness. Too much hurry up and wait.

Look, I realize things could be much worse. I’m not that far gone and I’m not looking for your sympathy in any way. We all have our battles over the course of our lifetime and this just happens to be one of them for us. I just happen to deal with it better by vocalizing it and hoping it can have even the tiniest positive impact. Writing is what I do.

And I know it may sound strange after everything I’ve written to this point, but in an odd way, this experience, even in its earliest of stages, has changed me in a positive way

I may have lost the wonder of what my garden may hold for me in the future, but I have never been more present than I am right now. I spend more time feeling than I do planning. I feel proud of what I’ve built/accomplished without much focus on what I still need to do.

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I can even say that I’ve paid more attention to my container plants than ever before. Enjoy the moment, enjoy all of those ripe tomatoes while they last.

I also sense that the kids are learning from this experience. Yes, they are losing faith in the government and the ways of the powerful people, but hopefully they are on board with standing up for what you believe in. Even when things look dire, never give up. And never take your earth for granted; it is an invaluable resource that we must not f with.

And finally, I know I said it before but it bears repeating; there are so many good people who dedicate themselves to the cause in such a selfless manner. These people are our neighbors and we need to thank them more. A sense of community is being built and strengthened and it is one that cannot be broken.

We are angry and disillusioned, but we are not giving up.

 

 

 

Bad ass ornamental grass

It just dawned on me recently that my ornamental grasses serve a purpose, other than looking awesome, that I never intended from the outset.

They are the protector of the garden.

A force so strong that the deer have retreated and said “Uncle”.

Even the rabbits are quivering in their little rabbit booties.

Case in point, the hydrangeas remain untouched.

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Just try getting through to that Joe Pye Weed.

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I swear to you, there is a raised bed in the middle of all those grasses. I’ll show you the positive results of said raised bed in a future post.

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An impenetrable wall of grass. A force field if you will.

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Those blooms are like daggers and happily protect the Viburnum behind it.

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Never, ever f with ‘Northwind’. They are that bad ass, especially in groups of three.

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Some are bigger for their britches than others but we give them credit for trying. The phlox in the background is most appreciative of the effort.

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Dog Days of Summer

I forced myself out of bed this morning (translation – wife kicked me) to finally spend some time outside in the garden. It had been a long time since we hung out and the excessive weed population proved it.

Between vacation, soaring temps, the day job, child transportation to and fro and self exile from all of this pipeline nonsense,  I’ve been negligent in my garden upkeep and enjoyment.

And here is what I quickly learned … the summer has flown by.

Not only are we now in the dog days of summer, but so are the plants. The vibrancy of summer blooms have faded and we are now in that awkward phase between the sweetheart of summer and when autumn kicks it in to high gear.

Nowhere is this more evident then with one my personal faves, the Bee Balm. I love me some Bee Balm (Monarda), even the current day spent/faded Bee Balm.

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It reflects the time of year beautifully. Still some signs of that fantastic flower color, even from afar, yet worn from the pounding of the sun and the brutal heat.

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Without realizing it, I’ve allowed the Monarda to spread to its heart content and it is still behaving well with others. True garden interest for months on end.

With Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium).

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And with the ornamental grass.

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Apparently the butterflies are still willing visitors.

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While we are at it, let’s throw the Joe Pye Weed into the fading-summer-yet-enjoyable mix as well.

Those pink blooms aren’t as vivid as a few weeks ago, but are still holding up well.

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Again, the critters aren’t holding any grudges.

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I’m cool with staying in this well worn yet mellow phase for a few more weeks. I’m nowhere near ready for the fall yet and so this is the last I will discuss of it for at least another month or so.

Enjoy your weekend.

 

 

 

 

Avoiding pipeline talk plus our trip to Boston

Today I  won’t be a downer by ranting and raving about pipelines or eminent domain or fracking.

I’m totally cool with the idea of giving up my land to a private company all in the name of the “local public good”. That “local public good” being the sheer enjoyment of seeing that fracked gas sent overseas.

I am not going to bring up the potential of losing all of that wonderfully wild growth at the back of my property.

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Nor will I discuss the loss of the mass amount of milkweed plants I’ve been fortunate to gain over the years. You know, the only host plant for the ever shrinking population of Monarch butterflies.

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I won’t wax poetic about the loss of numerous native perennials that I have witnessed self seeding for more than a decade.

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You know, those perennials that draw in these types of visitors on a regular basis.

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Lucky for you all, I won’t whine about the possible loss of my favorite solitary spot.

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Or the loss of River Birch trees I planted myself over 5 years ago.

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Nope. I won’t go there.

Instead of that, I’ll share photos of our recent trip to Boston. Hopefully it is a little more uplifting.

Being a baseball obsessed family and all, we couldn’t miss a trip to Fenway Park.

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And how cool that we got to sit directly behind the legendary “Pesky Pole” on our inaugural visit.

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She totally hated it.

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We walked a good portion of the city including the green space/park that replaced the original elevated highway.

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We hit up the infamous North End and all of its Italian glory.

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Loads and loads of history revisited along the way.

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A nice long walk along the Charles River.

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And even a tour of Boston on the Duck boat/bus. Check out the following video with my daughter actually manning the boat and more importantly, soak in that fantastic Bah-ston accent from our stellar tour guide.

Duck boat video 

And after all of that, we enjoyed hanging with family and doing … summer things.

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High Line – Part 3 – The Plants

And then there were the plants at the High Line.

I’ve debated how to present these and have settled on … as few words as needed.

They really do speak for themselves.

Enjoy.

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High Line – Part 2

As I mentioned in my prior post, the third and final section of the High Line in NYC was completed last September. It is a huge departure from the other sections …  and it totally worked for me. It is known as the “The High Line at the Rail Yards” and you’ll see why that name was chosen in a few.

I highly suggest reading this before proceeding. A much more intelligent and eloquent writer really nailed it and fortunately, I was able to read it before taking the stroll. With that backdrop, it really provided the necessary perspective. My only regret is that I didn’t take the tour at sunrise or sunset. Did you see the photos in that link above? Stunning shots.

The funny thing is, as I approached the new section, my first question was “Is this all everyone says it is cracked up to be?” What would you think after this view below?

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A genuine mess, right? Would it distract enough and take away from what is going on above?

My doubts were eventually lifted as I entered the “11th Ave Bridge“. It takes you in a westerly direction (towards NJ) and provides stunning views of the Hudson River. The bridge is slightly elevated to enhance said views.

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Nice. I’m all in.

After crossing the 11th Avenue Bridge, you soon understand why it is known as the “Rail Yards”. Take a look at the photos below.

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The Rail Yards will soon look much different as they will be replaced by the Hudson Yards which will be a series of high rise buildings home to condominiums, businesses and retail space at a cost close to … gulp … 20 billion.

Interesting factoid – the Hudson Yards were given the green light only after NYC was denied the 2012 Olympics and missed out on the relocation of the New Jersey Nets to the west side of Manhattan.

To the naked eye, the old rail lines along the walk appear to still be suffering from neglect. Looks like a bunch of weeds run amok; Queen’s Anne Lace galore.

However, those are actual plantings that have been strategically placed that way to evoke memories of the abandoned rail line prior to the creation of the High Line.

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So you may see “unruly” but I see a genius at work. A perfect representation of “what was”. As the famed garden designer and High Line planting coordinator/ruler/overseer Piet Oudolf put it, “It’s not wild at all, it’s an introduction to the wild ”.

My biggest concern would be how this all looks/plays out once the Hudson Yards project is completed. Because as of right now, I dig the plantings with the endless mess of rail cars below. It truly evokes old NYC.

So if I had to best summarize the “Rail Yards” experience, it is cool urban-retro-neglected-garden look with modern amenities along the walk and … sick views.

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Part 3 soon to come where all I will focus on is the plants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AN EMOTIONAL JOURNEY OF ONE MAN'S ATTEMPT TO GRASP THIS GARDENING THING