Saturday, September 3

Plant gravel

I put a layer of cheap aquarium gravel around my house plants. That's one way of controlling the fungus gnats which like to dig into the soil to lay their eggs. I completely cover the exposed soil with less than a quarter inch of gravel. That's enough to prevent them from penetrating the soil.

Fungus gnats (aka soil gnats) don't hurt the plants but an infestation can be really annoying to humans. They are the most active in the fall and winter months.

Saturday, August 27

ZZ plants

When people ask me which plants they should get for their apartment I usually suggest that they start with a ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia). They are very forgiving and can grow in lots of different kinds of light. The one pictured is in our guest bedroom and gets lots of indirect light. But they can also grow in windowless offices with fluorescent lighting. Here in South Florida they do well outdoors on patios, too. However, they don't want to live in full sun. 

ZZ plants are originally from Central Africa.

Sunday, June 12

Affirmation of Faith

This is an affirmation of faith that I wrote for use today, Trinity Sunday 2022, in our Sunday morning chapel service at Covenant Living of Florida.

We believe in the One God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He created us in his image so that we might participate in his eternal fellowship and share in the care of his creation.

This unique relationship unraveled as we pursued lives independent from him. As a result, sin, chaos, and death entered the world. God then graciously implemented his plan of restoration and reconciliation. This plan reached its apex
in the incarnation,
in the teaching,
in the sacrificial death,
and the victorious resurrection of his only Son, Christ Jesus.

Jesus now summons his redeemed people to act in faith and fulfill their purpose by participating with him in his mission of reconciliation.

The Spirit accompanies all Christians -- believers with diverse gifts and from diverse cultures. He empowers us to live in radical harmony with each other while we invite the entire world to embrace Jesus,
his approach to life,
his kingdom agenda,
and the hope which accompanies his good news.

This we affirm as our faith and our mission.

Tuesday, November 24


 Most of the growing we do occurs through our stewardship of the mundane.

Tuesday, October 13

Growing houseplants in water

Last spring I noticed some nice arrowhead plants (Syngonium Podophyllum) growing wild in the neighborhood (one of the benefits of living in Florida). I snipped a few cuttings, perhaps 8 in/20 cm each, and brought them home.

I then took 

  • a 30.5 oz left-over plastic Folgers ground coffee can, 
  • cut a round hole (1 in/2.5 cm) in the center of the lid, 
  • filled the can with tap water, 
  • added 1/4 tsp/1.25 ml of the liquid 2-1-6 hydroponic fertilizer that I use weekly with all my houseplants,
  • inserted the bottom of the cuttings through the hole,
  • snapped the lid onto the can,
  • and placed the plastic can in a decorative pot near a window with lots of indirect light.
This is what it looks like now. 

I haven't changed out the water but I do add water containing the fertilizer mix each week. Because the lid is snapped onto the can evaporation is low. 

This is an inexpensive way to acquire and grow houseplants. And I never have to worry about soil gnats. I have four plant containers at home and six in the office all supporting a mixture of low light tropical houseplants in water.

Wednesday, April 15

Growing citrus from seeds

I am happy to see the Eureka lemon seeds I planted last week are sprouting. The plant in the pot is a Kalamansi (Calamondin) that I planted from seed last November. The great thing about citrus seeds is that most of the off spring will be genetically true to the parent. There are but a few varieties in which this is not the case. Frankly, though I grow these plants from seeds because I enjoy having them in the house or on the patio. It's an inexpensive way to start plants. And if I get fruit in 8-10 years that's all bonus to me.

BTW, the lemon seeds came from a lemon we bought at the grocery store. I cut it up to go in the water at supper then planted the seeds after supper. The Kalamansi seeds were from a small bush I have growing on the patio. The point is, you can use seeds from sources already in your life. They don't require soaking or much preparation.

I mix my own potting soil but you can use a standard mix. If you can find a citrus/cactus mix, all the better. Citrus likes to dry out between waterings.

It would be fun for kids to each have their own lemon tree.

Tuesday, May 28

The restorative power of silence

Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.  ("Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think," Rebecca Beris)

Monday, May 6

Beach walk in Ft Lauderdale

Selfie from our beach walk a couple of weeks ago. Cheryl and I have been able to get to the beach about twice a month -- usually on Mondays -- which I take off from work. We live about 12 miles from the closest beach on the Atlantic side of Florida.

Wednesday, April 10

Go go mango

Even when we lived on Guam, I don't remember any of my mango experiments taking off the way this one has. I planted the seed four days ago and it is now 5 inches (12.5 cm) tall. When I planted this Manila Mango in the grow bag there was a slight root bulge but no stem.

Here is how I start mangos --

  1. Find one that you like in the store.
  2. Eat it and save the pit, removing as much of the flesh as you can.
  3. Set the pit on a plate to dry.
  4. Once the pit is dry, carefully cut around the edges of the shell. I often use wire cutters or sometimes pruning shears. (It's okay if the pit looks a little gross.)
  5. Gently pry open the pit and remove the seed from the shell.
  6. Continue to be gentle as you wrap the seed in a damp (but not soggy) paper towel.
  7. Put the damp paper towel and seed into a plastic sandwich bag. Leave it on the table next to your favorite chair and check it every few days for signs of growth.
  8. Once the seed looks like it is about to push out roots, place it with the root bulge facing down on top of the potting soil.
  9. Cover the seed with about half an inch of loose soil.
  10. Place your pot with the seed in a sunny and warm spot.
  11. Water. (I added some organic Neptune's Harvest FS118 Fish & Seaweed Blend Fertilizer 2-3-1 to the water but I think the real reason why this mango shot up so rapidly was the warm and damp South Florida spring weather.)

Wednesday, April 4

Three years without meat

Broccoli, beans, and kale growing
in a straw bale in our garden.

Three years ago this month, after I noticed a correlation between meat consumption and an increase in joint pain, I became a vegetarian. The extreme pain disappeared pretty quickly. And I have not been prevented from getting out of bed in the morning by major stiffness in my legs. I'm not saying that all my arthritis-related pain is gone but eliminating meat has made a world of difference.

It has, however, been a bit of a journey learning how to live without meat and fish. A few observations:
  1. I've not once given any serious thought to going back to eating meat. Even if someone figured out a meat that would not affect my joints I no longer have taste for it. I have lost all desire for meat.
  2. Fortunately, I have always enjoyed the plant-based foods. So the transition hasn't been hard.
  3. The taste is in the preparation. As one person put it, “I realized I didn’t like the meat I was eating. I liked the way it was prepared.”
  4. I have discovered lentils and quinoa. They are wonderful!
  5. Most every restaurant has something I can eat.
  6. I've been able to get a veggie burger at a Burger King anywhere I travel.
  7. Surprise! Denny's has the best veggie burgers.
  8. The hardest part about eating vegetarian is the feeling that you're making things difficult for a host who wants to feed you.
  9. It's not easy having to explain that you don't eat meat -- especially in a cross-cultural setting.
  10. Some meat-eaters are hell-bent on interpreting my diet as some kind of an attack on their dietary preferences. I don't quite get that.
  11. Don't expect to lose weight on a plant-based diet.
Eliminating meat three years ago was a good decision for me -- certainly no regrets.