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seeds of coneflower Archives • Southern Rural Route

This is the  life cycle of a Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) as I have witnessed it by playing with them for two years. When the leaves are at the size shown above, they come out of the pot and go in the ground. The leaves will grow to four times this size before a flower stalk emerges. The final stage is waiting for the cones to dry out and turn … Read More

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coneflower bud Archives • Southern Rural Route

This is the  life cycle of a Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) as I have witnessed it by playing with them for two years. When the leaves are at the size shown above, they come out of the pot and go in the ground. The leaves will grow to four times this size before a flower stalk emerges. The final stage is waiting for the cones to dry out and turn … Read More

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Cast • Southern Rural Route

The Southern Rural Route is in a semi-rural neighborhood of one to twenty acres in Jacksonville, Florida (Zone 9b). Many of the neighbors have created family compounds but are living ordinary, suburban lives. The more interesting neighbors are doing the “rural thing” in some way — vegetable gardens, chickens or other critters.

Take the Garden Walking Tour of Southern Rural Route here.

The cast of characters on the Southern Rural Route are as follows:

Poppie – Worked in construction before retiring. Other than Mizz Chairman’s mobile home, every last house, garage, greenhouse, or hut was constructed by Poppie. He died on February 28, 2015, at the hands of a back surgeon who nicked his spinal fluid sack and hospital staff who didn’t know how to operate the “crash cart.”

Momma – Momma was still with us when this blog began but, sadly, she passed to God’s Kingdom on New Year’s Eve, 2012. She was always of the opinion that Mizz Chairman was a fine secretary with all her readin’, writin’ and spellin’ abilities but when it came to common sense, the poor child didn’t have a lick of it.

Mr. Beekeeper – has a wife, grown children, and a dog named Chance. For years, he had chickens but now keeps bees at his house and at the blueberry farm down the road which also has some cows. In his vegetable garden, Mr. Beekeeper doesn’t hill up his rows or weed, but amending his soil with all that chicken poop makes him the most successful veggie gardener in the ‘hood.

Country Boy – has a wife, two barking dogs, can’t hear worth a sow’s ear, and welds stuff.

Mr. Golf Cart – has a wife (Mrs. Golfcart), and until January 2013, a 300-pound pet pig who showed up in the dog’s cage when still a baby. The dog seemed quite happy with him so Mr. Golf Cart allowed him to stay on as “Piggie.” He might have been better served with a less obvious name like Bacon. Not that he ever became bacon. Piggie died of old age. Mr. Golfcart’s daughter, Georgie Golfcart, lives next door on the same 5-acre property. Mr. Golf Cart makes house calls in his golf cart and generally supervises whatever is going on in the ‘hood.

The Hippy – has a girlfriend, two earth movers, a really fast golf cart, a big lake with a white sand beach, and a remodeled 1940ish cottage he got from his Dad back in the 90’s and moved to his property. A free house is a real blessing.

Homer – he’s not real friendly with the rest of us but he has a real nice red tractor.

Mizz Chairman of the Garden writes this blog. As a working woman holding up the dumb end, she always wanted to be Chairman and CEO and thus claimed the title of Chairman of the Garden when she began this blog. Although she has been holding forth here for almost five years, she was never able to garner any respect as Chairman. Folks seemed more inclined to believe she orbited a slightly crooked moon.

Her first garden was a square foot garden with two raised beds as per Mel Bartholomew’s 1981 book, Square Foot Gardening. The actual size of the raised beds is lost in history as this was more than 30 years ago. Not that she can really use time as an excuse considering most things escape her memory, even yesterday’s lunch.

Square foot gardening was abandoned when she moved to the two-acre family compound where her parents already had a firm hold on vegetable gardening in a 70-by-something plot. Graciously, she relinquished her dominance over dirt to them. They retired from farming during her artsy years and the soil  languished without much thought until 2004 when gardening fever reared its head again.

First, the Fern Bed, an area that had been under siege by escapees from pots of fern, was reclaimed. The name, however, stuck. By 2008, the vegetable gardening began anew in a few large, plastic pots. The veggies abandoned the pots the next year and required ever more square feet each year until agreeing to reside within the limits of a 50 x 50 plot. Citrus, fig and persimmon trees are also on the property. Chickens would be great but Momma squashed that idea with such a vehemence that, to this day, Mizz Chairman is afraid to breathe the word “chicken” for fear Momma would put the spook on her.

Mizz Chairman is interested in artsy stuff, canning, soap making, sustainability, and organic veggie gardening. What’s a few bug lips on your produce in comparison to chemo and radiation?

Southern Rural Route Definitions

Orbiting the Crooked Moon – those who orbit the Crooked Moon suffer from a warped view of life causing friends and relatives to view them as C-R-A-Z-Y.

Old Crowitis – a condition that sometimes develops late in life causing a penchant for bright, shiny things (like a crow although research indicates crows aren’t really attracted to bright, shiny things).

Last updated September 16, 2016

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October 2017 • Southern Rural Route

Down here in the Deep South, some of us have been spending the last month digging out from Hurricane Irma. The Mayor of Jacksonville has asked us to allow the City until November 8 (I think that was the date) to complete debris pickup with the “claw” trucks that are here from neighboring states. Debris is piled up in front of almost every yard. We are on our second pile from a … Read More

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February 2017 • Southern Rural Route

The mental floss for the mind started with Zorro. He was outside in the cold trying to prove he was a Big Boy like Whiskey although Whiskey was not around to witness his heroism. When I opened the front door for the third time at 3 a.m., he dashed inside and ran for my bed. I was unable to go back to sleep because he was purring like an outboard motor with a bad set of spark … Read More

I love cherry tomatoes and grow them in both the spring and fall. We have mostly mild winters in Florida. In the summer and fall, however, I would like to pack my bags and head north. The Thousand Islands on the U.S./Canadian border might be far enough north. I suspect those folks in the Thousand Islands don’t have cherry tomatoes ripening at their front steps in February. I … Read More

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January 2016 • Southern Rural Route

Sometimes I wonder about things. Like tulips and cat fur. Tulips require a minimum number of chill hours in order to bloom. Do cats require similar chill hours to grow a winter fur coat? I wonder only because my big old tom cat has a lot more fur this winter than my baby Zorro. I probably shouldn’t call him a baby. In cat years, he’s likely a teenager by now; but he’s so much … Read More

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December 2015 • Southern Rural Route

You will recall from my post on Eat Your Yard Jax that I was fascinated to learn about hugelkultur. I didn’t want to toss chunks of trees in my hugelkultur plot because covering it with soil in my low vegetable garden would have been enormously expensive but I liked the idea that hugelkultur would raise my garden above the flood plain while we are in the “wet” years. I opted to … Read More

I want to caution you about recipes you find on the internet written by bloggers with unknown education and experience. Basically, people like me. I found a Toilet Bowl Cleaner recipe (hereinafter referred to as “cleaner”) on one of those natural living websites. Interested in trying less toxic cleaning products, I decided to give it a try. It was a simple recipe calling for 1 … Read More

While visiting with Mr. and Mrs. Golf Cart in their backyard garden in May, I admired their wind chime. I mentioned I had always wanted one of the larger ones but, at $89, they were out of my price range. I explained that I was a dollar store kinda gal. Mr. Golf Cart said, “Bring me an old frying pan and I’ll make you one.” Poor guy was probably joking and thinking I had no … Read More

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November 2015 • Southern Rural Route

Meta sent me some photos for the blog because my camera died.  Currently blooming at Meta’s: She particularly likes her purple blooming bromeliads because they bloom a few times during the year in her Zone 9 garden yet they don’t require a lot of fussing over.  She said they can take part sun, part shade, but a bit more shade. Starting out with a one gallon pot, she … Read More

Tuesday I went with some of the ladies from Mandarin Garden Club on a field trip to Eat Your Yard. It’s a local, heavily wooded 40-acre farm run by Tim Armstrong to provide cactus and succulents to the wholesale market but he also has edible garden plants, a few farm-raised tilapia, chickens and rabbits. He was also affiliated with a garden project on the grounds of a school … Read More

Remember that big box of plant loot I got from Meta’s? Need to refresh your memory, it’s the last photo here. I saw her on a Thursday and I planted the daylilies on Saturday. I cut off all but 3 inches of the daylily tops so they wouldn’t have to support all that foliage while re-establishing their roots. There were so many daylilies in that copy paper box, I dug 27 holes and … Read More

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October 2015 • Southern Rural Route

I have begun to use my 2015 crop of Meyer lemons. This year’s crop of 5 is bigger than the 2014 crop of 3.  I am looking forward to a larger crop each year. That is not a weed in the lemon pot. It’s a naturally occurring fern whose name I can’t remember.   What I have always liked about the Meyer lemon is the less astringent flavor. It doesn’t have the “pucker to the … Read More

Orbiting the Crooked Moon as I do, I’m always having these “adventures” I would just as soon not have. Yesterday was no different. I headed south to visit with one of my blog’s first subscribers, Meta. I ran into more than my share of T-stops that had so much signage I couldn’t see the name of the street or either the name of the T-stop was different than it was supposed to be. … Read More

Zorro has entered the Terrible Twos and is good for at least two good laughs a day. Whenever I hear a loud noise coming from the direction of his last known location in the house, I holler, “What have you down now???” Immediately, a wail arises that, if translated, would probably mean “I didn’t do it!”   … Read More

It has been a rough year for departures. First, Poppie. Then a Houston friend of 30+ years. This morning, I found Big Foot in the middle of the grassy area that used to be Momma and Poppie’s vegetable garden. Something had torn out his left haunch and he crossed the rainbow bridge sometime in the night. I didn’t shed a tear. I don’t think I can feel anymore. … Read More