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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.

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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)