Gardening Tips from a Florida Girl: What NOT to do!

I’m talking about what NOT to do because I have yet to figure out what TO do. You see, I knew very little about gardening as a child. I knew that people grew flowers, like my grandparents, who had the most beautiful rose bushes growing in their front yard. I also knew that the neighbor down the street spent the start of every summer digging up row after row in his backyard and sometime later, leafy plants would appear. I also remember being at a particular friend’s house and seeing canning jars full of veggies swimming around in icky wetness but I just assumed her mother shopped at some kind of fancy grocery boutique.

Fast forward 25 years. Now living in Northwest Georgia, such ignorance is simply unacceptable. Walking the aisles of Wal-Mart about this time of year is when you start hearing things like,

“Have you got your tomatoes planted yet?”

“Naw, I hope I can still get a good bunch of em’ before the first freeze this year.”

I am completely lost in a conversation such as this and find myself hiding behind my canned tomatoes. Or a casual church conversation which goes about like,

“I sent some corn over to Betty. I had way too much and you know once that stuff starts poppin up, it just keeps on comin.”

“Yeah, I know. My garden was overrun with squash and beans last year. I darn-well couldn’t keep all the critters out for the free food layin around out there.”

Now, I can honestly say that I’ve never had free food laying around in my backyard but being a thrifty shopper, this sounded heavenly! Thus, I decided that if I wanted into this way of life, I was going to have to dig in and learn some stuff. I started asking my friends questions, visiting garden centers and local feed stores, and stopping by Farmer’s Markets to listen in on conversations to see if I could pick up any free tips. I have tried everything from a raised garden, to container gardening, to just throwing out a bunch of seeds to see what pops up. I have yet to pull anything edible out of the ground but I have learned a lot about my methods and why they don’t work. Here are some of my gardening life-lessons…

1. Seeds like to be babied.

I have tried starting seeds and have discovered that this takes way too much effort for me. My first attempt at growing seeds into plants was a disaster. I bought a cute little seed-starting greenhouse. All I had to do, according to the directions, was throw in a few seeds and watch em’ grow. I carefully placed 2-3 seeds into each little soil lined compartment and made sure they were nice and damp. I then was to spend the next month transporting these seeds out onto my back deck for the proper amount of sunshine each day while being sure they did not receive too much or too little water. Now, this doesn’t sound difficult but take a container which holds lots of soil and soak it all in water and what you have is a very heavy container. By the end of my treacherous month, I had dropped it twice and most of the seeds were eaten out of the container by birds who spotted them as they rose to the surface of the soil. I finally chunked the entire thing over the side of the balcony one day and made the hour-long trip to Costco to stock up on canned veggies.

2. Bugs suck.

I think that I could have had a good bit of something growing a few years back but my season-long toil quickly turned into an all-you-can-eat buffet for bugs. This wouldn’t have been so devastating had they eaten everything before I began to see some signs of life in my garden but they did not. They let me get my hopes up for almost an entire month. I started to see green leaves with little buds forming. I even caught a glimpse of a yellow pepper peeking through its little green flower petals. I sat back in my chair and marveled over my yummy success. I started planning my meals and preparing my dishes for all the vegetable goodness that was to come. But those meals would never appear on my table. Instead, they would fill the belly of a greedy insect and allow him to go on for another day.

3. Onions like to breathe.

I love onions. Despite my children’s protests and picket signs, I put them into everything I cook. Last year, I decided that I needed to learn to grow them. With my previous seed experiences, I chose to forgo that route and just bought bunches and bunches of plants. I figured that I would like to have about 30 onions to put away in the freezer so I would need 30 onion plants. I figured this one was easy. A no-brainer. I dug 30 holes, about a half-foot deep each and tossed in my onion plants. I was about a month away from the most glorious crop of oniony goodness anyone had ever seen.  Later that day, a friend stopped by to see my work.

“Where are the plants?” she asked.

“In the ground,” I replied.

“In the ground?”

“Yes, in the ground.”

“All the way? Like, you buried them?”

She assured me that they would pop up eventually. I waited and waited. I watered and watered and waited some more. The soil began to move and crack and my hard work and dedication began to pay off. I started to see the tops of my plants, poking through reaching for sunshine. But the onions never came. Days passed, weeks passed, months passed.

Winter seemed to take forever so when spring rolled around, I was ready for some sunshine. I decided to give this gardening thing another go. I would need to dig around a little, let my soil breathe and enjoy some sunshine before throwing in something new to kill off. But, much to my surprise, there was more than soil sitting under the top surface of my garden. In fact, there were 30 somethings sitting in there and boy did they stink! I knew growing onions would carry a smell through the neighborhood but 30 rotting ones was so much more than I could have prepared myself for. Three bottles of Febreeze later, I’m pretty sure nothing is going to grow in there again….and all of my neighbors hate me!

So, if you are thinking of starting your own garden this year, by all means, consider taking a class first. And if you have some great tips to share, email me!

Now, if you’ll excuse me…..I’m off to Costco….

Suess of the South

Born in 1904 in California, Seuss had a very successful writing career. Hated his work to be described using the word ‘whimsical’ and kept much of his life private while suffering from stage fright. His death in 1991 left a hole in the hearts of Seuss fans everywhere.

Growing up with a bookshelf full of Hop on Pop and Fox in Socks, I often re-read these classics and enjoy the way the words seem to roll off of my tongue so effortlessly. I can’t help but to imagine how these books might have sounded with a different catapult behind them….say….a southern one.

You can’t imagine what I’ve discovered living on Mulberry Street….Mulberry Street in Alabama, that is. There is plenty to see from yonder to me and you won’t quite believe what your mind will conceive. Front porches with hound dogs spread out across mats, only moving when needing to chase away gnats. Big fat aunt Berthas with moon pies in hand, wearing curlers and a moo-moo, kids playing in the sand. “Get yerself inside, do sumthin with yer hair…don’t make me get my switch and come after yer tail, hurry up and get in the car, Piggly Wiggly is havin a sale.”

You’ll see cats running wild and an occasional goat, the one on the corner always standing in a boat. He’s got nary a tail cause the bull chewed it good but he’s great entertainment for all the kids in the hood. On Saturday night you can try for 8 seconds….but little Billy counts slow, for his numbers, he don’t quite know. One second, two seconds, three seconds, four….but by then that billy goat done knocked you to the floor. Next time you’ll win it cause you got a plan….nail handle bars to those horns , the rules say you can!

And the visitors that visit cause quite a stir; often leaving reminders of visits and the things that occur, like the Cat in the Hat all covered with fur. He arrives in a Buick with camo-colored seats, his fur flyin out the windows, smoking cat-nip treats. Adjusting his overalls, he struts up to the house; a dip in his mouth, the size of a mouse. Behind him a box brought along for the ride, with a bright yellow sticker that reads “rednecks inside.” He opens the box and what do I see, two tiny little cowboys as tall as my knee. With belt buckles large, what was I to do? On those buckles I read “Redneck One and Redneck Two.” They were cussin like sailors, tobacco they’d spit and I was soon to discover that the little one bit. They let themselves in and started looking for food. They made quite a mess and were extremely rude. They plundered through the cupboards looking for the Spam, but all that they found were some green eggs and ham. “Were’s the mustards and cabbage?” they started to shout. “Fry up sum cornbread n taters,” I started to doubt….that this mess they were making would ever come clean, then that Cat in the Hat produced a bright shiny machine. “It’s a clean-a-nator 2000,” he pushed it my way….and as it turned on, I had nothing to say. That thing was here to hopefully save the day. It sucked up the rug but I didn’t mind, it was just an old one, a flea market find. That machine was a cleanin, fast as Nascar, it ran quicker than Lil Billy, that time he was kicked out of the bar. Soon that old trailer was nothing but shine and that machine headed out, it seemed just in time. But before it was gone, it did just what it had to do, it reached across the living room and sucked up Redneck One and Redneck Two.

Most never leave Mulberry Street; this is something that I know. But those that escape, oh, the places that they’ll go!! Most head up north cause the ocean is down…and they know they can’t swim and don’t

want to drown. Some head for the mountains and some for the hills, some end up in Arkansas, working in mills. Some try to fit in with folks from the city but they don’t drink sweet tea and that’s just a pity….one boy I know ended up in New York City. He tried drinking pop and reading real books…the kind with no pictures that are published on Nooks. He started combing his hair with a comb, very fine, and on days he felt fancy, he gave his tooth a great shine. He mended his undies and washed all his socks and put away all his collection of rocks and began collecting stamps, of which he became very proud, and burning his rebel flag brought in quite a crowd. He traded his truck for a nice Land Rover and found him a lady which he tried to win over. But his roots started showing whenever he spoke, when he told her bout momma and how she could toke. “She had learnt it in prison after she killed my dad, he had been kicked out of the circus and come home real mad. He got to fussin at maw and she had enough, she grabbed up her skillet and come at him rough. She gave him some whacks and a woop-ly-doos, and before he knew it she knocked him right out of his shoes.” Needless to say, that boy’s story was rejected and he headed back to Mulberry, just as I had suspected. As he rode into town, he looked up to see….an old oak with no branches, his family tree. He stopped and he smiled, he had made it back home. Where old cars lined the property and every yard had a gnome. Where you could spend your days counting one fish or two and if you got lucky, saw one in red or in blue. Where if you paid close attention Yertle the Turtle was near and if you listened real close you knew what Horton could hear. Where kids hopped on pop and visited Sam I Am and pockets were filled with wockets and little boys say yes ma’am.

Yes, God

There are countless records of God speaking to humans all throughout the Old and New Testaments.  In Daniel (5:5-9) God spoke a message of doom to Belshazzar using words written on a wall by the fingers of a man’s hand. In Jonah (chapter 2) God sends a clear message of correction to Jonah through the belly of a big fish. And in Genesis (32:22-32) God spoke to Jacob through a wrestling match which caused Jacob to have a displaced hip! But perhaps the sweetest, most amazing account was when God used His angel, Gabriel, to give Mary a message that would change everything, for all of humanity.

Luke 1:26 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”  Mary was young. Mary was poor. Mary was female. She was starting off with three strikes against her when you consider the society in which she was living. She would not have been seen as someone who God would use to bring into the world the most precious gift He had to offer. Yet He did choose Mary. Why? Perhaps because God saw into her heart and knew she was just the one to carry out such a heavy plan. Or perhaps He wanted to show that He can use anyone, even with strikes against them. Perhaps He knew that one day you would sit and read these words, feeling like a hopeless mess that isn’t any good to God. He isn’t looking for perfect. He isn’t looking at your education or your human abilities. He is looking for a sweet spirited Mary with the willingness that she displayed in verse 38 with the words, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

There isn’t any doubt in my mind that Mary’s mind was all over the place. The Bible shows her willingness but it never says her nerves were calm. She was at risk for losing everything.  Her peers would ridicule her and Joseph could very well have her stoned to death for committing adultery. The journey ahead of her would be one like no other mother in history until then or since has ever had to face. Her son; the little boy that was birthed in a lowly manger, peering up at her with the clearest of eyes, latching hold of her finger as he pierced her heart with his infant perfection; she would one day watch as he was mocked and beaten. She would watch him flinch under the cattails attached to a whip. She would see his body collapse in pain, no longer able to carry the cross he so undeservingly was sentenced to. She was there as he called out to God for the forgiveness of the very men who were putting Him to death. And she watched her beloved baby boy draw in His last breath before He gave up everything on a dark, gloomy hill as He swallowed up man’s sin once and for all.

But in that moment, as God’s messenger stood before her, Mary pondered what she knew. She knew she had a purpose. She knew that God wanted to use her. She knew that no matter what, He would be right there with her. God speaks to us and gives us what information we need for the moment that we are in. Mary knew that God had called her for something extraordinaire, something so much bigger than anyone could have ever imagined. And when God spoke to Mary, in her humble and willing heart she answered, “Yes, God.”

Here Are Some People to Inspire You to Write


I can always use a little inspiration!

Originally posted on Live to Write - Write to Live:

We’re nearing the end of National Novel Writing Month and entering the season of giving thanks, so I thought I’d share a few presentations by writers to inspire you.

These are TED Talks – short (~20 minutes) inspirational talks you can find on YouTube for just about any topic you’d like.

Writing books: Elizabeth Gilbert – your elusive creative genius (author of Eat, Pray, Love)

We’re all creative.


Storytelling: Andrew Stanton – clues to a great story (Filmmaker – Toy Story, WALL-E)

Greatest story commandment is “make me care.”


 Poetry: Billy Collins – Everyday moments, caught in time (former U.S. Poet Laureate)

Bugs Bunny is his muse. <smile>

From poem &quot;Budapest&quot; From poem “Budapest”

Storytelling (~4 minutes): Joe Sabia – the technology of storytelling

You’ll remember the name Lothar Meggendorfer after this video.


Enjoy the videos! I hope they inspire.

Have a great week!

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor…

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I’ve Got The Halloween Boos!!!

I was recently given a prompt in a writers meeting that has been, by far, one of the more entertaining prompts. I had so much fun with this one. The prompt was “I’ve got the Halloween boos”

I believe that it was meant to cause one to consider writing on “Halloween Blues,” but I chose to be different and I wrote about Halloween Booze. Enjoy! :)


I swear to you, a swear like no other

I just saw Dracula holding hands with my mother!

Not to mention that witch, flying high on her broom

Sweeping across the ceiling of this very room.

And the Grim Reaper over there, keeps giving me the eye

He’s either flirting, or I’m about to die!

The ghosts all started dancing, a ghostly twerk

And the bartender, Frankenstein, is really quite a jerk.

A skeleton is serving drinks, drinks a plenty

And if you want my opinion, the devil has had one too many!

And what about that scarecrow, attacked by a bat

He never saw it coming, now there’s poop on his hat!

And that eerie looking goblin who struck me as odd

He is now looking handsome and what a nice bod.

Wait…putting it all together, it’s time for me to cruise

Cause I think I’ve been dipping in the Halloween booze!!

Walks With Memaw

The sun starts to make its way into the western sky, leaving in the clouds behind it the most radiant shades of red and orange. Dark is coming which only motivates me to clear my dinner plate faster knowing that I won’t be excused from the table until I do. After I get the okay from momma, I jump up from my seat and run full force through the house and out of the front door causing the screen door to slam closed behind me. Dad shouts a warning, “don’t slam the door,” but I don’t even look back. I make my way across the driveway and over into the next yard. Outside, my papaw is watering his well-kept rose bushes and manicured lawn. He lifts the water hose my way, pretending that he is going to soak me with it but I know better from the many times we’ve played this game before. I make my way through his yard and up to the house. I sling open the front door and yell inside.We going today?” I wait to hear the small, sweet voice of the woman who makes my world turn. I know she’s in the kitchen, finishing up the dinner dishes but I don’t dare step inside with my shoes on. “Almost ready,” I hear my memaw call out.

It doesn’t take much to keep a eight-year-old girl from Frostproof, Florida entertained. We head down the driveway together and start out on our mile-long walk which consists of walking the streets of our neighborhood, Overocker Circle, four times. I don’t remember the days before our walks started, in my mind it’s just what we’ve always done. I don’t think that it was the walks that I enjoyed but rather the games that were played along the way. We sang nursery rhymes, played I-spy, told stories and talked about our day. Walks around that little country block is where I was first introduced to Baa, Baa Black Sheep, The Three Bears, and Henny Penny. I heard my very first Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl with sweaty palms and tired feet after a few times around the circle. I listened to made-up stories and configured my very own tall tales. Those moments were without a doubt where I first formed my love of words. I loved every word that came out of her mouth and now wish so much to have the opportunity to hear them all over again. As I memorized the songs and stories that she would teach me, I immediately began teaching them to my little sister. I just knew that she would need to know them one day for her walks with memaw. As our walks got fewer and fewer, we began taking along a notebook full of our little rhymes and I only recently realized its purpose. My memaw was losing her memories. My little sister would never enjoy the long walks and playful songs with our memaw. Alzheimer’s took that opportunity away before she was old enough to even understand what was happening.

I write every day of my life now. Oftentimes I think of my memaw while I do knowing that she would be proud of me following my dreams. I am so grateful for the time that I had with her and the writer that I have become because of that time. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I keep my own notebook now that I will one day share with my grandchildren as we hurry through our dinner plates, rushing outside to meet for our walks.

Writing, simply

Writing, simply
Sometimes the thought of writing can be scary. You don’t even have to mention the word novel, it can be as simple as keeping a journal, sharing memories with a loved one or trying your hand at poetry. No matter how much practice you’ve had or how big (or small) your project might be, the thought of completing a written piece may seem like a stretch. Breaking it down, step-by-step, helps the beginning writer see that it’s really only a series of small tasks that produce an end result you can be proud of.

Before you begin:
Make a plan: Have an idea of what you wish to accomplish. If you want to write family stories and recipes for future generations, make a list of what all you want to include. If you wish to write short stories or a novel, you will need to begin with a basic outline.

Set up your work area: This doesn’t mean that you have to construct a library and find a desk with one of those old timey writer’s lamps. It simply means to make an area that is quiet and inspires you. Your writing area may be a cozy corner in your bedroom or outside on a swing somewhere. No rules!

Set your schedule: Make a plan and stick to it. If you need to take time off, schedule that as time off. Make sure that this time is uninterrupted time and let others know that you will be unavailable. This will help you maintain the integrity of your schedule.

And you’re off:
Start small: Aim to write no more than 300 words per day. This helps you get going without feeling overwhelmed. You will know when you are ready to increase your word count.

Have clear goals: Whether it be a word count, chapter completion, or other goal, make sure you have some. This will help you track your progress and keep you on target.

Get ongoing feedback: Find an honest person and learn to take criticism. It is better to realize you’re in a mess early on rather than when you’ve finished your entire piece.

Wrap it up:
Edit: edit, edit, edit. Then edit once more!

Share: Don’t put that piece in a drawer somewhere! Share it with someone. Send it to a publisher, self-publish, or give to a friend. You’ve worked hard, be proud!

Get back to it: Start a new piece. The more you write, the easier it gets so get started on something new right away.

Find your support:
Find a great writer’s group where you can share and learn with other writers.
Calhoun Area Writer’s Meeting
Friday, July 25
Harris Arts Center Community Room
Karli Land

Where I Wanna Be

There is a harsh reality

Living between two worlds

One seen with eyes wide open

One seen with eyes closed tight


Eyes closed, perfection

Only laughter, only beauty

Eyes opened, a broken world

People dying, children lost


Eyes closed, there are no limits

No worries, no cares

Eyes opened, loved ones lost

Gone too soon, true despair


Eyes closed, adventures await

Go anywhere, be anyone

Eyes opened, life mundane

Day to day, mere existence


Eyes closed, adventures grow weary

Hidden in darkness, kept still

Eyes opened, beyond worries

Little ones laughing, joy abounds


Eyes closed, no longer appealing

Suddenly constricted, slightly imprisoned

Eyes opened, human connection

My little ones playing


Eyes closed, colors have faded

I long for the light

Eyes opened, where I want to be

Happiness abounds


Eyes closed, I’m missing too much

Moments slip by

Eyes opened, I realize this place

Which I have tried to avoid

Is exactly where I want to be