The Blue Chew Toy

Before my family planted our first garden the yard was covered in holes from our first dog Tucker. Tucker had a favorite blue chew toy that he would bring with him everywear for comfort. When Tucker was getting older and sicker, it finally came to the day to put him down, his blue chew toy was nowhere to be found, which was strange because it was always right by his side. After hours of searching for it, we had no choice but to bring tucker to the vet without it. We tried to search for the chew toy but we were never able to find it. After years past and our new garden has blossomed into something somewhat nice, we decided to get a new puppy, Nike. Nike would run through the garden and stomp on everything in his path. Just like Tucker, Nike started to dig up everything, but we would always find him before he did too much damage to our garden. During the summer of 2010 my parents threw a big party to celebrate my brothers birthday, and with everyone distracted with singing happy birthday, Nike finally got his shot to dig up the garden as much as he could. When my mom finally notice she ran down the stairs yelling at Nike to stop and all the kids laughing in the background. My mom went to pull Nike away but he would not budge. He had his nose fully in the hole and was trying to pull on something. My mom was confused so just let him go. After a few second Nike emerges his nose from the deep hole with his face covered in dirt, and with a shock to all of us he was holding Tucker’s blue chew toy. My parents were almost in tears because the memories that blue chew toy held was ones they haven’t thought about in years. That summer my parents got a stone that said “Tucker, 1989-2005” to put in our garden with the blue chew toy buried underneath it.


Lake Street Garden Adventures

When I woke up in the morning and saw that it was pouring rain, I had hoped that it would slow down throughout the day. If anything, it only rained harder. The trip to the Lake Street garden wasn’t going to be postponed and we would have to get the plants rain or shine. Unfortunately, there was no shine. Despite the weather, we had to make the best of it and get the job done.

Adrienne and I in the pouring rain. (photo taken by me)

My classmates and I met at the Merrimack College campus police station and piled into the vans. When we arrived at the garden, we were each assigned a task. My group had to find the blueberries to plant in our garden at Merrimack. We found a great abundance of plants and placed them into our cart. We even found a plant that none of us ever heard of before, pink popcorn. After completing the task, we explored what the garden had to offer.

Dom really happy about our blueberries. (photo taken by me)

The garden had many different plants to offer, from food to flowers. To keep dry, we explored the greenhouse. All of the different assortment of colorful flowers made the room vibrant and alive with instant happiness when you walked in. On a gray, gloomy day being surrounded by all of the bright flowers made it much better. The experience of finding plants for our own garden was great. I can’t wait to start our own garden at Merrimack College.

Garden Wrecker

Having been a part of a family that moves around like a pack of nomads through the years, I have had multiple different encounters and grown relationships with neighboring families. There have been little kids I was able to befriend and even some elders that I could always count on for some homemade cookies or hard candies whenever a visit was scheduled. Almost every single one of these relationships has flourished into friendly connections. All but one.

There was a lonely old man that lived on the very end of my poorly paved cul de sac growing up, his name was Stanley, I vaguely remember my parents referring to him as “Old Man Stan” from time to time. He was a very secluded man that lived in a quaint little brown house, not much to look at…until you entered the backyard. He was a master in disguise when it came to gardening. Stanleys’ backyard seemed to proliferate every single day, a new bloom of vibrant colors and scents always adding character to his artwork of a garden. With no kids or a wife this seemed to be his one passion, a sort of prized possession his garden was.

One scorching summer day I decided to take my energetic puppy Tucker for a walk down the street, the air conditioned rooms in my house not really cutting it, so I thought that some fresh air and a nice breeze would do us some good. Tucker was big for his age, growing rapidly each day as a black Labrador usually does. My stature as an eleven year old was not exactly sturdy enough to tame the wild beast. Walking past Stanleys’ house I noticed a bunny peeking from the beautiful backyard of Stanleys’ house. Immediately I panicked knowing Tucker well enough to know that if he sees this Bunny he will most definitely try and pounce.

Tucker waiting to go on his eventful walk.

Before I could even take a breath my hand was abandoned by Tuckers black leash, looking up I saw it flapping through the air, his panther like body sprinting towards the poor bunny. No matter how fast I ran I knew the outcome of this chase would end terribly. By the time I caught up with tucker he had made his way around the whole garden, his massive paws leaving indents in the once perfectly laid out soil. The hydrangeas that were once standing up towards the sun now smushed to a pulp in the dirt. Tucker sat knowing what he had done, with his face down buried in his paws. Before Stanley could make it outside I grabbed Tucker and we made it back home thinking that we were in the clear. That is until my mom got a call about a ruined flower plot and the paw prints that were left behind as evidence.

Mom’s Hydrangeas

I’ve been feeling a little uninspired about my next blog post recently due to my lack of having a green thumb. However, when I was home for Easter break, my parents were having a discussion about their landscaping plans for this spring now that the weather is finally warming up. My Mom’s favorite plants in the yard are her hydrangea bushes. We’ve given her  hydrangea plants the past three years for Mother’s Day. This year my Mom wants to add a fourth plant. So I seized the opportunity engage in their conversation about the planting plans! I asked my mom why she likes hydrangeas so much. She told me about all of the times that her and my Dad vacationed on the Cape when they first got married. They would stay at my grandparents cottage (which is now owned by my Aunt and Uncle) that was surrounded by hydrangea bushes. My grandfather always took great care to bring out the deep blue/violet color in the blossoms of the plants that decorated the landscape of the cottage. I find myself hanging out with my cousins every summer at that same cottage, and my Aunt and Uncle have kept up the tradition of caring for these plants.

One of the Hydrangea’s around my Aunts Cottage in Dennis, MA

My Dad has explained to me that it is easy to get that deep color on the Cape because of the abundance of pine trees and sandy soil which make it an acidic, well-draining environment where they like to live. At my house in Franklin we have the fortune of owning a property surrounded by pine trees and the same type of sandy soil! My parents are also thrilled to be able to get beautiful results with very little effort because they too lack green thumbs. I understand a little better now that it is important to know the type of conditions plants like to live in to be able to thrive.

Greenhouses of the Badlands

Not many people know what exists in the flat landscape that is South Dakota. To me, it is filled with rich culture, populated with the honest Lakota people looking for any means to survive. One of these people is named Patricia. Patricia has one large greenhouse that she uses to grow different kinds of plants and vegetables throughout the year to help support the poverty stricken Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Fellow volunteers from Xavier at Patricia’s greenhouse

Last year’s harvest from Patricia’s greenhouse and farm right outside harvested tens of thousands of pounds of potatoes, carrots, as well as many different kinds of flowers. The day that we were there, we helped plant tons of small plots that would end up being prepared finally by the group the next day. We planted heirloom balloon flowers, zinnias, Indian summer rudbeckias, and bright light cosmos, just to name a few. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any of the flowers that previous groups helped plant and grow as we were the second volunteer group at Re-Member for the season.

Sample of flower seed bag from Patricia

Any means of gardening/farming/agriculture, large or small makes the biggest difference for the residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation. On the Rez, there are very scarce resources, such as fresh produce. If you were to go to one of the gas stations/convenience stores called Sharp’s Corner, and you walked in you would see isles lined with the biggest brands of snack foods like Doritos, Pop-Tarts, Lays, Snickers, Reese’s. But what you wouldn’t see are any fresh fruits or vegetables until you went into the back left corner of the store to a small refrigerator unit that wasn’t filled with Kid Cuisine and Stouffer’s. In this refrigerator was the produce section of the store where a bag of grapes that cost $2-$3 dollars back home at Market Basket. In South Dakota, that bag of grapes costs upwards of more than $10 dollars to put things into prospective of what resources are available on the Rez.

My Meadow Garden Plans

Not quite a year ago I put up a six foot privacy fence around most of my yard.  I say most of it, because on the east side of my driveway there is a strip about thirty feet wide, and a hundred or so feet long that we decided to leave unfenced.  We did this for a couple reasons, mainly though because any kind of fence on that side makes it difficult to see oncoming traffic when pulling out of the driveway….which is kind of important.  This space, which is occupied only by two Bradford Pears and hemmed in at one end with some Arborvitaes, is really a wasted area that needs a purpose.

My ugly, wasted space of a side yard

I have a vision for it though, and it takes the form of a meadow garden.  For those who don’t know what a meadow garden is, it is a planting area that basically has been allowed to revert back to a “natural” meadow-like state.  When filled with hardy, native plants and wildflowers, these areas serve a very important role.  First, they reduce the amount of a non-native and extremely invasive plant that is found in most lawns – grass.  Second, they provide food and habitat for smaller animals like rabbits and chipmunks.  This can be critical to their survival, especially in the colder months.  Another essential service that meadow gardens provide, (and arguably the most important) is a source of food for our pollinators. The role pollinators play in agriculture cannot be understated and they must be protected.      

A representation of a meadow garden, which I am confident will pale in comparison to mine (

In my situation, having a meadow garden will be mutually beneficial for both myself, and the pollinators as well.  Just on the other side of the fence that borders this area, is my vegetable garden.  Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a steady decline in bees, and I believe this has contributed to some lackluster harvests.  I’m hoping that by providing a smorgasbord of wildflowers just a few feet away, bees and other pollinators will be enticed to stick around.  If that fails, at the very minimum I’ll at least have something that’s aesthetically pleasing.

Peter Reed


Spring’s Invitation

As I begin this post, I would like to first welcome Spring, a season that embroiders life, growth, and vegetation in every facet of their meanings. Through this platform, I hope to both ignite and encourage growth in your own development and indulgence through reconnecting with the wonders our natural environment has provided, of course in a responsible manner. Pondering what concept my upcoming blog post might entertain, I decided that it would be appropriate to highlight my relationship with Spring. Ever since I could remember the first day of spring has always been a much anticipated day for me. In light of this year, upon waking up, I found myself gravitating towards the window, where I was greeted with the inviting sounds of chirping birds and a mild breeze that carried the air. This, I thought to myself, was another season of opportunity to work with the natural environment. Spring, A season which not only rekindles life in the physical sense, but also encourages new discoveries, and techniques that brand the labor of its title. Soon after this personal invitation of spring, I found myself in the yard glancing upon the landscape still patched with glistening white snow.

It is reflecting on the animation of Spring that I find myself as a part of the intricate system of networks deemed as our natural environment. Significantly, my earnest attempt to work with nature, rather than against it, is reverberated through my attempt at organic gardening. In light of this process, during the early days of Spring, I began to plant Organic, Non-GMO heirlooms in my strictly maintained organic compost and topsoil mix, and store them in my incubated sunroom. To that end, just the other day I woke up to several green sprouts surfacing the top of the soil. This, in its miraculous and fruitful journey, is pivotal in the attempt to creating and maintaining sustainable practices. Specifically, through diversifying and extending the life of a product/item in the effort of conservation.

To elaborate on this concern for deficiency in our ideology and social interaction that I would like to extend my evolution on the theory of sociological interaction. It is in earnest reflection of my often comprised relationship with the physical environment that I would like to echo my concern for the foreseeable future as a culture that caters to the demands of society. Regarding the present stature of our society, we should be amplifying means of prevention between the natural earth and its inhabitants. To that end, I find that as an environmental steward it is often difficult, although executed in a different capacity to interrupt the corrupt system that has been fortified through unsustainable practices deemed practical in the current social system. It is in light of this approach that I have attempted to avert the corruption of our social behavior through the act of organic gardening.

Mr. Glumpkin

(Photo of my bearded dragon Glump)

About two summers ago, me and a bunch of my friends decided to rent a nice house on a lake and stay there for a week. Once we got settled in we walked around the house and just to check out the scenery. Towards the back off the house there was a greenhouse filled with beautiful plants, flowers so bright and big. It was about the size of an our classroom. After walking through an observing something brought me back to the greenhouse, maybe it was the flowers, I am not really sure. As soon as I walk in I spot a giant lizard in the far back corner on the ground. Now this took me by surprise mainly because, IT IS A BEARDED DRAGON! I did not know what to do, the best thing I could think of was get him a cage and call the landlord. we called the and asked if he belonged to him and he did not. So, worried about him I took him home with me. The picture above is me and glump a year after first meeting. I brought him to our beach house in Ocean City Maryland.

(Me and Glump eating breakfast)

Glump and I became very close over the last year and a half. I do everything with him, that is from eating breakfast to going to the beach. He has always been a positive in my life mainly because when I think of him, I think about where I found him and how alone he was. At that point in my life I believe I was feeling the same even though I was on vacation with my friends. Meeting Glump changed my views on people how they treat this world we live in. Leaving an animal, a precious animal like him in a greenhouse for god knows how long is just wrong.

Now how does this apply to Gardening?

In reality this does not apply to much to gardening but it does speak on nature and my connection to it. I have always been the kid to run towards a snake instead of away. Always been excited to go outdoors and explore rather than stay inside. Our community should take a better stance to help those like Glump, because he changed me for the better.

– Juice Jones


Pops and Mangoes

  Photo of Pop and Me (Photo by Christine Ducille)

As you can see in the picture above, my family is tiny. In the center of every picture you can see in the light blue is my Pop Pop Carl, born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Every summer I made my way to Jamaica and there has always been a passion for nature in our culture mainly because of the life style we were brought up in. When it was time to prepare breakfast, lunch or dinner we and my grandfather and his tenant Sunshine would go out back, into his giant garden which is about 1 ½  acres. Full of Mangoes, Potatoes, Sugar Cane, Carrots, Greens, etc. I always loved picking mangoes with Pop, he’d pick me up and let me decide which ones were ripe and which should stay on the vine.

Ataulfo Mango; (grown throughout Jamaica)

Now mangoes are very difficult, it is hard to tell when they are ripe. Many try and tell by the color of the fruit yet, my Pop’s always taught me off of the smell. Mainly because there are three different types of mangoes grown throughout the south and all over Jamaica. All judged different in ripe season, the Ataulfo Mango Jamaica’s finest can be judged by its smell but more its color. A very tart aroma is produced by the mango when ripe, also it is very soft on the ends (that being the top and bottom on the mango), and lastly the mango is plump and juicy like a water balloon. After going through our daily evaluation on which mangoes we should pick, we pluck them and cut them up and would make so many different things. Smoothies, passion and mango fruit juice (which happens to still be my favorite drink).

What does this have to do with Gardening?

Throughout my life, I have never been one to cherish gardens but after writing this blog and looking back on the great memories I have made with my family through nature. I can proudly say, gardening is an activity I would like to take up and make an important part of my life. From our readings I have grown fond of how life with nature produce happiness and love. I believe there should be more of that in everyone’s life.

   Rest In Peace Pops

– Juice Jones


Puppy Problems

Ever since I could remember my mother has grown sunflowers every summer in our old front yard sandbox. I never really paid much mind to them or heard a whole lot about them until we got our newest dog who is now two. As a puppy she would constantly roll in this small space often killing some of my moms sunflowers leaving a mess for my mom to come home to. Having two dogs you would assume like siblings, the younger would learn from the old and in a way try and see the things she should not do. Well that was not the case as my dog would do laps around the house when she got excited and this small patch of sunflowers and herbs was in her direct path. She has ran through this small patch in our front yard so much that at one point the sand that was in the sandbox and buried 10-12 years ago by my dad, brother, and I was coming back to the surface. This proceeded to happen and as the summer went on the sunflowers were all dead along with my moms mint, parsley, and thyme.

Image result for sunflowers

As a temporary solution my dad put chicken wire around the little plot to keep it from being further damaged but we should have assumed the outcome. The fence it did not work at all, not even a little bit as the first thing we see her doing is digging so she can wedge her whole body under the fence. Of course, we got their to late and she slipped from our fingers and we all watched her dig up the new soil and roll around. It seemed as if the fence gave her more of an incentive to try and get herself in that dirt by any means possible and she was not stopped. Unfortunately, my mom is now forced to grow these herbs and flowers in pots located on our deck, and my dog has made the old plot her own.

My dogs