Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.

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A Jewel In The Desert

May is officially here. It’s been relatively cool and wet this April. Cool and wet are good for some plants and not so good for others. In my garden the lettuces and kales are still hanging in there. When the heat comes on strong, I expect them to bolt or flower. When the leafy greens bolt that is the beginning of the end. I planted my tomatoes amongst them so when I pull the greens, the tomatoes will be well on their way. Squash and carrots are taking off and I finally have a celery crop that I’m excited about.


I planted hundreds of snapdragons and foxgloves in the vegetable garden last fall. They really made it look great and now they’re also making my vases in the house look great. Mimi and I have become fans of coleus, we especially like the Wasabi combined with Redhead, the contrasting colors dotted all over the yard are striking. We have a shady area near our thinking swings that we lit up with sunshine Anise. This Anise is a bright chartreuse year-round. From our distant view this once dark and uninteresting area is now a major focal point.


It is time to get to the local garden center and figure out what you can do to make dull areas more interesting. Since garden centers have been deemed essential, you might as well get out and visit some. You can shop outdoors and keep a safe distance from other shoppers. We have been opened for two weeks now and it’s working great.


The last time I wrote about my travels I had just climbed Mount Sinai and headed towards Israel. I had to explore Israel. You can imagine all there is to see there. I went to all regular sites. I spent sometime around the Red Sea, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the place where Jesus was nailed to a cross. I floated in the Dead Sea, climbed to the top of Masada, and saw the tomb where He arose. I loved seeing those places although the general vibe there was a little tense.


Israel was the first country I had been to in about six months that wasn’t a third-world country so I decided to find a job at a kibbutz, where you can work for food and have a roof over your head for as long as you want. While I was visiting different kibbutz, I realized Israel is light years ahead of the rest of the world agriculturally. Israel, with its desert conditions, has developed irrigation precision that we are all learning from. Drip irrigation was revolutionized in Israel. There is no water to waste yet they grow more crops to feed underdeveloped countries than anywhere else in the world. I had to check my eyes when I saw rows upon rows of crops growing in the desert.


I’m sure many people on the northside are using drip irrigation to keep plants perfectly watered, a very efficient system. Drip irrigation can be the hoses with holes that secrete low amounts of water which soaks the ground deeply and evenly.


I use a type of drip irrigation at home in most of my pots and in my vegetable garden. I have my system set up on one of my irrigation zones. The system has spaghetti tubes with emitters that allow the water to come out at a very slow rate, nice and deep. That’s how a plant likes to get watered.


I thought I was seeing things again when I saw the biggest greenhouse operations I’ve ever seen in the world. Israel exports 500 million stems of cut flowers a year. One of the kibbutz I visited had rows and rows of flowers which were exported to Holland...like selling fridges to Eskimos.


Israel is the leader in aiding starving countries in Africa by producing food for people where nothing seems to grow. I expected to see the holy sites, but I was really surprised where Israel is agriculturally.


I was contemplating a job offer at an insectary, a place where beneficial insects are produced and exported all over the world. They produce insects that can attack the same insects chemicals are used to kill which results in an unsafe environment. Farmers and greenhouse growers here are using beneficial insects more and more. For years at Garden Works we sold bags of 1,000 ladybugs and praying mantis eggs that would produce hundreds of baby praying mantis. Mimi and I even went a year using nothing but released ladybugs, voracious eaters of aphids, for control in our 13 greenhouses where we grow our bedding plants for the center.


However I didn’t take the job in the insectary. Instead I hiked a national park in the northern region of Israel where leopards have been spotted. I thought I’d try my luck, but, as usual, I got carried away and kept on hiking too far. I set up camp, unbeknownst to me, in Lebanon close to the lake where Jesus walked on water. No one knew I was there. The place seemed like a cool spot to camp until the f-14s started flying over and dropping bombs about a mile away from me. I lay low until the sun began to rise then I skedaddled out of there.


I went to the port city of Haifa and got on a boat going around Lebanon. I went straight to Cyprus where I stayed for two weeks. That wasn’t my plan but the seas were too rough for the little boat I had talked my way on so I could get to Turkey. The boat should’ve been named the SS Minnow. I took a 12 hour trip in the hull of the wooden boat with eight people who had to get back to turkey. That ride was a nightmare that I will never forget.


When the sun came up, my eyes were blessed with one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen. The Turkish coastline looks a lot like Big Sur in California. That’s where I will pick up next week’s article.


I hope you stay safe and have found a way to make these last four weeks and the ones to come somehow positive and transformative for your life. Those that can adapt may find a way to come out of this mess better in some way than you were before. We do what we have to do. Be strong.



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