Monday, July 27, 2009

New Discovery, Cotton Burr Compost

Oz: Damn it, Jimmy. What the hell did you have to go and move in next door to me?
Jimmy: Oz, do you know what kind of soil they have in this back yard? I've been here two days and I've got little tomato plants...
Oz: Oh my God.

I love this quote from the movie The Whole Nine Yards, I think of Jimmy when I'm working the soil in my front yard flower bed. This soil is a delight, I can work it with my hands it's so rich. Mike brought home this load of rich farm dirt that had been scraped aside for a strip mall, it seemed only fitting that this dirt would make its way to our front yard--within a subdivision that had realized a similar fate. we built our home in what once had been fertile farm land, but the builder had seemed fit to strip the land of three feet of rich Missouri soil and leave us, the poor homeowners, with clay. In my eagerness to grow my landscape for much needed shade and privacy this clay has has been my nemisis, especially when it comes to evergreens. Evergreens cannot tolerate wet feet and I have lost several White Pines, Foster Holly and Spruce in the last decade to soggy feet. So, the battle continues, we've built up a couple of berms and with my new best friend-- Cotton Bur Compost--I'm ready to plant a Scotch Pine and a Holly or two.

In the world of composting, experts worldwide agree that The Soil Food Web ( is the world's leading authority in the field of compost research, testing, and grading of compost. Founded by noted researcher Dr. Elaine Ingham, the Soil Food Web has a network of laboratories around the world and is a leading advocate of sustainable agriculture.

Only a few consultants are endorsed by and associated with the Soil Food web, one of which is Ms. Jennifer Appel. When interviewed about the efficacy of cotton burr compost, Ms. Appel told me that, "cotton burr compost is head and shoulders above any other compost." Yes, that's a big claim, so my follow- up question dealt with her reasoning for this position. Ms. Appel states that "cotton is a very heavy feeder, absorbing vast amounts of nutrients from the soil as it grows and the bulk of the nutrients are located in the burr left over from the ginning process."

What are the three things that make cotton burr compost America's favorite composting choice?

#1 Cotton burr compost contains a high percentage of organic matter. When you consider the fact that up to 98% of all plant of growth is generated by organic matter, you begin to understand what makes this compost a top performer. Conversely, a deficiency of organic matter will be detrimental to your plant's growth, and its overall health will be handicapped from the very start. Here's an important point to note: The higher the quality of the plant matter being composted, the better the compost. When you start of with material like nutrient-rich cotton burr, the resulting compost is a nutritionally-dense product that surpasses anything you'll ever find in bulk at a retailer's.

#2 Results of the Soil Food Web's test data show that cotton burr compost is abundant in beneficial micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, nematodes and protozoa. These are essential microbes which secrete organic acids which, in turn, help release nutrients and other chemicals that bond soil particles into stable aggregates. This action results in prolific microbial activity that improves the overall soil structure, increases air penetration, and resists soil compaction. These necessary microbes occupy most of the leaf or root surface and are efficient at utilizing the food resources that disease-causing organisms would otherwise consume.

#3 Cotton Burr Compost has neutral pH value. Natural anti-fungal properties make cotton burr compost a valued soil amendment for rose growers and organic gardeners.

Myth Buster! Although cotton plants are frequently treated with chemicals to defoliate the plant before harvesting, the compost remains uncontaminated. Defoliating chemicals quickly break down into inert compounds and are totally dissipated before the cotton bolls are harvested. The intensity and duration of heat generated during the composting process also kills off potential pathogens such as e-coli and weed seeds.

#4 Bonus Reason! Cotton Burr Compost is the result of recycling what was once considered 'gin-trash' into a valuable commodity which dramatically aids in building soil fertility. This in turn increases the nutrient content of organic produce, and also creates jobs for Americans in the Mid-South and Delta regions.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

My Favorite Garden Center

For a quick respite, all I need to do is head down highway 94 to Wine Country Gardens. In the beginning the garden center was known for their acres upon acres of daylilly's, and the bucolic view of the Missouri River bottoms. Your heart rate is guaranteed to lower the minute your car tires crunch atop their gravel drive, Wine Country Gardens is that peaceful. The two-story farmhouse features a wrap-around arbor and is perfect place to while away a few hours. A cafe offering a variety of sandwiches and salads along with a wide variety of wine invites the visitor to linger. In recent years additional patios, a large dining hall, and an outdoor bandstand offer space for theme dinners, parties and weddings. I feel lucky indeed to have this gem a short 15 minute drive from home.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Age 9

One of my piece's from Wash U's Summer Writer's Institute ... it is often surprising where the words journey once pen meets page...

The summer of 1968, freed from school, my days are framed by tree climbing, book reading, kickball and the hill. Sagewood Drive’s steep hill offers hours, days and weeks of free unfettered fun. The hill is to be conquered, first by tricycle and later by handmade skateboard. Bordering the backyards along Woodhurst Avenue is an abandoned apple orchard. When my parents built our home cows ambled and chewed cud in this pasture, I know this by the black and white Kodak stills glued in our family picture album. Photos of a younger mom and dad holding baby me in our backyard with baby trees. There is one baby album with a snippet of baby Steve’s baby fine hair glued onto a page. Meticulous notes of baby Steve’s firsts: first roll over, first sitting up, first foods, first steps. Among these first, are occasional notations of Ricks first and scarcer still, of Diane’s first.

In the family fold Steve is the athlete and life revolves around Berkley’s baseball diamonds. I spend hours in hot dusty ballparks bored and looking for amusement. Rick, the middle child, is the achiever. Always immersed into a project, this summer he is building a small wooden boat with dad. Steaming the planks so they curve towards the hull, the project takes up much of our patio.
As the baby of the family, I fluctuate between relishing in this role of youngest and attempting to discard the title in my impatience to catch up with older siblings and cousins. The latter is my standard state on the weekends when we are at our river place. It is at the river where I resent my sole claim of youngest. Inside Nana and Pop's pink trailer Shirley Temple plays on the black and white television, she is my companion as I dance and sing to the Good Ship Lolly Pop, while my older brothers and cousins are freed upon the river.
At nightfall I gaze across darkened water towards the sandbar. Disembodied laughter rides the evening breeze; orange glow of campfire captures the dancing silhouettes of my cousins Becky and Bill and my brother Rick. I'm filled with impatience and yearn to leap frog into my teens, to skip over my first: of age 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14. These ages have been lived and experienced already through my cousins and brothers and documented on 8mm reels. I want to join in the dance.

Monday, June 15, 2009


I just completed Elin Hilderbrand's Barefoot a wonderful read.

Three women arrive at the local airport, observed by Josh, a Nantucket native home from college for the summer. Burdened with small children, unwieldy straw hats, and some obvious emotional issues, the women-- two sisters and one friend--make their way to the sisters' tiny cottage, inherited from an aunt. They're all trying to escape from something: Melanie, after seven failed in-vitro attempts, learned her husband was having an affair, and then discovered she's pregnant; Brenda embarked on a passionate affair with an older student that got her fired from her prestigious job as a professor in New York; and her sister Vicki, mother to two small boys, has been diagnosed with lung cancer. Soon Josh is part of the chaotic household, acting as babysitter, confidant, and, eventually, lover.

Friday night at the drive-in show

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Verdura Botanica Urbana

I discovered the Verdura Botanica Urbana booth during our visit in Lafayette Square and purchased a pound of their delicious smelling bath salts. After my purchase I sampled the fig lotion and two hours later returned to the booth to purchase the lotion and the soap. Another popular fragrance is their River Birch line. For those who can't make it to St. Louis you can purchase online.


Good-bye to our dear neighbor's, Bob and Lynnette...they are relocating to Michigan.

40th Annual Lafayette Square House Tour

Mike and I spent Saturday viewing gardens and homes in Lafayette Square. The home on Kennett was a showstopper with it's free-form pool, hot tub and water garden. We left with tons of ideas for our future pond and continued landscaping project.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Painting With Light: a photo exhibit

The end of the semester finale, Painting with Light photo exhibit was a blast. Something about sharing photography brings people closer, by the end of the semester we really know one another. Our exhibit was well attended and the University has plans to place our work online. Cool.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Old North St. Louis House and Community Tour

Saturday I spent a lovely day with my daughter touring Old North St. Louis. ONSL is known for Crown Candy Kitchen, established in 1913. Upon entering, you are transported back to the soda fountain era. My favorites off the menu, grilled turkey bacon sandwich and a vanilla shake--the best you'll ever have.
The neighborhood surrounding Crown Candy Kitchen is making a comeback. Old North St. Louis covers about 80 blocks just north of downtown St. Louis in the shadow of the Arch. This area was settled by waves of immigrants, first German, then Irish and later Italian, Polish and Jewish. The rebirth of Old North is rooted in a vision crafted by the people of the community, a vision that embraces the diversity of the neighborhood's current population and puts out the welcome mat for the new residents who come from across the economic spectrum and from all walks of life.
One of the homes featured on the tour, a 1914 historic warehouse converted to living space and art studio.

Another private residence...note the antique tub set in a bank of bay windows. The antique Glenwood stove and oven is used every day.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Circus Harmony

For my photojournalism course I sought an essay subject that spoke to my heart and discovered Circus Harmony. As a student of American Culture studies I am curious how our environment shapes us; Jessica Hentoff's Circus Harmony shapes students through circus...what a unique concept! Her foundation offers classes to underprivileged and privileged children, Jessica explains, "The life skills we learn, as children, are the tools we take with us into adulthood. If we teach children when they are young to overlook differences and focus on similarities, to focus on working together to fix something rather than abdicating responsibility and blaming instead, those skills could result in a more peaceful future. When you are trying to do a human pyramid, you need to know the technique and the terminology so that you and your partner are speaking the same language physically and verbally. You learn fairly quickly, that to succeed in performing the pyramid, you cannot blame each other if something goes wrong but you must figure out what you can do together to make it work. Whoever you are and wherever you are from, there is some circus skill that you can accomplish because circus is an art made up of a variety of skills.
Circus teaches life’s lessons. Participation requires cooperation, individual and group responsibility and control over mind, body and emotions. Children learn these skills through circus arts and apply them to everyday life."

Circus teaches the art of life.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Warm weather and outdoor theatre--don't you just love the combination? In St. Louis we are blessed with beautiful Forest Park (500 acres larger than New Yorks Central Park). The photo is from the 2006 production of Julius Ceasar. This years offering, The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by Jesse Berger.

The "site" has a name this year,
Shakespeare Glen will be the seasonal home for the annual festival in its 9th year. Grab your blanket, wine, and cheese...I'll see you there.

23rd Annual Easter Car Show -- Forest Park, St. Louis

April Garden

Bulbs, glorious bulbs

After an arduous spring semester, and finals behind me, it's time to close the textbooks and get my hands into the dirt. Last night my hubby and me divided and replanted the daffodils arranging them so that next year they will provide a graceful swath of cheery yellow along the walkway and front bed. I salvaged some spent tulips from the university and replanted them along the side of the house (red and whites) and the front bed (yellow) they will put on a colorful show next April.
I discovered these beautiful Calla Lily's that will just "pop" in the container at the front door.
My father-in-law has put in his flower order and at the top are Canna's. The last bunch made it through 3 of our St. Louis winters before their no-show this spring. His front lawn flowerbed looks empty without their dramatic height.