I Had Trouble in Getting to Big Easy

The day started out rotten.  Up at 4 a.m. (okay, well 4:30), only to miss my flight to New Orleans, despite my best efforts.  Made it all the way to JFK, raced inside like a lunatic, wheeled luggage flying behind me, only to find out I’d have to pay an additional $80 for the next flight this afternoon, couldn’t check my bags until at least after 1:00, and would have to trek it back home in the meantime to wait (which meant another $100 in cab fare to get home and back again later).  Sooooooo, while still in a spectacularly foul mood, I headed out back to check on the garden.

I had major renovations done on my house in the last six months.  I find that when I’m in a good mood I look at the changes and am pleased as punch I laid out the money for it.  When I’m grumpy, I see the tiniest nicks and chips in the new paint or corner spots where the moulding isn’t perfectly straight, or that infuriating little dribble of paint that hardened under the counter ledge in the opening between the dining room and kitchen, and think about the dollars wasted.  This morning I found the same phenomenon occurs in the garden.  I went out there and all I saw were the problems.  Although the first heirloom tomato ripened, this morning all I could see was the split at the top.  While the peach tree is producing lots of fruit despite some early season troubles, all I saw this morning were problems that I don’t remember being there a few days ago.  (In May, I sprayed it with copper fungicide but not in the amount Shannon’s recommended — I try to go easy with that stuff even thought it’s organic.  It’s still copper being sprayed on a tree that produces fruit I fully intend to eat.)

So, although I didn’t skip through the garden this morning, peppering self-congratulations, I did identify some problems that need fixing.  Of course, my mood is a little improved after getting up close and personal with the plants; that never fails.  Eternal happiness and sprightliness, however, can be a dangerous thing.  I don’t know that I would have spotted those issues if I weren’t such a grumpy gardener this morning.

I do feel like the guy in Dr. Seuss’ I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew.  He left all the pesky troubles he was having at home to get to the beautiful city of Solla Sollew (on the banks oft he beautiful River Wah-hoo, where they never have troubles, at least very few), but found that the journey wasn’t quite as easy as he had expected.  After an exhausting bout of difficulties getting to SS, he arrives to find that the city is suffering from a key-slapping slippard who moved into the door, and now no one can get in and no one can get out.  The town’s gone to pot and even the ever loyal doorman has decided to leave, off to the City of Boola Boo Ball, where they never have troubles, no troubles at all.  So, while I’d really like to kick off this vacation with a bloody mary, fixins courtesy of the garden, and chill till my flight at 3, I’ve decided to follow dude’s suggestions.

Declining the doorman’s invitation to follow him off to paradise, he tells us what he has decided to do:

…I started back home, to the Valey of Vung.  I know I’ll have troubles.  I’ll, maybe, get stung.  I’ll always have troubles.  I’ll, maybe, get bit by that green-headed Quail on the place where I sit.  But I’ve bought a big bat.  I’m all ready, you see.  Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!

Watch out ants.  I’m going to Shannon’s to buy my big bat.

Update on Dirt Cheap and Three Question Sets

So I went back to Shannon’s, my local garden supply store, because I needed to confirm the price of that dirt I’d been complaining about.  Well, I was wrong – wouldn’t be the first time but it also means I need to make sure I always get an itemized receipt there.  Not that I think anyone was intentionally trying to scam me but I do think I paid for a bag of soil I did not get.  The way it works there is that they ring up your order, then you go and pick up the soil you want.  Since I’m a regular there (or maybe they’re just trusting), they don’t usually closely examine the receipt that I hand to them – just a quick eyeball and they hand me my goods.

In their defense, it is a busy place and they’re quick with the transactions.  Still, isn’t it just good business practice to give an itemized receipt?  I remember when I was a kid in Beloit, Wisconsin.  We’d go to Shopko with my dad nearly every weekend.  He’d watch as the clerk entered each item in the register (yes, I think it was entering it, not scanning it back then), then when the total amount came up – cha-ching – he’d look at each item, counting them in his head, reviewing the receipt.  Then, when we were out in the car, all our goodies packed up and ready to go, he’d look at the receipt again, counting each item thrice.  If everything was right, he’d pull a Fred Sanford, “This is the big one, Elizabeth,” clutching his hand over his heart in homage to Redd Foxx, in mock protest.  If he found something wrong, though, he’d go into mode, his voice dropping a couple octaves and his brow growing into a little furrow.  More than once we kids found ourselves back in the store, with the manager standing next to Dad, reviewing the receipt again, and, almost inevitably, my dad would leave with his wallet just a little heavier than before.

All that aside, here’s a CORRECTION to my previous speculation that a bag of organic top soil at Shannon’s of Brooklyn costs $5.00.  I inquired and found out the following: Fafard Premium Topsoil (Organic), 30 lbs. bag is $5.00 [no price listed on their site], and Hamptons Estate Topsoil (Organic), 30 lbs. bag is $6.00 [also not listing a price on its website – this product is made by the Long Island Compost Co.].  Please don’t take my word for it – go somewhere and confirm for yourself.  I’m curious though, ….

QUESTION: What garden supply store do you recommend for a good deal on soil?  Keeping in mind that many of us (namely me) live in urban areas and may not have a vehicle to drive to pick up a bag, is there a deal that may not be near by but is good enough to bother a friend for a ride, or pay a willing car service to do the dirty work with you?  All of this leads me to another …

QUESTION: Can anyone tell me whether it’s standard business practice to give itemized versus non-itemized receipts?  Why?  Do businesses try to add products thinking the customer won’t notice?  Does a lowly clerk not care enough to bother?  What if it’s a ma and pop shop, and the clerk is the owner?  Do you think people are inherently honest or apt to get away with as much as they can?  Are they just sloppy?  Am I just paranoid?  Did I spend one too many days as a kid in a hot car while my dad counted and recounted our ShopKo supplies?  Or is it that people are no longer careful enough to watch their money, count their change and review receipts?  Have we become sloppy with our money, a hallmark of the credit card generation, and symptomatic of our debt acquiescence?  Do you ask for an itemized receipt when you don’t get one?  Do you ask for a receipt at all?  All of this leads me to another …

QUESTION: Why is it my local garden supply store, Shannon’s, is named the David Shannon Nursery & Florist if it has, as its site says, “been a family operated business for over 30 years by Joseph Perrotta and family.”  Joseph Perrotta, is there something you want to tell your customers?  And, which is it: 30 or 40 years?  Later the site says: David Shannon Florist and Nursery, is the leading florist, nursery and greenhouse in Brooklyn New York. Family owned and operated business for over 40 years by Joseph Perrotta and family.”  David Shannon, whoever you are, wherever you are, how bout you?  Do I smell a story here?

Go ahead … gimme the dirt.

Whatever Happened to Dirt Cheap?

I went to my local garden supply store, around the corner – Shannon’s on Fort Hamilton Pkwy.  I wanted to buy a little soil and mulch since I used up the mulch so generously donated by newly known neighbor/friend, and the two big bins of compost I started out the season with are down to about half of one of those bins, and I’m trying to build up some soil in my backyard (literally, build it “up”) because I could not decide between planter boxes, planter pails, or the good old ground for the four heirloom tomatoes I picked up in Saratoga Springs, so I’m doing something kinda in between.  So I decided to buy some soil and mulch to help me out.  Two bags of topsoil, one bag of mulch and one bag of something else but it was, basically, dirt.  That, one pair of gardening gloves not more than $10 (I’ve worn my others out), and $8.00 worth of impatiens, and the bill came to around sixty bucks.  No lie.  That averages to about ten dollars for a bag of soil.  They’re big but they’re not outrageously big.  They’re organic and free of those nasty chemicals that self-water and self-feed and time release and all that junk.  But, still… am I crazy to think that’s a bit pricey?  Am I out of touch?  No, that isn’t my question.  It is….

QUESTION: How much is good dirt these days?   … AND … is it like other things where you might find a better deal online?  Did dirt go up along with every other useful item for living lately?  If it did, is it just to keep pace, to seize on the panic, or is there a real reason behind the increase?  Is it just that expensive here in NY?  Are gardeners elsewhere feeling the pinch too?  Go ahead … gimme the dirt, really, I mean it this time.  Give it to me, preferably for free or really really cheap.