Tag Archives: Missouri

New Electronic Display Installed At Schnarr’s Hardware Webster Groves Store


Pictured at the right is Mark Rice of Displays That Pay installing the SHOWCloud interactive marketing display at the Schnarr’s Hardware Webster Groves location. I’ve been working with Mark since 2005. I work for both Schnarr’s Hardware and Displays That Pay which gives me an exciting opportunity to experiment with Display’s That Pay’s SHOWCloud marketing communications application to best serve Schnarr’s customers.

If you want to stop by Schnarr’s Webster at 40 East Lockwood to see the new display, it’s located on top of the drinks cooler across from the registers. It’s also been playing for some time toward the bottom of the front page of the Schnarr’s web site – my presentation can be embedded within a web page. That’s one of the things I really love about using SHOWCloud – versatility. A wide variety of devices that have the capability of running a web browser or that have an HDMI port can run my SHOWCloud presentations. Such devices include laptop computers, desktop computers, iPads, smartphones, e-book readers, and flatscreen TV’s. Sometimes when the computer in the paint department at the Schnarr’s Ladue store is not in use I’ll go over to the paint counter and open a window to this url so that paint department customers can see it:
http://www.daasx.com/chasenfratz/ladiesnightpreview

SHOWCloud on a desktop computer monitor
SHOWCloud on a desktop computer monitor

As you might guess from the URL (web address), I started out using this presentation to promote one of Schnarr’s past Ladies’ Night events. Over time the content has changed and will be ever evolving and updating. If needed I can make multiple presentations tailored to different locations or different devices within one store. For example, if a store has different departments there could be different content at each station. The application can show more than just slides – I can add in web pages, video, live content and fun interactive applications.

Any place with access to wireless Internet can display SHOWCloud. Here is a picture of me last fall at Missouri Botanical Garden using an iPad to show a presentation promoting the Master Gardener program and the topics prospective participants would study. If you want to see the slides close up, here is the url:
http://www.myshowcloud.com/chasenfratz/stlmg

SHOWCloud displayed on an iPad
SHOWCloud displayed on an iPad

Below is a picture of me and my Displays That Pay colleague Jason at the Startup Connection 2016 event held in November at Washington University. There are a variety of examples in our booth showing how SHOWCloud can be used on different devices, including a multi-screen variation that gives additional flexibility, functionality and impact.

Displays That Pay at Startup Connection
Displays That Pay at Startup Connection

I can also update these presentations from anywhere that has an internet connection – from home or on the go. That’s very convenient and is a quick way to get timely information to our customers. I’m excited about the possibilities! Stop in to Schnarr’s Webster to see how we’re using this great new tool!

Prairie Restoration at Litzinger Road Ecology Center

I’m a volunteer at the Litzinger Road Ecology Center in Ladue. Volunteers and on some occasions the public are invited to educational events on the premises. I recently attended a session for volunteers to learn about why the prairie sections at the center are periodically burned and an introduction about how to start a fire, control the fire, and perform the burn safely.



Tallgrass Prairie at Fort Bellefontaine County Park

An example of a restored tall grass prairie at Fort Bellefontaine County Park

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My Handmade Greeting Cards are Available at Schnarr’s in Ladue

Carolyn's cards on the rack at Schnarr's Ladue
Carolyn’s cards on the rack at Schnarr’s Ladue

The Schnarr’s Hardware store at 9800 Clayton Rd., St. Louis, MO 63124 has a very active shipping department that does UPS shipping and sells a selection of shipping supplies. Greeting cards are also offered and I have some of my own cards on the rack there for sale now. They are all handmade and blank inside. The current selections include cards for Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, as well as Birthday, Thank You, and multiple occasion cards. I decorated the cards with a variety of paper craft techniques including collage, stenciling and rubber stamping.

Some of my cards are also available with other handcrafts in my online store in the Handmade by Carolyn section.

Book Review: Birdies, Bogeys, & Bipolar Disorder

Birdies, Bogeys, & Bipolar Disorder by Michael Wellington
Birdies, Bogeys, & Bipolar Disorder by Michael Wellington

I have a loved one who suffers from Bipolar disorder. A friend of mine who also has the disorder lent me this book so I could get a better understanding of what the illness is like and how to best be a help to someone who has this illness. My loved one will not talk to me much about his treatment, what it’s like when he’s in the different stages of the disorder, what it’s like to be hospitalized and what are the warning signs of symptoms escalating and how to help the sufferer put the brakes on. This book gave me a much better understanding of what he is going through. There is a limited amount of what you can do for a person with this illness because unfortunately much of the hard work has to be done by the patient. This book will however give you some guidance about whether you’re doing the right thing, what to encourage the person to do and how to recognize behavior that precedes different stages of the illness.

Unless you abandon the sufferer (and I’m not recommending that!), this disease is going to affect your whole family. You will need patience, empathy and education. I recommend Mr. Wellington’s book for friends and family members because it will help you in all those areas. You’ll feel less alone learning how people in the author’s life reacted to his situation. Bipolar patients should also read it to get some insight into their own symptoms and get guidance and encouragement in their own treatment. You will be inspired by this memoir of a true sportsman with real heart for the game and for life who has persisted against great odds to achieve and to help others.

You don’t have to be a big sports fan or a golf fan to enjoy this book – I finished it in two sittings because it was so gripping. The writing is top quality – I was excitedly turning pages waiting to learn the outcome about each tournament and each round of battling the illness. Although I like outdoor activities and fitness I don’t follow sports much nor do I know a lot about golf. I’ve never played though I do have a lot of family members who love it, so I did know that birdies are good, bogeys are bad, you use different clubs for different things and you are supposed to keep the ball out of the water and trees – but not much more! If you play golf or follow pro golf you’ll probably enjoy the book even more than I did. If you know someone with bipolar who is also a golf or sports fan, this book may get through to them better than any other book they might read because they will be able to relate to the author. After reading my friend’s copy I bought two more copies to give to family members.

Like the author, I’m a native of St. Louis, Missouri and geographical references in the book did help draw me in. Although I’m not the type to hang around in country clubs or golf courses I do recognize the names of a lot of places where the action takes place and I at least have a vague idea of where they are. Mr. Wellington is involved in charitable activities in the St. Louis area and elsewhere through the nonprofit organization Birdies4Bipolar. As someone who also does some work for a nonprofit that helps people with mental illness, I appreciate his efforts and those of others in that organization. Mental health consumers and their families need a lot of support!

Here are some of my older book reviews.

Volunteer Work at Artists First Studio in Maplewood

Supplies in the paint room after I organized them
Supplies in the paint room after I organized them

I recently lost the art studio I had been renting and combined with some other much worse sad things that happened in my life around the same time, I have had a rough time lately. When you’re feeling bad, one of the quickest ways to make yourself feel better is to help someone else. Artists First studio in Maplewood is a non-profit organization that helps people with disabilities. Their mission is to foster independence through self-expression. These clients need access to an art studio even more than I do. Helping them reminds me that I have a lot of blessings even though I’ve had some bad losses also. I’ve been doing some volunteer work on my last couple of visits helping to organize supplies in the paint room. I don’t know what my next assignment will be but it’s likely in the future that I’ll be teaching the clients how to use some of the supplies. I have some previous experience teaching art on a volunteer basis to people with mental illness and mental disabilities.

For more information about the Artists First studio, here is their web site: artistsfirststl.org. This is a great cause if you have any time or resources to contribute.

paint_room_2

Fit and Healthy on Route 66: Operation Clean Stream at Ozark Outdoors in Leasburg

finished_leasburg_map

On August 14, 2016 I joined a number of other paddle sports enthusiasts at Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Resort in Leasburg, MO for a day of cleaning trash from the local streams as part of Operation Clean Stream. We had our choice of different route lengths. I selected the 9 mile route which placed me with a few recreational floaters on the Bluffs section of the Meramec River. Other volunteers who opted for shorter routes were taken to put-in points on the Courtois and Huzzah rivers. Ozark Outdoors provided breakfast, trash bags, vessels, paddling gear and transportation. At the end of the day we dropped off our trash and equipment on the beach at the resort. Since I was the only volunteer to choose the long route, I was one of the last if not THE last to finish.

It rained for nearly the entire day, which I didn’t find to be a bad experience at all. My nylon rain poncho eventually soaked through but it was warm enough for me not to get cold and my torso was warmed by my life jacket. The rain was quite soothing and beautiful and it’s nice to see the river in different conditions. Rainy weather proved to be no impediment to picking up trash, in a way it made it a little more pleasant because at least the trash was fairly clean! Every time I stopped to clean up a sandbar I had to bail out the canoe with a Gatorade bottle that I found but that was no big deal. I didn’t bring my phone because it doesn’t hold a charge very well these days so my only photo of the day is of the trash pile (at the end of this article) when I was able to recharge the phone enough to get a picture. The Ozark Outdoors Facebook Page has some photos of the event.

The Bluffs section is very scenic and I recommend it for a great float. I have floated that stretch before but did not use the same outfitter so my put in and take out points were not the same. Ozark Outdoors used land they own for both so I’m not exactly sure where the put-in point is on the map at the beginning of this article. It was at the former site of a resort called The Bluffs which no longer exists.

Ozark Outdoors is practically right across the river from Onondaga Cave State Park. If you’re camping at the park, the resort has a well-stocked store if you need to make a run for more provisions. The resort is large and has a lot of services – cabins, camping, pay showers, ample restrooms, canoe and kayak rental and more. The staff seemed to be organized, friendly and committed to promoting responsible enjoyment of our streams.

ocs_081416
I found the space helmet and the chair, plus three bags of this trash!

There are more water and land based cleanup opportunities on August 27, 2016 – here is more information if you want to get involved!
Operation Clean Stream August 27
Operation Clean Stream 2016 Facebook Page

Crafternoon at Studio:art on February 2, 2016

Crafternoon at Studio:art
Crafternoon at Studio:art

Crafternoon is a regular gathering of crafters who bring projects to work on while doing a bit of socializing with each other. Studio:art is hosting Crafternoon on February 2. I’ve been to a couple of these before and had a lot of fun. I hope you can join us!

Date: February 2, 2016
Time: 12-3 pm
Location: 7403 Manchester Road, Maplewood MO, 63143
Fee: None, but bring your own refreshements

Studio:art Grand Opening Saturday December 19, 2015

Studio:art co-op grand opening

Studio:art Grand Opening this Saturday!

New artists co-op and retail store in Maplewood!

I’ve joined a new artists co-op in Maplewood Missouri and I am excited to invite you to our grand opening! It takes place Saturday, December 19 from 10am – 6pm. The address is 740 Manchester Road, Maplewood, MO 63143.

Local art and crafts (including some of mine) will be for sale, plus refreshments and a chance to win a $50 store gift card! It’s not necessary to RSVP, but if you’re a Facebook user you can RSVP at the event page or invite any of your friends that might be interested.

If you can’t make it on Saturday, the store retail hours are:
SUN: 11AM-7PM
MON: Closed
TUE: Closed
WED: Noon-8PM
THURS: Noon-8PM
FRI: Noon-8PM
SAT: 11AM-8PM

I hope to see you there!

Fit and Healthy on Route 66 – Castlewood State Park

Castlewood State Park in St. Louis County, Missouri
View from bluff at Castlewood State Park in two different seasons

Castlewood State Park is located along the Meramec River in the southwest portion of St. Louis County between the Manchester and I-44 alignments of Route 66. Parts of the park lay on either side of the Meramec River. The part that lies north of the Meramec River is accessible by car south of the Manchester alignment of Route 66 and includes one of the most scenic views in all of St. Louis County. The photos above were taken from the River Scene Trail.

In the days before air conditioning, one way people used to cope with the heat was by visiting swimming beaches at the numerous rivers in the region. Caves were popular too. Route 66 fans will recognize the names of the fun places “Times Beach”, “Sylvan Beach”, Meramec Caverns”, “Stonydell” and Joplin’s “Lakeside Park”. Fort Bellefontaine County Park was formerly such a destination – the area that is now Castlewood State Park was another.

According to the book “Walks & Rambles in and around St. Louis” by Robert Rubright, the heyday of Castlewood as a resort was from 1915-1950. The swimming beach was washed away by the river in 1945. Some other amenities such as clubhouses, nightclubs and taverns persisted a bit longer. The state of Missouri converted the land to a park in 1979. Signs at the park indicate that while swimming in the Meramec River is not forbidden, it’s not encouraged either and is something to undertake at one’s own risk. Drownings do occur here so be careful.

The River Scene trail is so nice that I have explored very few other areas of the park despite many visits. I need to correct that oversight! There is a steep climb to the top of the bluff but after that the trail is not too difficult because it is mostly flat or downhill. You will have to watch your footing because the trail is rocky in spots and it’s possible to trip on tree roots. Sturdy hiking boots and a walking stick are helpful for safety and comfort. There are multiple scenic overlooks, historic ruins from the resort days and a well-traveled railroad corridor to see along the way. Rail fans will normally get a chance to see a train or two while hiking here and a portion of the trail even goes under the railroad bed in a cool tunnel.

Map of Castlewood State Park in St. Louis County, Missouri

As you can see from this map, the portion of the park that is South of the Meramec River is accessible only by hiking, biking or by horseback. You can take a trail to Castlewood from either West Tyson County Park or Lone Elk County Park.

It’s not shown on this map how it connects but if you take the Stinging Nettle Loop at the base of the bluff, you can follow that trail westward to a portion of the Meramec Greenway, Sherman Beach County Park and the Al Foster Trail which begins in Glencoe. You can also take a side trip on the Rock Hollow Trail, also known as the “Zombie Road”. The Stinging Nettle Loop is great for mountain bikers like me who are pretty much at the beginner level. There are some hills but they are not too high and if you fall you’ll probably land on dirt most of the time. I took a minor fall and didn’t get hurt. More challenging trails that I have not worked up to trying on a bike yet are in the area if you’re up for it. If you are getting the impression that you can spend days or weeks here exploring all the trails that connect near here you are probably right! Bring maps because it can get confusing!

Castlewood State Park official web site

My photos of Castlewood State Park and the nearby Wildlife Rescue Center

Interview with Maplewood Gardener Rich Reed

Rich Reed is a resident of Maplewood, Missouri, a neighboring community just to the East of my home in Brentwood. I met Rich through Freecyle, a service we both use to give away our extra plants and acquire new ones. Not only have we traded plants directly many times, we have found ourselves showing up at the same giveaway sites more than once! That’s not all we have in common. I have special challenges gardening where I do because I live in a condo and Rich has similar issues because he gardens in an apartment setting. I know I and my readers can learn some things from his experiences. I conducted this interview after Rich had moved into a new apartment complex where he was allowed to garden outside and also place some of his plants in the shared spaces inside the building. In his old apartment he had been confined just to his own apartment – his new liberation flourished into a lush indoor and outdoor environment that I’m certain must be good for the mental and physical health of the other human residents not to mention local animal life. I was impressed!

Apartment gardening!
Apartment gardening by Rich Reed

CH: How did you first get interested in plants?

RR: My interest in plants had to have started when I was a little kid. My Dad would take my sister and I to summer camp down in Pevely, Missouri every year from the time I was 8 years old up until I was 13 (oh, the memories!). The summer camp had two-week sessions, and there were nature classes five of the seven days each week. The nature instructors would have all of the kids go on ‘nature walks’ around the camp grounds, teaching us how to identify all of the different trees and flowers and plants….. I was instantly fascinated! I guess when you’re a kid, everything is fascinating, isn’t it? The first trees that I was able to identify from memory were the persimmon, sassafrass and sugar maple.

I also remember vividly how I was so obsessed with identifying poision ivy so that I wouldn’t catch it! So every day off summer camp, it seemed I was always trying to see if there was some posion ivy growing somewhere so I could say to myself, “Hey, I found some poision ivy!” I’m surprised I never caught poison ivy any of those years of summer camp, and to this day, I still haven’t ever caught it–nor posion oak or posion oak or anything from a poision plant, for that matter. The camp’s director one year had acknowledged my posion ivy obsession so much that I was given the ‘Poision Ivy Award’ (it was a certificate, and I can’t remember if it had a picture of the posion ivy on it or not). It gained a lot of laughs from all of the other kids and parents in attendance on the final day of camp.

Summer camp was also the place where I learned to identify my very first two flowers: the trumpet creeper (also known as hummingbird vine) and the Queen Anne’s Lace (also known as wild carrot). I remember being thrilled by the trumpet creeper’s bright red-orange trumpet-shaped flowers so much that I never forgot it! And as for the Queen Anne’s Lace–well, firstly, the name just sounded cool! Plus, I liked how the little white flowers looked like cotton balls from a distance. Except when I was a kid, I always spelled it wrong: ‘Queen Anslays’. So anytime I see these two flowers on the side of a fence or along a highway somewhere, it always brings back so many warm memories of summer camp. To this day, the Queen Anne’s Lace remains as my #5 favorite flower (yes, I have a ranking) behind the lavender, hyacinth, lilac (I favor the purple flowers!) and forget-me-nots.

During those summer camp years, my interest in plants had increased again while I was in 6th grade at Ladue Junior High School. My then science teacher, Ms. Perrin, assigned the class to do a leaf project. Basically, all we had to do was find about 20 leaves, attach them to a poster board using plastic wrap or clear contact paper (I chose the latter because it was easier :-) and write a description under each leaf identifying what it was. I remember overdoing it somewhat, as I had more leaves than the poster board could handle. I’m pretty sure there was a sugar maple in the group.

So yeah, summer camp and science class laid the foundation for my future gardening :-)

CH: Where do you get your plant material?

RR: From everywhere! The main source of my plants, seeds, gardening equipment and what have you came from this wonderful phenomenon called Freecycle! People giving stuff away for free to others who can reuse them instead of throwing them away and filling up earth’s landfills–it’s an awesome thing! I have to thank my good friend Star for introducing me to Freecycle about a few months after I moved into my first apartment back in 2012. Once I realized that a lot of the members on Freecycle were gardeners and often were generous plant givers, I became hooked and have been using it as a source for other gardening material ever since.

Of course, I do my fair share of shopping in the gardening departments at places like Lowe’s and Home Depot or additional supplies. You can only get so much free stuff from Freecycle :-)

CH: What is it like having so much more space to garden in now? You have a considerable amount of outdoor space to work with plus the apartment building has nice big atria with room for plants indoors. Your new apartment has a nice big window too.

RR: It is soooooooooo great having a lot of space to work with in my new apartment! My old apartment on Bellevue had almost no outdoor space, except for the empty patches of green in front of the property and the green space bordering the back parking lot. I wouldn’t have been able to do any serious outdoor gardening there if I wanted to, although I did try to raise some tomatoes, eggplant and strawberries in pots near my designated parking spot. Nope–wasn’t working. And something kept eating my eggplant! I was so disappointed. So I basically restricted myself to trying to grow everything indoors, but with very little success.

But thankfully, my landlord here at my new place has given me the freedom to basically fill the stairway landings indoors with whatever plants I want! So most of those plants from my old apartment that weren’t getting enough sunlight? Well, they moved in with me and they’re much happier now. The inside of the building has practically become my own little greenhouse!

As for my apartment unit itself: yes, the big window in my living room area is perfect for growing things as well because, as it faces at a bit of an angle, it gets great exposure from the sun as it rises in the east in the morning and sets in the west during the afternoon to early evening. And since the area is much wider than it was in my old apartment, I have many more options for growing things besides just common houseplants.

Though the absolute BEST thing about my new place is having the freedom to finally be able to plant outdoors! I feel liberated and free, like I can do anything I want! Having so much land to work with is an exciting thing, and I want to plant everything I can possibly get my hands on! It’s like a playground for me, or a big science lab where I can play with stuff to see what works, and if it doesn’t, I can always try something else. It’s like, I can finally express myself in gardening the way I really want to.

CH: What are the challenges of gardening in an apartment setting?

RR: There are so many challenges! The main thing would be trying to garden within the rules and regulations of the property itself. Like certain plants that may be harmful if touched or may prove to be too invasive (like English ivy or mints) may not be allowed. Thankfully, my landlord allows me to plant the mints. Some landlords may have their own landscapers who take care of all the gardening, in which case, everything would be restricted to just raising houseplants indoors. And of course, one has to consider the safety and health of the other tenants. So leaving gardening equipment laying around, which could potentially lead to an accident, or tracking water and dirt and bugs into the building are a couple of potential dangers.

The other challenges come with gardening inside of an apartment unit itself. There’s the confined space to deal with–usually near any windows that get sufficient sunlight. But there’s often not enough sunlight, so that eliminates just about all of the exotic sun-loving plants and fruits and veggies. Can you imagine I was actually trying to grow pumpkins inside of my old apartment in a tiny 4-inch clay pot? Not happening. Even tried a little indoor pond (it was actually a fish tank filled with tap water) with some water hyacinth floating atop it, but that didn’t work either. Goldenrod? Didn’t make it a week. Cannas? Well, they grew, but no blooms. And why did I even have a banana plant in my bedroom when the shades were down almost half the time? I even thought a couple of evergreen shrubs would look good in my old living room. Yep—they too ended up in a friend’s compost bin. So with an apartment with no outdoor space available, you have to think small and simple: a few herbs, a few mints, a couple of nice houseplants or two….. I always say if I could grow every fruit, vegetable, plant and flower in the world, I would, but that’s simply not possible in an apartment setting.

The other challenge is more of a mental one. It’s like, you know that you love plants and flowers, yet every time you get up in the morning or come home from work, you see this small amount of greenery growing out of little containers, deep down wishing you could be doing a whole lot more with it. It plays on your mind some, and honestly, you sometimes might even get jealous of other gardeners who do have all of the outdoor space in the world to work with. So it almost forces you to find a different avenue to flex your gardening muscles, so to speak: a church community garden, a relative’s backyard….. Or to just move into a different home altogether, which I eventually did, but for more reasons than just for gardening 😉

CH: How do your neighbors react to your efforts?

RR: There are mixed reactions I get from my neighbors—both the tenants inside of my apartment building and the people living up and down the street. Most of my neighbors are in awe and in love with what they see. A few think that the way I have the flowers arranged look a little junky. Some seem to be indifferent and show no reaction at all when I see them walking past me to get into their car or to get something from their mailbox. My landlord is very happy with what I’ve done, and has even pitched in to help get the gardens looking more professional. But in general, I believe everyone who sees what the property has become since I started gardening in April are pleased that there is actual greenery of some kind taking shape when there was absolutely nothing there (except for a few boring yew bushes in front of the property and some old walnut trees in the back of the property) for years and years prior to my arrival.

CH: I imagine the fact that you are out there a lot working makes it easier to meet neighbors. Have you formed some good new relationships through the garden?

RR: Oh yes! Me being outside with a shovel in one hand and a water hose in the other has given me lots of opportunities to interact with my neighbors, and as a result, I’ve formed a few new relationships with others who are not only gardening enthusiasts, but also have an appreciation for organic living, which is another interest of mine in addition to gardening and freecycling. A very good neighbor of mine who lives right across the hall from me, who coincidentally is also named Carolyn, encourages me all the time to keep adding beautiful plants to the building, and has also generously shared some organic produce from her church’s garden with me. I even have a little helper occasionally named Brian who’s only 8 years old, but sometimes helps me water the plants and get rid of weeds. And there’s at least three other neighbors who have already expressed interest in helping me plant some things in my vegetable garden either this fall before the first frost comes, or when spring rolls around again next year.

CH: Although you don’t have as much produce as you’d like yet, you mentioned sharing some of your produce with neighbors. Do they share things with you because of the garden, such as plants, recipes, tips, etc.?

RR: Absolutely! As I mentioned, there’s my neighbor Carolyn, who shares her organic produce from her church’s garden. And she also has given me some extra planters and plant stands. But I also get plants and produce from other neighbors as well. Someone gave me some hot peppers recently and a while ago, another donated some aloe vera, even though I already had plenty! And I get a never-ending supply of gardening tips and recipes for things on an almost daily basis—even some from the landlord himself! It’s great!

CH: Have you noticed any change in the wildlife around the apartment since you started the garden? For example are there more or fewer insects, birds, etc.?

RR: That’s an interesting question. I do see a lot more squirrels, rabbits, bees, dragonflies and wasps, yet it seems nobody else sees these things at all. Supposedly, there’s an owl near the property, but I haven’t seen him yet. I do see raccoons occasionally, but not very often. And despite some of the neighbors’ fears that my raspberry plants will attract snakes, I haven’t seen any of those either. I will say that, for the most part, my gardens haven’t been attacked by insects and other critters, although I suspect there are some slugs chewing holes in the coleus in the front of the building and something snacking on the tomatoes in the vegetable garden. Maybe there’s just not that much wildlife in this part of Maplewood.

CH: What personal goals does the garden help you work toward?

RR: Ah, another good question. All of this gardening is giving me a whole lot of experience, so I am now looking to get into landscaping of some kind professionally. I didn’t realize how much I would love actual gardening living in that old apartment for a couple of years, but as I learn more and more and my passion for it grows and grows, I feel like it’s time I’ve taken that passion to a whole new level.

I’m also wanting to become more self-sufficient. Growing my own produce and not having to go to the grocery store anytime I want some kale for my stews or some parsley for my Eggplant Parmesan….. I think vegetable gardening is a lot more challenging than regular flower gardening, because what has to be taken into consideration is that you’ll be consuming what you grow, so care has to be taken on minimizing or doing away with altogether those pesticides and herbicides, knowing when to harvest—there’s so much to learn!

Most importantly, I just want to live a healthier lifestyle, and that’s where my interest in organic living comes in. Of course, one is only able to do so much when you’re on a budget, but I try to do the best I can. Good health starts with good eating, I’d say, and growing organic produce is a nice way to promote that while being able to reduce the number of trips to the produce department at the grocery store.

I look at plants and trees and insects and animals so much more differently now than I have in the past. It’s no longer something just to look at because they look interesting; it’s something to really embrace and to take care of. So additionally, gardening helps me to get out more to enjoy and appreciate the environment!

CH: What benefits do you think the garden and plants have for the people and animals that share your environment?

RR: Of course, there are the many physical health benefits that come with plants: food, natural medicines and remedies, oxygen….. But then there are the many mental health benefits for people as well. Seeing all of the bright and interesting colors and shapes and designs—observing something beautiful has a way of lifting one’s spirits and inspiring the mind. And gardens have a way of introducing a sense of peace and tranquility to the landscape–a kind of paradise to get lost inside of.

CH: Do you belong to any gardening or plant organizations or do you have close friends or family that you can share your interest with?

RR: Presently, I’m not a member of any official plant/gardening organizations, but I would someday like to fit that into my already busy schedule. However, I do have many friends and relatives to share my gardening interest with, namely my Aunt Vera, who has been my #1 inspiration to garden from the beginning, my best friend Jerry, my friend Matt, plus the many fellow gardening enthusiasts I’ve connected with through past Freecycle transactions.

CH: Where do you get your gardening knowledge from? Books, internet, trial and error, word of mouth, gardening clubs, visiting gardens, all of the above?

RR: ALL of the above! Though I would say I get the most knowledge from simple trial and error. Actual hands-on learning is the best way to learn anything, I think. Seeing what works and what doesn’t….. I do a good deal of Internet surfing and read lots and lots of articles on how to grow certain plants; I don’t do too much in the way of books, with everything being so digital nowadays. Learning from other fellow seasoned gardeners is always a great help. And sometimes, I like to take little drives to different parts of St. Louis to observe other people’s gardens and to get ideas for what to do with my own. So all of these are good learning tools.

CH: Do you have other hobbies?

RR: Too many, in fact! When I’m not outside gardening, I like writing (mysteries are my thing, but nothing published yet), computer gaming and traveling (when I can find the time). I also happen to be quite the eclectic music lover and CD collector, so I can go from listening to jazz, blues and New Age music one minute to 80’s hair band rock, country, techno and disco the next; there’s always something different playing in my car when I’m out on the road.

CH: Will it be hard for you to leave your garden if you ever decide to move or will you enjoy starting the whole process again?

RR: I’ve thought about this a lot since I started outdoor gardening for the first time in my life this year. I really would eventually like to move into a house with my own yards someday, once I’ve gotten some things in order, though much of that would bank on my career direction. Though at the moment, I’m content in my tiny spot right here in Maplewood. But should there be a drastic change in my life—for better or for worse—I believe it would initially be hard for me to leave everything behind because I’ve already put so much of my time into the gardens that have been created. Maybe harder if I had to move into another space with no outdoor gardening space whatsoever. But perhaps just as hard knowing that I’d be leaving behind the people whom I’ve bonded with through my gardening. With a new house, though, I could at least begin again from the ground up, and that was part of the fun and excitement that I had when I first broke ground in my vegetable garden way back in April.

CH: Thanks Rich for taking the time for such thoughtful and helpful answers!