Well, it's been a long and hectic year. I apologize for not keeping you informed, but in addition to the usual deluge of work, I have had to deal with my ailing father, something most of us have to do sooner or later.
Dad was 91 last year and still living independently in his home in Florida. Mom died three years ago, and Dad just didn't want to go on living without her. But he wasn't willing to give up either. He was a tough old bird. I was flying out to see him twice a year and trying to do what I could to keep him at home. In May he fell in a freak accident and fractured his pelvis. We had talked several times about how long he could keep living at home, and I told him that as long as he didn't fall he could probably keep on going. But he did fall.
As so often happens with the elderly, this was the beginning of the end. Fortunately, he was placed in a very good nursing home and he grew to enjoy it. The staff was great and he was the most popular resident there. The only problem was the $6,000 a month bill. At that rate he would quickly burn through his savings. Also, the place was small and crowded and the food terrible. It was our extreme good fortune that a new Veterans nursing home had just opened up in the area and there were plenty of vacancies. This place was wonderful. There were wide aisles, brand new room, several outdoor areas with automatic doors, a great cafeteria with decent food. There were even therapy pets.
We got him in the Vets home about the beginning of September. I had been flying to Florida about every six weeks to care for him and handle his affairs. Despite all our efforts to keep him going, he began to go downhill, suffering from bouts of congestive heart failure. I made my last trip in early November. He died quietly in his sleep two days after I arrived. Everyone said he was just waiting for me to get there, and I think there's some truth to it.
Since then, I have been handling his estate and it has kept me pretty busy, but it's almost over now, and I will be able to give my full attention to work again.
I feel like I'm crawling back out of my cave now and can start writing again, and being productive again. Healthwise, I have been terrific and am just about back to 100% considering I am 65 now. My last CT scan was clean and there is no sign of cancer. I had a bad bout of back trouble and saw a physical therapist. It turned out to be an important life lesson- I can't stay healthy any more without really working at it. The therapist taught a series of stretching and strengthening exercises that I continue to do religiously. The difference has been amazing. I am now able to do things I haven't been able to do in years, although, I still have to be really careful. Now I have to find a way to do part 2 and develop a regular cardio exercise routine to increase my stamina and keep the heart healthy. I was riding my bike, but now that it's winter, it has been almost impossible to keep it up. I may have to resort to one of those silly boring exercycles, but if that's what it takes, then so be it.
So, now for the good news. A number of financial improvements (not the least of which was turning 65 and getting Medicare), have allowed me to get a steady stream of part time help. Between the help and my improved health, we have got the nursery in better shape than ever before. We have been here almost thirteen years now, and finally it is all coming together. Our greenhouse project was finished this fall, and now we are working on getting all the one gallon pre bonsai elevated on benches so they can get weeded and pruned regularly without bending over. We have pruned back every larger plant in the whole place to prepare them for final branch work and sale, even my mammoth 25 year old maple collection. There are some to die for trunks out there. Having them cut back and pruned regularly now will make their care much easier. And YES, there will be hundreds of additions to the Specimen Catalog
I have just updated it to remove the sold trees and new additions will start to be added shortly. You response has been terrific. We have sold over half of the specimen trees and have many satisfied customers.
Here are just a few of the trees that will be added this spring: more big elms, more 'Hachi Gen' pines, 'Mi Nishiki' pines, five gallon size Shimpaku junipers, assorted smaller deciduous trees, big Japanese maples (hopefully). Our system for maintaining, photographing, and listing specimen trees is almost now complete. It was a huge effort, but well worth it. I hope you all are as excited about it as we are. Almost no other bonsai nursery on the web has really been able to pull this off successfully. It will give you access to material that is almost impossible to otherwise obtain.
The new greenhouse is a critical part of the specimen plant process since it will give us another way of protecting trees from late spring freezes. It will also allow to once again offer more Prunus species. It will take a few years to build up our stock again, but this year we will be offering Prunus mume in limited quantities. These will not be ready to ship until June, but if you want these, you should order now to reserve your trees; they won't last long.
Grafting has been just about impossible the last few years due to my illness, but I have found another black pine grower for understock. If these trees are as good as those from our previous supplier, we should begin grafting pines again this fall. It will be two to three years before these new grafts are ready to ship, but in the meantime there will be many more specimen sized cultivars for you to choose from.
Last, but not least, we will begin to dig some trees out of the field this winter. These will also be listed in the Specimen Catalog but won't be shipped until summer or fall. We hope to dig 'Paul's Scarlet' hawthorn (cutting grown, not grafted), crabapples and possible some 'San Jose' and 'Shimpaku' junipers. Our goal is graft over the monster 'San Jose' junipers to 'Shimpaku' eventually, but we will offer some for sale now so you can do your own grafting, or leave them with their own foliage.
Now for a look at our new 20 x 48 foot greenhouse, both under construction and the finished job. The first photo is the finished floor, a leveled bed of sand covered with chicken wire (to keep out the rodents) and ground cloth. A concrete floor would have been nice, but way out of budget for us. The second photo shows the steel bows attached. The finished greenhouse has double wall plastic and eight foot wide doors for natural ventilation for most of the year.