Saturday, September 16, 2006

Living on Air and Water

Other than what may have blown in on the wind, there is not a grain, a crumble or a clod of soil in either of these two pots.

Anyone familiar with Bromeliads will not be surprised about that. A great number of them are epiphytic and cling to the branches of trees high in the canopy. They can grow equally well crawling along the surface of the ground where they are much easier for us to see.

What has surprised even me is the Aloe arborescens in the pot on the left. I used that pot and that Aloe in a display in June of 2005. I placed a bunch of rootless stem cuttings in the empty pot and when it was over I brought the pot of Aloe home and it has sat there ever since.

Not only are they all still alive, but they have doubled in size and have rooted so well that they are now bound together and stuck in the pot unless I forcefully remove them. They do get water, but talk about your well drained soil. It is air contained by clay and cement.

The mother plant is incredibly large but doesn't bloom very well for me. I think it prefers the cooler weather upcountry where it puts on a late spring show of dramatic red candelabras. The spot I think it chose for itself when I wasn't looking is right by a water spigot. It got big fast. I cut off its octopus sprouts on a regular basis to try and keep it in bounds which may inhibit its bloom, but it doesn't slow it down in any way and it just keeps getting bushier.

Two very different species of plants have adapted themselves to live and thrive on so little.

The cost of everything has been climbing for the last year. I don't want to work more hours and I hesitate to raise my rates. I have been looking for ways to cut back on spending. I had my cable television downgraded to basic cable. I was only watching TV an hour a day at the most. Why on earth was I paying $45 a month for that? The ABC 9-11 propaganda piece gave me an excuse to act on a decision I had already made.

Tonight I bought canned ground coffee. No more fresh whole bean Hawaiian coffee for me. That stuff gets very pricey once its bagged and labeled. I really should start harvesting the beans on the coffee plant.

When I stop and think about where my money goes it is hard to think of anything I can give up or that the law says I must have or must pay. There is one glaringly obvious ridiculous expense that I want to cut out. I would save a bucket of money, ten times what I will save on the cable bill, but I am addicted. %^$/\%$!*!$#$~$ )*&+*** Cigarettes.

I have a long way to go before I get to just clean air and water.


christin m p in massachusetts said...

Too bad your landlord doesn't ban smoking on the property like ours does. Maybe that would've helped you save money on cigarettes. Either that, or you would've taken a lot more drives or long walks...

Anyway, I'm sure you've done the math -- at one pack per day at $5.00 per pack (unless you roll your own or buy the generic ones), that equals around $1800 a year. For me, that equals half a year of car payments, so I definitely can't afford to smoke.

A lot of people who run programs for helping people to break the smoking habit (community clinics all over the U.S. offer freedom from smoking programs free of charge) have said that over the past few years, more of their clients are quitting smoking for economic reasons than for health reasons.

Pam/Digging said...

Do you believe that bromeliads appeal more to men than women? I was looking at one in a nursery once, and in the space of five minutes two other shoppers, both men, stopped to tell me what great plants bromeliads are. Since then, I've noticed a trend. And when I saw that you were posting about them, I thought, "Yep! Another bromeliad guy." :-)

Good pics, by the way.

Annie in Austin said...

We don't have cable and have never smoked but can't live on water -we also need our coffee!

My sympathies on the nicotine addiction - I've seen people in my family fight it, some successfully, some not, but never easily. I suppose you started smoking as a teenager, Christopher?

Pam, there is a genuine connection between guys and their Bromeliads! Check it out the next time Austin Men's Garden Club holds a show or sale at Zilker Park - the arrays of bromeliads, especially Tillandsia, will amaze you. If anyone is growing Aloe arborescens around here, it will be there.


Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

Yes I started smoking as a teenager in the 70's. I bought some regular chewing gum yesterday to try and start a reduction effort. Christina you can double that figure. Aaargh!

I have never noticed a connection between men and bromeliads, but I am a man so I may not notice such things. They require next to no care, just the right conditions. Maybe that appeals to men more than fussier plants that need more care.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Ouch -- Two packs a day... That's how much my Dad smoked (it was his only vice) -- he had told us he started at sixteen years old. On top of that, as a professional musician during the 1960's and 70's, he breathed in all the second-hand smoke lingering thickly in the air in the poorly-ventilated nightclubs his band played in. He was able to quit smoking with no effort for many years while he did Christian missionary work with his church, but when the church branched off into separate quibbling groups (everybody wanted to be the pastor), he and my stepmom moved back here to the Northeast where the stressful pace of life drove him right back to smoking again. Once he got the devastating news from his doctor, he only made it nine-and-a-half weeks after that. Malignant cells just replicate too quickly in lungs, so there was very little that could be done at that point. The amazing thing to everyone was that he didn't look sick at all, and he still looked at least 15 years younger than his age. So you can never tell.

My friend James (another professional musician just like my Dad) also smokes that much, but he didn't start until he was almost thirty years old. Other advantages for him are that he doesn't inhale deeply, and most of the nightclubs his band has played in are better ventilated than they were back in the days when my father's band was playing (Massachusetts now has a complete ban on smoking in nightclubs, but they often book out-of-state shows as well). James' doctor tells him his lungs look amazingly clean for a smoker. Still he has tried over and over to quit, for the sake of the people around him. So far, the longest he's been able to go without a cigarette is a couple of weeks. But tobacco is so addictive for some people that whenever he isn't actually smoking, all he can think about is smoking. Living with James was otherwise incredibly easy -- as he is a very accommodating and conciliatory soul, but at times the smoke was so thick in the air, that my eyes would burn and I would have to take aspirin almost every day for the air pollution headaches I'd get. Also, we needed to wash the ceilings and walls and woodwork at least once every month, because of the resin buildup. We couldn't find an air purifier that was powerful enough to handle the job. As much as I loved living with him, I think the separation saved my health.

I got out the calculator again -- Over a thirty year period, at an average cost of $3.00 per pack at two packs a day, the tobacco empires have extracted around $66,000 from you to invest for themselves. With compound interest, you probably would've had enough to build a couple of pretty nice houses on that mountain ridge in NC.

Please know I'm not preaching -- I myself am probably single-handedly boosting Starbucks stock prices, and I'm not happy about it. Those cute little bottles of Vanilla Frappuccino that I can't seem to say no to, sell at an average price of around $1.69 per 9.5 ounce glass bottle in all the convenience stores and in those little four-packs in supermarkets. Somehow I've managed to step up my consumption to two frappuccinos per day. That equals around $1200 per year, along with a lot of unhealthy sleepless days where I only end up getting a few hours' nap instead of a full seven to eight hours. (Starbucks is headquartered in Seattle, so that thought just made me think of the movie Sleepless In Seattle.) Every few days, the sleep deprivation hits me so hard that -- caffeine or no caffeine -- I just can't stay awake. On those days, I konk out early and get something like fourteen hours of sleep in a row to make up for most of what I've missed, but that pattern can't be good for me. "So far so good" on my health, but I know if I keep it up, it's gonna catch up with me. I envy your plants that can thrive on air and water.

That still sounded like a sermon. And they're always too long and drawn out -- aren't they?

Okay, now I'll be on my way, so I can go google "bromeliad".

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

The best way to give a sermon without sounding too preachy and judgemental is to say, "This is my experience with this". You did fine Christina.

Now let it go.