In 2016 and 2017 I tried to start a recovery process from my illness for which the doctors all said I should have died more than a decade ago to get back on my feet and take care of myself using my knowledge of biology, the sports sciences, and sports medicine. I knew I had to get outside, get some fresh air, get some sun shine for vitamin D, and get some exercise to improve my health, especially after my illness forcing me to sit in front of this computer for most of the last 20 years. I kind of got a wee bit over weight and out of shape, especially for a former marathon athlete. I figured this would take a while and not be easy.
To do this, I decided to use gardening, which would force me to do some digging, planting, watering, and other plant care like weeding outside in the fresh air and sun. To increase my physical activity and conserve water I decided to do my watering with a 2 gallon water can instead of a water hose plus, during the summer, the city conserves water because we live in a desert so that you can only water in the mornings and evenings three days a week with a hose but can water at any time on any day with a water can, which gave me more flexibility.
BTW, by using the water can, I lost more than 40 pounds and lost more than 4 inches on my waist. I am now only about 20 pounds from my bicycle road racing weight.
Because of my location, I knew this would be a massive challenge with me living in a high desert with a heavy clay soil and me having very little money so that I can't buy some of the newer luxury gardening items like drip lines and sun cloths. This would be old fashioned gardening done the hardest possible way, which would force me to exercise my brain and do a lot of learning about farming under such dire conditions with only a few hundred dollars a year to spend on the project, which included the increase in water use, gardening soil, and fertilizers. We are talking really basic old school farming under some of the worst possible conditions with limited resources.
Yep, just a wee bit of a challenge, you know, kind of like trying to run a marathon uphill walking on your hands.
The first two years I tried mixing this clay soil with sand to increase its porousness to increase water getting to the roots by mixing this junk 50/50 with sand but even that wasn't good enough and my plant grow was still marginal. OK, the plant growth inhaled vigorously. I got one really small watermelon, a couple of stunted cantaloupes, and some tiny useless cucumbers and red tomatoes.
Yep, I really feasted on that harvest.
You have to understand that I don't have soil here, I have construction material for making adobe structures like buildings and walls. My brother watered this stuff one time for 72 consecutive hours with commercial sprinklers and the water only got down to about 3 to 4 inches in the construction material...uh...I mean soil. Below that it was bone dry.
For those first two years I only planted from about half a dozen to a dozen plants and seedling trees and, by September in both years, I was so beat up that I simply couldn't carry a watering can any more, had to quit watering, and let everything die. Both times it took me 3 to 4 months to recover from the ordeal.
During both winters following those efforts I did quite a bit of thinking and researching on how I could better do the task. Yes, I am more than a wee bit bullheaded and determined. My name is Carl Persistence Cantrell. Most people would have never tried, most of the rest would have quit after the first year, and most of the rest of those would have quit following the second year but, hey, I ain't most people, I am Carl.
So I had it all planned out to grow everything from seed that I could to save money, to try different seed germination and growing techniques while being ready to invent my own, and try different growing techniques.
First thing was to just get rid of the clay and use it to make the berms for retaining water while filling the plant bed holes with either just sand, gardening soil, or a mixture of both with fertilizers and root stimulators to see what would work best in this desert.
You have to understand that getting the root structure developed is the first and most important task in growing plants because the better the root system, the more water and nutrients the plant can get from the soil in the same time, therefore, the faster and larger the plants will grow and the better they will fruit and this is especially critical in a hot, dry desert with very dry soil where the plants will have to suck up as much water as possible as quickly as possible just to survive.
If you paid any attention in physical science in high school you should know that water diffuses from a higher concentration to a lower concentration and the greater the difference, the faster the water will diffuse. Therefore, when gardening with extremely dry soil, especially during this drought, you need to water more frequently because the dry soil around your plant bed will suck the water out of your plant bed when you need to retain water because the very hot, dry air will suck the water out of your plant forcing your plant to suck the water out of the ground. I guess you could say that gardening here sucks...water, lots of water.
This desert is so bad during the hottest part of the summer that I would soak the plants and about 2 to 3 hours later the plant bed soil would be dry with plants wilting. Even when I got the soil soaked enough that you could see moisture on the surface outside of the plant beds, the beds themselves were dry with wilting plants because the heat and dry air sucked so much water out of the plants that it caused the plants to suck the beds dry and wilt and mulching doesn't help stop that.
Yep, just a wee bit of a challenge.
After the first two years, I changed plant bed structure, watering techniques, and watering strategies to get the job done better. Hey, I am trained to do field research for science and every project at least includes some field research on better ways to get the job done.
When I started on March 1, 2018 I could work for one half hour to a maximum of two hours in one day for from one day to a maximum of three days and then have to rest for one to three days. Yep, my health sucked but I still praised God for me being alive and having any health at all. It kind of beats having no health or life and you learn to appreciate and take what you can get. After all, there are a few billion people in cemeteries who have it worse than me.
That is when the miracles started to happen because I actually started getting to where I could do a little more by the week. As my health improved, I started planting more seeds to grow more plants because, if you want to really find out what you can and cannot do, you have to push yourself to the breaking point, rest, back off a little, and function at your new maximum potential. That is a common technique in marathon sports.
When I look back at what I have done this year, especially after a few decades of not being able to do much or not being able to do anything, it is mind boggling and overwhelming, especially in this desert. Boy, have I learned a lot. It is just really incredible and I thank and praise God for it.
My daughter lives a few trailers down from me on our land, saw me struggle through 2016 and 2017, and regularly tells me she is impressed by how much I have improved this year and how much I have done.
BTW, she is a great little Christian lady I am very proud of. Her lousy husband dumped her and his kids, is sending almost no child support (she goes months without getting any), she works part time at a church so she can home school the children, does odd jobs like cleaning other people's homes for extra money, and still does things like going camping with the kids.
She was having car problems and went to get a battery at a parts store. The place she went to humiliated her by asking her what her brake lights on the front of her car did and then tried to sell her an expensive alternator when she had enough brains to figure out all she needed was a battery.
She went to another store, they said they had her replacement battery but they were not allowed to replace the battery for her but they had tools she could use. She told them she could replace it herself and had her own tools in her car. She yanked the old battery out of the car and put in the new one with no problems and the men in the store were all impressed. She is a tough little woman. Believe me, if she needed to, she would have replaced the alternator too.
Remember that I told you last spring that God said He would open a door for me to do something else this July?
This July was the hottest part of the growing season and I was watering about four times a day for about 8 hours a day 7 days a week with short rest breaks between the water efforts. It really kicked my butt but I got through it still on my feet and planting a few more plants. (Tough old fart, huh?)
By the grace of God, I have planted 9 seedling trees (grown from seeds), 5 junipers (that just sprouted up where I was watering and transplanted them to where I wanted them), 27 hollyhocks (grown from seeds), 4 grease wood (transplanted from the desert), 16 other indigenous plants (transplanted from around my land into a hedge), 3 carnations (grown from seed), a wild bird of paradise (grown from seed), a Lantana camera (on sale), a rose bush (on sale), 18 strawberries (14 babies grown from 4 mother plants), 19 pear tomatoes (grown from seed; will only grow 6 next year), 2 red tomatoes (purchased as small plants), 3 watermelon (grown from seed), 4 cantaloupe (grown from seed), 2 cucumbers (grown from seed), 6 lettuce (grown from seed), 3 bell peppers (grown from seed), about a dozen marigolds (grown from seed), about a dozen zinnias (grown from seed), some other stuff that died (mostly grown from seed), and a partridge in a pear...hold it, I don't have a pear tree; that's next year...or a partridge. Hmmm. Hey, I do have a silver cardinal though. :-) I hear him calling all of the time.
Almost all of those were grown from seeds or free stuff from the desert with only a few plants being purchased. It was much less expensive than buying everything as 6 inch plants for $5 each.
This year, September came and the bullheaded old fart was still watering like a mad man. God has opened the door and things are starting to happen.
With the cooler weather, I am down to watering about once or twice a day and today it is raining because of a tropical storm hitting Arizona to my west so I don't have to water today and can write this Christian testimony to share my blessings with you.
God is great and works in strange ways.
Remember that I told you some time ago that I have not been able to work on my 71 VW Bus or pay anyone to work on it for about 10 to 12 years because of my health and finances?
A few weeks ago the car started dying when I stopped at stop lights so I had to restart it every time because it wouldn't idle. I found out that it would still do a rough idle after I had run the engine for a while so, at home, I ran the engine long enough to get a rough idle and then adjusted the fuel flow and idle to get it to where it will now idle fairly well.
I started researching specifics for working on my engine and God let me know that He wants me to rebuild the engine and the rest of the car.
I know that with my engine being neglected and abused for so long I am going to have to replace a lot of parts so I stated that, if God wants me to rebuild the engine and rest of the car, He will have to provide the money because there ain't no way I can pay for it on a monthly income of just $674 a month, especially since I will have to rebuild that bus from the ground up and not just the engine.
Then God let me know that He will cause me to use the gardening I have learned and used to earn that money and I will have to beef my little car up to handle a working load because a new 1,600 cc engine only has 65 horse power and they ain't going to cut it so I will have to hot rod the car to use it for work. When I get a passenger in my car, I can feel it slow down and you know a work load will really slow it down, especially when having to drive in the very rugged and steep mountains in this area.
So I am researching ways to earn money from my gardening to generate the seed capital to start my own business by 1) rebuilding my VW and 2) rebuilding the workshop building on my land to use for a new business, especially to buy tools. Note that I will have to rebuild the workshop at least a little to rebuild the VW. It has also been neglected because of my illness. I have a lot of work to do on this land because of my illness.
You have to understand that with me having been dying for a few decades and not being able to work for anyone, at 70 years of age, no one is going to hire me to work for them so I will have to start my own business and work for myself. I have had my own business, managed other people's businesses, and have an MBA so, with God improving my health, I can do this.
I am currently planning innovative gardening projects that will force me to work even harder next year to keep rebuilding my health and fitness while opening income opportunities. I want to plant a number of climbing vines to cover my buildings to decrease their heating during the summer (I call this bio-solar engineering) to save me hundreds of dollars a year on summer cooling I can use elsewhere.
I also want to plant some fruit trees for food and shade, which will require extensive pick and shovel work to help me get stronger faster. I have to dig down through several feet of this hard packed clay to a 2 to 3 foot layer of Caliche, which Wikipedia says, "Caliche is a sedimentary rock, a hardened natural cement of calcium carbonate that binds other materials-such as gravel, sand, clay, and silt."
Yep, that crap is hard, baby, and I am going to have to punch a number of holes through it with pick, shovel, wrecking bar, and 20 pound sledge so the tree roots can get down to the water table or they will die. My goal is to plant about 6 or 7 different fruit trees, which will require me to hammer through 2 to 3 feet of natural cement 6 or 7 times with hand tools. That should be a good workout.
Have you noticed that I ain't afraid of a little work?
I am also looking at growing one or more Canary Island Date Palms for a little extra seed capital because those babies are the most expensive trees in the world and I can get tree bulbs for $10 that can grow into thousand dollar trees in a few years in this desert. Those trees should do well here as long as I make a hole through the caliche for their roots to reach the water table because they are regularly grown in even worse deserts like Saudi Arabia.
Most importantly, finally, for the first time in a few decades, by the grace of God, I can do things and make things happen again. The old fart is back...well, almost.
What a wonderful thing work is. I love it. I love creating, building, and succeeding. I love challenge and achievement and this last 20+ years has been very challenging so the achievement should be very rewarding.
I realize that I still have a long ways to go but this is a huge improvement for some sick old man who, at one time, for more than 1.5 years could only sleep 15 to 20 hours day, fix one or two TV dinners for meals, and spend the rest of the time sitting in a chair staring at 4 walls. At least this is a pretty good start at a recovery the doctors said should have never happened.
Screw those idiot death panels. To quote Arnie, "I'll be back." You ain't seen nuttin' yet, baby.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.