Tuesday, April 11, 2006

My New Job Finally Begins.

On March 13th I finally began my new full, time position as a sales associate in the outdoor garden center at our spanking, new Lowe's store here in my town.
For the first two weeks I vanpooled for from 2-3 hours each way to other Lowe's stores in the area. During this period, I was required to test on computers on information rangeing from safety to "shrink" or shoplifting to customer service. I took and passed approximately 25 to 30 tests.
After these two weeks, we were able to enter the shell of our store and about 100 employees began to set up the racks on which to place the merchandise. This took almost 5 full days. It was like putting together a humongous erector set. It was terribly fun!
Currently, we are placing over two million dollars worth of stock onto the shelves. We will be opening in May.
I won't be able to continue this blog, however, because Lowe's has a privacy issue and would discourage any comments so I will end here and hope you enjoyed my writing.

My New Job Finally Begins.

On March 13th I finally began my new full, time position as a sales associate in the outdoor garden center at our spanking, new Lowe's store here in my town.
For the first two weeks I vanpooled for from 2-3 hours each way to other Lowe's stores in the area. During this period, I was required to test on computers on information rangeing from safety to "shrink" or shoplifting to customer service. I took and passed approximately 25 to 30 tests.
After these two weeks, we were able to enter the shell of our store and about 100 employees began to set up the racks on which to place the merchandise. This took almost 5 full days. It was like putting together a humongous erector set. It was terribly fun!
Currently, we are placing over two million dollars worth of stock onto the shelves. We will be opening in May.
I won't be able to continue this blog, however, because Lowe's has a privacy issue and would discourage any comments so I will end here and hope you enjoyed my writing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Just a Delay

Yesterday when I got off work, I picked up a phone message of interest. It was from Lori at Lowe's. She said that the city of Cotati had delayed the store opening for thirty days to enable them to install a traffic light and work on a drainage issue. She said she hoped I could hang in with them and to call and let them know. I have to do that this morning. Of course, I will. I just will continue along with my current job until then. Today, Mark had said, "What am I going to do without you?" So, I called him right up. It was 5:45 PM and we close at 5:30. I knew he was there. I let the phone ring thirty times. I laughed the whole time because I knew it would be driving him crazy. I was prepared to say, "Why did you pick up that phone?", if he did. We always say how we regret picking up the phone after hours because it is more often than not a customer with some involved question or request. At that point, we just want to close and go home. As he didn't answer, I hung up and gave him fifteen more minutes to get on the road and then I called his cell. He was happy to hear I would be staying longer as after the Christmas season, we begin inventory. Marks hates inventory time. I always enjoyed the counts. "Hey, he said, Did you call the nursery a while ago?" As I laughed and confessed that I had enjoyed torturing him, he told me he had disconnected the phone to try to cut the ring but it had continued to do so on a bell outside on the building. I do so enjoy a friend with a good sense of humor.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sick Of The Phone

I'm sick of the phone! Today, a lady calls and says that she spoke to Jeanie on Saturday about her orchid and ivy housplant. She had received them as a gift a while back. The orchid still had a few blooms on it, but she was concerned because the pot had no drainage hole. After giving this info, she was quiet..waiting my reply. Hmmm...what did she want? Hadn't Jeanie told her what had to be done? So, I asked if they were planted in bark or soil. "A combination" she said. Fine. "Well..the ivy has a different water requirement so it definitely should come out." "What size pot should that go into?" she asked. I don't know as I can't see what it looks like, I was thinking. "What size is it in?", I asked. "It's about six inches in diameter" she said. "So, into a pot not larger but possibly a little smaller and again back to potting soil." "What about the orchid?" she asked. "Keep the orchid in it's soil until the bloom is completed and then you can transplant it" I said. She said she didn't have any supplies and didn't drive. I asked if she had a friend who could help or get what she needed. "No." Then, she asked if we could do it for her. "Where do you live?" "San Rafael." Hey...only 15 miles away. "I don't know what to tell you" I said. "We don't travel that far." Fine. Good-bye. I always get myself into trouble volunteering to go to people's homes. Five minutes later...same lady calls again. "How much water should I give the ivy?" she asks. Patience. "Depending on the temperature in your house, and approximately once a week." "And, the orchid?" "Spareingly, as there is no drainage." Orchids always get drowned. An hour later, the same lady called me once again to have me once again go over everything I had told her already. When I start working at Lowe's I may need to answer the phone but I do so hope it is handed to me but "spareingly". Like watering an orchid.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Easy, Breezy Sunday

Sundays lately have been pretty nice for me. That means choosing whatever I want to do for the day and having so few customers that it seems almost like just having visitors in my own garden when they do show up. Mark hasn't left a "to do list" for me in years. Today was quite enjoyable. About three years ago, I planted a beautiful, coral Passiflora into a fifteen gallon container and trained it to climb up the post at the side of the building. It didn't take long for it to reach the lattice covering. Since it was evergreen, it looked pretty throughout two blooming seasons and also through the rest of the year. It was well established when Mr. Terry decided to have the guys paint the arbors several months back. I didn't want to tear down the vine and Mark said he didn't either and so they painted up to and then around it. Earlier this month, we decided to remove it as it was becoming potbound and the leaves were showing stress. I scrounged around until I found the dredges of the green arbor paint and dragged the ladder around and began to finish the job. Each time I situated the ladder, I checked that the little feeties were flat on the ground and the top was firmly on a wide enough surface and the leveler was parallel to the ground. One of our past crew bosses, Mark Scott, gave me that handy lesson otherwise I'm sure I would have come to a painful end long ago. Who knew? Another man, a customer, told me never to turn around on the ladder with my back to the rungs. He had fallen from one and had broken his leg. I was extra cautious after hearing that story. My bifocals are traitorous enough. I wore older clothes today as sometimes I'm not the neatest painter and sure enough I spotted up my vest, sweatshirt and shirt but, the job was completed. While I was up there working away, around the corner in her Grandpa given Lincoln Towncar came my basket co-maker of old, Johanna. She had been over to the coffee shop and picked us up some non-fat, decaf, no whip, sugerfree mochas. Ahhh... We sat in the shade of the thirty year old, fifty feet tall Mimosa tree on the sacks of soil for about an hour. We chatted it up until a customer felt the need to interupt the joy of friendship on a sunny, Sunday morning in my garden.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

China Beach

About a year ago, Mark asked me how I'd feel about going to set plants for the guys at a job we were doing. I think that was the first really big job I ever did that for. I remember that Mark was really busy and he was trying to stretch himself so thin and still couldn't manage to go himself. I wanted to help him so I asked if he thought it would be a problem for me in any way and he said no. He gave me the landscape plan and explained how it worked. The drawing was of the area of the yard where the work was to be done. We both pull the plants from the nursery stock and order them especially for the job. Then they are gathered together at the loading area and the guys put them on the truck. They also load up as many bags of planting mix and start fertilizer and irrigation parts that they think will be necessary to do the job. On the plan, each variety of plant is color and letter coded. When the plants are unloaded at the house, I would either point out the spot for the heavier ones and the guys would place them there or I would place the smaller ones. The plants don't have to be in exact spots and if I looked at the layout afterward and think I would like a plant in a different location I would be able to move it depending on it's sun requirement. The experience was fun and different. I recall that the guys tried to rush me as they wanted to get started and I was a little confused and thus slow. Mark later told me that they do that to him also and he has to tell them to relax. Also, just by chance, I had worn my new, suede Merrill shoes to work. This was during the rainy season and that yard had quite a bit of soft mud but I had no choice but to walk out onto it. I was very unhappy about that. I tried to stay on the high spots and have the guys go into the quicksand. This yard was one of those of which I seem to see quite often here in California. There are a large variety of plants all over the front "lawn" which has a few boulders for effect and the soil is covered with bark....low maintainance. Yesterday, I thought Mark had a gleam in his eye when he said that perhaps I could go back to that same house to replace a few plants that had failed to thrive and to fertilize the rest of the plants. I said sure I would but I would rather go tomorrow ( today ) instead as I was working on a project and wanted to finish it. So, this afternoon I gathered up a flat of replacements and the fertilizer and a trowel and my drink. Just as I was about to leave, I asked Mark, "How do you fertilize with all of the bark around the plants? Do you sprinkle it on top of it?" Now the jig was up. Mark said, "Oh no, you have to pull the bark away from each plant (around 50 of them) and pull back the weed cloth and put the fertilizer down" Ugh! That ruined my joy of going off on a job. I said, "See you tomorrow I guess." I knew this was going to be an unpleasant task. While I planted and fertilized the replacement plants, I considered just mussing up the bark around the other plants and dumping the fertilizer in a dumpster somewhere. Who would know? I could just continue down the road about three miles to China Beach State Park and take a walk or watch the birds. I considered it for about a half of a minute and then I gritted my teeth and got back to work.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Finally We See Diana

For the last longest time when someone would call asking to speak with Diana, I would say that I hadn't seen her since Christmas. That was almost true. I did see her once since then though that was just briefly. When Diana and Terry bought the nursery three years ago, she worked every Sunday. She didn't have any experience but she learned quickly. She never did do any watering with the hose..not that I blame her, but she did seem at ease with the customers and learned quickly. One day she asked me to teach her how to make mossed baskets. Hers turned out fairly nice and I think we actually were able to sell it, but she never made another. I like Diana. I told Mark today that it was nice that we worked in the nursery before they owned it. Since they had to ask for our help so much back then, we really don't have the traditional "owner intimidation" feelings while we are around them. Both Ms. Terry and Rita, another ex-employee, didn't like working for her as they said she was too bossy. Well, at her real job Diana is a bank vice president. That is how she comes off to some people, I guess, but I never think of her as anything other than like a co-worker. Diana's mother, Reiko, is always friendly whenever I see her (at the Christmas party) too. Diana had a Caucasian father and has a Japanese mother. Today, I had been once again readying the inside of the store for the holidays. I had been at it all morning and at about 3 PM I decided I needed to take a break. I heated up the tea pot. We have a box of various teas in the office and I had shown Mark my choice. I was going to bravely try the brocolli tea. It was pretty good actually. I hadn't sat down for more than two minutes when Diana, who had apparently parked on the side of the building, slipped in and surprised us. Mark said, "Who is that?" "I have no idea!" I said. I continued to sit and drink my liquid brocolli and said, "Mark, here I take a break for the first time in five years and sit down with a cup of tea and the owner comes in!" Mark said, " Yeah, Tia never takes a real break!" I can't tell you how many hours Mark and I have stood behind that counter chewing over our lives enjoying a break on our feet. I will miss that as much as the little nursery.

Monday, November 07, 2005

And On It Goes

Marks comes in late on Mondays. When he began the "come in late plan," it was supposedly to allow him to work on design plans at his home. He would avoid the rush hour traffic and work there and then meander in around noon when it had lightened up. It wouldn't be a problem as I always work on Mondays and it is usually slow then also after the weekend. I just tell any caller asking for him that he will be in later and then take a message. Most regular customers know this by now. I think, though, that Monday mornings have transitioned into getting errands and this and thats done for him. Last week, he took his daughter for her on the road driver's test. Today, he went for a haircut and to the grocery store. Whatever.
Yesterday, Mr. Terry came over to the the nursery. Zoom... around the corner flew his white pickup truck with the Z plus numbers on the side panel. He generally doesn't stop around on Sundays. I did a little chatting with him and a walk about so he could tell me what some of his thoughts were for things to be done before the Christmas trees arrive. As I said, there is so much to prepare in the weeks before Thanksgiving. This morning, Terry called. He said he was sending six of the guys over to the nursery to help get whatever I wanted done and ( Wow!....Yay! ) to be ready for them. ( Right! ) They could stay about an hour. By the time they arrived, I had a plan. Two of them began to use the leaf blower to clean the nursery itself. It has been windy and lots of debris was on the ground. I then put two of them to work in the "attic." I call the least used area of the nursery, in the far back corner, either the attic or the back forty. First, they had to move several empty pallets and rake up the area. Then, they began to move all of the remaining roses from this past season. They have been sitting on prime property at the front of the nursery, in the sun, all summer. I think there were around 65 roses to relocate. While they did that task, the two others began moving terra cotta flower pots from the pot shed into the greenhouse where they would be out of the winter rains. Smaller less expensive pots were moved onto a large rack in the back by the greenhouse door. Once the rose job was completed I started those two guys on something else. By this time of year we have accumulated a huge pile of black plastic pots of various sizes. The landscaping crew brings back all empties from their install jobs. Customers bring emtpies back so they can be recycled. There are also hundreds of square flats on which we receive our annuals and perenneals. The one gallon containers and the flats can be returned for credit to our suppliers. We keep the five gallon containers to pot up our bare root roses in January. The containers that are larger than fives...the fifteens and twenties are set aside for repotting trees. Since Tom takes over the "pot heap area" we have to clean that out before he arrives. I set the two rose movers to that job. I showed them what was to be done and then I ran to check on the others. Checking is important when you have help who really don't understand 90% of what you are saying. The terra cotta guys were doing great, so I went back to help the plastic pot guys. I climbed up onto the heap and began pushing the long stacked pots down and they began the relocate them. By the time we were all finished, my helpers had been at the nursery for nearly two hours. ( Oops..sorry Terry..I just got into it ) There was more on my mind to do but they had to leave. At the end of the day though, Terry sent them back and asked if I could find something else for them to do for 45 minutes. ( Why, Sure! ) We have so many metal rolling racks. They were all inside the pot shed and I had the guys pull them all out and move them into the attic too. Now, I'm beginning to see the gleam of a dent in the Christmas prep. We're about 30 % there!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Tis The Season

Now is the time to ready ourselves for the Christmas holidays. It is just the beginning of November, but we are thinking about what we are going to do to accommodate the tree man. Every year, Don's Trees rents the majority of the nursery's space and it is helpful for us as the money earned pays nearly two months rent. Terry does not own the actual property on which we operate the little nursery. He rents it. There isn't a Don any more either. His nephew, Tom, runs the business now and they have sold trees at the nursery for about twenty years. Tom has a beautiful, new travel trailer that he will soon back up through the side gate and onto our property. Once the trees are delivered, Tom just lives in the trailer to watch over his tree investment until Christmas. Currently, our customers can drive in through our gates and park their cars at the nursery. Soon, they will have to park on the streets as every foot will have a tree standing or piled on it. In order for Tom to have space, we have to move two thirds of our plants, all of our pots and soil closer to our building. We also have to make room for the dozens of wreaths, candle rings, feet and feet of garland and baskets of mistletoe that the nursery sells besides. We sell hundreds of different colored poinsiettas. So, even as the nursery has seemed to settle down for the season..it just looks that way..Christmas is brewing!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Learn, Learn, Learn

Since I thought I might get my Lowe's job and it would be to my benefit to do so, I have been studying every night. Over the last five years, I have built up a pretty good, little library of gardening books here in my bedroom. I have books covering lawns, bulbs, vegetables, ponds, cacti, annuals and perennials. (Having a nursing background has always caused me to spell perennials as in perrineal) I have books on vines, trees and shrubs, roses, herbs, orchids and houseplants. Then, there are the many question and answer books, area specific books and gardening guides. As I was making so many hanging baskets and container gardens, there is also quite a variety of those to browse. From yearly book sales, I have gathered a stack of Sunset soft covered gardening books. One of the most useful, but not perfect, books is the Sunset Garden Book as it is specific for the west. I wish there were more color pictures in it. I have books stacked here, there and on each surface. For a while, whenever I lay down with a gardening book, I have felt a little nauseous. I think I'm tiring of this cramming. I am longing for my classics. I have read little for pure pleasure in over two months. The best book, I think, in my gardening library is The Ortho Problem Solver. About three years ago, the nursery got a new copy and Mark said I could take the old one home if I wanted to borrow it. I have really enjoyed having it. Today, I went to Home Depot for Mark and was looking at their NEW Ortho book. It was so nice...I was enjoying the pictures, etc. Then, I had a thought! I decided to ask Mark if he would order a new 2006 Ortho Book for me through the nursery. He said sure! These books cost around $200. retail. We should be able to get one for me at retail for $90. I looked at the copyright for the one I borrowed and it was 1989. The problem with not keeping up to date with reference books is that quite a few of the pesticides in mine have been banned in California since it was published. The new one will have everything current. Then, all I have to do is to turn and walk down the aisle and pick up the solution! (At Lowes)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Luigi's?

Yesterday Mark asked me to review the pricing for a big job we had just finished. He had the bill for the clients which had been broken down separately for the front yard and back yard. He also had his notes for the number and size of each plant and other related costs. Those costs also included sod, irrigation parts and labor. These customers also had a fountain installed and granite pavers. When Mark left to go check on the landscaping crew who were starting a new job, I made a cup of tea and pulled a stool up to the counter and sat down. Everything was coinciding so.. check.. check.. check. But, wait...what about the dump fee? I knew Mark had a huge amount for labor but did that include this? I circled it and put a question mark. I forgot to mention the "look over" yesterday when he returned, but this morning I told him it looked as if everything was charged. But, when I mentioned my wonderings about the one item, he looked blank for a few seconds and then said, "I forgot to add it..you're right!" He ran to recheck it and came back and said, "You just gave Terry $600. that I forgot about!" How about that! When Terry came in later and I was working nearby, Mark told him that I had picked up the error. Mark had already given Terry a copy and I suppose he needed to own the reason for having to redo the bill again. I read the bottom line for the work and the front yard had earned the nursery $21,000. and the back had earned $11,000. Yeah, he needed that extra 600!
Terry had come past to drop off a seed spreader for a customer and he said in a louder than usual voice, "The woman who works in Marin Landscape, who has always waited on me in the past, told me I wouldn't be seeing her there anymore. She will be leaving soon to start a new job in Rohnert Park. It is at some big place...ahh..it starts with L, I think!" I started laughing and said, "Luigi's?"

Monday, October 31, 2005

Marin-cess

That is what we call those girls who come into the nursery with the huge, sparkly diamond rings on the fingers. They drive fancy cars and have uncontrolled kids. Usually we see them when they come to see Mark regarding their landscape design project. I see them also when I go to their house to prune the plants they now own but will obviously not be tending. Currently, Mark is working with the record holding Marincess within our experience. We do the yard maintainance for the architect for Jennifer's new home in Mill Valley. She and her husband had hired a landscape designer and we had been contacted to supply the plants he would incorporate. This new home is quite large. It is over 5,000 sq. ft. housewise and the yard is equally as extensive. The whole front and back yard is surrounded by a stone fence. There is a huge fountain in the back yard and also one in the front. There are numerous doors around the house leading onto patios. There is a children's wing with playroom and courtyard which has a sunken trampoline. Not long after Mark began working with the designer, Jennifer decided she could not work with him. She felt his choices were not what she wanted and she asked Mark to take over and rework the design. At this point, about a fifth of the yard had already been planted. $35,000. had already been paid to the nursery for plants installed. She had also paid the original designer $15,000. for his work. Mark told me that he had told him that in his whole career as a designer that nobody had ever yelled at him and Jennifer had done so. He was an elderly man. Now, Jennifer wanted Mark to go over again everything that was planted and planned. All of the plants that she had agreed to and that had been planted were now to be replaced. She decided she liked the original plan for the section outside of her bedroom. I helped the guys load up the plants and took Mark's schematic and drove down to Mill Valley. We hauled all the plants behind her house and I set each one in place according to the plan. It was late in the day and the guys started down the next morning to plant them. Within an hour, Jennifer called and said she didn't like any of these plants and she wanted them removed. She also was going on vacation in a few days and didn't want to deal with the planting until she returned. So, the guys had to put about 30 five gallon plants back into the truck and return them to the nursery. Mark was really annoyed. We are going to make so much money from this couple that you have to resist getting angry. We are also doing yard maintainance for them. In the time since the first plants were planted, no one has taken any care of them. Last week, I went to the house to prune them and to fertilize. I finally found the way to the front door. I had left a message on Jennifer's cell telling her I was coming. As the bell was hanging out by a wire, I knocked. I had spoken briefly to her on occasion but had not seen her. Of course, she was very young..about 33 and blond. I spoke to her briefly and then went around to the yard. Passing the garage, I noticed a Mercedes, a Volvo, a Hybred and a Lamborghini in the garage. I had asked Mark what did the husband do for a living. He didn't know but he said he was much older and never seemed to be at work. Not long after I was there, I saw the back of him as he prepared to go biking. He wore the traditional tight biker's attire and had the skinny look I've seen on those folks. It was trash day also and I snooped to see what kind of shoe boxes were stacked there..pricey ones..$160. a pair kinds. Whenever Marincesses or Mar-kings come by we always say, "wonder where he gets his money?"....we always look at each other and say at the same time..."DRUGS!"

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

About Karen

Just in case I haven't told you about Karen, I will write a brief entry about her. I think Karen is in her late forties. She has been a customer ever since I began working at Cal Bay. Her husband is a dentist and from what Mark says he told him, counts George Lucas as a patient. We have always delivered fertilizers, soil and plants to the house. Karen calls and tells us what she wants and the guys drop it by and place it beside the back gate. Since they always spend large amounts of money for yard supplies, we don't charge a delivery fee. Each year since I was hired I have made a spring and a winter mossed basket for Karen. The first couple of years, before I started packing the phone, her name and request would just appear in my work binder. Later, I began recognizing her voice whenever she would call. She always said how much she loved the baskets and would thank me profusely. She has a soft, breathy voice and she always apologizes for requesting too much, etc. I always have to assure her that whatever she needs is not a problem for us. When I told Mark that I thought Karen was one of our nicest customers, he told me he thought so also. He said he had never met her face to face. She never directly answers the phone. She doesn't answer the doorbell. For the last couple of years, Mark has received a huge, fancy food basket for Christmas. Last year I asked who it was from and he said Karen. I had never thought much about it..he always said to take whatever I wanted from them. Much to my surprise, a day later a package came for me from Karen. It was a beautiful painted chocolate bowl and I was told that it was made by a very expensive chocolatier in San Francisco. I kept it to admire for a long time and then finally gave in and ate and shared it. It was wonderful! So, in the early spring I told Mark that this year I was going to work to earn a Christmas basket instead. Each time I spoke to Karen, I was especially friendly and helpful. I assured her that she was never a bother. When I made her mossed basket, I felt it was the nicest one I had ever made. I was going to have the guys deliver it on Tuesday afternoon. I called and left a message for Karen that it would be hung in it's usual spot by the end of the day. When I came to work the next day, the basket was still hanging where I left it. I asked Mark about it and he said that Karen had apparently had a stroke and she was in the local hospital's ICU and was actually blind. I told Mark that how ironic it was that I finally made her basket and even though it would go to her house eventually, she wouldn't be able to see and appreciate it. Well, she finally did go home, and she recovered her sight and did get to see it. She told me how she loved looking out the window with it there. Later, a friend of her's who was a sales rep for a plant company stopped by the nursery. I heard her asking Mark about the mossed basket at the house. She wondered who had made it and she said it was the nicest one she had ever seen. Mark said I had made it. I'm still hoping for the basket, but another bowl would be smiled upon also.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Landscaping End Of It

I've been working with several of our landscaping customers to correct problems that they have in their yards. These problems could be the simple replacement of a one gallon plant or replacement of many plants that have either died or proved to be plants that were, on second thought, not what was desired. Yesterday and today, I worked with Laurencio and Manny on a job in Novato. Mark had actually designed the plan for the clients and we installed it about two years ago. There were several things that needed to be done in this yard. Approximately 25 Armeria had rotted out in the centers and needed to be removed. This is just what this plant does over time. We were replacing 17 of them with new Armeria and the others would be replaced by a groundcover of pink and yellow Gazanias. Gazanias look like daisies except they grow only about six inches above the soil. Then, what was to appear to be a stream during the winter's rainy season, needed to have six large, red fountain grass removed. They had so overgrown the area that the stream bed and all other smaller plants had been hidden from sight. Three of these grasses were to be replanted on the property. After all of the work was completed, a new layer of shredded bark was to be put down. Yesterday, I went to the work site and spoke with the husband. I listened to what he and his wife wanted done once again. Then, I placed the new plants and explained to the guys what was to be done. I stayed there for an hour and then left for home. Today, I drove right to the work site to see how they were coming along. The old Armeria were out and the new in place. The grasses were all out except one and the general look was improved. I called Mark to tell him that I was there and to say I was planning to do some pruning before the bark was placed. He said the husband had been at the nursery already this morning complaining about the Armeria. His wife thought they were already rotting in the centers. Laurencio told me he removed a couple of the Armeria and planted them deeper so they would have more support and I thought they looked fine. Then, for the next three hours I trimmed around the many large boulders which were being obscured from view by the trailing Lantana. I cleaned up the Flax and the remaining grasses. By the time I finished, it was 1:30. The guys wanted to go to lunch and so did I. Everything looked satisfactory to my eye and so away I went back towards the nursery. Mark and I had decided to have Chinese food today and I stopped nearby to pick that up. He said it had been "dead" there all morning and that Mr. Terry had told him to cut more hours. He said Jeanie would have her hours cut first. As he told me this, I opened my fortune cookie. It said, "You are headed in the right direction." (Lowes)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Some Catch Up

Remember Caesar? He was the maintainance crew employee who was fired. Because of his trying to build a personal clientele from our customers, I had to call each one to warn that he might approach them with the offer of cheaper service. Mr. Terry had to take part of the day to drive to Santa Rosa to attend a scheduled meeting with him and the Labor Board. Caesar wanted to be compensated for not being given any lunch time or breaks. He didn't show. So..case dropped..but Terry was annoyed, of course.
Remember the customer who I make the mossed baskets for and who had the stroke? Did I mention that we have never seen her and she has just been a voice on the phone? We just deliver plants and products for her and leave them by the garage. If you call her on the phone, she never answers and you have to leave a message. She will listen and then return your call almost immediately. This morning she called and softly asked for a few items and said her gardener would be there tomorrow. I gathered them and would have had some of the guys deliver them but as I was going past her house on my way home, I decided to drop them off. Just as I pulled into her driveway, I saw the back of her in the garage and she quickly went into the house. Hanging up above the dryer were four long robes. I guess that is all she is wearing these days. So, I missed seeing Karen's face. Mark has never seen her either. I was almost going to be able to say, "Mark, you won't believe it..I actually saw Karen!"
So, we found out that the long awaited store going into our Bell Market space is going to be an All A Dollar Store. We are all disappointed. There is a retirement village place nearby and Mark thinks they feel the market will come from them. Marin County is so upscale that it will be considered slumming for most residents.
Jackson and Perkins just refunded us for the roses that we lost to the downy mildew! Mark said he got a credit for over $500. That is great for us! So, now that we don't have to feel resentful, we could order more for next year. We are just getting a minimum amount in our order of 150 mostly new and popular varieties. So, today Mark and I chose them and faxed in the order. Problem is that generally I have our order in by July and it is likely that the majority of the newest varieties will have been spoken for and we will have to chose alternatives. Oh Well.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

You Never Know!

After a while you start to recognize certain people coming into the nursery. One couple in particular has been customers for almost two years from my recollection. The wife always has a look on her face that has made me refer to her as "that lady with the sour puss." Everyone knows who I'm talking about when I say it. I've never asked her real name. She usually is unhappy about something that is going on in her garden and I had never seen her smile. I just try to get her what she needs so she can be on her way. She isn't very old..I'd say around forty or so with greying limp hair and a not cared about body shape. Her husband is quite attractive, I think, tall and fit. He always smiles and seems positive compared to her. Today, Ms. Terry came over to the little nursery to pick up her pay check. I asked her if she had anything worthwhile lingering in her refridgerater to drink. She had brought over a pitcher of raspberry iced tea and we were standing behind the counter enjoying it and a gossipy conversation. Over her shoulder, I saw the sour puss. She was having insect problems and after fixing her up, I was cashing her out. She started saying that her husband was outside and that he was quite happy today. He apparently had put together a short film presentation that had led to him being hired to make it into a larger one. He would be going somewhere for two weeks to work on it. I was thinking director. I didn't ask any more questions; but when I saw him outside, I said congradulations on your upcoming project. As I walked over with him to his van, I was looking at some writing on the sides of it and asked him what it meant. Painted on the sides were the words.....24 days, 24 states, 24 photographs. He said he had traveled across the country to Florida taking a picture in each state and he had taken this van. I thought that was a pretty cool idea. I was about to ask him how he chose an interesting spot or subject of which to take a picture, but his wife came out. I noticed that there was a web site.. the beautyproject.com written on the van also and asked if I would be able to look at his pictures there and he said yes. His wife said they had a cd of the short film in the van and he dug around and brought one out and gave it to me. I said thanks and I would look at it. Now, I come home and the cd won't work. Heck! But, then I remember the website. So.. Guess what? It's night, nude photography! I'd be sour myself if my cute husband was running around doing "art shots" of naked women for a living! Now, whenever she comes in, she won't have to smile, but I WILL!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Promises, Promises

Today I had to go over to two of our maintainance customer's houses with the crew. We are always having problems with these guys! Terry told me last evening that he had placed an ad for a landscaping foreman who is bilingual. Boy, do we ever need one! Terry just does not have the time to direct these guys. It would have been a job I could have enjoyed. They would not have parted with me from the nursery though. One of the visits today was actually in response to a client's complaints. She was considering dropping us and Mark thought that if I went over to talk to her it might help. I followed the guys over to her house, right after lunch, in north Novato. They started right up on the yard work trying to look like the perfect worker bees. I sat in my car for a minute and noted the time on my clipboard. It was 1:15 The client said she would like to reduce her maintainance time to a half an hour from the hour of work she was having done on prior visits. The guys do the lawn and cleanup and, supposedly, some pruneing. I went up and rang the bell and Mrs. Simon invited me to come inside. Nice lady. She asked me how long did I think it should take to cut the lawn in front. Since I have had lots of experience cutting my own lawns, I knew it would take me from five to ten minutes once the lawnmower was fired up. She said that one time she watched them fiddling around out there and it had taken an hour. Geez, the goof offs! Then, we went through the house and into the backyard. She had a nicely landscaped hillside. I liked it. Mark had apparently done the design work a couple of years ago. There was nothing so fancy. There were phormium, lavender, rockrose, rosemary, convolutus and crepe myrtle trees to name a few of the plants. Some of them didn't look quite healthy. The lawn was also small back there. She said the crew did a good job cross cutting the grass. She said they didn't do any real pruning to speak of though. I told her that she was probably lucky that they didn't. They are incapable of deciding what to cut and what to leave alone. So, I went around and noted what she wanted taken care of and walked around with Hill to tell him what to do next time. At this point there were ten minutes left in the thirty. I asked whether any of the plants had received regular fertilizing and she said they had not. She also said her soil was quite clayish and she has had gophers in the past. No wonder there were starting to be problems. I said she should think about the fertilizing becoming a routine event to protect her plant investment and I would call to ask her if she wanted the guys to bring some next visit or if she wanted to apply it herself. I told her that I would write up a summary of the problems I saw and would speak to Mark when I got back to the nursery. Mrs. Simon pointed out her few rose bushes and I said I would be back to cut them in January. But, I knew I wouldn't.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Terry Being Funny

The phone rang at 9:30. I answer.. "Cal Bay Nursery..This is Tia." I have had to be careful saying Cal Bay since the time I said Cow Bell Nursery. I always have the feeling that those same words are lurking under my tongue waiting to arise and escape into the phone. The man on the other end and I both had a good laugh and he asked if we also sold milk there. Nope. This man asked, "Hello, is this Lowes?" Naive me..I said, "Uhh..no, this isn't Lowes. This is California Bay Nursery." Being interested in all things "Lowes" currently, I then said that there wasn't a Lowes around there. He asked if Mark was there. I said that Mark didn't come in until noon on Mondays and who was calling. He said Terry. Terry the owner. I hadn't even recognized his voice after hearing the L word. Terry said he was just "jerking my chain." He did that alright. Jeez, I felt taken. So then I said, "You know I applied for a job at Lowes don't you Terry?" He answered that yes he did..Mark had told him. And then I asked if he knew I had gotten it. He said yes. I said I really loved the little nursery, but after five years the commute was getting to be too much. He said he understood that completely. He was nice. I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to work and learn at Cow Bell.

Monday, October 17, 2005

In Rememberance Of The Big Band Days

Novato High School is constantly putting the touch on us. Last Wednesday a couple of students came into the nursery asking if we rented or would loan plants. They wanted to decorate the stage for an award ceremony for homecoming weekend. I told them that we did and to look around and see if anything caught their fancy. They decided on a couple of canary palms. They picked them up on Friday and returned them on Saturday afternoon. Today, another person representing a fund raiser also at the high school came asking to borrow plants again. I guess the word traveled. This time the event was The Starlight Big Band Evening. She said that it was put on each year and was very popular. Attendees are encouraged to come in costume. I saw on the flyer the mention of swing dancing. I assume the "in costume" means forties and fifties clothes. She said a really good band would be playing for the dancers. As she was writing out her name and phone number, I said, " I guess I will tell you of my experience with the big bands." So, I commenced. I grew up in South Jersey. We lived seven miles from Atlantic City. Every year at Easter we would get dressed up in our new clothes and go to Farmington Church. Afterward, we walked to town and caught the bus to the city. After an hour or so of strolling on the boardwalk, my mother would buy our tickets for the Steel Pier. The pier was the biggest attraction in the city when I was young. It extended quite a way out into the ocean and there were many different things to do on it after paying one general fee of entrance. At the very end was the water show with several circus like acts. There was a performance of high divers who dove from platforms into the ocean. There were trained seals. I liked them very much. In those days, I had never been to a zoo. The most famous attraction was the diving horse. These horses would climb several flights of stairs and when finally at the top, would jump down into a large tank of water. Just before the leap, a girl would climb on board. Out of the tank and after a huge splash, she would wave to the wildly cheering crowd. There was also a diving bell from inside which you could see what was happening under the ocean. The one time I went inside it, the water was too murky to see anything except sea weed. That was somewhat of a letdown as it had taken me many years to get the courage and extra fee it required to enter. There were two movie theatres which ran different movies all day and evening. Back then, I hadn't really been to that many movies and so it was a real treat. There was a hall of mirrors like in a fun house which I always looked forward to visiting. My favorite destination of all, however, was The Tony Grant's Stars of Tomorrow Theatre. Youngsters from all over the east would come there to perform. There were individual singers and dancers. There were large groups of performers. Anyone who was trying to show off any kind of talent came to that stage. I'm sure I must have seen many young people who became famous later in life on the Tony Grant stage. But, to get to the big band story... there was a very large ballroom on the pier. It was there that my mother always wanted to sit a while and listen to the music. We heard many famous bands..Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and Paul Whiteman to name a couple of them. I remember dancing around to the music as kids do while adults really danced up nearer the bandstand. Around 9 p.m., we would leave Steel Pier and walk to the Virginia Ave. bus terminal. There, we would be able to catch the last bus for Absecon and get off in Pleasantville and take a cab home. Later I would see the same band on TV and would say, "We saw them on the pier!" So, I guess though the Novato High event reminded me of the big bands I'd heard, it really reminded me of pleasurable times I'd had when I was growing up. It felt good

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Slide Into Resignation

So, yesterday I was down in Novato and decided to stop at the nursery to tell Mark. I think he forgot for a second because he was looking as if he wondered what I was doing there. And then I said, "I had the interview and they hired me." He looked slightly confused as to my meaning. That just lasted for an instant. He quickly asked, "Hired in what way?" I said, "I got a full time job." He looked deflated though just briefly. "Congratulations, I'm really happy for you!" he said. He understands fully how the commute wears one down. We have talked about it for years. He wanted to know how much longer I planned to work at Cal Bay. I know about his vacation at the end of November. I wouldn't leave before he could take the time off. Today, I decided my last day will be November 27. That will leave me a week between jobs. It will be a year before I can take any vacation days. And then, I will have two weeks off with pay. Cal Bay didn't pay for vacation or sick time. Since I work Mondays, I worked many holidays at a regular wage. There are few holidays off at the little nursery. Lowes gives all of the holidays and if you work them, you get time and a half and also an extra day. I intend to work holidays..I don't mind anymore.
I looked around with "new eyes" today. What could I get done before I leave the nursery? I always seem to have plans for some project or other. I decided that I would begin by painting the posts in the greenhouse. It would give that area a facelift and I doubt anyone else will paint. I began by taking down the two Pothos which were trailing across the beams. I had put them up there at the beginning of the summer and by now they were quite long..about ten feet. That took some patience! Then, I pulled all of the random nails from the posts. The paint is a French blue color. I have had it for several months but have been too busy to start the job. I was able to put a wash on two of the posts and there are three more to complete. It looks much improved already.
Already I can feel the disassociation and restlessness that comes when you are looking away from "home" and down the road to the next "home." Poor little nursery!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Meet A New Lowe's Employee!

Yep! I got the job!!! And not just a job, a full time one! Hooray! I've been so happy all day! I got up early and did all of the typical get- fixed- up items for females; the shower, make-up, and deciding what to wear. I had thought to wear standard work clothes for a nursery then changed my mind and wore a nice, linen outfit. I left early enough to get there with time to spare. The interview appointment was scheduled for 10:30. I sat for a while reading some Lowe's literature. The manager came out in about fifteen minutes and called me into the office. He was around forty years old and appeared to me to be of middle eastern descent. He was nice and professional. He asked how I came to apply for the job then asked if I was ready to work and if I would take a drug test today. He asked what salary I wanted. I said I would hope to make $12. per hour at least as I was currently making 14. He asked if I had any questions for him and I asked if he was the manager of the whole new store. He said yes. He had worked for Lowes in Fresno and he also worked as a traveling troubleshooter manager. He wanted to hire the best people for this store possible. There had been around 150 interviews so far and he had only hired 30 employees at this point. I asked if he had hired a manager for the garden center and he said yes. The man was currently the manager for our local Target's garden center. A woman had been hired to be a buyer also. He said the garden center was going to be very large...over 4000 sq. ft. He asked if I would have any problems helping customers choose patio brick or possibly loading soil. I do loading now. I can do that, no problem. I'd think I would have to do it there less than I have to at Cal Bay in the busy season. I'm sure there will be men around for large orders. Then he asked me the definitions of annual and perennial plants. (duh!) I have been brushing up for several weeks and that is all he asked. So, then he says, "Well, I'm hiring you contingent on the call of references and you will be full time and will be making $12.50 per hr. or about $1000. every two weeks. Welcome! You will be starting work on December 3rd. in the outdoor garden center" ( Yay!!! ) Then, the human resources person, Chris, came in and she had me sign a couple of release of info forms and did a saliva swab for drugs. She was nice. I said I was quite interested in the swab test having heard about them. She said they catch a wide variety of drugs from way back in time also. She laughed when I asked if they could go back to the sixties. That was my first and last marijuana fling. She said she would be contacting me in a week or two..and all of the employees would be attending an inservice the first week of December. Nick, who had interviewed me originally, came in to say hello and to tell me that he was happy to know I was hired and that he'd had only good things to say about me. He said he knew I would enjoy working for Lowes. I thanked him and said that I'm sure I would love it. Now I have to tell Mark.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

On Answering The Phone

I don't really like answering phones in general. The girls and I used to say we all were "phonophobes." I prefer talking face to face. I really have enjoyed having a cell phone of my own these last five years. I'd never had one in the past. Now, I can just receive calls that are specifically for me and I never have to answer the house phone. Until a few years ago, I didn't have to answer the phone at Cal Bay either because that was Mark's department. He knew all of the answers. Finally, he wised up and once again passed off the nuisance baton called phone. I must say that I can't blame him. Throughout the day it rings. I sigh. It rings. I have to stop what I'm doing and take off my gloves. I have to turn off and lay down the hose and answer it. Argh! Some days it rings fifty times. There are calls from our suppliers, our crediters, people asking our hours and people asking for directions. There are endless calls from people asking if we have this or that and also the price of whichever. There are calls from our maintainance clients who are having problems that need to be addressed. There are calls from people asking for design consultations. There are calls from the sales department of who knows what, and likely based in New Delhi. The phone makes me feel always potentially intruded upon and when at the end of the day I can take it off and boot it into it's charger for the night I feel immensely lighter. I have a rule for myself regarding the phone. After five thirty, I don't answer it. Sometimes, when it rings at five thirty five, I wonder if it is the owner; but I still don't answer it. I'm out of there if you can't see that I'm in there. Today I was closing up alone and the phone rang. It was 5:28. I knew the rule but darn, I answered it! A man spoke saying he had earlier checked our closing time and was told it was 5:30 and he was parked nearby. Hmmm... He said he wanted to bring back a bonsi that he had bought several weeks ago that had died. ( really!... check )
When he said several weeks ago, I said that if it had been that long he would need to have the manager inspect it to see what the problem was in order to get a refund and he was not there. ( good one... check ) He said that he had spoken to Mark yesterday and thought he would be there today and since he works late every day and he had come home a little early today especially to bring it. ( ugh!... check ) I said that I had already closed down the register for the day and couldn't give a refund. ( ha!... check ) He said he would just choose another in an equal exchange. (Geez!... check) So I told him to come to the back gate and come in and he thanked me and did so. He brought the plant and it was stone dead...obviously hadn't been watered correctly... leaves crisp all over..yet soil wet. I simply said it looked as if it hadn't been watered and he said he had several bonsi and knew how to care for them. ( ahuh ... check ) He felt that there wasn't enough soil to support it. I said they don't plant them in a lot of soil. I wanted to go home and didn't want to get into a dance regarding what he thought and what I thought so I said to go choose another. ( check mate for two ) Next time the phone rings just as I'm about to leave...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Really Roses

I've gotten pretty good at pruning. Of course, there have been many times that I wished in hindsight that I hadn't cut a particular branch. Sometimes I have been too impulsive. I'm trying to slow down with the snip, snip, snip. (Oops!!) It takes plenty of practice and some mistakes to learn as with most things in life. One of my least favorites to prune is a climbing rose. Most clients don't want to deal with them. They are beautiful and I can understand having one, but I just don't want to climb up into an arbor and attempt to train one. They never seem happy for your company.
On the other hand, I do enjoy pruning bush roses. Roses have actually become a favorite plant for me even though I don't have one of my own. When a customer asks me how many roses I have in my garden, I say, "This is my rose garden." Until coming to work at Cal Bay, I didn't know a thing about them. We used to have lovely, pink roses across the whole side fence of our home in Kentucky. I never did a thing for them. In two years, they were never pruned or fed..poor things. Actually, they thrived! Now, I am a "rose specialist." Every year I choose the varieties for the little nursery. Last year we had 600 of them. Roses need specific care. Each January ours arrive as bare root plants. We then pot them up into five gallon containers. Both sides of our front area are lined up with them. We then spray them with a dormant season oil spray. About mid-February, I begin to prune them. I bring a small stool and work day after day getting them into the correct shape. I eliminate a cane that rubs across another and those that grow straight up in the center of the plant. I try to leave the plant with a minimum of three and no more than five canes with an airy center being the desired goal. When they begin to leaf out, we start fertilizing them with a rose specific fertilizer once each month. Then, we begin the watch for the funguses that eventually appear. The most common ones are black spot, rust and white powdery mildew. They are easy to spot as they look exactly like their names. This past year, however, a not often one made an appearance. It was downy mildew. Downy mildew hit every nursery in the county. The first mentioned three are treated with a fungicide and everyone just sprays their roses and deals with it over the summer. The funguses appear after a wet spring. With them, just the leaves are affected. The downy mildew affects roses by creating a die back in the cane and the leaves almost appear to melt. We lost over 150 roses to downy mildew in the early summer. The annoying thing about it was that it came in with one of our two suppliers. We contacted them several times and they have just ignored our request for them to give us credit for the loss. They are the largest supplier of roses out this way...Jackson and Perkins. They really don't care when we say we won't be ordering from them next year. Mark had to go somewhere and buy a wonder drug to spray the whole bunch of roses and finally they seemed to overcome the fungus. We had to lower the price to sell what remained but today I counted them and there were less than 70 left. Mark says next year we will only order around 150 instead of 600. Fine by me...I estimate that in five years I have pruned over 2,500 roses. I don't ALWAYS get it RIGHT but I can say that I'm feeling somewhat competent.

Monday, October 10, 2005

On Discussing Salary

I don't mean MY salary..I mean salaries in general. Sometimes I feel really proud about what I earn an hour. But, my thinking on the subject is skewed by remembering what I made years ago when "I was really working." (as a nurse) I've often said how amazing it is to me now to be earning more working part time in a nursery than I made working full time in a hospital. Of course, that was thirty three years ago. I made at my highest rate $9,900. per year at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Buffalo, N.Y. At the little nursery, an average of three days per week pays nearly $20,000. per year. I know it is due to cost of living raises. Fine by me. The point of this entry is likely not what you think. Today, Chano was admiring a basket that I was working on and he asked me how much it would cost to buy one. I replied that the price would be around $65. He said that Terry would be making lots of money from my work. I had ten of these baskets completed at that time. I said that I supposed he would. Then, Chano asked me how much did I make an hour. Once again the "how much" question was being raised. The first year I worked at Cal Bay a young, Hispanic employee had asked me the same question. Then I was so happy to be earning ten dollars an hour that I just answered honestly. Ricardo was a member of the landscaping crew back then. These guys start early in the day prepping yards that sometimes are nearly solid clay. They work on very warm days and also on cold ones. They work transporting plants and planting them. This type of work is ill tolerated by 99% of Americans. It is a job that is almost totally performed here by Hispanic Americans. These guys are happy to have any job. There is so much competition for jobs like these in landscaping because it is not so much education that is involved as there is having experience. Once a job is landed, they can start getting work experience. The pay really isn't what you would expect for them as compared to the hard work they do. When I told Rick that my pay was ten an hour..he said his was eight. I felt badly. I felt so badly that I vowed to never again tell anyone what I earned and I have not. Suddenly, I had to give Chano an answer and so I said, "What do YOU make?" He said $10.50. Now, I really felt badly again. I just said that I made a little more. He asked if I made twenty dollars an hour. I said, "no, no...I don't even make fifteen dollars!" (Geez, Tia!) Luckily, Mark walked up and so once more I vowed to not speak of salaries again.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Mossed Baskets Are History.

When I started working at Cal Bay, Mark passed the mossed basket torch to me. I've tried since to hand it off to someone else or to at least share the joy (me being slightly sarcastic) of it. It always seemed that either the person just couldn't get how to make it or how to make a basket that was saleable or they would begin to get the hang of it and then they would resign. Ugh! Mark has often said that I have surpassed the teacher but there is still something about his baskets that I respect. He has an eye for design and color. He will occasionally make one when he has free time but that is infrequently. There were years when these baskets were hot items. I made about 65 of them one year. They are so time consuming, however, that we have had to raise the price and they are currently going for $110.00 each. When I first began making them, they were $79.00. I think the owners felt they had a "cash cow" in me. They wanted me to stand there every work day making them. And that is how my joy dissipated. There were a few times when I would work for an hour and a half on one of them and as I was finishing the top, the chain would break and it would all tumble out on the floor. I would say that happened at least six times. Count to ten? I can count to a zillion by now. Nothing to be done except to begin again. Recently, Mark showed me an ad in a magazine with a picture of a new way to deal with these darlings. A company in Utah has begun to manufacture a variety of plastic pots that will improve my hanging basket humor. I think they call them Bloom Pots. The pots come in quite a few sizes and colors. They have pre-cut round holes in the sides whose edges tilt back into the pot in order to hold the soil. They also come with the hanger. Today I made eight of them in a comparatively short time. Whereas a mossed basket takes me about an hour and a half minimum, I was able to make one of these baskets in about 20 minutes. Once the flowers have grown out, they will look quite similar. The plastic basket takes less plants and less time and costs less money and will probably hold water better. Besides making pots, the company also makes window boxes. The examples in their literature were impressive. The manager of The Inn of Marin has already asked me if I would make several to hang from the wrought iron fence around their pool. They should actually be fun to construct now that there is no moss involved.
I don't think I will try anymore to teach someone else how to make these hanging creations. They are so easy...a child could make one. Really!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Second Reconnaissance of Home Depot

Well that's what it is... "a preliminary survey of an area; an exploratory military survey of an enemy territory." Pretty much covers the intent, I'd say. I had a couple of things to do over that side of town; and so after I did my Lowes drive-by, I headed to Home Depot. BTW, as an update, they were preparing the Lowes parking lot. Lettering still was not on the building. Home Depot's parking lot was jumping! They recently did some work on the place and are now having a "Re-Opening Event." I smell the fear of Lowes in the air. Once at my garden area destination, I glanced over the outdoor display of plants again. When I was growing up, my dad owned a pretty large field that separated my cousins' home from down where we lived. It was always covered with tall, yellow flowers. I used to like to pop the buds open. We also tried to rig the stem to push the bud off to see how far it would fly. I never did know their name, but I recognized them there as being Coreopsis. We only had the yellow variety in the field but I saw they also came in pink and a dark rose. Pretty! I was impressed to see that the ponds had been emptied and that previously untidied areas had been made customer friendly. Points for that! And, something that we do not have at our nursery that I didn't see the last time was PRO-18 annuals. A good idea too...annuals in a flat containing 18 plants..they sold for $12.97. Hey! Wait a minute...I just did the math and that isn't such a bargain! Cute looking flat..but if you bought three jumbo packs at $3.29...which would then contain 18 plants..the price would be $9.87...hmmmm... sneaks! I looked around an outside corner in the back and saw products I hadn't realized were there on the last visit... hoses, various hose attachments and wheelbarrows and carts. Nice assortment. Across the aisle were the fertilizers. I'd forgotton about fertilizers. There were lawn fertilizers and general houseplant and garden fertilizers. I was just settling down to look them over. When I came into the store, one of the things I intended to do was to note whether or not or how many times a salesperson asked if I needed any help. And, also, I was going to observe what the people working there were doing to busy themselves. I was going to try to eavesdrop on the type of questions customers asked and what answers were given. First off, no one at all asked if I needed any help and I didn't hear anyone asking anyone at all if they needed help. I've heard that was typical at this type of store. At the little nursery, we "Can we help you?" the second their foot hits the ground out of their car. I saw a station where some employee had been scan marking prices but it was at that time unattended. I checked my watch to see if it was still lunch hour but it was past two by then. I guess checking inventory and making sure prices are current are important. Other than the people at the registers, I only saw one other employee. This was an interesting observation for me. I'd been wondering how much did I need to know or how much did they know that I didn't know in order to have a job there. As I was looking at the fertilizers, an older man who had apparently tracked down someone to help him walked nearby me in the aisle. He said to her, "I'm looking for 0-10-10." The employee was around my age. She walked up and down looking and then said "I've never heard of that." I was so happy to hear her say that! 0-10-10 is the most common fertilizer of the dormant season! ELEMENTARY! She tried to switch him but he said no he would look around. I had to bite my tongue to not comment..but when she left, I caught up with the man and I told him where I thought he could buy it. I don't know everything, but I know some things!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Hooray! I Get A Call!

Geez they said I wouldn't be hearing from them for quite a while; but, this afternoon the phone rang and it was Lowes! The woman, Marla whom I had spoken with the other times while at the employment office, was setting up the interviews. She asked whether I was still interested in coming in for employment. (Heck yeah!) The manager will be conducting the second interviews next week. I told her that I had been cruising by the store a couple of times a week to check on the building progress and I may as well stop in there on a passby. The truth is that I have been driving by wondering where the garden center would be located. It is a very large store. It is much larger than the Home Depot here in Rohnert Park. There are outdoor, product looking areas on both ends of the building. Recently there has appeared shade cloth over one part that has me thinking that I have spotted my future. They also painted that large blue area around the door and I suppose the LOWES may also be written by now. Marla said I could come for my interview on Wed. at 3 or 4:30 pm. I said I could be there if necessary but that I would be dirty. So instead of Wednesday, I chose to go over there on Thursday at 10:30..the first interview of that day. Thursday is my day off. I am so looking forward to this!
Last week, Mark told Terry that I had applied at the new Lowes. He said he told Terry that my looking around was partly a result of his cutting my hours, etc. Terry apparently said, "it has been a slow season." Mark said that he told him that may be but next season may be much better and you have to think of that. What he meant was that I would be missed if I left and someone randomly hired would be expected to quickly learn what I do about that specific nurseries methods. Even though I have hopes to get the Lowes position, Mark and I are outlineing plans for improvement at the little nursery for spring.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

In Appreciation of a Comp

When I started at the little nursery, there was a Bell Market just across the street. Bell is one of those small, older markets that seem to struggle to stay open. Well, one day the manager over there told us it would be going out of business within six weeks. We were somewhat surprised because there had been quite a bit of building in the area recently, and we had ourselves been looking forward to increased business. But, close they did! They said that they felt someone else would be taking over in their space quite quickly. I told Mark that in my opinion we should lay in a supply of toilet tissue and wait it out. I believe that was back in March, and it is now October and the store is still sitting empty. There have been so many rumors...Trader Joe, Whole Foods, Apple Market and Gala.... on and on. I finally have lost interest. Other stores right around us have also gone out of business. One day we had an oil change/car wash behind us and the next day it was like a ghost town. An Asian restaurant came and went before I could get my order delivered.
Anyhow...today, Mark asked if I had brought my lunch. No..I'm trying to cut a few calories. Instead, I stopped for breakfast at the Starbucks off Rowland and got a grande, white chocolate mocha (with whipped cream) and a low fat, apple cranberry muffin and read the book reviews in the New York Times. I hadn't planned to add to that calorie heap. I knew he was hungry so I just said "Okay..what do you want?" Options are currently few for places from which to order. There's a place over by the Safeway, Johnny's Java, that makes great wraps and we can fax in the order; and we share it and the price. Wraps are huge!
Instead..I said "Why don't we try Ricky's?" Ricky's is the restaurant at the Inn of Marin, and it's kind of upscale. It is basically across the street and around the bend. The thing about Ricky's is that Mark did the landscape design for them when it opened around a year ago and Cal Bay did the install. Plus, for the past few years I have made hanging, mossed baskets that they have placed on the property. I'm talking twelve of them. The owners, John and Robert, often stop in at the nursery for plants for the Inn of Marin which is a fairly large motel that also is over there. When the restaurant opened, Mark and I were invited to the festivities but we, being of the "get dirty and sweaty all day" type of folk, didn't attend. Later, Robert was nice and selected a variety of the foods and brought them over to us. Everything was pretty good too. But, back to the lunch today... Mark said he would like a hamburger and fries but didn't want to pay ten dollars for it. I said I would share the cost and the fries only and would like to see what Ricky's was like inside anyhow. It's a pretty fancy place...nice furniture, muted lighting and sharp looking personnel. I ordered the burger (while dressed in my not a cute outfit but instead work clothes) and stood to the side to wait. The hostess rang up the tab and it was $12.99. Whoa, more than Mark imagined even! Oh well. So, before I paid in came the cook and I suddenly realized that she was a customer whom I'd waited on several times. I had given her hefty discounts as she'd told me that she was the cook over here. I said "Hey, Sue...Mark and I decided to have lunch from you...can we get a discount?" People are always trying to put the touch on me for discounts! She came over and whispered, "Hi Tia...You don't have to pay. I'll comp you for lunch today." (!!!!!!!!!!!!) LOVE IT! I thanked her and took my to go bag and zipped back and plunked down Mark's twenty bucks and I said to Mark's dropped jaw "We're not paying today Mark! We've been comped!"

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Holiday Decorating Season Begins.

Well, it is October and so an effort must be made to get with it and decorate. I've enjoyed decorating since I was a little girl. I would look forward to dragging out the old decorations and making new ones too. It was entertaining for me to paint holiday ceramic items also. When I was in that phase, that is pretty much all I would ever be interested in making. I had (and have) many years worth of decorations in storage. It used to be pleasurable for me when my girls lived at home to dress up our home and to create traditions for our family. I also worked for a couple of years as a volunteer in North Dakota in the V.A. Hospital. I decorated the cafeteria for each holiday and season. They gave me a budget and I thought it was great fun. I designed and cut out lots of leaves of different sizes in fall colors that twirled on string that hung from the ceiling. I made hearts in descending sizes of mixed reds and pinks. Easter eggs and bunnies found their way to the hospital also. I'm sure the staff and the patients appreciated it.
So now, it is all of this experience that I bring to our nursery. Today, I hit Walmart at 9:am.
A scarecrow with purple pants was #1 up on my list. Scarecrows are a priority for the fall. He was cheap too...$6.50. I like cheap but cute. Then, I bought chains and chains of fall colored leaves to wind here and there. Two items that I've found to be very useful for this work are vinyl placemats and tablecloths. They are way reasonable to buy and can be used in so many ways. I found three large maple leaf placemats in fall colors that I simply stapled to the wall behind my display. Looked great! I had started out by removing pastel pots and bringing together all of the orange, yellow and green pots. I expected our vendor, Ron, today who supplies us with our bromiliads. This popular houseplant is available with yellow, orange or red blooms. So, they were just what was needed to include in the setup. I cut the tablecloth to cover a table in the gift area and the surface under the bromiliads. I'm not quite finished with "my vision" ...a few pumpkins and bales of hay will be worked into the brew.
Displays are fun for me to think up and create. So.. Boo!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Never Guess Ages

I'm am just not good at guessing ages. I'm also not good at remembering that I am not good at guessing ages. Putting my foot in my mouth is so easy to do in regard to this subject.
Today a customer came in and asked if we would donate a gift certificate to a fund raiser at a local church. Heck.. yes I would. Terry gave me free rein to hand out those $25.00 gift certificates and as soon as some one says, " blah, blah, blah, and would you donate..." before the dona is out of their mouth, I say "absolutely!" Any cause will do for me. So, after making it out and just chatting with her, she said something about being a well along senior. I was going to put a bag of compost into her car and so as I was walking along with her I asked her age. Except, I said "So how old are you 76 or 78?" She said "No, I'm not that old!" (Oops!) Then, I really looked at her and said "You are about 64 aren't you?" She was 66. Then, I was scrambling around for some "make up" conversation.... "My sister is a year and a half older than I am and I teased her unmercifully when she was turning 60 and now the joke is on me as she gets the senior discounts and I'm so jealous!" (right!) And, this one was true... "We started to give senior discounts at our nursery because our competition had a Senior Tuesday Discount Day..10% off. But, Mark was getting tired of the old ladies getting so angry with him for offering them the senior discount that he discontinued it." Very few of them wanted that discount..they didn't want to be reminded that they were seniors even if it saved money. So now we only give it if someone asks if we give senior discounts. Do you think I learned some kind of a lesson today? Nah, likely not! And, I wouldn't want that discount either.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

I'd Like to Bag That Santa Ana!

I used to enjoy wind. The pleasant breeze as you sit outside reading or lying on the beach...ahhh. The way it fingers through your hair like a massage from an invisible loved one...ahhh yes. Now, the wind has become a tiresome nusiance for me and the poor little nursery. Today the day started of well enough. Terry called me to say she was not coming in as she was feeling as if she was coming down with a cold. I didn't mind. It has been slow lately anyhow and I feel fine being there alone. I began by price paddleing all of the plants that had come in at the end of last week. It's important for customers to just know the prices without having to chase us down to ask. That would annoy me so I try to keep on top of the signage placements. Then, I settled down for a day of cleaning up plants. Then slowly, slowly the wind began to pick up. Two annoying things happen when wind arrives. First, tall plants begin to topple over. Tall plants include trees, vines, roses and other five gallon plants like bamboo, abutilon and palms. Generally, I just leave them lie right where they hit. When you pick them up, the wind throws them right down again. Ugh! Problem is customers have to use the aisles so you have to do selective rescues. The other result is the plants quickly dry out. Whatever was just watered late yesterday afternoon feel like they are now planted in peat moss. So, now I have to water again...! What nerve Wind! I didn't want to! Thanks!
Once wind begins around here it seems it can go on for days. I think we should build hitching posts. If only the owner had to go around picking those plants up for a few days, we would.
Blah!

Friday, September 30, 2005

Checking Out The Competition

One of the things that I felt might be of considerable value for my possible Lowes position was to go over to Home Depot and skulk around their garden center. I began outside the gates. Hmmm...roses were cheap! Five dollars and change gives you a rose in a three gallon container. They looked pretty darned good too! I was surprised. At our nursery, we have roses "reduced" to $12.99. I had thought that was a bargain. Have to say that the brand wasn't Jackson and Perkins or Weeks. But, still, I would have bought one. I saw some fungus on the leaves but not so very much of it. I browsed around at the one gallons out there...lots of chrysanthemums. Prices seemed quite good. These big places can afford to keep prices low as they buy such bulk from their suppliers.
Once inside I began going up and down each row checking out what they had to sell. There were very few plants with which I was unfamiliar. Around here deer resistant and native plants go over big. Deer are a huge problem and although we have more than our share of rain in the winter, saving water in the summer has become increasingly important. There were many varieties of one gallon shrubs and flowering plants. There was a large display of annuals...pansies, marigolds and stock. Plenty of primroses. We have many customers who come to our nursery looking for the unusual plants but unusual plants also have to be able to survive here. Herbs and veggies were looking decent and there were quite a few choices. Most of the plants were moist with just a few having missed the morning watering. All in all I felt they were doing a good job with their plant care.
Some of their displays were messy...boxes that had been opened hadn't been put back..items that were from other departments out of place having been just dropped out there. Some poor access to areas of interest like ponds that were behind moveable displays.
I then looked at every bag of soil amendment they sold. I was impressed with some of them that I didn't know existed...like soil that had water holding pellets by MiracleGro. And...their amendments are very reasonably priced. I checked out all of the trellises, pots and bulbs.
I checked out all of the houseplants.
I was running out of steam...
I looked at all of the rakes, shovels and edgers.
I looked at and picked up and read info on three long sections of pest control items inside the store. My head started to spin and I decided that I had been there long enough for one day. Next time I will pick up again in the product section. I am amazed at the many different ways to kill ants, wasps and mice.
While I was at it, I checked out how many people were manning the garden department. I was interested to see that there were three women and one man working there around my age plus a cashier who was around thirty plus a younger male stocking plants. That seemed like a good staff number to me. I heard one of the women taking calls and giving advice. Something I do all of the time.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Didn't Realize It Was That Warm!

Started out working by sorting annuals that were too overgrown for sale and cleaning up those that were left. It is a sort of in between time at the nursery. We have plants just coming in that are cool weather plants but can't really survive all that well yet. We have plants that will shortly be coming to the end of their desirability as warm weather plants also. That means really that our annual plant stock is low. By the time I offed the ones that were ratty looking, there were only around a dozen flats left. Generally, during the planting season we have many dozen flats of various kinds of annuals.
After a couple of hours in company of the annuals, I moved over to the 4" perennials. We have a large, long table of these plants, but they had become so jumbled in appearance. I've felt the need for a while to take action. Plants that needed full sun were slowly rotting amidst those that preferred shade or part shade. These are things that are noticed and need to be addressed but it becomes so busy that one says I will do that asap, but can just do so much. Customers are first, plant care is second. One of the part time employees works the day that this type plant arrives in the nursery. I wish she would be more diligent in what should be done for these plants. I put up a new table more in the sun beside the table we had already and started transferring plants that needed a sunnier location to it. I then took those plants that need to be potted into 1 gallon containers back to our work area. Some plants have by now become quite pot bound. Then, I hosed off the first table and cleaned up as many of the plants as I could in the time remaining in my day. When I have a job going, I hate to stop and wish to slow time down so I can finish. Plus, I'm off tomorrow and so have to wait until Sunday to fine tune the project. I love doing projects like these. It is nice to be appreciated and compensated for your abilities. I thought it was warmer than yesterday and later learned it was in the 90's today!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

What's With The Guys?

Today I went to work later in the morning. The owner is trying to shave hours from us to save money for him. This is one of the reasons I'm looking at Lowes. There is a minimum amount of money I need to pay my bills each month and shaving gives you an indefinite to deal with. Soon it will be days instead of hours shaved. When I got to work, Mark asked me what would it take to keep me there at the nursery. There are as I've mentioned several reasons that make me look away from working there. I would miss Mark very much..he has become one of my best friends ever. Mark mentioned there were a few terra planters to be done for a customer...just put in whatever I thought would look nice. The customer apparently felt he could make no worthy choices for himself. Weird huh? Some people won't put forth an opinion even if choices are shown. So...fine with me..I have no problem making choices...I just make what I would like myself. Simple as that.
So...an interesting happening today was with one of our two crews. Mark had gone to lunch and this crew of three guys supposedly had been told what to do with their time. They were to meet the other crew of two and pick up soil to replace in a yard being landscaped. The other two were putting in the drip and then the five of them were to go get soil and build up the area. Well the crew of three, which is directed by Hill, returned to say that Lorenzio's team was not ready to put down the soil and so what were they to do now... It was around 1 pm or so and I said "Have you been to lunch yet?" Hill said they weren't hungry and there was no work for them so.... I said "Go take your lunch time and then come back to the nursery and water the plants until Mark returns from lunch at around 2:30 and then he will tell you what to do." Mark would want them to do the watering...it takes me all afternoon and it would take the three of them about an hour. The three of them got into a discussion in Spanish and I said Say it in English please." Hill said "We'll go to lunch and come back then." Fine. Well, one of them...Chano...decides he is going to not go to lunch and I asked wasn't he hungry and he said no. Five minutes later he came up to me to explain that they had already gone to lunch at 11:30 and he was angry that Hill said they hadn't. He said Hill cuts time corners and goofs off and he felt that if you get paid you should work. I had to piece this together as Chano's English is as poor as my Spanish. Chano is in his 40's and Hill is around 32. I have come to find that many younger people don't want to work for their pay or want more money for their work than they deserve. All of the guys on our crews are Hispanic. I get along well with them all and it only takes one devious slouch to start to sour the work. We have had to deal with several problem makers along the way...it doesn't take long to see them for their ways and shortly they are sent packing. The young man that Hill replaced was much like him sad to say. We found he was going to some of our elderly customers and doing side jobs without the nurseries knowledge. He spent most of the time on his cell phone also while the other two worked. This behavior takes a while to come to light as usually the others don't know how to communicate the problem to the owner. Now, this particular ex-worker is sueing our owner saying he was not given lunch time and no breaks. He is owed around $2,200. he figures. He was the boss of the maintainance crew and he was driving the truck but somehow he wasn't given time for mandatory breaks. How did that happen I wonder.

Fine Tuneing my Knowledge

With so much time between when I may potentially begin the hoped for Lowes position and now..a minimum of two months..I feel it will be worthwhile to brush up on what I know and solidify that on which I'm shaky. Generally, I know which products to suggest for certain problems. I just need to read the backs of those which I seldom sell. For example.. Cottonseed, Magnesium Sulfate, Rock Phosphate, gypsum, etc. Soil Amendments. Plus, there are all of those insecticides. Some are for soft bodied insects others for hard. Some are organic, some are not. Some are not for specific plants. Most will kill bees and other beneficial insects. Gardeners are tending to want to keep those alive. Which products can be used on food plants? It is helpful to know at least one product for each request. It takes time to learn this stuff. I've learned much but need to know without thinking so much. I started by reading a book about lawn care. At our nursery, the owner is a groundskeeper for a golf course. He takes the lawn questions or problems. I just need to learn a little about how much to water a lawn, how high to cut it and how and when to fertilize it. I know all of it somewhat. In a small garden center, customers want to linger and will pick your brain, but in a larger one I've never felt the urge to chat. I kind of know what I want, go pick something out and buy it. I intend to go to the local Home Depot and check out which products they stock and read some labels. With limited space, we carry limited products. We have something for each concern but just a few choices of each.
At work yesterday, I began repotting 4" summer perenneals into gallon containers. It's fun to work outside under an umbrella on mild days. Mark wants me to begin working on an order for statuary and also pots for the spring ordering. I usually do the choosing of all of the cute small statuary and many of the fountains. I generally just order what I would like if I were buying. We also need to order some Christmas items. The next work up, though, is a fall display. The usual: pumpkins, bales of hay, fall and winter fertilizers and tools like rakes. A scarecrow will be involved.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

An Average Sunday Work Day

On Sundays I'm up at 7 am and getting a slow start. I need to be at work at 9 and so I have lots of time to dress and eat and drive to Novato. I work with my friend Terry. Our owner, also named Terry, wants us to stagger our time so I arrive at 9 and she arrives around 10. Then I leave at 4 and she at 5. Today she got there around 11:30. She said she got into a drawn out conversation with a friend who was just out of rehab. He was a big talker and she finally had to say "gotta go." I've worked with Terry for over a year and we get along quite well. She is a few years younger and divorced. She is funny and fairly easy going and that helps our day be more enjoyable.
While I was waiting for her to arrive, I did a walk through and pulled plants that I felt were beyond saleable. We get reimbursed for most plants that don't sell and we simply discard them. Usually I'm too busy to do plant care but the customers are slowing down lately and I can do more than answering questions and ringing up purchases. I'm more of a real work person.
We have a fairly large greenhouse behind the store and I could go there and see how those plants were fareing also.
Today there were several men hanging around behind the nursery by where there once was a car wash. It has been closed for months and since the weather is warmer that is where transients seem to congregate. So, I called the police. I waited a while so they would think it wasn't us. They were looking at Terry and me and it was making her uneasy. I never seem to notice as I am more task oriented. The policeman who came said he would make a point of checking out that area in the future. Fine. A few months ago, someone cut through that same fence and stole the most beautiful dwarf Japanese maple we had. Unfortunately, they underestimated it's diameter as we found several of it's poor limbs lying on the ground. Sigh.
Interesting item about fushias... when they go to seed, you can actually eat those little pods! My manager, Mark, was telling me that once he knew an old gardener who told him that in the "olden days" in England the seed pods were served like a dessert with cream at parties. We were looking at them and I said "Let's try one!" and I quickly popped it into my mouth. Guess what? It was quite delicious. Mark scurried off to check the poisonous plants list. I got a handfull and gave one to each of our maintainance crew guys and told them to try them and tell me what they thought. They each chewed one making a face. One said it tasted like Roundup.
They were brave tryers though.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Lowes Interview

Well, today I had my interview with Lowes. I didn't overdress nor underdress. A nice sweater and linen slacks seemed appropriate. I arrived about ten minutes early with a newspaper to keep myself busy. As soon as I arrived, I was given a few forms to fill out. The first was a series of questions that were to help them judge one's ethics. Most of the questions had to do with theft. What would you do if....you saw someone steal..if you knew someone stole. If you received an extra dollar in your change or something free from a machine would you take it back or turn it back? (yeah, right!) Do you always tell the truth? (of course not!) Have you ever taken anything from your current job or in the last five years that wasn't given to you? (not really) Many questions were asked regarding drug taking. I had no concern over any of those questions...I'm quite honest and have never taken drugs worth mentioning in over thirty years. So, then I read and signed a form that told about employee duties.
I sat back to relax with my front page and was then called in almost immediately to speak with Nick who was my interviewer. Nick was about 27 or so...clean cut and friendly. Gave me a bottle of water and I sat down to lots of questions. Why do I want to work at Lowes? The COMMUTE! Told him how we had a Lowes down the end of the street from us in Paducah and how they caught Kilts for us. He liked that. I really do enjoy my current position. I just would like a job that pays good benefits. If I have to work full time to get them, I will. The Lowes is going to have a huge garden center area... 2200 sq. ft. They are planning to hire 3-4 full time employees and several part time ones. I hope to be one of the full time ones. Nick told me how much he loved his job with Lowes. They are setting back the opening for the store three weeks making it the end of January. The employees would start working in early December..training and stocking. I was happy to hear that as Mark's vacation is due in November. I wouldn't want him to miss it.
Nick said there would be a second round of interviews for the candidates they are most interested in employing and he also said I would get a second interview! Hooray!

Tomorrow Is My Interview.

I have been living in California for five years. After not working for 25 years, I was hired to work at a garden center in Novato, CA. When I began my current job, the only experience I had was that which I had learned from my own gardens. I had been educated to be a nurse and had worked in that field for several years. I did enjoy nursing. Having been away from it for so long, it would have been difficult to re-enter that field and I didn't want to anyhow. It was lucky for me that I found I enjoyed my nursery position and am good at it also.
Recently, building began on a Lowes in the town in which I live. Just out of curiosity I stopped into the employment office and asked if there was to be a garden center in it and was told yes. I decided to place an application. I love my job, but the commute is tiring and the price of gas is now a consideration. I told the manager that I had applied and he said he understood...he commutes from further away than I do. My commute is about 45 minutes to an hour each way. The Lowes is within bike riding distance from my home. Tomorrow at three is my interview. I really hope to get a job there.