Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Life Is Pretty Normal In Madison, Florida
by James Glaser
May 6, 2011
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Cora Thigpen turned 101 this week, and Dorothy Shaw turned 100. On Thursday, the National Day of Prayer was held at the Madison County Courthouse. On the front page of the Madison County Carrier, they had colored photos of six fugitives from justice the sheriff is looking for, and a State Trooper received the Medal of Valor for shooting a "transient" who was illegally camping in a drainage ditch near the freeway. He came out of his tent holding a 12 gauge pump shotgun, and a trooper took him out. I am sure there is more to the story, but that is about all they had in the paper.

Yes, that is about normal for a small North Florida town these days. I have been making a real push on the tree house, and the fact that much of it is ladder work slows the process down. I better get as much as I can done now, because in another month the heat will stop my daytime outdoor work.

I had my first ripe tomato this week, and even though Washington killed Osama, gardens seemed to be the topic of the week whenever I went to town. Construction or home repair must be up, because I saw a couple of truck loads of materials being delivered to the lumber company. However, Tuesday morning Wanda and I went to town for breakfast, and there couldn't have been a dozen people in a café that seats a hundred.

While I was working on the tree house, a friend of mine was building three cabinets in my studio for storage. Two of them are under the long shop windows in the tool area and look like window seats, but are nine foot long. The other is in the gallery area, and I will use the top as a sculpture stand.

I am still in the process of trying to fit everything from a 1,400 sq.ft. studio into the 760 sq.ft. I have now. For a "tool freak" which all woodworkers become, it is hard to cull all the things you have picked up over the years to make your work easier. Plus, as you get older and a bit more successful, you buy large quantities of things like sand paper instead of the few sheets you need for the job you are currently doing. The same goes for glue, paint and varnish. You buy gallons instead of pints, and you end up with many gallon containers half filled that you will use, and you do save money, but you have to store it.

So, I work on the tree house until I poop out, and then see what I can get done in the studio. Then if there is any thing left, I have the garden and the bike trail.

Going to town though is sort of a treat. Wanda and I will splurge and buy ourselves an Icee at he Busy Bee gas station on a hot afternoon. Sometimes we or I stop in and talk to Jennifer at the Old Country Store antique shop where we have a booth. Going to the lumber company is always a chance to hear what is going on around town. I don't think anyone listens to NPR or anything but the local news on TV. Even sports, except for those out at the high school, are not often a topic of discussion.

Local drug busts are always a good topic, but most are from a tinted windowed Cadillac or Lincoln getting stopped at 2 am out on the interstate. Local drug crimes are usually possession involving a driving infraction.

I was in the barber shop and sat with the local judge and talked for about 20 minutes. He said that 30 years ago it was pot or alcohol, but now oxycontin was ruining a lot of nice people.

Our new bicycle trail seems to have more and more local people using it. Some are walking, others are running, but more and more people are going out and buying a bike. Wanda and I are up to five miles at a time and we are not all rubber legged when we get back now. Some days I take a couple of rides and think early mornings are the best. I don't know if the cows moo at everyone, but they sure say hi to me if they are near the fence in the morning.

O'Toole's Herb Farm is having their last retail weekend of the season this weekend. Betty, has got me growing all sorts of herbs in my garden, and Wanda adds them with much success to many things she cooks. Also, I get mushroom compost and worm casings that I amend my garden soil with. You can learn so much growing things, but there is always more to learn. I remember how Swede Carlson, who lives North of Mizpah, Minnesota gave me the tip to side-dress my tomato plants with used coffee grounds. He was right, and it makes a noticeable difference in plant growth and moisture retention.

Several years ago I took the Master Gardener Course through the University of Minnesota Extension. Since then I have been hooked. For me, gardening and meditation are about on par. It might look like work out there weeding, planting, watering, or just talking to the plants, but in truth it is all very relaxing, and time in the garden seems to fly by.

It is always nice to eat things you just picked, but even more fun to give some of it away. This week we had our first ripe tomato and stir fried zucchini and yellow necked squash. Also, we had green beans and those red, green, yellow, and orange bell peppers are all starting to look good.

Up North it was one crop and one crop only, but down here you can grow almost all year, and I am about to plant more bush beans. Come fall I'll put in lettuce again. I could expand the garden and probably be very happy working on that all the time, but I have the Studio and my woodworking. And then there are all sorts of things on our "to-do list."

Yes, life in normal here in North Florida. People are working jobs, working on their yards, the churches seems pretty filled on Sundays and Wednesday night. Wanda goes off to Tallahassee to bowl with the girls on Thursday night, and we make a weekly trip to Valdosta, Georgia once a week to buy what we can't get in Madison.

We could use a little rain, actually we could use more than a little. With the drought we have been having the armadillo population has seemed to have exploded, and they are doing a number on our yard at night digging in the grass looking for grubs. We have a neighbor who has an alarm set up with a motion detector and a bell. His wife says when that alarm goes off, she is out there in her night gown holding the flashlight, and he is in his shorts with the shotgun. They have bagged 18 armadillos so far. And I bet you didn't think there was much excitement out here in the sticks, eh?

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