Vicki 0:00 Hello, my name is Vicki Guth, and my favorite thing is gardening.
Announcer 0:04 Welcome to the Finding Favorites podcast where we explore your favorite things without using an algorithm. Here's your host, Leah Jones.
Leah Jones 0:15 Hello, and welcome to Finding Favorites. I'm your regular host, Leah Jones. Welcome to the podcast, people who are new and coming to listen because of our host today, Amy Guth, or our guest, Vicki Guth. To give you a little bit of background and then let you know if you want to zip forward to the interview, I will be sharing some personal updates. This podcast is about hearing from people about their favorite things, how they found it, why it's important to them, what adventures it's taken them on. And I started it Memorial Day 2020 as a COVID hobby. No commute, no social events, what was I gonna do with my time? So, I started this podcast, and we talk to people about hobbies, art, artists, music, all sorts of great things.
Leah Jones 1:06 This summer I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I've been getting chemotherapy for the last couple months. January is my final month of chemotherapy. I'm getting very fatigued and so I asked two friends, Amy Guth of "The Unconventional with Amy Guth" podcast and Shai Korman from "Friday Night Movie" podcast, each to take two episodes, so I could be fatigued this month, so, thank you. This week, we've got Amy Guth, who like I said, you may know her from WGN radio, seen her byline in the Tribune and all over the internet. She is also now the host of "Unconventional with Amy Guth." Her podcast launched this year -- she has talked to Steve Gadlin, Arbus Joffrey, and Laura Kearney. She interviews people who have taken unconventional paths, who challenge conventional narratives and who have built unconventional lives. Welcome to those of you who know, Amy, or because you know, Vicki. It's really fun to interview people we've known our whole lives and talk to them about things maybe you didn't know.
Leah Jones 2:18 Amy is talking to her mom, Vicki Guth, this week about growing her own food. The personal updates I give at the top are a little bit of a breast cancer treatment report. I am through three of my four cycles of chemotherapy, which means I have three weeks left, I nap a lot more, a lot more. The steroids work off faster, the fatigue starts sooner, and it's more intense. But other than that, I'm so interested in food, I've had to obviously cut out or limit dairy, cut out real fibrous raw veggies. And when I make the right choices, I feel good. When I don't make the right choices, I at least know they're choices I've made and not a new side effect.
Leah Jones 3:08 This week, I had my second of four heart scans to make sure that the Herceptin isn't impacting my heart. So far, my heart looks fantastic. My port did get kind of clogged up this week, so they had to give me something called Activase, which is a medicine that people get after heart attacks, after certain types of strokes. But it's also how you clean a catheter, which is what the port is. So, after they did that, my port was working again. I've been grateful for this thing for keeping me away from an awful lot of bruises and tears looking for someone who can get a needle into my right arm. With that, I am going to go have some takeout brunch, then go see the Matrix movie. I made a tradition of seeing Saturday matinees while I go through chemo treatment and we pick things that have been out for three or four or five weeks, we pick the emptiest theatre, masks on, no snacks in the theater. It's how I take advantage of "steroid Saturday". And with that, wear your mask, wash your hands, stay safe, get that booster, or get that vaccine, and keep enjoying your favorite things.
Amy 4:39 Hi there. I'm Amy Guth, and I'm thrilled to be hosting Finding Favorites for my long-time friend, Leah Jones. So as a broadcaster, I've interviewed a lot of people, but today I'm interviewing somebody that I've definitely known for a long time but that I've never really interviewed before, and that's my mom, Vicki Guth. Welcome.
Vicki 4:55 Hey, nice to be here.
Amy 4:57 It's kind of weird to me. I mean, Leah interviewed her mom for this podcast, and I was like, "Oh, that's a really brilliant idea. I've never interviewed my own mom." I kind of did, right? One time on WGN radio, because you told the story of me having a meltdown in a mall and screaming that "I hate my underwear."
Vicki 5:17 Yeah. Yeah. I recall that vividly.
Amy 5:22 Both the event and the re-telling on the radio.
Vicki 5:25 It makes me cringe when I think about it, actually.
Amy 5:28 So, now, we got to tell the story.
Vicki 5:30 Oh, gosh, you were probably two and a half, three, maybe. And we were in the largest mall in Atlanta, Georgia -- Lenox Mall. And in the middle was this big stage where they put the Christmas tree up, and they do special events and stuff like that. So you and a bunch of other little children were running around, and all of a sudden you stopped and just screamed at the top of your lungs, "I hate my underwear." There was a lot of benches around and all these grandmothers and grandfathers and young mothers and old mothers were all sitting around, and all eyes -- I was absolutely mortified. I wanted to just get up and leave and just leave you there. But, I figured, "Well, I better take my kid with me." So I just went and scooped you up and put you under my arm and we exited the mall -- that was really embarrassing.
Amy 6:28 But what I remember is that I feel like you had dressed me in something really ruffle-y, that involved bloomers or something, and I was not having it.
Vicki 6:35 That's probably true. I can't remember you had on -- I just blocked as much of that event out of my mind as I could. But yeah, you probably did have something pink on because you never were a pink person. Girly and all that and frilly and whatever, and you probably just really hated it.
Amy 6:55 I kind of remember there was like some ruffle-y bloomers that went that matched this dress, that had to go under the dress.
Vicki 7:01 Oh, that's highly possible.
Amy 7:02 They had like ruffle-y things around the legs --
Vicki 7:05 -- lacy stuff on the on the rear --
Amy 7:07 -- yeah, and it was lace on the butt and then these little ruffles around the legs and they were *bothering* me, and I was just like, "I hate this. Get rid of this crap. I don't want this." I'm real sorry for mortifying you.
Vicki 7:20 I'm sorry I dressed you in that kind of stuff. I hope those things have gone out of style now.
Amy 7:27 I mean, I think for the "Toddlers and Tiaras" crowd, it's still a thing, but
Vicki 7:32 Well, there's that -- that's a whole other podcast.
Amy 7:37 I don't think people are like taking their kids to the mall and the bloomers anymore, at least, I hope not. If you are, check in with your kids see if the bloomers are driving her nuts.
Vicki 7:44 See if they really like having that on before you let them parade around in the middle of the largest mall in Atlanta --
Amy 7:49 -- and scream that they hate their underwear.
Vicki 7:50 Oh, lord.
Amy 7:55 Now, that would have gone viral if social media existed then. That would have gone viral and we could sell the NFT and make millions.
Vicki 8:03 We would have a website, "I Hate My Underwear."
Amy 8:06 I bet you "I Hate My Underwear.com" is available; if it's not available, I don't want to know what's on it. It's probably like porn or something.
Vicki 8:20 Oh, Lord, that's funny ... Good times.
Amy 8:23 Well, nothing like opening with a story that is roundly embarrassing. Outspoken from a young age, little Amy Guth.
Vicki 8:33 You know what? We should have known what was coming right then and there.
Amy 8:37 I'm going to communicate my needs very boldly to all involved. I'm empowered to do so. Before we we dive into your favorite thing that we're here to talk about, I want to talk about the work that you do. You and Dad have a custom woodworking operation, but I don't think I know about the how and the why of how it got underway. I just know that Dad's always done woodworking stuff, he's always had a shop wherever we've lived, but I don't really know how it became an official business for you guys.
Vicki 9:06 It probably started when we moved to South Florida and got into boating. We were big boaters when we were down there. We started noticing all the names on boats, you know on the fantail, and then on the stern and port of the boats. Every one you would read you go, "Gosh, I wonder what the what's the story behind that?" There was one that we always saw when we're leaving our house and going out to the gulf -- there was one called "Done Shiverin'," and we figured it was somebody that moved down from the north, and they were done with the cold. But every boat has a story behind its name, and every quarterboard has a story. I think that would make an interesting book one day, by the way. So, it probably started then. We got one boat and Dad decided he was going to make a quarterboard for it.
Amy 9:58 Which for people who don't know, that's the name of it.
Vicki 10:02 That is the name. It's called a quarterboard, because it's usually mounted on the first quarter of the boat from the bow to the end of the first quarter. There's usually a little cabin and you mount your name on it, and it's on the port side and the starboard side, and usually on the fan tail, as well. That's how quarter boards got their name. We made one by hand, which turned out to be really laborious and a little dangerous, because those those tools are very, very sharp. That's probably where it where it all started taking root in there.
Vicki 10:37 Then we moved to the mountain here and had a boat for a while, and Dad decided to retire. But he knew that he needed something to do. And I knew he needed something to do after he retired. So he started, I think he would just, you know, kind of thinking about it, and this little seed had been planted. One day he said, "Well, I bought something." "Oh, okay, a gallon of milk? What did you buy?" "Well, I bought this really expensive machine called a CNC router." I was like, "I don't know what that is," so he started telling me about it. And that's where he starts, "And this is what this is, what we can do with it. It carves, you build this picture on the computer, take your flash drive out to the machine, plug it in, and it spits out this gorgeous picture on wood." That's kind of where it all started. It's something that we do together; we do our things separately, but it is a project we work on together. We really enjoy it. We have had times when I have had quarterboards literally laying all over the place. My dining table is actually not a dining table, it's a holder for quarterboards, and that's okay.
Amy 11:50 So, Dad does the carving part, and you usually paint them and kind of fancy them up -- I feel like they usually have -- you make them pretty, because they usually have gold letters, and sometimes you had some really cool designs that I've seen you do on Instagram and stuff like that.
Vicki 12:03 Yeah, we started out -- and we've actually gone back and looked at what we did early on, and how we have progressed in in our skills, I guess you could say. We started out just putting names on a board, and then we've actually done a lot of signs, just basic signs, dress signs, signs you can put up in your yard, or just odd kind of stuff -- not just quarterboards. Our skills have developed so much over the last three or four years, that we've gotten really particular about -- we don't let any board go before it's perfect. If we have to stop and do it all over, it's not going to leave until it's perfect.That's probably the OCD in me coming out, but anyway, it's fun. It keeps us both busy.
Amy 12:48 What would you say is the most challenging part of running a small business?
Vicki 12:52 Probably for us because we're older and we don't do social media as much as we could -- because I'm not very skilled at it, I guess you could say -- is finding and connecting with clients. Once we once we connect with clients -- we've got one client that we've done, gosh, I don't know how many signs we've done for her. Once we connect, we're great, but it's getting the word out and letting people know, this is what we do. We work with a nonprofit up here on the mountain called "Quarterboards For a Cause," and a portion of the proceeds go to our local first responders up here. And the goal is to get every house with a name on it, so we got a long way to go -- we have a long way to go with that one.
Amy 13:36 So, people can go to quarterboards.com -- and you can make like a custom order from there.
Vicki 13:42 Everything we do is custom, and and Bob likes to connect with people -- he just picks up the phone and talks to them. And he gets to know everybody, and we have one just recently that decided he wanted a certain finish on it, but we knew it would look great with this other finish -- a little more glossy, a little shinier -- so we finally convinced him, thank goodness, and it turned out beautifully. But I think Dad's thing is connecting with the people and getting to know the people, but then he gets it to me so I can make it pretty.
Amy 14:14 We got to get you guys on Etsy.
Vicki 14:18 We actually -- we had an Etsy account for a while and we closed it down, because Dad got frustrated. But we just got it back up.
Amy 14:27 Good. That's where you need to be. Because that's where people go for that kind of stuff. That's the modern craft fair. In the meantime, though, folks, quarterboards.com is the place.What would you say is -- what would be the pie in the sky? The dream project, the coolest thing you can imagine getting through a custom order?
Vicki 14:51 Well, we actually did one for a Coast Guard ship, that was actually pretty cool. It was called Hauser, and it was huge. It was this huge board -- just tremendous -- because you can imagine a Coast Guard ship, they're big. We did two of them and -- I don't know getting on a celebrity boat, some some celebrity contacting us and saying, "Hey, I got a boat and I need a quarter board." That would be awesome.
Amy 15:17 Okay, put it out there in the universe. It's out there. Some random celebrity with a boat, I need you to order a sign from my folks. You should get your quarterboard -- whatever weird thing your boat is called, they will do it. You can speak freely to them. Even if it's got like a raunchy name, it's fine. That's totally fine.
Vicki 15:36 We do just about everything. There are probably a few limits on things we put out there. But yeah, whatever your little heart desires.
Amy 15:44 I feel like we've put it out in the universe now. So, we're gonna find a celebrity that has a boat that needs a quarter board.
Vicki 15:49 Yes, that'd be awesome.
Amy 15:51 I'm gonna laugh if, I don't know, a Kardashian retweets this or something.
Vicki 15:56 Wow, that would be crazy. Oh my gosh.
Amy 16:00 Stranger things have happened -- when people put things out on a podcast people listening go, "Oh, my second cousin is Kanye," -- who knows, weirder things have happened
Amy 16:21 All right, what is it that we are here to talk about today with in terms of finding favorites, your favorite thing?
Vicki 16:28 I do a lot of stuff. I sew, I quilt, I do all that kind of stuff. I love to cook. I love to make soup, as you will know. But my very, very, very favorite thing to do is gardening. I love to get my hands dirty. I like to be dirty out in the yard; the dirtier, the better. Usually, if I can be outside, I am a happy duck. The world is a good place when I'm outside dirty.
Amy 16:50 I don't remember a time that you weren't gardening. Everywhere we've lived, you've always had plants going, even when we didn't have a yard per se, we had little windowsill plants. And you gave me the little African Violet when I was a kid and I named him Brian. Do you remember Brian, the African Violet?
Vicki 17:06 I don't remember Brian.
Amy 17:08 I remember you saying -- you were trying to explain to me cause I was pretty little -- I remember you saying, "African Violets are very sensitive; you got to be gentle with them." You're trying to explain the leaves are kind of like succulents. So I took that -- to me, Brian was sensitive. And so I remember going like, "Good job today being a plant, Brian. You're doing good." I don't know why I called him Brian.
Vicki 17:29 Oh, God, that's funny. I did not remember Brian. Oh my god.
Amy 17:34 I clearly remember Brian, the African Violet. So what was your first foray into gardening? When I
Vicki 17:41 When I was a kid, we grew up in, basically in the country, in North Louisiana. And my mom was an avid gardener then. We also had this enormous vegetable garden that we would get to help -- actually, we wouldn't *get* to help, we were *told* to help. I think that's where everything probably started taking root, no pun intended. My dad was a grower, and all my relatives up there were farmers. There's probably a gene somewhere for all that. But, I remember my mother being that nurturer; planting something, watching it grow. That's probably where I get a lot of mine from.
Vicki 18:26 Growing up -- everywhere that we moved, we always had a garden. I mean, everywhere. My mother was the nurturer, and she always loved pretty flowers. And when I was growing up, one of our neighbors had day lilies and iris that I would just wander through and just marvel at because every one of them was different. And because there's there's so many varieties. And so this neighbor, Jamie, was always giving us plants from her yard, giving' em to my mom and they were swapping stuff. But I think that's where my first seeds were planted, when I was really little.
Vicki 19:04 I still love day lilies and iris, too. They're also pretty easy to grow, which is very helpful. When you were a kid, I didn't have a lot of time to garden, but I tried to have *something*-- house plants, something. It's just something that I love to watch. I love to watch them change, watch them grow, take care of them, help them on their way. And when we moved to South Florida, I had the time to really get into it. And in Florida, South Florida, especially, if you plant it, is going to grow. South Florida, really easy to garden in. When we lived there, I just had plants and stuff everywhere. When we moved up here to the mountain, everything was so different, totally different weather, soil, vegetation, everything was so different. And so I decided to go through a Master Gardener class here. It was something I had wanted to do for a long time, I just didn't have time. So finally I went through it, and it was one of the best things I've ever done. Great group of people.
Vicki 20:08 And I guess my contribution to master gardeners is through the Chattanooga zoo here, we have several gardens that we've created at the zoo that we maintain. And we work with the zoo, trying to make it a pretty place that people can enjoy -- not just the animals, but for the gardens, as well. That's what I love to do more than anything. And then here at the house, when we bought our house, it was a long gray box car, it had no curb appeal -- nothing -- ithad little stoop on it. You know, we can't leave anything alone, so, we put a big porch on it. But then I had to lay out a landscape that was interesting, because this house had sat with no landscape for 70 years. It was built in 1952, and it had absolutely no landscape.
Vicki 20:59 That was a really big challenge for me, and I didn't really know exactly where to start. But one day, I was working on a quilt and I pulled out this piece of fabric that I've always loved so much. It had these -- on a kind of a creamy white background -- it had this green and dark red, and purple, and pink. And I thought, "Those are going to be the colors of my garden." We painted our house, kind of a Florida green. And everybody knows our house, "Oh, the green house," because there's no other colors, there's no other houses up here like this. But my landscape, I wanted it to complement that color. Because there's certain colors that just don't look good with it -- orange would not look good with that color. So I pull this piece of fabric out, and those became the colors of my landscape. It's worked out really, really well. I've had to tweak some things; not everything has been successful. But for the most part, it's it's been successful. It makes me feel good.
Amy 22:01 It's a pretty yard. And also, you're stone cold badass about it, because there were times when you're working in the yard, that I would be like, "Hey, what are you doing?" And you're stuck texting me pictures of like, "I'm moving boulders across the yard." I'm like, "What are you doing? Hire somebody to help you."
Vicki 22:17 Well, I'm probably gonna have to hire some because I have some really, really big rocks now that I need to move that I cannot handle. Again, there was no landscape, there was no curb appeal to this house. There was a sidewalk, but it was really broken and old. So we kind of created that, and I had gotten a load of stone, because I wanted a stone border on it. So,I had to move all these boulders, and that's probably what's wrong with my back to this day.
Amy 22:50 I mean, these were -- we're not talking about little rocks, like these were dog-sized -- they were big.
Vicki 22:56 Yes, bigger than a chihuahua, for sure. When we tore the back step off, whoever had built this house had built that step so well; it was not supposed to go anywhere, ever. But that step had so many -- I mean, these are huge things -- they're not car-sized, but they are huge boulders and omebody is going to have to come move those for me, because I can't do that.
Amy 23:19 I feel like you grow a lot of flowers and stuff, but also a lot of food. Always have grown like tomatoes and stuff like that. I think a lot about the food system and kind of where we're at with that, and how we treat farmers, nd I know that something on your mind, I wonder if you could kind of talk about that.
Vicki 23:34 Part of my Master Gardener training was learning about proper use of pesticides and this kind of thing. And it got me thinking a lot about how we are treating our soil. And I came up with this theory that if -- we have this conventionally grown food, and then we have our organic food, -- unless you know the complete history of a plot of land, you can't really claim it's totally organic, unless you know its true history -- because you don't know what that farmer 35 years ago was putting on your land.
Amy 24:11 in terms of like forever chemicals and things like that --
Vicki 24:14 -- FOREVER chemicals. Because some of that stuff stays in the ground forever and ever and ever. I feel like we have to be really, really careful. When we grow our own, we can be careful. I don't put anything out on my garden that's poisonous; I just don't use it. I found some other ways around that with beneficial insects and with essential oils; you can do wonders with that stuff. I think we just have to be really, really mindful of that, because you really are what you eat and when you eat this stuff, it's gonna stay in your body for a while and it's gonna mess your body up. I like to know what I'm putting in my mouth, in my body. I know that I can go out and pull my kale, and I know that nothing chemical has been on it.
Vicki 25:05 My brothers and two nieces and I, have also inherited a farm in North Louisiana, that has opened up an entirely new world for us. We have a wonderful, fabulous cousin who farms it for us, thank heaven, and he knows what he's doing. But it's a wonderful piece of property that is very, very fertile. It was -- when the great Mississippi river flooded back in 1939.
Amy 25:29 -- I thought it was '26. Time to do a little fact check here.
Vicki 25:33 Oh, it was '26, because my mother was a baby, that's right. The Mississippi River brought all this silt and all this wonderful stuff, all this way into North Louisiana. And so this piece of property is fantastic. It grows so well.
Amy 25:46 '27 -- sorry, I just looked it up. And it grows so well, because of everything that came up in flood,
Vicki 25:52 Everything and that flood brought in deposited all those wonderful sediments into this area. And it's wonderful soil, it's just great.
Amy 26:02 And so knowing what you know, about planting and growing and healthy choices with soil, how has that informed what you do with that piece of farm property?
Vicki 26:15 Since our cousin is farming it, he has his way of doing it, and that's the way he's always done it. We can suggest things and we can ask questions, and he is free to ignore them, because he's the one doing all work. But I know that when my grandparents lived there, they grew -- they had a huge vegetable garden, that they probably put sevin dust or something on because that was what was available there -- but it's still a beautiful piece of property. And if I lived there -- well, I wouldn't, because there's too many routes next year -- but if I lived there, I'd have to have the soil tested and see what was in it.
Amy 26:57 I agree -- that organic thing is tricky, right, because it's with very good intentions, someone goes and gets an organic certification. But we can't do anything about what happened years before. Nor can you do anything about what's up the hill from you when it rains, and there's groundwater.
Vicki 27:13 And what your neighbor is doing in the next field, because you've got drip -- the air is going to bring stuff in, the groundwater is going to come through. So you know, you're very limited in what you can do. But you can learn about it.
Amy 27:25 I think it's good to like support organic farmers who are trying to do it the right way.
Vicki 27:30 And their intentions are honorable, I think. But yeah, we can't change what happened 50 years ago. I remember when I was a kid growing up, behind our house was a usually a cornfield, they would grow something back there. And my mother, when we would be at home during the summer, all of a sudden she'd yell, "Shut the windows! Shut the windows! I hear the plane!" The plane, a crop duster, was coming to spray that field -- probably with DDT. But we'd have to run around the house like crazy people shutting all the windows trying to keep the drift out of the house, because you could see it coming at you. But that's what they did. That's what they did.
Amy 28:12 Did you ever watch that movie, "Food Inc.?"
Vicki 28:14 I don't know.
Amy 28:15 Oh, man, it'll get you mad.
Vicki 28:16 Oh, I'm sure it would.
Amy 28:17 I mean, in a good productive way. It's really interesting, because it's really speaking to what factory farming did to the American family farms and they trace products in the supermarket that look like they are thousands of different products -- so many of them can be traced to just a few companies or a few manufacturers. Especially like the power that McDonald's and Simplot potatoes have over all the potatoes in the United States, and our exported potatoes. It's really fascinating, but it'll super piss you off.
Amy 28:48 I can already imagine all that you will say about the movie, because you will be like, "Hell, no."
Vicki 28:53 It'd probably make my blood pressure go up.
Amy 28:55 Oh, it for sure would, because it's really infuriating. And there's a lot in there about the way that animals are treated -- there's a whole thing in there about Tyson and Perdue chicken farmers -- one woman who loses her contract because she won't -- she has an open coop where they get sunlight and they put pressure on her to have this closed thing where the chickens I can barely even turn around and they collapse under their own weight -- and it's this whole thing and you just leave it going, "Oh, we are doomed. People are the worst, we have ruined all this."
Vicki 29:23 We have a chicken plant here in downtown Chattanooga. And there are days when you have to hold your breath driving through there, it is so bad. Rumor has it, they're going to move them out, but it hadn't happened yet. But, it's disgusting.
Amy 29:39 When I buy eggs or something, I'll try to buy -- I look for pasture raised and grain fed, because they get into all the chicken byproduct that's fed to chickens. and how corn is so heavily subsidized, so we put corn in everything. I think you will like the movie in the most angry way.
Vicki 29:58 Well and your dad and I just had this conversation about preservatives in dog food. We have the two dogs; I had just bought a new kind of dog food, ad so we go in there, and we're starting to read the ingredients -- it's not horrible stuff in there, there's a lot of fortified vitamin kind of stuff. But then,there's a couple of things in there that are preservatives that are probably not great for dogs, or anybody. Well, for anybody.
Amy 30:29 I want to back up to something you were talking about with your own garden that I thought was interesting. You mentioned companion planting and essential oils instead of using pesticides. You introduced me to the idea of companion planting. Basically, the shortest possible version of that is marigolds are always a good idea to plant with your stuff.
Vicki 30:45 They are.
Amy 30:46 But it's a really complicated thing, if you want to plot out a garden, or just put more than one thing in a pot. Knowing what goes with this, because some plants will put chemicals into the soil just by living -- it will be damaging to other plants, and some will help them and become really beneficial or help repel a natural pest. And I think that's fascinating. And so, underdiscussed.
Vicki 31:09 It is fascinating, and I wish more people would do that. It takes a little research -- you can't just put two things together; because they may be mortal enemies, who knows. But a long time ago, I found this book called Tomatoes Love Roses, or Roses Love Tomatoes, or something like that [Carrots Love Tomatoes and Roses Love Garlic].That was my introduction to companion planting. And thinking back on my childhood, my mom would plant flowers interspersed within our vegetable garden. And I just thought she was doing it because you know, whatever. But I think that was probably something that she had learned from her parents, and maybe her grandparents, they were bringing that information forward. We do not do that enough. We should, because it would eliminate a lot of this chemical stuff. I always put marigolds out -- they're not my favorite flower, but I put them out anyway. And I'm learning about nasturtiums, they put a lot of nitrogen into the soil, and like that. I's real simple stuff. Once you know it's like, "Oh, gosh, why didn't I think of that?"
Amy 32:12 What are some common combinations that are very good and very bad?
Vicki 32:15 Oh, gosh, I'd have to get my book out now.
Amy 32:17 It's generally what goes with that as a food, right, like tomatoes and onions.
Vicki 32:22 I found something out, I had planted some fennel in one of my raised beds, and I had a big tomato that I put close to it. Then I was reading something -- of course, after six weeks or so, this tomato wasn't doing really well -- I was like, "What's going on with that?" I read that fennel will actually inhibit the growth of a tomato, and I thought, "Well, great." Oh, now my fennel is still growing, by the way. Next year, I'll put the tomato somewhere else, I'll find some -- I don't know what's gonna go with fennel, but it
Amy 32:51 It is a rabbit hole. Once you got my head into that idea, then it's hard not to just start digging through it and you find all these weird plants, you're like, "Oh, this random herb will put this really beneficial thing into the soil next to this tomato, or next to this pepper," whatever. And if you don't do it, it'll grow but it might kind of suck as a plant. But then the one that's planted next to this beneficial thing, will just thrive and be this huge, beautiful plant.
Vicki 33:14 I tried a couple of different gardening methods this year. One was -- I've always had a lot of containers because our topsoil here on the mountain is about two inches thick, because we're on top of this rock. So, a lot of my stuff has to be in containers. I've had horse troughs as containers, and my tomatoes do really well in those. This year, my lettuce just didn't do anything in there. So this year, I tried a method of planting that comes from Europe -- I think it was either German or French.
Vicki 33:46 I can't remember the name of it because it's as long as my arm -- I built my raised beds in and then I went over to our local city works and got logs -- not really huge logs, but like six or seven inches and started putting those in there. Then I layered, put some leaves in there with them. Then I started with little smaller branches, then little twigs and more leaves and more compost. Those beds have done exceptional this year.
Amy 34:15 So, the logs are like the base of it.
Vicki 34:16 The logs are like the base of it. And over time, these logs and all these leaves and all these twigs are going to start decomposing, and give out all this beneficial stuff to the soil. So every year, I'm going to have to turn this and maybe dig it out a little bit and put another couple of logs in because unfortunately, they're not too deep. And those beds have been really -- my tomatoes, I had to get a ladder to harvest tomatoes and built a frame for them because they got so big. I won't do that next year, I'll trim them back, but they have done exceptionally well. We're gonna put two more beds in I think, and I'll do that method, too.
Amy 34:56 You mentioned essential oils -- what essential oils do you put on plants?
Vicki 35:00 There was a company that I ran across it was called Doctor Earth. I had aphids on my roses out front, and I didn't want to put stuff on them. I found these products from them -- they were basically essential oils mixed together. They smelled very earthy, they didn't smell like a chemical cesspool, and I sprayed it on my aphids and never had aphids again. It was wonderful. Again, you'd have to do a little homework to see what works. It's usually a combination of stuff like cinnamon oil and lavender -- I tried to plant lavender -- anyway, rosemary oil, It's just a combination of stuff that you can mix together, and I've had really good success with it. I know some people have not had, but I really like it. It makes your yard smell good, too.
Vicki 35:50 My next challenge is going to be how to control moles and voles and chipmunks, because we have them in abundance up here. I read that moles and voles, they make those tunnels and just ruin your yard. I read that they don't like strong smells, so I emptied out my K-cups and clean them out so I can recycle them, and I take my coffee grounds and I put them down in all these mole holes. I'll just pack it in there, and the next thing I know --
Amy 36:17 -- so you're caffeinating the moles is what you're doing.
Vicki 36:20 I'm revving the chipmunks up -- they're on caffeine highs. I now have gone out and the chipmunk holes are busted wide open again. They probably were caffeinated.
Vicki 36:32 But then I read a tea, garlic and cloves, you put the garlic and cloves together with water and let it sit there and make this tea and you can spray that out. I didn't have time to do that, so I went out and bought a bunch of garlic in bulk. Stuck cloves of garlic and in all these holes, everything smelled really good. But I still have moles and voles. So I have not conquered those little buggers yet, and the chipmunks are still running crazy. I don't know what I'm gonna do about those, because they're really detrimental to your soil. My backyard looked like I had a tiller run through it. There were so many more holes in it, or tunnels rather. I don't know what to do about them.
Amy 37:11 But I feel like a lesser person would have just been, the obvious thing and gone, "Okay, what kills them? Like what chemical can I put all over them and just kill them?" But this idea is just make them, make your yard not appealing to them.
Vicki 37:21 They can go to my neighbor's yards -- dig somewhere else. [laughter] They've also been in the front yard. I have a big, big tree out there and all my landscape stuff and you know the moles and voles, you can walk right over my yard -- it feels like a sponge. It's just terrible in spring. I didn't want to put anything out because a lot of people let their dogs and cats run up here and I didn't want to be responsible for making somebody's pet sick. I didn't want to put anything out ,so that's the biggest challenge I have right now trying to control the moles and voles, because they're driving me crazy. The dogs kind of chase the chipmunks -- they play their little chipmunk chasing game.
Amy 38:03 Let me ask you this -- I feel like a lot of people have really quick judgments about their planting skills. A lot of people see my plants on my Instagram and go "Oh, how do you grow plants in the city and I don't have a green thumb. I have a black thumb, I kill all the plants." My theory is that people that kill plants are paying *too* much attention to them; people overwater them is usually what's going on, usually. Some of my friends have brought me plants and gone, "What did I do?" and I look at it, I'm like ,"Your soil is basically mud." But when people say, "Where do I start? I kill plants, I don't know how to deal with plants," where's a good place for them to start getting into gardening?
Vicki 38:39 Get you a little indoor plant -- something you know that suits the light in your house --like a little Rhododendron, or something really easy like the snake plant, a mother-in-law's tongue, iron tongue or whatever that iron plant. I don't think you can kill that. In your landscape, if you want to grow Mondo grass, you cannot kill Mondo grass -- I have tried, I have a lot of it. It's not my favorite plant, but it came with the house, so I'm kind of stuck with it. But I have purposely tried to kill it, and it doesn't die ever. I find roses to be really easy. Roses have been -- there's so many cultivars out there now that are disease-resistant, pest-resistant -- roses are actually I think they're really easy, and they're beautiful. You get this beautiful reward from it.
Amy 39:29 And there's so many kinds of roses -- I love looking at all the fun names. I want a rose named after me at some point in my life.
Vicki 39:35 Oh, you can do that?
Amy 39:36 I think you can do that. I mean, there's so many cool ones. The Barbra Streisand Rose is very beautiful, not just because I love Babs, but it's a very beautiful purple rose. It's very, very pretty. But there's lots of neat stories of because there's so many thousands of cultivars. There's so many interesting stories, especially like in the '20s and '30s. I feel like it was a very chic thing to honor people with rose names. So there's all kinds of weird roses and I love to walk around and try to figure out what they are, as I see them.
Vicki 40:04 Back then, they were having to cultivate all these these things -- breed, so to speak -- all these new roses, and they were hard to grow. They were not the roses that we have today, for sure. They took a lot of work and a lot of effort and a lot of determination to grow them. But today, they have made growing roses so much easier. There was a plant that we had in South Florida, it looked like gigantic Mondo grass, and it was called Flax Lily, is the easiest thing to grow, if you live in South Florida, and it puts on this beautiful bloom, and it makes this beautiful show in your yard. So if you live in South Florida, where it's hot, or Flax Lily, it's beautiful.
Amy 40:47 I feel like people, a lot of times, we'll just buy the obvious -- the very widespread plants, go to Home Depot and buy a little tomato and maybe like a basil or a mint. And I think another thing people do is they put them in the wrong pots, like I have a neighbor, I see her balcony, and she would put plants in pots that didn't have drainage. And I would just see those plants sitting there just turning yellow and dying. And I was like, "I just want to drill a hole in these pots because I could see you're overwatering -- you're overwatering your plants." I think that's kind of part of it. But then you also have to take into account like the zones, which are changing; we just saw the Pacific Northwest had record summer heat and a lot of snow before Chicago got snow. So they're changing, indeed. We're gonna probably be growing different things. I think the the whole native plant movement is a really interesting one, just for the pollinators sake.
Vicki 41:36 Oh, yeah. We have a native plant society here, it's called "Wild Ones." We have a an urban farm here, Crabtree farms. That is where I try to get all my plants from because everything they do there is organic, they use worm castings as fertilizer, they're growing their own worms, it's a very sustainable farm. They have a big plant sale a couple times a year, and that's where I try to get all my plants from. There are so many varieties of tomatoes, for instance, and they try to grow as many as they can, for the seedlings. Sometimes it's just fun to go out and get a new tomato that you've never grown before, and to discover a new one. That's a fun place to go to in the spring.
Vicki 42:27 They have a lot of native stuff too, a lot of native berries. They'll have elderberries, and different varieties of blueberries and blackberries and all kinds of stuff. They have such a wide variety of stuff, as well as some trees, too -- they'll have some little saplings that you can get, too. In the springtime, as a gardener, it's really hard not to buy one of everything, because you want that variety, but yet, you have to have some restraint. And I know what I can put in. I've had some failures, I know they're not gonna work. But discovering new stuff, too, is fun.
Amy 43:07 I love the "Seed Savers" catalog, because they have all kinds of cool --
Vicki 43:11 -- Yeah, that one, and Baker Creek?
Amy 43:14 Yes. There are all these cool heirloom seeds that don't exist anymore
Vicki 43:18 -- the heirloom seed -- those are hard to find sometimes.
Amy 43:22 Do you generally start things from seed, or do you buy plants?
Vicki 43:25 It depends on what it is, lettuce and stuff, I just go in the soil, but for tomato, because I don't have a lot of room to do that, and I don't have good light, I just don't have anywhere to do that kind of stuff, to grow my own seedlings. So I usually had to buy stuff, which is fine.
Amy 43:44 I'm gonna ask you to kind of look at the tea leaves a little bit here -- and I realize this is like asking you to speculate on behalf of a huge thing -- but when you look at the future of agriculture, I feel it's gotten so commercial and there's a lot of -- at the grocery store, it might say natural, but natural doesn't really mean anything. And then, the considerations you brought up about organic, things like that. It's increasingly difficult, but I think consumers are getting more and more aware of like, "What's in my food and why should it be this hard to know what's in my food and where it came from?"
Amy 44:15 What do you think of the future when we when we look at agriculture, but also gardening? Do you think more people are going to start moving towards gardening? Do you think we're going to go back to a time where everybody had a garden? What's your kind of feeling about the where we're headed with agriculture and home gardening?
Vicki 44:32 When COVID hit, there was a big resurgence in gardening, especially growing your own food. And we have seen in our master gardeners -- we have two classes a year, and they fill up overnight, because it's a lot of really young people wanting to know how to grow their own food. I personally think that should be taught in school. Everybody needs to know how to grow their own food. But it's really interesting to see how there has been this growing interest in growing your own food. I think part of that is because we have access to information now, we can dig around, qnd we can find out all kinds of stuff about companies and products. We don't like what we're reading, we want to treat ourselves better, and we want to treat our world better, as well. I think people are just becoming so aware of treating ourselves better and our world better. And it's reflected in the number of people that have shown this interest in growing their own food. And I think it's great, I think it's wonderful that we can, especially younger people, are showing such an interest in doing this.
Amy 45:52 You mentioned that this has always been part of your life. For as long as you can remember, gardening and farming was part of it. What advice would you have to somebody who maybe has young kids who wants to instill good gardening habits in them? You've taught little kids before, and you've done programs for them about gardening, and I remember you saying that they take to this idea of environmental stewardship pretty easily
Vicki 46:16 They do.
Amy 46:16 it's a pretty good place to start. For parents listening, where could they start building these habits for their kids now?
Vicki 46:24 Our master gardener Program has a summer camp that's open for five to-- little, young kids, elementary school kids -- that fills up immediately. But again, I think people like me, master gardeners, or just dedicated gardeners can help our children by getting into the schools, getting schools involved, teaching kids how to grow their own food, teaching kids the joy of watching a seed grow, and they love it. That's the thing, they just absolutely love it. They gravitate toward that wonder of watching something grow.
Vicki 47:02 It's not hard to get them engaged, if they know they're going to get their hands dirty, they love it even more. When I've done tours out at the farm, when we get to the worm castings, and we start talking about worm poop and stuff like that, they think it's hysterical. And stuff like that, getting that spark going, and getting them to ask those questions, and then taking that information home to mom and say, "Mom, we talked about worm poop all day." And then they can tell their mom about the worm poop, and maybe mom'll get interested in growing a tomato plant. If you have a pot, you can grow something in it, and make it a discovery. Make it interesting. Get them to keep a journal on it and measure it every day. Something to give them a little ownership in this plant and get that wonder going, that curiosity, because it's easy to do.
Amy 48:01 Or tell them that their African Violet is really sensitive. And this little kid will be like, "My plant's gonna get his feelings hurt. He's really sensitive, I need to be nice."
Vicki 48:11 Well, I talk to my plants all the time. I know Dad thinks I'm crazym but do I talk to my plants. I talk to my plants out in the yard, my neighbors probably think I'm nuts.
Amy 48:20 Let them, let 'em.
Vicki 48:21 I'm beyond caring, so whatever.
Amy 48:23 We've covered a lot of garden stuff. What have I not asked you about that you think is important to bring up about gardening?
Vicki 48:29 That's a hard question.
Amy 48:30 We haven't really talked about compost.
Vicki 48:31 I am a big composter. I compost all my kitchen scraps, everything. You gave me a composter, it's a turning compost, it's a drum. The one drawback of that is it's not on the ground. So you lose some of the beneficial insects that come up out of the ground. Sometimes I have to add some bacteria to it to really get it cooking. But it's been pretty good for me in my small space that I have here. And the fact that I have large dogs that would get into my compost pile, and the raccoons and the possums and everything else --it's a good alternative. I use my compost all the time; that's what I use as fertilizer. I do have some commercial fertilizer, but it's organic. It's got fish emulsion in it and it stinks. Then my dogs come along and try to eat it because they love fish. But that's the only fertilizer I use and knock on wood, so far, so good.
Amy 49:38 It'd be interesting to see your take on how it all works here. I mean, here in Chicago, I don't think about it being this big garden ecosystem. But there are plots of land that developers went bust on, things like that, that have been divided into these little beds and you rent them. People get on a very long waiting list -- I've been on a couple, I've yet to get a plot -- but you have this little garden, I think maybe two or three feet by six or eight feet. They're pretty small, but it covers this lot, and suddenly, it's this really beautiful garden. Sometimes they'll put native plants around the outside to bring the pollinators in and things like that. It's really kind of cool to see how people make use of their space.
Amy 50:19 One thing that I've been seeing more of here in the city that I'm excited about, because a lot of landlords even will say in your lease, you cannot do even porch compost because they are afraid of rats, and bugs. So they'll say you can't do it, but more compost services are springing up where they give you this special sealed bucket, and you leave it out, and they'll come and pick it up and drop a fresh bucket off. Either empty or soil or whatever. And you can do that way, which I think more of that would go a very long way. I think we're so disconnected from our food system and our natural world, right, like the built environment and the natural environment we have for so long. I feel like we've set on top of it like "We're the humans, and we're in charge and we can build whatever we want," without thinking about our impact on the natural world. And I think more and more time is running out to do that, and we have to pay attention to our world.
Amy 51:12 I think right now, more and more people are starting to do that. I really hope they are. Because, the extreme weathers that we've had, and especially the last couple years, maybe I've been paying attention more. But Colorado, just two towns just burned in Colorado, and people lost everything, just a couple of days ago. We just need to do a better job, we need to be better stewards of whatever little plot of land we have, just be a better steward. And that's kind of how I look at my yard. I need to take care of this little plot, my little almost half-acre and make sure I'm doing the best I can with it.
Amy 51:54 It feels like a good mic drop right there. That feels like a good place to end. Thank you. I appreciate you being good sport and hopping on for this podcast.
Vicki 52:03 Thank you. It's been my pleasure.
Announcer 52:05 Thank you for listening to Finding Favorites with Leah Jones. Please make sure to subscribe and drop us a five-star review on iTunes. Now go out, and enjoy your favorite things.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
To leave or reply to comments, please download free Podbean or
To leave or reply to comments, please download free Podbean App.