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Oil Change of Pace

mechanic handing keys to you
mechanic handing keys to you

I took a half-day off work today to get some long overdue chores out of the way before the holidays & inevitable travel that follows. We don’t have to travel far for family but Kyla & I both have 10 days off work between Christmas & New Years – who knows where we may end up with all that time.

I love my new job as a Product Manager, but when you dive in head first every day going 110%, with a huge variety of tasks, you need to unwind every once in a while – everyone needs a break – and not only that, but I feel as though it is necessary to get out & explore new terrain. Winter isn’t ideal but we can get creative & adapt.

And the more I think about it, bring on the cold! Lately I have been feeling like forcing myself into a certain amount of suffering – and by that I mean breaking out of your comfort zone – I feel like if you’re not struggling in some capacity, then you’re getting comfortable, and when you get comfortable, you become vulnerable. But vulnerable to your routine and inability to adapt, or better yet, to innovate; to be visionary instead of reactionary.

*****

Sorry for the severe detraction but I can’t help but wonder what all these guys are thinking as I’m sitting at Sidney Tire, waiting on my oil change, while writing chicken scratch in a notebook. What kind of “kid” writes instead of being on their phone or laptop?

First, this is partly about not giving a shit what people think – if you want to be an anomaly, you have to act like one. Secondly, I think that the action of writing, the mode I choose to write with, has been the bottleneck. It’s much easier to write & flow with a pen & pad of paper. Typing is mechanical and restricted to certain strokes, but with handwriting, you work your way down the lines, down the page physically, not in a theoretical technological representation of it.

We grew up writing everything & only recently have things been switched to digital. Does the younger generation feel weirdly about writing vs. typing/texting?

Either way, feel more creative with the pen – and I’m so thankful that I figured it out. If anything, it is the 1st draft & when I type it, that will be the time to refine & perfect.

And I thought didn’t give a shit – this African dude is blasting some African chanting music on his phone in the waiting area – some people just don’t care and that’s the way to be! No matter how cringe-worthy it can be for everyone else!

Being carefree & not judging one’s self is crucial to survival. And yet at the same time you need to care about a lot & be very judgmental of yourself in order to improve. Finding the balance is tough but one that I’m working towards in several aspects of my life: health, wealth, & happiness, to be extremely vague & cliché.

It all basically circles back to the statement I made about forcing suffering. Being overweight is a product of over-indulging on foods, not working out enough, not walking the dogs frequently enough. It is also a product of being in the happiest relationship I’ve ever been in, happy with my job – and simply being overall satisfied with the direction my life is going.

I’m not extremely overweight, but I would like to be slimmer. I’ve been bulking for about 5 years – it’s time to begin the cut for next spring/summer – after Thanksgiving.

It all begins with the consistency of lifting & activity. Since I spend the majority of the day at my desk, I NEED to walk the dogs (maybe run them), lift at least 3 times a week, and get cardio in wherever I get the chance.

When you force yourself into difficult situations like waking up early, lifting hard, doing morning yoga – when you overcome the struggle, you unlock more & more energy to propel you forward. Become the habits. Live the change.

Other than that I really am working hard towards formulating the right plot to take the garden to a full-blown farm. I keep talking about buying land but I think the better way to think about it is, “how much can I squeeze out of my small garden area that I already have set-up?” The Netherlands is one of the smallest countries, yet produces an enormous percentage of the world’s food & plant material because of agritech and grower knowledge that is beyond the conventional realm of agriculture & horticulture.

I feel confident that with more diligent planning, & the accumulated knowledge through experience and education, that I can at least double my production next spring on the same amount of land. To be fair, half of the garden at my parents’ house was devoured by hungry deer, but I think I can double production at the Garden of Gains South (my house) too. Through the use of container production, organic principles, biological controls, and a little bit of luck, I have learned how to dial it in & prevent disease rather than trying to cure them.

Learning from experience is different than education from classes though. Through classes, you learn more about the biology, the chemistry – and that fascinates me – I just wish that I learned those subjects under the same context in high school & college – it probably wouldn’t have changed my mind without me actively gardening though, but I’m glad that I found it at a certain point in my life. I was always interested in those areas of science, but never realized how I would utilize them in my future passion that is growing plants & gardening.

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Why I Haven’t Been Blogging

One of my resolutions for 2018 was to publish a weekly blog post. I started the year off extremely strong, sometimes even posting multiple times a week – or I’d get on a roll of posting on 3 consecutive days – I was really feelin’ it!

But a few things happened, and I decided to pivot & follow my instincts on blogging.

I felt as though my posts were manufactured & becoming forced just for the sake of keeping up with the metrics of my resolution – not in line with metrics of my motivation.

And then it was even more forced when I was trying to align my blog posts, with my Instagram posts, with my YouTube video. And as I’m writing this, the logic seems flawless – but the execution was lacking, it was motivated by the metrics, not the true passion.

Mostly this is my fault & the fault of my perception on it, but the pivot took me to some really interesting places and some new mediums that allowed me to test my limits & push myself out of my comfort zone.

I had already been working on my Podcast that I started on Anchor, so I kept publishing on my channel “Plant Rant”. (Check out my latest episode below or the whole channel here)

As I carried on with the podcast, it too felt like it was lacking something. It definitely wasn’t focused, but that’s how I wanted it – I just wanted to rant – Plant Rant. Sometimes it was about gardening, other times it was about social media, or my thoughts on something that was grinding my gears, or my observations & perspective on stuff. I really enjoyed it, but it was just lacking something!

The fact that it was spontaneous was probably a very limiting factor, but it was important to me so that I could practice my verbal skills, build confidence, and because I believe all the magic happens in spontaneity.

What needed to happen was a merging of all of these ideas & platforms into one – and that’s basically what I did!

And thus the Vlog was born!

Vlogging has been a great collision of everything that I want: spontaneity (because I never plan or try to manufacture content), visual content combined with an audio commentary, providing value through knowledge & experience, and documenting my process of growing my garden and my business.

From Vlogging and posting on YouTube & Facebook, I went to creating content for IGTV. I would still post the IGTV videos to Facebook, but didn’t feel like it was good for YouTube because of the vertical format vs YouTube being optimized for horizontal. I like the concept of IGTV and think that it will really take off with the time & development – especially if they can integrate it into the feed in some way.

Recently, I have been pretty terrible at producing content & keeping on the up & up with stuff! After breaking my foot, I basically went in to hyper-drive trying to prove that I could keep up with everything and that my broken foot wasn’t going to slow me down. I ran on pure adrenaline for the first 3 weeks & doing as much activity as I could handle. After the 3rd week I began driving again and that pushed the limits a little, but was necessary to rehab the foot & begin working the muscles again (I have a manual transmission and the broken foot is my clutch foot).

From that point I realized that I needed to slow down a little bit if I wanted to heal up, and I think that was the whole reason I broke my foot in the first place – to force me to slow down, smell the roses, and enjoy life without constantly trying to do 8 million different things.

I feel like that last sentence completely contradicts the whole point of this article, but when I slowed down the production of my content, I began consuming more content, observing, and realizing what would draw me into videos. Basically observing success & reverse-engineering it to fit with my personality & style.

So now that I have gotten a chance to rest my mind, had time to rethink & refine my content strategy, I’m ready to get back to executing against my master plan to ultimately buy land & begin my farm – stay tuned to the podcast & the vlog, and please! – feel free to reach out with any gardening questions or topics you would like to see covered on the blog/vlog/podcast!

 

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Spirits in the Park

Why do these Spirits visit me?

Throughout my life I have been visited several times by what I call Spirits.

These are not ordinary people. Not that people are ordinary, but you have ordinary interactions with them – they wave & smile as we pass, or they pet the dog as I take out one earbud to signal I’m friendly enough to say “Hi”, but it also says I’m on a mission to walk my dog, not talk or get caught in the rain.

Today was different.

Any time – all Time – is different when you run into one of the Spirits.

Today, I took a slightly different route – nothing too crazy, but had to go on a longer walk/run to clear the mind & wear my hyper pupper out a little bit. We only added about 5-10 minutes by going up to a park a little further up the bike path we normally walk on. We get through the park, and I look both ways to cross the street. Twiggy & I began walking until I triple-checked and saw a van come out of nowhere.

I motioned the van to go ahead and go even though they were doing the same thing to me. As this van pulls up, the window rolls down and – to quote one of my favorite movies, Emperor’s New Grove – a woman who was scary beyond all reason was smiling at me. We exchanged hellos & I figured that would be all until she starts to pull the van over and says let me show you what I got in my pocket.

My stomach dropped a little bit, but I didn’t feel I had anything to worry about – maybe she had a dog treat or something, seems like we are always running into people who will do that or just chat for a bit – no problem.

It’s really strange to say, but I feel like I knew her; like she was a long-lost family member or something – your Mam-maw’s third cousin who stayed in Tennessee & you only met once but you were too little to remember. She then comes over to me & starts pulling these items out of her pocket; each one of the items is associated with a pun.

Puns – [toilet paper] to keep your crap off me, [leaf so you leaf me alone], [piece of wood] wood you be my friend, [bolt] to screw you down if you’re screwed up, [5 pennies] and some ‘cents'(sense) in case you’re missing some. She then proceeds to say guys have 3 knees – left knee, right knee, wee-knee. And then goes on to ask if I know what the thing in-between women’s boobs is called – “belly button, hope I don’t ever have to worry about that!”

Obviously I was uncomfortable, but what do you do? This lady continued to go on to tell me about some stuff that had happened to her in the past & talked about her friends’ marriages – it was all over the place! But I stood there & listened to her for a few minutes until I finally parted ways & continued the walk with Twiggy.

With the mysterious van behind me, I readjusted my headphones, waited until I heard the van start before I hit play & walked towards home shaking my head.

“Why do I always run into people that want to tell me these crazy things?”

“Why do people always want to talk to me?”

“I hope she doesn’t follow me & figure out where I live.”

Feeling a little paranoid, I turned around and the van was nowhere to be seen; I wasn’t even sure it was really there to begin with.

I told Kyla about the encounter & she wasn’t really surprised – she just said I need to “watch out for critters on the path”.

Fast forward to grocery shopping this weekend. We decide to go to a store that we NEVER go to. I’m standing there on my phone, I put it in my pocket & I am waiting for Kyla to put something in the cart when I look up & this lady who is scary beyond all reason is standing right behind Kyla. I swear she just appeared out of thin air! I didn’t see her walking – nobody saw her walking. Hell, it was like nobody saw us standing in the middle of the aisle when she starts pulling things out of her pockets:

Puns – [toilet paper] to keep your crap off me, leaf so you leaf me alone, [piece of wood] wood you be my friend, [bolt] to screw you down if you’re screwed up, [5 pennies] and some ‘cents'(sense) in case you’re missing some. She then proceeds to say guys have 3 knees – left knee, right knee, wee-knee. And then goes on to ask if we know what the thing in-between women’s boobs is called – “belly button, hope I don’t ever have to worry about that!”

At that point we just continued to walk – I knew Kyla was extremely uncomfortable. I was honestly so surprised that this spirit was a “real person” – what could I do? I sat there awestruck as she pelted us with puns; knowing full-well every line that was getting ready to come out of her mouth.

As we finally got away, she gave us a smile and a “thank you for laughing with me” and then she just stopped as we walked away. She continued to stand there watching us & then suddenly disappeared as if she was never there in the first place.

Needless to say, that encounter left us both a little disturbed; as if something was missing from us. What a strange occurrence – and this was the second time it had happened to me!

So what do you make of something like this? I’ve been stopped by a lot of people who talk about God, angels, or prophecy, but I feel as though this occurrence has significance as well – but what?

There are so many people in the world who don’t say enough, who don’t try to reach out, and yet this woman felt the need to do this to us – twice. When someone feels comfortable enough to approach you, what are you supposed to do? Just ignore them? Something told me to stop & listen. I feel as if it was a test of some sort. Like God was testing us to see how we would react; how we would treat someone who didn’t appeal to the senses – or sense in general.

Treat others how you want to be treated. Take time to get to know a stranger. And stay safe out there! 🙂

 

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How To Grow Tomatoes: the Gardening for Gains Guide

Solanum Lycopersicum; Lycopersicum esculentum

Determinate vs. Indeterminate – what type is best for you?

When I first starting gardening, I had no idea about the differences in tomatoes plant types – I just wanted to grow tomatoes! There is a really big difference between the 2 plants & it is important to know these differences and how each plant should be cared for.

Determinate Tomato Plants – these are the “bush-type” varieties of tomatoes. Typically they will grow 3-4 feet tall & 3 feet wide. They do not require pruning and tomato cages are probably your best bet for plant supports – my Grandpa drives a stake in by the plant & has fencing along one side of his that keep them supported & fruiting all summer long. Determinate varieties set fruit all at once & then they are done producing for the year, unlike Indeterminate tomatoes which produce all year long.

Indeterminate Tomato Plants – these are “vining” varieties that tend to grow more vertically. Typically they will grow between 4-6 feet tall & 2-3 feet wide. They do require pruning – remove the bottom third of branches, and prune and “suckers” that emerge between the main stem & a branch. Those suckers will basically form another head to your tomato plant. You may think this is a good thing, but it will actually suck a lot of energy from the plant & is not ideal for optimal fruit production. With proper care, Indeterminate varieties will produce fruit all year long (or until the frost gets them).

Spacing

  • 24-36″ between plants, 4-6′ between rows (room for plants to grow & accounts for 2′ walking path).

Height

  • Depending on type of plant, will grow 3-6′ tall, width 2-4′. That’s for the garden – some greenhouse varieties grow over 25′ tall!

Seeding

  • Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost date.
  • Can start in trays, but I am thinking about planting seeds straight into 4″ pots from the start next year. (Anybody with thoughts on this, would love to hear it in the comments!)

Transplanting

  • After danger of frost has past and soil temps warm to 60°, you can transplant into the garden.
  • Drop a couple tablespoons of Epsom salts in planting hole to prevent blossom end rot – also provides good source of Sulfur & Magnesium.
  • Plant your tomatoes deep – this will help establish deep, strong roots to help support the vine’s growth.

Fertilization

  • I generally mix a balanced fertilizer or manure into my garden before the year. Then wait 2-4 weeks after seedlings emerge for dry fertilizer & every 1-2 weeks after flowers & fruit have set.
  • Sprinkle Epsom salts in planting hole & soil surrounding Tomato-tone or balanced fertilizer.

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My organic pest management kit consisting of: Diatomaceous Earth, Monterey Complete Disease Control, Neem Oil, Neptune’s Harvest Hydrolyzed Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer, and my Jacto Sprayer

Cages & Stakes

Stakes

  • Best for Indeterminate varieties (vining tomatoes).
  • Place stake in ground @ time of planting to avoid harming roots later in growth cycle.
  • Metal – may want to use one with coating over metal to prevent hot metal on sensitive plants. These are great because they last multiple seasons.
  • Wood – may last a few seasons, very sturdy, solid support for plants.
  • Bamboo – most cost-effective & I have used them the last couple years with good results. Typically want to use one year to avoid the potential to spread disease.

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Cages

  • Best for Determinate varieties (bush tomatoes).
  • Place over tomato after planting.
  • Cage should be 4-5 feet tall.
  • Be mindful of the gauge of wire being used & check the welds to make sure you’re getting a quality product!
  • Can be used multiple years.
  • Several different sizes, shapes, colors.

Trellis – Florida Weave

This is my first year using the Florida weave method – I think my mom tagged me in something about it? Or maybe I found it while looking at a customer’s website? Either way, it’s an awesome alternative to traditional staking.

  • Drive stakes every 4-6′, in-between the tomato plants. Use wood so that you don’t have as much flex in your stakes as I am having with bamboo!
  • As the plants grow they will need to be supported.
  • Tie twine on the end stake.
  • Run it along one side of the plants.
  • When you get to another stake, wrap the twine around the stake a few times to hold it tight.
  • Continue down the row.
  • When you get to the end of the row, go down the other side of the plants – this gives stability to both sides, and essentially creates a long, narrow tomato cage.

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Water needs

  • Irrigation types – Drip irrigation, soaker hoses, hand-watering.
  • Water @ base of plants to avoid damaging foliage.
  • Keep water consistent – large amounts of water will cause fruit to split.
  • Containers will dry out faster than in-ground grown tomatoes & will require more attention – good opportunity for drip irrigation.
  • Soaker hoses should be placed ~6″ from the base of plants & buried a few inches to promote the water to spread through the soil.
  • Tomatoes need about 1-1.5 inches of water per week – keep them hydrated, not saturated!

General Maintenance

  • Pinching suckers – Indeterminate tomatoes require pruning, Determinate do not.

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Notice the “suckers” growing between a branch & the main stem. These need to be pinched or clipped off to keep the plant growing vertically and to keep the plant to 1 main stem.

  • Pinching Flowers – It sounds counter-productive, but in the early stages of growth, you need to pinch flowers that emerge too early. Doing this will allow the plant to focus on growing in other aspects (height, leafy growth) to support the production of fruit.
  • Fertilize – I fertilize at time of planting by putting Epsom salts in the planting hole. This supplements plants with sulfur & magnesium, and will help with overall plant health, and help to prevent blossom end rot. Fertilize @ planting with Epsom salts & your fertilizer of choice. Then once fruit sets, fertilize every 1-2 weeks to keep them healthy, growing strong, and yielding tons of tomatoes! Fertilization after the initial planting can be done with any variety of products – the easiest way to go would be to throw some Tomato-tone Fertilizer around the base of the plant. This will be incorporated into the soil when you water & I had really great luck with it last year. This year I am testing out a hydrolyzed fish & seaweed fertilizer – plants are loving it so far!
  • Pulling Weeds – a necessary evil of gardening, weeding can be done while you’re already pinching suckers & pruning your plants. Weeds will suck up the nutrients around your tomatoes, so get them outta there!

Weed Management

I think pulling weeds is kind of therapeutic. It makes you stop and focus on a “mundane” task – but you know it is essential to your garden’s success, so you suck it up. But there are other options to help prevent pulling so many weeds!

  • Groundcover Fabric – Water-permeable material that will allow the soil to breathe, but suppress weeds. You can cut holes in the fabric where your plants will go. A lot of people will use this in conjunction with drip irrigation.
  • Mulch – a natural, dye-free mulch will suppress weeds & help retain soil moisture in the same way it does in your landscape & also add some organic material to your garden.
  • Mulch Films – similar to groundcover, this will block weeds & help retain moisture. There are also red films that are supposed to increase your yields (testing this out this summer & that will discussion will be a semi-scientific article from the research I’ve done so far).

Pest Management

You’re not the only one who wants to eat your tomatoes – here are some tips on pests & what to do to control them.

  • Pests include – aphids, tomato hornworms, whitefly, among many, many more.
  • Neem Oil – this is my favorite organic pest control product. It smells citrusy and goes to work instantly – I swear I see the bugs bolt immediately and they stay away until we get a few good rains.
  • Diatomaceous Earth – this is my first year experimenting with this stuff & so far it’s had really positive results. You can apply diatomaceous earth as a dusting or mix it into a slurry. I opted for the slurry and was really pleased. Even with the heavy downpours we’ve had in Ohio this summer, that stuff really sticks to the plants’ leaves. Be careful that you don’t overcoat the plants – it may prevent/restrict growth if you suffocate it. Again, this is an organic product.
  • Basil – plant Basil around your Tomatoes & it will help to repel some insects with its aromatic foliage.

Disease Management

Tomatoes are usually bred to have pest or disease-resistance, but that doesn’t guarantee that will be the case. There are some simple steps you can take to ensure your tomatoes will survive & not suffer from diseases or pests. The most important this when it comes to disease is not necessarily treatment, but rather, your plan should be focused on prevention.

  • Epsom Salts – put a few tablespoons in the planting hole. This will supply the plant with 2 crucial elements: Magnesium, and Sulfur. Along with Calcium you would call these secondary nutrients (of secondary importance to the macronutrients of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium), but the role they plant in the plants health is critical. Calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are required by plants for normal healthy growth and help fortify & strengthen the cell walls (important in new growth as well as existing). The secondary nutrients basically work in conjunction with the macronutrients – helping make them more available, assisting in nutrient delivery & uptake (please drop some knowledge on me if I’m out of line saying this!)
  • Neem Oil – I swear, this stuff is awesome. Not only does it take care of insects & pests, but is also listed for several diseases and fungal infestations!
  • Copper Fungicide – Copper fungicides are considered as preventative, not curative – but so are most products. If you have gotten to a point of noticing a disease taking hold of a whole plant, you’re probably too late. Prevention is always the best method of control – it’s like putting sunscreen on before going to the beach.
  • Complete Disease Control – this Monterey product is a biofungicide/bactericide – bio meaning this is a live product. The active ingredient is a naturally occurring strain of the beneficial bacterium Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. This is my first year using this product, but given the fact that we’ve had buckets of rain poured over this season and my plants are still okay – is a good sign! The really great thing is that this product is so safe that you can use it up to the day of harvest – and it’s certified Organic as well!

Harvest

  • Leave tomatoes on the vine as long as possible, picking when fruits ripen to red.
  • Heavier varieties may need to be given extra support, or pulled when green. Let it ripen in a cool, dark place – not in a sunny windowsill as this may damage the skin of the tomato.

Storage

Videos will be coming in the next couple weeks as all of my tomato plants are fruiting like crazy right now! (You can see those on the [once] greatly neglected Gardening for Gains YouTube Channel – I PROMISE MORE IS ON THE WAY SOON!) If I don’t learn how to make a perfect sauce, I’ll end up buried in tomatoes from the 55 plants we have blooming.

  • Do not store in sunny areas (unless you want sun-dried tomatoes)
  • Do not store in the fridge (unless you make salsa or pico)
  • Salsa
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Canning – Tomato Sauces & Pastes
  • Freezing

Supplies needed

  • Seeds
  • Soil mix
  • Growing trays
  • Grow lights if you don’t have south-facing window for seedlings
  • Epsom Salts
  • Tomato-tone Fertilizer
  • Stakes – bamboo, fiberglass, steel, wood.
  • Plant Tying materials
  • Sisal/Jute Twine (Florida weave method)
  • Sprayer to apply fertilizers/treatments
  • Drip irrigation / soaker hoses / sprinklers
  • Canning Jars
  • Patience, Passion, and Persistence! I used to hate growing tomatoes, but now I just love the challenge & the reward!

Really hope that this guide has given you a somewhat detailed roadmap to successfully grow tomatoes! Please like, comment, follow AND PLEASE let me know if you have any wisdom to contribute to this tomato growing guide!

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9 Ways Sales Changed My Life

Does working in sales change your life? I stumbled across a LinkedIn article with this title by Adam Honig (check it out here) the other day & was immediately drawn in.

The cover picture is a before & after of a salesman. Pictured is a polished Shia LeBouf ‘First day in sales’ & a more rugged/unkempt-looking picture of him for the ‘One year later’ photo.

I love (and hate) that people have this perception of sales! However, Mr. Honig did not write an article about how hard sales was & how it will kill your spirit, but laid out the foundations of what it takes to be a salesperson, the pros & cons of being in sales and how it will ultimately change your life.

Currently, I am an Account Manager with AM Leonard. That’s a fancy title for salesman, but it is definitely much more than sales; it is customer service, accounting, marketing, being a shipping specialist – simply put, anything to ease our customer’s woes & make their lives easier by seeking out & providing solutions.

So how has Sales changed me?

  • Helped me structure day / manage time – I’m not well-known for my ability to plan things out – I usually go for the wing-it approach, or following my gut. But in sales, you need a little more method than madness. Intuition plays a pivotal role, but without a clear end-goal supported by a detailed roadmap, you could be driving in circles and not even know it. As a younger salesperson, I am finding balance between continually cultivating relationships with existing customers, hot, warm, and cold leads – and different customer types. All of these demographic titles assist with the structuring of my day, but once you know your customers, it becomes much more than a demographic – it is a living, breathing thing that needs to be cared for.
  • Forced me out of my comfort zone – I believe that the best in people is brought out when they’re outside of their comfort zones. I enjoy sitting on the couch, watching ‘The Office’ in the mornings – it’s incredibly comfortable; I know I’m going to laugh, be able to relax, and enjoy myself. On the other hand, if I don’t do my daily morning yoga, my body will be in so much pain that I won’t be able to sit still. I won’t write anything creatively for myself or for my blog; that incompleteness to my pre-conceived plans will leak into the day and be that nagging “thing you wanted to do, but didn’t have time”. You have time. We all have Time if we have a desire strong enough & are willing to endure an uncomfortable situation for the Greater Good.
  • Understanding my value – this was a little bit of a tough one at first – I understood my value, but I also understood why people were mad for me calling them, or that they were busy. And conjoining those two ideas is where I find part of my value – I know I can help you AND I understand that you are busy or get sales calls all the time, what can I do to best help you. The biggest value that anybody can provide is a promise to back your value AND then delivering on those promises. Communicating value by words is how a business relationship can begin, but actions speak louder than words.
  • Improved communication – once you understand your value, communication is easy. You have supplies. Your customers need supplies. They need your supplies because x, y, z. Necessity is another thing that improved my communication. In sales, you’re always looking to expand your offerings to customers & key accounts and communication is crucial in maneuvering through organizations to reach all potential decision-makers. The more communication, the more you will expand your business; the more you will become an asset to your customers.
  • Feeds appetite for knowledge & continued education – this is the nerd in me speaking out. I love learning. There is so much to learn in the Green Industry between landscapers, growers, government agencies, universities, and all of the processes involved in their businesses. I’ve always had an interest in gardening & growing plants – both of my science fair projects in 5th & 6th grade were based on growing plants with different variables. I didn’t end up studying in any of these fields (no pun intended), but love that I’m in the industry learning so much about growing plants in the field, in greenhouses and watching it in my own garden. Learning is important to me – and quite frankly, it should be for everyone. If you’re not learning, you’re staying stagnant; you’re limiting yourself. The world is changing & moving too fast for us to sit still!
  • Patience – like losing my first draft that I thought was great; greatness lies only in execution though, not intention.
  • Handling rejection & objection – sales is rejection; life is rejection. When I first began my journey in sales, there was a lot of rejection – maybe it was the way I was saying things, my tone, maybe I don’t have what it takes for sales. When you find your value, rejection looks a lot more like objection – and in objection, there is opportunity. This isn’t so much a ‘no’ as it is a ‘this better be good’. When someone asks why you’re calling, you better have a damn good reason!
  • Picking up the phone – for inside sales, for a lot of sales, we live by the phone, we die by the phone. This is the most convenient, ‘personal’ touch you can have without a Skype or video call. Lots of writers on LinkedIn seem to think the phone is dying, but when you’re in business, you’re in the people business. A live voice will provide a lot more comfort & promise than a colorful flyer that was blasted into every one of your accounts’ emails. Not that email blasts are bad – it all comes down to the value you provide to your customer. In my experience, the phone is the best way to handle tough situations that you need to fight for. In the case of negotiating pricing, delivering bad news, or anything serious – your customers need to hear your voice. They need to have the opportunity to be pissed at you. This is just an opportunity. How can you make this right?
  • Finding a way – this is the simple secret to sales & to life – when you want something bad enough, you’ll carve a path that leads you to your destination.

As a psychology major I never saw myself going into sales – I’m pretty sure I vowed to never take a sales job, but look where we are now! I love the industry, learning about my customers’ processes and all of the relationships I’m building all over the country along the way. Sales has changed me in a way, but I think it also just forced me to become my best Self – continually seeking knowledge & improvement to fully understand my customers, the industry, and ultimately, my Self.

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5 Ways to Prevent Pullin’ Weeds

There is nothing that seems like more of a waste of time in the world than pullin’ weeds! If you’ve ever worked for a Grounds Crew or Landscaper, we all know that this task is reserved for the grunts & freshmen. The typical, “I don’t have anything for you to do, so go break your back pulling weeds and let me know when you’re done”. Almost always confusing you, thinking that was the secret maintenance signal to go “get lost” & come back before lunch. But I digress…

As a gardener, weeding is viewed through a much different lens – but not too different, bottom line is that it still sucks! Weeding left undone will only continue to multiply, so as hard as this is to do, just keep on it every single day or pick a couple days a week to dedicate to the sacred art. When they start poppin’ up, it doesn’t seem like a big deal – but you also don’t think you need a haircut until you already look like one of the Beatles.

  1. Weed Barrier Fabric – There are so many options in this category. Woven & non-woven ground covers are pretty ideal because they will allow water & nutrients to pass through them while suppressing weed growth. This eliminates the need for installing irrigation, although adding that to the garden is never a bad idea! Plastic mulch will suppress weeds while helping retain soil heat & moisture. You may be able to water the plants @ their bases, but irrigation in the form of soaker hoses or drip irrigation would be much more ideal (article coming soon on irrigation in the garden). Biodegradable paper mulch is the last fabric-type of product that I have heard of. This is basically kraft paper & works to suppress weeds through a more natural means. Over the season it will begin to breakdown & the great thing is the convenience of not having to remove it at the end of the season – a much more sustainable option with no waste!20170523_163135-1
  2. Mulch, Straw, and Rice Hulls – The first 2 options may look familiar, but you’re probably wondering what rice hulls are or could do for the garden – we’ll get there! With mulch & straw it is important to make sure you’re getting clean product with no viable weed seeds. Mulch should be free of dyes – this is not like your landscaping mulch. The point is for weed suppression & water retention, not necessarily the aesthetics of the color. I’ve never used straw, but with fellow gardeners I follow on Instagram, it seems to be working! My only worry would be the wind blowing straw away – anybody with experience, please comment & enlighten me! Rice Hulls are relatively new to the horticulture world, and most growers use them in pots, not necessarily on the ground. Since the hulls are parboiled, they are free of weed seeds, and they come in compressed bales of 7 or 30 cubic feet bags – so that would go a long ways in the garden! Basically the rice hulls will work in the same way as straw or mulch – suppressing weeds, but loose enough to allow air & moisture to pass through.
  3. Square Foot Gardening – I try to plant things as close as possible, so that I can get as much food as possible, plus the dense planting proximity will help suppress the weeds. This year I had a bed planted with garlic bulbils (Bulbils form when a garlic scape is allowed to mature & they take a couple years to mature). Since the bulbils grow very thin, I also had a ton of weeds popping up. Once Kyla & I pulled the weeds, we planted Tomatoes & Lettuce in any possible open spots. It’s working well so far & I’ve been pulling weeds as I prune the tomato plants – luckily I have ground cover or plastic mulch on my other beds & won’t have to do much weeding there! 20170528_200254
  4. Harvest the Weeds – Believe it or not, a lot of ‘weeds’ are nutritious & some are even considered ‘superfoods’. Here is a link to flowers & weeds that you can harvest & eat: 13 Edible Weeds and Flowers.
  5. Water & Pull – This is the good ole-fashioned way to garden. Water your plants and then go down the rows & get to pullin’! Weed-pulling while the ground is soft is optimal because the weeds will easily uproot.

Happy Gardening!

 

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Buggin’ Out! (Or Pest Management)

The weather is warm, everything’s growing & flowering, and your mouth is watering for those fresh-from-the-garden vegetables. I’m starting to get strawberries & flowers on my raspberries, but just can’t seem to get the actual berries. After closer examination, I realized why.

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Ants crawling all over the flowers of my Golden Anne Raspberries

 

But ants do not cause the harm initially! This is caused by aphids eating at the plants & their sugary droppings attracting the ants (thanks to fellow WordPresser hermitsdoor for this tidbit of knowledge!) Although the ants were not technically causing harm, I needed to do something about the other guys buggin’ me.

I work at AM Leonard – a horticultural tool & supply company – and won a Jacto backpack sprayer @ a lunch & learn event and couldn’t be happier with it after the first usage the other day. The salesman who presented to us did an awesome job of selling them, but that’s easy with a great product. Pressure gets up to 45psi with ~6 pumps, so you’re pumping less & spraying at an optimal pressure. Another nice feature is that it has an internal piston pump which prevents any leakage if the pump did fail – but that is rated for something crazy like 10,000 spray hours!

In order to control issues in the garden, you must take proactive, preemptive & preventative measures in order to guarantee your yields. A couple days ago I took the Jacto for a test-run & sprayed the following:

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Diatomaceous Earth – This is a dust that is made up of fossilized remains of a type of hard-shelled algae and it works as an insecticide in 2 different ways. One, it is very abrasive & sharp on the microscopic level. This will cut any insect with an exoskeleton. Diatomaceous Earth also has a property about it that absorbs lipids (fats) from the outside of the exoskeleton, causing it to dehydrate & die – pretty grim, bleak, morbid, whatever, but I want some Golden Raspberries.

Neem Oil – Neem comes from the fruits & seeds of the neem tree which is native to India & is used in a wide variety of products ranging from shampoos & toothpastes to insecticides. In the garden it is used as an insecticide, miticide AND fungicide. Several of the insects in controls are: mealy bug, beet worm, aphids, the cabbage worm, thrips, whiteflies, mites, fungus gnats, beetles, moth larvae, mushroom flies, leafminers, caterpillars, locust, nematodes and the Japanese beetle. Neem hasn’t been shown to be harmful to mammals, earthworms, or beneficial pollinators as long as it isn’t in their home or on food sources. It also controls several diseases & fungi, but just to make sure I added another.

Monterey Complete Disease Control Biofungicide/Bactericide – Another organic product, this Complete Disease Control is a beneficial strain of bacteria called Bacillus amyloliquefaciens strain D747. This product offers broad-spectrum preventative control for fungus & disease for all types of plants. Again, it is bee-friendly & OMRI-listed (approved for organic cultivation).

Neptune’s Harvest Organic Fish and Seaweed Blend Fertilizer 2-3-1 – This was brought to my attention through a lunch & learn @ AM Leonard as well. Being in sales, using the products is the best way to figure out what to recommend & organic food production is a big deal nowadays. Not only that, but this fertilizer company uses quality fish and cold presses them to help retain the fish’s natural oils & nutrition levels. Seaweed is known to provide 50+ micronutrients as well as some other benefits including: more disease-resistant plants, increased uptake of nutrients and bigger yields, and may help your plants retain more water. I know we have a lot of water in the ground from all the rain this year, but I swear the plants all grew exponentially overnight after that first application – we’ll see how it all shapes up!

All of these products were mixed up and sprayed from the sprayer. I wouldn’t recommend using the diatomaceous earth unless you have a diaphragm sprayer or a Jacto. My reasoning for that is because it is a chalky substance & may eat up a piston pump – a diaphragm will pump without the liquid touching the seals & grinding in the piston’s path. Jacto sprayers have an agitator attached to the internal pump. This will keep the diatomaceous earth well-mixed & keep it from gunking up the sprayer.

Pest control is no fun, but no food is even less fun, so it’s gotta be done! Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions, concerns, or would like to drop some knowledge on me! Also feel free to give me a call @ AM Leonard 888-558-8665 x155 (or dneth@amleo.com) if you need help with your gardening supplies – mention this blog & I’ll be happy to hook you up with 10% off and Free Shipping.

Happy Gardening!

 

 

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Samsung Galaxy S8 Review

I just recently upgraded to the Samsung Galaxy S8 & so far I absolutely love it! A few months ago my S7 Edge took a fateful fall from my hand & shattered right by the home button, effectively sending a spiderweb fracture throughout the bottom third of my screen.

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Everything was fine until the cracks kept spreading (and I may have dropped her a few more time), but once it started cutting my fingertips up, I decided it may be time for a new phone.

I have been stuck on Samsung since the S3 & had been considering a few other options for this upgrade. The first phone I really wanted to test out was the Google Pixel because of the camera & because I was curious how well Google’s first phone turned out. I was also considering the iPhone, but both the iPhone & the Pixel will have newer version coming out later this year – so that’s a little bit of a deterrent knowing that you’re basically purchasing an obsolete machine.

Enter the Samsung Galaxy S8!

Unbox Your Phone – This was a huge selling point for me. The S8 has a screen similar to the S7 Edge in that the screen is curved on the right & left sides which gives the appearance of a wider, more immersive screen. Samsung also decided to do away with a physical home button – it is now all screen, all the way down. There is about 1/8″ @ the top & bottom of the phone that isn’t screen, but it is unreal how much larger this makes the phone seem!

Screen & Feels – The S7 Edge was a great phone, but I feel that the S8 is the optimized version. First of all the S7 Edge has a more curved edge which led to some interference issues if you didn’t have a case adding a little buffer (may be touching edge while texting). The S8 is perfect so far & haven’t had any issues with the Edge being too sensitive.

The S8 also feels a lot better in your hand – really reminds me of the S5 which was a little less wide than the following models. The S7 Edge’s dimensions are 150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm & the S8 measures in @ 148.9 x 68.1 x 8.0 mm. This is a huge deal because that difference of 4.5mm means you can reach those apps that usually require you to use 2-handed operation.

 

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5 Different Color Options – COPYRIGHT © SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS CO., LTD

 

Camera

Samsung’s cameras are top-notch & the S8 is no different – other than it’s slightly improved. The front camera is 8mp & the rear camera is 12mp. Both feature a F1.7 lens and include a multitude of filters/editing options.

Features:

  • Auto
  • Pro
  • Panorama
  • Selective Focus
  • Slow Motion
  • Hyperlapse
  • Food
  • Virtual Shot
  • Filters
  • Selfie Enhancement
  • Drawing & other Snapchat-like Features
  • Bixby Vision – translates text & you can shop for products by taking pictures

Bixby

In a few of the reviews I read on the S8, people were dogging on the Bixby assistant. Makes sense considering that it only supports Korean for voice, but will be adding English in the near future – you also have the Google assistant, so not sure about the need for Bixby in that capacity. There is a Bixby button underneath the volume buttons on the left side, or you can swipe left from the Home screen.

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Screenshot of Bixby interface

I think Bixby is awesome because it curates all of your highlights into a feed – which is the basis for every addictive social media site we scroll through everyday. Components of the feed include:

  • Facebook trends
  • Youtube
  • Photos
  • Reminders
  • Weather
  • S Health Activity
  • Flipboard – News, Sports, Business, Science, Entertainment, Technology, etc.

I’m only a couple days into using it, so I don’t have a lot of testimonial to it, but seems super convenient & I feel like it will help me keep things organized, and stay up-to-date on relevant news & stories.

Overall, loving this phone so far. Tons of awesome features, professional-grade camera, high quality display, Bixby, and the list goes on! Oh, and forgot to mention that it’s waterproof – so it really does do everything.

 

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Giving Your All

Raise your hand as high as you can.

Now raise it higher.

Were you able to raise your hand higher when I told you to do so? Why?

I remember the first time this stunt was pulled on me in school & it blew me away. Literally everyone was able to reach higher. They eventually stood on desks, chairs & tippy-toes with arms reaching skyward.

This leads us to 2 questions: why aren’t you giving it your all? What does it take for you to give it your all?

Why aren’t we giving it our all? Of course we can’t operate at 100% efficiency 100% of the time, but what are you saving all your energy for? Are you running a marathon later? Every day is just another day if you’re holding back, but if you just reach an inch higher – how would that affect you? You may just ask that question that you were afraid of asking and get an answer you wanted, but not the one you expected – just reach one extra inch when you think you’re @ the end of the ladder & see how high you can climb.

What does it take to give it your all? If asking for your best doesn’t actually bring out your best, what will? We can continue to ask to go higher & higher, but it’s an endless & maddening game. I feel that Growth is a natural thing, every thing in life is geared towards growth & self-improvement, but the call to go higher is inspired by outside forces, yet cultivated from within.

Next time you reach up, stretch just a little bit higher & you might get exactly what you want.