A Year and 91 Days: The Life and Times of Avi the Avocado

Two days before Thanksgiving, not last year, but the year before, a sandwich was made and a seed was started. The sandwich was a smashed collaboration of avocado and sauteed kale, ricotta cheese and caramelized onions which turned out great and became a repeat recipe for awhile, but the real star of the show was the seed. On that day, November 22nd, 2016 a little life began.

Reminiscent of elementary school science classes, the avocado pit (actually called a berry) from the sandwich-making endeavor got cleaned up and pierced with toothpicks. Resting on the rim of a glass while partially submerged in water, it sat there half-hovering for days and then weeks and then months.  Absolutely nothing happened.  The holiday season came and went. We celebrated New Year’s and middle month birthdays and our first snow in the ending week of January.  But in the land of the avocado, nothing was changing except regular refills of water in the glass. It was such uneventful gardening I didn’t even take photographs.

Heading into the first week of February (week 9), I thought perhaps my avocado seed was a dud and was ready to abandon the project altogether. But magically, almost as if the little seed had read my thoughts, a crack in the pit opened up one morning. Something was happening, at long last! Days later a tap root started reaching out like a diver heading towards the bottom of the sea. And then things really escalated. Every day, it grew longer and longer until little root tentacles started filling the bottom of the glass.  Satisfied with itself, it turned its attention skyward and from the center of the pit, a long slender green shoot started reaching for the stars.

Drinking about a 1/4 cup of water a day, it grew almost a 1/2″ inch every morning. When it passed 12 inches” in height and grew its first set of leaves, I named this little guy growing with such gusto, Avi, and welcomed him into the family. For most of the Spring, Avi enjoyed his glass of water while taking in the river view from his perch in the window.

As the days grew longer and the temperatures warmed, I introduced to him to the outdoors for a little bit each day. When the hot, humid temperatures of summer in the South took over, he was transferred to a new garden pot filled with potting soil and joined the summer flowers on the balcony. You might remember seeing him from last summer’s post about how to make a mini-compost bin.

There’s Avi on the bottom right corner behind the nasturtiums!

In the lazy summer sun, Avi grew and grew and grew. Towering over the other plants, he looked like a king ruling over his court.

All summer he played a long-standing game with the nasturtiums to see who could climb the furthest.

Avi was the winner! When the seasons changed and the cool rains of Autumn scattered leaves on the balcony garden, Avi welcomed the wet weather.

But when we moved in mid-Fall trouble began. His first few nights went okay. He and Indie liked to watch the city lights come on from his new spot on the new balcony…

but during the day, when the sun was warm and bright, and the birds were floating overhead, Avi started doing peculiar things. Instead of carrying on with his growth spurt, he got limpy and lethargic. A week into his new surroundings, he developed brown spots and then white spots and then crinkly skin. Thinking he was not getting enough water, I doubled up. But soon after, he looked more like a loose umbrella than a young tree. His leaves turned from a colorful shade of lime to a dull blackish green. Tragedy was looming, we both knew it. A week before his first birthday I feared Avi might be on his last legs.

Signals from a troubling time of growing pains.

I brought him inside for a few days, consulted the internet and determined that he either had too much salt built up in his roots, ( a common side-effect of using regular tap water for daily watering) or he was getting too much sun on the new patio. I rinsed his roots in distilled water and gave him a new home in a bigger pot with fresh potting soil. Then he got a new vantage point – a sunny windowsill on top of a low bookshelf.

Avi’s second perch nestled in with pig and pineapple and Hedy Hatstand.

But for two weeks he still looked terrible. So he moved again, this time to a bright corner between two big windows – a spot that gets no direct sunlight but reflects light because of the white wall paint. It also happens to be right next to the kitchen, where I could keep a close eye on him.  To my happiness, Avi flourished once again!  Day by day, his leaves moved higher and higher until they went from vertical back to horizontal. And he started growing again.

Now he’s taller than dear Hudson and happy as a clam. As it turns out, all Avi ever wanted was to be close to the kitchen and out of the sun. Who can blame him?

Back to pretty green leaves and a happy disposition once again!

Today he measures 3′ feet 2″  inches tall and he’s just achieved his longest set of leaves at 12.5″ inches in length. Some gardening experts say that Avi will never produce avocados to eat, but that doesn’t matter, I like him just for the handsome plant that he is. And it’s fun to watch him grow. I hope to see him reach a height of 8-9 feet (maybe taller!), a little indoor arboretum in the making.

If you’d like to grow your own Avi, it’s really simple. Find step by step instructions here. You just need an extra dose of patience in the beginning until the berry cracks open and growing gets underway. Other than regular watering every couple days and eventual transplanting as it grows, avocado plants are easy to care for. Many garden sites say that avocados LOVE sun, but as we learned with Avi’s growing pains, too much sun is indeed, too much, so watch closely as your plant’s personality develops and see what he or she likes best.

On November 22nd, when Avi celebrates his second birthday, we’ll check back in to see how much he has grown in the nine months between now and then.  Maybe he’ll be up to the ceiling!

In the meantime, cheers to Avi and his ability to weather the rigors of adolescence. And cheers to indoor gardening – an activity that’s in-season all year round!

Seedlings and Snakes: Let the Season Begin!

It was exactly two weeks ago today that Ms. Jeannie got going on her spring garden with the official planting of the seeds. And now here we are just 14 days later with sprouts that look like dancers…


The cucumbers and the snow peas are winning the race towards bloom day…



And the okra is not far behind…


Even the lone zinnia in the rescued and re-purposed pitcher has come to surface. Not doubt happy to have such an exotic home!



It is always fun to watch how each kind of seed unfurls…

seedlings 007

The dill is dainty…


…while wax beans look downright pre-historic…


And then there was the sighting of an actual pre-historic…


“Just a baby,” said Mr. Jeannie Ology. This “baby” indeed, was three feet long, which was plenty long for the likes of Ms. Jeannie. Hopefully this little one will be gracious enough to stay out of the greenhouse!

The Surprise of the Season!

The last time Ms. Jeannie posted on the blog it was snowing. And now it’s Spring!


Vintage Metal Marquee Sign – The Month of April

Goodness gracious where do the days go?! All throughout February and March Ms. Jeannie has been navigating the book club and her organizational systems for it.

February book club packages ready for the post office!

80 February book club packages ready for the post office!

It has taken her away from blogging and all you lovely readers which she hates, but it has also introduced her to an assortment of wonderful authors and stories from new subscribers which she loves, so it’s been an exciting journey from concept to creation.

With a total of 88 subscribers as of this post, the book club is a constant bustle of activity. To date, which is now at the 7th month mark, Ms. Jeannie has wrapped 307 books, written 307 author’s bios and 307 book bios, been kicked out of the post office once (too many packages please come back tomorrow), gone through 15 packages of tape, finished 8 rolls of twine,  folded 356 pieces of tissue paper, cut 560 lengths of ribbon and been reprimanded by the post master twice (only 10 packages at a time in line please!). Needless to say it’s been a spectacular adventure!

And while Ms. Jeannie’s days are now full of books, and research, and writing, and schedules , she managed to carve in a little gardening time over the weekend thanks to one of the most wonderful surprises ever…


A greenhouse on loan!

Ms. Jeannie’s neighbor has lent her the use of her greenhouse for the rest of the year! How exciting – a whole greenhouse all her own! It’s located just down at the end of the drive, so it’s a quick walk from the house, and ideally set with plenty of sun water spigots, and old rickety potting tables. After a quick yet thorough snake check by Mr. Jeannie (none thank goodness!) Ms. Jeannie got to work right away planting seeds…

The first seeds of the season!

The first seeds of the season!

So far, in just a day she managed to prepare and pot almost her entire vegetable garden…

Cantaloupe, Brussels sprouts and spinach!

Dill, cucumbers, spinach, hot peppers, and tomatoes.


It was the first sunny, dry and 70 degree weather in days and Ms. Jeannie was so glad to be enjoying it in her new horticulture house. She even collected sand from the creek bed for her spinach seedlings – these are going to be some pampered plants this year.

Creek sand!

Creek sand!

Next week Ms. Jeannie will get to work on the flower seed aspect of the garden so stay tuned for some regular garden updates all season.

With each passing month, the book club gets better and better situated, so Ms. Jeannie looks forward to sharing a bevy  of spring and summer blog posts.

Until next time, happy April and happy Spring!




Crunch, Crunch, Crunch…


What’s that in the garden, Ms. Jeannie hears?

someone's been enjoying the garden greens...

someone’s been enjoying the garden greens…

It appears as if someone’s dived into the salad bar in the garden! The feasting is happening in the parsley plant that Ms. Jeannie just blogged about the other day. Do you remember this…

Parsley, spinach and gerbers!

That was the parsley plant just 9 days ago. And now this is what it looks like today…

it's a stem garden!

it’s a stem garden!

Oh dear! What happened you ask? Well, my darlings, it seems Ms. Jeannie’s been invaded by these little characters…


The culprits!

The swallowtail butterflies. Or, to be more exact, the infants of  swallowtail butterflies.

Upon first spotting them, Ms. Jeannie had to make an immediate decision – save the parsley or propagate the butterflies. Apparently in nature you cannot have both! This turned out to be an easy decision for Ms. Jeannie. After all,  parsley is not nearly as exciting as a butterfly (sorry green leafy friends), even though her herb did look beautiful and bountiful next to the gerber daisies and spinach.

Once she became pro butterfly, Ms. Jeannie began to thoroughly enjoy her new dinner guests. They are quite cute in that young baby way, with their fat bellies and their energetic ways.




This is the last stage of babyhood for these guys. They are ferociously devouring the parsley (oh the eating habits of teenagers!) so that they can build enough strength, stamina and sustenance to cocoon themselves for the nest few weeks while they grow into butterflies.

Ms. Jeannie is seriously hoping that they cocoon  in the pot, but she’s not sure what the game plan is for that stage. Research says they like long grasses or house foundations, somewhere away from the birds. Ms. Jeannie has both of those nearby but how would she ever find them in the long grasses?

Ms. Jeannie looks forward to seeing the butterflies emerge and hopefully spend a little time in her garden once they’ve winged out.

Once they are at that stage, they’ll look like this…

Swallowtail Butterfly photograph by Michelle Reynolds

Swallowtail Butterfly photograph by Michelle Reynolds. Click for info.

Butterflies in mythology have long symbolized renewal. Perhaps Ms. Jeannie is cultivating some new changes in her life, or perhaps it’s just nature taking its course. Every summer it seems like there is some magical event that occurs over and over again in Ms. Jeannie’s life, a theme if you will, or a special situation that heralds that specific year with a specific reference. Last year it was the summer of the cows, the year before that, it was the summer of the fireworks. Ms. Jeannie would be thrilled if this was the summer of the butterflies:)

If all goes well with her brood, she’ll have just under a dozen butterflies, floating on the mid-summer breeze. Keep your fingers crossed! Adult butterflies impact the environment most actively by pollinating plants and flowers which is why they are beneficial to have in your garden. Even though they have short life spans, most just a few weeks, they can bring endless joy to a garden for seasons and spirits long after they are gone.

Ms. Jeannie never fails to be amazed and surprised by the sight of a butterfly. For such a fragile creature to last for weeks, let alone minutes in our environment astounds her. Perhaps that’s why they are so magical. They start out camouflaged en masse, creeping and crawling, but one by one they turn inward, wrapping themselves in their own comforter, stewing in their own protection, before emerging a changed creature, light and independent.  They are the best case scenarios, the happy endings, the freedoms of ability that is at the root of all human yearnings.

Ms. Jeannie is glad to have a little part in the continuation of such symbolism and hope in her little corner of the world.

The Lamb and the Butterfly via pinterest

The Lamb and the Butterfly via pinterest

More on the butterflies  (hopefully) coming soon!

Garden Update! Notes from an Experimentalist…

Oh, dear readers, the great big fig tree experiment has just gotten a little more interesting. It’s been a little over two months since Ms. Jeannie last reported on the status of the fig tree that she’s trying to grow from a clipping.

To refresh, this is where we left off…

Fig clipping sprouts as they looked on March 9, 2013.

After 2 months in plastic bag hibernation, the  fig clipping sprouts! Here is how it looked on March 9, 2013.

Clipping then incorporated into a potting soil, peanut shell mixture.

The clipping was then incorporated that same day into a potting soil/peanut shell mixture.

Since early March, Ms. Jeannie has been watering it and keeping her eye on the progress. Only it’s been difficult to see what’s going on in there, even though the cup is clear.  The peanut shells have little threads on them which can look like roots if you are an optimist like Ms. Jeannie! So yesterday, Ms. Jeannie decided to dump out (carefully) the contents of the cup to check on the status of her little sprouts.

This is what she found…

Before the dump.

Before the dump.

And after the dump…



Not a sprout in sight! Where oh where have they all gone? Now the only thing in their place is a mysterious white powdery fungus, and shriveled, wrinkly bark.

what happened?

what happened?

The little sprouts had been doing so good in the newspaper and plastic bag leg of the journey. But once they made the big leap to the cup, it seems things went awry. Hmmm…

After some discussion with Mr. Jeannie Ology, it was discovered that the peanut shells may have been the culprit. They were whole roasted peanut shells, lightly salted. Ohhh. Ms. Jeannie hadn’t even considered that aspect before she added the shells into her soil mixture. Oops. Essentially, she “salt cured” her fig clipping. Which evidently, newly formed sprouts do not favor.

Too much salt in soil causes water to move outside of plant cells, so even though Ms. Jeannie was watering her clipping occasionally – the plant cells weren’t getting the proper amount of hydration causing the sprouts to shrivel up and fall off. This also explains why the stem looks dry and wrinkly.

As for the fungus, Ms. Jeannie could have removed it with a little toothbrush cleaning – but she felt awful about the salting, and the clipping looked pretty much done in, so off it went to the great garbage can graveyard. Sorry clipping – we’ll do better next time.

But funny enough, do you remember the other fig experiment? The one where she was trying to root the clipping in water? In March this is how it looked…

Method 2: Rooting a fig twig in a container of water.

Method 2: Rooting a fig twig in a container of water.

And now in May…this is how it looks…

On top it still looks exactly the same but...

On top it still looks exactly the same but…

Look at the underwater view…



And not just one or two - but many many roots!

And not just one or two – but many, many roots!

So many roots and so little effort!

This is by far the easiest way to grow a fig clipping. No maintenance involved here – just clip and store in water for about three months. Now all Ms. Jeannie has to do is figure out how to handle these sprouts best. Should she pull it out of the jar and plant it in plain potting soil? Or should she leave it to linger in the water longer?

She could also dig up a few scoopfuls of dirt from underneath her well established big fig bushes in the yard. Clearly they are happy with that type of soil, so that could be the base for her potting soil mixture.  Common sense tells her that in the wild, these fig bushes would not have been coddled so much! It’s not rocket science after all, but Ms. Jeannie would hate to lose two fig clippings to carelessness. Such decisions!

While she decides what to do about the figs, let’s look and see how the homemade newspaper seed pots are holding up. Six weeks ago, they looked like this in all their brand new beauty…

Aerial view!

Aerial view!

Side view!

Side view!

And here they are now, after surviving out of doors, for 40+ days including 7 days of continuous rain…

Aerial view!

Aerial view!

Side view!

Side view!

Close-up with spinach sprouts.

Close-up with spinach sprouts.


A little more crinkly, but other than that practically as good as new! Ms. Jeannie really thought that after that week-long rain event last week that they were going to be a soggy mess! But they weren’t at all. These newspaper pots held up beautifully. Ms. Jeannie speculates it is because she double wrapped them using two sections of newspaper instead of one. If you’d like  simple step by step instruction on how to make these budget friendly seed pots, click here.

Now all we have to do is wait for the spinach to grow, grow, grow. Ms. Jeannie planted some seeds directly in two of her flower pots as well. The pots were supposed to be spinach, parsley and basil but, the Gerber daisies from last year over-wintered and now decided they were ready for round two!

Parsley, spinach and gerbers!

Parsley, spinach and gerbers!

Ms. Jeannie’s hoping that there is room underneath the soil for all three! The parsley is taking off like wildfire and the gerber daisies are an inch taller every time Ms. Jeannie looks at them! To encourage her vegetable – Ms. Jeannie painted a sign and stuck it in the pot. Maybe it will help inspire the seedlings:)


So there you have it, two garden experiments  both turning out differently then expected.  That is sort of the thrill of gardening though, isn’t it?

When you are playing games with Mother Nature, you just never know exactly what could happen.  You may have a general idea, or a general course of action, but Mother Nature  likes to play her own hand from time to time as well. She’s quite a card shark that one. And talk about a poker face? She’ll bluff with the best of them:)

Vintage Floral playing cards from 2BlueDogsDesign

Vintage Floral Playing Cards from 2BlueDogsDesign

Are you experimenting with (or gambling on!) anything in your garden this year? If so, please share your adventure in the comments section!