I know it’s been a while, sorry. I’ve been ill, in the hospital again and out and had to recover from all that. And the nature of my illness makes me not want to do anything.
As prelude to that opening paragraph (which I should have started with first, I guess) let me explain, using clinical And sanitized terms created to not gross you out, my health situation. Back in December 2014, due to a swelling in my sigmoid colon, I had to have emergency surgery in which a loop ileostomy was created to allow rest to the sigmoid. An ostomy is basically a process where a part of the intestine has been brought through the stomach wall so that the waste one’s body produces is exited through that new opening, called a stoma. My ostomy occurs close to the end of the small intestine, called the ileum. Hence, an ile-ostomy.
This is all leading up to some bonsai, promise.
And since I still have all my colon, but am not using it at the moment for its main purpose of waste storage, it makes its presence known by producing, basically, a mucus that builds up and must be expelled (a normal colon does this all the time, you just don’t notice it as there is other stuff mixed in. Think of it as lubricant)
A few weeks ago I was having excessive output from my large intestine, I was feeling ok other than that. I had scheduled a visit to my friend, Seth Nelson, on a Thursday, to work on some trees.
This is that day, minus the bathroom visits. Seth lives in Palm Bay, about an hour south and east of Orlando.
He was watering. Great, now I have to work on wet trees.
This was my first challenge. A ficus salicaria. My second challenge: sub standard working conditions. I’m such a Prima Donna, I know. A tree trunk to sit on or a cinder block….hmmmmm….. Well, I guess I grumbled enough, Seth took the night table from his bedroom and found a chair and a fan. That’ll work.
Poor table. Ah well, time to punch the clock. Here’s a look at the trunk. It’s an old SOB, I’m honored to work on it. It looks like it was cut back to the trunk and allowed to grow out recently, maybe last year.
There’s a profusion of shoots to play with. I think this tree deserves at least 30 seconds of contemplation before I chop it. Hey! Look, it’s Seth himself! He’s so serious…..did you know that, in the Old Testament in the Christian Bible, Seth is one of Adam’s sons?
Ok, enough contemplation, time for some branch selection and root work.
That’s better, we can see the tree now. But first, this is the part of the day where I picked on Seth for being so slow working on his tree and this is where karma begins to get back at me for being such a piss ant.
Remember this pic? Look in the left corner. Gatorade. At this point in my adventure I should have consumed this whole bottle and started on a second one. Doh!
My having the bionic body modification in the ileostomy (remember, it bypasses my large intestine, which not only is a waste collection organ but also the main way the body absorbs water), causes me to be constantly on the verge of dehydration. When I drink a liquid it needs to have sugar or salt in it in order for it to slow in the stomach and allow me to absorb it there. Hence the Gatorade (for you normal people’s out there, it is faster and better for you to rehydrate with plain water).
So what is happening to me physically at this point in the day? I’m feeling fine but I’m draining my water through the excessive mucus exiting my body and also from the sweat on my brow. Sometimes I’m a little thick, especially when I’m involved in bonsai; the world disappears and I focus on the tree. Speaking of which, let’s get back to it.
It has good roots on the front. But not so much on the back. They’ll fill in. Especially in the bonsai soil I’ll be using. Which is going to be Seth’s mix.
First, this knob has to go.
There we go. Now for some soil….
As you can see in the background, Seth is still defoliating his tree. His is an old tree too, good ramification and branching. Let’s watch him for a bit.
No, we aren’t using kitty litter, that’s just a repurposed storage container. We are using a lava rock/calcined clay mix.
Getting back to my tree…a little wire.
There’s at least three years needed on those branches. They need to catch up with the trunk. That’s the downside to cutting a tree to a trunk line, you may have an old, fat trunk but you’ll have young branches for too many years. I honestly think that it’s overused here in Florida, we should learn more to use existing branches. Not only will the tree be more natural looking (when regrowing new branches it’s almost always done using the old “number one, number two, back branch..” formula) but you’ll have a bonsai, in scale, faster.
Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes a trunk line cut back is needed. Or even the trunk chop. Bringing us to my next tree.
And my treatment…..
I think we went to lunch at this point. We had steak, and I drank a lot of Coke. A high protein meal and a caffeine laden drink……hmmmmmnnm. When we got back I had time for one more tree. A beautiful ficus microcarpa.
I just need to wire it. I was feeling a little tired at this point and I had to go home to take care of the children so I thanked Seth and took my leave (and the microcarpa too!)
The next day (Friday) I was feverish. I layed in bed (as opposed to lying in bed. If I were doing that I would have to telling an untruth, say like ” Women love my bonsai so much I have a flock of groupies to choose from to lay in bed with”) until the Sunday when my 103.5 degree fever began to scare me (and my wife, my sister the nurse, and my colorectal surgeon, whom I recommend keeping on speed-dial, it eases the mind). So I went to the ER and was admitted early Monday morning.
They pumped me full of antibiotics and I discovered some interesting opiates (by this point the mucus flow had stopped and I was having some serious pain from being blocked up- very similar to my original hospital stay) but try as they might, with every test you can imagine, my fever had no medically verifiable cause.
I had some interesting meals. This was my liquid diet. Broth, jello, Italian ice. Then I graduated to a standard diet. And maybe because I didn’t eat the peas, the next morning was this: this is no lie; the top bit of mush is puréed pancakes (yes, pancakes) and the other pile is puréed sausage……there is something wrong with the concept.
So, I left on the Thursday. No pomp or conditions to fulfill. They said “we are letting you go home”
It was a stunner because the last time I was there, it took three days to satisfy their conditions. By this point I had cancelled two demos at Jason Schley’s spring festival.
And a beginners class I had scheduled for the Hukyu bonsai club (Tampa) on the Saturday.
It was good that I did. I needed to recover from that pancake breakfast. And all the drugs. What I didn’t cancel was the NoNáMé Studygroup meeting on Sunday. The scheduled guest was…..tadaaa! Seth Nelson.
Seth is the curator of the James J. Smith collection at Heathcote Gardens in Ft. Pierce. Which means taking care of big trees. So it was with a little bit of selfishness that I didn’t cancel his visit because I had a big tree that needed some maintenance.
This is, from left to right, Smitty, Jorge and Seth. They’re defoliating a big green mound ficus prior to repotting it.
I’m donating the oval pot it was in to the Collection at Heathcote. Seth doing his specialty. Jorge making sure all the old leaves are removed. And the finished repot. Most Florida people still call this ficus microcarpa a “green island” ficus but there are two distinct growth habits. First, the leaves are different. A green mound has definite pointy leaves. A green island leaf is round. And the green island will have a singular trunk whereas the green mound usually has, like the example above, a twisted clumpy aerial root mass of a trunk. How do you like the blue pot?
After the session we went to lunch at a gastro-pub I like to frequent called The Gnarly Barley. Again, stupidly, after not drinking enough during the meeting and then having a high protein lunch with a copious amounts of a caffeinated beverage, I got myself sick again for a few more days (more of a week I guess, the Studygroup met on the 26 of April and it’s now May the 3rd). I’m just starting to feel right again (not in the head though, I’ll never be right in the head….) maybe after I finish writing this I’ll go wire that ficus microcarpa……. I don’t know what’s next but I’m sure I’ll let you know soon. I hope you learned the lessons that I can’t seem to: A man’s got to know his limitations and, drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated. And don’t be too much of a Prima Donna. Or asshole, as we used to call them (and as many people, I’m sure, have called me many times).