Sunday, January 15, 2012


After the Christmas hubub died down, I dropped in on Mom and Dad to see if she had some errand or job that I could do. My plan was to try and do whatever chores I could for them and then, maybe, hopefully, get over to the beach.
I can cruise an almost empty beach from St. Augustine Beach to Matanzas Inlet in the JEEP during the winter.
I love that.

First, there was work to do.
But, I had my motivation.

Mom's priority job was to just rearrange the shed a little so she could store the Christmas deorations downstairs instead of up in the loft.
I was all for that, since none of us want her climbing the pulldown, attic style, folding stairs at her age.

This job ... so simple on the surface ... became an almost all day challenge. Over the years, as Dad has gotten older and less active in the garden and yard, the shed has become a catch-all for lots of stuff.

Like a lot of people in their generation, a childhood spent in the great depression of the '30's shaped their attitudes about "stuff".
Basically, if it looks like it might have some possible future use, you do NOT throw it away.

... stockpiling "extras", just in case, is standard procedure.

So, there was a lot of stuff, ... stuffed into this 12 X 16 foot shed.

Most of it had not been moved in a long time.

After getting basic guidelines from Mom, I pulled a fresh satsuma from the nearby tree, munched it, and then dived in.

I sorted out recyclable items, true trash, and organized the good stuff on to shelves and hangers.
When it was over, the place looked very different.
A huge amount of space had been opened up, including plenty of shelf space for the Christmas yard and home decorations.

And, I found all the toxic stuff you see below.

 My folks always gardened both food and flowers when I was growing up. Once again, timing is everything, and the era in which they grew into adult gardeners was one filled with the promise of better crops through chemistry.
We are all products of our times and as a kid, I never gave any of this a second thought.

Grownups routinely sprayed pesticides over yard and garden, the Orkin man came and sprayed inside your house, and when the mosquito control fogger truck came through the neighborhood, you ran after it playing in the "fog". The fog was dense, all-enveloping, and a chemical brew of burning diesel and the pesticide of the day ... I'm pretty sure that I am old enough to have danced in DDT laced "fog".
Modern mosquito control trucks spray invisible clouds of Malathion "microdroplets" , not near as much fun to play in,  ... and the kids all stay inside in the airconditioning during the summer anyway.
The grownups did frown on the whole running after the mosquito truck thing, but that's the thing about grownups, they can't be everywhere all the time.

Now, my folks have gotten much "greener" in their golden years, and most of this stuff represented an earlier chapter in their life, but there it sat ... a mini-toxic waste dump in the form of jars, bags, and bottles of every pesticide, fungicide, and herbicide you could think of.
Some were not even on the market anymore.
There were caterpillar poisons, mole cricket poison, snail/slug poison, fungicides, soil fumigators, dusts, sprays, ... malathion, dipthane, Dursban, Vapam ... I didn't see any DDT or Plutonium, but some of the bottles weren't clearly labeled anymore, so I'm not really sure ...

I boxed the whole noxious collection up, labeled it with the traditional poison symbol (my favorite) and a version of the trendy "Mr. Yuck ... Yuckface? ... whatever.
All of this will go to the correct disposal location during the next Toxic Roundup in their community.
This is a good thing.

All of this got me thinking about how different the message has been for much of my adult life. As a young adult, I used some of these same chemicals, but when I think back, I really moved out of them quickly.

My kids all grew up in a house where no Orkin man ever sprayed poisons along the baseboards or fumigated the yard. I think that's a plus for their long term health ... AND they got to meet interesting arthropods that Orkin homes never experience.

Not spraying involves some sacrifice, ... especially when it comes to growing tomatoes.

My tomato crop never lasted as long as my Dad's, because I never sprayed them with fungicides, which pretty much means they get sick and die early in the summer. Last year, I did get a much longer (no pesticide used) harvest by growing my tomatoes in containers with my "bubbaponics" system.

Florida is the worst possible habitat for tomatoes, warm, humid, fungusy.

Twenty-seven arthropods, 29 diseases and 10 to 15 weeds are pests of tomatoes in Florida ... and that's just the ones IFAS knows about.

Yes, we are a major producer of tomatoes for the nation, but only through the input of large amounts of pesticides. IFAS and the farmers keep working to reduce that, but for the moment, ... it is what it is.

Now ... I've rambled from cleaning a shed, hinting at a beach JEEP ride, childhood DDT memories, the Orkin "person", Toxic Roundups, and growing tomatoes.

This post is like one of those "broad spectrum pesticides"  ...

Y'all wash your veggies good.


Miz S said...

Mmmmmm. A cleaned up, organized shed. Good boy. Hope that jeep ride was fun. We can haz pikshurs?

islandwonder said...

Sounds like my parents. Hopefully yours don't have an attic. Downsizing after living in one house for decades is interesting.

robin andrea said...

Nice clean-up job, FC! Interesting thing about that mosquito-spraying fog truck that rolled down the streets, they came through our suburban New Jersey neighborhood in the early 60s as well. I've often wondered over the years about the consequences of these things our young lungs experienced.

The previous owners of our house had it sprayed MONTHLY for any kind of creepy crawly that might be lurking anywhere. We didn't see a living spider for the first six months we were here.

I didn't know that it was hard to grow tomatoes in Florida. You always make everything look so easy!

Anonymous said...


QUESS WHAT?? I was heading home via A1A this afternoon and there was this cute little red jeep for sale just south of the new Summer Haven bridge. I thought of you, smiled and kept going. Then I remember that Jr was looking. So I turned around.
If you're interested:
1989 RED Wrangler
Camel vinyl top (excellent condition)

I was so excited I said "oh my gosh, I've gotta call FC"

Then I remembered..."wait, I don't know FC in real life!"

I remember running in the fog too!


Thunder said...

I remember the fogger trucks too!
What no Plutonium? So I guess we won't be building the anti-matter fusion generator after all. ;-)

The puffer video the other day was great!

Mark said...

My father played with chemicals as a boy, back when you could get all kinds of dangerous stuff from the drug store. He had a stash under our house when we were growing up. It included metallic potassium. Great stuff, but somewhat harder to come by these days.

I wonder where it all went.

Floridacracker said...

Miz S,
Beach pics uploaded and ready!

No real attic, but two sheds jam packed. My own shed is looking that way too!

I do?
I thought people read this stuff to see how not to do most things!
Well, thank you anyway!
Now moving a greenhouse ... I know a guy who made that look easy.

LOL! Isn't it weird how you get to feeling like you actually "know" your internet "pals".
I love it.
You made me laugh out loud in a nonvitual reality way.

We will have to just focus on the fluxcapacitorspacetimefoldamatic thingie.

That made me smile. I remember childhood chemistry sets received as gifts that could level a small building.
... or at least blast copious amounts of skin into a red mist.
I think those sets must be incredibly safe and boring these days.

Dani said...

Scary stuff there!

Doug Taron said...

FC_ Re your comment to Mark. A few years ago I wanted to get my nephew a chemistry set for Christmas. It is as you feared: boooring. How I miss those rows of tiny jars filled with Cobalt Chloride and Ferrous Ammonium Sulfate.

Jacki said...

Speaking of tomatoes, have you caught wind of the new grafted tomatoes that are coming up in the market now? They take a hardy tomato root stock and will graft a more delicate (usually heirloom) variety onto it. So you get the delicious heirloom tomato without the nematodes and other problems - how cool is that? I'm currently at a nursery industry trade show in Fort Lauderdale and it's the "in" thing! They're saying they'll be in stores for this growing season, so we'll see!

Floridacracker said...

What's scarier is all of it that is in the ground from the days when landfills were just holes in the ground and there were not toxic roundups.

Exactly! A little danger makes life much more interesting.

Wow! That is a neat idea! I will be looking for those. Thanks so much for that info!

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