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Springtime in Berkeley: WOW micro-minerals, Annie's Annuals and my purple thumb

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Message Jane Stillwater
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(Please go to my blog if you want to see photos of my WOW sample bottles, the Annie's Annuals catalogue sitting by my computer and the only flowers I've ever been able to grow -- plastic ones -- with a photo of me in the background, circa 1963. I sure don't look like that no more!)


In the middle of this year's horrendously difficult winter, my friend Melinda, who lives in California's Sierra-Nevada mountains, got snowed in and so when she finally got thawed out enough to get to her phone and give me a call, we started dreaming about the arrival of spring. "Jane," said Melinda, "when the weather warms up and people start growing stuff again, you need to become a distributor for WOW micro-mineral plant nutrients."

Oh, no.

My friend has such misplaced faith in me. It's really touching and sweet but.... "Melinda," I told her firmly, "you are asking the absolute wrong person here. I can write like crazy about how America is being swallowed alive by the boa constrictor of globalization, how to calm colicky babies in 20 seconds and why the Bush-McCain clone is gonna give us more of the same saber-rattling craziness until we all blow ourselves up. But me becoming a plant food distributor? Give me a break!" Not only does my money karma suck eggs but I've got a purple thumb too.

But Melinda for some weird reason was totally convinced that she could change a political commentator -- hopefully the next Molly Ivins -- into the Jolly Green Giant. So she sent me a starter-kit.

"WOW contains 14 micro-minerals that replenish the soil," she said. "You mix one-fourth cup of WOW with a gallon of water, take it to some nurseries and offer them the WOW challenge.

The WOW challenge. Got that.

I have a neighbor who works at a nursery. I could practice on her? So I got out my MapQuest, located Annie's Annuals, only got lost twice driving out there and ended up at a two-and-a-half-acre garden of Eden in the middle of the industrial district of north Richmond, out near the Rosie-the-Riveter National Park where my friend Betty works.

Then I located my neighbor over near the potting shed, all garbed out in her overalls, sun hat and Wellingtons. "Tell me again what this does?" she asked dubiously after I'd thrust a bunch of sample bottles into her hands and mumbled something half-audible about taking a WOW challenge. OMG, I felt like Willie Loman in "Death of a Salesman".

"Ah, er, I'm not really sure. You take it and pour it over some plants?"

"And what are the 14 minerals, what is the price point, how can we stock it and why does it work better than petroleum-based fertilizers?"

I don't know! Melinda! Help! "I think that the micro-minerals restore the soil naturally and you don't need pesticides and it helps nourish the worms?" I handed my neighbor a brochure, grabbed my bottles back and ran out the gate.

Look at me! Now I'm a genuine bona-fide distributor!

Then my neighbor chased me down in the parking lot and asked me if I wanted a tour of the nursery. I'd better not. All I have to do is walk by plants and they die. But even I had to admit that Annie's Annuals nursery was a glorious place, even in the middle of winter -- two-and-a-half-acres of old-fashioned varieties of flowers. "You should see this place in late spring," said my neighbor. "It's a riot of color." Then she gave me a small plastic pot containing a sweet pea. I used to grow sweet peas when I was a kid.

"This is a Lord Nelson heirloom variety which still has retained the delightful old-fashioned fragrance that most sweet peas no longer have. It's navy-blue in color. You will love it." Okay. I now own a plant. I looked at the plant. The plant looked at me. I took it home, put it in my kitchen and doused it with WOW. And then the darn thing started growing like Jack in the beanstalk.

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Stillwater is a freelance writer who hates injustice and corruption in any form but especially injustice and corruption paid for by American taxpayers. She has recently published a book entitled, "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips For Touring (more...)
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