Thursday, June 26, 2014


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (6/21/2014)


          Jeff Grayson, the general manager of Bed, Bath, and Beyond, is a man with a past, particularly some ancestors who moved from west Texas to Fort Verde, Arizona, after a shootout over a dispute over fencing range land.  In the latter part of the 19th century, one of the three Casner brothers shot a man in self-defense, and after the incident the brothers thought their futures might be brighter in Arizona than Deaf Smith County, Texas.  Eventually, they left their names imprinted on the Arizona map with Casner Mountain near Sedona. 


          Grayson, a member of the Casner clan, is a more peaceable man, having given up the family tradition of shootouts, herding cattle, grazing sheep, and railroading for merchandizing.  His mother is an engineer on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, based out of Winslow and the designer of the landscaping at the Sedona airport, as well.


          Of course, Jeff is built for the rugged life, a footballer, tall, strongly built, dark skinned with curly black hair with an open, cheery face and smile.  At first glance, he’s a little intimidating, but at second glance, warm and friendly, the kind of man a person would want on his side.  And his backyard is the kind of place needing a man strongly built and one with a cheery disposition.


          Over several years using native, volcanic rock he patiently built a three-tiered, cascading water fall just off his back deck.  From the pictures it was a thing of beauty, assuaging the human spirit with the sound of falling and babbling water.      


          However, he discovered that his backyard was overrun with moles rather than cattle and sheep, leaving piles of scat here and there in tunnels throughout his waterfalls.  He had built the whole affair without benefit of mortar after the fashion of the Anasazi, leaving ample space for the moles to travel.  For fear of the Hantavirus which had already gotten a foothold in Coconino County he knew that he had to get rid of the moles and their scat.  That meant dismantling his water falls. 


          Apparently, his moles are not unique to his backyard, several of his neighbors having reported moles in their backyards.  Grayson’s problem is that he likes to garden.  His backyard sports a large vegetable bed with tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, string beans, zucchini, peppers, and chilies.  A native Arizonan, he’s particularly fond of his Anaheim chilies.  Moles favor some of his vegetables, the water, and bird seed he had hung from feeders through his yard.  He particularly feared for the welfare of his beloved golden retriever.


          Some gardeners are haphazard with no apparent design to their gardens, sticking plants in the ground with whatever comes to mind at the moment.  Others have a design, usually based on some central feature in the backyard.  Jeff’s design is built around his back deck which is covered, making it a cool place in the afternoon’s heat.  He likes to sit there and entertain his friends there.  Extending beyond the deck are flagstones with clover between the stones.  Over to one side of the deck are a large, sophisticated grill and a smoker.  Jeff favors barbequed
smoked pork loin and ribs, especially for his Sunday football gatherings, starting

at ten in the morning and ending at eight at night.  In others words, his garden is

organized around having a good time with his friends.  Football and barbeque

aren’t all that bad as focal points for a backyard’s design.


Being a native Arizonan, Grayson understands the importance of trees because in the desert there are so few of them.  Trees are not only beautiful to look at and valuable because they bear fruit, but also because they offer shade.  Next to the deck is an old, large ponderosa pine with gnarled roots breaking through the cracks in the flagstones.  They’re like the arms of an old friend offering shade.  Also, Grayson has planted several deciduous trees, also offering shade, but also a delightfully cool green, soothing the eyes and spirit.


          Happily, Grayson’s strength and good cheer will stand him in good stead as he rebuilds his Sunday afternoon idyll.

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2014

Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele edit Gardening Etcetera for the Arizona Daily Sun.  Smith email at and blogs at




Sunday, June 22, 2014


Tam Nguyen


“If you want your dreams to come true, you need to wake up and work”.  That’s how my Father woke us up early in the morning.  He would come in and throw back mosquito netting, saying, “Wake up. The sun is rising.  The cock is crowing.” 


We did not have many sweaters for choosing which one would wear for each day.  Occasionally, we have new clothes, but during the year, we wore what we have.  As kids we didn't know when we dress poorly and get a cold, running nose, and nose and ear infection.  And during the day, pretty much the older sister take care younger brother and sister.  We had plenty of fun, running out in the rain, taking a free shower.  The water would get into our ears, but we did not stop because we feel so much fun.


I had a lot fun and also had an ear infection.  Unlucky for me that my body’s immune system does not do good at healing.  I also did not have antibiotic to treating, either.  I slowed down.  Whenever my friend saw my running nose, they said, "Tam, you got two worms under your nose.”  My ear had liquid running out with bad smell.  Sometimes it would dry out and a piece of stuff still stuck inside my ear and blocked my hearing with the wax.


I also changed myself to become bossy and harder.  My voice became louder and louder.  When I had conversation, my voice was like a big fight with yelling.  When I lost my hearing, I crawled inside myself, but my Father was there for me, on my side during my childhood.  He filled me with stories for my mind.


At that time, during 80’s and 90’s, television was a luxury and expensive, too, but my Father taught me using my mind to create television by image and keep scene in the mind to remember things, like hearing.


One other of stage of meditation is to travel by my own spirits.  I was not really good except when I go to bed.  I talked to him about my dream.  He always encouraged me to keep my dreams and live with them.  It was painful to live with dreams and notice that I lost hearing.  I barely heard the sounds of around me.  My father pointed out for me that in the quiet there are the micro sounds under of silence and to listen to the micro sounds.  It was trick for me manage my life with all of that.  Wake up and work to let dream come true, but in the mean time, I had to sleep to get the dream.


I held the attitude and moved on, until I got myself fixing my lost hearing.  The sound of leaking of pipe at the sink, I explored myself, and I realized I can hear it.  The tears ran down.  The tick tock of the wall repeat it.  A long time since last time I hear that sound and question my father about the tick tock, and I understood his answer way back then.  Seeing it is heaing it.  I can hear the wind with the tone of it.  It is simple but gave me happiness.  


Since I got hearing back, I realized that I was in prison myself for so long.  I just live the life for myself more than I can care for things going on around me.  And now, I am free, but it also the sound blast me too much.  Hearing the sounds and my brain process more information.  I am aware, and I catch up with 20 years lost.  I can hear the wind, and I feel how hard for leaves moving and made tone of sound higher.  


I walk out my prison and free myself.  Giving back joy, happy with every second and hearing the birds singing in the early morning.  I used to tear the petals of flowers to look inside with curious where it stores the aroma when I was bored.  Now with my hearing I went to school to learn about the aroma.

Tam Nyugen is a student at NAU and The Literacy Center.  Smith and Freddi Steele edit Gardening Etcetera for the Arizona Daily Sun.  Smith emails at and blogs at

Sunday, June 08, 2014


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (6/9/2014)


          Some whine about our short growing season in the high country, sometimes disparaging our gorgeous setting by comparing it unfavorably to hot, muggy, and disagreeable places such as Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.  Sadly, these malcontents don’t mention our long growing season for weeds.  If they’re eager for the harvest, look around.  The land is rich with burgeoning, comely maladies waiting to be plucked.


          Unwelcome plants, weeds are fast growing, ingenious, and supernaturally resourceful.  They’re best harvested when immature before they go to seed, becoming a scourge, casting their malice upon the land.


The most notorious weed and one of the earliest is cheat grass (Bromus tectorum), a truly despicable and aptly named form of vegetation.  With its lateral roots it sucks up moisture from the soil, cheating other vegetation of moisture.  Capable of displacing every thing else, especially native vegetation, it’s easily combustible, making it a fire danger.  A seedy profligate, it grows almost anywhere, especially soils that have been disturbed by an errant contractor.  Pull it as soon as it’s seen.  A native of Asia Minor, it has no known adversaries, save indignant gardeners.  Easily pulled, it should be thrown in a trash bag and sent to Environmental Services via the garbage truck. 

The next on the unwelcome list is the scotch thistle.  When the Romans conquered England in 41 A.D., they brought with them along with bathing the scotch thistle (Onopordium acanthium) which has its origins in the Mediterranean basin.  It eventually hopped over Hadrian’s Wall, the Roman barrier defending Roman England from the Scots to the north.


The scotch thistle flourished in Scotland where it proved itself a defense against Viking invaders.  In a nighttime sneak attack upon Scotland, the Norse stumbled into a thicket of scotch thistles.  Their cries of pain awakened the inhabitants who drove them back into the sea.


Imported into the United States as an ornamental shrub because of its beautiful flowers, it became an invasive, noxious weed.  The Latin phrase Nemo Me Impune Lacessit  (No One Injuries Me Unpunished) is on the national emblem of Scotland along with the scotch thistle.  While wearing leather gloves and chest plate, pull them, put them in a plastic garden bag, and dispatch them to the county dump.

Oddly, it’s a cousin to the artichoke (Cynara scolymus), both being members of the tribe Cynareae which takes its name from the Greek word for dog because their bracts look like the teeth of a snarling dog.   It’s a delightful vegetable with anti-oxidant and anti-cholesterol benefits.  Artichokes can be grown in Flagstaff just as can scotch thistles; however, they aren’t nearly as tasty as those grown in Castroville, California.


Another member of the tribe Cynareae is the Centaurae diffusa, commonly called the diffuse knapweed which in the fall and winter turns into the tumbleweed.  It, too, has snarling dog’s teeth.  The word cynic comes from the Latin word for dog, cynicus.  Cynics are toxic, baring their ideological teeth, claiming that everything is rotten save themselves.


The diffuse knapweed, a true cynic, poisons the soil around it so that nothing else can grow save itself.  It’s called allelopathy after the Greek allos and pathos via French which together mean “others’ suffering.”  The plant releases chemicals which are toxic to neighboring plants.  Just as cynics poison an intellectual environment, so do diffuse knapweeds poison a horticultural environment, eliminating their competition by toxicity.  A close misanthropy is the German schadenfreude which means joy at another’s harm. 


One plant can produce 18,000 seeds, spreading them

on the wind as its tumbles over the land.  A genuinely ugly plant, it is scraggly, prickly, and unappealing, with no known benefits.  If it had been available to Moses, it surely would’ve been a better plague than frogs (EX. 8:1-7.)


When destroying it, it should be pulled out, root and branch, before it goes to seed, put into plastic garbage bags, and dispatched to an horticultural netherworld of demons, dragons, and other malignancies.


The scotch thistle, diffuse knapweed and cheat grass have arrived.  Show them no mercy.  As with Samson of old, “smite them hip and thigh (Judges 15:18).”  Sans merci.
Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2014

Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele edit Gardening Etcetera for the Arizona Daily Sun.  Smith emails at and blogs at