Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Four wonderful children

Judy and I were greatly blessed to have four wonderful children.  I thought it might be instructive to them, if to no one else, to see where I was in my life when I was their exact same age.

Age 38
Let's start with Alan Thomas Tew, our eldest.  Alan and Neal were both born in Minneapolis, MN.  Alan may or may not know that up to the time that we officially named him, he was called Geronimo, a real cool name.  I was 26 years, 7 months, and 10 days old when Alan was born.  Today, literally today, Alan is 42 years 6 months and 9 days old.  When I was that exact same age, it was August 5, 1990.  I had been with Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association (the Hawaiian sugar industry's research arm, C&H Sugar being its marking arm) for 14 years.  My position was Head of the Department of Genetics and Pathology.  Judy and I had just returned from the Netherlands, where I had interviewed with a Netherlands-based industry for a grass breeding position that would have located us in the Willamette River Valley of Oregon, somewhere near Salem.  As it turned out, I wasn't the right fit for them.  The Hawaiian Sugar Industry was quickly going into decline and I could see "the handwriting on the wall."  Time to get out of Dodge while the getting was good.  When December 1990 rolled around, I joined Southern Turf Nurseries, out of Norcross, GA (a suburb of Atlanta), and became the General Manager of their Hawaii operation.

Next is Neal Taylor Tew, our second child.  Neal may or may not be aware that he was called Enoch up until the time he was born.  We chose Taylor as a middle name because we thought it was a reminder that he was of royal stock.  One of Judy's direct ancestors is Agnes Taylor, the Prophet John Taylor's sister, making Judy the great (5X) grandniece of John Taylor. I was 28 years, 4 months, and 2 days old when Neal was born.  Neal is 40 years 9 months and 15 days old .  When I was that age,  it was November 11, 1988.  We had just recently returned back from a 2-month long vacation to Europe with the family.  We had purchased a Volkswagen motorvan in Great Britain with a capacity to sleep all six of us, and with an 80% buyback guarantee; had it ferried across the English Channel to Calais, France; traveled through France (Paris, the Loire Valley, Limoges, the Dordogne Valley); through part of Spain (Bilbao, Segovia, Madrid, Zaragoza); through Andorra; back into France (Carcasonne, Montpellier, Avignon, Grenoble, Albertville); Italy (Aosta); Switzerland (Zermatt, Lake Leman, Gruyures, Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald); Liechtenstein; Bavaria region of Germany (Neuschwanstein Castle, Linderhof Palace); Austria (Innsbruck, Grossglockner Pass, Villach); Italy (Venice by train); Austria (Salzburg); Germany (Munich, Dachau, the Romantic Road, Frankfurt, Cologne); the Netherlands; Belgium; return by ferry to Great Britain, England Countryside (Bath, Longleit Estates); return to London.  By the end of this two-month vacation, we were expert campers.

Lori Lei Tew (Ure) is our third child.  Lori and Julie were both born in Honolulu, HI.  I was 30 years, 1 month, and 9 days old when Lori was born.  Today, Lori is 39 years and 7 months old.  When I was that age, it was August 27, 1987.  We were planning the trip to Europe and were about eight months off from going.

Age 36
Julie Malia Tew (Bertasso), is our fourth and last child.  I was 33 years, 6 months, and 15 days old when Julie was born.  Today, Julie is 35 years, 6 months and 15 days old.  When I was that age, it was July 13, 1983.  We had already lived in Hawaii for over 6 years.  I was about a year away from going on a major sugarcane collecting expedition to Indonesia.

Interestingly, my brother Fred married late (age 36), and began his family with his wife, Sandra, with the birth of Valerie on Feb 28 1967.  Fred was 37 years, and 11 months old when Valerie was born, compared to my being about 33 1/2 years old when our last was born.  Fred was 57 years, 5 months, and 24 days old when his last, Leandra, was born.  Fred and Sandra had 10 children.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

My experience with soilless sod.

Yesterday, I went to Home Depot in Winchester TN (actually Decherd TN) to purchase Kellogg's Garden Soil, bracing to pay $6.77 per 2 cu ft bag.  To my surprise and delight, as soon as I pulled up to the Garden area, I saw Kellog's Soil in the clearance area, being sold for $2.30/cu ft (=$4.60/2 cu ft).  Instead of getting 5 bags (=10 cu ft) for $33.85, I got 10 bags on clearance for $23.00.  I should have gotten more, and am kicking myself for not doing so.  As far as I'm concerned, Kellogg's Garden Soil runs circles around similar Miracle Gro ($7.97) and Scotts brand products.  I told Jim DeLong and Bob Holmes about this steal-of-a-deal, and I believe they were both able to take advantage of it.

Lifting from my Tew's Life on the Bayou blog, while living in Hawaii, I took a side interest in turfgrass after I discovered how fast, easy, and profitable it was to grow sod on black plastic. It was an accidental discovery, not something I read out of a book. My interest in turfgrass led me to spend weekends establishing people’s lawns. Before I left HSPA in 1990 and joined Southern Turf Nurseries (STN) as their Hawaii GM, I had established close to 100 lawns. STN was in the golf course grassing business, so joining this company was definitely going from the minor league to the major league…going from 1/5 of an acre per project, to 270 acres on our first golf course grassing project, which was the Hawaii Prince Golf Club at Ewa Beach (see GoogleEarth pic above). My stay with STN only lasted a little more than 2 years, when project opportunities dried up as a result of Japan going into a depression.

While at STN, I established the largest sod farm on Oahu from the ground up, meaning that it was my job to clear the land (dozer), set up the irrigation system, create separation between beds (tractor trencher), build a fence, and purchase temporary buildings and appropriate farm equipment. For several years after leaving Hawaii, the 40’ wide black plastic beds with 6” width trenches (up to 3' deep) between them could be seen from space within the city limits of Kahuku, Hawaii (see GoogleEarth pic above). We only had about 10 acres to work with, but we could turn over sod every two months by growing sprigs sandwiched in ½ inch thick organic medium on black plastic. The soilless sod was mainly used for lake banks and areas difficult to establish with sprigs on golf courses.

The soilless sod could also be flipped upside down, and run over with a verticutter (power rake) to create high-quality sprigs.

We tested dozens of products as the medium for growing soilless sod.  Kellogg's products consistently beat out other brands, including Miracle Gro and Scotts.  We finally ended up using Kellogg's Amend as our medium, but I would guess that their Garden Soil would produce similar results.  In Hawaii, we bought Amend by the container load.  I was disappointed that we couldn't get it in bulk.

Soilless sod works best with sprigs, and turfgrass species that are rhizomatous.  All of the important warm-season grasses (such as Bermudagrass and zoysiagrass) are rhizomatous.  Unfortunately, most of the cool season grasses are bunch grasses; one exception is Kentucky bluegrass, which is mildly rhizomatous.  I would like to experiment with zoysia and Kentucky blue and see what happens this summer.  Can I go from sprigs of zoysia or seed of Kentucky blue to marketable sod over the summer?  Which soil media works the best here?  I shall find out.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

My LDS Mission: Eastern Atlantic States Mission, Jan 1967 – Jan 1969

When I served on my mission, five of us went together by train from SLC to Chicago, IL; then we flew from Ohare Int'l Airport (ORD) to Washington Dulles Int'l Airport (IAD). A foot of fresh snow had just fallen, so the snow plows were busily preparing for us to land. We stayed at the Mission Home in Bethesda, MD for a few days. President Wilford Burton (brother to Theodore M. Burton, a General Authority) was our Mission President. He and his wife were nearly finished with their 3-year stint. President Norman R. Bowen, who I got to know even better in Hawaii after my mission, was my Mission President for most of the time I served. 

I show pictures of 10 of the 11 missionaries I served with. It would be interesting to know where they are today. The only one I had very much contact with following my mission, was Elder Charles Hoyt.  I helped convince him to come to BYU, where he met his future wife.  I was his "best man," at his wedding, and then we pretty much lost contact with each other, though I knew his wife was from Price, UT, and knew that they settled in Price.   We have friended each other on Facebook, so we bump into each other there.  Of the five that came out at the same time, interestingly, one became an Assistant to the President (Elder Tanner), one a Zone Leader (Elder Giles, who was also one of my companions), one a District Leader (Elder Durrant), myself a non-leader (but a trainer extraordinaire, according to Pres. Bowen), and then one who aborted his mission and went home early. When I was nearing completion of my mission, the Washington Temple grounds were dedicated. All of the missionaries in the mission field were brought to Washington, D.C. for the occasion. I still vividly recall walking through a wooded area to the site, and hearing from Paul H. Dunn and Hugh B. Brown, both remarkable speakers. Of the five areas I served in, namely Camp Springs/Clinton MD, Butler PA, Norristown PA, Fredonia/Dunkirk NY, and Harrisburg PA, I don't have a favorite. I would have to say that the most transient area was Camp Springs/Clinton, so probably where the average missionary would be likely to have the most success. Interestingly, the people in the Harrisburg area seemed the most “set in their ways,” so to speak...a lot of Amish/Mennonite where we served. I remember once saying, “Hello, we're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...” The response, “Well, where's your broad-brimmed hats, boys?” To me, that sort of summed up that area.

My single most favorite conversion story is that of the Cogley family, who lived in Kittanning PA, a referral family who lived a long way from Butler PA, and from our chapel. When we entered the Cogley home and tried to teach them, they all seemed so crude and hillbilly to me. It was a picture right out of Li'l Abner, with a stern woman of the house (Mammy Yokum), her diminutive husband (Pappy Yokum) who was spitting tobacco during the lesson, and a lovely daughter, Vernetta (Daisy Mae). We ended up baptizing the mother and daughter. Fast forward to 1993, 26 years later; Judy and I had just moved from Hawaii and are now living in Provo UT. One day, I get a call from Vernetta, now living in Orem UT with her own family, and with sons reaching missionary age. I have no idea how she found me. Vernetta wants her sons to meet the missionary that baptized her. Judy and I are invited to their home, where, lo and behold, Vernetta's mother (whose name escapes me) was there, having just returned from her Senior Mission, the second one she had served in. This woman could pass as an angel of God, so saintly, kind, and celestial like, exuding pure love. I just melted. I couldn't believe that this relatively crude woman I had known so many years earlier could possibly have transformed into what I witnessed that night. That encounter alone, made my mission well worth the two years I spent serving in it. Of course, I was thrilled that Vernetta, in her own right, was a success story. But, that night, it was her mother that captured me, and helped me appreciate what the gospel can do for those who become truly converted and live it to the fullest.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Denny Cove - a new hiking destination in the South Cumberland State Recreation Area

Climbers and hikers will soon have access to a new wilderness area south of Foster Falls in Marion County Tennessee.  Access Fund and Southeastern Climbers Coalition recently announced the acquisition of 685 acres at Denny Cove.  These two organizations worked in partnership with South Cumberland State Park to bring about the preservation of this wild and undeveloped tract.  The preservation of Denny Cove, with its scenic views and critical plant and wildlife habitat, is an important component of ongoing conservation efforts in the region. The Fiery Gizzard, of which Denny Cove is a part, is identified as having at least 20 rare plant and animal species.

Access to the trail is almost directly across from the Sequatchie Fire Station, roughly 7 miles north of Jasper, TN on Hwy 41.  It is 34 miles (37 min) NW of Chattanooga.

Coming from Tracy City on Hwy 41, access is about 1.5 miles south of Foster Falls.  Our house is 9.5 miles north of Foster Falls (8.0 miles as the crow flies) or 11 miles north of the Denny Cove access road.  It is about 100 miles (1 hr 50 min) SE of the Nashville Int'l Airport.

Local climbers exploring Denny Cove a few years ago discovered it had great potential for climbing, with about 150 climbing routes available on nearly 3 miles of cliffs. For the average hiker, there are a number of scenic overlooks on or near the main trail that make the hike well worth the effort. The main trail, less than two miles long, will ultimately take hikers to a 70-foot waterfall at Denny Cove.

Work is currently underway at the site to improve the access road & parking lot and build trails (actually improve the already-existing trails, for the most part). For now, the only way to obtain access is to volunteer for workdays, which take place every 1st and 3rd Saturday. Volunteers spend four to five hours doing trail work, then have the rest of the day to explore. The public won’t be allowed open access until the trails are completed.  Hopefully, the trail will be completed by this fall.

I had the opportunity to work as a volunteer on the Denny Cove trail on Saturday, Feb 17.  This was an exhilarating experience for me.  As part of the group that did trail building on that date was an entire scout troop.  It quickly dawned on me that this trail building activity is the very essence of scouting, certainly an activity in step with the scouting mission. I plan to bring the young men in our church unit to this activity at some future Saturday.

 While there, I met a new friend for the first time, Gary Stephens, from Huntsville, AL.  We had a lot in common, and took an instant liking to each other.  Gary took a few pictures of me working on the trail, friended me on Facebook, and hence, gave me access to photos he had taken on this and previous weekends, working on the trail.  The 2nd & 3rd images in this blog entry are credited to him.  For more Denny Cove trail photos go to Gary's Facebook page and go to the Feb 4 entry.