About James

Mug Shot 1As far back as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by plants. My father was the director of the Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium located at SUNY Buffalo. My whole youth was spent wandering around that science building absorbing as much as I could from all areas of science. One of my favorite places to infiltrate was the college’s greenhouse.

I was blown away at the vast array of rare and tropical plant species that were flourishing in the wintery wonderland that is Buffalo, NY. My young mind tried to grasp how such a thing was possible. So I kept returning over and over again to harass the botanists with endless questions. They, in turn, seemed to love fueling my budding passion (pun intended) and indulged every query I put forth. They would even allow me a small spot in the greenhouse to carry on experiments of my own.

With a similar fervor, I explored and harassed all the science departments. Oceanography, physics, chemistry; you name it. They were all suppliers of information that has made me the man I am today. A kind of Neo-Rennaisance man. An artist at heart and hand, with the soul of a scientist and philosopher.

It was difficult for me to choose one singular path throughout college. I ended up graduating on the dean’s list with a BFA in Photography and a minor in Art History. But, I also studied sculpture, philosophy, anthropology, herpetology, animal husbandry, entomology, horticulture and botany. Just to name a few!

Mini little Sago PalmOver the last several years, I began studying the art of bonsai, which has truly helped me to hone my botany skills due to the extremes in which the art is surrounded. Extreme pruning and a very sensitive micro climate mixed with a touchy nutritional need and constant care really helps hone what works and what doesn’t when it comes to healthy and happy plants.

As far as my career goes, I’ve been all over the place. I typically master a career for a decade or two and then move on to other challenges. The Neo-Rennaisance man is only happy when he is learning and growing. My latest exploits for the last 12 years have been a successful career at The San Diego Museum of Art. Here I’ve been the Lead Carpenter, Head Preparator, Associate Registrar and Senior Mount Maker. The latter being my current and favorite position. I build seismic mitigation armatures for the collection’s 3D objects. Fascinating work and I get to build the coolest prototypes and handle some of the most beautiful ancient and contemporary objects in the world.

A Napping Piper the silkie

I now find myself itching for the next phase of my journey. I’ve gone as far as I can here at the museum and it’s high time for new challenges. It’s time to devote more time to my botany work. And it’s time to raise chickens!

Through all of my many careers, the one constant has been my love and fascination with flora and fauna. I have a lifetime of knowledge and experience and I want to share all of it with you, dear reader. I’m here to make you laugh, inspire you, make you think and help you succeed in whatever project you have. I’m also here to learn from you, so this will be a two way street.

Back in November of 2012, I got my first starter home. I was finally away from the continuous concrete jungle and multi-apartment complexes. Due to my modest income from a non-profit institution, my options were very limited here in Southern California. My real estate agent kept pushing me to get a condo to build equity. I kept firing back, letting them know that I wasn’t interested in building equity as much as I wanted to have a backyard. I craved soil to work and repair. I had plans for raising chickens and building compost bins. I had dreams of landscaping and greenhouses and waterfalls nestled under weeping willows.

Frederick Law OlmstedOne of my personal heroes is Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect best known for Central Park, the Chicago’s Colombian Exposition and my personal favorite, Delaware Park and the entire Buffalo New York park system. He designed the whole city so that one can travel from the bustling downtown all the way into, what was then, the suburbs while never leaving the parks.


The man was a visionary. He made these elaborate parks not only for the patrons of the day, but for you and I. Each design was meant to only be completed a hundred years after planting, when everything was grown in properly. If he was here today, I’d give him a high-five. This is the kind of lasting legacy that I can truly appreciate.

Grassy knoll 1

While in college, I spent countless hours in Delaware Park. Sometimes even when I had classes (oops). To see the handiwork of a master landscape architect during a period when his vision is finally becoming realized is what I would call sacred. To this day, any trip back to Buffalo will eventually find me back in my sacred places. Lazily dreaming and getting inspired by this manufactured oasis.

Needless to say, my whole life has been a great desire to create my own little slice of paradise. A sustainable and beautiful oasis to escape my woes. There would be no way to do this with a condo. It had to be a true home with a full lot. I searched for what seemed forever. But I never gave up and I changed to a real estate agent who would actually hear me when I say I want a home. Well, it all worked out in the end because I’m here and my paradise is coming to fruition.

Mind Your Dirt will be a ongoing record of the transformation. All the pitfalls, successes and failures. I will wax poetic from time to time and may even get a bit controversial or political. If you disagree with anything, let me hear your voice.  I don’t have all the answers, and have even been wrong once or twice in the past. The second time I was wrong about being wrong about something. Turns out, I was right all along 😉

So, that said, I’m here for you. So visit often and comment even more. I live for your feedback and your advice and your questions. It fuels me. Don’t let my fire dwindle!

56 Replies to “About James”

    1. Thank you kindly! It’s true. I find that when you take care of others (people, animals and plants) it really helps you to get out of your own head for a spell. My greatest passion is creating mini ecosystems to sustain life where none was before. Why else are we here if not to leave the world better than when we found it? Happy New year to you and yours!

          1. I was in San Diego last year! We’ll be back again in the summer to visit Lego land! Maybe I’ll bring you a roti and have an impromptu dance party hahhaa

          2. Only Island I’ve been to is Puerto Rico. Twice. My ex Rachelle tried to get me to visit her a few years ago in Barbados, but my current girlfriend most likely would not have approved.

    1. Thanks a million! I belted out about 100 names while my girlfriend checked availability on each. Then I yelled, “You best mind your dirt damn it!” at no one in particular. It stuck.

      There have been some cooler and moister days as of late that makes me feel that this drought may be lifting soon. I hope so. It started when I bought the house. I finally had enough room to grow, and now I am stunted by lack of water.

      So it goes.

        1. here here! I’m collecting a lot of grey water these days. All my veggies have a hint of dirty socks to them. Just kidding. But, they do get laundry water…

          1. I have been watering plants with dish water…I feel like my strawberries and citrus will taste like tater tots, catchup, hummus, and tacos. Oh well. These are the days of our California lives.

          2. I’d take tater tots over underwear any day! But good for you for your conservation efforts! Perhaps my blog is a better fit for you than you thought! We seem to be on the same path.

  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog, Our Bungalow’s 2nd Century! I usually write about our old-house DIY adventures, but our gardens are part of the mix, so they get their share of posts, too. Your blog is so fun! I’ll learn a lot. So I’m a follower now. Love the post about your dog’s rescue story. And Portland–you definitely were born to live in Portland. (We’re near Seattle.) Looking forward to reading more!

    1. 2nd century huh?! That’s an old craftsman to be sure! I’m so glad that we’ve found one another! Even more so glad that you like Mind Your Dirt. I do a lot of DIY work on my house as well. Perhaps we can trade stories and learn from one another.

  2. A very close friend of mine here in Montana is a close relative to Olmsted(her great, great uncle)…that was her maiden name, in fact. As I looked at his photo, I realize there is quite a likeness. Such a small world.

    1. Oh how cool! He’s my hero!! Please give her my warm regards. I just finished reading Devil in the White City and he’s prominently mentioned in it. Should be a movie out soon…

  3. Very interesting blog; look forward to reading many of your posts! I too love plants but they are more the kind you keep around the apartment. Nonetheless, I have a great love for them and anything green!

    1. Thank you Rashminotes! Before I got the house, apartment gardening was my passion as well. My last apartment had a small patio so I was able to spill out from the apartment a little. It was a dream come true. That’s what got me interested in bonsai. Limited space.

      Do you have some favorite plants that you like to grow? What part of the world are you in? I love hearing about non local plant species!

  4. James, thanks for the giggles, teehees, and hearty LOLs your writings gifted to me this year. I always leave the Mind Your Dirt site with lightness of heart and appreciation for your humor and writing ability. Thanks for taking the time to share your interests, struggles, and gifts. Wishing you a great 2017!

    1. Ah Pam, some mighty fine sentiments here! It really means the world to me! I hope you and yours have an amazing 2017 as well! And wish me luck tomorrow. The hunger games begin!

  5. I really like the way you explain things to us novices. Its is very encouraging especially your beautiful prose on the coral tree. I just bought a plant and can’t wait to put it on the ground.

    1. Thanks Maria! This is what I love to hear! I live to inspire people and get you guys fired up for gardening and landscaping. I’ve also screwed up every step of the way so I can tell you what NOT to do as well. Learn from my mistakes in other words.

      So you let me know if you every need any help or advice and I’ll be here for ya every step of the way.

  6. I love your postings! We are going to try the potscrubber technique for our pond which is clogged everyday! Thank you!

    1. Thanks Veronica, I’m glad you like my posts. A friend of mine uses an UV filter and raves about it as well. I’m thinking about adding that to my arsenal. Keep me posted on your pond situation!

  7. Hi ~ My name is M J. I’ve been reading your blog and I’m not sure if this is the correct place to discuss Orchids. I live in central California and grow my Cymbidium Orchids outside. Do you have Orchids in SoCal? If so, what type?

      1. Thank you so much for your quick response❗️ I totally agree with you about inside Orchids. A friend of mine gave me two Phalenopsis Orchids and it’s like watching paint to dry😂. I’m wondering if they will ever bloom. If not, I may have to follow suit & spare me the sadness as well as the frustration❗️ Thank you for the link❗️

        1. That was always my issue. They’d bloom once and then cling to life for years before finally dying. Never had a second bloom on any orchids ever.

          I believe it’s an issue with fertilizer. But I was always fixated on humidity and light.

          1. Yes ~ I think I have to find the perfect combo of all three ~ fertilizer, humidity & light. Maybe some of your readers will have some “secrets” in achieving the perfect balance. There are two more elements that are crucial, the pot & the planting medium. Thanks again❗️

  8. I’ve just begun my Botany journey and this is the best web page about plants I’ve found on the internet. I’ll definitely be returning. Right know I have dawn redwood, dragon fruit and green beans sprouting. I’m really excited to know that others around me share my aspirations with similar humor, appreciation and thought. Keep living the life that brings life

    1. Thanks so much John! Curiosity sure does take us on some interesting journeys in life. I so appreciate your encouragement!

      I’ve been trying to get dragon fruit to set the last several years. She blooms but never sets. Even when I dress up like a bat and flutter about her pollen sacks in the middle of the night. Nada zip zilch. Have you gotten yours to pop?

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