The Route of my Roots

By Ernie Witham   |   February 6, 2020

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the route of my roots. Not the many weird routes I have taken in life to get from my New Hampshire roots to where I am rooted today. I don’t have a lot of regretful “routes not taken.” I think I stumbled about amazingly. “I’m in California? Really? Huh. Guess that would explain the endless sunshine, the lack of snow, and that constant sound of flip-flops on State Street.”

And it’s not the route of my genealogical roots that I am thinking about today. Because I’m pretty sure that if I went on the PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr. they would NOT discover that I share roots with B.B. King, Brad Pitt, or Pancho Villa, probably not even Moe of the Three Stooges. I think that I was probably dropped off in New Hampshire by extraterrestrials trying to lighten their payload as they prepared for their route back to the home planet from Roswell, New Mexico, where they discovered it wasn’t such a great place after all to park their UFO and put down their ET roots.

I can’t prove the route of my roots comes from outer space, of course, though my ears look like satellite dishes, I can cause static on ham radios, and I once had a weird bonding moment with a Ford Galaxy.

No, it’s my other roots I have been thinking about recently – the ones attached to my bonsai trees. See, I am responsible for the life, love and pursuit of happiness for more than 50 little trees. And, unlike many who consider February a month to celebrate love and old presidents, February to bonsai folk is repotting season when we must undo the routes of our roots.

Bonsai roots are a good news/bad news scenario (like people roots, sometimes). To stimulate root growth in my trees, I shower them with water almost more often than I shower myself. And I fertilize them once a month with organic pellets and liquid fish poop, which the neighbors just love. Flies do also. And one time, when we dog sat Kiltie, she sniffed all around the patio to find the source of that doggie-delightful scent, rutted about my roots and ate all the brand-new organic fertilizer pellets out of the trees situated on the bottom display shelf. She’s now twice her normal size and loves taking sniffing routes around the bonsai patio more than ever, though she does attract a few flies.

Managing these other more important roots takes some work. I have some bonsai trees that get too much sun in the summer that could dry out the roots, so I shade them with umbrellas and mist them with a little sprayer. (Question: Which came first, the art of misting or the wind that always seems to blow most of the mist back into your face?)

I also have some trees that don’t get enough sun in the winter, so I take them off their shelves and place them on the patio so they can warm their cockles – er, roots.

I also collect rainwater during our brief rain season in two 50-gallon containers, so that I can save on my water bill and help alleviate any future California droughts by leaving that extra 100 gallons in Cachuma Lake located on Route 154. Maybe they’ll repay me some day by sending me their fish poop.

I also use the rainwater so that the trees and their roots feel more like they are rooted out there in nature – not counting, of course, the small clay pots they live in.

All of this effort is so that my trees grow to their full bonsai potential, which is where the bad root news part comes in. Because, if I am successful the roots are happy and they grow until they fill all the extra space in the pots, often taking a root route around and around the inside of the pot. So, it’s my job each year to find the route of my roots and trim them back so they have another route to root to by next February when I start the entire process all over again!

Please root for my success.


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