I have been wanting to add a page telling you about my time in Leland, Mississippi. You will notice that many of the pages on the right, of the plants I have grown, were during the time I lived in this awesome historic home along Deer Creek in Leland, Mississippi. How I got there is quite a story in itself and I will share that with you along the way in this pictorial journey of my time there. My first photos in Mississippi weren’t taken until January 16, 2009, and the last 0n February 17, 2013. Besides the top one being out of order, the rest are kind of folder by folder, but by no means all of the photos, as there are several thousand.
It all started in 2009 after I left Missouri (in 2008) and moved to St.Paul, Minnesota. I was selling some of my brother’s collection of Christmas ornaments, depression and carnival glass, Satsuma and Kutani on Ebay… One of my buyers of Japanese Kutani started messaging me, asking questions about shipping and what not. She knew nothing about Kutani and was just buying because she liked it. She said they were “cutesy”. She told me she had bought an old mansion in Mississippi and was moving everything there from her home and storage units in California. She said she needed a home big enough for everything and what she didn’t want she was going to sell on Ebay. I told her I was just about finished selling my brothers items so she asked me if I would be willing to go to Mississippi and start selling her stuff. It sounded like a good idea at the time, so I told her I would think about it… I barely knew anything about this woman. SO, we had a phone conversation to talk more. I also sent her a letter explaining who I was and that I prefer natural cures, herbal remedies, and supplements. Trust me, if you are getting into an unknown situation, explaining that is VERY important, or at least to me. I am a gardener and I believe in being as natural as possible. I have not been to a doctor in, um, I don’t know how many years except for when I had a kidney stone a couple of times. The last time I went I was as miserable when I went home as when I went to the ER.
ANYWAY, after a few days of sending the letter to her, I received one back from her. Apparently, she was as surprised by what I said in my letter to her as I was by hers to mine… She enclosed a business card showing that she was the very well known Dr. Suzanne M. Skinner. One of the best and most respected holistic practitioners in the country. I have photos of her in my other computer but not in the one I am using…
She explained to me that not only was she a semi-retired holistic practitioner but she also had several thrift stores in the Los Angeles area. Everything from her stores was moved to storage units and was in the process of being moved to Mississippi. She said 12 moving trucks had already been moved into the mansion. OK, folks, I thought she was exaggerating. I seriously thought there was no way. Oh, yeah. She was also once a deputy in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Dept.
Well, I agreed to go work for her. I was to sell her stuff on Ebay. She said I could do whatever I wanted in the yard. Honestly, that is why I went to work for her. She had an employee in California who was getting everything packed and putting them into the storage units. Then when there was enough for a load, they would ship to Mississippi. I was supposed to go to Mississippi and start selling on Ebay. Well, in May 2008, she fired her employee in California so she wanted me to go there instead. SO, I did.
I flew into the airport in LA and had to have a cab drive me to a certain location for her to meet me. She wouldn’t come to the airport because she would NOT drive on overpasses. (I learned after that, the hard way, don’t EVER drive her on an overpass. One night we were driving around and I went over the freeway and I thought she was going to jump. It took several hours to find a way back home where there was no overpass). Anyway, after I arrived at the location for us to meet, she drove up in a 1991 Ford F350 Crew Cab Dually pickup. She got out wearing sweats and no shoes. We drove back to her home in Carson and walked into her house… Enough said. Well, OK, I will say it was a normal average home on the outside. Most of her furniture was already gone but there was still a lot of packing to do. But, that was just the beginning… Almost every day she was buying more. It was a daily routine for her to be on Ebay and going to thrift stores in the area.
I sent from May through mid-December 2008 in California packing, running errands, driving her here and there, working on a court case with a previous tenant, and so on, I have no photos on this computer from California. So, from here, I will jump to December 2008 when we flew to Mississippi.
Suzanne was terrified of heights. A good friend of hers drove us to the airport in LA and we then flew to Memphis, Tennessee. She had gone to a hypnotist a day before just so she could make the trip. The flight to Memphis was OK, she was OK. But… The plane we took to Greenville, Mississippi was scary even for me. It looked like an old DC-3. She had her head between her legs the whole trip. When we arrived at the airport in Greenville, Mississippi we went inside and I asked one of the guys at the desk if he could call us a taxi. The two guys looked at each other with a big “?” on their face. I had a woman, luggage, and a German Shepherd to get to Leland which was only a few miles away. They called a man they knew and he came to pick us up. We had no idea where we were going, just an address.
SO, we went to Leland and drove to the police station to get directions. Then we followed the police car around the corner, drove along Deer Creek for one block and stopped in front of this HUGE white house on the corner. In the dark, with no lights except for a street light. We drove around to the back into the driveway. In the driveway was a limousine, the two dually pickups, an old hummer and an old Dodge van she had already sent. I forgot to mention she was also in the limousine business for a while. There was also a two-story rental in the corner of the backyard along the street. Well, we made our way to the back door. The man who took us there has a flashlight so he unlocked the door.
We went inside to what was the breakfast room. It had a table and chairs with a bunch of keys on the table. We turned on the light and then turned on the kitchen light. There was a new stove sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor. Then the driver wanted to stay with us as we walked through the house, so he opened the door to the den… I have a notion to stop here and let you wonder for a while about what happened next. My camera was in a suitcase that has already been shipped. Thinking back, I wonder what I was thinking to have sent the camera ahead! Seriously, if I knew I was going to become a blogger I would have never been without the camera.
One thing I didn’t mention before was the fact that when I met the movers they had verified 12-15 truckloads of furniture, boxes, statues, etc. BUT, most of the time, none of the loads were full. They were from the south, I forgot where, and sometimes would have a load going to California. SO, on their way back, they would bring a load, whatever they had room for, for Suzanne. They said they would put everything on the first floor and then a crew she hired (friends of the former owner’s grandson) would move everything upstairs or wherever the could to make room for the next load.
SO, we walked in the den. There was just a path along the wall that led to french doors that opened to the main part of the house. There was a restroom off the den so there was also a path going to it. We walked through the french doors and to the right was the dining room and to the left was the library. Both full as high as the chandeliers. This house had 12′ ceilings, maybe even 14′. There were boxes all along the hallway, along the stairs. The living room, dining room and two HUGE sunrooms on the first floor were packed wall to wall and as high as they could go. We went upstairs, still in the dark. There were four bedrooms, four restrooms, three sunrooms and a HUGE hall. All were full except for a bedroom and a restroom. We walked up the stairs to the attic… We opened the door and the attic was packed. Plastic storage containers, 30 gallon and some bigger, 4-6 high. Not the whole attic had a floor, maybe half, but it was stuffed. I WISH I HAD MY CAMERA!!! I promise you, I am NOT exaggerating.
Well, one of the bedrooms had a bed set up for Suzanne, so after the driver left, she went to bed and I slept on the floor in a sleeping bag. I want to make one thing clear here. Suzanne and I never had any kind of a romantic relationship but we became very good friends and developed a deep respect for one another.
The next day I got up and went to see what the backyard was like. Suzanne had been paying a man to mow the front and side yards but the three gates to the backyard were locked and he couldn’t get in. SO, apparently, the backyard had been basically untouched for several years, even though there were statues, fountains, planters and a huge gate in the backyard from California. The shed was also full. Wisteria had claimed ownership along the alley and part of the backyard. Another trumpet vine of some kind had claimed its territory along the east side from the south corner in the backyard through half of the east side of the front yard (along with Vinca minor).
Although the backyard was a disaster there were also many great finds such as this Aucuba, also known as Gold Dust Plant among others. It did flower but they are definitely not it’s strong point.
If you take a good look in the above photo, you can see the vines from the Wisteria working their way into the backyard. The fence the Wisteria was climbing on was maybe 30 feet away along the alley.
I walked around the yard, when I had time, for a couple of weeks scratching my head. I almost didn’t know where to begin but I knew what had to be done.
I think if the Wisteria couldn’t find anything to climb on, it climbed on itself.
The above photo is a Fatsia japonica. It grew quite large and usually once a year had to be thinned. Just one of the great plants that are hardy in Mississippi that can’t be grown here in mid-Missouri.
I think this area had been mowed once in a while or it would have been much worse. I mowed is a few times and even completely pulled up this Vinca minor. I found out there were two species in this yard. A Vinca minor and a Vinca major. I don’t know much about the Vinca genera, except that there are only 5 accepted species. At least two are represented in this yard and calling them Vinca minor and Vinca major was odd. After battling the Vinca minor the whole time I was there, I concluded that the names were somewhat misleading. Vinca minor was, in fact, a major pain in the butt! I did not include either in the list on the right as plants I have had experience with as I would not want to encourage anyone to plant either.
When we arrived at the mansion statues, planters and pieces of this and that had just been scattered here and there. Apparently, the Holly along the front of the house had been cut back on occasion otherwise it would have been much taller.
One of the most interesting finds in the backyard was a nice patch of Arum italicum. I had never seen anything like this plant before. After I did some research I found that it goes dormant during the summer months and is green and growing during the winter.
Somewhere in there I found a few Azaleas.
All those vines hanging dos are from the trumpet vine that took over that corner of the backyard and all along the fence down the side.
Nandina domestica became my favorite shrub. They looked much better by the time I left. Unfortunately, the new owners had all the Nandina cut back to stubs because I guess they wanted them shorter…
This old covered patio was pretty neat at one time I am sure. It had a brick floor, a fireplace for outdoor cooking and ceiling fans. The wood was Cypress, complete with holes! Inside was piles of an old wood fence that used to be between this yard and the neighbor. I used the old fence to make tables for the sunrooms and my work tables. I bought most of them with me to Missouri. After I tore down this structure I used the Cypress wood to make a plant self and another plant table. That table is where I now have my cactus pots on. Unfortunately, I left the shelf behind but I should have brought it with me. Those dead stalks in the photo are from Japanese Rice Paper Plants.
This old goldfish pool in the east side of the backyard had a few cracks. I kept it filled with leaves and let the worms do the composting. They made some AWESOME worm dirt for the flower pots. The worms were HUGE!!! The potted plants always did very well and I think maybe it had something to do with the worm dirt.
One day I was outside washing the Hummer and a couple of kids came by. They said they never rode in a Hummer before so I took them a ride around the block.
This photo is where the jungle began under the old swinging oak tree. That mess is approximately 25 x 40′ and was taller than me. Notice the Aucuba on the left.
I had started my attempt to clean up a little in the backyard. I would tug on a Wisteria vine in the yard and the end would move 40-50 feet away. I am not joking…
Snow was something I was used to in the winter and I certainly had my fill of it when I lived in Minnesota. What was interesting was that by mid-afternoon it was already melted.
‘Lady’ didn’t seem to like the snow very well and was pretty happy when it all melted away.
Now the sad part. I was about to experience probably one of the worse times of my life. A time when I felt the most helpless to do anything about a situation. It was some time in mid-March 2009, during our breakfast. Suzanne was sitting at the breakfast table and she took off her sock and said she had something she wanted me to look at. There was a black spot, about the size of a quarter, on her left ankle. She had been in ballet as a girl and she got injured. Her ankle bone stuck out a little more than normal as the result. Apparently, one day when I was at the building in Greenville she had been in the attic and she scraped her ankle on something. She didn’t tell me about it at the time. After a few days it started turning black. Her big toe on the left foot also had a black spot on it. Now, here she is… One of the best holistic practitioners in the country who had helped hundreds of people with their health. There are even women that could not have children that have children because of her. She asked me what I thought it was. She was a diabetic and the first thing that popped into my mind was gangrene. I refused to say that word, though. I think she knew but also refused to believe it. But, she was very stubborn and refused to go to the doctor. After a few days, she just stayed in bed. I took a portable toilet and put it beside her bed as she instructed me to do. After a day or so she couldn’t even get in her bed so I moved her from her bedroom to mine because her bed was so high up. After a couple of days, I told her that I called a lady to help her take a shower because I was taking her to the hospital. She said, “NOW?” I said, “YES, NOW.” To my surprise, she didn’t argue. She was a woman that was so used to getting what she wanted. I always did what she asked without hesitation or any problem. She and I never had any problems ever. This was the first time in 10 months I ever asked her to do anything and she didn’t even question it.
The lady came and I carried Suzanne to the shower and then waited for them to finish. I had moved the pickup to the front of the house and when they were finished I carried Suzanne down the stairs and put her in the pickup. On the way to Greenville to the ER, she told me that she was NOT taking insulin OR antibiotics. She had never taken insulin for her diabetes and never had a problem with it. She had not taken antibiotics since she was a child. She was so totally against antibiotics. We didn’t have to wait very long at the ER for her to be waited on because of her situation. They did blood tests and examined her thoroughly. The doctor came after a while and told her her blood test showed her sugar was very high. I don’t remember what the number was but it was very bad. He told her that she needed to have high doses of insulin and antibiotics and her leg needed to be removed above her knee and she would be in the hospital for a while. He told her that if she didn’t she would die. She told the doctor that she could die at home. I just stood there in shock because she refused to get treatment. She was admitted to the hospital and I stayed most of the night.
I had to go back to Leland but when I returned to the hospital the nurse stopped me and wanted me to sign a form stating that Suzanne was incompetent so that I could consent to her surgery. I didn’t sign because I knew she wasn’t incompetent, just to stubborn to give in. I went to her room and told her what I was told. She just kind of laughed and was telling me about the doctor. The nurse also told me that she enjoyed spending time talking with Suzanne and didn’t believe she was incompetent either. It was just that the doctor’s hands were tied and he thought she was nuts. (That is my opinion and not what the nurse said). Now, folks, I respect that doctors go through years of training and do what they are taught. They are taught antibiotics and surgery are how you deal with gangrene. But, in herbal and holistic approaches, you deal with the root cause and not the symptoms. Here was a brilliant mind that had hit the only stumbling block of her career, one she did not have an answer for and it was with her own body. I think part of her refusal to take antibiotics and have her leg amputated was her stubborn refusal to accept that it was the only way. Refusal to submit herself to a non-holistic method. She had taken many patients out of the hospital when the doctors could not help, taken them home and cured them with holistic products and therapies. SO, in her mind, she could not accept a doctors help.
SO, as she wished, I took her back home and cared for her the best way I could until she passed away on March 31, 2009, at the age of 64.
After she passed away another battle began. There was a trust, a will, and all the stuff in the store and the house. She had told me about the trust and she had me write another will. But she died before I could get her will witnessed. The trust was unsigned making it void. SO, I had to find an attorney, two actually because she still had her estate in California. It was up to me to get started and get her estate settled. At this point, I could have taken a different route for sure. I could have easily sold off everything and put the money in my pocket and left. One reason I didn’t was because I thought it was illegal. Later, I found out different. In fact, I had a battle with a “certain man” breaking into the store building in Greenville after she died. I knew who was doing it and he knew I knew, and so did a few other people. He became one of the creditors of the estate and claimed she owed him $16,000! He settled for $8,000 and I was boiling. There was not one thing I or the law could do about it even though I had evidence. SO, I had to hire a crew to move what remained in the building and move it everything of value back to the house. The misc. stuff went to storage… 4 units! It was a long drawn out process that took many auctions and many court appearances. It finally was over in the summer of 2012. I had bought, in a roundabout way, the home for back taxes. My attorney was one of the best in the state of Mississippi and I am grateful that had him as an attorney. I was allowed to stay at the house the whole time. I thank God that many people were sent into my life that helped me along the way. I owe so much gratitude to my neighbors and friends I made and the good people I met there.
From here, the photos start in May 2009. I took a lot of photos in-between, but they are mainly on the other computer. At one point I realized my storage was almost full in my iMac so I had to delete a lot of photos, Mainly of all the items she had that I documented and wrote about on the other blog, The Mystical Mansion and Garden.
One of Suzanne’s first customers became like a mother to me. She invited me to go to her church. But this was a little different. For me, I don’t look at people as black or white, Asian, Hispanic or by their race. We are all part of this life on this planet. It never mattered what color the skin was. That turned out to be a good philosophy to live by while I was in California and in Mississippi. I knew more black people than white in Leland and many of my good friends were black. The lady I was referring to as being like a mother to me is black. The church I attended in Leland was St. James A.M.E (African Methodist Episcopal) Church. When she first asked me what A.M.E. stood for she said, “Umm… American Methodist Episcopal.” So, I agreed to go. She and her husband picked me up and I went every Sunday until I moved back to Missouri. After I went to her church and was the only white person there, I found out the “A” was for “African” and not American. I mentioned that to her and she just laughed. Over the next few years, I attended many conferences with them and usually I was the only white person there. They treated me like family and there were never any racial issues. Never once did I every hear any preacher talk about race.
In life we are faced with many challenges and changes. We have to choose to make the most of it or the worse of it. I had been married for 20 years and separated and went to live with my brother in St.Paul, Minnesota. That was a dramatic change because he is gay. I had to learn to accept and understand his way of life and until then I could not accept that whole deal. I was raised a Christian and attended the First Christian Church until I got married. After that, my ex and I went to this church and that one because she could not make up her mind which one to stick with. Many of those churches believed that homosexuality was a lie of the devil. Well, folks, I found out different. NO, I never participated in anything like that and I could never be gay. But it was a learning experience for sure. I had to learn to respect others feelings and believe that our God is understanding. I think there is a big problem, for the most part, with people’s attitudes toward other peoples race, religious beliefs, sexual preference, etc. I lived among the Hispanic and Asian communities in California and African-Americans in Mississippi. All of us come from the same creator and have the same basic goals in life. All our blood is red, we breathe the same air. We are all part of the energy that the universe is made of. We are here on this planet together and we need to help and encourage one another. That is it…
Sorry, I strayed away from the subject… It is just that I have came out of the bottle I fell into when I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. I rose above and I am now sitting on top of the funnel I fell into. Looking at the grand universe in a much different way than ever before. Life is indeed amazing!
SO, I realized I would be at the mansion for a while, but had no idea how long. I was going to secure the house one way or another, but I had no idea how or when. SO, as a gardener, i decided to make the most of it. I had a lot of work to do for sure and I had 5 sunrooms!
Determination and hard work? Boredom? I am not sure what drove me, maybe it was insanity. Whatever it was, that mess just had to go. The photos above where I mention the jungle… This is the same spot on May 1, 2009.
Several months earlier, Suzanne had bought a nectarine tree she wanted in the backyard. When I was trying to find a spot, I hit something hard. It was bricks. I discovered it was a brick sidewalk leading from the entrance to the den to the covered patio. I cleaned it all off and this began the transformation of the backyard. My imagination started running wild and my light finally came back on.
Just in case you read this part, I will finish soon!