Interning In A Greenhouse Taught Me More Than Just About Plants

Interning In A Greenhouse Taught Me More Than Just About Plants

Who knew plants are pickier and need more attention than me?


This semester, I have the opportunity to intern in a greenhouse. Plants like the cold weather even less than we do, meaning that I have only just begun these past two weeks helping with my school's sustainable farming operation. But in the brief time that I have been there, I have learned about not only the tedious process of persuading seeds to shoot their shot and germinate but also about my own use of time.

When I walk into the greenhouse after my classes, I am grateful for the warm, humid air that feels like a hug after the cold winds of Ohio. It's located on the corner of campus and looks small and nondescript on the outside. Inside, it is sectioned into several rooms, some organized with neat rows of crops to test a variety of specific conditions, and others surrendered to a microcosm of a rain forest with tropical plants and vines.

I have been working with other interns and employees of Miami's Institute for the Environment and Sustainability to grow vegetables that we will eventually distribute to members of the community through a CSA, a community supported agriculture program. This means that people in the community can subscribe to receive weekly boxes of these vegetables while they are in season. It allows people to get affordable, local produce and support small farms. Similar operations are offered in communities across the country.

I love vegetables probably more than the next person, eating more than my share at the dining hall. But my affinity for plants never translated to an ability to grow them. I had tried growing herbs only to be at a loss once they outgrew their pots. I have grown tomatoes but underestimated their eagerness and was overwhelmed with what quickly became a thick, dense forest of too many tomato plants and rotting fruit.

In my brief time participating in the greenhouse, I have been surprised by the variety of tasks necessary to grow the vegetables and the detail they require. Plants have had a lot of time to evolve and figure out how to grow yet are still picky about when they will give it a try. But once a seed germinates, that's its chance, and if its life doesn't work out, then it's all over. It makes sense that it is a little scared of commitment. For this reason, we sift the soil, have a recipe for the soil at each stage of the plant's life, water them gently, and even keep them tucked under light blankets so they can hold on to water easier.

I see everything I have learned in textbooks be applied and have realized that reading about the lift of the plant does not really prepare you to be a good plant parent. The directors of the greenhouse that have been doing this for years and are such a well of plant-knowledge that I am convinced they can talk to them.

I am grateful for and excited about my afternoons in the greenhouse, doing small repetitive tasks that require focus yet allow my mind to wander. Time can fly as we listen to '90s hip-hop, or it can slowly pass by, giving me a much-needed break from writing notes and looking at a screen. Getting dirt under my nails and breathing in the smell of soil is a form of stress relief that I had not expected, but I can't help but look forward to.

The meticulous care of plants is something beautiful and critical; ultimately all energy we consume comes from plants. Even if you eat animals, they ate plants. Life depends on our understanding of sunlight, water and the earth. And I am lucky to get to spend more time watching it all work.

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5 Ways Impulsively Getting A Dog Saved My Mental Health

Those four paws are good for a lot more than just face kisses.


Shortly before my husband and I officially moved out onto our own, he surprised me with a puppy in hand on the morning of our anniversary. Moving out, tackling college, and everything in between, I thought another huge responsibility was the last thing I needed. However, in reality, Oakley, the lab/Australian shepard/collie mix, was exactly what I needed to get back to "me."

He provides emotional support

One of the most obvious reasons is how much emotional support dogs, (and other respective animals) can provide. His paws have been accidentally stepped on, and he certainly isn't a fan of the forced flea/tick medication doses, but less than 30 seconds later, he is without fail immediately by my side again, tail wagging and ready for more kisses. Although he is not trained or certified as an ESA, it's without a doubt he has effectively (and unconsciously) combated random anxiety attacks or feelings of being alone.

He requires being cared for

You'll heavily judge every crazy fur mama, as did, I until you become one. Getting Oakley immediately got me consistently back on my feet and forced me to ask myself, "What does he need today?"Even simple, easy tasks like taking him out to run/go to the bathroom had me excited and forced me to find a motive in the day to day activities. I loved no longer having even the mere choice to be unproductive. Don't want to start your day? Well, Oakley needs his day started, so let's get moving.

He serves as protection

It's no surprise how far a dog's loyalty will go to protect their owner. For decades, specially trained dogs have had life-saving responsibilities assigned to them. Even being married, my husband and I's schedules vary significantly to where it is not uncommon for me to be alone. The slightest sound or shadow from outside our door immediately initiates barking. In the bathroom taking a shower? He's there. Knowing that Oakley is looking out, even when I get carried away with tasks like cooking dinner, always calms my nerves.

He's become something to look forward to

The nice thing about having Oakley is regardless of how my day goes, I know exactly how it is going to end. Whether I passed an exam with flying colors or got the lowest grade in the class, I know what waits for me when I open the door at home. After a long day, nothing resets my mood like walking into a face that is just as happy and excited to see me!

He encourages bonds with others

If you want your social interaction to sky rocket: get a puppy. No, I'm serious. You'll have people wanting to come over and visit "you" (let's be real… your puppy), like it's your last day on Earth. For me, this was exactly what I needed. Getting Oakley had family members constantly checking in to see how he was growing, learning, etc. Not only did this encourage more interactions with family and friends, but it also "livened" my husband and I's home life. Instead of the "normal" weekend nights consisting of Netflix and MarioKart, (which are enjoyable in their own respective ways), spending our nights playing Monkey in the Middle with our new four-legged friend has proven much more entertaining.

So ideally was it the right time to get a dog? Probably not. However, adding Oakley to my small little family combated anxiety and depression in ways I wouldn't have ever thought possible.

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To The First School Pony I Ever Rode, And Still Love

Although its been around 9 years since I've ridden Change, I still remember all he taught me.


Here's some background. It was my 4th birthday that started my love for horses. My parents and I lived in this house that had an acre plot of land, perfect for the best birthday parties. This birthday party, in particular, consisted of ponies.

My father rented one of those party organizations to bring a few ponies for my friends and me to ride, and that very day I said to my father, "I want to ride horses!" And the rest was history.

I started and still to this day ride at Level Green Riding School, a barn that became a second home to me at a young age. My first lesson, at the age of 6, was on this magical little pony, who now barely reaches my hips, Change. He was this fiery little pony who had some attitude but was incredibly patient with the young students.

I took my first few weeks of lessons on him and continued to on and off ride him for about two years after. Although we did little real work other than walk, trot, canter, then finally 18-inch jumping, I learned a lot from him.

So to my buddy Change,

Selena Spezio, 2009

Thank you for helping me grow my love for riding. Because of you, I have continued to pursue my passion for the sport. I have kept with it, even when I felt like a failure. There would be times when I felt horrible about a lesson, but because of you I keep with it and understand that there is always room for improvement.

Thanks to you, I understand that the horse is never to blame, but that I should reevaluate my position, attitude or technique to better my relationship with the horse I am on. The love I have for these animals stems from the small connection my young kind had with you.

I learned how to be humble. The little things we accomplished together, like my first time ever posting, where I looked like I was attached to a pole just standing up and sitting down, was a big moment, but I know it only happened because you helped me out. Image if I was on a wild pony who had an attitude and was out of control, those big moments would have come a lot harder.

The first time we jumped, oh what a joy. Although it was a small pile of poles at first, I felt free. I really saw what it was like to have a simple connection with a being.

Change, you taught me control, composure, and to have a great attitude no matter what. Those times when you were having a bad day and the first time you tried to buck me off, instead of being in fear, I just laughed and kicked you along.

You taught me the fun of this sport, and for that, I thank you with all my heart.

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