It's Been A While
The next thing that troubled this chore was that this time around we took pictures using my wife's phone...instead of lugging my big camera around. Worked out well taking the pictures. My wife uploaded them to "the cloud". Now I've never tooled around with this before. Sounded like a keen idea. The problem was that unless you took the time to organize them into groups as you upload them, the cloud arranges them however it seems fit to do. And for some reason, we were not getting all of the pics into the cloud. I've started, stopped, deleted, and started again the galleries for this trip a couple times now and have not been a happy camper. My wife finally took the time out for me and arranged the pics in day by day folders. So I'm starting all of this over...again. Now you can understand why I don't do this shit very often!
Another thank you goes out to our next door neighbor Amy. Amy came over during the day and let the two hooligans out to pee. This was big time helpful because my brother often worked over time. She would sit and visit with the kids as well. We appreciated it and so did Boon & Faah.
And of course the family. Without you, it would not have been much of a trip. You've always managed to keep everyone satisfied. I really appreciate you both for allowing me to "recreate" your yard!
My choices were some of my favorites discovered on our trips to Puerto Rico. The acahairu and madronos were definitely coming with me. I also had a couple of the now famous Luc's garcinia, or Limoncello, or Mexican garcinia. This is supposed to be bigger and even better than the achachairu. I also had a bunch of rollinia seedlings sitting around so why not?
The first thing I had to do was bare root each of the plants and repot them in vermiculite. The plants had to be bare rooted in order to enter Thailand. I chose vermiculite as a temporary media so if I could not just bring them as-is, getting the plants out of this media would be a lot quicker and less stressful on the plants, and me, than other media might be. I did this several months in advance of the trip.
Now, the next step is to get the Ohio Department of Agriculture out here to inspect my plants and issue me a phytosanitary certificate that states my plants are free of disease and pests. This will give Thailand Agriculture warm and fuzzies and allow my plants into the country.
So after a few calls, I get signed up for the proper USDA logins and with the help of the inspector, get the form filled out correctly and submitted. The inspector, Brad, came out a few weeks before the trip and found the trees to be clean. Brad was a great guy. He was very patient with all of my phone calls, questions, and concerns. He seemed genuinely interested in my plants, greenhouse, and what I had going on in the yard. He had tons of knowledge of course and did not have any problem sharing it with me. It hung around at least an hour chatting and checking everything out. A great afternoon and I got my phyto. That was the easy part!
But hold on! If I take this suitcase full of plants to Thailand, won't I have an "empty" suitcase to come back with? Does that not see odd to anyone? I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier, but hey! Why don't I bring a few plants back home to the states with me?! Makes no sense to have an empty suitcase. But time is short and running out. I'm a little over a week away from leaving.
I called the USDA in Maryland and talked to a very helpful agent by the name of Ken. Super guy and super helpful. I explained what I was hoping to do. He shot back with concerns of his own. Together, we seemed to have worked out what was best and the methods on how to proceed.
The first thing was me getting level 2 access authorization from the USDA. I had to fill some online forms out and then head downtown in Columbus here to the local USDA here and show proper ID in order to get the access I needed to start filling out the permit forms to get plants into the states. I was in and out within 15 minutes. The lady who took my ID was a complete sweetheart.
I had to once again enlist the aid of Ken in filling out the permit. Once this was done, Ken would actually write what they call a "letter of no jurisdiction". Since I was going to bring home 12 or fewer plants...AND the plants I wanted to bring home were not on any restricted list or needing post entry quarantine, then this letter served as my "permit" so to speak. It stated that the plants were not restricted by USDA and had the permission of USDA to bring the plants home providing they met all regulations. More on that later. This letter should be enough for Thai Ag to proceed with issuing their phyto.
So thanks again to Ken for all his help and advice. Even though there are plenty of approved media for packing bare root plants, he advised that I used the shredded paper. I was coming back thru Chicago and they are not a USDA inspection station. He thought it would be better to have no plant material whatsoever so there would be no doubts with Customs and Border Protection folks that I would be meeting.
Speaking of Customs and Border Protection...I called them in Chicago and talked to one of the main guys right at the terminal where international flights come in. I told him exactly what I was planning, my conversations with Ken at USDA, and my letter of no jurisdiction. He agreed that as long as the plants were clean, I had the letter from USDA, and I had the phyto from Thailand, I should have no problems coming thru. In fact, he even offered to spread the word to the other agents after I told him when I would be flying into Chicago. So far so good!
Dunking the plants in a bucket of water loosened the vermiculite up and I was able to pretty much just lift the plants out of the water clean as a whistle. Vermiculite should be an approved packing media the world over but we were never able to get a clear approving nod from Thai Ag so I went with the moss option figuring they have seen this before. I will say that in the short time the plants were in the 100% vermiculite, the roots put out considerable new growth.
Wrapping each root mass with the damp sphagnum moss was tedious trying to make sure pieces were making contact with all of the roots...and still not damage any. The shot below shows all the plants ready for jamming inside the luggage. Keep in mind, while it may not look like it below, three of the plants are at least 36" and several over 24". The inside length of the luggage is exactly 24". Luckily the plants are still pliable enough to bend easily.
Arrive in Thailand
Getting thru passport control and immigration was quick and painless. They must have made changes since my last visit because there were no customs declaration forms to fill out while on the plane. Our luggage arrived shortly afterwards and it looked like no one had bothered the suitcase with the plants. So far so good. Now for the tough part. Will all my inspections, getting the phyto, and all the tedious work play out like it should?
We did our homework...well, ma here in Thailand did the homework for us. She talked with the customs folks here and they said as long as I had a phyto, they probably wouldn't even look at the plants. However, there is always an implied "but" in there. There could be a new person who doesn't understand the rules, pissed off over something, or plain just doesn't give a shit. You meet up with one of these people and it doesn't matter what documentation you carry and how clean your plants are. They could still get confiscated.
So bags in hand, we stroll up to customs and...there is not a soul in the declarations area! The adjacent area was "nothing to declare" and they are pointing at everyone and waving us thru as if to get us the hell out of there as fast as possible. I look up and I see my wife tromping thru like she hasn't a care in the world. I catch up and out we go. No muss. No fuss. So I have no idea whether the process works as it should. Don't get me wrong. I'm happier than pigs in shit that I got my plants thru, but it would have been nice to really know if the process worked as it was supposed to.
So celebrations are in order for the ride home. I'm met in the car with a big basket of fruit containing mangosteen, longkong, and rambutan. Can't talk...eating.