A little over a month ago, I submitted an idea to the Monthly Kindness Contest on Kindspring.org.
Imagine my surprise when my idea was chosen as a winner! So, without further adieu, here is the story and a progress update...
My husband is a Navy veteran who did two tours of duty in Vietnam. He is also a disabled veteran - service connected; he suffers from pretty severe PTSD and degenerative joint disease. He grew up on a small family farm in southern Indiana, so at a young age he learned hard work. He likes to tell the story of how, at age 4, he had to get up at 4 am to get the cows into the barn for milking. He was too small to milk them, so he would water them, wash their bags, and put feed into the troughs so they'd be happy and relaxed when his dad and older brothers came along to milk. His dad was ‘old school’, and didn't use machines—he had sons for that! They milked 44 cows twice a day, by hand. When he got to Navy basic training at age 18, he was happy to learn that he could "sleep in" until 6 am reveille!
He saw some pretty horrendous things in the "war that wasn't a war" & suffered insult and injury upon returning from duty back to the states, but he's a pretty tough old sailor. He kept on ticking. He learned early to put his head down and get his chores done so he could play later. Another thing being raised on a farm taught him was how to grow just about anything. So his garden is his own form of "therapy". He likes to say that plants are the only beings on this planet that ask for so little, and give so much in return.
Gary is a magician with plants so, when we moved to rural New Mexico, he immediately started a garden. He grows his vegetables and flowers from seed, and lovingly tends them every day. Watering, weeding, enriching the soil with organic fertilizer – his garden responds with a bounty of delicious, nutritious, organic produce.
His garden was so prolific that it was more than we two could ever eat. So Gary reached out to our little community. He asked around and found out that there were several families in need. He began to give the produce away. He encountered some flak for that when the group who runs a summer community “farmer's market" complained that he hurt their sales by giving his stuff away. Plus, his ‘free’ produce was bigger and prettier than theirs! As he saw it, the folks he was feeding couldn't afford to buy the market’s produce anyway, so he just smiled and kept on—no harm, no foul. The market folks got over it.
Even our chickens were happy to contribute copious eggs with yolks so rich that they are orange instead of yellow. He gave those away too. He took comfort knowing that he was giving local kids and their families a healthy source of organic vegetables and free range, no hormone or antibiotic protein.
So I wrote to Kindspring.org last winter with the idea that $100 would buy a ton of seed and supplies to build raised bed gardens. Raised beds are easier on Gary’s knees and back—and frankly, mine too! He will continue to raise his vegetables, chickens—and flowers. He has already purchased seed, potting soil, and containers with the money. Every windowsill in our place (we moved in February – same community) is filled with pots full of seedlings. He’s growing tomatoes, peppers, chives, herbs, beans, lettuce, greens, and beets. They’re already sprouting and reaching toward the sun. Once the weather warms up, he’ll purchase lumber for at least 2 raised beds if not more. He plans to reach out to local Veteran’s groups and food pantries to get his produce to the neediest in our community – all for free.
He wants to help everyone learn to love planting and growing as much as he does. So he plans to offer free instruction to those who want to learn. He even got me to grow an herb garden outside my art studio—and I have a ‘black thumb’. Here are some photos:
The garden outside my old art studio. You see tomatoes, zucchini, cilantro, basil, marigolds, zinnias, and native wildflowers. (and shhh…. Weeds o.O – Gary’s much more vigilant than I am when it comes to weeds!)
He crammed every available inch of plantable soil with veggies & flowers – inside and out! This is our old place ‘up on the mountain’.
Gary tending his garden early last spring.
Later on in the season – the garden grows! You can see tomatoes, squash, corn, beans, peppers & pumpkins.
And grows some more…
And now here are some of Gary’s new starts sprouting up at the new place…
This is a sunset view from our new place. You can see Gary’s made a little cold-frame in the lower left – the white cloth covers the tender sprouts to keep them from freezing.
So, many thanks to Kindspring for making an old vet & his wife very happy, and for enabling him to help feed our community members.
I will post more progress notes and pictures in the future, as the garden grows!
Lizstevensart & Gary