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Pat Stone, Speaker

Pat Stone, Speaker

Get Pat to Speak at Your Next Garden Function!

In a nutshell, I am THE gardening performer/entertainer. I share our country’s funniest and most inspiring garden stories (collected over 20 years from my magazine and Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul, which I coauthored). I even work in a few songs!

My programs are inspirational and hilarious, warm, fun, and moving. A great break from the usual slide and powerpoint fare, my performance is a chance for everyone to get together (at a luncheon, for instance) and have a great time, laughing and sharing the reasons we all garden in the first place. Let’s get together! My performances make a great keynote, summation, or mid-day change of pace. Your group will thank you!

Take a look at some of the glowing recommendations on the three downloadable, linked pages below to learn more about my programs and read some recommendations. You’ll see that garden audiences and I have a wonderful time together. (Indeed, some audiences are so delighted they give me standing ovations . . . and how often do garden speakers get standing ovations?)

If for any reason you can’t read the pages below, please send me an email and I’ll get them to you directly. Give me your address and I’ll even mail you an issue of the magazine to go with them!

 

Who Is Pat Stone?

Pat Stone Speaking Topics

Some Places Pat Has Spoken

To Contact Pat:

Pat Stone
GreenPrints
P.O. Box 1355
Fairview, NC 28730
828-628-1902
pat@greenprints.com

The GreenPrints Story

The GreenPrints Story

Stone Family 1991

A Family Mailng Session, Spring, 1991

“What about a garden magazine
that doesn’t tell you how to garden?”

By the Editor, Pat Stone

 

THE TIME: Late fall, 1989.

THE SCENE: Susan Sides and I, carpooling home from work.

THE PROBLEM: Susan was the Gardener and I was the Garden Editor at Mother Earth News magazine, but we both knew that, as the aftershock of an ownership change, those jobs were coming to an end. We wanted to stay in publishing, but, hey, there were already 100 other how-to garden magazines and newsletters in the country. We couldn’t compete with them! Susan and I were feeling pretty stuck. Then just as we rounded the final curve of our town-to-country drive–the curve where valley, farmland, and mountains suddenly open up to view–I got:

THE IDEA: “What if we start a magazine that doesn’t tell how to garden, but covers the personal, human side instead?”

Well, if ever a person had a get-rich-quick brainstorm, this was not it. Practical instruction is the peas-and-pansies of garden writing, and well it should be–we all have plenty more to learn! No, a properly practical mind would have composted my idea but fast. We didn’t.

THE RESULT: Over 20 years later, we’re still publishing GreenPrints, “The Weeder’s Digest”–and having a great time doing it. Susan and her husband, Franklin, provided indispensable help for the first year, then took leave of the enterprise. So these days, GP is a family operation. Well, a Mom-and-Pop operation: Our four children, Nate, Jesse, Sammy, and Tucker, are grown now, so—grin—it’s a little hard to get their help on mailings anymore (above). Becky (my wonderful wife) is the official Circulation Director, which means she handles all the subscription-and-book-and-back-issue orders. (A neighbor, Julie Wander, sometimes helps Becky out.) I, Pat, get to do all the rest. You know, the little stuff like emptying the trash, selling the ads, running all the promotions, keeping the books, and, oh yeah, trying to create a magazine.

Our international corporate headquarters is our home, a passive solar domicile that lies right between a mountain and a creek in lovely Fairview, North Carolina. There, in a cluttered office looking over our garden, “The Weeder’s Digest” comes to life. Stories by gardeners from Florida to Alaska, art from 16 different illustrators, photos, letters, quotes—it all blooms together to form an honest, intimate magazine, a heartfelt dialogue among gardeners and friends. An 80-page quarterly journal that shares the best personal garden writing, old and new, from all over the country.

I cordially invite you to join us. You will discover a hidden gem of the gardening world, created, shared, and enjoyed . . . with love.

P.S. Subscriptions to GreenPrints make Great Gifts for your gardening friends! (Hint, hint.)

Pat & Becky

Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff

 

GreenPrints is as Mom-and-Pop as it gets . . . certainly in the publishing business. It’s basically a two-person operation. Becky Stone (left) takes care of the subscribers (with occasional help from a kind neighbor, Julie Wander) and Pat Stone (me, on the right) takes care of the rest. Since 1990, the magazine has been published out of our home office between a mountain and a creek in Fairview, North Carolina . . . even though it has thousands of loyal subscribers in every state and most continents!

Becky and I both love the warm human connection gardening brings and love sharing stories. Indeed, we both do professional storytelling on the side. Becky does a wide array of African-American and folks tales (she’s quite well-known locally), and I share garden stories in performance to garden groups all over.

Becky doing a children’s show at the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC (with a little help from a friend).

Pat & Becky  preforming

On the side, Becky loves to act as well as teach and direct high-school drama. I love to get out in the woods, hiking local mountains and–most especially–paddling my canoe down whitewater rivers.

Pat (tries) canoeing the Grand Canyon (once!).

Over the last two-and-a-half decades, we put most of our energy in raising our four children, who were great to have around (our old staff page describes them at a younger stage), but now are pretty much out of the nest. I, for one, am still not completely over that.

Oh, and our own garden? Um, uh, cough, let’s just say it’s not especially well-maintained. Oh, well, when the day comes that we settle down . . . !

Award: America’s Best Small Garden Magazine!

 

GREENPRINTS WINS—AGAIN!

2013 Best Small Garden Magazine Award

What do you know? The Garden Writers Association, the official trade organization for North America’s garden media, did it again! They gave GreenPrints the Best Small Garden Magazine award for 2013. (We also won it in 2011–see below.) This is a great honor for our homespun quarterly. 24 years ago, it was just an offbeat idea I had—that people might really cherish a journal that shared the personal side of gardening (instead of one more how-to mag). The fact that it’s stayed alive so long—and now won awards—is a tribute to our perseverance, yes, but mainly acknowledgment that you all do want this magazine and are gracious enough to support it. My gratitude to GWA and to you cannot be overstated.

Speaking of gratitude, GreenPrints makes a great gift for all your gardening friends. Share joy, humor, love—and gardening—with them all year long! They’ll be most grateful (“What a wonderful present!”). And so will we. After all, I wouldn’t mind someday competing for the Best BIG Garden Magazine Award (grin!).

And here’s my write-up on the one we won before . . .

GREENPRINTS WINS!

Award Photo
That’s Right: GreenPrints, “The Weeder’s Digest,” took home a Best Product award at the 2011 annual meeting of the Garden Writers Association. Our 20th Anniversary Issue won the Best Small Garden Magazine award! (“Small” means less than 100,000 circulation.) I tell people the judges looked at the issue and said to each other, “Pat’s been doing this for 20 years?! We’ll have to give him something!”

But who knows? Maybe they really did like it (grin)!

I am very grateful to the Garden Writers Association for the honor, absolutely. Most of all, though, I’m grateful that you like it: that so many loyal subscribers cherish, enjoy, and get what this quirky little hyacinth of the soul is all about. Bless you, all.

GWA award

What People Say

GreenPrints #77

What The Media Says About GreenPrints

“Full of great writing!”
Garden Design

“Keep this one on the bedside table!”
Horticulture

“The writing shines!”
Fine Gardening

“Forget about the weeds-you’ll want to sit on the patio with this one!”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“You’ll laugh, cry, smile, and sigh. A great winter read to keep the spirits high.”
The Detroit News

“The best and funniest garden writing in the country . . . Anyone who can read ‘Sanguinaria’ in the Winter issue without getting goosebumps, well, they probably can’t get goosebumps.”
Dick Tracy
Sacramento Bee

“At the risk of being repetitive, please allow me to say again in this newspaper that the best and funniest writing about the peculiar art of gardening is in GreenPrints . . . any gardener who can read ‘The Way to Smoky Death’ in the Fall issue without laughing should probably take up a new hobby.”
Dick Tracy
Sacramento Bee

“Compost for the spirit!”
Raleigh News and Observer

“A great shot in the arm each time it comes!”
Gardening By Mail

“GreenPrints truly goes where no other garden publication dares to tread—and the result is pure gardening magic!”
Garden Cuttings

 

GreenPrints #74

What Readers Say About GreenPrints

“I can’t believe that I just read my first copy of GreenPrints. Where have I been?”
Marian Methner
Harrisburg, PA

“I promise you will treat each issue of this quarterly like a long-expected love letter.”
Lloyd D. Brace
Rosarie at Bayfield
Waldoboro, ME

“A new GreenPrints is like a new box of chocolates. You don’t know where to start-and you don’t want it to end.”
Debbie Jacques
Duxbury, MA

“The warmth jumps up off the pages.”
Jana Covacevich
Metairie, LA

“I can hardly wait to get it from my mailbox to my chair.”
Alice McBride
Carmel, CA

“You make me laugh-you make tears blur the moment. I love your magazine.”
Cara Winkler
Bowie, TX

“My husband and I were won over instantly.”
Shirley Cameron
Gainesville, FL

“The best of all possible gifts to fellow gardeners.”
Tasha Halbert
Grafton, MA

 

GreenPrints #73

“It’s 90o out. A hurricane is brewing. I’m a little down-GreenPrints arrives, I am myself again! How can one small, wonderful magazine work better than a pill? I don’t know, but it does. Keep up the good work!”
Constance McDonald
Centereach, NY

“Of all the magazines I receive in the mail, yours is the only one I pick up immediately and read from cover to cover. Excellent, different, heart-warming, sparkling with humor, and grounded in universal truth.”
Helen Hendrickson
Chardon, OH

“A breath of fresh air. A happiness. A treasure.”
Pamela Faith
Coeukr d’Arlene, ID

“At last someone cares.”
Susan Brown
Coral Gables, FL

“If I had to eat nothing but rice for three months, I would not go without my GreenPrints!”
Jane Watson
Novi, MI

“Before I subscribed, I was leery it could be as good as your customer quotes say it is. After? When I stumbled in the driveway, my nose stuck in your mag, I knew that I, too, was hooked!”
Jane Barnard
South Egremont, MA

“I was absolutely stunned. I have never enjoyed a magazine more!”
Joan Ader
Nine Mile Falls, WA

“My garden is in some ways my best friend; my garden magazines are my second best friend. I subscribe to several and most of them are read cover to cover on the day they come in the mail. Yours, however, is a pleasure I postpone. On those cold, snowy days in January and February here in Michigan, I’ll pull them out and read only one or two articles a day, trying to get them to pull me through the worst of the weather.”
Thomas Hoving
Grand Rapids, MI

“GreenPrints is my favorite bedside reading. Sometimes I can’t stop after just one article and finish the whole magazine in one evening. No sleeping, but lots of fun!”
Marjorie M. Mahan
Hamilton, MA

 

GreenPrints #72

“A delightful makes-me-feel happy magazine. If I could subscribe to only one gardening magazine, this would be it!”
Marie Wing
Camilles, NY

“I gave your magazine to my dad last Father’s Day. One of our last conversations before he died was about how tickled he was with GreenPrints. He read constantly, but was hard to buy for. I was thrilled that I had hit on the perfect gift for this man who loved growing things.”
Pamela J. Felster
Leawood, KS

“Your magazine is a garden for the eyes. . . It seems like an old friend coming to call.”
Wendy Belaski
Clarks Summit, PA

“A good book is like a garden carried in the pocket.’ That’s GreenPrints!”
Patsy Bell Hobson
Liberty, MO

“It makes my blood pressure drop.”
Pat Lamb
Landsdale, PA

 

GreenPrints #64

“At last, someone cares.”
Susan Brown
Coral Gables, FL

“Just as I was beginning to think that GreenPrints needed some serious stuff to balance its garden fun and wit, I discovered the pathos and heart of ‘Mandyberries’ by Jan Donaldson. It got to me in a place few garden stories ever touch.”
Gaines Steer
Chapel Hill, NC

“The pages bloom.”
Marianne Binetti
Syndicated Columnist, WA

“The GREATEST reading for gardeners that has ever been-or ever will be-published!”
Phil Cochran
Alpharetta, GA

“I was dubious when I heard it was not a how-to publication. But I like it so much I’m subscribing and ordering all back issues!”
Eddie Rhodes
Marietta, GA

“In recent years I’ve dreamed of a hybrid New Yorker/Horticulture publication. You did it! Here’s the magazine I’ve longed to read!”
Julie B. Scouten
Walker, MN

 

GreenPrints #48

 

“Our staff’s favorite magazine!”
Kent Whealy, Director
The Seed Savers Exchange

“I read a lot of nonfiction, and used to think that it took a lot of esoteric words, witty analogies, and sneaky puns to get a reader’s attention and acclaim. You stand out by the shear force of your humanity. Your writing and editing are consistent in their cathartic joie de vivre-like a naked ape doing somersaults!”
Ray Stewart
Amherst, OH

“I just received my first issue of GreenPrints and I wasn’t even completely through with it before I decided I needed each and every back issue! Your magazine is superlative, and a refreshing change from the “yuppie gardening digests” which crowd the news racks. It is definitely a real publication for real gardeners I’m delighted to have found it!”
Debi Lionetti
Stamford, CT

“I first got your flyer two years ago. I kept it in my studio that whole time, because I was rather leary that GreenPrints could be as good as all those customer quotes said it was. I finally sent it in and, yes, I was really impressed. But that day I stumbled in my driveway, nose stuck in your mag–then I knew that I was hooked! I stood right there in the driveway laughing, realizing that I, too, had become one of those readers who couldn’t wait to see what treasures a new GreenPrints held!”
Jane Ecclestone
Cedar, MI

“A hyacinth for the soul.”
Donna Reichmuth
Eden Prairie, MN

Those were some pretty special quotes, weren’t they? I’ve got lots more! (There’re as few more below–tee, hee!) Thousands of gardeners all across the country cherish GreenPrints. You will, too!

GreenPrints #58

“I was so touched when you started this little magazine 20 years ago because I thought everyone had forgotten what gardening is really about. But you remembered, and you kept reminding us all. Keep growing, Pat!”

Marianne Binetti
Enumclaw, WA

“In a world of text messages and their maddening truncation of English, it is so reassuring to know that the business of writing has a home in GreenPrints. Prose (poems, even!)—what a conceptin this day and age. Congrats, Pat, on enriching the garden world each and every issue.”
Bill Aldrich
Chicago, IL

“Last spring I lost my dad. He suffered a great deal. I had an even greater need than usual to fling myself into the garden to try to find some peace. GreenPrints also helped, because I had a huge stack of back issues to reread. The many stories that deal with how we can find healing in our gardens helped me tremendously. Thank you for helping me be a better, stronger person. GreenPrints is a seed, always bringing beauty to my life.”
Mamie B. Rock
New London, CT

“How could I ever do without my GreenPrints? Back in 2000 when I first discovered this treasure, I believed every magazine had to instruct rather than nourish. Now I read each issue with abandon, as if I were biting into a tomato fresh from the garden and allowing the juice to run down my fingers.”
Julie Bogguss
Charlotte, NC

“GreenPrints has been an important part of my life for almost 20 years. The inspiring, wonderful stories helped me cope through some tough years. It is a joy.”
Marie Wing
Camillus, NY

“This is my 20th anniversary with your magazine! Yours is the only publication I have subscribed to for that long (and I will continue to do so).
The first few years, I read each  new issue in one sitting. Now I savor a few stories a night, like a box of assorted chocolates.
Only, unlike with a box of candy, I can read each issue over and over—even years later!”

Carolyn Barkow
San Diego, CA

 

GreenPrints #82

Roots of My Obsession

The Flower Thief

The Flower Thief

A small boy learns to love flowers—by stealing them.

By Stephen Orr

Art by Shelley Jackson

I had a youthful predilection for larceny. It doesn’t affect me much these days, but I must admit that under certain circumstances and in certain gardens, the temptation returns. My problem started early, as a preteen. It was not the daring, shoplifting sort of thievery that I heard about from the cool kids in school; it was something quieter and gentler. I was an unapologetic plant swiper. Specifically, I was compelled to steal any attractive flower that caught my eye in a neighbor’s front yard.

Why did I do it? I, like most anyone else, appreciate the beauty of a flower, and, of course, I knew my actions were wrong. My parents told me so in no uncertain terms the few times they caught me red-handed with loot or discovered one of my flowery treasure troves. But my youthful self could never enjoy a perfect blossom at a distance, growing on someone else’s bush; I had to possess and sequester it away only for myself. I would case neighborhood gardens in my West Texas town, watching to see when a certain ‘Betty Prior’ rose would be at its peak or a row of pyracantha berries was about to ripen. Then, under cover of night or even early morning, I would strike—a five-year-old armed with scissors and a shoebox, ducking through shadowy foundation plantings to avoid passing headlights. Snipping away here and there like a mad barber, I would help myself. Then I would sneak back home to arrange the plant snippets in one of my favorite hiding places: a hidden corner behind the woodpile, my bedroom closet, or most often, our dog Chester’s unused doghouse, which I could just barely squeeze into.

I remember this last stashing spot most of all. I used it for a few months until the day my father discovered its hiding-in-plain-sight location. I can only imagine his bewilderment as he looked inside the small opening to see my macabre shrine to Flora. I would visit my collection from time to time as if stopping in a museum, viewing the carefully arranged flowers, berries, and vines that looped around nails in the unpainted plywood walls—all dried in the Texas summer heat. My dad would have known immediately that we didn’t grow most of the floral offerings in this ersatz temple. When he sternly questioned me, like a young George Washington I didn’t dare to lie or even deny that the plants had arrived at our home from sources outside our own property. I don’t recall the punishment he gave me at the time (sorry, Dad)—maybe because I knew in my heart of hearts that I would be a repeat offender.

I do remember the outcome of another case. My mother found a large stash of fresh scarlet nandina berries in my closet one morning. Within five minutes, I was standing at Mrs. Ramsey’s front door, in tears, handing her a box of her now useless berries while my mother stood angrily at the curb. The embarrassment of this punishment did the trick, in a way. I became even more stealthy. I made sure never to pick too many of any one plant, nor did I make the mistake of using such an obvious hiding place. My crime wave continued on a smaller, more surreptitious scale for a few more summers, until one day I grew out of my plant-stealing stage. Maybe I finally realized the negative moral implications of helping myself to someone else’s property without permission, or perhaps I realized the embarrassment I would suffer having to greet Mrs. Ramsey again with a box of berries as a junior high schooler. I knew if I kept up such activities as a young adult, word would get around—and quickly.

I tell you this, not merely as a childhood confession but to describe one of the main reasons I love making gardens as an adult. There is so much beauty out in the natural world, and through the act (and art) of gardening, I can summon it, possess it, and even sequester it in my garden. But more often these days, I choose to share the things that I grow with my friends, neighbors, and the people who read the articles and books that I write. Maybe I’m making amends to the sweet elderly gardeners in Abilene who felt the disappointment of having their delicate blue anemones plundered in a predawn raid all those years ago. Or maybe it’s the straightforward happiness I see in others and myself when I bake a chicken with just-picked herbs. Or the satisfying feeling when a neighbor stops by the front garden of my co-op apartment building in the city and remarks that she goes out of her way to pass our sidewalk plantings each day with her daughter on their walk to school so they can see what is coming up. I don’t even mind so much when I see that a half-sized passerby has chopped the head off a tulip that dared stick its head outside the wrought iron garden fence. I can easily identify where that childish and ultimately selfish thought process originates. Who knows? Maybe someday that same little flower thief will grow up to make horticulture his or her profession, spreading the joy of gardening through words and actions to a wide audience. And to think all that might begin with someone’s irresistible urge to snatch a bit of passing beauty.

 

Taken from The Roots of My Obsession: Thirty Gardeners Reveal Why They Garden

© copyright 2012. Edited by Thomas C. Cooper. Published by Timber Press, Portland, OR. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. To order, see p. 6.

 To learn more about The Roots of My Obsession, click here.

Roots of My Obsession


Read Other Stories From the September GP E-letter:

“Don’t Worry, Dear!”

"Don't Worry, Dear!"

Cowprints in the Carrots

Cowprints in the Carrots

The Able Gardener

The Able Gardener

 

 


The Able Gardener

The Able Gardener

The Able Gardener

Techniques—and benefits—of gardening with a handicap.

By Mary Dayle McCormick

Art by Linda Cook Devona

For a decade, gardening has been my great escape. I’m not talking about puttering around in little flower-printed cotton gloves, but all-out, double-calloused, rock-digging, dirt-toting, marathon gardening.

Three years ago, just before I turned 40, I began noticing that my energy and ability were suddenly failing to keep up with my gardening enthusiasm. Before I knew it . . .

 

I was sitting on a paper-covered examining table in a windowless green room, deep within the bowels of a medical center, listening to the fluorescent light buzz overhead. The air-conditioning was too cold, even for August. I heard the neurologist’s footsteps in the hall, her hard little heels digging into the linoleum. I remember looking for her feet as she opened the door, because I didn’t want to look at her face. I couldn’t help myself, though, and instantly saw in her expression what she was about to say:

” . . . assume at this point, the lesions indicate multiple sclerosis . . . .

 

I can’t recall leaving the building or finding my car, but somehow I got out of the medical complex and drove straight to a garden center. I bought flats of tired annuals, root-bound perennials in full bloom, and summer bulbs that wouldn’t have time to mature before frost.

What happened to that stuff? I don’t know. My garden journal is empty for the rest of that year and most of the next.

Living with MS means avoiding anything that might trigger a flare-up of brain inflammation and cause more damage. Pain, mental confusion, and exhaustion leave me useless and hopeless.

No longer a robust gardener, I became a “hothouse flower,” embarrassed to be seen wobbling with my cane, afraid to feel the sun or wind, as wary of elation as of sorrow. My garden lay fallow that winter as I grieved for what I believed I had lost:

 

The field of a shovel in my calloused hands, balanced at its sweet spot, the wooden handle’s subtle curves worn satiny smooth from the oil of my palms.

The smell of freshly turned soil, dark and damp with humus of forgotten seasons, teeming with fat red worms and an occasional sleepy toad.

The crisp sound of well-honed steel slicing through dry stems, its rhythmic snap and release.

The sundown ache enveloping my body in a blanket of satisfaction, a willing exchange for the chance to realize my technicolor landscape dreams.

The taste of leaves, herbs, and fruit still alive with the captured sun and dew of my garden.

The joy of clipping blossoms and foliage to honor a loved one or comfort a friend.

 

For a time, I allowed my physical limitations to turn my beloved recreation into another source of anxiety. Looking across my garden, I saw only what I couldn’t prune, transplant, and cultivate.

My first steps out of this despair came when I learned I could still be an able gardener if I set realistic goals. I needed to redefine gardening and keep the definition flexible.

I began to meet other folks who were gardening in spite of handicaps and chronic illness—arthritis, lupus, stroke, even polio, as well as MS. For most of us, the difference between physical ability and disability is constantly changing, due to factors largely beyond our control. But a common thread is the attitude that some risks are worth taking. People, as well as plants, can’t remain dormant forever. They must grow or wither.

The key to returning to favorite activities is using a little common sense. Here’s some advice that helps me continue satisfying my passion for the gardening life:

 

Dress for success. In warm weather, I wear loose, light, cotton clothing that protects my skin, use UV sunscreen, and sport a wide-brimmed straw hat. If I need to cool down quickly, I don’t hesitate to douse myself with the garden hose. In chilly weather, I wear two or three layers of knit shirts and leggings I can peel off as my body heats with activity.

Conserve energy, avoid pain. A lightweight but sturdy padded kneeler with handles helps me with getting up and down, as well as protecting me from strain, damp, and cold. Backtracking wastes precious energy, so I plan my steps carefully, following the shade. I carry tools and supplies I’ll need in a little wagon.

Send a signal. I always wear my cell phone on a belt in case I need to summon help.

Fill ‘er up. One afternoon I thought I’d be smart and not drink water, thereby avoiding pesky bathroom trips. Not smart. I overheated so quickly I couldn’t crawl to the house. Now I keep a water bottle on my belt as well as a cell phone.

Make it easy. If there’s a faster or easier way, I use it. Growing herbs and dwarf vegetables in big containers just outside the back door works for me. Landscape fabric and thick mulch in beds conserves moisture and minimizes weeding. Instead of lugging sprinklers, I let soaker hoses saturate the ground while I rest.

Probably the wisest thing I’ve done is to get rid of persnickety plants not suited to my yard’s conditions. Temperamental storebought hybrid roses, coral bells, and Stokes asters have been replaced with tough daylilies, plantain lilies, and false dragonhead. The native wildflowers black I’ve been eyed Susan, butterfly plant, and goldenrod are weeds when they grow along the roadside. They are undemanding beauties in my garden.

Watch the clock. When I’m having fun, I lose all sense of time. I become so focused on my projects that I can’t ignore pain and fatigue until they overwhelm me. Now I set an alarm on my phone. It jolts me back to the real world and tells me it’s time to stop.

Go for show. Since I have to spend a lot of time now looking at my garden through the window, I no longer plant for subtlety. If a color can’t hold its own from 50 paces, it might as well not be there. I plant big, bold, and bright. Scarlet cannas, gold coreopsis, purple coneflower, and fuchsia phlox now glow against ivy-clad fencing.

Think realistically and adapt. Many chores I enjoyed doing in stronger times simply aren’t possible anymore. So I’ve made adjustments, in ways I never would have imagined. Nowadays, deadheading waits until long after sundown—and needn’t be done every day. Autumn winds sweep leaves into easily removed drifts. I let the grass grow taller. I use groundcovers to choke out weeds. And perhaps most obvious, I plan smart. I no longer put a shade-loving impatiens or sun-craving zinnia where it doesn’t want to grow.

 

A compensation has blessed me. Now that my rest breaks are long, I’m more satisfied with what I have. When I look across the yard, I study the entire view in amazement and think, “Wow! This is beautiful, and it’s home.” Sometimes I crawl into the hammock under the live oak and bring a book and a few strawberries I’ve rescued from the slugs. Instead of reading, I bite into my berries one at a time, close my eyes, and listen to the birds that have forgotten I’ve invaded their territory. I catch the scent of phlox or the neighbor’s freshly mowed grass as I slip into a light nap.

A handicap has taken away my shovel, but it’s also given me more time to relax and appreciate the smells, sights, and sounds of my Eden. And isn’t that just like life? Sometimes one door has to slam shut to make you notice that another was open all the time.

Read Other Stories From the September GreenPrints Eletter:

“Don’t Worry, Dear!”

Don't Worry, Dear!

Cowprints in the Carrots

Cowprints in the Carrots

 

The Flower Thief

The Flower Thief

 

 

Cowprints in the Carrots

Cowprints in the Carrots

Cowprints in the Carrots
The death of my neighbor’s farm.

By Pat Stone

“Let’s open up the bidding at 800. Who’ll give me 8? Gimme 8, gimme 8, gimme 8. Look at that udder, fellas. Looks like milk in the ring. 800! 8 and ½, now half, now half. 75. 75. 75 now 9! Lot of power in this cow. There’s a can a day in this one. 9. Gimme 9.

 

For me, the hardest crop is carrots. It was years before I could raise them well. First off, you have to plant such tiny seeds then keep them wet for weeks. I do that by covering them with boards or sheets. When they finally do sprout, you got to uncover them quick. Later you’ve got to yank out bunches of husky weeds without disturbing the wispy starts you are after.

And I’ll tell you, it doesn’t help things when you check out your two-inch seedlings one fall morning and find baseball-sized craters in the patch. When you find cowprints in the carrots.

 

Look at those ribs showin’, boys. They ain’t pushed that one. Just put some groceries to her, that’s all she needs. Give you milk rich enough to stain a glass. Who’ll give me 11? 11 hundred. 11. 11. 11. 11. Sold for 10 hundred and fifty dollars. She’s Georgia bound.”

 

Just one pasture over from my garden, they’ve put chairs, stage, and a barbeque stand. Spread cedar shavings to mask fresh manure. And begun selling off the heard. The Clarke’s dairy is shutting down. The auctioneers slams his gavel and pulls the cord that opens the gate. Ralph Brown, the farm milker, pushes in Buffy, a three-year-old Holstein he raised, fed, and milked—from birth. His wife, Shirley, a woman whose entire home is filled with bovine knick knacks, sits in the audience, puffy-eyed, to watch.

 

“Tip your hats, fellas, a lady has stepped into the room. A.I. sired and bred, just look at that seam up that rear udder. I’m going to start the bidding at 12 hundred on this one. Gimme 12, lemme hear, lemme hear, lemme hear. 12? 12! 12 and a half? 13!”

 

Last week, the cows got in my sweet corn. Three times. Chomped down half of the Silver Queen then tromped right through the carrots. Finally, I went down to the dairy barn, grabbed the barbed wire spool, and splinted the fence myself. Didn’t ask them to fix it. Not this time.

 

“The left udder’s a little unbalanced on this one, boys, but just take her like you took your wife—for better or for worse. Who’ll give me six?”

 

One at a time the herd is sold. 76 milking cows, 38 heifers, 27 calves. Then the tractors, the corn choppers, the hay bailers. Even the winter’s crop of feed corn, still standing in the fields. In eight hours, an entire farm, six decades old, is dismantled and scattered from Florida to Wisconsin. But, hey, it’s happening all over. Milk prices dropped 35%. And why not? When was the last time you went into a restaurant and ordered a glass of milk?

I leave the sale, go home, and try to unwind by doing a little gardening. But even here I can still hear it, a constant background murmur of the auctioneer’s voice. I fill the holes in my carrot patch and prop up all the stepped-on seedlings I can save. And all the while I listen, as someone pulls up a farm, piece by piece, by its roots.

 

 Read Other Stories from the September GreenPrints Eletter:

“Don’t Worry, Dear!”

"Don't Worry, Dear!"

The Able Gardener

The Able Gardener

The Flower Thief

The Flower Thief