I've always loved this time of year, spring, the season of rebirth. I've been eager to get my hands back into the soil and watch everything come alive all around me. My garden has been my joy, my escape and my tranquility. It has been the answer: whether I was stressed, needed to seek solutions, or ground myself, or just yearned for beauty to appreciate. Relationships have been challenging for me, but I've always had my garden, and it never let me down.
This year, I chose to use a different technique to propagate some bushes, as I haven't had much luck with this variety by rooting cuttings. I decided to air layer some branches, so I could get roots growing without ending up with dried up twigs. To do so, I needed to go to the nursery to get some sphagnum moss. I've enjoyed being as self-sufficient as possible, but even with producing my own electricity and pumping my own water, I'd never be able to find sphagnum moss on my property. Though the beauty of my property was begging to be enjoyed, it was time to head to the nursery.
At the nursery I found the moss quickly, and looked forward to returning home. While waiting in line to check out, I glanced at the community bulletin board. It was a nice service of this nursery, allowing people to post notices of garden meetings, plants to share and help wanted. I noticed a 3 X 5 card that drew my attention:
5th grade teacher seeking qualified person to demonstrate
propagation techniques during upcoming botany unit.
Please contact Jayne Nelson at Oak Grove Elementary School.
If there was one thing I loved more than my garden, it was sharing knowledge with individuals who were eager to learn. I removed the card and placed it in my pocket. Since it was Saturday, and I figured a 5th grade teacher wouldn't be at school, I decided to go home and work on my air layering.
Monday morning, I called the elementary school and asked to leave a message. On her voice mail, I left the following message: "Hi Ms Nelson. My name is Jim Hayworth. I noticed your request at the local nursery and would love to help out. I have had many years of propagation experience and love to share with people who want to learn. I am available any Monday, Wednesday or Friday morning. You can reach me at 555-555-4908. I look forward to meeting your class."
At noon, my phone rang. "Hello, Mr. Hayworth, this is Jayne Nelson from Oak Grove Elementary," came the voice at the other end.
"Just call me Jim."
"I was so happy to hear from you, Mr., I mean Jim. I posted that notice six weeks ago and was afraid no one was going to respond. I need to start the botany unit next week. I've never done any significant propagating, and didn't want my students to miss out on the experience."
"How would it be if I stop by during your lunch break on Wednesday, so you can show me your lesson plan and facilities? That way, I'll know what you already have and what I'll need to bring."
"That would be perfect. We take our lunch break at 11:45am. Just check in at the administration office first, and they will direct you to my room, #B-12. I'll clear your arrival with the principal. Thank you for being so generous."
"No problem, it sounds like fun. I look forward to Wednesday."
Having always been a stickler for punctuality, I was waiting at the classroom door when the children started to file out. After the flow of students ended, I walked into the classroom. I noticed there were a few stragglers, and the teacher was helping one student with a math problem. I stood there waiting, and a little girl slowly walked by, looking up at me as if amazed to see another adult in the classroom. I smiled at her and said "Hi." She shyly looked away and scurried out of the classroom. After the last student departed, the teacher approached me.
"You must be Jim; I'm Jayne," she said as she offered me her hand.
I knew she was rushed for time, so we went right into her lesson plan. After describing what she wanted to do, she offered to show me the remnants of the school garden. Unfortunately, due to budget cutbacks, the garden was no longer being maintained. We walked over to the garden, which was just around the corner from her classroom. There were four raised bed gardens, overgrown with weeds, and 3 fruit trees: an apple, a peach and a plum. New leaves and blossoms were already budding out on the trees.
"Jayne, this is a nice setup. How have the budget cutbacks affected your garden?"
"We no longer have any money for plants and seeds, and the gardener's hours have been cut, so he can no longer care for the area."
"I can provide seeds and plants from my garden. Could we get your students to volunteer to care for the plants?"
"This is more than I ever imagined. Jim, you are very generous. I'm sure my students will jump at the opportunity to be part of this garden's rebirth. Thank you very much. I'd love to spend more time with you, but our lunch periods are very short, and I've got to get back to my students. Would you be able to start this Monday at 9am?"
"That would be perfect. I'll scrape together a few odds and ends and look forward to helping out. If you can get some students to clear the weeds out of one of these raised beds, it will save us some time on Monday."
"I'm sure that won't be a problem. I look forward to Monday."
"I'll see you then."
After class, Susie, the shy girl, lingered after the other students had left. She came up to me and asked, "Miss Nelson, is that your boyfriend? He's very nice..." Leaning close to my ear, she whispered, "and he's cute, too."
I must have blushed as I told her, "No, he is just a nice man who has volunteered to help us learn about plants for our botany unit starting on Monday."
"Well, at least he is coming back. I like him."
It had been a busy day, and I hadn't had time to think, but Susie sparked my thought process, and I realized I liked him, too ... and he was cute. I mentioned to Susie that he asked me to see if any of the students were willing to pull the weeds out of one of the raised beds, so we could get started with planting on Monday.
"Can I help? Please? Please?"
"Sure," I said. "Let's ask in class tomorrow and see if anyone wants to give you a hand."
The next day, I realized I wouldn't have difficulty finding volunteers, as all the hands raised at once. With all those helpers, we were able to clear the weeds during lunch that day. Everyone kept talking about what they wanted to grow in the garden. I helped them make a list and promised to pass it along to Mr. Hayworth.
Following up on my commitment, I called Jim on Saturday morning and shared the list with him. He assured me he would bring what he had and get the rest in the near future. He was so easy to talk with. Time flew by. Finally, he told me he had a meeting he had to go to, and I apologized for taking up so much of his morning (I just realized we had been talking for 2 — hours).
"Nothing to apologize for, I enjoyed every minute," he said. "I look forward to Monday morning, and more to come."
After hanging up, I realized I felt very relaxed, and yet unusually invigorated. His words kept popping into my mind, along with his very soothing voice. I then thought about how the conversation ended. "And more to come." Was my mind playing tricks? Was I reading into these words? After all, he did offer to continue working with my students. That must be what he meant. But, what if???? I started to fantasize. No, I couldn't go there. I remembered what that had led to in the past. I'd better keep this very professional. After all, I wouldn't want to lose what looked to be a very good resource.
Monday morning arrived. I showed up at the classroom with several boxes of materials, supplies and tools and was immediately introduced to the class.
"Class, this is Mr. Hayworth. He will be helping us to learn about how to grow plants in ways you may have never even thought of."
"Just call me Jim. I'm just one of you. I love plants and just want to share my love of plants with you. Let's go out to your garden and get started."
Upon arriving at the garden, I complimented the class on how well they removed the weeds and prepared the soil. I pointed out that we'd just get started today and would continue to plant throughout the year. I pointed out that different plants needed to be planted at different times of the year; some because they needed a particular growing season, and some because we wanted multiple crops of the same foods or ornamentals.
I took the students over to the trees and asked them if anyone knew what types of trees they were. Everyone responded with quizzical looks on their faces. I identified the apple, peach and plum trees. Walking over to the apple tree, I asked, "Who would like to eat the pears we grow on this tree?"
The kids started laughing. "Pears don't grow on apple trees. That's silly."
"Then who would like to be silly with me and enjoy the pears we grow on this tree?" Most of the kids just laughed again, but Susie walked up and said, "I believe you Jim. I'll enjoy eating the pears we grow on that tree." The other kids stopped laughing. Maybe I was serious, they thought.
At that point, I looked in my box and pulled out a bag. In the bag was a stick. I showed the kids the stick and asked them what it was. "A stick," they all shouted. "Actually," I said, "this is called scion wood. It is a cutting from a Bosc pear tree. Today, I'm going to show you how to attach this cutting from a pear tree onto this apple tree. In time, we will actually be able to harvest pears from this apple tree."
.... There is more of this story ...