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Green thumbs at Fair Oaks Lodge

It seems to me that one of the most attractive traits about Fair Oaks Lodge is the way it attracts people of the soil. Most of our folks are on speaking terms with life on a farm one way or another. We want to keep this 44 acres the way it is.

It looks like I've lost the battle to keep the tracks made by Red River carts along the north strip of the field bordering the San Road untouched except to be mowed. Cultivation is erasing them. How satisfying to see the historic marker pointing out the tracks in Sunnybrook Park.

In the late 1960s, when I started working at Shady Lane Nursing home, that north field was rented by some Wadena town group and planted to pumpkins. Seems like I recall hearing 40 pickup loads were harvested to be sold at Halloween.

The field east of the main building grew great potatoes, sweet corn, and much more. At that time probably half of the residents were ambulatory and could work in the gardens if they wished and with their doctor's consent.

Husking the corn, shelling peas and snapping beans was an activity our ladies looked forward to, always followed by a special lunch.

Among the many I will never forget was a fellow by the name of Fabian Spooner. He had a special place in his heart for strawberries. It didn't take him long after he came here to put our rather mediocre patch in shape.

Fabian declared war with a vengeance on anything that robbed his strawberries, especially the birds. He had a special vendetta against Robins. Each morning soon after dawn found him sitting on an upside down pail in the middle of the patch, sling shot at the ready.

The sling shot was a product of a Shady Lane tree. Each time Fabian missed his mark, which was considerable, he blamed it on his weapon being too "green." Aged wood was better.

There was the time a resident was sent a fancy plant from Hawaii, with directions calling for little water. The plant was set in a solarium and a sign to not water it went up.

Despite all efforts, each morning found the plant drowning in water. Who was the culprit? Nobody under our big roof claimed to know anything about it.

Then one night a nurse happened to see a tiny little lady in a long white gown sneaking down the darkened hall in her bare feet, a glass of water in hand. Quick as a wink she poured in the water, snickered to herself, and trotted back to bed.

She claimed to be bed-bound, wouldn't try to walk, put up a royal fuss if a nurse insisted too much. It was her only activity, maybe even her reason for living. So no, we never mentioned it. That was in 1971.

This week nurse Polly Anderson handed me two nice pictures of Leon Seifert and his tomato plant. Could we put it in the paper? she asked.

We could.

Mary, one of Leon's nieces, remembered Uncle Leon's way with plants and brought him a tomato plant instead of a flower. She found a spot in the Heritage garden, outside his window, where he could watch it grow when he couldn't get out there.

Leon has always had a garden, even those years in North Dakota where he was janitor in a school for 20 years. Leon took me into the realm of seventh heaven with him when he mused, "That first time in the spring, those tiny new peas, cooked with potatoes the size of golf balls, wasn't that really something?"

The favorite topic in the fall of gardeners everywhere is how to keep raccoons out of the sweet corn. When Leon says I got a plan that works, he gets their undivided attention. Then he says, "Don't plant any!"

When the tomatoes on Leon's plant ripen, after he has his fill, he is going to treat his roommate, Ray Johnson, to some.

So Polly, do I mind writing about Leon's mini garden? No way. It's proof that the element that keeps our folks at one with the soil is alive and well.

Thanks a bunch.