Sunday, February 20, 2011

Side Trip To My Grandparents Farm

In August of 2010 each year we attend a trade show in Chicago called the IGC show, which is short for the Independent Garden Center show. To gain admittance into this show you must provide products to Independent Garden Centers only…no big box products for sale here, and no big box store reps attending. Only locally owned, independent garden center owners, managers, and staff walk this show floor. We love this show each year as it provides an opportunity for independently owned garden centers to come together in one place to review thousands of products. These IGC representatives place orders and bring these great products back to your home town. Plus Chicago is a fun town with great food and beautiful gardens.

Last year we arrived in Illinois a few days early to meet with a potential partner company (more on that in a future blog post). We held our meeting and then proceeded about an hour north through the IL countryside to Boone County, IL, or more specifically, Capron IL. While the downtown area was nothing like I remember, the old tank that sat in front of the bank was still there, still green, and still cool.However, the town of Capron was only a marker on the way to the final destination – the family farm my grandparents owned while I was growing up. As we passed the corn fields that stretch from horizon to horizon, I felt the farm drawing close as familiar signs appeared…small bridges, neighboring barns, and finally the farmhouse appeared where I spent so many summers growing up.While some things had changed, most of the surroundings were still familiar like an old friend. The vegetable garden was still there, though moved from its original placement nearest the chicken coop. The majestic Bur Oaks still stood as welcoming sentries on the walk down to the creek where I spent many days fishing with my grandfather. The walk to the creek had changed…where there were once simple hillocks of native grasses, there was now an entire native meadow planted by nature and nurtured by time.
While the new view is certainly beautiful, it’s my memories of riding in the back of the tractor, listening to my grandfather laugh as we went over the bumps on the way to the creek that will stay in my memory bank. I remember bringing tiny bass, sunfish, or brim we caught back up to the farmhouse, filling the kiddie pool with water, and turning them loose to swim in circles until the farm cats finally noticed there was sushi on the menu and all they had to do was fish for their dinner.

The outhouse was removed thanks to the joys of modern plumbing…but it made a great garden folly back in the day. I remember it being covered with honeysuckle vines each summer. I suppose the spot on the property that gave me the most satisfaction to see unchanged was the size of the vegetable garden. The Organic Mechanic was baptized into gardening in her veggie garden. My earliest memories of my Grandmother were from moments in the garden, when she would teach me about eggplants or asparagus or garden insects or how to fertilize. Once I was tall enough (which, if you know me was when I was 5), it made me so proud to be able to reach into the 50 gallon drum of cow poop soaking in water (from the neighbors dairy cows), pull a bucket back out (I was strong like bull!), and go down the rows of veggies, giving each one a drink in turn.
The rest of my farm memories are from hours in the kitchen, snapping beans or peeling potatoes while she canned, froze, preserved, or made delicious baked items from the garden bounty. All in all, it was a successful trip back to Capron IL to relive summer memories on the farm. We came, we saw, we took pictures, we experienced place and time to make new memories.

The best part of my farm memories came not from the farm landscape, but from the family who experienced it with me. Moments like those make you acutely aware of the present and heighten your sense of family, togetherness, sharing, fulfillment, and love. I loved being in that garden with my grandmother. I loved being in the tractor’s trailer getting pulled to the fishing creek by my grandfather. Those real memories will persist past the point when I am making similar memories with my grandchildren.
Do we underestimate the impact we have on young children when gardening with them? I hope not, because they are the next generation of gardeners…they just don’t know it yet.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Back in action...

I know...I know... 13 months in-between blog postings is way too long! But I'm back in action! So what was occupying my time so fiercely that I could not break away to write about the life and times of The Organic Mechanics? I suppose I stopped posting for a number of reasons. The most immediate being our small company had a lot of growing pains in 2010…and there always seemed to be a machine to fix, compost to flip, trade shows to attend, phone calls to make, or emails to send. It was a time to make things happen.

I also spent quite a bit of time travelling the Mid-Atlantic giving talks on Organic Gardening. I spent thirty-five days giving talks on subjects such as composting, vermicomposting, organic soils and potting soils, organic fertilizer, and sustainable landscapes. Between the multi-day conferences and single talk events…I was a travelling man.

All the Organic Mechanics helped to make things happen in 2010! We are proud to announce Organic Gardening Magazine has chosen Organic Mechanics Potting Soils to be the first recipient of their new Seal of Approval! This honor was bestowed on us for our commitment to making environmental sustainability a core value at our company.

While 2010 was a great year for gardening, we hope 2011 continues the backyard transformation from boring underused spaces to gardens that feel good, do good, and look good. More on gardening subjects in weeks to come. This year I hope to share “A year in the life of The Organic Mechanics” with you all. It will undoubtedly be filled with stories of plants, people, events, and the object of desire that brings us together, the garden. I hope you will join me on the journey.