Publications (Paul's Blog)

November 19, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul Dowlearn @ 6:45 pm

I might have been as old as three years when I asked the question that began my career as a lifetime gardener. I was out in the backyard eating a nice juicy peach when I noticed the hard thing inside. Being of that age I asked my Mother, “Why?” I don’t remember what she said, but I do remember her giving me a spoon. I dug a hole in the back flower bed and put the peach pit in it. Months later Mother took me to the spot and showed me the seedling tree. “This,” she explained, “ is what came out of the peach pit and one day will grow up to make peaches.”
The very next year we moved across town to a brand new house. Although my Mother and I repeated the experiment by planting another peach pit which grew into a fine tree, I never forgot that first peach planted at the old house. As I grew up I remember that we would occasionally drive by the old house. I would always look to see if my tree was still there. The last time I saw my peach tree I was driving my own car. Now a young man in my twenties I was out killing time with some friends when I went to check on my tree. There it was, over twenty years old, and apparently still going strong. I was proud of it.
As I grew up I tried my hand at all sorts of things. Looking back on my experience there were many other situations that served to reinforce my fascination with Nature in general and plants in particular. peach1By the time I was 30 years of age I was convinced that if I was going to have a career doing something I really enjoyed, it was going to have to have something to do with gardening. Within a few years circumstances prompted me to go self employed. I began with tree trimming and removal, gradually worked into landscape contracting, and eventually built Wichita Valley Nursery in 1992. My wife Nila, son P.J., brother Brian, and father in law H.M. (Curly) Brandt are my partners in this venture. I will forever be grateful to my parents, Frances and Leonard Dowlearn, for their encouragement, financial aid, and the spare bedroom which became my first office.
I often wonder how things might have been were it not for the peach pit, these people, and the various turns of fate that led me where I am today. Chances are, if you are a lifetime gardener, you have a story that is similar. Someone in your immediate family or very close to you took the time to show you the miracle of life from a seemingly insignificant seed. From that point on, you were hooked. Regardless of where life takes you, you will plant seeds. You will nurture plants and you will reap benefits. You will share your harvest, excess plants, and seeds with others. However the most important seed you will plant will be that which grows inside of a young mind.
Come to think of it, it was gardening (later called farming and now agriculture) that took humans from hunter/gatherer status to a civilized society. After we began growing our own food we had time then to consider the arts, science, and philosophy. Plants also gave us medicine and the art of healing. As we settled into villages, towns, and later cities most of our shelters were built from plant materials. Had it not been for that first person who observed the seed and made the connection we might still be living in small groups, gathering nuts and berries, or chasing wild game with a sharp stick.
In today’s modern world it is more important than ever to keep this very basic part of our culture alive. So many of us now exist in a climate controlled, concrete, steel, and plastic world with so many luxuries, entertainment, instant communication and mobility, that we have become disconnected with the natural world. If we humans are going to have any hope for a sustainable future then we are compelled to get reconnected. Gardeners can play a major role in this.
Perhaps the most important lesson we have learned in the past century is that some resources are truly limited and others can be quickly compromised. Most of us alive today can remember when the smog was so dense around our large metro areas that some people found it best to stay indoors on certain days. The present generation has also seen our water resources depleted and polluted. We are allpeach2 aware that the quality of our food has diminished even though the quantity has increased. Now we are faced with dwindling oil, coal, and natural gas reserves plus the inevitable global warming that is a direct result of our being dependant on these fuels.
You may recall that until the latter half of the 20th century the word “smog” had not been invented yet. There was no need for it. Then by the same token “ecology” was not in our vocabulary either. These problems all have solutions. We have significantly reduced smog by making changes in exhaust systems. We have alternative energy solutions, biofuels, and green building technologies that promise quality existence for future generations if we in the present will recognize and nurture these things by investing. Still, perhaps the most ecologically sound thing any individual can do is plant a tree. However, it may well be that more important still is to pass on the tradition of gardening to the next generation.
I will leave you now with a quotation I found when going through some books and papers left us by a retired teacher.
“A hundred years from now,
It will not matter what my bank account was,
The sort of house I lived in,
Or the kind of car I drove.
BUT the world may be different,
Because I was important,
In the life of a child.” -unknown

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