“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
I doubt there’s any group of people busier in the art of volunteering than Master Gardeners. In our county, members begin in January planting seeds by the thousands for the annual, perennial, herb and vegetable plants we sell in May. We cultivate and tend a huge community garden to support local food banks, maintain a demonstration garden for educating the public, and prepare many other educational programs (including writing this column) on gardening every month of every year. Busy, busy people.
Even if you don’t care to join the program, you, too, can be a volunteer gardener. Opportunities to serve are everywhere. You simply have to look for one that excites you!
At 152 miles one way, my volunteer gardening project is a bit farther away than ideal, but I have the benefit of having our grandkids there as well as our daughter, who is my boss on the project. I’m loving the role reversal.
Our daughter, Erin Black, is the district ranger for the U.S. Forest Service’s Mount Adams Ranger District in Trout Lake, where, at 12,281 feet, its namesake towers majestically over the district headquarters. The setting is simply stunning.
The district campus itself is one of the larger USFS campuses in Washington state, built when resources were abundant and land in rural areas was inexpensive. But because of federal cutbacks in recent decades and with an agencywide emphasis on frugality, the lawns have been given little maintenance and no irrigation. People who remember and appreciated when the expansive landscapes were well manicured have been less than accepting of the weeds or the cost savings. Some comments in social media have been cutting.
Social media spurs change
My daughter, who is sensitive to public opinion, asked if I would volunteer to establish an inexpensive, low-maintenance landscape that would be more presentable to the public, yet take minimal upkeep or water resources. The district botanist also wanted to limit the species chosen to native plants, and not just native plants, but plants that are native to the district, which stretches from Mount Adams to Mount St. Helens. Cool! Gorgeous country straddling the Cascade Mountains has both east- and west-side native flora.
Of course! What parent could resist such an impossible challenge from his or her child?
Being an active volunteer is practically in the DNA of many in my generation who have passed the 70-year mark. That’s how rural towns have prospered despite having fewer monetary resources than larger cities. It’s how community centers in larger cities have managed to keep a sense of community. And now, as we stumble into old age, it’s one way people in our generation can stay healthy, happy and productive.
Redesigning the district’s gardens was intimidating for me, but little would happen without people willing to say yes, then finding a way to do the work.
I started by studying the Washington Native Plant Society’s extensive …….