How To Bring Together a Community to Support a Botanical Garden

In our small community, Woodlake Botanical Gardens nearly became a town park.

Community meeting

Too much reliance on volunteer help, the finances of a small town, and the energy and amazing capacity of two people screeched to a halt at the end of June. Either the city had to take over the care of the gardens, or increase their spending to include paid help. The load was too much to bear alone. Too many disappointments when funds didn’t come through frazzled nerves and maybe a few tempers.

But the love of their gardens never wavered.

Agronomist for U.C. Davis and his wife, Manuel and Olga Jimenez, have given their time for the past 14 years. Modestly their donated time has been worth $2,310,000, or about $165,000 per year. That doesn’t include the donated plant materials and infrastructure.

Would the Community Step Up?

Today was the culmination of a month of planning.

So, Manuel and Olga invited Proteus and me to help them plan a meeting to see what kinds of support might be out there. We invited about 75 people from service organizations, educational and government services to attend a brainstorming session. Thirty-nine reserved, and fifty came.

Community meeting
David Hobgs, Monrovia, Proteus, Woodlake Pride and Delores Huerta Foundation all hobnob about the Gardens.

Fifty influencers in Tulare County gathered at Woodlake Presbyterian Church to brainstorm ways to raise $250,000 this year to support the Woodlake Botanical Gardens.

Wow! Even to put that much money on the screen scares me. Did you know that the San Francisco Botanical Gardens spend 5.5 billion dollars per year to maintain and grow the gardens?

Community meeting
Educators and Audubon society discuss the gardens.

That works out to $100,000 per acre. Woodlake has a unique 14 acre agricultural and rose and cacti garden valued at 500,000 in roses alone. If we maintained it to the same level as the SF garden, it would cost us 1,400,000 per year. That makes 250,000 seem paltry in comparison.

Our Agenda

  1. Our agenda included an opening walk around. Everyone wrote one or two things they love about the Gardens.
  2. Next, I gave a brief welcome, explained what in the world an educator/blogger was doing running a meeting about a botanical garden, and why we were there.
  3. We pre-selected four people to make presentations about the benefits of the gardens.  The first speaker, Chuck House, from Sequoia Hills Stables focused on the value and work of raising roses. Carmita Peña discussed the educational value to the 25 student volunteers a year who earned community service hours in high school working in the gardens. A Boy Scout organizer for 75 years, Bob Ludekens also still runs a nursery business that has donated hundreds of trees to the gardens. He explained why fruit from the store doesn’t taste sweet, and the fruit in the Botanical Gardens does. Finally, a former journalist and now website designer and documentarian, Shirley Kirkpatrick explained why the Woodlake Botanical Gardens are a treasure. A tourist attraction nestled in the foothills of the Sequoia National Park, the park draws much interest to their website about Tulare County.
  4. Finally, the meat of the meeting, table group brainstorming, and presentations. WOW. You can tell the engagement level of your participants in the process by simply listening to the buzz in the room. Each presentation was carefully thought out and well presented. Very few left the room even though we met during working hours.
  5. We held the meeting to right at one hour as promised, and offered them a chance to go home, but no one did until the last presentation finished. We closed with commitment cards about 10 minutes after the designated closing time.

    Community meeting
    I remind myself of my mom! 🙂

Follow-up

As a volunteer administrator, I am going to be looking for money. Several in the group volunteered to help with grant and proposal writing. It was clear that the gardens needed exposure. Some volunteered to help with marketing.

Even a little garden presents a huge amount of work. Plants don’t stop needing attention while you’re working out the details of who is going to do the work.

Community meetingWoodlake Botanical Gardens needs your help. Maybe you can donate funds. Someone suggested Fund me. So I’ll check into that. Maybe you love to weed roses. We need help with that now.

Community meeting
Manuel and Olga Jimenez, David Hobbs from Monrovia, Linda LaFleur from Kiwanis of Woodlake

Manuel is writing out a calendar of events so we can figure out how to get volunteers in the short-term to do the gardening work until we raise money to hire full-time employees. Even though we get employees, it will not negate the need for volunteer help. So if you can help, please let me know.

community meeting
a beautiful row of cabbage

I hope you don’t mind me writing about this on my blog. Right now, it’s where my mind and heart are. If I don’t write this, I won’t get much writing done.

Check into Always Write for my interviews coming up with author Sally Cronin, and social media guru, Chris Brogan. Today I am reposting a wonderful interview done by Norah Colvin with an author, Aleesah Darlinson. The topic of the interview caught my attention – the extinct Tasmanian tiger.

Related Posts

What Can You Do On a Saturday Night in Woodlake?
Woodlake Kiwanis Run for Hunger
Why Do Sunflowers Have Necks?

 

Two Free Books in Two Days – 13th July

Do you like mysteries to read on a hot summer day or a rainy Oregon day? Here is your chance to get some great books free. 🙂

Stevie Turner, Indie Author.

Today and on Saturday my publisher Creativia.org is putting two of my books up for FREE on Amazon:

A Rather Unusual Romance, which has 24 good reviews on Amazon, will be FREE from today until 17th July:

http://bookShow.me/B01M1GWZW2

When Erin Mason gets a divorce, she’s left with two teenage sons to care for. Soon after, the doctor diagnoses her with cancer, and her world falls apart.  Not too far away, someone else – Alan Beaumont – is suffering a similar fate.

Their paths come together in this inspiring tale, partially based on actual events. A Rather Unusual Romance shows how love can flourish in the unlikeliest of circumstances.


My psychological thriller Repent at Leisure, with 9 good reviews on Amazon, will also be FREE from Saturday 15th – Wednesday 19th July.  It won a bronze award in the 2016 Drunken Druid Book Awards.  https://www.drunkendruidawards.com/blog

http://bookShow.me/B01DFTXW2A

Paul wakes up to find a mysterious woman in his bed, with…

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Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe -Female Reproductive System- OUTSHINING OVARIAN CANCER by Karen Ingalls

Attention women! You may not be at the stage you are thinking about ovarian cancer. However, cancer doesn’t respect people. If these symptoms sound familiar, have a check up.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Smorgasbord Health 2017

This was first published last year but it is a message that is important and should be repeated regularly. My thanks to Karen for sharing her story and also the symptoms all women should be aware of.

Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest forms of the reproductive system. Karen is an ovarian cancer survivor and therefore supremely qualified to write this article.. The post carries an important message about understanding how our bodies work and how we should be on the alert for anything that seems out of the ordinary.

OUTSHINING OVARIAN CANCER  by Karen Ingalls.

photo-on-2-14-16-at-139-pm-crop-u6133I am a retired registered nurse and had very limited education about gynecological diseases and cancers. From working in hospice I only knew that ovarian cancer is the deadliest one of all gynecologic cancers. My journey and initial diagnosis with ovarian cancer is not an unusual one.

I had gained a few pounds and developed…

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Why Do Sunflowers Have Necks?

sunflowers
Why do sunflowers have necks? The little guy on the left has a tired neck.

The Annual Day of the Sunflower (Helianthus Annuus) at the Woodlake Botanical Gardens started at 7:00 am to compensate for the July 1st heat in California’s Central Valley.

Journey Through the Garden With Me

As the temperature soared towards the 102-degree mark, I wished I’d arrived before 8:30 am. Even the presence of Bravo Lake on the other side of the chain link fence did not slow down the upward march of the thermometer bubble.

sunflowers
One mile walk through Woodlake Botanical Gardens. I’m walking along Bravo Lake, but you can’t see it. Maybe if I was a sunflower and could stretch my neck up high enough I could see the water.

Before I reached the wall of the sunflowers, sweat already poured into my eyes washing away makeup. A stinging reminder that I had forgotten to wear the bandana Olga Jimenez gave me dripped down my forehead.

sunflowersNormally I walk the mile-long path in the 14-acre gardens. Olga Jimenez drove up pulling what looked like a hay wagon. She smiled up at me from her shady seat in the utility vehicle.

sunflowers
Olga Jimenez drives visitors around the park

“Hop in! You look hot already.”

Before I could dribble all over her All-Terrain-Vehicle, Olga reached into her magic stash of cures and wound a pink and white bandana into a long cord.

“Lean over,” she said and wrapped the cord under my bangs, behind my ears and tied it under my hair in the back of my head. This gringa (white woman) avoided the camera but welcomed the relief in spite of how my bangs stood out at all angles. There are some advantages to carrying the camera and being old enough that you don’t care if you are not in every picture!

All Aboard the Sunflower Train

sunflowers
Sunflowers were not the only beauties displaying their colors at the Day of the Sunflower.

“I want to drive you to the end of the pathway so you can take pictures of the sunflowers going the other way. Did you know that sunflowers turn their heads?”

She kept talking like she hadn’t just dropped a bombshell of information. I never saw a flower that turned its head. I’ve seen them fold up at night.

sunflowers“First, we’re driving up through the zinnias. I’ll stop,” Olga turned and told the rest of the passengers.

sunflowers

Woodlake Botanical Garden Founders

Olga and her husband, Manuel have planted gardens all their lives. He specialized in row crops at UC Davis and became a farm specialist for the University of California Davis for many years.

sunflowers
A beautiful row of cabbage

In addition to sunflowers, the Woodlake Botanical Gardens grows many food crops from corn, tomatoes, and artichokes to apple, pear, peach, fig and banana trees. Only volunteers work in the garden. Most of them are students.

sunflowersOn the way back to the start of the Sunflower Walk, my friend Monica approached.

sunflowers
Monica Pizura of Wicky-Up Ranch Bed and Breakfast

Cooled down from the bandana, I gave up my shady spot in the front seat and hopped on the hay cart to take unfettered pictures as we drove.

“Hey Monica, “Do you know why sunflowers have necks?” I asked her as she climbed in.

“Is this another one of your lame jokes, Marsha?”

sunflowers“No, Monica. It’s a legitimate question.”

“Ok, so they can stretch them and see over the other plants.”

sunflowers“Good guess, Monica. But no. It’s so they can turn their heads.”

“Really, why do they do that?”

I couldn’t tell her. Maybe I could have Googled it, but I wanted to save what little phone battery life I had left for photographs. As we drove along the walking path, I had a chance to visit with the developers of the Tulare County Treasures website, Shirley, and John.

sunflowers
Tulare County Treasures members, Shirley and John.

We drove right past rows and rows of sunflowers without stopping.

“You’ll want to take pictures going the other direction, so you don’t have to shoot into the sun,” Olga called back at us as she ambled along going less than three miles an hour.

I could have jumped off and walked along beside the mini-train, but it was fun to sit and visit and dangle my legs as we rolled along. Every once in a while I felt my foot bounce against the wheel.

sunflowers“It’s odd, but the sunflowers do not seem as pretty going this direction,” I said to my new friends.

“They don’t seem very friendly, do they?” Shirley asked.

“No, they don’t.” John agreed. “I wonder why.”

“Maybe they’re shy!” I surmised.

sunflowers
Hiding behind the blueberries was a grove of peach trees. Some of the group deserted.

Olga stopped the ATV, and we jumped off. Most of us jammed towards the blackberries. The seedy purple berry jettisoned tiny bursts of flavor onto our tongues. A few of the group disappeared.

Blackberries grow in clumps of three. The largest one, the bull, is the prize. So engrossed in the plump blackberry “bulls” I failed to notice that the crowd had moved to the blueberries.

The blueberries fell off the vine into our hands as we tickled their bellies with our fingers. Some of the berries tasted sweet, some a little more tart. Before we left the fruity oasis, some of the party walked back to the wagon train with peach juice dripping off their chins.

sunflowers
San Joaquin blueberries, I think.

We got to the end of the trail, and she turned the hay wagon around. My face was cool as a cucumber.

“You’re getting pretty brave sitting in the sun back there. How’s that bandana working for you?”

“It’s magic! I need one for my nose, too! Olga, what do you mean, the sunflowers turn their heads?” reminding her that she left me hanging at the start of the path.

sunflowers
The bees love the sunflowers.

“When sunflowers grow, they face the sun. As the sun changes position during the day, the baby sunflowers turn to face it and follow it 180 degrees. That’s called heliotropism.”

“Helio for the sun,” Monica added.

“And tropism means that a plant or organism turns in response to an outside stimulus,” Olga finished.

sunflowers“It doesn’t look like they’ve moved any since we got here. Sunflowers are still not very friendly.” I said.

“As they get older, their necks get stiff just like ours, and they quit turning. Then they face east,” Olga said.

“Thanks, Olga, I’m feeling a little stiff-necked looking all directions to see all the gorgeous things growing here,” I said.

If you enjoyed this post, and I hope you did, please sign up for my Traveling and Blogging Near and Far Newsletter mostly for local interest.

How to Use Sunflowers

Almost everyone has eaten roasted sunflower seeds. Did you know you can make sunbutter? It’s similar to peanut butter but better for you.

I haven’t tried it. I hope it’s not like Vegemite. HGTV says you can use it like a jam or even as a substitute for cream in pasta sauces. Some people use it as a dipping sauce.

All you need are four cups of raw seeds, a stove, food processor and some oil (I’d use olive oil) and light seasoning like salt and possibly something sweet like honey. A doctor told me about Truvia, so I use that whenever I could use sugar, at least in amounts under a quarter of a cup.

Don’t buy pre-roasted sunflower seeds. Roast the raw seeds in a skillet for about 2 minutes. Tossing them keeps them from burning. Grind them into a powder for about 10 minutes. They start to turn to oil. Add a sweetener and keep going until the mixture looks like peanut butter. If it is not oily enough, add from one to four tablespoons of olive oil until it reaches the consistency you like.

Be sure to visit these two Photo Challenges for more exciting journeys.

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Three Ways I Rightsized in Semi-Retirement

rightsizing for retirementI love this life assessment piece by my friend Terri Webster Schrandt. Are you nearing retirement? Terri shares some great thoughts about how she prepared for and manages her retired life.

Three Ways I Rightsized in Semi-Retirement

rightsizing for retirement

We read a lot about downsizing these days as Baby Boomers are actively pursuing new ways of life as they consider retirement. “Rightsizing” is a process that implies a less than a cutthroat approach to restructuring than downsizing.

I have been following Kathy’s blog SMARTLiving365.com and recently had the opportunity to write this guest post while she was enjoying some travel. Kathy and I met in person at the BAM 2016 conference in Las Vegas. We found each other to be kindred spirits as well as neighbors living in California!

After reading Kathy’s book Rightsizing: A SMART Living 365 Guide To Reinventing Retirement, I also identified the ways I have rightsized my life. A big key for my semi-retirement was being able to retire from my day job of 32 years at the relatively young age of 55. After paying into the CalPERS (public employees retirement system) for years, I now receive 65% of my income as a pension.

Three other reasons factored into my semi-retirement decision:

1. Dissatisfaction at work. The economic downturn of 2008-2012, which acutely affected California, caused many folks to retire “early” (read: younger than if they had waited until the traditional retirement age of 62-65) from the public parks and recreation organization for which I worked. As a result, too many new people started making swift (and poor) decisions that affected best practices which became too much to bear. When I was passed over for promotion for the third time over a 10-year period, I knew it was time to go.

2. Being able to teach part-time. The ability to retire hinged upon the continuation of my teaching job at a university, where I am a part-time lecturer enjoying sharing my 35+ years of experience in the field with parks and rec majors. As a lecturer (and now “Retired Annuitant” I am able to teach 15 units per year). The money is GOOD and nicely supplements my pension.

3. My husband got hired with my former organization in facility maintenance. He now carries the health benefits, and he has the potential for moving up in the organization while still experiencing job satisfaction.

All those added up to my semi-retirement.

Best. Decision. Ever

These are the three areas where I rightsized my life: Read the original post to find out what they are.

Source: Three Ways I Rightsized in Semi-Retirement