Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Driving Force that is Emily Wilson

As you can see by the date, I started this posting some time ago. The holidays always wear me out...trying to be up, all the time, making sure that I'm not forgetting anything/anyone...and of course I always do...but still. So the new year is here and I've got several loose ends to tie up (a stack of Christmas Cards that has yet to be mailed for instance) before I get back into full garden mode again, and it seems that the weather is helping to drag the season out with the lowest temperature prediction coming up this next week. My list of garden chores keeps getting longer and I've managed to put on my blinders walking to and from the car or the chicken coop without looking at all the slimy brown goop and crunch tips...I really should rake but the compost is full and it's too cold to muck around in it so it'll just have to wait a bit longer. Meanwhile, Ms. Emily...full of ideas and motivation works on.
Emily Wilson of Crestview
I met Emily two summers ago on one of our weekly Crestview Garden Tours, set up by Ms. Paige Hill...story will follow. She introduced herself and after hearing my name, told me that she'd been following my blog. At that time, I had no idea anyone was paying attention, I didn't have a counter and only a few comments from friends. She asked for a card and well, that was that. A few months later she called to set up an appointment. She was my first client, an ideal client, really. She's a 'real' gardener, she loves it. She has a romantic idea of cottage gardens with fond memories of her grandmothers place and she's fearless. We banged out a plan in one morning and I left her house elated and terrified. What had I just done? I kept telling myself "let it go, let it's her project now."

Lovable Kat, another great asset to Crestview.
It was several weeks before the phone rang again, a few clients here and there. I was in no hurry to have my business take off and was deeply involved in the Master Naturalist program and had taken on the job of Green Gardener at Zilker...a little bread and I was enjoying the writing and working on my own yard. Sometime later that year I ran into Emily walking her dogs and I pulled over in my car and asked her how she was and how her garden was coming along. She was glowing and told me that she loved the plan and was following it to a "T." I could hardly believe it! We talked for a few minutes longer and I went around the block to drive by her place and check it out myself. Sitting in front of her little cottage, I was amazed. She really was doing the plan, and it looked fantastic! She was happy, so I was happy.

Hedrich, gardener and community enthusiast!
I've since been over to Emily's house several more times for follow-ups including to spray paint the path on the ground before her guys took out the St. Augustine and layed the stone. She's extended the original plan and taken off on her own in several areas...using natives and designing with lovely flair! But, this isn't about Emily's yard...lovely as it is, it's about what she did after that. The Watershed Department printed out a booklet entitled "green neighbor" that we handed out last spring at the Grow Green Festival at Zilker Park. A few months after that, while on another Crestview tour, I announced that I had a box of these books and did anyone want to check them out? Emily grabbed a few.
Emily and Lori putting suet on pinecones.
I really had no idea that she'd read the information and taken it to heart...which was the plan but I'd become a little jaded working with the church across the street, trying to get people to care about the environment. So, I took a step back and decided to just live by example and not worry about it so much. I heard through the grapevine about her distributing the green neighbor guide, which I'd given to my neighbors without a peep and that she'd organized a sign campaign putting protection signs on the drains throughout the neighborhood (I would have helped with this had I known before, rather than after the fact.) At some point there was a CNA (Crestview Neighborhood Association) meeting about all things green, then came the Brentwood park project which she and Hedrich organized encouraging folks to come out and mulch all the trees and the footpath and she got taco's and coffee donated by some of our local entrepreneurs to feed the helpers. It was freezing that morning, but there was a terrific turnout! The mulch was delivered by the city, and there were over 20 of us who worked for the better part of a Saturday, my girls were reluctant to get out in the cold, but actually thanked us for making them help and said they enjoyed meeting new people and had fun!

My family at the sign-in station for the Friends of Brentwood Park workday.
We love Brentwood Park, both my daughters attended Brentwood elementary, and when they were little we went to the pool almost daily and to play for years. Today we mostly walk the dogs through and attend the Violet Crown Festivities that are there occasionally.

Working on the path.
Shortly after the workday, Emily organized a nature activity day at her house. Some of the photos of that day are above, we made several different kinds of bird ornaments with peanut butter, cornmeal, seed and nuts (suet for the birds.)
Mud path, before.
It was fun! And, I got to meet some other neighbors and left with a box of goodies for the birds in my yard.

Mulching the 'stick' trees.
As I sit here writing and glancing through the Green City Challenge that is the green neighbor booklet I'm wondering what it is in one person versus another that touches them and sparks the activity needed to promote real change? For me, I was a Girl scout, my mother was the troop leader and I attended Lutheran church several times a week, this is where I believe my civic mindedness comes from . My mom was the driving force behind getting us outside in nature, be it the Black Forrest or visiting National Parks...she was the one who pulled over to read the historical markers and understood that the journey was the goal and being outside was healthy, not a big gardener but someone who appreciated beautiful places.
Loving spouse attacking a mulch mound.
My girls are not involved in scouting, and the struggle to get the church across the street interested in caring about their property, and the neighborhood has left us all bewildered about modern Christian Stewardship...regardless my oldest daughter got involved on her own with Eco-Texas, removing invasive species from Brightleaf Preserve and her little sister will soon be the youngest person in Travis County to complete the Master Naturalist Program. They got the bug...most likely from me, but in the larger picture...where does it come from?

Hedrich, in red. The path, nearly finished!
That's the query...and I'm looking for some answers.
I'm so happy to live in Crestview and know these amazing people, clients, friends and ultimately kindred spirits. In the coming year I plan to feature our neighborhood projects and people who make a difference. I'm probably preaching to the choir here...then again, who else would read something called "Conscious Gardening" but someone who finds the word conscious compelling and this is a gardening blog...and Gardening is the link that's brought us nature lovers together.
Yay Emily Wilson, we are well on our way to becoming an official Green Neighborhood because of YOU...and she's asked me to help with the grand plan for Brentwood Park...I am honored. When I asked Emily why she got involved or how she views herself in all that's being done, she said that she admired all the people in the neighborhood that were doing plantings and growing their own food, essentially making a difference and when she thought about it she realized that we are all just regular folk and that she had something to offer as well. She views herself as more of a project manager, or 'tallyer' the person who'se collecting the data and helping to raise awareness. She's done much more than that, but imagine a world of Emilys? People caring for their neighbors and neighborhoods and doing what they can...Thank you Emily!
In the meantime, I must try to muster up the strength to attack my garden again. Two years without a hard freeze had me believing that climate change had officially come to central Texas...
hah. I've got entire beds that will need to be re-thunk (is that a word?) and so much clearing to do I really should build a new compost bin. Ho hum. The days of mild temperatures and spring wildflowers really aren't that far off!
Happy Gardening!


two vegan boys said...

I just found your blog. We live in Austin too. I look forward to reading more. Happy New Year.

catmint said...

Hi Cheryl, working with the community must be very satisfying. Emily sounds wonderful, and I agree the world would be very different if it were full of Emilys. I heard or read recently that the worst sin is the NIMBY syndrome. BTW, have you (and Emily) read the book by richard Reynolds 'On Guerilla Gardening"? I think you'd really like it. I plan to review it in my blog at some stage.

I also enjoyed your wondering about the source of your civic identity. I would like to think about this too, and maybe do a musing post on this some time.

Cheers, catmint

Emily on Cullen said...

Wow. Garsh!!!