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Sand & Soil Garden Club

Member Profile Archives

Hal is Sand & Soil Garden Clubís "go-to" man for tomatoes and how to nurture them. But his life encompasses so much more, as you will see. He was born in Olympia and grew up in Puyallup, WA. Interestingly, the 1908 house he lived in was part of one of the first nurseries in the Puget Sound area. The remaining filbert orchards were part of his playground, along with a huge, multi-pronged cedar that he used as a "rocket ship." After a huge storm blew his "ship" over a few years ago, he counted 100+ rings, indicating that it was likely planted around the time that the house and nursery were established.

Halís father worked as a cattle rancher in North Dakota for some years, returning to Washington in 1941, where he worked at lumber mills, among other crafts. Hal remembers the family always having a garden, noting that soil-rich Olympia was a plus for raising vegetables, and, of course, tomatoes. Hal does not consider himself a gardener, per se, his main interest being tomatoes, and he always raises them from seed. He doesnít collect seeds, stating that it is so inexpensive to buy them, which also allows him to easily experiment with new and unusual varieties.

Hal has two small greenhouse "laboratories," where in early spring he can observe and nurture his new plants, getting them ready to transplant into larger containers for friends, and especially the annual Fox Island plant sale in early May. He is very proud, and rightly so, of contributing 150-plus of a variety of tomato plants to the sale, for the benefit of the Fox Island Garden Club, FICRA, and our Sand & Soil Garden Club, all organizations whose activities include working to help maintain the history and beauty of our little island. His favorite tomato, by the way is Stupice, for its tastiness, medium size, and being prolific throughout the summer. The bane of his existence as a gardener?: cold springtimes and summers (tomatoes need lots of heat), slugs that eat his beans, and he canít seem to grow zucchini. Oh well.

Beyond all of that, however, Hal has made his mark in the world starting with his activity as a ham radio operator since he was 15 years old, which then piqued his interest in electronics. He holds a B.S.EE from the University of Washington (HUGE Huskies fan!) which took him into the then Boeing aerospace program, now space and defense. At Vandenberg AFB in California, he helped develop the Minute Man missiles, AWACS surveillance aircraft, the last 26 years of inertial upper stage surveillance satellite development. As a licensed ham operator and a member of the American Radio Relay League, Hal has credit for contact with the current 340 recognized countries in the world (all but five at present). He has two 125-foot antennae and one is 40-foot, which he still climbs "often," but emphasizes that he practices safety first.

Then comes his MOST favorite activity: golfing. He says that this gives him treasured time with Annie, his wife and fellow Sand & Soil gardener, and gives them both time for walking and exercise. He describes himself as "curious, and a good troubleshooter and problem solver." His practice is to live well and be kind to everyone, and if you know him, you know thatís our Hal!

John is a native of Crookston, Minnesota, but it didnít take him long to find us here on Fox Island. He lived in Crookston through high school, then joined the U.S. Air Force for four years. When he returned home, a friend told him that he had work lined up for him in Seattle, which brought him to our fair shores. It wasnít that simple, however, as the job did not materialize. He stayed, anyway, and found work with Western Electric. After a succession of jobs, mostly electronics, and working at Boeing for a while, he completed some college work in the meantime. He even worked as a commercial fisherman in Alaska for a while.

Somehow, this all led to a college degree in forest management, and he worked with ITTís soils program, mainly as a researcher, but during the Carter years, he was part of an enormous lay-off. What did our stout-hearted friend do? He became a real estate appraiser until he retired in 2010, and now can leisurely enjoy traveling to see family and friends, fishing, and gardening, when heís not helping his daughter with her young children while sheís at work.

When asked what he most likes about gardening, he states, "I just like to grow things." He remembers that his parents always rented space for their gardens. He named traveling, growing tomatoes, fishing, and babysitting his grandkids in the same breath, however, and is currently not sure which has the priority, but wants to be more involved in the Sand & Soil Garden Club this coming year. In fact, he is scheduled to make a presentation on "Soil Preparation" at our February 2012 meeting.

John is a recent widower, but he and his wife, Kathy, enjoyed working together in their spacious landscaped yard and garden. She was a loved member of Sand & Soil, and thatís actually how we got to know John. He looks forward to having the regular give and take that our membership offers him. He likes to learn, and to help others learn, which is what weíre all about. He says heís still trying to figure out what happened to his raspberries. He planted them, had an excellent crop the first year, and the next year they were DEAD. Ouch! (Stay tuned to hear the rest of this story; just visit one of our meetings.)

John describes himself as a "people person" (did I tell you he used to breed and raise fancy pigeons? and was a boy scout leader for many years? Is there anything this gentleman hasnít done?) We know him as a quiet, fun person, whoís loyal to his family. His philosophy is conservative. He feels that people should work for what they have, exercising responsibility and accountability, and contributing their talents for the good of the community. When asked if there was anything else he wished to add, he said, "I miss Kathy."

Joan met up with Sand & Soil Garden Club at the Fox Island fair only two years ago, but she likes being active, and her participation in many of our group efforts are much appreciated. She describes herself as dedicated, loyal, and kindhearted, and our members would certainly agree. She is a retiree who now can do what she wants, when she wants, and how she wants, and is enjoying every minute of her rather newly defined lifestyle. She retired from the Port of Tacoma customer service department after 25 years, and doesnít miss it one bit.

Joan grew up in the Black Diamond and Enumclaw area of Washington. She says her mother loved flowers, and liked to grow them from seed, especially begonias. Joan always liked helping her mother, and fondly remembers gathering supplies for her to plant and assemble her Memorial Day baskets. Her grandparents always had big gardens, which are often the inspiration for our gardeners of today. She describes her mother and aunt canning fruit and vegetables by the half-gallon, as they had extended family living with them during her youth. Joan, herself, enjoyed canning for many years.

Springtime is Joanís favorite aspect of gardening; she says it makes her happy, makes her smile, to see all the fresh new growth and blossoms. She forgets about the various stresses of daily life when she is in her garden, and simply enjoys the tasks before her as she nurtures her plants and keeps her plots "weedless." Weíre not kidding about that. She doesnít allow weeds past her garden gate.
Joan doesnít claim a favorite plant; well, maybe luscious lilacs, or roses (when the deer donít eat them). She does feel she has a special touch with rhododendrons and clematis, however, and feels that they would really go crazy if she didnít keep them in check with dedicated pruning. The only aspect of gardening she could think of that she dislikes is seeing daffodils and other flowers die and having to let them be, until the appropriate time to cut them back. The garden "keeps her moving," which she does appreciate, and seeing the results of her efforts gives her a satisfying feeling of success.

In Joanís "idle" time, she does some sewing and crocheting for her grandchildren, and, believe it or not, great-grandchildren. We have a feeling they will also benefit, as they grow, by learning the joy of gardening from her.

Barbara has been a part of the Sand & Soil scene since 1986. She is "almost" a native of Washington, having grown up on a farm in Chehalis from the age of three. The family farm included nearly everything one can imagine being part of that setting: pets and working animals, a pond, kids, and, of course, always large gardens. The depression was in full swing, and Barbaraís family depended upon the products of their garden and the forests. Her father was one of a group of families who founded the small community they lived in, having brought his family from Illinois to settle here.

Barbara professes a love for "nature and living in nature, nurturing growing things and children." She has concentrated her efforts on container gardening, and has a wide variety of planters to complete her garden pallet. She fears that she has sustained some serious losses from the wild temperature swings Fox Island has experienced this winter, but takes that in stride, as any farm-raised "country girl" would. What aspect of gardening raises her ire? Slugs! We wonít describe here Barbaraís methods of contributing to their demise. Her favorite plant, rather recently, is a golden bamboo that she installed as a privacy hedge. She says it is particularly beautiful as it waves in the north wind crossing her waterís-edge property.

This club member has lived here since 1958, only four years after the island bridge connected us to Gig Harbor; however, her late husband Bobís parents arrived long before that. They bought the little Tanglewood Island in 1933, known then, and for some years afterwards, as Grave Island, by native Indians. They built the roundhouse and lighthouse to be used as a boysí camp.

Barbara, and Bob, a computer expert, raised five daughters, who have given them five grandchildren. She and her husband were charter members of the Fox Island Yacht Club, and her children were "raised on our 40-foot ketch," named The Solution. They sailed extensively, participated in hydroplane races nationwide, and were national champs four times in the "6 liter class." She states that she didnít come to boating easily, for years pretending that there wasnít "anything below the surface of the water." That isnít all that has kept her busy through the years, though, with sketching and watercoloring, sewing (a lot, including her daughtersí wedding dresses and countless bridesmaid outfits), and horseback riding among her hobbies. All that and keeping a full-scale garden, too. Whew!

Barbara describes herself as "determined" with whatever sheís interested in. She went on to add: she loves and cares about others, is somewhat shy, and has a comic nature. Her philosophy: "Do the best you can, and forget the rest...and fly over the rainbow." The rainbow part is difficult to put down on paper. Youíll have to ask her about that, and this writer hopes you will. Itís a beautiful thing. Weíre really glad this determined person, one of the most active (what else?) in our group, chooses to be with us.

This ebullient, happy woman came a long way to join the Sand & Soil Garden Club. She was born and raised in Salisbury, England - "Stonehenge country," according to her, but didnít arrive on the shores of Fox Island until 1972. It took her a little longer to find her way to Sand & Soil in 2007. The likely reason? She is one busy lady: owner and proprietor of the Beachside B&B, an inveterate worldwide hiker for more years than she knows, world traveler, a knitter belonging to the Fox Island "Nitwits," aspiring gourmet, family gatherer, and, of course a gardener.

Doreenís Scottish father was one who showed her the joy in gardening. He gave each of his seven children their own plots and seeds, and taught them how to design and care for their spaces to grow what they liked. It was a family thing. Besides her roses, she claims a juniper tree placed near her dining room window as the favorite item in her current garden, and has pruned it up so she can see the beauty of its trunk as well. She feels her garden is a place she can search her soul for peace, and says that five hours can pass before she knows it.

Doreen claims no notable achievements as a gardener, but tells of many "failures," which have taught her more than anything in her years of effort to beautify her surroundings. When asked if there is anything about gardening that irritates her, her prompt reply was "moles." She has a spacious greenhouse where she nurtures the soil and plants her favorite vegetables. Alas, the moles have discovered what a wondrous place this is, and pop right up inside as they make their way along the rows, making hills and creating air spaces around roots and ruining her plants. Also, because her property is right on the water, she must choose plant types and locations carefully, as the saline tidewaters will ruin some plantings.

Most people are unaware that Doreenís husband, Pastor Dick Torgerson, is a Sean Connery look-alike and sound-alike, who for years has often been hired to work around the country taking on the persona of the master spy, James Bond, for special events. Recently, he has taken fewer "assignments," but continues to perform occasional weddings in his real-life role as a pastor.

Doreen describes herself, in a word, as HAPPY: she appreciates that she has a wonderful life, a great large family, she lives in the U.S., on Fox Island, loves our group, has the best lot of friends, loves to travel the world, and says, what more can she ask?. She likes to be around people, loves to chat, does her best to follow the Golden Rule, looks for the best in others, invariably looks on the bright side of any circumstance, and refuses to be a negative person. Are we blessed to have her as a member, or what?

Ruth grew up on a farm in Nebraska, and has enjoyed gardening all of her life. When she married Ross, an American Airlines pilot, she immediately started gardening as she raised her family. According to the dictates of Rossí work, they lived in several places, lastly for 50 years in Long Island, NY, prior to Ruth moving to Fox Island following the death of her husband. Her daughter, June Babson, a fellow islander and member of the Fox Island Garden Club, told Ruth about the two clubs on the island. We feel fortunate that Ruth decided she would benefit by having contact with both if she joined Sand & Soil.

Ruth is a nonagenarian (one of two in our group!), and laughingly states that she "didnít plan on living this long. It just happened that way." She maintains a limited gardening schedule, and thoroughly enjoys adding beauty to her surroundings. She has always preferred starting plants "from scratch" in some way. She recalls a time when she visited her daughter here and saved some cuttings from rose bushes that had been pruned. She put them in water, which her daughter tended while Ruth returned to Long Island. When Ruth came back, the rose cuttings had rooted, she planted them, and felt a real sense of accomplishment for saving them. She often begins plantings from cuttings and seeds.

Her real gardening passion, however, is blueberries. She has fourteen bushes in her back yard. With early, mid, and late varieties, she benefits from having berries for a long span of time in spring and summer. We agreed that berries are not the only benefit from growing these wonderful bushes, as their striking color changes all year long are truly wonderful to behold. Ruth feels that having something beautiful growing indoors and out throughout the year, especially in winter, really adds to her enjoyment of life. She has several types of plants that she nurtures to brighten her household during winter. When asked what, if anything, causes her aggravation in her gardening efforts, she feels, as many do, that the chores of watering and weeding take too much time that could be better spent elsewhere.

Secondary to gardening, Ruth has enjoyed worldwide travel, and through the years has visited many lovely foreign gardens. She describes herself as "friendly," and she can be observed at the Sand & Soil meetings chatting and enjoying the camaraderie, her smile always at the ready, comparing notes on our projects and other gardening issues with other members. Ruthís main purpose in life is to love and enjoy others. So may it be ours!

Barbara has been a member of Sand & Soil for about two years, and currently serves as librarian. Before joining, she was inquiring of someone at our post office here on the island about our gardening group, and wouldnít you know it, one of our members happened to be standing in line right behind her. That member told her more about us, gave her the contact information, and she joined soon after. She has always enjoyed gardening, but is a very social person and gets that and more from being a club member. She feels she has learned a lot from our speakers and other members.

Barbara has gardened her whole life. She grew up on a dairy farm in upper New York, where her family always had large gardens. She called her mother a "plant rescuer," who did her best to coax ailing plants back to good health. Barbara can remember being very aware of gardening when she was quite small, and remembers the enjoyment of being in those surroundings.

She loves roses and, as is often the case, that passion was nurtured by a family memory. The winters, of course, were severe in her home town, and she remembers the sadness her mother would express when spring came to reveal the loss of rose bushes she tried to grow. Since then, Barbara has lived in milder climes, on Fox Island since 1990, and has the satisfaction of growing roses successfully in remembrance of her motherís efforts. Currently, she is especially enjoying helping her grandchildren learn the delights of gardening. Her favorites are African violets, and she has some lovely ones on display. Outdoors, she looks forward to the blazing show her burning bush puts on every year, "before everything else goes," in the fall.

Gardening provides a calmness in her life that nothing else seems to equal. She calls it "getting back to earth," and feels we owe so much to the earth, in what it provides for us. Barbara describes herself as "just a backyard gardener."

She and her husband of 21 years, Richard, live beside the water, with limited yard space, so it keeps her creativity in check. Barbara loves to observe changes in her surroundings: how some plants will be prominent one year and not the next; how "not all weeds are bad, just the Ďshot weedí," and how some plants will attempt to bloom twice in one season, etc.

Barbara has been a registered nurse for 45 years, and continues to work a few days a month on call at Multicare in Tacoma. She enjoys decorative painting, and attends regular classes. She and her husband, a retired Alaskan Airlines pilot, own their own plane, a small Cessna, and fly often for pleasure. She talked of being very content with her life. Her philosophy is inherent in the Golden Rule, and she believes we should give every person a chance - "Donít make a decision about someone until you know them." Weíre thankful she gave Sand & Soil a chance!

If you are a gardener of any kind or extent, have you spent any time thinking of WHY you are a gardener? Do the "roots" of your gardening reach way back in time, perhaps to your childhood, maybe when you accompanied a grandparent to the back yard to pick some ripened fruit or veggies, and were impressed by some part of that experience? Or has your gardening arisen out of a need to supplement grocery buying with some home-grown produce? Maybe you just want to "connect with the earth" in some way, or smell one of your own flowers that you have nurtured.

I often think about my initial gardening experience in 1997 at the ripe old age of 57 - truly! At first, I remember, months after moving to a new house in a new section of the country, broke, and suffering from major depression, I just looked at an empty, brown yard with thatched grass and hundreds of dandelions and other weeds, and thought "I can probably do something with that." Honestly! I didnít have a hoe, a spade, or any other garden tool that I likely would have known how to use well, anyway. If you think Iím making it sound too elementary, you donít know me. I had never even mowed a lawn since I was a teenager, and hated it then.

I started with a butcher knife. I am blessed with a poor back, so I got down on my hands and knees, neither of which were too friendly with the ground, and started chopping at weeds. I pulled up large areas of thatched grass, then chopped and smoothed the soil in the areas I had devastated. Over the weeks, I acquired a few hand tools, a couple of books, and began to feel that I was making a difference. I believe that was what really brought me around. I was making a quantitative difference, one that I could see at the end of a dayís work. I began to plant sections with grass, and watered; planted a couple of plants that were interesting to me, and watered; did more things, and watered, watered, watered. At that point, I didnít know you had to do special things with terrain that was nothing but sand and rocks, to make it hold water.

All this time, I was becoming acquainted with a Turkish neighbor, whose main joy in life was deriding me for watering so much, and laughing at the fact that I did most of my gardening on my hands and knees. As it turns out, however, Iíve had the last laugh. Heís long gone, moved away, so he doesnít hear my inner laughter, but our specimen garden now is filled with trees, bushes, and hundreds of flowering plants, flowers, and ferns. There was something about the fact that I was making a difference, a beautiful difference, that made me want to persevere.

Whatís your story?  More later.
Miriam Fury
Fox Island, Washington Community Website
John Ohlson, Webmaster

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