May 15, 2011


Lynne Goterch, left, and Barbara Estabrook discuss how the raised flower beds at the
Brookview Farm community garden have allowed Goterch to continue her hobby.
News Correspondent
DERRY -- Every gardener has a story to tell when the plots thicken at the town’s community gardens.
“This is my fourth season, and I’m right near the water this year, which is great,” said Jim Lang who, at 80, is happy to save a little wear and tear on his joints by only having to walk a couple of 
yards to the old red water pump.
“It’s enough work just to fight with the wind to get this tarp down,” Lang said, as he kneels to the ground to better position the last of a dozen large rocks he’s assembled on top of a black plastic sheet that will keep weeds from choking out his tomatoes and cucumbers.
Lang is grateful for his plot, where he grows mostly salad fixings. His yard at home is too shady to produce anything.
“I’m retired, and I love growing my own vegetables.
It’s more natural, and it saves me a lot of money,” Lang said. Two plots over, Barbara Estabrook is strategizing. 

“I have a much better site this year. Maybe because I was new last year, and I’ve moved up on the list. I just asked, if possible, could I be a little closer to the middle, and here I am,” said Estabrook, who last year had one of the new plots closest to the meadow. 
“I’m sure a deer spent the night in my garden, and there was evidence of critters. The other advantage to being in one of the older plots is that all the big rocks are already gone, so I don’t have to spend as much time as I did last year digging them out of the dirt,” Estabrook said. 
Most of the plots are just squares of dirt. She’s one of the early birds — her chicken wire is wrapped around the wooden stakes, and seeds are germinating in the soil. “My strategy is to keep it as simple as possible. I put corn in the center, because it can tolerate drought, and so I only have to water around the sides, where I’ve planted pumpkin, watermelon and cantaloupe seeds, and over there is the butternut and Hubbard squash,” Estabrook said. 
She’s been tracking temperature fluctuations on the Weather Channel and feels the unseasonably warm climate will make for early sprouting. 
“And if not, it’s no big deal because my other goal was not to spend much money. The stakes and fence are from last year, and most of the seeds are seeds I saved from last year’s crops,” Estabrook said. “I think I spent no more than 5 dollars on watermelon seeds.” 
Estabrook gardened last year alongside her neighbor, Lynne Goterch. Halfway through the growing season, Goterch, who has mobility issues, found herself losing ground to weeds and shriveling sprouts. 
“My plot failed last year. I just couldn’t keep up,” said Goterch, 63. 
She uses a lime green, carved wood walking cane with a handle in the shape of a frog to help steady her legs, which wobble from the effects of multiple sclerosis. “It was a humbling experience for me, to not succeed. I’m as mentally healthy as anyone in the world, but my body doesn’t always cooperate.” 
Estrabrook knew there were some raised beds available off to the side, which were designed for gardeners with disabilities. 
“I think they were put in as part of an Eagle Scout project,” said Estabrook. 
Goterch and her husband, Jack, worked to clear the weeds that had overrun the area around the two beds last year, which sit high enough off the ground that Goterch can pluck the weeds from between her pole beans with ease. 
“The only drawback — and this isn’t a complaint — is that the water is way over there,” she said, pointing about 75 yards across the field, to where Jim Lang is still wrestling with his tarp. “So it is just easier for me to bring my own water jugs.” 
Estabrook said it would be a great project for a group of Scouts to pick up where they left off and figure out a way to make it easier to get water to the more remote plots. 
“It would also be nice if they could do something to make these raised beds even more accessible,” Estrabrook said, pointing out that there is a row of large rocks Goterch has trouble stepping over on her way to the beds if she approaches from the roadside. 
“Coming up from the parking lot, the hill is pretty steep. Maybe they could figure out some kind of a ramp, or bridge,” Estabrook said. 
Peg Kinsella is in charge of assigning the garden plots on behalf of the town’s Conservation Commission. The ground is part of the town owned Brookview Farms conservation area. She said there hasn’t been demand for the accessible plots, but if there were, she’d consider adding some. 
“We have 46 plots this year — as of right now there is one left, but I imagine it may be gone by tomorrow. I’ve had a few phone calls,” Kinsella said. 
Since she took charge five years ago, the number of plots has expanded along with interest in gardening. 
“We’ve actually had waiting lists, in fact, although Lynne is the only person who’s requested the raised beds so far,” Kinsella said. 
Goterch said as thrilled as she is to have the raised plots all to herself, she suspects there may be other gardeners out there — maybe someone who is disabled or uses a wheelchair to get around — who might like a shot at getting their hands dirty this growing season. “I’d give up my plots if someone else needed them,” she said. 
“Coming here to garden, for me, has nothing to do with saving money. I just love the idea of cultivating something,” Goterch said. “When you have a disability, you can either succumb to it or rise above it. Gardening helps me to rise above it.” 

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