November 14, 2009 - a dark horse running on a dark race course

Due to unseasonably beautiful weather with temps in the upper 60's and plenty of sun, we decided to work INDOORS in the art room. REALLY.

The work date had actually been planned last month and several of the crew had gathered between times to glue more tiles on our dark horse. Our goal today was to grout between the tiles and we got a good portion completed but ran out of black grout. Hands got really dirty and it was messy work but with the help of our fantastic beta's and our normal crew, we had a lot of fun and I dare say I was not the only one completely amazed at how beautiful this piece is going to be once completed.

While most of the students knew each other, there were
several whose names I didn't but I did catch the "love" on one beautiful young woman's arm. Looking over all the photos I took today, this one is truly a favorite. Ms. Eller started us off by reading the instructions on the bag of grout then James used a drill attachment to mix the mess in a big plastic bucket. He then proceeded to clean the mixer attachment as only James can do - spotlessly. We used plastic bags filled with grout and a hole cut in the edge to squeeze the grout between the tiles (think decorating cookies with icing) as well as spackling knives and slapping the grout on with plastic gloves. The horse was soon completely black but as the grout hardened Jessica (aka "Jaz") started wiping across the horse with her hands and we watched with fascination as the color and design started to reappear.

While James ran from the group photo (actually he was taking his own pics with Gracie's camera) everyone gathered to proudly display the transformation of a red fiberglass horse into something uber cool and getting closer to being on display at the Dunbar Memorial Garden - including the darling budding artist and Miss Manners extraordinare, Lily! Be sure to click on the photo to bring up a larger version that gives a nicer view of how "shiny" the dark horse has become.

After we helped clean up the art room several of us meandered out to the garden to prune and clean up. Truthfully, I pruned while Jessica, James and Grace used huge stalks from the cup plant to battle up and down the hillside. Thankfully no one was injured in the brawl and no trees were climbed. *Jab to Gracie*

The battle crew did pull through in the end and help pitch the cuttings down the back forty where we will see next year an old sink hole transform into a native plant haven.

Love to all. Good work was done today.

Jesse's Mom

The girls are back in town (oh and boys too) - October 24, 2009

The forecast called for a cold day but not rain and when we left for the garden this morning - in the rain - we hardly expected any one to show. But show they did.

James had another commitment but advised that I should swing by and pick up his sister who needed the "community service hours." Chris was off in Sparta. But while Erika and I sat in the car at the garden safe from the drizzle waiting for Jerome to arrive here comes Gracie with her gangsta-gang hat on.

We unloaded and prepared for digging some plants when Matt showed followed by his brother Richard and then Tyler in from EKU looking sleepy eyed but advising he'd slept "like a baby" at his folks house. Finally, our darling Sarah showed having slept in too - which is exactly what a college student should be doing on their fall break.

Then while we were all hugging and catching up (while Matt was digging transplants of coreopsis and wild bergamot and Jerome was trying to loosen the soil around the persimmon tree that's been trying to block our view of Hannah's beautyber
ry and Gracie went off to climb a tree and Richard was pulling polk plants with roots as big as fists) who on earth should come around the bend but our little "twinkie" Ellidia on break from the rigors of Vandy. Wow. Hugs galore.

While it never matters if our work force is great or small, it's a beautiful day when our old cohorts are near. They dug a hole and scraped away gravel. They divided plants and cleaned off picnic tables. They pruned and took photos and goofed off and ate breakfast burrito's. They talked college life and highschool life and love life and were just full of life. Then they moved a tree. Miranda gave her expertise and we hope it survives but like everything else at the garden, I don't know how it couldn't with all that love there.

Can you tell it was a good day?

This will likely be one of the last posts for the garden this season as we stop our work at Dunbar and start our work with Mindtriggerz. It was a helluva way to close the season. "Good times" as Erika taught me to say, "good times."

P.S. For the record, our "gleaning session" last weekend got us an article posted in Ace Weekly. Check it out at Click the "food" heading then download the pdf to see a pic of our crew and their friend the chicken!

Love y'all,
Jesse's Mom

When actions speak louder than words - October 17, 2009 (Satellite Saturday)

On a greater-than-dreary October Saturday morning, cold and rain-filled, a collection of volunteers gathered at the farm “Berries on Bryan Station” ( to glean the fields of peppers, onions, greens and tomatoes. Erik Walles and Gayle Tomkinson had kindly agreed to allow the harvesting of their CSA’s fields with the proceeds benefiting a local soup kitchen to feed our area homeless.

What makes this unique is not simply the fact that a local farmer would allow us to harvest what was left over after his season. Not even the fact that the wonderful produce was organically grown. Nor was it that the synching of food surplus with a forecasted hard freeze equated to feeding those in need. What made this day special for those involved was that it involved young people full of energy, undaunted by the weather, and filled with great pride that what they did was harvest 185 pounds of beautiful produce to feed those whose lives are less fortunate than their own.

In late September Miranda Hileman (featured in ACE 7/16/09) coordinated with “Berries” to glean the fields in keeping with one of her many goals as the 2009 Compton Mentor Fellow: to promote the value of sustainable agriculture, the importance of school
gardens and the reconnection we must maintain with our natural environment - where our food comes from and why it is important to know.

Miranda volunteered at Berries on several occasions over the summer – assisting with harvesting and preparing baskets for the CSA members. She exchanged information and expertise with Erik and his family of workers and volunteers. Through her connections with the Catholic Action Center and her work on its vegetable garden located on the campus of BCTC Leestown Road she arranged to have what otherwise could have gone to waste instead feed others.

Emails were exchanged among volunteers and potential volunteers and a date was set for gleaning on October 14th. Unfortunately, that day dawned miserable, cold and wet – the rain incessant and unforgiving. Temperatures hovered at 40 degrees. Miranda wore her galoshes. Erik gathered eggs and several cartons of his incredible homemade berry preserves. We got wet. Really wet. But harvested 80 pounds of eggplant, 71 pounds of peppers and ba
skets of greens and dried beans. It was a motley crew of three - but we worked hard.

While standing in the field covered in mud with red frozen hands I asked Miranda to not be disappointed in our numbers. It is easy to be a volunteer on a warm, sunny day but not so much when it is bitter and dismal. I reminded her (as well as myself) that “the homeless are no less hungry simply because it’s cold and wet outside.”

This became our afternoon mantra and saw us through the next two and a half hours of work. When it became evident that three people could not possibly harvest what was left on the farm we made a Plan B to return again over the weekend.

Anyone who knows Miranda knows that she spreads herself thin. More importantly, they know that she is energetic, optimistic, an incredible worker and filled with beautifu
l, altruistic and far-reaching goals. She’s spent many a Saturday pitching in at the Dunbar Memorial Garden – a native plant community garden located on the campus of Dunbar High School that is dedicated to the memories of students who left us too soon. During that time she’s formed a strong connection to us, to the students and to the many others involved in our project.

So on Saturday morning, while many others enjoyed a warm bed and sleeping in – the Dunbar Memorial Garden changed its work schedule, went to “Plan B” and several of our regulars gathered at Berries to help Miranda glean the fields. Among the crew: two
Dunbar Seniors, one Dunbar Sophomore and one Dunbar graduate home on Fall Break from the University of Michigan. They chased chickens and laughed in the cold. They picked and weighed produce. They gathered eggs. They left the farm knowing that what they did was important and good and they didn’t begrudge those who stayed home in comfort. They did what they did because they love hard and unconditionally. Because we’ve learned working together at Dunbar that we lean on each other and help each other in every way we can. Don’t ever let anyone say: “the youth of this generation don’t care” because we’ve seen first hand that they do.

And they worked. Jaz and James, Natalia and Chris. With a few of us old-timers and Miranda the impetus.

Sometimes you just have to act. We did. Next year I hope to read of incredible gleanings on farms all over Lexington with people who want their actions to speak louder than their words. In Jesse’s words “that would be awesomeness” and yeah, I think it would.

Rebecca Woloch is the President of the Jesse Higginbotham Technology Trust, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit dedicated to continuing the work of her son, who died in an automobile accident in April of 2007. The creation of the Dunbar Memorial Garden was one of her son’s many projects. Gleaning fields at Berries on Bryan Station, she thinks, is something her son would be infinitely proud of her for doing.

October 10, 2009 - Horse Whisperers

It was a cold and dreary morning in Lexington today so what better way to do work for the garden then to MOVE INDOORS and make art! We convened in Ms. Eller's room to break tiles, caulk glue and adhere pieces to the "horse." There was a nice crew of volunteers thanks in no small part to Ms. Davis and her Beta's!

While Gracie read "Final Exits" the rest of us set to work. Tables were moved to make room for the horse who's been relegated to a back room these past few weeks. Our experienced members loaded up the glue and got down to business in fast fashion. The pruning t
wins were in action (sans pruners and with Lindsay looking a little tired :P) and brought up the proverbial rear of the Beaumont Beta's - soon to be Dunbar students. Thankfully, we got to work with David and his big sis Beth who have been MIA the last couple of weeks but made up for their absence from 11 to noonish.

We missed Serena who was off taking boring SAT's but expect she'll be back next weekend when NATALIA RETURNS FOR FALL BREAK FROM MICHIGAN. w00t!

As always, thanks to everyone who came, worked, played, laughed and swept (Jaz, you are my broom hero). Shout out to Grace who is trying to resurrect the Dunbar GSA with help from James and others. This means a lot to me, as Jesse loved his participation in the original GSA.

And as a gift at days' end I had a late lunch with Jon at my favorite place the Coffebre@k Cafe where we were waited on by a young woman named Roselynn who shared her personal connecshun with Jesse. <3

Until next weekend. Luvz.
Jesse's Mom

October 3, 2009 - Divisionary tactics - NOT

Our "plan" today was to begin dividing some of our hugemongous native plants - the garden however, did not agree. With the recent rains and mild temperatures very little at the garden was ready for moving and shaking - everything was just too "green" or yellow, or purple, or pink. So we did what we do best and that is to go with it so instead of transplanting, we pulled weeds (miss you Sarah!).

Lindsay's dad dropped her off (along with filling the pickup with a plethora of Mindtriggerz donations, yeah and luvz) but she had to be a pruning twinless today as Kirby couldn't make it this weekend. While she went about expertly removing a few more sunflowers, Chris made a run for his house to fetch additional pruners. Jamie tagged along.

Serena's stay was short but productive - she got a call from her
manager at "work" who needed her skillz so we sent her off to earn money (begrudgingly!) and our small group got caught red-handed because of the tiny bugs on the oxeye sunflowers. They kind of squished up, a little gross but randomly funny. I regret I neglected to get a photo.

Gracie helped Jerome clear weeds from around the fringetrees and Josh's red maple while I cleared up around the shining sumacs. It was a windy, blustery day but included plenty of sunshine and beautiful smiles and giggles. During our "snack break" I shared the lulz of a PBS documentary that Jesse's dad told me about (and that I found, of course, on youtube) and Lindsay's laughter just egged me on (not pun intended!). When bored, or in need of laughter, please look for "The Natural History of The Chicken" video.

We spied the garden "kitteh" today that Jerome subsequently ran off b
ecause of his heckling "here kitty kitty" calls and a random couple wandered up with a very friendly dog who proceeded to jump up on me, having not receieved the memo that I am a cat lady! It was a nice day. Jerome has been so busy with Mindtriggerz that he hasn't been at the garden in SEVERAL weeks - it was a nice change of pace for him and we were all glad to have him back.

Next week we will convene indoors to work on the horse again. Hopefull
y we will get at least one more weekend outside again - Natalia will be home for fall break on the 17th so fingers will be crossed that we can all work outdoors again (she won't mind the weather considering it is freezing already in Michigan).

Love, love and always love. The garden is beautiful and so is our crew!


The rain, rain, rain came down, down, down - September 26, 2009

Torrential downpours with a side of thunder kept us from working at the Dunbar Garden today - but mere puddles and flash flood watches could not keep us apart! Jaz and James helped Jesse's dad set up the Mindtriggerz Training Lab then came by the house where soon to follow came Tyler, then Christopher and then finally, Sarah who entertained us with her dancing feet and tales of stalkers and everything in between from her Ball State experience.

Tyler had his own tales of lulz about some not-so-bright student on the EKU campus who tried to tak
e a cell phone pic of a skunk but who found out that was NOT the smartest thing to attempt and Chris provided a cd of pics taken recently at the garden and so since we missed our "Gracie's" presence today, well, this photo seems appropriate to include in our post :P

She had a lot of fun playing in the water but rest assured, she did manage to do more than dance in droplets last Saturday - she washed down all the picnic tables and besides looking beautiful and perfect and young and happy, she added her own touch to making the garden a beautiful place to be. <3

While we got nothing "done" at Liverpool today the house was filled with the sounds of laughter - and we convened on the lab to help Jerome break down in record time. Then he bought us all lunch! W00t. It was and always is good to be surrounded by our particularly wonderful collective, even though it's always better AT THE GARDEN. Oh well, we'll try again next weekend.

Jerome and Jaz delivered a couple of computers to a couple of families that prior to today didn't have one so "work" did get done. It always does, even when we are not paying attention (or seemingly just having fun).

Jesse's Mom

Baba Ganoush to you too - September 19, 2009

Updating the blog was put on hold (or rather, I got caught up in a game of "FarmVille" as well as cleaning computer components for Mindtriggerz) but we'll back space and get caught up!

Last Saturday we convened on Ms. Eller's art room to help bring to fruition a project her art club began but was unable to complete. One of the original "Horsemania" horses had been donated to the school and students collaborated on a design and decided to use broken tiles to
decorate it. With assistance from SEVERAL Beta Club students along with their wondermous sponsor teacher Ms. Davis as well as our regular "crew", we pretty much saddled that pony (sorry, couldn't resist). Having completely forgotten my camera, Rachel thankfully shared a few of hers. It was a great day of great collaboration among caulk guns filled with glue, hammer meisters who broke the tiles, and some of us (ME) as an observer. We pounded and adhered away and left with dusty fingers and a horse making great strides to finding a spot in the garden soon! We'll continue working over the winter on this project - a million thanks to Ms. Eller and all our "artistes" (even the ones who didn't pose for the camera!).

So this week we moved back out into fresh air and sunshine to prune and sweep (thank you, Serena!) and throw bamboo stake javelins (Chris and James, thank you very much). We had a small crowd including the aforementioned as well as Katelyn's younger sister Lindsay who brought another future Dunbar student, her Beaumont Middle classmate, Kirby. They are now officially known as "the pruner twins" - they did a remarkable job on some sunflowers, beardtongue and random stray dead branches. After Gracie's major/minor issue was resolved with a little help from her friends, Chris fetched some extra pruners from his house and we all set out dead heading - this time being careful to collect the seed heads from the oxeye sunflower so they potentially won't sprout all over the garden next spring. Oh, and Gracie cleaned all the picnic tables and did a little romping in the water while she was at it. :)

On several fronts today I was reminded how very important our connecshuns are - not only in this space but in each others' lives. I am thankful to these young people who are my family. I would do anything for each one of them.

A special shout-out to Serena's mom who showed up at the end of the day with some homemade hummus and Baba Ganoush for yours truly. I appreciate every chance I get to nurture and feed these young ones, what an incredible bonus to have that returned!

Chris promises a few pics from today to add later - Jesse's dad has my camera tonight since while he and Jaz delivered THREE MINDTRIGGERZ COMPUTERS this afternoon, they forgot to bring it back. Rather, Jerome did. Boo!

Peace and love and flowers. <3
Jesse's Mom

September 5, 2009 - The Burley Tobacco Growers Meeting

Every Saturday someone at the garden finds money and we joke about the coins being payment for all our hard labor. Today I found a shiny penny, which might well be a good reflection of the volume of work I got done. Ha!

While I knew that Sarah would be in from Ball State to join us, it was GREAT to have Tyler back in from EKU. w00t! Katelyn brought along her younger sister Lindsay who will attend
Dunbar NEXT YEAR and a mixed bag of our usual suspects came to work as well: Serena, Gracie, James and Christopher. Miranda showed up a little late but that was due to her baking a delicious zucchini bread (with chocolate chips) as a belated birthday treat for Serena (who just turned 13 - NOT).

It was hot and sunny at the garden and as Sarah pointed out, while attempting to dig
up a weed, very dry! Even with the heat, weeds got pulled, plants got pruned, pathways got swept, the butterfly puddling area received some special love - oh and yeah, Chris's VW bug got rocked (don't ask, I don't know why).

While I was a total DOINK about using the camera today, Grace had her own and we're hopeful she'll share her pics with us! The garden is so well-established now and relatively weed-free which makes it is so very nice to be there and enjoy all our work without feeling compelled to hustle the way we did this spring and earlier in the summ

While the weeds were sparse, the litter was not. Blargh. Mostly cigarette butts
thus the title of this weeks' post. I can say that while I didn't perform any major hard-labor, I did fill a plastic bag full of butts. So, while the crew disbanded to go about their lively weekends, I spent some time tonight making signs that say "Our Plants Don't Smoke" and am hoping to have a few extra "butt cans" in the garden before the students return after the long weekend. I did get a photo of the bag o' butts but Blogger is being a butthead so will have to return at a later date to post the pic.

Miranda sat with me after everyone else had left and we shared stories and aspirations for gardens all over the campuses of Fayette County Schools. She is an incredibly vibrant and intelligent young woman with so many forward-thinking ideas. I am very much looking forward to working with and helping her this fall and winter and she will appease some of the withdrawal that has arisen with so many of our "garden volunteers" who have left for colleges far away.

Natalia headed back to Michigan this morning with her rattlesnake master in tow and was sorely missed today. As was Grace who already posted that she misses the heat now that she's in Massachusetts. Love to them and all who spent so many Saturdays making this sacred space even more special. WE MISS YOU!

Next weekend we'll be spending time in the art room with the wonderful Art Teacher Ms. Eller. I have every intention of doing a better job with the camera duties - and every intention of doing whatever we can this fall and winter to keep the spirit of the garden and all it means upfront and center.

Love, love and moar love.

August 29th at the Dunbar Garden - monarch madness and sad farewells

After a one-week hiatus (for Mindtriggerz), we got back to the garden today and really did nothing but talk! Actually, that was just me.

I cornered Miranda and Serena to find out how the Dunbar Garden table fared at Open House and then to bounce ideas and projects off their incredibly wonderful minds. Many plans are underway and there is much plotting, planning and planting to be done. Details forthcoming.

Jamie's mom came by today and helped Katelyn and Serena pull weeds. Natalia sharpened the pruners and went to work on the showy sunflower that decided to stop showing off. The farmification of Grace Li, while not complete, advanced to level 8.2 while she postponed packing for Amherst to stroll around the ironweed with her weed digger in hand! This was the last Saturday for both Grace and Natalia so of course they were ushered off in style with a rattlesnake master to adorn their campus living abodes (Michigan and Massachusetts, respectively). We will sorely miss their beautiful faces and hard working hands but know they will return next summer and in the interim be "learning and stuff" - a piece of our hearts will go off with these incredible young women - hurry back!

And Jamie's mom kept weeding. Love you, Suzie!

James and Josh and Gracie set off with sandpaper to rough up the wooden benches in prep for an additional coat of stain. I just kept talking but did manage to spy the first Monarch Caterpillar of the season (t
hat we know of) and grabbed the ghetto cam to catch a pic. The beauty of digital photography is that even a cheap camera can occasionally get a great shot, which I dare say this one is! I have decided that Mr. or Mrs. Future Monarch Butterfly was intently reading the "Please do not leave litter in the garden" sign. Either that or he/she was dodging the flock of goldfinches that were nibbling sunflower and purple coneflower seeds.

We saw a great blue heron today that seemed to be a n00bie - it kept lighting on utility lines and seemed to have a head just a little too large for its body. It was randomly funny and in keeping with garden lulz - a pair of monarchs were mating in reckless exhibitionist style and it's always fun to see what the birds, bees and butterflies are doing when we are and aren't around.

With the exception of the weeds that came up easy as the summer rain this morning afforded, we enjoyed a small crowd and a lazy day of being together and goofing off while Jerome and Jaz tended the Mindtriggerz Training Lab and set about bringing five families closer to their own home computer(s). Saturdays (caturdays) are the days Jesse's dad and I most look forward to - we are eternally grateful to all who help us do what we can for our love of Jesse.


Tardy Sweeps - August 15, 2009

With the exception of Kyle (the welding magician) we had a pretty lazy day at the garden. A couple of our regulars were spending their last Saturday with us - Tyler heads back to EKU to continue his reign in 4.0 status while Ellidia starts a brand spanking new chapter at Vandy so we basically lounged and talked and hugged, lamented and yes even complained.

But then there were the paver movers who just couldn't resist adding another 100 to our recycling plan. Chris drove his dads' big truck and with help from Jessica, Michael, Jamie, Gracie, Athena, Beth, Josh and Remy (the dog) - they dug through sand and gravel laughing all the way.

Serena caught us up on the happenings at Dunbar (of which we mostly disapproved, especially the "tardy sweeps") but then Chris recounted a story of the school principal coming out to the garden to pick up trash which made us smile and we n
oticed all our new cigarette butt cans are being used for their intended purpose so even the smokers are respecting our sacred space.

The biggest accomplishment was the installation of the Dunbar
Memorial Garden plaque and Kyle's excessive hard work welding the plaque to our post. JAZ, our days' photojournalist, got some incredible shots. They'll be posted on the website tomorrow after I am in fuller possession of my faculties. This one will do for now - Kyle was using a grinder to pretty-fie the post and make everything look perfect. He accomplished that brilliantly. BTW, Kyle is one of Jesse's dads coworkers who refused to be paid for his work. But we will find a way to make him happy. Maybe he likes homemade cookies, pies, or medicinal native plants??

We did pull a few weeds (but there aren't many there anymore thanks to countless hours and incredible perseverance by our volunteers). Jim Embry showed
up and recounted a beautiful tale of an educator and native plant admirer who commented that while visiting the garden she recognized many of our plants but had never seen any quite as HUGE as ours. And I said: "it's because of all the love that has been put into this soil" and I believe that with all my heart. A million patches of land have been planted with a million seeds of love, but none can compare to "our" garden.

As we packed up our g
ear knowing we had a big evening ahead hosting our Mindtriggerz Picnic at Cardinal Valley Park, we had to call back our paver movers who had just left without our "group shot"- young people never balk at a quick change in course so they returned long enough for us to get the photo op we deserved (even with Remy the dog).

As usual, there was much laughter at the garden and several sweaty bodies. An extra special shout-out to those who worked here then helped promote Mindtriggerz: Jaz, Miranda, Natalia, Ellidia, Serena, Chris and Jesse's dad. And Jesse's best friend Jon - who missed the garden but not the picnic.

<3 <3 <3 and moar.

JAZ-ified - August 8, 2009

We called our session at the Dunbar Garden today the "Pre-School Edition" as we spent most of our time making the place look uber lovely for the advent of school next week. Fortunately, among our ranks was one of our favorite Beta's (and Dunbar Senior) Serena (just back from a trip to Lebanon) along with recent graduates Kirsten and Katie who demonstrated major weeding skills and got covered in a lot of sand as they worked along the main paver pathway. Our artist in residence JAZ put the final touches on the newly painted and decorated picnic table while a crew including James, James, Beth, Dawson, David, Tyler and randomly whoever else - worked hard to dig out additional pavers to save from the landfill. I believe the count was at 184 more.

Our divine miss Sarah spent a good portion of the afternoon weeding in our soo
n to be "native shade garden" and was joined by Tyler at some point as the climbing temps caused most of us to want to be out of the SUN. Beth, with a little help from Jesse's dad, dug a perfect hole to set the iron post that will soon display our beautiful bronze plaque that describes our reason and purpose. It's a heart-wrenching plaque and makes us all cry but while the work at the garden has been filled to overflowing with laughter and love, it is important I think that others know and remember why this incredible space is here. And for whom. And for a love that has no other place to go but filling an area with flowers, sweat, tears and yes, even a little blood. Blargh!

Awesome Dawson was in charge of placing our three "Pesticide Free Zone" signs and in the process cut his finger on the metal sign but thankfully had a bandaid in his vehicle (my kind of guy!) Everyone was enamored of the cute lady bugs until Jesse's dad opened his mouth and said "But they aren't spraying for pests, they are spraying herbicides around here" which basically resulted in us all saying shut up and things like that.

Lest I forget to mention, the wonderous young David was our photo journalist today capturing the pictures of our work. Beth has an incredibly smart and sweet younger brother who has proven to be an asset to the garden and is apparently so smart in math that he's enrolled in a "zero hour Magnet math class" at Dunbar even though he is just entering 8th grade at Beaumont Middle School. In my book, that pretty much r0x0rz but what makes me even more proud is the fact that these two siblings are so preciously close and intertwined. This is how "family" should be. Obviously, we love them a lot.

And the rest of our crew - our regulars and our random workers. Everyone's effort has made this a beautiful, safe and wonderous place.

JAZ helped me scrub down all the picnic tables (as well as corraling the cup plant and staking a few sunflowers) and the group moved all the picnic tables into a tidy row and then I obsessed over using the leaf blower to clean off the patio. It looked so pretty and spiffy-fied that surely the kids returning to the Dunbar campus this week will notice. I hope they do. I hope they are in awe like we are. I hope they will revel in the flowers and dance among the rattlesnake masters.

Mostly I will hope that they wonder, remember, consider a few kids named Josh and Jesse and Hannah. Because they are why we do what we do. And why over 150 folks have participated in the garden. Expansion is inevitable. Love there will be endless. As the goldfinches and monarchs and even the random kitteh that wonders up on many evenings will continue to munch on seeds, drink from the cup plant and be glad there is space there for them too. There is a space and a place for us all. We will stand amazed every Saturday when so many young people wonder in and pitch in and instead of sleeping in, will work with us.

That is the greatest demonstration of love. As Jesse would say "fo realz" and as Hannah's fingerprints linger there, and as Josh's life expemplifies, because it started with him. "What would we be without wishful thinking" and I wish they all see us now.


Wilchan paverman - August 1, 2009

Sarah did the math and said we had TWENTY-FIVE people at the Dunbar Garden today and every hand was so appreciated - especially since an early morning email from Dunbar's principal gave us permission to recycle the balance of pavers mounded at the bottom of the hill.

Our newest and most extremely special garden n00bie, Wil, was reclaimed f
rom Gulf Shores, Alabama and reintroduced to Dunbar in a very sweaty and productive way. With his help and that of James, Jerome, Tyler, Beth, Dawson, David and Chris FOUR HUNDRED AND EIGHT pavers were dug out, packed tight and loaded into a pickup truck guaranteeing they will never end up in a land fill. Major butt-busting notwithstanding!

Wil's connection to Jesse (among other things) made this day a really incredible one for myself and for Jerome (et al). <3>
We hope to see him on many other Saturday's as well as the spaces in between.

While Sarah weeded and Jackie started painting with the help of her beau, Jaz, Arlene and others - Grace and Katie hid behind the sumacs and lulzed in the sun. Buckets and bukkits of sand were hauled from the low zone and brushed with love across the freshly weeded pavers. We all moved stepping stones in preparation of the students returning in a matter of days - because of the phenomenal growth at the garden our "peace sign" pathways had to be altered to prevent damaging natives that will have to be relocated this fall. Incredibly, folks kept appearing and what to our wondering eyes should grace the horizon but Lucy, Kelsey and Sarah (a beautiful visitor from France - bonjour!) and what a day. Wha
t an incredible, remarkable, perfectly-people-packed day.

Personally, I felt like I served little purpose but managed to get my one-on-one time with my home girls (and a few of the home boys) and am thrilled Kelsey is going to Transy and even that Lucy will be my "peace babe" at Peace College in North Carolina and that I got to hug Kendrell (and everyone else) and absolutely relished the look on Jerome's face as he was grabbed from all sides, spinning Sarah and Tyler and Crystal Beth and there is no better place than this one, because it is a greenie love-fest no holds barred.

Audrey brought her precious Ashton (in from Florida) as well as her
pal Sarah then Miranda arrived all aglow and if I have failed to mention anyone, forgive me, because I really was completely overwhelmed (and still am) by our tour-de-force. We missed the heck out of Natalia off on her trip west with her family but her relentless paver weeding is obvious, apparent and loved. We hope she has fun. We look forward to her return in a few weeks.

While our attempts at a group photo epic-failed due to our continued "incoming" reinforcements, I do think everyone left today not simply tired but also knowing what good
work they managed and maybe, I suspect, a tiny bit infatuated with not just this space, but with each other. I know I am. Fo' realz, as Jesse would say.

Fo' realz.

Love, love, love. I promise to post teh other photos tomorrow on Jesse's website and a few on Facebook. For tonight, I am just too plumb "whooped."

Jesse's Mom

Tyler has a heart (aka “hey deafie”) - July 25, 2009

Neither rain, snow, sleet, road closures, nor hearing impairments can keep us from our Saturday gatherings at the Dunbar Garden. Actually, we didn’t have any sleet or snow but I did wake at 7:30am to a downpour of rain: potential impediment number one.

After some lengthy discussions with Jesse’s dad we decided to just pack our essentials and not the usual excessive amounts of food and garden tools and just wing it in the hopes the weather would turn. Scouting I read that from 10am to noon there would be a 10% chance of rain and the skies would be mostly sunny.

As usual, I headed out early to Dunbar and there encountered potential impediment number two: the main road leading to the garden around the athletics fields was “CLOSED.” I sat and stewed, debating moving the barrier and taking my chances but as luck would have it someone who had been walking the track told me there were patches of new asphalt along the road. I parked my car just knowing there would be folks coming in from the “access road” off Man O’ War who might be deterred from joining us because of the sign. Jerome said “No one comes that way, meet us at the front of the school” and of course I said “No.”

Within five minutes, up drives Natalia, then Jaz, then Sarah and finally Tyler – ALL using the access road. HA!

We pooled together, called Jerome and decided to drive back out Man O’ War and meet at the end of the road past the baseball field. We trekked up the hill to the garden with enough hands to pack all the supplies.

Our “core group” intact, we were wonderfully surprised to see Jackie and two n00bies Arlene and Maria who had walked to the garden, ignoring all potential impediments. These three young ladies were joined by Jaz and Katelyn (whose dad also loaded my truck with computer donations for Mindtriggerz) and with paint brushes in hand were soon transforming the picnic table into a work of art and love.

Then here comes Grace who we now call “Gracie” because she calls James “Jamie” and those two hauled some major buckets of sand (and played in the creek) as the rest of us pulled weeds from between pavers and re-sanded.

Impediment number three: I have some major hearing loss that has been the butt of many harmless and loving jokes at the garden but it has never stopped me from working, enjoying and appreciating these beautiful and precious young people who give up Saturday mornings to maintain and increase the incredibleness of the Dunbar Memorial Garden. Tyler came up to hug me and at that point said “I want to apologize for calling you ‘deafie” last week” to which I responded “Tyler, not only did I not even hear you say that but it would take a lot more than that for me to be upset with you,” and then I told him how it reminded me of Hannah. Jerome would often send her to fetch me to get my opinion or approval or whatever and in my minds eye I can see her gorgeous freckled face and hear her voice increasing in volume as she said “Hey Bekki, HEY Bekki, HEY DEAF LADY” and so I thanked Tyler for giving Hannah back to me for a few minutes.

We were excessively happy to see Richard Weber of Springhouse Gardens arrive with his expertise and horticultural bag of magic tools and he set to work pruning, advising, marveling and even snapping some pictures of the garden. As we began to disband around 1ish, we were all pleased with what we had accomplished and what we will continue to do in the name of love. And we all really loved the view from the bottom of the hill of the garden up high

And yes, Tyler has a heart – a really big one (and not just a keychain facsimile thereof!!!).

Love you all madly and without end.


Jesse’s mom

A series of unfortunate chigger bites

At the beginning of Summer Break our divine Miss Sarah advised us all that bugs rarely bite her beauty. Unfathomable to me because I have always been the bait for any and every insect and recall ever summer counting the dozens of mosquito, flea, chigger, and black fly bites I was eternally blessed with since I was "knee high to a grasshopper" and since my parents moved us from the city to the country.

Two chigger bites to the belly button later and Sarah now knows that "sweet" is a term determined by many elements - and surely within a berry patch. Sorry, Sarah - it's the price we must pay for strawberry raspberries, n'est ce pas? When Sarah lifted her shirt at the Dunbar Garden today I don't think I was the only one shocked by the demonstration of the proverbial meanness of the chiggers. But we managed to sympathize then go back to work. No actually, she gave us this showing late in the day which was grand because I'd hate to scare folks from work at the garden because we DO NOT HAVE CHIGGERS AT THE DUNBAR GARDEN!!! (mosquito's - yeah we have those).

Rewind, back to this morning. I arrived a few minutes early under the auspices of watering our n00bies. Sarah sauntered up as did Jaz, Katelyn and Natalia ready to get some work in before Jesse's dad showed up to boss us around. Sarah is drawn to weeds like a homing device and the other gardeners wondered around bundling up sunflowers with gardening tape. We pruned back some sad beebalm then did the same with a few oxeye sunflowers. Jackie arrived to start painting the picnic table and had good creative help by Katelyn and Jaz.

Our freshly "moved" Tyler moved some mulch as did our farm girl Grace and her sidekick Natalia (with some help from JR) and the side bed of Fringetrees and Josh's red maple were transfor
med in record time. Among our "snacks" Natalia (with assistance from her pal Maggie) created a rice-krispies-treat that included essence of Andes mints - consumed happily and heartily by us all. Raspberries from Berries on Bryan Station were also in the mix (sans chiggers) and the cool temps made working conditons pretty darned optimal.

At the end of our work-day, Jesse's dad discovered our Northern Bayberries have leaves that are like the bay leaves used in cooking so smashed a few to stick up our noses. I'm not sure everyone appreciated the olfactory overload but I kinda did.
When we planted those guys I picked them out because they are among the few "almost evergreens" the native plants offer. Cool stuff that we always learn something new when we are at Dunbar.

Oh and btw, the gold finches were all over the place when we got there this morning (and Jerome and I witnessed one at my house this afternoon). But we wondered at the seeming lack of butterflies this year? Plenty of bees and bugs and caterpillars. It reminded me somehow of how Jesse and I would stand at the kichen sink hand washing dishes (yeah, I know so 19th century) and how I told him about a girl in highschool on the speech team who performed an excerpt from a holocaust play about how "butterflies don't live in the ghetto."

We'll have to keep looking, maybe they are there when we aren't. I have seen one Monarch and a random cabbage
white but it's strange the lack of them when last year was so resplendent? Fayette County Public Schools doesn't seem to be doing anything out of normal in their herbicide sprayings but what if they are using a new brand of chemical? We are MULCH MADNESS this summer so maybe that will help? One day soon there will be no reason for them to spray at all - we are working on that.

Love. love. love. to Sarah, N
atalia, Katelyn and Grace. Jaz and James. Tyler and Jackie. Jesse's dad and our mulchification. The garden speaks for itself because it is continues to be awesomeness and floribunda. Yeah, and pretty darned pretty. :)

Love to all. <3>

The Farmification of Grace Li

Today we undertook the task of reclaiming the garden from the herbicide horror wrought last week by the grounds maintenance staff (and yeah, we know they are only following orders). "Roundup" or some derivative thereof had been sprayed along the edges of the patio, the old horse fence behind the garden, the long wall against the school, and a variety of other places and spaces that made no sense but certainly spraying around our butterfly puddling area guaranteed no lepidoptera action there.

Jaz returned from her trip to Costa Rica with a wonderful bag of sand for the butterflies so she and Katelyn (yeah for returning students!) set to work to remove all the dead grass and expand the ar
ea with mulch in the hopes that we can reclaim the ground for its intent and purpose and maybe keep FCPS from additional sprayings. They did an incredible job and worked their butts off.

Grace, who is learning to be a farm girl because at Amherst she is supposed to be one (since she's from Kentucky) invited her friend Katie to join us so while I took pictures of herbicide damage Jesse's dad set them to work cutting cardboard and hauling woodchips to place around the shining sumacs that Hannah's family had planted earlier this spring. I got really paranoid this week that FCPS might decide to inch closer with their spraying so we got
to work blocking off more area in the garden to eliminate turf and expand our area.

While James sat on mah bukkit, I filled the ooze tubes and helped with hauling wood chips and in between discussed with Grace how she might become more knowledgeable in weed eating and tractor repair. It reminded me a lot of how when my parents moved us to Kentucky from Pittsbugh we barely understood the "slang" of rural Kentucky. Yes we wear shoes and yes we produce children without blue skin and who know the difference between physics and metaphysics.

As we sauntered down the hill to nab a few pavers from the pile to hold down the cardboard, three "military choppers" passed above. We laughed that we were being watched since
we are all a bunch of militant "greenies." Randomly off in the distance were three helipcopters and a buzzard as though Tevis Shwa were chasing them away.

James relieved the mulch gals and hauled his share of wood chips while Sarah and I took a few minutes to pull grass from between pavers. We missed Tyler and Natalia and several of our regulars but got a lot of work done and enjoyed meandering through the garden in all it's endless glory. The constant wind and cloud cover helped make it all possible and I'd like to think it was Jesse, approving of our "methodology." We learn so much together

Before we ceased work today we also hauled a nice pile of the LFUCG compost to p
lace around the 1/2 barrel and around an old pin oak and a school spotlight. Our plans and ideas continue to grow with each great mind that joins our own. I sent James off with the camera at one point and said "please get some pics of everyone working" and found extreme lulz in the pic he caught of Sarah with her rake. It's as if she is daring any one to mess with our turf. Formidable I say. Perfect, i think, Jesse was all about the lulz and we had that today.

It is always hard to walk away from the garden becase we are always coming up with new ideas and weeds to pull. Now that we have less mucho mulcho and beutiful hands to move it, we stand a beautiful chance to continue to alter the landscape, and repair the ignorance of others.

Volumes of love to our workers. To those who do good work - to those who remember why we do what we do. Our love is planted here.
<3 <3 <3 <3

Mulch Monday Two-fer Tuesday and how NOT to attract butterflies

Most of the "sad moms" I've met can attest to how completely obsessed we now become over the most minor things. Sometimes I think it's a synaptic package in our ever-altered brains that manages to enable us to live in this surreality.

At the expense of the garden, I've spent my early summer eliminating the material goods I've collected and then painting the back porch. On both of these, I relentlessly obsessed. So when Jesse's dad announced that we were doing no new projects at the Dunbar Garden until we got the weeds under control well - OCD, here I am.

Twice yesterday, twice today I took mah bukket and my sad back and logged I dare say 15 hours. The mulch pile has dwindled substantially and the weeds are back at manageable. In the process, I visited with the ground hogs (they run, I chatter), I cried at the beau
tiful gold finches (who literally perched inches from my face) and I hovered under the cover of false blue indigo, sawtooth sunflowers and the gorgeous cranberry viburnum (pic embedded) to sneak a smoke and talk to Hannah (I buried a butt under a rock and wished I could hear her laughing at me). Both days I've seen great blue herons, gold finches, swallows and yesterday saw a bird I can't identify but it had a gorgeous red head and lighted in the bur oak. It was the size of a gold finch.

Today I noticed the yellowing grass which meant of course that ground maintenance is spraying their herbicide again and every time I see the signs I just cross my fingers they won't get too near the garden. The little "buttefly puddling area" is toast - they went around it in a wide path of spray so I doubt we'll be seeing any action there for awhile. I wish our school system would invest in some good mulch and a little common sense and courtesy to the environment in which our children study and play and quit using crap that keeps butterflies away. I'm going to write a petition and ask the students of Dunbar to sign it then send it to our board of education and at least ask that in our native garden habitat, in the sacred space that is our remembrance of Josh, Jesse and Hannah, that they just gtfo and let it be a chemical-free-zone.

Jesse's dad and I have no vested interest in the future of this environment EXCEPT that we have found a beautiful family in those who have gathered and will gather to work at the garden. We want the young men and women who collect around the brightly painted picnic tables to eat lunch, who saunter through the garden, who sit on Richard's benches, even who stand on top of the straw bale benches to do so without breathing toxins. Maybe we can. We will try.

Sarah HATES mushrooms so when we find the random fungus among us, a point is made to display it to her. It's because she has such a great scream.

As usual, we had a beautiful crowd at the garden which was kind of unexpected considering it being a holiday for most "normal" people. Jesse's dad and I pretty much figured we'd be on our own today which was fine by us so it was all the better that not only our "regulars" arrived but also that Jim Embry brought his new summer intern Miranda to join in the fun.

I think about the greatest part of the day was seeing the look on Jim's face - having not been to the garden in awhile - his eyes got really wide as he took in the "mature Dunbar Memorial Garden" and I said "Remember back in
October of 2007 when we were planting and the kids kept asking 'why are we digging in dead sticks' when we were placing the natives?" We both laughed hard. Miranda got to meet and pull oxeye sunflowers with the "crew" and I think she enjoyed herself (even stretching landscaping tape around the hugemongous cup plant to keep it from disseminating the yellowwood tree). Jim dug the heck out of some johnson grass while Jerome and Tyler hauled mulch. Sarah cleaned the angel bench as her mom pulled weeds from our planters filled with annuals while James filled the two ooze tubes as Beth, Grace and Natalia carved a beautiful clean edge around the beds.

Beautiful work - beautiful.

Near the end of the work session I plucked a huge mushroom growing in our mulch pile which of course made Sarah scream. Tyler grabbed it from my hand to go "propose" to Sarah with it since there was some random rumor started that they are "dating" simply because they were hanging together this week. Simply because they are such good friends. Simply because they both love the garden as much as Jerome and I do (as I dare say do so many others).

While we were sad not to march in the 4th of July parade this year well, it rained most of the day after we left so none of us got soggy at the garden. We left before the sprinkles started and there are plans to try our own faction in the parade next year (yes, please!). Perhaps a float filled with native plants and Mindtriggerz computers? Sounds like an awesome plan.

Big love to all the workers - big love to all the BIG plants (and yes, even the fungal in the jungle). Sorry Sarah! :)

Jesse's Mom

The very hungry caterpillar (PG-13 version)

We expected the 90 degree temperatures today and we expected a lot of "johnson grass" to pull and we expected a bunch of mulch to move. But we hardly expected Sarah to have a tiny green caterpillar repeatedly crawling up her leg at lightning speed.

Unfortunately, we were all too busy laughing at her screams of "it's violating me" to get a picture.

We did ultimately kick some ass in the weeding department. "Jamie" and "Gracie" hauled buckets o' mulch while Jerome, Sarah, and Tyler cleared the way for placing it. I stood around with my hands on my hips and watched the trees grow!

Natalia tended to dead heading the lanceleaf coreopsis then proceeded to tie back bundles of sunflowers - all this with a strained muscle in her back. "Dedication" was the word du jour. We worked fast and hard as the temps climbed and when Audrey's mom showed with a basket of delicious cold grapes we were eternally grateful.

With the exception of Sarah's entomological molestation, all went well at the
garden today. The sawtooth sunflowers are starting to bloom, as are the stalks of wild bergamot. Josh's red maple continues "leafing out" and really likes its new home (thank you, Anna!). The purple coneflowers are attracting our favorite yellow gold finches and I am sure in the grand scheme of things, the neon green caterpillar that was so hungry for Sarah's leg was really hoping for a taste of swamp milkweed (and hiding from predators in the bright leaves).

The garden is truly glorious - I wish you could see it. <3

My face is redder than your face :P

It was a balmy day at the Dunbar Garden and certainly filled with pink cheeks. Many among us had been on vacations and thus the sunscreen was readily passed around. Fortunately for us, Sarah's Saturday hiatus came to an end with her acceptance of a promotion (for the job she had originally applied for but was carelessly/stupidly overlooked) so our core "dream team" is intact again.

Beth and her adorable (sorry David but it's the truth) younger brother started the pink-fest having freshly returned from ventures in California. Jazz did NOT change her ponytail color this week and Tyler laughed heartily at Sarah's old movie joke. Natalia looked more evenly sunned then
the rest of us but advised the bugs in Hilton Head really liked her. (As a side-note, I have to add that with or without a tan, she makes some kick-ass pierogi!)

We got started weeding and talking and were 'graced' by the presence of Grace who has been holed up in a lab at U.K. this summer in from her studies at Amherst. There was a bit of spontaneous Stephen King-ism as well as a devouring of peanut butter muffins. Sarah's mom popped in after work and helped us continue our battle with the never ending sunflower seedlings and we all were amazed by the incredible
hugeness of the garden. Expansion is a dictate. We will.

Unfortunately, everyone was too busy weeding and hauling mulch and sand to get many pictures. We'll get some this week. In the meantime, enjoy the caterpilla
r that Jaz found for us! The wild bergamot is starting to bloom and the St. Johnswort is on full display. One single yellow flower topped a 5' stalk of Sawtooth Sunflowers and the bees were buzzing the pollen in triple time. Oh, and Awesome Dawson showed up in time to tell of his sunburnt woes - and to help in major fashion.

It is in fact a good thing that the garden is located in a high and windy spot - otherwise I dare say we would have all never lasted to the noon hour. It's Kentucky, it was hot. But "our" beautiful garden doesn't seem to mind. It is lush, green, flower-filled and thriving. As it should be because there's a whale of a lot of love in that space. I think it shows.


Tadpoles and tanlines

If the color of my cheeks is any indication, most of us got a few extra rays today. I'd venture to say that even James' vest got a sun burn. :P

Because of the rain this week we had a perfect morning to pluck weeds (and stray sunflowers, rambling rattlesnake masters and yeah even johnson grass). I got to the garden a little early this morning to get in some heavy duty weeding time and was lost in thought when Tyler snuck up on me with his digging tool at the ready. "Our favorite lesbian" April arrived followed by Jerome and James and ambling up somewhere in the muddle came Grace. Then Richard who opted to procrastinate on refurbishing his wooden benches - we all helped with that saying somet
hing like "if you do them at the end of the summer they will look nicer for when the students return." A surprise arrived in the form of Jennifer Michelle who seemed to me to be even taller and more gorgeous than the last time she dug in the dirt at Dunbar.

Lost in our work but with eagle-eyed April on the look-out, up rolls a "stranger" that I knew immediately had to be Ann bringing "brown eyed susans" for our brown-eyed Hannah. Her incredibly energetic and handsome son was packing a camera bigger than himself and wearing T-Ball attire. It reminded me of Jesse and his days playing that sport - the shirt with "Higginbotham" just about in a circle to fit in the space of his tiny little uniform.

I showed the camera-man the groundhog hole and then we ambled along the creek and spotted tadpoles and other mysterious creatures of the water. His shutter clicking a mile a minute and I can't wait to see what his mom posts on Facebook of the day!

We cleared a lot of ground today and spread a lot of mulch and in between caught up on the goings on of each other. Somewhere along the way someone suggested something about a pool party - I think April started it but maybe it was Tyler but whatever the case as the temps climbed and we tuckered there was a proverbial caravan to Liverpool and I was glad that Jerome and I took some time yesterday to clean and chemicalize the pool.

I was also glad to learn that I am not the only one who is accosted by mosquito's (and other biting insects) to the freaking FACE. Oh and speaking of face, Richard informed me that no matter how you type "facebook" on Facebook that it is always underscored as being misspelled. I love that kind of irony slash funny and also loved having this wonderful group of story-telling, smart, good-looking and yes even REALLY WHITE people sitting by the pool and keeping me company even if entertaining me for the afternoon was not their intention. They did and I love them and I intend to keep the pool sparkling just for these kinds of occasions.

Pink cheeks and sunblock - and a space filled with Jesse and Hannah and Josh. Erik and Aida and
Carmen's son, Danny. Most days I really wish more so-called adults could listen to the way these incredible young people assimilate their love for those who "just aren't here" - that never ends - into their lives. They just might learn something.


When kindness falls like rain

Today was one of those incredibly special days when the collection of bodies and hearts at the garden all kind of squashed together into a perfect unit of laughter, labor, camaraderie, revelry and hugs (which of course, is my favorite part).

Like the steady rain that fell this week, folks ambled up this morning to weed, mulch, talk and work. Beth with her incredible hugs that remind me so much of Hannah - her awesome beau Dawson, Jaz with her most excellent sand moving and mulching SKILLZ, Audrey with the most perfect smile, her mom and aunt to help as well. James and Jerome arrived - as did Chris who proceeded to go fetch Richard then back again playing tunes on his iPhone while our dancing queen Tyler (sorry dude - you started it!) put the groove on and then just as we seemed to be making grand progress on pulling stray sunflowers, here comes Anna with her red maple for Josh and her wonderfully happy boyfriend Adam (although I wondered if he was laughing at us as much as he was with us).

So, having grown this precious tree from a seedling back in her elementary school days, Anna's maple needed a place to spread its proverbial and literal roots. We found one, nestled
between the fringetrees and so yeah, a big hole had to be dug.

While most days we are kind of prepared at the garden, some days we pull an epic fail as we did today with nothing but hand tools. So Chris and I absconded to his parents garage and grabbed two shovels and fled. An additional trip was made later once they hit the gravel and crud that is the next 6" of ground and picked up a pick axe. Luckily James, who hates pulling weeds, loves to swing a sharp and dangerous object so between them all they dug a spot, we hauled out the gravel, hauled in some pretty soil and planted a very very VERY special tree.

We have learned the hard way that sometimes our best plans fail and our offshoots overwhelm but each of us took part in this planting in some way and today, most importantly of all, Josh Shipman was honored. I hope somewhere out there, wherever he is, he will take a special interest in this special tree from this special young woman in this very special place.

So much love has been poured into that plot of land outside Dunbar's cafeteria - and even more today. No words can quite describe it and you kind of have to be there to fully appreciate it. This day in June, we were all proud to be there - we were all proud of Anna for her diligent work and her years of tending this beautiful tree.

When Jesse's dad asked Anna what "name" she would give to this tree, she said: "freedom" and I looked at her and through tears said "Wherever Josh is right now, I hope he is free." Her beautiful face was my answer.

Thank you, Anna. We will tend your gift well. We promise. <3>

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