“Never Underestimate the Healing Power of a Quiet Moment in The Garden.” Josephine Albert

Jonathan Carroll is an expert gardener who learned his craft the old fashioned way; with a shovel, some dirt and a lot of hard work. The individuals in our Longmeadow residence typically spend their daytime hours active in their various Day Program settings, but the Pandemic brought that to a halt. As a result, Brendan Mooney, the father of Jon’s housemate Kevin, has provided a variety of activities to the house. He brought over a cook book so everyone could bake cookies together, a dance DVD for exercise, and when the weather became cooperative, he proposed planting a garden. This garden, which Brendan described as “nothing big – just a nine-foot square plot where we put in a couple of plants” has turned into something much more than meets the eye. It is a kingdom of sorts where Jon and Kevin reign as caretakers and defenders against a horde of rabbits.

As Jon tells it, “There was a garden last year, but nothing came up. This year Kevin’s dad brought the seeds and stuff over, and put up a fence to keep the rabbits out. We got some shovels and had to turn it over, weed it out, and dig the holes. It took forever to do – one whole day! It’s really big garden! We just started it and something is coming up already. We have parsley, basil, and some other things in there. I’m taking care of it every day – watering, weeding, cleaning up the yard, chasing the rabbits away.” And there are so many rabbits to contend with. Jon is not afraid to advocate for himself and his garden. He tells the rabbits, “Get out of here, that’s our garden. You’re not going to get in there. It’s our food, not yours.”

House staff Jill Telford said the garden has been good for everyone at the house to focus on, something they can maintain and watch grow. The house residents are engaged in the science of the growth cycle and learning the step-by-step process of gardening. She is excited that there will be something tangible to see at the end, that everyone in the house can utilize. The lettuce, chard, basil, mint, cabbage, peppers, and other plants will make for nice salads all summer long. She feels the process of planting, maintaining, and harvesting the crop has boosted their self-confidence.

The residents of Longmeadow have even begun giving their cotton-tailed neighbors food offerings in the form of carrot and celery scraps. Jill says the rabbits enjoy the pre-cut and harvested treats which distract them from the growing garden. She educates her individuals about honoring the ecosystem. “We have respect for the wild life and strive to live amongst each other peacefully.”

Before the Coronavirus shut everything down, Jon and Kevin attended Living Resources’ Albany Site based program. They enjoyed helping deliver for Meals on Wheels and look forward to getting back to that. In the meantime, the garden is their happy place. As British biographer Jenny Uglow wrote, “We might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it’s our garden that is really nurturing us.”