It takes a village…

GE DIGITAL CAMERADid you ever bite just a little bit more off than you could chew? I did that just the other day, and it was like the stars aligned to save my fatally flawed plan that started out, as a good idea. Here is how it went down:

Light bulb! Fall is a great time to transplant perennials, shrubs and trees. And, well, the two gardens that flank our school are somewhat imbalanced, especially two oddly placed Alberta spruce trees which just don’t seem to be in their best possible place. No problem, right?

Light bulb begins to dim: We embark on the great transplantation, and as the first class begins to dig, I quickly realize this is a much bigger project than I had imagined. Uh-oh. Keep your positive energy up Mrs. Marquez, never let them see you sweat and all that. Keep digging, people! The last class of the day is the right size to finish the job. Now we’ve got one team digging the hole for the tree and another team continuing to try and loosen the spruce from its resting place. The clock is ticking, and I’m really sweating. It dawns on me that the school is hosting an open house for parents tonight, and I’ve got the school entrance (and key focal point) looking like a construction site.

Light bulb regains strength: Dr. Lester, Green Chimneys Associate Executive Director of Educational Services, approaches and I begin to apologize about the state of things, when he tells me, “No problem, it looks great! You can see the kids are really working!” Wow, what a relief, I didn’t see that coming! Okay, back to sweating. Time is passing quickly,  and it’s almost time for dismissal.

Light bulb dims: Ahh! I’m losing my labor force, now what? Someone suggests a tractor. After a few calls to maintenance, I quickly contact Wilfredo, our super-hero and farm maintenance master. He tells me he’s booked solid the next few days. Hmm, how long is this half dug up tree going to survive? I’m really not sure…

Light bulb burns bright: I visit farm supervisor Ms. Doherty who senses my dismay and immediately redirects Wilfredo. And so the ripple effect begins: Wilfredo snags farm facilitator Patrick and volunteer Al. Before I know it, the tree is actually in the bucket of the tractor. Then it’s suggested I grab some watering cans. By the time I come back, the tree is in the ground! I quickly backfill as much dirt as possible, wildly water with the help of wonderful intern Angela, and put our “Construction” sign atop the mountain of dirt next to the freshly planted tree. About 15 minutes before parents are set to arrive, Dr. Lester reappears as I’m “casually” sweeping dirt from the walkway back into the bed. He very nicely compliments our progress, but what sticks is his trust in me that the situation would be righted.


Greg waters our freshly planted tree

New light bulb: In the end, more than the stars  aligned. With the help, support and encouragement of the students, volunteers, interns, and staff, we were able to accomplish our task. Collaboration and teamwork is the name of the game here at Green Chimneys – as well as in life. Many hands do make light work! The horticulture program’s spontaneous needs which have cropped up during my year plus here have been met, unwaveringly, by each and every team member approached (not exactly the norm at most other jobs). Gardening naturally lends itself to teaching this most important skill and awareness of working together.  With an average class comprised of 45 minutes, 12 students, and an entire organization  working together, you’d be amazed what we can get done.

True, last week we only moved a dwarf spruce, but it felt like we moved a mountain.


About Green Chimneys Garden

Green Chimneys was founded on the belief that children will benefit from their interaction with nature and animals. Horticulture comes to life in our educational school gardens, allowing Green Chimneys students to heal, learn, and grow. Learn more about about our nature-based approach to special education by visiting
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