Greetings from Kodiak, Alaska. I’d like you to meet my friend Lucile. She would have been 105 years old this November. Local gardeners knew her as “Luc.” She didn’t just grow and nurture flowers, she coaxed them to be their beautiful best.
Her yard was located at the zip-zag corner to Selief Lane, near the community gardens, Her patch of flowers, a festive grove of primroses, orange calendula, and purple delphiniums, lined the cyclone fence, hiding it from view.
Luc Nelson, a spry woman who seemed more nymph than human, gardened not only for herself but for everyone who passed by.
In 1996, Luc moved to Whidbey Island, Washington to live with her daughter. During my trips to Whidbey to visit my Dad, who lived on the other side of Whidbey, I often stopped by to have tea with Luc; to listen to her stories, and to admire her recent oil and watercolor paintings.
[Hi there! This organic gardening article was originally published in the Kodiak Daily Mirror, the hometown newspaper for Kodiak, Alaska. You can access the archive page for my past columns, written each week since 1986].
Born in 1915, Luc spent her first years in Colorado. “We were poor, and didn’t have much,” she told me one fall day as we sat by her canvases and table of paints.
“One of my jobs was to go outside with my sister to collect dried dung to burn in the woodstove. I was so embarrassed.”
Times were tough. Her father died in 1918 during the flu epidemic. I asked her about holidays and Christmas. “What was your most memorable gift, Luc?”
She looked down for a few moments, clutching the mug of tea in her tiny hands. “I don’t know how Mom managed to do this, but she gave each of us five kids an orange. That was the best orange I ever ate.”
Luc loved to memorize poetry and had a repertoire of at least 50 poems, two of which she recited on her 100th birthday.
So in the spirit of her love for gardening and poetry, I’d like to share this Christmas poem. To get your own (free) higher-res copy, click here to preview and download.
Hoe, Hoe, Hoe!
By Marianne Binetti
‘Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the yard,
Not a gift was given, not even a card.
The tools were all hung, in the carport with care,
with hopes that St. Nicholas soon would repair.
The shovel with blade all rusty and cracked,
The pitchfork still shiny, but handle it lacked.
When out on my lawn, (it’s brown and abused)
I could see poor old Santa, looking confused.
No list had been left for Santa to see,
No gardening gifts were under the tree.
But wait there’s still time, it’s not Christmas yet,
And gardening gifts are the quickest to get.
You can forget the silk tie, the fluffy new sweater,
Give something to make the garden grow better.
If she wants a gift shiny, then don’t be a fool,
It’s not a dumb diamond, but a sparkling new tool.
If fragrance is listed you can forget French perfume,
It’s a pile of manure that’ll make gardeners swoon.
Give night crawlers, not nightgowns, the type of hose that gives water.
(Anything for the kitchen is not worth the bother.)
Give a great gift that digs in the dirt,
It’s better than any designer-brand shirt.
Now look quick at Santa, this guy’s not so dumb,
Under his glove, he hides a green thumb.
His knees are so dirty, his back how it aches,
His boots stomp on slugs, (he gives them no breaks).
The guy only works winter, you can surely see why,
The rest of the year it’s a gardening high.
Elves plant in the spring, pull weeds merrily all summer,
In fall they all harvest, but winter’s a bummer.
And so Christmas gives Santa part-time employment,
Till spring when the blooms are his real-life enjoyment.
So ask the big guy for garden gifts this year,
Seeds, plants, and tools, Santa holds them all dear.
You see malls may be crowded, vendors hawking their ware,
But visit a nursery, stress-free shopping is there.
Now Santa’s flown off, to the nursery he goes,
And his voice fills the night with loud Hoe! Hoe! Hoe! Hoes!
Merry Christmas and love to you,
As for these garden columns… Slowly but surely I’m posting over 1,200 articles that you can access here. For personal updates, sign up for my newsletter, the Garden Shed: All Things Organic Gardening. As a thank you for signing up, you’ll receive a FREE PDF: 220 Things You Can Compost. (I’m also on Facebook and Instagram). To get in touch by email: marion (at) marionowenalaska.com