Gardener plots his growth strategy
Rick Biehle has a plan to help others enjoy the gardens he loves.
Not only where he lives on a farm about five miles west of Tonganoxie that already has a greenhouse and a two-acre garden to feed area soup kitchens but also at the Tonganoxie Nursing Center.
He hopes to establish a couple of gardens at the nursing home so the residents who are able will have the opportunity to nurture vegetables and flowers this summer.
"I decided to plant something that the residents will take care of," Biehle said.
Denise Bixby, activities director at Tonganoxie Nursing Center, said about 10 residents probably would most enjoy working in the garden this summer.
"And I have a couple of residents who this summer will be able to go outside and weed," Bixby said. "They can wander in and out and they're still very ambulatory."
Biehle said he's discussed the project with the dozen seventh-grade students in the religion class he teaches at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
One reason to involve the youth, of course, is to gain help with the work. Another, he said, is that the residents would enjoy having the young people come out and visit.
"The residents love to interact with younger people when they have a specific goal in mind," she said. "It gives the younger people a chance to interact with people who are maybe much older than anybody they've ever known. Conversations tend to flow and they learn from each other."
Indiana born and bred, Biehle arrived in Kansas about a year and a half ago so that he could do volunteer work at the farm of Bob Conley where the St. John Baptiste de la Salle, a Catholic service organization, volunteers kept their side of the farm afloat financially by operating a sawmill on the premises.
For now, though, Biehle is the sole volunteer at the farm.
Biehle is building raised flowerbeds, framing them with lumber grown and milled on the farm. He plants them with plants he has grown from seed in the nearby greenhouse.
The first year the raised beds will be a lot of work.
"But the next year it's easier," Biehle said. "You don't have to till it. You just continue to put the compost in and plant. If we make it to next year, it will be a whole lot easier."
People help where they can, he said, but other than physical labor, there's not a lot that can be done. John Lenahan donates all the seeds and, of course, Conley donates the use of the land.
Last summer, three volunteers and two paid youths grew and delivered produce to soup kitchens in Kansas City and Lawrence.
He plans for this to happen again this year. He's not sure whether he will be able to do it by himself.
"It is a lot for one person," he said. "I'll do what I can that's all I can do."