A long-time resident of Hubbard Lake, 81-year-old Harold Liske moved into Luther Community Manor one year ago.
He'd been a gardener most of his adult life, and even though his new environment proved vastly different from his previous one, he decided not to let that stop him from coaxing some vegetables and flowers to grow in the soil. Over the summer months, Liske put in countless hours tending a new garden tucked behind the senior complex off Wilson Street in Alpena.
"I spent the whole summer out there and enjoyed it," Liske said. "I love it."
Harold Liske, left, and fellow gardener Victor Sobczak nutured their love for growing vegetables by helping to plant and tend a 100x100-foot garden this summer at their place of residence, Luther Community Manor.
The project was the idea of Manager Brenda Hanson, who approached Liske in the spring to see if he would like to help plant and tend a garden in the back yard of the facility. She was thinking on a small scale, while he had something larger in mind.
"I asked him if he could help put a small garden in," Hanson said. "He told me no, not a small one, and that he really wanted to go bigger than that."
They agreed on a 100x100-foot space that Hanson used her rototiller to dig up. Home Depot then helped out with the wire fence and posts intended to keep hungry deer out.
Liske and several other residents then set to work, including Victor Sobczak, who approached several area contractors about donating fertilizer for their efforts. The two staked out plots and planted numerous vegetables such squash, beans, beets, cucumbers, tomatoes and cucumbers. They also made plot space available for whoever else at the facility wanted to plant any kind of vegetables or flowers.
Because it end up being a dry summer, Liske often found himself watering as much as three times a day. Now he simply says, "It is better working than not working."
The garden received a little extra assistance along the way. The Youth Volunteer Corps from the Boys & Girls Club of Alpena, under the leadership of Brad Somers, came every other week to pull weeds.
"Brad brought 14 to 16 kids. They helped us pick weeds," Hanson said of what turned out to be a worthwhile multi-generational activity. "It was wonderful. Harold and Victor taught them what were weeds and what weren't."
Even though the 64 residents at the facility all can't actively participate in the garden, they do still benefit as Liske and Sobczak make sure to pick produce and leave it spread out on tables indoors for people to take and use. While they were busy tending the vegetables, another resident took charge of a nearby long-neglected flower garden.
Terry Schultz, who had recently relocated from Chandler, Ariz. to Luther Community Manor, embraced the project.
"It was a weed garden," Hanson said. "The weeds were 15 feet high and needed about 15 people to pull them."
Instead of 15, Schultz volunteered by herself to whip the garden into shape. With the support of her fellow residents, she spent many hours reclaiming the space, laying down mulch, putting in new plantings and adding various garden ornaments.
"When I saw the plot and nobody doing anything with it, I decided to take it over in May," said Schultz, a retired journalist. "This place has been so nice to me. When you are a little older, you are not sure sure what life has in store for you. I was afraid I would come here and not have a garden. Then I saw the weed covered land and thought, I've hit the jackpot."
Schultz estimates it took her two months of pulling weeds and yanking out the black plastic barrier that was supposed to keep them out. She found lavender and several other flowers hidden among the weeds. Other residents helped out by buying additional flowers for the space, such as butterfly bushes, black-eyed Susans and a rose bush.
Schultz saved up her own money to buy some mulch for the flower garden and is now saving again to purchase what she still needs to finish mulching the second half of the garden. She is glad to have been able to do something for others to enjoy.
"It's for the people here, so that they have something pretty to look at," said Schultz.
Hanson is more than pleased with the payoff from her hard work.
"It's her project and it has never looked like that," Hanson said. "She just did an incredible job. The residents are pretty happy about it."