Lake Terrace independent living residents gather in the early morning light, gazing across trailing vines and hand-sewn daisies, swaying sunflowers, and bulky Brussels sprouts. Together, they have nurtured and embraced a plot on the west end of the Shorehaven property, now calling it “our grateful place.”

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That project runs about 30’ by 120’ and sports pear tomatoes and Kohlrabi, brown-eyed Susans, red peppers, beans, cabbage, kale, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, chives, squash, cucumbers and pumpkins.

The garden stood for years attended by a few residents. Then in 2015, resident Ernie B. revived the garden plot idea, after residents pitched an enthusiastic call for growing, weeding, harvesting, and sharing vegetables and flowers. “That section of land was calling us,” Ernie smiled. “Growing up on a farm, I knew we could make this work.”

Random tomatoes dotted the garden landscape, growing from seeds dropped by birds. Lake Terrace resident Carol P. replanted them in her garden area, titling them “rescue tomatoes.” “I’ve been growing gardens on my own for 51 years,” she noted. “This summer at Lake Terrace, Ernie agreed to let me ‘farm a small chunk of land.’ I was grateful. It’s my opportunity to get back to peace and beauty, to get my fingernails in the dirt, and to watch things grow. We all like to share in the harvest.”

Stories of annual soil samples and sulfur additives, Epsom salts and dish soap, trial and error with Wis. 55 tomatoes, sweet corn, yellow onions, and Marigold squash, the residents share garden successes and woeful outcomes. “Sometimes things just decide to quit growing,” laughed resident Dean L. “Sort of like a standoff.”

Shorehaven grounds crews provided a fence to keep out the deer, ran water to the plot, rototill it in the spring and clean it up in the fall. Several raised gardens on campus accommodate skilled nursing care and assisted living residents. The gardens yield floral bouquets, parsley, dill, cucumbers, and onions for onsite dining venues, and residents offer vegetable “trades” from hallway baskets. The bounty is not just found in the crops but in growing friendships.

“We compare our produce, get needed exercise, and eat well,” said Ernie. “We’ve learned about moisture retention, soil balance and mineral supplements…We get good growing ideas and even some recipes from one another.”

Resident Katy L. said, “This is a great place to keep learning, to enjoy, and to be grateful. We are continually surprised and awed by what God has going here for all of us. The comments exchanged in the Lake Terrace hallways make me smile. And where else can we grin at the amazing, arching, volunteer sunflowers!”

“I never had time to garden my whole life, and now I have the time,” said resident Norm F. “It’s a blessing to watch everything grow. It’s my first year and I only have peppers and beans. But next year, watch out.”