GARDENING WITH DAD

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When my dad was a teenager he got a job at Gray’s Garden Center and Nursery in Wells, Maine. It was a quick bike ride from  his home at the Bald Hill Granite Quarry. By this time he’d had years of experience in gardening.  Having grown up during the Depression, he learned that a family’s vegetable garden could make a huge difference in the quality of life.

 “We lived in Maine. The Depression was very, very bad in that area, but we lived pretty good. This quarry was on an old farm and there was quite a bit – perhaps 40 or 50 acres of open field. We had a big garden – we raised all our own vegetables. We planted about an acre to an acre and a half.” – Wally Paton

Gray’s was a small family run business. They grew flowers, shrubs, and vegetables. Here Dad would learn about propagation, soil composition, and landscaping.  It would become a life-long passion.

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Wally Paton worked at Grays Garden Center & Nursery while in high school

Dad’s second job, following his discharge from the Air Force at the end of World War II, was at Wyman’s Nursery in Framingham, Massachusetts – a short distance from where he and Mom lived on Marion Street in Natick.  Just 22 years old, he had enlisted in pilot training school right out of high school so his work experience was limited. He thought about becoming a commercial airline pilot but, with the birth of their first child, Mom wasn’t crazy about that idea. He would soon find work, however, in an area that he knew something about – gardening. It was the beginning of a housing boom and a population explosion as the soldiers returned home and settled down in houses purchased with the help of the GI bill. My parents were no exception.

03-22 Wally and baby Red

2 Marion Street, Natick, Massachusetts

Wyman’s Nursery in Framingham, Massachusetts was no small operation. They had been around for decades and owned hundreds of acres just off Route 9. In the 1950’s they sold off a small portion of their vast acreage for the building of the first mall in America called Shopper’s World – one of my favorite hang outs as a teenager.

Wyman’s was well-known for the extensive stock they carried. A catalog from 1919 shows hundreds of different species of trees and shrubs listed alphabetically. The book includes directions to their nursery from all points in New England – there was even a train stop at Wyman’s. It would be here that Dad would gain extensive knowledge about trees, shrubs, flowers and landscaping. Richard M. Wyman, the owner was also an educator for the Massachusetts College of Agriculture. He would write several  books and catalogs over the decades, among them Beautiful Home Surroundings and Landscaping and Gardening: A Book of Landscaping Suggestions, Planting and After-care. Wyman’s was the perfect place for Dad to hone his skills in all things gardening.

 I remember as a young child my dad driving me and my brothers to Wyman’s – a field trip of sorts. This was after his career had taken a different path. He would go on to work as a machinist and later a manager for Microwave Development Labs in Natick which made parts for the aerospace industry. But on this day, while walking around Wyman’s,  as Dad pointed out the various trees and shrubs, I couldn’t help but feel his passion – even if, at the time, I didn’t quite get the intrigue.

After Natick, my parents moved to our farm in Southborough, Massachusetts where we lived for the next 18 years.  Here with 16 acres surrounding a farmhouse and a barn, Dad would have an opportunity to begin testing his own skills as a vegetable gardener.  He would experiment with soil PH and various additives until he developed the right mix and he produced remarkable results. We lived off that garden in the summer and, with canning and freezing, most of the rest of the year as well.

Following Wyman’s he spent the rest of his career working in an office, but that love of the land – that passion for nurturing the soil – never left him and continued to play a significant part in his life throughout his 78 years. In later years, that passion, and my mother’s passion for flowers,  would be the catalyst in transforming their Patagonia, Arizona yard into a green oasis attracting birds and then birders from all over the world to the mecca which became known as Paton’s Birder Haven. Now known as Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds, it would become their legacy.

Throughout his life, whenever the opportunity arose, Dad would share his knowledge with his children and grandchildren or just about anyone who expressed an interest.

When my husband and I bought our first house, one of our priorities was to plant a vegetable garden.  The thought of growing my own fresh vegetables on my very own land was exciting. That first spring, we planted 6 fruit trees (apples, peach, pear – 2 of each) and we started digging up the back yard for planting vegetables. My dad, who we knew was an expert in all things garden, offered advice. He even mailed us some asparagus crowns from his own garden in Arizona. The package arrived  with a handwritten note, one of only a few letters I ever received from him. Gardening was a way to connect with him – that and talking about the Boston Red Sox. I learned this early on and I used it many times to strike up conversations with him. In high school and college I worked for him during the summer at Fabraze Corp. Fabraze had recently opened a plant in Nashua, New Hampshire. My parents were still living in Southborough, awaiting the move to their new house in Londonderry, so the commute was long. On our way to work, Dad would always stop at Dick’s Spa in downtown Southborough to pick up the Boston Globe. Immediately he would turn to the sports pages. Then he would hand the paper over to me and I would do the same. I often read to him about the highlights of last night’s game. I knew talking about sports would hold his attention. Gardening had the same effect.

09-8 Mom and Dad with Red Sox hat

Wally & Marion Paton in front of Mom’s rose garden – Dad with his Red Sox cap

I don’t remember our  garden at our first home being a huge success. We had a lot of tall trees surrounding our property and sun was not abundant. But really at that point it was more about the doing and the connection with Dad that made the whole project so special for me.

My niece, Emily, who grew up in Patagonia, Arizona, just down the road from my parents recalls lessons she learned from my dad in her own vegetable garden planted in their yard.

“I had hand tilled a 10×10 plot on the side of the grain room closest to the road for my first garden. If I remember correctly, I was seriously impressed and inspired when I saw a picture of grandpa’s garden. So mine, of course, needed to be in the same place as his! I later expanded that section, tilled up the entire section where their chicken coop once was and added a new 6x6ish plot right in the middle of the yard for corn. Grandma watered it all for me religiously on days I didn’t go over. Her favorite was corn. I think I may have grown the corn only one or two years, but the ears were small and almost every single ear got a worm. Grandma laughed and said she didn’t mind sharing.

By the last year I grew 3 varieties of tomatoes, yellow beans, green beans, yellow squash, zucchini, cucumber, bell peppers, 2 or 3 kinds of hot peppers, radishes. Grandpa always reminded me to plant veggies of different varieties far away from one another so they didn’t cross pollinate. He also instructed me on how to build mounds for squash and rows for corn. One year the grasshoppers ate every last leaf off of my beans, but didn’t touch the actual green beans. I was amazed the plants survived! I think I tried melon and pumpkins that year too.

Thanks to them I LOVE the idea of living off of our own land and being 100% familiar with the food I eat, including raising and hunting your own meat. To this day I try to only buy meat and veggies from farmers that I’ve met, whenever possible. I’ve had a garden more years than not since my time in Patagonia. And I even started a mini community garden with some coworkers in college.

In the pictures I saw of grandpa’s garden, I remember seeing lots of leafy greens. He and Dick Volts told me to grow peanuts or potatoes to replenish the soil. I also occasionally added vermiculite to the soil before planting. Grandma insisted it would keep moisture in the soil. But I remember that soil being so nice and rich, once I tilled it and kept it watered. Especially/obviously where the chicken coop once was!” – Emily Covey Wojtowicz, granddaughter of Wally & Marion Paton

Over the years I became more of a flower gardener, like my mom, but this year I decided to join our  Community Garden and grow vegetables again.  My dad would be proud to see my neatly aligned rows of lettuce and kale and the mounds for squash and pumpkins, all thriving in full sun without the offending deer, chipmunks and groundhog competing for my bounty. I take great pride and think of my dad each time I reach for the hoe to clear the weeds from among my rows, a job my dad insisted on and I resisted as a kid. I now pass on the joys of working in the soil to my grand kids and they take pride in watching the fruits of our labor grow. Gardening is in our blood and there is no doubt where that came from.

“Even merely to be in a garden – is nothing less than a triumph of resistance against the merciless race of modern life…” – Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

Marion Garfield Paton’s Childhood Home – Sudbury, MA

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Marion Garfield Paton - Goodman Hill Rd. Sudbury, MA (2)

Marion Garfield’s birthplace – 332 Goodman’s Hill Road, Sudbury, MA

 

A couple weeks ago a message from a complete stranger arrived in my Inbox.

“Would love to connect with you. I now own 332 Goodman’s Hill Road, Marion’s childhood home. I’d love to hear more about your family and welcome you for a visit at any time!” – Cindy

When I told my brother George about the email, he responded:

What might be interesting about Gramps old house is that Mom and Dad were married there and their formal photo of the event was shot inside that house.”

For as long as I can remember, my parents’ wedding picture sat on their bedroom bureau. I never thought about where they had been married or where the picture was taken. I have never been inside the house at 332 Goodman’s Hill Road, where my mother was born and spent her childhood and was later married.   The only house I remember visiting was the one my grandfather built himself right next door to #332 – a small ranch that suited him when his children had grown and left home.

Known today as the Garfield House, 332 Goodman’s Hill Road was in the Garfield family for almost a century. The house was once part of a compound consisting of at least two houses and a barn. My great, great grandfather, John W. Garfield Sr. and my great grandfather, John W. Garfield, Jr. both lived there. My grandfather, Sherrold Garfield and my grandmother, Jessie Kilpatrick Garfield lived there and raised their three children, Bessie, Marion and Bill Garfield there.

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Garfield Compound. My mother’s childhood home stands behind the house in the foreground. My great grandfather is pictured in the wagon.

John W. Garfield Sr. owned the Garfield-Parmenter General Store which was originally located in downtown Sudbury. Henry Ford, of automobile fame,  purchased the store from the Garfields in 1929 and had it moved to Marlboro, MA not far from the Wayside Inn. Today it is known as the Wayside Country Store. In 1923, the year my Mom was born, Ford purchased the Wayside Inn. His plan was to restore the Inn and create an historical village – the first of its kind in the United States. From the years 1923-1945, Ford worked on his project which today consists of the Wayside Inn, a fully operational gristmill, the Martha-Mary Chapel and the Little Red School House (of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” fame). Henry Ford would be the last private owner of the property. It is now protected under the National Trust of Historic Preservation.

My great grandfather, John Garfield Jr. had a blacksmith and wheelwright shop in the Mill Village section of Sudbury. My grandfather, Sherrold, worked there as a child. Sherrold would later go on to become a skilled carpenter, helping to build many homes in Sudbury as the suburbs of Boston continued to spread further from the city center. As a child I heard many times about my grandfather working for Ralph Adams Cram, a famous architect who lived in Sudbury and was responsible for designing many churches including St. John the Divine in New York City. My mother often told the story of how her father helped build it.

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Wally & Marion Paton on their wedding day, August 13, 1944 – Sudbury, MA

 

I gathered some of this historical information together along with some photos and forwarded them  to Cindy. She responded:

Hi Bonnie!  Thank you so much for sharing these photos (and the ones from your previous email).  It is so fun to live in a house that has so much history!  I have gone to the town library archives and done a bit of digging around myself, but you have firsthand knowledge!  I will walk around the house and take some recent pictures for you to see.  You might also want to do a google search for 332 Goodman’s Hill Road.  Since it was just sold (to me), there are still pictures online from the realtor.  If you are out this way, it would be really fun to try to figure out exactly where in the house the picture above was taken.  I can’t yet figure that out. How incredible that your parents were married here!  It really is a special house.  I truly love everything about it.

 I would LOVE to hear any more history that you have on the house and your family.   It’s known as the Garfield house.

And truly… you have an open invitation any time!” – Cindy

I hope one day to re-visit 332 Goodman’s Hill Road. This time,  I’d love to see the inside of the house – perhaps find the exact spot where my parents stood almost 75 years ago, looking so young and full of hope.

01-27 Garfield's home 2016 - 332 Goodmans Hill Road, Sudbury MA

332 Goodman’s Hill Road, Sudbury, MA as it looks today

 

 

 

Spring Migration and “The Paton Effect”

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During Spring migration, it’s standing room only at Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center in Patagonia, Arizona.  Birders crowd under and around the beautiful new viewing pavilion much like they did years ago under the old canopy that my parents, Wally and Marion Paton, erected in their yard.  Back then there was an assortment of chairs scattered around- metal folding, plastic lawn, a bench or two and old kitchen chairs. They brought a sense of hominess to the place.

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“Claiming a seat on a metal folding chair at Patons’ back yard is, to birders, akin to grasping the Holy Grail.” (Excerpt from Los Angeles Times, 1998, Julie Cart)

On April 14, 2019, Tucson Audubon reported 40 different species of birds at the Paton Center, as well as 8 different hummingbird species, including the bird that put the place on the map – the Violet-crowned.  This is the draw – the ability to see so many different birds – perhaps a life bird – while sitting in the company of fellow birders sharing stories and recent birding news.

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Violet-crowned Hummingbird at Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center (photo by John Hoffman)

A lot has changed since Tucson Audubon took over what was once known as Paton’s Birder Haven.  Now called the Paton Center for Hummingbirds, there are more feeders, a new Monarch Waystation, a pond and a meadow fill the area that was once our horse paddock, fruit trees have been planted to mirror my Dad’s former orchard.

But one thing has not changed and that is that people still come here by the thousands each year (last year from all 50 United States and 21 countries) not only to see the wide variety of birds, but to experience the intimacy of this rare and special place. I have often described it as the underlying essence of the place – a sense of spirit that is felt here. Recently, Tucson Audubon’s new Paton Center coordinator, Tina Hall, referred to it as “The Paton Effect.”

There are a lot of places to go and bird, but at the Patons’, it’s a real intimate feeling. People who don’t know each other sit down and make friends. We call it “The ‘Paton Effect.’” (Tina Hall, Homestead magazine article – “Sky Island Refuge” – Spring 2019)

An army of volunteers have replaced my parents –  two devoted and generous people who turned their back yard into a birding mecca. Wally & Marion Paton dedicated their later years to serving the birding community – committed to both the birds and the birders. The volunteers carry on their legacy showing up every day to keep the place going – feeding birds, digging trails and ponds, building fences, planting bushes and flowers. Each year during Spring migration I am reminded of all those who make their return journey to this paradise – a journey home of sorts for both the birds and the birders.

There are more improvements in store. Tucson Audubon recently wrapped up a successful fundraising campaign for improvements to the home. There is no doubt that improvements are needed, but it is my sincere hope that the essence of the place – the so called “Paton Effect” will never be lost. It is, I believe,  what keeps Patons on the map.

“For every person who appreciates nature and birds, this yard is a beloved home one visits to renew one’s spirit; to experience the joy of the beauty of a quick flash of metallic colors adorning these jewels of nature, and to hear a sweet courting song, a dazzling display flight, or thrill to the sight of a rare bird.

“Each and every time a birder visits this yard, they also marvel at the generosity and warmth of the lovely couple who opened their yard and welcomed birders to partake in the wonders of nature, and what my be the truly irreplaceable, priceless ingredient in the treasure that is Paton’s Birder Haven.”  – (Darlene Smyth, excerpt from Journey Home: How a Simple Act of Kindness Led to the Creation of a Living Legacy)

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https://bonniepatonmoon.com/

 

 

 

 

Journeying Home Again

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I hadn’t journeyed home to Patagonia in awhile, but this trip was a celebration I would not miss – the three-year reunion of Paton supporters who had been instrumental in “saving” Paton’s Birder Haven. The weekend also marked Tucson Audubon’s Capital Campaign Kick-off to fund improvements to the house. While there, I had the great honor of sharing from my book, Journey Home: How a Simple Act of Kindness Led to the Creation of a Living Legacy” — the story about my parents, Wally & Marion Paton and the creation of their world-renowned birdwatching backyard.

Entering the yard, so familiar, yet different now, I was immediately struck by all the improvements completed by Tucson Audubon Society since my last visit two years ago. My first stop – the Paton Legacy Sign erected in the front yard. What a thrill to see my parents honored for creating this birding mecca that still attracts thousands of visitors each year from all parts of the globe. While reading the sign, a couple from British Columbia approached — their first visit to Paton’s. “Where do we pay?” was their first question to me. “There is no entrance fee,” I replied — a tradition my parents established decades ago and continues today. The “sugar fund,” originally an old coffee can hung on the fence,  now a spiffy donation box, remains strictly voluntary.

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Paton Legacy Sign, Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds, April 2017

After three glorious days during which Paton supporters were treated to some fabulous spring migration birding, tours of the property by various Tucson Audubon staff involved in improvement projects, talks by hummingbird expert, Sheri Williamson, of Southern Arizona Birding Observatory (SABO) and Jesus Garcia, Director of the Kino Heritage Fruit Tree Project at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, it was time to say goodbye once again.

As I wandered the property on that last day, I spent a few moments in the yard reflecting at some special spots. My Dad’s pecan tree still thrives in the back yard, bigger and more robust than ever, still producing a good amount of pecans each year. I sat a good while on my parents’ memorial bench and reflected on the beauty and peacefulness of this place — the land they had nurtured for decades, still loved and nurtured. The bench had been positioned near to the site of my Dad’s former orchard in the front yard. Plans to re-establish an orchard here are underway. Jonathan Horst, Restoration Ecologist, is heading up that project.

10- Dad's Pecan Tree Thriving

Wally Paton’s pecan tree, still thriving

I stopped to remember my Mom’s rose garden in the front yard, ready to pop with bloom — her passion. I sat on a bench in the Richard Grand Memorial Meadow with Carol and Paul Lamberger, long-time Paton supporters. We sat for a good while at this peaceful spot overlooking the newly created pond — all possible because of the kindness and generosity of Marcia Grand and the hard work of Tucson Audubon staff and volunteers.

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Marion Paton’s Rose Garden in the background ready to bloom

Then a very special moment happened. As I was getting in the car to leave,  Carol Lamberger inquired if the rose bushes in the front yard were my mothers. “Yes,” I answered, “she loved roses. We would always gift one or several at Mother’s Day.” Carol smiled and then promised to take special care of them for me. And in that moment I was reminded of the special magic that surrounds Patons — it seems to bring out the very best in people — it always did and continues to do so. It is the underlying essence of the place and that spirit of kindness and generosity that my parents exemplified that will continue in perpetuity. In addition, of course, to remaining one of the top birding sites in the world.

12- Bonnie with the Lambergers

Sitting in the Richard Grand Memorial Meadow (former Paton horse paddock) with the Lambergers

Watch a short video of how Paton’s began: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5L_dheYoQBQ

 

 

I Got “Geeked” Today

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Geek Photo

Bonnie Paton Moon holding a copy of her new book, Journey Home

Journey Home – How a Simple Act of Kindness Led to the Creation of a Living Legacy, the story behind the creation of her parents’ birding mecca, Paton’s Birder Haven in Patagonia, AZ

Available now  at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Journey-Home-Simple-Kindness-Creation/dp/0997831405

Available directly from the author: https://www.createspace.com/6425627

The word “geek” derived from English dialect, which means “fool” or “freak,” took on new meaning when it returned to popularity in the mid-1990’s during the dot.com bubble of 1995-2000. The definition has changed over time and today there is no definitive meaning. I kind of like the meaning that the Urban Dictionary uses to describe “geeking” — “overly excited about a single thing” or the Merriam-Webster definition of “Geek” – “a person who is very interested in a particular field or activity.” There are many different categories of geeks from science geeks, math geeks, computer geeks and now — after the latest campaign at the Westport Public Library, in Westport, CT — even “hummingbird geeks.”

When our local library first announced in their monthly newsletter that they were embarking on a campaign to promote the Library with a series of “geek” photos I filed it away in the back of my mind and forgot about it.  As the weeks passed, I noticed more and more pictures being posted on the Library website of people with items that they “geek”. All kinds of subjects appeared on the Library website “geek” page. Patrons were geeked with their favorite animal – many dogs of different breeds, and cats, Earthplace was geeked with their resident owl, grandparents  geeked their grandkids, siblings and lovers geeked each other, sports enthusiasts showed up with skis, tennis rackets, soccer balls. Even some notable patrons like David Pogue, former New York Times Technology Writer and Tech Correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning showed up to “geek” technology and music.  Pogue who has filmed four specials for Nova and currently writes his “TechnoFiles” column for Scientific American also geeks music.

As the Library “Geek” campaign continued, the proof of my book Journey Home arrived on my doorstep — the story about my parents, Wally and Marion Paton, who over the course of several decades created a world-renowned birding “mecca” in their back yard. I had spent the prior 2 1/2 years in efforts to preserve and protect their tiny 1-acre parcel of birding paradise in Patagonia, Arizona which became known as Paton’s Birder Haven and is now called Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds. Visited by thousands each year from all corners of the world, it all started because of a rare and unusual hummingbird species, the Violet-crowned Hummingbird. These flying jewels showed up at my parents’ feeders creating quite a stir in the birding world. Such a stir that well-known wildlife photographer, Arthur Morris from NYC came knocking at my parents’ door one day in 1992 with his camera equipment wanting to take some photos. He took lots of photos and when he returned to New York, Mr. Morris wrote an article entitled “Hummingbird Hosts” which appeared in Bird Watcher’s Digest. That encounter and the decision that it sparked in my parents’ minds would change the course of their lives and the lives of thousands of birders and wildlife enthusiasts forever.

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Arthur Morris’ article entitled “Hummingbird Hosts” appeared in the May/June 1992 Issue (cover above)

What better subject for me to “Geek” than hummingbirds along with my newly completed book, Journey Home – How a Simple Act of Kindness Led to the Creation of a Living Legacy. So I made a note in my weekly calendar to go to the next “Geek” photo session to have my picture taken with the single thing that I am overly excited about these days.  Five hundred and nine library patrons were “Geeked” — I was proud to be among them and to share my parents’ story.

Read more about what’s going on at Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds: http://tucsonaudubon.org/go-birding/tucson-audubons-paton-center-for-hummingbirds/