The Richmond Register

Local News

June 18, 2014

Big garden makes good neighbors

‘Our little paradise’

RICHMOND — Next to Spurlin Mobile Home Park, through a fence cut and rolled back under some barbed wire, stands a five-week-old garden so fruitful it attracts spectators at least once a day, but sometimes more often, said Donald “D” Ray, an 11-year resident of Spurlin.

For years, he never thought of the field’s potential as a garden as he grew tomatoes in his small yard.

Then Donald and neighbor Russell Middleton decided the land was being wasted when it could be used for a garden.

“There were weeds and mess all the way up to here,” Russell said, reaching his hand to the bottom level of tree branches.

The two had connections to the property’s owner, Scott Thomas, and decided to give him a call.

“He was happy to come here and clean up the land a little,” Donald said.

Then it was up to the men to get their garden started.

Donald and Russell sought the assistance of Donald’s grandson Tyler Money, who also lives in Spurlin, and a brother-in-law who travels from another farm in Madison County.

Eventually, they asked Donald’s son-in-law, Duane Spicer, to help plant vegetables in the final rows of their plot.

“I’m two weeks behind the other guys, but my plants are twice as big,” Duane joked.

Because “a little something” in the garden needs to be tended to every day, the five men who lived near each other for years, have begun spending more time together, developing close ties and becoming “all friends and good neighbors,” Russell said.

Even when they aren’t working in the garden, they often sit at a picnic table and chairs in their newfound space. The men have even built horseshoe pits next to the garden.

“It’s our little paradise” Donald said. “When we’re sitting out here, other people see that, and they wanna come take a look,” he laughed.

“It’s Madison County’s own wonder of the world,” Duane replied.

When Donald, Duane, and Russell were asked why they planted such a big garden, the three rubbed their bellies, almost as if they had rehearsed it. Donald took a moment to name all of the canned delicacies he enjoys, including homemade pickles, green tomatoes, salsa and tomato juice.

Tomatoes are a favorite among the men. Between the five of them, they have more than 400 plants.

The three took turns lamenting the high price of supermarket vegetables.

“Right in our back yard we have more vegetables than we can eat, blackberries around the garden, pretty wildlife to look at, and we know where it all came from,” Donald explained.

“There’s no doubt it’s better for you,” Duane said. “In the store, you don’t know what’s really in anything. We can trust our own ground, and our own neighbors,” he said.

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