“Hey Jen”, he said cheerily, “wondering if you would like to help me plant some prairie plants around my new pond at my cabin?”
Pulling myself out of Legalzoom speak, I set my laptop aside and focus. I welcome the levity of the familiar. I could talk about native plants all day.
“How many plants are you ordering?” I ask (trying to sound cool even though I was really excited about this first call…) as I flip to April in my calendar. At this point I could pick any day, as I have NOTHING on the books. So strange, this empty April calendar, after 16 years of spring days so packed that I hardly noticed the bird migration, even though birds were the motivation behind a career focused on native plants and restoration. Where did all that time go?
“Oh, about 900 or so”, he says. “I want to plant a bunch along the pond near the cabin and some down by the water”.
Sounds good, I think. “How many people will be there to help you?” I ask, quickly calculating an estimated planting rate….40-50 plants per person per hour…18 to 22 total person hours…so, about three people for six to eight hours. Done.
"You and a gardening friend of mine”, John says brightly. “I’m still recovering from my knee surgery”. I realize then that John probably doesn’t know how long it will take to plant 900 plants.
I schedule April 26th to coincide with John’s turkey hunt and mentally prepare for a ten to 11 hour day. Note to self; two water bottles and four chocolate chip cookies. Wait, maybe double that! Must fuel accordingly.
April 26th arrives cool and clear. I’m greeted at John’s cabin by not one, but six gardening friends attacking a topsoil pile with shovels, filling the bucket of a tractor operated by yet another volunteer neighbor.
Maybe I won’t need all those chocolate chip cookies.
As I placed the plants where I knew they would grow best, I’m absorbed into the conversations among this surprise crew. I learn that they all meet weekly to dance the Fox Trot, Rumba and Tango. That they gather at John’s cabin to share homemade cheesecake, campfires and kayaking. That John opens his cabin up to his friends and asks only for a bottle of red wine in return.
John and his friends are generous people. I can’t remember a job where 900 plants went into the ground so easily and with so much laughter.
One salsa and chip break and an amazing spread of a lunch later, John sends me on my way with my consulting fee and a box of Gail Ambrosius truffles; coined by the Food Network as the “Holy Grail of Chocolate” and a chocolatier that John supported since her modest start in a small Madison apartment.
I never even had a chance to eat my cookies.
That day was one of many bright ones this past April. The generosity of John and his friends was contagious. It made me want to give more. To get out of myself more. To let the anxiety that pairs
so well with new business ownership give way to the simple pleasure of putting 900 prairie roots into the soil.
And…I’m paying close attention to the spring bird migration this year.