How to live your dreams well into your 90’s. Lessons from an organic gardener and how to make a grass sandwich.
I have fallen in love with a man named Harry. Harry is 94. Witty, brilliant, kind, and endearingly cranky.
Introducing Harry Hilde! Organic gardener and my new beau.
Harry has created sacred ground in a public ditch just outside his trailer park north of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The soil that nurtures his broccoli, kale, tomatoes, brussel sprouts, beets, beans, swiss chard, and oh so many other mama earth veggies is officially owned by MNDOT. (For you non- Minnesotan’s that means the Minnesota Department of Transportation). Don’t worry. They don’t seem to mind. Last year when the road crew came, knowing a legend when they saw one, they built a fence around Harry’s garden to keep it safe.
My introduction to Harry began with a sassy welcome. “You’re late! Did you bring your hoe”? He stated with a twinkle in his eye. Uh oh. I was in trouble already.
Harry was born in 1922 and tells me with pride that he is full Norwegian, speaks the language, and has been to his heritage homeland seven times. He spent four years in the Armed Guard in the South Pacific, returned to Minnesota and fell in love. Okay, so not exactly. It seems his bride of 66 years knew immediately he was the man for her and despite Harry’s insistence that he “doesn’t date”, he married Orpha and spent the rest of his life taking her on a date every weekend until she passed last year. The Hilde lineage has resulted in 38 grandchildren and great grandchildren. Well…. 38 the family thinks?? They keep losing count.
In addition to his family, Harry has two loves. One is baseball and the other is his organic garden. Harry played for the Saint Paul Saints Seniors and competed in the Senior World Olympics when he was 75! That would seem like a record, except he was still playing baseball at 91. To keep his family healthy, Harry raised his children on a true hobby farm, complete with cows, chickens, raw milk, and all the organic vegetables one can eat. Harry’s daughter speaks of his compassion for the earth and all of us. She told me how he gardens from the heart and prefers to give away his lovingly raised produce. Why? Because according to Harry we all deserve to be “big and healthy”! Yes, we do!
Harry and I talked about what is now called “organic”, was once just called food. I asked him why he doesn’t use pesticides. His snappy and perfect response was to tell me “Eat those chemicals and they will kill ya”!
Yep, true words from the spry wisdom of 94 years.
And what about those grass sandwiches? Let me just tell you this… The description “grass sandwiches” is the understatement of the year. Rather the decadence he is so humbly describing is organic kale or collards straight from his garden wrapped around bacon, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. “You can add beets too”, Harry tells me, referring to his daily meal. I wondered if I ought to mention that his grass sandwiches are actually chef driven farm to table culinary genius?! Instead I suggested we start a food truck and travel the world feeding people his earth inspired goodness.
I came into Harry’s world to write about his wonderful garden, and inspiring life. Yet, the truth is, he came into my life as an angel with a gruff facade, reminding me to stay the course and as a reassurance that life is the joy we make it.
Want to talk to Harry? That may be a challenge. He doesn’t like phones. Has never owned a computer or used email. Your best bet to find him is to drive down a big ol’ highway, look towards the ditch, and see a fabulous old gentlemen weeding his beloved garden or resting under his favorite tree. In this new place called heaven.
Harry’s Sweet Potato Collard Wraps Recipe