When we were young newlyweds, way back in the early 90’s, Mark and I used to collect Burr Oak acorns for fun. What can I say. I was a cheap date. Pflugerville was going through a growth spurt back then and Mark and his parents, Frank and Lynn, were expanding the business from a feed store into a garden center, specializing in locally grown trees and bedding plants. By the time Mark and I had kids old enough to be in elementary school, the feed store supported almost two acres of trees and shrubs–many grown from acorns Mark and I collected.
I spent the next fifteen years or so raising kids, helping out at the feed store, and doing various odd jobs around Pflugerville. At one time I was teaching Jazzercise, writing quilting patterns and doing the feed store’s bookkeeping. I was much younger and more energetic then. During this time we lost Lynn to cancer. Her passing left a huge hole in our hearts and in the business, but Mark and Frank plowed on bravely. With the help of long-time employee and honorary family member, Rodney, the feed store continued to operate as a full fledged feed, hardware and garden store. Lynn would have been proud.
By the time the 2008 recession hit, the big box stores had successfully populated Pflugerville. A decline in tree sales, combined with a drought, plus the loss of our agricultural exempt status on the tree-growing land, all worked together to seal the fate of the tree growing operation. Our business plan was just to stay in business. I am so proud of how hard Mark, Frank, Rodney and all our co-workers worked to keep the business afloat during the recession. Frank took on lawn mower repair and window screening. Rodney sold and planted many of our remaining trees. And on top of everything else, Mark took on all the bookkeeping I had done so I could get a regular job nursing. I would also like to try to express how immensely appreciative we are of our customers who made the decision to shop local and allowed us to stay in business all these years. Many, many thanks. We wouldn’t be here without y’all.
Fast-forward to 2017 and the big boxes are still here, but, thankfully, the recession is long gone. Frank is no longer working at the store, but only because he’s so busy running cattle and enjoying life. Rodney, Charlie and Wade help us keep the doors at the store open and feed in the feed room. And although we can hardly believe it, Mark and I are now empty-nesters. I work part time as an obstetrical nurse but know that there is only so long that my body will continue to handle twelve hour shifts on my feet.
As 2016 was coming to a close, and we were prepping ourselves for paying property taxes, Mark and I thought about what to do with the land that was sitting in the back growing weeds. We thought about building a strip center, or an office building, or storage units on the back lot, but couldn’t afford it. We thought about getting out of the business altogether, but couldn’t feature ourselves adrift from the feed store and all the people we’ve gotten used to seeing week in and week out. Instead, we decided to play the mid-life crisis card and do something unorthodox, something less than financially beneficial, something probably best done in one’s twenties or thirties–but something we love to do. We decided to grow the biggest darn garden we’ve ever conceived right at the back of the store. We’ve come to the decision that while we enjoy talking about gardening, and selling gardening supplies, truth is, we really, really miss getting our hands dirty and growing things. We want to grow a garden that our customers, friends and neighbors will enjoy walking through–a little reminder of Pflugerville’s rural past–a little inspiration to future urban gardeners. We hope visitors can have a little hands-on experience and are planning a u-pick corn patch as well as a vegetable sales area up front. One day we (I mean ‘I’) even hope to have a chicken coop out in the garden. Do put in a good word for me and my girls to Mark.
So far we have a couple rows of test crops in the ground (spinach, collards, chard, beets, carrots), an area prepped for corn, the bones of a greenhouse constructed, and a lovely pile of compost waiting to be spread. And this blog. Upon the advice of those younger than I, I have decided to try my hand at blogging.
Until next time.