By Lisa Boonstoppel-Pot
It was so cozy, sitting there, being served coffee and biscotti in front of the woodstove. I could see birds flying around outside and two trays of seedlings were reaching up from the soil by an east window. It was interview time for a story on native plants and the subjects were Art Wiebe and Janice McKean.
As I age, I get so excited meeting retired people who have launched late-in-life careers using new skills and existing resources. Art is a former doctor and Janice a teacher, so there’s no lack of smarts. Knowledge is something they keep accumulating. Rather than watch television, they read and visit and ingest wisdom.
Art and Janice combine brain and brawn, and have some interesting approaches to life. Something they do which is both shocking and sensible, is pick up roadkill on their travels. They bring the dead animals to their farm pasture to attract carrion eaters such as turkey vultures, hawks, eagles, crows and ravens. They see the benefits as two-fold: it protects these majestic birds from getting dinged on the road and it provides an opportunity to watch and photograph the birds on their farm.
The thought of placing a dead animal in my vehicle had honestly never occurred to me, though I’ve watched the Huron County road crew do it often enough. It’s just so smart. And so gross! I love this active commitment to wildlife and I suspect I may have to do it myself now that the idea has taken hold. Art and Janice collect their seeds from nature, rarely purchasing seed packets. Their glove box is full of paper bags and inspired again, I have now tucked some in my van. They start these seeds on their porch and move them to a greenhouse. Nothing here is new or wasted. Pots are collected from businesses discarding old perennials and the contents are composted for their own use.
As the interview ended, I asked if I might have the freedom to experiment with a new lens and take pictures of all the birds at their feeders. I tucked myself into the woodpile and spent a happy half hour watching, learning and snapping, hoping to get a great shot. It requires much time and patience, this new hobby, and sometimes I wish I was retired so I had more time for it.
Ultimately, what really inspired me was how much there is to DO and LEARN and BE once you can retire. In this issue I also wrote a story on Michael Barrett who just retired from his position as CEO of Gay Lea. He has transitioned from over 300 emails a day to three and has been struggling with all the extra time. He was thrilled to be out of the house and speaking at the event, though with a farm and eight grandchildren, I’m sure he has lots to do. Yet he is using his experience as a lens to project ideas for change and growth in agriculture.
Thinking about activity in aging, I recall meeting a couple from Holland while we were taking a Dignity Therapy (writing life stories for the dying) course. They were pursuing university degrees in their 70s, on top of maintaining their own professional careers. Amazing!
Retirement is a bit off for me yet, but meeting people like Art, Janice and Michael literally sows the seeds of what is possible when that time comes. ◊