Staying active can be the greatest asset toward longevity

This weekend was Mother’s Day and normally I write some type of Mother’s Day column. It’s also gardening season and planting a garden can be a ritual that makes some people feel alive. I picked gardening this time.

A few days ago one of my friends approached me about obtaining some large pots for container gardening. As we filled them he told me about how much gardening was part of his father’s life. Growing vegetables brought him joy.

That was easy for me to understand. It was a major part of my life growing up. Home grown vegetables were important for my wife and her parents as well. Tending a garden can give one a sense of accomplishment, just like raising children can. Your children grow up and move away, but you can always have your garden.

My friend’s father is in his nineties. He’s nearly blind and doesn’t get around too well either, but he still longs for home grown tomatoes. Who can blame him? There’s nothing like a warm ripened tomato only minutes removed from the vine.

A conventional garden was out of the question, so my friend suggested the container garden idea. It was a hit and gave his father the joy of having a real garden again. It’s funny how putting ones hands in the soil can be great therapy. I’m sure before the summer is over he’ll enjoy several tomato sandwiches.

Adapting to aging is not an easy thing. Most people struggle with it. Some don’t adapt and their final years aren’t what they could have been. That certainly doesn’t appear to be the case here.

My wife and I have always said we’re never retiring. We might not be working in our present jobs forever, but I’m not planning to stop working every day. It’s too fulfilling, and there’s too much I haven’t learned yet. I want to continue teaching and to a broader audience.

I think us old guys still have a lot to offer society. Experience is something that must be passed on. I wish I’d written down some of the old-time remedies my father-in-law often talked about. He didn’t know why they worked, but they were effective.

I’m a why person. I want to know the reasoning why something works. To learn why, we must ask questions. Therefore we need to take advantage of the wisdom from our elders. Once they’re gone, part of society’s knowledge base is gone too. Let’s glean what we can and elevate our seniors to the respected status they deserve.

In another month it will be Father’s Day. I hope H.P. gets to enjoy some homegrown tomatoes with his father. The timeframe might be pushing it a little at least for ripe fruits, but much of the enjoyment and satisfaction is watching them grow anyway.

It’s the same with our children, and our kids never stop being our kids no matter how old they get. Family activities like gardening never get old. They keep us young. Can you spell centurion?



Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School (



About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I recently retired from teaching high school agriculture after 25 years teaching with my wife. Until recently I wrote a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper ( I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that can be purchased on Amazon in Kindle format. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone (presently out of print), a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death (this one is not yet published). In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books. I also wrote a romance novel titled Virginia. It is available on Amazon and is a different type of romance from a man's perspective.
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