The green and red chili peppers that Ruben Hernandez picks each day have been on his mind for months.
He planted them on Feb. 2, as is the tradition in his home state of Durango, Mexico.
Sowing the seeds on the day in which Catholics pray to the Virgin of Candelaria is good luck, he says.
Hernandez, a resident of Grace Living Center — NW 10, has more than luck on his side.
Under his green thumb, the garden is verdant and lush, a source of beauty and nourishment for many at the nursing home.
Tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and peppers thrive under the care of Hernandez, a double amputee who never lets his disability get him down.
Hernandez, 57, lost his legs after a jack slipped and a car fell on him eight years ago.
At Grace Living Center, he zips around in a powered wheelchair, making his way back and forth between his room — where he nurtures seedlings — and the raised beds in Grace Living Center's courtyard.
Hernandez said the gardens were full of weeds when he moved to Grace Living Center.
Now the manicured rows boast tomato plants heavy with fruit, cucumbers fattening on the vine and blossoming squash.
The peppers are prolific.
“Every morning when I get up, I go to check on the plants,” he said in Spanish. “I have been gardening all of my life. It is part of me. It brings back memories.”
Susan Simpson is a media specialist for Evergreen Productions Inc.