Every day is Earth Day for Forrest Hill, a resident at Grace Living Center-Wilshire in Oklahoma City.
Hill, 88, is known affectionately as the “little farmer” because he enjoys taking care of the gardens surrounding the home at 505 E Wilshire Blvd.
“He's got a green thumb,” home administrator Gail Chapa said. “He loves to garden.”
Under Hill's care, the grassy area behind the center comes alive with red roses, purple and yellow irises, pink petunias and lush shrubbery. Crepe myrtles, Swiss chard and daffodils also thrive.
Hill planted many of the flowers. He waters them every day and helped lay the paving stones around the flower beds. Hill said he's always had his hands in the soil.
When he was growing up in Pennsylvania, his family raised vegetables to sell at a roadside stand. After his father died when Hill was 13, the farm became his responsibility. He used a horse-drawn plow to prepare the soil and milked a dozen cows every day by hand.
“I wanted to be just like my dad,” Hill said.
Karen Hoard, Grace Living Center's director of nursing, said gardening — and simply being outdoors — is therapeutic for residents and helps keep depression and boredom at bay.
A large wooden patio built by local Boy Scouts allows residents to enjoy the flower beds, which grow a little more each year.
Hoard scours garage sales and thrift stores for bird houses and bird feeders. Residents enjoy watching the birds and butterflies that have made the garden home.
“We want this to be an oasis for our residents so they can come out here any time, bring their families and enjoy the flowers,” she said.
Susan Simpson is a media specialist with Evergreen Productions Inc.