Reverend revels in garden’s bounty
For more information
• View the garden webisode at www.winnetka.suntimes.com.
• Learn more about a community green thumb at www.stjamestheless.org.
• The Episcopal Church of St. James the Less is located at 550 Sunset Ridge Road in Northfield. Call 847-446-8430.
Updated: November 7, 2012 11:16AM
NORTHFIELD — The Rev. Ron Valentine of the Episcopal Church of St. James the Less quietly traversed a path leading to a special place.
Never mind the sounds of Willow Road traffic directly to the south. While Valentine’s shoes softly tread a canopied wood chip trail, the asphalt parking lot he left behind near the church entrance was a footnote.
Ahead was the garden – a secret garden in all of its 50 by 50 foot victory garden of yesteryear splendor, offering a cornucopia bounty that suggests early blessings in advance of Thanksgiving.
Valentine unhooked the gate as if he were unlocking a door to his soul.
“What I like about the garden is that it is secret and yet it is available,” he said. “It’s sacred, it is…holy. Holy meaning separate, and it is blessed.
“Where heaven and earth come together,” he said.
This garden, which features a malleable design of 16 plots, began in October of 2011.
Installed on former farmland obtained in recent years by the church, the space uses well water and Mother Nature’s rains to make the garden grow.
“Nature, that’s just it, basic. It’s just wonderful,” he said.
More than 100 volunteers (all ages) regularly contribute.
Valentine stepped carefully around raised beds where tomatoes, flowers and vines offered abundance as the one-year anniversary of this garden approached.
“Pulling carrots out of the ground, this is spectacular,” Valentine said, with a wide grin.
Early Halloween treats revealed themselves in fresh forms such as cucumbers, squash, okra, peppers, zucchini and corn, although the corn this year was no bumper crop.
But there’s always next year.
Valentine, is deacon and chaplain at the church on Sunset Ridge Road, though it has been his home parish for 30 years. He also served for 12 years as chaplain at the Northbrook Lake Cook Health & Rehab Center.
All season long, garden volunteers shared 75 percent of their produce with families certified to use the Northfield Township Food Pantry in Glenview where clients welcome locally grown treats.
“How does this make me feel?” Valentine asked, looking into the distance.
“Just gratitude. Just gratitude towards the people, gratitude towards the fact that we can hopefully help the needs of our community and likewise just be a part of being the solution instead of the problem.”