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‘I’m a survivor’: 90-year-old gardener still growing strong

Revelstokian Clancey Boettger spends five hours a day in his vegetable patch, giving away most of it

Between the rows of romaine lettuce and Swiss chard, Clancey Boettger takes a shovel to the weeds.

“I’m a weed chaser,” he said. Boettger picks away the roots from an unearthed plant and tosses them onto a sheet of wood to dry.

“Any weed that shows up gets the plank,” he said with a mischievous grin.

Boettger has gardened all his life. Now, at 90-years-old, he’s still going strong. Spending up to five hours a day watering, weeding, planting, pruning, digging or just sifting his fingers through soil.

It’s important to remove the weeds right from the roots, he continues, before they cause any trouble.

It’s best to toss them in the trash and not the compost Boettger continues. If the compost is used in the garden “you’ll litter the garden with weeds.”

Behind the simple Revelstoke home on Seventh Street there are rows upon rows of raspberries, beans, pears, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots. Just to name a few.

“I use every foot of space I can,” he said.

“I utilize everything. Nothing goes to waste.”

"Do you know why they are called snap peas?" He holds one up. "Because they snap." Boettger demonstrates and pops it into his mouth. Satisfied. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Boettger is one of Revelstoke’s greatest characters. A retired railroader and a long-time active member of the Elks, he always has stories to tell.

READ MORE: Personal History: Clancy Boettger

Roughly 25 years ago, Boettger moved from the Big Eddy to Selkirk Gardens, an apartment building on Sixth Street.

“I got new hips, so I thought I better go somewhere with an elevator.”

So far this season, he’s grown more than 100 cucumbers. Boettger said he gives the extra produce to his neighbours.

Boettger has worked on this particular plot of land for roughly ten years, sharing it with the property’s owner. It’s across the street from his apartment building.

Last fall, due to declining health, the propriety’s owner went to Mt. Cartier Court, a long-term care home. Boettger said he’s looking after the property. In the winter, he comes to shovel snow.

“I don’t mind the work.”

Everything has a season. Radishes and peas like the cold, said Boettger so they should be planted early. Beans, tomatoes, cucumbers like it hot and should be planted later.

READ MORE: Growing in Revelstoke: Gardening in Revelstoke’s ‘Little Italy’ with Joe

Boettger said it’s essential to grow your own food. According to Statistics Canada, only about seven per cent of the total land area in Canada is used for agriculture.

Right in the middle of the plot, there's a tall strand of corn. Boettger said the crop is a survivor in hot weather. It keeps water between the leaf's stalks, using it when its dry. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Canada also imports more than double the amount of fresh vegetables, including frozen and dried, then it exports. For example, in 2017, Canada imported roughly $3.7 billion dollars worth of produce, while exporting $1.8 billion. Since 2013, the gap between imports and exports is widening.

One concern for Boettger is urban sprawl. As towns and cities grow, houses are built on fertile soil. With climate change, he said it’s important that we improve food security.

In some areas, it may become harder to grow food.

“What then?” Asked Boettger. He concluded it’s best to just grow it ourselves. At least, as best we can.

Near the greenhouse is a wooden pole, tightly engulfed in bean vines. At the top, there’s the Canadian flag with a plastic owl perched. It’s as if the bird is keeping watch.

While the garden has row after row of greens, legumes, and fruits, there are only a couple splashes of color to attract bees for pollination.

“I leave the flowers to the girls. I don’t fool around with them,” said Boettger as he inspects a cucumber. Satisfied, he picks it and sets it aside.

Boettger hopes next year, he’ll be asked to take part in Revelstoke’s Garden & Art Tour.

“It’s all organic gardening. No chemicals here. Just some weeds.”

Boettger returns to inspecting his garden, row by row, for unruly pests.



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