ASC Service Project 2019: Diana Cristancho

Deering Estate: Gardening and Weeding

November 22, 2019

On my first day at the Deering Estate, I came in at 8:30 am. My first impression of that day was already great when I was greeted by one of the cats from the grounds. Not long after I was introduced to Andres Calix the Grounds and Maintenance Supervisor. Around this time, everyone in the estate was preparing for all the holiday events that were coming up. One of those preparations was covering up and old tree stump with ferns and poinsettias. I met another worker, Marvin Diaz, who worked with me from the time I got there until the time I left at noon. While he dug holes in the ground for the plants, I was putting mulch in a wheelbarrow and pouring it over the freshly planted ferns with a pitchfork. Although this task was tiresome, I was able to experience the cool weather of that day. I was also amazed by how beautiful the light looked shining between the leaves of the field I was working on. I have an obsession with words in other languages that mean something that doesn’t exist in English. For example, the word Komorebi is a Japanese word for “when light filters through the trees- the interplay between the light and the leaves.” Komorebi is what I was able to appreciate that day. Also in between all the mulching, I was having very interesting conversations with Andres and Marvin. We all started talking about our lives and after explaining to them that I wanted to be an Occupational Therapist because my brother had Autism, Andres told me about his nephew who also has a mental disability. I also learned that Marvin loved orchids and had a nursery for them, to which I showed them my orchid tattoo. The most influential part of my conversations with them was that I was speaking to them in Spanish the entire time. Many of my friends don’t speak Spanish and my family only speaks English at home because of my brother so the only time I can speak it is when I’m with my grandparents. It always makes me happy to be able to practice a part of my culture with other people around me.

December 6, 2019

The second day I came into the Deering Estate at 9 am and I met Rose Roberts, another worker on the grounds. That day I spent about two hours watering plants along the sides of the estate. Since there had been so little rain, most of them were lacking water. I had to water three rows of plants, which was done twice for each row to make sure the water would seep into the roots. While watering plants I was able to see all the beautiful flowers that were in bloom. I also encountered multiple baby dragonflies which I have never seen in my life. I have only ever seen full-grown dragonflies and seeing them made my day. They’re my spirit animal and I also have a tattoo of one on my rib. After watering the plants, Rose led me to the palms and bushes by the villa, where I pulled out Palm tree seedlings from the ground. They looked like long strands of grass and were fairly easy to pull out. After pulling out all the seedlings into a bucket I left to work.

December 11, 2019

On my last day at the Deering Estate, Rose and I mulched all the barren areas around the estate. The Deering was preparing for a Christmas event they were having that Friday. Rose and I went in her golf cart into the path that led to the Takesta burial ground to get mulch. She told me that the mulch we were using was from the fallen trees after Irma, meaning that the mulch was about two years old. It was decomposing so much that it was almost at the point of turning into soil. I was able to tell the difference between that mulch and newer mulch because the older one was falling through the pitchfork and the newer one, that I used the first time I came to the Deering, didn’t. While going back and forth between the mulch pile and the areas we were mulching, Rose and I met a little boy who was in one of the school programs. He was there with his mom but he was crying because he didn’t want to go eat lunch. I couldn’t help but laugh a little. To stop his tantrum, Rose and I went ahead and showed him a woodpecker we had found making a whole on an old palm. He was so amazed by it and went to go get his friends to see. We watched as the woodpecker made a large almost perfect circle in the tree. It was a very cute experience. After that little break, Rose and I went back to work and started talking about the recent events that had been occurring in Miami and about our lives.

Summary

Although most of the work I did at the estate was manual labor, I enjoyed it. I have always loved gardening, especially when I would do it with my grandpa. He had a garden in his backyard and watering plants and weeding reminded me of that time with me. I also really appreciated meeting Andres, Marvin, and Rose. They are all extremely sweet and you could tell just how much all of them love and care for the estate. Getting to know them was one of the highlights of my experience. My favorite part of it was the fact that I was outdoors and able to experience nature. I loved being able to feel the breeze from the water, see the view and hear the silence around me. The Deering Estate is definitely a place I would go back to whether it is to garden or just to experience the beauty it has to offer.

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