Saturday, October 30, 2010

Blind man in New Zealand becomes award-winning gardener

From TVNZ:

Regional gardener of the year Graham Burtenshaw (pictured) knows every last inch of his patch intimately, despite never laying his eyes on it.

The Picton man lost both his eyes in a horrific go-carting accident 15 years ago and everyone expected him to give up on his pastime.

"Really from then onwards it's just been a different life, but it's been happy and creative," he told Close Up.

Frustration, he said, would be the biggest enemy for a person in his position.

"I really can say I don't get frustrated very often, it's a real blessing."

The 67-year-old has been a keen gardener his whole life and refused to give up on it. He now produces much more from the garden than he ever did.

He built all the paths in his garden, as well as the raised beds. And he does all the planting and weeding. His best crops are silverbeet and broccoli, and he says his secret is making all his own organic compost, fertiliser, and insect spray.

After a few little mishaps such as the accidental weeding of his wife's flowers, there is only one rule Burtenshaw follows religiously.

He now puts stakes around anything that is not a weed, and he has also studied leaf shapes so he can differentiate between plants.

"A cabbage leaf is fully round and a broccoli leaf is pear shaped with notches in it and the cauliflower is a pear shape with no notches," he explains.

The former boat builder and carpenter says the only thing he misses now is scuba diving, and being able to see his grandchildren. Otherwise he just carries on as normal, doing all the odd jobs around the house from painting the roof to tiling the conservatory.

His wife Margaret says his attitude is admirable. "He accepted things so well and wasn't depressed and wasn't saying 'poor me' in any way or form - that made it a lot easier for me as well."

Burtenshaw has also had to find new ways of earning an income, so he mortgaged his house to buy a guitar, amplifier and microphone, and started busking.

"The Bank of New Zealand both in Blenheim and Picton both give permission to busk outside there and it's right good because you're right beside an ATM machine," he said.

Burtenshaw often finds himself with an oversupply of vegetables, and with three of his four children living out of the region, he is very popular with the neighbours.