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At 92, garden still calls local man

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POSTED: August 9, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Photo by Edith Anderson/

Jimmy West stands in his garden.

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He may almost be a centenarian, but that does not stop him from having one of the best gardens in the Briar Bay community. Neighbors enjoy his garden just as much as he does. The garden is not only for him, but for the enjoyment of family and friends.
Ninety-two-year-old James “Jimmy” West is from the old school. His days are filled with working. He arises early in the morning around 5 or 6, and gets in his garden.
“Sometimes at 6 a.m., I am in the garden,” West said.
Gardening is one of his favorite pastimes, and he has become a “master gardener.”  
During many years of planting a garden, he has weathered battles with and rabbits.  However, he has learned to outfox them, and his garden is evidence of that. While many people bemoan the fact that the deer are enjoying their garden and eating up everything in sight, West’s garden is off-limits to the deer.
 “I post red, white, and pink ribbons and black tie wire around the garden. I also put jugs in the garden and when the wind blows, it makes a noise and scares the deer,” West said. He puts white bags on the trees and makes a cross.  “Deer don’t like moving targets,” he said.
West also puts black pepper in the garden and leaves the can open.
“They can’t stand pepper. Every now and then, you have to even shoot the gun,” West said. “You have to be very creative.”
West said the deer don’t bother collard greens, cucumbers, honeydew melon and cantaloupe.  “They love watermelon, sweet potatoes, and okra; they will come in the kitchen and eat them. They don’t bother the beans too much.  I have not had any trouble out of the deer in a couple of years,” West said.
West plants a huge variety of vegetables and gets a kick out of sharing with family, neighbors and friends. West has a garden year round. People come and get vegetables from his garden — especially the greens.
He loves to plant greens (collards, mustards, and turnips), corn, rutabagas, peanuts, potatoes (sweet and white), peas, beans, tomatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, squash, sugar cane and red peppers.  “My dad use to make syrup from the sugar cane, now he has someone else to make it for him,” said daughter, Clannie Mae Chaney.
 “Every year in January, I have to prepare his calendar. I have to mark it day-by-day, month-by-month. He plants by the almanac,” she said. After her retirement, Chaney moved back home from Connecticut and lives with her father.
In addition to his garden, West also has a variety of fruit and nut producing trees. He has three pecan trees and apples, persimmon, plums, figs and banana trees. The neighbors also enjoy the many delicious fruits and nuts grown from West’s trees.
West tills the garden himself. “If you don’t use the right fertilizer, you will burn up your seeds. I use mulch, leaves, and fertilizer (10-10-10). It has very little soda in it. I build up the land from season to season,” he said. West said he also builds up the soil and buys a load of dirt. “Never plant one thing in the same spot too long. You need to rotate every two years.” West has a sprinkler system and waters his garden in the morning and afternoon.
A native of Riceboro, he has spent almost his entire life in Liberty County. Born in 1915, Eddie West grew up in a hard working family. He completed the third grade and left school early to work on the family farm and to help his parents (Wilfred and Florence West) take care of his younger brothers and sisters.
Although he is an early riser, West does not go to bed until about 11p.m-12 a.m. “I enjoy watching the news and baseball, especially the Atlanta Braves,” he said.   
 “My dad loves macaroni and cheese, cornbread, baked chicken, greens, vanilla ice cream with cookies, and cinnamon rolls,” said Chaney.  “He also enjoys McDonald’s fish burgers,” she noted.
West said his secret to a long life was in honoring his mother and father. “Hard work is also good for you – just don’t overdo it,” he said. He has been a member of First African Baptist Church in Riceboro for 70 years. “I joined the church when I was 12 years old,” he said. His favorite song is, “I Just Want to be Right,” and he still sings in the choir. He used to be an usher and was the church’s first usher.

 

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