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Gardening keeps 98-year-old Huntsville woman active

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - How does your garden grow? Quite well for the lady we found. And she's been enjoying it since she was a little girl. Earlene Storey may have one of the greenest thumbs around. “Plant a little seed and see what happens,” she said sitting on the patio of her home.

Gardening is hard work. “But it is enjoyable work,” she said. It’s her passion. “I love it,” Miss Earlene told me. “I like the results of what I get.” What she gets is one of the prettiest flower gardens in south Huntsville every year. “That’s what I look forward to, seeing what happens,” she said with a smile. “I love planting lots of seeds.”

She got her love of gardening from her parents. The youngest of nine children, Miss Earlene remembers following her mother around their garden. “She gave me a little hoe and she gave me some potato plants and some seeds. She said Now, go make your own garden,” she recalls.

And she did. “I found the rockiest, hardest ground you could find,” she said with a laugh. “But you know, I kept digging and digging until I got enough that I could plant my potatoes.” And they kept the family fed. “She couldn’t get enough for a meal from her garden so she went to mine,” she recalls. “She got enough to make a meal and I was thrilled to death! I was probably about six, five to six years old.”

It was a family living off the land. “My dad had a big garden and we grew everything,” she said. “And we had a big orchard with apples, pears, plums, peaches, everything.”

In a few weeks, she'll celebrate a big birthday. “Be 99,” she said smiling. Miss Earlene says gardening has helped her make it this long. “Staying busy. Having something to look forward to.” She said. “Have something to do every day that you have to get up and go.”

Her plants keep her going. “It’s the flowers, the big beauty of the flowers when they grow,” she said. “I love them.” She admits she has slowed down the past few years but she still works several hours a day in her backyard. “I weeded all this myself,” she said pointing to her backyard. She finds it therapeutic. “Yes,” she said smiling. “Takes your mind off everything.”

Pulling weeds is a good way to take out your frustrations. “They don’t stand a chance with me,” she said with a laugh. I couldn’t stand around and not help Miss Earlene just a little so I grabbed some grass and pulled it out of the ground. And then pinched off some dead flowers from her day lilies. She was impressed. “I’ll have to get you to come over and dead head,” she said laughing.

Gardening apparently helps you live longer. “It’s good for you. It’s good therapy. It’s good exercise,” she said. And it’s good for the soul. “It is,” she said. “Nothing better.”

But there may be one thing better. An apple tree in her back yard came from her old home place in Scottsboro. And it produces some pretty good fruit. “Yes, I make pies,” she said. “I made as many as 36 pies and froze them and give them to friends.”

Wouldn’t you love to be on that list? “My apple pie is different from most people. I grate my apples,” she said proudly. “When I make one, I’ll give you one. I’m going to make some apple pies.” I can’t wait. “You’ll like it,” she added.