The first thing Alberta Holmes does when she wakes up in the morning is throw open the blinds and look at her vegetable garden.
Her circular, raised brick garden was built by her husband, Oren Holmes, a former Army paratrooper and Rubicon Chemical Co. retiree.
Alberta Holmes taught for 25 years at Greenbriar Elementary School until a heart attack in 2000 led to her retirement.
“This is her project. She told me what kind of garden she wanted. I went and got the stuff,” Oren Holmes said. “Once it was here. It was here. It’s not like a piece of furniture that can be moved.”
To calculate the number of bricks he needed to build the garden, Oren Holmes said he used his high school algebra and geometry.
“I came out with one brick left,” he said with a laugh.
The Holmeses filled the circular garden with top-grade garden soil, and Alberta Holmes planted her crop.
Last summer was her first garden year. She had squash, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, cucumbers and banana peppers.
“Too much,” Oren Holmes said. “The hardest thing is to get her to limit the number of plants to get the best yield.”
In the fall, the Holmeses threw out mustard seeds and had a thick circle of mustard greens.
Alberta and Oren Holmes both grew up in families that had gardens. Oren Holmes’ grandfather taught him gardening.
“My parents had big gardens,” Alberta Holmes said. “We would pick the crops and share with the neighbors.”
The Holmeses live in a modern subdivision in Zachary, but the lots are not huge.
“I wanted to show that you can have a small vegetable garden in a nice subdivision,” Alberta Holmes said.
Since her heart attack, she has been on a healthy food regimen - lots of fresh vegetables and no salt.
“We use the garden for this,” she said. “We don’t have to worry about chemicals in our produce. If the insects eat something, they just eat it.”
Alberta Holmes calls her garden a gift from God, like so many things in her life.
She and her husband operate a travel business, which she believes is another gift from God.
It started shortly after her heart attack forced her to retire from teaching. She was doing volunteer work at her church.
“Our pastor wanted a group to go to Eureka Spring, Ark.,” Alberta Holmes said. “Nobody wanted to do the arrangements.”
That’s when she stepped in and took care of everything.
“A church member said that I should make this my business,” she said. And so she did.
She named her business Dove’s Charter for the Christian symbol of the dove, which traditionally represents the Holy Spirit.
“The business got its name because God put a business in my life after I had my heart attack,” she said.
The Holmeses have contracts with many major theme parks and hotel chains. They deal mostly with schools and churches.
“We do it all from home,” Oren Holmes said. “With a home front, you can give your clients that personal touch.”
This summer, Alberta Holmes’ garden is in full production. She has cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers.
And Oren Holmes has begun work on a deck between the circular garden and their patio area. Alberta Holmes hopes that next year she will be able to plant vegetables around the new deck.
“The grandkids love the garden, and it’s just fun seeing what you have grown,” she said.