Spotlight: Lance Gardner

By Sharon Brown (Sharon) on May 10, 2010

I recently read a definition for Renaissance man: a present-day man who has acquired profound knowledge or proficiency in more than one field. I also recently met a young man who very well fits this definition, and I'd like you to meet him, too. Let's talk with Lance Gardner....

I thought I knew a lot about wildflowers and when I wrote articles about them, I tried to include as much information as possible within the articles. I've always enjoyed readers' comments, and value their opinions. One day there appeared in the comment section of one of my articles, a long commentary that included much more information about my subject than I had given, much more information than I knew. So I responded with thanks, as I usually do, and didn't give it much more thought. With the next article came a second commentary from the same person, elaborating in great length about another of my wildflowers. Well, finally I realized there was somebody out there who was a whole lot smarter than I am, and I decided then and there that I needed to be his friend. And that's how I got to know Lance, who freely gives answers that I didn't know I needed. 

***Lance, I am so glad I know you. You've become my 'go to' for wildflower gardening. Please tell us how you became so knowledgeable about so many things. Where did you grow up and how did you get from there to here?

Lance: I grew up in Dover, Delaware. My parents actually moved into that house when I was about 6 months old, and have lived there ever since. They still have the same phone number, address and yard they had 45 year2010-05-07/Sharran/1d3628s ago. I was born in Wilmington, Delaware, February 23, 1965.

I have a BA in Biology and Chemistry from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY; MS in Oceanography and Limnology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Limnology; and am currently working on my PhD in Marine Science from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point, Virginia. In between the MS and current PhD, I was a water quality permit writer for the Commonwealth of Virginia. After about 2 years of that, I decided it was not very good for my health and attempted private consulting.

Unfortunately, I went from not being able to protect the environment I was charged to protect (because it was not good to make waves), to figuring out how to get around the very regulations I was previously attempting to enforce. 

Most of the people I worked with for consulting were more interested in doing the work at a minimum cost than in doing it right; they did not care who got their approvals or how they got them, as long as it got done. I also found out I am not very good at marketing myself and pressing the flesh, literally, every week so I can make sure I am on the top of someone's hire list. Needless to say I did not enjoy that experience much either.

The above jobs introduced me to a variety of work, including2010-05-09/Sharran/2f324b soil surveys, drainfield siting, wetland delineations (which include botany, hydrology, and soils identification), stream assessment and restoration, ecological restoration, water quality improvement practices, and a host of other environment related applications. So I did get a lot of valuable experience, I just wish it could have been more rewarding.

These jobs did, however, teach me how to hold my own under almost any circumstances, and not back down from my position unless I was forced to by those with more authority than I had. Unfortunately, this also happened all too often. 2010-05-08/Sharran/8b459a

So after attempting private consulting for awhile, I went back to school so I could pursue two of my lifelong dreams, teaching and research. No job is perfect, of course, but I do have a strong interest in both of these fields; not just in teaching academics, but in life lessons. The academic part is easy, but motivating people to be interested in their work, to be a real person, to not neglect their family and to enjoy their lives, can be a real challenge. 

Balance in life is essential, otherwise you will get so burned out, those closest to you will not even know the person you really are. 2010-05-08/Sharran/fa6997

Of course my son is very important to me and will continue to share a big part of my time. My hobbies are also a large part of my life, as I share my interests with those around me. 

I have also always seen a need to remedy the ecological disasters I see everyday. My first summer job was working for the State of Delaware running an aquatic plant harvester, which is essentially a large floating mower that rests on pontoons and is driven by paddlewheels. In the front is a cutter head that mows off the plants in the water and pulls them up into the harvester for later disposal. While working this machine,  I noticed that the cleanest water was in the places with the most vegetation, so I thought water quality improvements would be a perfectly good field to get into. Besides, water is fun, and I always prefer to get outside as much as possible. So that is how I got started in my water career.

***Tell us a little about the hobbies you mention, Lance, I'll bet they take you outside, too.

Lance: I have many hobbies, mos2010-05-08/Sharran/17c0datly anything that gets me outside and enjoying the local environment, preferably with my son. Those hobbies include outdoor photography, woodworking, gardening, dog training, and the occasional bike ride, hike, and camping trip. I am also a Master Gardener, and use this title to promote native plants, no spray, natural garden systems, including organic veggie and flower gardening.

***I also know that you include your son in many of your hobbies, and I know, too, that much of your life is devoted to your son. Can 2010-05-08/Sharran/869b83you share your thoughts on child raising?

Lance:  As with most things I do, having a child became a serious matter to me and I did a lot of reading on the subject before he ever arrived. My sister gave me some suggestions on sources, one of which was Dr. Sears' books on raising children, which I found to be very interesting. Dr. Sears promotes a type of child care which is labeled (as most everything is labeled) attachment parenting. The label is really not necessary. Raising children should be all about ensuring they are happy, loved, well cared for, and appropriately nurtured. It is a more natural way of raising your family, the way it has happened for millennia before large houses with separate rooms, TVs and other distractions were invented. In most parts of the world, children are not relegated to being a bother or even given their own room. We as humans are inherently social beings, and to send your absolute youngest off on his own, when he knows full well he cannot take care of himself, seems akin to promoting anguish; children need close physical and mental contact. 2010-05-08/Sharran/49e729

Many people say little ones need to develop a sense of independence, but by pushing them away too soon, they instead develop a sense of confusion, insecurity, and abandonment. By fostering a sense of security through holding, playing together, and sleeping together for the first many years, among other activities, my son has developed a profound sense of security and trust in both me and now in his own abilities. He is about to turn 7 this summer, and when we go to events, he is often off on his own doing his thing, and coming back when he feels like it. I actually need to remind him to let me know where he is and what he is doing. It was not always like this, though. Initially, for the first 4-5 years, he was very timid. He preferred to stay by my side, and I did not push him away. Instead I let him decide when he was comfortable with venturing out. As time went on, he knew he could always depend on me to help him out, and this sense of security helped him to venture out further and more often. When he started kinderg2010-05-08/Sharran/2081a7arten or an after school program, I would stay with him for the first day or so, and help him (and me, I am very protective) feel more comfortable with the new environment. And now I have a very happy, jovial, full of fun little boy who rarely has problems going forth on adventures of his own, with or without me. I often get compliments on his smile and personality, so I know it is something a bit different than what most people are used to seeing. Even a neighbor who does not especially care for children likes him. He is not fussy and whining like many other children she sees, trying to get the attention they missed when younger, and still crave.

The other part of what I do has to do with my strong environmental ethic. Taking good care of the environment2010-05-08/Sharran/0141b0, ensuring that future generations have a world they can enjoy, is a moral obligation for me. Ever since I was in grade school, I saw changes happening around me, and I was concerned about it. How could people be so careless as to destroy what our very lives depend on? The water, ground and air are poisoned and I am afraid to walk through a planted field. Diseases that were rare before are rampant now. We as humans have made tremendous progress in overcoming many ills, but somewhere along the way we also seem to have lost contact with the very nature of nature itself, and therefore our own connection with it. Our world should not be viewed as a source of contention to overcome. It is a partner to work with. I can only hope that we all work toward making a positive difference, because at this point we are either part of the problem or part of the solution. There is no middle ground anymore. 2010-05-08/Sharran/3842df

And so my work, and a lot of my spare time, is spent trying to do my own little part to overcome the changes I see all around me, changes that will make it even more challenging for my son and the rest of the children to survive in this world.


***Lance, please share with us some of your gardening techniques.

Lance: Here are some photos showing some portions of my yard and gardens. The gardens are really in a state of serious disrepair for the most part since I have had to shift priorities over the past few years to my son and school. The veggie garden is doing OK, it gets cleaned up and redone every year. I'm trying some new things this year, including the black to cover the paths and keep the weeds down, the white remay (germinating cloth) to exclude bugs from the cabbage and kale and you can also see the portable chicken pen and compost bin. Notice that I have allowed some catnip to grow in various places, and a lot of herbs will come up around the garden for insect control. They both attract beneficial insects and deter or confuse some of the ones I do not want. I also have pots filled with sand or gravel to weigh down the black cloth, which will be covered with leaves as it gets warmer, so it doesn't heat up too much. The fence is to keep dogs and bunnies out, a2010-05-08/Sharran/b18211nd the garden is also inside the fenced back yard, where I have about an acre fenced in for the dogs. This allows them to chase bunnies and squirrels and such out of the garden area, without trampling the garden themselves.

I always plant wide rows and this picture of lettuce shows why. The thickly planted lettuce will shade and outcompete many weeds. As it is thinned for spring greens, I will get more lettuce from this little patch than I can possibly eat. The rest I'll share. The amount of produce obtained from wide rows like this, will really outdo traditional rows by a tremendous amount.

I made the portable chicken pen mostly out of PVC. It is in need of some repairs because several support posts became brittle and snapped when they got cold. You can see the hanging food and water feeders, the nesting boxes, gate, and a portion of the roof which also opens. In the background of the phot2010-05-08/Sharran/977ba7o you can also see some of my birdhouses. As the pen is moved around, it allows the chickens to do the work of both fertilizing and weeding where needed. For the growing season I plan to park the pen in a corner of the garden so I can toss weeds and bugs in as I need to, and the roots from the veggies will still receive the nutrients.


 ***Yes, I'm really glad I know this guy. He's going to do a lot more for our environment than most of us, just because of his dedication and his knowledge. In the course of talking with Lance over the past few months, I gained so many photos that he'd taken of his work, his gardens, and his son. It's only appropriate that I share them, and as you view them, hover over the picture to see Lance's explanation of each on2010-05-08/Sharran/14fa87e.

It isn't often we meet Renaissance guys in these days. We are very fortunate to have him with us on Cubits. Lance studies and works at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester, Virginia. You can visit him in his own cubits: Children - how to get them outside and Garden Ideas and how well they work. He also is very involved in Dogs - Everything You Ever Wanted to Know.

I also happen to know that he'd be very happy to hear from you, and you can talk with him on the comment threads below. I can assure you, he'll answer every one.

Thank you so much, Lance, for granting this interview. Best wishes to you and to your family, and may you always reap what you sow.

Related articles:
biographies, child raising, environment, gardeners, wildlife

About Sharon Brown
I am a retired Art and Humanities teacher living in western Kentucky. I love writing and art with equal measure, but I also have a passion for nature and plants.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
[Sticky] -- Dogs Lance May 13, 2010 8:16 AM 0
[Sticky] -- Lance's "Children" Thread nap May 12, 2010 7:45 AM 1
[Sticky] -- Lance's "Gardening" Thread nap May 12, 2010 7:35 AM 1
Amazing Boopaints May 13, 2010 8:10 AM 1
Brilliant & True! NEILMUIR1 May 12, 2010 8:51 AM 4
Nice to meet you Lance PollyK May 11, 2010 11:27 AM 10
Great article valleylynn May 11, 2010 7:39 AM 1
Hi, Lance! nap May 10, 2010 7:44 AM 3
I have enjoyed AlohaHoya May 10, 2010 7:04 AM 1

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