John Packard has spent most of his life working in and enjoying the outdoors. During high school and after college he labored and lived on a 200 acre produce farm in Pennsylvania. In 1993 he moved permanently to Wisconsin, where he has gardened and landscaped ever since. As a partner in Mother Nature and Sons (1995-2002) he helped introduce natural garden design and organic maintenance to south-eastern Wisconsin. Since 2003 he has owned and operated Botanica Fine Gardens and Landscapes in Lake Geneva. Botanica emphasizes gardening in harmony with nature, land stewardship and horticultural best practice. John’s horticultural interests include: woodland and prairie restoration, vegetables, conifers, native plants, weed management, artisanal stonework, and enjoying the fruits of his labors with good friends, beer and music at the end of the day.

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Screen Door on the Solstice
by John Packard - posted 06/22/13

To celebrate the solstice and the start of summer, we took down the storm doors, and put on the screen doors. For southern Wisconsin that sounds logical, but it’s an exception, not a tradition.


The first summer morning of 2013 dawned cool and wet in southern Wisconsin


All spring there hasn’t  been one, unless cold wet weather is your idea of a spring. Little heat meant the storm doors stayed up.  This weekend though the forecast is for temps in the 90’s.  Hot weather means it’s time to turn on our family’s version of A/C.  We open the windows at night and let the free cool air in.  We close the windows during the day, and keep the free hot air out.  Repeat until fall.


When we built our house, my wife and I made a conscious forced decision to not install A/C:  “conscious” because we both grew up without it and loath how air-conditioning turns people into wimps, whining babies who can’t reconcile their mental and physical self to the whims of the weather, “forced” because we couldn’t afford A/C, and “decision” because we were so far in debt what difference would another 10 grand make?


The choice is simple.  Either live in harmony with nature, or live in discord with it.  People who complain about the weather, people who rush from one air-conditioned environment to another, people who tell stories about their suffering through this historically cool wet spring in southern Wisconsin, lack a fundamental understanding of reality.  Weather is Mother Nature’s nagging reminder that she is still in control, not us.


So instead of complaining about the weather, we do something about it.  In the summer we harvest the cool, and keep out the heat.  Our house was built with plenty of insulation and thermally efficient windows.  On days when the forecast is for heat and humidity, we shut the windows and pull the blinds soon after dawn; when the night comes, and temps drop below the temperature in our house, we open things back up and turn on the ceiling fans.  It isn’t perfect, and a few days a year, we sleep in a sultry 75 degree bedroom, cool off in the basement, and maybe even sweat and complain a little, just like when we were kids, and A/C was a luxury, not a necessity.


The solstice has special significance for gardeners. The year’s brightest light illuminates the spring’s successes and mistakes.  The year’s shortest night offers little chance for rest as a summer season of harvest begins.


We hope this first and longest day of summer 2013 finds you savoring your blessings, and embracing the promise of peaceful and productive summer spent in harmony with the natural world.


Looking west through the screen door, night coming on with a big blast of sun




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