For volleyball athletes, gardening at home is fun

Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: DAVID ROZA - Chris Stanley works in his front yard at 15th Avenue and Cedar Street, where he and his wife, Ann Olson, grow things for both fun and food.Admittedly, some of what Ann Olson and Chris Stanley grow in their front-yard garden at 15th Avenue and Cedar Street is just for fun.

Lining their lawn’s brown wooden fence, for example, is a neat row of wheat that provides eye- and hand-candy for passersby. If they wanted to, Olson said, “we could make two loaves of bread with it, but we mostly just keep it because it looks cool and people talk about it with us so much.

“They walk by and run their fingers through it because it’s so fuzzy in the spring.”

Then there’s the 15-foot-tall beanstalk climbing up a trellis and the pot of Hopi tobacco in the back yard. “It’s not for smoking!” said Olson.

But most of the garden is for food. “For me it’s all about the taste,” she said.

The couple first met in 1984 at the Olympic Training Center at Colorado Springs, where they both played volleyball. Nowadays when Olson and Stanley pick tomatoes and watermelon, it’s partly for the exercise and partly for the food.

“Physical labor is fun for us and we like the food,” said Olson.

Over the past 30 years Olson, 59, and Stanley, 68, have learned to grow everything from green beans and pumpkins to parsley and popcorn.

“You put in a little money and you get so much from it,” said Olson. “Where else can you get Sweet 100 tomatoes this good? Not out of a grocery store, that’s for sure.”

Whether it’s for eating or just for seeing, everything Olson and Stanley grow is organic. “It’s more for the taste,” repeated Olson. “I grow these kakai pumpkin seeds that are 100 times better than the ones in the store. When people taste them they just go nuts.”

What’s nuts is that nobody has stolen anything except a few minutes of the couple’s time to chat. “It’s an icebreaker. People stop by and talk a lot,” said Olson, a native of Los Angeles, where “it’s not quite as friendly.”

“We keep saying that we’ll cut back as we get older but we haven’t done it yet,” Olson said. “I like the exercise and I like the food. It’s my nature therapy.”

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