Lebanon resident Kiamichi Isham wants to feed hungry veterans, but she needs help tending to her "harbor garden."
An Air Force veteran herself, Isham served for five years controlling fighter aircraft in numerous places around the globe, leaving service at the rank of staff sergeant. She’s currently a Native American liaison with the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Her acre-and-a-half property on Crowfoot Road is decorated with seven boats converted to elevated garden beds, arranged as a harbor and complete gangways, lights and American flags. She grows grapes, berries, figs, pears, tomatoes, peppers, squash, peas, beans and corn. And the 76-year-old Choctaw woman does it all herself.
“I know a lot of veterans that don’t get anything … they get a little bit of pension, but that’s it,” Isham said. “There’s so many that don't get anything. They’re on the streets, they’re living behind dumpsters, they don’t have any benefits, they don’t have anybody to teach them, take them to hook up where they need to be.”
Isham has a deep connection to military service. Her mother served and her father entertained the troops. She’s the widow of a Vietnam War veteran, and her brothers, Keota and Kinta, served with the Army and the Air Force, respectively.
Her son, Lorne, also wanted to serve, but Leukemia prevented that. Despite his physical challenges, he did his part for veterans by helping his mom with building the harbor scene and planting it, including all the trees, berries and grapes. Lorne also brought in all the boats and filled them with a mushroom/vegetable compost mix.
The boats are the perfect vessel for gardening, Isham said. Just poke holes in the bottom and fill them with compost. You don’t have to bend over or stoop down to work the soil and pull weeds; everything is elevated and self-contained.
Time is of the essence for getting the harvest into veteran bellies. It's getting late in the season and there’s still unpicked food.
“We just had the rain and things are starting to deteriorate,” Isham said. “But we’re grateful for the rain — boy are we grateful.”
The rain was timed just right, though it may have been a bit much. A busted water pipe had prevented Isham from watering for a week, but once the sky opened up, her field was full of water. With a few dry and sunny days left on the calendar, now’s the chance for veterans to fill up.
If you’re interested in volunteering to help with the Harbor Garden, contact Kiamichi at 541-405-1674 or email@example.com