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Everyday People: Rose Mary’s garden

Rose Mary Mogensen tended to her elevated garden last week from the comfort of h

Neither severe arthritis, the loss of a leg nor an ankle brace has been able to keep Rose Mary Mogensen from her beloved garden.

The southeast Brainerd woman had to move off her South Long Lake area farm years ago but she never lost her love of growing her own produce.

“I like my vegetables and like to do more canning,” she said.

The innovation that allowed her to continue gardening came about when relatives cut fuel oil barrels in half, placed short legs on the bottom, painted them and filled them with dirt. From her motorized chair she can water and reach in to weed a wide variety of vegetables.

This year she’s raising spinach, lettuce, zucchini, Russet potatoes, German giant radishes, Walla Walla onions and tomatoes. That’s in addition to more than a dozen hanging flower plants outside of her mobile home at Meadowview Manor.

“This is the nicest trailer park in Brainerd,” she said. “Everybody has their own yard. You’re not looking in everybody’s windows.”

As if on cue Thursday, her garden interview with a reporter was interrupted by the avian activities of feathered friends who dropped by — a pileated woodpecker and a noisy, black and white tree swallow who’s family nests in a bird house that overlooks her garden.

“She’s cussing us out,” Mogensen said of the noisy bird.

The inconvenience of arthritis is familiar to Mogensen. Her mother and other family members also suffered from that ailment. She’s grateful her elevated garden allows her to keep active and work outdoors in the spring and summer seasons.

“I enjoy it,” she said of her gardening. “I really missed it when I couldn’t do it.”

Mogensen believes her vegetables grow better and could be planted earlier because of the heat retained by the barrel.

“Anyone who can’t get down on their hands and knees — it’s ideal for,” she said of her fuel oil barrel garden.

When she and her husband, Edward, farmed in the South Long Lake area she often sold vegetables to people who stopped by. Her husband died 11 years ago and she moved into town not long after that. Mogensen’s maiden name was Fleischhacker and she grew up only about five miles from where he grew up. The two didn’t really meet until her sister started dating and eventually married the brother of her husband.

A country girl at heart, her first taste of the Twin Cities came at age 16 when she traveled down there for the weekend. She wasn’t impressed.

“I just don’t like to be that confined,” she said.

When she’s not gardening Mogensen keeps busy as president of the Rosary Society at St. Francis Church. She and her husband were married at St. Francis in 1953. Mogensen is a member of St. Agatha’s Guild and the auxiliary organizations of the VFW and the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

She thinks the price of groceries are so high that people are rediscovering the joys of gardening.

Mogensen watches “The Virginian,” and other cowboy shows on the Western Channel. She also enjoys reading books about the West, including the stories of Louis L’Amour.

“I think Ed and I read all of them,” she said.

Mogensen is also a Twins fan and she hasn’t given up on the struggling team.

“They’re going pretty good now,” she said. “I think they will (improve) if they get their regular players in.”

 When they were younger her children picked up her affection for baseball and neighbor kids would come from all over to their farm where a makeshift baseball diamond was adjacent to the family garden.

The two interests seemed to go hand in hand and Mogensen would recommend gardening to anyone who’s interested working their own plot of ground.

“It’s work but it can be very rewarding,” she said.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at or 855-5860.