In the early years of Green Hope Farm, we sent out an annual newsletter to one and all. It was sort of a hard copy blog, a booklet summing up the garden season, sharing new Flower Essences, the kids’ drawings of their world and my musing on the events of the year here. A stranger to desktop publishing, I cut and pasted the whole thing together and then gave it to a friend to print in her little print shop, “The Graphic Magician.” We always wrapped the newsletters in green paper covers, and consequently we came to call these annual missives our “greenies.”
The artwork in the greenies was a particular joy. Over the years, we learned about Emily’s love of frogs.
We learned about elves.
They liked Flower Essences and had familiar names.
Their teeth were good and they thought a lot about ice cream.
Sometimes they were prepared to hold the labels in place on the greenie covers.
And they loved Flowers just like us.
We also learned a lot about Angels.
Angels liked high fashion especially when they had a cover shot.
Inside the newsletters, they sometimes were less flashy.
Sometimes, a few lines told us all we needed to know about the sweetness of Angels.
This styling Angel marked one of our goofs. One newsletter went out with stamped postcards addressed to us so that everyone on the mailing list could let us know if they wanted to stay on the mailing list.
We got hundreds and hundreds of postcards back with the “Please keep me on your mailing list” checked but no address written in to tell us who had sent the card!
Our artists also taught us a lot about the animals in our midst.
They liked a good party.
Sometimes it was necessary to fill in the details about an animal’s good looks.
When left alone at home, the animals also had their favorite web sites.
And they seemed to think about ice cream as much as the elves.
Sometimes, I would give the artists the themes for a story. Here’s Will’s take on the theme of holes.
Here’s Emily’s drawing for a piece of Ireland.
On the covers, the artists strut their stuff.
And got credit for all their efforts.
During all these years, the artists were needed for more than just their brilliant illustrations.
In our first years sending out the newsletters, the mailing list was quite small. I didn’t know how to sort our mailing list in zip code order, so addresses got printed out in random order. The kids were enthusiastic and nimble, happy to spend a weekend making piles of newsletters all over the playroom. One of us put a label on the newsletter, then it was sorted by the first three digits of the zip code. Every child would then fly around the room adding to the 034 pile, then to the 902 pile, then to the 021 pile. One side of the room was east coast, the other west coast and somewhere on the couch the mighty Mississippi flowed.
Any time we had a bundle of more than ten with the same first three numbers, we would put a 3 digit sticker on the bundle and earn ourselves a few pennies off the cost of mailing the newsletters in the bundle. Any time there was a cluster of more than ten with all five digits the same, we would celebrate the amazing fact that we had ten Green Hope friends in the same town. We reverently placed a D sticker on the group, wondering how we got such a gathering of friends in far flung places like Fort Bragg, Colorado, Santa Fe, New Mexico and North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. These collections of friends were mysteries to enjoy and sometimes we fantasized about getting a map to stick pins in, marking Green Hope Farm outposts across the world.
As our mailing list grew, our postmaster encouraged me to go to postal workshops to learn all the ways I could use my postal permit number 5 with more finesse skill. She would give me new publications on sorting systems and labels that often failed to have enough glue to stick to the newsletters. The language of the hefty postal regulation books was predictably obscure and every year the post office seemed to reshuffle its regional post office groupings into new apparently random groupings.
Eventually, I learned how to sort and print the mailing list in zip code order. It was no longer quite the chaotic process it had been, but it wasn’t straight forward either. This was because we had to sort the newsletters into regional post office groups as well as into 3 digit and 5 digit bundles and this regional post office category was the stuff of legends.
Zip code clusters from regional post office groups would read like this ADC 300 includes 300- 317 320-322 327-331 339, 341-350, 352, 356-363. 385, 392-394. As my skills only ran to printing the labels in zip code order, we would have to pull newsletters with zips like 326 or 340 out of such a regional post office pile and hope to find their regional post office homes elsewhere.
As we grew, the greenies, fresh from the printer, filled a truck. Soon, we needed a whole week’s time with all the staff labeling the newsletters to get the job done. Often the children would be recruited for the second shift of night time labeling. Their enthusiasm for the newsletters began to wane. Adolescence does that to people.
As we labeled and sorted, we would fill postal trays with the sorted and bundled newsletters. Each tray had to be counted and counted again before it could be sleeved and marked with the appropriate postal regional post office ADC code. My number tally for the whole mailing had to match exactly with the post offices number and weight tally. My fingertips would grow callused from counting the newsletters in each tray over and over again. The finished trays would grow to a sea of ceiling high piles before making their way to the Meriden Post Office to be mailed. We would enjoy the sight of all these newsletters about to head into the world.
I would give our post master weeks of warning about which day I would bring the mailing to our tiny post office. The arrival of the newsletter always gave whomever was at their post office box more than a moment’s pause. People were astonished by the size of the mailing, given that the consensus in the town seemed to be we were a bunch of funky ladies singing and dancing around in a garden while growing some kind of herbal type stuff.
As neighbors gawked, Postmaster Pam would weigh each tray before sending the mailing on to White River Junction, Vermont (ADC 050 if you must know), to be launched. Having heaved every tray onto our pick up truck for loads to town and then having carried each tray into the post office, I knew why she needed her Wheaties on mailing day.
The greenies usually went out in November. I could probably call out in the office right now about what November used to mean and there would be hoots and hollers and laughter as each person remembered some labeling mishap. We just didn’t do the sorting often enough for us to get it down cold. We were annually relearning the process with a lot of trial and error.
Like so many things, I didn’t know it when I was mailing the last of the greenies. It was two or three truck loads of trays that year. William had become the primary artist after earlier years in which first Ben and Lizzy and then later Emily had showcased her art. During that last greenie year, Ben had yet to whisper the word “blog” in my ear, but that was what was around the bend.
It’s been a happy “round the bend” for me. I love the blog. But I do look forward to someday handing the next generation of Green Hope children a black felt tip pen and asking them to draw their world.