Cris Blackstone is loaded with enthusiasm and energy in most areas of her life. As a 2019 Master Gardener graduate, she is using those skills in a pilot program, “Fit to Garden,” a partnership between the UNH Occupational Therapy program and the Sunrise Sunset Center run by the Newmarket Recreational Department. Recently this innovative, 12-week course taught 15 seniors a variety of adaptive ways to safely enable them to continue gardening.
“Fit to Garden came into my life perfectly,” she said. She worked with Beth Daisy, the center’s occupational therapist and designer of the Fit program. “She wanted to have a MG on her team for the pilot program.” Cris, a former occupational therapy patient, had the experiential background which was a plus. The two “clicked right away,” she said, about their collaboration. After the program received $1000 from Blooming Newmarket “we knew we would have the program up and running.” Cris is vice chair of that garden group and she said Newmarket is “hands down, the most favorite place I’ve ever lived.”
Beth and Cris brainstormed to create the foundational elements for the program’s curriculum. During the course, Cris gave weekly themed presentations. Among them, included how to bypass the fine motor control needed to deal with “tiny, tiny seeds,” she said. The class made seed tapes that used different hand motions. Class focus also included stretching, protecting joints, increasing endurance and regular exercise to prevent falls. Cris also had the “outstanding experience” working with two UNH occupational therapy students, who completed their degree in April.
Each Fit class also included a lunch break with menus designed for budget-conscious and diet-aware meals. One class dealt with adding mixed herbs to jarred spaghetti sauce. “We arrived at the spaghetti-sauce idea thinking about motor control and avoiding tendon pain by holding a knife correctly when chopping and dicing in the kitchen,” Cris explained. “Participants found it rewarding to sample a very ordinary spaghetti sauce enhanced by herbs they grew.”
Cris received her bachelor’s degree and licentiaat, (similar to a master’s degree) from Belgium’s University of Leuven. Being a former English teacher in Belgium, writing is a passion. She currently writes for the NH Landscape Association serving as their Education Coordinator and is a member of the National Garden Writers Association, now called GardenComm. Also a photographer, two of Cris’s photos of the gardens at Canterbury Shaker Village were to appear in the “Arts on the Green” exhibit at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s 2020 Boston Flower show. Unfortunately the show was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Cris has a “strong background in Latin,” which is helpful when identifying plants and their names. She recently gave a workshop on how to link familiar root words to Latin words.
She has been a Natural Resources Steward since 2006, serves as a Newmarket Conservation Commissioner, an Associate Supervisor for Rockingham County Conservation District and a board member of the NH Association of Conservation Commissions. Her Newmarket yard is a designated Monarch Way Station by The North American Butterfly Association, thus combining her passion for the environment with her love of gardening – a perfect fit.
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