McAndrews enjoys backyard hobby in retirement

Published 12:03 am Monday, November 21, 2011

ERIC SHELTON/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT— E.C. McAndrews stands next to his garden behind his house on Espero Drive in Natchez Friday afternoon. McAndrews and his wife Maxine enjoy growing much of what they eat.

Editor’s note: This story and photo caption originally misspelled the name of the subject. It has been corrected. We regret the error and are happy to set the record straight.

NATCHEZ — E.C. and Maxine McAndrews may be known for their swimming at the Natchez Senior Citizen Center, but swimming isn’t their only hobby.

When The Dart landed on their house on Espero Drive Thursday, E.C. and Maxine were quick to show off their garden in the backyard.

The couple grows a collection of vegetables, including peas, radishes, okra, tomatoes, green beans, mustard greens, red potatoes, squash, cucumbers, spinach and eggplant.

“We raise just about all the vegetables we use and our son and his wife and kids use,” Maxine said. “We wouldn’t spend the money on mustard greens, but if you can have them in your own backyard (it’s a plus).”

No scarecrows stand vigilant to keep the birds away from the vegetables, though the couple has to keep a watchful eye on their little dog, Mollie.

“She’ll eat the radishes if you leave them out here too long,” Maxine said. “We’ll have five little bulbs sitting at the back door. One time, they were all gone.”

Maxine said she and her husband both do rotational planting, where they’ll plant one crop in a certain spot, harvest it and then plant a different crop in its place.

“He does it all. I don’t do it, because I don’t have time,” Maxine said.

E.C. said he particularly enjoys growing eggplants off to one side of the garden, and he recently picked a very big one, which he gave to his son.

“There are a lot of them on (this plant),” E.C. said.

But the garden isn’t the only plant life for which E.C. cares. Several croton plants toward the front of the house catch his eye.

“One of them I got in 1986 when I had my gallbladder removed,” E.C. said. “I just cut it off before it gets too high to bring into the house, then I bring it in during the winter. It’ll die if you don’t.

“In the summer, I always set it next to the corner by the front door.”

E.C. said gardening helps keep him busy during his retirement years.

“I retired and didn’t have anything to do, so I found something I liked to do and started planting,” E.C. said.

When he’s not looking after the plants, E.C. can be found at the Senior Citizen Center Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday swimming. Maxine has run the senior swim program for 27 years, and she finally convinced her husband to join her.

“He told me he wouldn’t do it (at first), then he did it, and now he swims four hours a week,” Maxine said.