Tale of the Origin of the Burden Cloth…

Once upon a time…no, wait. You’ve already heard about Carol and her travels.

So, when Carol was working as a ballistics engineer at Air Research in greater Los Angeles in the late 1950s, she was living in a rented home with her two small daughters, who were just entering elementary school. Now, being Los Angeles, that rented home was a tract home on the edge of a development across Manhattan Beach Blvd from a local park and golf course. And the house came with front and back yards, which the tenant (Carol) was responsible for maintaining. Along with raising the two daughters, and along with a professional and sometimes demanding day job.

You can imagine just how much free time Carol had to tend to the yard! Once in a while, she would spend a little of her scarce ”free” time weeding, and by the time she was done, she’d look at the heap of weeds and think, “I’ll clean that up later.” But—of course—later was lots later so that the weed heap had usually sprouted its own weeds by then. Now you already know that Carol was an engineer. So she considered the matter, and decided that she’d be able to clean up her weeding chore much more easily if she put down a cloth before she started. And she did, and it was better.

As Carol picked up her cloth full of weeds, she found herself struggling to hold onto it. And she thought, “This would be a lot easier if the cloth had handles on it.” And later she put the sewing machine to work and put handles on her cloth. And it was better.

But. Carol’s chances to weed were sometimes limited by all her other life-tasks, and the next time she used her cloth with handles to weed, well, she piled up such a big heap of weeds that when she picked it up by the handles…the cloth split! And many people, at this point, would just give up and say, “Oh, this doesn’t work.”

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Carol was an engineer, and engineers’ minds don’t work like that. They take failure as a chance to improve something! So Carol considered the latest failure, and she considered the nature of fabric, and she determined that what her cloth needed was reinforcement around the edge…and that she could combine that reinforcement with adding the handles, so that the whole thing became one thing and not many parts. And Carol and her sewing machine got busy one more time…and it was better still.

Now Carol liked to garden, and she had friends who gardened as well. And sometimes she entertained friends at home, where often Carol’s cloth would be hanging on a hook, or sitting out next to a half-weeded flower bed, and when Carol’s friends saw her cloth, they often admired it. And when they did, Carol would give hers away…and make herself another one. Years went past, and Carol moved to Sonoma County from greater L.A., and there she bought a house of her own that was not a tract home, and it sat on a quarter acre.  By the time her daughters were in high school, she took up organic gardening, where once again, fellow gardeners would admire her cloth and how useful it was, and Carol would give them hers, and make herself another.

Later still, Carol moved to western Oregon upon retirement. She studied and became a Master Gardener, and she volunteered at the local Extension Service as a Master Gardener, and soon determined that her useful reinforced cloth with handles needed to become a product that people could purchase for themselves. And in the course of looking for a name for her product, she happened to talk to her friend Conrad…but that is another story.

So Carol founded Timeless Enterprises, and every year Timeless donated a Burden Cloth™ to the newly graduating class of Master Gardeners, which held a drawing to determine the fortunate recipient. And long before she died, Carol became a Lifetime Master Gardener, whose work with a local church’s huge garden enabled it to increase its yearly food-bank donation from 5,000 pounds to 50,000 in a decade—as the Grassroots Garden project head informed everyone attending her memorial service in 2007.