Mike Gatchet is a lucky man. In his 60s, his dream job has come to fruition. He’s a Tractor Man, something he’s wanted since he was in his 20s.
By profession he was a heavy equipment operator and as the economy took its downturn in the 1990s, he decided to retire early and to become The Tractor Man. He and his wife, Julie, relocated from Sequim out to the Diamond Point area, close to his early childhood home in Gardiner.
His desire is to be of help to the gardener or homeowner who needs additional machinery power. His Kubota is equipped with a backhoe, a dump trailer, brush excavator, tiller, chipper and mower. He’s ready for anything! He’s worked a great deal with slide repair so he is also familiar with trenching and drain fields.
Mike’s love for nature is in his DNA. As a young boy, he went out in the forests and, with his dad, lent his energy to digging out native plants, especially rhododendrons and hemlocks. His grandfather, despite working for Boeing as an engineer, loved working in nature. He was an inventor and patented the GAT garden sprayer, an aluminum lid that could be attached to fruit jars.
When Mike and Julie began their tractor business three years ago, they also applied for their nursery license and now specialize in native plants. Julie does much of the work taking care of the nursery stock. They buy some of their stock from commercial growers from Skagit County and from the Conservation District sales, propagate some from seeds and collect some from the forests with their Commercial Forest Service permit.
Wild Birds Unlimited in Gardiner retails some of their native plants. The Gatchets also have a good supply on their property and can fill special orders through wholesale growers of native plants.
Mike sees two threads winding together: a new appreciation for the environment and sustainable gardening practices and, due to a weak economy, a renewed interest in home gardens. He feels his strength and skills fit perfectly into this niche.
Julie always has had a garden and is a seed saver. Here’s a garden tip for you from her: She saved some of her tomatoes and let them dry. The following spring, she cut them open, planted them and they germinated and grew. This year Julie and Mike ate tomatoes through December.
Mike says when they met years ago, Julie had all sorts of plants in her house. A cabinet in their living room houses many gardening books that look well used.
One of Mike’s specialties is grading and he taught that expertise in International Operating Engineers’ classes. He has so much experience in grading that he understands inherent problems but also recognizes artistic solutions. Another focus has been preventing and controlling erosion. One of his secrets to holding a bank or preventing erosion is to plant Erosion Control, available at the Co-Op Farm & Garden Center, which is a mixture of rye grass, fescue and white clover. A nearby neighbor of ours uses this mixture for his lawn that slopes downward, where water can easily pool. Mike also suggests an eco-lawn, which grows to about 6 to 8 inches, which he saw at Peninsula College.
Mike has a big heart and sees himself as a community presence — plowing a victory garden; grading a driveway and placing down the more environmentally friendly gravel rather than asphalt; shredding branches and leaves; hauling gravel; and generally being the neighborhood Tractor Man.
He’s a hard worker and once on his orange tractor, he can’t seem to do anything but smile.
The Tractor Man
Tue, Feb 14, 2012
A shift in our thinking
Tue, Oct 18, 2011
Ornamental grasses dance to their wind song
Thu, Sep 22, 2011
Divide … and have!
Thu, Aug 18, 2011
The low life and high life of a garden
Wed, Jul 20, 2011
Plants, problem solving and personality
Tue, Jun 14, 2011
From the sky: a look at our gardens
Wed, Apr 20, 2011
Time to plant a vegetable garden … with children
Wed, Mar 16, 2011
One New Year’s resolution
Tue, Jan 18, 2011
Blessed by the bounty
Wed, Nov 17, 2010
Diversity creates richness
Tue, Oct 19, 2010
The ruffled ladies
Wed, Sep 15, 2010
Wed, Aug 18, 2010
Keeping birds safe in our gardens
Wed, Aug 11, 2010
Living respectfully on the land
Wed, Jun 30, 2010
Prune, don't ruin, those shrubs and trees
Wed, May 26, 2010
Undoing deer's damage with new shrubbery
Wed, Apr 28, 2010
Treat water as our most precious gift
Wed, Mar 10, 2010
Northwest native mock orange makes good scents
Wed, Feb 3, 2010
Planting perennial blessings
Wed, Jan 6, 2010