Washington County apple grower publishes children's bookWhistling Well Farm owner Charlie Johnson's children's book honors his late wife, Carol.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
About 80 percent of Whistling Well Farm customers come back every fall to pick apples and pumpkins and dig up fall mums. They also greet Emmy, a friendly spaniel that hangs about the apple barn at the farm on St. Croix Trail.
This year, when they go to the apple store to pay for their pickings, they’ll also see copies of “Emmy of Whistling Well Farm,” written by Charlie Johnson, a retired School District 833 teacher who’s owned the farm since 1972.
Johnson hopes that children love the story, told by Emmy, about how he helps out around the farm, including leading people to the pumpkin patch.
It will remind them of their fall trip to the farm with their families. If relatives or friends of the child buy the book on line from Beaver’s Pond Press or at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market or River Marker in Stillwater, children will know all about the farm before they go there, he said.
But when Johnson gets a moment alone, which is hard to do during the fall apple and pumpkin season, he looks out at some of the 100 acres he owns and thinks about his wife, Carol, who died from cancer several years ago.
The couple talked about Charlie writing a children’s book about the farm, but cancer has a way of interrupting lives.
So, for the past 18 months, Johnson has been working on the book.
“I have a master’s degree in library science but I had no idea how hard it is to get a book done and to publish, he said in an interview last Saturday, while Emmy was looking for pets from families visiting the farm.
There was more than a pet and owner connection between Carol and Emmy. She was given the dog, a secret Charlie knew ahead of time, by her coworkers at 3M in Cottage Grove when she retired eight years ago.
The dog’s name was “Emmmy,” to remind her of 3M. The couple’s vet, however, recommended they change it to two m’s, Johnson said.
Emmy bonded with Carol, Johnson said. After Carol died, Emmy mourned, too.
“It was like something was missing,” he said.
Now that copies of “Emmy From Whistling Well Farm” are actually in the farm’s apple store, there’s a sense Johnson is closing one chapter of his life.
“That’s what it’s totally about,” he said. “It’s good for her friends, too.”