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From gardening to children’s books

Barabara Tyner lives on a property tucked in the Black Forest, surrounded by trees and a beautiful flower garden spilling off her front porch, surrounding her deck.Tyner said she has tried to fill her garden with low-water plants. She has put a lot of effort into making the garden flow naturally. “I have to be very careful in a garden center,” she said. “I always want one of every plant.”She said the garden looks better when she resists her urge to have everything; and, instead buys multiples of the same plant, scattered throughout the space.Connecting with nature is a big part of Tyner’s life. She and her husband are transplants from Colorado’s eastern plains. They moved from Yuma County seven years ago, where they ranched and farmed while raising three children.When the Tyners moved to the Colorado Springs area, she said she enrolled at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and received a degree in English literature.Tyner said her previous degree was in business management, which helped her in the management of the ranch. “This time, I wanted to go to school for something I really wanted,” she said. “My passion is writing novels.”In 2007, Tyner teamed up with her daughter, Laura Johnston, to write quality children’s reading books. Three years later, the two have created a five-part series called “The Badger Books.””My daughter’s emphasis has always been the educational quality,” Tyner said. “My emphasis has been to preserve a legacy of farm life.” Together, they decided to tell the story though Badger, a border collie, based on the Tyner’s farm dog of the same name.Each Badger book contains activity pages at the back and two glossaries, Tyner said. “The first glossary introduces words in the book,” she said. “The second glossary teaches animal sounds, animal terms and other farm words.”Tyner said more activity pages are available on her Web site at”Kids that grow up in a city have absolutely no idea what a farm is like,” Tyner said. “I had real motivation to bring a piece of that life to them.”Tyner has a long history of building up farming communities and promoting their interests and lifestyle. In 1993, she started the Grass Roots Foundation and obtained funding to build a community center, park and health clinic serving three communities in Yuma County – Kirk, Joes and Cope.She said she wrote grants for the foundation for many years, raising more than $500,000 in cash and in-kind donations. Now, she takes more of a backseat role and enjoys watching how the communities have embraced the centers.”At one community center they put in computers with Internet service. It’s used all the time,” Tyner said. “They built shelves for an exchange library, where there’s no cost, no system, no librarian. If you want a book, take it. If you’re done, bring it back.”The library is a huge success. “I don’t know how many times they had to build more shelves,” Tyner said.With all the years spent pitching her ideas for Yuma county, Tyner said she was surprised that promoting the Badger series was more difficult.”When I was going after things like grants, it wasn’t something for me and about me,” she said. “It was easy to walk into Adolph Coors reception and shake hands with Pete Coors and say ‘I want you to give me money,’ because it wasn’t for me. It was a whole different ball game than, ‘here’s my book, buy it.'”To get over her hesitation, Tyner said she reminds herself the Badger books are good books, sharing farm life with city kids and helping children learn to read.When Tyner mans booths at community festivals, she said she tries to find ways to talk to the children and their parents and connect them to the books. “It’s been a lesson wherever I go – to make it fun for me by not making it about me and the products,” Tyner said. “I make it about the kids and just get to know them.”She regularly makes school presentations and doesn’t charge for them. “That’s my way to give back,” Tyner said. “I always like to somehow give back.”

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