A unique and viable approach to establishing local food self-reliance and building stronger communities.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Sowing Seeds of Generosity

Sowing Seeds of Generosity - Service-Learning at the Sharing Gardens
You'd think that there wouldn't be much to do during the winter months in a garden. It's true, things do slow down a bit but it's amazing how much there still is to get done! We've had a variety of repair and restoration projects to attend to as well as pruning, turning compost piles, sifting soil and preparing garden beds. We're expanding our fence-line (again!) and constructing another greenhouse. As of February, we've begun planting seedlings for our use and to support other "sharing"-type gardens in the area. Here is a gallery of some of the garden-highlights from the winter season at the Sharing Gardens including pictures of many of the students who have come to help from a local university.

The ribs of our fourth, biggest and final (!) greenhouse (30' x 50')
We scored a huge stack of free lumber. Chris has been "ripping" it on the table-saw for various garden-uses: domes, tomato A-frame "ladders" and stakes.

We've cut, assembled and painted pieces for two domes. Pictured here are pieces for the larger one. This will be set up in our orchard, under an oak tree providing a little "get-away" for overnight campers.

Here's Chris painting one of the pieces for the smaller dome - an eye-catching centerpiece for the garden that our smallest gardeners can play on, and around.
Here's Llyn pruning the old apple-tree. It had been sorely neglected so it's taking a few years to bring it down in height and to balance the weight of its branches.
Winter provides time for indoor crafts. Here's Llyn making a rug with strips of old blankets....
...and painting signs in the art "studio" we set up in the dining room.

Planting the tower.
Chris found plans for this strawberry tower and, using materials we already had lying around, built, and filled this beautiful and productive (we hope!) "fountain of food".
It's been a wet winter in Oregon (thank goodness, as the mountain snow-pack was getting dangerously low). Here's a picture of our rain-water collection system (we shut down the outside water-lines in winter). Rainwater is actually more beneficial to plants than ground water, it contains nitrogen and sulphur in a form readily accessible - LINK.
Our relationship with Oregon State University (OSU) continues to deepen. We had 23 students participate in "service-learning" projects this winter. Typically we'll have six students, for four hours at a time. We stage a variety of projects for them to do. Their time with us also includes a popcorn break (seasoned with Bragg's Liquid Aminos - kinda like soy-sauce - and nutritional yeast - also known as "hippie dust" yum!). During this break we engage them in conversations about sustainability and the state of the environment. Sadly, for most, it seems that deep conversations of this nature are a rarity and we must coax them to express themselves freely. But, once they relax, many share openly about the many challenges their generation is facing and the hopes they have for making the world a better place. Very gratifying! Though many of them are unfamiliar with using simple hand-tools, they eagerly embrace the opportunity to learn. And all of them, it seems, truly relish the simple pleasure of getting their hands in the dirt!

Ally and Athira process willow cuttings for re-planting in our wetlands restoration project in the soggy corner of our land.
Jennie, Stevie and Llyn empty compost bins to build up soil in the gardens.
Reilly sifts coffee - a fantastic soil-amendment - while Chris breathes in the wonderful aroma!
Cameron cuts the bottoms off pots (to be used as collars for young plants' protection) while Aaron sifts soil so it is fine enough for starting seedlings.
Llyn and Tara prepare garden-beds by digging in grass clippings and leaves.

Tomena and Tara use the cart to gather tree-prunings. These are added to a brush pile in the back part of the land to provide habitat for birds and small animals. Logan carries 'cages' he's pulled off our grape vines in preparation for pruning.
Ashley and Nicki transplant tomatoes.
Winter is a time for repairs and restoration...Stevie adds some bright color to one of the saw-horses. We can use your old, exterior paint. CLICK HERE to see our complete wish-list.
This picture, taken March 5th, shows the greenhouse filling with baby seedlings. The season has begun!
Chris and Alex turning the compost pile. "You can never have too much compost!"
Morgan gently holds one of the two baby garter snakes we found clearing mulch from one of the greenhouse garden-beds. We also found a little lizard that day too. Organic gardening provides habitat to a multitude of critters.

This winter we were invited to give a slide-show at OSU for one of the classes in sustainable living that sends us service-learning students.

There were about 35 students in the class. We began by giving them a brief overview of the Sharing Gardens and then opened it up for questions. We're always happy to see that interest in our project goes beyond the simple "how-to's" of gardening and delves deeper into the philosophy of caring and generosity that the project is based on.
Service-learning students must complete a final project - either a poster, or a power-point presentation. We like to attend the poster-presentations. Very inspiring to see the final projects of over 150 students performing all kinds of community-service.
To Bella, our dear, little friend, service-learning comes naturally!
We are always so appreciative of the willingness to be of service that we witness in the students who come help us in the gardens. At the end of the day, a student asked me where to put the hand-tools his group had been using and I waved him to the greenhouse. "Oh, just put them in there," I said (so they'd be safe from the pending rain). Imagine my delight when I came inside later and found this neat display of tools all laid out ready for the next group of gardeners.

Does one of these tools have your name on it? LINK to our volunteer-information page.
We love our service-learning "kids"!
Our intern Heather - a true delight!
Heather Bullock, one of the service-learning students from January 2015, went on to become an intern with us through the summer. She came for an over-night each week and participated in all aspects of growing and storing food. She was a wonderful addition to our "family" and we became very close. Here is a LINK to a beautiful essay she wrote about her experience with us entitled, "A Gift of Gratitude". Enjoy!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Real People STILL doing real things

Llyn, slicing Ropreco tomatoes for dehydration.
The title of this post refers back to an entry we made in July of 2009 quoting our dear friend - Lodie as she remarked on how we at the Sharing Gardens were, "real people, doing real things."! Well Lodie, we're still going strong! Here's a newsy update about how some of our partnerships with other agencies are faring; our property-tax exemption appeal and an uplifting "Gallery of Givers"!

Nasturtium blossom.
Court Update: In June, of this year, the Sharing Gardens had its day in court, building the case for a full exemption of property taxes for the land and farmhouse that host the gardens. We needed to demonstrate that we are a legitimate charity, serving the public. We are very pleased to report that we received a 50% exemption! Magistrate Tanner was very honoring in her written "decision" and, though she did not feel that the farmhouse qualified for exemption, all of the land containing the Sharing Gardens, the orchards and outbuildings was included. Thank you to the dozens of people who wrote letters for us to include in our court materials. We feel that your heart-felt support really tipped the scales in Tanner's decision. she said:
"Plaintiff's charitable work through the Sharing Gardens was well documented by Peabody's testimony and numerous written statements from local beneficiaries of the Sharing Gardens' output. The overwhelming community support for the Sharing Gardens is evidence that Plaintiff's principle of generosity is more than an aspiration; it is practiced."
Connecting with other agencies: As we have mentioned in recent posts, our connections with other agencies is expanding and deepening. Here are some updates:
OSU students transplanting starts.

Oregon State University (OSU) Service Learning Projects: As many of our readers already know, the Sharing Gardens has been offering opportunities for OSU students to complete class requirements to do "service-learning" projects in the community. We began hosting one to two groups per term in 2012 and have expanded our offerings to four groups (of 4-6 students) every Fall, Winter and Spring! These students can get so much done in the four hours they're here that we often have to discourage our regular volunteers from coming for a week or two ahead of time to be sure we have enough to keep them occupied! We bring students for service-learning from two classes : Geo 300 and Soil Sciences.

Grant Partnership: Last June, we were approached by OSU's Soil Science class to see if we would like to partner with them in submitting a grant proposal. The funds had to directly benefit a project related to service-learning. All we had to do was give the writer (Deanna Lloyd) some details about our project and a list of how the money would be spent. She filled out the forms.

Koltavary GH, before dismantling.
We got it! The grant went through without a hitch. The $3,445 will cover the materials' costs for re-erecting a 50' x 30' professional-grade greenhouse on SG grounds. The greenhouse framework was donated by our neighbors - the Koltavary's. With the help of volunteers we have already dismantled and moved the frame to our site. The grant will cover the cost of the plastic "skin", lumber, screws/fasteners, cinder-blocks and soil for raised beds. In short - everything we need to expand the garden's capacity to grow food year-round and provide "indoor" classroom space for rural-arts classes.

Watering plants for sharing. The Sharing Gardens typically gives away over half of the 'starts' we grow.

Cindy helps Bella with her gloves.
Calapooia Food Alliance: A few weeks ago we were invited to give a slide-show presentation at a neighboring town's "Munch Night". The CFA coordinates a Farmer's Market and community-garden that combines your typical "pea-patch" (separate family plots) with a sharing-type plot that grows food collectively with several volunteers. The slide-show was a big success -- the largest turn-out they'd ever had. Don Lyons, president of CFA said, "Your visit was informative and inspiring. We hope to continue to learn from you and that your visit will spread a web of Sharing Gardens through the valley." We hope so too! Thanks to Gini Bramlett who invited us to be presenters. Over the years she's been a fairy-god mother of networking for the SG; helping us spread the word to diverse and widespread communities of folks here in the Willamette valley. Link to CFA

Monroe Health Clinic, Benton County Health Dept., Dr Kyle Homertgen and the Behavior-Change Class for Pre-Diabetics: Monroe was host to its first series of classes to help participants learn and adopt healthier lifestyle habits. Topics included: shifting to a more plant-based diet, increasing exercise, drinking more water and weaning off of diet- and regular-sodas. Participants were weighed and had blood-pressure checks at each session so they could track their own improvements. Each session also included time for them to share amongst themselves about challenges and successes.   

"Detroit" beets. Yumm!
The final session was held at the Sharing Gardens. We gave them a brief tour and provided the lettuce for a potluck salad bar. When Chris was asked how we deal with pests in the garden he drew a metaphor between plant health and human health. He said, "We don't use any pesticides or herbicides in the gardens. We nourish our plants from the ground, up; feeding the soil using mulch and compost. Plants raised on a healthy diet are able to withstand and resist invasions from bugs and diseases. This is as true for people as it is for plants. A healthy diet creates a healthy body and a strong immune system."

Dr. Kyle Homertgen, DO is a family medicine physician who focuses on plant-based nutrition for the prevention and reversal of chronic disease. Dr. Kyle encourages all of his patients to eat a local, nutrient-dense, plant-based diet. He tells his patients that they can "pay the farmer or pay the doctor," and that their most important form of health care is what they decide to put into their bodies. To borrow from Michael Pollan, it should be whole, not too much, and mostly plants. If you are curious to learn more about Dr. Kyle Homertgen and his philosophy of medicine, here is a link to his site.

Sabine, Chris and Cathy weeding.

Now, doesn't that look nice?
Ten Rivers Food Web (TRFW):   Another partnership that has begun to take root and blossom is with Ten Rivers Food Web. This is a local non-profit agency that works as an advocate between small-scale, local farmers and consumers (through farmer's markets, their annual Fill Your Pantry event, and Oregon’s Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (providing coupons and support to connect low-income folks with fresh, local foods). Their website has many links to resources for locally produced food.

Another great season of giving. After our volunteers (share-givers) have harvested the food, and taken what they can use for their families, the rest is distributed weekly to (primarily) two local food pantries: the South Benton Food Pantry and Junction City's Local Aid. We don't have the season's total from SBFP but we delivered 1,592 pounds to JCLA. We are very grateful to Dave Cook for faithfully driving our delivery to them each week.

Gallery of Givers: The 2015 season is basically done. We're still harvesting a trickle of tomatoes from our greenhouse plants each week but that too will soon end. It's been a great year.
Sifting manure to add to potting soil and transplant-holes.

Adri and Sabine planting beans.

Seed-planting with OSU-Sam
Maiya weeding in the greenhouse.

Potato planting in Spring.

...and Fall potato harvesting.
Sabine and Elisa transplanting melons.
...which grew into these beauties! 2015- A great year for melons.

Adding lots of straw-mulch...
...leads to bountiful harvests and fewer weeds.
Heather - our summer intern from OSU and Calla in the beet-patch.
Gini making compost "tea".

The McDougals (Chris' daughter and family) enjoying garden-time together, potato-hunting.

Re-purposing gallon pots to use as collars around young plants.
Chris with grand-daughter Calla, picking beets.

Guys in the potato-field.

Gals in the beet-patch

OSU students "turning" compost piles.

OSU gals picking Scarlet Runner Beans
Students, shelling beans.

Picking flowers is a favorite task for young and 'young-at-heart'.

Elisa and Maiya bring the bounty to the Food Pantry next door.

Fruit smoothies with kale at snack-time. Even the little kids liked 'em!

Llyn picking tomatoes in our newest greenhouse. The canopy is formed from the leaves of just two gourd plants held up with netting. Better than "shade-cloth", this natural covering kept the greenhouse from becoming too hot on those record-setting, scorcher-days in July and August. We'll make rattles and bird-houses from the dried gourds.
We are grateful for another wonderful year. Hard to believe that we'll be starting seeds again in about ten weeks! We're glad for the slow-down of winter; time for indoor-creativity and a slower pace. Thanks to everyone for your participation and support. Llyn and Chris