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

Monday, January 4, 2021

Full-Circle Generosity - A Year-End Overview

A cornucopia of garden-bounty!
Hello Folks - Wherever you are in the world we hope you are healthy and finding creative ways to respond to the challenges of these times. Finally, the pressure of the autumn season has lifted. The harvest is long-since gathered, food-preservation projects are complete, seeds have been dried, winnowed and sorted, grant reports written and we can finally relax into the season of stillness in preparation for the coming year of new growth and possibilities.

Here is our end of the year overview with Harvest Totals, a gallery of highlights, and gratitude for all our supporters near and far. You are appreciated!

 Our 2nd largest greenhouse, the Ark - April 2020. Full of carrots, beets, greens and veggie-seedlings.

...and here's the same view taken in early December 2020! We're still harvesting late-planted lettuce and arugula. With last season's parsley still going strong.

Burgundy Globe onions being laid out to "cure" in the greenhouse. These were then covered with fabric so they weren't in the direct sun till their greens dried making them last longer in storage.

Harvest totals: As our regular readers know, the Sharing Gardens is a unique model for a community garden. Instead of separate plots, we all garden together and share in the harvests. The surplus is distributed among food charities. LINK: Overview/How it works. Our grand total of harvests for the year was approximately: 6,100 pounds.

How we reached that total figure... 

This year, we donated to:
South Benton Food Pantry and Gleaners
- LINK: 1,110 pounds. We also donated approx. 200 veggie seedlings for Pantry customers to plant in their home-gardens.

Junction City Local Aid - LINK: 1,501 pounds. In addition, we processed an additional 601 pounds of produce gleaned from the Corvallis Farmer's market, composted any produce not fit for human consumption, and donated the rest to Local Aid, keeping that much food out of the waste-stream.

Tomatoes galore!

CSA members
received a total of 2,689 pounds which worked out to an average amount of 15-20 pounds per week (depending on size of family).

Though all the above harvest totals were carefully weighed each week, we estimate that we grew an additional 700-900 pounds of unweighed produce including all the food Chris and I ate and/or preserved through canning and dehydration, or shared with volunteers and friends of the garden. For a grand total of approximately 6,100 pounds for the year.

You can see why they named this variety Elephant garlic!

This has been a great year for seed-saving. We primarily save varieties that are running low or the seed is getting old. We save and use over 90% of our own seeds which helps us be more self-reliant if supply-chains shut down and, over the years, our seeds have become adapted to our local climate and conditions so they're more likely to thrive. Seed-saving is one of those homesteading techniques that's fairly easy to learn. If you're interested, here's a link that describes methods for saving several different varieties of seeds: LINK: Saving Your Own Seed. We have many varieties of seed to spare. Please be in contact if you are in need. LINK: Contact Us.

Rook - planting Sorghum...

...Mature sorghum plants which we are using in our hot-cereal and as a flour in our Corn Cake recipe. We also grew plenty for re-seeding next year. Our favorite variety is Kassaby. Easy to grow and delicious! (variety pictured: Ba Ye Qi)

Our Diamant Mill for grinding grains. Chris hooked it up to an old motor with a belt.

Our CSA was a big success. We had six full-paying members and were able to provide half-scholarships to two other low-income families through a grant provided by the Benton Community Foundation. We intend to keep our CSA member's circle small in 2021 in order to maintain high-standards for our members and still have plenty to donate to the food charities we serve. So, if you're local and wish to be a member, please let us know soon to reserve a spot. Cost and details can be found HERE.

Provence and Sweetmeat squash.

We grow our produce 100% "veganically" (no animal manures or animal by-products) and no store-bought amendments or fertilizers. Just leaves, grass, weeds and kitchen scraps, coffee grounds and wood-ash. LINK: Veganic Fertility

Leaves and grass clippings are donated by people who live in and near Monroe.

We dry and fold the bags and wrap them in bundles of 5 or 6 for people to re-use.

Some leaves are donated by the trailer-full! Here's Llyn putting some on a tarp to distribute where needed.

Donations: This year we received $2,900 in gifts from individuals. A special thank you to Karen and Peter Josephson-Stoel who, in addition to being CSA members for the third year in a row, donated $2,000! Judy Peabody was also especially generous with a donation of $650. Thank you to the others who donations ranged from $25-$100. Cathy Rose, Karen and Stanley Salot, Del Rainer and Pete Alford.

Grants: $300 from The Evening Garden Club and $1,200 from the Benton Community Foundation. Because our living/garden expenses average about $600/month, these contributions go a long way. 

We have also received much community-support in the form of tools, firewood and materials for gardening and building. Thank you to everyone who has supported the project in these ways.

John Kinsey with his worm "incubator". He makes hundreds of pounds of compost for us each year. Retired, he says it keeps him "from going crazy"! He also makes weekly stops at a local coffee shop and brings us coffee-grounds to help with garden fertility.

Judy Peabody (one of our most generous donors) who also comes each year to help in the garden.

Donn Dussell, has been volunteering all year on a weekly basis, helps us keep our equipment in good working order and made weekly deliveries of our donations to Local Aid.
Jim Templeton and Chris unload two cords of donated firewood.

Volunteers/Intern opportunities: We would have a very difficult time keeping this project going without the dedicated help of our volunteers/share-givers. Though it's amazing how much we get done with a core group of helpers, looking ahead, there is room for a few more folks who'd like to join our little gardening "family" and learn by doing, how to grow food that is nutrient-packed, delicious and light-on the environment. Preference will be given to those who can commit to regular times in the garden. Please let us know if you're interested. Contact Info

Volunteers/"share-givers" of all ages and abilities:

Cindy and Chris filling the compost bin with autumn garden clean-up.

Jim and Chris feeding young plants "compost tea".

OSU students sifting coffee grounds.

Cindy and Jim Kitchen putting collars and grass-mulch around broccoli plants. We cut the bottoms off the pots so we have re-usable collars to give protection from cold winds and slugs.

Donn, sifting compost for use as fertilizer and potting mix.

Young girls help gather rose-hips for use in winter tea-mixes.

Salvage and re-purposing:
At the Sharing Gardens, we have a strong commitment to keeping materials out of the burn-pile and landfills. We are almost finished building our newest 18'x30' greenhouse (below) made almost entirely out of salvaged materials! So far we have spent under $150 on lumber and screws and hinges. Everything else was gifted or salvaged!

The Phoenix greenhouse: made almost entirely from salvaged/re-purposed materials.

This year our winter salvage projects have included two loads of cedar decking material which we will use for making raised beds and other construction projects.

Wildlife habitat:
We are also "sharing" our gardens with the local wildlife who come to eat and make this place their home. Birds, small mammals and countless pollinators enjoy the Sharing Gardens as an oasis in an ever-encroaching world.

Adri and Kaylynn hold up Showy Milkweed plants that they helped start from seed. These will be planted in the ground next spring.

During early-summer blooming, our already established milkweeds (pictured) were covered in a variety of bees and flies and a few swallow-tail butterflies. We haven't seen any Monarchs yet but maybe, if we keep increasing their habitat, we'll see some in the future.

Swallowtail butterfly on our lavender. We discovered that Aspen trees are one of the host plants - for egg-laying - for these beautiful creatures. We planted 50 of them back in 2014 once we knew we'd be here permanently.

We enjoy hearing from you! If you have any comments, please leave them below so everyone can read them. We look forward to this coming season with positive anticipation! Llyn and Chris

Monday, December 21, 2020

Cocoon Time

Found in our gardens.
Chris and I have been asking ourselves lots of "meaning of life" questions this year. There's so much in this world that is frustrating and saddens us. Most of it seems beyond our control. But what we do have choice over is where we put our attention. There is much in the world to feel grateful for, and inspired about too.

Some people feel a calling to stand up and fight what they see is wrong with the world and, if that is their calling, who are we to say that they are wrong? For us though, we're more inspired by building the new. This Buckminster Fuller quote says it beautifully:

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."

It's cocoon-time again. After months of lightened restrictions of our daily activities, most of us are being asked to curtail our freedoms in the world once again. Perhaps this time holds a hidden blessing. If we each use this cocoon-time to slow down and bring love and grateful attention to the simple day-to-day tasks that comprise the majority of a lifetime,  collectively we can lift the consciousness of the planet and heal our relations with each other, and the natural world of which we are an inextricable part.

We like to think of our selves as cells in the body of the planet, and humanity as an organ. This metaphor helps us realize that when we are generous and caring, we're actually only giving to our Self! Imagine if the cells in our hearts thought that their function was more important than that of the brain so they began hoarding all the nutrients that flow freely through them for themselves?

Something is going on on Earth these days that is much larger than any of us can fully comprehend
but we believe that Life can be trusted. Let's use this next period of cocooning to connect with a deeper sense of purpose and actively choose the projects and people and elements in life we wish to encourage and cooperate with. And, let's also ask ourselves, what shall we stop doing? What are those activities and relationships that were absorbing our attention before the cocooning that we may wish to gracefully release?  

If you have any doubts about the power of cocooning, check out this 4-minute video about a caterpillar turning into a moth. You will be amazed!


Monday, October 26, 2020

Autumn Leaf Drive

Our beautiful hickory tree!
The Sharing Gardens is now accepting autumn leaves to help build up our compost piles in preparation for next year's growing season.

Neighbors bringing leaves.

We are blessed to have two "neighbors" who bring us leaves from their oak and maple trees that amount to ten or more trailer-loads full each year. We use them to cover large areas of our gardens so they have time over the winter to compost and feed the worms and other soil-organisms and suppress weeds.

This year, we are very happy to announce that Monroe's City Hall is including a flier about our need for leaves in the November newsletter which is mailed to all the town's residents in their water bills.

Here is the text of the mailing:

Please bring bagged leaves and grass to:
664 Orchard St., Monroe (bright yellow house behind the big, white Methodist Church) and leave the bags in a pile under the big, hickory tree at the back of the church parking lot.

Please no animal waste, trash or sticks/branches, no holly or roses (too sharp), or black walnut leaves (they can kill plants - LINK). Just leaves and grass 😊.
Free bags to share...

We have plenty of previously-used lawn/leaf bags to share. They are available in a trash-can underneath the hickory tree.  Please take only what you can use.

Please don’t fill bags too full and tie them lightly (so we can re-use them).

We would prefer that you bring the filled bags to the Sharing Gardens but if you have more bags than you can bring in your own vehicle, please save up enough bags to make it worth our trip to come get them. Place them on the curb, up-side-down (so no rain gets in) and email us (shareinjoy@gmail.com) or give us a call for pick-up. Chris and Llyn (541) 847-8797 (Before noon or after 2:00, please. We take a rest mid-day). End of flier.
  To see our Wish List - Click Here.

"Veganic" Agriculture: 
 (For a full post on "Making Your Own "Veganic" Potting Soil in Your Greenhouse Paths - Using Worms" CLICK HERE).

Since we began weening ourselves off the use of commercial fertilizers, animal manures or animal by-products (bone-meal/blood meal etc) as a source of soil fertility, we have turned increasingly to leaves, grass-clippings, wood-ash and coffee grounds as a replacement. There is a saying that, "for every calorie you harvest out of a farm or garden, you must put at least a calorie back in". In a typical year we harvest and share over six-thousand pounds of produce. We have to replenish a huge amount of organic-matter so our soils don't get depleted!
Each year we must replenish the organic-material to keep our gardens fertile. That's a lot of leaves!
Llyn spreading leaves
We tarp the leaves with various recycled materials (such as lumber-wrap) to keep them from blowing away. This is called "sheet-composting" or "solarizing" and it has the added benefit of killing many weed-seeds that germinate in early spring which means far less weeding for us later in the season.

There are many materials that work well for solarizing: carpet-scraps, old pieces of green-house plastic (greenhouse plastic is specially coated so it's protected from UV-rays and won't break-down as fast - beware of using regular plastic sheeting because, as it disintegrates it breaks-up into many little pieces which are then polluting for the environment). Black plastic works too.

Another great source of solarizing material comes from lumber-yards. Much of their lumber comes wrapped in a woven plastic "paper". They give this plastic-wrap away for free and it appears that it holds up fine for at least two seasons.

Tarping the leaves keeps them from blowing away and kills many weed-seeds that germinate in early spring.
We use metal fence-posts and pieces of pipe to weight down the tarps/plastic.
Please note that all of these materials we use are re-purposed; most of them were headed for the land-fills and by finding uses for them we extend their life-times.

We weight down the edges of these materials with fence-posts, metal piping or whatever we have on-hand to keep the tarps from blowing away.

Another neighbor collects used-coffee-grounds from a local coffee-shop and brings them to us. We now have over 150 gallons of them stock-piled for the spring! We heat our home exclusively with wood and use the ashes as another source of soil-fertility. Here's a post about the "Benefits of Coffee-grounds and Wood Ashes in the Garden".

Leaves make excellent mulch for trees...
We add leaves to the raised-beds in our greenhouses too...

Here are some links explaining this style of deep-mulch gardening that we practice:

Benefits of Deep-Mulch Gardening

Grass-clippings for soil-fertility!
Grass-Clippings and Leaves for Fertilizer

Mulch We Love, and Why

More on Mulch

Something to be aware of when you're using donated mulch materials...Some materials - particularly un-composted horse manure can contain high levels of herbicides and can pollute your soil and compost-piles if you are not careful. Here is a post we wrote about our experience with this:

Herbicide Contamination?

This compost pile was made entirely from leaves and grass-clippings...

...beautiful compost leads to...

...bountiful harvests. Buttercup (green) and Delicata (white) squash.

...and playing in the leaves is just good fun too.     

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Making Pumpkin Pie from Scratch - Recipe

Sugar-pie pumpkins; a variety bred for sweet, smooth flesh.

Making pumpkin pie from scratch is truly a labor of love! How much easier it is just to open a can of puree. In the spirit of the slow food movement, we start making our pies back in April when we first plant the seeds! The small vines are transplanted into mounds of compost we've made ourselves, mulched, watered and weeded through the summer and harvested by the hundreds of pounds after they get their first kiss of frost.

This year, because of the tremendously hot and dry summer, almost all our winter-squash (the types we use to make pie-filling) finished ripening well before the first frost so we harvested them anyway. They're not as sweet as when they've been frosted but every bit as nutritious.

Provence, Buttercups and Sweetmeats.
When you're planning your garden for next season, consider sketching out enough space for plenty of winter-squash. Winter squash are the varieties that have a harder skin and store well for enjoyment all through the winter.  "Pumpkins" are just a variety of the larger category of "squash". Pumpkin pie filling can be made from sugar-pie pumpkins, or any kind of sweet, golden-meat type of squash. Delicata, Buttercup and Sweetmeat are all good varieties. If you don't have room in your garden next year, look for these varieties at your local market. Sometimes we combine two types of squash/pumpkin to make one batch of filling. Jack-o-lantern pumpkins are not good to use as they are not bred for sweetness and the meat can be quite stringy. Our current favorite is the Provence pumpkin, an heirloom variety that has the sweetest meat we’ve found. It tends to grow quite large so it provides filling for many pies but, because they tend to be so big, they're not often grown commercially (most people can't use that much squash before it goes bad) so, if you want a Provence, you'll probably have to grow your own.

We make many batches of filling at once and freeze them. If you’re going to mess up the kitchen, you might as well make it worth it! Be sure you have plenty of all the ingredients you’ll need on hand. Or, you can also bake the squash and freeze it in 2-cup batches plain, using it much like you'd use a can of store-bought puree.

To bake the squash: 
The Provence is one of our favorites for pie.
Preheat oven to 400
Wash pumpkin/squash and dry skin 
Cut it open: Use a stout, sharp knife on a table or counter low enough that you can use the weight of your upper body to quarter the squash.  Doing it on the floor might even be easiest. 

Use a strong metal spoon to scrape out seeds and loose pulp/strings. You can put the seeds and pulp outside to feed birds and squirrels or separate the seeds, oil, salt and bake them. You probably won't want to save the seeds for planting, unless you're certain that they haven't "crossed" with other varieties. 

Cut into smaller pieces: Though it can be quite a challenge to cut these large, winter squash into smaller pieces for baking, you’ll be rewarded with a much shorter cooking time.

Orange, sweet flesh, yum!!
Place squash with skin facing down in a baking pan that has sides that are at least a two-inches deep. Many squash give off quite a lot of juice and can make a mess in your oven if the juice spills over the side of the pan. A roasting pan is ideal.

Bake squash/pumpkin for one hour, or until a fork pokes easily, deep into the flesh.

Once done, allow to cool. If you’ve chosen one of the juicier squashes, you’ll have best results by putting the pieces in a large colander over a bowl to drain any excess juice. The juice makes a delicious soup stock. I used to peel off the skins but found that they can be food-processed and taste just fine.

If you baked more squash than you’re prepared to deal with, you can freeze it and thaw to make filling at a later time. Freeze in 2-cup batches.

Sydney w/ a Provence

Yummy Natural Pumpkin Pie Filling 
YIELD: Filling for one, 9” pie.
Preheat oven to 365

In a food processor (a blender will not work), combine:

2 eggs (sorry, we haven't perfected a vegan version yet...)
2 cups squash/pumpkin

2/3 cup brown sugar
2 TBSP powdered milk (or soy protein powder*)
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp salt

½ cup soy milk, cow’s milk, almond or coconut milk

Begin with eggs, alone. Mix thoroughly.
Add squash. Puree till smooth. Check to be sure there are no pumpkin lumps.
Add milk and all dry ingredients making an effort to distribute spices evenly. Mix in well.

* (not soy-flour).

Pour into your favorite pie shell and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour at 375 or until the pie is golden-brown, the middle is reasonably firm (it will get firmer as it cools) and before the crust gets too brown. Cool on wire rack before eating. Cover and chill to store.

To freeze filling for later:

Combine everything except the eggs. Make one batch at a time. Each batch is a little less than a quart so you can put it in your favorite freezer-containers. We use qt-size plastic zip-lock bags. Label them with blue, painter’s masking tape (it won’t come off in the freezer and you can peel it off after you empty the bag, wash the bag and re-use it.) I always write a reminder on the label to add two eggs. Lay the bags flat and you can easily stack many of them in your freezer.

When you want to make a pie, thaw the filling, add the eggs and use a blender, a mixer or food processor to mix it all well. By mixing in the eggs right before baking, you’ll have a fluffier, more pudding-like pie. Bake as above.

If you run out of any ingredients, before you've used up your squash, just freeze bags of the plain squash puree' and add the other ingredients right before baking. Freeze in 2-cup batches so you can thaw them, one pie at a time.

James and Jaye holding Buttercups; a drier, sweet, golden squash.

Flaky Rolled Pie Crust – YIELD: Two 9” pies without top shells

1 ¼  cups unbleached pastry flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup sunflower oil (chilled is best)
1/3 cup ice water

Mix the flours and salt. Pour the oil and water into a cup but don’t stir. Mix with the flour. Press into a ball. Cut into halves. Place between two sheets of 12-inch waxed paper. Dampen a tabletop to prevent slipping. Roll out until the circle of dough reaches the edge of the paper. Peel off top paper and place the crust face down in a pie tin. Peel off the other paper and fit dough into tin. Freeze extra pie crust, in a pie-tin, in a plastic bag for later use.

Llyn, with Sugar-pie pumpkins.

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