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

Monday, April 26, 2010

Got lumber?

Future site of Alpine's tool shed.
Curtis and Loren Bowman are brothers. They have lived in the Monroe/Alpine community for many years. Loren began managing the Monroe Food Bank as a volunteer almost fifteen years ago and developed it into the thriving service it is today. When he started, the Food Bank was giving food-boxes once a month to about three families. Now it serves about ten times that amount on a weekly basis. Because of the recession, the numbers of people served by this local effort continues to grow. A year or so ago, Loren stepped back from being the manager of the program and passed on the job to his brother Curtis. These are two humble and hard-working servants in our community. Just last week Loren made a donation to help the "Sharing Gardens", he donated a whole bunch of used decking material that we can use to build a tool shed at the Alpine Garden site.

Add this to the lumber already donated by Tibby and John Scott and we have more than half of what we need to build the shed. After a few hours pulling nails this weekend we ended up with a good-looking stack of lumber.

Our current lumber stash at Alpine Park
Thanks to Trust Management Services and the generous grant they just awarded us (more on this in a future blog-post) we now are well-funded through this coming year. In an effort to stretch these funds as far as they will go, we would still like to encourage everyone to contribute their "excess" materials to the project. If any of you readers have a stack of used, or new 2 x 4's that you don't see a need for, we'd be grateful to take them off your hands and put them to good use. Once we have the tool shed built in the Alpine Park we can open up the cinder-block bathroom (where we've been storing tools) for public use again.

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Sharing Garden's" Progress

Here in the Willamette Valley we went from an absolutely beautiful run of weather in mid-to-late February which was then followed by weeks and weeks of (mostly) rain. Both garden sites are lowlands that soak up a lot of water in the winter and take awhile to drain in the spring. The Monroe plot is yet to be tilled but fortunately Chris built some raised beds in the Alpine garden just before the rains set in.
 Alpine Garden in April 2010 - Super Soggy!
We've had just enough sunny weather in the last week for the standing water to recede, and its a good thing as several flats of veggie "starts" were rapidly outgrowing their pots, and the pea plants were beginning to  intertwine their tendrils which would make it more and more difficult to separate them without damage.

 A van-load of peas, kale and lettuce to plant
Last Saturday we transplanted three flats of lettuce, three of peas and a half a flat of kale. Since these are all plants that will require regular harvesting, we planted them as close to the gate as soil-wetness would allow. In planning out a garden you must juggle so many factors: the frequency of harvest, the season you'll be harvesting (how soon that section of your garden will be open for other crops to be grown) and the particular needs of each kind of produce: light, drainage and relative fertility of the soil.

As the season gets more under way, and weather becomes more stabilized, we intend to have weekly volunteer times scheduled for each garden (Alpine: Wed's - 4-6:00 pm and Monroe: Thurs - 9-11:00 am) but now, we're just taking care of things when the weather will allow. (We're grateful to the dozen folks who have already asked to be put on our volunteer list. Let us know if you too would like to be added: alpinecogarden@gmail.com ) Last Saturday we had a window of opportunity so we took advantage of it. We were happy when Jesse Wolfe, a regular volunteer from last year, happened to be driving by and stopped to help transplant the lettuce and stake up the peas.

Chris and Jesse transplanting in the Alpine Garden.
Garden tip for Peas: In our region, its ideal to plant peas around Valentine's Day. This gives them the best head start for blooming in time for the longest possible harvest season. The problem is that the soil is often very wet and cold and, even if you get a good start sowing seeds directly in the soil, the March and April rains can retard their growth significantly, or the seedlings rot off at soil-level. One way to work around this is to plant your seeds, in four-inch pots, one in each corner (four seeds per pot). This gives each plant enough soil to germinate and grow to several inches in height, in the warm(er) controlled environment of the green house (or sunny windowsill). When it comes time to transplant, you plant all four plants in the same hole (don't try to separate their roots!). Plant each set of four about 8"-10" apart with bamboo stakes or other climbing trellis in between each clump of starts. The plants will go through a little stress from transplanting but once they acclimatize to their new environment they'll be well along the way to yielding a bounteous and long-term harvest!

Thank-you's: As readers know, these gardens are run entirely through donated time and materials. We continue to feel support coming from all directions of our extended community. We make an effort to acknowledge all the generous donations that come our way. Please forgive us if we have somehow overlooked your specific donation. YOU ARE APPRECIATED! Tina Johnson, one of the volunteers at the Monroe Foodbank gave us a bunch of corn, peas and bean seeds; Guy Urbach has donated a large piece of "road carpet" to use as weed barrier. Tibby and John Scott have donated a whole slew of fencing and other building materials and garden supplies. The Diamond Woods Golf Course has made their heavy-duty lawn mower available to us for periodic lawn-mowing at the Alpine Park this summer. Last weekend, Jack Jones donated much of his Saturday joyfully mowing the grass at the Alpine Park that surrounds our garden. Dorothy Brinckerhoff and Gary Watts of Alpine Pump continue to be our guardian angels in too many ways to innumerate. Thank you also to the Lion's Club who made a $100 donation to the Gardens' general fund and $100 to cover the electric bill to run the pump at the Alpine site. Evelyn Lee donated a whole bushel of sprouting potatoes and is the ongoing manager of our local list-serve--passing on these emails to the community at-large. Rann Millar of Harrisburg has been contributing his time translating our materials into Spanish to support our outreach efforts to the Latino community. And last but not least we received an anonymous donation of pots and flats and a bag of already beautifully "chitted" potatoes.

A handful of potatoes ready for planting.
With the seed potatoes we saved from last year's crop, the one's we've picked up at the produce department and those from people in the area, we figure we have at least 80 pounds! With each seed-potato able to yield up to five pounds of harvest, we're looking at a significant amount of yummy, easily stored food for those who have participated in the gardens this summer, and the Monroe Food Bank as well.

A good morning's work!