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

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Alpine Park Clean-Up - Giver's Gallery

The Alpine Park Clean-Up was fun for all who attended. There were many of the usual faces and quite a few new ones as well. The main focus was on mowing and raking the grass to be used as mulch in the Sharing Gardens. We are very grateful to Diamond Woods Golf Course on Territorial Rd for their generous loan of a ride-on lawnmower for the park's use, for a second summer in a row. Also in attendance at the clean-up (but not pictured) were Dorothy Brinckerhoff, Gary Weems, Ida May Foster and Elaine O'Brien.
Here are some pictures:

Jack Jones on the lawn mower - on loan from "Diamond Woods" golf course
Peggy rakes grass
George loads it into the bins.
Celeste Jones, with a rake and a smile.
Her sister Cypress gathering grass-mulch

Stacy Ann, another sister, also helps out.

And brother, Shamus Jones, pulls weeds in the garden.
Basically, we figure, if you want to get the job done in Alpine, call the Jones family!

Celeste, Joanne and Cypress Jones in the park.
It's a challenge, "keeping up with the Joneses"!

The tree to the left was planted in spring of 2009 in honor of Alta Rainey who founded the park in the late 1960's. She always loved dogwoods. This spring is the first time it has bloomed.

We've been so busy in the gardens that we haven't had time to post these other pictures of volunteers who have been helping with the Sharing Gardens this spring. Here's a sample of our happy helpers:

Rann, Doreen and Eva, transplanting in the greenhouse - March 2010
Volunteer Danielle with plants for her garden.
Floy Alexander, 91, has lived outside of Alpine for close to 60 years. She happily receives some starts to plant in her garden.
Orvel and Rann trimming bamboo for the pole beans to grow on.
Timothy prepares beds with a spading fork.
Ismael helps Chris repair the water pipe in Monroe.
Steve Rose, at the Food Bank, giving away tomato plants from his greenhouse.

 It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. --Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Give Peas a Chance

Saving Pea Seeds

Here in the Pacific NW, and in many other parts of the world, varieties of an insect called the Pea Weevil (Sitona lineatus) can destroy the peas and other legumes you are saving as seed crop. As the peas mature in the pod, the weevil lays an egg in each pea. If you store these pea-seeds as-is, by spring time each one will have a tiny hole bored by the larvae, from the inside out, destroying the seeds' ability to sprout and grow. A year ago, we had a whole stash of our pea seeds destroyed from these weevils and we didn't want it to happen again.
Signs of pea weevils
An on-line search revealed no low-tech solutions for seed-savers. We read about research to create genetically modified seeds (GMO's) and super-cold flash-freezing done with dried ice. The dry-ice idea got Chris to thinking so we decided to experiment. We took our whole stash of pea seed (about six cups) and put it in an air-tight zip-lock bag, in a regular freezer, way in the back corner, and left it there from August to January (four and a half months). The seeds were fully ripe and dry when we put them in the freezer. (There was evidence that the weevils had already laid their eggs as virtually every seed had a small, brown spot--a sign of their entry point.)
Pea weevil cycle

In early January, we conducted a germination test. We wrapped about 50 seeds in a wet paper towel and kept them moist in a dish for five days. At that time, we counted how many had begun to sprout (about 40) which means they have a germination rate of at least 80%. This is excellent! Then, to be sure that there weren't any pea weevil larvae still dormant in our seed stock, we put about 30 in a tightly sealed plastic bag and left them out at room temperature for two weeks to see if any would hatch. None did. Though it appears we have killed the larvae, we're not taking any chances and we're leaving the pea seeds in our freezer till it's time to start plants this spring.

To save pea seeds, grow them to maturity and leave the pods attached to the pea vines until they are starting to turn tan and shrivel. Strip the pods from the vines and place them in a warm, dry place to finish drying (we lay them out on nursery trays on the top shelf of our garden shed for about a week.) Pop the peas out of their pods, place in freezer-bags (properly labeled with variety of seed and date) in the freezer, way in the back (or bottom)--the coldest spot. Leave them there until you're ready to plant next year's cycle.

If you have comments or anything to add to this post, please do so directly below so everyone benefits from your experience.
Alpine Park Clean-up Day and "Potluck" Picnic

Volunteers from 2009 Alpine Park Clean-up Day
The Alpine Park was established in the 1960's by local residents. It is maintained entirely through the efforts of volunteers. Come and meet your "neighbors" and share in the fun of caring for this little park gem. We'll be weeding, pruning, raking and making the park beautiful in time for Memorial Day weekend when visitors come and pay their respects at the Alpine Cemetery up the hill. After the work is done we'll have a potluck picnic lunch for those who want to enjoy each others company for a little while longer.

When: Saturday May 21, 2011 ~ 9:00 - 12:00
Where: Alpine Chapel Park - across from the Elementary School

            (for directions, Mapquest or Google the school: 25114
            Alpine Rd, 97456)
Bring: Gloves, landscaping tools, sunhat, drinking water, potluck dish, dishes to eat on.

Steve Rose painting door - Clean-Up 2010

Rural Community Gardens get "too little attention"

Young people exploring in Jackson's Garden, Montana

Dear Sharing Garden Coordinators,

First, I would like to congratulate you on your hard work, innovation, and obvious compassion for community.  Good work deserves good thanks, whether it happens in your own backyard or across the country!

Upon seeing your Sharing Garden featured in the most recent ACGA newsletter I was pleased to find a community garden project similar to the organization I am a VISTA Member with in Southwest Montana.  I was even more pleased to learn that your project operates in a setting equally as rural as my own!  (I hope that you will take the time to look into our project, called Jackson's Garden, in Sheridan Montana.)  Despite my best efforts, I have found evidence of very few gardens like yours and ours.  I'm not sure if this is simply lack of exposure, or if we really are as rare as I think.  But either way, it's a concept that I think deserves much more attention that it has received.

I believe that there has been too little attention paid to the rural community gardening.  Because of the the wider availability of land and prevalence of traditional skill sets in subsistence agriculture, the concept of small plot community gardening as it has been established in urban settings seems hardly applicable.  The truth is that the reasons for community gardening in a rural setting are different, though related, to those of urban settings.  And because of this, and many misconceptions about rural lifestyles, the community gardening movement tends to overlook us.

I believe, as I think you might, that a Sharing Garden, or Communal Gardening as we refer to our project, is the most applicable model to rural settings, and I'm quite convinced that this model needs to be promoted and shared with other communities.  While I see some differences in the way our two projects are run, the basic concept is the same - grow your food together and you grow more food, and build more community.  My observations lead me to believe that there are some very specific aspects of rural lifestyle that make this model not only possible but the most effective method of putting food on our community's table.

Yet sadly, community gardening advocates and researchers pay little attention to the communal or shared gardening method and rural community gardening in general.  Did you know that the last peer reviewed academic paper to appear on rural community gardening was published in 1999?  Since then, the research community, which has time and time again proven the benefits of urban community gardening, has done little more than mention our cause along side their larger concerns.