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

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New Horizons

Youthful enthusiasm is contagious at Monroe's Sharing Gardens.
Hello, dear friends,

So far, it's been an unusually warm and mild winter here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and we're already seeing signs of an early spring.  The Western Bluebirds have begun visiting their old nesting boxes as if to stake out their claims on this year's homes for their anticipated broods.  We've noticed many other species of birds also poking their heads in nesting sites.  It's seems rather early for this sort of activity but maybe they know something we don't.  We're feeling an early spring coming on!!! 

So...we've already begun sowing seeds of many varieties of peppers and tomatoes, as well as all of the early, more cold resistant plants such as brocollis, cabbages, kales, peas, lettuces and so on, in our new 20x50-foot greenhouse (made from nearly all salvaged and donated materials).  And..... just in case the weather turns toward freezing again, we've installed a barrel stove constructed from a kit which will allow us to keep the chill off during any possibly killing frosts.  So, we're getting excited as the days begin to lengthen and we see bountiful harvests and days spent with garden friends approaching on our horizon!!  Can you feel it comin'?

New in 2015:

This year we're doubling the number of Student Service-Learning groups coming to us from OSU. We're going from two groups to four per quarter. This translates to having a group just about every other weekend in the winter, spring and fall. Integrating these groups into the Sharing Gardens is a real win/win. The students are exposed to valuable hands-on experience in a variety of gardening and homesteading skills. At our pumpkin-pie break half-way through (baked from scratch from squash grown in the gardens) we take the time to have deep and, sometimes challenging discussions about the state of the world, how we came to be this way and how 'sharing' and generosity are viable solutions. The Sharing Gardens benefit from a half-day's energy input from four to six students' enthusiastic and joyful efforts. Their presence always lifts our spirits!

OSU students preparing garden-beds in our new 'ARK' greenhouse. Nash, Aubree and Heather.
If we're prepared, these 'kids' accomplish SO much in four hours that it really is a challenge to keep them meaningfully occupied for the whole session.  But we're learning to have more scheduled than we hope to accomplish.  And now that we have the big greenhouse finished, it serves as an indoor workshop space on those more undesirable, rainy and cold days.
Chris demonstrates seed-starting to Loren, Sam, Caitlen, Keith and Emily (seated).
Plant Give-aways and Fun-d Raisers:

Starts to plant and share - 2012.
Another advantage of having this bigger greenhouse is that we're going to be able to provide many more healthy and organically raised veggie starts than ever before.  We'll let you know as they become available.  And, as in previous years, if you had planned to purchase starts from another source, perhaps you'll consider making a donation to the Sharing Gardens to help us to keep this worthwhile community-sponsored project healthy and thriving.

Save your 4" square, gallon pots and jumbo six-packs for us to re-use. We have a surplus of other sizes and shapes so don't need them at this time.

Spring season planting reminders:

We're providing links below for some previously written posts on planting onions from seed and getting a jump-start on your pea crop.  In them you will find much good info to help guide you through various processes and techniques to insure your success.

Kale flowers to eat!
If you are one of those fortunate people that planted a fall-crop of kale that survived the winter, you can look forward to one the most wonderfully delicious and highly nutritious treats known to gardeners.  It's known as kale 'raab' (pronounced 'rob').  In the spring of the second year, being a biennial, kale sends out numerous flower buds that shouldn't be overlooked as a highly prized 'bonus' crop.  If picked before the yellow flowers open, these early green buds are the tenderest and sweetest part of the entire kale plant. They can be eaten raw or lightly steamed just by themselves or in a stir-fry.  Just give them a try!  Perhaps you'll make it a point to plant plenty in the summer to come (we start our fall/winter crops about July 1) to have fresh kale available throughout the winter and on into next spring!  We sure will!!!! Leave one plant (or a few stalks) to go to seed and you'll have enough for many plantings to come.

As you plan, and plant your own gardens this year, we encourage all of you who are able, wherever you live, to consider growing some extra just for distribution to those less fortunate in your neighborhoods and communities.  It feels great to share!!!!

Plant Kale as a cover-crop in Sept. and eat it all winter-long!
And now a request addressed to all of our local friends and supporters.

Sharing Gardens Wishlist:

WE NEED MANY TONS OF HAY OR STRAW! OLD, MOLDY and SPOILED is fine as long as its not too soggy to move.

If you have, or if you know someone who does have any, would you please take a few moments to call around in our behalf and see if there's anyone out there in our community who would be willing to make a donation to our garden project.  This kind of organic material is very important to maintaining our soil fertility and our enormous harvests.  We'd be glad to reimburse for gas expenses and even provide a tax receipt if better-quality materials are provided.  We thank you in advance for your help!

Spreading mulch for spring planting.

We use A LOT of straw, hay, leaves and grass each year for soil fertility.
Other immediate needs:
  • Field fencing: We are planting many deciduous trees outside our fence line and need to make rings to circle and protect them.
  • Fig-tree cuttings: If you have enough to spare, we'll root extra to share with others in our community.
  • Plastic buckets: Clean, and with handles. Lids are nice too but we have a fair number of extra already. Five-gallon, white buckets; Kitty litter buckets too.
To see our full wish-list, CLICK HERE.

Links for Early-Spring Planting
Peas at dawn.

Valentines Day: Time for Pea Planting

Onions: Growing from Seed

We'll, we're probably forgetting something, but we wanted to let you all know we're still here and things are better than ever on our end of things.  We're hoping you are all doing well in your lives and we'd like to see you all this year, if that can work out.  Thanks for all of your well wishes and for all of the support you've given this project in the past!  We're just neighbors helping to feed neighbors!!!!  And it's FUN! Here's to new horizons!
Thank you Steve Cook's Geo 300 class. Keep em' coming!