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!