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

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Thanks Giving

Hi friends - Last week we featured our many share-givers (volunteers) in our gratitude post. This post is about expressing gratitude to the folks who support the Sharing Gardens in a variety of other ways.

Jessie is new to our garden "family". We met her when she was making a donation of diapers to the Food Pantry that her one-year old baby had outgrown. She brings a ray of sunshine wherever she goes!

Jessie - such a beautifully generous spirit!
Over the summer she has volunteered at the gardens many times on the weekends, and helped with planting and weeding tasks. A few weeks ago, she came bounding into the gardens with her big smile and a bigger envelope with these words on it:

New Glove Fund-Raiser from Pegasus Farms

Jessie had noticed that we'd had "gloves" on our wish-list all summer and decided to do "crowd-funding" at her partner's farm. She put an envelope up on the company bulletin board that she seeded with $20 from Sean ("cause he's a big softy, and I knew he'd contribute") and left town for a long weekend. When she got back, everyone else on the farm had added to the envelope for a total of $160.00! Thanks to Q, Dan-the Solar Man - Twan, Sean, Dom and Andrew. That will provide us with a great selection of gloves heading into next year's season (and more).

Janeece and Dave Cook - generosity personified.
Janeece wears many hats in our small town of Monroe, Oregon. She is the director of the South Benton Food Pantry (LINK) that is located directly next-door to the Sharing Gardens; she serves on several boards, works for Strengthening Rural Families and seems to go to every meeting in town that relates to community-issues! She is also cooking vegan recipes for the free, weekly class on Healthy Life-style Choices offered by the Monroe Health Clinic and Dr. Kyle Homertgen - our local, vegan doctor (LINK). Dave is an amazing support for all that Janeece does and also helps a lot with our local Gleaners group, picking up donated baked goods and other groceries when the Gleaners need help.

They fostered two young girls for over a year and bought a swingset for them to enjoy. When the girls were able to return to live with their Mom, the Cooks donated the swing-set to the Sharing Gardens. We have it set up right next to our main garden-shed so that, when people bring their children to our volunteer-sessions, the kids have something to play on. Much thanks!

Here's Bella - one of the foster children, helping us with the kale harvest.

John Kinsey: "Kinsey" has been coming to the gardens since 2011; he lives just a few blocks away. He's been a great contributor over the years. Here's a list of some of his contributions:
  • volunteering in the gardens
  • donating Elephant garlic bulbs to get our patch started
  • donating worm-castings and worm-castings-tea from his worm farm
  • collecting lawn-clippings and leaves from his neighbors to build our compost piles
  • building produce-display-boxes out of scrap lumber - both for us and for the South Benton Food Pantry
  • volunteering at the Food Pantry

John Kinsey with garlic 'seeds'. His contribution of garlic 'bulbs' has grown to our current patch with over 200 plants planted for the June 2019 harvest. One of his early nicknames was 'Garlic John'.

Our deep-mulch method of gardening uses tons of leaves and grass-clippings. John, who's now retired, gathers these materials wherever he can and donates them to the project. Here's a LINK to our post about using leaves and grass-clippings for soil fertility.

John, with a big load of squash-vines for the compost pile.
Coffee-grounds that John picked up from a local coffee-shop. Since coffee is not a local product and must be shipped in from thousands of miles away, it is not a sustainable resource. But since the grounds are currently considered a waste-product, we feel good knowing that we are keeping them out of the garbage. (LINK to coffee-grounds as fertilizer).

Sifting the coffee-grounds and removing trash that's mixed in is one of the favorite jobs of our OSU student-volunteers. The grounds sure make our greenhouses smell nice!

Chris and John - building a compost bin. He sure is a big help!
There are a few donors we don't have pictures of:

Fay and Erik - donated plastic tubs that are great for weeding, and storing or displaying produce.

Becky Lynn -  donated carpet, seed potatoes

Valerie P. - For the last two months, Valerie has been making a $10 donation to the project. We've never met Valerie but are grateful for her support. You too can make a donation through PayPal by clicking on this link:

Drivers: Though some of our CSA members pick up their own boxes, we have members in Eugene and Corvallis who rely on the services of our delivery-people.

Cathy Rose delivers to Eugene. Cathy has been with the gardens since 2010 and been a huge supporter. We love you Cathy!

Here's Sabine shelling walnuts. She was our delivery-person to Philomath this summer.

Jim Kitchen...

...Adri and Cindy Kitchen deliver our Corvallis boxes after spending Wednesday mornings helping in the gardens.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Many Hands, Many Thanks, Much Love!

Llyn with biggest sunflower yet!
Hello dear people, It's been another summer of bounty at the Sharing Gardens and we hope this finds you thriving as well. Though things are still going strong, the first autumn rains and cooler nights have begun and it's clear that we're past the peak of garden production. This has been a wonderful season with our Share-givers (volunteers), many who are multi-year participants with some beautiful new faces as well. Often, after a morning session with our garden "family", Chris and I just lay on our bed feeling full of smiles and gratitude for the richness of community that has developed around the project.

Chris, early in the season.
This year has been our first year offering CSA/memberships as a fund-raiser. We've had seven "share-holders" who each receive a weekly box of produce. Though at times we've felt a bit stressed to keep up with planting, weeding and harvesting, the excellent support of our share-givers has made it - mostly- a real pleasure. Our help has been so good that, for two seasons in a row (summer and autumn) we've declined receiving volunteer students from OSU's service-learning programs. We just don't have enough to do to keep six students busy for four hours. Now that's what we call a "high-quality problem"!

Here is a photo gallery of many of this summer's share-givers. Thanks so much, friends; we couldn't do it without you. 

Sabine and Cindy - our champion bean-pickers. We grew green beans on a trellis this year (instead of as bushes) and it worked great. High productivity and we only had to pick once per week.

We had some great group-sessions; several weeks with ten or eleven adults. It's challenging to keep everyone busy but we sure get a lot done and have fun in the process!

Thorin, Eliza and Adri harvesting cabbage. Adri's been coming to the gardens since she was born and is a great help!

Eliza, Rook and Thorin harvesting kidney beans which we dried in the greenhouse and shelled for winter-use.
Our blackberry patches were wonderfully productive this year. We picked enough berries to make several large cobblers, about a gallon of juice and sent baskets of them home in the CSA boxes too!
A great year for potatoes! We keep experimenting with different methods. We have heavy, clay soil which is hard for potatoes to grow in.
To extend our season we tried growing potatoes in our greenhouses with fair results. Here are Chris and Rook, mixing compost into a potato-patch early in the season.
As the soil warmed, we began planting potatoes outside. We planted the potatoes about 6" in the ground with a bulb-planting tool and then covered with soil, compost, grass-clippings and straw (whatever mulch we had a lot of).  This method worked very well!

Rook, planting potatoes with a bulb-planter.

Here's a group of potato-planters. That's Caleb and Tyrell (Caleb's Dad) at the cart.

...and here's the other end of the process - harvesting potatoes. Kids love to help with this as finding the potatoes is a bit like hunting for eggs on Easter!

Here's Chris with a Mammoth Russian sunflower. We dry and save the seeds to feed to the birds and grow sprouts for winter-greens. LINK

Rod, a man of many talents, "logging" the sunflower stalks after harvesting the heads
Here's Eliza, our new neighbor in Monroe, picking tomatoes. She's creating an organic orchard and veggie farm. Great to have people with similar values moving to our town.
Llyn's uncle Craig with little Jace, examining the pepper plants.
Garlic provides many opportunities for group efforts.

Here are Rook and Sabine separating the garlic bulbs for this year's planting.
For two sessions we had these wonderful Taiwanese young men come help. Wayne, Li Hung and Song Yu. Here they are planting garlic in September for next year's harvest.
Llyn spent much of the time on share-giver days in the garden-shed bagging produce and filling boxes.

Here she is with Kailyn bagging kale. Kailyn is another of Cindy's many grand-kids and jumps at the chance to be helpful. What a delight!
Aside from catalyzing Chris and me to a new level of focus and productivity with the farm, an added bonus of having the CSA has been the loving feedback and support we receive from our members. Though we know that our donations to the Food Pantries are very much appreciated (and we continue to supply Local Aid and the South Benton Food Pantry with our surplus), the comments from our members are nice to hear because we know they especially value the high quality of the food we're growing and want to be supportive of the project's charitable work. Here are a few samples:
"I've been enjoying delicious salads and soups made with these fresh ingredients!  Everything is delightful! Made a brown rice cabbage casserole with our remaining cabbage a few days ago and it was such a big hit with the family ~yum! Thank you!" Diane
"Sending deep appreciation for this bounty, it has been most wonderful! Thanks Llyn and Chris, you are keeping us so healthy and nourished, love it!!!!" Cordy and Bodhi
" Everything looks lovely. Thanks so much to Llyn and Chris and all the workers." Karen and Peter
"What a nice variety of things we have gotten from our CSA boxes and we feel privileged to have helped you launch your first year. Thank you for all the communication about our boxes each week; that is a nice added feature we didn't have when we got CSA boxes a few years back." Marilyn and Don
"We have loved the weekly bounty, a variety of nutrients & colors. How nice to not have to shop for produce weekly! We love supporting our local veganic farmers who serve this community, who bring us hope! Dr. Kyle (LINK to his fantastic site)
And lastly, we must bid a fond fare-the-well to dear Sabine. Sabine has been volunteering at the Sharing Gardens for three seasons but is moving back to Germany (her home) with her husband Tyrell and son, Caleb. (We'll also miss seeing her wonderful parents Yvonne and Manfred since they won't be coming to visit her but we know they are so happy to have her moving back close to home.) Sabine's soft, warm and generous nature will be missed but we wish her well. Maybe she'll start a new Sharing Garden in Kressbronn am Bodensee!

We love you, Sabine!

...and your beautiful boy Caleb. (Thanks for the picture, Thorin!)
And to you, our fine readers, we also bid a fond farewell. Give Long and Prosper!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Whole Grain No-Knead Bread - Recipe

Well, we just harvested another bumper crop of blue corn meal. We'll have enough this year to share with our CSA members and volunteers! Here's a re-post of an adaptation of No-Knead Bread that uses blue-corn meal.

Several years ago, a New York City baker named Jim Lahey developed and published a recipe for "No-Knead Bread". It is a very popular recipe and one that Chris and I used for several months while refining our skills at producing consistent results.

Original recipe of No-Knead Bread using pure, white bread flour and no whole grains.
Once we mastered the original recipe we experimented in adding whole grains, nuts and dried fruit. Here is our recipe in which we use blue corn meal we grew ourselves LINK-How to Grow Blue Corn Meal.

2 cups bread flour *
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup blue corn meal-finely ground**
1 and 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry yeast ***

1 7/8 cups mildly warm water

Mix all dry ingredients together thoroughly with your hands. It is important that the yeast and salt be evenly distributed both for flavor and effectiveness of the 'rise'. If you prefer, you can use a fork, but with your hands you can feel if all lumps of flour have been broken-apart and it just feels good to get your hands in the flour!

Mixing by hand insures that all ingredients are thoroughly mixed, with no clumping of any single ingredient.
Water should be about room-temperature. Too cold and it takes awhile for the yeast to awaken; too warm and it encourages a rapid-rise which can then collapse before you bake it. Use a large spatula to mix the dough. Add most of the water, stir well and add more as needed. It will be fairly wet - a little stiffer than hot porridge. This is important because the corn-meal and bran will absorb quite a bit of the water during the long, first rise. This whole-grain recipe uses a full 1/4 cup more water than the recipe using all 'white' flour.

Keep scraping any dry flour off the sides and bottom of the bowl and, using the flat side of the spatula, press down and lengthen the gluten strands that are already forming within the dough. Don't chop the dough at any stage of mixing as this breaks up the gluten-strands. Just keep folding and spreading the dough till all ingredients are thoroughly mixed and the dough has a spongy, springy feeling.

Cover bowl with plastic-wrap or a towel, and allow to rise in a mildly warm place without drafts. Ideal temperature for rising the dough is about 70 F (21 C). In the summer (when temps are naturally warm enough) and winter (when your house is heated) you won't need to add any heat but in autumn and winter, when night time temps might be too cool, put a few inches of warm water in a pan, put your bowl with rising dough in it and wrap the pan and bowl in a towel to keep heat in.

First rise: 12 to 15 hours - I usually start my bread at around 6:00 in the evening. It's usually ready for its 2nd rise about 9:00 the next morning.

Heavily dust a pan or tray with flour. Sprinkle flour around edges of dough so that as you use the spatula to scoop out the dough that it doesn't stick to sides of bowl (see picture below). The original recipe suggests you let the dough 'rest' for 10-15 min before working it but I haven't noticed much difference in results if I leave this step out. If I have the time, I do it. Also, if the air-temp is cool when I do this stage, sometimes I warm the pan/tray by running warm water on it (and then thoroughly drying before I pour out the dough). I think of the dough as a living entity (or community of entities - after all the yeast is alive!) and try to bring a sense of nurturing and caring for this community to bring about best results.

If you've made bread before, you might be used to a fairly vigorous process of kneading the dough for best results. This recipe requires a very light touch. As I read different bread-books I learned that you want to stretch the gluten strands but be careful not to tear them. Begin by sprinkling more flour on your lump of dough and pressing the dough out flat and long, gently pulling it longer. Fold the ends into the middle; press;, stretch. Fold sides into middle; press, stretch. Press out air-bubbles as you go or you could end up with a loaf that has air-pockets just under the crust (doesn't cut as easily...). Whenever it gets sticky, sprinkle a bit more flour. Gradually, in a few minutes, you'll have a piece of dough that is smooth and not sticky to touch.

Floured pan on left, to pour dough into. Note flour around edges of dough in bowl; this makes dough slide out of the bowl without sticking.
Grease a standard-sized bread pan and place dough in it. Allow it to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 2-4 more hours. When dough reaches the top of the pan, or crowns a little above it, it has risen enough.

Bake in 375 degree pre-heated oven for 35-37 min.

Allow to cool on a rack for at least 20-min. before eating (I know, it's so hard to resist cutting it open right away! But it will continue to bake slightly as it cools and it will be far easier to cut if you wait a bit!).

Here I am with a recent loaf. Whole grain breads don't typically rise as high as all-white loaves but, if you follow the recipe you'll be happy with how spongy and chewy your results will be!
If I'm making two loaves I mix two sets of ingredients in two separate bowls but you could experiment with doing the mixing, and first rising in one bowl. It would probably work fine.

Variations: Add dried fruit/raisins and/or seeds/nuts. If you add these heavier ingredients, add a tiny bit more yeast (1/8 teaspoon) and be sure they're distributed evenly in the dry-mix before adding water.

* - Look for flour with the highest protein-content possible; this will produce a higher gluten content and more stretchiness and 'rise' to your bread. All-purpose flour will work but you may not have as good of a result.
** - Fine-ground cornmeal: If you buy it and it's too course, use an electric coffee-grinder to further grind it. We have a coffee-grinder that we devote exclusively to grains, seeds and nuts so no strong flavors are mixed in. 
*** - Yeast: Add slightly more if you add dry fruit or nuts - but don't be tempted to go overboard. If you add too much yeast, your dough will rise too fast and then collapse before you bake it.

Everybody loves bread!

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