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

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Give and You Shall Receive - Sharing Gardens update

Co-founder Chris Burns pulls Jim Kitchen and a load of "prunings" to the burn-pile, demonstrating one of our founding principles, "If it ain't fun, why do it!".

Recently we've been blessed with amazing generosity from folks in our support circle. Jim and Cindy Kitchen donated a 2003 Town and Country mini-van which is an answer to a prayer as our 1968 GMC pick-up truck is really difficult to drive! Now Llyn has become the main driver and has driven more in the last month than the previous 10-years combined. This has been really a blessing to take the pressure off Chris to always be the driver.  Karen Josephson and Peter Stoel donated $2,000 for the third year in a row. Wow, that kind of generosity really lifts our spirits! This will be a huge help in keeping the program running. And Catherine Henry, in perusing our Wish List, found a home for a composting toilet she'd purchased but never got around to installing. Once we install it, this will allow us to host larger gatherings and summer-interns/guests without taxing our small indoor bathroom. Thank you so much!

Cindy Kitchen, thinning carrots. Cindy has an amazing capacity for doing the detail-work of gardening: things like picking beans, thinning root crops and weeding tiny seedlings. She's also great at the "big strokes" and can fill our giant garden-cart with weeds faster than anybody! The only problem is trying to get her to stop at the end of a session! We love our Cindy!

Our 2021 season is over (our 13th!). The only veggies left in the outdoor gardens and greenhouses are the cool-weather tolerant crops including lettuce, broccoli, beets, green onions, kale and chard. Our weather has been mild so far and if it continues to be so, these crops will continue to provide delicious and nutritious food for us and the few 'share-givers' (volunteers) who help us through the winter. 

The three months from August through October can feel overwhelming with the time-sensitive, competing demands of harvesting, watering, saving seeds and preserving food. We are relieved to have arrived at the time of the year when Chris and I can follow our own rhythms in tending to our home and the land. It's amazing to realize that everything will start up again in mid-January (albeit at a much slower pace!) with the first crops getting planted in our greenhouse beds. (These crops will include: onions, spinach, beets and carrots.)

We've tallied up our donations to charities and it's been another great year, 2,971 pounds! We keep precise records of our donations to charities by weighing everything before we send it. We derive our other totals through estimates though so you'll just have to take our word for it (though honestly, these numbers are probably low). Everything else: 4,280 pounds.

That makes our Grand total for 2021 somewhere in the ballpark of: 7,254 pounds!

For details of our harvest totals Click Here.

"Give and you shall receive." Though we view sharing as a reciprocal relationship (not just a one-way process where we give and others take), we recognize that not everyone has the same capacity to give. Some people aren't able to give at all due to poverty and physical challenges. We try to follow the practice: "From each according to their ability and to each according to their need." Through our project, no one has ever been denied access to our surplus just because they had nothing to give us directly. We also ascribe to the notion of "Paying it forward," trusting that generosity can have a rippling, multiplying effect as it moves through a community.

But for those who can give directly to our project, it comes in many forms: monetary donations, the donation of materials and through people's time. All of these gestures of support have helped us keep the program alive. 

In addition to the food we grow and share, the Sharing Gardens has become a hub of other forms of generosity. Because we have clean, delicious, abundant well-water we have folks who come weekly to fill water jugs. We have given away building materials, firewood, compost, garden tools, seeds and 'starts' and other materials we have had in surplus to those in need.

We also give freely of our knowledge through hands-on opportunities in our garden and through our website (which has received over 570,900 views in its lifetime - mostly for our 'How-To' posts).

What follows is a "Gallery of Givers"; a photo album of seasonal highlights and some of the people who have helped to make it happen, followed by a list of the many other donors who have blessed the project this year.

Meet our 'sharegivers': The people pictured below are the folks who come to the gardens throughout the growing season (and in some cases right through the winter). They give of their time and energies and share in the camaraderie of doing something meaningful together. They also receive a share in the harvests. We couldn't do it without them!

A gathering of many of our troupe: (back row) Llyn, Rook, Cindy, Jim, Chris (front row) Adri, Jazmin and Becky
Here's Sandra, the newest member of our crew - sorting lettuce for distribution.

A typical morning in early September. Here we are planting cabbage.

Rook, trimming garlic and preparing it to be "cured" for long-term storage.

Llyn and Kaylyn processing tomatoes and melons on harvest day.

Adri and Jazmin joined us in the summer months. Here they are picking scarlet runner beans.

Later in the summer they graduated from making concoctions with flower-heads, mud and weed-greens to crafting food that was actually quite delicious from real garden-ingredients. The lettuce wraps with tomato, fig and cucumbers were a favorite once the girls left out the raw garlic garnish!
Cindy tastes a sample of Jazmin's creations. Yumm!
That's Donn Dussell (who comes every Monday) and Chris in front of our newest greenhouse - the Phoenix, made mostly from recycled materials which they built together last winter. Donn will also be helping Chris put a new 'skin' on our larger, 20'x50' Ark greenhouse this winter.
Marilyn Dussell has a passion for running our riding mower! Thanks to her and Donn for their third year as CSA subscribers, volunteering in the gardens and all the other ways they show their support for our project.

Other contributors: In the second half of the year (since our last gratitude post published in June, 2021-LINK) and aside from the $2,000 donation from Karen and Peter mentioned above, we have received a total of $210 from Judy Peabody, Drake Wauters and Suzanne Campbell  - a local who has interest in partnering in wild-life habitat restoration projects.

Thanks to our CSA members:  Catherine Henry, Donn and Marilyn Dussell, Karen Josephson and Peter Stoel, Lilia Parker-Meyers, and Dian Wright. Amongst them, we fed at least 16 people as many of them fed not only themselves but friends and family as well.

Here is art work by Llyn's Mom Judy, showing our "Phoenix Farmhouse".
...and here's the farmhouse in the late Spring of 2021.

 Originally built in 1875 (the second oldest house still standing in Monroe), here is what the farmhouse looked like shortly after we began renovations in 2013. (LINK to photo gallery about Phoenix Farmhouse renovations.)

In October, Llyn's Mom and Uncle came for their annual visit and were super helpful. Thanks, Mom and Craig!

Judy, Llyn's Mom, harvesting tomatoes.

Craig, Llyn's uncle, sifting compost

Other donations: In response to our call for a laptop, many people responded. We kept one, donated by Thorin Nielson for Llyn to use for her writing projects and are passing along another one, donated by Donn and Marilyn Dussell to one of our steadfast volunteers, Rook.

Thorin, Eliza and Rook picking blackberries.

Catherine Henry, donor of the E-Loo composting toilet mentioned above has also donated several high-quality hoses, rain-bird sprinklers on stands, and other watering nozzles

Leaves and Grass and Compost, oh my!  This is the second year that the Sharing Gardens has grown all our food "veganically" and used zero amounts of commercial fertilizers, animal by-products or livestock manures. All our fertility comes from: leaves, grass-clippings, wood-ash and coffee grounds (see: Making Your Own "Veganic" Potting Soil in Your Greenhouse Paths - Using Worms). We are grateful to Jo and David Crosby (no, not the rock star!) who bring us many trailer-loads of leaves from their land each year. Also, our neighbors John and Donna Dillard and Irene and George Daugherty who have also delivered multiple loads of leaves. We also appreciate the city of Monroe (the small town where we live) for posting information about our leaf/grass drop-off site in our front yard for townspeople to bring us their yard waste. (For more info: Click Here - see pg. 4 of Nov. 2021 newsletter or Here for the SG post). 



Gratitude too to our dear friend John Kinsey who, in his quiet way has been supporting the gardens almost from the start. He lives a few blocks away, and retired in 2015 and, to keep himself from "going crazy with boredom," has been making us compost in his worm bins ever since. In the last two years he's easily brought us over 3-4 cubic yards of compost! He also goes to a local cafe  and picks up 15-25 gallons of coffee-grounds per week which contributes greatly to our garden's fertility. Thank you John!

Chris and John loading wood-chips in a wheel-barrow for distribution.

Here's a pic of about 3/4 of the firewood that was donated this year. Thanks to the Crosby's and the Ballards for donations of unsplit 'rounds' and to the Dussells for help with the splitting and use of their splitter. We are cozy and warm this winter, thanks to you!

Gratitude to our pollinators and wild pest-controllers: the birds, insects and other wild critters that call the Sharing Gardens "home". Here's the latest post about "Rewilding at the Sharing Gardens and good news about the West Coast Monarch species".

Jazmin, with a tree frog she caught in the gardens. At the beginning of the season she was afraid to pick them up and by the end, she and Adri were catching up to ten in a day and making little oasis/habitats for them before letting them go at the end of the morning.

and remember, as a wise Vulcan once said...

Sharing Gardens-Harvest Totals - 2021

We've tallied up our donations to charities and it's been another great year, 2,971 pounds! We keep precise records of our donations to charities by weighing everything before we send it. We derive our other totals through estimates though so you'll just have to take our word for it (though honestly, these numbers are probably low). Everything else: 4,280 pounds.

That makes our Grand total for 2021 somewhere in the ballpark of: 7,254 pounds!

Here are the details:

Total pounds donated to charities: 2,971 pounds

South Benton Food Pantry: 1,539 pounds

Local Aid Food Pantry: 1,231 pounds

Stone Soup Kitchen: 201 pounds

Additional food harvested and distributed from the Sharing gardens: 4,280 pounds:

Weekly CSA boxes, Share-givers/Chris and I: 3,460 pounds

Canned/dehydrated food/storage crops, over and above the weekly distributions: (including, but not limited to: dried corn, beans and sorghum; 14 qts of applesauce, 60 qts of V-8 juice, potatoes, winter squash): 490 pounds

Small Axe Peppers: 330 pounds (a hot sauce company that enlists community gardens to grow hot peppers as a fund-raiser). 

All of this using "veganic" methods of farming! (See here for more info).

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Rewilding at the Sharing Gardens...

Monarchs in Pismo Beach, CA by Steve Corey, CC license

Those of you who've been following our Blog know that the Sharing Gardens is dedicated to fostering habitat for the flora and fauna that call this place "home". We've had several successes in the insect realm:

Last week we discovered a preying mantis in our celery patch - left. We haven't ever noticed any baby mantises though they're super-tiny so it's not surprising, but we have noticed several egg cases each year. They like to lay them on wood or metal surfaces. 

Preying mantis egg-case
We found another adult a few years back too. They're such intelligent, conscious, engaging creatures the way they cock their heads and look right into your eyes.

Preying Mantis - Sharing Gardens - 2017
We have also been very happy to see increasing numbers of Swallowtail butterflies on our land. When purchased the land in 2014, one of the first things we did was to plant groves of various trees to provide us with a source of leaves for mulch and compost, and to provide wildlife with a greater diversity of habitat. We selected sycamores and aspens because both are fast-growing trees and don't mind having their roots wet in the winter when our land sometimes gets deeply saturated. We didn't know it at the time but aspen trees are one of the natural host-plants for swallowtails! (A host plant provides food, and/or a place for butterflies to attach their cocoons). Each year we see more and more of these colorful beauties.

 A Swallowtail butterfly on  one of our marigold patches.

We found this Sphinx moth on the end of a bamboo pole in August.

I (Llyn) have been developing my skills at propagating Showy Milkweeds - a host plant for Monarchs. We now have three established patches that self-sow and return yearly. Though we've yet to see any Monarchs (we're at the very northern-most reach of their migration-range), each spring, when the milkweeds are blooming, they are just covered with other kinds of pollinators: butterflies and bees of various kinds. Here's a post I wrote about our Milkweed/Monarch program.

Showy milkweed in bloom.

Happily, many frogs have taken up residence on our land as well. We love to sleep with our windows open on summer nights and hear their chorus of croaks as they commune with joy. Here's Adri with a pair of them she carefully caught on a volunteer-day.

And our sunflowers, and Birdseed Millet-patches provide plenty of food for many kinds of birds in our neighborhood. Some of the plants we leave for them to enjoy in the field while some of them we harvest, dry and store so we can distribute the seeds throughout the winter. (That's Jazmin - right - with a Mammoth Russian sunflower head).

And here's an article that describes how, in England, hundreds of land-owners of relatively small plots (churches, houses, city parks) are contributing to a massive movement of "re-wilding" that now amounts to about 600,000 acres! So, every little bit helps!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Baking Delicata Squash

Delicata squash - one of our favorites!
Mmmm, we baked some of our Delicata squash last night. Boy was it delicious! here's how we prepared it.

Delicata skins are quite thin and tasty so we always wash them well so we can eat them once they're baked. Preheat oven to 375 - 400F degrees

Slice the squash open the long way and scoop out the seeds.
The seeds are probably too small to be worth baking. We just put them in our compost and the mice enjoy finding them.

Lightly oil the bottom of a shallow baking pan. This will make it much easier to wash later.

Spread butter or salted oil on the inside of the squash. This pic shows about how much to use on each one.

...and place them in the pan face down and cover with tin-foil - this helps keep the moisture in so the squash stays moist during baking.
Bake for 40 minutes (until you can easily poke a fork into them).

Take the squash out of the oven, remove tin-foil and turn them face-up and put them back in the oven and bake for another 10-15 min till they start to brown a bit.

We grow a variety of bush Delicata. Here's a row of them.
Delicata are ripe (or cured) when the skin is too hard to dent with your fingernail (this is true of all winter-squash). Here's are three crates we harvested in 2017. They store for several months if kept in a cool, dry place - out of the direct sun.

Friday, June 18, 2021

It Takes a Village...Gratitude and update

It's been a beautiful spring this year. Though much of eastern Oregon is experiencing severe drought, the Willamette Valley, where we live, has been receiving adequate rainfall, spaced nicely apart. This keeps the grass growing (a major source of mulch and compost-building) and has meant that we spend less time hand-watering our outside crops which is especially crucial when they're first sown or transplanted.

March in the Ark greenhouse.

May in the Sunship greenhouse. Scarlet runner beans (left) were seeded in January and now (mid-June) are already loaded with beans!

Though we're in a bit of a lull now between the spring greens (lettuce, kale and such) and summer's bounteous, heat-loving crops, we've still managed to fill six CSA boxes per week, feed ourselves and our volunteers and still been able to donate a surplus of over 180 pounds of vegetables to food charities in our area. Once the summer bounty comes on, the number will go way up!

Chris, transplanting clusters of bunching onions.

Our largest greenhouse, the Sunship, had the honor of hosting a litter of three baby bunnies last month. One of our volunteers was startled by the mulch moving just inches from where he was preparing a bed for planting. They've already left the nest just two weeks after we discovered them. Hopefully the neighborhood cats won't find them. The wild rabbits have never been a problem in our garden as they seem to prefer eating the clover in our lawns to any domesticated veggies we grow.

Three baby bunnies the first day we found them nested in the mulch in our greenhouse.

Three weeks later, we spotted this one near our wood-shed, a week after s/he left the nest. We've seen another one that likes to hide under the scarlet runner beans in the greenhouse where s/he was born.
We have birds and butterflies and other pollinators galore. Our Showy Milkweed patches continue to expand and though we've yet to see any Monarch butterflies (for which they are a host plant), there are plenty of other pollinators (including hummingbirds) that seem to enjoy the flowers' sweet scent.

Milkweed started from seed four years ago is now naturalized in three places on our land and comes back each year. A favorite of many pollinators - including hummingbirds.

There's a saying from African tribal peoples that "It takes a village to raise a child". Here at the Sharing Gardens, it "takes a village," to grow the food, provide habitat for wildlife and a sanctuary to those people who visit here for respite from the hubbub of day-to-day life. It has been our goal all along to demonstrate a model of "mutual generosity",  where "sharing" is an experience of reciprocity; of giving and receiving, but not everyone is in a position to be generous. Though some folks are primarily at the receiving end of the gardens, there are others who primarily give and some for whom the giving and receiving happen more or less equally. By everyone doing what they can do, this keeps the project sustainable over time. (LINK: Overview and Benefits of the Sharing Gardens Model).

As Anne Frank has been purported to say, "No one has ever become poorer by giving." It has actually been our experience that generosity has increased our sense of abundance and prosperity. 

We've received $2,190 in cash donations since our last gratitude-post in February. Thank you to the South Benton Food Pantry (LINK), John and Donna Dillard, Karen and Stan Salot and Cathy Rose.

We are grateful to our small but mighty volunteer crew: Donn and Marilyn Dussell, Jim, Cindy and Adri Kitchen, Rook Stillwater, and Becky Bauer. There's still room for a few more folks on our crew. For more info, CLICK HERE.

Donn, tilling a bed for squash to grow in.

Marilyn loves to mow!
Jim's our other champion mower. Just look at all that luscious mulch!

Llyn and Cindy always look forward to gardening together each week. Here we are planting lettuce and onions.

Adri, dead-heading the calendula flowers.

Rook, digging compost, coffee-grounds and wood-ash into the garden beds.

Becky, starting seeds.

Our collection site for bagged leaves and grass clippings continues to be very successful. This is a clear example of reciprocal generosity: the Sharing Gardens provides free re-used leaf bags and a free site for people to dispose of their yard-waste (which would otherwise end up in burn-piles or the land fill) and we receive as much organic matter as we can use to mulch and feed our gardens. (LINK: Create your own 'veganic' potting mix).

Our collection site for leaves and grass-clippings in front of our wonderful yellow house.

A special thank you to our friend John Kinsey who generated hundreds of pellet-bags of compost for us over the winter and continues to bring us coffee grounds from a local drive-through cafe' every week. Thanks also to Lua who brought us a load of leaf mold (from Harry McCormack at Sunbow Farms - one of the founders of Oregon Tilth and a pioneer in the organics movement) to enhance our garden's fertility.

John Kinsey with garlic "seeds".

Just a fraction of the "tea" John makes from his worm-compost. We use it to feed our plants.

Firewood is our only source of heat, and our primary means of cooking and drying our laundry in the winter. This year we are feeling especially grateful for the community's generosity regarding firewood. We have received donations of wood "rounds" from David and Jo Crosby (who had a couple of oak trees fall down in a bad storm two years ago). Bob and Cheryl Ballard brought us a load of fir to be split. Thank you to the Dussells for the loan of your splitter too!

Chris, splitting firewood.

We are grateful to our five and a half CSA subscribers and to David Roux and Dallice Drake for their $250 scholarship donation which covers most of the second half of the membership to a low-income family who is committed to eating healthy food to stay cancer-free after the Mom contracted an aggressive case several years ago. (She's been cancer-free for over a year now and attributes some of her success to receiving a CSA box last year as well.) Thanks to Catherine Henry who perused our Wish List and keeps finding items we can use.

Thanks to Communities Magazine and Chris Roth, editor - for publishing our article on Veganic Soil Fertility with Local Materials - in their latest issue on "Ecological Culture" Whatever your living situation, whether in a large community or small household, you can adapt these methods to grow food with a lighter footprint on the planet. (LINK to order a copy of the whole issue on Ecological Culture ($5.00 for digital copy. $10 for digital copy and hard copy mailed to you in the USA - see drop down menu) LINK to Global Ecovillage Network - USA - publishers of the magazine.

And last, but not least: thanks to all our unsung partners in garden abundance: the pollinators, bug- and slug-eaters (birds) and the billions of microbes and soil organisms for whom without their contributions, the gardens would soon cease to exist.

If you feel inspired to leave a comment, please do so below so everyone can enjoy it. Thanks.