Our new and improved site (with the same content as this one, AND MORE! is www.The SharingGardens.blogspot.com/


Saturday, October 26, 2019

Making Your Own "Veganic" Potting Soil in Your Greenhouse Paths - Using Worms

October 2019: Here is a timely re-post of an article we wrote earlier this year about harvesting worm-castings out of our greenhouse paths. We're proud to announce that for the 2019 season we didn't purchase any fertilizers and were able to grow close to 8,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables using locally available resources to feed our worms: leaves and grass clippings. We supplemented with wood-ash from heating our house, and coffee-grounds that volunteers bring us from coffee shops. We're almost done harvesting the worm-compost from our paths this year and it looks like we'll have almost double from last year's  harvest.  Enjoy!
Here is one of our greenhouses in mid-Spring. Note how the paths are filled deep with straw and other "organic-matter". As we water the plants and walk over the beds, we help the worms and micro-organisms turn this dead plant-material into nutrient-dense compost for next year's soil.
For those of us with greenhouses in which we plant directly in the ground (as opposed to using the GH to protect seedlings in pots, on tables) the necessary pathways between planting beds can seem like a lot of wasted space. Over the years, we've developed a method of composting right in the paths, creating habitat for worms and micro-organisms so that, over the course of the growing season we generate (and then harvest) large amounts of fine, high-quality worm-compost using locally available materials often considered "waste" products. We describe our methods below.

"Veganic" method for creating soil-fertility: Over the last few years we have become increasingly convinced that moving toward a veganic method of farming makes a whole lot of sense from several perspectives. Veganic agriculture is defined as:
...an approach to growing plant-foods that encompasses a respect for animals, the environment, and human health. Also known as "stockfree" "vegan organic" and "plant-based," this is a form of agriculture that goes further than organic standards, by eliminating the use of products that are derived from confined animals and by encouraging the presence of wild native animals on the farmland. (LINK: Intro to Veganics)
For many organic farmers\gardeners, if not most, fertilizing the soil means adding some type of manure and\or other animal-based products such as bone meal, fish meal, blood meal, feather meal, etc. Here at the Sharing Gardens, being vegetarians ourselves and wanting to grow food in a way that aligns with our values, we are interested in developing, and demonstrating ways of growing food that uses local materials, gathered in a sustainable way with a gentle impact on the environment.
"Veganic" agriculture: good for the Earth, good for our health.
Here is our current method of building our soil-fertility - right in the paths of our greenhouses!

Gathering Materials: Our method of gardening requires massive amounts of "organic matter" (leaves, straw, grass-clippings etc). In the many years since we started the Sharing Gardens (2009) we have developed relationships with the people in, and around our small town encouraging them to bring us these materials instead of burning them or sending them to the land-fill.
One of our neighbors brings us many trailers full of leaves each Fall. He used to burn them. Now he uses some to mulch his own garden-beds but still has plenty of surplus to share with us.
Our land is over three-acres. We have left much of it as grass so that we can harvest this valuable resource. (LINK-Grass Clippings and Leaves for Soil Fertility). When we have surplus from mulching our plants, we spread it in the greenhouse-paths to feed the worms and micro-organisms.
A System for Collection: For many years, the only people who brought us leaves and grass-clippings were those we had made a personal connection with. In 2017, a teacher from our town's Grade School approached us about doing a volunteer project with her students to help the Sharing Gardens. We spent a morning with the students and raked up over 35 big bags of leaves around town! (LINK: Yes, Money Really Does Grow On Trees!) In the Fall of 2018, our city-hall contacted us about inserting a notice in people's water-bills encouraging them to bring their leaves to our garden. We estimate this yielded another close to 50 bags of leaves. We imagine that in future years that number will grow as people hear about the program. LINK: Monroe Leaf Drive
Here's the sign we painted and set up along the road in front of our house for the 2018 leaf-drive.
As people donate their leaves, we hang the bags out to dry on a clothes-line in our greenhouse and roll them into bundles of 5-6. We feel strongly about minimizing the use of plastics so any time a bag can be re-used is a real bonus!
We set up this station in our front yard. The trash-can has bundles of leaf-bags for re-use.
In the flier that was mailed to our town, we included these important guidelines:
Please no animal waste, trash or sticks/branches, no holly or roses (too sharp), or black walnut leaves (they can kill plants - LINK). Just leaves and grass 😊.
The need for sides on your beds: With this method, it is important that your paths and beds be separated with sides so your soil doesn't mix with the materials in the paths.
Chris has made many of our greenhouse beds with recycled fence-boards held in place with stakes driven into the ground. We have used plywood ripped into four-inch strips too.
Spreading materials: Since our method of creating soil is cyclic, we could begin at any point in the process but if you are just getting started, the first step is to spread the materials. We begin this process at the end of Autumn as we are dismantling the tomato-cages, pulling up pepper-plants and weeding the beds in preparation for the following Spring.
Here is a greenhouse path that has been "harvested" of its worm-compost. It is ready for new materials to be added.
After cleaning all of last season's plant material out of the beds, cutting it into small pieces and laying it in the paths, we cover it with layers of leaves or straw, or whatever we have available.

One of our neighbors thatched his lawn and brought all that wonderful grass "hay" for us to use. Here is a college student/volunteer spreading it by the tub-full.
Llyn, spreading fresh grass-clippings on top of straw.


Creating worm-compost all season-long: From Spring through late Summer we continue to add organic-matter as it becomes available. By watering and walking on the paths we help the worms and other "micro-livestock" to break down the materials and turn them into soil.
This picture was taken in April. Note fresh grass-clippings in center and right pathways. Straw has yet to be covered with grass on left-pathway. Llyn is watering the bed of lettuce and waters the paths too, to help in the decomposition process.
During the growing season, the worms and micro-organisms are 'digesting' all this material from below. On tours of the greenhouses we often pull back the mulch to show people the thriving colonies of red-wiggler worms that live in our paths. Many times we can show them worm-eggs as well and little worm tunnels they have formed down into the rich, black compost.
Another benefit of this style of greenhouse gardening is that the mulched paths are so pleasant to kneel on. Also, many plant roots (figs pictured here) will reach their roots out into the paths and be fed by this 'living compost' through the growing season. (Pictured: Bella and Adri harvesting potatoes).
Harvesting worm-castings: We stop adding organic matter by late summer. This means there is less material to move out of the way when it's time to harvest our worm-compost. This 'undigested' material is temporarily gathered in tubs, or piles and then returned to the paths after the worm-compost has been gathered.
Here, Chris scoops up the compost with a flat, hand-trowel. We collected fourteen, five-gallon buckets from this one, forty-foot x two-foot path!
A flat shovel works well too.
Sifting and storing worm-compost:
This homemade sifter works well to remove large material and give the finished product a uniform texture. The screen is made with "hardware cloth", a wire-mesh with 1/2" holes.
After sifting, we often store the worm compost in re-purposed pellet-stove plastic bags. Storing them in this way preserves the material's moisture.
Mixing soil and starting seedlings: In the past we have been fortunate to have pre-used-soil donated from two-different nurseries at the end of their growing seasons. Though the nutrient-content of the soil was mostly depleted, the structure of the soil was still excellent as it was high in organic-matter, perlite and other substances to keep the soil light and fluffy. We are careful to only accept soil-donations from 'organic' growers (no herbicides/pesticides). Our mix-ratio was 'one-part' worm compost to 'two-parts' depleted soil.

If you don't have access to previously-used soil, there are many recipes on-line for making your own. Typically they include coconut coir (a more-renewable resource than peat-moss) and sand or perlite - so the soil drains well, and compost for fertility. Use the worm-compost outlined in this article in place of the regular compost.

Always mix soil thoroughly so the different materials are evenly mixed and do a few tests with fast-germinating seeds (like radishes) to make sure you have a good mixture.

Update October 2019: This year we have not had any used soil donated and our worm-compost harvest has greatly increased from last year so we will probably be starting our seedlings next Spring in pure worm-compost. Chris has done this before in previous nurseries, with great results. The only reason we didn't do it last year was that we had the pre-used soil donated and we didn't have as much worm-compost.

Pure worm-compost has great drainage due to all the organic-matter within. It's just that it contains more nutrients than young seedlings require so, if you have other material to mix it with, that doesn't cost you anything, it's a good idea to mix it and stretch it out.
Seedlings in our home-grown soil, Spring 2019.
Preparing beds: We also use the worm compost to fertilize our raised beds.
Chris spreading a layer of worm-compost in greenhouse beds. Note last year's tomatoes and other plant material in pathways (before we've added leaves on top). Excellent worm food!
Soil fertility is improved by adding wood-ash and coffee grounds: For some reason, worms love coffee grounds! By sprinkling grounds in your garden beds, you will attract worms to come into your soil. Coffee grounds also contain many nutrients on their own so, we also recommend adding them to your greenhouse paths and compost bins. They will attract worms and speed up the process of decomposition. (LINK: Coffee and Ashes for Fertility)
Spreading coffee-grounds: We have a friend who regularly stops by a local coffee shop and collects coffee grounds for us. Ideally, when we have enough, we sprinkle them about 1/4" deep over the beds. Note: Though coffee-grounds are neither a local or sustainable resource, currently the are free and by using them, we keep them out of the waste-stream.
Spreading wood-ashes: After coffee we add a very light sprinkling of wood-ashes (they are very concentrated and can 'burn' sensitive micro-organisms and the worms' skin and change soil pH). We only use ash collected from natural wood that has no paint or other chemical treatments. Since we heat our house exclusively with wood, this is another 'free' resource.
Through the early winter months, we hand-dig these amendments into the soil. This provides a pleasant activity during inclement weather...
...and a nice time for socializing.

In early Spring, once we begin mowing the grass again, it makes a nutrient-dense mulch directly on the beds. Worms love fresh grass-clippings and will migrate to beds where it has been added.
The cycle starts again - Spreading materials in paths: Once we have harvested the worm-compost, it's time to start the cycle all over again!
Tomato-plants systematically being cut-up into the paths. The fallen tomatoes and weeds in the bed to the left of Llyn will also be scooped out/dug up and put into the path to feed the worms.
Layer, after layer, we build up the organic-matter in the paths.
This includes straw (if we have it) and grass-clippings.
Planting in beds and continuing to add organic-matter to the paths:
The process is an endless cycle, creating soil-fertility from local and veganic materials.
Harvest!
This method of growing, yields nutrient-dense, delicious food!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Amazing Quince! Sugar-free Recipe

Hi folks - We've just made an amazing discovery. We love quince! When prepared as the recipe outlines below, quince tastes like a pear/lemon fruit with a hint of peach and rose-oil! Ambrosia!

This has been one of our most beautiful autumn seasons on memory! Pictured is the back of our 1875 Farmhouse, the yellow, shag-bark hickory tree (on the right) and a rainbow in-between.( October 2019 - 7:15 a.m.)
Every year, about this time, one of the Monroe "locals" drops off two or three HUGE boxes of quince at our local Food Pantry. The quince usually sit on the shelves, for a month or more, with a sign that says "Take as many as you as you can use," but very few people take any, including us. Eventually the Pantry folks get tired of looking at them and they end up in the Sharing Gardens compost pile.

Quince after harvest. Photo credit: LINK
We've been reluctant to try them because they're so darn hard to cut open which makes them seem like a real pain to prepare. Also, they are very tart when they're raw and every recipe we'd heard of called for lots of sugar. We're always trying to find ways to limit our sugar intake, not add to it! So, until we discovered the joys of quince, we just figured our compost piles were going to have a nice big influx of worm-food in a month or two.

That is, until I (Llyn) looked up their nutritional content and Chris and I were pretty impressed - particularly as a good source of zinc and copper. Minerals are often the most difficult nutrients to get enough of in our modern diets. Most farm soils are increasingly depleted and, unless you're getting your food from an organic farmer who replenishes those minerals in natural ways that the plants can absorb, (like wood ash - LINK) it may be difficult to get enough minerals from your diet without taking any vitamin supplements (which we don't). Quince are also low-calorie, high in anti-oxidants and great for digestion (their natural pectin is soothing to the gut!). Who knew? LINK

While I was browsing for more general info about the quince, I found a recipe that suggested boiling them for 8-10 min before baking them and then my cooking creativity kicked in and I came up with the recipe below. I've made it twice so I'm still fine-tuning it (so check back for updates!) But the best thing is, this recipe calls for no refined cane sugar (just maple-syrup, and not much of that) and is easy to prepare.

Pears (on left). Whole, boiled quince (in bowl). Quartered quince (below) - this picture was taken before I figured out how to cut fruit away from core (see below).
The Recipe:

4-6 medium-sized quince (about 5 cups)
4-5 medium yellow pears (about 3 cups) (or sweet apples)
1/3 cup maple syrup (about 1 TBSP maple syrup per cup of quince)
1 TBSP lemon juice (don't over-do the lemon, as quince is plenty tart already!)
1 tsp cinnamon

Choose uniformly yellow, fully ripe fruit without bruises or other damage. It helps if they are a uniform size (for boiling phase).

Bring a pan of water to boil - deep enough to mostly cover the quince.
Using your bare hands, run the quince under water and rub as much of the fuzz off as you can (don't worry if you miss some).

Place in boiling water for 8-10 minutes, depending on size. I think I over-did it the second time I made this. I was trying to soften the fruit all the way through but the core remained quite hard, even with longer boiling and the second time the outer fruit got rather mushy.

Lift the quince out of the boiling water and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking dish with coconut oil or butter.
Combine ingredients for sauce in a measuring cup with a lip for pouring.

Once cool, using a cutting board, cut off any brown spots or other blemishes on the fruit.
Slice the remaining fruit away from the core in as big pieces as possible (see picture). Your knife won't want to go through the core at all. It's super-hard! Just keep shaving off pieces all the way around the core till you've gotten as much as is easy.

Cut fruit away from the hard core.
Cut the fruit into bite-sized pieces.
Wash and core the pears. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
Mix the fruit together by layering it into the baking pan.
Drizzle the sauce over top of the fruit. Gently stir the fruit and sauce together to spread sauce evenly.

Quince, pears and sauce - before baking.
Use a pan with a lid, or cover with aluminum-foil.
Bake for forty-minutes covered (or until juices are boiling).
Take out, gently fold the fruit and sauce together so the fruit at the top gets re-sauced.
Leave cover off and bake for 10 more minutes to lightly caramelize the top.

After baking. Yum!
We like ours chilled with a scoop of organic low-fat, plain yogurt and some organic, lightly sweetened shredded-wheat cereal crushed on top.
We'll keep experimenting...seems like raisins or date-pieces would be good raw or cooked in with the fruit. Also, some crushed walnuts or granola might be good too.

A Quince Essential Fruit - here's a fun post that gives more details about this unique fruit including growing tips.

Let us know of your discoveries/variations in the comments below.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Can We Create Social Change Without Money?







Here is a video and transcript of a Ted-Talk by Nipun Mehta, a pioneer in 'sharing' and the true gift-economy (giving without thought of receiving). Nipun beautifully articulates the community-building, healing power of generosity. We decided to post this on our Sharing Gardens site because our project is deeply founded in the principles outlined in this video. Enjoy!

Can We Create Social Change Without Money?

--by Nipun Mehta, Oct 28, 2015


Can we create social change without money? I don't have a conclusive answer but just holding that question can raise some very interesting insights.

Since we're talking about money, I thought I'd start with a story on Wall Street. One of my friends was running a venture fund on Wall Street. They had a great year, and his boss calls him in to congratulate him and offers the proverbial blank check, "What would you like?" He looks his boss in the eye and says, "What I'd love is a minute of silence before all our group meetings."

Wow. The boss is thinking, "In a context where people are billing every three minutes, a minute of silence to do nothing? That's like wasting time." He refuses. "No. Anything else?" he asks. No. After sleeping on it, though, the boss comes back to say, "Look, if you really want that minute of silence, fine, I'll give it to you." They start meetings with a minute of silence. That minute turned into two to three to five minutes. Today, they do thirty minutes once a week, and even have their own meditation bell.

What was my friend thinking? On one side he could've asked for a monetary raise, but on the other side was very different kind of capital — mental quiet, connection, trust. He is thinking, "I don't want to meet people in a space of rush. I'd rather meet them with a bit more peace." It changed his relationship to himself, it changed his relationship to other people and certainly with his boss. And it didn't just stop there. It changed how everyone related to each other. It changed the whole culture of their office space. And that was something he valued more than the financial capital.

How do we broaden our lens to include alternative forms of capital? This is a question, this is a possibility, that we all have access to but in our current world today, we're very biased towards financial capital.

In theory, our society is supposed to balance all these biases. We have three big sectors. The private sector is rooted in extrinsic motivations like money, power, fame. On the other end, we have the voluntary sector that is rooted in very intrinsic sort of motivations. Compassion, knowledge, purpose. And then there's the public sector that is supposed to regulate between the two and work on both sides of the aisle.

This is how it's supposed to work in theory. In practice, though, the private sector starts to take over. In fact, it starts to dominate. We do have a public sector, but the public sector is increasingly being controlled by the private sector. There is a small voluntary sector, but these days, in the name of the sharing economy, even that is being commoditized. Courtesy of the "sharing economy", your lawn mower can get you six bucks a day, and you can rent out your Hermès purse for a hundred dollars a party and your dog for five dollars a walk.

When we have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. If money is the only metric we have, we start to put a price tag on everything.

The problem with price tags is that we start to lose connection with the priceless. We start to lose connection with our intrinsic motivation.

What does science say about all this? Edward Deci at the University of Rochester has been studying incentives for over forty years. After thousands of experiments, he categorically asserts that the carrot and stick model doesn't work. This idea of a contingent reward — if you do this, you will get this — doesn't actually work.

For example, he studied people who loved to solve puzzles. Initially, they would solve puzzles just for the love of it, just for its intrinsic enjoyment. Then he started to pay them to do the same thing. So far so good. Then, at a later point, he stopped paying them. As soon as he stopped paying them, you would think they would return to that original state, right? It turns out, though, that they were no longer interested in solving puzzles at all!

What his research shows is that money desensitizes us. What science is actually telling us is this: Don't show me the money. When you're working with intrinsic motivations, financial rewards can backfire.

At the Max Planck Institute, researchers have been studying 18-month olds. These toddlers are just playing and all of a sudden they see a bunch of strangers who are putting clothes out for drying. In the process, they drop a clothespin and need help getting to it. The toddlers see that a person is in need, and immediately go out to help. They pick up the clothespin and hand it to the strangers. Now, at that age, they haven't yet been taught kindness or compassion but they're still moved to help. They're still moved to cooperate.

What science is telling us is that it's natural to give, that we're wired to care. In fact, not only is it guiding us to "don't show me the money", but it's saying to not offer any rewards at all. It's just not necessary.

The question we are left with is this — what designs emerge when we don't lead with money? What designs emerge when we lead with something subtler or something internal? We have many examples that offer insight into this inquiry.

Mother Teresa, of course, is an example that all of us know about. Someone purely motivated by intrinsic motivations. One of my friends, Lynne Twist, is a world-renowned fundraiser and author of a book titled, Soul of Money. She knows money. Many years ago, she had a very interesting conversation with Mother Teresa, whom she knew personally. "Mother Teresa, what's your fund raising strategy?" she asked. And Mother Teresa, with her big-hearted compassion, simply replied, "Oh, I just pray. Whatever I get is what I need."

It was simple. Here was a woman who had 400 centers in 102 countries and she's kind of like the CEO of this whole operation and she is saying, "I have no fundraising strategy." Or rather she is saying, "My fundraising strategy is to be rooted so deeply in intrinsic motivation that external security is not even a concern."

We have many modern examples as well. Linux rivaled Microsoft Windows purely with a distributed army of volunteers. Wikipedia did that with Encyclopedia Britannica. On Wikipedia alone, through those micro-edits that volunteers made, hundred million volunteer hours have been donated. CouchSurfing, similarly, allowed strangers to stay on each other's couches and disrupted the hotel industry.

As we look closely, we see an entire spectrum of motivations. It starts with extrinsic motivations on one side and goes all the way to intrinsic motivations. On the extrinsic side, there's money, power, fame; somewhere in between you have things like fun, learning, growth and purpose. Then on the intrinsic end of the spectrum, you have these very profound motivations like healing, forgiveness, inner-transformation and ultimately compassion.

On that extrinsic end, we have thousands and thousands of examples, but on the other side, on the side of intrinsic motivations, we don't have too many. Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, is a completely decentralized, distributed, and a never-monetized effort. It points towards the other end of the spectrum, but we have an opportunity to create a lot more examples here.

Back in 1999, we started ServiceSpace that rested squarely on the intrinsic end of this spectrum. It started with four of us, building websites for non-profits. Underneath the work, though, what we wanted to do was to anchor ourselves purely in the spirit of service. Over the last sixteen years, we've organized around three core principles that have kept us rooted in that intrinsic motivation.

The first one is that we are volunteer run. Many people look at that as scarcity of paid staff and ask, "How will you scale?" What we noticed was that we actually had an abundance of social capital. Imagine that you're trying to raise a million bucks. You could get it from one or two people, or a dollar from a million people. Which is stronger? A million people saying, "Yes, I believe in what you're doing. Yes, I care." The cumulative energy of that is profound. It's powerful. That's what we were experiencing with small contributions of time from many volunteers.

Similarly, our second principle is to not fundraise. When you don't ask for resources, you naturally feel a lot of gratitude for all that ends up in your lap. You learn to creatively work with what you've got, and you start to cooperate. Incredible synergies emerge, particularly when working with non-financial capital.

Lastly, our third principle is to focus on small. It wasn't about big things outside, but rather it was about the subtle on the inside. Being in the change you wish to see in the world starts to attune us to the subtle. The resulting awareness, in a very profound way, ignites our deepening understanding of interconnection.

With these three principles, ServiceSpace manages to create lot of impact in the world. We started by building websites for non-profits and we ended up helping thousands of efforts come online. Then we started building portals like DailyGood and KarmaTube. Every year we send seventy million emails, and not a single one of them has an ad -- or even a reference to buying something. It is purely non-financial.

Still, how far can we push ourselves while still operating solely on the strength of these intrinsic motivations?

We started this game of kindness called Smile Cards and it spread to over a hundred countries. In local communities we started these gift-economy experiments like Karma Kitchen where people are redefining what it means to engage in transaction. In living rooms around the world, Awakin Circles started. In all, more than half a million members were co-creating something that was engaging the attention of millions -- all without ever raising a single penny, and moved by love, service and our innate connection to each other.

It's not just that you can do a lot with this. We often take metrics from the extrinsic side of the spectrum to measure the impact on the intrinsic end. That puts a very low ceiling on its potential.

Operating with the power of intrinsic motivation alone fundamentally changes the way in which we relate to each other. It gives birth to a whole new realm of possibilities.

Karma Kitchen is like a regular restaurant, except that at the end of the meal, your check reads zero. It's zero because someone before you has paid for you and you get to pay forward for somebody after you. You are trusted to pay forward whenever you want. When people are just giving for the love of it, it changes the way they interact in that collective space. It's a profound idea that has worked wonders in seventeen places around the world.

What works, though, isn't the intellectual idea -- it's actually the experience. It's actually realizing that when you walk in, the greeter is a volunteer. The person who is waiting on your table, the person who plates your food, the person who's bussing your tables, they're all volunteers. That guy doing dishes in the back, who signed up to be on his feet for six hours, to just do dishes so you can have an experience of generosity, is also a volunteer. When you realize this, it begets a very different kind of generosity in you. A flow of deep compassion emerges. It's very natural.

Minah Jung was a student at UC Berkeley when she first volunteered at Karma Kitchen. She was so moved by the concept that she decided to study it. In fact, her research on Karma Kitchen and other gift economies became her PhD thesis. With eight different experiments, she poured through data with academic rigor, and came out with a seminal paper titled, "Paying More When Paying For Others." If you create a strong context, people respond to generosity with even greater generosity.

Richard Whitaker runs his art magazine in the same way. He was running it for fifteen years with the traditional subscriber model, and then he ran across ServiceSpace and said, "Wow, this is great. This is how I want show up in the world." He offered refunds to all his current subscribers and said, "From now on, the magazine will operate only offerings of gratitude."

Similarly, Thuy Nguyen is experimenting with this pay-forward model at her acupuncture clinic.

I want to end with this story of one of my friends, Uday-bhai. He's a rickshaw driver. By all traditional metrics, he would probably be a UN statistic on one of those poverty charts. He's a humble rickshaw driver but he has another kind of resource. He believes in love, he believes in people. Uday-bhai decided to run his rickshaw on a pay-it-forward basis. You sit in his rickshaw and there is no money meter. Someone before you has paid for you and you get to pay forward for people after you, whatever you moved to offer. He trusted that goodness in people, in the sixth largest city in India. Naturally, many asked him, "Is it working?" He says, "Here's my ledger. Point A to point B, point B to point C. Yes, some paid more, some paid less. On the whole, it evens out."

Then he adds, "Let me also show you this other notebook. This is where I ask people to write down how they felt sitting in my rickshaw." Imagine sitting in Uday-bhai's rickshaw and being completely caught off guard by the generosity of his process. This is not a billionaire doing philanthropy, but an everyday hero putting his entire livelihood on the line -- for love. It moves people to tears, people take vows for life. It's just deeply transformative and you can see that in all the notes.

Uday-bhai didn't have money, but he had a deeper kind of resource. Through that resource, through his belief in our innate generosity, he created a massive ripple that is certainly changing the world. He is redefining what it means to have capital. He's diversifying that portfolio of wealth. When you do that, when you really start saying yes to that idea, you are essentially saying, "It's no longer about the CEO, it's about the everyday Joe. It's no longer about fundraising, it's about friend-raising. It's no longer about price tags, it's about the priceless."

All of this sits on a single idea — what we will do for love will always be greater than what we do for money. May we all lead with love and change the world. Thank you.   


Nipun Mehta is the founder ofServiceSpace.org, a nonprofit that works at the intersection of gift-economy, technology and volunteerism. You can read more of his talks online.    
This video and article were copied from the Daily Good site, a free service that sends out emails featuring inspiring, uplifting news from the world free of charge and with no advertising. LINK



Sunday, August 11, 2019

Saving Tomato Seeds

Striped German - Heirloom tomato
One of the missions of the Sharing Gardens is to educate people about the importance of seed-saving and to offer techniques to demystify this process. Today's blog covers the practical steps necessary for saving one of the home-gardener's favorite fruits: the tomato! If you're new to seed-saving tomatoes are good to start with because of their relative simplicity.

In order to save seeds that will "grow true" and produce fruit similar to the one you saved seeds from, you must start with an "heirloom" or "open-pollinated" (OP) variety (not hybrid). Hybrid seeds are artificially created by seed companies to produce plants with unique qualities (early ripening, bug resistance etc). The problem is that they don't "breed true". If you save seed from hybrids, next year's plants may or may not be what you want. If you wish to save seeds, choose seeds or starts that say "open pollinated", OP, heirloom or non-hybrid.
"Heirloom" tomatoes come in all types: here are large paste-tomatoes called "Long Toms"
OK, so lets say you have grown some beautiful heirloom tomatoes and you're ready to save seeds. If you have more than one plant to pick from, choose the plant that is healthiest, most robust, earliest to ripen and with the largest and/or best-tasting fruit. Then, pick one or two fruits that are the best examples of these same qualities.. If there are other people who harvest from your garden, put a twist-tie, or in some other way mark the fruit so no one picks it prematurely. We often use onion or citrus bags (plastic, stretchy netting) so we can actually cover the fruit, making it clear that it's not to be picked. Let the fruit come to fullest maturity possible. It's OK even if it starts to rot a little.

Black Krim (below) and Striped German
Here are two heirloom tomato varieties we saved for seed this year (right). We saved them as beautiful examples of color, juiciness and size. That's a Black Krim on the bottom and a Striped German on the top.

In saving seed, you wish to mimic nature's process. Have you ever noticed what happens to the tomatoes left in the garden after the first frost? They turn to a slimy mush, with the fruit eventually dissolving away from the seed. In the following year, robust little volunteers emerge from where the tomato rotted. The way we mimic this process: Remove the stem from your chosen tomato and put it in the blender with enough water to fill a quart jar. Whiz it in the blender, at a low speed, just long enough to separate seeds from fruit. Don't worry about the seeds. They have a protective gel that keeps the blades from harming them. Pour them into a wide-mouth glass jar. Be sure to swirl the blender as you pour the last liquid out so no seeds are left in the bottom. If you're processing more than one tomato variety in a row, rinse the blender well so you don't mix seed varieties. Label the jar so you remember the variety of seeds you're saving.

The next step is to leave them to "rot". To minimize fruit-flies secure a piece of cheese cloth over the opening with a rubber-band or canning-jar ring. Leave them in the open jar for 4-7 days. When it's warm outside, the process will go faster. Stir them once or twice a day with a chopstick to help separate the seed from the pulp. The pulp and non-viable seeds will form a layer at the top. The healthy seeds will sink to the bottom. Look for a nice scum to form on the top. Mold is OK. The picture on the left is of two varieties of tomato seeds in process. The ones on the right were just blended so no layers have formed. The ones on the left have been sitting a few days. The other picture shows the quality of the scum that has formed on the tomatoes once they are ready for the next step. Notice the bubbles which indicate a mild fermentation process.













The last step is to dry the seeds. Spoon out the scum and pour off most of the water. The viable seeds will have sunk to the bottom but be careful not to pour them out with the pulp/water. Add more water, allow to settle and continue to pour off excess flesh. Repeat this process till you've removed the majority of the flesh. Then pour the seeds through a fine-mesh strainer and rinse them in the strainer. Let them drip-dry and then tap them onto a piece of tin-foil, a jar-lid or other non-porous surface. We find that the lid to a plastic tub (like a yogurt container) works best as it's flexible and we can "pop" off the seeds after they've dried. Seeds will stick to paper towel or napkins. Transfer your label to the drying seeds and leave them to dry for a week or so. Be sure they are thoroughly dry before storage so they don't mold in the bag, envelope or jar.

Each seed-saver has his or her preference for containers to store seeds in. We use clean, small plastic bags or recycled plastic pill-bottles or other small jars. The most important thing is to keep your whole seed collection in a dry, dark environment with moderate temperatures, in air-tight containers. Avoid freezing or excessive heat. Stored well, tomato seeds can remain viable for many years.

Tomato seeds drying.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Enough and to Spare, To Give and to Share!

Cindy sorting beets and carrots. 

Harvest totals and garden update:

Hi folks - We had a beautiful post almost finished when we lost it to a computer glitch. Arrgh...We'll recreate it soon but the gardens have really kicked into high gear in the last couple of weeks and we've been harvesting and weeding and watering like crazy! Here are the harvest totals so far this year, some pictures of many of the wonderful people who help to grow the food and some recent pictures of the gardens so you can enjoy the beauty and abundance. Much love, Llyn and Chris

So far, we've been sharing produce out of the gardens for 18 weeks. Depending on when the first major frost hits, we could be past the half-way mark of garden productivity but the next 15 - 20 weeks will also be way more productive in terms of how many pounds the gardens will yield. So, we could be looking at a record year! (For those of you who are new to the Sharing Gardens, here's a quick overview of our project.)

Donated to S. Benton Food Pantry: 507#
Donated to Local Aid Food Pantry: 455#
Donated to THIP class being led by our local Health Clinic ("Total Health Improvement Program"): 268#
Shared with Share-givers (volunteers): 284#
Used in canning projects so far: 36#
Potatoes harvested so far (that weren't counted in other totals): 94#
CSA member-boxes: 408

Grand total so far: 2,052 pounds!

Huge thanks to all the contributors who are helping to make this, our 11th season, such a success!

We love it when Cindy and Jim's grand-kids come to The Gardens. Here are Adri, Kaylynn and Jace helping Llyn harvest cucumbers, one of their favorite snacks!
Cindy, Rook and John, weeding. On our volunteer days, we often team up and swarm a whole quadrant of the gardens together leaving no weeds behind! This massive amount of weeds is put in our compost bins where the heat of their decomposition kills a majority of the weed-seeds.
This picture was taken July 31st. The gardens are in full bloom!
Here's Becky, weeding beets. Becky is one of our newest 'share-givers' (volunteers). She brings a friendly and playful spirit.
Jace (left) munching on a carrot, to keep up his strength for the potato harvest. We harvested 30 pounds that day off of six plants and they're looking beautiful. Our best year for potatoes yet (and we still have many more plants to harvest, well into the Fall).
Here's one quadrant of the garden in late July. Provence squash, cabbage, Delicata squash and  four rows of blue corn. All but the cabbage will provide storage-food to get us (and the Food Pantry) much of the way through the winter.
Megan, our youngest 'share-giver' (who also started this year), teamed up with 'young-at-heart' Jim - who's been coming since 2011. Here they are trimming the tops off onions.
With this team of guys, weeds don't stand a chance! Our motto is: "Weed 'em and reap!"
A late-July photo taken of the NE garden-quadrant. From top-left to bottom-right: Blue-corn (dried and ground for cereal and baking), red potatoes, a mixed row of celery/collards/kale, a row of cucumbers and a row of kidney beans which we dry for soups and chili. (Marigolds and Cosmos flowers in the foreground.)
Jim harvesting soft-ball sized Elephant garlic. We filled that wheel-barrow, mounded high, twice.
Adri helps Grandpa Jim and Chris with a potato harvest. Kids love this job because it's like hunting for eggs on Easter; you never know how many you're going to find!
Bean tipi at entrance to garden and Sunship greenhouse. The beans are called Giant Greek White beans and we got the seed for them out of the bulk-food section at our local natural foods store. They had made the beans into a salad for their deli and were delicious! We like them as much as Scarlet Runner beans for flavor and grow to be 2-3 times the size! (LINK to Scarlet Runner Bean post)
Cindy with an early crop of onions and greens. Cindy's been coming since 2010 and never misses a garden-day if she can help it. We love her cheerful, 'can-do' spirit!
Dear Rook, in his third season, has fallen in love with being in the garden (and we've fallen in love with him)! He loves to help people and to serve, and has come to embody the spirit of the Sharing Gardens. "Gee, it's great to be alive!"