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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
Garlic provides 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.
And to you, our fine readers, we also bid a fond farewell. Give Long and Prosper!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Children In the Garden

Caleb loves radishes. We find that kids who help in the garden are more likely to enjoy eating vegetables.
Our dear friend Cathy Rose came by this morning to pick up two CSA boxes that she delivers for us in Eugene and said, in no uncertain terms, "Post more pictures!". I've also become aware that few people have time to read through our longer posts so here's a quickie to introduce our youngest gardener, Caleb and show how we are finding ways to integrate him into garden-time. Much fun!
Early in the season, Caleb still sometimes needed a morning nap upon arrival at the gardens. Here's his Mom, Sabine, pouring 'compost tea' on the cabbage while Caleb snoozes.
At first, it took one of us full-time to entertain Caleb while everyone else harvested and weeded and planted. (Sabine in the front - harvesting beets, Cindy with Caleb and Chris).
Next we tried a portable play pen but he seemed a bit lonely and...

...we wanted to help Caleb be involved in the gardens, not off somewhere entertaining himself. Here we are planting and mulching potatoes. That's his Dad, Tye with his hand in the garden-cart picking up mulch.

Caleb is beginning to show interest in what the "big" kids are doing. Here he is with Adri (who's been coming since she was a baby, and Chris' grandson - Joey - who enjoyed shelling walnuts from our tree while he visited last week.
We're careful never to use the term "work" in the garden so the children think of helping out as "playing". We also always invite them to participate but don't require it. (Adri and Sabine "playing" in the gardens - 2015).

Usually, if the adults seem to be having fun, then the kids want to join in too. (Adri and her Grandpa Jim shelling kidney beans. 2015)

Before you know it, we'll have Caleb harvesting grass-clippings with our riding-mower for use in mulching the garden!
But for now we're happy that he's finding ways, through 'play' to become part of our gardening family. Here is he "sorting" sticks.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Family Heirlooms - Saving Your Own Seed

Llyn, with a variety of bean seeds


















In the Sharing Gardens we probably save about 80 - 90% of our own seeds. It really isn't that difficult to do and it is very gratifying to experience this deeper level of "local food self-reliance". If you have a garden plot that is separated from other gardens by at least 500 feet (to prevent unwanted cross-pollination) you can save your own seed. Even if there are other gardens nearby, there are many crops you can grow that will not cross (tomatoes, beans and onions, for example) so don't let that stop you.

There are many good reasons to save your own seed:
  • It will be more adapted to your local growing-conditions
  • You can "select" for certain qualities/characteristics (early ripening, sweetness, cold-tolerance etc)
  • The flowering plants provide food for pollinators
  • You have better control over the quality of your seed
  • You are not as dependent on supplies being available from outside sources
  • It's fun!
Chris, winnowing lettuce-seed.
Always start with Heirloom (or "open-pollinated") seed. "Hybrid" seed is developed in a carefully controlled environment that crosses unique qualities between parent-plants to yield consistent, specific results (like early-ripening "Early Girl" tomatoes). If you save seed from a hybrid plant, it is likely that it will revert back to one, or the other's parent-qualities and not give you the desired outcome. Many seed-companies will label their packets, or inform you in their catalog descriptions so you know what you are starting with;  or you can do an on-line search and have your "shopping list" handy next time you pick out seeds, or starts. Of course, once you start saving your own, you always know you've got "heirloom" seed.

Some plants easily cross-pollinate with other plants of the same family (see below). It is difficult to control the outcome of these crosses and, you won't know the results until you grow out the seed the following year. For example, many gardeners have had the experience of having a squash seed germinate in their compost pile, grow to gigantic proportions and discover at harvest time that their "zucchini" is funny shaped, or has a woody skin or poor flavor. These variations are due to cross-pollination. Peppers also cross easily so, if you grow hot- and sweet-peppers close to each other, the seed you save may either have "sweetened" your hot peppers, or "heated" up the sweet.
Sometimes these crosses are beneficial, creating a variety that is an improvement over either of its "parents" but beneficial "crosses" are rare. Often (unless you know what you're doing) you'll end up with something that isn't quite as good as either of its parents.

Squash-blossom with bees.
Examples of plants that easily cross-pollinate:
  • Squash - with other squashes (some varieties won't cross with each other but for specifics, do more research HERE)
  • Cucumbers - with other varieties of cukes
  • Melons - with other varieties of melons
  • Peppers - with other peppers
  • Lettuce - with other lettuce
  • Broccoli/Cabbage/Kale/Cauliflower - with each other
  • Chard/Beets - with each other
If you wish to save seed from the plants listed above you either need to learn which varieties cross and keep them far away from each other when they're going to seed, or grow them on alternate years.

Some plants won't easily cross, even with other plants in the same family. Tomatoes are a good example: you can grow two, five or ten varieties in close proximity with each other and the seed you save will almost always have the same characteristics as the plant you picked it from. On rare occasions we've had tomatoes that were a 'cross' from two varieties of plants we grew the year before. (Though we haven't experienced it ourselves, we've heard that 'potato-leaf' varieties such as Stupice or Brandywine are especially susceptible to crossing.)

Brandywine Heirloom tomatoes
Examples of plants that won't easily cross-pollinate:
  • Tomatoes
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Onion family (includes garlic, shallots, leeks)

Can my garden seed cross with "weed" seed? Yes! There are wild relatives of domestic vegetables that, if flowering at the same time, can 'cross' making your seed produce fruit that is woody, or bitter or has other undesirable characteristics. Learn to identify your local weeds (especially if there are big, open fields of them nearby). Consult expert sources to learn of techniques to avoid this problem (i.e. hand pollinating, bagging the flowers, timing your bloom to avoid the wild varieties' blooming. etc). Examples: Wild lettuce can cross with domestic lettuce; Queen Anne's Lace is a wild variety of carrot.

Dustin saving sunflower seed
Can I "save seed" from produce I buy from the store? Sometimes, but not always. Tomatoes are often hybridized (and being "organic" does not mean they grew it from heirloom-seed). Melons are often from hybrid seed, and they may have been grown in a field next to other melons that they could have crossed with (true with squash as well). On the other hand, we have gotten excellent bean seeds at the bulk-food section of the grocery, and grown fantastic sunflowers from bulk-seed (raw and unsalted, and still in the shell -- of course.) See the article below, if you want to grow potatoes from grocery-store "seed".

This post just covers some of the most basic aspects of seed-saving. For more detailed info, read our posts below and/or consult other sources through books or the internet.

Please leave us comments about your own experiences of saving seed below. It's great when we can all learn from each other!

Here are several posts we've written that include information on saving seed: (click on the bolded text.)

Tomato Seeds: Tomatoes are a good plant to start with if you're learning to save seed. As long as you know that the plant you're saving from is not hybrid (see above) you are bound to be successful!



Lettuce: Just be sure you save seed from only one variety of lettuce at a time (it crosses easily if plants are closer than 50-feet apart). With one plant you can save enough seed to keep you, and your whole neighborhood (!) supplied with seed for several seasons to come.


Peas: are easy (if you can restrain yourself from picking every last ripe pea-pod <smile>). Be sure to follow the instructions in the post and, once the seed is fully ripened and dry, freeze the seed to prevent pea-weevil larvae from ruining your batch.


Scarlet Runner Beans: Beautiful red blossoms, big seeds (easy to harvest and dry) and the most delicious bean we know of...what's not to like!





Potatoes: If you're already growing potatoes, saving seed is as simple as sorting out the smaller egg-sized ones and storing them till next season. You can also find seed-potatoes in the organic section of your grocer's in the spring.



Saving your own seed is only one of the many benefits of a sharing-type garden (one big garden, instead of many separate plots). To read about how a sharing garden works, and many of its other benefits, CLICK HERE- Overview of the Sharing Gardens).
(BENEFITS of a Sharing Garden).

Ismael trimming dill seed-heads; lettuce going to seed in lower-left corner.