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

Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Gardening for the Soul"

Here is an article written by Sarah Moser for the Tri-County Tribune and published January 12, 2011

When Chris Burns and Llyn Peabody, first moved to Monroe, they went for a walk in the park in Alpine. They started imagining what an ideal spot it would be for a garden. “It didn’t look like the park was being used for much and some of the buildings and benches were suffering from vandalism, so we mentioned it to some people at one of the pot lucks at the Alpine Community Center,” Chris said. “People were very supportive.”

Alpine's sign - painted winter 2010
 In April of 2009, Chris and Llyn planted their first garden in Alpine. “The first year was a success; we grew enough food to share with our local food bank, and vandalism disappeared in the park. We realized we had the ability to expand much farther and there were a lot more people who wanted to get involved.” Llyn said.

So in 2010, they approached Chester Crowson, who owns land between the Monroe Food Bank at the United Methodist Church and the town's Grade School. “We told him what we wanted to do and he thought it was a great idea,” Chris said. “He gave us the use of a large shed for our tools, an area 110' x 170' for the garden and has supported us 100 percent. He even put in a new pump on the well and paid for the electricity to water the garden.”

Monroe's sign and shed. (Grade school in back, left.)
The “Sharing Garden” is unlike most community gardens. “Instead of many separate plots, rented by individuals, the gardens are one large plot shared by all.” Llyn said. “We grow it all together. Anybody who has contributed in some way , or is in need, is free to harvest from the garden. No one is ever charged money for the food that is grown.” The entire surplus goes to the Monroe Food Bank and other charitable organizations. “All we ask is that people be sensitive to the fact that they not take more than their share,” chimed in Chris, “The gardens help us re-learn the values of sharing that we were all taught as children. If everyone gives what they can, and only takes what they need, there's enough to go around.”

In 2010, one of their biggest challenges was distributing all of the food they grew; it was quite a increase from the first year. “The first year we were generating a surplus of about a wheel barrow worth of food a week. ” Llyn said. Their entire operating budget was $1,230. In 2010, they spent $9,240 and were able to grow over 5,000 pounds of food. At the season's peak they were donating over 300 pounds of food per week. “This same organic produce, if bought at the store, would have cost almost $10,000 dollars.” Llyn said. 

A partial harvest - August 2010
The expenses for the gardens are covered through gifts and grants. “In 2010, we received our largest support from Trust Management Services, of Oregon. They made it possible to expand the gardens and for us to receive a stipend as well.” said Llyn. Other grants came from two garden clubs in Corvallis, the Lions Club and private individuals. “People donate in other ways too,” Chris said. “The Alpine Community Center (a 501c3) played a major role in helping us secure the financial and community support we've needed to make this project a success. They have also included us under their insurance policy. People also donate tools, mulch and building materials; our project has been responsible for diverting literally tons of material from burn-piles and the landfill.”

There are anywhere between 125 and 200 families a month served by the Monroe Food Bank. The garden supplements the primarily boxed and canned foods these families receive.
“We really focus on the basics that we know people will eat,” Chris said. “We stay way from exotic foods, and grow the stuff you'd ordinarily find in the markets—things like tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, green beans, potatoes and lettuce.”

Young people harvesting green beans - 2010
The volunteers are an essential aspect of the project. “We couldn't do it without them,” says Llyn. “They help us in every aspect of growing and harvesting the food. Last year we had people from all walks of life—children, families and older people who want to help out and learn about gardening.” Many of Chris and Llyn’s volunteers are people who hear about the garden while picking up food at the food bank. “Many of them are learning to garden and store food for the first time,” Chris added. “These skills give people a sense of security. What could be more important than learning how to grow your own food?”

This year they are also in the midst of building a 2,000 square-foot green house. Between the three gardens they will have roughly two thirds of an acre in cultivation. They will be able to start seeds a lot earlier with the green house; probably the middle of February. It will also extend the harvest season well into the fall.

Not only do the “Sharing Gardens” feed people's bodies, but their hearts and minds as well.
“People feel inspired by what we're doing,” Llyn said, “Whether they're actually helping us in the garden, or just reading about it on our blog, this project gives people a good feeling inside. I love the feeling of being of service. It feels extremely meaningful to be feeding people. I was never a gardener before I met Chris and now I love to garden. What a miracle. It is absolutely amazing. You put this little seed in the ground and it can produce enough to feed dozens of people.” “You get out of it what you put in,” Chris said. “When you wake up each day you have something to look forward to. You know you are going to help people smile, and feel better about themselves, you know you are going to be outdoors getting some sunshine, you are working with living things and plants and seeds and there is a great satisfaction being close to the earth, helping people and eating good wholesome food.” 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wishlist and Thanks

Our new greenhouse. We've decided to name it "The Ark".
Here's a beautiful picture we took at the greenhouse on Monday. As you can see it's close to being finished. If you're local, you can see it at the far east end of Oak St., in Monroe (near the Long Tom River), just north of the storage lockers. Though we still have a list of "finishing touches", we've already started our first batches of peas and onions in pots.

We've got an updated wish-list. Let us know if you can help us out with any of these things:
Here's the mailbox we re-decorated for the Alpine Garden
* Hardi-Plank - scraps would be fine. We need it to skirt the greenhouse
* Pine Needles (the long ones from Ponderosa Pines are best) - we'll use them to
      keep the paths in the greenhouse from getting too squishy. We can come rake
      and bag them.
* Bedding straw - spoiled OK - we can use this for the greenhouse paths too, and
      any extra we'll use to mulch the gardens.
* An old mailbox - we need to paint one and set it up at the Monroe garden for
      plastic bags and messages (like at Alpine)

Still on our list:

*  Nursery flats, pots, 6-packs: Our vision is to grow enough garden "starts" to supply the "Sharing gardens" and to give the surplus away to volunteers and others who have donated in some way; to other "Sharing Garden"-type projects and to people in need in our community. We are in greatest need of 6-pack sized pots and prefer not to buy them new if we can find them to re-use (keeping them out of the waste-stream). Even a few will help as, if everyone donates a few, we shall have enough for the whole project. You can drop them in front of the garden shed at the Monroe garden, behind the big, white Methodist Church in Monroe.
*  Bagged leaves - bring to Alpine or Monroe and leave by the gate
*  Truckload of potting soil - delivered to greenhouse on Oak St. in Monroe
*  Sprouting Potatoes
*  Non-Hybrid Seeds
    Cash donations are always appreciated!

    Gratitude goes out to:

    * Steve Rose - for the beautiful job he did pruning the apple tree at the Alpine Park - the branches are available to anyone who wishes to process the wood.
    *  Judy Todd - thank you for your generous cash donation
    *  Betty and Jim Christensen - your cash donation is also a big help!
    *  Julia Sunkler of "My Pharm" - donated a load of rabbit manure
    *  George and Claudia gave us all the pellet-bags they saved from running their stove this past winter. They're made of heavy-duty plastic and so can be used over and over again.

    Chris in the door of "The Ark" greenhouse

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    Preparing Garden Beds - One Low-Tech Way

    Planted side-beds in a previous greenhouse that Chris built and managed.
    The challenge: In our 100-foot-long greenhouse we've got two side-beds that still have living grass growing in them. Since we began building the greenhouse at the start of Oregon's rainy season we didn't want to roto-till the ground which would have created a muddy mess during construction-time.  We have begun a process now which we hope will leave us with healthy, worm-filled beds in time for this next summer's plantings of tomatoes, peppers and other herbs and vegetables.

    Creating raised beds with salvaged lumber.
    The Solution: Step 1: We used salvaged lumber to create the sides of the raised beds. As we build the soil, this will contain it from spilling into the paths. Each bed is four feet wide.

    Step 2: With leaves that people have donated, we lay down a layer about 4" thick, the full length of the beds.

    Step 3: Next we added a layer of rabbit manure. One five-pound bucket per six-feet of bed, spread evenly (Sometimes it clumps so you have to break it up with a spade fork or your hands.) We are fortunate to have a rabbitry in our neighborhood (Julia Sunkler - "My Pharm") where we can go shovel large quantities of manure for use in our gardens. Rabbit manure is preferable because grass seeds do not survive their digestive tracts. If you don't have access to rabbit manure, cow, llama and chicken are also excellent (for the same reason). Horse manure is the least desirable as, unless it has been well-composted, weed seeds are still viable and can be a problem in your garden.

    Step 4: Using a hand-held pump sprayer, or one of those hose attachments that allows you to spray a mist, spray evenly a strong solution of fish emulsion, seaweed and water on your garden beds.

    Step 5: If you have a small tiller, that you can easily run in your beds, mix everything together at this time. We don't have a small tiller so we are using something called a broad fork. This is an indestructible hand tool that is excellent for breaking up new soil. It is also great for harvesting potatoes. If you don't have a broad fork, you can loosen the soil with a spade fork instead. It will just take you a lot longer. If you have heavy, clay soil, be sure to wait until it has drained a bit or you will end up with heavy, brick-like clumps.

    A broad fork in action.
    Step 6: Once you have mixed everything, it's ideal if you can "seed" your bed with micro-livestock i.e. "red wiggler" worms. These are a variety of worms that thrives on compost and mulch. If you don't have a starter batch, they will eventually come on their own but you can significantly jump-start the process by spreading them through-out your beds. When we went to dig up the rabbit manure, we came across several concentrated clumps of the worms. These we put in specially marked bags and distributed them through out our greenhouse beds.

    "Red Wigglers", our micro-livestock.
    Step 7: Using thick black plastic (that we found dumped at our local recycling center) we have covered the beds completely. Blocked of sunlight, the grass still growing in the beds cannot survive. The worms and other microbes have plenty of food to keep them busy and multiplying, doing the work of preparing the beds for late-spring planting.

    Finished job (for now!)

    Sunday, February 13, 2011


    Llyn and Cindy putting on hinges
    Chris and I have been having a lot of fun building the greenhouse. We give thanks daily for this meaningful project to channel our energy into. We've had some good help from Cindy and Paul Canter, and Bruce and Elizabeth Hayler. Both couples have been very supportive and helpful in moving the project along.  Thanks also to Larry Hammon for showing up at a moment's notice to help us put the plastic on the greenhouse.

    Mylrea Estell and Ray Kreth bought the "Gardens" a year's subscription to our local weekly paper, The Tri-County Tribune. This will be very helpful for us to stay tuned in with local "happenings" and, as Mylrea said, "You'll need it to save articles about the "Gardens" for your scrapbook!" We are also grateful for our little home on their property, with its beautiful views, nice walks and minimum expense, allowing us to continue doing this project on a small budget.

    Free Geeks in Portland: Donated a re-furbished laptop, a digital camera, an ink jet printer and a router. This volunteer-based program receives donations of used electronic equipment (thereby keeping them out of the land-fills) and teaches volunteers how to clear them of old data, clean them up and install "open-source" software. After a certain number of hours, volunteers are given a computer of their own. Special thanks to volunteer Jeff Jenness - who shepherded us through the process and went out of his way to deliver equipment to us in Corvallis saving us the trip to Portland.

    Judy Peabody in the tomato patch
    Judy Peabody (Llyn's mom) and Claudia McCue made generous cash donations to the project. Way to go gals!

    Dan Crall, of Corvallis, OR donated salvaged lumber which we've been using in greenhouse construction.

    Jeanie Goul and her husband Ken also donated salvage-lumber. We received enough plywood and paneling boards to make both end walls of the greenhouse.

    George and Eric - at Monroe Auto Repair, have helped fix our farm truck numerous times--for free or at a discount rate because they believe in what the "Sharing Gardens" are all about. If you're local, we encourage you to give them your business; they're honest, efficient and professional. You'll be glad you did.

    The Monroe Food Bank. When we put the gardens to rest in November, Curtis Bowman and his dedicated team of volunteers continued to serve local families in need, weekly, no matter the weather. Last time we talked to Curtis, he said the numbers of families and individuals coming to the Food Bank continues to creep higher each month.
    Bruce Hayler helps us salvage lumber

    Our greenhouse project would not be nearly so far along, and under budget if it weren't for the generosity of Nine Peaks Construction. They gave us access to their salvage yard so that Chris and I could practice our nail-pulling and lumber-ripping "meditations". Days that were too wet to be outside, we worked in our barn-shop assembling component pieces for the greenhouse (slatted nursery tables, a-frame tomato cages and the side-walls that run the full length of the greenhouse). After tallying the lumber we had salvaged and pricing it at our local lumber yard, we figured that we would have spent over $1,000 if we bought the lumber new. That's a lot of material that isn't going to end up in a big burn-pile or the local landfill either.

    Karen and Tad of Queen Bee Honey are providing over a dozen 55 gallon drums for us to use in the greenhouse. The barrels will be placed down the middle of the greenhouse, spaced about a foot apart. In the spring they'll support our slatted nursery tables, in the summer we'll plant tomatoes or other crops between them and, as they'll be filled with water, they will provide a thermal mass which will moderate the greenhouse temperatures year-round. Karen also connected us with Glory Bee Foods in Eugene who has donated an additional twenty, food-grade metal drums.

    We wish to continue to acknowledge the Alpine Community Center for their on-going support and specifically Dorothy Brinckerhoff for helping us manage the accounting and Evelyn Lee for forwarding our emails through the ACC list serve.

    Rob and Sally with some of their delicious hazelnut candies.
    Rob and Sally of Hazelnut Hill heard our plea for nursery pots and flats and donated two whole pallets, stacked about 3 feet high, of various sizes. (We can still use more though - if readers have extras they're not using--especially small sizes.) Rob and Sally run a hazelnut orchard and candy-making shop on their 225 acre-farm that has been in Sally's family since 1853.

    We've received new funding support ($400) from the Evening Garden Club -- longest-running garden club in Corvallis...since 1969. To generate its grant money, the club holds an Annual Plant Sale on the last Saturday in April. Please support their fund-raising efforts.

    Corvallis Organic Tilth is another local garden club that has been very supportive ($700). COT sells soil amendments at the 1st Alternative CoOp in south Corvallis, for its fund-raising efforts. Come visit with Chris and I on Saturday morning, March 12, 2011, from 9:00 to noon and purchase small or large quantities of animal, vegetable and mineral-based soil amendments for your own garden.

    Once again, our deepest thanks to Trust Management Services for overseeing the $9,880 grant we received last year. We could not have fed so many people without your help.

    We received beautiful endorsement letters from three local people/agencies that articulate in strong, clear terms, the importance of our project. These letters were written by: Patty Parsons, an Alpine resident, member of the Board for both the Alpine Community Center and South Benton Community Enhancement and employee of the Benton County Health Department. Jeffrey Gordon, Executive Director of the South Benton Food Bank (where most of our produce is distributed) and Pastor of the United Methodist Church of Monroe which houses the Food Bank. We thank Phyllis Derr for her assistance in putting us on the agenda for the Monroe City Council so that the letter we wrote was read, approved and signed by the Mayor. Verna Terry - County Clerk shepherded the letter through the process of getting it printed and signed - in the midst of Christmas Holidays. Much thanks. (We just might take you up on your offer to get the Mayor and City Council out there digging up weeds next summer!)
      Here's the greenhouse as of Friday, February 11, 2011!

      Sunday, February 6, 2011

      Needed: Seed Saver volunteers

      Part of the "Sharing Garden's" Mission Statement is "to create a local and sustainable seed bank." We are looking for gardeners who are interested in learning the art of seed-saving and who would be willing to grow-out certain varieties of vegetables to save, and share the seed. If you have a garden patch, separated from other vegetable gardens by at least 500 feet, and would like to grow and save seed, please let us know and we will inform you of next steps. Once people let us know if they're interested in being involved, we'll have a meeting and decide who will grow what. We'll coach you along the way in how to grow the plants and save the seeds (if you need help). If you are an experienced local gardener and have some input that could help the rest of us to understand the finer points of seed-saving, please be in touch. We welcome your participation.

      This notice is primarily directed towards gardeners who live near us, although we encourage our far-flung readers to initiate a similar project with gardeners in your own area. The more we can learn about growing our own food, storing it and saving seed, the more secure we will all be.

      Before the days of Agri-business, Grange Halls had a vital function in farming communities. Not only did members of the local granges share large, expensive equipment (so each farmer did not have to own his or her own). But grange-members would also gather in the winter and agree on who was going to grow what. This was a valuable process so that a) farmers could rotate their crops and not overtax any one field by growing the same crop on it year after year, b) local communities were assured that there would be enough of the staple-crops to go around and c) for those farmers who were taking their crops to market, this planning assured that there would not be a glut on any one crop.

      Most Grange Halls no longer serve these original functions. We, at the "Sharing Gardens" would like to re-introduce this idea on a smaller scale. It doesn't take a lot of room to grow most seed crops but, for the vegetables that easily cross-pollinate with other similar varieties, they should be isolated by 500 feet to a half mile from others with which they might cross.

      Butter Cup Squash
      For example, Sweet Meat and Butter Cup squash, if grown in the same patch will "cross" and you can't know which characteristics of the mother plants will carry through in their offspring. The next generation might be delicious but they could turn out to be woody or flavorless and, you wouldn't know until you've grown out the whole next generation.

      Our intention with the Seed-Savers network is to encourage people to learn about the art of saving seed and to create more local food self-reliance. With participation from other experienced gardeners and seed-savers, we will learn about this important skill together. All levels of expertise are welcome.

      Wish List - Feb 2011

      We continue to be grateful for all the support the "Sharing Gardens" are receiving. When we can demonstrate to granting organizations that their donations are being used wisely, and that others in the community are united in caring for the less fortunate amongst us, our project rises to the top of the pile to receive this funding. Every little bit helps.

      Here is a list of our current needs:
      • House Paint - exterior, water-based
      • Stove pipe - 6" (a total of 12-feet, with elbows, cap and box to pass through wall.)
      • Nursery flats, pots, especially 6-packs
      • Hay Bales (or straw) - delivered (moldy is fine)
      • Bagged leaves - bring to Alpine or Monroe and leave by the gate
      • Truckload of potting soil - delivered to greenhouse on Oak St. in Monroe (contact us first)
      • Sprouting Potatoes
      • Seeds
      • Cash donations - make checks out to ACC - "Sharing Gardens" and mail to 
              Llyn Peabody
              PO Box 11
              Monroe, OR 97456

             To contact us, please call or email: 
             (541) 847-8797 (call between 9:00 am - 1:00 and 3:00 - 8:00 pm)

      It Takes a Village...

      Last week's Alpine Community Center open House was a joyous and wonderful success. Looking around at the diversity of people and seeing old friendships deepen and new ones being formed gave me a warm feeling and a sense of pride in being part of this community.  If you haven't had a chance to watch the video about the Open House that Lonnie and Alison produced, here's that link again.

      There have been many people who contributed to the preparations for the Open House. We did the best we could to remember everyone so please forgive us if your name isn't specifically mentioned. You are indeed appreciated!

      Jason and Alicia of Crag Creek Forestry = pruned the rhododendrons and did weed-eating in the ditches
      Marie Saito = Kids corner
      Sky Evans = temporary tattoos
      John Norrena= beer server, structural engineering work
      Avalon wine = provided wine
      Johan Forrer = musician
      Sam Pecorillo = musician
      Howard Steele = musician

      Diane Hoff - strategizing and keeping notes at key discussions
      Mike Puhek- electrical inspection
      John Scott = roofing, sign installation and cross removal, cleaned gutters, replaced light bulbs in the porch, helped with central beam issue
      Tibbi Scott = vacuuming, indoor cleaning, gutter cleaning,
      Jim and Sharon Kavanagh = helped with furnace repairman, provided bread and butter
      Hazen Parsons = weatherized outdoor water plumbing, helped in kitchen
      Andy Parsons = replaced outdoor water plumbing, helped fix water plumbing
      Roger Irvin = Grass fed, free-range beef for chili
      Jenny Gray = backup beer server, designed the flier
      Alison Hellwege helped in kitchen
      Lonnie Hellwege = photos and video
      Devon Barnhurst and swine 4Hers = set up and clean up
      Veda Estell = food server, kitchen help
      Karen  and Tadd - Queen Bee Honey = For their cooperation and support in hosting the Community Center up until now, and making the transition easy to the new building.

      Susan Debates = cleaning
      Sherrie Deaton = kitchen help
      George Wisner = set up and clean up
      Patty Parsons = food coordinator, shopping for all the chili ingredients, raspberry lemonade
      Dorothy Brinckerhoff = printed and distributed flier, put announcement on cable, helped put up mail box
      Steve Rose = carved a large stirring spoon for the chili
      Llyn Peabody and Chris Burns = cooked the chili
      Gary Watts = helped with water, mail box and more
      Rob Hinton = roofing, sign installation and cross removal
      Gordon Dobbie = roofing, sign installation and cross removal
      Pete Salerno = roofing, sign installation and cross removal
      Warren Halsey = cross removal
      Laurie Halsey = provided lunch for Work party 
      Evelyn Lee = continuing to manage the list serve, spear-heading the building acquisition and too many other things to detail here.