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


Friday, December 13, 2013

The Giving is Growing - Peak Moment Video

 Here's a beautiful video about the Sharing Gardens, just released by our friends at Peak Moment TV. Filmed in July 2013 with the garden's bounty as backdrop, we explore the philosophy that is at the root of the gardens: simple-living, gratitude and giving without accounting. Enjoy!

Our deepest gratitude goes out to all of you who have supported this project in any way, from distant well-wishers to those of you locals, rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands in the dirt side-by side! All of us together have made this expression of 'sharing' possible.

Here's the video (watch it here on our site by clicking on the image below, or click the icon in lower right-hand corner of image to view on YouTube):


 To watch it on the Peak Moment site, or view their other excellent programs, Click Here.

If you've enjoyed it, and feel so inclined, please pass it along to your network of friends and family. Much love, Llyn and Chris - The Sharing Gardens

Part of our massive beet harvest - 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Putting Down Roots--The Sharing Gardens Has a Permanent Home!

Chervena Chuska sweet peppers
Hello friends and supporters of the Sharing Gardens, near and far -

We realize it's been literally months since we've posted anything new on our site. So much great stuff has been happening that we've been feeling too overwhelmed to write! What follows is the really big news. We promise we'll fill in details and share photos and highlights from the 2013 growing season as soon as we can, but for now...

The most exciting development is that we're buying the land we've been gardening on for the past four years in Monroe! The property is about three and half acres (we've been growing food on about 2/3 of an acre up till now). It has two existing sheds and a farmhouse built in 1875 (it's the second oldest house in Monroe). There's a deep, strong well that produces delicious abundant water and an artesian spring that brings water right to the surface. The farmhouse is two-stories high and will need a lot of work (it's been unoccupied for about seven years and heavily vandalized.) But it's "bones" are solid and it's got great soul. We've already begun renovations and it's going to be a sweet place to live.

The 1875 farmhouse.
Back side of farmhouse
The majority of the land has been pasture/grass. Now that we know we can stay, we're preparing ground to put in fruit and nut trees and berry bushes. Our local friend and supporter, David Crosby (not the rock star!) has been helping us find nursery stock to get us going. Eugene Wholesale Nursery is providing us with 33 trees, 6' to 8' tall (apples, pears and plums) at three dollars apiece! They're the "seconds" so some may be shaped a little funny till we get them pruned up right. David has also helped us connect with Fall Creek Nursery who specializes in blueberries. These folks have made an outright donation of three dozen bushes, specially selected for our growing conditions (that will be three, fifty-foot rows). We also want to plant figs and seedless grapes. Please let us know if you have a lead on where we can get some cuttings locally and we'll root a bunch to share. (Please see our complete wish list to see how your cast-offs can become Sharing Gardens treasures.)

Most of the original square nails are still holding the farmhouse together!
Some of the plans for the land are still developing... There's a low part of the land that might be perfect to grow cane-willow (for basket weaving) and bamboo (for various purposes). Our neighbor has been encouraging the native Camus lily to re-establish itself on his wetlands and we too want to encourage native species to regain a foothold. We've started a hedgerow of Rosa Rugosa - which will provide giant rosehips for both humans and wildlife and we've managed to establish five American chestnuts (endangered on the East coast). Chestnuts also provide food for people and our animal friends.

Tree planting--a sign of hope.
We are very grateful to the Crowson family (the previous owners of the land). Chester (the patriarch of the clan) was the one we first approached about using the land for free. He really loved our project and gave us his full support--even paying to have a new pump installed in the well and paying the power-bill to keep the pump running for these past four seasons. When he passed away in the winter of 2012 we were a bit anxious about whether we would be allowed to stay but his grown children were happy to carry on with the original agreement. We always knew that the land was for sale and that, if it ever sold that we would have to leave at the end of that year's growing season. That's why we never planted fruit trees or invested much in permanent improvements to the land or buildings.

At first, when oldest son, Jerry Crowson told us that the family had to get serious about selling the land, our hearts just fell. The original asking price was way beyond anything we could afford. But then he told us that they were dropping it by about 2/3 and it suddenly was within our means! Much thanks too to Llyn's Dad, Bob Peabody who made the finances available for us to purchase the land.

Sunny days in the bean patch
Now we can really put down roots and expand our rural arts school--offering hands on, practical experience in growing food organically, canning and other forms of food preservation, vegetarian cooking, basket-weaving and all the other aspects of our Mission Statement. The Sharing Gardens will continue to thrive and grow providing a common-ground gathering place dedicated to the cultivation of generosity.

A great year for carrots...and kids!
Thank you for all your support and help to encourage us along the way.

Monday, August 12, 2013

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. Let the fruit come to fullest maturity possible. It's OK even if it starts to rot a little.

Black Krim ans 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 for about a minute, so all the flesh separates from the seeds. 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". 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. (If fruit flies are a problem, cover the jar with cheesecloth or a lid during the fermentation process.) 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 carry 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. Avoid freezing or excessive heat. Stored well, seeds can remain viable for many years.

Tomato seeds drying.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Carport-Frame Greenhouse Design

Quite a handsome little greenhouse, don't you think!

One of the guiding principles of the Sharing Gardens is to Re-use and Re-purpose as many materials as we can - to keep them out of burn-piles, and the dump. This carport greenhouse was made with 100% salvaged and donated materials (we didn't spend a penny!) Such a beautiful demonstration of what the Sharing Gardens are all about!

Here is a greenhouse we made using a metal carport frame, pressure-treated lumber and plywood. (Finished size - 10' x 20') We had a door and aluminum windows to use as well, though we've made vents and doors in other greenhouses by framing them with 2 x 4 lumber and covering in plywood, or plastic. We've assembled it entirely with screws, which makes it possible to disassemble and move. Someone donated the aluminum track (Spring Lock) to attach the plastic but it can be expensive to buy it new. On other greenhouses we've built, we've used long strips of lathe to screw down the plastic.

Finished carport greenhouse - side view.


North end. Note unpainted vent-door at peak. Greenhouse is cooled by convection; cool air comes in lower windows at south end and exits through upper vent and door. Window on left is also operable.
North end from inside. Plywood construction means you can hang shelves/tool rack.
South end is all glass (two sliding windows) and greenhouse plastic for maximum light.
Here are some close-ups for construction details:

Begin by setting up frame on level ground with the ends facing north and south.

Use 2 x 4's to frame side-walls. Upright metal posts are on bricks or blocks of wood to keep structure level and prevent it from sinking into the ground. Any wood that touches the ground should be pressure-treated.
Splicing 2 x 4's. The inner board makes a nice support for a shelf or tables.
The next step is to install a pressure-treated 6 x 6 across the bottom of the end walls. In our case, we spliced two shorter pieces together with a full-length 2 x 6. Keep making the structure level and square. This will make the rest of your framing much easier.
We use metal plumber's tape to secure sides to poles. Note painted cedar 1 x 4 "sill" and metal track (Spring Lock) to attach plastic.
Detail of inner walls. If you don't have corrugated fiber-glass, you can simply use more greenhouse plastic, or plywood.
Detail - outer corner. Note - we used 2 - 8" lag bolts to fasten lower corner to 6 x 6.
Detail - inner corner.

South wall, ready for framing and windows.
Next stage is to frame the end-walls:
This shows one of many possible variations for framing end wall. You need framing for windows or vents and to be able to attach plastic all the way around.

North wall framed for door and vent above door.



Framing details: 


Upper corner detail. 2 x 4's cut with a reciprocating saw (Sawzall).

More end wall:
Aluminum-framed, sliding windows for ventilation.

South wall framing.

Inside north wall (still needs vent above door).

Attaching plastic:
This is what the Spring Lock track looks like. The plastic is laid in the track and locked into place with the "wiggle wire".

Detail of corner showing plastic wrapped around and attached on end-wall, and along 1 x 4 sill on side with Spring Lock and wiggle-wire.

Plastic attached along sill. The nice thing about Spring Lock is that you can go back and stretch plastic to be taught and even (which we did after this picture was taken).

Skid-free ramp.
Greenhouse in use:

Jen and Doreen transplanting peppers.

Our new friend Austin, getting a transplanting lesson from Llyn.
If you have questions or suggestions for improvements, please comment below.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Crumb-free Whole-grain Corn Bread

Autumn Beauty sunflowers at harvest time
Here are two adaptations of a sweet cornbread  - one, a whole-grain traditional cornbread to serve as a side-dish and the second is more like a corn-cake/dessert. We make a big batch of the dry ingredients for both these recipes and keep them on hand for last-minute guests, potlucks or a yummy breakfast treat. Just add the wet ingredients, pop them in the oven and they're good to go.

Crumb-free, Whole-grain Corn Bread

Makes enough for five 9" x 9" square pans, five round pie or cake pans, or five batches of 12 muffins

2 cups Corn Meal
2 cups Corn Flour
3 cup All Purpose Flour
2 cups Whole Wheat flour (use regular or bread  flour, not pastry which has less gluten and will make the bread less spongy)

1 ½ cups Brown Sugar - packed
1/3 cups Baking Powder
2 1/2 tsp Salt
1 cup flax seeds (grind them in a coffee grinder – this will make your corn-bread spongier and more nutritious)

Mix flours together first. Mix other four ingredients together and add to flour. This will assure that all your ingredients are evenly distributed. Since you'll be using it for multiple batches, you don't want all the salt in one batch and none in the others.
To bake batches of the bread/muffins:
Preheat oven to 375

In a mixing bowl whip together with a fork:

2 eggs
1 cup soymilk (vanilla or plain) or milk 
1/4 cup (4 TBS) light cooking oil

add 2 cups of dry mix

Stir just enough to moisten all ingredients and remove any big lumps. Baking powder works by making bubbles and if you mix too briskly, you release the bubbles and your bread won't rise as well. Consistency should be thick like a batter. If too dry, add a little more soymilk. If adding dried fruit or other ingredients, fold these in gently after the batter has “bubbled” for about 5 minutes.

Pour into a well oiled 9 x 9 inch baking pan or spoon/pour into muffin tins (oiled or lined with papers).

Bake 25-30 min. till top is springy, lightly golden and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out dry.

Variations: Southwest variation: add canned corn, diced peppers, little cheese cubes.
Dried fruit and chpped nuts is yummy too!

Veggie Corn Pot-Pie - in a well-oiled casserole dish combine cubed potatoes or yams, carrots, onions, celery, peas or green beans in the bottom. Pour corn-bread batter (1/2 batch). Bake at 375 for 25 - 30 min. (till bread is done).
Yummy Sweet and Crumb-free Corn Cake

4 cups Corn Flour
2 cup All Purpose Flour
4 cups Whole Wheat flour (use regular or bread  flour, not pastry which has less gluten and will make the bread less spongy)
2 1/2 cups firmly packed Brown Sugar
10 TBS Baking Powder (1/2 cup + 2 TBS) - be sure there are no chunks - mix thoroughly.
2 1/2 tsp salt

The rest of the recipe is the same as above:
Mix all dry ingredients thoroughly. Since you'll be using it for multiple batches, you don't want all the salt in one batch and none in the others.

Makes enough for five 9" x 9" square pans,  five round pie or cake pans, or five batches of 12 muffins

To bake the bread/muffins:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees (400 degrees for muffins)
In a mixing bowl whip together with a fork:

2 eggs
1 cup soymilk (vanilla or plain) or milk 
1/4 cup (4 TBS) light cooking oil

add 2 cups of dry mix

Ismael in the corn-patch 2011
Stir just enough to moisten all ingredients and remove any big lumps. Baking powder works by making bubbles once wet and if you mix too briskly, you release the bubbles and your bread won't rise as well. Consistency should be thick like a batter. If too dry, add a little more soymilk.

Pour into a well oiled 9 x 9 inch baking pan or spoon into muffin tins (oiled or lined with papers).

Bake for 20-22 minutes till top is springy, lightly golden and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out dry.

Variations:

Add chopped nuts and/or dried fruit for a cake-like treat.

Grind flax seeds in a coffee grinder ( 2 TBS per batch) and use about 1/4 cup less of dry mix. Flax seeds are a good egg substitute - they give elasticity to the mix. They also add fiber and a nice, mild nutty flavor and texture.