THE GREAT EXPANSION

Olivia and Ian here,

O: On Friday January 17th, Ian and myself presented all the rough drafted material we had to the chefs, Kelly, Brenda and (lucky us) the Executive Director of Rockridge, Beth. Included was a budget and list of all plants we were thinking of growing, little information blurbs about each species and the guidebook. It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm and excitement on everyones’ faces when they looked at the work we have done. One Chef, Will, took a look at the amount of plants we were thinking of growing and point blank questioned,  “you’re gonna grow all this?”  we replied, ” yes, yes we are.”

I: Our biggest challenge seems to be balancing expanding and growing more things, while assuring that everything we create is manageable.  Olivia and I will be interning through the spring semester, and we each plan on devoting enough time to take care of anything we create during 2014. We also are creating an informational guide for the community to reference in order to be informed about how to take care of their gardens. The goal is to establish a system that is productive but also low maintenance, consists of plants that are useful to the kitchen, and is set up to succeed. What that means to all of us involved is that when Olivia and I move on to other projects, whoever follows us (ideally more interns from GCC and possibly also the five colleges) have infrastructure in place to work from in order to keep a functional system operating. Rockridge hopes to make strong connections with the agricultural departments with the surrounding schools in order to have consistent internships to manage their gardens.

O: Our breakthrough at the meeting and the most exciting news is that we are approved to expand the garden, that means we can grow more! We now have two more sites in which to work with. One site specifically that Ian and I are psyched to work with is a small triangle where we are thinking of planting a Three Sisters garden of beans, corn and squash. The three women in attendance at the meeting were beyond joyous at this idea. Next steps for this project is designing the expanded area, finalizing where we are going to get seeds and proposing a final budget. Lets get working!!!!!!! Happy January!photo

Warm winter fires

An encouragement to expand is a wonderful thing.

It’s the middle of the winter, and I’m thinking about gardening. I’m thinking about broccoli florets and colorful tomatoes.  I’m thinking of raised beds filled with beautiful annual vegetable crops, and little niches getting occupied by blueberry bushes. I’m thinking about what all that will be like when the snow melts, the grass turns green again, and the deciduous trees are all bearing leaves again. It will be beautiful, there is no doubt about that.

All of that said, what I’m really thinking about right now, is winter. It’s winter. I love winter. Just like I love the spring, in all its beauty, it’s freshness, I love the winter.  I love the way that the cold permeates your skin, into your bones. The way everything slows down, the quiet, the hawk overhead, undeterred. Winter is special, it allows for many things. Our biome has evolved to exist with winter, and its biota is dependant upon it. Many seeds of plants native to the Northeast require a cold dormancy period, in order for them to be viable come springtime. I think I need a cold dormancy period.  Maybe I’m more like a grown up perennial plant.  I’m not quite dormant, I’m already born, just bracing myself for the winter. Taking the time to reflect, time to slow down and think, remember what shoots and roots succeeded where I sent them, what seeds blossomed in what places, which neighbors were easy to work with. Winter is special.

This winter I have been using my time to plan. To do what a plant does, prepare. Olivia Holcomb and I have been working with the wonderful folks at Rockridge Retirement Community to coordinate their raised bed vegetable gardens. They have 15 4×4 beds, that they have grown various annual and perennial plants in. In the fall we cut back and pulled plants, added rich horse manure compost from Full of Grace Farm, and sheet mulched. We met with Kelly and Rachel at Rockridge and the two main chefs there. All this is in preparation for glorious spring when we will be implementing the planting plans that Olivia and I are in the thick of designing.

There are many amazing things about this project, from the simple pieces like tending the garden, to interacting with the wonderful folks at the community, to working with Olivia on something we both love to do. I think right now, however, the thing that excites most, is that not only is there encouragement, but there is a written requirement for expansion. We must grow their growing operation. Thankfully, that is exactly what Olivia and I want to do.

With warm winter fires and flowers blooming in mind, I say cheers, enjoy yourselves.     Ian Walton

Beyond the gardens, there is a lot of space to expand.

Beyond the gardens, there is a lot of space to expand.