Friday, March 30, 2012

Grow Appalachia catching on in Menifee County, Ky.

This is Project Worth's first year with Grow Appalachia.  It seems that organic gardening is really catching on.  After two meetings we have recruited 25 families.  Directions were given on how fertilizer and other gardening supplies were to be used.  One fellow even showed up bare foot at the second meeting.
Three teenagers have committed to the gardening project.  This is great.  We want them to plan their garden and the seeds they want to plant, also how to use all organic supplies.
We have ordered our seeds and ordered our tiller and received it.  It is an awesome looking machine and one of our participants has already used it and raves about what a great machine it is.
One participant who lives in city limits is doing a raised garden.  He has encountered a problem with the neighborhood cat lady is is attempting to address this problem.  He said on one should be allowed as many cats as this lady has.  He was also worried that he would have a problem getting his eleven year old nephew involved but has stated that his nephew in very involved and is about to work him tirelessly because all he wants to do is talk and work in the garden.  This participant couldn't be more pleased with his nephew.

Preparing Mother Earth at Red Bird Mission-Karen Dial, Ag Coordinator

This has been a very productive week for Grow Appalachia here at Red Bird Mission. We got a lot accomplished with the help of volunteers from the University of Tennessee, and Deerfield Illinois. We bagged a few hundred pounds of seed and divided them out so that all our families could take one at our meeting and would have more than enough seeds to fill their gardens with a variety of things. Most all of these seeds were donated to us by the Mennonite Central Committee in Isom, KY. This donation included 4 varieties of sweet corn, three types of beans, three types of squash, zucchini, lettuce, turnips, mustard and melons. A very big thanks to them for the donation.

The volunteers also aided us in starting some more plants in our greenhouse in addition moving some raised beds to another location. This year we are growing produce to sell to the Red Bird Mission Work Camp program. We have been giving out seed potatoes and onion sets to the participants and many of them have been planted.

We had a meeting Thursday March 29.  It was a Basic Gardening workshop.  We had about 40 in attendance at the meeting. Afterwards they took their gardening plans and picked up their seeds. We have all our soil samples in and should be getting results back any day. Thanks to David Cooke we received our shipment of fertilizer this week and will begin to distributing it as soon as the soil sample results come. This will enable us to make proper decisions on how much each participant needs. God Bless and Happy Planting!

Spring has Sprung! -- Kathleen Powers, Pine Mountain

      According to the calendar spring has arrived in the U.S., though these past few weeks have made it seem a bit like we fast forwarded to summer here in Kentucky. With temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s these past few weeks, the wildflowers have begun to bloom, trees are budding, and to our great delight, vegetables are growing!
       In our community garden at PMSS there are 3 beautiful beds of garlic that seem to grow several inches each week, a box of mint and lemon balm has resurfaced and is already spreading like crazy, and several cilantro plants have come up from previous years’ planting. We were also astounded to find that our bed of kale, which we thought had finally succumbed to the cold in early January, has begun to grow again and given another week we will be eating fresh kale once again!
I'm sorry I can't get this picture to rotate,
 but you get the idea, Lemon Balm and Mint!
         We have been getting all kinds of supplies for our Grow Appalachia participants over the previous 2 weeks, including more seeds, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower plants, 1600lbs of seed potato and lots of fertilizer. On Tuesday we got our new rotary plow attachment successfully put on to the Grillo and we are excited to see how it works compared to the tiller. Our participants seem quite excited as well and have been calling everyday to put their name in the queue to have their gardens plowed morning, noon, and night (it's gonna be a busy couple weeks here!).
       The Pine Mountain seed swap which was held last Saturday was a huge success; about 60 people attended the event. Bill Best of Sustainable Mountain agriculture and Frank Barnett, a Kentucky seed guru, gave presentations about seed saving and different gardening techniques after which everyone had the opportunity to trade, buy, sell, and learn about many different types of heirloom seeds.It's great to see so many new faces, and so many people interested in preserving the heritage of Kentucky through seed saving and gardening!
       I’m not sure that anyone knows quite what this early summer-like weather means for the official summer that is yet to come or the growing season, but I must say that I have really been enjoying the sunshine and open window weather!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Welcome from GA ASPI

Well, we're on our way here in Rockcastle Co.  The local community has welcomed us and is showing support to our endeavors.  The Healthy Communities group has contributed $2,400.00 to a community garden site.  This site needs major work and will be a secondary site this year as work progresses on soil building, putting in raised beds, and installing a demonstration garden on a small portion of the site.  The site adjoins our Farmer's Market site and will be an attractive addition to the local landscape.  The high school FFA is building a tool storage shed to go on site with much of the lumber donated by Cummins Lumber - a local lumberyard.  The shed roof will be set up for rain water catchment using barrels purchased through our PRIDE coordinator.  One of the garden benches we received will go to this site while the other will stay at the second community garden site at the ASPI office & demonstration center.  The ASPI site will be our primary community garden site this first year.  It seems the community garden idea is not as popular as home gardens in this rural area, though with the interest of the Mayor and several other local agencies we hope that a year of demonstration will make this a popular idea.

We have reached our full participant capacity and are daily turning away folks who would like to join up.  The early full sign up is thanks in part to the attention we have received in the local paper - The Mt. Vernon Signal - and the fact that the local schools sent home Grow Appalachia announcements with students.  At this time we are preparing to set up a waiting list in the event any openings appear and for 2013 additions.  

We have had good attendance at our first two workshops.  The first workshop speaker was a local market gardener who talked about her no-till, intensive, organic farming practices.  Our local CES ag agent spoke at our second workshop along with a local wildcrafter.  Lots of question and audience participation at both.

Home visits are just beginning to get underway.  More on that next time.

That's all the news from beautiful Rockcastle Co. for now.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Moving Right Along-- High Rocks, Renae Anderson and Erica Marks

It is going to be a very busy week here in Pocahontas County. Today we have the arrival of our solar fan for the greenhouse, the soil test results, the seed order and the fertilizer. Erica Marks, our new coordinator is already out meeting participants and working hard. The rain has stopped momentarily but hopefully it will stay away long enough for us to get some plowing and tilling done. We are getting daily emails and phone calls from participants who are eager to get started. We have two hired plows ready to get started; now all we need is some sunshine to dry up the wet ground.

Last Sunday gardeners young and old crowded into an historic log cabin to share seeds, snacks, and stories.  Grow Appalachia community garden participants at the Pearl Buck House hosted a Seed Saving Workshop and Seed Swap.  More than 30 people attended and learned techniques from a panel of local experts.  We learned that saving seeds not only saves money, but preserves varieties that have become adapted to local conditions over many years.  Participants brought seeds that have been in their families for years and passed from the "old timers" to new generations of growers. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Greenhouse Mentoring Program at St Vincent Mission

Todd Howard with students Chasity, Cody, Jason, Chris and Matt

 Today was a great day in David, KY. Today was the first day of the Greenhouse Mentoring Project-a collaboration between St. Vincent Mission’s Grow Appalachia Program, The David School and Todd Howard of HF Farm & Garden.
It all started when Diantha Daniels, The David School’s principal, and I were brainstorming one evening about ways we could encourage her students to become gardeners. I mentioned that I had a line item in my Grow Appalachia grant called “Youth Assistants” that was earmarked for students who could help out in the gardens of some of our participants who do not have the physical strength that some gardening tasks need but are a treasure trove of gardening wisdom and knowledge.
A few days later, Todd came in to my office to visit and asked if I knew anyone who could use a part time job helping him out at the greenhouse. He has to maintain a ‘real job” until his farming venture solidifies and had been working until two in the morning in the greenhouse and didn’t think he could keep it up too much longer. Todd is one of the people here in Floyd County that mourns the loss of agricultural programs in our public schools so when I suggested mentoring the David students, he was game.
Diantha, Todd and I had a few meetings to settle things like release and permission forms, duties and responsibilities of the students as well as the adults and what each of our roles would be in this venture. We decided that the initial program would go until May 31st, the end of the greenhouse season for Todd. Diantha announced the project to the entire student body at the David School and culled the applicants to five student she believed would be consistent in attendance and be willing to work. She had each of them write a letter to Todd stating why they wanted to be a part of the program and I was pleased to note that while the money was a motivator, it was not the primary reason the kids wanted to be on the team. They were looking at the bigger picture of the experience they would gain because of their involvement-both in work experience and as an opportunity to hone their job searching skills.

Cody and Chris take lunch

Yesterday, after school, the students and parents met with us to finalize the deal. They were told what we expected of them and what they could expect of us. The parents were very supportive of their kids being a part of this project and we all left excited. This morning at a little before nine o’clock all five kids were dressed appropriately and ready to work. It was great. I am really excited about these kids and this opportunity and am deeply grateful to John Paul DeJorio’s vision for Appalachia through the Grow Appalachia program that gives me the opportunity to support projects like this one.

Chris putting out cabbages

Here are some more pictures of the team: Cody Carroll, Jason Rife, Matthew Dingus, Christopher Dingus and Chasity Mullins along with Todd Howard.

Cody learns how to wated seed trays

Chasity putting away peppers starts

Jason uses tweezers to place seeds because
"we aren't good enough to use the vibrating
thing yet"

Matt works on tomato transplants

Friday, March 23, 2012

Talking Dirt ~ Pine Mountain, Maggie Ashmore

It is time to begin getting dirty, and turning over new ground. I plowed the first Grow Appalachia gardens yesterday and have been turning over the wetter beds at PMSS with a shovel. It feels great to be out the gardens, with dirt all over my arms, and sunburn. Almost every Grow Appalachia participant has dropped by with a bag of soil for me to take to the Harlan County Extension Service for testing, and we have received quite a few of these back. I am thrilled to see that these participants are holding up their end of the bargain (I have held seeds hostage until I see soil)...

Now, I am woefully undereducated, about soil. I love touching it, smelling it, working with it, but I don’t really understand how it works. And I don’t completely understand soil tests, especially in regards to organic production systems, since organic does not just strive to replace petroleum based products with more natural external inputs, but to change the way we work within the system to build healthy soil. That said, I need to find out. This post does not claim to illuminate soil testing, but will reflect my struggle with understanding how to interpret my soil test results. I welcome any knowledge you all would like to share with me through a comment on the blog or an email to

When you receive the recommendations for fertilizer application on your soil test result sheet it does not mean that by adding the amendments this growing season your soil will be fixed. UK (who conducted our Grow Appalachia program’s soil tests) states that the rates of nutrient application recommended are for when a crop is grown each year, and it assumes that it will take four years to greatly increase the amount of Potassium (K) and Phosphorus (P) present in the soil.  During these years, using cover crops, green manures and compost will also help improve your soil quality (nutrient availability, organic matter content, and texture).

How to interpret the fertilizer recommendations on your soil test
The numbers on a bag of fertilizer let you know what percentage (by weight) of each nutrient is present in the bag. Technically, it represents the percentage of N, P2O2 and K2O that is available, but for our purposes, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium will do. 

For example, a 50lb bag of 10-10-10 is made up of 10% N, 10% P, 10% K and 70% filler. This means that the 50 lb bag of fertilizer contains 5lbs of N, 5lbs of P, and 5lbs of K, making your total nutrient weight 15lbs per bag. The remaining 35lbs in the bag is made up of fillers to help the nutrients spread from the bag. Without any filler we would over apply in some areas of the garden and under apply in others; the filler allows for an even application.  When using synthetic fertilizers this helps to prevent us from burning our plants with too much fertilizer. This filler material is usually composed of sand and limestone. In organic fertilizer the filler material is usually made from trace minerals which help supply the nutrients that a typical N-P-K fertilizer does not.

A handy formula: % nutrient on bag * lbs in bag = lbs nutrient present in bag
Example: In a 50lb bag of 10-10-10 the lbs N present is 0.10*50 = 5lbs
   In a 40lb bag of Harmony 5-4-3 the lbs N is 0.05*40 = 2lbs

Soil Test Results for the Pine Mountain Community Garden 

Example: Making sure Maggie uses the correct amount of fertilizer (referencing the above image):
Maggie’s soil test calls for 2-3lbs N and 3-5lbs K. Her P level is Very High.

As I understand it, most soil tests do not test for N, but make recommendations for N based on what they deem necessary for plant growth during a season. It says right on the results sheet that were heavy application of manure or compost has been used not to apply N fertilizer. So Maggie may not need to apply too much N since she is using some compost (although not what I would call a heavy application so I am going to go with the recommendation) 

Using Harmony 5-4-3 in a 40lb bag (which is what the Grow Appalachia program is ordering for all sites)
N = 0.05*40 = 2lbs
P= 0.04*40 = 1.6lbs
K = 0.03*40 = 1.2 lbs

So Maggie can apply one 40lb bag to her garden space (assuming it is 1000ft2). She will be short some of the needed K if she does this, but her P is Very High and she does not need more than 3lbs N applied. Maggie can probably get along without using more Harmony 5-4-3, but might try adding some greensand (7% potash) or kelp meal (5% potash) to the soil if she can get ahold of some. Maggie may also be alright with her K levels if she adds all of her compost to the garden.

Alternative to using an all purpose fertilizer: Maggie may also be able to add her compost, some wood ashes (%7 or more potash), kelp or greensand (for K), and some blood meal (15% N) instead of using the Harmony 5-4-3.

*Note on using wood ashes – Do not let them stand in the rain, as the potash would leach away. Wood ashes can be mixed with other fertilizing agents, side dressed around growing plants or used as mulch. Avoid contact between freshly spread ashes and germinating seeds or new plant roots by keeping ashes a few inches away from plants. Wood ashes are alkaline.

Notes on soil fertility
When applying soil amendments to the soil we should be looking at our garden as a whole system. We should be “feeding the soil” not just “feeding the plant”. We don’t want to just apply fertilizer in order to get a crop this year; we want to build our soil health so that we will have crops for years to come. So think about maintaining your optimal soil fertility – adding the amount of nutrients you soil test recommends in the form of slow release organic fertilizers, starting a compost pile, rotating your crops, planting cover crops, etc! Look at your soil texture, look at your plant roots in the summer to make sure they look healthy, read up on how soil works as a living thing... 
Soil testing is a good way to start on the path toward soil health, but it mostly takes the chemical aspect  into account. We also need to look at the physical condition of our soil and the biological properties (earthworms, microbes, fungi, etc.)

CEC: Cation Exchange Capacity. What does this mean?
If you would like to learn about the Cation Exchange Capacity of your soil, shown on you soil test as CEC, or what the Buffer pH means please read this article. It explains in simple terms what these terms mean and what they mean for you as a gardener.

Explains how to take a soil sample:

2012-2013 Soil Nutrient recommendations and some insight on how to read a soil test:  

Intepreting WV Soil tests. This document has some useful information for other state tests as well.

More Onions and Taters: BDVP

 I must say that this first week of spring felt a bit like the first week of summer.  With temperatures in the mid-eighties all week, we had ourselves a mid-March heat wave!  Nonetheless, we persevered and very much enjoyed the sunshine.  This week we were able to plant over a  bushel of onion sets and nearly 150 pounds of seed potatoes at our shelter.  Our peas, beets, turnips, and lettuce mix are popping up and we have heaps of transplants to get in the ground next week. We have been munching on overwintered carrots and beets lately and it is so nice to have that early spring garden snack! Spring is certainly rocking out here!
                                                                             On top of our vegetable production, we have been preparing this week for our native tree planting.  All of our trees have been delivered and we will be
hosting a volunteer event this weekend to plant our micro-forest.   We are really looking forward to this event and will be posting pictures and updates on our BDVP website soon.  Next week we will continue to plow new ground, till and plant.  We have cabbage, cilantro, lettuces, broccoli, greens, and cauliflower to get in the ground.  I am certainly wondering how this heat will affect these cool season plants and if we will still have some cool, spring weather.  Hard tellin', not knowin'.

We are also presently working to get a handle on our healing garden, where we have a number of culinary and medicinal herbs, native plants, wildflowers, berries, and a butterfly garden.  It is really beginning to fill in this year and we want to get it weeded, mulched, and thinned out as early as we can.  This is such an exciting time!  It is so fun to watch all the perennial flowers and herbs begin to present themselves again after hiding all winter. So beautiful! I have to say that things are really looking great so far and we are excited to be able to do this good earth work at our facility

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

To Everything…turn, turn, turn….there is a Season: Karen Dial---Red Bird Mission



  Sadly, I have to say that the first time I heard or read this quote from the Bible was when The Byrds (yes, the Byrds) sang it in the 60s.  Later I learned it came out of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.  It actually says “There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven” (The Book, Tyndale House)  How appropriate that is for this time of year.
     We have, finally, had a dry spell to plow the earth and consider planting seeds.  Chad and Karen have been brainstorming about what seeds to start and where to put them.  Our greenhouse on the Queendale Campus of Red Bird Mission is getting some use this year as we try to start some transplants to lay in the prepared soil.
     We are looking forward to getting the sets and seeds distributed to our participants and getting out to visit everyone this year.  Soil samples are on the way, with more to come.  Trainings are being organized and data is being collected.  Karen is looking for appropriate shoes to wear (heels and flip-flops won’t cut it).  Supplies are being collected and purchased.  Yep, we’re about ready to roll.  Can’t wait to start getting our sites ready to lay the seed and watch those little green shoots come up. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rainy Days

We are supposed to start plowing and tilling gardens this week, but the rain has delayed us. It is supposed to rain all week except for Wednesday and Thursday, and the ground won't be dry enough for us to work with. Once the rain stops and we get the gardens plowed and tilled we can start planting. We are beginning to prep the greenhouse so that we can start planting it in this week. Our participants are very excited to get started.
The first workshop for our participants will be a seed saving workshop this Sunday. It will cover selecting what seeds to save, what seeds to avoid, what neighboring plants are, what seedlings and plants to save, tips of starting good seedlings and record keeping. We are looking for several of our participants and members of the community to attend, it should be very exciting!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Onions & Potatoes!!

Seeds have been ordered, they should be here soon. The onions and one kind of potatoes were ordered from a local Southern States, so we have all of the onions and Yukon potatoes for the participants and are being distributed as the participants request them.  We’ve started site visits with our beginning gardeners and have hired a plow to start in the gardens next week. The first garden is scheduled to be plowed March 22nd. We have not received the results of the participants soil samples, but it is not unusual for the results to take a month or longer to come in especially during this busy time of year when several people are starting to prepare their gardens for planting. As soon as we get the gardens plowed, we’ll be ready to start planting and as soon as our seeds come in we’ll start the plants for participants in the greenhouse.

Delicious Perennials-- Pine Mountain, Kathleen Powers

The past several weeks I have been busy dealing with the aftermath of my February seed frenzy, sorting seeds, organizing orders, writing thank you notes to companies that donated seeds, etc. After double and then triple checking each order, weighing corn, placing online orders, and oh so much more I finally got to see a little bit of the excitement that all this work will bring when  we had our March Grow Appalachia meeting, during which we distributed seed to our participants. Everyone was so excited to see the bounty of things they can plant this year, and the beautiful weather has us all ready to get our hands dirty!
Several of our participating families have been requesting rhubarb and asparagus plants for the past several years, so this spring we decided to make that happen and allowed our participants who have been in the program for at least 1 year to order them. Because rhubarb and asparagus are both perennials we wanted to make sure we had gardeners who are committed to the care and upkeep of their gardens from one year to the next and who would make good use of these plants. However we did make the mistake of neglecting to tell these people that rhubarb cannot be harvested until its second growing season and asparagus needs a full three seasons before it can be harvested, so it seems we disappointed those who had visions of pounds of asparagus on the table this June, whoops…. Please wait it out, I guarantee it will be worth it in the end!
Asparagus grows into large fern-like plants
For any of you who are interested here is a bit of general information to get you started: 
     Because rhubarb and asparagus are perennials it is best to plant them somewhere out of the way, near one end of the garden or in a separate plot that you won’t be tilling up and planting each spring. They also do well with full sun, good drainage, and nutrient dense soil. Both plants require good healthy soil but rhubarb is an especially “heavy feeder” and will benefit from several applications of compost/manure/fertilizer during the season. Both rhubarb and asparagus should be planted in early spring while they are still dormant. As I mentioned before you cannot harvest rhubarb or asparagus fully for several years so patience is key, but with proper care you should have productive plants that will take minimal care once they reach full maturity.
25 mature asparagus plants will produce about
10 lbs of food per year!

Rhubarb is not a commonly grown plant because it isn’t very appealing to eat fresh, but there are many things you can do with a good crop of rhubarb including making delicious pies, cakes, jams, jellies, syrups, and more!

Asparagus is best eaten fresh, I enjoy it sautéed or roasted with a bit of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice, but it can also be incorporated into pasta, omelets, and used to top pizza, etc.

If you would like more detailed information on planting and care email me and I will send you a copy of the guide that we gave our participants:

This is the farm that we ordered our plants from:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Greetings from Henderson Settlement !

We had a fairly good turn out for our first group meeting last Thursday March 8th.
We met and discussed the Grow Appalachia Contracts and to get to know each other a little bit. better. Everyone seemed to have a good time sharing gardening tips, discussing the weather and eating cake.

On March 13th , Kristin Smith from the Whitley County Extension Office visited H.S.
She presented two classes, one for the adult G.A. participants ( Raised Bed Gardening) and one for the
children in the After school program at the Youth Center.

Kristin, teaching a Beginning Gardening Class at the Henderson Settlement Youth Center
Kristin , Maggie ( H.S. Youth Coordinator) , discuss how to plan a garden with the children.

The children have agreed to have their garden plan ready next Thursday, they have elected a Gardening committee to design and plan the Raised Bed Garden . I  can't wait to see the plan for their garden.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Getting started in SW Virginia

Hi there,

We're about to break ground at our site--Ecumenical Faith and Action in Abingdon, VA. We're having a meeting this Thursday with the participating families, and getting things rolling. Seeds and tools are ordered, and the garden template is designed. We are also potentially putting in round gardens as well, and look forward with getting families in the dirt and growing food in their own backyards :)

that's it that's all!

--garden girls--

Monday, March 12, 2012

Planting Trees at BDVP

Tis the season for planting trees!  Last week we were gifted with  six new apple trees (varieties: 'Pristine' and 'Liberty').  We had a tree planting party on Wednesday and our orchard now has a grand total of 13 apple trees, including our 7 original Gala and Granny Smith varieties.  We had a lot of help from our clients and staff. 

Our intention is to utilize permaculture principles as we develop our small orchard.  This season we will mulch out most of the sod using woodchips, then plant comfrey and possibly lily or iris bulbs around the edges of the mulch to deter the grass in the root zone.  Comfrey is an excellent plant for compost tea and green manure.  Check out this site for more info on comfrey.  Next year we will begin to plant strawberries in between fruit trees in our orchard to utilize space and promote a polyculture environment.  The strawberries should do well in that mid-summer shade once the fruit trees begin to fill out. I learned this technique from my friend Susana, who operates a no-till permaculture farm in Berea,Ky.   She is an inspiring farmer who is dedicated to earth stewardship and good practices.  Our program is currently experimenting with permaculture principles on our site whenever possible.

New 'Liberty' Apple Trees at BDVP

'Pristine' apple trees  

Other recent garden projects have included pruning and mulching of our raspberry patch, planting  more spinach and radishes (watermelon variety) and some weeding in the healing garden.  It's been so fun to play in the dirt again!

BDVP received some funding to plant a micro-forest!
In the coming weeks we will be preparing for a native tree planting on March 24th at our facility.  We received some money through Kentucky Utilities' Plant for the Planet Program to plant a micro-forest at our shelter.  We will be working with a number of arborists, native plant specialists, and community volunteers to make this event happen.  Our micro-forest will consist of several native oaks (Bur, Swamp White, and Swamp Chestnut) along with Sycamore, Sweetgum, Blackgum, Hickory, Sumac, Flowering Dogwood and Redbud trees. We are also including some native fruit trees such as pawpaws, persimmons, serviceberries and elderberries!   Thanks so much to KU and a supportive community that helps us create fun, educational, service opportunities  that benefit our clients, our staff, our community , and our Earth!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Shiitake Mushroom Workshop! ~Pine Mountain, Maggie Ashmore

Last night we had a wonderful turn out for a wonderful workshop despite the pouring rain. The Harlan County Ag and Natural Resources Extension Agent, Jeremy Williams, helped us host a Shiitake Mushroom growing workshop. Workshop attendees inoculated around 50 logs to take home! It was a whirlwind, but I definitely enjoyed myself.

Last fall we devoted an entire blog post to the benefits of Shiitakes. So I won't go into great detail here. But I will give you a few lines about how wonderful they are because I am still fueled by the enthusiasm of last night!

1. Health benefits! According to the place I purchased our spawn from, Shiitakes are 13-18% protein by dry weight, high in the amino acids leucine and lysine (scarce in most grains), and have a significant complement of minerals and vitamins. This is great for everyone, and especially people like me who only eat small amounts of meat and therefore have to pay close attention to their protein intake.
2. More health benefits! Extracts from Shiitakes are used for cancer prevention and alongside chemo and radiation treatments in Japan. Now, I am not saying that these mushrooms are going to keep us safe from cancer, but they are probably doing something for us. Shiitakes have anti-viral and immune boosting properties.
3. They are easy to inoculate and easy to grow! We live in forests full of hard wood trees that can be selectively cut for mushroom production and inoculated simply with a power drill, a hammer, some cheese wax, and purchased spawn. We had multiple children working on the logs last night! I have been purchasing dowel spawn from Mushroompeople in Tennessee with great success.
4. Shiitake spawn is pretty inexpensive and will produce so much food! The logs will produce for up to 5 years! Shiitakes can be picked off the logs and stored in a paper bag in the refrigerator for up to a month or dehydrated easily. I am still eating shiitakes I dried last summer.

I'll leave you with some photos:


PMSS Environmental Education Intern, Chelsea Gorman, monitoring the wax. In the future I would buy  small, inexpensive crock pot to keep the wax hot. The last two times I've inoculated I used a camp stove with pie plates (does not work well).

Tapping in the plugs! Go MacKenzie go!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Thankful to be part of the team!

In our first, official blog post for the Grow Appalachia community, the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program would like to offer our sincere gratitude for our partnership with this amazing project!  We are gearing up for another abundant year of food, flowers, and feasting at our residential facility.  BDVP produces most of the fresh produce that goes into our daily meals at shelter, while offering skills training and resources to our families to begin gardening and preparing healthy meals when they leave shelter.  Over the last year, in addition to our vegetable production, we have worked to establish strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, native flowers, medicinal herbs, and honey bees.  This year we will increase vegetable, flower, and honey production and begin marketing some of our products to the community.

In the past several weeks we have begun prepping beds, plowing new ground and have even done a bit of planting in the field...peas, spinach, and some early root crops.  Lettuce, herbs, greens, and brassica transplants are going strong in the greenhouse thanks to help from the University of Kentucky Sustainable Agriculture Program and the Horticulture Research farm.  We are looking forward to an awesome season this year. Thanks again to Grow Appalachia for all of your support!

For more information on the work we are doing to serve victims of intimate partner violence please visit our website at  and for more information on our farm project take a look at our farm blog .

Looking Foward at High Rocks

The High Rocks Grow Appalachia Project is officially in motion. On Feb 23, 2012 we met with our participants to organize garden plans, seed orders and site visits. It gave us an opportunity to meet all of the participants and get to know their goals for gardening this year. We have participants who are very enthusiastic and excited to begin work in their gardens. We feel that we have a great beginning to what is going to be a very successful and productive Grow Appalachia year. We already have a few workshops scheduled that were organized around the interests of our participants and are working on setting up more with enough notice in advance for participants to be able to attend, not just the required number of workshops, but all of the workshops that appeal to them. We are placing our seed order very soon and starting seeds in the green house in accordance with the requests of our participants.

Interviews for a program coordinator are underway and we have received several qualified applicants. We hope to have someone for the position soon. Site visits are scheduled to begin this week with our beginning gardeners to finalize the plans for the gardens and work out what materials and tools will be needed to make those gardens successful not only this year but in the long term future as well. One of the goals of our participants is the setup a sustainable garden that will produce food for not just this year but many years to come. We are really looking forward to the progress that will be made this garden season and working with the participants that we have.

Friday, March 2, 2012

What's on Your Plate? Pine Mountain--Kathleen Powers

The topic of my blog post today is a little bit random, but I feel it is a very interesting and equally important subject to think about in terms of working with Grow Appalachia. As we all know, and are reminded every day, we live in a country that is plagued by both obesity and ironically hunger as well. Now there are many factors that contribute to these problems and many different solutions as well, but I won’t go into all those details here or bombard you with all the statistics. What I want to focus on today is the idea of mindful eating, a practice which I think we could all benefit from. While listening to NPR several weeks ago, I caught the tail end of a discussion about mindful eating and was interested to learn more, so here is a brief bit of what I have learned.

Mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness is a Buddhist meditation that means you engage in a moment-by- moment awareness of life, you observe your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and outer environment without judgment. Practicing mindfulness is said to help break habits and patterns that may be destructive to your well being.

Turn off the TV before the whole pizza is gone!
            In terms of eating, mindfulness can help us to slow down, appreciate and enjoy the food we are eating. It can also help us to learn to eat what our bodies really need in an appropriate amount. For most of us meal time has become something rushed and unimportant, if we even take the time to prepare our food we do it quickly and without much thought, we then proceed to sit in front of the TV or our computers, or worse we eat in the car as we move on to our next task of the day.  Even those who sit down at the table to eat their meal are usually distracted and a whole meal can be consumed before we even realize what or how much we have eaten. Family mealtime is a wonderful tradition and a part of my upbringing that I am extremely grateful to my parents for upholding, but when I think about it, even dinner table conversation with family and friends takes your focus away from the physical and mental act of eating. This is where the idea of mindful eating comes into play, mindful eating as a practice involves focusing solely on the act of eating while you are doing it. Someone who practices mindful eating will eat in silence, paying attention to the appearance, taste, and texture of their food, as well as thinking about the nutritional value of the food and learning to feel and heed hunger and satiation cues. Most importantly mindful eating means SLOWING DOWN, taking the time to let your mind and your body process the food as you eat it, instead of attending to other things while you eat and all of a sudden realizing your plate is already empty though you have no recollection of eating all the food on it.
Enjoy your food even while you aren't eating it
This practice is very interesting to me, but I know that most people are not going to adopt this Buddhist practice on a daily basis, so I want to suggest a type of mindful eating that incorporates these practices, but focuses more on simply thinking about our food as gardeners or individuals who strive to be more connected with the food they consume. This might include considering where the food you are eating came from, how many hands touched the food before it reached your plate, and who worked to grow what you are consuming? What does your food taste, and look like, and is it nutritionally valuable to your body. For some of us this might mean first asking the question, did I prepare this myself? If the answer is no, then is it something you could have prepared yourself? And what are the ingredients that make up the food you are eating? Do you even recognize what they are from the ingredient list? I know that I find immense joy in cooking my own meals and knowing where my food came from, in being able to personally identify the person who produced the squash, and garlic, mushrooms, and eggs that made up my most recent meal, and to know the physical location that these foods come from. We may not all have the time or desire to think about every aspect of every bite we take each day but maybe committing to eating in silence for the first several minutes of our evening meal is something we could all do on a daily basis. If you are dining with friends and family, talk about the food you are eating and enjoy one another’s company while still being mindful of what’s on your plate and how it came to be there.
The Mindful Plate

Here are several interesting articles on the topic of mindful eating: