Friday, June 29, 2012

Scott County Grow Appalachia

    Rain Crow  One of our participants heard the song of a rain crow yesterday.  According to folklore legend, if you hear the song of a rain crow,  then it is going to rain within the next few days.  Sing, little bird, sing!  

   Justice Center Garden      
 One of our community gardens is at the justice center and is   maintained by prisoners.  The garden is a full one acre, and it is so beautiful and perfectly maintained that people often drive by just to see it or take pictures.    The land belongs to a family that lives beside the justice center.  They generously allow the use of their land, even though the location of the garden allows prisoners to work within 100 feet from their front door.   It is considered a privilege for the prisoners to work in the garden and only the best behaved (trustees) are allowed to work in the garden.    In addition to feeding the 150 - 175 prisoners that are housed at the justice center, much of the produce from the garden is given to the local senior citizens center. 



              Garden Participant of the Week  
                         - Mr. Gayther

Our Garden participant of the week is Mr. Gayther.  He is a volunteer who manages the Justice Center garden.  He is hard at work in the garden at the crack of dawn every morning.  He is  incredibly generous with his time, and he is so kind that the prisoners love working in the garden with him.  He had heart bypass surgery less that a year ago.  It hasn't slowed him down.  We are proud of him and the work he has done for the Justice Center garden.

Pondering and Wandering in Abingdon, VA

Heather here.

Thursday was a good day for the garden. A good day to be alive, in general.

Yes, there is a heatwave coming. Yes, the plants may have a meltdown. But when you have a crew of volunteers, the sun is out, the garden is vibrant and things are getting done, everything seems suddenly not such a big deal.

Today Denise Peterson, the project coordinator and I, worked with our volunteers. Jody, Taylor, Nora, and Sammie all come out on a regular basis, and it makes all the difference.

We were joined by a new volunteer named Ona, and two ladies from the Americorps VISTA organization came out to take photos, tour the garden, and talk with volunteers and project participants. (For more information about how Americorps helps strengthen not-for-profit projects like these please contact

Thursdays are a good day for the media to come out and for us to build awareness of the project while simultaneously taking care of the garden, training volunteers, and helping participants. I let everyone know I will be in the garden every Monday and Thursday, and this is when they can come by with problems, to borrow supplies, receive more plants and seeds, identify pests, or just come talk about their gardens. Two participants came by today--Tony and Lavonda. Lavonda had some questions about cucumber trellising and wanted to know what plants she could plant next as she was finished with her radish plantings, and has an empty garden bed ready and waiting. Tony came by to get some Serenade for his tomatoes, and to shoot the breeze--topics included being so far right you're left and thrip damage on onion plants.

In order to prepare for the heatwave, I watered the garden heavily on Wednesday and Thursday evening, and will do the same again this evening (Friday). After that, the plants will be left to rely on the millions of years of evolving intelligence swirling through their forms.

Volunteer Taylor helps with harvest
Be light, live lighter

Many Hands Make Light Work ~Pine Mountain, Andrew Whitehead

     The following blog post was written by Andrew, one of our two Grow Appalachia summer assistants. Andrew has been working with us for about 2 ½ weeks now, and has been a great help. Since he’s been with us Andrew has learned how to stake, sucker, and prune tomatoes, trellis beans, harvest zucchini, use a hoe correctly, and identify many vegetables from the surrounding weeds! This past week Andrew and our other assistant helped us by cutting down bamboo and using it to trellis the beans in our community garden, the following is his explanation of this task.

     My name is Andrew Whitehead. I have been working with Grow Appalachia at Pine Mountain Settlement School for the summer. I’m 14 years old. I have been working in gardens for a while now and it has been a great experience for me. We’ve been to a lot of gardens and I have learned many different ways to do things like staking tomatoes and different ways of staking beans.  
Andrew in his family's garden
One of the ways that we have staked beans is with bamboo that grows on the campus of Pine Mountain Settlement School. You would go in the bamboo with a hand saw and cut it down real close to the bottom, then you would drag the bamboo poles that you have got cut down out to an open area. Some of the bamboo poles are long, and you can get two sometimes three bamboo stakes out of 1 pole. You would hold it across something and hold it while another person cuts the stakes. After you have the stakes cut you would have to cut the leaves and branches off, you would use some clippers for that. Then after you have all of that done you make a pile of the bamboo and use it when it is needed. You can also use bamboo for other things in your garden like tomatoes, you would cut them shorter than the ones for the beans. You would also string them different so that the beans could just grow up the string and for the tomatoes you would just make them to where they would not fall on the ground.

Pine Mountain Community Garden bean trellis
 I have also learned while working with grow Appalachia how to spray your garden for diseases and other things like that. You can use different kinds of string in gardens also for beans, tomatoes, and other things you can string up as well. Here are some kinds of string you can use to tie up beans and things with, rope like string, plastic string; you can also use fencing wire like electric wire. Some other things that you string up would be like peas. You can also use fencing post for staking tomato/beans, you can use about any small tree out of the woods, you can also use extra sawed up  pieces of lumber from a sawmill. Some different ways to string up tomatoes and beans would be using a trellis that can be used for both beans and tomatoes you can use cages for tomatoes. And for beans you can make a teepee and then run strings. You may also just let your beans climb right up your corn; you would plant it with your corn. I am looking forward to harvesting time and planting the cover crops.

Another way to stake beans - let them climb right up the bamboo

We are excited to have Andrew working with us this summer, he is really doing a great job and keeps us quite entertained on these long hot days!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Some Great Home Visits

Author: Saxon Brown

Jonny checking the chickens
Robert tilling
On Tuesday, Nancy and I visited Mr. Robert O'Rear and his son, Jonny at their garden between Berea and Mount Vernon.  Robert's full-time job has been the garden this summer and he has a full-time helper in his enthusiastic young son.  He got a late start, due to all the land being new to gardening and having some equipment problems, but with a little growth, he'll have a great deal of produce.  His plan is to put away food for his family and then to give the rest to local food pantries and churches.  His landlord is awesome enough to not only let him have several thousand square feet of garden and chickens, but Robert also has plans to build a greenhouse on the property so that he can get a much earlier start on plantings for years to come!  Nancy and I provided him, and all the gardeners we saw that day, with pepper and cabbage plants donated by Joyce Gabbard of Dogwood Greenhouse.
We also stopped by April Johnson's garden.  She's had some trouble due to construction on the road which is right next to her garden, they've plowed up several rows of her plot doing their work!  April is a very laid-back young woman, she is excited about her garden and not phased by her wiley young puppy running through it as she was talking with us.  Her beans are laden down with pods, her onions are a nice mid-size and her sunflowers are on their way to blossoming.  If she wants it, she'll have some canning to do!
Our last stop of the day was to Tress Spencer's home near Berea.  Tress had just finished slaughtering 12 chickens that morning, she has more layers in the back, and a couple goats doing some of her mowing for her.  Her garden's gotten away from her bit, due to some long trips and her avid desire to keep the soil covered.  "I can't stand bare dirt," she told us.  Tress has many different small square or round plots with peas, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, and some interesting purple-green asian lettuce from greens-guru David Kennedy.
It's always interesting to see the many different methods and ideas unique to each gardener or family of gardeners.
Shall I chime in on the prayers for rain?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Callie Wehner's Garden

                                             Callie in her garden
                                  Wayne trimming a pepper plant
                                   Onions out of Callie's garden

Miss Callie is a new gardner. This is her very first vegetable garden. Callie is a very sweet lady, and so excited about her garden. She is eager to see how much produce her garden brings. In her garden she has 5 different varieties of tomato plants. Heirloom cucumber, and melon plants. Some sweet bell pepper, and onions.

                                          Beefsteak Tomato's
                           Tony given a helping hand in pulling onions
                             Callie's very first bell pepper of the year                           
                                                Banana Pepper
                               Ms. Wehner's overall Garden                                            
 To be her very first garden, Callie has done a very good job. In the beginning she was worried if she was doing things right. Now that it is growing so well she is amazed how things just popped up out of the ground and took off. Just as excited as any child with a new toy. It is just joyful to see her get so excited. People like her is what makes it such a joy to help others.

                         Wayne showing Callie how to prune the tomato

Salena Henson

Okay, folks... I'm putting these photos here in spite of how they look.  Can anyone tell me why this is happening?  In the past they loaded just fine.  I'm not doing anything different, same camera, same computer, but different results.  HELP!!!

Last week’s mushroom workshop here at ASPI was a huge hit!  We had about 40 people cutting, drilling inoculating, and waxing logs.  Those logs went through a major beautification process.  Well, they’ll sure be beautiful when the golden oysters and shiitakes start coming in.  A bit late in the season for ideal starting on the process, but if folks keep the logs moist and shaded all should be fine.  Thanks, Timi Reedy!  She volunteered her time to spend the evening teaching us the ins and outs of mushroom growing, bringing her own equipment as well.  Participants Talt Hall and J.R. Kimsey, and volunteer Al DeChambeau cut and hauled the logs for us, donating not only their time and labor, but the logs themselves.  A fun time was had by all.
We are seeing some very dry gardens on our site visits, though most participants are harvesting at least the beginnings of crops on a pretty regular schedule now.  One of our community garden members, Tina Judd, has harvested nearly 50 cucumbers just in the last week!  The community garden is looking beautiful – folks are taking good care of it.
Participant Armilda Barnes – you’ve seen me mention her before! – has offered to start fall crops for us.  We’ve gotten the seed and she is hoping to do some planting soon, though waiting until this 100 degree stuff is past.  Next month’s workshop will be about extending the growing season, so we anticipate folks will be interested in those plants! 
A local greenhouse, Dogwood Crafts and Gifts, has donated end-of-season garden plants to us.  We are making these available for participants to fill in those holes in their plantings or to get a later crop. 
Keep your fingers crossed that we get some rain soon!

Food & Nutrition Class

Esther, Big Ugly Community Center

Our summer program started Monday and approximately 50 students K through 12 are spending one period a day concentrating on Food and Nutrition, a class led by a Summer VISTA, Erin Finsel.  On their first day the younger students drew pictures of their favorite foods, while the older ones pinned their names in a Venn diagram showing if they eat fruits every day, vegetables every day, or both.  Every one visited the gardens, identifying the vegetables that they knew and learning to recognize the others.  Peas and beans were ready to pick, and the first squash was harvested too!  With pizza, hot dogs, ice cream and candy proliferating the favorite food discussion, we are excited to be promoting fresh fruits and vegetables and also getting the kids into the kitchen to prepare healthy snacks and meals in the upcoming weeks.

Desmond shows off his drawing of favorite foods.
The girls chose to take beans home on the first day!
4th-6th graders try sugar snap peas for everyone's first time.
Identifying cucumbers (& cute hay bale tomatoes in background!)

Providing Your Plants With Water---Chad Brock ---Red Bird Mission

This week I figured a blog about getting your garden through a dry spell would be beneficial. In our area we haven't seen rain for weeks now and that is making a huge impact on our gardens. All plants need adequate water to survive and do well and with no rain this can be a time consuming and very labor intensive chore. Most vegetable's need 1-2 inches of water per week. This is very important through the hottest months of the growing season. If plants do not get enough water their roots can't grow deep and strong enough to feed the plants with the nutrients they need to grow and produce well. Overhead watering or sprinkling is a good method for watering most leafy vegetables such as lettuce, salad greens, mustard etc. But for other plants such as tomatoes, squash, carrots, and some of the cole crops it is best to water around the base of the plant to help prevent fungus and disease in the leaves. Try and water your plants before 10:00 A.M or after 5:00 P.M.

     Some people are using tap water to spray their gardens, but this can become expensive after a while and for those participants with a well it is unsustainable simply because with no rain the well of course gets low to and can deplete the family's source of water for their home. A few of our participants have been packing or pumping water from a near by stream. Although very labor intensive, this is the most sustainable and practical way (other than a rain barrel) or if a rain rain barrel is unavailable or has been emptied . 

We have suggested using a rain barrel to catch the run off from the roof of their houses. It is important to try and get these set up in the early spring when the rain is more plentiful. A rain barrel can be constructed fairly simply and at a reasonable cost. I have added a link that teaches 3 ways to make a rain barrel for less than $10.
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So until mother nature decides to give us a hand and provide us with some much needed rain try and keep your plants watered with what ever method you have available.

The Heat is On! BDVP: Jessica

Things are certainly heating up at the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program these days.  Projected temperatures of over 100' this week have us all wanting to run for cover... and for good reason!  It's times like this, however, that we have to power through and make sure we have all of our bases covered (or as many as we can) to keep our gardens blessed and nourished.  We have been spending the last several weeks at BDVP making sure that our irrigation systems are functioning appropriately and that mulch is heavy enough so that our crops are well hydrated. 

Speaking of hydration, we all need to remember the importance of hydrating and nourishing ourselves at this time as well!  Drinking plenty of water and taking frequent breaks in extreme heat is crucial if we want to keep up the good work we are all doing.  I often hit the ground running in the morning and don't stop until my head hits the pillow.  While my ego might feel like this is a noble pattern, the reality is that when it is this hot outside, my productivity may decrease a bit.... and this is ok!  We have to realize that getting out in the field earlier and taking a mid-day break from the heat is essential to maintaining productivity. 

I have worked at several community gardens and have seen a very similar pattern.  People are absolutely enthusisastic about preparing, planting, weeding, and harvesting up until about the beginning of July.  This is when it starts getting pretty hot, weeds and insects are more agressive, rain is lacking.  Honestly, this is a common time for new gardeners to cut and run.... and I totally get it.  Gardening is hard work!  As we gain experience, however, we are able to begin to plan ahead for weather, weeds, lack of rain and create growing systems (drip irrigation, less tilling/more mulching) and utilize effective cultural practices that can work arround some of these obstacles.  It is important that we encourage our families to learn from these challenges as it only helps us improve.  It is also important that we ALL remember that we are working with a dynamic, living, ever-changing system...A.K.A. nature and we can't plan for everything.  Some crops will thrive and some will not. So we do the best we can, we learn  from our mistakes, we stay humble and we give thanks for the journey...

Stay cool, friends :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Visiting participants gardens in Laurel Co.: Tina

We visited a few of our participants gardens to catch up on their progress. Our first stop was at Bill Moore's garden. He grows it on a big plot of land by Hart Baptist Church. His garden is doing very well. He has early and late corn and beans. Bill's garden feeds about 30 families. He has a lot of help working his garden.  He gives most of his food to elderly, low income families that otherwisse would not be able to afford fresh vegetables. He encourages other families to grow gardens to provide their families with nutritious vegetables that are much cheaper than buying it at the grocery stores and much better tasting. Bill is very knowledgeable and enjoys helping others with any of their garden issues.

Our next stop was at Angelina's. Her garden is looking very good, this is her second year gardening. The day we visited her Son was watering due to our lack of rain. Angelica's family take great pride in their garden and keep it neat and weed free. She has harvested a peck of broccoli and getting ready to freeze it but didn't know how, it is the first time growing broccoli. I told her to rinse broccoli, cut into 1 inch or less pieces. Then add 4 tsp of salt per 1 gallon of water to make a brine. Let soak for 30 minutes and rinse. Blanch for 3 minutes, then immediatly place in ice water for 3 minutes. Then place on towel to drain of the water. Place in bags and freeze. She said she didn't realize it was that simple and would be freezing it that night.