Friday, August 31, 2012

Events and Celery in Pocahontas County, WV ~by Renae

We have scheduled (and rescheduled) our last events for the growing season.  We are excited to be doing three of them with our High Rocks girls helping and learning along with our participating families. 

UPCOMING EVENTS in Pocahontas County

Tuesday, September 18 5:30-8:30 Preserving the BountyWater bath and pressure canning...dehydrating...smoking...freezing... Learn about and try some of the many ways to keep eating out of your and your neighbors' gardens all year long. This workshop will be at High Rocks.

Sunday, September 16 2:00 pm  Medicinal Plants
Medicine County Herbals presents 10 medicinal plants of Appalachia: How to identify them.  Where to find them.  How to use them.  This workshop will be at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace. 
 Tuesday, September 25 5:30-8:30 Healthy Baking and Cooking Bake, roast, and steam your way into good health and great eating using seasonal produce. Advance recipe suggestions welcome! This workshop will also be at High Rocks.
Saturday, September 29th (afternoon) Harvest CelebrationThis is an event you won't want to miss! We will be at the Opera House in Marlinton with all kinds of goodies for you--knowledge, seeds, garlic, music, potluck, and even a local produce pagent! This event is happening along with the fabulous Roadkill Cookoff and Harvest Festival and High Rocks' annual NettleFest. If you know of any families in the Hillsboro or Marlinton areas who would like to be a part of Grow Appalachia next season, this would be a great thing to invite them to so they can learn more about us! More details to follow about the timing of all of the events.
Even with the challenges from the weather and animals, there has been great success in almost all of our participating gardens. One of our participants over by Snowshoe Mountain grew some very impressive celery from seed. The height and thickness of her celery plants is incredible. We have not had much luck with celery, we were glad to see that someone had.

The Corn Post ~by Erica at High Rocks

With the presidential campaign heating up, there’s a lot of talk about the American Dream right now. Today, after biting in to the first ear of corn I ever grew, I am pretty sure I am living it.

Scientists believe that people living in Northern America began cultivating ”corn” more than 7000 years ago. By saving the kernels of the best examples of teosinte, a wild grass, for many generations, corn or maize became a staple of the aboriginal diet in the Western Hemisphere. Now, a starting material for several fuels, animal feed, and found in many processed foods, it’s hard to imagine modern life without it.

Much has been written about the exquisite joy of eating fresh corn on the cob, so I won’t add to that canon. Instead, I researched some alternative uses for the parts of corn we don’t usually eat.

What to do with the rest of the corn plant?
  • Scarecrows! The husks are the stuffing as well as the covering for the head and the stalks make the arms and legs.
  • Dry the leaves and stalks, grind them and use as mulch. This material is great to keep strawberries dry and off the ground while retaining moisture for the roots.
  • Compost. This takes a while, up to 6 months if the plant isn’t chopped up. One way to chop: stuff everything in a bucket and attack with a string trimmer. Add good nitrogen sources like grass clippings to offset the heavy carbon load.
  • Craft projects: corn husk dolls, placemats, votives, trivets…
  • For the serious crafter or back-to-the-lander, take inspiration from Native American uses of maize: moccasins, bed mats, floor coverings…

Healthy Appalachian Humitas

Straight from our Grow Appalachia “test kitchen,” this recipe is inspired by the Peruvian version of tamales called humitas (oo-ME-tas). Rather than use corn flour as in tamales, humitas use fresh corn and are steamed. We adapted the recipe to account for the differences in our sweet corn and South American corn, “choclo.” Also, we substituted ingredients that are easier to come by and got rid of the generous helping of lard found in authentic ones. They are fun to make and eat—when you wrap the filling in the corn husks they look like little presents!

5-6 Ears of fresh corn in the husk
1/2 cup grated cheese (I used monterey jack)
1 fresh green pepper (sweet or hot, you decide)
1 tsp cumin powder
1 clove garlic
1 cup cornmeal
¼ cup milk
1 egg
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin powder

  1. Carefully shuck the corn to preserve the inner husks and cut the kernels off with a sharp knife.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. The mixture should somewhat hold its shape in a spoonful. Add more cornmeal if it’s really runny or more milk if too thick.
  3. Overlap the thick ends of 2 husks by about 3 inches to make a little boat. Spoon in as much of the mixture as your little boat will hold. Fold over the ends and tie with a skinny strand of husk or leaf of corn. This takes a little practice, but even our messiest ones turned out fine.
  4. Steam for 30-40 minutes tightly covered in a steamer. I layered mine about 4 deep and they seemed to cook evenly.
  5. Cool slightly unwrap, and eat. (not the husks)

This recipe made 25 slightly savory, basic humitas. They could also be filled with raisins and cinnamon for a sweet treat or spiced chicken and pork for something heartier. You would just nestle a small spoonful of special filling into the corn mixture in each one. Experiment and enjoy the American Dream!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fall planting discussions..: Tina

At our last Grow Appalachia meeting at LCAAHC which was Tuesday night, the discussion was on Fall Planting. As every one's garden is winding down and Coordinator Wayne Riley is making his way around to all the participants to turn the gardens under, many of our participants are eagerly waiting to start their Fall crops. If you plant by the signs, then the best time to plant the fall crops are Aug. 27, 28 & 29. Wayne passed out turnip, kale & lettuce seeds to name a few that are perfect for the cooler weather that is approaching.
We all love getting together and talk about our gardens and how well they produced. One gardener, Ricky had a 40 pound watermelon to show us, it was his first time growing them. Another, James Napier talks about how well his banana cantaloupes did. Many of us had never heard of this type of cantaloupe. It looks awesome. We also talked about trading seeds later in the year so anyone who wanted to try to grow something different next year had the opportunity. A few of our participants have heirloom seeds, such as the banana cantaloupe, that they have had for many generations

We enjoyed homemade salsa that one participant brought in, many brought jars of home canned goodies to show off. A few have been donated to the LAAHC to put of display for everyone to see. Everyone was excited to talk about what they had canned this year, many of our participants are first time gardeners and they were eager for all the information they could get. Most of our newer participants canned tomato sauce and/or juice, pickles, beans, corn. Others talked about canning zucchini, squash, potatoes, apples, peaches, jams and jellies. Canning recipes were passed around.

One I wanted to share was called:

White Chocolate and Raspberry Spread

6 cups raspberries
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1  1.75 oz. pkg. regular powdered fruit pectin
6 cups sugar
9 oz. whit baking chocolate (with cocoa butter), finely chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a 6 quart heavy pot, use a potato masher to slightly crush raspberries. Add vanilla bean. Heat raspberry mixture over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add the pectin, stirring constantly. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil, , stirring constantly. Add sugar and return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 1 minute,stirring constantly.
Remove from heat. Discard vanilla bean. Add white chocolate, stirring until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in vanilla extract.
Ladle hot spread into hot jar sterilized half pint canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids.
Process filled jars in a boiling-water bath canner for 10 minutes (start timer when water returns to boiling) Remove jars from canner, cool on towel that is on the counter.
Makes 8 half pints

Monday, August 27, 2012


Good morning everyone.  This is Alex from Project Worth Outreach in Menifee County, Kentucky. 

It is hard to believe it is almost September.  We held our latest participant's meeting this past week.  We had a pretty decent turnout for this meeting.  During this meeting we discussed our journals, our August harvest numbers, fall gardening, the closing of our gardens {when and how}and had a class on care of late gardens and weather related problems.

According to most of our participants it seems that most our our journals are up to date with information about their gardens.

It appears that our July-August harvest numbers are going to be pretty good if early numbers are any indication as to what the final numbers are going to be.  We're really anxious to know the final results.

Several of our gardeners have planted fall beans and a few herbs.  Some participants have cleared parts of their gardens and stared making plans to cover certain areas of their gardens.

With fall coming on and school starting back up I would like to thank all of our summer youth workers.  I do not know how we could have done as much with our Community and raised gardens without them.  These young people were a tremendous asset to our program.  They worked very hard and did everything that we asked of them to the best of their ability with lots of enthusiasm.  I believed they learned a lot about gardening and the work, fun and satisfaction of gardening.  I hope that some of these young people, along with new ones, will join us next year if we are fortunate enough to be a part of Grow Appalachia next year.

Well, that's about all I have today except for this week's recipe which is listed below.  I hope everyone has a great week.

Swiss Steak

2 lbs. steak  {round or sirloin}
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups tomatoes {put through sieve}
1 garlic clove
1 /4 cup bacon drippings

Wipe steak with damp cloth, trim edges off; rub with garlic.  Mix flour, salt and pepper.  With a mallet or edge of plate, pound flour mixture into meat.  Saute` onions in bacon drippings, sear steak in the fat.  Bring strained tomatoes to a boil, cover and place in a slow oven {275 degrees} for 2 hours or more.  Serve hot and enjoy.

Gail Mills

Note:     These recipes are posted  as submitted to me.  Please feel free to modify these recipes. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Flower arranging is dangerously addictive ~ Heather in Abingdon, VA

Heather here.

Gardening more than any other occupation reminds one of the ephemeral nature of our existence. Pull up the summer squash, plant brassicas. Eggs, nymphs, and pesky nibblers. Flower, fruit, seed. Unlatching petals and withering leaves. Plants are healthy one day, the next are speckled black, white, brown, or yellow with fungal diseases. The viruses move from plant to plant--wash your hands, burn the remains.

Plants sprout, vine, twist, curl in strange ways making us think of our own growth inside and outside the womb. How different our lives are, and how similar.

We will save seed from most of these flowers and give them out next season

When two pepper flowers are too close together one will sometimes encapsulate the other. When you slice open the ripe pepper there's a premature tiny green one. The mottled purple and white eggplants all have different speckling and streaks like experimental paintings. The garden is a constant scientific and societal study.

Just so many quiet things happening together at once. All of a sudden it seems the undesired grasses goes to flower. Some are allelopathic, sending signals through soil preventing other plants from growing. Foxtail Millet says, no one else can grow here except Foxtail Millet. 

Healthy plant societies can tell us a lot.

In any event, there has been an outbreak of different fungal diseases in our garden. It really seems to come all at one time. We took a few leaves to extension because we were unsure if all of the damage was fungus-related or if some was insect damage. We used our garden detective skills and did note what looked like sap-sucking damage on the underside of leaves, but there were no insects to be found. Very strange. What is this plant trying to tell us?

Two gardeners pondering

Have fun gardening in Southwest Virginia, among other things.

Our canning workshop went well. We will do it earlier next year....everything we will do earlier next year! I'm already picking out heirloom seeds--so many plant stories, so little time! We canned basil vinaigrette, pickled dilly beets, salsa, tomato sauce, and pickles with onions.

Deni Peterson in her element

Two gardeners learn together

Until next time...

What to do now? Fall gardening, clean up, and cover crops!~Pine Mountain, Maggie Ashmore

The growing season is beginning to wind down for our main season crops, but it is not time to quit for the season! Now, you might be tired by this time in the season and feel that you already have more than enough food from your garden preserved for the winter, but I believe that the extra push now to plant some fall greens and prepare your garden for the winter will be well worth the effort.  Every season that I have worked with Grow Appalachia, new families experiment with fall gardening and the use of simple season extension strategies, such as row covers. It is exciting to see fresh food long after summer has faded to fall.

Row Covers in use at PMSS during Fall 2009
Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky, the publication by UK Extension, gives the planting dates for fall crops on page 15. Another wonderful resource is the Fall gardening guide that Southern Exposure Seed Exchange puts out. Their list includes varieties that are especially suited to fall gardening and lets you know down to what temperature each plant can manage. While Southern Exposure is located in central Virginia, our average first frost date is the same as theirs (October 15) and the planting dates should be similar.   

It's not too late to plant radishes! Look at these beauties Kathleen grew this spring.
This time of the year is also the time to start preparing your garden for the off season. If you aren’t planting a fall garden, or are only using part of your plot for fall crops, it is time to start cleaning the garden. It is important to remove spent plant debris and weeds from the garden area. Removing weeds before they go to seed prevents more weed seed from being added to the plot. Leaving old plants in the garden leaves habitat for insect pests to overwinter and can contribute to fungal diseases if the plants have been infected. Plants that are bug ridden or diseased should be hauled off in the trash or burned – NOT COMPOSTED.

Once your garden is “clean”, it is time to prepare for next year! Planting a cover crop is one of the best ways to improve your garden for next season. I am huge fan of cover crops, and each year more of the families in the PMSS Grow Appalachia project become fans as well. Last season I posted about cover crops  and Jessica at BDVP has also sung their praises . Many plants can be used as a cover crop, as you can read in my post from last season, but the three I have used the most with Grow Appalachia are Crimson Clover, Rye, and Buckwheat.

Crimson Clover and Field Peas used as a Cover Crop in a PMSS Grow Appalachia garden. Look at those legumes fixing nitrogen!
Crimson Clover: Can kill weeds if planted in early fall, especially if it is planted with oats or rye. Clover is great at increasing the nitrogen content of your soil. Crimson clover grows fast in cool fall and spring weather. Mow down the clover and turn under after flowering (nitrogen fixation occurs then).  Crop seeding rate is 1 lb per 1000ft² broadcast. Or mix 1/3 clover and 2/3 rye or oats and broadcast.

Winter Rye: Rye is a cold tolerant and can germinate in soil as cool as 34-40° F, making it a major fall-planted cover crop. Rye has a well-developed fibrous root system that reduces leaching of soil nitrogen. Plant in September through mid-October.  Broadcast  3-4 lbs per 1000ft². The later in the season you plant rye, the more seed you will need to plant. You may want to broadcast with clover.

Buckwheat: Buckwheat’s rapid growth smothers most weeds.   Buckwheat fits into the “green manure” category of cover crops because of its rapid breakdown which releases nutrients for the succeeding crop and fits into a tight vegetable rotation, such as when a crop is harvested prior to mid-July and a succeeding crop is not scheduled until fall. Buckwheat will be killed by winter weather and is usually not planted as a fall cover crop, but during the summer months to improve soil. The breakdown of buckwheat improves soil structure and moisture holding capacity. If volunteer buckwheat is harmful in the succeeding crop, then the green manure crop of buckwheat should be destroyed before a large number of seeds mature. Buckwheat will germinate at temperatures ranging from 45° to 105°F. Broadcast 2 lbs per 1000ft².

Buckwheat blooming at PMSS during summer 2010

Some of the benefits of cover cropping include:

  1. Improve soil quality: When the soil is allowed to lay bare during the traditional non-gardening months the soil surface seals together and water runs off during rains. Cover crops prevent this sealing of the earth and improve the soil structure. The root establishment over the winter months improves air and water infiltration into the soil, as does the decomposition of the organic matter after it is turned under. Earthworms and other soil organisms also thrive while the plants are decomposing.
  2. Erosion Control: Cover crops hold the soil in place during the late fall, winter, and early spring thus reducing erosion due to wind and water coming into contact with the bare earth.
  3. Increase soil fertility: Legume cover crops add nitrogen to the soil from the atmosphere due to their associations with nitrogen fixing bacteria. Non-legume cover crops can recycle excess nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium from the previous crop to the following crop. Why not try this instead of using the synthetic N-P-K fertilizer next spring?! When cover crops are turned under and allowed to decompose they slowly release the nutrients that they have taken up. This will add some micro nutrients not usually added to the soil through traditional fertilization plans.
  4. Suppress weeds: A dense stand of cover crop will reduce the amount of weeds that germinate in the fall due to shading. Some cover crops also release chemicals into the soil that will suppress other plants (weeds).
  5. Insect control: Beneficial insects may be attracted to cover crops plantings, such as lady beetles or ground beetles that eat pest insects. Flowering cover crops will also attract beneficial insects
  6. Subdue soil diseases and pests: Cover crops support beneficial soil microbes that can work against soil diseases and pests. Some cover crops may also produce compounds that suppress these problems. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Hi All. Just wanted to take this opportunity to remind you about the East Kentucky Local Foods Collaborative meeting in Hindman tomorrow from 10:00 to 4:00. This will be an excellent opportunity to network with others who are as passionate about healthy local foods as we of the Grow Appalachia family are and a great place to learn what others are doing and how. The collaborative is in its second year and we are ready to do some feet on the ground work so this won't be "another all day meeting full of information I will never use" kind of event.

The meeting is at the Knott County Extension office and I've been told if you Google map "Nelson Frasier Funeral Home, Hindman, KY" you will get good directions. Look forward to seeing you there. Sr. KC

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Real Values of a Vegetable Garden

The Real Values of a Vegetable Garden

Have you ever thought about growing a vegetable garden?  If you have you’re not alone.  There are a lot of good reasons to grow your own vegetables.

I know that home grow veggies are better than store bought and growing a garden, even a small one is very good exercise.  It’s also a fun family experience.  Did you  know you could burn 250 to 325 calories an hour by gardening?  No gym membership required.  Just go outside and get involved in your garden.  Exercises are the beneficial side effects of growing your own super foods, And  when you grow your own food, you know exactly what you’re eating because you know what’s in the soil, how it was fertilized, if there were any chemicals used, and how it was harvested.  That’s a very “GREEN” solution to putting healthy foods on the table which are real values of raising a vegetable garden.

Big Ugly Community Center and the Grow Appalachia program are sad to announce that Ester Gray, our Project Coordinator, will be leaving us this week.  She has done a wonderful job and will be greatly missed.   As much as we hate to see her leave, we know she must move on to bigger and brighter things.   We wish her the best of luck.                                             From left to right: Esther Gray, Marlena Workman & Annie Corathers 

As for our youth group, their gardens are doing very well.   The kids are back in school and will not have as much time to tend their gardens.  They are looking forward to coming back to the afterschool program, so they can work in their gardens again.  They are very excited about the pumpkin patch.   Our site members are very busy,  harvesting their vegetables and canning.  We all have been very blessed this year. 


Monday, August 20, 2012


Good day to everyone.  Hope everyone is well.  My name is Alex Sanders and I am an AmeriCorps*VISTA Volunteer with Project Worth Outreach in Menifee County, Kentucky.

Our next Grow Appalachia Gardening participant's meeting is at 6 PM tonight.  This meeting will discuss the care of late gardens and weather related problems.

I would like to tell you about what the last month has been like in my household.  I grew up around gardening and canning.  I remember watching my mother and grandmother spend many hours canning pickles, corn, tomatoes, green beans, squash and many more items.  Of course, I did not pay much attention to details but I do remember how hard they appeared to be working and how much they enjoyed this process.  I remember thinking how could they enjoy working so hard.  On the other hand, my wife has never had anything to do with canning. Her parents were educators and the families of students were always giving them fresh food and canned vegetables.  As I stated in an earlier post my wife had never harvested anything out of a garden, her family's or anyone else's, until we grew our own Grow Appalachia garden.  I believe she as well as myself have become hooked on growing and canning as much food as we can.

Over the past month we have been very busy learning how to can many items.  These items include green beans, tomatoes, tomato juice,  and our personal favorites, different types of pickles.  Yes, I said pickles.  Bread and Butter, Dill and Sweet pickles.  We have purchased a canner and all the necessary items you need to can.  We have canned 19 quarts of green beans, 4 quarts of tomatoes, 27 quarts of tomato juice, 6 quarts of Bread and Butter pickles, 8 quarts of Dill pickles and 7 quarts of Sweet pickles.  Now she wants to try pickled corn and pickled eggs.  Oh my gosh, I think we have created a monster.  We are sharing this food with my sister and her 3 children as well as two elderly neighbors.  This activity has taught us a lot of new information and made us realize how much money can be saved by preservation, not to mention how much fun it has been.  Now I understand why my mother and grandmother enjoyed canning so much.  It is because when you grow your own food and preserve it the food taste much better and is healthier than anything that you can buy in the grocery store.  Thank you Grow Appalachia for the opportunity to grow and preserve our own food.

This week's recipe is listed below.  I hope everyone has a great week and has as much fun as we have had preserving the harvest from our garden.

Corn Pudding

1/4  cup flour
1 egg
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cup whole corn
1 3/4 cup cream corn
1 1/4 cup evaporated milk, undiluted
1/3 stick butter

Mix egg, flour and sugar.  Add corn and blend in milk.  Dot top with butter and bake at 325 degrees until center is firm and knife, inserted 1 inch from center, comes out clean (approximately one hour).

Paul Cooper

Note:  I submit these recipes as given to me.  Please feel free to substitute healthy ingredients whenever possible.

Hi folks, Sue from the LMU organic community garden here.  I'm sorry we haven't posted in forever.  I don't know why but I couldn't figure out how to get into the blog. David finally set me straight. Anyway I wanted to say I've really been enjoying all the blogs and advice.  Your all doing great work.  Things are growing like crazy at our garden and it's hard to harvest and process all the tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, okra, corn,beans etc.  We are blessed.  Attached are pictures of me with an unidentified cowpea I picked up at some garden, probably Michigan State Univ.  I measured one of the beans yesterday 25inches.  They are very good cooked like green beans when young and I shelled about a pounds worth yesterday for dried beans over the winter.  The tomatoes I'm holding are from seeds I saved last year from a friend at church who said they are from his Dad's seedless tomato.  So I just call them Shawn's Dad's Seedless.

Karen, our all-star volunteer: BDVP

I wanted to take this opportunity to give a big old thank you to one amazing volunteer: Karen Lanier.  Karen has been such a wonderful gift to our farm project.  We met quite serendipitously in May and while she has been an amazing and consistent volunteer, she has also become a great friend.  She was kind enough to share a bit of her story with us....

Testimonial of Volunteering on Watershed Farm, or What I Learned This Summer
by Karen Lanier
August 19,2012

What brought me to Watershed Farm? A very different reason than most of the women here – I came to Lexington to be closer to a good man. But my story echoes their need of support through a transition. It has been a big shift for me to approach life with the intention to put down roots in this city, coming from a semi-migratory lifestyle that included living in small towns surrounded by magnificent wild spaces. Now I’m in the urban jungle, awake at all hours not to coyotes, but to siren howls, and the hammering sounds aren’t woodpeckers, but jackhammers.

I knew I wanted to find a balance between concrete and nature, as well as balance earning a living and producing my own food. That’s when Jessica and Watershed Farm entered the picture, as an answered prayer. I’ve been volunteering a few hours a week since May, in exchange for a few veggies and flowers.

Why do I continue to volunteer? For the soul nourishment that comes from slowing down my pace, kneeling with my hands in the earth, inhaling the indescribable freshness and realness that surrounds me and grounds me, sensing the power of creation in each seed, and noticing the subtle changes from one week to the next. 

What do I actually do while I’m on the farm? It’s always a surprise, and I like that. I could show up and be the lone weeder, spending two solitary hours untangling morning glory vines from sweet potatoes. Or I could be swallowed up in the energy of 40 other volunteers, swarming through the green rows, spreading straw mulch and clearing pathways. Often, I get individual attention from the garden guru, Jessica, who infuses the atmosphere with her infectious joy. She may hand me a flat of seedlings, rattle off flowers’ names that sound like Greek goddesses, and show me how to handle them as I transplant them. Each step in the process is meaningful and rewarding, but the best part might just be harvesting. I’ll never forget the day I learned how to pull a potato out of the ground without harming the plant.  It’s a delicate and strange feeling to blindly reach inside the earth, wiggle fingers around and detect a hard little ball, carefully separate it from the tendril that attaches it to the mother plant, and resurface with a golden (or russet) prize in your fist.

This summer has been full of firsts for me. One thing I’ve learned through my volunteer farming is that being a beginner is a wonderful way to exist in this world. Humble farmers know that they are never really in charge, and if you stay open to listening to nature’s messages, the right teachers will come to you.

Thanks so much, Karen!  We love you, lady!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Gardener Profile: Hazel Rayburn

Greetings from Cowan Community Center!

Enjoy this profile of our oldest gardener, Hazel!

            In the past sixty-five years, there have been twelve different presidents.  The United States has gone to war and withdrawn from conflict.    The Internet now extends to all corners of the nation and cities and towns have seen accelerated development like never before.  And each of these past sixty-five years, Hazel Rayburn has grown a garden.  Like clockwork, in the spring beans and corn and potatoes and onions go into the ground, and for the next couple of months there is the weeding and the canning and the cooking and the harvesting.  And it all began with a few chickens.
            During World War II Hazel lived in Baltimore, working in an airplane factory.  It was here that Hazel fulfilled the smiling all-American image of the posters: she went to work everyday, made planes for the boys overseas, and lived outside of Whitesburg and by herself for the first time in her life.  It was in Baltimore that Hazel met, and fell in love with, Earl.  With the end of World War II, Hazel moved back to Whitesburg, the only home she had ever known, with her new husband.  The era of rationing remained, despite victory over Germany and the extension of U.S. hegemony.  Rationing of food was felt particularly hard in Appalachia, a region that has long-suffered from poverty and welfare concerns.  So with this context, the first winter living back in Whitesburg was fated to be a difficult one.  But Hazel knew the solution. 
            “I’ll bet you a dollar,” Hazel said to Earl, “that if we make it through the winter, we’ll have more food than we know what to do with.” 
            Making it through the winter was no guarantee, but as soon as the snow and cold began to let up, even in the slightest, the chickens began.  Before grass even turned green they brought chicks into the house, keeping them pushed right up against the stove so that they would stay warm.  The chicks were mail order, and it turns out raising two hundred chicks gets crowded.  When the ground softened and the chickens began pecking around outside, Hazel put in their first plot.  The plot was huge, producing more than enough vegetables for their day to day cooking, and plenty to can: beans, cabbage for sauerkraut, cucumbers to pickle. 
            The value of a garden doesn’t come from some inherent value of the gardening process, but rather from the nutrition, vitality, and self-sufficiency that it lends to its gardeners and their families.  You won’t find an individual who loves gardening more than Hazel Rayburn; if she could make every person living up and down Cowan grow a garden, she would.  But to her, being able to stick something in the ground and see corn come out isn’t really valuable in and of itself.  What she truly values is her family’s ability to eat kraut all through the winter, independent of the economy.  John Paul Dejoria said that his vision for Grow Appalachia included a “return to the self-sufficiency of our grandparents,” and all you have to do is walk into Hazel’s kitchen when she’s stringing beans with her great-granddaughter Katie, or when her granddaughter Becky is canning over a hundred quarts of kraut, or when they’re eating the fruits of their labors for breakfast lunch and dinner to see that in action.  The transmittance of the collective knowledge and wisdom of gardening is invaluable and yet also organic; Hazel Rayburn is living proof.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Scott County Grow Appalachia

   Black Gold     -    C O M P O S T    -

Composting is taking organic waste, yard trimmings and kitchen scraps and converting it through decomposition into a free source of soil amendments and a natural fertilizer.  Using compost we build up our soil by adding important nutrients back to the soil that get depleted during our gardens growing season. We just can’t get the same results from chemical fertilizers.

It is estimated by the EPA that 20% of all landfill use is organic materials that we should be composting.  By composting, we can significantly reduce landfill space..

To make compost it requires green matter such as food scraps grass clippings which will add nitrogen, and brown matter such as leaves or saw dust that add carbon. With water, oxygen and time we will have our compost.  It is important that we layer the greens and the browns then occasionally stir it with a pitched fork to get oxygen into the pile the more you work your pile the faster it will decompose for you.

Creating a compost bin or area is simple.  It doesn’t require much time, space or money.  Compost areas ideally should be close to the garden.  There are a variety of materials that can by used to make a compost bin, such as cinder blocks, woven wire fence, lattice, etc..  There are also many compost bins that you can purchase commercially.

What should be added to your compost bin?

·         Vegetable peels and scraps
·         Fruit scraps
·         Coffee grounds with filter
·         Tea bags
·         Egg shells
·         Watermelon  rinds cut into pieces
·         Grass clippings
·         Leaves
·         Spent flowers and plants
·         Weeds if it has not seeded

Things that should never be composted:

·         Meat or meat scraps
·         Bones
·         Fats or oils
·         Salad dressings
.         Dairy Products

Composting Class

We offered a composting class following our participants meeting this week.  We only have a few participants that have composted before.  After the class, most of them said that they were going to begin composting.

One of our participants, Ms. Lackey, helped to teach the class.  She is very knowledgeable about composting and has many years of experience.  She did a great job!  She also recorded a video on composting from her garden. 

                   Participant of the Week   
                                        Ms. Crabtree

We are very proud to name Ms. Crabtree our garden participant of the week.  She is very enthusiastic, hard working, and her positive energy is inspiring.  Even though she works full time and has two teenage daughters, she is quick to volunteer to help the Grow Appalachia team.

Her feelings about Grow Appalachia in her own words 

"Five years ago, my husband and I decided to plant a garden for various reasons such as finances, nutrients, the love of fresh vegetables, to relieve stress etc. My husband was a truck driver so he was only home on the weekends to help with the garden.  He would normally plow and till the garden and sometimes help plant, while I would take care of the garden and harvest what it would produce. 

May of last year I lost my husband to a massive heart attack. Without his help to plow and till the garden for me, I was unable to have a garden. This year thanks to you and the Grow Appalachian Project that you have provided to Scott County, not only did I get my garden plowed and tilled for me, but I also had seeds, plants and fertilizer provided to me as well.

This has been a very stressful year for my two teenage daughters and me. However, thanks to this program I have been able to work in my very own garden and really enjoy the peace and relaxation that working in the garden gives me, which helps to relieve a lot of the stress. Your program has also blessed us by providing us with the help to produce a garden that not only has produced vegetables for ourselves but also have been able to provide vegetables for several other needy families in our community." 

Ms. Crabtree's donation to a local food bank

A Tasty New Way to Prepare your Plots: Lasagna Gardening ~ Pine Mountain, Kathleen Powers

     Sounds pretty good right? Plant lots of tomatoes, eggplant, maybe some spinach…. But cheese doesn’t grow!  And where does the pasta come from? Well lasagna gardening is not in fact about growing the ingredients for a tasty lasagna, but rather, a nontraditional organic gardening method that relies on a layering method called sheet composting.
     One of the greatest benefits of the lasagna gardening method is that it does not require any digging or tilling. This makes it an ideal practice for beginning gardeners, elderly gardeners, or those who simply do not have access to equipment to break ground and work the soil. Lasagna gardening can also be a relatively low cost method of gardening, using recycled and found materials.
     So how does this lasagna gardening thing work? you ask, well I will do my best to give you a rundown of the basics of Lasagna Gardening.
     Though it may not seem like it is already that time of year, fall is just around the corner and soon it will be time to start putting your garden to bed and preparing for the winter. Fall however is also a great time to get started with new garden plots for the next season because there is a bounty of organic material available and the winter months will allow ample time for your organic material to break down and leave you with a ready to plant plot by the time spring arrives.
Two garden plots ready to decompose through the winter

Step 1: Choose your garden area and put down a layer of cardboard over the entire area, make sure to overlap the cardboard so that no weeds or grass can creep through the cracks. Then thoroughly wet down the cardboard so that it will stay in place. You do not need to till/dig up the garden space at all because the cardboard will kill all grass and weeds and slowly break down the dense top layer of soil.

Step 2: Put down your first “lasagna” layer on top of the cardboard. This layer should be 2-3 inches thick and made up of water absorbent material such as dead leaves, straw, peat moss etc.

Step 3: Add a second layer made up of greener material, such as grass clippings, veggie scraps, garden trimmings, etc.

Step 4: continue to add layers alternating between green and brown until your garden spot is covered with layers that are about 2 feet in height. Layers can be made up of just about any organic material such as leaves, grass clippings, manure, compost, coffee grounds, shredded paper, pine needles, etc. Just make sure that you are not adding any diseased garden plants to your piles or you will have future problems. You can also add necessary soil amendments such as lime and wood ash to the layers to get a head start on a healthy garden.

Layers of a lasagna garden
Step 5: leave it all to decompose over the winter months. By the time you are ready to plant in the spring the layers will have reduced in height to just several inches of loose rich soil.

Step 6: Planting! When you are ready to plant simply dig down as deep as necessary in the soil and plant to your heart’s desire.

Step 7: Once you have planted it is very helpful to apply a layer of mulch to the entire garden. This will keep weeds to a minimum and help the soil retain water. Mulch can be made from straw, grass clippings, leaves, shredded paper, etc.

Benefits of Lasagna Gardening/Sheet Composting
• No tilling, digging, or large equipment necessary
•Few weeds will grow if you properly mulch
•Low cost
• Nutrient rich soil

Patricia Lanza is the gardener who conceived of the lasagna gardening system as I have described, here is her first book on the topic and an article written by her that you can access online:

Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens, No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding!  By Patricia Lanza

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Henderson Settlement / White Oak Happenings ~ Jackie

Have you ever seen corn that looked like this?

 Today one of the White Oak gardeners brought several ears of corn from her garden over to H.S. for us to look at because she didn't know what was happening to her corn. We showed the corn to our farm manager and he said, "That's Corn Smut".  When we asked , "What's that!" he said, it's a fungus that happens when there has been a drought and then it starts to rain.

According to Wikipedia, Corn Smut is a pathogenic plant fungus that causes smut disease on maize and teosinte. The fungus forms galls on all above-ground parts of the corn species. Although it can infect any part of the plant it usually enters the ovaries and replaces the normal kernals of the cobs with large, distorted tumors analogous to mushrooms. The spores give the cob a burned, scorched appearance. It grows during times of drought, (like we have just been through) growing best in a 78 to 93 temperature.

Smut feeds on the corn plant and decreases the yield. Usually, smut-infected crops are destroyed. Some farmers may also choose to prepare corn silage out of the smutted corn. It is most popular in Mexico, where it is known as huitlacoche and can be regularly found as an option in meals. The consumption of corn smut originates from ancient Aztec cuisine and is still considered a delicacy in Mexico, even being preserved and sold for a significantly higher price than corn.[12] For culinary use, the galls are harvested while still immature — fully mature galls are dry and almost entirely spore-filled. The immature galls, gathered two to three weeks after an ear of corn is infected, still retain moisture and, when cooked, have a flavor described as mushroom-like, sweet, savory, woody, and earthy. Flavor compounds include sotolon and vanillin, as well as the sugar glucose.

Meals on Wheels? ~by Erica at High Rocks

Sometimes cucumbers just get away from us.  A few days without picking and you can end up with a pithy, over-ripe monster on your vines.  What’s to be done with such a thing?  The Jacox community of Pocahontas County, WV has an answer.  NAS-CUKE!  Using recycled materials, they transformed cukes, zucs, and squash into racing machines this weekend in the first annual produce race.    Grow Appalachia-sponsored cars made a strong showing and their drivers ended up winning a slice of the prize chocolate zucchini cake. 

Mother Nature vs Vegetable Farmer

Todd and Gary at the Market

Sr. KC here. I just got off the phone with my friend and local farmer, Todd Howard. He has been a wonderful gift to us here at St Vincent’s Grow Appalachia program both in the Greenhouse Mentoring program and as a partner in the sustainable agriculture movement in Floyd County. He called to see if any of my families had some extra beans they wanted to sell at the Farmer’s Market this weekend. Another of Todd’s many jobs is market manager for the Floyd County Farmer’s Market. The market had its best week last week and he really wants to keep the momentum going. He has been selling produce he and his partner Gary grow in two bottoms here. That was until yesterday about 10:30 in the morning when the rain came.

He noticed the rain was coming down pretty hard and walked out on to his porch just as his partner drove up. They decided to go check on the garden at Open Fork which sets in a bottom. When they got there they saw the creek was full and moving fast but not too bad. Then they noticed water coming over into the garden and within fifteen minutes there was four foot of water in their main market garden. Here is a YouTube video of the water.Todd's Market garden

When I saw Crystal this morning she told me that Brushy, the hollow where she and several of my Grow Appalachia families live, got hit hard and most of the gardens were gone. I’ve made some calls but haven’t gotten through. They are probably out cleaning up. Crystal lost everything but maybe three rows of beans. Her sister-in-law lost three bottoms and the hay bottoms on Route 7 were all flooded.

Farming in the mountains is a tricky business. Most of the land is hillside and rocky except for the “bottoms” where the creeks run. There is soil there and most of it is fairly fertile. And most of the time, if you don’t get flooded in the spring rains, you do OK. The weather has been bizarre this year with August being wet instead of dry. And then when you add man-made obstacles like holding ponds on strip mines that fail…well you get flood.

Todd is a market farmer so after he gave himself an hour to feel sorry for himself, he and Gary are out salvaging what they can to put up and then planting some more fall crops. As far as my Brushy families, they have lived on this land for generations. That’s why we put up so much”, one woman told me, “in case we have a year where we can’t, we wont’ go hungry”.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Home Visits ---Chad Brock------ Red Bird Mission

  Here at Red Bird Mission we have been spending time visiting some of our participants gardens; helping with any problems, helping to plant some fall plants, and collecting harvest information.
I am finding that even though the dry conditions had slowed alot of the produce, overall yields are looking pretty good. I think the biggest problem we have had is blight and blossom end rot on their tomatoes. Mostly, everyone is harvesting from their tomatoes, but are forced to pick them a little early and let them ripen inside.
   Even here at Red Bird I have had alot of issues with this, and like alot of our participants I sprayed faithfully, left at least two feet between plants and pruned the plants to increase air circulation. But still had problems.  The last month or so here have been very wet; rain every couple of days, high humidity and heavy dew nightly. This is an ideal environment for these fungus diseases to explode.

  We are seeing an increase in both vendors and customers at our weekend farmers market here at Red Bird Mission and are providing a much bigger group with the access to fresh local grown organic vegetables and providing some income to local farmers in a very economically depressed area. The food voucher program provided to local, low income families through Grow Appalachia and the Red Bird Mission Food Security Project has been a big factor in boosting involvement and helping to reach this goal. We anticipate it to continue once everyone sees the benefits of this market.

Henry Ledford's Garden

Henry Ledford's Garden/ Muskmelon

Hilda Hacker's Garden

Hilda Hacker's Garden

Ray Wagers' beans

Ray Wagers' summer squash

Ray Wagers' corn

Sue Collins' garden

Preparing Faye's Garden to plant a late patch of bush beans 

Faye Caudill getting tractor ready 

Faye Caudill's Raised bed

Faye Caudill's Raised bed

Audrey Hollen's garden

Audrey's tomatoes

Planted mustard/turnips with Audrey Hollen

Demonstrated starting cole crops from seed for Audrey Hollen 

Demonstrated starting cole crops from seed for Audrey Hollen

Audrey Hollen Garden

Bradford Garden

Bradford Garden

Bradford Garden

Sandlin Garden

Sandlin Garden