Sunday, August 31, 2014

Week 17: Salsa and NSO

Black Eyed Susans


This week was New Student Orientation week. At the end of the week the 1000 new freshmen were sent to 94 locations around the Marion area to do volunteer work and learn about the city they will be living in for the next 4 years or so. 20 students were assigned to our Alliance Gardens where Hannah Combs and Josh Ruiz led them in weeding, mulching, and harvesting while 11 came with me to Victory Acres to do similar things. This was a really cool experience I think as it lets the students see where they could help out and give back to the community. As a graduate of IWU I would have loved this, and I think that I would have been more involved earlier then I was. This also let us promote the Alliance Gardens as students saw that we grew crops right here on campus, we have a stand where they can buy things, and that they can volunteer or try for the internship in the years to come.
Butternut Squash

This week we made a lot of salsa. Like way more then we probably should have since it is difficult to sell while still keeping it fresh. We did however make more this week then we have ever before so that is very promising. It has allowed us to reach more people that would not buy vegetables because they do not like them, have no where to prepare them, or are just too busy. A can of salsa is easy to carry, will be eaten, and is already prepared. Another reason we did so well is that our cantaloupes and watermelons are becoming ready to be eaten! These are some seriously big watermelons and will continue to be delicious.

Notes: We will be at the Taste of Marion this Friday so if you cannot stop at our table on Thursday please do on Friday.
The squash bugs are terrible and I would love volunteers to come and just pick and squish them!
If you bought salsa or have been given it as a gift bring back the container and we can make you more. This way it is more sustainable then buying brand new jars every time and you can get more salsa!
morning strawberries

Sunday, August 24, 2014

week 16: Salsa and chicken


4 new chickens!
This week was a solid week. We got tons of rain near the end and we got all of our picking done early. The tomatoes are coming in strong this week and okra is needed picked just about daily. We have planted broccoli and cabbage at 46th st. for the fall crop. The peas from last week are sprouting so I have hope that these will also take. Since we have everything covered in wood chips, we move the chips out of the way then plant the seeds and and compost. The compost is added right next to the seeds instead of on top because the roots would not need to go out far enough to get the nutrients they need and would be stunted.

They are getting used to us slowly
With all of the tomatoes we are getting, we have decided to make salsa. We made three distinct flavors that we let people try on Thursday. It has been such a hit that we will be selling salsa at our stand on Thursdays for as long as we can. We will still be selling our regular produce and we put the recipes up on our Facebook page for those that wanted to try it. Our stand is not really a money making enterprise since most students do not have money on them or do not want to cook vegetables. It is mostly just a marketing tool to let people know who we are and why we do what we do to generate interest. So if we can get more people to come buy our salsa and tell others about what we do I think that would be the best.

tomatoes at 46th
We have added 4 more chickens to our coop! They are all donations from Robert Sharp as he needs to keep his flock from overcrowding. Hopefully they will produce lots of eggs for us! We have separated the new birds from our old two so that they can see each other but not interact. This is because chickens are very social animals and they want to develop a peaking order. New birds can cause lots of fighting with the old birds and we do not want that. So for another week more they will look but not touch.

46th st garden
Other Notes: Our squash bug problem is terrible. The neem spray has stopped everything except for them.
If you want to volunteer in our gardens contact us on our Facebook page or see me at our mallway stand.
It is never too early to sign up to be an Alliance Garden intern. We are also looking for a Garden Manager so if either sound good again let us know.

Zach Arington

Friday, August 15, 2014

Week 15: The Ice Age in August

Katie picking beans

38th st
squash cucumber pumpkin jungle
our tomatoes
Just a lovely picture of one of the trees in the morning
So this week the mornings have been frigid. It will be 40 degrees when I set out to work IN AUGUST. Although it will finally get into the 70s or 80s in the afternoon we are all wearing things to keep warm until the sun busts through and remembers that it is summer. It has been a cooler summer then last year overall but it is still surprising that early August is cold. In case you didn't know that means two things: winter will be extreme again and our tomatoes are struggling. See tomatoes like warm muggy weather. So we have lots of green tomatoes but they will not turn colors. This has led to some disease and rot. To combat this and keep pests from eating up more of our garden we are spraying neem oil mixture. Neem oil is awesome because it kills and combats harmful insects and fungus while not hurting the helpful ones like bees or butterflies. It works for the whole week and then I need to spray again. It is also an organic approved spray since it doesn't have any chemicals that just harm everything like so many other sprays.

We have also spread dog hair around our garden at 46th st. to keep raccoons from eating our corn. We know it is raccoons that have been taking our corn because they are big time food wasters. They only nibble the cob and they break the stalk. Raccoons are frightened of dogs usually and the smell should keep them away.
Hannah is good at photography and painting

tire gardens
Our stand this week that is on Thursdays from 11 to 1 did better this week. More people keep coming to campus getting ready for school so we can hope to continue to sell better each week. (It also helps that people like eating corn which we did not have last week). There was still plenty to give to St. Martins so I think everyone wins.

up close
We planted more broccoli, lettuce and peas this week for a fall crop at 46th. We took out the swiss chard to make room for the broccoli since the swiss chard has not been awesome for us this year. It is an eyesore with it being so bug eaten and we can't really sell it since it is so mangled.

I am glad to be back and am always looking for volunteers as school gets underway. As you can see from the pictures the garden is booming and beautiful. It is a lovely place to work and be close to God.

some of our small sunflowers

Some of our big sun flowers

These attract so many bees!

This is called cleame. It is one of my favorites

This is a really awesome place to work.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Patchwork Week

            This week, Zach is on vacation in Hilton Head, Josh is on his honeymoon in St. Lucia, Patrick left for a wedding in Delaware, and Kayla started her full-time job at the library. Our work calendar looks like a patchwork quilt with different pieces jutting in at different angles. With such irregular schedules, we have been working on loose-ends type jobs, such as writing thank you notes to our volunteers, designing signs for our mallway table, and waiting for a series of repairmen to fix not one, but BOTH refrigerators at the Alliance House.
            Some other odd jobs we have accomplished this week: tilling and mulching the circle and flowerbeds at the Alliance House, organizing the garage at the 38th street garden, collecting dog fur to sprinkle around the gardens to keep out raccoons, and picking through the dangerous chemical aisle at Meijer until we found a bottle of concentrated neem, an organic fungicide. Some of our cucumber plants are sick, and we hope that the neem will help nurse them back to health.

Radishes: take two
            Of course, we have also been doing routine work in the gardens, harvesting bucketloads of beans, arugula (still), collards (STILL!), peppers, dill, basil, spinach, squash, and cucumbers. We have let our lettuce and some of our arugula go to seed and plan to harvest and save the seeds for next season. Because the summer has been so cold, our tomatoes are not ripe yet, but the vines are heavy with fruit. Today when I was walking through the 38th street garden with a friend, I noticed some watermelons, cantaloupes, and pumpkins beginning to form on the vines. Our butternut squash is almost ripe, and our grapes are beginning to turn. The fall harvest season is almost here!
Mallway table!
            This Thursday Katie and I ran our first produce stand in the mallway. We enjoyed setting up the table and making sure everything looked appealing. While we only made three sales, we hope that by advertising through social media and word of mouth, we will build a steady customer base. And when students come back to campus in three weeks, we will have heavier traffic. Because we didn’t sell a lot this week, we had a lot of produce to donate to St. Martin’s. We are excited to be able to donate on a weekly basis as our relationship with St. Martin’s strengthens.
            Even though this week was a mess of loose ends, like the tangled twine I re-balled when I was cleaning out the garage at 38th, we were preparing for the weeks ahead. With the start of school, many of us will have to severely cut our hours (I’m starting to realize that 18 credit hours with 3 jobs might be a bit ambitious), and I am thankful that we have weeks like this to catch our breath.

Until Zach leaves for another week on the beach,

Hannah Combs

Alliance Garden Intern
Lonely gardener

Friday, August 1, 2014

Week 13: Farm Week! (Viewer Discretion is Advised)

Sunflowers are awesome
     If you have been following us on our Facebook page you might have gathered that we the Alliance Garden have been participating in something called Farm Week. Farm Week is a week in which all of the interns and managers eat nothing that cannot be found growing or raised in our garden. This is an incredibly difficult challenge because not only does it knock out most meat and fruits, but all dairy and grains as well! No coffee, sugar, salt. We were confronted with how we were to prepare our food and ration our food.
The canning crew
Beans going to be pickled!
      Our one cheat for the week was that we were allowed to come up with a menu item that used products found in our garden (not exclusively however) and then post the recipe to our facebook page. On Wednesday Grace had us over to her house to learn to make many dishes and they were amazing. We also had a pickling and apple butter making class with Robert Sharp and we made cucumbers, beets, okra, and beans into hot, sweet, and sour pickles. Note for the spicy pickles. They caused everyone to cough violently and may not be the best choice for the future.
Apple churner
Bojangles :(
     The big day of the week was the chicken killing and processing day. One of our chickens, Bojangles, has not been laying eggs since we have gotten her. She has been sickly and could not grow back feathers from where the other chickens would peck at her. We quit feeding her the day before so that she would be free from food as we processed her. This was my and many of the interns first time doing this. As the leader I volunteered to do the hardest part which was to kill the chicken. The idea is to put the chicken into a killing cone upside down (a cut in half bleach container) and cut the artery in the neck right below the beak. This allows for the chicken to go unconscious and for the heart to keep pumping blood out. This is not a bad way to go at all. However, The knife was not all that sharp and I had to continue to try and cut the neck. After this was done I was very woozy and thought i would get sick. I hadn't eaten that morning which did not help. After that however it was very interesting. We put the chicken in hot water then cold water to make the feathers easy to take off. We broke the feet off by the Achilles and did not need to cut them off. We took the gall bladder out to see what was inside. A gall bladder is what a chicken has instead of a stomach. They swallow pebbles to grind the food they swallow. We saw eggs forming, the messed up liver which was why it was sick, it was like science class without the stench of formaldehyde. We then cooked it and ate it. As it was a egg laying chicken not a meat chicken in was not very tender but still good.
The killing cone
     This week opened the eyes of many of us. People live like this everyday. They do not have a choice of where they get there food. They have a garden or farm and the eat and make their living from it. If something goes wrong it is a big deal. They have to can to stay alive during winter. They have to kill all the meat they eat it does not come in a patty. We are truly blessed to not have to worry about this but at the same time we are hampered because we lose connection to the living world around us. I planted the cucumbers I ate this week from seed. I know where it came from. The girls picked the eggs every morning. I know them and their character. I probably won't ever meet the people who prepared, grew, shipped my Olive Garden lunch I will have with my wife tomorrow. Is it wrong? I do not think so but I do think it needs to be something everyone wrestles with. Extremes on either end of a spectrum are hard to sustain.
Chicken feast!
     The last thing that hit us this week was in our giving. We give our produce to Victory Acres, the community gardens of Marion, and St. Martin's. We are told by God to give Him the first fruit of our labor. That could be our time, money, resources, and in our case our literal first and best produce. I do not think we did a good job of that. I think we got away from the idea for a moment that our well being was of greater importance then those we are called to serve. We will be giving still great quantities of great food but I think we just slipped a bit on this.
Notes: Please try the recipes we shared online they are awesome.
Look at that bird!
Ask us about what we learned and how it impacted us spiritually. Many of our interns really articulate what is going on in their souls well. It has been a great year.
I am gone on vacation this week and Hannah will again be writing the blog. Please read she is so good!
We are starting our official IWU student center produce stand. It will be open 11 to 1 on Thursdays until October. Please stop by!

Garden Manager
Zach Arington

Friday, July 25, 2014

week 12 It's Good to be Back

Kayla making the perfect compost

Debbie :(
 This week was a great week to be in the garden. We are harvesting so much right now! Cucumbers, squash, arugula, eggplant,beans, peppers, herbs, Swiss chard, collards, Malabar spinach, onions, beets, okra! It was so nice to be welcomed back with such growth and produce. The interns held it down pretty well while I was gone and I couldn't be more proud.

This week we were able to work at the Flying Tomato Garden where Kayla is the garden manager. With the help of Debbie Renfroe and her two children Whitney and Bryant as well as Shania we weeded and mulched that garden and made it look even better. While we were there, several people in the community came by to talk with us and see what was growing. This garden is on Boots street and 16th street so it sees lots of Marion's traffic. Kayla did a great job of meeting with all of the visitors and making them feel welcomed.
Sad news though, this was the last week Debbie would be able to work with us as she needs to go back to school. She and her family have been such a blessing to us this summer and we wish her the best.

As you can see the girls fighting in our forest of lettuce, the lettuce has gone to seed. This means that the leaves are now bitter and we will no longer be using it to eat. We have left two rows to gather seed for a seed bank we are starting this year. We will try to gather and dry the seed so that we do not always have to buy new seed every year. We will also be planting some fall crops in this area and in other areas as the crops reach the end of their run.

We are starting to get pests pretty bad on some plants (squash bugs, tomato horned worm, Japanese beetles), so we have bought a backpack sprayer to get rid of the pests. We make organic spray as to not damage the crops and make sure they are still safe to eat. The one we are using now uses baking soda, water and dish soap to keep the leaves to slippery for the bugs to land, eat, or lay eggs. Of course we use other ways as well that are equally Eco-friendly (chicken feed!).

Announcements: We will be having a stand set up on Thursdays in the IWU student center from 11-1 All of August to October. You can get produce here and donate to the garden.
We are always looking for volunteers to help harvest and weed. If you help you can come take some food home!
Please check out our Facebook page for other announcements and picture/videos.

Zach Arington
Garden Manager
Making Kayla's life better


The Flying Tomato Garden on Boots and 16th St.

The girls terrorizing the city of Lettuce

The worse the apple, the better the apple butter!

Some of the produce that you will see at the Farmer's Market

Them Beets!

Tomato Horn Worm: Terror of the garden

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Week 11: When things aren't working the way they should

July 14-20

This week, we have run into several things that aren't working the way they should. 
            Early in the week, we noticed that our hose at the 38th street garden had been mowed over, and that the drip line at 46th was not working. While we cannot repair the hose, we located the problem in the drip line: a tiny kink near the spigot cut off the water for the entire garden. We straightened it out, and now the garden is getting the irrigation it needs. For the plants not along the drip line, we have been trying to use the water in the rain barrels at both gardens. We have also been using the rain water to keep the compost and the vermiculture damp.
            On Friday, Kayla and I turned the compost piles at the 46th street garden. I noticed that my pile was not even warm—when decomposing properly, a compost pile can reach up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Because most of the pile was brown matter—sticks, coffee grounds, coffee filters—we added some green matter like bee balm prunings and rotting apples so that the pile would decompose more quickly and efficiently. Now that the piles have a good ratio of carbon (brown matter) to nitrogen (green matter) they should begin to heat up.
            Lettuce, the first crop that we planted at the beginning of May, is nearing the end of its season. For about two weeks now, our lettuce has been bitter, and the stalks have started to bolt and go to seed. Last week, we harvested the final leaves from most of our plants before uprooting the stalks and throwing them on the compost pile. We gave away our lettuce at the open air market— while we didn’t want to waste it, it wasn’t fit for sale. 
            But the good thing about gardening is that there is always the hope of new life. We plan to plant broccoli, which is a cold weather crop, in place of the lettuce. The compost will begin to break down, and give us good fertilizer, and we can replace the hose. Another positive news item is that we are nearly finished mulching both gardens. This means that we will not have to weed or water as much for the rest of the summer. As we do not plan to till next summer, the mulch will protect the soil from erosion. We are blessed to have such easy access to mulch—we can drive the truck to facilities at any time and completely fill the bed with the chipped wood from the branches cut down all over campus.
            Our raspberries and black raspberries are nearing the end of their seasons, but the corn is tassling, tiny fingers of okra are emerging, and cucumbers are coming in by the bucket load. We separated our basil, which was planted in bunches, so that it can spread out. Unfortunately, we had to burn one of our squash plants because it was crawling with squash bugs. We cannot use pesticides, so we are hoping that none of our other plants fall prey. Katie found an enormous dragonfly as she was harvesting, and we hope that it continues to keep our garden pest-free.
            On Saturday, our entire crew (minus Kayla, who had to work at the her other job) drove over to Victory Acres for their third annual Pie in July celebration. In addition to a pie contest, there were workshops, a hay ride around the farm, and a potluck meal. We enjoyed talking with the share holders and the other interns that came out for a fun evening.
             This is my last week writing for the blog as Zach returned from Puerto Rico on Friday. Writing for the blog has helped me to be able to articulate the things I'm learning. Thanks for reading!

squash bugs: public enemy number one

Hannah Combs

Alliance Garden Intern

the compost piles at 46th