Monday, May 18, 2015

Meet the crew!

Ashley and Andra in the (now) clean shed!
As a pseudo-philosopher, avid reader of Steinbeck and Dr. Seuss, dumpster diver enthusiast, coffee addict,  feminist, and lover of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I am a bit of a mixed bag. I grew up in middle of eight kids (resulting in a classic case of middle child syndrome) and moved all over the States experiencing a rather nomadic childhood. At a young age I developed a love for books and the outdoors (which coincidentally reflects my jobs this summer: part-time at the IWU library and part-time with the Alliance Garden). I am studying philosophy, theology, and psychology at IWU with no strong desire to make a career but rather hope develop my character within those areas of study. Oh, and my name is Andra.

Ashley Sobczak is a senior at Indiana Wesleyan University studying psychology and youth ministry. She works as a youth pastor at a small country church in Marion and enjoys art, music, reading, and, of course, gardening. In the future, she hopes to establish a garden-based ministry, continue working as a youth pastor, earn her doctorate, and become the best professor ever. When she's not gardening, she can normally be found going on random adventures with friends or talking to her pet fish. She loves dark chocolate and monkeys.

Lex and her new friend
Hi! My name is Alexis and I just recently graduated from IWU studying Photography and Business. If we happen to run across each other, you will likely notice that I ask a lot of questions, love to understand new ideas, and also that I am quite passionate about ducks.
In the time that I am not gardening, I will usually be working on a new project called Photo Stories, spending time outdoors with friends, or reading a wonderful book in a hammock in the woods.

Emily is a pro manure-shoveler

Emily Hines grew up on a farm of "corn and cows" in rural Indiana. Crocheting, crafting, and sewing are favorite pastimes, as well as reading, exploring, and playing games with her husband. She's a Wesleyan pastor in the Marion area, and loves experiencing God in nature and in the Church. Milk/lactose-free dark chocolate is her favorite.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Friday, May 8, 2015

Week 1: Welcome to the Garden! 

Decomposition is fascinating business. Between molds, bacteria, worms, grubs, and heat, there is plenty of activity happening in a compost pile. These ingredients, mixed with time, constitute the recipe for sweet garden fertilizer. 

Our week began with the spreading of this elixir onto our plot at the 38th Street Alliance Garden. 

However, the finding of an enormous grub disrupted our labors. What does a group of Garden Interns do with such a treasure? 

Feed the chickens. 

But this was no ho-hum interruption. This grub fostered a festive occasion celebrating the circle of farm life. There was much rejoicing on our part and from the grub-greedy chickens. It was quite the event, indeed. 

Speaking of the circle of farm life, more interesting chemistry happens in vermiculture bins. Much like an open-air compost pile, vermiculture is an environment of decomposition, utilizing the amazing digestion tract of simple earth worms to break down organic material into natural fertilizer. 

Such a small, easily-maintained method of composting allocates a purpose for kitchen scraps.

Let no opportunities or energies be wasted when striving to live the sustainable garden lifestyle.

-- Emily

Friday, April 17, 2015

Welcome to the 2015 season of the Alliance Garden!

My name is Armila (or, as some say, “Farmila”), and I’m the new garden manager. Folks here keep telling me that “I have big shoes to fill.” (Those of you who know Zach, the former garden manager, will get the joke…he’s about 6’8”…) Zach did a wonderful job while he was here, and I’ve already picked his brain and learned a lot from him.  I hope to learn a lot more throughout this garden season!

Please join us, the Alliance Garden crew, on our journey of learning to be better stewards, growing stuff (including plants and ourselves), uplifting our community, and doing our best to bring Christ’s kingdom here to earth—to Marion, Indiana and beyond.

A few days ago, I took a field walk to assess the state of the garden and determine what my springtime prep tasks should be. Things were looking good: the strawberries were leafing out, the raspberry canes needed to be pruned, a couple perennial herbs are showing their tiny, green heads, and I even saw a few tiny asparagus stalks poking up out of the ground. 

Like I mentioned, the raspberries were in need of pruning. Armed with my clippers, I set out to decide which canes should stay and which should be eliminated. All the canes were producing leaves, so any that I cut inevitably had leaves and, if left, potentially could have produced a little fruit.  As I was cutting, I found myself telling the plants "I know I'm cutting canes that already have leaves, and I also realize this may hurt; you might even feel a little exposed when I finish. But just wait for a few months and you'll see that the remaining canes will produce good fruit. So even if it doesn't look or feel good now, I promise I'm doing this for your good and because I care. "
 In the midst of my scratched-up arms and dirt-stained knees, God gave me a garden lesson: his process of working with me is very similar to the way I was pruning the raspberries. At times, it seems severe and painful when God calls us to surrender junk in our lives that we want to keep (but that will hamper production of good fruit in our lives). However, he only removes the parts of us that are detrimental. Still, I've been guilty of resisting God's pruning of me just as the raspberries tried to deter me with their thorns.  I just need to keep reminding myself that God is the wisest and most experienced gardener; I can entrust my life to his clippers. 

Thanks for visiting the blog! If you want to be in contact with the garden via a non-digital format, please stop by our gardens (one on 38th St and the other on 46th)!

- Armila

Friday, October 31, 2014

Week 26: The End of a Season

46th st panoramic shot
Before we begin reminiscing, let us first talk about this week. All of the stalks and vines of the now dead plants in our garden had to be uprooted, chopped up, and deposited into our compost. As you can see in the pictures they are over flowing now. Luckily they have six months to be broken down into quality nutrients that we will add back to the soil. After our last farm stand this week we finished up with inventory for the year. We also dumped the water in our rain barrels so that they would not freeze and crack. One of the barrels had a little surprise for us. I do not know how long this squirrel had been in there but it smelled terrible.

38th st
Most importantly we had our exit interviews with each of our interns. Kayla and I asked them questions to feel out how the year had gone and get input on how to improve. Even when the critiques are hard to hear, I still enjoy this time because it allows us to grow as managers and to build the internship program into something that IWU is known for, not just as a pet project.

38th st compost

Well folks this is it. This was the last week of our gardens here at Indiana Wesleyan. In the past 6 months we have prepped the earth, sowed seed, weeded, mulched, harvested, and wintered our two gardens. We raised a total of seven chickens and only one died ( on purpose because, you know, we learned how to do that). We grew 40 plus different species of fruits, vegetables, and herbs many of which were for the first time. We canned pickles, salsa, and apple butter and processed apple cider. We started a seed bank and a Facebook page. We hauled supplies in our new truck, stored produce in our new refrigerator, and sprayed organic pest spray with our new sprayer. We donated hundreds of pounds of food to the Marion Community Garden farmer's market and St. Martins and we raised close to $1000 from students and staff at our mall way stand. We even broke 50 views of one of our blog pages!!!

46th st compost
Thank you all for following us this year. This blog will continue next year however, I will not be writing it. My wife Kate and I will be moving to Cincinnati where I will be doing garden and sports Ministry for Prasco (their foundation gives the grant to fund the Alliance Garden). I hope you all tune in next year to whoever is writing the blog. I also hope that this can grow and be a tool that can bring God glory.

Best wishes,

Zach Arington

Monday, October 27, 2014

Week 25: Inventory and the First Frost

This past week we had our first frost. The first frost ended most of the production of any of the plants that still were producing fruit. We will still get some greens like collards, lettuce, and herbs but tomatoes, okra, peppers are done for the season. I am not sure what is up with our watermelons but we continue to get tastier melons the deeper we get into fall which is not usually the case. The frost did manage to freeze them partially which made for delicious watermelon ice. We also got lots of rain this week which is helping our cover crop grow quickly. It is nice to see that even with all of the death that is occurring in the garden there is also new life.

46th st
composting coffee grounds
20 buckets a week!
Since our gardens are mostly finished for the year we are able to work on packing away our supplies and doing inventory. This will help next years manager as they do not know what they have to work with yet. We did this early in the morning when I had some interns before they went to class. Since the sun was out I thought it would be helpful to have my brights on to see inside the garage. This worked great until I needed to drive the truck. We also learned that you cannot jumpstart anything with a Prius.

38th st
This next week will be our last week and Kayla and I will be doing exit interviews with interns. This is where we get feedback on how we did as managers, how we can improve the gardens in the years to come, and to affirm and critique the interns on their performance these past six months. If you have time please let our ears be able to hear the truth in what the interns say as well as to speak wisdom into their lives. I am really looking forward to what they will have to say that will help build this program and to become a better manager of people in the future.

Other News: The seed banks are finished. We have gathered lettuce, kale, pumpkins, and cleome. We will be able to use these next year and start them in the green house. This is the last week for the farm stand so please come get as much as you can carry. The pictures did not work this week so I will try to add them when I can.

Zach Arington

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Week 24: Sabbath is coming

            On Monday, Kayla, Zach, and Sydni, who lives in the Alliance House and interned in the gardens last summer, attended a sustainability lecture at College Wesleyan Church. Matthew and Nancy Sleeth, who have been instrumental in the revival of the Sabbath movement, spoke about the physiological, psychological, and spiritual benefits of setting aside one day per week for total rest. Sydni, the only person in attendance who had made Sabbath a weekly practice, was able to share her experiences with the rest of the audience. The Sleeth's book, 24/6, goes into greater detail about Sabbath-keeping as a sustainable practice. 
            For the Alliance House dinner on Wednesday night, we hosted Dr. Chris Bounds from the Division of Theology and Ministry. We had all read his essay "God’s Redemption of Creation: Begun, but Moving to Culmination," which was published in Creation Care: Christian Voices on God, Humanity, and the Environment. Dr. Bounds said that it was theology that got him interested in sustainable practices: if God created the earth, then the earth deserves our utmost respect and care. We talked about the irony of current evangelical stances on environmental issues: that humans are more important than the earth, and that gives us license to do whatever we want with our resources. But towards the end of dinner, we talked about ways in which our individual churches are responding holistically and sustainably to ecological concerns like urban food deserts. With his belief in the power of parish ministry, Dr. Bounds helped us identify practical ways we can participate in God’s redemption of creation.
            We spent several hours this week harvesting seeds. In a few years, we hope to have system such that we will not have to purchase seeds, and can even sell seeds to community gardeners. As we are still learning the process, we decided to save seed from only a few crops. This week, we harvested, cleaned, and dried seeds from our pumpkins, cleome, and lettuce. Pumpkin seeds in particular are valuable because we can roast and sell them at our produce stand.
            Broccoli, our winter cover crop, is coming in at the 46th street garden. With the removal of our tomato trellises, the gardens are beginning to look barren, but this new season will give the ground a chance to rest and recover for next year. The principle of Sabbath-keeping applies even to the soil that produces our food. As this year’s gardens are coming to a close, we are all anticipating a restorative fall and winter and a productive spring and summer for next year’s manager and interns. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Week 23: Apple Butter, Apple Sauce? What is the difference?

Strawberries at 38th

38th st.

 This week we decided to try our hand at making apple butter. What makes apple sauce different then apple butter? No skins or cores for sauce, does not matter for butter. You can add all sorts of things to apple sauce and butter for unique flavors. We just did straight apples but cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg, etc. all work as well. You cut the apples, cook them down, process them, and cook them down some more. It smelled so good.  The hot water bath is used to disinfect the cans to make sure that no diseases can fester inside while you keep it sealed. We will have these at our farm stand on Thursdays for a donation of 2 or 3 dollars.

46th st.
We uprooter our stakes and untied our strings that kept the tomatoes upright at 38th st. Most of these tomato plants are almost done but we will still be able to get some tomatoes until the frost. The tomatoes are producing better at 46th so we are leaving those up for now.

Finished Apple Butter
Our two lettuce varieties (Grand Rapids and Butter crunch) have come up this week. The butter crunch is new and a very tasty variety with more round, dark leaves. The broccoli is taller as well but I don't believe we will be getting any this year.
Hot Water Bath

While it has been cold it has also been rainy. This is great for the plants as they have not had rain in awhile but harder for us to get things done.

In other news: Buy an Alliance Garden T-shirt they are great and only 5$. Our farm stand is open just two more weeks so please come by! Our chickens are not laying right now because they are molting. When the days get shorter they realize they need to keep up their strength and they stop producing eggs. They are also re growing their tail feathers which they will need. We have been feeding them some extra cheese danishes recently. They love it so much. I love it because they get cheese all over their beaks. (Think child's birthday party).

Zach Arington