Lee and a curious calico crisscross the country in a RV, living simply and sustainably.

Plant People

Here’s an update on the progress of our cooperative garden. Nine folks have staked their claims together to form a hands-on learning experience. We sifted through 101 mounds of soil mixed with aged cow manure for planting our 3 sisters (corn, pole beans & squash). Half of our hills were treated to extra fertilizer in the form of fish emulsion made from leftovers from a local fast food place. Today marked the planting of the first seeds of corn in the mounds. Woo hoo! We’ll wait a week or so to give the corn time to sprout before planting beans, then add squash seeds a week later. Neighboring farms are already eating from their gardens, but we’re a work in progress.

We’ve all been pitching in with supplies and tools, and have amassed a small pile of useful stuff. One member had dozens of empty cat litter buckets which are used for hauling away rocks, collecting water, and possibly drilled for planting potatoes or containing fast spreading herbs like catnip. Everyone is saving empty water, milk and soda jugs for efficient watering (just cut off the bottom and stick upside down next to your tomato plants).  Others have contributed heirloom seeds, which will be reimbursed from our first crop.

The artists among us made an adorable Scary Crow and sacred sundial to adorn the field with beauty.  Yet to be constructed are a water collection system and compost bins. This garden is definitely a work in progress, and we make a lot of progress each week. We work together on Tuesday nights, but small groups come out during the week as they are able.  Communication is key, and with a plan in place, well-marked beds and ongoing email updates, it shouldn’t get too chaotic!

Soil prep is our goal this first year, to build the soil and amend with free materials. Last year’s leaves make a great mulch for between rows. Aged cow manure is available by the truck load from a neighboring farm (there’s no smell , and it’s easy to mix into the soil). Worm manure also makes an excellent fertilizer, and especially good to use for crops that grow beneath ground like potatoes. Fish emulsion was created using a blender for our 3 sisters plantings. For a better understanding of organic soil building, take a look at the documentary Dirt! The Movie.  I was privileged to see Dr. Vandana Shiva lecture last year – a true planting partner.

We’ve staked out 24 beds that are roughly 3’ x 35’ throughout the rest of the field. Each member gets their own personal plot to work, in addition to a share in the rest. The only rule is we ask everyone to use heirloom seeds and use organic growing methods.  I’m going to plant stevia and soybeans in my personal plot . . . not sure what else just yet.  The fun is in the mix of people and plants and ideas, and being planting partners.

Suggestions:

Think:  Who are your planting partners? Do you know the folks who grow your food? Are you sharing your hard-earned knowledge with others?

Say:  Talk to your neighboring farmers to share ideas and best practices.

Do:   Literally take a field trip. Tour your neighbor’s gardens and fields to see what’s growing. The Voluntary Simplicity Group I belonged to arranged for a potluck and visit to members homes to see what they were up to. That’s where I witnessed first-hand the use of solar panels, rain barrels, raised-beds, building a green house, landscaping with fruit and nut trees, and much more. Plus we swapped heirloom seeds, seedlings, supplies, and support. Find a group, or start one!

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