Twined in Tilth

strawberry spinach

As a seed you chose me

With care you mixed the soil

seedlings

With your hands you planted me

You tending me into a seedling, till time to plant me in just the right spot

Feed the soil, my micro kingdom flourishes for my well being

As a start and others sown

Through the season you watered me my dear Intern

Prune back, steak up, trellis or cage

Fertilize, thin out, stir up, and weed all for this one seed

All to see what something so small can achieve

Can you believe I know you are there?

 
The ones who for moments cast shadows as you work here and there

eggplant

But you always bring gifts of water, and make sure the sun could reach me.

I grow my fruit, some have vegis or leaf or savory stem

You lightin the load of my efforts

Keep away decay, and shoo off pests of all sorts

Rescue me from being a host, even worse a meal

Will you talk to me and say how colorful and wonderful my smells and flavors are to you?

 

When I’m done and  the weather makes me wither,

I wish to be composted as to not truly endcompost

We will re-begin again next year

 

Will you remember our time?

Will you plan and dream under white blanketed roofs to meet my descendants as you did me?

The soil will let them know I was here

And how great you made my time at Bounty Garden

 

No spoken wordspeppers

…and even being unlike species…

Yet symbiosis

We did share moments in time

We nurtured each other

And others with the will of life

So goodbye and thank you

We both agree it was a great season of learning many wonderful things

 

A poem by Mandisa Martinez – Bounty Garden intern 2017

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Applying the Philosophy of Yoga to your Garden to Help it Grow!

By Simi Rodgers

Adapted from 100 Best Yoga and Pilates by Parragon Inc.

yoga_gardenWhether you are planning your garden for next season, already working in a garden, or even considering taking up gardening as a new hobby, you should set clear intentions of what you would like to accomplish. When most people think of yoga, the first thing that may come to mind is postures, or poses. While practicing these postures may help relieve the body of a hard-working gardener, one should be aware that yoga is much more than postures. Yoga is a way of life. There are eight limbs of yoga that act as guidelines for living a purposeful and meaningful life. Now you may be wondering how do the eight limbs of yoga relate to my garden? The answer is simple. Both the body and a garden are like sacred temples that should be treated with respect, care, and love! Here is how you can apply the philosophy of yoga to your garden to attain a bountiful harvest:

  • Yama: the first limb of yoga, which relates to personal ethics and the sense of integrity that guide us in our daily lives. As an organic gardener, having integrity is crucial to the success of your garden. Organic farmers are held to a high standard of farming protocols, such as only using organic and non-GMO seeds and providing access to pasture for your livestock. Practicing the yamas means you only provide your customers the highest quality products and that you are honest about the practices you used to maintain your luscious garden.

The Five Yamas:

  1. Ahimsa: Non-violence. It is easy to see pests as something we should conquer, but try to remember that they are messengers of a bigger problem. Having a pest problem may be a sign that you are lacking a particular nutrient. Instead of adding harsh chemicals to your garden that may damage the integrity of your soil, consider taking a natural approach. Do a soil test, find out what nutrients you are lacking, and amend your soil with a natural source of the nutrient that your soil is lacking to address the real cause of the problem.
  2. Satya: Commitment to Truthfulness. Be honest with yourself and your fellow gardeners about how much time you have to commit to your garden. If you make a mistake, such as accidentally nicking an irrigation line, be truthful with yourself and your co-workers. Take the time to go back and fix your errors to prevent further issues down the line.
  3. Asteya: Non-stealing. If you are working in someone else’s garden, this particular yama is crucial. Make sure to ask permission before borrowing a tool or harvesting crops for your own dinner. Never make it a habit to take without asking. Respect for others helps build trust and a strong team.
  4. Brahmacharya: Sense control. This yama relates to abstaining from things that restrict you from reaching your goals. While in yoga this usually means channeling your sexual energy rather than acting on impulses, in the garden this may mean moderating the things that prevent you from doing the best job you can do. Whether it be limiting yourself to one cup of coffee a day or working towards dropping your cigarette habit, it is important to not let our vices slow us down. Just as you only want to put the utmost love and care into your garden, you should also do the same with your body. A happy gardener cultivates a happy garden!
  5. Aparigraha: Non-covetousness.  It is very important to acknowledge how far you have come with your own personal gardening journey. Do not covet your neighbor’s gorgeous garden boxes. Accept the fact that it takes time to make something grow and revel in the process it takes to make a seed grow from start to finish. Do not compare your garden to the gardens of others; rather view them as inspiration for your own garden!
  • Niyama: the second limb of yoga, which deals with personal observances. These are intimate attitudes that may be adopted for more soulful living. In organic gardening, every component, from soil to crops to livestock to the farmer, is part of a system. There are certain attitudes pertaining to organic farming that parallel the niyamas very nicely.

The Five Niyamas:

  1. Sauca: Purity. Having only the purest inputs is pertinent for achieving the desired organic output. This means only using seeds, livestock feed, and soil amendments that are marked with the USDA Organic seal of approval. If you receive a plant or animal from a friend, verify the source they got from before adding it to your already organic system. Only providing your garden with pure love and care will help you rest easier at night.
  2. Santosa: Contentment. Be happy with what you have. As my father always says, “From small acorns grow large trees.” Enjoy the process of watching everything grow rather than waiting in anticipation for harvest day. It is a beautiful thing when one has such a strong connection to nature that they become a self-titled caretaker of the earth! If you love what you do, your garden will not a be your place of work, rather a place to relax and forget about your worries.
  3. Tapas: Burning enthusiasm. In yoga, this refers to using your enthusiasm to channel your energy into bettering yourself. This may include paying attention to your eating habits, body posture, and breathing patterns. In the garden, this means prioritizing tasks and understanding what needs to be done right away, such as laying irrigation, and what can wait a little longer, such as weeding around the garlic patch. Doing something you are passionate about sometimes requires doing the nitty-gritty jobs first, so you can do the fun stuff later.
  4. Svadhyaya: Self study. To improve your postures in your daily practice, one must study the way each posture makes their body feel. Studying oneself creates understanding of one’s abilities and limitations. This is also true in the garden. Pay attention to how much time you are devoting to your garden and determine if you need to modify the amount of time you set aside. Walk your garden each day before you begin working in it to observe what is growing well and what needs some extra TLC. Also, study your own emotions and recognize when problems in your personal life may hamper your ability to do the best job you can do in the garden. It is okay to take a day off and recharge if that’s what your body is telling you to do. Don’t worry, the garden will still be there tomorrow!
  5. Isvara Pranidhana: Celebration of the Spiritual. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, hopefully we can all agree that some great energy force that cannot be seen, only felt, is allowing your garden to thrive! Appreciate the opportunity that you have been given to grow food that will sustain others. Surrender to the spirit of your garden and have faith that everything will grow in due time.
  • Asanas: Body Postures. If you do not already practice yoga poses, you might consider starting to ease some aches and pains you may experience while gardening. There are a variety of postures that are geared towards relieving tension in different parts of the body. Whether you believe yourself to flexible or not, it is worth giving yoga a try. Trust me, your body will thank you later. In gardening especially, you may find yourself frequently bending in awkward positions or using hand tools that strain your muscles. It is important to recognize when you are in pain, take a moment to breath, and find a new position that is comfortable for your individual body. Stretching before a day in the garden makes a world of difference!
  • Pranayama: Breath. Consciously being able to control your breathing is so important, not only in times of stress but also when you are working out in the sun. Focusing on your breath can help you get through some of the toughest poses with ease and concentration. Similarly, when you are working in the sun on hot day and stuck in the same position for a long time, remember to breathe deeply into your diaphragm and do not lock your knees. Locking your knees can cause you to become dizzy or faint. If you start to feel weak, focus on your breathing until you make it to your water bottle. As you face challenges, whether it be in your daily life or in the garden, just keep breathing. Always remember to breathe life into your garden, by simply taking the time to just be in your garden.
  • Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the Senses. The fifth limb of yoga is all about turning your intentions inward. Rather than becoming distracted by the sound of construction down the road, focus on the task at hand. As you sucker your tomato plants, remember that you are doing it for plant health and giving the plant more room to grow. We must not simply do, but we must be aware of why we do what we do to cultivate a more meaningful garden.
  • Dharana: Concentration. It is so easy to get distracted when you took a break from your garden for a few days and many duties piled up. In yoga, concentrating on a focal point that is not moving is crucial for holding those tough balance poses. In the garden, we must concentrate on one task at a time in an effort to not overwhelm ourselves. Rather than focusing on the things you cannot change, such as weather pattern and pesky deer, focus on the task at hand. In order to make a meaningful impact on your garden, you must concentrate on being present and doing things in an efficient, but thoughtful manner to avoid errors.
  • Dhyana: Meditation. The seventh limb of yoga deals with focusing the mind on a single subject of your choosing. This may include inhaling peace and exhaling frustration. Most people who take on gardening by choice already consider the garden a meditative place. If that is not true for you yet, designate some time (either before, during, or after gardening) to meditate in your garden. This may involve sitting in a comfortable seated position, with your hands resting on your knees facing upwards, and closing your eyes.  Taking some time out of your day to meditate will help you refocus your intentions and reconnect with the environment that surrounds you. We should always remember that gardening is an honor, for those who tend to the earth are the first to reap its bounties.
  • Samadhi: Bliss State. The last limb of yoga requires the highest level of experience and is the ultimate goal. Connecting with your inner purity and sense of identity help you feel a sense of oneness, as you master your mind and put your thoughts to rest in a trance-like state. As in yoga, achieving bliss in the garden may take years of practice. It may be when you finally get your organic certification after years of transitioning to organic. Or, it may be when you have finally gotten rid of all the Japanese beetles that have plagued your fruit trees. Whatever your bliss may be, it will be personal and you will know it when you feel it!

Wow! That was a lot of information to take in and you should be proud if you made it this far. I hope you found this passage helpful and make an effort to apply the philosophy of yoga to your garden. Not only will it help your garden grow, but it will cultivate inner peace, which is essential for the gardener and the garden!

Vertical Trellis

Hello Gardeners and Farmers,

This season we decided to invest in Johnny’s Selected Seeds Trellinet.  It’s a strong polypropylene plastic trellis that can support various climbing vegetables.  There are many options available depending on your needs.  It has produced great results in the hoop house, our gourd trellis, and even as an addition to our deer fencing.  Here are some examples.

Cucumbers in the hoop house

Gourd Trellis

Melons

Here is the link to Johnny’s:

http://www.johnnyseeds.com/

Happy farming everyone!

Your NWTC Bounty Garden Intern,

Alissa Lick

 

Mulch. Mulching. Mulches.

 

Hello Fellow Farmers and Gardeners, 

Today we will be discussing the benefits of using mulch in your garden, how we have utilized mulch in the Bounty Garden, and different types of mulch. Mulch is a surface covering intended to improve soil texture and provide nutrients. A few key components of good organic mulch include (but are not limited to):

  • Protecting soil integrity
  • Decreasing erosion
  • Improving drainage
  • Subduing weed growth
  • Providing aeration
  • Using mulch that does not contain weed seeds or fungal pathogens

As a plant positive practice that gives each plant room to grow, mulch is one of the best resources for an organic farmer to incorporate in their vegetable garden!

Straw v. Hay

It is a common misconception that the words “straw” and “hay” can be used interchangeably, despite the fact that they have distinctly different purposes. To clarify, straw typically derives from cereal grain plants, such as wheat, barley, and oats. Straw is the dry plant matter that remains after the seeds (or grains) have been harvested. Hay, on the other hand, is grown intentionally for animal feed; it is chopped before the plant goes to seed, dried, and stored. Some examples of high protein grasses used for hay include alfalfa, timothy, and sudangrass.

Why We Use Straw For Mulch

In the Bounty Garden, we have utilized straw mulch from grass clippings that we mowed in the field and let dry for a few days. The mulch was carefully placed in a “donut hole” shape around each plant in field 4, which is pictured below.

Straw is a wonderful mulch because it keeps the soil warm and protects the plants from weeds and potential infections. If you want to buy straw for your organic garden, make sure you purchase it from a reputable source, if you do not decide to make your own. This is crucial for ensuring that the straw does not contain any remaining weeds seeds and has not been contaminated with harsh chemicals. Straw not only strengthens the immune system of your garden, but it also makes it look aesthetically pleasing!

Additional Sources of Mulch

Aside from straw, there are many different types of organic matter that may be used to improve the overall quality of your soil. Other types of mulch may include, but are not limited to:

  • Pine needles
  • Farmyard manure
  • Cardboard
  • Peat
  • Garden compost
  • Wood chips

There are few other considerations to take into account when applying mulch. Keep layers of mulch no more than 1 inch thick to allow the diffusion of organic matter in the soil. Restrict contact between damp, decaying mulch and your plants to prevent rot. Give mulched areas a good soaking before cold weather to permit heat transfer from soil to air to avoid air frost. If the mulch source is quite high in carbon, the microorganisms will absorb nitrogen to balance the ration of nutrients, which may cause nitrogen depletion. Fear not! Alternative sources of nitrogen, such as compost tea, worm castings, comfrey tea, and seaweed extract, may serve as excellent top dressings to balance nutrient availability. Mulch is typically first applied in autumn, removed in the spring before sowing seeds, and reapplied when the plants begin to mature.
Well farmers, I know that was a lot of information to take in, but I hope it was helpful! Feel free to experiment with different types of mulch until you find the one that best suits the needs of your garden. Mulching is only one of the many organic practices that I have learned about while interning in the Bounty Garden over the last few months. I look forward to sharing my new-found insights with you, as the garden continues to share its bounties with us throughout the season. Enjoy every precious moment you have to reconnect with the earth! Happy mulching 🙂

Your Bounty Garden Intern, Simi Rodgers


Sources:

http://knowledgenuts.com/2013/12/11/the-difference-between-straw-and-hay/

http://www.the-organic-gardener.com/organic-mulch.html

http://www.usaforage.org/products/straw-vs-hay/

http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cereal-grains

New Field. Field 10.

Field 10

In today’s blog, I would like to feature a new plot we started this season. It’s called Field 10. The spring management class started working on this plot as soon as we could. Starting in April, we used our BCS tiller for the primary tillage and continued to work the ground as the weather permitted. It took lots of hands to remove rocks, weeds, and rotate the soil to prep. Our goals were to have it measured and planted for early season crops.

It is located on the northwest side of the garden with a southern slope.   Partial shade covers the plants in the morning but afternoon sun is strong and keeps us growing.

The width is 65 feet and the length around 30 feet. We have six rows that measure 30 inches each, with a 12-inch space in between. Then a 3-foot barrier next to the fence line was added for easy access and lined with thick landscape fabric. The fence is a four-foot-high chicken wire that was dug into a trench for stabilization and to keep critters from digging underneath. Once it was measured out it really started to take shape.

  • 1st row planted consists of Asparagus, which will come up every year.
  • Then we started with planting the other end of field with Kale, that was covered with paper mulch that we cut with holes for our crop. Down that same row we planted more Kale and Kohlrabi.
  • 3rd row has flowering broccoli and cauliflower.
  • 4th row has red and green cabbage.
  • 5th row started a second planting of Kale then more red cabbage.
  • The last and closest row to the asparagus was planted with Napa Cabbage, Kohlrabi, and Fennel.

So far, we have had some pest damage from deer and the cabbage looper. We will be using VHS tape around the fence to make noise to scare our deer. There will also be an additional trellis on the fence to try to keep them out.   Some deterrents for the looper can include botanical and citrus oils, sprinkle leaves with cornmeal or rye flour, or purchase resistant varieties. They can also be handpicked most will hide on the underside of the leaves along the leaf veins. Make sure to crush any yellow bullet shaped eggs found on the leaves. As always try organic methods and be proactive with diagnostics.

Happy farming and don’t forget to take the time to enjoy your space.

By Alissa Lick-  2017 NWTC Bounty Garden Intern

Field 10 2

2017 at NWTC’s Bounty Garden

leek

The season is off to a fast a furious beginning… lucky with the weather and great and engaged students learning as we plan, prep and implement our small-farm production. This year we will be offering 15 half-CSA shares to Northeast WI Technical College- Green Bay’s staff and faculty. Last year we had great support from the staff. Some CSA members got involved because they wanted to support the Sustainable Food and Ag Systems program and internship. Others joined to have access to our great produce.

We are also building a mobile Farm Stand, to sell fresh harvested goods on-site and will be setting up a weekly farmers market inside NWTC’s Commons throughout the growing season. This opportunity gives our interns the chance to understand the logistics and marketing that are involved to run a successful market and CSA program.

Our blog gives a voice to the many  to the students in our program and beginning farmer interns of Bounty Garden. Follow us throughout the 2017 season!

By: Amanda Chu, Bounty Garden Manager

NWTC Bounty Garden-side by side

 

A Small Farmers Best Friend

In this post, I’d like to talk about what I found to be the best tool for the work I’ve done this summer, but first I’m going to tell you about all of the things that I found second best because that’s how you organize an article on the internet.

So it wasn’t..
The BCS Walk-behind Tractor
Not that our whirring Italian workhorse wasn’t a great asset, but after the ground had it’s tilling, it was pulled out for the occasional mowing job but otherwise just said there. Great if we were a landscaping company, but an organic garden that roaring engine did not build.

Nor was it
The Jang Seeder
This nifty little thing came all the way from Korea. With lots of different attachments and mechanical settings, the only thing we probably couldn’t have seeded with it was the peanuts. That being said, we started more than half of our produce in starting trays in a greenhouse, so I hardly even touched the thing.

And it wasn’t
A Wide Variety of Hoes & Hand Tools
From the Traditional backhoe, its triangular brother, the speedy scuffle hoe, the weird diamond shaped shaving hoe, their weird cousin the broadfork, a slightly dull Hmong machete, and some classic farmers tools like pitchforks and spades and shovels. While all of these are pretty good for moving around dirt, and flipping compost, making holes and removing great swaths of weeds from existence, they alone could not a bountiful garden make.

It certainly wasn’t…
Tarping and Mulching
While they are good for keeping weed pressure down initially, or at least tarping is, you eventually have to peel it back. And it might look like a nice bit of weed free dirt, but in just a couple of days they will be back. And shame on the person who thought it would be okay to put paper tarping in an area that is watered from overhead.

Could it be..
Gloves
No, but that’s actually second on the list. A good pair of gloves are a lifesaver in this business. Digging in the dirt for several hours and then washing it off drys out the skin a lot more than I thought it could, to the point that my fingers were bleeding because the skin was simply peeling back. That, and dealing with thistles. Why are they so hard to get rid of? But even a masterwork pair of gloves won’t make you a successful small farmer.

What is it then, you’re probably wondering. Could it be..

A Weed Whacker or Flame Weeder? The Gator golfcart/flatbed truck hybrid? A Good Varmint Trap? Proper Planning? Decent Soil and Amendments? A Knowledgeable Teacher? A Sizeable and Willing Workforce? Raised Beds and Trellising?

All of these things certainly can help, but no, none of them will make you. No, my ‘best farming friend’ would happen to be…

A Willingness to Turn Otherwise Unpleasant Events Into a Worthwhile Experience

Because the fact of it is that no matter the tools you have to make it easier, farming is hard work. You’re going to get hot, tired, sweaty, full of dirt and stranger things, crawled on by bugs, and walk away with strange smells and flavors stuck in  your mouth. You could spend millions on real fancy equipment, but if you don’t like gettin’ down an dirty, well, you’re just wasting your time with this endeavor.  Might not happen right away, but if you really want to be doing this, then you’ll figure out ways of learning to enjoy the situation, or at least find something of value. Once you do that, the rest is the fun part.

Hope you found my tip helpful.

By: Dillon Weist, Bounty Garden Intern AKA Mister Nomer

Bees A-Buzzin’

Buzy bee’zzz

The bee’s were busy Wednesday morning as I was doing my walk around to see what could be picked for CSA members. I have seen multiple bees (honey bees and bumble bees) buzzing away at the zucchini and squash blossoms, which all need to be cross pollinated to make fruit.

BGpollinatingBLOG

By: Emily H., Bounty Garden Intern

The Ant

So it’s the end of July. The sun shines high in the sky and everything in my home garden is really beginning to ramp up. The first plants ready for picking were the raspberries, which line one side of our driveway. I remember one day about 2 weeks ago, in which my boyfriend and I marveled at the tiny white berries growing in thick clumps. A few days later, we noticed that the bush bean plants had thin, green strands where only dried flowers were the day before. We watched the daily growth in anticipation, our mouths watering as we talked about our favorite dishes, made fresh from the garden.

In just two short weeks, nearly all the raspberries are picked and we’re still picking daily, the longest and fattest beans for dinner. We didn’t grow enough beans for canning but that it just as well as I haven’t yet bought a new pressure canner. We have enough raspberries to get us thru the rest of the year, though, with the deep freezer in the basement filled with almost 15 pounds of frozen berries.

We’ve been eating steamed beets on our salads, both the beets and greens picked from our beds here at home. The corn is tasseling and just this evening, we picked the first of this season’s red, sunshiny tomatoes. Salad tonight will be perfect.

Out at the quarter acre farm that we are working, things are a bit different. We rented some land from a local farmer this past spring and we’ve growing on a scale that we are not used to. However, needing the experience, we jumped at the chance to grow big. We have over 100 tomato plants thriving, as well as melons, corn, beets and onions.

The pepper plants didn’t do too well as they took longer to adjust to the transplanting… and then some unknown insects ate many of the leaves, further setting them behind my harvest schedule. The curly-leaved kale is doing great but not so for the flat leaved kale. A colleague mentioned that his flat-leaved kale was also falling prey to insects and he blamed flea beetles.

Some other challenges we’ve encountered at the farm is the use of black plastic mulch. It works fantastic at suppressing weeds but it is just as lethal for the new transplants that were pushed beneath after a windy day. Left too long under the mulch, many of them died after baking in the sun.

Another challenge is keeping the grass suppressed between the rows of plants. But a few hours of the gas-powered trimmer and the BCS with sickle bar attachment get the job done.

The final challenge with the farm is finding buyers for the forthcoming produce. Two weeks ago, we picked almost 4 pounds of basil. We washed and bagged them and I brought them to sell at the farmer’s market. I sold 5 bags. But on the plus side—we now have enough pesto made and frozen to get us thru until next year! Obviously this isn’t going to work if I can’t find buyers for my other produce, so I’m looking into marketing ideas and consulting with buyers and a graphic designer for a company logo to help get signage for the market.

Everything is an experience. We continue to work and learn from our mistakes. It tough running a small farm while working full time, while also trying to enjoy time with friends and family. But in the end, I know it will be worth it. As my boyfriend teased the other day while I was in my third hour of pesto blending and the neighbors were outside having an impromptu block party, “Are you happy being the ant rather than the grasshopper?” Yes, I am.

By Scott Rosenberg, recent Graduate of NWTC’s Sustainable Food and Ag Systems program and new owner of Sweet Soil Market Garden, LLC

antANDgrass

Image courtesy of conicartfan.com