Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Refreshing Times.

This blog and the very project of throwing myself at the mercy of the people of Fort Collins while finding volunteer work to make it a more sustainable place was a bold if vaguely conceived plan. Many things proved much harder than I had expected, but at the same time new opportunities came out of the blue, often faster than I could keep up. So I want to take a moment to look at what's been accomplished by the project, express gratitude for the help and support I have received, mention a couple of lessons I have gleaned from the experience so far, and talk about some goals for the time to come, including what kinds of support I would need to actualize them.

At Haas Community Garden I was given the opportunity to grow food for in an otherwise underutilized front yard. So far my friends Micky and Roman have helped me put in about 800 square feet of garden space, most of which is thriving. I am about to use up the compost pile I started when I first got there, it went from 60 square feet to a small pile of well textured soil amendment. In the garden the radishes are ready to start eating and the greens are close behind; the tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos are finally starting to take off and the potatoes are coming up strong; corn is well germinated and growing quickly, and both onions and leeks are growing every time I see them; the peas and green beans are doing lackluster, as their planting time was delayed by the weather this spring; beets, carrots, and turnips are growing quickly; and many kinds of squash are just starting to take off. Mulching, tilling deeply, and large helpings manure are the main features of the garden, the squash is even mulched in with cardboard to control for weeds.

The Haas family has been a wonderful help by offering the garden space, manure, and card board, hosting a BBQ and even helping me keep at least one bike in operation most of the time. Micky and Roman have helped with seed and labor around the garden, and are working together to continue the compost production. Bob Davidson donated the mulch, a left over from a project at his house. Tara Parr donated several starts to the project, and the growing project let me use a handful of radish seeds to start the beds. Thank you everyone who has made it possible.

At the beginning of the garden I did not amend the soil enough, and a bit of compost tea was needed to adjust for this mistake. The beans were planted too deeply and, I think, left to soak for slightly too long before planting. Mulching is very important in Colorado with our dry climate and hot sun, the aged grass clipping I am using are doing the job well. Pull bind weed regularly and the chore doesn't get too big. Radishes are an effective trap plant to protect others from flea beetle.

This Friday Micky and I are going to start preparing a small structure on the property to grow oyster mushrooms in. It is made possible with spawn being growing by my friend Dave Carter and buckets from Brightheart. We hope that by early July we will have a good source of complete protein with this project. We still need hay or straw to grow the mushrooms on, but it will not be a major cost, even if we need to buy the straw.

The Growing Project has been a pleasure to work with, Chad is a skilled gardener, and runs the volunteer program with great leadership qualities. I have been able to participate in starting seeds, weeding rows, transplanting and seeding rows, repairing irrigation and preparing row covers. I want to thank the growing project for the warm welcome to Fort Collins gardening and the learning opportunities, not to forget the scrap produce I have been sent along my way with. Hopefully I will continue to work with the Growing Project for the foreseeable future, and we can continue to work together for a better feed Fort Collins.

Happy Heart Farm may have received mor of my hours than anywhere else, and a lot of that has to do with the joy of meeting its community of volunteers and working CSA members. It is where I meet Micky, Roman, Whitney, Tess, Andrew, Justin, Jake, Ty, Trrevor and more others that I am willing to list, knowing that any list would be hopelessly inadequate. As a general rule I have enjoyed all of these connections almost as much as I benefitted in knowledge from watching Denis farm and lead a crew of volunteers. There are no words to do justice to the lessons of farming at Happy Heart, and it should best be experienced.

Gaia CSA was the first farm to reach out to me when I let loose my offer to volunteer across Fort Collins. The owner Kathleen has a rugged determinism to keep her farm running no matter what it takes, and impressive knowledge of gardening generally. I want to thank Micky, Matt, Maria, James, Rachelle, Ted, and Miche for all coming out to help plant beans, corn, and onions over the last few weeks. With the phase of planting passing its frenzy I look forward to seeing what happens next up in Laporte.Kathleen has big dreams for the place, and it could go far if she can find a way to support the help she needs for such grand goals.

Spring Kite CSA is across the street from the Haas place, and I have had a couple opportunities to work in their fields, Michael and Michelle are both wonderful people and well on their way to a successful farm, especially since neither fears hard work.

Greendog CSA is one of many in the area started by a Happy Heart alumni and last I saw had the most impressive cabbages in the area. Karl is about the most distinctly friendly person in Fort Collins to my knowledge, and a skilled gardener. After my first time meeting him he helped me find information on manure sources in Fort Collins for the building of compost piles, other factors hold me from acting on the information until I can schedule time with a truck.

Since moving out of my house on Prospect I have logged about 70 hours of volunteering between these farms and a few other, smaller, projects. This is less than I had hoped to be at this far in, but the stress of acclimating to homelessness was greater than I thought it would be. Only last Monday did I find a relatively stable place to sleep. Laughing Buck Farm had offered me some assistance, but issues of bicycle commuting limited the practicality of that option. Now though things are smoother, and I get time to recharge.

Thank you to Gary, Claudia, Brightheart, John Henry, Fran, and Irene for all helping me with odd jobs which have helped fund this project, it has been nice working with you. Thank you to the Geller center for the open space for computing. Thank you to some of the guys I have meet around the corner of Mountain and College, though you have the least to offer, you offer it with the most understanding and generosity of anyone. Thank you to Plymouth UCC for all the great members I have meet through there. Thank you to the Bike Coop and Don for keeping me on the road.

There are some difficult lessons I have learned from this summer. Most of them can be filled under one big impersonal category. there is a devastating ADHD epidemic in our culture. Trying to plan things out in advance, through the fluid schedules and overloaded lines of communication straining attentions and timing is very difficult. For now there is a need to go with the flow and be patient in all group work, because just about everyone is too busy to, oh a squirrel! I have regularly been underestimating how much time 'minor chores' would take and I have noticed this bias in many others. Biting off small projects and finding routines seem to help. A more hopeful discovery is that there is exists vast amounts of unused potential for increasing local food production, and more people than I know could go into it for very little money, given a strong enough work ethic, and the patience to build up trust with resource holders, in need of help developing their projects. I also see countless small ways for members of our community to help each other if some trust and reliability can be fostered in even small amounts.

Right now I have my eye on many potential projects, and I will have to prioritize them depending on what order help comes in for the projects. Right now I am starting a oyster mushroom grow at the Haas place, and considering other locations to set up grow rooms, the more places and assistance I can find the more quickly we can experiment with the many options in oyster cultivation. I just started my second large compost pile today, about 50 cubic feet 1/4 mile north of the Haas place, I plan to scale it up to 3 times that over the next few days. A lack of reliable access to a truck has hobbled my goals of making an even larger pile north of Fort Collins, but I am continuing to work toward that end.

My main interest at the moment is to find ways to gather, cook, and give away produce at community dinners this summer. I am aspiring to be able to work with some people at the Geller Center to make Food for Thought active during the summer; hopefully soon find farmers to host some potlucks over the summer; to continue supporting existing projects like the Mulberry Community Garden Thursday night Potluck.  If you have any ideas when and where a little community dinner could happen (ideally weekly) let me know, it could even be YOUR house! ( I would even help with cooking and cleanup). As more people get together, hopefully we can find some opportunities to make Fort Collins a better Commons.