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

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Week 22: Fermentation: It is Only Natural

Beautiful Zinnias 

Give the Eggplants Some Love!
This week was a good reminder that fall is definitely here and that winter is just around the corner. While it got up to around 80 early this week, a little bit of rain brought the temperature down in a hurry. The first frost of the year will be here soon and that will be the end of what we can pick. Now we still have plenty of produce to get; watermelons, tomatoes, collards, lettuce to name a few. We have sown the cover crop into the two gardens to add nutrition and prevent erosion back into the soil. It is a mix of peas, clover, barley, wheat that will grow and die to strengthen the soil over winter. We put away our watering system for the year since it had been cut and the gardens have just been watered by hoses instead.

Squash bugs are easy pickings nowadays
The apple cider that we made for the Harvest Party that was not consumed needed to be pasteurized this week. When it is fresh, apple cider is delicious and safe to drink. If left to its own devices however, it will begin to ferment naturally, into alcohol and eventually vinegar. The bacteria can also be harmful to people such as botulism, E coli, and salmonella. To fix this all that you need to do is strain the cider, boil the cider, and scrape the foam from the top. The cider is then safe to drink again. We will be continuing to do this next week and then we will probably be all done with the cider.

In other news: Come by our farm stand on Thursdays for t-shirts, produce, or something else that we concocted. If you have any gardening questions please post on the blog or the Facebook page and we will try to answer your question as soon as possible if we can.

Zach Arington


Monday, September 29, 2014

21: Alliance Garden Harvest Party Week

Patrick spraying down the cider press

Waiting for face painting
One of the many pumpkin carvings
 Another successful Harvest Party has came and went. We are so glad for those that were able to join us. It was a beautiful day to be outside. People were playing games, picking vegetables and fruit, braving the bees to get some delicious apple cider, and even getting some of their faces painted. What is great about the Harvest Party is that so many different people can come together to enjoy an event put on by so few people. There were young families, students, neighbors, friends, and family all in attendance. I saw many people that came again since our last party and many more new faces. Some stayed for a little bit others stayed for hours.

Ladybug on okra
Kayla popping corn
This year we had about 100 show out for the day. This was less then I had imagined would come but very manageable and it felt more personal. I could speak to more people one on one about what we did here at the gardens and hear the stories they had about their own experience with food. For some this was the first time they were exposed to food that did not come from a store. They had never participated in a sack race or bobbed for apples. Being able to provide new experiences and new ways of seeing the world while maintaining a safe environment to experience these things is a very cool opportunity that I and the interns are blessed in having.

Cider press
Kayla showing how it is done
I want to thank Kayla for doing much of the calling and set up that an event like this requires as well as being out with me all day. Thank you to the interns Josh, Patrick, Hannah, and Katie for all the work you did in preparation for the event as well as keeping the gardens going. Thank you all for following instructions even as I was not sure which course of action was best. Thank you for our volunteers who came and weeded so I would not have too. Thank you to Grace for giving guidance and an awesome popcorn popper.

Giving garden tours
Harvest party free pick
We will still be selling produce in the mall way for donations all of October. I was wrong in saying that last week would be the last week. You can also buy Alliance Garden shirts for 5 dollars. They are great shirts for when work gets dirty.

Zach Arington

Friday, September 19, 2014

Week 20: Prepping for the Harvest Party

still getting tomatoes
 Next week is it people! The party we have all been waiting for is finally upon us! Saturday September 27 from 11AM to 5PM come over to our 46th St. garden for food, games, and tours! We will have apple cider pressing and popcorn popping demonstrations and samples. You can carve a pumpkin into a great jack o lantern! There will be sack races, apple bobbing, face painting, lawn games and a garage sale! We will be giving tours of both gardens and you can pick and eat anything from our gardens. This event is for everyone in the community so come by and see what we have been doing all summer!

still getting watermelon
That is a pretty good sales pitch if I do say so myself. We are hard at work getting this all together and making sure that all of the details fit together. It is not easy but it is very rewarding. Most of the time we do not have many visitors out to our gardens. People will ask about us, they see us in the community work at different gardens, and selling our produce but it is only this event that most people can really get a feel for the hard work and passion we put into this. I love what we do and getting to share it with friends, family, and strangers is a really cool way to spend a Saturday in the fall.

still getting raspberries
This week is also the last week for us to have our stand in the student center selling produce. We will still be producing it however so you can come out and buy some while we are working but they do not like us taking up their space longer then two months.

46th garden preparing for the party
We are getting volunteers right now which is fun. We get to meet new people that are very different from us but enjoy being outside in God's creation and just sharing life with us. Thanks to them we are getting lots of weeding done and some of them may become the garden interns of the future.

Things are still green this late in September. While many things are just coming up we are now mostly on the back end of harvest. Things are slowing down, drying up, setting seed, and basically just getting ready for a long winter and the year to come. I enjoy this time of the season just to seeing the end of the full circle of what we started out the year doing. Looking back at the pictures will show the remarkable growth and beauty of this year. One can feel very accomplished.

Zach Arington: Garden Manager

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Week 19: 2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back

Brown Matter (AKA Leaves)

Drying Herbs
 Have you ever had one of those weeks where you are making progress but not as much as you would have liked due to unforeseen or unavoidable circumstances? This week would fit under that category. We are getting an abundance of produce right now and that has been awesome. We are making money, people are signing up for our Sustainability Alliance, we are helping people get nutritious food at low or no cost. Things are going well. But at the same time our hose got run over by the mowers so our irrigation system is done for the year. Our wonderful cleome (spider flower) split because it is too heavy and crushed surrounding plants. It rained all day so I couldn't get out in the garden to harvest. Squash bugs are and will always be alive and ruining squash.

Cleome (AKA Spider Flower)
In just about all of this I could do little to change the outcome. Not only with the outcomes I wish went differently but also with the ones that were in my favor. I put the seed in the ground and made sure that it got enough water, added nutrients to the soil, and kept pests and weeds at bay. I did not get all of them nor could I no matter how vigilant I was. It has been super cool this summer which does not help most our our summer crops to grow and I can't change that.

Patrick picking tomatoes
No one told me that my hose would be cut up this week. I would have put more signs up that say "DON'T RUN OVER THE HOSE!" The hose has not moved any all summer so it could have happened at anytime. It helps to be prepared which I am constantly learning that I need to do better. However, worrying and fretting that something might happen is by no means a healthy way to do anything.

Not bad for a morning
God is in control and I am not. He has a plan and I am in it but the plan will work out perfectly whether or not I succeed or fail. Those are truths that I can find rest in even when it feels like things are not going according to plan.

Notes: Watch the video of the Harvest Party from last year to get psyched about the one we are having this year. September 27 from 11-5.
Our Facebook page is now the Sustainability Alliance as it now includes the Creation Care Alliance and the Living Learning Community house.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Week 18: The Taste of Marion and the Front Page of the Paper!

Opal Basil
A beautiful date spot
This week we had the Taste of Marion at the Indiana Wesleyan Recreational Center. This is where churches, businesses, and other organizations can meet students to let them know who they are, what they are about, and where they are located. The students love it because there are free giveaways and for many of them that are new to IWU do not know the area very well. For the second year in a row the Alliance Garden, Living Learning Community house, and Creation Care Alliance have teamed up to have a booth. We had vegetables, fruit, and salsa for donations, sign ups to be part of our emailing list, and Harvest Party flyers. Although it is difficult to compete for attention near free dominoes pizza, we had lots of people stop by. Like with any of our stands the main purpose is promotional. I believe this is working as people continue to recognize me from the garden stands and want to take part in some way.

Another bit of good promotion was the Chronicle Tribune, the Marion newspaper, asked to do a story on us. Grace and Hannah were interviewed at our garden and had their pictures taken. We are on the front page and they even promoted our Harvest Party. You can grab a copy of the article at the Marion Library.

Thanks Debbie for the picture at Taste of Marion!
Notes: We have finally integrated all the chickens together. There is still the random scuffle as the figure out the pecking order but that cannot be helped.
The Harvest Party will be Saturday September 27 from 11-5 so please come!
Our stand at the student center will remain up until the end of September.

Best Articles are always front page I reckon