Goodness, it’s been a while. Something about the winter chill makes it easier to get back on the computer, and something about the growing season makes it so hard to work at a desk. Forgive me for my lapse.
Rest assured, however, that The Seedlot is still shaping up to save the world, one gardener at a time.
Among many other reasons (did anyone get through 2012 un-humbled?), part of why there wasn’t much going on in our Community Learning Garden last year was that I realized I still had much to learn about the space before I could teach there from a place of confidence. I didn’t truly realize before that the gardens where I had learned to grow had been organic gardens for decades–and just how profoundly this affected the soil, the plants’ growth, the weeds, the countless creatures living there. It was one of those things that I knew, but didn’t fully understand. Our first growing season at The Seedlot, though not particularly productive in terms of edible output or community engagement, taught me a great deal about what it means to start from scratch.
The poor (i.e. clayey and mineral-rich, lacking in organic matter and structure) soil meant more than just a hard time digging. It meant roots couldn’t root down, it meant mineral deficiencies that not only stunted growth, but made plants and seedlings more vulnerable to pests and diseases, ones I’d never even seen before. (THRIPS, you little buggers). Building soil–and thus, building a garden–is a slow and incremental process, and unless you’ve got raised beds, it is nowhere near as simple as trucking in some fresh manure and compost.
With this in mind, I ripped almost everything out early at the tail end of summer last year, and thankfully three of our beds took well to cover crop. Another three fared less well, either due to bad timing (I just had to leave one bed of tomatoes till they froze), or the wrong type of planting (just because the cover crop is sold at the same time as winter-hardy varieties does not mean it will be winter hardy! I’m looking at you, Sudan Grass…so much for trying something new!). It will be interesting to compare how things grow in these beds this season, and I’m already itching to get a cloche up and plant another round of winter wheat and field peas.
The most significant obstacle to our goal of community engagement (namely, a lack of liability insurance and the need to form a legal entity in order to acquire any), however, has resulted in perhaps our most significant accomplishment to date. Since realizing I’d have to start my own venture, I’ve felt immobilized by the for-profit vs. non-profit dichotomy of the business world. After working for/with various non-profits for several years–being subject to their changing boards of volunteers and their collective ability to compete for and secure grant funding year after year–I knew that there was nothing sustainable about attempting to teach sustainability under this model. But designing the endeavor as a profit-seeking business seemed equally contradictory and limiting to my intentions.
And so, while researching the concept of social entrepreneurship last summer, I stumbled upon an incubator program through PSU’s School of Business Administration. I applied right then and there–four months before they even began reviewing applications–and I got in! Last Friday was my first day with the Social Innovation Incubator (SII) Circuit Program, and already my mind is ranting and reeling around the immense changes the next six months will bring to my life and my little garden as I officially attempt to coax Project Beet Generation into existence (you’ll see that blog also cuts off after a sunny April day… I’m learning myself). It’s truly wonderful and inspiring to be among a cohort of other “social innovators,” and to have the structure and mentorship of a school environment without actually going back to school.
There’s much I could review here, but I mostly wanted to post a quick update for any new or returning visitors, to let you know that things ARE still unfolding here, and we still very much DO want and need your help. (That is another thing I’ve learned in the last year–I’m not very good at asking for help when I need it! Anyone who’s seen the latest wood-chip pile out by the garden for the last couple of months knows that I could probably use it.)
So if you’re excited about this project, if you like the idea and you’d like to participate, please pipe up and bear with me as I emerge from a period of personal dormancy and start manifesting this long-imagined plan. In the next several weeks I’ll be starting up seedlings again in my sun room, scheduling a spring’s worth of work parties, and setting/posting a schedule for myself to have regular hours in the garden.
On a final note, I’d also like to take this chance to thank to everyone for your continued support and enthusiasm, and for the kind tokens I find in the garden from time to time (no more dog poop, thankfully!). A couple of weeks ago I found a couple of rose buds resting on a stone, and yesterday morning I found this adorable little blissed-out bumpkin who (in addition to COMPLETELY MAKING MY DAY–THANK YOU, WHOEVER YOU ARE) is now perched in our window box to soak up all the sun:
Thanks to everyone, and more updates soon, I promise!