Sunday, November 01, 2009

PICA groundbreaking

October 31, 2009. This morning we gave C quad a rude awakening with pick axes and digging bars. At first just Jose, Hannah, and I brought tools over to the segment of cut asphalt by C4 and started in. Slowly more picans trickled in and then the excavation was in full swing. We broke the asphalt with the ground-shaking digging bars and then pried it out with pick axes. After a few hours and lots of sweat the spot was asphalt free. Now we'll take out the gravel, help rebuild the soil, and bring some more green life to C quad!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fall in the Garden

We're a month into fall quarter now and new picans are becoming comfortable with the garden. The abundance of summer is fading and we've been preparing beds for winter. Workdays have been busy with turning beds, planting plenty of collard greens (leftover from the agroecology lab), harvesting beautiful corn and anasazi beans, much more, and of course, celebrating with a delicious meal afterwards. Soon we'll be loading some pictures of the garden and also of our workday out in Bonny Doon at the Shumei Natural Agriculture farm.
Some new additions to the garden are a new long bed in front of the apple trees by B2. Behind it some perennial collard trees, a perennial tomatillo (Incan ground cherry), and a perennial melon-like squash. A small new bed over by the compost, a nice flower bed next to it and a mulberry tree in between. Just today we put in a loganberry bush in the shaded corner of the garden, part of expanding our berry row. In our effort to beautify the shade-structure we planted one banana passionvine. Future plans are to plant a purple passion vine to keep it company, and some other either beautiful or edible vine(s).
That's it for the moment, more later, and pictures too. Come stop by if you get a chance! : )

Saturday, May 05, 2007

irrigation workday

Today, we installed the new emitters into the irrigation system, the ones that enable us to turn on or off each individual drip tape. We can now selectively water beds, not only blocks!! Although this is incredibly useful, I think that it still helps our planning scheme to picture the Garden in watering blocks. There are eight of them - eight places where a riser/head comes out of the ground and services an area when turned on. Eight areas.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

the terrace beds: Balyn's feat

Today was a very important day for PICA, and especially for Balyn. After we had finished the morning part of the day, Balyn invited us to plan out what the two terrace beds on the Farm are going to look like this coming spring and summer. Balyn has been working on those two beds for a year or so, cultivating them and growing cover crop, and now he's handing them off to PICA (sadly, he's going up to Mendocino after graduating this quarter). The hope is that they will be able to provide food for the Short Course happening this summer (every other year it meets here), as well as give more to seminar and PICA in general. Balyn's worked so hard ...he wrote a senior thesis on his work. As soon as he prints it out, we'll keep it in the PICA library.

The two terrace beds overlook the bike path as it goes from above the A-Quad to beneath the Farm - they point slightly southeast, towards the center of Monterey Bay. Balyn has ideas for planting the hillside with native plants. As for the two beds... they've seen two quarters' worth of covercropping, and they were recently tilled in. Balyn suggests making one bed the dried goods bed - the one in which we save seed and store the crops for wintertime - in other words, the one which saves the most for future PICAns. The other one would feed PICAns and Short Course participants.

Mike had said some ideas for potential intercrops: corn-bean-squash (milpa), eggplant-potato, and tomato-basil-marigold. Balyn says we can divide the beds into smaller-sized chunks to work out the intercrops or crop schemes. He decided not to leave behind a crop rotation scheme, because he wants the ideas to come from the PICAns themselves. Gulliver has stepped up and offered to become the coordinator for the two beds. Gulliver is so awesome.

Back in the garden I was exploring the soil tilth of bed 5a when Mike arrived and clamored for a double-digging. The bed had been partially double-dug by PICA seminar on Thursday, but they had not been able to finish it. The soil, past the first spade's depth, was much too compacted still, and I had irrigated it since then to help soften those deeper layers.

We decided to smoothe the soil back over the bed (it was in mounds), put a layer of compost on top, double-dig the trenches in conjunction with a hoer (breaking up the dirt clods) and a bucket of compost per trench, and start on one end of the bed and work our way to the other, without subdividing the bed. Once we had agreed on these things, we were ready. Without further ado, Rain, Sarah, Mike, Billy, Matt, Gulliver, and I set to work.

We took turns cutting the bed and bottoms of trenches with a pulaski, moving each trench sideways and breaking up the clumps with a hoe, gathering compost from the tarp near the gate, and forking the rock-hard bottom of the trenches. Tony came and helped us out at once point. The eagle flew by overhead. Turns out there was quite a heavy layer of clay there (still is) that we can barely penetrate still. There are other areas in the Garden more easily penetrable than that bed, I must say. But our little team, amidst the banters, managed to break the soil a few inches further down. We finished three hours later, stopping only for cookies and coffee.

Mike raked the top of the bed smooth, and elevated higher than the other four beds. We left that bed as an example and will most likely double-dig bed 4a tomorrow. The sun was sideways in the sky as we finished, a little before sunset. And at that point, Ngoc and Diane had gone to town making sushi. We went inside to help them, ate some, and then went to see David perform with his Taki √Ďan ensemble at Family Student Housing, which was amazing...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Spring Break week

Amazing Spring Break week:

On Wednesday, a group of PICAns led by David Saxton, constructed the bike canopy structure. Now it will be very very hard for the bike to get rained upon (if, indeed, there is to be more rain this season. Steve's mentor calls the first two weeks of April 'the Crazy 15 Days', and I'm anticipating it). It was a process - Sarah, David, Gulliver, and I first fitted together the metal poles and assembled the skeleton. Then we flipped it (amidst pieces falling apart) and put the canopy cloth over it. Tony and Mike helped us attach the cloth to the skeleton, and then 6 people carried the thing over to the bikes. It was big enough that it nearly covers the entire back area. After some adjustments, we propped the thing on blocks of concrete that were inlaid with wood. David drilled the canopy legs into the wood, and now it rests stably on them, level with the rise. Our big concern is whether or not the Fire Marshals will approve of its proximity to B2's door - in a fire emergency, would it inhibit people from getting out? Tony (Maintenance Man) and Susie (of the Front Office) said that the Fire Marshals would have to make the final decision. For now, though, we're keeping it up.

On Thursday we were lazy dirtbags. So bury us.

On Friday Sarah, Dave Griese, and I cut out the herbs in bed 12a - we planned on transporting them to bed 1a, the directed-for herb bed, and planting brassicas or winter-loving crops in 12a. The bed sits in shade, lower than the rest of the Garden, and has a higher clay content than some of the other beds. Some of the "colder" species may like that in the summer, when the Garden gets baked by sun. We left the herbs for a few hours, then transplanted them out later on. Then, in the late afternoon, we mulched the picnic table area with redwood duff. It will help to suppress the weeds, as well as make for a better visual, for now. In the evening, we planted all the basil out in bed 15, where the tomatoes are already taking off.

The next morning, Saturday, early early, Dave Griese and I began turning bed 12a. The soil was, indeed, as clayey as I remembered - we single-dug it, incorporating it with Haddad's soil (which has nice texture) and finished compost - the first finished compost ever from the new system! Ohh, it was rich and soft. I laud it for its black-gold feeling. Mmm, *bling blang!* Dave wanted to create a new bedend for 11a, further out from the sage, so we did that. Dug nearly 2 feet of compacted clayey soil from the area and filled it in almost entirely with new stuff. Dave worked his buns off on it with a pulaski. Then we returned to bed 12a. Sarah and Tony joined us, and we raised it a couple inches. Then we planted it with spinach, kale, and endives that Dave had started in the Hoop House. Sarah and Dave decided to cover it with bird-netting, propped up with bamboo sticks, then watered it in. Now it's set! :-)

Today, when Mike came back, he and I did a walkthrough of the Garden to set priorities. Then, right afterwards, the PICAns set to work creating a cinderblock garden!! Tony, Sarah, Mike, and I brought the cinderblocks from the Hoop House area, arranged them and mixed halfblend with compost to fill them, and planted the rest of Dave's starts. Now growing calendula, sweet marjoram, garlic chives, and the occasional epazote, these beds have given new character to the picnic bench area.

He, David Saxton, and Sarah just put in some work on the compost system's new roof structure. Now we're hemming and hawing about supper. It's good to have everyone home again. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Friday, March 30, 2007

Growing Gardeners

I have spent a good amount of time in this garden. I must tell you that Alan Chadwick was very right when he wrote that it is the garden that makes the gardener. From this place we learn not only of plants and their needs but of our own. We learn about pruning fruit trees and many of us cannot help but apply the skill within our own hearts. We learn not only how to prepare a bed for planting by enriching it with compost, but how to clear our own minds, and, using failure as compost for success, begin anew. Most of all, we are exposed to a pace that modern living has long since abandoned. There is a collaborative (human + nonhuman) pedagogy in a garden. There is a legacy inherent in a study of place. There is something else - not too complex for words to describe, but too simple - lurking within everything.
And so I thank the garden and the people it grows, and I am grateful to be one of them. I thank the soil for nourishing me. Again, human words cannot impart my love for this space. I am blessed to be of witness.

Blessings, praises, and Foundational Roots!

Life begins the day you start a garden
-Chinese Proverb

Saturday, March 03, 2007

winter tree-pruning

Today was the first of three collaborative events between PICA and the Trailer Park. At 10AM, UCSC renowned tree steward Dave Shaw came to the Foundational Roots Garden to lead a winter tree-pruning workshop. After explaining to us the exciting basics of how tree form works, and how pruning ties in, he demonstrated on Johnny-the-Giant apple tree. After the lot of us - Dave Griese, David Saxton, Mike, Sarah, Gulliver, Chris, Andrew, Lyle, Jose, and I don't know who else - were set loose in groups to prune our own trees. Andrew, David, and I pruned the Golden Delicious outside Callum's window. It was very tall! The hardest cut came when we had to prune the leader - David balanced precariously on a stump and, with Andrew spotting him, managed it. Sarah and two others worked on the Granny Smith. Dave Shaw pronounced the Mutsu near the pond as "Aaah!", roughly translated into "unhappy". He doesn't think it will live to produce leaves, although it's trying. He's suggested that it may be diseased.

At some point, Demian showed, and it was on him that the crowning cut depended. Dave wanted to cut back the leader on the prune tree, but (as I can attest) he wasn't quite tall enough to reach the 8-ft crown. So, at my suggestion, he sat on Demian's shoulders and pruned from aloft. It was hilarious! Afterwards, an assortment of instruments materialized, and the band played. Meanwhile, Lyle, Mike, Jose, and I unloaded the halfblend soil (the stuff Jose and I had picked up this morning at 9) from the bed of Jose's truck.

Then a golden-haired angel came and blessed the final half-hour of the workday. Ali Mujic came and pruned the rosebush, raspberries, and Lion's Mane. In his gentle manner, Ali brought peace to his time, and we worked silently side by side for a few minutes - he pruning and I weeding around the rosebush. We both think that it ought to have an arbor and stay where it is. To us, it is the heart of PICA's garden.

Then PICA went up to the Trailer Park in increments and saw the amazing compost that Lyle has been stewarding. The stuff is so warm, even in shade, that when Lyle dug into it, it produced a thick column of steam. That stuff has been cooking for sure! When Mike got there, he was impressed. Jim stopped by at some point and was equally impressed with the amount of collaboration and amount of work the Trailer Park and PICA have made towards sustainability progression.

We stayed to help with pruning, rock-moving, and hoophouse rejuvenation. I left early, as I am not feeling well. Dave Shaw was taking it easy too; he's been having stomach pains. I can hardly wait for next weekend.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Compost-Hoophouse Waterline Installation

Waterline!!! Whooooo!! We built the waterline today leading from the solar sink, all the way around A3, to one side of the composting system, up the hill, and alongside the hoophouse. Now both the compost system and the hoophouse have water!!! It was so amazing; Steve came to oversee things, a TON of people showed up including Alec and Claudia Webster (two of our funders and very nice people), practically everyone wound up covered with mud and/or sweat, and we got the thing done! Props to Dave Griese for leading the workday. A line of people worked to initiate and dig out the line, using polaskis and shovels, while another group worked to lay down the pipes about 6" to 1' deep, securing them with this noxious glue that made everyone light-headed. There will be testing for leaks and the spigots will be installed. And much later on, will put in sprinkler systems inside the hoophouse. Hopefully Jim Velzy's greenhouse ones will provide a good template for ours. What an awesome day!!

Peepz building the line near the compost system

Diane working hard

John and me - "H-hi! Welcome to the Village!! Pleased to meet you!"

Dave Griese, connecting PVC pipe

*all photos courtesy of Sarah Wheatley

Friday, December 08, 2006

stubborn alfalfa & hoop house rejuvenation

The first real rain happened on November 1st or so. The final seed-sowing wasa supposed to happen at about that time - the day before, the College Eight class had prepared the last two milpa beds - beds 10b and 11b, the two most in shade. I wasn't planning on watering them because the clayey hardpan is pretty saturated with water, and because there is an irrigation leak somewhere over there. Steve says that he remembers the leak from a while ago - the soil was always saturated, even in the depths of summer with minimal watering.

The alfalfa in those beds did not diminish at all. In fact, they were kinda impossible to pull out. I had originally thought that the alfalfa might turn into a green manure - but hey, maybe their stubbornness means that the covercropping for the winter season's set in that area! ...Well, maybe not ...we did a number on the alfalfa with the efforts we had. Now I may regret it. Although the cover crop seeds have germinated, they are stunted - underdeveloped, perhaps, due to the lack of sunlight, the hard soils, and potential allelopathy caused by the huge bay-laurel tree that grows above it.

The hoop house is looking good. The PICA seminar swept through it one cold Thursday evening, patching the hole in the door, pulling out all the weeds, rearranging the tables, laying down weed cloth, and starting some winter-growing seeds. I watered them, but they were neglected over Thanksgiving Break. We could start new seeds, and potentially David Griese and Tony could water during the winter break. Especially since David is going to be the propagation manager, starting in winter quarter. :-)

I wonder what they're going to do here, all by themselves? It might get lonely for them. :-/ I remember what summer was like, initially. Amazing ...I was so lonely at first, I didn't know how I was going to survive it. Interestingly, I would not mind staying by myself here, anymore - the Garden worked its magic on me during the summer. I wonder if the next Garden coordinator(s) will have to go through it too? :-) There are worse things from living alone in heaven...

Monday, December 04, 2006

last workday of Fall 2006

This final Saturday workday, we had a beautiful multitude of people. Morning began in the Garden, with a group harvesting basil from the long-suffering bed 17, and two folks went to get soil from the Mines. We weeded and took everything out of the bed. Before we started double-digging, duty called us to the BRAND NEW COMPOSTING SYSTEM and we made the third pile, filling the first bin again, with dry matter, horse manure, food scraps, and partial compost. The horse manure very pleasantly fell on me a few times, much to everyone's glee.

Then we came back into the Garden and double-dug the now-softened bed, adding in two wheelbarrows' worth of decomposed leaf mould. Afterwards, Steve was waiting with food from the grill, and we ate a hearty lunch.

All of us - Sarah, Megan, Natasha, Richard, John, David Griese, David Saxton, Mike, Henry, Bee, Bart, Steve, and I - took a few moments to reflect on the amazing quarter, through the words of the kindly, honored gardener-mentor who had come to pay his respects and cook us his good food. Steve is coming to the garden workdays next quarter, while he is taking his sabbatical. I am so happy... He expressed the hope that this would be the start of an amazing PICA year - 2 quarters left, and then Short Course. Believe it or not, the actions and feats of fall will lay the grounds to be felt all the way into next summer. And, even more profoundly so, the actions of all past PICAns lead, up into this very moment... We have an amazing team, and an amazing legacy of past incredible teams to continue.

Now it is time to plant our seeds for tomorrow, pack up and prepare the grounds for more frosting, and make sure that all elements are present for their rebirth. I celebrate it, now. I celebrate the hibernations of the restful seasons.

*photos courtesy of David Saxton

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

the new composting system... finished!

Go College Eight Garden Internship Class! Props to everyone involved!!

MIKE LANGAN RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

CLEI garden class visits

The College Eight garden class did some amazing work today. Steve set them to work in cleaning up the back areas 42 through 37 in front of B2 - the area with the three apple trees. They did general weeding and took away all the plants that were withering or weedy. We had a huge amount of green matter for the composting; Mike will be thrilled once the structure is finished. Steve had come on Saturday, spent the morning working on it with five students, and was very optimistic about its completion. While it hasn't reached it yet, I know it is close.

Six students helped Mike attach metal slats to the wood, so that we can put up wooden slats next. On Thursday, he'll probably get the seminar to turn the pile - one more solid turn, at least. The other part of seminar will be dedicated to covercropping the Admin. strip in front of A1 and doing the final covercropping for the GArden.

Once the weeding was complete, they sheetmulched the entire back area, taking infinite care to lay cardboard down around the chocolate mint, pineapple sage, pea plants, and other plants we wished to keep. We ran out of horse manure - that pile that Marley and I made all those months ago no longer exists - so they went to the Mines and brought back rich organic matter from broken down leafmould - the stuff we've been using on all the beds. They put it over the cardboard instead. That's a great thing; now, if we want to, we can covercrop on top of the sheetmulching and give it even more of a standing chance. But that won't be so imperative. Now, that huge area in the Garden is safe from compaction.

A couple of students spread straw around beds 14 and 16, the ones with collards and cabbage. Two more began double-digging the last bed, 2a - I think the moisture level was good. I'd been watering it over the last few days, through the remae. Kept some of the water from evaporating, very happily.

When they left, the Garden looked peace, somehow. Like everything is going to be taken care of. Now ...all that remains are the two milpa beds.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

PICA Orientation, Fall 2006

Orientation went so well. A small turnout of people showed up - only a few new folks came - there was Steve, Jose, Ali, Jim, John, Mike, Ryan, Megan, Ngoc, Christina, Richard, Tony, Jack, David Saxton, Balyn, and Bee Vadakan, the new coordinator. Once we had gathered in the Garden, John and Ryan led the opening activity: throw a ball of yarn around the circle and say what your interests are and what you hope from PICA this year. We had a lot in common beyond the string.

Steve spoke of the Quarry and its history. I'd known that the Quarry was mined for limestone to produce the streets of San Francisco; I hadn't known that the raptor group had actually raised peregrine falcons onsite, that they were one of the first ones in the country to do so. Steve had told me, a few days earlier, that the trailers were from the 9/10 construction project, when the builders had panicked, thinking that they were not going to finish in time, and bought the 21 trailers for temporary residence. They finished on time and tried to sell the trailers, discovering that the return on their investment would be terrible. So they moved them down to the Village, where Steve had already set up shop in old trailers from the Trailer Park. As Ali mentioned, they moved Steve and the agroecology department out of those trailers in place for Village residency. At first Steve was not too happy about it, but then he saw it as a good opportunity to implement something that he and others had for a while been incubating. Hence, came PICA. Steve was able to secure the A-Quad in compensation for the E- and F-Quads. Then Ali, Emel, and others lived in PICA for the first time - in the C-Quad. They tried growing things with little success due to the ravaging squirrels, so they came up with an idea. During the cold of winter and the glory of spring in 2003, they built the fence that surrounds the Garden and the hoop house atop the hill. Ali stayed on for two years, then Ryan took over. The rest, as they say, is history.

Jim introduced us to some of the Village's guidelines and expressed his hope that the Village and PICA would collaborate in many great ways.

After we had sat a spell, we broke up into three groups and went on a plant scavenger hunt. The teams had a list of clues that they used to identify plants, which were already labeled so that they would know their choices. Of course, each group had a different list, and there were 24 plants total labeled in the garden, of which each group only needed to find 8... Meanwhile, while that was happening, Balyn, Ryan, Mike, and John left to begin making dinner.

The Farmers donated three boxes of produce to us that kicked off our first community meal this year. Ryan and Balyn made roasted root vegetables using Dave Shaw's suggestion, plus some kale from the Garden in a wok, tons of brown rice, and the yellow squash softened in the oven, with herbs and butter. We broke up into a couple different groups to eat - Steve, Bee, Jim, and Jose had slipped away, and we had been joined by Seth (an apprentice who brought zebra tomatoes to contribute) and others.

What a phenomenal day!!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

first garden workday, spring 2006

Katie, digging the canal alongside B2

Day of days...

A huge workcrew showed today! In the morning, Andrew, one of the College Eight garden interns, planted a salad mix. He and another student, Lisa, repotted eggplants and tomatoes and started marigold seeds - the spring species are here! Then Tony came to work with Marley up at the hoophouse...

In the afternoon was when things really heated up. Marley, Katie, John, Tony, myself, and some other folks were having a debate about the paths getting flooded and what was causing it (one area, in particular, has become a miniature wetland, complete with sedges and rushes). Katie and John decided that today was the day to change the poor drainage problem PICA's garden seems to have, particularly on the west side. With Tony's help, they dug a blue streak and created a drainage ditch alongside B2, which now empties out into a large pool dug in the ground. Meanwhile, Biseat and Marley were in the kitchen (recently christened 'the Asylum') making lunch, Kerby was outside taking photos, I was bringing mulch from the Farm, and Ali, Elias, and others were working in the soil. By the time we were all hungry, lunch was being brought outside. The meal was phenomenal.

Work resumed. A bunch of folks planted potatoes by the persimmon tree. Ali demonstrated the famous double-digging method of permaculture. Katie and Tony were now closing in on the finish of the trenching work. I looked for gravel for them, to no avail. Maybe later...

That evening, after putting Tanglefoot on the legs of the tables inside the hoophouse, bringing in the tomato transplants, and locking up the shed, Marley, Adam, and I sat in the kitchen, eating tortillas with ripe avocado, fiery Rooster sauce, and occasionally peanut butter. The setup: tortillas in a rice-cooker steamer top on 'warm'. Best tortillas ever.

What a day of days.

Friday, March 31, 2006

tubers & roots & bulbs - oh my!!

So tubers are a mass that grows off the roots, like a node but bigger. Potatoes are an example of a tuber. If you remove a potato but not the plant or the roots, then the plant will grow on. In mountainous terrains of Ireland, the potato plants can grow quite big, and you can undig and harvest potatoes for many seasons yet.

'Roots' in reference to vegetables, are vegetables where the edible part is the root itself; usually they are large masses growing underground. The stalk grows up from it, but is not a part of it in technical terminology. When you pull up the root, you pull up the whole plant. Beets are an example of roots.

Bulbs are extensions of the stalk, large masses that grow above ground, where the roots sprout beneath it. Although the roots can be a separate entity beginning lower than the bulb's terminus, often the roots sprout directly from the underside of the bulb. Pulling up the bulb would, in effect, kill the whole plant (unless it were for transplanting purposes). Garlic and onions are good examples of bulbs.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

seed collection

Discovered something new at the bottom of the box of seeds. There was an inventory created on 31 March 2005 (almost a year to date ago), which lists not only the seeds and amounts remaining but also the year. I wonder if there is a time-sensitivity issue with seeds. Naturally, seeds accumulate in the seedback, but I wonder if it is different with these. Were they grown organically? Would that make them more or less susceptible to timing? I wonder. And it may be a good idea to make note of the years in which these seed packets were purchased and used, as well as their future successes upon cultivation.