Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Greenhouse Update

The weather has gotten warmer and our plants are nearly bursting out of their containers! They are very ready to get into the ground. Above are the peas, carrots, lettuce and squash.

The first blooms are appearing on the raspberry plants!

The seeds we started are on the left (below), most of them are coming up! We bought tomato starts (below, right) from Terrapin Farms in Whitefish, they were very gererous and informative!

We weren't planning to get any strawberry plants, but when we saw Bunting Farms' plants we knew we had to get some! A few are getting ripe already.

Six Beds Done!

All six beds are done! In the bottom of each bed we've put wire mesh to keep out pesky burrowing rodents. After this picture was taken we put in PVC pipe to hold up protective covers for the plants. We're hoping the covers will protect the plants from deer while we get the fence up. The next step is to fill the beds!

The Greenhouse

While we're building outside, our plants are busy growing in the greenhouse. Before school got out, students started seeds. They planted corn, radishes, basil, squash, peas, carrots, lettuce, spinach, chard, tomatoes and cauliflower. In the picture above you can see the peas, carrots, lettuce and squash (from left to right) all starting to grow.

Robin brought over raspberry plants from her garden (below left) and more zucchini and pumpkin starts. Loon Lake Gardens and Pottery donated garlic starts (below right) and flowers for the school courtyard. Some of the corn, squash and tomatoes that the students started can be seen on the left side of the picture with the garlic. Although it's late in the season, we started some seeds of chamomile, basil, tomatoes, white pumpkins, and cilantro (far bottom left). On the right side of the seeds we started are some of the zucchini plants, jalepeno and habanero plants.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

1 bed, 2 beds, 3 beds, 4!

Over the past week we've put some serious muscle and sweat into digging out the hillside, moving lumber and installing the beds. Each one has been a unique adventure! Initially each of the beds had three 2x6 boards on each side, but then we realized that because of the slope it would work better to have three on the downhill side and two on the uphill side. This meant pulling up beds we had already dug in and removing boards. But we're happy to have improved the technique. The weather is getting sunnier and warmer, the day we got two beds done was our first day here without rain. You can probably tell from the pictures, there's less snow in the background on the Mission Mountains!

The First Bed Is In!

Putting in the first bed was no easy task! It may not look it, but the slope is fairly steep and we were torn between creating level beds and not wanting to dig out the whole hillside. In the first attempt there was a large gap between the ground and the bottom board on the downhill side. We attempted to patch it with spare wood, but weren't sure if this was a permanent solution.

We spent a lovely Saturday morning picking up a truckfull of manure from the Kalispell Kreamery (only $10 if you want to get your own!) and then shoveling it back out of the truck. We even got to enjoy a bit of rain during the process! Witness the look of sheer joy on Tory's face on our manure adventure:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sod Off!

After staking out the beds, we had to remove the sod. We were hopeful that it would roll up easily, but that was not the case. Looking back, we can't believe that we managed to dig three the first day! We were exhausted afterwards and only managed to take out one more the following day. We did get down to the woodshop to start cutting lumber and familiarizing ourselves with the power tools. Things got a little giggly down there and we realized we were too tired to be working with a mitre saw. But it was a productive day!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Start of the Garden

One of the first steps of putting the garden in is to stake out where our raised beds will be. The soil here is fairly rocky so instead of amending the existing soil we are building six raised beds which we will fill with topsoil. Each bed will be 8'x4' and the entire garden space will be approximately 35'x56'. Funding is a limiting factor, and we've been very grateful for the grant money we've recieved and donations from the community. A special thanks is also due to Robin Vogler, our boss and the Food Services Director and Wellness Program Coordinator for Somers Middle School and Lakeside Elementary School. This garden is largely her vision and she is creating a new model of a healthier, happier school cafeteria.

As you can probably tell from the picture, we're putting the garden in on a slope. This definitely presents a challenge for putting in level garden beds. We've put stakes and twine in the lawn to map out where the beds will be so we can start to dig up the grass!

Hello from Montana!

We are starting this blog to document our summer in Somers, Montana. We are here to build a garden at the Somers Middle School to grow food for the cafeteria and provide an outdoor classroom for the students. Who are we, you ask?

Jean Schwartz is from San Clemente, CA and graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts in 2009. She quickly put her film degree to good use, first moving to Austin, TX then living on a homestead outside of Sebastopol, CA. She loves plants.

Tory Elmore is from Somers, NY and a rising Junior at Brown University where she is working toward a degree in Environmental Science. She spent Christmas break working on an Organic farm outside of Quito, Ecuador and has done urban gardening at a small settlement house in downtown Providence, RI.

We are volunteering through Americorps VISTA as Summer Associates in coordination with the Montana FoodCorps and Montana Campus Compact.

We arrived in Somers the second week of June and will be living here until our project concludes on August 13.

We are excited to document our experiences building this garden from the ground up and getting to know the community here in Somers. We are also excited to explore the Flathead Lake area and all of the natural wonders it has to offer.

Here's a picture of Flathead Lake and Somers from the Outlook Inn B&B, our home-away-from-home for the summer: