Summer Learning

For the second summer in a row, Elm Street Gardens and Sparta Imperial Mushrooms have had the experience of hosting students from Oglethorpe University and Agnes Scott College.  For the month of June five students spent their time with us in Hancock County.  They worked at farming, growing mushrooms, finding out what it takes to raise grass fed beef and sheep as well as experiencing what middle Georgia has to offer for its citizens.

 

We shared these good workers with Fort Creek Farm where Bob and Susan Woodall and Chris Jackson raise grass fed beef, goats, and chickens as well as diligently work on preserving the history of this old Hancock plantation.  The interns also spent some time with Lyle Lansdell at Forest Grove Farm, her old family farm in Sandersville, where in addition to fruits and vegetables, she raises sheep.  They spent a morning with Debbie Waugh of Salamander Springs Farm near Milledgeville and were awed by her practice of permaculture and ability to live off the grid.  Forester Jeff Lacksen gave them an afternoon’s view of the forestry industry in Hancock County. 

 

This was a terrific group of students who were articulate, interested in the world around them and agreeable to whatever task was assigned to them.  They had the opportunity of attending farmers markets, working at Helping Hands (a Hancock food bank) and cleaning up the grounds at the Hancock Library as well as exploring parts of middle Georgia that were new to them.

 

I’m going to take the liberty to share some of the comments made by the interns on their evaluations at the end of the experience:

 

“I really enjoyed getting to know the other interns and learning how to farm. I left the internship with a solid idea of how to maintain a farm. I also enjoyed the stars, the rock quarry and the slow pace of life.”

 

“ working on Forest Grove farm was interesting to see how one woman is able to do so much with what was given to her.”

 

“It is also important to experience the poverty in Hancock County.  It's one thing to intellectually understand poverty but it is another thing to experience it. That aspect of the internship cannot be replicated.”

 

“For the most part this experience met my expectations. I think there could have been more educational materials and hands on learning. Instead, we mostly did hands on work with little explanation. The level of work was as I expected.”

 

“The people. Hanging out with my peers. Working and learning with the Currey's, Jim, Liz, Brian, Jonathan, Chris, The Woodalls, Tom, Mr. Ned, Ms. Lyle, and Karina. This honestly was the best part, I made connections and relationship that will help me facilitate my endeavors and will be friends and support.”

 

“I feel like I got a bit of Hancock in my blood now.”

 

We were pleasantly surprised with the comments made by the interns on their evaluations, but they almost all nailed us on our greatest weakness:  Which was the fact that they would have liked more educational instruction on farming. I agree that we and the schools could have done more in that department. I am pretty sure that they learned that farming is a lot of work and we will try to throw in more “book learning” and explanation of the processes involved next time. 

 

I have invited them and hope they will be able to return to Elm Street Gardens and Hancock County whenever they wish, but most especially for our Community Labor Day Picnic.  I was so impressed with these students and their attitudes and insights.  They certainly made this old soul feel good about this generation that is coming along!

 

Below I am sharing some pictures Betty Longdergan (wife of Oglethorpe University President and skilled photographer among other accomplishments) took during a visit to Elm Street Gardens at the end of the interns’ third week here. 

Suzy

 

Shanice, Danielle, Malik and Mike  were the four interns who stayed for the entire four weeks of the program.  

Shanice, Danielle, Malik and Mike  were the four interns who stayed for the entire four weeks of the program.  

Sophia had already made plans for the last week of June, but she was a vital part of the group for the first three weeks.  She had been picking flowers for the next day's market when this photo was taken!

Sophia had already made plans for the last week of June, but she was a vital part of the group for the first three weeks.  She had been picking flowers for the next day's market when this photo was taken!

Picking beans on a hot sunny day.

Picking beans on a hot sunny day.

Hard working girls share a smile at the end of the day.

Hard working girls share a smile at the end of the day.

The results of all that hard work. The girls' flower bouquets, as well as garlic and onions, are ready for market.  

The results of all that hard work. The girls' flower bouquets, as well as garlic and onions, are ready for market.  

The More, The Merrier

One thing for sure is that we can’t complain about being lonely here on Elm Street these days:  We have had so many folks come by to see the gardens in the past couple of months!  Some are folks we know, some are strangers, but all turn out to be friends. 

 

We are lucky to have all this attention, but I know it will slow down considerably as the weather reaches increased summer levels of heat.  Some days are already there.  (But often we still have our “fall line” wind to help cool us a bit on many days.) 

 

We have enjoyed visits from the Good Earth Garden Club from Swainsboro/Metter with middle Georgia fruit expert and good friend, Jerry Larson, in attendance. There was a great group of ladies from the Holiday Shores Garden Club here in Hancock County, the dream team Bragg riders from Dublin, Georgia, friends of our Sparta/Athens friend Dale Couch who are accomplished restoration experts and so many others, I know I am forgetting some.  Lots of folks who came in ones or twos to check things out at Elm Street Gardens and Sparta Imperial Mushrooms were here on impromptu visits or scheduled tours.  Love them all! 

 

Very near and dear to my heart are the groups who came from a summer gardening course at the Hancock public schools.  These middle school students showed encouraging interest in growing their food, eating well and organic principles. 

 

Unfortunately, I have not been too good at taking pictures of these events.  Too busy talking, I guess.  I do have a few to show you here and I won’t try to substitute a thousand words for the lack of pictures.  Hope we can interest more folks to visit and see what can be done and grown here in Sparta, Georgia!

 

Suzy

Robert and the "Dream Team" from Dublin. Georgia.  They were on a practice ride for a week long ride across Georgia .  Sparta was their lunch stop on this day and this group toured Sparta Imperial Mushrooms and paid a visit to Elm Street Gardens too.  They all chomped down on some of our cucumbers!  

Robert and the "Dream Team" from Dublin. Georgia.  They were on a practice ride for a week long ride across Georgia .  Sparta was their lunch stop on this day and this group toured Sparta Imperial Mushrooms and paid a visit to Elm Street Gardens too.  They all chomped down on some of our cucumbers!

 

Family visit from cousin, Tom Voglesonger and wife Carol.  Like many they were especially interested in how we grow the mushrooms.  

Family visit from cousin, Tom Voglesonger and wife Carol.  Like many they were especially interested in how we grow the mushrooms.  

7th graders who are taking a two week gardening course at Hancock Central were a good lively group finding out about how we grow food.  

7th graders who are taking a two week gardening course at Hancock Central were a good lively group finding out about how we grow food.

 

Terrific group of 8th grade boys from Hancock Central who asked all the right questions.

Terrific group of 8th grade boys from Hancock Central who asked all the right questions.

Our Old Friends: The Day Lilies

I have had a number of small shocks of surprise and pleasure during late May and early June as our numerous day lilies begin to bloom.  Every time I see one that has just opened, I have the shock of remembrance and say to myself, “Oh yeah, I had forgotten you were here.”  Then I am just happy to see this particular old friend and admire it along with the more recently planted ones.


Due to Robert’s love and fascination with the hardy day lily plant, we have quite a collection (for amateurs) of different varieties.  Down the center path that leads from the house down the garden steps to the dovecote, we have some wonderful specimens in shades of yellow.  Robert’s idea was to choose and plant them so that these yellows started with soft shades at the top of the walk and graduated to stronger shades of the hue as you look down the walk. 


He was not totally successful in this attempt, mostly because it turns out that not all of them bloom at the same time, but it works pretty well.  And the two of us, at least, enjoy greeting our old friends each year as we actually wrote down the names of the plants along this path so we can pull the list out and recite their names.  Being able to give the names of most of the day lilies we have seems to be an impossible feat of memory for both of us. 


You can eat day lilies (hemerocallis fulva, but not true lilies such as the Easter lily which is poisonous). The blossoms, the tubers, the stalks of the common day lily are all edible.  But while I throw a blossom or two in a salad when I want to be fancy, I can rarely bring myself to pick enough to consume on a large scale.  Maybe someday as the collection grows, but could there be such a thing as having too many daylilies?

Suzy

Love the soft colors of this large blossom.

Love the soft colors of this large blossom.

Striking colors on this frilly blossom.    

Striking colors on this frilly blossom.

 

 

Here you see how many flowers one plant cluster can produce.

Here you see how many flowers one plant cluster can produce.

Here is an old shot of the main path through the garden with its varying shades of yellow day lilies.  

Here is an old shot of the main path through the garden with its varying shades of yellow day lilies.  

Here is a cluster of the common tiger day lilies, or ditch lilies, as some call them.  These might be the ones to eat!

Here is a cluster of the common tiger day lilies, or ditch lilies, as some call them.  These might be the ones to eat!


Early Summer

So far it’s been a record setting season for summer crops at Elm Street Gardens.  And it’s not even officially summer yet!  Jim and Liz have planned and planted so that cucumbers and summer squash made early appearances in our “Farm Boxes” as well as at market.

 

Lots of good eating and fun for us and our customers.  The tomatoes are not far behind.  We’ll have tomatoes in early June for sure and that will be another record broken for Elm Street Gardens.

Suzy

 

                    This fine batch of cucumbers was picked on May 7.

                    This fine batch of cucumbers was picked on May 7.

 These yellow summer squash, zucchini and patty pan squash were gathered on May 14.  

 These yellow summer squash, zucchini and patty pan squash were gathered on May 14.  

And then there are the tomatoes!  

And then there are the tomatoes!

 

Exit Winter . . .

After a chill night and cool day, winter seems to be making its departure from these parts.  The treachery of mid-April has departed middle Georgia.

Rows are uncovered, plants are soaking up the sunshine and Jim and Liz are planting okra and MORE tomatoes (you know you can never have too many tomatoes).  We have welcomed the return of spring at Elm Street Gardens and bid winter good-bye.  We hope.

Suzy

 

Below are some pictures of spring's return at Elm Street Gardens.  You'll see the uncovered beds, new plantings of squash, okra, tomatoes and cucumbers.  And thornless blackberry blossoms, strawberry blossoms (with a few little berries forming if you look carefully) as well as roses and the lovely pale green of a newly leafed out crepe myrtle.  

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Spring Has Sprung, But . . .

Winter has made a quick and, we hope, a brief return to Elm Street Gardens.  Hopefully the cold will last for only a couple of days. But today Jim and Elizabeth had to cover all the tender spring and summer crops they have been planting in the outdoor beds as well as roll down the sides of the hoop houses and shut them up snug and tight for the cold night or two to come.

Strong winds are blowing the cold front our way so, although the sun is shining brightly this afternoon, you can feel the temperature dropping.  The row covers on the outdoor beds are puffed up with the wind, but all the bricks that were brought back to the garden as anchors this morning are holding them down just fine.

I am believing spring is really here despite this little set-back and the sight of the tomato plants and various blossoms and iris blooming give one hope that this is the last burst of winter.  Surely . . .

Suzy

Lettuces, broccoli, tomatoes, arugula and squash are tucked in for the night of cold.

Lettuces, broccoli, tomatoes, arugula and squash are tucked in for the night of cold.

Fortunately, there are crops that do not need the protective covering.

Fortunately, there are crops that do not need the protective covering.

Strong winds attempt to lift the row covers, but they are secure!

Strong winds attempt to lift the row covers, but they are secure!

Some of the first tomatoes planted in the hoop houses are taking off and will be fine during the cold spell in this warm environment.

Some of the first tomatoes planted in the hoop houses are taking off and will be fine during the cold spell in this warm environment.

Wonderful iris blossoms reassure us that spring is here.

Wonderful iris blossoms reassure us that spring is here.

Blossoms of spirea and viburnum are another sure sign of spring.

Blossoms of spirea and viburnum are another sure sign of spring.