art + ag collective residency debrief
It'd be difficult to account for the array of mischiefs that the collective members engaged in individually; there was ample time given for people to wander and do as they pleased. But there were a number of concerted, collective efforts that also took place.
The first frost of the season arrived October 9, the eve of the Oktober All Saints Fest at the Church of the Little Green Man. It seemed an appropriate convergence of occasions, with the last harvest of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchinni and basil followed by a night of celebrating the dead, the shifting of the seasons, and the last days of traditional reaping.
There was a bit of foraging. Evan brought us back a mushroom that only grows on living birches, and made us a fine tea. A few of us went out foraging for the last gasps of the goldenrod, some of us even enjoying the frigid waters of the nearby river as we did so. Basil was hung to dry, dispersed, some of it made into a pesto. Lots of mint and thyme were harvested, along with the last of the sage, all tied and hung to dry. Pumpkins were carved for the Church of the Little Green Man, and seeds were roasted. Folks made sourdough bread and sourdough pancakes, and every morning Kara made a soup for folks to enjoy throughout the day. We ate dinner collectively.
Tripplebrook Farms over in MA had given Kara and other collective members some very handsome gifts :: three chestnut trees, two paw paw trees, and four hardy kiwi plants. The collective brought them to Denniston Hill, met to discuss where these new creatures should go, and then planted them. A chestnut tree was planted over at John's, the other two planted on the southside meadowed slope alongside the driveway and road, with full access to the sun. A paw paw was planted along the roadside bit of wall in front of the house, and the other closer to the porch. And the hardy kiwis were planted so that, over time, they will form an edible arbor of sorts for folks on their way to the pond, the pool, or the woods.
We did our first round of sheet mulching! The last day of the collective's stay several of us got together, and having shoveled more of Josh's generously donated shit the day before, laid down the sheet mulch layer by layer. We broke up the soil that was already in the greenhouse, soaking it deep and long as we did so (it took a surprisingly long amount of time), then lay down fresh cut vegetation from the nearby meadow and pond, covering that with the former horse manure, followed by about eight inches of fallen leaves, followed by four inches of compost and older garden soil, and topped with straw, soaking every layer as we went. In the upper four inches of soil we planted some lettuces, spinach, etc for a late fall/early winter harvest. There was concern raised about the degree of activity happening beneath the top layer of soil, and whether or not that would hinder the growth of these plants, so it'll be interesting to see how it all plays out. Regardless of how well the seedlings end up doing in the long run (they've already begun to come up), we have certainly contributed a lot for the growing of good soil (and, in a roundabout way, raised beds) in the greenhouse.
There was also plenty of loafing, reading, swimming, walking in the woods, storytelling, and live music to boot, with wandering violins, accordions and their players.
The day the collective left they were sent off by a gentle, rolling storm of electric pink lightning and smooth, drawn out thunder. A very pleasant way to see the collective off and reflect on their residency.
The next day Kara and I set to pulling up the plastic between the beds of the gardens. We want to experiment with a green carpet for the paths, a carpet that'll include elfin thyme, purslane, clovers, roman chamomile, lady's mantle, dandelions and whatever volunteer plants that want to make a home there. I've been making my way along the paths since, prodding the ground with a pitchfork to break its surface up just a little, to help the soil breathe in preparation for the laying of seeds.
Today I sheet-mulched a bed in the garden that had been given over to weeds/volunteer plants. I simply slashed them in place, grateful for the work they'd been doing to feed and break up the soil, and for the work they will continue to do as their aerial and root systems break down and are eaten by the other communities of the soil. I poked up the ground a bit, soaked it all deeply, lay down manure over the slashed weeds, soaked the manure, and then laid down eight or nine inches of fallen leaves, soaking them as well before topping them off with some soil and the last of the straw.
I also planted garlic at the foot of the tomato/basil/carrot bed, among the carrot patches alongside the shrub beans, and among the fully grown collards, kale and cabbage beside the eggplants.
Kara and I'll be buying some seeds this week. There's a number of medicinals I'd like to find a home for in the meadowed hill where we planted the chestnut trees. Kara and I've come up with a list of perennial vegetables we'd like to experiment with. I had a mind for making an edible wall of perennial vegetables around the garden, with the taller plants surrounding the northeast corner. We've also got the seeds for the green carpet to look forward to, and a few more varieties of mint I'd like to plant along the meadowside of the garden to ward off mice.
Then it's sheetmulching further, a bed at a time, fixing up the fencing, and planting some of those perennials.