We are very excited to have Carol Cox teach us about cooking with Solar Ovens at her up-coming class at Common Ground Garden on June 25 from 2-3:30pm. Carol was a previous manager of Ecology Action’s flagship mini-farm at the Jeavons’ Center in Willits from 1992-2009 and was co-author of ‘The Sustainable Vegetable Garden‘. Here is a preview of the class from Carol:
Solar ovens have come a long way since two ladies in Arizona first introduced simple versions to the public in the 1980s. Their basic cardboard oven design has been streamlined to make use of cardboard cartons easily available these days. And manufactured versions now come in a variety of shapes, sizes, materials—and prices.
Here in our area, where summers are (mostly) dry, even very simple solar cookers can be used most of the year. Integrating a solar cooker into your routine means thinking earlier in the day about what you will have for dinner, but once the food is in the cooker, you don’t need to stir it or worry that it will burn. If you use one of the hotter cookers, you may need to be sure you don’t overcook the food.
All grains and many vegetables, especially root vegetables, are very easy in a solar cooker. You can bake simple desserts. And it’s easy to can fruits and tomatoes with no extra water or fuss.
We’ll talk about all of these things and have a look at different styles of solar cooker—and possibly have a taste of some solar-cooked food!
June at Common Ground Garden is an exciting time! We have tasted the first of our tomatoes, zucchini and basil. The green beans are producing like crazy. The corn is already beginning to tassel. We are fighting the squirrels for our jammy apricots and tart juicy plums. The last of our winter rye will be harvested this week. While the rains are a distant memory, the garden is churning out the produce!
Soon we will plant our rooted sweet potato cuttings. Our new batch of lettuce is ready to be pricked out and will be planted out in a couple of weeks. Our pumpkin seedlings will be transplanted imminently. Another bed of potatoes will be planted once they sprout.
We have partially timed some crops to mature for the Edible Tour. Stop by to check them out!
By Director, Rev. Hesborne Apida, MTS, BTh.
The name Eden was given to our program because we intend to mimic the Garden of Eden in the Bible. The vision and mission of Eden Garden Farm and Resource Services Program is to provide an avenue where Biointensive Agriculture practices and skills are built, and visions and strategies are shaped and reignited for empowerment. The church, spiritual leaders, communities, and all individuals are targeted to be trained through the program. The program expects the trained graduates to replicate the practical lessons that would meet spiritual and humanitarian needs for a holistic ministry as it is exemplified in Acts chapter five. Clearly shown here, the Apostles committed themselves to spiritual matters, but delegated the responsibilities of human needs (just as important), to Deacons.In our program “skills are built” in the sense that conventional agriculture has been in practice for a long time in our culture but there is a need to build on the known concepts and the unknown, even though Biointensive Agriculture is a rediscovery. “Visions and strategies are shaped and reignited” in the sense that we target church ministers and leaders who undoubtedly often have visions but would mostly be having varying challenges to accomplish them. Therefore the program sets platforms to inspire and offer alternatives to those challenges. Those challenges range from economics to capacity handicaps and social, personal, and spiritual problems and everything in between.
My experience for 30 years in pastoral ministry working with all kinds of people has exposed me to a diverse range of interactions and discovery. One of the things I learned within the church was that the church and its leadership either knowingly or unknowingly had focused on bureaucracy, protocol, and programs at the expense of meeting both spiritual and human needs of the people. Eden Garden Farm and Resource Services Program intends to bridge that gap. Here is how: You cannot preach to a hungry person. Our country and other parts of this continent are often prone to food scarcity. Jesus knew the effects of hunger and fed the people before continuing to preach. Jesus knew it better that a hungry person cannot listen. A well fed person will. So I figured out the best place to begin accomplishing these purposes is with Biointensive Agriculture because of bountiful harvests in small garden spaces. I had been introduced to Biointensive Agriculture through American missionary contacts.
In 2015 we began gardening at my home where the farm currently operates. So far we have myself and my family, and sometimes one or two helpers from the church or from other places who are learning the skills and doing the work. We project getting more helpers as the program grows. We decided to begin the gardens with fruit trees and beneficial non fruit trees like gravelia, glaricidia, leucaenia, croton, and sesbania. Some of these are legumes that help fix nitrogen in the soil. The garden beds are occupied with varieties of vegetables, sweet potatoes, corn/maize, cassava, watermelon, paw paw/papaya, bananas, sugarcane, and passion fruit plantations. More crop varieties are yet to be introduced.
While we are thinking of crop varieties, we are also thinking of diversity. This means we include domestic animals. Right now we have a cow, chickens, and our very new project of cricket rearing. Yes, crickets are edible and protein rich alternative food. All of these domestic animals also provide manure that is used back in the gardens.
We have set aside Sunday afternoon to be an open day for garden tours with the teaching guide who is usually myself or one of our gardeners. The tour time period takes one and a half hours; 30 minutes being introductory teaching, the next 30 minutes is question and answer, and the last 30 minutes a walk in the garden.
As has been mentioned, our hope is that all the people who go through the teachings at our demonstration garden would in turn replicate the Biointensive Agriculture practices for themselves and for their people. We also follow up on them to help with their challenges and welcome them back for more teachings. We also learn from their successes and their failures. That helps us to know where to improve as a program.
Our program needs funds for hand equipment, seeds, and diversification activities. The concept of diverse crops and activities is very important just in case one or two crops fails on such occasions as floods as we do sometimes experience here. Our program is projecting establishing supporting activities and projects that will reinforce and back up sustainability during challenges like floods when we have to start the gardens all afresh. Cricket rearing is such a viable project because, besides its affordable use as alternative food rich in protein, meat and fish being expensive for most, its flour is used in baking products. Cricket feeds include sweet potato vines that are also grown in the gardens. Such sustainability measures will make the program to continually teach Biointensive Agriculture to as many people as possible. We want to reach the continent of Africa or even beyond, teaching Biointensive Agriculture.
Reverend Apida can be contacted at:
Post Box: 598, Kisumu, Kenya, East Africa.
Recently, we hosted a group of Youth Community Service volunteers at Common Ground Garden with Alan Hackler of Bay Maples. The group installed a rain catchment system for us, which feeds a Izu Persimmon Tree. Read about their thoughts on water conservation and the experience, below!
By Caitlyn, Jeffrey, Dunya, Isaiah, Helen, and Jasmine
Edited by Hanh Nguyen and Paul Higgins
We are a group of middle school students in Palo Alto who are part of an after school program through Youth Community Service (YCS) called Students With A Gateway or SWAG. Youth Community Service builds life skills and leadership through meaningful service learning experiences that encourage students to make purposeful school and life choices.
This semester, we were learning about the environment and how serious our California drought is. Many people know that we are in a drought, but don’t realize how bad it is. Look at these images to see the effect of California’s drought.
Fortunately, there are MANY ways to conserve water and make a difference in our drought!
You can also save water in your garden!
For our program, we worked on a project with Common Ground Garden to help conserve water. Common Ground Garden is a community demonstration garden that teaches people how to grow a sustainable drought friendly garden. You can volunteer or attend one of their classes on greywater or how to grow a garden. To build your own garden, you only need some soil, water, seeds, patience, and sun. By growing your own food you can save water and help the Earth’s atmosphere. Plants take away some of the greenhouse gases in the air, leading to less pollution and breathing problems among people in the world.
We helped Common Ground build an irrigation system to water a persimmon tree sapling. We did it by digging a path from some rain barrels to the tree, and then putting some pipe in it. We then connected that path to a moat around the sapling, and filled the moat with mulch in order to conserve the moisture. Finally, we filled it up! This process saves a lot of time, because people don’t have to water the tree by hand now.
Overall, we learned a lot about saving resources and what it takes to do that. One thing we learned that had a lot of impact on us was that the entire garden can only feed half a person! That’s a lot of water and land!
At this point in the season, we have finally planted most of our Spring crops. All of the Spring grains are established, and the Summer grains (corn, sorghum, and amaranth) were planted this month. We have also finished transplanting our long awaited summer vegetables, including tomatoes, zucchini squash, basil, and mesclun lettuce mix. We’ll be planting out the watermelons shortly, and starting our pumpkins (hull-less seeded kakai variety) in flats. Now is the time for thinning the fruit on our trees, to ensure we get fully formed quality peaches, apples, and so forth.