Well our first Big Ugly greenhouse was up and ready to go on March 9th. It was pretty exciting to imagine our seeds magically becoming plants to put in the ground just after April 20th (our last frost date). And then the March winds blew and along came the snow and the sleet and the bitter cold. The lucky part was that we had not put our seeds trays in the greenhouse. We were counting on solar warmth in the greenhouse and had not yet devised a backup heating system. As a precaution, all the seed trays were placed inside the community center until the worst of the weather passed.
So we are back to square one with greenhouse repair top of the list for the last weekend in March. The chilly temperatures and sleet didn’t dampen the spirits of participants at our first meeting as we went over garden plans and distributed fertilizer, onion sets, seed potato and a host of other seeds for cool weather. Though its still too wet to till and the ground too cold for planting potatoes, we are happy to planning our gardens together.
A number of elders in our community have expressed a desire to get a small garden plot going remembering how in the old days they used to plant all the fields and eat well all year round. One neighbor said she dreams of picking a fresh tomato from a plant in her yard. She said she may not be able to walk very far but for sure she would get to the garden plot to pick beans and tomatoes. We have GA participants that are eager to plant their own garden and then gather some volunteers to help our elders get a small of garden planted simply for the joy of it.
That’s one of the reasons for a new project we are launching with the children who come to our community center called “Garden Buddies.” With our goal to grow our own seedlings we knew we’d need some day to day TLC for plants within the community center and the families work and appointment schedule and the hours the center are open don’t always mesh for volunteers to keep on top of the watering.
Enter our 40 children and youth that come to BUCC four afternoons a week during the school year and five full days per week for six to eight weeks in the summer. Step by Step provides the only after school supper and the only summer feeding program for the southern third of Lincoln County. (Which is also the poorest part of the county: 49% of the children in our census tract live below the federal poverty line).
Our kids have always loved being connected to community elders—oral histories formed the basis for a series of songs, stories and quilt blocks called Patchwork Dreams. Our teen leaders’ Adopt a Neighbor program was featured on local public radio in a program called Aging with Grace and Dignity. And the kids regularly invite their neighbors to Halloween parties, our Fall Festival, the annual Thanksgiving community dinner, and so on through the calendar year.
The premise is simple—link a child with a particular community elder that they stay in touch with and volunteer (particularly in the summer) to help with chores. This lends itself perfectly to Grow Appalachia’s elder outreach as our children tend the plants for their own family and their “buddy” at the Center, will help with planting afternoons in the much anticipated warmer weather and can go over in the cool of the mornings between breakfast and lunch with our summer programs to help tend the active gardens.
So, when the winds howl, and the snow falls on the flowers fooled by higher temperatures, we don’t despair. We dream of seeds taking root, gather our materials, make our plans, and, like the daffodils, raise our heads back up to meet the warmth of spring.