Gardens of JOY is what we were busy doing last week here in Greene County, TN! Hi everyone, Debbie, Appalachia Cares/AmeriCorps, here from Rural Resources. I am pleased to say, two more garden sites, and I think we finally, FINALLY, have every one of our 20 teen garden sites going. I went out today to put in two raised beds for one family, only to be stopped for rain. I will not complain, we desperately need it! But it was also disappointing to get the truck and trailer, load the equipment, stop and get the topsoil and compost, to get 1 mile from the home and realize the rain is too much to work in. Then, turn around, after tarping the dirt to keep it from getting too wet, to head to the farm, and try to unhitch the trailer. After unloading a half a tractor scoop we were finally able to unhitch the trailer from the truck – way too much weight. Then, get one mile away from the farm to return the truck, and guess what?! Yep, it stopped raining. Oh well, we are ready to go at it tomorrow, finish the raised beds, and when our new tiller gets here, till the final garden!!
Last week I traveled to 5 teen homes to put in their gardens, or finish what we started. I tried to do two a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, thinking I would have a break to do some other work in between. Boy was I wrong! After loading everything for the first garden of the day, traveling to the teen’s home, setting up the boxes, filling them with dirt, then planting those boxes, loading everything back up, heading to the farm, loading more dirt for the second trip, it was time to go! But, it was a very fulfilling week! I was so impressed with all the words of hope and joy from these families with the gardens they will have to grow their own food. Everyone’s home I stopped at, family members came out and helped set up the gardens, not just the teens!
Emily and her papa – whom you can barely see – working on Emily’s garden. Her papa was very excited that Emily wanted a garden. He built her raised bed!
James and Jesse, our twins, with Dad helping out in the background.
Alyssa filling her box. I did not get a picture of her dad, but he was so kind to load the dirt from the trailer into the wheelbarrow, to give me a rest!
Grace seeds her box. She had two younger brothers, who I wish I could show you in the pictures, were such big helpers! They were in many pictures helping to screw the box together, shoveling dirt out of the trailer, spreading the dirt in the box, helping transplant and seed the bed. I did not have mom’s permission to show them, so this was the only picture without their faces. They were such big helpers, and I am sure Grace will have to fight them for whose garden this is!
We also finished up Zoe’s raised bed, but I am not always the greatest about getting pictures, so this is one of those times. We started hers a few weeks ago, and she managed to plant her tomatoes and was waiting for more dirt to plant the rest. I am sure their will be more pictures very soon from Zoe on the progress of her garden.
The families were eager to take part, help their child, and take joy in growing food for their families. I got to meet many of the parents for the first time this year. We carried on many conversations. One conversation caught my attention and brought back thoughts of the spring of 2011 when a tornado tore through eastern Greene County, leaving many of us speechless as to how this happened. Emily’s papa told me the story of the tornado from their home in Horse Creek. He was not home the night it hit, but his wife was. He remembers his children calling to have him tell their mom to come to town. She said it was calm, and the big portion of the storm had already gone through. The winds were blowing, but nothing worse than normal for the area. Papa and Mama decided that she would be fine. He came home at 6:30 a.m. to find his home gone, with no sign of the barn anywhere. The tornado did come! Like them, many of us did not believe that it was possible. For Emily, her papa, and her family devastation fell that night. They lost their fruit trees, the garden, barn, a couple of horse, bus most important, mama. Papa shared the path of the tornado and how nothing was left that resembled anything. He said the barn was gone, as if it never existed. They could not find any part of it. He said about two months after the tornado someone called from a community about 10 miles away to say they found his wives wallet on their property. He said the wallet was intact and nothing looked like it was watered damaged. He commented that some of the neighbors found some soybean and corn seeds that he had been saving for years. The soybeans seeds were from stock over 50 years old and from, if I remember correctly, Japan. He spoke of the berry trees and how his wife loved to garden. She would plant berry trees and cover all but one with netting. He would get after her to cover the other one, but she said that was for the birds. Now, his place has many barn swallows living around! He was very excited that Emily wanted a garden. This is a reminder to him of the way he raised his kids and he was raised, on the land, but also the found memories of his wife. Next year, if Emily is still excited about growing, he wants to build her a large garden, about where is wife used to grow. Also, I will buy some fruit bushes if she is interested. And yes, I will make sure one extra is given for the birds! This was a very inspiring day for me, to see a family pull together and remember the good times and keep them alive in what they do.
Now, since we are only blogging once a month, I have another item I would like to share. One of our teens, Bobby Strickland, who is now an intern, is our June Dairy Chairperson. In Tennessee, we celebrate during June and recognize the dairymen. Bobby was selected to be the chairman this year, and was highlighted in our local newspaper, The Greeneville Sun. I have desperately tried to find a link to share the article, but cannot. He responded to various questions about dairy and his interest in agriculture. I was very excited to see his responses and his ambitions. We are very proud of him here, and the potential we know he has. This may not be about vegetable gardening, but just an example of how we have helped give a teen an up in our county. Bobby fully displayed enthusiasm for reaching out to low-income families and helping to meet their needs with milk from our cow, and educating the community about supporting your local dairy men. He will be doing several activities this month supporting dairy. He will visit a daycare and make butter/ice cream, help our farm day campers learn to milk the cow, help with a celebration festival, speak on our local radio station, and other activities to support the dairymen. Way to go Bobby!