Happy summer to all our friends near and far! It’s been a time of excitement here at the Hindman Settlement School, as well as transition and goodbyes. Last week we welcomed families from around the area (and around the country!) to our 39th annual Family Folk Week. Folk Week brings families to campus for a sort of all-ages summer camp, where people can share and learn Appalachian folk crafts, music, dance, and more in a sort of magical environment. We stole one of their treasured hang-out spots a few years ago to make a garden on campus, so while there’s a bit of friendly resentment we also had a few hands to help out with weeding, potato-bug squishing, picking leftover peas and more. We were able to incorporate some fun activities for the children’s group about seeds and plant varieties! Maybe we’ll be able to incorporate more garden activities in coming years.
As for our Grow Appalachia project – we continue to have a vibrant group of engaged gardeners, and it’s been a joy to work with them! Home visits recently have been especially exciting, to share stories, hear about certain families’ tips and tricks (epsom salts in the hole when planting tomatoes?), and gather ideas for what we could do differently with the program. We’ve been helping more than half of our participants install Hortinova plastic bean trellising – lots of families are so used to just letting beans grow up alongside their corn on the stalks, so it’s been funny to watch people still plant corn along the side of the trellis. We’ll see what kind of headaches that creates!
The biggest excitement for me of the past month has been launching into chickens! We were thrilled to receive support from Grow Appalachia this year to set up some of our families with laying hens, and while it took a little while to get things off the ground, we’ve really dug in! We now have 200 new several-week-old chicks running around the county! Since not everyone was totally prepared when the orders came in, I had the opportunity to be a parent to 70 of our chicks for the first few weeks of life – and I owe a big thanks to our participant Earl who assisted us in providing space to brood them (this is one thing that has been really exciting for me this spring – seeing more of our participants and their families members offer to help with various projects! We’re looking forward to finding more ways for our participants to lead and support each other).
We’ve been able to coordinate closely with Kentucky State University’s extension program this spring, and they were wonderfully helpful in bringing two workshops to Hindman – just for us! On Friday the 10th we brought thirty-five people to campus to learn about rabbit care and sale, and hutch-building. On Saturday the 11th we saw another thirty-five people come for a workshop on building chicken coops and raising chickens. For both workshops every participant was able to take home a finished product or the materials to make their own. About half of the participants were our Grow Appalachia members, while the other half were new faces from around the county. It was great to make these new contacts, and know that our reach can be wider! With that said and done, though, all our chickens now have new homes and will hopefully be producing eggs by the end of the summer!
As we delve into these exciting things, we’re also saying a bittersweet farewell to our Program Director of the past three years. Brett Ratliff has made his mark on the Settlement School and was the person to jumpstart our Grow Appalachia program in the beginning, all while balancing many other projects. He is moving to Arkansas for new adventures and we are sad to see him go, but we’re grateful for all that he has shared with us!
– Jacob Mack-Boll