Just having fun!

Debbie Strickland saying “hi” from Rural Resources in East Tennessee!  Greeneville has been enjoying some fall temperatures this past week.  We have had enough cool fall like mornings that I have to stop and wonder what this winter will be like.  In talking with people who have lived here all their lives, and scouring Facebook, I have been told and seeing we are going to have a very cold and wet winter.  We had several foggy mornings in August that I have been told are signs of this cold and wet winter to come.  I have looked at the good Old Farmers Almanac, and they are saying a cold wet winter as well.  I have begun trying to figure out how this will affect our fall and winter growing season.  I will be discussing with our teens how to bunker their gardens for the cold and wet if needed.  Hopefully, we will be prepared.

Our August and first of September have been busy and fulfilling.  Our first week of August was our county fair.  The teens had helped to set up and man our fair information table.  This year they changed our booth set up a bit and included a farm sensory activity for the kids to learn and play with and added a photo booth where they offered to take photos for a small donation.  Our second booth was dedicated to preservation demonstrations.  Our teens worked in teams throughout the week, helping professionals to lead demonstration of different food preservation methods.  We had one on dehydrating herbs then making value added products like lip balms and salves; freezer jam with fresh berries and fruits; egg noodles; freezing methods; homemade butter; and fermenting Kim-chi.  The teens enjoyed further learning skills they have been working on all summer and sharing the knowledge with others throughout the week of fair.  We easily saw over 200 people throughout the week of fair who stopped to watch and ask questions.  Here are some shots of our fun for the week.  I missed getting pictures of some of our teens who chose to wear our vegetable costumes this year.

If you would like to try some Kim-chi with your cabbages this fall and beets, here is the recipe that was used during fair:

Russian-Style Kim-chi

2 medium heads of cabbage (sliced)

3 tablespoons of salt

2 medium beets (peeled and thinly cut into sticks or shredded)

3 large carrots (peeled and shredded)

4-6 garlic cloves (sliced)

1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes

Mix together cabbage and salt in a large stainless steel pot or a food grade plastic container.  Stir in beets, carrots, garlic, and pepper flakes.  Weigh down the pickled vegetables.  Leave the vegetables at room temperature for 6-7 days until vegetables pickle (If you notice that the vegetables are dry, then remove the weight and stir them together.  Check each day and stir as necessary.).  Taste the vegetables on day 5 or so.  If there is not enough salt or red pepper flakes add a tablespoon of each to taste.  Refrigerate or can following completion of recipe.

Once fair was put to rest, our focus was set on fall garden needs and our annual teen retreat.  Seeds have been sent home and plants for teens who are planning fall gardens for this year.  Our concentration this month will be season extension methods for those who are wanting to push out their growing season as far as possible.  For those not having fall gardens, cover cropping begins and soil improvements will be made.  Most of our garden spaces will be cover cropped and improvements made for next growing season.  We had some gardens who had drastic weed issues that just could not get under control.  We will be tarping their growing spaces to help kill off the grasses and weeds that keep being an issue for them.  Others, their soil needs some improvements and will be cover cropped to help with a healthier production next year.  Fall preparations have begun to ensure crops or fertile soil for next year.  At Rural Resources, we have planted our garden with the teens for fall with beets, cabbage, chard, carrots, lettuce, and preparation for garlic in the next month.  A few teens took cabbage plants home for their home spaces.  Most of our teen home gardens need soil amending so we will be focusing on cover cropping and improving their soil for next year and less growing this fall.  Our garden is still heavily producing okra and peppers.  The teens were busy picking them this past Saturday when they were out and getting the popcorn off.  The raccoons probably got half our popcorn this year.  They tried it a couple of months ago and didn’t care for it too well.  Then, I really think they have a sonar or radar or something, because just as the popcorn was ready to come off, they beat me to the field and helped their self to some.  But, we did get enough off that the teens are able to take some home and finish drying it out.  I am waiting to see who actually waits a few more weeks before they try to pop it.  Hopefully they will be patience then try in about 3 weeks to pop and enjoy!

 

    

To wrap our month up, the teens went on their annual teen retreat.  We went to Long View Ranch where the teens participated in team work building exercises and worked on communication skills.  We had a rain for the weekend, and had to do many of our activities under shelter, but the staff at Long View Ranch were amazing at facilitating the activities with the teens.  Some teens showed great skills in compassion, communication, listening, teamwork, trust, logic, and leadership.  The teens had to work in groups to solve the obstacles that they laid before them.  They had to effectively communicate and listen.  Many of times it was difficult to do these tasks, but once everyone collected themselves, then true teamwork began.  It is so easy to always go in and want to be the leader or the follower.  But many learned over the weekend, sometimes you must do the opposite to accomplish the goal for the group.  We had a lot of fun and learned many new skills along the way with the help of the staff at Long View Ranch.  We were bummed to be rained out of our paintball time, but we made up for it with so much more fun in other group activities.  The retreat has nothing to do with growing food, but it allows our teens to grow in respect for each other; communication; leadership; and teamwork skills that are necessary for them to succeed in life.  Teens took on leadership roles during the weekend; showed and learned respect for others; built relationships; learned communication skills; teamwork building; trust; and logic.

As we wrap up, our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of Hurricane Irma.  I have family and friends who went through the eye of the storm.  Many are grateful because it could have been a lot worse.  I am still waiting to hear from others and see how they have fared.  I remember those days as I lived near the Tampa Bay area for 20 years before deciding to move to Tennessee.  I have never seen a storm here, as I have like these tropical storms and hurricanes.  My mind is on the south today.  As I hear of needs, I am ready to begin recovery efforts from here or go and help if needed.  Hoping and praying for all those affected directly and for family and friends, who like me, are waiting impatiently to hear.  Until next month, enjoy every moment that is brought your way and happy growing!

 

 

About the Author:

I am from a farming community in Indiana where my family farmed over 200 acres. As a teen, my family moved to Florida where I became heavily involved in 4-H and developed a love for service and passing knowledge onto others. I graduated and began working at the local girls club while attending college for a Business/Administration degree. I realized that teaching youth was my passion and stayed at the girls club for 12 years before moving to East Tennessee. In East Tennessee I was able to reconnect with my farming roots and began a home garden. In growing, I tapped further into my roots and began canning and freezing food for my family. Really enjoying putting to use all the long hours working on the farm in my youth and realizing how important that was for me to learn, I wanted to get back into teaching youth again! Skimming help wanted adds, led me to Rural Resources who was looking for a coordinator to run their Farm and Food Teen Training Program. All my loves in one - youth at-risk, farming, gardening, cooking, and business planning! What a wonderful life to share my passions with others, play on the farm, enjoy local home cooked food, and advance these youth to a better future! Here I have been for 6 beautiful, happy, and productive years!

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