Author Archives: Mae Humiston
A couple weeks ago the garden club had a critical discussion about the existing structure.
What was in place:
Two “co-heads” that ran meetings, dealt with administration, facilitated decision-making and sent emails. Members would come to meetings to have discussions about what had been done, ideas for what we should do, and plans for the next meeting or project.
Problems people identified with that system:
- communication was ineffective
- people rarely showed up to help with projects
- initiatives were rarely completed
- a lot of weight fell on very few people
We began the restructuring meeting with a round of “What is your goal for the garden?” Goals could be as idealistic or concrete as the speaker wanted. Some of the results:
- Have cohesive group events
- Get a real fence
- Have a potluck
- Create a greater presence on campus
- Plant some things
- More exploration activities/skill shares
- Work on the watering schedule infrastructure- google spreadsheet
- More effective communication
- Start scheduled harvests
- Have a community outreach component
- Get people to actually show up and help out- community building
- Have some garden skill shares to learn about gardening
- Expand garden to more parts of campus
- Come together and create garden plan for spring
- Have a garden “training day”
- Connect more with resources on campus- more partnerships
- Research topics to share knowledge, planting schedules
- Make an info sign and number the beds
- Take inventory of the seeds we have
- Institute dues?
We then discussed possible approaches to realizing these goals. We settled on the following structure:
Secretary – takes notes at meetings, sends out meetings, announcements, and reminders. Currently Micaela Belles with Stefanie Yeung apprenticing
Tufts Sustainability Collective liaison – attends weekly TSC meetings, relays information between the two groups, acts as Treasurer since this person will see the TSC Treasurer weekly. Currently Mae Humiston with Liz Stockton apprenticing
Meeting Facilitator: Sets agenda and guides meetings. Currently Alex Freedman. Anyone can offer to facilitate a meeting if they’d like to.
Construction: Headed by Ivan Rasmussen
- Finds materials (recycled, salvaged, or store-bought)
- Designs and works on work on shelves, fence, raised beds, etc.
- Organizes construction days
“Seasonal” group: Headed by Stefanie Yeung and Perri Meldon
- Researches information concerning winterization, watering schedules, gardening methods, plant properties, etc.
- Brings this information to weekly meetings
Community Outreach: Headed by Minh Leu
- Works with community groups including Eagle Eye Institute
- Organizes events and opportunities for garden club members to get involved with like-minded groups outside the garden
Social team: Headed by Suzanne Lis
- Organizes social events such as potlucks and group dinners/picnics
Harvest team: Headed by Liz Stockton
- Monitors garden production
- Informs group of harvest days/times
- Distributes harvested produce
Each working group should have its own meetings or e-list to decide initiatives and approaches, and is responsible for letting the rest of the group know their plans and results and posting their progress on the blog. Working groups can call on entire group to help in initiatives.
We also decided to institute semester dues of $5. This $5, in addition to helping pay for garden costs, gives the payer a vested interest in the garden. We hope this will lead to more people being committed to the garden and turning out for work days and meetings. People with financial concerns can talk to the Secretary to work something out. Dues will begin Spring 2012.
Additionally, we have a Facebook group to help with planning and advertizing events.
Finally, we are trying to have consistent weekly work days. The timing of these is yet to be decided.
We are currently working with this structure and we have already found issues with it but hopefully continual self-reflection will help Tom Thumb’s Student Garden continue to be a sustainable Tufts group.
On October 5th, Devyn and Jake represented the garden club at the on-campus Farmers’ Market (Wednesdays 11:30am-1:30pm on the lower Campus Center Patio) behind a table inviting people to come plant herbs for the winter in recycled containers:
In my last post I promised I’d put up pictures of the completed raised beds built for use this semester in the Sustainable Food Systems Ex-College class. Well between that moment and right now- we’ve also received a truck-full of soil from Cambridge Bark and Loam, built a hoop house (that I hope Alex and Carolyn will write more about), cleaned up the garden a little, and planted some yumyums.
The Sustainable Food Systems Class’ raised beds, constructed Saturday, September 17th and filled with soil Thursday, September 22nd:
The next Monday (when the class is held), they planted some seeds, labeling the frame as they went.
The next time I took my camera to the garden, they had sprouted!
Also in that time Alex and Carolyn led the construction of a hoop house:
And when we got the soil to move into the beds we also cut the grass around the garden to use it as mulch and transplanted some radishes:
And we applauded our peas:
But we still have more soil, more wood for another raised bed, and even a couple existing open spots in beds if someone wants to plant something!
What’s coming up?
-Planting herbs in recycled containers for winter growing skill share on Wednesday, Oct 5 at the Farmers’ Market 11:30 – 1:30, lower Campus Center patio. If you wanna help out, just show up! Bring some recycled containers if you can!
-Liam’s lookin to make some cider. Let him know (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you find any solid wood (2×4′s or bigger) that we can fashion a simple press out of- or if you just wanna help out! Might be scroungin for apples tomorrow, Oct 2!
-We need to put up some shelves and hook in the shed so things are organized! Again- if you find any wood scraps, shelf braces, or hooks, let me know (email@example.com)! We’ll probably try to install at least a couple of shelves on Columbus Day.
-People are on watering schedule. If you want to help out with that, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Or just contact her because she’s super cool and you should probably want to meet her.
-If you do anything or even just check in on the garden, write it in the log! It’s a testament to all the work we put into this little patch! We’re going to try to scan some of the pages to put up on the blog soon!
Check it out: http://sites.tufts.edu/tuftssustainabilitycollective/
This Saturday, in the beautiful fall weather, the garden club joined forces with the Tufts Ex-College class: Introduction to Sustainable Food Systems. The class is taught by Mari Pierce-Quinonez and Jeff Hake, both of whom have received master’s degrees from Tufts’ Friedman School. The course description reads as follows:
Modern agriculture is the course of a great majority of our food and is a foundation of the American economy. However, it is an economic system that relies on cheap fuel, low labor costs, and ever-increasing consolidation. In recent years these industrialized inputs and processes have been indicted as a root cause of many of modern society’s woes: hunger, obesity, disease, environmental degradation, climate change, economic injustice, and physical and mental estrangement from the land. And yet, alternative systems of agriculture have emerged. Some are the simple revival of “antiquated” practices while others apply agricultural principle to technological innovation. Cities and communities are becoming active players in these new systems, and food is being “slowed down”. This course attempts to outline some of these emerging food systems, providing theoretical background and discussion as well as practical, hands-on tools for becoming a part of these new systems.
Notice the part about hands-on tools; that’s where the garden comes in!
If you’ve read the history of how the garden got started, you might recognize this class as the originator of the garden itself (made possible by the efforts of the darling Signe Porteshawver). They turned the beds they made over to the Student Garden at the end of the semester and now that another round of class has started up, the students got to get down and dirty again- starting from scratch and learning through doing. Plus, hammering gets a little of that stress out.
Because resources were limited (no saw, few nails) we had to get creative with wood salvaged from my neighbor’s trash, leftover scraps from shed construction, and splintered pieces wrangled from an old box spring left in Micaela’s apartment. I kinda felt like that was half the fun- it was like a puzzle! Fortunately, we have a lot of creative minds in the club and the class so things didn’t take too long to start up.
What follows may be boring but might prove useful to future bed-builders!
The plan was to build 3 raised beds, but we had a collection of 2×4′s (which are about 8ft long), some scraps that varied between 1 foot to 2 feet long, and a bunch of pieces from an Ikea bed frame that all measured about 2 feet long… and no saw. We finally decided to use all the 2x4s to make two 8ft-long, narrow raised beds with 3 2x4s stacked on top of each other on each side (to make each bed about 12″ tall). The width is formed with pieces about 1.5 feet long, also stacked on top of each other. (A picture would probably explain this best… I’ll post one later.)
We also used the Ikea bed frame to create 2 square raised beds since all the pieces were of identical lengths. For these, we nailed 4 pieces together in a square, did this 3 times for each bed, and stacked the 3 squares on top of each other, securing them in place with stakes in each of the four corners, nailed to the squares. (This I DO have a picture of.)
Unfortunately I had to leave early (anyone else got this nasty cold?) so I have yet to see the finished product, but when I left it all looked great. I’ll be sure to go down tomorrow morning to check it out. I’ll post some pictures when I’ve got them!
Weekly meetings to be held on Wednesdays at 9pm in Eaton 203 starting September 21!
Workday this Saturday, Sept 17 at 10 am-12pm. Help the Sustainable Food Systems class build raised beds!
We did so much today! Sometimes you just need to commit yourself for hours on end… the results are stunning!
Sadly, our squash fell victim to powdery mildew. (Powdery mildew is a fungus of the order Erysiphales that lives on the surface of (and gets its nutrients from) the leaf.)
It’s pretty gross/sad/fearsome. Suzanne did some research on it which she’ll post later. What I learned from her:
- when watering squash, don’t just spray over the leaves, aim under the leaves and get the dirt. This limits the amount of water sitting on the leaf that allows gives the mildew an environment in which to grow and spread their spores.
- it spreads easily, but can be combatted with a milk spray (which also sounds gross. Milk sitting out in the sun on plants… can’t smell too awesome. But what do I know.)
- don’t compost the infected individuals. The spores can stay alive in there.
- it REALLY takes over. And it’s not just squash, it’ll go for your cucumbers and melons too. It likes those vining fruiting plants!
So we ended up pulling out a few of the really affected plants to 1. open up space for some cold-hardy crops and 2. hopefully curb the spread. We’ll see how it works.
So that was part of today. It took a lot of work because the squash were so intertwined with each other it was hard to figure out which plants deserved to die. (Just kidding, but seriously, they had to go.) It would also probably be best if we had gotten rid of them all, but it’s hard to let go, so we’re going to try to salvage the remaining plants.
But removing those couple of squash plants opened up the garden considerably. It feels much more organized now. And we can move around in the garden! So we were able to cut out some of the bindweed (evil) that took over the fence-line, open up the view, let some little plants see the beautiful sun, clear some paths and reach some formerly unreachable corners…
AND BUILD AN INSANELY CUTE PATH!!!
Earlier this summer I was looking on Craigslist for free/cheap gardening supplies. I didn’t find any but I found out that there was a woman living near Tufts giving away old kitchen floor tiles. I offered to take a few off her hands, knowing we’d find SOMETHING to do with them. So today, when I had to take a break from priming the shed and inhaling fumes in the heat, I took a few of the tiles into the garden and laid them down in a spot where the grass was wearing away and getting muddy. AND IT WAS SO CUTE! Suzanne came over and we deemed it a good idea. So Mariah, Lydia and myself took turns digging up the dirt where the path goes and then we pressed the tiles into the dirt and packed them in.
Some of the tiles were broken, some were whole, so we used our creative whims and used broken pieces to create “whole” stepping stones. We’ve also (accidentally) broken a few whole ones by stepping on them when they are not fully supported underneath but the effect is cool, so no worries! Ultimately, we want the “sidewalk” to reach what will someday be the official entrance (the gate closest to the shed). I also think it would be neat to keep salvaging tiles over the years and filling in the empty spaces with them. Every generation could add their touch!
And less exciting progress: The shed has been completely primed and is ready to be beautified (perhaps an event during Freshmen Orientation? I won’t be here but I know Mariah will!) We’re also hoping to finally get the roof on and the door straight this week. Once that happens, we can put shelves and hooks inside and start storing our tools there!
Also, since the fence is kind of ghetto-fabulous (it falls every which way on most days) we’ve lined part of it with some concrete blocks. We’ll remove those when we get the fence to stand up on its own (is that possible?) I’m thinking maybe making a raised bed out of the concrete blocks when we’re done using them as props? It could be cool.
But not as cool as this kid.
The garden had come to this, had reached this pitch of green uproar in the few short weeks since May, when I’d set out seedlings in a considered pattern I no longer could discern. The neat, freshly hoed rows had once implied that I was in charge here, the gardener in chief, but clearly this was no longer the case. My order had been overturned as the plants when blithely about their plant destinies. This they were doing with the avidity of all annuals, reaching for the sun, seizing ground from neighbors, fending off or exploiting one another whenever the opportunity arose, ripening the seeds that would bear their genes into the future, and generally making the most of the dwindling days till frost.
-Michael Pollan in Botany of Desire