Monday, August 4, 2014

Garden Party Recollections

We had a potluck dinner in the Kitchen Garden last week to celebrate the harvest and our community.  We had a loose agenda for everyone to talk about their gardening traditions.  But mostly we just wanted to have fun.

The evening unfolded freely, and the discussions happened on their own with no programming other than a warm introduction from Lenore.

We had a great turnout, including Roots & Wings regulars, Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry volunteers, Cabrini Immigrant Services families, some of whom use the pantry and some of whom have worked from time to time in the garden, staff and kids from Children's Village who grew some of our plants in their greenhouse, Spring Community Partners, Springhurst School, Transition Hastings, Curious on Hudson (which has hosted permaculture and sustainability events), and some South Church families who until that night weren't quite sure what Roots & Wings was about.

Robin Larkins, of Cabrini Immigrant Services, told us that some of the Cabrini families did not know what a potluck was, but when they learned they were happy to come. And come they did, some with empanadas, many with kids. There were lots of interesting dishes.

Marcello led a garden tour.  The kids picked cherry tomatoes with great excitement.  One proudly displayed an eggplant he picked. As the sun set, they roasted marshmallows and made s'mores and ran and played in the playground.  People felt safe and happy and full (in spirit as well as stomach).

Organizers of community gardens say:
Community gardening is a resource used to build community, foster social and environmental justice, mitigate hunger through increased food security, empower communities, break down racial and ethnic barriers, provide adequate health and nutrition, promote and enhance education and otherwise create sustainable communities. For many across the country, a community garden is the only connection they have to outdoor space.

Our event emodied all of this.  The Kitchen Garden is evolving from a well intentioned community food pantry where users were somewhat timid and apprehensive and people were unsure how to relate to one another, to a community where families and food workers are known to one another, where there is openness friendship and respect and support, where there is excitement about fresh food from the garden, sharing of recipes, sharing of stories of working on family farms in other countries, rekindling of warm memories, renewed interest in being in touch with the land and working side by side with people in the community.

There were lots of cultural connections.  I spoke with a man from El Salvador who met his wife, from Ecuador, in Yonkers at church.  He talked about chores on his grandfather's farm in El Salvador and said he wanted to come and help us.  Two Barbaras talked to two Marks about music and food in Jamaica.  One Children's Village kids asked about an unfamiliar taste in one of the dishes (Els put an edible weed called lambs quarters into something that looked like spanakopita).  But we came to find out that they grow all kinds of stuff on the Children's Village campus and are not strangers to exotic vegetables.  Other people talked about the importance of food in cultural events and festivals.

The caring and the cared for seemed to share a warm embrace.

Robin Larkin talked about progress in attitudes in our community. It used to be people did not like seeing the word Immigrant on the door of their office because of what it connotes.  She has gone from fear of losing her office space to a new relationship with a new building owner who is glad to have them there, who was drawn to the community because he wants to live sustainably, walk to train, and share stories with neighbors.  She talked about how Cabrini has relationships with people from 150 countries.  How she partners with other groups in the community, like Spring Community Partners, and how they share their talents (she helped incorporate them as a 501c3). How they energize and look out for one another.

These were just some of my discussions, and my bet is that everyone there was having similar discussions enriched by the multi-cultural fabric.

- Mark Pennington

Monday, July 21, 2014

Garden Party Invitation

please join us at Roots & Wings' 


this Thursday, July 24, 6 - 9 PM 
in The Kitchen Garden 
located behind South Church 
343 Broadway, Dobbs Ferry

A celebration of our gardening traditions featuring 
a garden tour, live music and s’mores. All are welcome! 
Bring a dish to share and a mug. 


Barbara Chakmakjian
Sharon Deep
Robin Larkin
Chris Cole Olsewski
Mark Pennington
Lenore Lelah Person
Marcello Taiano
Els Vandenbosch 
Solange Viggiano
MJ Wilson

for more information, contact Lenore at / 914 420 6864


Sunday, July 20, 2014

notes from the garden

this week's harvest--given to the Food Pantry
Els, Solange and I met this past Saturday to continue with the work at the garden.  We did the usual weeding, cutting the grass around the beds, and pruning of plants. Els brought over a natural pesticide that we applied to some of the vegetables that were being eaten by the insects. We noticed some new cucumbers, peppers and a lot of tomatoes that are nearly ready to be harvested. 

We will need to continue with the watering although last week due to the torrential rains watering was reduced.  I will be at the garden this Saturday from 9 am to noon --we'll turn the compost and cover some of the beds with hay or mulch.

There is a quite a bit of Kale, Swiss chard, cucumbers and herbs that can be harvested for the food pantry.  I will stop by Tuesday and harvest some of these vegetables and leave them in a basket near the pantry.   


The wind began to switch . . . The (green) house, to pitch

As you may have heard, the wind blew the Kitchen Garden's greenhouse into South Church's driveway circle on July 8.  Even though I had staked it into ground with 4 ten inch stakes.  The wind was just too strong.  

Several of the windows were blown out and the frame was twisted and damaged, with at least one of the vertical metal pieces sheared off completely.  Dave Person and I inspected it the next evening and repaired the fence temporarily.  We moved the greenhouse back behind the compost bins.

The greenhouse was a generous donation by Chris Cole Olsewski, but it is may be more of a liability than a help at this location, with the exposure to the wind.  Windows keep blowing out, and once they do, the whole house is vulnerable to getting picked up and moved by the wind.  It would require quite a bit of work to fix, and we could have the same problem again.

Next spring we will need to start seedlings in homes and/or with our partners at Children's Village, and not use the greenhouse at all.   
--Mark Pennington

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Dorothy: It really was no miracle. What happened was just this… Dorothy: [singing] The wind began to switch / The house, to pitch / And suddenly the hinges started to unhitch / Just then the Witch / To satisfy an itch / Went flying on her broomstick, thumbing for a hitch! Munchkin: And, oh, what happened then was rich! Munchkins: [singing] The house began to pitch / The kitchen took a slich / It landed on the Wicked Witch in the middle of a ditch / Which was not a happy situation for the Wicked Witch! 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

notes from the garden

This past Saturday was another perfect weather day at the garden. 

At hand were many of our regulars including Solange, Mark P., Els, Barbara, Lenore, Hilary with her son Sasha, and Milbia and her two girls. Together we were able to weed all the beds and planting areas; water all the vegetables and herbs;  cut the grass around the beds; place wire cages over the tomatoes;  trim some of the trees within the garden; get rid of some poison ivy outside of the garden fence; and turn/churn the compost bins.  

MJ from Roots and Wings was able to come by and bring some extra vegetable plants donate by one of her friends. We received about a dozen new tomato plants, plus a few cabbage, squash, eggplant, broccoli, and artichoke plants.  We have a few extra tomato plants in small plastic pots near the strawberry patch which anyone is welcome to take.

We'll need to continue with the weeding and watering.  To reduce these tasks we will try to cover the areas between the plants with newspapers and hay this weekend, which should reduce the number of weeds and keep the soil moist. It was also mentioned that we can cover the inside flooring of our greenhouse with a cloth type cover to also prevent weeds from growing there.  Due to the amount of rain this week we didn't have to do as much watering but as the days get hotter we will need to water the garden daily. 

So far this is our watering schedule:

  • Monday: Barbara
  • Wednesday: Marc T.
  • Friday: Els
  • Saturday: Gardening group

We still need a few more volunteers for the missing days and for the times the regular watering crew is not available.  Let us know if you can join the watering rotation and we can tell you what days you may be needed.

We are happy to hear that the Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry was able to use some of our kale and herbs.  Our strawberry patch is also giving some fruits and there are two lettuce plants ready to be harvested along with the kale leaves.  Herbs such as mint, oregano, sage, thyme, and lemon balm are also ready to be harvested.  Within the next few weeks we should be seeing our first peppers, eggplants, Swiss chard and perhaps tomatoes. 
movie taken by Nicky

I will try to be at the garden a little extra early this Saturday, from 9 am on, so please try to come by and join in the gardening experience.


Marc and Solange

it was a fabulous evening!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Community Gardens Grow Community

Why grow your own food? From Stop & Shop to the Hastings Farmers Market and everything in-between, we have easy access to food around here. So why bother?

Merle Huebner is Director of the
 9th District of Federated 
Garden Clubs of New York State, 
Chair of the Dobbs Ferry 
Beautification Committee 
and Liaison between 
the Garden Club of DF & DFBC 
and the Federated GC of NYC. 
She was asked to chair the 
Dobbs Ferry Beautification Committee 
years ago by her neighbor, 
the mayor, who saw the beauty 
she grew in her own garden.  
This was going to be part of the “pitch” for Roots & Wings breakout session on Local Foods during Sustainable Dobbs, a community event on May 10 . . . hoping to suss out enthusiasm for healthier, home grown, do it yourself vegetables. But the earlier portions of the program ran over, and attendees had already begun slipping out the door when the breakout sessions were announced.

Only a small circle gathered—several of us already involved in Roots & Wings’ Kitchen Garden, our two panelists, Ray Figueroa-Reyes, Jr. and Merle Huebner, Marsha Braithwaite, and a few others who drifted in and out.

Merle Huebner, a petite and hardy looking grandmother, and Director of the 9th District of Federated Garden Clubs of New York State, started off the discussion. “I grew up on a farm in Midwestern Canada, about 500 miles north of Minneapolis.” Then her gardening credentials: “We were organic and sustainable. But we didn’t use those words. No one did. That’s just how it was. We grew root vegetables and potatoes and stored them in the cellar for use throughout the winter.  We did not use any pesticides.  We tilled the gardens with a tractor and mixed manure into the soils.  We made everything from scratch, and raised our own animals and stored their meat in a community food locker.”

Panelist Ray Figueroa-Reyes, Jr., a joyful Latino recently elected New York City Community Garden Coalition's President, beamed while listening to Merle. “An important part of community gardening is involving the elders,” he said. “It’s all about pollinating minds! Planting seeds!"

"Community gardens grow community.”

Ray Figueroa-Reyes, Jr., is New York 
City Community Garden Coalition's 
President and recipient of the 
Earth Day Environmental
 Advocate of the 
Year Award presented by the 
Natural Resources Defense Council. 
He grew up in the barrio in East Harlem 
and developed an interest in plants 
watching his dad germinate avocado seeds 
in the window of their apartment.  
This statement reverberated around our circle. Community gardens don’t just plant the ingredients of future meals, Ray continued. “Our youth are stressed.  They respond to nature.”

Ray showed a slide presentation about Brook Park Community garden, located at the northernmost tip of the South Bronx in the Mott Haven neighborhood.  Photos showed students taking an inventory of the problems the neighborhood faces: Truck exhaust, particulates from heating fuel, violence, diabetes, asthma, lack of access to healthy food.  They identified vacant lots as resources.  And Christmas trees.  They collected the trees and ground them up and used them as the base for new gardens.  They tore up asphalt on a City-owned lot to expose soil, and added wood chips, compost, layered in newspaper for carbon, and added clean soil on top.

Now this garden has lettuce, cabbage, kale, eggplants, peppers string beans, collard greens, tomatoes, and sunflowers.  The kids work there in groups on weekends. Like Roots & Wings Kitchen Garden, they make their harvest available to the gardeners and to a local food pantry. 

Ray told us about the role that community gardens play in reducing heat island effect and acting as sponges to mitigate storm water runoff problems. But he emphasized the inner transformation that also happens. This year, some of his gardeners spoke at a “Youth Go Green” conference. Some of the kids who did the surveys are now working for Ray for pay.  One of his kids said he did really well on the Regents because the garden taught him about nitrogen and carbon and cat-ion exchange capacity.  Ray described a painfully shy kid who found her calling in the garden, and was out there getting people to sign a petition to the community board for additional garden space. 

Yes, right now food is plentiful in Dobbs Ferry. But opportunities to build community, nurture social responsibility and grow connections to nature might not be as available. Our small circle buzzed with big ideas to involve school children and local elders in Roots & Wings’ Kitchen Garden, as well as start a larger Dobbs Ferry Community Garden.

Ray advised:  “Start small.  Mother Earth will do her thing.”