Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Putting Down Roots--We now have a Permanent Home!

Chervena Chuska sweet peppers
Exciting news! We're buying the land we've been gardening on for the past four years in Monroe! The property is about three and half acres (we've been growing food on about 2/3 of an acre up till now). It has two existing sheds and a farmhouse built in 1875 (it's the second oldest house in Monroe). There's a deep, strong well that produces delicious abundant water and an artesian spring that brings water right to the surface. The farmhouse is two-stories high and will need a lot of work (it's been unoccupied for about seven years and heavily vandalized.) But it's "bones" are solid and it's got great soul. We've already begun renovations and it's going to be a sweet place to live.

The 1875 farmhouse.
Back side of farmhouse
The majority of the land has been pasture/grass. Now that we know we can stay, we're preparing ground to put in fruit and nut trees and berry bushes. Our local friend and supporter, David Crosby (not the rock star!) has been helping us find nursery stock to get us going. Eugene Wholesale Nursery is providing us with 33 trees, 6' to 8' tall (apples, pears and plums) at three dollars apiece! They're the "seconds" so some may be shaped a little funny till we get them pruned up right. David has also helped us connect with Fall Creek Nursery who specializes in blueberries. These folks have made an outright donation of three dozen bushes, specially selected for our growing conditions (that will be three, fifty-foot rows). We also want to plant figs and seedless grapes and several folks have already come forth with offers to let us take cuttings. We're rooting lots of extras so there'll be a bunch to share. (Please see our complete wish list to see how your cast-offs can become Sharing Gardens treasures.)

Most of the original square nails are still holding the farmhouse together!
Some of the plans for the land are still developing... There's a low part of the land that might be perfect to grow cane-willow (for basket weaving) and bamboo (for various purposes). Our neighbor has been encouraging the native Camus lily to re-establish itself on his wetlands and we too want to encourage native species to regain a foothold. We've started a hedgerow of Rosa Rugosa - which will provide giant rosehips for both humans and wildlife and we've managed to establish five American chestnuts (endangered on the East coast). Chestnuts also provide food for people and our animal friends.

Tree planting--a sign of hope.
We are very grateful to the Crowson family (the previous owners of the land). Chester (the patriarch of the clan) was the one we first approached about using the land for free. He really loved our project and gave us his full support--even paying to have a new pump installed in the well and paying the power-bill to keep the pump running for these past four seasons. When he passed away in the winter of 2012 we were a bit anxious about whether we would be allowed to stay but his grown children were happy to carry on with the original agreement. We always knew that the land was for sale and that, if it ever sold that we would have to leave at the end of that year's growing season. That's why we never planted fruit trees or invested much in permanent improvements to the land or buildings.

At first, when oldest son, Jerry Crowson told us that the family had to get serious about selling the land, our hearts just fell. The original asking price was way beyond anything we could afford. But then he told us that they were dropping it by about 2/3 and it suddenly was within our means! Much thanks too to Llyn's Dad, Bob Peabody who made the finances available for us to make the purchase outright so we'll have no mortgage to cover.

Sunny days in the bean patch
Now we can really put down roots and expand our rural arts school--offering hands on, practical experience in growing food organically, canning and other forms of food preservation, vegetarian cooking, basket-weaving and all the other aspects of our Mission Statement. The Sharing Gardens will continue to thrive and grow providing a common-ground gathering place dedicated to the cultivation of generosity.

A great year for carrots...and kids!

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