A Community Treasure

This December brings great promise to Mendocino County! There's the welcome rain, of course. But there's also a new social movement afoot... a movement towards creating a culture of health and wellness. It's called Leaders for a Healthy Community.

Over 40 service professionals (including professionals from health clinics, school gardens, family resource centers, afterschool programs, Health and Human Services, high schools, preschoolshospital foundations, teen leaders, and parent leaders) came together in both Ukiah and Willits for the first of 10 monthly Leaders for a Healthy Community meetings. The participants officially signed on as Health Leaders, committing to work within their organizations to implement health, nutrition and physical activity programming and policies, and committing to collaborate and form new health connections across the community.

What a community treasure! The Health Leaders bring so much enthusiasm and experience to this work. All are dedicated to creating a community where health and wellness are front and center, where opportunities to eat well and be physically active abound. They are excited about sharing resources, learning more about nutrition education, promoting activity, building relationships across the community, and truly moving the dial towards greater health and wellness in Mendocino County.

In the new year, expect to see "health happening here" as the Health Leaders roll out their programs and make presentations to decision-makers and governing bodies around Mendocino County.

Water Catchment in our School Gardens!

Drought got you down, dirty and dry?  Thanks to funding and support from the North Coast RC&DC, the Noyo Food Forest and MCOE Youth Garden and Talmage Preschool Garden installed rain water catchment systems to help with garden irrigation.   Read the blog and . . . .

Check out their stories on this new video. The MCOE Youth and Talmage Preschool Gardens are at minute  3:43 and the Noyo Food Forest is at minute 6:38.

MCOE Earth Oven is Cooking!

The River School youth at Mendocino County Office of Education have completed the Earth Oven and cob counters in the Talmage State Preschool Garden.    Dozens of students gathered at the campus on May 24th to make fresh pizzas in the oven, using the beautifully mosaic counters to prepare them.

The Earth Oven project has been a multi-year collaboration with numerous community partners assisting the youth in learning natural building skills.  The oven construction began with John Richards Construction leading the students in rammed earth building for the base.  Next the Solar Living Institute hosted the oven building class with free admissions for the River School students.   After testing the oven's pizza making abilities, Mike Riddell Construction worked with the students to build a protective roof over the oven.   Finally, this year, Tonia Sing Chi led the students in building the cob counters that wing the oven, John Havemann of MCOE built the counter tops, and Chad Raugewitz and his students at Ukiah High School did the mosaic for the counter tops.  That's what we call collaboration!

To see photos from all of the stages of construction check out the slideshow below.

Building a Cob Kitchen

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, several Healthcorps and Rural Health Scholars began building a cob kitchen at the Talmage Preschool garden.
Cob is a natural building material, consisting of clay, sand and straw, which, when given a good roof and foundation, can last... a really long time. It's a sustainable method of building, involving the use of local materials, like the clay/soil on site, and found materials like rocks, bottles and old concrete blocks.
The volunteers began constructing a foundation for the counters, which will attach to the existing cob oven, under the existing roof structure.
The counters will surround the oven, creating a complete kitchen that the preschool will use for outdoor cooking. The inside of the counters and oven will be gated to limit preschooler access, and there will be an attached smaller counter on the outside for preschoolers to use to help cook!
MCOE Youth will be finishing the project along with Gardens Project Healthcorps, Katrina Hanson.
We'll keep you posted with more updates as the kitchen evolves.

Star Volunteers at Talmage Garden Kitchen

Super thanks to Mike Riddell, of Riddell Construction, and Rhea Pitchard for their volunteer dedication to the Talmage State Preschool Garden.

Mike has donated dozens of hours over the past few months to work with the River School teens in building a protective roof over the Earth Oven. With rains like this year, the roof will keep the oven protected for years to come. The beautiful structure was built with graciously discounted materials from North Cal Wood Products and California Shingle and Shake - big thanks.

Rhea has been the volunteer coordinator for the Talmage State Preschool Garden for the past two years. Without her persistence, the little ones would not have the beautiful garden to eat and play in that now adorns their school.

Come out soon to eat freshly baked pizzas with wonderful garden produce! Big Thanks to All!

The Roof! The Roof! MCOE Youth!

The Earth Oven at Talmage State Preschool is getting a roof! One year ago in October, the Solar Living Institute partnered with The Gardens Project and MCOE to hold their Earth Oven building class at the Talmage State Preschool. John Richards Construction came and worked with River School students to build a rammed earth base for the oven. Then for the class, community members, staff and students participated in its construction and have since enjoyed tasty garden pizzas.

However, cob and rain slowly make mud over time. So now with the leadership of local builder Michael Riddel, and beautiful sustainably harvested redwood from North Cal Wood Products, the students are building a roof. The structure will incorporate cob counters for food preparation, ensure the longevity of the oven for preschoolers, River Students and MCOE staff for the long haul. Click on these to read more about the MCOE Youth Garden and the Talmage State Preschool Garden.

Water Catchment Presentation 10/2/10

Natural Building in Community Gardens

I recently attended a week long Natural Building Intensive course at Emerald Earth in Boonville. In this course, we learned how to use basic materials such as wood, earth, rock, and straw to build beautiful, safe structures. The methods feel so intuitive, and the work is most often accomplished as a community. Using these techniques, you can build large homes and skyscrapers, but I'm to take what I learned and start small by constructing some structures and garden features in community gardens throughout Mendocino County. We are starting with a small cob greenhouse at the South Ukiah Head Start Preschool garden, a cob bench at the Cleveland Lane Community Garden, and counters and benches to surround the earth oven already constructed at Talmage State Preschool (there is also a cob greenhouse there!). In Willits, Mason has plans to also build a shed in the WISC garden, and in Ft. Bragg at the Learning Garden, Veronica Morales of the Noyo Food Forest plans to build an earth oven.

This is an example of a cob bench at Emerald Earth.

These structures will make the gardens even more functional, beautiful spaces for communities to gather. And the best part is, we're going to build them together, strengthening partnerships with different organization, such as the Solar Living Institute and Head Start Preschools, and building community so that we can then take what we know to share with others. I can't wait! See you out there.

happily yours,

Spring Garden Blitz! Done and Done!

Spring Garden Blitz! has been deemed a success in Ukiah. Thanks to the CCC, Together We Can! Mendocino, the parents at all the school gardens, Schat's for donating 7 dozen pastries to keep our volunteer fueled, Cold Creek Compost, Oak Valley nursery, Home Depot, and the City of Ten Thousand Buddahs. Also a huge thanks to our partners in Willits and Ft. Bragg for making this a county wide event! All played an integral part in getting our gardens ready for the most successful season yet!

All of our volunteers did an awesome job last Saturday. Volunteers helped get boxes re-built and filled with compost at N. Pine street senior apartments, the gardeners at Orchard got their plots de-bermuda grassed and ready for the summer season, Talamage pre-school planted strawberries and fruit trees, and S. Ukiah head start built a lovely fence out of bamboo.

Spring Garden Blitz! was truly a community endeavor. Over 88 volunteers served 299 volunteer hours at 10 gardens across the county. Everyone played an essential role and contributed to the successes at each garden. The Gardens Project and the gardeners can not thank all the volunteers and businesses enough! Check out the slide show below to see pictures from this weekend. If you are interested in volunteering at future events or on a regular basis with The Gardens Project, please click here for our volunteer form.

Installing the Water Tank

The new 5000 gallon rainwater catchment tank has been moved to its new home at the Talmage State Preschool Garden! The River School students led by Joe Scriven from the Mendocino County Water Agency have been designing the new rainwater catchment system to capture rainwater from the preschool's roof.
The final connection between the roof and the tank should happen in the next weeks to capture Spring rain. Much thanks to the North Coast Resource Conservation and Development Council, the Community Foundation of Mendocino County, and MCOE Youth Garden for supplying funds to purchase the tank and its components. Click on the picture to see more photos of the installation! Let it rain!

PreSchool Garden Training

They love to play and explore. They have a very short attention span. They have tons of energy. They are preschoolers! Working with this age group in the garden comes with a unique set of challenges. On January 9th, The Gardens Project organized a workshop to help educators of young children from around Mendocino County succeed in meeting these challenges and connecting the garden with the classroom.

The workshop was held at Talmage State Preschool, was co-sponsored by First 5, Head Start, and The Gardens Project, and was presented by Life Lab Science Program, a nonprofit organization that has been working in the field of science and environmental education since 1979. With their award winning curricula and programs, LifeLab helps schools develop gardens where children can create "living laboratories" for the study of the natural world. The workshop focused on designing a garden for young children (ages 3-6), lesson ideas for introducing children to soil, seeds, plants and animals, and songs and books that are designed to connect to garden lessons. We spent time in the garden and in the classroom and left the workshop with a booklet full of garden lesson plans.

One of the best aspects of the day was connecting with 25 other staff working in gardens with preschoolers at Fort Bragg Head Start, Willits Head Start, South Ukiah Head Start, Orchard Head Start, Nokomis Head Start, Talmage State PreSchool, and Caspar. We shared our experiences and ideas of what works and what doesn’t work with young children in the garden. It was an inspirational day of learning, sharing, and networking, complete with a yummy lunch and lots of laughs.

Thank You, Gardens Project!

Kim Morgan
Noyo Food Forester
& FB Head Start Family Garden Coordinator

Gardens get new gates!

A big thanks to the welding class at Ukiah High. They donated their time during class to make some awesome looking gates for some of our gardens. The gates were made for Nokomis, Talmage State Pre-School, Orchard Apartments, and the MCOE youth gardens.

Thanks also to Reliable Mill steel who helped us in obtaining steel for the gates, and to Norcal powder coating and NCD painting who will paint the gates for us this week. Look for the gates in your neighborhood garden!

Solar Living Institute offers class at Talmage

The Solar Living Institute has partnered with the Gardens Project and is offering an Earth Oven class at the Talmage Garden. An earth oven is a wood fired oven made out of a cob like mixture that you can make tasty breads, great pizzas, slow cook some stew, or make some roast! The workshop will cover: basic oven functions and designs; available materials; proven construction methods; and resources for students to build an oven of their own! The best part of the workshop is that you get to actually take part in making the oven at the Talmage garden. Anyone interested in the Earth Oven should go to the Solar Living Institutes website to register.

But, before you can build an Earth Oven, you need to build a foundation for one- and the MCOE youth garden students sure did build! With the gracious help from John Richards construction, a local Rammed Earth Builder, the youth were able to mix earth and cement and helped compress it into a foundation. It was a dusty process, but they did a great job! A huge thanks to John and his son, Caleb, for all their help and consultation in building our rammed earth foundation.

Talmage Harvest Party

Last Thursday the Talmage State Pre-School had a harvest party for the parents and the pre-school kids. The kids dug out sunflowers, harvested cherry tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and loads of tomatillos. Over all we gave away to parents a five gallon bucket of tomatillos and baby tomatoes, about 4 pounds of cucumbers, and some summer squash. Along with the parents help we were able to build a great looking compost pile, weeded, and planted a new bed with beet seeds. The Talmage state pre-school staff also made a delicious meal for the parents and kids of veggies from the garden. What a great day! Feel free to stop by any of our other harvest parties. September 23rd at 5:30pm at the Grace Lutheran garden, September 24th at 4:00pm at the Jack Simpson Garden, September 26th at 12:00pm at the Cleveland Lane garden, and September 27th at 3:00 pm.

Peas and Carrots,

Harvest time for Talmage!

It's such a pleasure driving throughout the county seeing such lush and productive community gardens! The Talmage Garden is ready to harvest fresh strawberries, blackberries,kale, chard, spinach, cucumbers, zucchini, basil, chives, green beans, Asian greens, mint, lemon balm, and tomatoes. Peppers,corn and melons are coming on strong, and with this heat should be ripe and delicious in a couple of weeks. There's a bevy of activity around MCOE, with hard-working students painting, gardening, and landscaping. Watch for our Salsa at the the Salsa taste-off in August!

The CCC Rocks!!

New raised bed!
Originally uploaded by The Gardens Project
The California Conservation Corps was back at work building wheelchair accessible raised beds and tool sheds for three new gardens in the Ukiah Area. A giant thank you to the numerous crew members who diligently worked for 6 days to build 15 two foot high raised beds for the senior Jack Simpson Apartments and the Orchard family apartments of RCHDC. They also constructed three tool sheds for the two apartment gardens, as well as the Talmage State Preschool.

The CCC is a tremendous resource and all of the gardeners are so appreciative of the amount of work that they were able to accomplish.
Many thanks to North Cal Wood Products for their generous donation of sustainably harvested redwood for the beds, Mendo Mill and Lumber Co. for the great discount they provided for the tool shed materials, and John Haverman at MCOE for the tool shed designs. Additional thanks go to the Ukiah Natural Foods Coop and the Community Foundation of Mendocino County for their generous grants.

To see pictures of all of their great work, visit The Gardens Project photo gallery. Let the planting begin!

Cold Frames Donated!

Thanks to Jim Xerogeanes of Mendocino College's Agriculture Department for donating two cold frames to The Gardens Project. The gardens at Nokomis Elementary and Head Start and Talmage State Preschool are already using them to get their Fall and Winter starts off to warm beginnings! Jill Peacock, Nokomis Garden Coordinator shows off the cold frame.

Garden Work Parties!

The Gardens Project would like to acknowledge and thank all of the community volunteers that participated in Garden Work Parties over the weekend of October 25th. On Saturday, numerous organizations and individuals dug into the earth at the newly renovated and expanded school and family gardens at the Nokomis Elementary and Head Start School Garden and the Talmage State Preschool Family Garden. Our thanks go to the smiling, dedicated work of volunteers from the Solar Living Institute Interns, Ukiah High School's Interact Club and Agricultural program, volunteers from the UC Cooperative Extension, Principal John Mcann and Teacher Liz Lovejoy of Nokomis, Teacher Pam Chiriboga and parents, Jaime, Servando, and Dustin from Talmage State Preschool, and the numerous individuals and children who participated during the day.

Additional thanks go to Dave Koball of Fetzar vineyards who organized the delivery of over 100 yards of organic grape pumice compost to the gardens. Thanks to these wonderful community members, the two gardens now have freshly prepared and amended garden beds ready for their first Fall plantings!