MLF Community First! Garden

As you I am sure know by now, our garden at the old Holy Trinity / City School site is no more. After casting about for what to do next, Steven Hebbard ask us at Christ Church to get more involved with what MLF is doing at their Community First! garden in northeast Austin. The church leadership agreed that serving in that way would be a good direction to head, so here we are, arrived at what is next – we will serve with the MLF gang at their garden this spring.
Eventually, if we choose, there will be opportunities for Christ Church to take ownership of some part of the garden. For now, I want to encourage individuals, families and groups from CC to come out and see what all the fuss is about. Because the fuss is about God and His amazing love for us, that’s what.
Sign up to volunteer here
Read about what a volunteer day might look like here and here

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The Main Mobile Loaves and Fishes’ Garden Experience

“Lead By Example” is one of those things people that train leaders are always going on and on about. So I decided that, since I am pushing for all of us to go volunteer at the main MLF garden after working at the CCG, I should get on over to the MLF Garden and see how it works. I hope all those leader teachers will be happy with me.

So I loaded up our two three year olds and we went out to the garden. Now, I think that anything that I can do with two three year olds is easy enough that anybody can do it. Also on this list – watch cartoons, and, well, I’ll keep you posted.

We showed up and were greeted by all involved and given a task that was suited to both the little ones and my skill set. Weeding!

Weeding with Wondergirl! You know you always wondered what she did in her spare time.

Weeding with Wondergirl! You know you always wondered what she did in her spare time.

I learned a couple of amazing things out there – 1) those little ones are good at weeding. Which I guess they should be, already so close to the ground and all grabby as they are. 2) Chickens will eat bermuda grass and make eggs! OK, I already knew that chickens made eggs, even though I missed that day in veterinary school. But I did not know that they eat, nay, prefer bermuda grass! They take in the bad of this world and make good things for all. Those chickens are leading by example.

We took plenty of breaks to play.

Rakes, horses, what's the difference

Rakes, horses, what’s the difference

Heidi, who was running the show at the garden that day, showed us that they have cotton planted there. One of the friends of the garden had donated the seeds that she had saved from her childhood as a share croppers daughter some 80 plus years ago (pretty amazing story, but you have to go out there to hear it). So, we were allowed to harvest actual cotton bolls and talk about where our clothes come from. We discussed this for upwards of 20 seconds until the kids got bored and ran off.

Learning! Education!

Learning! Education!

Then, we had brunch! All the workers from the two separate MLF garden sites (there is the model village and a farm – again, you have to go out and see for yourself) gathered, prayed, ate and talked.

Brunch!

Brunch!

Two fine examples of brunch fare

Two fine examples of brunch fare

We wrapped up with some more playing.

Just a swingin'

Just a swingin’

So to summarize, we had a great time. We worked, we learned, we played, we ate and we formed community. We met the MLF team, other volunteers (including one lady that insisted that I make the kids wash their hands before eating! I mean really, a little dirt is good for you, right? Right?) and the formerly homeless that work with MLF.

A brief point worth noting – the same formerly homeless team members who helped CC build CCG are still working with Steven and Heidi at MLF (not counting Danny – who’s story you can read here.) I am not a trained missionary or philosopher or theologian or really qualified comment on the wondrous work of Jesus in anyway, but I suspect that the changed lives of Mike, Allan and Anthony = awesome. God is at work at MLF and GG. And in us at CCG! Yes, we are thankful!

A Couple of Options for Your Consideration

Two ideas that I would like you to cogitate upon -

First and most important – there are new ways to serve at Genesis Gardens (GG from now on in this post), which as all of you dedicated Christ Church Garden (CCG, I am a lazy typist) Blog readers know, is one of our two parents organizations.

Go to http://mlf.org/community-first/volunteersgg/ and see the opportunities.

This is how I see this working with our CCG efforts. Your group or family or self (whoever and however you decide to serve) comes to our CCG site and works there, the usual stuff – water, weed, fertilize and harvest (leaving the drip system on). Then, when done at CCG, head over to join Steven Hebbard at the main GG sites, of course, you had the good courtesy to sign up and let Steven know when you expect to be there, which he ask to be before 9:30 am -

  • When you go to http://mlf.org/community-first/volunteersgg/, scroll down until you see “Farm Development”.
  • You click “sign up” for your date and when the sign up page comes up, there is a comment box. In that box, put that you are coming from CCG and what time you expect to arrive. Give them your cell so they can contact you if anything changes.
  • The address is 5800 Johnny Morris Austin, TX  78724

Then after working there, you gather for a community brunch with the main GG team and other volunteers.(then go turn the drip system off at CCG. This will solve the issue that we frequently don’t water long or deep enough for our plants)

This will provide more contact with GG and other churches / groups in our community that are cool enough to work with GG. It will also solve one of the issues that I think prevents people from serving at CCG – the idea that it is kind of insulating service and it is hard to grasp that you are serving God and His people when you are just out digging in the dirt by yourself, even though YOU ARE. So this will bridge that gap – you’ll see what we are doing in the bigger picture and break bread with those you serve and serve with, which is very Christ like indeed.

So chew on that, would you!

Second and of less importance -

Earlier this week I joked about what a 78704 hipster cool guy our scarecrow would be if we had one, and the response has been overwhelming – the people want a hipster scarecrow! Skinny jeans, ironic t-shirt, fedora, horn rim glasses, vintage pumas. What fun we could have.

If you or your group has a creative bent, or has outgrown your hipster clothes (either emotionally or physically), please volunteer to build us a scarecrow. I’ll get the post and hay, you bring the cool.

What Up With That – January 22nd 2013 edition

What Has Been -

As promised, the D/M group was out and was awesome. They reported a big harvest, including one of the purple cauliflowers. Purple cauliflower? Crazy stuff, kids, crazy stuff.

They did not photograph much besides this shot of the snap peas -

ggpeas

They noted that the peas were kind of going crazy and pulling each other down. Maybe their time has passed? I am debating leaving them in until spring planting (tomatoes, cucumbers, et al) as a cover crop, even if they are done producing peas. My question is, as always, is that the best use of the space? Are they still fixing nitrogen (you have to love those legumes!) even as they play out? These are questions I should pose to Steven Hebbard. I’ll let everyone know his ruling on the question.

What is yet to be -

This weekend Seth Henry and I will meet up and work the garden in the morning and then, after making sure the Whip In is still in good form, we will be playing pitch and put at Butler Park. I can not say enough good things about Butler Park. Centrally located, laid back, well manicured greens. OK, the last one is not true. But if you haven’t played there you should. Also, if you think golf course reviews are out of the purview of a church garden blog, think again. Butler Park slips in under “generalized awesomeness”.

In short, if you would like to, please join me and Seth at the garden, or the course, or both this Saturday.

How to Start Your Own Church Garden

If you found this blog through the article in the Austin American Statesman you are probably wondering two things 1) how can we at (your church name here) start a garden for good and for awesome and 2) what do Brussel Sprouts have to do with Brussels, Belgium? I can’t help you with question number two. OK, I probably could after a brief google search, but you could do that yourself, on your own time. We have important business to attend to here, so please stay on task.

To answer your first question, I have provided below a step by step guide to starting a vegetable garden at your church. But first, check the “Why to Start a Garden at Your Church” post, if you haven’t yet. OK, without further ado -

  1. You will need someone who really wants a garden at your church. It would help if this person was crazy. Since you read about this in the garden section and were interested enough to look up the blog, hopefully that person is you. You don’t have to be crazy, but I’m guessing you are, and that will help you out in the end.
  2. You need some land. Most churches already have some. (We didn’t, but it can be overcome – email me with questions on that) This land will need to be in at least six hours a day of sun. A good rule of thumb that I was taught is that if you are growing bermuda there, you can grow a garden there (courtesy Steven Hebbard).
  3. You need some water. A hose from the nearest spigot will do, or if you guys are rolling in it, hard plumb that garden.
  4. You need people. Churches are notoriously full of them. The trick is finding able bodied people who are interested in gardening and want to volunteer. This is one place where you being crazy will help a lot.
  5. Plan a build day. Pick a day, put it in the bulletin have the most persuasive pastor make an announcement about and get it promoted. Make a full fun day of it – like an old fashioned barn raising with lunch and fun for the kids.
  6. Do everything possible to organize the build day before hand. Plan the garden, gather materials, designate leaders.
  7. Build it!
  8. Plan for different groups to work the garden – the youth group, men’s bible study, ladies auxiliary (what is that, anyway?)
  9. harvest food
  10. Give food to the needy – this part can be hard. You need to find an outlet. Our partnership with Mobile Loaves and Fishes works for us. Check them out here. You might look into food pantries, children’s homes, homeless shelters. Find something your church will be passionate about (duh) and get on it!
  11. Praise the Lord for the opportunity, the land and for his hand in this City!

Another overview picture of the garden

I went out yesterday morning to spread some mulch and decided we needed a better overview picture of the garden as it stands. It is from a different angle so you can see the sign and the cross. I like the way the garden looks from this angle. It is also nice with the morning light and shadows. I took my own advice and got out of there before the sun got too high in the sky.

What Up With That – July 11th 2011

What has been -

Rain! From the sky, just like people talk about happening and you see in the movies. As of this morning, the garden has received about and inch and a half of rain since this Sunday. We are thankful.

We have, in spite of our recent good fortune, begun to make peace with the fact that it is hot and dry here. After our acceptance of this fact, the logical next step is to try to figure out how to continue to grow good things even though we are in a rough spot. Lots of Christian allegories in that. I don’t want to beat you over the head with the obvious, but I’ll give you a moment to run with them if you wish.

We already are pretty water savvy, using drip irrigation and all. But apparently there is a new technique in arid climate irrigation. And by new, I mean hundreds of years old. (Oh No, I accidentally wandered into one of my pet peeves – there are many people that love the “ways of ye olden times”. These proponents of the ancients can be heard extolling the wisdom and knowledge of days gone, “they sure knew more about how to live back then, when things were simpler”. Spare me. They thought the earth was flat, life expectancy was like 20 years and I understand those 20 years were rough. But in this exception, and I know there are many others, they had a good idea going that we have forgotten for too long)  The concept – Ollas!

The name Olla is originally from the latin for pot. (Thank you to five years of latin? No. Thank you to wikipedia.) The idea is that terracotta wicks moisture. If you bury an otherwise water-tight, non-glazed terracotta vessel in the soil, it will slowly “leak” water into said soil. It does this at a rate that the plants can use well and without evaporation. Amazing! It gets better – the correct pronunciation (at least in this garden) is “Oh-yaa”! You have to say it like you are 50% Castillian and 50% Norwegian and 100% very excited.

There are purpose made ollas on the market. But they aren’t super available and are less fun than making your own. We bought four pots, two little saucers (to cover the bottom drain holes) and one little tube of silicone caulk.  We (Ben) put them together like so -

Olla, with Ben high stepping in the back ground

Because we are men, we made them too big. Then we paid for our mistake by having to dig too-big holes -

Seth “Detroit” Henry earning his keep. You can’t see it here, but his shirt had his nickname on the front. Glad to see him buying in.

We plunked those ollas in the ground, surrounded them by various peppers and basil, put the mulch on top and then filled them up with water.

the rock on top is more than aesthetic, it is to stop evaporation.

Instant Generalized Awesomeness! (It’s a core  value)

Our harvest -

Not too shabby. With me, back in tennis shoes.

What is yet to be -

Michele Rifee is coming out again this week. And again this week, we thank her for giving of her time.

To-Do -

  • No watering! Not even the new ollas. Relax, they will get their turn.
  • The three constants – harvest, weed and pray!

What Up With That – June 10th 2012 post

What Has Been -

Thank you and kudos are due to the Crawford and Brown-Garvin small groups who both turned up for work days on Saturday. And a special thanks to Ben Marsh for leading the charge in the garden while I was toiling away at my day job.

We had two small groups show up due to the fact that my pesky vocation kept me too busy to notice that I had double booked the garden. That, and I am sometimes a little disorganized. I am a little sorry. I’d be more sorry, but from Ben’s report, it was a blessing. More workers = more work accomplished (which is sometimes not true, see the post about me and my small group “working” in the garden) and more community built. Yes! God takes my mistakes and turns them into blessings. Ain’t that the stuff.

Many tomatoes, potatoes and cucumbers were harvested. Okra (Clemson Spineless) seedlings were transplanted into bed #1.

Some photos from the day (please note: while Ben is awesome, and generalized awesomeness a core value of this garden, his camera phone is not.) -

That blue/grey orb is a watermelon. Awesome!

What is yet to be -

The dog days of summer are upon us. Like a ferocious junk yard dog who has run us down from behind and is now standing on our back growling, snarling and breathing 100 degree heat mixed with dog spit on the back of our necks, they are upon us. Sorry again – summer gardening in Austin can be hot, dry and frustrating. But we will fight through it. We are planting things that like heat (okra, melons, and others), we are drip irrigating, we are complaining. Before we know it, those of us that don’t perish from heat exhaustion will be putting in our fall garden.

This weeks To Do List -

  • Harvest – the tomatoes are amazingly still going, let’s get ‘em boys! Try a cucumber at each harvest. At some point they will be as bitter as I am about the Texas heat and that will be our sign that they are Donesville.
  • Drip – time to start twice weekly dripping. See above complaining for reason why.
  • Wear a hat and sunscreen and drink water. NO perishing in the garden, please. I’m having a sign made that says that.
  • Pray! What a place to pray for those who the garden has touched. We can pray for them while not at the garden, too.

weed. While you pray!

What Up With That May 26th and June 3rd 2012 edition

Sorry, I somehow missed a week of updates. I’ve been busy and blah, blah, excuse, excuse. Like you care. You demand your garden updates! Here they are -

What has been -

Big Tomato and cucumber harvest continue -

Some of our more astute readers will notice some vegetables in some photos that are neither tomatoes nor cucumbers. Anyone notice? No, well, not suprising with you lot. Those are squash (the plants are growing up on the outside of the fence), potatoes (we harvested the northwest bed, #1) and green beans from the plant right by the gate. Yes, some potatoes are blue and no, I have no idea what up with that. Besides the obvious – it fits in with our core value of generalized awesomeness.

Also these past two weeks, we had a visitor to the garden. Here is a picture of his poop -

Here is his damage -

And, without further ado, here is he is, the Tobacco Hookworm (or Tomato Hornworm, or some combination of those four words) -

He was the only one we found. We, uh, relocated him to were he could find more of his kind. Somewhere he might be able to hang out with tomato hookworms of the past, like his great-great grandfather. It had to be done. And, hey, we did it organically.

What is yet to be -

The Crawfords are coming, The Crawfords are coming!

I can not wait to see what they accomplish in the garden. Hopefully they are not as lazy and chatty as my small group. The only way we were killing any weeds was by standing on them for prolonged periods.

They will be led by the intrepid Ben Marsh (and maybe me depending on the number of equine emergencies on Saturday) -

The To-Do List -

  • Harvest – see the critically acclaimed  (ok, one friend liked it at least) “how to harvest” post
  • Run drip system the entire time while at the garden, maybe through lunch if someone can come back and turn it off later. See the less well received “how to water” post. (if it rains more than a sprinkle this week, adjust accordingly)
  • fertilize – you guessed it, there is a “how to fertilize” post
  • Weed, weed , weed! There is no post for that, just pull weeds!
  • Plant Okra (brought by Ben) in bed #1
  • Harvest Potatoes in bed #2, ,will they be blue?
  • Build community
  • Pray for those who work in the garden and especially those who receive it’s goodness.
  • Go to lunch. Have a beer, you (might, depending on how hard you worked) deserve it.

Christ Church Youth Group Shows Bermuda Grass Who is Who Around Garden

March 29th, 2012

Christ Church Garden, City School, Austin, Texas – In an unprecedented show of force and might, The Christ Church Youth Group (1-0) defeated Bermuda Grass (30-1) 15 to nil this past Sunday night.

It was a beautiful late spring evening at Christ Church Garden and the undefeated Bermuda Grass came out looking pretty smug. There was even some talk of Bermuda Grass claiming Christ Church Garden as it’s new home field. But the Youth Group, a team full of rookies and with a few aging veterans sprinkled in, was taking no prisoners.

It was apparent in the first ten minutes of action that Bermuda Grass had met it’s match. The Youth Group spread out with rakes, hoes, hand spades, mattocks, gloves, bare hands and teeth. The beating Bermuda Grass took from all quarters was a sight to see and the rout was on. As soon as the Youth Group had defeated part of the Bermuda Grass team, they would cover the area with mulch, adding insult to injury.

For a brief moment, it looked like Bermuda Grass had found a way to stop the hemorrhage when it’s close ally and secret weapon, Poison Ivy, was called off the bench. But the Youth Group was undeterred, tromping through Ivy’s worst with little to no concern for personal well fare. Later this week, an injury report will be out to ascertain Ivy’s true damage to the team.

The game was called off when, with Bermuda badly beaten, the Youth pulled six cucumbers from the Garden. It was the first harvest from the Garden and showed who the victors were beyond any doubt.

Post game interviews from Bermuda included threats and promises to “be back, and in greater numbers”, but the Youth Group promised they would be there as well. Especially if there would be hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and cookies again next time.

A re-match is already scheduled for early next fall.