by Cheryl McKeough
Master fiddler Alasdair Fraser, long regarded as Scotland's premier fiddle ambassador, and Natalie Haas, one of the most sought after cellists in Celtic music today, have represented Scotland at the Smithsonian's Folklife Festival and have been featured on nationally broadcast Performance Today, Thistle & Shamrock, and Mountain Stage. Their critically acclaimed debut recording Fire & Grace won the coveted Scots Traditional Music "Album of the Year," the Scottish equivalent of a Grammy. In recent years Alasdair and Natalie have helped reconstruct and revive the Scottish tradition of playing dance music on violin and cello ("wee fiddle" and "big fiddle"). Alasdair and Natalie will be playing at West Parish Church in Andover, MA on December 4 starting at 7:30pm. This is a benefit concert for Permaculture West Parish, which donates its produce to food pantries in the Merrimack Valley area. Tickets are on sale in the church office for twenty-five dollars, and will be sold at the door for $30 each if still available the the night of the concert. Below is a link to buying tickets for twenty-five dollars, plus a small fee online: http://permaculturewestparish.brownpapertickets.com/ This concert presents a rare opportunity to hear internationally famous musicians locally. Please come out and join us at this wonderful event! Live music has a way of feeding people’s spirit, in much the same way that working under an open sky with living plants does for those of us who garden. As our gardening year winds to a close we think ahead to sustainability for the garden’s future. Sustainability is a term that has many meanings. Financial sustainability is is an important component in a garden like this. It is the motivator for this concert, as well as another concert to follow in the spring. We will “bookend” our growing year with music! So please come out on the evening of December 4th and fill your ears and spirit with some terrific live music, and help us to again next year fill some of our neighbor’s bellies with good and healthy organic produce.
The fall season is upon us and we are reflecting on bountiful harvest our West Parish Permaculture Garden has produced this year. So many beautiful red tomatoes- plum and cherry, cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash, colorful swiss chard, butternut squash, and amazing eggplant. The garden is still producing our fall plantings - acorn squash, purple kale, brussel sprouts, cabbage, green beans and very hot peppers - always good for chili and hot sauce. We have been diligent in our deliveries of produce to Bread and Roses, Lazarus House, Esperanza Academy and Cor Unum. They are so grateful for our donations.
We had a goal of growing 500 pounds of food this year and we are proud to say we have exceeded this goal and are now at over 600 pounds. This will continue to increase as we haven’t harvested all the produce in the garden. It is amazing to see how the weight of the produce adds up each time we harvest the vegetables especially the butternut squash which really adds to the poundage. Our committee really gets excited when hear the new total weight.
Check out our picture of the butternut squash we have harvested. Except for a few crows that pecked away at the squash - our crop this year was superb. There is nothing like butternut squash with melted butter and brown sugar or butternut squash soup which we sampled at our Permaculture Garden service at church this past Sunday. It was enjoyed by many along with other dishes prepared from our garden produce – pico de gallo, vegetable soup, etc. We look forward to harvesting the remainder of the produce in the coming weeks. It has been a very successful garden season.
By Linda Willis
Our Permaculture Garden is finally producing a bounty we are sharing with food pantries in the Merrimack Valley. We have experienced the worst drought in years, we’ve fought squash bugs and crows, but with persistence and vigilance from the team, we are finally seeing the fruits of our labor. I think one of the most exciting things about this phase of our project has been to see the smiles on the faces of the groups who have received our produce. Our goal is to donate everything we grow, but because this is our first season, we had no idea the emotional impact it would have on all of us as we hand boxes of produce to the members of our community who need it most. Our food pantries are extremely grateful for the produce, and we, in turn, are extraordinarily grateful to be part of their community
How does our garden grow? Very well thank you. Even in this extra dry summer, our garden has already produced 150 pounds of vegetables and we have made deliveries to Bread and Roses, Lazarus House, Cor Unum and Esperanza Academy. We are currently harvesting zucchini and summer squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, green and jalapeno peppers, chard and eggplant. Our butternut squash are starting to ripen and we have planted kale, acorn squash, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and beans as our late fall crops. The five pear trees are well established, as is our pollinator section of perennials. We have had some problems with crows but have installed netting and reflective strips to try to keep them at bay. We have recently re-mulched the pathways with bark mulch provided gratis by Peter Retelle. Much of the drip irrigation system, being installed by Andrew Kazmer as his Eagle Scout project, is in place and we expect the rain collection part of the system to be added soon. The recipients of our garden’s output have expressed their immense thanks to West Parish for supplementing the food they provide to the Lawrence community. They and we on the steering committee are hoping to do even better next season with your continuing support. Check us out in the latest issue of The Andovers magazine and stop by for a look.
By Cheryl Platt McKeough
The cycle of the seasons has nearly come full circle since we started our garden. The fruits of our labor have begun, and they are vegetables. Beautiful, colorful, and delicious looking vegetables. How rewarding it is to be able to share the produce from our garden with others. Chard, peppers, summer squash, cucumbers, and several types of tomatoes are being delivered to various food organizations in Lawrence. And they are just the start. There are green beans, eggplant, winter squash and pumpkin on the way, and more greens to plant for fall. Such bounty from what was very poor soil just a year ago is miraculous to me. And to think that next year the soil will be even richer, deeper, and more productive!
Alongside our vegetables the pollinator garden is slowly establishing itself. Perennial plants take their time, and spend the first season putting their effort into growing a healthy root system. All the progress is underground, and we must be satisfied that it is happening, even though we cannot see it. Grow little roots, grow! The butterflies, bees and flies await, and you will help attract them to our garden to pollinate our next harvest. And the pollinators will attract young children to explore our garden, as well. Perhaps they will be inspired to begin a garden of their own one day. Another cycle come full circle.
By Gretchen Detora
There is something about watering a garden that puts me in a meditative state. When I water my garden or the permaculture garden at the church my thoughts seem to evaporate into the air like little water droplets. I feel a sense of calm - there is nothing there for me to do except to water the garden. It is a kind of spiritual experience for me - I am energy as are the plants, the soil, the water. We are all made up of the same molecules so it is a feeling of oneness with everything.
I think we all would agree that our world is filled with stresses and things that consume our lives so when we get an opportunity to escape that for just a little bit of time it can rejuvenate us, slow our breathing, take away the stresses of the day. Perhaps the next time you water your garden you can relax and take in all the beauty and just be with nature. Happy Watering!
By: Christopher Swain
06:34 PM Eastern Daylight Time today (June 20th) marks the official first day of summer in the northern hemisphere. This day is also widely known as the longest day of the year although a few of my colleagues on the Permaculture team may disagree with that definition. It is not the day with the earliest sunrise or the latest sunset, simply the day with the greatest amount of available sunlight. I am mentioning this because I’m grateful that we have the majority of our food crops planted and they are taking full advantage of all of the available sunlight. It is amazing to see how an unused parcel of land on an otherwise forgotten side of West Parish Church has been transformed over the course of 8 months into a fully functioning Permaculture garden. It will be even more amazing once we begin harvesting the fruits of our labor and sharing them with the larger community!
My colleagues have previously written about what Permaculture means to them, what significance this garden has on the community and what they hope to take away from the experience. They have spoken of “community”, “education”, “support” and “care for the Earth”. I fully support and agree with each of their assessments.
Personally I wanted to get involved with Permaculture at West Parish for three main reasons. First is that I am a novice Green Thumb, someone that relies on Miracle Grow and Roundup to make my lawn and garden bloom. The opportunity to learn how to garden using native plants and species as your ally was something that I was eager to learn more about. The sooner I can ditch the chemicals from my gardening technique, the better! Secondly I wanted to help expand West Parish Church’s outreach into the larger community and I saw this project as a perfect opportunity to do that. Having a working garden visible from Shawsheen Road is just the start. Once we start harvesting our zucchini’s, tomatoes, butternut squash, etc. and are able to provide needed food to individuals and communities, they will know exactly where it came from and who provided it. I think that is fantastic. I never know where my tomato was grown if I buy it at Market Basket never mind how it made its way to the store.
Lastly I’m looking forward to preparing cooked meals from our harvest that will be shared with the community. I’m thinking of how tasty the Ratatouille dish will be later in August or how delicious a hot bowl of Roasted Butternut Squash soup will taste when the leaves begin turning in the fall. Sharing our harvest is probably what I’m most excited about! I can’t wait for our first Community meal later this year! Keep an eye out for dates and times and thank you for all your continued support!
Written By: Jerry Greer
We’ve been waiting impatiently all winter for warm weather so we can FINALLY get some plants in the ground. The season cooperated and we have prepared the beds and put in many of our starts. We now have tomatoes, summer and zucchini squash, bell peppers and five pear trees growing away. We’ll be planting seeds for some of our row crops and making hills for our cucumbers and larger squash. One portion of the garden, just outside the kindergarten windows, will have a variety of herbs and wild flowers which will attract pollinators and other useful and/or attractive insects.
All of us who have put in time in the garden (and those who have given their financial and psychic support) anticipate several outcomes from this project. First and most obvious is the food we plan to share with organizations feeding the hungry in the Greater Lawrence area. Second we are providing a demonstration to the Andover community of what permaculture gardening looks like and what it can accomplish. Third we are building a community of support within our church and with others who help out in the garden and who will receive the product of our efforts. Fourth is a sense of purpose and accomplishment for the gardeners and our supporters.
This summer we will be watering, weeding, replanting and harvesting. We’re looking forward to those activities. Drop by and take a look.
As an educator working with young learners for the past twenty years, I know the above title to be true, both literally and figuratively. Children arrive hardwired with a curiosity and excitement for the natural world. In just one day on the playground at LLL Preschool in our Pre-K class we: examined ant hills and speculated on what was going on beneath the ground, studied the gnaw marks left in a black walnut shell by rodents extracting the nut, and wondered at flying insects attracted to the yellow slide. All these activities were child initiated. Not a recess goes by without at least one of our four or five year old children running up to teachers, calling excitedly “come see what we found!” To teach is to be rewarded with these interactions. To be lead by the hand to share in the thrill of the discovery of a Fowler’s toad hunting around the sandbox is worth more than stock options to a nature enthusiast like myself. By sharing that thrill, we help today’s children develop their love of nature, and draw them somewhat away from the thrall of their electronic devices. We care about things that we feel connected to, and as Dr. Seuss says:
I’m grateful that the West Parish Church community has made the generous commitment to hosting the Permaculture garden. My hope is that some of the families from LLL and Discover will find time to join us, and grow our community! This fabulous committee has been an enthusiastic supporter of my hope of incorporating a pollinator garden into the design. This will be a living laboratory right outside our windows! Some of the children have been building and painting birdhouses to install in the garden. They will also take some home, thereby extending our lesson into their own yards. We have many more plans ahead, including Stanley’s Garden, a raised-bed for veggies to feed to our pet guinea pig! We have also started pumpkin seedlings for our jack-o-lantern patch.
Let the digging begin!!
Cheryl Platt McKeough
LLL Preschool teacher
By: Abby Martin, Committee Member
As a seasoned New England gardener, I am accustomed to patiently awaiting the arrival of Spring. This Spring, however, the anticipation is greater than usual. Not only do I get to tend to my own small garden, I have the blessed opportunity to work with the committee and the community in the next phase of the Permaculture garden at WPC.
The devoted committee met diligently thru the winter. We had several interactive and informational meetings with an expert advisor, Jono Neiger of Regenerative Design Group. So much information!!! So much enthusiasm!!! We watched power point presentations and visited many links on the internet. Thus inspiring us for the creation of the design for the garden.
We have prepared a list of the vegetables and flowers. Tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, peppers, beans , squash and a few other items. We have an assortment of flowering plants to attract butterflies, too.
Our next step will be flagging out the bed designs and staking the pathways. It is May 2 as I am writing this. Cold and wet! But I am a seasoned New England gardener and have faith that "real Spring" is not too far away.
Permaculture Garden at West Parish Church - Andover, MA
Permaculture West Parish
129 Reservation Rd.
Andover, MA 01810
129 Reservation Rd.
Andover, MA 01810