Pacific Northwest Community Gardening

The Pacific Northwest is a gardeners delight. Oregon in Particular has a bounty of great soil, mild temperatures and irrigation channels straight to the heavens. Most people raised up around these parts have childhood memories of Saturday’s spent shoveling bark dust, pulling weeds and mowing grass. We also have fond memories of freely picking raspberries straight from the bush, smelling an assortment of roses and shelling peas straight into our little mouths.  Work and the fruits of work instill critical life lessons in young and old alike.

Bacterial Exposure is Fun

June wasn’t even a month old when I took her out to the tulip festival farm in Woodburn Oregon. As a believer in the benefits of diverse bacteria colonization, I wanted her to be exposed to some of our good Oregon soil as soon as possible. Since we live in a second floor apartment downtown Portland, newborn soil options are slim. I love the dog park and recognize the benefits of canine exposure for a healthy gut, but I just couldn’t bring a new born there for bacteria exposure. Plus, I wanted to get some lovely newborn shots outside and the tulip festival seemed like the right place at the right time. Both flower and child were in full bloom.

In Full Bloom
June’s first visit to a garden: Age 7 days

While we were wandering among the crowds of tulips and people at the Tulip Festival, I was taken back at what a smart idea it was for that family farm to open it’s space up to the community. For generations they have been growing a truly lovely plant in a artistic way. Why not diversify their business by recognizing the plant as a public attraction and inviting the public to enjoy the spring harvest? It’s nice way to spend a mild spring day and we recommend it as an easy PNW family outing.

Open Up Your Space

Fast forward to fall of this same year. My sister, Torrey, has enjoyed her second growing season in her Portland home with an expansive backyard. She has dubbed the space, with it’s ornamental trees, raised beds, garden art and fire pit “the sanctuary”.

Torrey is a card carrying community creator and enjoys hosting all kinds of interesting people in her space on a regular basis. When it came time to put her garden down to rest for the winter, she jumped at the chance to make it a community based event.

Make a list
Torrey, ready to share the sanctuary.

We chose a late fall day that might be good weather wise, created a Facebook event and invited a handful of people who she knew would like to get their hands in the soil. Beneficial bacteria is not just for babies!

Feed the Help

Torrey took stock of her end of the season garden yield. It included: jalapeño peppers, green and ripe tomatoes, acorn squash, kale, rosemary and horseradish. Plus, her friendly neighbor Jay had some quince he was eager to share.

Menu Inspiration
The remains of a lovely growing season.
Fresh Quince Cider
Neighbor, Jay, happily sharing his fruit.

From this list, she worked with her good friend and personal chef, Jessica Callahan, to create a simple menu to share with the garden helpers. Jessica’s talents are in the kitchen, so she opted to come to the event with that intention: feeding the workers.

Since we had Jessica and her expertise, we went all out with a beverage, several appetizers, a soup and main course. But, this could be much simpler, if that helps get the event done. Just some tea and a soup with one appetizer would be sufficient. It’s nice if you can use your harvest as a base for the food. But, if you don’t have much in that department, choose some fall veggies that are plentiful at local stores. The idea is to create community while taking care of your Earth; not to overwork yourself or anyone else.

Fourth Circle Foods
Personal Chef Jessica Callahan

Divide and Conquer

While Jessica worked in the kitchen, we worked in the garden. Cutting back plants, mulching, digging up the remains and cleaning up the boxes. We worked from a list that Torrey had prepared, to be sure everything got accomplished. As appetizers were ready, they were brought out for the helpers and a thermos of cider was kept warm for refills. Keep everyone warm & well fed.

Mulching and munching.
Mulching and munching.
Coming together makes the job fun & light.
Coming together makes the job fun & light.

A Time for Relaxing Together

Many hands make light work. It didn’t take long for us to get the garden in good shape to rest for the winter. Jessica had the steak with horseradish sauce, acorn squash soup and zucchini tomato salad ready at the same time.

A well deserved meal from the fruits of our labor.
A well deserved meal from the fruits of our labor.

We all sat down for a outdoor fall meal under a canopy. Just in time for a serious rain shower to take over in the garden. Ah, Oregon!