March 21, 2011 Mini-Farm Missive

Greetings All plotnicks,

Here’s a recap of some of our conversation and decisions from our meeting on March 21.  First, thanks again to Jan and Bob for hosting—how sweet and comfortable it is to be in your warm and cozy home!   And thanks to all for your contributions to a sumptuous supper.

News    Steve Marglin has offered to bring us a truckload of composted manure!  We will need a group of people to unload on a Sunday in April.   Peter Merbacher of New Growth Gardens has offered to give us lots of seedlings.  He mentioned that he just planted 1000 seedlings over the weekend, for his various gardens.   Providence Ministries in Holyoke feeds 180-200 people a day in the summers (lunch) and another 150-200 families in the evening, and they would be deeply grateful to receive whatever fresh food we have to offer them.  All of it would be used.  None would go to waste.  People come from many surrounding cities and towns to eat at these kitchens.  They do have a truck and will be happy to come to pick up food.  Also, they are open 7 days a week and we can drop off food at any time, so we do not have to worry about waste.

Rob Kaufman did mention that an herbicide was used for the first time last year to get rid of dandelions. He will try to find the name of the pesticide and its effects—it was Not Round-Up.

Design Group      Ruth and Jan and Bob presented 3 possible designs for the garden.  Each involved 3 raised beds that would be 4×8 or 4×6.  We will grow vegetables in the raised beds, where we are assured of the soil quality.  There would also be several inground beds in which we can grow flowers and gourds (Sukkot).  Many different kinds of plants will be grown in each bed.

The group decided to start with a relatively small area, to insure that we can care for it.  If it turns out that our group expands, and it is clear that we have a committed group of Plotniks, we can expand the garden for a second planting.

As soon as Aaron gets the blog up, we can post the design on our blog.  We leave it up to the design group to decide which design they would like to recommend to the larger committee.

We discussed building a shed in the shaded area next to the synagogue wall (in between the windows where it would not be visible)  We may also want to have a sitting area in the shade.

•Danielle will be collecting soil samples for a soil test and contacting U. MA extention.

•Designers will decide which designs they want to recommend and prepare a graphic for a presentation to the larger group on April 4.

• Group will stake out the garden on Sunday April 3.  Bob will provide stakes and string.  Ellen will alert  the building committee and maintainance staff

Establishing garden/Lawn discussion      We discussed  several possibilities regarding the establishment of a garden space.

• pulling up the sod

• laying cardboard/newspaper over the sod and then putting compost on top of that and planting over that

• we did not discuss rototilling (as we have been trying to keep the garden “sustainable”—but this is an option as well. . . Steve Marglin has offered his rototiller.)

We can all be thinking about this and we can put the question out to the larger community.  We may want to see how many people are willing to come out to pull up sod on  Sunday, April 10–if we have enough people for this activity, perhaps we should go ahead and remove the sod.   While pulling up the sod is lots of work, it could be a great community building activity, and for some people in the group it is the preferable option.

Scheduling     Shemariah provided us with a sample overall garden calendar to keep us on task.  Much of the “heavy lifting” work will be required on the front end in April and May as we need to establish the space itself as well as a shed and composting area.   We decided to set up a few initial workdays on Sundays in April and will establish more once we get a sense of how the project is unfolding.

The current schedule is:

Sunday, April 3:  1:00                         Core Group Staking the Garden design

Monday, April 4: 7:00 (synagogue)              Community Meeting

Updates on Garden progress–Ellen

Garden Design—Jan, Ruth, Bob

Soil test results–Danielle

Compost ideas—Robert


Needs and work day sign-ups—Ellen

Sunday, April 17th 10 AM            Work Day: Sod Removal or Prep of Sod or Rototilling

Sunday, April 24  1 PM                Work Day: Double Digging and Building of Raised Be

May 2nd Work Day: Double Digging and Building Projects

Compost    Shemariah will share the composting ideas and designs via email and we can also post to the blog

Needs Ellen will be posting a letter to the JCA community updating on the progress to date and the schedule.  She will also be asking for things we need.

How Can You contribute to the MINIFARM?

• Are you growing seedlings for your own garden?  Give the JCA all the seedlings you can’t use.  Or feel free to buy some seedlings for the farm; we’ll let you know what we need.

• Join us on Sunday Workdays beginning in April

• Do you have old garden tools that you want to contribute?  We hope to have kids-sized tools as well as regular tools for adults.

• Do you have building skills or building materials?  We need you to help build our shed, compost bins and fence.


Thanks for all your great work and look forward to seeing you soon,




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