12 days. 2 managers. 5 woodchucks. 127 mice. 4,978 voles. Unlimited birds. 1 mission.
As you may have judged from our last post, SLUG has been in transition since August 17th, 2014. We have spent 12 perilous days and nights out on the terrain, fighting The Battle of Memorial Hill. With the glorious end in sight, history books will soon reflect our journey, chronicling the sweat, tears, and infinite buckets of water that have been shed. Oh- I’m sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll begin at the start of our journey.
The morning of August 17th was nothing out of the ordinary- unavoidably cold, beautiful, and exciting. We drudged out of our mosquito-netted hammocks at 6am and scaled Memorial Hill expertly to reach our battlezone, SLUG. We were confronted with the same garden we had always seen, but for some reason, our perceptions became heightened, and we realized the severity of our situation. Stumped-out zucchini littered the ground, overshadowing the half-eaten tomatoes that were haphazardly strewn about. (I mean c’mon woodchucks, you couldn’t even clean up after your dinner?) Our cucumber bed was yet again trampled and eaten, despite the GENIUS spraying of coyote pee, a tactic taken from the terrible Appleton Coyote/Hyena War of 2003. What lay in front of us was no longer 32 beds, a 90 foot hoop-house, and infinite possibility for personal growth among perennial growth, but a warzone on the brink of collapse. We had to act fast.
We consulted General Clark, an expert in Croc trivia and guerrilla-gardening tactic. After pacing up and down the woodchipped veins of our fallen fortress, he spoke the greatest words ever known to be heard in those hallowed halls: “Cate, Aiden, if there was one thing I could tell you, it would be this: Mankind must put an end to war, before war can put an end to mankind. IHRTLUHC.” (This soundly oddly familiar to a JFK quote, but we knew that General Clark had spoken from his heart.) Flabbergasted and humbled, we watched in awe as he called his trusty steed, a ravenous and terrifying lil puppy, and strolled away with no further comment, only stopping to admire our newly constructed compost bins. And just as quickly as he had come, he was gone in the wind.
“Was that just real life?” inquired Aiden, “or was that fantasy? I feel as if I’m caught in a landslide, no escape from reality.”
“Oh, my child,” Cate said, sprouting a Dumbledore-esque beard, “Of course it’s happening in your head, Aiden, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?”
It was then when we realized what had to be done. Blasting the battle anthem “Flawless”, by Beyonce, we drew up our plans and started our journey. The plans are of course top-secret, as I’m sure you all understand, so all I can share are a few “code words”:
kale. mizuna. tot soi. starts. in. beds. cilantro. greens. netting over greens. reinforce fencing. plant radishes. flowers. cover crops. chard looks excellent. eggplant. more radishes. save cucumbers. deer guard. onion/garlic extract spray. confidence. we woke up like this. we flawless. ladies. tell ‘em.
After following a “rinse-and-repeat” type execution, SLUG bounced back. Here we stand, 12 days later, united. We tore down that wall, we looked Buttons (the woodchuck,) in the whites of his eyes, we put a man on the moon and asked not what The Battle of Memorial Hill could do for our garden, but what the garden could do for The Battle of Memorial Hill. And we succeeded. But, I’m probably boring you to death. A picture is worth exactly 239 words, so, I’ll let them do the talking.
We are blessed with a beautiful tomato crop this season. Most are greening/on their way to ripening up, YUMMY! We’ve managed to develop a trellising system with twine and metal stakes- fairly simple and sturdy.
Our peach and apple trees are producing plentiful fruit- most of which is so tempting to eat whilst working, but we resist the urge to snack. This is the view from the road off of Lawe Street.
These are our new & improved compost bins. After a tune-up of the bins constructed in the early 2000’s, our wonderful past garden manager Polly Dalton, (now serving on the Appleton City Council) and our new compost manager, Brian DeCorte, developed a new technique. With a little brainstorming and the muscle of Cate, Aiden, and some volunteers, we finally finished construction with old pallets and hay. The right corridor already houses some summer composting. We can’t wait to use this new home – we feel like proud parents.
Our basil is SO BEAUTIFUL! Not only is it potent, but when mixed and chopped up with some SLUG arugula, it makes an amazing pesto. Quite incredible. It also serves as a natural barrier to animals trying to snack on our tomatoes- mother nature is so cute. We have sold some to Lawrence University’s summer staffing as well as Bon Appetit, the catering services here at LU.
With every sustainable gardening practice, there are going to be roadblocks to get through. Challenge makes us smarter and well-rounded! This summer, our resident woodchucks (there are 5 of them, all aptly named Buttons) have done a real number on the garden. We’ve felt under siege as of late. After two months of expert fencing technique, companion planting spicy greens around important crops, using coyote pee on the perimeters of our hoophouse, utilizing live traps and bait, and numerous other guerrilla gardening tactics, the woodchucks have still come out on top. They can climb! They’ve eaten zucchini, green tomatoes (before they even ripen, c’mon guys), ALL OF OUR KALE, chard, cucumber, and beans. We live trapped ONE, but when we took him away to the other side of the river, I guess the woodchucks called in their backup troops and went to WAR with us. Bunnies and a mother deer with her baby fawn have declared war on us. It is discouraging, yes, but Aiden and I have worked very hard to stay positive. With the help of facility services, we are working with a company that can hopefully get rid of the problem. It’s been a long fight, but our produce is #1, and these woodchucks have got to be relocated. Hopefully it works! It has been a great test in creativity, patience, and trial/error.
All in all, this summer has been a highly exciting one! We are so very lucky to be a part of the continuous think-tank that is SLUG. We’ll update you again soon!
This summer, we have two lovely people managing the garden with the assistance of 3 grRReat interns. Meet the team!
Aiden Campbell and Cate Bentley, co-managers:
Aiden, native to Fort Collins, Colorado, is majoring in Theater Arts. Cate, native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is pursuing a history major at Lawrence University. Both are going into their junior year, and have been a part of the SLUG fam since 2012.
Jake Valente, pictured center, intern:
Jake is studying as a Russian/French double major. Hailing from Elgin, Illinois, (home of the plant that makes those big sweeper truck things!), Jake is interning this summer in SLUG, working about 10 hours a week. Also pictured are Gus Murphy and Ridley Tankersly, two members of the SLUG Summer Meal Plan Co-op, who volunteer weekly down in SLUG.
Tracy Johnson and Will Gislason, interns:
Tracy is from St.Louis, Missouri, and is looking to major in Linguistics and Russian Literature. She is also interning in the garden, waking up as early as 5am to come help the managers down in the garden! Also pictured is Will Gislason, SLUG’s final intern. Will is SLUG’s upcoming financial manager for the school year, and is majoring in both Environmental Studies and Biology. Both have dedicated a good part of their summer to helping the beautiful garden grow!
Pictures from the week of 7/14-7/19 :)
It’s a beautiful one here in Appleton as Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens enters July of our summer season. We have a lot to catch up on, so let’s get started.
The summer has been amazing so far- so many beautiful growing opportunities (both personal and agriculturally) for the garden. We have a full crew this summer-two managers, Aiden Campbell and Cate Bentley, (as well as the expertise of next year’s co-manager, Abigail Hindson before she jetted off to Argentina) and a few summer interns! Tracy Johnson, Will Gislason, and Jake Valente are all putting in 10+ hours a week helping the managers and leading summer garden hours, which are below. Hours occur daily from 6am-10am, as well as Tuesday/Thursday from 6pm-8pm. We’ve been inviting the campus staff, faculty, and student summer residents to come get dirty with us! Here is our poster:
In addition to garden hours, we also compost weekly, collecting compost from Bon Appetit Catering, Copper Rock cafe, Harmony Cafe, and Aspen Cafe. It’s a beautiful thing, staying connected to the Appleton community with a sustainable purpose. It’s so lovely!
So far, we’ve encountered a few tricksters, but have all of our beds planted! When you run a sustainable and organic garden, a lot of different factors are at play. The garden sees it’s far share of woodchucks (all named Buttons,) rabbits, weeds, voles, bugs, and turtles. We recently found a whole spattering of turtle eggs in our wood-chip pile! We do not use pesticides or herbicides, but instead use alternative methods (like planting certain greens in a line vs randomly seeding to trick bugs,) to combat the few, and totally normal, obstacles we encounter in our space. Cate calls it “Guerilla Gardening”. It’s very chic. :)
As of right now, we have many things growing and doing beautifully:
- Tomatoes, (green zebra, san marzano, brandywine, and suzanne varieties),
- pole beans
- greens (kale, mizuna, chard, tot soi, arugula)
- herbs (basil, thyme, parsley, oregano, mint, chocolate mint, terragon, catnip!)
- an ABUNDANCE OF CHIVES!
and introducing our new perennial food forest:
- berry bushes (buffalo berries, black berries, raspberries)
- trees (peach, apple, pears)
We will continue to post sporadically and keep the interwebs updated on what’s happening down in the garden. We are looking forward to giving staff tours, tours to Appleton businesses, harvesting herbs and peas for staff sales, continuing our relationship with Riverview Gardens, and breathing in the beautiful rain that we’ve gotten so much of! :)
Thank you for reading, and enjoy the summer! If you have any questions, email:
Vernon and Veronica, Resident Voles of SLUG
Composting: A How-to Guide
Disclaimer: you will only understand these jokes if you have composted. If you haven’t, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?
1. Wear multiple rings and sandals. If you like callouses and broken toenails, pay specific attention to this step.
2. Only compost during blizzards. We had a great time last Monday during the blizzard as we did not have the truck and had to lug the compost across icy, traffic-ridden, death roads. Lots of character and ego-building there due to heavy buckets, staring drivers, and heavy souls.
3. Squeeze as many people as you can into Truck #5. Try to avoid driving the truck into the Fox River…that already happened and it won’t be as funny the second time.
4. Make sure there’s an odd number of people. That way, you can have a cheering section.
5. Come hungry. Sometimes there are whole strawberries (just ask Aiden).
6. We only use frozen woodchips.
7. Always wear your Sunday best. You never get muddy, or smelly, or wet. Everything always goes perfectly.
8. If you’re trying to impress someone you’re interested in, bring them composting for a great first date. You’re bound to look super graceful dragging a 50-pound bucket full of rotting food through the snow.
9. We only have two rules: try your best, and then do your best.
10. We compost every week day (that’s Monday to Friday, folks) at 3:45 p.m. MWF at the Loading Dock (behind Phi Tau), and T-Th in the garden.
Looking forward to getting dirty with you!
Cake and AppleKale
Photo credit: SLUG
Purslane is the Clark Kent of weeds. It hides there in plain sight with its unassuming looks as just another green thing in the garden, but once brought into the kitchen – BAM! – it is the greatest ingredient and sometimes even saves the day. I learned about many plants while working in the garden this summer, but I have a special attachment to purslane. I had been hearing about this amazing purslane soup for the better half of the summer and finally decided to look into recipes using the secret delicacy. I entered the green into Food Gawker (as you do) and more recipes than I thought would popped up. I settled on purslane pancakes (http://www.hawberry.net/2010/08/23/purslane-pancakes ).
Best. Choice. Ever.
Although purslane does not carry a strong taste, the plant offered a light flavor that s enjoyed by all for dinner that night. I could have used spinach or kale for the meal, but why not use something that I can find for free in my own backyard?! Purslane saves the day and acts as a great substitute when there are none of the usual greens in the fridge.
I also consider purslane my personal superhero because, when I am far away from home (as far away from India!), purslane never fails to show up and provide me with a little comfort of home.