A couple years ago I helped my friends Kjell and Kim get started gardening in their back yard in Northeast Portland. They were enthusiastic and had a great first year, but life intervened the next season and it got away from them. Surveying the jungle this spring, Kjell had the idea of getting friends together to get the garden up and running again and making it an excuse to come together for a meal every week or so. Thus the garden would get the attention it deserved and we could spend time together regularly… Mallory Farm was born.
Every Monday night this season we’ve planted, weeded, watered and harvested with a rotating group of families and neighbors. The garden has undergone an amazing transformation, lots of new skills have been learned by doing and many great meals (spearheaded by Kim, thank you!) have been eaten at the picnic table. We’ve pickled beets, dried tomatoes and had cocktails made with garden produce. The season will start to wind down soon but the garden is getting prepared for winter with cold weather crops like cabbage, kale and brussels sprouts. We’re planting mustard greens, cilantro, spinach and fall lettuce varieties. Maybe in the next few weeks we’ll make some simple cloches for greens.
There has been fine tuning along the way, as there always is with organic processes like building community and growing vegetables. We’re created a little more structure (rsvp, please!), jimmied with the drip irrigation, called a few crops a loss and tried a lot of new recipes.
We’re had some unexpected successes too, like an excellent carrot patch and a bumper crop of large heirloom tomatoes (it’s a pretty rare year in Portland when that happens!) The French pumpkin start I impulsively purchased in June has become a monster vine with several huge, gorgeous fruits ripening on it.
Over the course of the last few months the little kids involved have participated in all sorts of ways, tasting, weeding, planting. Last night my toddler used a little clipper for the first time to help cut down the mint patch. It was a little nerve wracking for me but he was so proud of himself. We garden at home most days but there is something special about gardening with friends. Sometimes I get caught up in the list of things to do and making sure everyone has a job. The kids help me remember to enjoy the process.