Garden Memoirs Wrap-Up and Merrimack Garden Expansion

The lull between planting and harvest time is perfect for reflecting on the busy spring we had in Garden Memoirs class. Dr. Perks taught ESS 3600, an Environmental Studies + Arts and Literature class, for the first time in spring 2019, working with a fantastic group of students from a range of majors. We went from struggling to identify the significance of honeybees in the opening scene of our first book, Farm City by Novella Carpenter, to talking extensively about the symbolism of hatching a new flock of heritage turkeys at the end of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It was a rewarding semester, full of human and plant growth.

In addition to honing our critical reading and writing skills throughout the semester (with blog posts, reflection papers, and literary criticism), we also engaged in a lot of food- and garden-related work, some of which is recapped here.

Follow our garden progress on Instagram at ‘Merrimack Garden!’

In the warm, communal space of the 47 Lounge during the colder months, we practiced food preservation skills. During one memorable class, we made over a dozen jars of dill pickles, crafted sustainable beeswax wraps, and perused garden catalogs to help plan our garden.

Jar of dill pickles with snowy background. Photo by Lisa Perks

On another busy class period, later in the semester, we made two apple pies and fresh cheese. Even more exciting: we ate all of our delicious food the next time class met.

Two apple pies cool and cheese curds separate from whey. Photo by Lisa Perks.

All three of our books emphasized raising animals for meat, eggs, and/or milk. Daisy, Lily, and Speckle (three chicks raised for egg laying), visited Garden Memoirs class and the Humor and Media class (pictured below).

Three chicks visit the animal-whispering students in Humor and Media class. Photo by Lisa Perks.

Once the ground thawed, we began work on what would be our proudest accomplishment: expanding plantings at Merrimack’s Rock Ridge Rd. garden site. We tested the soil, analyzed what had been planted the previous year (rotating the crops to prevent disease), extensively researched plant growth habits and disease susceptibility, thought about our community’s needs, and mapped out our plantings.

Pete, Brayden, and Ben identify last year’s plants. Photo by Lisa Perks.

After a trip with Stephanie and Danny (pictured below) to haul our raised-bed cedar lumber back to campus, we were ready to get building.

Stephanie and Danny with the cedar lumber. Photo by Lisa Perks (pictured in shadow).

And after a memorable, rainy-day trip to Lake Street Garden Center, we were ready to get planting. (See Jaiden’s blog post about the experience getting blueberries + apple trees, and check out our garden-themed playlist for the van ride.)

Spring planting photo by Stephanie Sartori
Worm heart photo by Stephanie Sartori
Blueberry planting photo by Stephanie Sartori
Watering impatiens photo by Stephanie Sartori

The plants have had over a month to settle in and grow. We’ve added other annuals and a team of volunteers for summer care. Plantings include strawberries, blueberries, apples, cucumbers, lettuce, pumpkins, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, potatoes, and a selection of herbs.

The garden is there to feed anyone in our community. Stop by Rock Ridge Rd. to enjoy the plants, pull some weeds, and eat some food! Our Merrimack Garden Instagram account will have updates on what’s ready to harvest. Here’s a look at the progress as of June 9th, 2019.

Lettuce and dill planted by young women in the Lawrence Math and Science Partnership program. Photo by Lisa Perks
Early blueberry photo by Lisa Perks
Littlest Perks planting peppers and zinnias
Pumpkins planted by young women in the Lawrence Math and Science Partnership program. Photo by Lisa Perks
Everbearing strawberry photo by Lisa Perks

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