Not many people know what exists in the flat landscape that is South Dakota. To me, it is filled with rich culture, populated with the honest Lakota people looking for any means to survive. One of these people is named Patricia. Patricia has one large greenhouse that she uses to grow different kinds of plants and vegetables throughout the year to help support the poverty stricken Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Last year’s harvest from Patricia’s greenhouse and farm right outside harvested tens of thousands of pounds of potatoes, carrots, as well as many different kinds of flowers. The day that we were there, we helped plant tons of small plots that would end up being prepared finally by the group the next day. We planted heirloom balloon flowers, zinnias, Indian summer rudbeckias, and bright light cosmos, just to name a few. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any of the flowers that previous groups helped plant and grow as we were the second volunteer group at Re-Member for the season.
Any means of gardening/farming/agriculture, large or small makes the biggest difference for the residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation. On the Rez, there are very scarce resources, such as fresh produce. If you were to go to one of the gas stations/convenience stores called Sharp’s Corner, and you walked in you would see isles lined with the biggest brands of snack foods like Doritos, Pop-Tarts, Lays, Snickers, Reese’s. But what you wouldn’t see are any fresh fruits or vegetables until you went into the back left corner of the store to a small refrigerator unit that wasn’t filled with Kid Cuisine and Stouffer’s. In this refrigerator was the produce section of the store where a bag of grapes that cost $2-$3 dollars back home at Market Basket. In South Dakota, that bag of grapes costs upwards of more than $10 dollars to put things into prospective of what resources are available on the Rez.
Not quite a year ago I put up a six foot privacy fence around most of my yard. I say most of it, because on the east side of my driveway there is a strip about thirty feet wide, and a hundred or so feet long that we decided to leave unfenced. We did this for a couple reasons, mainly though because any kind of fence on that side makes it difficult to see oncoming traffic when pulling out of the driveway….which is kind of important. This space, which is occupied only by two Bradford Pears and hemmed in at one end with some Arborvitaes, is really a wasted area that needs a purpose.
I have a vision for it though, and it takes the form of a meadow garden. For those who don’t know what a meadow garden is, it is a planting area that basically has been allowed to revert back to a “natural” meadow-like state. When filled with hardy, native plants and wildflowers, these areas serve a very important role. First, they reduce the amount of a non-native and extremely invasive plant that is found in most lawns – grass. Second, they provide food and habitat for smaller animals like rabbits and chipmunks. This can be critical to their survival, especially in the colder months. Another essential service that meadow gardens provide, (and arguably the most important) is a source of food for our pollinators. The role pollinators play in agriculture cannot be understated and they must be protected.
In my situation, having a meadow garden will be mutually beneficial for both myself, and the pollinators as well. Just on the other side of the fence that borders this area, is my vegetable garden. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a steady decline in bees, and I believe this has contributed to some lackluster harvests. I’m hoping that by providing a smorgasbord of wildflowers just a few feet away, bees and other pollinators will be enticed to stick around. If that fails, at the very minimum I’ll at least have something that’s aesthetically pleasing.
As I begin this post, I would like to first welcome Spring, a season that embroiders life, growth, and vegetation in every facet of their meanings. Through this platform, I hope to both ignite and encourage growth in your own development and indulgence through reconnecting with the wonders our natural environment has provided, of course in a responsible manner. Pondering what concept my upcoming blog post might entertain, I decided that it would be appropriate to highlight my relationship with Spring. Ever since I could remember the first day of spring has always been a much anticipated day for me. In light of this year, upon waking up, I found myself gravitating towards the window, where I was greeted with the inviting sounds of chirping birds and a mild breeze that carried the air. This, I thought to myself, was another season of opportunity to work with the natural environment. Spring, A season which not only rekindles life in the physical sense, but also encourages new discoveries, and techniques that brand the labor of its title. Soon after this personal invitation of spring, I found myself in the yard glancing upon the landscape still patched with glistening white snow.
It is reflecting on the animation of Spring that I find myself as a part of the intricate system of networks deemed as our natural environment. Significantly, my earnest attempt to work with nature, rather than against it, is reverberated through my attempt at organic gardening. In light of this process, during the early days of Spring, I began to plant Organic, Non-GMO heirlooms in my strictly maintained organic compost and topsoil mix, and store them in my incubated sunroom. To that end, just the other day I woke up to several green sprouts surfacing the top of the soil. This, in its miraculous and fruitful journey, is pivotal in the attempt to creating and maintaining sustainable practices. Specifically, through diversifying and extending the life of a product/item in the effort of conservation.
To elaborate on this concern for deficiency in our ideology and social interaction that I would like to extend my evolution on the theory of sociological interaction. It is in earnest reflection of my often comprised relationship with the physical environment that I would like to echo my concern for the foreseeable future as a culture that caters to the demands of society. Regarding the present stature of our society, we should be amplifying means of prevention between the natural earth and its inhabitants. To that end, I find that as an environmental steward it is often difficult, although executed in a different capacity to interrupt the corrupt system that has been fortified through unsustainable practices deemed practical in the current social system. It is in light of this approach that I have attempted to avert the corruption of our social behavior through the act of organic gardening.
About two summers ago, me and a bunch of my friends decided to rent a nice house on a lake and stay there for a week. Once we got settled in we walked around the house and just to check out the scenery. Towards the back off the house there was a greenhouse filled with beautiful plants, flowers so bright and big. It was about the size of an our classroom. After walking through an observing something brought me back to the greenhouse, maybe it was the flowers, I am not really sure. As soon as I walk in I spot a giant lizard in the far back corner on the ground. Now this took me by surprise mainly because, IT IS A BEARDED DRAGON! I did not know what to do, the best thing I could think of was get him a cage and call the landlord. we called the and asked if he belonged to him and he did not. So, worried about him I took him home with me. The picture above is me and glump a year after first meeting. I brought him to our beach house in Ocean City Maryland.
Glump and I became very close over the last year and a half. I do everything with him, that is from eating breakfast to going to the beach. He has always been a positive in my life mainly because when I think of him, I think about where I found him and how alone he was. At that point in my life I believe I was feeling the same even though I was on vacation with my friends. Meeting Glump changed my views on people how they treat this world we live in. Leaving an animal, a precious animal like him in a greenhouse for god knows how long is just wrong.
Now how does this apply to Gardening?
In reality this does not apply to much to gardening but it does speak on nature and my connection to it. I have always been the kid to run towards a snake instead of away. Always been excited to go outdoors and explore rather than stay inside. Our community should take a better stance to help those like Glump, because he changed me for the better.
As you can see in the picture above, my family is tiny. In the center of every picture you can see in the light blue is my Pop Pop Carl, born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Every summer I made my way to Jamaica and there has always been a passion for nature in our culture mainly because of the life style we were brought up in. When it was time to prepare breakfast, lunch or dinner we and my grandfather and his tenant Sunshine would go out back, into his giant garden which is about 1 ½ acres. Full of Mangoes, Potatoes, Sugar Cane, Carrots, Greens, etc. I always loved picking mangoes with Pop, he’d pick me up and let me decide which ones were ripe and which should stay on the vine.
Now mangoes are very difficult, it is hard to tell when they are ripe. Many try and tell by the color of the fruit yet, my Pop’s always taught me off of the smell. Mainly because there are three different types of mangoes grown throughout the south and all over Jamaica. All judged different in ripe season, the Ataulfo Mango Jamaica’s finest can be judged by its smell but more its color. A very tart aroma is produced by the mango when ripe, also it is very soft on the ends (that being the top and bottom on the mango), and lastly the mango is plump and juicy like a water balloon. After going through our daily evaluation on which mangoes we should pick, we pluck them and cut them up and would make so many different things. Smoothies, passion and mango fruit juice (which happens to still be my favorite drink).
What does this have to do with Gardening?
Throughout my life, I have never been one to cherish gardens but after writing this blog and looking back on the great memories I have made with my family through nature. I can proudly say, gardening is an activity I would like to take up and make an important part of my life. From our readings I have grown fond of how life with nature produce happiness and love. I believe there should be more of that in everyone’s life.
From a very young age I remember driving roughly an hour from Pembroke MA to Yarmouth MA where my grandparents lived. I would go almost every weekend until high school and help out around the property. My aunt and grandmother would tend to the flowers near the front of the house while my grandfather and I dug for quahogs in the river behind the house. In the backyard next to the house my grandparents cultivated a glorious garden. It was full of tomatoes, cucumbers, abnormally large squash, zucchini, lettuce, the whole 9 yards. I was tasked with picking the fully grown produce and washing it off from the rain collector barrel attached to the garden. It was a large blue barrel that all the gutters from the roof led to so the produce could grow while also being cost efficient.
Times not spent in the garden were spent downriver in knee deep water and mud hunting for quahogs. My dad, grandfather and I would hop in the metal boat and race downriver to our spot for catching quahogs. We would rake through the mud looking for the most XL quahogs the river had to offer. If any seemed too small we had a tool to measure the size of the shell to see if it was the legal size to take. My grandfather, Dad and I would see who could scoop up the biggest quahogs as well as the most. The cooking of the quohogs was left to my mother and grandmother who had genuine experience with the shellfish. My time spent down the cape was always surrounded by nature whether it was on the beach or in the river which I will always remember.
(Not my picture but it’s a picture of the hotel down
the rover from my grandparent’s house)
This subject may not at first seem like it connects to gardens, or farming, but give me five minutes and I’ll be able to connect it to both, I promise.
Growing up, I was a Boy Scout. I even made it to the rank of Eagle. Along the way, I was able to pick up some information firsthand about the outdoors. What kind of water is safe to drink, how to filet a fish with a sharpened stick, and how to start a fire in pouring rain with nothing but the damp woods around you. The key to that last thing is birch wood, in particular, the bark.
Birch bark contains oils that make fire starting easy, and since oils and water don’t mix, it won’t matter if the birch log is wet. I remember one time I was at the base of Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire at a scouting jamboree. I was in a tent by myself, and the early June rain made sleeping that night miserable. I had a cold can of soup my mother stuck in the bottom of my backpack, you know, just in case. (Side note, my mother will provide me with a can of soup, no matter what. I could be heading to my friends house for the night, going on a week long boating expedition, hell, even take the dog for a long walk and she say,”Here, take this in case you get hungry.” Anyway, I find a few pieces of birch wood, and after finding a piece of flint near the bed of a river, started a small fire that, as it grew, the group of adolescent boys also did. We shared stories, dried our socks, and heated our collective cans of over-protective-mother soup and had a pretty nice evening.
How does this relate to gardening? Or farming?
We were trying to clear our garden plot and our backyard of old growth from last year. We decided that a controlled burn was necessary. Only problem was, it was the last day our town allowed for burning, and it was a downpour. Luckily, by using some birch logs in the woods behind my house, I was able to get a blaze going, heightened by a couple old Christmas trees we had in the backyard. Thanks to the birch bark, we got what we need to get done, and we ended up with the best garden we’d had in years.
Recently I started working for a medical cannabis dispensary in my hometown, I assist in the growing and production of the plant for medicinal use. Now that Cannabis is legal in Massachusetts I have had the opportunity to work in this industry professionally, and am excited to be sharing the knowledge I’ve gained so far on the growth cycle of a cannabis plant. Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a psychoactive drug used for medical or recreational purposes. The main psychoactive part of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive compound. THC and CBD are both cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that interact with receptors in the brain and body to create various effects. There exist hundreds of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, but THC is most widely known among these due to its abundance and euphoric attributes. While THC is the principal psychoactive component of cannabis and has certain medical uses, CBD stands out because it is both non-intoxicating and displays a broad range of potential medical relief including help with anxiety, inflammation, pain, and seizures. These make CBD an attractive therapeutic compound.
Cannabis plants, like all living things, go through a series of stages as they grow and mature. It’s important for me as a grower to understand the changes a plant undergoes during its life cycle, as each stage of growth requires different care. Different stages call for different amounts of light, nutrients and water. The stages also help us decide when to prune and trim the plants, and overall health as well. The life cycle of cannabis can be broken down into four primary stages from seed to harvest:
The first stage of life for a cannabis plant begins with the seeds. At this point, our cannabis plant is dormant, patiently waiting for water to bring it to life. Between 5-10 days the seed should pop. Once the seed has popped, it’s ready to be placed in its growing medium. The tap root will drive down while the stem of the seedling will grow upward. Two rounded cotyledon leaves will grow out from the stem as the plant unfolds from the protective casing of the seed. These initial leaves are responsible for taking in sunlight needed for the plant to become healthy and stable. As the roots develop, you will begin to see the first iconic fan leaves grow, at which point the cannabis plant can be considered a seedling. When the plant becomes a seedling, you’ll notice it developing more of the traditional cannabis leaves. As a sprout, the seed will initially produce leaves with only one ridged blade. Once new growth develops, the leaves will develop more blades.
A mature cannabis plant will have between 5-7 blades per leaf, but some plants may have more. A healthy seedling should be a vibrant green color. We have to be very careful to not overwater the plant in its seedling stage, its roots are so small, it doesn’t need much water to thrive (reminds me of cacti and other succulents). Its extremely important for us to keep the environment clean and to monitor excess moisture. At this stage, the plant is vulnerable to disease and mold.
The vegetative stage of cannabis is where the plant’s growth truly takes off. At this point, we’ve transplanted the plant into a larger pot, and the roots and foliage are developing rapidly. This is also the time to begin topping or training the plants (we generally use bamboo). Spacing between the nodes should represent the type of cannabis you are growing. Indica plants tend to be short and dense, while sativa plants grow lanky and more open in foliage.
As the plant develops we also have to change our watering style. When it’s young, the plant will need water close to the stalk, but as it grows the roots will also grow outward, so we start watering further away from the stalk so the roots can stretch out and absorb water more efficiently (also helps things stay sturdy).
The flowering stage is the final stage of growth for a cannabis plant. Flowering occurs naturally when the plant receives less than 12 hours of light a day, in our case we grow inside so we just adjust the indoor light cycle. It is in this stage that resinous buds develop (the flower).
Once the buds have reached full maturity, it’s time to harvest.
My plans for the future are to someday own my own cannabis grow operation, and maybe even open up a lounge. I hope with the experience I am having at my work will pay off in the future.
Growing up, my parents worked a lot and when I wasn’t in school, they would send me to my grandparent’s house in Weymouth. My Nana and Papa always loved having me come over to hang out with them. We would play board games or look at old pictures of my dad as a child, but on sunny days my Nana would take me out to garden with her in the side- yard. Along the side of their home, she had a beautiful garden filled with many vegetables, fruits, and flowers. It smelled so beautiful and sometimes I would even be able to eat some ripe strawberries or tomatoes with her.
One year, on a beautiful Saturday in the Spring, my Nana and I went out to plant some daffodils. What we hadn’t realized was that above the garden under the gutter of the house, their was a bee’s nest and the pesky insects were swarming around that day. My Nana decided to let me water the plants that day too, and I was so excited because she had never trusted me with the hose before. I was holding the hose waiting for the water to come spouting out of the end and then, things went wrong.
My Nana had good reasoning behind not allowing me to water the plants before this day, and after this day, I wasn’t ever allowed to do it again. With the combination of the powerful hose and my noodle arms, I had lost control of it and water was flying everywhere. Normally, this wouldn’t have been such a problem with it happening outside and the weather being so warm. But, while my Nana was laughing at me trying to gain control back, she had not realized the water was spraying straight into the bee’s nest.
The bee’s became infuriated that someone was disturbing their lives and ruining their home, and they wanted revenge. Once my Nana had realized what was happening, she called out my name and told me to run as if my life depended on it, which it really did because I’m allergic to bee’s. The angry insects came flying at my Nana and I and we were running all around the yard to avoid getting stung. All I knew was that I would be okay because my Nana couldn’t run fast, but I could. Safe to say I haven’t gardened with Nana since that day.
My family has had a garden for as long as I can remember. It has been a big part of my childhood, and something that I can look look back on that always brings a smile to my face. My dad, Tom is always in charge of our garden, he puts in the most hours weeding, watering, and harvesting all the vegetables that we grow. He would always walk back to the house with his hands full of peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and his hat full of cherry tomatoes because he’d always forget to bring a bowl out. The ongoing joke between my neighbors and my family is calling my dad “Farmer Tom” because he loves the garden so much, always holding a full garden tour whenever a new vegetable begins to sprout.
One of my fondest memories of the garden is the year the we decided to grow pumpkins. We didn’t have high expectations of the pumpkins because it is tough for a first time crop to take off right away. Regardless of any expectations, our goal was to be able to make at least one jack-o-lantern out of our home grown pumpkins. For awhile we had nothing, and we all grew skeptical whether we would get any pumpkins at all, let alone one big enough to carve. One day after school, my siblings and I come home to find my dad back in the garden, this wasn’t uncommon at all. After we set our bags down, there was a note on the counter from my dad saying to come back to the garden. We put our mud shoes on and head back. When we get back there, my dad eagerly shows us the pumpkins. There were 3 pumpkins, still very small, but it was the first life of pumpkins we’ve seen since we planted them. We are all excited to see them, but more excited to see the reaction of my dad because we knew how much he wanted a homemade jack-o-lantern. As time passed the pumpkins continued to grow, there was no sign of any rotting and the pumpkins looked very healthy.
The pumpkins finally were big enough for us to harvest them. Not only did we get one but we got three, one for my brother, my sister, and myself. To say my dad was happy was an understatement. I still vividly remember covering the table with newspapers, scooping out the insides of the pumpkins, separating the seeds from the orange goo so that we could make pumpkin seeds. Then having my dad help us all carve our pumpkins because it was just as much fun for us as it was for him. It was a day full of smiles and trying to sneak up on my mom to rub our gooey, pumpkin covered hands on her to get a laugh out of everyone. It is a day that I will never forget, and one that I hope to recreate when I have a family and I’m in my dads shoes.