Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Living off the land: A Free Union garden yields produce all year long

Nathan Williamson
Ryan Williamson and Laurel Woodworth’s Albemarle property spans 19.3 acres, with room for beekeeping, mushroom logs, and 450 square feet of raised beds. Photo: Nathan Williamson

The gardens around the home of Ryan Williamson and Laurel Woodworth are a bit different than your average backyard setup—food can be found almost any month of the year. Greens are grown in mini-greenhouses, called low-tunnels, in the wintertime; fruit trees, shrubs, and vines are abundant in the landscape; bees pollinate many of the crops.

Williamson and Woodworth’s work and life are connected to the seasonal production of the garden as well—Woodworth works at a local watershed protection organization and Williamson sews polar fleece hats by hand and sells them at craft shows throughout much of the fall and winter. The couple derives much of their diet from the land they live on, and can a lot of the produce from the garden.

According to the National Gardening Association, home gardens expanded 40 percent between 2007 and 2009, so when Williamson established the initial gardens around the couple’s home near Free Union in 2006, he was part of a growing national trend. He cleared several acres of pine plantation to make room for both the studio-home and extensive plantings, slowly improving soil health by adding compost, manure, and leaves to increase the soil’s organic matter and create about 450 square feet of raised beds. He started planting peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, peas, and lots of melons—enough to can tomato sauce, pickles, and dilly beans. Lots of other plants followed in the subsequent years, including figs, flowers, thornless blackberries, and apple and pear trees that Williamson grafted by hand.

After Woodworth joined him on their homestead, the two significantly expanded the annual gardens and perennial plantings to include a few hundred asparagus plants, garlic, and lots of other vegetables. At the same time, they planted several diverse plants, including hardy kiwi, dozens of blueberries and figs, strawberries, cherries, mulberries, chestnuts, heartnuts, currants, and gooseberries. Additionally, they installed a rain garden planted with cranberries (to absorb overflow rainwater from the roof). They grow several hundred pounds of garlic and mushrooms, which they occasionally sell to area restaurants and at the farmer’s market. The key to keeping Williamson and Woodworth’s garden healthy? Using lots of mulch, planting cover crops, and installing drip irrigation to provide efficient and consistent water for the gardens.

Gardening runs deep in both Williamson and Woodworth’s families. Currently, Williamson’s sister Rachel runs Fairweather Farm in Afton, where she grows specialty teas, spice mixes, and makes tulip poplar bark baskets. Williamson and Woodworth’s gardens are similar to permaculture-style planting, which is a system of ecological design modeled on nature. Permaculture gardens frequently include perennial vegetables, multilayered fruit trees, shrubs, and vines, and other garden systems integrated with building soil health and storing water on the site to create diverse, productive, and integrated garden systems.

In recent years, Williamson and Woodworth have started keeping bees—they now have 45 bee hives, and sell honey and bees, as well as mushroom logs. “My favorite thing about our garden is the amazing diversity from annual vegetables to perennial plants,” Williamson said. “Our garden satisfies a diverse, year-round palate from strawberries, to blueberries, to tomatoes and peppers, as well as canned pizza sauce and roasted red peppers. Many delicious things can be eaten around the year.” To learn more about Williamson and Woodworth, see their farm’s website, sourwoodfarm.com.

Christine Muehlman Gyovai
from the Cville Weekly

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Upcoming events - April

Greetings all,

Below is an amazing collection of upcoming springtime permaculture and sustainability events in the central Virginia bioregion, including a great permaculture film and workshops in Charlottesville.  If you know anyone else that would like to sign up for this newsletter, they can sign up here.  If you have an announcement, email us at blueridgepermaculture@gmail.com for the next monthly e-newsletter. Click here to view this email as a webpage.  Happy Spring!

Christine and the BRPN team

FILM - Thursday 4/11 “Relocalisation: How Peak Oil Can Lead to Permaculture”
A David Holmgren film presented by Gabriel Engle

7 pm at The Bridge PAI, 209 Monticello Rd., Charlottesville, VA
In this film, permaculture co-founder David Holmgren connects peak oil, climate change and energy descent to small-scale grassroots, personal and community action. Gabe Engle apprenticed at Melliodora, David’s home and permaculture demonstration site in Hepburn Springs, Victoria, Australia. Gabe will answer questions and talk about his experiences working with David and David’s partner Su Dennett.

Growing Garden Mushrooms Workshop
at Sharondale Farm near Charlottesville
Saturday April 20th, 9 am-noon, cost $75
Learn simple methods for growing mushrooms as garden allies on straw, woodchips and compost.  Hands-on demonstrations include:  preparing materials by composting, pasteurizing and fermenting;  and inoculation methods for intercropping several species of mushrooms in your garden including: Garden Giant, Oyster, and Almond Portobello.
Mushroom Cooking Demonstration and Farm Lunch follows the workshop.
Register for both at www.sharondalefarm.com/workshops

Sharondale Farm is excited to offer a Mushroom Cooking Class and Farm Lunch on April 20 from 12:30 - 2. We'll fire up the earth oven (pizza!) and Angel will prepare three seasonal dishes, each featuring one of our farm fresh mushrooms and other garden goodies. In addition to a tasty lunch, you'll learn nutritional basics about mushrooms and come away with some culinary inspiration.

April 20
12:30 pm - 2pm
Cost: $30 per person*
Save $5 when you register for a mushroom growing workshop and the lunch.

4/13 Fruit Grafting and Propagation All Day Intensive
This all day workshop will be an overview of growing fruit and nuts in Virginia without pesticides and fungicides. Participants will learn which fruit trees can be grown from seed, which can be rooted, and which must be grafted. Participants will learn how to prepare fruit tree seeds for planting, how to root fruiting plants, and how to graft. The focus will be on techniques that can be used at home with a minimum of tools and expense. Each participant will take home two fruit trees that they graft themselves. Additional rootstock and seeds will also be available. Rootstock and scions (grafting wood) will be provided.

When: Saturday, April 13, 9 AM to 5 PM
Where: 912 Woodfolk Drive, Charlottesville VA, 22902
Registration Contact: Kassia Arbabi, karmakas@gmail.com, 434-806-9241 (messages only)
Cost: $50, checks made payable to Living Energy Farm

When its time to cultivate your garden…

WayCoolTools.com, is a local web resource for practical garden tools to suit discerning gardeners.  We have recently introduced a light weight all steel broad fork guaranteed not to bend or break even in the heavy clay and rocky soil we have here in the Blue Ridge.  Broad forks make soil cultivation easier on the gardener and help minimize disruption of the garden soils structure.  These new broad forks are an answer to requests for a broad fork that is stronger and more durable than light weight broad forks that tend to bend tines and split handles and lighter weight and easier to manage than other steel broad forks on the market that tend to be too heavy or bulky to work with for long periods of time.  Here is a recent blog post with more information and a link to our website:  http://waycooltools.blogspot.com/2013/03/dig-smarter-not-harder-with-lighter.html

City Schoolyard Garden has been selected to make a pitch at the TomTom Festival's $10K u.Pitch event on Thursday, April 11 at 6:30. The event costs $10, and admission includes a vote for the pitch of your choice. We hope you will come out and support our pitch for funding to help finish the installations at our elementary school gardens!

Donate to Kickstart a Hoophouse at Buford Middle School in Charlottesville, VA
City Schoolyard Garden is dedicated to providing year-round, hands-on educational opportunities to students in the City of Charlottesville. We’re building a brand new space at Buford Middle School to better serve our young gardeners. The 360 sq. ft. hoophouse will greatly increase our capacity to start seeds and process our garden’s bounty.  With our increased capacity we plan to expand our curricular connections at Buford and supply student-grown seedlings to the City’s elementary school gardens, community garden plots, and neighborhood gardens throughout Charlottesville. We’re hoping to raise $6,000 through our kickstarter campaign.  To donate to the project or learn more about what we do visit us at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/828385493/hoist-up-our-hoophouse/

Saturday 4/20 City School Garden Work Day
Help a city school garden in need. Email Linda Winecoff linda@cityschoolyardgarden.org or visit http://www.cityschoolyardgarden.org/get-involved/

4/11-4/14 Tom Tom Founders Festival
A four day festival in downtown Charlottesville featuring innovative talks, concerts, block parties, pitch competitions, and creative expositions.
Saturday, April 13 is Tom Yum - an all-day community food festival at the Charlottesville City Market, sponsored by Albemarle County and the Local Food Hub.

Over 75 Earth-Friendly workshops plus music and dancing in the evenings
Thursday - Sunday July 11-14, 2013
At HomeGrown HideAways near Berea, KY

The UVa Food Collaborative and Environmental Sciences Department will be hosting a GMO panel discussion on Tuesday, April 23 at 6:00 pm in Nau 101. T

he event will feature several speakers, including Manuel Lerdau, Professor of Environmental Sciences and of Biology, Michael Rodemeyer, Executive Director of the Policy Internship Program, Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives with Consumers Union, NY, and Eric Hallerman, Head of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Department at Virginia Tech.  Admission is free and Whole Foods will be providing some refreshments.

New Branch Farm is looking for farm help 2 mornings a week:  Monday and Wednesday mornings from 8am to 11am.  Work would be assisting with planting, weeding, and harvesting.  Pay is $8 an hour.    New Branch Farm is a small farm growing vegetables naturally since 2005.  For more information about the farm please visit our website:  www.newbranchfarm.com

If you are interested in learning more about the position, please email Stephanie Meyers at newbranchfarm@gmail.com

Earth Day Celebration at the White Hall Community Center near Charlottesville, VA
April 20, 2013, from 9 AM – 3 PM, with local business Playville of Cville.

Events from Transition Cville – Charlottesville events

Saturday 4/13 Spring Garden Expo
2pm-6pm at 5th Season Gardening Co., 900 Preston Ave.
Demonstrations on mushrooms, fermented foods, goats & goat cheese, home brewing, kombucha, raised garden beds... not to mention pizza from Mona Lisa Pasta and a 10% discount on everything in the store.

Tuesday 4/16 350 Central Virginia Meeting
6:30-8:30pm at Charlottesville Friends Meetinghouse, 1104 Forest St.
350 CVA, the first officially recognized Virginia chapter of international 350.org, meets on the third Tuesday of each month. At least one hour of the monthly meeting is set aside for activist program work.  Everyone is welcome, from high school students up to adult seniors.  Light refreshments are provided. We seek to grow in numbers and effectiveness, specifically effectiveness for changing our future to one that is safe from the looming, catastrophic amount of climate change that science predicts, unless we quickly and greatly reduce or replace our use of coal, oil and gas for energy.

Tuesday 4/16 Wild & Scenic Film Festival
7:30pm at PVCC’s Dickinson Center (AND April 18, 7pm at Visulite Cinema in Staunton)
Award winning films about nature, community activism, adventure, conservation, water, energy and climate change, wildlife, environmental justice, agriculture, Native American and indigenous cultures. This year’s festival theme is “A Climate of Change.” Purchase tickets ($10) at Blue Ridge Mountain Sports.

Wednesday 4/17 Cville TimeBank Orientation
4-6 PM at Northside Library
Want to learn more about this novel approach to time, work and community? Orientation is the place to find out how it works and meet your fellow Time Bankers.
More info: cvilletimebank.com

Saturday 4/20 Dogwood Parade
Have you ever wanted to march (or stroll) in a parade? This is your chance! Transition Cville and 350 Central VA will carry handmade windmills to spread the word about climate change, clean energy, and building community resilience. We’ll meet up after the parade for a bring-your-own picnic in McGuffey Park on 2nd St. NW - all are welcome! To join the parade please email transitioncvilleinfo@gmail.com.

Sunday 4/21 Eco Fair
Noon-6pm at the Main Street Arena.
Eco Fair is an AMAZING collection of practically every group working for a better, more eco-conscious community in Charlottesville & surrounding areas. Workshops this year will include Kombucha making, practical permaculture, home energy efficiency and more. Plus kids’ corner, live music, eco book swap, and tons of delicious local food & bevs.
More info: www.earthweek.org
Transition Cville will be one of 75+ awesome exhibitors at Eco Fair! Want to help out at our table? It’s fun, all you have to do is smile and enjoy great conversations :) Please email transitioncvilleinfo@gmail.com.

Help wanted.... share your skills!
Skill Share Crew puts on monthly reskilling workshops to reclaim heirloom skills. Contact Peter Richardson, richardsonguitar@gmail.com or 981-1884.

Edible Yards is a team effort to replace local lawns with edible abundance! Contact Stevo Johnson, genuinesmile29@gmail.com.

Transition Cville Initiating Group puts on our monthly public meetings and provides strategic direction for the local movement. We’re especially looking for leaders to help with awareness raising, communications, and local government engagement. Contact Joanie Freeman, freeman.joanie@gmail.com or 987-1026.

Beginning Beekeepers Workshop:
April 24 from 6PM - 9PM at the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center
April 27 from 8AM - 5PM at the Catawba Sustainability Center

Workshop to be led by Mark Chorba, beekeeper in Copper Hill VA.  Registration: http://www.cpe.vt.edu/reg/beekeep/

Mushroom Workshop near Staunton, VA  Sunday, April 14th, 1-5

Come learn all about growing edible mushrooms from local expert Mark Jones of Sharondale Farm in Keswick.  We'll start inside with an overview of edible mushroom varieties and growing methods.  Then we'll move outside to start mushrooms growing in logs to take home.  We will mostly be starting oyster mushrooms in Ailanthus logs.  This is a great use for this invasive and fast growing tree.  There may be some oak logs available for shiitakes.  Everyone will take home a log that they have plugged.  Extra logs may be available.  Cost is $50.  Call 540-292-0991 for more info and to sign up.  Holly Parker, Moon & Stars Farm, 229 Blackberry Ln, Staunton, VA

Living Earth School – 2013 Adult Programs – in central Virginia

April 5, 6, 7  - Traditional Long Bow Workshop
9am - 5pm. Cost $200 plus a $75 material fee.

April 20 – 21 - Father/Son Weekend
Saturday 9am - Sunday 11am. Cost $175 (includes father and son age 6+, each additional child $50) 

April 20 – 21 - Mother/Daughter Weekend
Saturday 9am - Sunday 11am. Cost $175 (includes mother and daughter age 6+, each additional child $65) 

April 27, 28  - Bird Language Weekend
Saturday 9am to Sunday 3pm. Cost $170

May 4  - Animal Tracking Essentials
9 - 4pm. Cost: $50

May 11 - Wild Edible Plants- Forage the Abundance
10am - 4pm. Cost $50. Located in Afton.

May 11 - Tree I.D.~ Learning the Trees in Your Backyard
Advanced Class: Useful Trees and Reading the Landscape
Part one: 9am-12pm Part two: 1pm-4pm.
Held at our Afton basecamp. Cost $20 per session or $35.

May 17, 18, 19 - The Power of Mentoring
Friday 7pm to Sun. 3pm. 
Cost: Adults $195 / Kids (age 5-15) $100.

June 7, 8, 9 - Living With the Land- The Art of Wilderness Survival
Friday at 7pm to Sunday 3pm. Cost $175.
(for adults & ages 14+)

The job is Tuesday thru Saturday (Saturday is a Farmers Market), every week, starting as soon as possible.  The work includes picking mushrooms (shiitake and oyster), cleaning the grow room, starting new mushroom blocks, preparing for markets , helping us on other mushroom projects including construction or inoculating outdoor logs, and doing a Farmers Market on Saturday.  Training included.
Location in Madison County, in Brightwood, about 45 mins north of downtown Cville. 

Employees will start at $9 per hour, and we will reimburse them for gas used on the way to and from Farmers Markets.  
Please send us an email at northcovemushrooms@gmail.com,  or call 919 649 7158 if you are interested.  Also, check out our FaceBook page to see what we are all about, and our website:  www.northcovemushrooms.com  


Come cook with me this year!
This is your Grandmother’s kitchen: Classes 2013
Teacher -  Leni Sorensen
Including water bath and pressure canning, flat bread, yeast bread, tamales, chocolate, traditional Southern foods at Indigo House near Charlottesville.

2013 Regional Agritourism in a Creative Economy workshop
Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - Vinton, VA

The 2013 Regional Agritourism workshop will take place on Wednesday May 8, from 9:45 am until 3:30 pm at the Braeloch, 2136 Hammond Drive, Vinton, Virginia. 

For more information on agritourism programs, please contact Dr. Martha A. Walker, Virginia Cooperative Extension, by phone at 434-766-6761 or by e-mail at walker53@vt.edu.