THE GARDEN STORY

Here at Retail Construction Services, Inc., we are dedicated to giving back.

Give back not only to those in need within our community, but also the future generations of this wonderful community. What started out as a great idea has grown exponentially and has become an amazing reality. Here at the RCS Giving Garden, school groups, master gardeners, corporate volunteers, and our own employees work together for the common good of teaching children the art of gardening and the importance of healthy eating.
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LOCATION:

Retail Construction Services, Inc.

11343 39th Street N.

Lake Elmo, MN 55042


From HWY 36 - go south on Lake Elmo Ave, turn left onto 39th Street, garden is at corner of 39th and Laverne.


From HWY 5- going west from Stillwater take right onto Laverne (near Fury dealership) garden is on the right at corner of Laverne and 39th street.


The RCS Giving Garden

The RCS Giving Garden

10/20/10

The Garden Sleeps

Tangled roots and blooms
of this garden sleep,

But Ahhh, its soul?
Continues to grow ever deep.
- Joni Fletty
Morning Group L to R: Nick Heino, Blia Vang, Tom Wendt, Dylan Peltier, Cole Tarrars, DJ Kammerer, Dan Pilquist

Afternoon Group - Back L to R: Nate Hanson, Steve Yang, Luke Caffey,
Shanan Martin, Connor Goulet, Tom Ament, Race McDonald, Scott Seifert
Front L to R: Tom Wendt, Blia Vang, CJ Walker, Jake Sonnen
(Click on photos to enlarge)
We had an amazingly successful year in the garden. Our goal was to reach 2,000 lbs of fresh food donated to the food shelves, and we surpassed that goal by 403.3 lbs, for a grand total of 2,403.3.
Thank you to the young adults from the Stillwater ALC who joined us to put the garden to bed for the winter. They took down the fencing, removed the irrigation system, took down the structures, pulled large plants, removed the row markers and pulled up the landscape fabric. Both the morning and afternoon groups accomplished a lot in the time they were here!

A big "Thank you" to Neil and Deb Krueger from Krueger's Christmas Tree Farm, http://kruegerschristmastrees.com/, who were out here to multch up the garden until they till it again in the spring!

It will be quiet in the garden as the temperatures drop and the snow covers the ground with a blanket of "rest". But this winter, while the activity will not be on land, it will be in the class room as we once again involve the ACL with putting together the garden plan for next season.


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10/7/10

Final Harvest & Record Setting Day!

The ALC Students reached a new daily record
by picking 223.7 lbs of produce today!

(Click on photos to enlarge)
1st ALC Group: Left to Right - Bronson Koller, Nate Eldridge, Laura Buys, Connor Mulcahy (front), Dexter Peltier (back), Brian Dickie, Todd Derousier

2nd ALC Group: Left to Right - Steve Yang, Travis Brown, Tom Ament, Race McDonald, Connor Goulet, Nate Hanson, Blake Tomasko

Thank you ALC Students! The frost hit our garden hard this past weekend and this was the final picking day. We reached a 2010 grand total of 2,403.3 lbs of produce donated this season! That is up +596.5 lbs from 2009.

We will be putting the garden to bed on Thursday, October 21st. Anyone who would like to join us in the garden to help is welcome! We will be starting around 9 am. The ALC students are confirmed for that date as well.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. ~Anne Frank

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9/30/10

Stillwater ALC Students in the Garden Today!

Click on Photo to Enlarge
Back Row - L to R: Laura Buys, Paulo Segura, Tyler Maysack, Nate Eldridge, Cole Tarras, Riley Rollings, Brian Dickie.
Front Row - L to R: Jake Tobin, Tom Wendt, Connor Mulcahy.

The young adults from the Stillwater ALC were in the garden today! Our brussel sprouts were finally maturing and the students harvested 13.6 lbs and were able to see how they look when ready to harvest. The daily total was 92.2 pounds; not only brussel sprouts but cabbage, cant elope, eggplant, peppers, lettuce, onion, tomatoes and fall raspberries!

Our garden is rich every time these students join us. Not only do we enjoy the laughter, but enjoy every time we are able to teach something new.

One of the things the students learned was about the brown rough lines on jalapeno and other hot peppers. These rough brown lines are called “corking”. This is a number of very fine horizontal lines on the peppers that indicate readiness to pick. The more lines, the hotter the pepper!

"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things
which he can afford to let alone."
from the chapter "Where I Lived and What I Lived For" in Walden
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9/27/10

RCS Giving Garden Reaches it's 2010 Goal!

Joanne Honsvall-Berg, United Way of Washington County-East

Today we passed our 2010 RCS Giving Garden goal of 2,000 lbs! We harvested 113.6 pounds of produce, bringing our annual total to 2,048.5 and counting.

Joanne Honsvall-Berg from United Way of Washington County-East delivered the fruit and vegetables to Courage St. Croix this afternoon.

While reaching our goal is an exciting milestone, the more important measurement is this; As Joanne from United Way shared with us; when she delivered produce to one of the sites, a woman offered to help her carry in the onions and tomatoes. She held them up to her nose, inhaled deeply and said:

“I’m going to eat really good tonight”.

That is what this is all about,
And the most important measurement of all...

Recipients from the Giving Garden this year have been; Valley Outreach (our primary drop site) and United Way’s additional recipients; East Suburban Resources, Cimarron after school program in Lake Elmo, and Courage St. Croix.

Thank you first and foremost to our Retail Construction staff of employees who have volunteered their time, talents and ideas to the garden project. Thank you to our educational partners; Stillwater ALC, Stillwater School Districts SPIN program , and Lake Elmo Elementary Adventure Club. Thank you also to our corporate volunteers; UPS and Andersen Corporation. A big thank you goes to those that donated seeds, compost, plants, etc. There are so many to list, but a big thank you to some of our major donors; Bergmann's Greenhouse & Garden, Krueger's Christmas Tree Farm, Future Farm Food and Fuel and The Master Gardener's program. Your donations of time, money and items for the garden have been instrumental in helping us provide for so many with so little.

9/14/10

Record Breaking Day in the Garden!

Back, L to R: Denise Lemon, Dawn Rossi, Keith Miller & Don Thron
Front, kneeling: Joy Grognet

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

We had a small group from Andersen Corp. volunteer today, and what an amazing change they made in the Giving Garden. Not only did this group of four pick the 2nd largest poundage for a single day, they took the produce to Valley Outreach, stocked the shelves, performed other work there, and then returned to the garden for ‘more’.

Joy from our office worked along side to familiarize them with our garden and its rhythms. I heard there was much laughter amongst the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

This mornings harvest yielded 161.4 pounds of produce; bringing us to an YTD total of 1,825.3 pounds! Denise, Don, Keith and Dawn were responsible for breaking last years’ record by 18.5 pounds! But…, they didn't stop there. When they found out that there were two other larger harvest days (173.4 and 214.1), they harvested the potatoes, some parsley, and with the addition of one monstrous zucchini, brought the daily total to 176.6 lbs. Our new annual total sits at 1,840.5 pounds; 33.7 lbs more than 2009. This was one motivated group!

As for our potato crop, well, three barrels this year only produced a total of 7.9 pounds of potatoes. The photo shows the tiniest of these gems… quarter size to be exact!

After the afternoon harvest, the group successfully freed our poor strawberry plants from the grips of every type of weed imaginable. With keeping with a 100% organic garden, our first priority has been keeping the weeds at bay in vegetable rows. The poor strawberries? Well, they had disappeared until this afternoon.

We are very, very fortunate to have met these new friends from the Valley. We extend a sincere thanks to the four of you. Not only for all of your hard work, but for bringing your spirit of giving to this giving garden.

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9/8/10

Big Harvest Today!

Today we harvested 214.1 lbs of produce to donate to Valley Outreach! We had tomatoes, zucchini, cabbage, green peppers, cherry tomatoes, squash, broccoli, raspberries, beans, carrots, onion, hot peppers, and white eggplant!

The white eggplant was the most prevalent crop today. Native to India with small, white, smooth-skinned is one of many domesticated eggplants. Has an Italian-style shape and creamy texture.

Our Brussels sprouts are really starting to show, and we hope to have some by next week!

9/3/10

Jake in the Garden!

Jake Tobin from the Stillwater ALC High School joined us in the garden this morning. He was here bright and early at 8am, ready to harvest that which was hiding from the cold and the wind. He has been in the garden from the first day we planted seeds in this soil and has had the opportunity to watch the garden flourish from a brown landscape to a green canvas, dotted with little bits of color and flavor everywhere.

Jake is full of life in the garden, has an infectious smile and genuine enthusiasm for this project. He is a joy to have an open dialogue with about heirloom plants, seeds and ‘where our food comes from’. I have a poem that someone shared with me that aligned perfectly with the passionate spirit that Jake brings to the garden.

"I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live
so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit."
-Dawna Markova

We picked 128.2 pounds of white eggplant, onions, lettuce, green peppers, hot peppers, squash, tomatoes and cucumber this morning. Jake asked if he could stop in anytime and help out in the garden, even after he graduates. The answer? ‘Yes’, a hundred times ‘yes’.

Thank you Jake for sharing your zest for life in this garden. These recipes are for you;

8/27/10

Spaghetti Squash has Arrived!

Our spaghetti squash crop has been coming in! Spaghetti squash isn't a small-town festival where women stomp pasta in giant wooden vats. It's a vegetable whose name makes perfect sense when you cook it--underneath the rind, the flesh separates into long pasta-like strands.

Along with butternut squash, turban squash, and pumpkins, spaghetti squash is part of the winter squash family, sometimes known as "keeper" squash because they will last for several months in cool storage. Their hard rind that protects them from moisture, an attribute that people have been taking advantage of for thousands of years--parts of winter squash have been found in pre-Columbian archeological sites in South America.
North American natives grew them too.

In fact, our name for squash comes from the Naraganset word "askutasquash" which the colonists corrupted to "isquotersquash," (think it in a Dutch accent) later shortened to just plain squash.

As for storage, keep them at room temperature for up to a month. For longer-term storage, ideally you need a place where the temperature hovers around 50 degrees.

We cooked one for our office staff to try. Wash and dry a squash and keep it whole. Rub the outside shell with olive oil, pierce one or two holes into it with a knife. Place on a baking dish and bake for 40 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees. When done your fork or knife will easily pierce it. Cut it open, and enjoy as is, or toss with a little olive oil or butter and a few herbs such as basil, chives, chervil, parsley or sage. Enjoy!

8/20/10

And it Just Keeps on Growing!!

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
~Harold Whitman~

This quote embodies the spirit we see in Tom Wendt from the Stillwater ALC; not only in his interactions with his students, but in the pure joy he brings to the garden. Tom joined us in the garden this morning to pick the produce that just keeps on growing! The SPIN program has wound down for the summer, and the ALC Students are not back in session until after Labor Day. However, Tom has been wonderful in joining us every Friday morning in the garden to pick, not to mention bringing the produce over to Valley Outreach food shelf for donation.

Today we had tomatoes, lettuce, onions, beans, zucchini, squash, corn, LOTS of hot peppers, bell peppers and eggplant. Below the bottom pictures are links to the three recipes that went to the food shelf with the produce. Again, these were supplied by Molly Brendmoen in our office.

Thank you Tom, and thank you to all of those in our office that are working in the garden every week!

Stuffed Green Peppers

Baked Jalapeno Poppers

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

8/17/10

The Corn is Ready!

The majority of our corn crop was ready to pick today. Between the corn, beans, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, we donated just a hair under 87 pounds of produce today.

We also had some of our tomatilla tomatoes ready. The tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica) is a plant of the tomato family, related to the cape gooseberry, bearing small, spherical and green or green-purple fruit of the same name. Tomatillos, referred to as green tomato (Spanish: tomate verde) in Mexico, are a staple in Mexican cuisine. Tomatillos are grown throughout the Western Hemisphere.

The tomatillo fruit is surrounded by a paper-like husk formed from the calyx. As the fruit matures, it fills the husk and can split it open by harvest. The husk turns brown, and the fruit can be any of a number of colors when ripe, including yellow, red, green, or even purple. Tomatillos are the key ingredient in fresh and cooked Latin American green sauces. The freshness and greenness of the husk are quality criteria. Fruit should be firm and bright green, as the green colour and tart flavour are the main culinary contributions of the fruit.
Tomatillo plants are highly self-incompatible (two or more plants are needed for proper pollination; thus isolated tomatillo plants rarely set fruit).

Ripe tomatillos will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks. They will keep even longer if the husks are removed and the fruits are placed in sealed plastic bags stored in the refrigerator. They may also be frozen whole or sliced. Molly Brendmoen on our staff offered the following recipes to go along with the these wonderful treats! Click on the link below to open each recipe!

8/13/10

173.4 lbs of Produce Picked in One Day!

Our follow up painting day was cancelled today due to the rain and the wet lumber. However, Andrew Peltier, a student from Stillwater's ALC, and his teacher, Tom Wendt joined us in the garden to harvest.

There was a LOT today! Yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers, white eggplant, green peppers, hot peppers, green beans, carrots, lettuce, onions, a couple cabbage, tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. Andrew was a trouper and not only picked the produce, but did all the weighing and logging. Andrew works in the kitchen of a local restaurant, and was able to take home a white eggplant to put his culinary skills to the test. Andrew, you will have to let us know the recipe you came up with!

Thank you Tom and thank you Andrew Peltier!

8/6/10

Painting Day in the Garden!

(PHOTO RELEASE PENDING)
The Stillwater SPIN Kids joined us in the garden today. The ALC Students were on break, but their instructor, Tom Wendt joined us.

The kids first picked and weighed produce to donate to the food shelf. Just this week we have had 97.5 lbs of produce to donate! The carrots and peppers are really coming in, and we had our first batch of cherry tomatoes to pick.

Our garden shed has obtained final approval from the City of Lake Elmo, and with the donated wood from Louise Engwer, we had framing materials to prime. Our garden shed needs to stay within the criteria of "earthen tones", so we collected used cans of paint from our employees, and Tom Wendt from Stillwater's ALC mixed up a nice earthen tone from the rainbow of colors! The Stillwater SPIN program donated a lot paint brushes. Thank you SPIN Program!

After the kids put on their paint shirts, they prime painted the 4x4's that will become the framework for the garden shed. Joy Grognet from our office, Retail Construction Services, helped coordinate the paint day.

Lumber Donation from the Newmans!

On Friday morning, August 6th, before the kids arrived, Chuck Newman and his wife, (we need her lovely name!), generously dropped off a donation of lumber for the garden shed. We have been blessed with the materials needed to complete the framing on the shed, and the kids were able to begin painting these prior to construction.

Chuck had called RCS the day before after also receiving the email from United Way of Washington County East looking for donations. Before we knew it, he was here the next morning with his donation.

"Thank you" so much to the Newman's for your donation!

8/5/10

Garden Donation from Lou Engwer!

Marna Canterbury from The United Way of Washington County East had put out an email that the RCS garden was looking for donated, used lumber for our garden shed. We received the most wonderful call from local resident and United Way volunteer, Louise Engwer. She generously donated $100 to the RCS Giving Garden.

While she was camera shy, Retail Construction Services, Inc. extends the most sincere "thank you" to Lou for her generous donation. This donation has helped up buy additional supplies needed to complete our garden shed project with the kids!

Thank you Lou!

8/3/10

UPS Volunteers Enjoy the Fruition of Planting Day!

Left to Right: Libby Wenzel, Andy Wenzel, Lynne Barten, Christina Paquette, Jason Briggs, Mike Von Wald

"If you've never experienced the joy of accomplishing more than you can imagine, plant a garden." Robert Brault. Team members from UPS returned to the garden today and had the wonderful surprise of seeing how much the garden had grown since they joined us for planting day on May 24th!

Since the launch of their Volunteer Impact Initiative in 1999, volunteerism has become a global phenomenon at UPS as employees around the world have embraced this important piece of the organization’s culture. Every year UPSers from the most senior levels of management to the part-time ranks lend their skills in a variety of ways. From serving as directors for high performing non-profits to lending their skills as loaned executives to local United Ways, UPSers embrace opportunities to participate in knowledge sharing, skills-based volunteerism with its employees and families volunteering more than 1.2 million hours of their time each year.

Additionally, The UPS Foundation, founded has pursued initiatives by identifying specific projects where its support can help produce a measurable social impact. In 2009, The UPS Foundation donated more than $43 million US to charitable organizations worldwide. Visit: http://responsibility.ups.com/ for more information about UPS's community involvement.

We thank the team from UPS for clearing the tomato aisle ways, picking produce and clearing more many more weeds that seem to "love" our garden as much as the produce! We look forward to the UPS team joining us throughout the gardening season. Thank you guys!

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7/30/10

The ALC and SPIN students were in the garden again this morning! The ALC students mentored the SPIN students on our favorite… garden pests! Having an organic garden has its struggles, and pests are one of them. They students learned about Potato Bugs, the abundant Japanese Beetles this year, and a few vegetable and potato fun facts.

The students collected Japanese Beetles, crickets and other small bugs off of the plants. They then picked, weighed and donated produce from the garden to Valley Outreach food shelf.

We had some Gecko’s visit the company for the day, so all of the students were able to see and enjoy the Gecko’s!

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7/26/10

Harvesting Your Own Seeds Day!

The students from the Stillwater ALC High School were in the Retail Construction Giving Garden this morning for “seed” day. We talked about genetically engineered seeds and its impact on our world. (see photo video below for pictures from this morning!)

We began with the potato, and I don’t mean “French fries”! Potatoes were first cultivated by the Inca Indians in Peru in about 200 B.C. Andean farmers once grew some 4,000 potato varieties, each with its own name, flavor, and use, ranging in size from tiny to gigantic and covering the color spectrum from indigo-purple to red, orange, yellow and white.

People use to eat what they grew locally and what was in season. With the increased appetite for produce that was out of season (eating strawberries in October as an example), and the increased demand to ship produce all over the world, farmers had to start breeding varieties that held up in boxcars, trucks, or ship’s cargo.

Now, even in the regions of Peru least affected by the modern market, only a few dozen potato varieties are widely grown.

Additionally, Seed producing companies and scientists have created genetically engineered seeds that will produce crops only once. After that, people from across the world, and specifically third world nations, have to depend on the seed companies to create more seeds, because the crop seeds will not be of any use.

Because of the genetically altered produce and seeds, we found it important to share these lessons with the students and teach them how to cultivate their own seeds; specifically those seeds with a slimy coating on them like tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, cantaloupe, watermelon, etc. It’s a slimy, moldy stinky process, but its fruition is the free, unaltered seeds to plant for the coming year. Click here for an instruction sheet.

We also talked about the amount of fossil fuels it take for produce that is out of season to be shipped all across the world. (See the “Did you know” below)

We discussed organizations like Seed Savers, http://www.seedsavers.org/. This is a member supported organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations. Through the efforts of these types of organizations, seeds for produce that was no longer grown are becoming available. Who knows, maybe one day we will have 4,000 varieties of potatoes back in existence? We encouraged the students to go to the Farmers Market in downtown St. Paul to sample the purple potato variety that has reintroduced to our tables.

Did you know?

· We put as much fossil fuels in our refrigerators as we do our cars?

· We consume 400 gallons of oil per year, per person, about 17% of our nation’s energy for agriculture? That includes tractors, tillers, fertilizer, insecticides, drying, packaging, shipping, etc…

· But getting the crop from seed to harvest only takes 1/5 of the total fossil fuel used for food.

· Each food item in a typical US meal has traveled an average of 1,500 miles!

· If every US Citizen ate just one meal a week, any meal, composed of locally and organically grown meat or produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels every week.

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7/23/10

ALC Students Enjoying the Harvest

In the words of Nancy H. Jordon, "I plant flowers and vegetables. I harvest memories - and life." The students at ALC had the opportunity to harvest the crops they helped plant earlier this spring. We are having a lot of fun in the garden and making many friends and memories! Photo slide show below..

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7/21/10

Andersen Corp. Employee's "Dig In" at the Giving Garden!

Left to right in back: Scott Koenig and Steve Kirby. Left to right in front: Kristen Haak, Bryce Buckles, Ben Buckhahn, Curtis Gabbert, Dane Durch and Jessica Weber.


"Earth laughs in flowers."-- is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. However, recently at the RCS Giving Garden, our garden has looked more like "Earth laughs in weeds!" Andersen Corp. employees were in the garden today to help pick and donate 42+ pounds of produce. They also re-tied tomato plants and did "lots and lots and lots" of weeding! We had several aisles where the weeds were taking control of this organic garden. On a day where the temperatures reached the upper 80's, this group kept on working and did an absolutely amazing job in putting a huge dent in the weed population.

Andersen Corp is located at100 4th Avenue North, Bayport, MN 55003 www.andersenwindows.com. Andersen Corporation’s commitment to supporting the community dates back to the company’s founding in 1903. Through the years, Andersen has supported organizations such as the United Way, American Red Cross, local chambers of commerce and many others. Their charitable activities include donations, employee volunteerism and civic involvement in the communities where their company has presence.

We look forward to Andersen Corp. joining us again in the garden very soon. They left the RCS Giving Garden looking amazing, and instead of "laughing weeds", our garden is "laughing produce" once again! Thank You Andersen Corp.!













7/19/10

Gift from Lake Elmo Adventure Club Kids!

The RCS Giving Garden received a wonderful surprise gift from the students from Lake Elmo Elementary's Adventure Club. The kids made a beautiful stepping stone for our garden that says "The Garden That Gives"! These students were out earlier this year and helped plant 110 donated strawberry plants. We will be placing this stepping stone in front of one of our garden signs so that all our garden vistitors can enjoy the artistic work of these students. Thank you you Lake Elmo Elementary Adventure Club!

7/16/10

ALC Students Mentoring SPIN Students!

We had a very busy garden today! The ALC Students were here in the morning, as well as in the afternoon. The morning students mentored the SPIN students on many garden projects, and both groups worked on the following projects:

- Picking produce, weighing and donating (another 40+ pounds!)
- Pinching off the suckers on the tomato plants
- Tying up the tomatoes
- Planting replacement crops
- and of course... more weeding!

As you go through the video slide show below, you will see not only the hard work these students are putting into the garden; but something else... The older ALC students tapping into their creativity and expanding their understanding of the gardening they are teaching, the younger students learning not only gardening skills, but lessons by example, and above all, great memories!

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7/13/10

07-13-10 - First Garden Donation!

Today we donated our first harvest of veggies to Valley Outreach. 59.2 pounds of zucchini, onion and parsley! Much, much more to come!

6/29/10

Garden Shed Posts in Place!

On Friday, June 18th, we were joined in the garden by ALC students Joe Klover and Shanan Martin, along with a guest friend of Shanan's, and their instructor Tom Wendt. After all of the lines were marked prior to digging, the ALC team, along with Project Management staff from RCS put up the corner posts for the garden shed. This next week we will be finishing the frame work, followed by another date for its' completion. The video below shows the progress of the day along with the progress of some of our plants in the garden!

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6/23/10

Garden Tool Donations Needed!

With the number of students and volunteers offering their time and talents in the garden, we are finding ourselves short on gardening tools! If you have old shovels, hoes, rakes, wheelbarrels, watering cans, ice cream buckets, small hand digging tools, pruners, etc., that you have thought about discarding... we have a very good home for them! Likewise for gardening gloves that you are ready to replace. We have many, many hands who come over from the schools and summer school programs who would love to give your tired pair of old gardeing gloves some extra miles. If you have items to donate, please contact us at 651.704.9000 ext. 750, or stop by; 11343 39th Street North, Lake Elmo, MN 55042. We would love to have you visit the garden!

6/18/10

Bringing Structure to a Garden

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Gardening gives one back a sense of proportion about everything - except itself.
~May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep, 1968

The ALC High School students, Nate, Joe and Dexter, along with their instructor, Tom Wendt were out in the garden today. They put up structures to support the tomatoes as they grow, along with building tee-pee structures for the zucchini and cucumber to climb on. They weeded several rows of onion, peppers, corn and broccoli, and tasted some fresh radishes and strawberries. The work was not without fun conversation!

Some of the talks were on;
- What is your favorite type of food?
- An exchange of favorite recipes that were shared by the students
- AND, the question that brought about some really fun discussions --- What is the strangest food you have ever tried?

Frog (the whole frog), possum, turtle, kidney's, fermented eggs were some of the offered "strange" dishes. The one that topped the list was an omlet that Joe shared that someone else had eaten and we will leave out the ingredients. Needless to say, a lot of "that's just not right" along with a lot of laughter in the garden took place...

The potatoes in our potato barrels have begun to grow, and we already have apples and pears!

Guys, you were a blast and we look forward to your next visit to the garden!

6/14/10

Planting for an Educational Harvest

Last Wednesday was a very busy day in the garden! The kids from the Lake Elmo Elementary Adventure Club came out to the garden at 7:30 am to plant their seedlings. The kids from SPIN had planted broccoli and cauliflower seeds early this year. While they received a lot of TLC at school, it was time to free them from their temporary home and give their legs room to grow in the garden. Staff members Lisa and Malorie were joined by the planting talents of Hannah, Josh, Tyler, Izzy, Erin, Andrew, Lizzie, Amelia, Tera and Grace! They learned the importance of loosening the roots of the seedlings, giving a little drink of water in the transplant hole as well as topping it off with more H2O.

Since the Adventure Club helped plant our 110 donated strawberry plants, each helper was treated to taste a strawberry from the garden! Smiles were guaranteed was well as a few puckered mouths as the kids were able to taste the difference between home grown strawberries vs. the ones bought in the grocery stores. We again asked the question: Why shouldn’t you eat strawberries in October? (see our July 2009 blog on this topic)

At 9 am and again at noon we were joined by Tom Wendt and two groups of students from the Stillwater ALC High School. Here to get there their hands dirty were;

At 9:00: Tyler Maysack ,Riley Rolling, Brian Dickie, Jake Tobin, Chelsie Lindberg, Gus Membrez, Dexter Peltier, Devin Paulson, Nate Eldridge, Justin Anton, Michael Jackson-Anthony, David Meyer and Tony Howlette

At 12:00: Maria Anderson, Joe Klover, Conner Mulcahy and Evan Johnson

Both groups were very busy as they did the following projects:
 Planted VERY smelly plants around the perimeter of the garden to keep away the bunnies. These plants were donated by Chippewa Valley Growers
 Plant donated vegetables from Bergmann’s Greenhouse and Garden (Thank you Peggy!)
 Thinned the seedlings on the cucumber & zucchini mounds
 Weeded rows of seedlings
 Pulled out and set up all of the rain barrels
 Planted the potato barrel's!

Working in a garden, we all experience the satisfaction that comes from caring for something over time, while observing the cycle of life firsthand. Education is so much more than sitting in a class room and studying text books. The garden shows how complicated life can be; always in transition and constantly changing. Gardening attunes us to life’s struggles for renewal, richness and balance. Gardening every day and through the seasons keeps us in touch with the cycle of life - we can see plants each day through our seasons that are thriving, dying, seeding, fruiting, healthy and battling with disease. So is true in our own lives.

Self affirmation, community spirit, problem solving, digging, contemplation, simplifying---these are the qualities that foster a flourishing, fruitful garden and a flourishing, hands on education. As we work together, RCS and all of the students, to create the right conditions in the soil; growth will follow and the educational harvest will be plentiful.

Enjoy the video below! Thanks all! Joni

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6/3/10

Adopted Broccoli


The RCS Giving Garden recently adopted three broccoli plants! Chaunce and Naomi Stanton from St. Paul had extra broccoli seedings that needed a good home that could offer a loving environment, with good dirt, fresh water and lots of sunshine.

Well, the Giving Garden had all of those, so in the dirt they went to stretch those roots and grow. The newly installed irrigation system should ensure lots of liquid refreshment and the compost donation by Future Farms will continue to work it's magic in the soil.

We appropriately named these plants; Chaunce, Naomi and Stanton in honor of their donators and the produce that will soon be donated to the food shelf. Thank you Stanton's!

5/24/10

Partners in Gardening for Planting Day


On Tuesday, May 18th, several Retail Construction Services staff were joined by staff members from UPS, Students from Stillwater’s ALC High School and United Way for our planting day. There was a morning shift that staked out the rows, planted, then laid out landscape fabrics and straw. The afternoon group laid out the irrigation system and planted a couple of other planting projects.

From UPS we were joined by: Lynne, Teresa, Jason, Christina, Mike and Andy.

From the ALC in the morning: Justin Anton, Brian Dickie, Nate Eldridge, Tyler Maysack, Gus Membrez, Andrew Peltier, and Jake Tobin. In the afternoon we were joined by: Marie Anderson, Paige Blanchard, Katie Cole, Lastasha Johnson, Ali Kalik, Joe Klover, Bobby Koopman, Angela LaCoursiere, Tiling Lee, Alisha Manke, and Zach Murtley.

From United Way Washington County East, we were joined by Joanne!

Watch our progress in the video below! "Thank you" to all of our new garden partners and friends who came out to get their hands dirty with us!

5/10/10

Spring Has Sprung in the North Country - It was Strawberry Day!

10 May, 2010 - (More photos at the bottom of this article)

Spring has sprung in the North Country, and there is a whirl of activity in and around the RCS Giving Garden. After a great deal of deliberation, debate, and procrastination, we decided not to spray an herbicide on the garden to kill the weeds. We tapped into the most renewable form of energy, manpower. We pulled some, ignored some, and had our friendly neighbor Farmers, Neal and Deb Krueger, from Krueger's Christmas Tree Farm come and turn everything over for us.

John Vrieze of Future Farms in Baldwin, Wisconsin donated a couple of truckloads of manure; Buell’s Landscape Center generously delivered and dumped, and a couple of brave souls from the office did a little manual spreading to cover our Garden with nature’s nutrients, or as Joni terms it; spread the love.

The Kruegers returned to mix everything up, and we had Ameilia, Izzy, Josh and Grayson from the Lake Elmo Elementary Adventure Club over this morning to provide the renewable energy to plant our strawberry patch. The 110 strawberry plants were donated by our own Curt Kiesow, and Curt spent time with the Adventure Club kids instructing and educating. Curt grew up on a farm in Central Wisconsin, and felt right at home.

The District 834 Alternative Learning Center students, led by Tom Wendt, will begin construction of our Garden Shed on May 24th. The group has been collecting building materials from any and all resources, and is intent on constructing the Shed with all recycled and donated materials.

So, the Garden sits and waits until the next flurry of activity:

- We will be having our bigger planting day on Tues., May 18th, with a rain date of Thurs. May 20th.
We will be:
- mounding all of the rows, even those waiting for plants
- planting all the seed crops
- laying landscape fabric
- laying straw in the aisles
- connecting the irrigation system

Who is here to help that day?
- RCS Volunteers
- Stillwater ALC High School (they are here all day to help with everything)
- UPS volunteers

FOX 9 News may be out here that day or later in the month to cover the ALC building the garden shed.

Thanks to all who help in whatever small way. Your contributions are part of a network that strengthens our community in many ways.

- Gim Middleton