Garlic has been one of our best storage crops for the past two years: we plant in the fall and yield enough to save more for planting the next year as well as plenty for events like Garlic vs. Vampires and the occasional dinner. Garden produce is always available for anyone who volunteers at work parties, but this year we had enough left over that we decided to go public with our distributions. Lucky students who happened across the right corner of Baxter Hall last week went home with their very own head of super-local garlic!
Carrie Tribble '13 was kind enough to share a photo of what she and Zoe Grueskin '14 did with theirs:
"Whole wheat with roaster garlic loaf" ...looks yummy!
After a long winter indoors, on Sunday, March 10 the Sustainable Growers began their spring season in beautiful 50 degree weather under cloudless skies. To prepare for the upcoming growing year, about fifteen students gathered outside of Dodd House to seed start vegetables for the grow-cart. We sat outside planting, talking, and enjoying each others' company in the warmth of the afternoon.
The Growers planted cold-hearty kale and broccoli to be transplanted in mid-April when the threat of frost still persists. In addition, we started later-season varieties such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants that require longer time to grow indoors.
Although the garden is still covered in remnants of the last snow, the warm and dry Dodd Basement provides a great environment to nurture the seedlings. For the next two months, we will tend to the trays and most likely add more as the season progresses. Each day a member of the garden will water the plants, check on the grow lights, and prepare the vegetables for their transplantation into either the Parsons Garden beds or the Presidential Garden.
By 1:30, the group had planted hundreds of seeds. Proudly surveying the rows of future plants on the grow-cart, the Sustainable Growers looked forward to a bountiful season!
Our garden veggies have leant themselves to many a lunch and dinner: stir fried, roasted, pickled...but all too often, dessert gets overlooked. (Though who could forget the garlic chocolate chip cookies?) But it was the end of the semester & the end of another wonderful season for the growers, and I wanted to do something special to make this gathering memorable. That's where the cake comes in.
Thanks to our hoop tunnels, the ground doesn't freeze. So we can leave beets in the ground and harvest at our leisure. Which is precisely what I did when I got it in my head to make red velvet cake dyed with beets! Surely, this would make the evening a celebration...and if the cake wasn't enough, well...the cream cheese frosting would be!
I researched. There are a lot of blogger/baker/amateur-scientists who have put their minds to the question already. The challenge, according to blogosphere, is to keep the cake acidic, so that the beet juice stays red, rather than browning in the oven.
In the end, our lack of good food processor led me to choose this recipe
this is the batter before we put it in the oven!
It was quite easy to follow. I used whole wheat flour, unrefined sugar, and I only had one cake pan so I couldn't layer it. Therefore, I only needed about half the frosting, so I mixed one 8 oz. package cream cheese with one stick of butter and added confectioner's sugar and vanilla to taste!
this is the cake out of the oven but still awaiting the frosting
While we're busy harvesting greens and prepping our beds for winter here on campus, farms in the area have been rushing to get their last summer vegetables harvested before it starts to snow. Ioka Valley Farm invited a team of volunteers to harvest their squash for donation to a local food pantry, a process of sharing the harvest known as "gleaning." Erik Romano '15 had a chance to check it out--here's what he has to report!
"On Sunday October 28th, I had the opportunity of going gleaning pumpkins, squash, and gourds near Ioka Valley Farm. For those who don't know what gleaning is, we basically harvested food that would otherwise go to waste (in this case, it goes to a local pig farm, because "pigs can literally eat anything" according to one of my fellow volunteers) and donated it to the Friendship Center, a food pantry in North Adams. It was a beautiful day, a bit chilly, but the weather was refreshing. There were hundreds of pumpkins, butternut squash and gourds on the field. We obviously couldn't harvest them all seeing as our group of volunteers consisted of around 10 individuals, me being the youngest by far. Unfortunately, a lot of squash was mushy due to the frost, but we picked what we could. We picked varieties including, butternut, delicata, acorn, sugarplum, and hubbard. I didn't know this before, but there are types of pumpkins bred to be jack-o-lanterns and ones bred for consuming, and the ones on the field were large jack-o-lantern-ready pumpkins. There were some smaller, darker orange pumpkins that were pie-ready as well, but fewer in quantity. I loved looking for the craziest alien gourds, which come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Afterward, we stopped by a local school to give pumpkins for carving, and then drove the squash and gourds to the Friendship Center, who was happy to take them off our hands. I had an amazing time, especially since I was helping out those in need!"
This past Saturday night we had a traditional Viking Funeral for our blighted tomatoes. Why you might ask did we do this? Blighted tomatoes must be disposed of properly, and although this what most farmer's might recommend, we felt that a good old celebration of our tomatoes in viking fashion might be the wacky kind of activity college gardeners could get excited about. And they did! We had a great turn out of 15 brave souls to wander through the darkness down Cole Field to the Hoosatonic River.
The tomatoes were lashed to a board, which was salvaged from the transfer facility, with rope from the garden shed. Four pallbearers carried Thorn, our viking tomato king, down through the woods to the water's edge. As the flames were prepared, a poem in Olde English was read and the mood turned somber. Two volunteers donned waders, typical for fly-fishing, and entered the water with Thorn. The board was lit, and the board was pushed out onto the still water.
As the flames drifted down into the darkness a second passage in Olde English was read. We raised our glasses to honor Thorn, and the festivities finished. It was a spontatneous celebration and memorial of our tomatoes.
After an incredible and bountiful end-of-summer harvest, the Williams Sustainable Gardeners, with the help of Dining Services, held the second annual Harvest Dinner. This year, the superb weather allowed for the dinner to take place in Parsons Garden. Much of the menu consisted of produce that was grown right in the garden where it was served!
The Harvest Dinner Menu:
Roasted Garden Squash
Pickles and Pickled Beets
Grilled Corn on the Cob
Baked Potato Bar with Goat Cheese and Chives
Apple Pie with Maple
While much of the produce grown this summer has since been harvested, many greens, tomatoes, and herbs continue to grow. We will also be planting more greens and wheat in the near future. We also hope to expand our horizons and our learning by partnering with other groups on campus.
Coming next time... Taste the Rainbow! WSG and QSU unite!
Deep in the heart of Williams campus, behind a wall and beside a large, white house, there lives a garden. Few know of its existence and fewer still have ventured within. This, the Presidential Garden, is one of the best kept secrets at Williams. If you ask the average Williams student about the garden, they might raise their eyebrows and ask if you're on the right campus. Sometimes I wonder if Adam Falk even realizes there is a garden in his yard.
At the beginning of the summer, the garden's low profile may have been fitting - it was unkempt and overgrown, with more weeds than vegetables in sight. With a bit of clean up, however, it began to look quite respectable.
The garden, post weeding extravaganza.
I decided then that the Presidential Garden deserved more attention than it had been getting. So when Brent suggested that we build a new fence for the garden, I was easily convinced. Ever since then, he and I have been dreaming and scheming about every kind of fence imaginable. Images of bamboo fences, classic white picket fences, fences made of bricks, stone, and wrought iron - all of these have crossed my mind.
As we planned the fence, Brent and I had to keep a few specifications in mind. Originally built to keep out hungry bunnies, the fence had to be practical; this meant chicken wire buried about a foot underground. And because of its snazzy location next the the Presidential abode, it had to be aesthetically pleasing. It also needed to be as permanent as possible, so that it could be enjoyed by generations of Williams gardeners to come. So when Drew Jones of Hopkins Forest offered us a large supply of old split rails made of black locust, we knew we were in luck. Not only would the rails fulfill all of our requirements, they were free. And they would lend a much-needed rustic edge to the perfection of the President's yard. We decided that the fence would consist of wire fencing stretched between the sturdy rails, with a gate made of salvaged boards and chicken wire. We set the ambitious goal of finishing the project, including the gate that went with it, in a single day.
Construction of the fence began early one warm day in July. With the help of post hole-diggers, rock bars, and student workers from Hopkins Forest, we dug over 20 two-foot-deep holes into the rocky soil of the Presidential yard. Raising the tall rails into the holes, we set them straight and packed the soil tightly around them.
Once all the rails were in place, we unrolled a large bundle of wire fencing, stretching it taut and nailing it tightly between each post. (We were disappointed to find that our 50 ft roll was several feet too small to fit the perimeter, a problem we fixed later by patching the gap with chicken wire). We repeated this process with a smaller roll of chicken wire, lowering it into a trench we had dug and burying it in the soil to deter garden pests. At the same time, we added a layer of black weed barrier, hoping to keep weeds from entering the garden from the outside.
The final challenge was constructing a gate for the garden that would fit snugly and swing freely. We fit the salvaged boards carefully to the shape of the gap we left in the fence, screwing them in place. Next, we screened the frame with chicken wire. The trickiest part was screwing the hinges into the gate and then into the rails, taking care to keep the gate at the appropriate angle above the ground. With a few minor adjustments, the gate was in place! It was incredibly satisfying to open the gate for the first time, it swinging smoothly to let me into the garden. Voila! A new fence for the garden.
A watermelon in the President's yard.
Now, the Presidential Garden overflowing with ripe corn, winter squash, watermelons, cantaloupes, and beans! Complete with painted vegetable signs, I'd say its quite deserving of its new defenses. So if you're ever in the neighborhood of the Falks, you should stop on by.