Tag Archives: garden

First Cumberland, Next the World

23 Feb

Early morning smiles, still in need of coffee

UNTITLED: Donn Cooper + Greyfield Garden

Three cheers to Dodge ‘n’ Batty, our latest Wwoofing volunteers and the linchpins to a successful year in the Greyfield Garden. Let no man ever say a couple girls (and city-slickers at that) can’t work a shovel. As temperatures went prematurely balmy, our cultured Atlantans took to the dirt, turning under old crops and furiously hoeing rows for our spring and summer harvests. I don’t know where we’d be without their unrelenting elbow grease, smiles, and buoyant humor.

Cumberland Island was just their first stop in a six-month “farmhand” tour across the U.S. Call them ambassadors of agriculture goodwill and Southern gregariousness. Whatever the case, follow their ever-winsome adventures at their irrepressible blog (Cumberland and Fernandina Beach make half a dozen entries).

Godspeed, ladies. May your journey be constantly serendipitous.

P.S. Yes, “Untitled” is actually part of their blog’s title. That is, until providence offers the right name, or a really good suggestion comes along. Any ideas, Greyfield fans?

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Cumberland Critters and Unwanted Guests

27 Nov

First the bad: Raccoons in the Greyfield Garden! The danged banded bandits came for the persimmons and stayed for the palm berries…the compost pile…elusive grubs and whatnot to be dug from the side of our furrows. (Good luck with that; there are no bugs in our sandy soil). They pose grave danger to my precious tomatoes, which I have been doting on for most of the year (example below but more on that story later).

Since the raccoons have outfoxed and out-toughed our electric fence, we’ve resorted to extreme measures.  Razor wire, a high-powered rifle, a rain-catchment tank turned guard tower with a .223 rifle and night scope….  Sometimes I wish. How about a have-a-heart trap, instead, baited with persimmons, pears, or winter squash?

Pictured above are captives three, four, and five (plus one possum). As you can see, two were caught at one time, which was quite a surprise and a thing of pride. All were removed to distant parts of the island to make new homes or slowly wend their way back to Greyfield.

Placing, setting, and baiting the traps has been a real test of cunning.  The trap has to be accessible but not too obvious, the edge of the trigger-latch holding the door open by a near defiance of physics, the persimmon located strategically close to the release but not so close that the raccoon might dexterously pluck it out. Then there’s the matter of proper camouflage for both the entire trap and the release. To this point, dead palmetto fronds and Spanish moss have worked well. That is, of course, as long as you scotch each side of the cage because the raccoons would just as soon roll the cage over as go in it.

Each new intruder seems to be more clever than the last. If it weren’t so preposterous, I’d almost believe that the raccoons were sharing intelligence–as if they were huddling together in a war room, poring over maps of the garden fence and reporting on their most recent sorties. These suckers are smart. They quickly wise up to all my tricks. Although my respect for their wiliness has increased significantly, that feeling in no way lessens my desire to see them exterminated. In a garden they are the embodiment of destruction, and I knew there would be no easy detente between us when I saw their tracks running over the crest of one of the vegetable rows, each footprint smashing in a tiny seedling.

As someone famous once said, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.

Now for the good, which is much less detailed. The garden has become the home of a darling little toad, which might also be the savory reason for the raccoons’ incursions. I know nothing about this creature, except that it prefers to be covered in the cool, dark soil. And each time I’ve happened upon it, while weeding or cutting down spent marigolds, the toad just as soon begins to bury itself and throw dirt over its shoulder, looking rather inconvenienced and bored.

Without further delay or slim facts to prattle over, I give you said toad in all of his cute, stoic glory:

Look at that warty back:

The Kitchen at Greyfield Inn

6 Nov

Love and marriage, a horse and carriage, the garden and the kitchen—what’s one without the other? And who wants to eat raw turnips? Today the Greyfield Garden pays rightful homage to the folks who make the magic happen, masters of the alchemy of heat, oil, and spice that transforms the homely rutabaga to a sense-rattling feast. Ladies and gentlemen, may we present the kitchen staff at the Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island, to whom our stomachs owe many thanks:

Whitney Otawka—Executive Chef

Hometown: Hesperia, California

Whitney’s love for all things French sent her headlong into the culinary world. While taking French classes at the University of California-Berkeley, she responded to an advertisement for a waitress position at a local French bakery. With absolutely zip waitressing experience, she didn’t get the job. Instead, she was hired as the second part of a two-person kitchen, where she began her career as a budding chef and learned to manage the brain-frying multitasking of the restaurant business. At night the owner, who cooked his mother’s Brittany-based recipes, would give informal lessons on the art of food and introduce Whitney to whatever wine caught her fancy. It was a remarkable experience, and her boss at the time was one of the most generous people she’s ever known. Whitney came to Greyfield after working simultaneously for 5&10 and Restaurant Eugene, the better dining establishments in Athens and Atlanta, Georgia, respectively—much less the country. Although invitations to work permanently in Atlanta came knocking, she didn’t want to fight the grind of the big city. The opportunity as executive chef at the Greyfield Inn, where her first experience had been as a guest, was a captivating way to stay in the South and a unique chance to put culinary creativity into practice and enlarge upon her talents.

Staff’s Favorite Dish—Whitney’s responsible for so much, it’s nearly impossible to winnow it down. I’ll say this, since I’ve been here, I’ve never eaten so well in my life.  I often have extra helpings of gnocchi, butternut squash, and pheasant. And, oooh, the lemonade bubbles….

Alberto “The Rock” Gonzalez—Sous Chef

Hometown: Miami, Florida

We are so much a product of our parents’ jobs and life-decisions. Al’s story is a simple one, which as the son of a farmer I can certainly understand. His father was a restaurateur in Miami. After resisting the family business throughout much of his youth, Al eventually discovered he could stay out of it no longer. These things get into your blood, and their lives become part of your own.

Al came to Greyfield after running a hip and happening bar in the sparkling seaside hamlet of Fernandina Beach, Florida (which really has more enticing bars and decent eateries than a place its size should). While job-hunting there, he made friends with Greyfield’s head chef at the time. It’s all about connections.

(Something I learned in the course of this “interview”: Al can play the bassoon.)

Staff’s Favorite Dish—Lemon cottage cheese pancakes. A fabulous treat in your workday: They make plain pancakes seem completely lazy and insufficient. Al also makes a flavorful hot sauce with just the right amount of heat. The guests were recently overhead raving about his garbanzo bean salad.

Georgia Kelly—Pastry Chef

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Georgia says she is not a spontaneous person. She likes plans, preparations, and insurance for her insurance. Yet, after 20 years as an X-ray tech—a temporary job that had forgotten to be just that—Georgia gave it up with nothing certain to fall back on and nothing definite to come. At the age of 40, she enrolled in culinary school in Charleston, throwing herself bravely into a new life. Of course, Georgia had grown up cooking and always loved it (although she says the same could not be said for her mother).

Initially, Georgia completed a 12-week externship at Greyfield as part of her schooling. She chose us over The Ritz on Amelia Island because of the comfort and attention to detail of the small kitchen here (besides the fact that Greyfield and Cumberland are together just a special place). Eventually a full-time position opened up and Georgia jumped on board.

Staff’s Favorite Dish—Rice Crispy Bar with Bavarian Cream. The Mount Olympus of sweet desserts. As the names says, this is a rapturous combination of rich chocolate cream and a chocolate rice-bar base like the most heavenly Nestle Crunch you can imagine. It’s decadence plus debauchery plus a little moral turpitude thrown in for good measure. Her carrot cake is a close second, soft and moist yet the perfect amount of nutty crunch. And everyone loves to talk about the French toast encrusted in bran flakes.

Ben Wheatley—Sous Chef

Hometown: Washington, Georgia

From childhood Ben has loved cooking. He cooked alongside his mother growing up. He cooked in and around the town of Clayton, Georgia during high school. And, remarkably, he cooked in the esteemed kitchens of both Blackberry Farm and 5&10 shortly thereafter. Now, Greyfield is fortunate to have him cooking for us.

Staff’s Favorite Dish—Personally, the steak, cooked slowly over a cedar and oak fire, producing the perfect internal color. I also think he makes some great cornbread.

I put the kitchen staff through this rather whimsical round of inquiries, some of them borrowed from the Proust Questionnaire published in Vanity Fair magazine. Hopefully, their answers partially convey what great, enjoyable people they are and the generally fun mood of the kitchen.

 

What is your favorite food?

Whitney—“My mom’s cabbage rolls.” If she’s paying, Mexican food.

Al—Bistec Empanizado con tostones y frijoles negros. Breaded steak with black beans and rice and fried plantains. Followed by tiramisu. Al loves tiramisu.

Georgia—Comfort foods like soup and chicken and dumplings. “I would go all the way to Colorado Springs for avocado pork burritos.”

Ben—”My grandma’s potato soup with cornbread cracklin.”

What music are you most likely to listen to in the kitchen while you work?

Whitney—Jack Johnson. The Black Keys. She says, “I also really like Dwight Yoakam.”

Al—Pearl Jam. Latin music.

Georgia—Anything light and fun, especially music with brass. The Gypsy Kings.

Ben—Classic Country, Bob Marley, Neil Young. Also: Drive-By Truckers, The Black Keys.

If you could come back as an animal, what would it be?

Whitney—A Tahitian dolphin.

Al—Great White.

Georgia—A peregrine falcon or a gibbon.

Ben—duck.

What is it that you dislike?

Whitney—Spitting.

Al—Saying “um” over and over again.

Georgia—Chewing and snapping gum.

Ben—People who complain openly, also people who constantly talk without saying anything.

What word or phrase do you most overuse?

Whitney—“Just so you know”

Al—“No worry”

Georgia—“Shit!”

Ben—”Huh?” (However, Ben’s really not one to overuse words.)

What talent would you most like to have?

Whitney—Spanish guitar or violin.

Al—Piano.

Georgia—Singing.

Ben—”Badass on the guitar.”

What are your favorite names?

Whitney—Violet. Phineas.

Al—Xavier.

Georgia—Seamus.

Ben—Jezebel.

Greyfield’s October/November Menu

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Healthy soil equals happy spring seedlings!

19 Apr

Hello everyone, I hope you are well. The pollen has been making everyone cough and sneeze and as I sit in the garden I see it blowing from the trees like dust.

Sugar snaps blooming

The bees and other insects are active around the garden lately; trees are budding and flowering everywhere within sight. The keeper of our active hive at Greyfield Garden stopped by the other day and shared some interesting information about bees. He talked to us about the South African Hive Beetle and shared tips about handling and keeping bees.

The beekeeper came by to check his hive in the garden. He shared lots of info about bees and maintaining his thousands of hives.

Here on Cumberland Island, the smell and feel of spring is best served early in the morning with a fresh bucket of compost and a hot cup of tea.  Unfortunately the sand gnats enjoy the early mornings and otherwise calming sunsets that are usually perfect for relaxing in the garden just as I do.

Using funky shaped limbs as tomato trellising works nicely and is also aesthetically pleasing.

Volunteers are popping up everywhere! It is really amazing what one-year of agricultural activity on a one acre piece of land can produce and create. The compost that we have been feeding our beds with since last summer has selected this spring’s garden prospects and they are abundant. Hunter, our new WWOOFer, and I spent an evening in the garden transplanting basil from several highly populated areas to areas that needed some filling in. They are doing well several days later and we are happy that they are happy in their new spot in the garden.

Speaking of compost! I wanted to give an update on our compost. Since the beginning of this calendar year we have turned approximately 1300 pounds of kitchen scraps into food for our soil!

The new chipper, our to-go coffee cups (made from vegetable oils,compostable), egg cartons, and newspaper... otherwise known as our carbon source for composting!

7 huge bags later!

We cannot forget about what else that compost has done for us. I have been keeping a loose total of veggies going from garden to kitchen….

Cooking Greens (kale, collards, mustards, sweet potato greens, turnip greens):

–       Roughly 50 gallons

Salad Greens (arugula, butter head, red leaf, endive frisee, bibb and others):

–       Roughly 30 gallons

Radish ( red meat, nero tondo, icicle, French breakfast, easter egg, pink beauty, daikon):

–       Roughly 60 dozen

Carrots (purple haze, yellow stone, white satin, rainbow varieties):

–       Roughly 30 dozen

Here is a bundle of our rainbow mix carrots being sprayed off early in the morning!

We have also harvested 35-40 pounds of sweet potatoes and an assortment of root vegetables. Plenty of broccoli and cauliflower heads made it from garden rows to dinner plates along with a few hearty rounds of Brussels sprouts. We have been working with the kitchen toward doing more of a seasonal menu. On the garden side I am working on ironing out a crop plan and rotation including a cover cropping rotation along with composting in place. We are looking forward to a productive late spring and summer at Greyfield Garden so stay tuned! see more photos check out our page on Facebook! Take it easy (on the planet).

Louisiana, Alice Waters, and an Edible Schoolyard

21 Mar

Hello and good day. Spring temperatures are finally here and the island is a very healthy looking shade of green. The horses are as pleased as I am with the new colors of spring and the gnats are back to test everyone’s patience, spring really is here!  I recently returned to Greyfield Inn following a trip to Louisiana.  Marksville, Louisiana was my first experience in the great state and honestly I loved it. My girlfriend and I were hosted by Mr. Rodney Rabalais and Mrs. Paige Rabalais on their property appropriately dubbed “slowness”.  The couple were absolutely amazing people and welcomed us as if we were family. Paige had been a guest of Greyfield Inn in December and on her visit she spent some time in the garden. Paige and I chatted about the local food movement, shared gardening stories, and talked about school gardens for an hour or so.  Paige had invited myself and Robbie (WWOOFer at the time) to attend a school event highlighting the schoolyard garden that she and another teacher initiated. Avoyelles Public Charter School is a lovely k-12 school in Marksville, LA consisting of a curriculum focused on the arts. Students take art, music, foreign language, and sewing at every grade level. The school really is a jewel. The students and faculty share a beautifully designed campus on a spacious piece of property. A well-constructed and creatively designed tool shed sets behind the school within wheelbarrow distance from the garden. The shed is built largely with reclaimed wood. The school held a shed- raising event that drew assistance from all over Marksville. Upon entering the shed a breath of the community surrounding its construction fills your lungs and a feeling of home is exhaled.  Signs indicating vegetables, flowers, trees, and fruits are all in written in French, which helps the students stay sharp on their vocabulary as well as teach them about their heritage.  Paige and fellow teacher Polly spearheaded the movement to create an edible schoolyard at Avoyelles Public Charter School. The students wrote letters to Alice Waters when they took their first steps toward creating the garden and invited her to attend their 10-year anniversary.  Shortly after receiving the letters Miss Alice agreed to visit the school and see what everyone had accomplished. I had the opportunity to talk briefly with Miss Alice. She is a very kind woman and truly has a golden heart and sincere love for educating adults and children alike on all things food. My experience in Louisiana is one to remember. The food was as delicious as the culture surrounding the area and the people were incredible. I tasted a few things for the first time one of them being a rice and vegetable stuffed sausage called boudin but the taste of the rich culture is one that I will truly hold on to and hopefully taste again in the future.  Until next time, take it easy (on the planet).

This is what the Avoyelles Public Charter School garden looks like mid March.

The kids were so excited about their new project!

The entire hallway leading to the garden is full of info about why the garden is the right thing to do!

The students at APCS take art, music, sewing, and foreign language classes beginning in kindergarten.

The 5th graders made an apron for Miss Alice and Mister Joe.

These folks were very informative and their honey was delicious!

One of many chefs participating in the feast surrounding the garden event.

These kids are not students however they did receive a good amount of attention.

A true Louisiana experience!

Mr. Rodney, Mr. Joe, Miss Alice and Miss Paige

Mr. Gerard and some students celebrating their heritage in the form of music.

Mr Joe doing a cooking demo using fresh garden veggies!

A few students enjoying some good food and a lovely day.

Greyfield Garden and Kitchen at the Georgia Organics Conference

2 Mar

Storms have blown through the country, all forms of precipitation have fallen, knowledge has been gained and ideas have sprouted like the restless spring seedlings since the last post. Myself and Chef Alberto Gonzalez attended the annual Georgia Organics conference February 20th and 21st on behalf of Greyfield Inn.  I attended last year’s event and walked away feeling more empowered and enthusiastic about my life and my career than ever before. This year’s event was enlightening and inspiring for Al and myself as well as every other attendee, vendor, volunteer, educator taking part in the conference. The event was held in Athens,GA, a city with a very rich food culture as well as a welcoming atmosphere of  a community that is  keyed in on the local food movement.  Al and I joined our new chef Whitney Otawka for an elegantly local meal at 5 and 10, her former place of employment. The food was excellent and the conversation jovial, what else can you ask for?  We look forward to growing with Whitney in the kitchen and the  garden. Good things are here and even better things are happening at Greyfield Inn and in Greyfield Garden.

Two days were spent digging a mote, filling it with wire cloth, securing the cloth with staples, and zipping up all the loose spots. The end result of hours hoeing with blisters and numerous backstretches gave the garden a well-constructed armadillo-proof fence!

Jen and Aaron, a sensible newlywed couple, lent a week’s worth of their time in exchange for some good food, garden experience, and a chance to gain some knowledge about their interest in returning to the land. Check out their blog to read about their journey… wwoofingpattaps.blogspot.com

I have been busy getting a few projects folded up and put together while the garden has been carefully expressing apprehensive feelings toward the tardiness of spring.  The seedlings are itching to leave their apartment buildings and set some roots in the warm and lively sandy soils of Grefyield Garden.  I had the pleasure of sharing two days of flower planting and compost sifting/hauling with a few friends this weekend. Ryan and Amanda came down from Savannah to spend some time with their hands in the earth. We took the first few steps toward fashioning a funnel and freshening up an herb garden. More to come about the funnel… it’s a part of our most recent structure in the garden, a water tower for collecting rainwater and irrigating a portion of our vegetable and flower beds.

I am working hard at making our spring garden healthy and productive to provide our guests with delicious veggies and a pleasant place to meander and gather inspiration. Greyfield Garden has started a composting initiative of sorts on Cumberland Island. We are giving island residents and extended stay vacationers 5 gallon buckets with information about composting and asking them to collect kitchen scraps during their stay in hopes of encouraging new earth friendly habits. Cumberland Island has a rich natural history of food and sustainability and we intend on preserving that culture and soil that it starts with. Chef Whitney, myself, and the entire staff at Greyfield are waiting arms open for spring to walk in the door, we look forward to an enjoyable growing season!  Enjoy some photos of the “garden haps”. Take it easy (on the planet), happy planting!

Sugar snap peas busting trough the still cool soil.

Leguminous cover crops collect nitrogen from the air and store it in their roots.

Chinese cabbage, Red Russian kale, green wave mustard , and collards.

Young carrots and ornamental kale.

A look under the row covers.

Seedlings under the cold frame, almost time for spring transplanting.

The tower part of our new rain catcher with some recently shaped and composted rows ready for planting.

True companions. Strawberries and onions work well together.

Snapshot of the garden on March 1st, this same shot in May will be totally full of color!

Current Issues

28 Jan

This post will catch everyone up with what is happening at Greyfield Garden, well at least the stuff we are willing to disclose!

It is the last week of a pretty chilly January and personally I am very much looking forward to some warmer weather.  The whole country went through a week and half or so of some frigid weather early in the month and crops were affected. Those of us that are growing fruits and veggies this time of year had to do some cuddling and cozying. In our garden we had some pretty eager tomatoes and basil that volunteered in a number of places and they were the first to fall when Jack Frost came to town. A”volunteer” is a term used for  seeds that hang around in the compost and are spread in the beds or in the rows and decide to set some roots in a new location. Perhaps they wanted a change of scenery or maybe they were just sleeping in their compost comforter and ended up peaking their heads out when we ruffled the blankets. Our Casper eggplant had been holding strong late in the season and, like the tomatoes, thought that the low temperatures were a good reason to tuck in to the compost comforter for a couple months. Thankfully the eggplant, tomatoes, basil, and a few patches of nasturtiums were the only folks affected by the low temps. The days of our kale, cabbage, collards, brussels, cauliflower, broccoli, and salad mixes being under blankets ended around the middle of the month. I even spent several nights heating bricks in the oven and placing them under the blankets to sleep with the veggies during the coldest nights!

Jack Frost left around the middle of the month and we had about a week of mid 60’s- low 70’s. I spent most of the cold spell inside planning for Spring, placing seed orders, and drawing garden maps. I received the seeds I ordered just in time for the warm weather! I spent several days planting salad mixes, radishes, kohlrabi, and carrots and harvesting sweet potatoes. Farmers and gardeners need to know when to plant and harvest, they need to be familiar with their soil, they need to be well read on pests and diseases, but even the most well studied farmer is at the mercy of Mother Nature.  Two days after I shed the layers of long sleeves and stocking cap and started planting we got three or four days of hard rain, lots of water in a short period. We have a very low spot in the NW corner of our garden and after one or two hard rains a couple months ago I realized it was going to be a lasting issue, so I raised all the beds in the western section.  The raised beds helped a great deal but it did not solve the problem completely, we are still dealing with standing water following a few hours of hard rain.  I spent a couple rainy days bending conduit for row covers. The row covers will serve as a warm tunnel for some spring seed starting. I hope to start enough seeds under the row covers to transplant a good majority of the garden by the end of February.

I have attached some photos of our worm bin as well as a composting method that was shared by a guest, Paige Rabalais, of Avoyelles Parish, LA. I am excited about the composting in place. I feel like it is a great way to give garden visitors a visual on the composting process. The method is great for backyard gardens and raised beds; lots of guests have questions about compost and it is great to give them an idea about how to handle composting at home.  Composting in place is less laborious than pile composting or other methods that require shoveling and hauling the compost to the intended place of use. I planted oats and rye grass around the small compost barrel in our garden. Cover cropping and composting in place are excellent together because they both add organic matter to the soil and help to create a rich bed for the next crop in rotation. I have built 12 of these small barrels and will begin using them in rotation with cover crops following a fruit or vegetable crop. Our worm bin started out with two pounds of worms, several boxes of shredded newspaper, kitchen scraps, and some finished compost a little over two months ago.  Our worms are currently being fed like kings and have a lovely house nestled between our two orange trees in the garden. I transported the worms from Savannah one weekend and became well acquainted with them when the bag I was carrying them in busted in the car. Needless to say I know what they looked like when they went into the bin and now when I feed them I check on how much they have beefed up, they are looking happy and healthy! We are using this bin and our compost piles to reduce the amount of material that is hauled off the island. Instead of sending it off to be hopefully be recycled we are shredding the newspaper and some cardboard to use in our compost and the worm bin. Along with

Those of you that are farming and gardening out there, good luck with spring prepping and we wish you the best in the upcoming season. Those of you that are not currently growing, I hope it’s because it’s too cold where you are and not because you think that you don’t have enough time or space to do so. Grow what you can, it tastes better and you feel better when you eat it!  Take it easy (on the planet) and eat well.

The new Greyfield Garden sign, come on in! Thanks Tucker 🙂

10 nights below freezing. We made sure our babies were as warm as they could be.

These are the guys that took a hit w/ the cold weather. We saved them and fried them for a delicious snack!

Casper eggplant, middle of Decemeber. These guys and our volunteer tomatoes were among the cold weather casualties.

After the cold we received several days of hard rain. The garden is a little stressed. I am doing my best to keep her happy and healthy.

Compost tea anyone?

Adding new rows in the western section of the garden.

West beds are finished. Robbie plants young strawberries in one of the new rows.

West beds are looking good!

(Top to bottom) Bananas, cold frame, beds, hand cart, beds.

Beginning of our worm bin.

The worms survived the cold weather and have grown considerably since we dropped them in to their new home.

Thanks for the idea Paige. Composting in place. I am going to do this in beds when they are not under vegetable production. Compost in the middle with a cover crop surrounding the pile. This will really help get the beds ready for the next rotation!

Composting in place well on its way.

Cheddar cauliflower surrounded by broccoli and snow crown cauliflower.

Micro greens factory. Our chefs love using these as a garnish and when they get past the "micro" stage they use them for young leaf salads, delicious!

Welcome to Greyfield Garden

21 Jan

Hello everyone, the following information includes my thoughts, words of truth, garden facts, occasional jokes, and hopefully some insight to what it is like working closely with Mother Nature. My name is Andy Schwartz and I am the gardener at the lovely Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island.

The garden at Greyfield is roughly one acre in size and approximately half of that is under vegetable and fruit production at the moment.  Greyfield has had an interest in things sustainable and environmentally friendly for decades. The mentioning of growing healthy soil and healthy food came as no surprise when several forward thinking heads came together with thoughts of rejuvenating the Ferguson family garden on Greyfield grounds. The result of those thoughts and the decision to move forward with a more sustainable and seasonal menu at Greyfield led to many positive happenings one of which was the decision to hire me as full time gardener. Items like fresh fish, shrimp, oysters, and scallops, local breads, cheeses, fresh Florida citrus, rice and various traditional grains have been on the menu for years. The addition of a productive fruit and vegetable garden paired with a good recycling and composting program only made sense. I must give my thanks to Daron “Farmer D” Joffe, Marla Henderson, Mary Jo Ferguson, and Oliver “Mitty” Ferguson for giving me the opportunity to steward the lovely piece of land that I do.

Our goal is to grow as much of the most healthy and nutritious food that we can to feed our guests at Greyfield Inn.  We offer guests a unique opportunity by doing daily tours of the garden and assisting in developing a relationship with the food they will be consuming later that evening. We are excited to share our philosophies on growing sustainable, organic, and natural foods in a healthy environment. Our country is changing the way it thinks about food and the way it perceives what is healthy and what is not. Nationwide plenty of folks are beginning to realize the importance of being able to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for themselves and their families. Our aim is to enable those that may have never seen a brussels sprout growing to see it growing and flourishing in a row of its brothers and sisters, learn how to harvest it, and have the chance to eat it that evening on their dinner plate with local fish caught that day and Carolina Gold rice from a nearby rice farmer.

The vegetables and fruits know exactly what to do; we do our part to provide the most nutrient rich soil that we can and the rest is up to Mother Nature. We do not use any chemical pesticides or fertilizers. We compost. We look to the island for soil amendments. Horse manure, oyster shell, fish emulsion, various mulches, leaf mold, and sea- weed are a few of our not so secret ingredients.  Our composting operation is fueled by roughly 12-15 pounds of kitchen scraps on a daily basis. Since my first day on Cumberland we have turned approximately 1 and a half tons (3195lbs) of kitchen scraps into nutrient rich compost for our garden beds!  We are now shredding all of our newspaper, egg cartons, and some cardboard for our worms to process into more fertile soil to be added to our beds.  We have been using compostable coffee cups that we mulch and add to our compost piles for several months now and will continue to use indefinitely. We believe that our efforts to be responsible and have a low impact on our surroundings will help to keep Cumberland as wild and magical as it is today for many years to come.

We have been hard at work developing the garden from the ground up and hope to have a very productive spring this year. We have had one WWOOFer  (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) do an apprenticeship with us and he was a witty lad from London that loved Willie Nelson, compost, and armadillos. We are listed on the WWOOF website as accepting one apprentice at a time and are working with the University of Florida to develop an internship program through their agriculture department. Through these outlets we hope to draw in individuals that are interested in growing vegetables, being surrounded by raw nature, and working shin deep in compost and horse manure, not necessarily in that order. The unique situation that is Greyfield Inn and the island surrounding it draws thousands of visitors every year. The goal of Greyfield garden is to educate as many people as possible starting with our guests and extending to the mentioned apprenticeships and internships. We also want to feed our guests all the yummy veggies they can eat during their visit! I will be posting thoughts and any information that we feel needs to be shared as well as plenty of photos and narratives. Keep your heart close to the ground so that your ear is close too and listen closely… checking our blog will work just as well.

Until next time, take it easy (on the planet) and live well.

Mature luffa on the vine, ready to be harvested and used for exfoliation.

Sunflower harvest. soon to be hung for our winged friends stopping by the garden.

Hanging elephant head amaranth. These really added color and a new dimension to the luffa tunnel.

Bright like the sun

West beds. Sunflowers and a cover crop row of cow peas.

Prickly pear cactus. I transplanted these from a nearby field to start a sort of interpretive bed in the garden.

Passion flower

Typical daily harvest mid-June.

enter the garden

This is most of what you see upon entering the gate, there are 6 raised rows to the left of the tabby structure.

nasturtiums/micro greens

Early morning in the garden.

Tiger melon, ground view