Tag Archives: WWOOF

Composting on Cumberland

29 Aug

I’d like to point everyone to my friend Jen’s absolutely delicious blog Food Orleans. Reading about her culinary adventures across the Crescent City and salivating over the photographic record reminds this fellow just what it means to miss New Orleans. In pursuit of at-home sustainability, Jen recently asked me to share my thoughts on backyard composting and the lessons I’ve learned from the Greyfield Garden.

I hope I’m not the “thoughtful composter” of Jen’s post title. I wish I could put more thought and energy into our compost program here on the island. Without a doubt, it’s the easiest way to address our fertility issues. But our extreme environment doesn’t make achieving a rich humus-like product easy, especially in the summer months. I’ve heard the garden on Little St. Simon’s does an excellent job in this respect, and I plan to study their system and bring it back to Greyfield. To be honest, I just don’t feel that we’re composting as successfully as we should be.

Regardless, Jen is far too generous with her praise. I’m not half as articulate as I wish. And, honestly, I could sit down and talk about Greyfield’s compost or any other aspect of the garden for days. I am a Greyfield Garden nerd, proudly. Get ready. With a little more time and determination (and a new camera), I hope that means a lot more blogging in the near future.

Until then, please check out the inside scoop on wild horse poop:

on sustainability, part 2: the thoughtful composter


P.S. That’s super-Wwoofer Wynne in the compost pit. More on Wynne and the other pea in her pod, Jake, to come soon.

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?

Wwonderful Wwoofers

17 Oct

Several weeks past, two unstoppable forces of nature landed in the Greyfield Garden. Melanie and Sophie—or Milleniama and Arrow, depending upon your personal feelings about rainbows and stardust—took a southbound Greyhound out of Seattle with Cumberland on their minds. Now, there were some stops and detours along the way—and the girls may have worn out their thumbs between Chattanooga and Fernandina Beach. But by hook or crook, they made it here, arriving to toil and till in the garden as the first Wwoofers on my watch.

Admittedly, I was anxious about their coming. New people in  your work environment can be a disruptive force. What if they didn’t like to sweat? Didn’t know which was the business end of the shovel? Or had a congenital aversion to any of the myriad, big-toothed buzzing things that often come out for breakfast and dinner?

Thank goodness, all of my fears were completely unwarranted. These girls knew how to work. They loved simply being outdoors, taking in the infinite rare experiences that Cumberland Island can give. It’s actually a wonder that I ever had my doubts or suspicions, as anyone adventurous enough to ride a Greyhound 2000 miles would certainly be up for shoveling a cart full of wild horse manure.

I am immeasurably grateful for their help. We got a lot done. We pulled cosmos, with stems like trunks, plantsthat were too happy to flower, instead content to go on growing like Jack’s beanstalk. We dug up rotten beds, with infernal metal roofing tacked to their sides plunging four feet or more into the soft sand (a putative defense agains

t dollar weed, but nothing can stop dollar weed). We consolidated clumps of odoriferous lemon grass to make room for a trellis of blackberries and hardy, grape-sized kiwi. We hoed up furrows for ridges that would house potatoes and Early Wonder Tall-Top beets and sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” We planted countless collards seeds in homemade starting mix (pond much and vermiculite), preparing for the fall and winter garden.

Although I say “we,” it was really a lot of “they.” I normally mumbled some directions twice too long and went about other chores with total confidence in their intelligence and industry. That kind of trust in a work relationship, no matter how brief, is rare; and it is a total luxury. Three bodies working smartly meant the garden underwent almost a complete transformation in about ten days.

For all of this I’m grateful. But more than anything, I’m grateful that these two luminous girls somehow passed by Cumberland in their wild orbit. I can think of few other people who might enjoy the full moon here as much or whose presence would be a constant melody of laughing. I knew they were keepers when walking to the inn, I heard them singing Madonna in the garden behind me.

Greyfield will miss you girls, you vagabond mermaids. We hope to see you soon. And as you make your way through this world, should you need them, we’re happy to write any professional references.

Be part of the answer.

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).

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!