Reciprocity often runs rampant when opportunities for mutual benefit converge. Coincident, while pleasing, is not as satisfying as those synchronistic circumstances which benefit a wider audience than those to whom a favor of the cosmos has been bestowed.|
Every summer before our strawbale wall workshop, we begin searching for inexpensive bales. Once we had access to hay bales that had been left out in the field and got wet - the bottoms and some of the sides had mold on them, making them no longer suitable for feed. We were able to get all we needed at two dollars a bale.
Another year we asked a local if he knew of any damaged hay bales and he said he had a stack, leaning on the outside of a barn wall that was about ready to fall down. They were bales of oat hay and the wires had rusted so that most broke when we tried to pick them up. We were fortunate to have bailing twine with us, and began re-tying them before even lifting them. They were one dollar a bale.
This year we knew a woman who had a stack of three-twine straw bales that had been sitting outside for years. She owns a small café about three miles down the road. We dropped by and offered to buy some, if they were for sale. She has always had a community-minded spirit and told us to just go ahead and take what we needed, no charge. The next day we arrived early with a truck and checked in with her just to see if the offer was still good. It was, and she had a question: what would it take to have a garden behind the café?
We walked around to the back and surveyed the area. It was flat enough and had good morning and midday sun with a little protection from the hot afternoon sun and wind. We told her that it would be a great place to have a garden. She mentioned that she would like to be able to provide fresh organic greens for the café. This we felt was an idea good for the whole community since so many of us often eat there.
We loaded the bales we needed for the workshop project - a 70-foot long single-bale wall. By laying them on their sides, it will be about 22 inches high, curving around a drop-off on the road to the Hogan.
After unloading, we thought about the garden she wanted and decided that a GreenzBox growing system would be the best solution. We designed it that night and soon had the basic dimensions and a parts list. The next day we went back and showed her what we thought was best to do, and she gave her approval.
We also decided to build the cafe a couple of round compost bins, four feet across and four feet high, made from a roll of old hog wire and window screen from around the outside of the old garden. Around these two outside layers, we wrapped weathered wood and wire snow fencing a friend of ours had given us about 7 years ago.
After finishing the compost bins, we began on the GreenzBox. Since she had straw bales left over, we brought them to the site, and after leveling the perimeter, we stood them on their sides and created a 16’ x 6’ growing box. We tied the bales together with bailing twine for stability, put some old chicken wire on the bottom to keep out gophers and three inches of straw for drainage.
We had ordered 5 yards of organic soil that arrived just as we finished wrapping a tarp over the edges of the bales to keep them dry. Although he dumped it as close as he could to the GreenzBox, we realized that we had a lot of shoveling ahead of us. Suddenly a man hauling an old Ford tractor with a front loader on it drove up. He was doing a small job for the trading post next to the café. We asked if he could come over and scoop the soil into the box when he was finished with the job next door.
We had some other details to tend to, and just as we finished them and began shoveling the soil, he drove up. In about 15 minutes he had dumped it all in. As he turned to leave, we asked if we could pay him anything. He requested a small amount, which we gladly paid, knowing how long we would have been there shoveling without him, and after all, “The laborer is worthy of his hire.”
The completion is yet to come; there are still some finishing touches, but the major work is done. Soon we will add the frame for the shade cloth and plant the bed with some of the greens we have been growing indoors in seed trays.
On a post office building in Washington D.C. there is an inscription, which states that a mailman’s job, among other things is to be an, “enlarger of the common life.” In the April issue of Newsweek magazine, Lisa Kershener, a farmer, was asked, “Why did she, like others, continue to prevail against all the hardships farmers and gardeners go through?” The answer was, “We love growing food for people.”
At farmers market when someone buys a head of lettuce, when sharing with neighbors one’s abundance, when giving of ourselves, we have all become an “enlarger of the common life.” And by so doing, we grow.
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