Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Free Gardening Supplies + Beer

Over the weekend we jumped into our beater pickup truck to run a bunch of gardening-related errands. I'd been waiting for an opportunity to knock out several tasks in one run, and it was finally the right time. There's a mushroom farm not too far from Kennett Square that gives away free organic mushroom compost most Saturday mornings. We had to get on the road pretty early to get there in time, but man, what a deal. We didn't even have to load it. They had a conveyor belt contraption that just dumped the compost right into the bed of our truck. We had to get in line between much larger farm machines pulling much larger trailers to haul the compost around in. Clearly these farmers know a good thing when they find it. We were thrilled.

Then off we went to another town in the area to drop off some seeds to a woman who had participated in the group ordering we did last month. She had mentioned that she had a large stand of bamboo, and that we were welcome to come and help ourselves to as much of it as we wanted. We did. I cut down twenty shafts, which, after trimming, we were able to cut into 11-foot sections with remainders 6 to 8 feet long . I want them to create six bean teepees for my garden this year. I'll use the longer sections for the teepees, and the shorter pieces for whatever else suggests itself. We stuffed the bamboo poles into the compost in the bed of the truck and recovered it all with a tarp.

Then it was off to a lunch break and a meetup with Meg & Kelly of Future House Farm at the Victory Brewing brewpub in Downington. We thought it very fitting, parking our beater truck in the brewery's parking lot with this bumper sticker on it. It was good to meet the "Pirate Farm" folks, as my husband calls them, and to chat about sustainability, books by Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver, and food and beer of course. They're gardening-cooking-hen keeping folks themselves, and they're the ones that got me thinking in the first place about using bamboo in the garden. My husband was keen to hear about the rain barrel system they set up for their watering needs. He also indulged in a growler purchase, filled with a Victory brew.

After a lunch of satisfying food and conversation, we were off to our last freebie stop. I collected a few more composting worms from the third person to respond to my pleas for them. Two other women had kindly given me a few worms, but the total amount was pretty small compared to the size of the bin I'm using for them. So another addition wasn't amiss.

On the way home we had a funny encounter with a hugely enthused Asian man pulling up alongside us in a minivan while cruising along at 55 mph on the highway. He beckoned for me to roll down my window while his wife looked eagerly on. We were mystified, but I rolled down my window. "Where'd you get the bamboo?" he yelled excitedly. I shouted out the name of the town where we had cut it that morning, and he asked, "Is there somewhere to buy it?!?" I smiled ruefully, shook my head and watched his face fall. But he said thanks and drove off. We wondered whether we could've made some ready cash if we'd pulled over and offered to sell our poles on the spot.

The bamboo poles will be used to grow some Cherokee Trail of Tears beans and Hutterite Soup beans this year. Most of the mushroom compost will go into the raised beds we've yet to make for the asparagus crowns that will arrive in a few months.

We were pretty smug about getting so much free gardening stuff and meeting some interesting people for lunch. I think I won't have too much trouble rousting my husband early from bed again if I want to make a similar run again for more of the same. But I'm a little sore from cutting all that bamboo and then off-loading the compost. I'm out of shape from lack of gardening activity over the winter.


Anonymous said...

I am jealous of it all. Bamboo stalks? Mushroom compost? People working gardening together? You are living in my dreams.

Campo Girls Gardening in Spain said...

I am jealous too, I wish we had a community like that here, all the Spanish farmers are great and do give advice and help but FREE is something else entirely :)

Great to meet you, are you on twitter?

I am http://www.twitter.com/campogirls and http://www.twitter.com/simoneicough

Great blog and look forward to your antics this weekend


The Country Experience said...

What a haul! And the best part is that your husband will be motivated to take part next time. That isn't something to overlook.

Anonymous said...

Very nice haul! I have to buy my mushroom compost, but it's still in the bags and still capable of growing mushrooms. I usually get about 10-15 kg from a trailer-load of bags, which costs about $50. Not bad, and the freshest, tastiest mushrooms I've ever had.

We have some bamboo growing on the side of some local roads. The council occasionally slashes it, but I often stop and cut some for stakes etc. Nobody seems to mind.

Kate said...

Raquel, thanks for the encouraging words.

CG&H, yeah, free is my favorite flavor. I'm not on twitter, and I don't have any further planned antics, but I'll keep you posted. Your blog looks pretty interesting as well. I imagine it's a challenge to learn how to garden in a different climate than one is accustomed to.

TCE, oh, believe me, I know the value of bribing with beer when it comes to my husband.

Darren, yes, I remember your post about the bagged up semi-spent mushroom substrate. I asked at the mushroom farm if they ever considered anything like that. The guy unloading the compost didn't have details, but he thought that had been tried once upon a time. I have no complaints about the free stuff though. I like free.

m said...

free mushroom soil?! i recently moved to the philly area + have heard of such a thing in kennett square. my neighbors and i here are starting our very first community garden this summer + were interested in making the trek down to the mushroom capitol-can you share with me where you got your soil? thanks for the help + great blog!

Kate said...

Megan, I'd be happy to contact you to share the details of the compost with you. But your profile is not shared, so you'll need to leave me some way of getting ahold of you. Leave me your email address or a phone number here in the comments. If you wish, I'll delete the comment with your contact info once I've got it. I should be able to respond quickly on most days.


m said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
meemsnyc said...

Nothing is better than free gardening supplies and beer! Awesome. So jealous we don't have that kind of sharing around here. I would love to get free compost and bamboo sticks!!