A Growing Season in the Discovery Gardens

A Growing Season in the Discovery Gardens

My Experience as a SCSEP Volunteer at Wolfe’s Neck Farm, 2014 Season by Dallas DeMarco.

I began in the middle of March and was honored to be assigned to oversee the educational gardens. After the long, cold winter of 2013-2014, there was much to do but I could envision the transformation of the barren, covered beds to a beautiful garden in bloom. I was definitely up for the challenge and ready to begin.

I started with the garden shed known as “Tool Thyme.” It was disorganized and filled to the brim with all sorts of garden tools, seed trays, seeds, potting soil, garden signs, water hoses, and stakes. I began emptying everything out onto the then brown, lifeless grass. After cleaning and sweeping out the shed I was able to organize and put everything back in in a way that everything was easily accessible and organized.

Every step of the way I had the privilege to work closely with Jen and Kari to bring the vision to life of what the Wolfe’s Neck educational gardens could encompass. Knowing it wouldn’t be long before buses would arrive at the farm, filled with children eager to experience all the joys the farm has to offer, there was a lot of work to be done to be ready in time. My suggestions were always heard and I was provided the freedom to accomplish all we had envisioned.

My next step was to get the greenhouse in order to start the many trays of seedlings needed to fill the educational gardens and the much larger Teen Ag fields. The greenhouse was overgrown with weeds and it took many hours with a shovel and pitchfork to get it down to bare soil. I then searched for sawhorses and large planks to make a work area to start the trays of seedlings. Each and every employee on the farm was always so helpful regarding all the things I asked. Caroline was able to lead me in the right direction for these items and I was ready to set them all up and get started getting my hands dirty. Not many days later I got to meet Piper, who was hired to oversee the Teen Ag program. This turned into a great friendship that I truly value. We worked together closely, planting many trays of seedlings before she hired her Teen Ag Crew. I greatly admire her work ethic and knowledge.

The next step was to get all the beds ready for planting. After a close count, I found we had a total of 39 beds. Twenty-six in the main garden, six in Mr. McGregor’s garden, four in front of the greenhouse, and three that would end up being a “pizza garden” located near the woods. I needed to make sense of all the beds so I made diagrams of each area and placed numbers on all of the beds so we could communicate to camp counselors and children which beds could be planted and when. It was then time to uncover them all, weed, turnover, and add compost from our wonderful compost area. I uncovered treasures of garlic in two beds, a strawberry patch, rhubarb, and an herb spiral. It took many hours to get all of the beds ready to plant, as I filled the wheel barrel with many stones I found around the woods to build up the ground level beds.

Next I asked if it would be possible to get woodchips to spread around the garden to keep weeds down and to make the whole area look nice and defined. Thanks to Jim, before I knew it I had a whole truck load delivered. Simply by using one wheel barrel at a time, I was able to spread the chips over the whole garden area.

What a joy when those first school buses arrived, and to see the joy and smiles as they began to explore the farm. The seedlings were ready for transplanting and the children really enjoyed planting them into the beds, all the while learning from their instructors the plant cycle – from seeds to seedlings to plants then in bloom producing veggies ready to eat. They were able to taste and try some things that some had never tried.

Some of my favorite memories are seeing the children pulled behind the tractor and waving to me as I worked in the garden as well as being asked if I was “Mrs. McGregor.” I also really enjoyed being able to explain my disability of having to speak with a device – that many people are different yet the same… The day the pigs escaped as well as when Ben and I tried to herd five chickens from the garden back into the barn are entertaining and fun memories… Seeing the children walk the goats around the farm on leashes with the baby kids following close behind was great.

As the season is coming to an end, I look back on all of the wonderful times I’ve been blessed with here – I truly enjoyed being a small part of the Wolfe’s Neck family, and the gardens turned out beautiful. I cherished every minute of it. I got much more out of this experience than I gave, and I am thankful to Wolfe’s Neck for allowing me to be a small part of the 2014 season.

Thanks to Dave, Jen, Kari, Myra, Jackie, Matt, Jim, Caroline, Piper, Chuck, and all the Recompence guys, camp counselors, and everyone that put their heart and souls into making my Wolfe’s Neck experience magical.