Sprout! 2013 Garden Project

The Black Mountain Home for Children Garden Project has a new name, a new Facebook page, two new leaders, and an exciting new funding source to start a new season. The “Home Grown Garden” was honored with a grant from Buncombe County for an irrigation system, wheelbarrows, tools, a picnic table and a shade canopy to make gardening more pleasant for our volunteers.

We will kick off the 2013 planting season (our third year) with a workday on Saturday, April 6 from 10:00 am to noon and repeat every Saturday in April at that time. No experience is necessary, but do bring drinking water. We will continue our lasagna garden layering technique, build a trellis, plant peas and other early crops. Look for the garden sign on Lake Eden Road by the stone silo before you get to the entrance of the Home. And be sure to check out Home Grown Garden on Facebook.


Black Mtn. Home Garden Project

earthcare logoThe second year of the Black Mountain Home Garden Project was a big improvement over the first year for several reasons: more produce harvested and donated, more volunteers and volunteer hours, more funding and more donations, and thanks to our Creator, cooler weather and more rain. The Garden Project yielded 1000 pounds of organic corn, tomatoes, beans, squash, peppers, eggplant, peas, watermelon, cabbage, and pumpkins, plus 2000 pounds of sweet potatoes. Produce not used by the Home was donated to MANNA, ABCCM, Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministries, and other programs in need of fresh produce.

Since March, nearly 50 volunteers put in 500 hours planting seeds and plant starts, spreading mulch, weeding, watering and harvesting. Volunteers came from eight area churches including FPC-Asheville, Montreat EPC, FPC-Swannanoa, Black Mountain

Presbyterian, Warren Wilson Presbyterian, First Baptist-Black Mountain, Biltmore Baptist East, and students from Warren Wilson College came to help as well.

Operating a one-acre volunteer garden requires many materials in addition to many hours of labor. Cash came from a $300 grant from Environmental Ministries of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and $100 from John and Jansen McCreary. Sow-True Seeds got the garden off to an early start by donating a large box of countless varieties of seeds and Sister’s Florabunda again donated many different plant starts. John and Carol Vruwink donated and delivered a load of horse manure and volunteers donated needed materials such as netting, buckets, shelving, and a scale. The shed near the garden, built by an Eagle Scout, was a wonderful addition for storing tools, seeds, organic pest controls, signs, and paper work.

The biggest reason the garden was such a success this year may have been the increased experience of the leaders and support from the Home. Three volunteer leaders, two veterans and one rookie, did the planning, recruited and directed volunteers, solicited donations, and managed the logistics of farming a one-acre plot in the lower fields at the Home. Since the weeds were such a huge problem the previous year, the leaders instituted a method to control weed growth by laying cardboard in the aisles and covering with wood chips, thus reducing the workload and increasing the yield. A scarecrow contest was also introduced to save the corn from the voracious birds.

The Garden Project was started in 2010 as a faith-based volunteer effort to increase gardening capacity at the Home and the first garden was planted in 2011. The goals of the Project are to grow fresh vegetables for use at the Home, to serve neighbors in need through donations to local organizations that provide food, and to increase volunteers’ gardening skills.

To learn more, use the category “SPROUT!” on the journal or contact Jane Laping.


October 5, 201210.6
The seemingly endless days of summer have slipped into this beautiful autumn at the Black Mountain Home Garden. Many gardeners, both old and new, young and not-as- young, have put their time, energy, and hearts into harvesting the bounty and preparing the garden for next year’s resurrection.

Beans were harvested until the weight of the 10.1vines took down parts of the trellis, and the relentless beetles abandoned the lacy leaves for the remaining vegetables. The rest of the cabbages, broccoli, collards, and other greens were picked and donated to MANNA, ABCCM, Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministries, and other non-profits providing needed food for our community.

Zucchini was harvested as well as more basil than anyone can imagine,10.2 several varieties of unidentified peppers, and small and large eggplants. Our struggling tomatoes were picked and placed in a sunny window to ripen before being donated. Pumpkins from seeds planted by FPC children were put into storage for fall.

10.3Much energy went into protecting our corn from foragers. Besides covering the stalks with deer netting to deter scavenging birds, a live trap was set to find out who was knocking down stalks to see if the corn was ready. Lee and Faye hauled off a possum, and Jane and Ann took a marauding raccoon for a one way trip on the Parkway. Our all too familiar by this point scarecrows were decked with as many shiny, dangling CDs as we could find and Lee tied silver strips of duct covering to the tops of many corn stalks. Through all these efforts we were able to harvest and share three different plantings of corn.

The crows found Lee’s watermelons to be most delicious.10.12 Fortunately they weren’t attracted to the Cherokee Moon and Stars variety that grew from seeds planted by FPC Bible Journeys children. These juicy, if seedy, watermelons have been enjoyed by ABCCM, the WNC Rescue Mission, and the FPC Child Care Center as well as the ladies of Room in the Inn, the Bible Journeys children, volunteers at the garden, and Sunday worshippers at Fellowship time.

Keith Love connected us with Lucie, a wonderful young woman10.8 who is in charge of food preparation for the FPC Child Care Center. She has welcomed donations of our fresh produce, and has found ways to make even unlikely foods like eggplant and basil tasty for our preschoolers.

We have had the pleasure of providing some food for Sara Varnado to prepare for the young parents she works with in ABCCM’s Our Circle program. Betsy Andrews was also able to share some of our produce with FPC’s Hope to Home partner, Tom.

10.9Our final weeks at this year’s garden have been spent preparing the garden for next spring and harvesting sweet potatoes. On September 22nd we were blessed with 19 volunteers. Many new volunteers including Paul Scouten, former Director of Campus Life at Black Mountain Home, came from Black Mountain Presbyterian.

FPC’s John and Carol Vruwink delivered a load of much needed manure from their farm in Arden. Volunteers went to work cutting cardboard furniture boxes into long strips that others laid on top of the cleared rows of this year’s garden.

Some folks loaded wood chips into wheelbarrows that a volunteer took and10.10 dumped on the cardboard. Still others used rakes to spread the chips to cover the cardboard. Eggplant, basil, and peppers were harvested while Paul unloaded the manure from the Vruwink’s truck. The manure was mixed with compost that was loaded into wheelbarrows and spread on top of the layers of decomposing cardboard, wood chips, and compost that will form the rows of next year’s garden. Young Quinn, Tyler, and Ramsey watched and enjoyed seeing the goats and donkeys in the neighboring field. It was amazing to see seven beautiful long rows lined by mulched pathways completed after two hours. Many hands make light work was joyfully witnessed by all.

On September 29 a group of 18 volunteers answered the call to help harvest 10.4sweet potatoes. You may remember that a group this size came together in May to plant 500 slips in a large field next to our main garden. Michael Poulos faithfully showed up, as he often has. Susie and Will Jameson came to work in the field and Randy delivered 50 banana boxes from Ingle’s which proved invaluable in storing and transporting the sweet potatoes. Four new volunteers from Warren Wilson College helped in the field as well as several new folks from Montreat Evangelical Presbyterian. While some dug with pitchforks, others carefully transported the potatoes out of the field.

10.5Mila sorted the potatoes into piles of gnawed/damaged (by harvesting), good, and small ones. The smallest were finger sized and the largest weighed over 2 pounds! A thousand pounds were put in an enclosed trailer provided by the Home that Lee and Faye turned into a curing shed on Sunday afternoon. Another 275 pounds of gnawed/damaged potatoes were given to the Salvation Army, the Western North Carolina Rescue Mission, and ABCCM for immediate use. These potatoes are good to eat once the bad parts have been cut away.

On October 2 the children and youth from the Home descended en masse to help harvest the remaining sweet potatoes. They were accompanied by Tom Campbell, President of BMHC, Jason Covert, the new Director of Campus Life, and assorted house parents and volunteers from the Home. After 10.7circling up for introductions, a prayer, and some brief instructions, our newly inducted volunteers dug, carted, and sorted potatoes in a flurry of garden activity never before experienced by Jane, Lee, and Ann. The potatoes harvested by these young people will be used by the Home and sold at their Fall Festival on October 13. Proceeds will be used by the Home’s Earth Club to fund future projects.

Meanwhile the sweet potatoes are continuing to cure. This process seals minor cuts, toughens their skin, and allow these potatoes to keep for as long as a year. Cured sweet potatoes also taste sweeter and are more moist. We plan to serve these sweet potatoes at FPC’s Creation Care dinner on October 17 as well as donating some to the Haywood Street Congregation, FPC Child Care Center, Saturday Sanctuary and other organizations.

An incredible gardening season at the Black Mountain Home has come to a close. May all whose hands and/or hearts blessed this garden share in the harvest. More than food was harvested in this garden. May all be heir to the spiritual harvest as well. Ponder all the gifts and lessons offered to us by the grace of God.10.11

Thank yourself for being a part of the Body, and thank God for leading you to this experience. Allow yourself to rest, dormant, but fertile. Dream of next year’s garden.

SPROUT! 8-11-12

The Black Mountain Home Garden has continued to grow and produce beyond our expectations. Thank You, God!

There something holy about a garden. You start each season down on your knees planting 8.11.12 4tiny seeds that somehow grow into much larger plants that in time produce life sustaining food. You touch the soil and feel the mystery of past life that has broken down over time to become the home and nourishment for new life.

You realize that someday this year’s garden and you also will be a part of this cycle.
Some days you just plant and weed and harvest and forget that this garden is not all your creation. Then God reminds you with pounding rain or a sun drenched day or ladybugs or maybe a hailstorm. God also reminds you with each person who shows up to help with the days chores, whether that person comes once or often. Thank You, God!

8.11.12 2Sometimes I think back about the newly cleared ground of early spring. I remember the piles of cardboard boxes broken open and cut to form paths between rows of barren ground. Looking at the size of the field and how far we  got that day, I wondered how this dream of weed-free, mulched paths would ever come to be. Then new volunteers showed up and I saw how much farther we got that day.Thank You, God!

I took heart and kept cutting more boxes, wondering where the mulch was going to come from. I remember Lee asking the man putting mulch on the side of the road if he could bring it to the garden. It was exciting to see mulch beginning to cover the cardboard. There were days spent cutting cardboard and spreading mulch. Jane would say, “Right now we’re planting cardboard in the garden.” Volunteers came anyway. Thank You, God!

I remember when the first pea and collard and broccoli sprouts began to break the surface of the soil and push their way up toward the sun. A spring downpour washed other seeds down the slight incline toward the creek. Luckily we were able to move the cardboard to make our rows go parallel to the creek so our seeds would not be washed away. Thank You, God!

I remember being given permission to have a large load of mulch dumped by the garden and being told some youth needed a project and could help spread the mulch, if we would continue laying down cardboard paths. It was joyous to show up one Saturday to see all the cardboard covered with mulch, the many helping hands making our work much lighter.

I remember taking a leap of faith and ordering 500 sweet potato slips to plant in the field adjacent to the garden. Jane put out an urgent call to arms for volunteers to come help. Sixteen volunteers from different faith communities responded by showing up to plant sweet potatoes. Some hoed up hills of soil, while others laid out the slips. Each slip was carefully planted and watered with water from the creek mixed with fish emulsion. The field was planted in our allotted two hours, and we gathered in a prayer circle.                    Thank You, God!

8.11.12-3_thumb3I remember volunteers building trellises for peas, and beans, and tomatoes and later learning what to do differently next year. Then there was weeding… and more weeding. Some preferred to hoe while other volunteers spent two hours on their knees plucking ragweed, edible purslane, smartweed, prickly nightshade, and jimson weed among others. The reward was beautiful, weed-free rows of happy plants. Then in our prayer circle we were reminded of the need to weed in our own lives. Thank You, God!

8.11.12-7_thumb1I remember the first corn seedling being plucked and eaten by the crows. So Lee and Faye put strings of old VCR tape inches above the newly planted corn seeds to deter the birds. I remember Lee smiling when that worked. When birds pecked the first ears of corn Lee and Faye covered the corn patch with deer netting carefully weaving together the pieces. How great that first ear of corn tasted! Thank You, God!

These days when we go to the garden it’s hard to believe it was once barren ground covered with cardboard. There ‘s never enough time to do all the harvesting, weeding, and maintaining that needs to be done. There’s two long, tall rows of Kentucky Wonder beans that have grown so well they’ve started pulling down the trellis. Other bush beans are starting to produce elsewhere in the garden. There’s a long row of zucchini and several rows of peppers, basil, and eggplant. There two good patches of sweet corn getting ready to produce and a field of sweet potatoes silently growing underground. We still have cabbage and carrots from the spring and some struggling tomato plants. There’s a sweet patch of sunflowers and wildflowers in the other field. There’s even a pumpkin and watermelon patch. Thank You, God!

Every week a few extra volunteers show up to help tend and harvest the garden. It seems like a miracle, and indeed I believe it is one – a miracle we are allowed to participate in that illuminates the cycle of life each and every year.

8.11.12 5

Thank You, God!


The Black Mountain Home for Children Garden continues to grow and produce.  Unfortunately our volunteers have dwindled. We accomplish much each time we work, but always leave with undone tasks for “next time.” Meanwhile weeds keep growing and pests keep chomping.  Please call Jane Laping or Ann Kieffer for directions or any questions.

Recent harvests shared with Manna have included collards, broccoli raab, basil, and daikons.  We were able to harvest a pound or so of our Kentucky wonder beans last Saturday.  More will be coming soon.  Our scarecrows have succeeded in keeping the crows out of our corn patches thus far! We are looking forward to harvesting tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, cabbage, squash, pumpkins, watermelons, and sweet potatoes, as well as corn with the grace of God.

We continue to be blessed by volunteers from here at FPCA and from different faith communities, so come on out on Saturdays from 9am—11 am and join us! Directions are online or call Ann Kieffer.