Thursday, March 23, 2006

Jims most recent blog posts

Building a Metal Greenhouse with Angle Iron & Pipe
5 days ago

It's rare in our experience to have metal the preferred material for building a greenhouse! In the Shirak region of Armenia wood is so scarce, and the winters so cold, that any available wood gets taken and cut up for firewood to keep the people alive. Even their manure is saved and burned in the winter. Any wood that we are able to buy is very expensive. We have therefore had to buy used angle iron and pay welders to put together our seedling greenhouse. Now that the structure is all completed, we are drilling holes in the metal and attaching thin strips of wood (shook), and the clear greenhouse plastic will be sandwiched between the shook. I'm hoping this small amount of wood won't fall prey to the winter stoves of our neighbors. The greenhouse is costing over $3,000. Sigh. I hope it works for many years and teaches many students, so the Armenian people see a real benefit.

First Week of Classes
6 days ago

The Gardening Training Course students have had an intense week! One older fellow couldn't handle the physical requirements and didn't return after his first day, but the others seem to be enjoying the learning and the work. In the two hours of classroom instruction, we include videos, book "larnin", demonstrations, and discussions - sometimes heated, as people often have strong feelings about these things. Most of our work has been inside this week, since it was very cold, and it rained and snowed a couple of days. Students made their own markers, levels, seedling trays, and put handles on tools we are providing them. Seedlings are growing, and we hope to finish the greenhouse and transplant into 40 or 50 flats in the next week or 10 days. Today we installed table tops on the middle section of the greenhouse. As we were cleaning up, I noticed 3 dogs attacking a large sow pig in a field next to us. Fearing they'd kill the pig I ran out into the muddy field and chased the dogs away. Although some blood was showing the pig was able to get up and walk, so I followed it until it turned into the yard where it apparently lived.

"oOut of Small Things Proceedeth That Which is Great"
10 days ago

We are excited at the prospects for our success in Armenia, because we are surely starting small! It is so sad that some of those who promised to come don't even have the $4 per week for transportation to the training site! And attending deprives them of the dollar or two they might otherwise earn during those 4 days as well. Never was it more true that it takes money to make money. The two women from the refugee village named Moosh2 are among that number, and we were SO SAD to have them not show up! How many of us in America and other developed countries WASTE $4 in a week, or even in a DAY!! We'll try to assist them to come. Anyone else out there care? Those who attended are excited and committed to learning all they can.

We're Ready to Party! Will Anyone Come?
11 days ago

The property at Getk is presentable, with a training room set to accommodate 20 or more students, a greenhouse structure built, 4 thousand plants emerging in flats, a home to live in, and a staff plus facilities to feed and house students. In 11 hours we'll find out if anyone cares. I feel good about our preparation, and confident we will make a great difference in the lives of those who avail themselves of the opportunity. Today at our church meeting Araksya, my wonderful and supportive young wife was invited to speak. The ladies were exchanging ideas on how to feed their families healthy food with little money, since they all are very poor. Araksya pointed out the great value of growing your own vegetables, and reminded them of the help we had tried to give them in two previous years. Only one family worked on the garden we built for them behind the church last year, and she raved about the fabulous vegetables their family enjoyed clear into the winter. Several of the ladies became very interested. We'll see if it lasts. Now to bed, so I'll be fresh for the challenge of the morning.

Recruiting the Right Students
14 days ago

Today we had a recruiting seminar. We showed prospective students many pictorial examples of wonderful gardens all around the world, including several right here in Armenia, and taught them what makes Mittleider gardens unique and better than others. We also invited Ceda, a participant in the Mittleider Method of gardening for the past two years to speak. Ceda wowed them! As she described her garden - small but so prolific she had trouble using and giving away all the produce - others became convinced quickly. Ceda lives in a small village called Moosh2 that was created for refugees from the Azerbaijan conflict, and she has shown many of her neighbors how to grow a great garden. We expect her to bring a couple of other folks from her village to the training program. I believe we can expect at least 6 and perhaps 12 good students from the day's efforts. It looks like we're on our way.

Facilities Preparation
15 days ago

It's so much easier to go into an established facility, such as a school, to do a Gardening Training Project! Everything is totally new here in Armenia, and we're responsible for doing everything ourselves. We are furnishing a house and training room, and we even have to get water and gas brought into the place! Tables and chairs are in place, and we now have heat and lights. They will all know Armenian and Russian, so we will install a chalk board and teach from that, along with books in Russian, and a projector attached to a laptop computer. Araksya will be kept very busy translating, as almost none of the students will have any English skills. We are going to try and remove the snow from in and around the greenhouse today. We will then finish the structure and cover it with greenhouse plastic. The students will probably be involved in the greenhouse finishing, as well as building at least one 2 X 5 meter hotbed that will be the model for most of them to replicate in their own home gardens.

Second Week - Recruiting Students
15 days ago

Yesterday Araksya fielded visits and calls from prospective students, while I drove to the Capital city of Yerevan to visit with possible funding sources (no encouragement there). We spent the afternoon and early evening visiting with a few of the 2005 Project participants, and invited them to attend the Training Course. Some of the best ones have full-time work in their village and can't be away, but we received word this morning that 3 of the best gardeners from Chenik village will be at Getk on Monday to begin training. I guess I'm stuck with doing it now! We hope to train at least 12, and could work with 20 if we have sufficient funding. We are starting seeds today. We'll plant about 500 each of tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, and lettuce. They are inside the house on heat mats. within 5 or 6 days we will have to have ample light for the 3 1/2-meter-square boxes. And in less than 3 weeks we'll have to have a warm and light place big enough to accommodate about 40 boxes.

Teaching Food Production
17 days ago

Most family gardeners can't justify a greenhouse, so how can we teach and demonstrate growing healthy seedlings to them? We build and plant a cold-frame/hotbed! There are several designs, and the Garden Master CD has a good one you can use. In the region of Armenia in which we are teaching wood is very scarce and therefore expensive. Also, during the cold winters people are likely to burn any they can get their hands on to keep from freezing, so we use a different design. We recommend an in-the-ground setup using steel rods as hoops, and covered with clear greenhouse plastic. We will use 6' X 16' or 2 X 5 meters. We dig the dirt out to a depth of 30-33" or 3/4 meter. Fill 1' or 30cm deep with manure, then 8" or 20cm with sand, and 8" or 20cm with the sand and sawdust growing mixture. Apply Pre-Plant at the rate of 1 ounce per cubic foot of growing mixture or 1/2kg per cubic meter. Plant seeds in one end, using about 18" or 1/2 meter-length rows. Cover with a second smaller greenhouse plastic, supported by 4' or 1 1/4 meter rods. Water well, then pay close attention to temperatures, using a thermometer. Open the plastic when temps rise above 80 degrees F or 30 degrees C. When plants emerge, water with Constant Feed solution. Transplant into the entire hot-frame when plants have 2 sets of true leaves, with spacing between 2 1/2" and 3" or 6-71/2cm. You can grow 2000 plants in your own hot-bed in this way, and do it in time that they can be transplanted into your garden as soon as it's warm enough.

One Week Into the Project
19 days ago

On March 3, between 3 and 10 P.M. all 4 TV stations broadcasting to the Shirak Region of Armenia carried very good coverage of the press conference we conducted yesterday. And again this morning, March 4 at 9 A.M. at least one station repeated their coverage. We owe a debt of gratitude to a great Armenian patriot named Levon Barseghyan, President of Asperez Foundation, for assisting us and getting the media there! We also purchased announcement time on three stations and will see newspaper articles for the next few days. We have received and will receive amazing publicity. Now comes the hard part - delivering the goods! I'm re-discovering today some of the many differences between America and most other countries. People promise and don't deliver; things break and can't be fixed; everyone gets up at 10 A.M. whether they need to or not; and tomorrow is plenty soon for whatever needs doing. Sigh.

20 days ago

It's a week since we arrived in Armenia! Time goes too fast!! We are busy purchasing materials and supplies for the training project. Everything takes much longer than in the USA, where you can drive to your choice of stores for anything imaginable. We need heaters for the Getk training facility. It's still cold, with more than a foot of snow on the ground. This also means we'll have to start our first seedlings using a heat source under the trays, and maybe a light source over the seedlings when they emerge, if we can't get the greenhouse finished in time. More students are needed to fill the spaces we have available. Because Araksya worked in the broadcasting industry, and was very well liked and respected, we were able to conduct a press conference today with about 15 media representatives in attendance. I believe every TV camera in the region was pointed at me! We emphasized we are looking for only a few hard working people who are willing to accept and implement new ideas and methods, and they will be promising to become leaders in their villages and assist others, as a way of "paying forward" what they've received. We also announced we are charging about $55 for the 4-month training program. This is a lot of money for these people, and will greatly reduce the number who apply. Hopefully it will eliminate all who simply want something for nothing. The Project cost per student is in excess of $500, and each one will receive about $200 in books, materials, tools, seeds, seedlings, etc. And the knowledge and experience they will gain is priceless, so we want as many quality students as possible. We will be limited to some degree by our finances, unless some of you reading this are able to assist a little bit. The fixed costs won't change much, so we are able to add an additional student for each $250 of donations we receive. Thanks to those of you who've cared to share! Help in any amount is greatly appreciated, and you can give it by going to the Donate section of the website and using PayPal or a credit card. Checks may be sent directly to the Foundation at 848 Woodruff Way, SLC, Ut 84108, and all donations will be used 100% for the benefit of Project Students. Jim & Araksya Kennard


Post a Comment

<< Home