Mr. Noodle

Mr. Noodle
Mr. Noodle

Monday, March 17, 2014

Like a Lion in March: gardening in SLC

As I write there is a massive gale blowing outside. I walked back from the university this morning (took about 50 min) and because I was walking along a busy street with lots of traffic, the road grit kept blowing in my eyes and I could only think: I wish I was wearing goggles.

I have taken some photos of what I promised two weeks ago - our Internet was way late in arriving but I will do my best to keep up with my commitment to myself to blog about gardening every Monday.

 Wait, what? This doesn't look like gardening. Well, it isn't, but it is related to my Urban Farming Apprenticeship at Wastach Community Gardens. See, as an intern, I am invited to the weekly staff meetings, which I try to go to whenever I can. A couple of weeks ago, instead of a meeting there was a staff retreat, and the first stop on the retreat was a tour of Mezzo Chocolate. A great way to start off a morning!

 We started our tour in the show room, where Topher and his partner have some raw ingredients on display, as well as their finished product (a variety of drinking chocolate). Soon after we arrived he gave each of us a sample with milk he had steamed on the espresso machine. Decadent!

 The tour begins. Alas, these barrels are empty, but can you guess what they might be for? (hint: what is chocolate's best flavor friend?)

 Enough cocoa beans to fill a shipping container. Each of these sacs weighs 130-150 pounds.

 Smelling beans. SO good!

 This used to be a coffee roaster, but has been retrofitted for cocoa.

The chaff that comes out of the roaster. Makes a great mulch! 

 More smelling beans!

 This is an old flour mill, and they run the cocoa beans through here with their flavorings. What comes out is the consistency of brownie dough, which they shape into bars. The bars (he didn't tell us so I'm guessing) either dry out or they bake them at low heat and then chop them up into pieces for packaging.

 This is the fruit the cocoa beans grow in (think pomegranate). These ones have been carved. Beautiful!

 I couldn't resist taking a photo of the tiny Dia de los Muertos wrestling match on the front counter.

 Mezzo Chocolate is hoping to sell at one of the farmer's markets this summer, and they are available at a number of stores in Salt Lake City as well as in a few other states.

Next up: we went to Bad Dog Arts for a creative exercise. Their office is just across the breezeway from the Community Gardens office, so a number of the WCG staff already knew Michael and Victoria.

 They sat us down in two groups (six and five people altogether) and gave us each an 11x17" sheet of paper, and a black sharpie. We started by just drawing shapes with round lines or angled lines. After a few minutes, we stopped and passed our drawing to the person to the left of us. In half an hour, everyone at the table had worked on everyone else's drawing. When it came back, they broke out the colored sharpies and we could color in our piece, finishing it off. Here is what I ended up with:

 I really like where it went, what other people did with it. This sort of right brain activity is very invigorating, I find, and it was really interesting to see what our thoughts were. We all spoke of the process after the swapping was finished. I studied Buddhism back in the 1990's and worked hard to let go of my attachment to things, and my attitude now is "go where the wind takes me" so I was certainly open to whatever came up. I would do this activity again.

 Something else that came up for me, that I didn't mention to the group, is that I don't really know my own drawing style. I found myself using techniques that I have seen Dan use - he went to art school, has tens of thousands of drawings, is an accomplished artist. I draw stick people. We have to start somewhere, right?

Okay, on to the actual garden.

The wee ones in the greenhouse are coming along. It has been so warm here in the valley this (it's still winter) season that the plants have had some time outside in the sun. Emma, the Garden's Youth Educator, has been planting all kinds of crazy things you wouldn't expect to see in Utah, like peanuts and cotton, with the youth. After seeing the Tomato Garden lay dormant these past couple of months, it is wonderful to see things get planted, such as fava beans, peas, and beets.

Meanwhile, I have been busy painting signs for the compost area. They are more than halfway done, though this project has taken quite a bit longer than I had anticipated. I don't have any photos of the signs yet, will wait until they are done (and possibly mounted?).

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