The Official Blog of the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC)

 

School Gardens Still Growing Strong

Posted by admin on July 1, 2020

By Carol Earnest

Back in February, students from Orleans and Somes Bar planted peas, carrots, broccoli, and lettuce, among other things, in their school garden spaces. MKWC Community & Stewardship Program staff, partners, and volunteers, led students through the planning, planting, and tending of these seeds and seedlings, with the promise that their efforts would result in sweet peas, crisp lettuce, and crunchy carrots.

In March, schools closed and the promise of a future garden harvest suddenly felt uncertain. Fortunately, MKWC staff and volunteers, in coordination with the schools, were able to return to the gardens, following new COVID-19 safety procedures, and got to work. They harvested over 15 pounds of sugar snap peas, 30 heads of lettuce, and 10 pounds of broccoli, all which was delivered to local schoolkids through the lunch distribution program. “My kids love the peas!” one parent exclaimed when stopping by the garden in Orleans. A local teacher took a virtual tour of one of the garden spaces with her class, where her students saw the peas that they planted from seed, towering 10 feet high. “Remember when we planted those?”

In the face of uncertainty, plants continue to grow, flower, and fruit, as long as there is someone to tend them (and sometimes even when there is not). They become more than a source of nutrition, they are a symbol of resilience, a place of connection in a time when we need it the most.

As the heat rolls in and the peas and lettuce wrap up for the season, focus is shifting to the tomatoes, sugar pie pumpkins, beans, and basil, and we look forward to finding creative and safe ways to get this fresh produce to local families and food programs this summer.

MKWC is just one part of a larger group of organizations and people devoted to school garden programs in the Mid Klamath. We send a heartfelt thank you to the partners, schools, and volunteers that have made these garden spaces possible over the years, from pounding t-posts, putting up fences, delivering compost, organizing fundraisers, tilling beds, donating plants, and so much more.

unnamed.jpgOrleans School Garden. From left to right: garlic, pumpkins, peas.

This project is partially funded by the EPA Environmental Education Grant program.

Carol Earnest is MKWC’s Associate Director and Community & Stewardship Program Director.

 

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The Future Is Now

Posted by admin on June 2, 2020

By Erica Terence

In a clothing swap with neighbors, back when people were still gathering with abandon, a T-shirt printed ironically with a fax machine and the phrase “Reach the Future Faster” called on me to rescue it from the heap of unwanted items.

Who among us would have guessed how fast we would reach the future, not by fax machine but by a pandemic that few to none of us were prepared for? A future where person-to-person contact is frowned upon and handshakes are off the table, a thing of the past. A future where telecommuting and walking into supermarkets and banks in masks are suddenly – mind-blowingly - encouraged, even expected behaviors.

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With the realization that we’ve accelerated and landed in our future comes the unnerving realization that the end of any of our lives could arrive sooner than we think too. Are we ready for that eventuality? Have we planned for it? Most of us are realizing in a panic that we have not, or not nearly well enough.

We don’t even have legal documents outlining who will inherit what we worked for and held on to during the geologic blink of our lives, or if we do they may be outdated. If the number of people in my life turning to estate planning right now is any indicator, the future is definitely now.

And what kind of future are we leaving behind when we go? Will it have wild rivers teeming with steelhead trout and salmon sandwiched between rugged wilderness areas in the mountains? Will it have rare native plant species and life-sustaining biodiversity? Will it have people who still remember a time when fire was more of a friend than a foe, people whose grandparents taught them to wield fire for the benefit of plants, animals and people? Will it have green jobs that help rural people support their families and pass local wisdom on to upcoming generations? Let’s hope so.

But we can do more than hope. We can write these values into our wills as charitable bequests and pass them on to our kids. And we can do it in flexible ways that benefit us and our heirs. To explore how you can leave a percentage or your cash or non-cash assets to groups like the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC) doing critical work to protect and restore healthy ecosystems, economies and communities, please get in touch with me at erica@mkwc.org If you are in a position to give and are interested in including this kind of planned gift in your estate plans, I urge you to talk with your own financial advisors first. We’re also happy to consult our financial advisors and find an arrangement that meets your needs and even rewards you for the good you’re doing in this future.

Regardless of whether or not you want to include MKWC in your after-life planning, we still encourage you to think about the work you value most and the organizations that implement it, to ensure that you leave behind a legacy that continues to contribute to the places, people, and ideals that you hold dearest.

Erica Terence is the MKWC Development Director, born and raised in the Klamath watershed.

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by Mark DuPont

It’s always a great time to garden, but now even more so. With the Covid-19 pandemic, people are staying at home, minimizing shopping trips, and uncertain about future supply chains. Home gardens conjure images of vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh salads, but they can produce more than just salads and garnishes, and historically they have provided vital calories during times of crises. This article will review how a few different gardening writers have approached ways to maximize the amount of nutrition you can produce in your own garden. 

In 1966 Alan Chadwick introduced the French intensive-Biodynamic method to the US and changed the way people garden. Suddenly gardeners were planting in raised beds, double-digging and companion planting. Chadwick showed that finely honed gardening skills focused on a small area could produce spectacular results. E.F. Schumacher called him “the greatest horticulturist of the 20th century.” He blazed his way through the US, leaving a trail of magical gardens (I had the good fortune of living and learning at one of them, Camp Joy Garden, for six years) and inspired gardeners whose hearts were lit on fire by his passion for nature, beauty and the garden itself. Chadwick was part gardener, part mystic and part inspirational madman.  His teachings were hard to encompass and capture into words. John Jeavons was the first to describe Chadwick’s gardening methods and publish them in the book “How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine”, which has become a gardening classic. Jeavons re-named the method Biointensive Gardening, and his book is full of practical information on getting a lot of food out of a small area. The non-profit EcologyAction was formed in 1972 to research and develop the Biointensive method and teach high-yield sustainable agriculture worldwide, through ongoing workshops, internships, research and publications.

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Above: Camp Joy Garden in the Santa Cruz Mountains, one of the many inspired by Alan Chandwick.

Ecology Action addresses issues of growing population and topsoil loss, often working in areas throughout the world where arable land and fresh water are in short supply, so their objective is to maximize yields utilizing small areas. Equally as important as how to grow is what to grow. What crops yield the most food from a small area? “One Circle: How to Grow a Complete Diet in Less Than 1,000 Square Feet” by David Duhon is an effort to answer that question.  Trying to grow a complete diet in such a small area is quite a challenge (that’s a square 32 feet on each side), and the book tackles it first with in-depth discussion of human nutritional needs; and then follows that by looking at the nutritional composition of many crops. It’s a wonky book, full of charts and tables and even a slide rule(!) that helps you figure out how many square feet of a crop to grow to meet the daily requirements of various specific nutrients (this was written long before apps). It’s been on my shelf for years and I confess I’ve never used the slide rule, I just find the whole idea intriguing. Perhaps the most useful insight the book provides is that some crops are area efficient, while others are weight efficient. Weight efficient crops include nuts, seeds and grains, i.e. foods that jam a lot of nutrients into a small package but tend to require more space to grow. Area efficient crops will yield a lot of nutrition from a small area and include root crops and deep leafy greens. After a detailed analysis of human nutritional needs and rating crops for their weight and area efficiency, fourteen crops are chosen for the Once Circle Garden (drumroll please): collards, filberts, alliums (onions, leeks & garlic), parsley, parsnips, peanuts, potatoes, soybeans, sweet potatoes, sunflower, turnips and wheat.

The Resilient Gardener.jpgIf “One Circle” can be called the geek approach, then “The Resilient Gardener” by Carol Deppe would be the practical approach. Deppe writes from years of gardening experience in Oregon, and explores how to grow your own food in a changing climate, amid economic uncertainty, with minimal inputs. It’s a practical book full of tips and insights on gardening tools, variety selection, dietary needs, food storage and more. Like many people, Deppe has had to deal with food allergies, so she shares how she learned to produce her own gluten-free breads and staples to accommodate her changing needs. Like many who started out as a young gardener, she’s now an aging gardener, and talks about ways to garden and work that are easier on her back and whole body. At the heart of the book is a list of five crops she considers the backbone of a resilient garden: potatoes, squash, beans, corn and the laying flock (that is, chickens or ducks that provide eggs). I personally prefer this list over the One Circle list. I’ve grown wheat and barley several times and find that I rarely get round to threshing and processing the grains. Sunflowers are great, but the birds usually end up eating more than I do. Filberts are hit and miss in our area – too much heat and not enough water and they’ll produce a lot of “blanks”, empty shells with no meat. Potatoes, squash, bean, corns and the laying flock. All of these crops are nutritionally dense, grow well in our climate, and are easy to store and process. I would add to this list alliums and leafy greens. Grow these crops, and you’ll always have substantial food in your garden and pantry. Of course, above all you should grow what you love. Flowers feed the soul. Being Italian, but I can’t imagine not growing several rows of tomatoes every year, even though they're not on either list.

Spuds-small.JPGNotice that the crop that makes it to both lists is potatoes. Potatoes are high yielding, easy to grow, and produce more calories per square foot than any other temperate crop. They are also high in protein, second only to legumes in the veggie world. They require few inputs, are drought resistant, easy to store and will taste far better out of your garden than off the shelf. So, if you’re not sure where to start, plant spuds! It’s best to use certified seed potatoes, but in a year like this they can be hard to find, so use store bought if you need to, but avoid commercial potatoes, which are often treated with sprout inhibitors, and buy organic potatoes instead. An ideal seed potato is a hole or piece of potato about the size of an egg and contains two to three good sprouts. Potatoes prefer a well-drained loam but can deal with heavier soils if you mulch instead of mound. Don’t put too much nitrogen in the soil as it will make leggy plants with watery tubers and may encourage scab. Thin to 2-3 sprouts per plant and begin mounding when plants are 6 – 10 inches high. Tubers grow along the stem and must be covered with soil or they will turn green in sunlight and be inedible. The goal is to end up with a mound at least 12 inches over the planted seed tubers. Some gardeners like planting in a trench in order to get a head start on mounding, but I find it counterproductive in the early season when the soil is still cool – potatoes planted too deeply in cold soil will rot before sprouting. Don’t skimp on the mounding; green potatoes are a drag. And be sure to store potatoes in a cool place that is completely dark.  Potatoes exposed to light develop toxic glycoalkaloids. Check out the Resilient Gardener for more tips on growing, harvesting, storing and enjoying this amazing crop!

For more regionally-specific information on gardening, animal husbandry, fruit trees, soils, irrigation, food preservation, and more, check out the Foodshed Pages on the MKWC website here.

Mark DuPont is a MKWC Board Member and the owner and operator of Sandy Bar Ranch and Klamath Knot Permaculture with his partner Blythe Reis. Mark has over 25 years of experience in Permaculture as a farmer, nurseryman, instructor, consultant, and organic inspector in California and Latin America. Mark supports community-based food needs by organizing seasonal workshops, providing technical support for gardens and farms, and supporting community initiatives regarding food security.

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New Year, New Panamnik Building Goals

Posted by admin on January 14, 2020

By Erica Terence

Sometimes I worry about my social life. I work all day in a run-down old grocery store from my youth, jump around with my co-workers and community members for exercise in that same building after work, and for fun in the evenings I go to events with my co-workers, friends and neighbors under the same roof. I’m often here on weekends too, for a workshop in using native plants to make holiday wreaths, or a training on collecting and saving seeds from the garden.

In a town of little more than 700 people a few hours drive inland from the coast and just south of the California-Oregon border, with neighboring communities also so small you miss them on the highway if you blink. It is no wonder so much life revolves around this former grocery store. The non-profit organization I work for, the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC), bought this building in 2010, when it outgrew its previous office spaces of a founder’s barn and then a Forest Service trailer. We’ve been working to fix it up ever since, to help it live its best life. At the end of this blog, I will ask you to make a donation at www.mkwc.org/donate to help us finish the job. First, a few hundred more words about the building’s impact on our lives.

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Above: A Third Thursday event in the Panamnik Building backyard.

Now, the building serves not only as a watershed restoration headquarters for our organization as we build a restoration economy in these small towns where we work, but also as a desperately needed gathering space for our local communities. In such a remote place, the building provides vital services in a place that would otherwise receive little to no help from the outside world.  It’s a place where people can come together to plan and do good, on the ground work for fish, plants, wildlife, and local people. It’s the home of our local post office, so it’s also a place where people pass through daily to pick up their mail, browse the bulletin board outside, and see what’s happening. Most importantly, it’s a place that helps us learn who else lives here and how to care for each other by caring for the land together.  

Early in the morning, crews load vehicles with gear before heading out into the field to restore fish habitat, pull invasive plants and collect native plant seeds, reintroduce fire on the landscape in the right places at the right times of year, and involve young people and volunteers in hands-on watershed restoration. Office staff filter in, each with their own small role in the big production to restore this place we call home and renovate the funky old building and riverfront land that houses us.

While we work in tight spaces, sometimes without windows and always without quiet or privacy, a meeting with partners to coordinate a watershed restoration project often unfolds in the cavernous big room outside our cramped offices. Waders often hang over banisters, drying between uses to count salmon in our streams. A tourist or local person might stop in to use the phone, the bathroom, or browse our watershed interpretive center by the building’s front door. Sometimes someone is looking for something as simple as a cup of coffee or directions.

On many days, parking in front of the “downtown” Orleans building is limited to make space for County and Tribal services trailers ranging from a bookmobile to public health resources, to fresh produce and commodities for local populations who are located at least an hour away from grocery stores and don’t earn big salaries. On Fridays, we share our space with families attending a playgroup for kids under age five, accepting a less tranquil work environment in trade for endearing disruptions from the next generation who spend a formative part of their youth running around here. Parents report that the playgroup doesn’t just benefit their kids – it also allows them to compare notes and feel less alone in their parenting struggles in such a geographically isolated location.

Every third Thursday of the month, the building transforms into a restaurant in a town where there otherwise is none. People come out from the woodwork to visit with fellow river dwellers, enjoy a meal cooked for them, and swap stories. These dinners always benefit a good cause, whether it’s MKWC or a local school or volunteer fire department.

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Above: A community event inside the Panamnik Building.

Sure, we all live a lot of our lives here, but at least this building has brought some much-needed fresh life to this town. Now it’s time to complete its transformation. This means moving and modernizing our offices so we can fully redo the community space and make it available to the community 100 percent of the time. It means installing separate front and back doors for community center users to come and go from, and adding an energy efficient heating and cooling system to help this place operate through temperature extremes. It means improving the drainage in the backyard along the banks of the Klamath River. It means creating a parking system that maximizes building access and use. Once we’ve taken these steps, we’ll be ready to overhaul the kitchen and bathrooms, put large windows along the back wall of the building that look straight through to the river we work to restore, upgrade our lighting, acoustics, and electrical systems. We’ll also build new walls, ceilings and floors throughout the building.

It’s a big undertaking, and we wouldn’t have come so far without the financial support of people like you. With your help we bought the building, demolished the grocery store remnants, fixed heaters and toilets and pipes and wires and the roof and floor as they broke. With your help we rallied a team of local folks to use mushrooms to clean up soil contamination from diesel spills in the backyard. With your help we cleared a backyard amphitheater space, and built a new equipment storage shed for all the stuff that we use to implement projects, monitor projects, and involve young people in watershed restoration.

Now we’re tackling the third and final phase of renovations and we come to you again asking for help. Please think big as you invest in this vision of a place for people who love this place that will last for generations. Please give as generously as you can at www.mkwc.org/donate, and indicate that your donation is for the Panamnik Building.

Thank you for helping us to make these changes last. Our most renewable resource is people who understand that our resources are not infinite, people like those you find here on the unincorporated border of Humboldt and Siskiyou Counties working together to restore what we have.

Erica Terence is the MKWC Development Director, born and raised in the Klamath watershed.

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Taking Down Walls

Posted by admin on November 28, 2017

by Nancy Bailey

According to Merriam Webster, one of the definitions of a wall is “an extreme or desperate position or a state of defeat, failure, or ruin.” As in the phrase “up against the wall”

I’m sorry to say I feel that this moment in human and planetary history has us pretty clearly up against the wall. I wonder if this condition is actually a result of all the walls we build. Lately all the talk about building more of them and the divisive rhetoric we hear that pushes people apart, I feel it is an important time to speak out against them. There are so many kinds of walls and I have to say I don’t see much good coming out of any of them.

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Unthinking we have built dams in rivers, walling off hundreds of miles of critical habitat for fish and interrupting what should be a dynamic process of fluctuating flows and habitat renewal.

Without full understanding of impacts, we have built highways which wall off and inhibit wildlife from their migration routes. And we have built hundreds of miles of forest roads that result in landslides and sedimentation in the streams effectively also walling off habitat.

We have suppressed wildfire, causing unhealthy and choked forests; walls to the free flow of wildlife and impediments to ecosystem health, which is built on movement and interchange.

Even our attitudes can be walls. We have accepted and promoted cultural and psychological walls between ourselves and nature, believing ourselves superior and in control, allowing for rampant disrespect of the natural world and its processes. Even as we have willingly embraced attitudes of separation from nature, we have fallen prey to historic themes of separation between ourselves and the other, fearing what or who we don’t understand.

Rather than building more walls, now is the time to take them down, one at a time.

 When people ask about my work with MKWC, I say we are in the business of “restoration”. Restoring the Klamath salmon populations, restoring fire to its rightful place in the landscape, restoring native biodiversity in the plant and animal world in the face of threatening invasive species, restoring forest and river and community health and wholeness.  These objectives are for the most part about breaking down walls. Restoration is about connectivity; allowing the natural world to resume its dynamic momentum toward balance and flow.

From rivers to forests, walls must come down. First the Elwha dam in Washington and soon the Klamath dams will go. Eventually many others will be deconstructed, as the outcomes of these early dam removals model and demonstrate the huge benefits to entire ecosystems. Everywhere damaging roads are being decommissioned and put to bed, their benefits having expired in light of their long term negative impacts. Restoration projects of so many types are being implemented here in the Klamath and elsewhere, it is hopeful.

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Right now, shortly after the annual Klamath River Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (TREX), I feel particularly hopeful about fire. We are coming to understand and accept that wildfire management rather than full suppression will help return the process of natural fire to the landscape. We are embracing controlled fire as an important tool as we try to catch up with the deficit created by the hundred years of fire suppression. Fire is coming back, whether we want it or not. It is not an easy task, breaking down a lifetime of prejudice against fire. We are challenged but we can learn. Eventually our forests, rivers, and communities have the chance to recapture their resilience and compatibility with fire.

I believe we are on the right track. I see how groups like MKWC and so many others are working hard to find common ground with neighbors and stakeholders, to work together toward mutual goals of ecosystem and community health and renewal. Communities, states and nations, even our cultural psyche can heal from long histories of fearful wall building between groups of people and between humans and nature.

Certainly, the state of the world including our Klamath watershed demands of us to join together to take down the walls. Can we please refrain from building new ones?

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Nancy Bailey is Co-Director of the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC) Fire and Fuels Program and a long-time resident and steward of the Middle Klamath subbasin.

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