September 2010

Saturday, September 23rd

Meeting Minutes


In attendance: Heather P, Heather L, Daisy, Carmen, Carolyn, Peter, Rachel S, John Ryan, Mark, Ruth, Kirk, Emerson, Judy, Cara



One expression your parents used when you were a kid that you have used as an adult

–         Heather P’s father passed on the use of “hot tamales” to describe the weather

–         Carolyn’s parents passed down “cruisin’ for a bruisin’”

–         The older generation in Carmen’s family used to tell the children who asked too many questions,

          “Go read a book.”

–         Rachel S learned “only boring people get bored”

–         Ruth got her use of the word, “ding-a-ling” to describe people who are idiots

–         Heather L got “Goll diggings!” (as in “shoot!” or “darn it!”)

–         Emerson got, “Eat your food before it eats you!”

–         Kirk got the moniker, “ragamuffin”


Favorite mode of transportation

–         Judy likes the efficiency of the NYC subway system and the view from above on the bus

–         Daisy loves to walk

–         Peter loves to ride his bike, hoping someday to bike across the US, a dream stoked by an shower           curtain map he once had

–         Mark reminisced about riding freight trains, esp. when he wasn’t sure where they were going, because           then the traveling really was more about the journey and less about the destination


What was your favorite/best subject when you were a kid?

–         Cara was fond of history – she had a penchant for memorizing facts and liked finding out what happened           – she remembered she was the only student in her history class at her Quaker school who felt the US           should not have dropped the atomic bomb

–         Mark was a good reader – in the 2rd grade, he’d gotten in a fist fight during the morning line-up in the           gym and the gym teacher said he wouldn’t be allowed to participate in that days gym class.  Mark brought           the book he was reading at the time, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Jules Verne and sat on the           sidelines.  Mr. Glowen (the gym teacher) saw the 300 page book in Mark’s little hands and asked his           teacher about it.  She told him Mark loved to read and was very advanced.  This impressed Mr. Glowen,           who said Mark could participate in the sport of the day and leave his book with his teacher.  This turn of           events did not impress Mark.




At the beginning of the season, we set a budget for the purchase of plants for the common areas of the garden.  There is $400 of this money left.  Ruth volunteered to look into some anti-mosquito plants (maybe citronella, molasses grass).  Heather P. volunteered to look into cover crops.  Cara volunteered to look into bulbs and other plants suggested (tulips, crocuses, etc.)



Other Garden Purchases

Peter brought up the fact that the battery we use to run the composting toilet is losing its ability to hold the charge from the solar panel.  Someone asked about the need to purchase a new battery, concerned the seemingly short time that our current battery has run down.   Pete pointed out that what we have is the battery that came with the unit and we have no way of knowing how many years it was in use before we even got it.  Peter volunteered to look into the pricing and installing of a new battery.



Triple Threat

It was a close competition between the yard sale and the bake sale, but in the end, the yard sale brought in $259.75, and the bake sale brought in $265.30.  Add the $44 we made in donations and subtract the $90 we spent on BBQ supplies, and the garden raised $490.05!

Special thanks to Jennifer, Gary, Dana, Carmen, Cody, Hannah, Lizza, Roma, Peter, Gina, Emerson, Kate, Kirk, Joe, Anita, John Ryan, Melissa, Ally, Lorne, Vlada, Michael, Claire, Ms. Covington, Margaret, Ruth, Carolyn, Cassandra, Tony, Greg, Heather, Judy, Mark, Cara and to all of the friends and community members who spent the beautiful day with us in the garden.

Some ideas for next year’s Triple Threat:

  1. Coordinate with Washington Avenue to maximize foot traffic past garden – it turns out there was a street fare soon after our event. 
  2. This year we had a lot of great vintage women’s clothes, donated kindly by Joe’s sister, Anita.  Instead of just dropping off what remained at the end of the day to a Goodwill (as has been our usual practice), Emerson donated the clothes to an organization that works specifically with women looking for a second chance to get back on their feet.


Cold Frames

Rachel S. attended a workshop in East New York on using cold frames and windrows to extend the growing season.  She plans on using windrows (hoops covered with plastic or cloth) in her plot and hopes to organize a workday with other interested gardeners in mid-October.  Daisy, Heather P, Mark expressed interest in taking part in Rachel’s fall workday.  There was some interest in perhaps talking to Greg to see if there were any Pratt students who might be interested in designing windrows with the garden using cheap or found materials. 


Compost Orientation


Now that our new compost bins are completed, Hollenback is embarking on a compost education project.  Our first target audience is ourselves.  Since we no longer have Charlie as the sole keeper of the compost, it is important for every garden member to learn the basics of compost as well as how our compost is set-up.


We started with a true/false quiz:


1)       The heat from a compost pile is caused by exposure to sunlight.

FALSE. The heat from a compost pile is created by the many types of bacteria doing their thing in our compost pile.  They are busy multiplying as they begin the process of breaking down all of our organic material.  With the proper moisture and oxygen, and a balance of carbon and nitrogen, there is little organic material these little friends can’t break down.


2)    A balanced compost pile is composed of 50% greens and 50% browns.

TRUE.  Greens are things like food waste and fresh garden clippings.  Browns are things like dead leaves, wood chips, newspaper, dried greens.


3)     A compost pile requires oxygen in order to break down.

FALSE, BUT….  Things break down with or without oxygen, but at Hollenback we are interested in aerobic composting.  That means we want all our little friends in the pile to get plenty of oxygen.  That is why we “turn” the piles.  The alternative is anaerobic decomposition.  While things will break down, anaerobic decomposition happens very slowly. Anaerobic decomposition is what happens at garbage dumps where food waste is mixed in with plastics and other trash.  In that environment, methane is produced in large quantities.  As an environmentally friendly, local community garden, that is a product and smell we are not interested in.


4)    You should only add compost to your plot in the spring.

FALSE.  Compost can be added to your plot at any time in the season.  Many people dig compost into their soil when they put their beds to rest at the end of a season.  Many people add compost when they plant their seedlings.


5)     Only garden members (including apprentices) can drop off food scraps at Hollenback.

TRUE.  This may change in the future, but for now, we are only processing our own food waste.  If a community member comes by wanting to drop off food waste, explain Hollenback is not currently accepting outside food waste.  You can suggest the Fort Greene Farmers market compost drop off.  Our plan is to develop the scope of our composting project slowly, making sure that production level takes its lead from how much work gardeners are interested in doing.   


6)     The only purpose of compost production is to improve soil conditions.

FALSE.  It is true that compost can improve soil conditions.  It is more local and sustainable that buying fertilizer, often made with petroleum, and certainly transported by petroleum in bags made of petroleum.  But compost is not only about allowing a natural process to take place to replenish our soil.  Every scrap of food waste and plant waste that we compost is food waste and plant waste that we are keeping from an unsustainable garbage dump, which as we mentioned in #3, is a toxic producer of methane, a greenhouse gas.


7)     When I drop off my food scraps, I should add an equal amount of brown material.



8)     Charlie is responsible for the turning of our compost piles.

FALSE.  All members of Hollenback are responsible for the proper care and necessary work to keep our compost piles going.  That includes deciding when to turn the piles, turning the piles and keeping them about as moist as a squeezed out sponge.


9)     Plant waste is considered brown material.

TRUE AND FALSE.  Once dry, plant waste is considered brown material.  The purpose of th “Stop/Chop/Drop” bin at Hollenback is to allow fresh plant waste to turn into brown material.


10)   Chopping up plant material is a great way to get to know your fellow gardeners.



11)    All plant waste found in the garden is appropriate for the compost pile.

FALSE.  Use your judgment.  Weeds are fighters and if their seeds are placed in the compost pile, there is a good chance that they will come up wherever that compost is used.  It is not the end of the word if a weed ends up in the compost, but keeping large,”problem” weeds out of the compost will save the energy of having to cut them up now and of having to pull them up later.  


After our discussion we went over to the actual bins and Pete talked a little about his design choices, and the building of the bins.  We walked through the process of adding an equal amount of browns when adding food waste to Bin #1.


Our new compost project is a work-in-progress, and we will continue to develop our own individual and organization understanding of what we want composting to mean at Hollenback.





Respectfully submitted by Mark.


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