Table of Contents
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Join Nicole and Andrea of Ramsgate Ranch as they discuss philanthropic gardening and hugelkultur garden beds!
What You’ll Learn
- Gardening for a stronger and healthier community
- What are hugelkultur beds
- Supporting food deserts
- Challenges of community gardens
- What are Cul De Sac Co-ops
Our guest for this episode is Andrea of Ramsgate Ranch. After traveling to remote cultures across the world, Andrea learned about many different cultivation practices. When back in the US, Andrea learned of the food deserts that plague communities close to home. From there, Andrea was driven to make a change and became an avid urban farmer- growing simply to donate food to those that desperately needed it. Now, Andrea is a strong supporter of philanthropic gardening and cul de sac co-oops to eliminate food deserts and bring fresh produce to all.
Resources & Links Mentioned
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Announcer: Welcome to the Backyard Bounty podcast from heritageacresmarket.com, where we talk about all things, backyard poultry, beekeeping, gardening, sustainable living and more. Now, here's your host, Nicole.
Nicole: Good morning, everybody. Thank you for joining us for another episode of backyard bounty. I'm Nicole and today we're joined by Andrea with Ramsgate Ranch and she's here to tell us about some of her community gardening projects and what she has going on in the neighborhoods around our area. So Andrea, thank you so much for joining us.
Andrea: Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Nicole: I'm excited to have you. Your approach on gardening is a little bit different and I really love what you are doing. So can you tell us more about what you have going on?
Andrea: I came about a love of gardening while I was traveling. So I, as a teenager, spent a lot of time going on foreign missions trips with my church and with missions groups. So I spent a lot of summers in foreign countries and learning just about subsistence farming and living in tribes in South America and in the South Pacific as well. Learning how they live day to day. There's no grocery store, there's no electricity, there's no plumbing or running water. That's how I first really got introduced to gardening. When I was growing up, everything came out of a box. We went to the city market and cakes came out of a box and I didn't know where the products in the box even came from. I knew about produce on the grocery store shelves, but it all looked perfect and shiny and waxy and bright.
Andrea: So I'm getting to see roots come out of the ground, dig your own potatoes kind of lifestyles was my first introduction to gardening and it turned me into an addict. I immediately came home and wanted to grow my own things. I immediately started to see value in that. So since then I have had a garden in every big space and small space I've ever lived in, so that's how I got started in the backyard gardening community.
Nicole: Awesome. Seems like you've had a lot of exposure and probably were able to take away some lessons from everyone that you met or the different cultures that you've met to expand your ability to garden here because it's not really easy to grow here, that's for sure.
Andrea: It's very different. All the different environments I was in, everywhere from beautiful, rich, lush jungles where the soil is black to more arid places in India where your soil is bright red to places in very rural Mexico that are very similar to the climate that we have here in Pueblo and you see just different ... people use different ways to get their produce to grow and all of it looks different than what I know of as average American farming. When you fly over the United States, there's farms everywhere, things are in perfect rows, things are very aligned and organized. The foreign countries in the way that they garden and develop produce in their own climate has come from years of learning just from your ancestors, how to grow, what to grow, what to grow together, what not to grow together. It definitely changed my perspective on it.
Nicole: What would you say was the most interesting thing that you were able to take away from that experience?
Andrea: I think that gardening and people are intrinsically linked. That what you eat and what you put in your body and how you get what you eat and put in your body affects who you are as a person and how your culture grows, how your culture is shaped and is formed and how it's connected. Because in a tribal village, you go to the garden in the morning together with all the women. You dig the potatoes together, you dig whatever else you're going to eat for that day and you bring it back and then you cook together and then you enjoy the food together. It develops a sense of community that I've also seen translated to what happens with backyard gardens or especially with urban farming and urban gardening where you go plant a garden in an empty lot and the people of the community and that working that garden together, you see it grow community. You see it really change and transform people and the people around you and you build relationships in a way that you might not if you only ever met at the grocery store to prepare dinner.
Nicole: Absolutely. Really one of those things that takes a village and enable to have a thriving garden that supports everybody. It takes a lot of work and I can't think of a better way to bring so many people together.
Andrea: Yeah, absolutely. I actually go to a university in Oakland, California, down in the Fruitvale District, which is definitely more urban center in Oakland. Definitely a rougher community, high crime and violence rate, and also a high rate of immigrants. So we had over 37 different language groups within a two block radius. It's a place where I went to school, so we would see Catholic charities move in a whole group of refugees who spoke one language and who came from somewhere in Cambodia back in the 80s who were still living together in the same apartment building 20 years later and who had started ... who'd asked for a plot of land somewhere in the community, in a park or in an empty lot to garden in the way that they used to to grow their food because that's how they were familiar with growing their food.
Andrea: They'd go to the grocery store and couldn't get the things that they were familiar with cooking. So they'd start growing the kind of vegetables that they would use in their own cooking in a community park. So we would work with them there and it would be incredible to see the way it would help them adapt to culture and to help them not even assimilate to being here because they didn't have to assimilate. They were able to practice their own cultivation and skills and the people in the community around them got to know them as a result. It was really cool.
Nicole: I guess I'm a little bit jealous. I think that you've experienced so many neat things outside of the U.S. but then also seeing it come together in the U.S. That's really great. I love how people can work together, especially since there's so much friction between people nowadays. It's great,
Andrea: Yes, such a wonderful way to overcome differences and to find commonalities in the food you eat and in sharing cultural and ethnic food, in sharing different ingredients. We had Chinese roommates in my household when we were going to school and they had come just as exchange students to go to university there and we'd go into Chinatown and they would take me to a vegetable section where I didn't recognize anything and I just wanted ... To this day, I still wish I could find some of the things that we would eat back then because they only had Chinese names for it. There was no translation. There was no, "What is this green vegetable?" It would be a vegetable. It had had the texture of spinach after they were done cooking it, but it didn't have the flavor of spinach. It had the flavor of something else and these incredible varieties of greens that I was completely unfamiliar with growing up in rural Colorado. It's definitely a way to cross cultural barriers and get to know people in a very nonthreatening way, for sure.
Nicole: Sure. So how do you take some of those things that you've picked up along the way and use that in your garden and in our area here?
Andrea: When I came back home and I've always loved to garden. I move with me a garden tower, that's my own personal mobile garden I've had for a long time. But I wanted to do more. I wanted to get into the soil. Our soil here is very arid. There are lots of challenges. We get rain, but it's not consistent for growing. So we don't have a lot of ways to capture water unless we start building them. So my partner and I, we started building hugelkultur beds, which is something that we learned from a friend who worked in very arid areas in Africa and said that hugelkultur was a really great way to farm arid spaces that have torrential rains.
Andrea: So we dig anywhere from three to four feet down into the ground, and then we fill those large beds with ... Well, when I say large, they're probably about five feet, five feet by three feet. We fill them with different tree branches. So if we have a wind storm and trees get knocked down, we salvage those branches. We don't let anybody take them. We run around the neighborhood picking up other people's branches and we'll throw those in the holes along with our compost from the year, along with any other great soil additives that we can can fit in there. Then you cover that with dirt and you start layering until you build a mound, until you have a raised a garden bed, but it's a mounded garden bed.
Andrea: These we found to be so great because we get these torrential rains in the summer and essentially the pit below our plants fills up with water and then the plants and their roots reach down and tap into that underground water source that we've created for them in order to be able to grow and to get nutrients and to have ... Our ground can be crusty and dry for two weeks up on top, but we've still got active wet soil and water to feed and to give nutrients to our plants down below in those beds.
Andrea: So that's just one of the methods that we learned far away that we've brought home that's been really, really effective for US.
Nicole: That sounds perfect for the area here because for those that don't live in this area, it can get extremely hot. 100 to 110 is feasible in the summer and then it's dry and it's sunny and it's very challenging.
Andrea: Very harsh.
Nicole: It can be very desert like at times, and so growing stuff, if you're able to get things to grow, it takes a ton of water. So with those beds, do you also give them a daily watering or how do you water to those?
Andrea: We will plan to water about three times a week. We do it for about 15 minutes through drip hoses in the morning, and that is mostly to supply water to the immediate surface on the top. So the top soil down to about two feet, which is still above ground for us. So our mounds are probably anywhere from two to three feet above surface level, the ground surface level, and the pits are anywhere from three to five feet deep below ground level. So we use those drip hoses primarily during the spring when we've got smaller plants whose root systems aren't developed yet, and then any excess water goes and continues to fill those cisterns that are down below that are also actively composting the logs. If you dig down underneath one of our beds, we've got loads of earthworms, great red wigglers, lots of critters, lots of active composting is happening down underneath.
Andrea: Generating a little bit of heat so that we can grow a lot earlier because we've got pretty harsh winters here and so that heat warms up the soil. So we can start things earlier if we've got a little plastic covers on top and then it also composts throughout the summer and maintains the water level inside there pretty consistently. If we go a whole month without rain we definitely would need to soak. We'd probably fully soak those beds and try to fill those cisterns ourselves at least once every two weeks. But in general if we dig down just outside of our bed, about six to 12 inches, we'll see that the soil is wet underneath the surface, so that's our test.
Nicole: Are you able to grow all of the regular vegetables that you would grow in a raised bed or similar or is there anything that you're not able to grow in these?
Andrea: Yeah, so the hugelkultur beds take time. They're definitely an investment for any kind of property that you own and are going to be around for a while. We've had it for about four years and so in the beginning you can't really do root vegetables well because the layer of soil that you've got over the cistern is really pretty thin. It's too thin to do roots well and so we try to crop rotate as much as possible. We start each of the beds mostly as a salad bar, so we do lots of green leafy vegetables, lots of nitrogen fixers, so things that are fun and fresh when they sprout, like Clover and alfalfa. We'll do different kinds of beans and peas in those beds, lots of lettuces, lots of different kinds of green leafy vegetables on the top of that bed initially.
Andrea: Then at the end of the season we'll chop and drop that so anything left over, hopefully we've let it go to seed and we'll just cut it down, leave it there. We'll cover it with a new layer of dirt. Usually we dig another bed the next year, take a bunch of dirt out, throw it on top of one mound while we're digging another hole, and then we'll also cover that. We also try to mulch everything every winter, so we try to cover everything with either a bark mulch, if we've had a tree fall, we'll take that and wood chip it or we'll take grass trimmings or hay or anything that we've got. Whatever we have available to us, we just cover all of our beds so that they are warm throughout the winter and then we start watering in the following spring and a lot of times we'll see just what pops up and then we can also take from those beds and spread them out to other areas, or we can thin things out, add new items.
Andrea: In beds that are much older, you can grow root vegetables, so you've got a good, probably thick two to three feet of soil on top of the cistern below you and those you can grow your root vegetables in pretty well. But the new beds, I'd say you have to wait at least one or two years before you can start root vegetables and then successfully ... You'll get baby carrots, but you can't get anything that's really substantial.
Nicole: Just two or three years ago I built some raised beds and spent a lot of time on that, but I wish I had heard about this before because for us in this area, this sounds like literally the most perfect setup ever.
Andrea: It's really interesting because I believe, and I might be wrong about this, but that hugelkultur was a more Norwegian growing method. So it wasn't used a lot in very arid climates, but because they had short seasons and it was very cold, they needed the heat from the lower part of the bed and there they make giant hills. Their hills could be 20 to 30 feet high. So they'll dig way down and then they'll even pile logs up into a pyramid, a longhouse pyramid shape and then cover that with more dirt and they'll grow on a whole ... a 20 foot high hilled surface all the way up the size through the top, all the way down the sides.
Andrea: We do it on a much smaller level. When our friends talk to us about what they do in central Africa, it was just very fascinating to see that they can do larger small beds, that what really matters is the way that it recycles itself every year and just continues not just to improve the soil in the bed itself, but it improves the environment, the ecosystem all around the bed just by providing a source of groundwater, which is the way that things grow in nature, is they find a source to tap into a spring, a creek, groundwater flowing under the surface and that's what fuels and feeds them. If you can create that in an arid climate, you can have a very lush backyard without even realizing it, and without having to spend money on all of the extra shipped in water that simply hits the surface and then in our area in the summer evaporates almost anything.
Nicole: Yeah, it does. It's definitely ... the traditional model's not very sustainable at all. I imagine these beds require the initial investment of sweat equity and some material, but then they're probably ... I would assume they last for quite some time.
Andrea: Yeah, they're ever giving. Now the logs will break down in five to 10 years and there will no longer be an open area for water to gather there, but by that time your soil should be so rich with all of the different things that you've composted and it continues to get higher and higher that you might just dig a trench around the outside and then add logs and expand it width wise rather than going up. You can also go wider with them if you find that it starts to dry out, but the way that you create that really loose, loamy soil that you want, the plants love to grow in, easy for the roots to go down, holds a lot of moisture, has a lot of organic material in it is to do this. It's just a very slow roll composting, natural composting process that lasts for a very long time.
Nicole: Is there any variety of woods that are better than others or ones that can't be used?
Andrea: Yes, so I'm sure there are. We were pretty fly by the seat of our pants with what we did, so we just threw everything that we had in there, including cardboard boxes that didn't have any print on them. We have sapling trees that we'd cut down. We had a pine tree fall down and so we chipped a lot of that. Then the big sections, the trunks we couldn't chip, we chopped into just chopped wood and threw in there. It will affect the pH balance of your soil over time, but we found that it's easier to amend the top soil so that things can grow in a really healthy way than it is to try to be particular about the wood and the organic matter that you throw into the cistern. That matter is going to be so deep that it's really just composting itself and providing heat and nutrients and it's not going to affect the pH balance of the top soil and the things where your plants are gathering their own nutrients from.
Andrea: But I am sure that there are probably trees that are extremely sappy and/or might not be the best for hugelkultur beds. We haven't found one yet. We're doing our own experiments and testing and we tend to throw everything in there. We've used wood from old construction projects, so salvaged wood that's no longer good for us to build something but has been around for more than 10 years. So we're pretty confident it's been sapped out of glues or any kind of funky thing it was used to be pressure treated. We'll throw those in there. Any kind of organic browns that you can find we've used and tossed in.
Nicole: Wow. I'm a little oversaturated with information and thoughts. I totally just want to redo my garden now and switch everything to this. I love this idea. I've heard the name before but I've never really researched into it or I knew that it was just a mound of stuff, but then that was about it. But I totally understand and it really makes sense.
Andrea: We're still learning. I think there's lots of different ways to decide how you plant what you plant in each bed, and that's definitely a place where we're still learning and experimenting because planting on a hill is not as easy, especially if you do need to add water. How do you keep it a hill? How do you keep all of the soil from washing off the top of the logs of things is something we've been experimenting with a lot and we're still learning about as well.
Nicole: It all has its challenges. I'm sure there's no one perfect solution for everything. So what other sustainable practices do you guys utilize in your gardens?
Andrea: I think composting, which is pretty normal, but for both of us, it was something that our parents hadn't done. We had to get over the initial millennial disgust factor of having ... We have a glass jar, we probably should start with the glass jar. We have a giant glass jar on our kitchen counter that all of our food scrap goes into. We take it out to our compost bin every couple of days, but there was, for both of us, and we've been doing it now for a long time, but we had to get over the gross factor of that's the stuff you throw out. That's trash, that's garbage. There's no composting service here. When I was in California, we had three bins and there was a trash bin for compost and a trash bin for recyclables and a trash bin for trash.
Andrea: Whereas here in Colorado we didn't ... Even though we're a very environmentally friendly, conscious state, we just recently got, I think, the first composting service in town here. It's just one of those hurdles you get over that you think it's gross and then you realize that it's not gross at all. It's actually the fruit of your entire garden, is that you save all your food scraps. We religiously save all of our Amazon cardboard boxes. We save every bit of wood. We have big windstorms that come and knock down huge branches and trees, wreak havoc on big, beautiful developed neighborhoods with trees.
Andrea: When that happens, we're just snatching up, helping clean up as much as possible for our neighbors because we want all that organic material because it's hard to find good high quality browns in our area because there is so much xeriscaping, so many lawns ... People are taking out lawns, they just have rocks. There aren't very many full grown trees unless they're in these big, full-grown treed neighborhoods. So we'll go around picking those up. But we've become hunters and gatherers of organic browns, for sure. If we see something on the road, we'll go grab it.
Nicole: Totally not going to lie, I'm overwhelmed with the information and having a hard time coming up with good questions for you because wow. I mean, even if we stopped right now, this has been so interesting. So in your gardens locally, do you only do backyard gardens or do you do community gardens as well?
Andrea: We've tried really hard to work with some community gardens in the area and unfortunately it gets really political and so we've stepped back from that for a little while and are working to brainstorm a way for communities to do micro farmer's markets that are really on a non-cash basis. We have this dream of cul-de-sac co-ops where people who have backyard gardens get together with their neighbors and their communities, grow different things and just start a revival of the 1920s, 1930s lifestyle where, after the great depression, people just share the produce out of their backyards. They shared eggs from their chickens. Everybody kept a few chickens in the backyard because honestly, they're easier and less expensive than dogs and cats and yet they supply fresh protein for your family.
Andrea: We'd really love to encourage and find a way innovatively to, through the internet in a safe way, through Facebook or through social media, get people to connect and start trading produce. Start trading on things that aren't maybe available in their local grocery store or if they're like, "We are in this area," and they have food deserts very nearby, driving into certain areas and sharing from their own backyard gardens so that people who maybe don't have access to fresh produce within a long distance or don't have public transportation readily available to fresh produce have some access to that.
Andrea: Because I think every year we see it with zucchini. You've got the one neighbor who gardens who's bringing everybody more zucchini than they ever could dream of. So everybody can grow zucchini and tomatoes. That's great. That's a great start, but if you can grow zucchini and tomatoes, you can probably grow other things too. That's something I think we're really passionate about, is trying to figure out how to connect people in that way because community gardens are beautiful and if you can do them, more power to you. It's so exciting.
Andrea: But I think often the people who start them get really burnt out because it's not on land that you own. It's not in space where you decide who's paying for the water, especially around here. The issue is water. How do you create a community garden and decide who makes up for the expenses of that garden because they do have to be regularly watered? How do you get people to harvest it and to work it and to make sure that it doesn't just become a dilapidated mess because unfortunately if you get a community garden started and then you run into a health issue and have to abandon it, it leaves a foul taste in the mouth of the people of the community that were excited and initially supported it.
Andrea: But in your own backyard, it's your own backyard. Your fence is there, you do what you want in your own backyard, your neighbors don't usually get too involved, hopefully. But if we could start to generate some spaces in our communities where people more readily shared the produce from those backyards, I think that we could do a lot to really improve communities, community morale, and to help end food deserts in places where people don't readily have the access they need to basic fresh produce to feed their families.
Nicole: I think that it's been my little personal dream to start a little community garden out where I live in Pueblo West because to my knowledge, there's not one out there. But I've been concerned with a lot of the challenges that you've mentioned. I can't just quit my job and go start a garden for the community as much as I would like, and it would take a lot of people, and I know that there's a lot of challenges with help and like you said, with watering it. So the thought of a backyard garden really, it seems much more feasible and it makes a lot more sense. I feel like in our area especially, with the rise of cannabis, I feel like that a lot of backyard gardens are becoming more common. I know that I like to go to one of the growth supply stores in our town to get organic fertilizers and stuff if we need anything.
Nicole: The gentleman that works at the counter was like, "Yeah, I didn't know I could grow anything, and then I started growing cannabis and then I realized, Oh, I can actually grow stuff." So then they start growing vegetables and things. I think a lot of it is people are just so scared or they don't know where to start or they don't know how or they don't think that they can or maybe they don't know that they like gardening until they start.
Nicole: But it seems like the backyard garden thing is really on the rise and I hope that it continues and I love the idea. I mean, we grow everything and then we have too much of everything. So we always share with our neighbors and stuff. Especially right now, we have a plethora of chicken eggs because ... and then once we have our tomatoes and our zucchinis, but I really love the idea of supporting your community and giving back. It would of course help neighbor relations, so maybe if you share with your neighbor and then if you accidentally built a shed that they didn't like, I don't know, maybe they'd be more inclined to work with you.
Andrea: Yeah, my grandmother always tells this great story about how after the Great Depression they lived in a fourplex, but the owner of the fourplex gave them a plot of land and all four families that lived there worked that garden out back and it's how they all produced. She was so excited because they were a family of Mexican descent, but they lived next to Italians. So their garden, their two garden areas, were very different in what they grew, but they loved to trade them. When I hear that story and I think about where we live in Pueblo, we have incredible cultural diversity because of our history with the steel mills. I would love to see the things that are coming out of what people choose to grow, what they enjoy. It's so much better than waving at your neighbor across the way and saying, "Great front lawn."
Andrea: That's one thing, but when you get to enjoy the produce, the work that they've put in to growing a great tomato, growing a wonderful strawberry or growing something that's new to you, that's completely unfamiliar and not available in your grocery store, those are wonderful experiences. They build friendships, they build so much comradery and so much more willingness to overlook the political sign they put out front in their lawn. If you can just know, "That's okay. I'm going to get great artichokes from them next spring." I think it's really just ... and it was a way I think in early America that people got along. It's how they made friends. It's how they socialized. The thing is, I think people are afraid because we've grown to fear our neighbors because we don't really know what's going on in that house across the street.
Andrea: But with the rise of the internet and social media, we have the ability to do some of these things in a safer way. If we can pick a public park and say, "Everybody meet at this public park at two o'clock and bring your harvest for the week," and then we just share freely. Nobody's trading cash. We're not worried about anybody ripping anybody off or somebody stealing something. It's, "I've got two tomatoes. Would you take four potatoes for these two tomatoes?" Or whatever kind of bartering system you want to establish. I think it just creates so much more generosity and community.
Nicole: Absolutely. Like you talked about earlier with the food deserts and whatnot, I mean, just because somebody lives on your street and has a house and whatnot, that doesn't necessarily mean that they're getting by day to day. Maybe your produce that you bring them is some of the only produce that they are able to provide for their family. I'm sure that they probably aren't going to tell you, "Hey, I'm not able to do this on my own," but of course they would be incredibly grateful and you could really make somebody's life a lot better by sharing your excess and just the whole community thing. there's no bad that can come from it, really.
Andrea: Yeah, and I think it's so much more. It's really a mental health thing. I think I've been reading too much about the royalty on the other side of the pond, but it talks about how Kate put together a garden for mental health. And I thought, "Yeah, I mean, I think everything I do with gardening improves my own mental health so much." I think when you share that produce, when you hear people's stories, that if you can get people gardening, then you have the ability to really also improve the mental health of your entire community. I was a foster parent for a while and it was incredible to see the way the kids that came into my home would change and would get these ... these aha light bulb moments would go off in their head because they plant a seed, they would care for it, they would water it, they would see it grow, they would get to go put it in the ground.
Andrea: They would get to see it produce fruit and the parallels that we could draw to just help them process the trauma and the things they'd gone through in life was so incredible. Just the value of seeing what can come from little tiny seeds and how that can change you as a person and then how you can take it and give it to someone else. It's just really like ... I don't want to get too fluffy, but it's really a spiritual, emotional health matter for me. If I'm not out in a garden, if I'm not growing something and if I'm not sharing what I'm growing, what am I doing?
Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. I feel exactly the same way. So if somebody was interested in starting your cul-de-sac co-op like you mentioned, what would be some of your recommendations for them to get the ball rolling on that?
Andrea: Yeah, I would say it's decide what you love to grow and start small. Start in a really attainable way. I didn't start by digging giant beds with my partner to create hugelkultur. I started with a palette on my patio in my studio apartment in the middle of the city, and I had boxes, cardboard boxes with a dirt in them. I had those on baking sheets on top of this palette. I grew chilies because I missed Pueblo chilies from home, so I had somebody send me some chili seeds. I grew chilies and I grew tomatoes and I grew basil because I wanted to be able to have those things on pizza and that's all I grew and I got plenty of them. In my tiny apartment I could share them with neighbors. There was still enough in my three cardboard boxes out on my two foot by two foot, my four cubic foot patio.
Andrea: I watered those by hand. I didn't have a hose, didn't have anything. I had two bags of soil and a couple of cardboard boxes and some seeds and that was good enough. Start where you can, start where it's attainable. If you don't feel like you want to garden your whole backyard, don't garden your whole backyard. Just start with one container and learn how to grow things in that container. Then if you want to expand from there, if the garden bug bites you, then expand from there and see where it takes you. I love to podcast, but I love to watch gardening YouTube videos. It's maybe just because I'm a garden nerd, but you can learn so much about how to grow something, about how to prune peppers, for example. How to top off peppers or how to grow tomatoes.
Andrea: Or if you want to learn about companion planting, like why it's good to plant basil alongside your tomatoes and marigolds. Why do marigolds and basil and tomato all make for a beautiful garden bed that also gives you really delicious tomatoes? Today we live in a place where you can learn how to do anything you want to learn how to do. You just have to go to YouTube and learn how to do it. So I would say if you want to get started, just be brave. YouTube, google, "How do I start a container garden?" and go from there. If you have a bigger piece of land, if you want to build raised beds, just google, "How do I build those raise beds?" and start doing the research. Instead of scrolling through Facebook in the middle of the night, or watching Instagram, take some time and take yourself to YouTube university and you might find it's really enriching in a way that you didn't realize it could be.
Nicole: I've never heard the phrase YouTube university before. I like that. I love YouTube. It's the best. You can learn literally anything on there. So with all of your experience, what would you say is your favorite thing that you've grown in your garden?
Andrea: This one is really special to me and really close to my heart, but we had three foster kiddos who came to us when they were one, two and four and we took them out to a local farm to pick pumpkins. It was the first time they'd ever done that, and they brought those pumpkins home and they sat on our porch and they didn't want to carve them. They didn't want to cut them open, they didn't want to do any of that. They were just excited to have their pumpkins. Eventually they moved on and went to live in a permanent home, which was very good and healthy for them. But I was left with their three pumpkins. We'd taken them and thrown them in the compost bin after they had gone bad and they sat there. But I, in the back of my head, paid really close attention to where I put that shovel of compost.
Andrea: I knew where it was, I knew where to put it, I knew where he'd put it in the garden. In my head I thought, "I know where the seeds from those pumpkins are." The next year, even though the boys were gone, we got three really beautiful pumpkin plants and those three really beautiful pumpkins produced three more really great pumpkins that we sat out on our patio again and that were there for Halloween and the same process. Now it's been three years and I was so excited because it's spring and I had lost track of where they had gone. Out of the middle of nowhere in my tomato bed, there are three very distinct pumpkin plants that have volunteered in that location. I'm just excited about that because I think it's such a unique thing, that when you plant a seed it carries on a legacy whether you want it to or not.
Andrea: So it's been a great reminder for me of those beautiful boys that we raised for a little while, that we had for a season, that are gone now, but we're so grateful to have them in our lives for that time. The pumpkins that they picked out are still alive and well and reproducing to this day, which to me just is a little sign from nature that things are going to work out and that everything's going to be okay. It gives me a lot of hope and a lot of excitement about the future. Even when they don't go maybe the way that I would have hoped they go, hope that things would go, that still nature takes its course and that if you trust it can be a good course.
Nicole: That's such a heartwarming story with such a lovely little lesson wrapped in. Thank you so much for sharing that. For those that would like to learn more about your story and the cul-de-sac co-op, how can people reach you and get more information?
Andrea: Yeah, we just started our Instagram so you can find us on Instagram @ramsgate.ranch and we'll be posting pictures throughout the spring of the things that come up and we'll also start talking about how we build hugelkultur beds here in Pueblo, what we've put in ours. We'll start posting some of our throwbacks of when we first began, what the backyard looked like when it started. If you follow us there, you can keep track of what we're doing and if we get the cul-de-sac copes running and off the ground, that'll be the best way to find us and to learn more about how to start a cul-de-sac co up in your own area.
Andrea: We hopefully will give you some guidance, hopefully put out some kind of training via video and then also some documentation to help you. Legally how you set up, how do you create this non-cash basis farmer's market in your area, what is some things to be concerned or looked out for? And then what are some things to try to encourage and how do you connect with your neighbors? How do you start that first conversation? Things like that. We hope to get going and it'll all be found there on @ramsgate.ranch on Instagram.
Nicole: Awesome. I know I just started following you guys and I'm excited to see how you grow and learn all that there is to learn because I have a lot to learn still.
Andrea: Yeah, we all do. It's fun.
Nicole: Yeah. Well, Andrea, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today and to share all of your information. I really enjoyed hearing all of the experiences that you've had and all of your tips for gardening here and I appreciate your time.
Andrea: Yeah, thank you. I was excited to just be able to contribute and to get to know you a little bit better and it's been good.
Nicole: Yeah, it was wonderful to have you. For the listeners, thank you again for joining us for another episode of Backyard Bounty and we'll see you again next week.
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