March 12, 2012

building a keyhole garden ~ service project

the first step in establishing the foundation
this past saturday i went outside early to prepare the land for building the keyhole garden.  this required leveling the land with a shovel and trowel, and then laying down the rusty, metal pipes in a circular pattern wide enough to encompass an inner circle which will serve as the compost pile.  after 45 minutes i was already full of sweat and ready to come home to rest until the time was set to begin with the kids.

i came at 10am as we had planned and began arranging rocks and cement blocks that we have been collecting from within this family's compound area.  since they live where a big home has started being constructed, there were enough to form a low wall for the garden.  cement is not ideal because it erodes rather quickly in this climate, but we wanted to use what we have available to us without waiting a long time to have enough money to purchase proper rocks or bricks.  soon 2 of the 'gems of justice' boys came.  i was so happy to see them because they were willing and able to work hard.
the triangular area will be the entrance to the central compost area
this was the beginning of a 5 hour project that i could not have done without them.  we laid the rocks in a circle along the perimeter of the poles until it was as round as we could make it, with a triangular entrance area to be able to reach into the compost pile in the middle.

we didn't have enough good-sized and shaped rocks to make a higher wall so we managed to integrate smaller ones to create a semi-high wall that was about the same height all the way around.    it took a long time to match them well enough that they fit together well and would enable other rocks to be places above them securely.  this stage was labor intensive and required some level of engineering skills to complete. :)

it was then time to dig a circle in the middle of the garden for the poles to stand around.  at first we used a basic hoe and then we went to ask my gardener for a pick-axe to make deep holes which worked a lot better.  the pick-axe was also essential for breaking up a mound of hardened dirt which we needed to remove so the walkway around the garden would be flat.  the kids ended up digging a hole out of the raised ground and finding better quality soil to add into the garden.  the dirt that was on top was used to fill up the hole and now it is nice and flat!
trying to dig a circular trench in which the poles will be standing
beginning to secure the poles into their positions, using rocks to hammer them down
joshua placing small rocks around the base of each pole (domani's idea) :)
 as the older kids started hammering the poles into place in the middle of the garden, the younger ones gathered small rocks to place around the base of each pole.  it was incredibly sweet the way they worked together and gently, with the utmost care, placed each little rock -- as if now the pole would not fall over. :)


once the poles were secured, one of the boys began twisting twine around them from the base upwards.  the other jr. youth started emptying out the bags of chicken fertilizer and cow manure and mixed them up with the soil that we had.   it was now time to add the layers of ash, rusty metal, cardboard and plants into the garden with the soil.  it was a very enjoyable part of the process because everyone was doing something at the same time.  by this time 3 girls came who are part of another jr. youth group a few blocks away.  they observed for awhile and then started helping.

we included cardboard in our layers because we didn't have straw or dried grasses

trying to knit the long grasses around the poles and twine
  we soon realized that the middle circle would either need a LOT of twine or the grasses they brought needed to be wrapped around the poles.  they were hoping to use the grasses to lie on top of soil to trap moisture.  i asked them if we could use them for the compost pile and if they could continue to bring more because we will need it for both purposes when we are ready to begin planting seeds.  they proceeded to intertwine the long grasses in and out of the poles so they would be secure.  we could see how it was going to look when it can be finished all the way to the top of the poles.
though we were dripping wet, very tired and hungry, the rewards of this service project began to show on our faces as we started to smile with the joy that comes from working hard.
using some better quality soil from where the mound originally stood

using the rake for the final mixing of the soil
we have laid the foundation for the garden but will need to add a lot more soil, ash and grasses before watering and planting seeds.  for our first time making a keyhole garden -- learning from videos from YouTube -- it was an experience that developed many skills and is already making an impact in the lives of the people of the neighborhood.  kids and adults feel excited.  they see it as beautiful.  they tell us they want to see food growing here.  for the jr. youth, it is an immeasurable, indescribable experience that will be something they continue to learn from and enjoy for years to come..

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