We have 5 big gardens, a summer kitchen, bee hives, a turtle mound herb garden, pumpkin patch, and will soon build our clay oven. People bring their kids and grandkids and it is good to see families getting together in the gardens. We set days aside (Tuesday night and Thursday night) for each garden so that people would go and work in the gardens. Part of that is because socializing is just as important as anything else. People go there and visit as they work.
In 2013 we began our journey by planting 55 fruit trees. Unfortunately, that year our potential orchard was flooded. But we didn’t give up. We started again; “...if at first you don’t succeed, etc...”.
We started over again and we planted. In 2014, 38 families signed up to take part in a community vegetable and berry garden. For the main garden, we chose a high ridge of land beside an old creek bed, in the center of the settlement so that everyone would have access by walking to the site. Because there was no topsoil, we had to scrape the top layer, remove all the rocks, haul in topsoil and level the area; an expensive and labour intensive job. The OCN Recreation and Beautification Team helped a lot with this work. The soil came from across the river from a farmer and took most of our budget. The soil came from the land that is our traditional territory.
Planting and seeding: Kistiganiwak. In two separate gardens we planted 87 fruit trees: apples, crabapples, plums, chokecherries, raspberries and cherries. Then we focused on the vegetable garden. Each worker took a tree home to plant in their own yard. We had to re-learn all those necessary things that go into making a garden (and a family) grow. I had forgotten that garden work requires continuous attention, endless patience all those things that go into a healthy happy family. To build community and get kids involved with adults, we held a birdhouse making competition. It was a huge success and helped us wait as the seedlings took root and began to sprout.
Growing: Nitawigin. The excitement of seeing new plants –and learning the difference between weeds and vegetables and weeding and weeding, and weeding...
Harvesting: Moonay Kaniwak. The food from the garden is shared with everyone who helps out. Some of it goes to feasts and community events. The kitchen will help us learn to cook and use the all of the foods grown.
What we learned: It’s good for the Elders to get moving again, instead of thinking they have to stop living at 50. We need to prepare and plant the garden together but after that we need an individual weeding schedule so everyone does it regularly. Everyone has to help out or else it is too much work for a few people. Having students can help, but it is a lot of work to manage them. Peggy and Stan need successors so that the major load is shared, we have been working to get more people involved in the leadership of the garden. People really like beets! We need less seeds and we need to take more care in planting; space the seeds further apart and thin the plants sooner.
To find out more about Opaskwayak Culture and Healthy Living Initiatives please read here.
To find out more about other community partners please read here.