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Niko Kirby

Fall Basil Pesto Recipe

By Education

The first frost is headed our way soon.
Now is the time to harvest your remaining basil and make pesto!

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. fresh basil leaves (no stems)
  • 2 lg. garlic cloves cut in 1/2 lengthwise
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt (more to taste)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp. pine nuts
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 1/4 c. freshly grated parmesan (to taste)

Instructions:

1. Place basil leaves in bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade & pulse until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

2. Add the garlic, salt, one-half of the olive oil, then briefly pulse. Add pine nuts & briefly pulse again.

3. Scrape down sides of bowl & slowly drizzle in remaining olive oil. Continue to process until the mixture is smooth & sticks together. Add the cheeses & pepper to taste & pulse until everything is well blended. Taste & adjust salt.

4. If not using right away, scrape the pesto into a glass jar, cover w/about 1/4″ of olive oil & refrigerate.

Strawberries, Oppression, + Getting What I Want

By Embodied Equity
In my garden, there is a strawberry plant.

The strawberries appear, quite magically, like little red, sparkling rubies in the sun. When I notice them sparkling there, I feel a desire to possess them. I look around to make sure no one else has seen them yet. I feel ashamed that I want them for myself. Perhaps my neighbor also feels longing and excitement about ruby red strawberries magically appearing in the sun.

I began to think that I should have asked the plant if I could have them before I hungrily snatched them up. It was a quiet thought in the back of my mind that my hunger refused to entertain. It changed the subject or made sure I “forgot” to ask until I had at least one jeweled prize in my hand.
“It would be silly to ask now,” my hunger taunted.

“Why can’t I just ask the plant?” I wondered, but my hunger changed the subject to some work I urgently needed to complete, so I walked off, urgently.

My inability to stay present with the question felt more and more uncomfortable. My relationship with the plant felt more and more out of alignment. Until a young, quiet voice broke through, Because, what if it says no?I felt my chest seize up, ever so slightly, at the thought that I might not possess my shining rubies again. I heard Gollum’s raspy voice in my head, “My precious.” My throat was tight.

I had been pondering how it happened that the Europeans who saw my ancestors in the beautiful rolling plains of Nigeria decided to kidnap them. What made them hunger for those beautiful, glittering jewels in the sun? What made them take, without asking? And what if they too were afraid to ask because they might be told “No”?

I’ve watched my own multifaceted response to this question when seeing several glittering jewels I follow on social media. Joyful, multi-patterned clothing, freedom to mix a beard with a ball gown, a fluorescent wig some days– because why the hell not?  My response to their freedom is a combination of profound respect, a bit of awe, and underneath those feelings something else that was hard to admit. A mixture of fear and anger. Thankfully, I’ve worked through the shame enough to admit to, and tend to, what lies beneath.

It takes courage and self-love to talk to that part of me that is afraid. To listen to what is happening inside of me rather than shame it. Because that part of me must be hurting. Hurt people hurt people… Self-hating people hate people… Self-fearing people fear people.

I listened to myself and the truth unfolded. The light of self-expression illuminated a place in me that had been hidden in darkness. A place where I could not — would not — go. The expressive clothes I would buy but never wear; the things I would think but never say. The light illuminated a reality. The rainbow cornucopia of expression that I am was stifled, muted. And my dull tones of grey looked even greyer next to the full-color explosion of a human being who is being true to themselves.
I noticed my own longing for more freedom with new eyes.

When the light of someone else’s honesty illuminates my lies, I have choices. The answer I choose when I’m not honest with myself is a split-second, unconscious, reaction. I attempt to turn off their light. It is an attempt to escape the illumination of my own inauthenticity and the suffering my inauthenticity creates.

I have access to a whole spectrum of destructive tactics to turn off their light. Grouped together we call them “oppression.” I can be dismissive of them in my own mind. I can speak dismissive or insulting words. I can speak punishing words. I can support punishing laws. I can take punishing actions. I can hit, I can kill, I can support or dismiss the hitting or killing others carry out.

These are the options I choose by default when I refuse to take responsibility for what is being illuminated in me. Upon meeting those indigenous people on Turtle Island and Alkebulan (Africa), and having some aspect of their own greyness illuminated, Europeans used these tactics as well.

Instead, what if they had just said, “I want what you have. I want it so badly it hurts in my bones. I think I used to have what you have. I don’t know what it is, or when I had it, or how I lost it. I am angry at you for making me notice. I am enraged with envy and I am scared of you and what you possess. I am scared to ask you to share because if you say no, I will feel like I have lost it all over again. But… Can you share with me?”
How different things could be.

In this dynamic, we can be aggressors or students. We get to choose which skillset we strengthen. We get to live in a world that reflects our choices. Now, it is not always appropriate to ask strangers to educate us. But, we always have the power to learn from those who shine a light on our darkness.

We can notice what is illuminated. We can let ourselves feel our own desire to have what they have and notice what stops us. Once we see what stops us, we can ask for help. We can Google it, read a book, or hire those who teach. We can feel gratitude for these unexpected teachers who teach just by existing. How generous!

So, I took a breath and I asked the plant for a strawberry. Grinning, she said “Of course! That’s why I grew them.”

I don’t remember eating the strawberry. But I do remember the freedom, exhilaration, and power of finally asking the impossible question. I do remember the taste of asking for what I really want.

Reflection Questions:

  • Based on my reactions of fear or anger, what do I long for more of?

  • What books, internet searches, service providers, etc. can support me to honor the part of me that longs for more?

Offerings:

Enjoy this poem! 

Until next time… deepen and discover!
‘Embodied Equity,’ a limited-series guest blog authored by Leanne Alaman focuses on deepening our understanding of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) by deepening our listening to the teachings of Mother Nature, our wise and humble teacher.

Hi, I’m Leanne! I provide paradigm-shifting equity support to organizational leaders and well-meaning individuals to move past well-meaning into well-doing. To learn more, visit my website and support my work.

The Garden in October

By A Year in the Garden, Education

by Senior Education Specialist Judy Elliott

October in Denver usually provides us with sunny days, not much in the way of precipitation, and temperatures that range from the low to mid-60s during the day, to a gradual lowering of nighttime temperatures from the 50s to high 30s. It is the time of obvious shortening of daylight hours, falling leaves, and the potential first snowfall.

Our gardens respond in kind: slowing and then ceasing growth of warm-season crops, welcoming the onset of cooler weather that allows us to replant some of our salad greens and kale. It is the season where we begin to notice the individual brilliant colors of remaining flowers and autumn leaves that stand out against the intensity of the blue sky. The ripening pumpkins and winter squash beckon us to put our gardens to bed, gather, and follow age-old cycles of renewal. It is the season of covering and connection to the cycles of the garden, and also of our lives.

Incorporate some of the lessons this month provides by:

C |Creating conditions for a thriving garden

  • Remove any remaining warm season crops.
  • Dispose of any diseased or insect-infested plants such as tomato vines and/or squash family members such as summer and winter squash, pumpkin vines, and cucumbers that have ‘powdery mildew’ on their leaves. Don’t put them in the compost pile!
  • Weeds left standing in the garden provide an ample supply of seeds for early spring growth. Be conscientious about digging them out & disposing of them now.

O| Optimizing soil health

  • After removing warm-season crops, spread ⅕” of plant-based or ‘homemade’ compost on the soil surface, digging it into the top 3” of soil.
  • If you have a source of fall leaves, utilize them as free nutrients. To prevent their clumping together, run a lawnmower over 1” layers of leaves or have the family engage in ‘group bonding’ by jumping on bags of leaves. Dig 1” layers into the soil for additional organic material.
  • Plant winter rye, hairy vetch, field peas or oats as ‘cover crops’. Follow package instructions for each variety, planting by mid-October. A combination of rye & vetch, or oats & peas will give back lots of top growth & deep rooting patterns to open up soil compaction.
  • Lessen soil erosion by trying to mimic a tall-grass prairie, covering all bare areas with fall leaves or straw. Strong winds can quickly remove precious topsoil.

V | Visioning is important

  • Learn to view your season as part of a cycle, remembering and jotting down every step to garden learning.
  • Resolve to make different mistakes each year and don’t try to become a garden ‘expert’.
  • Plan for internal pathways for feet to ‘dance’ and care for crops & planting areas that are not more than 3’ wide.

E | Extending the season for cool-season crops

  • To provide several weeks of additional growing time for salad greens and kale, utilize a type of fabric ‘row -cover’ material, usually made of a spun polyester material. These materials are permeable to water, provide different degrees of light transmission and several degrees of frost protection.
  • Keep the covering in place by either using garden ‘pegs’ or rocks.
  • Water all fall crops with a solution of liquid kelp (1 – 2 tsp.of kelp concentrate/gallon of water) to provide additional micronutrients & frost protection.

R | Rejuvenating and regenerating with respect 

  • A garden, in all of its glory, is part of the larger cycle of growth, experiencing germination, full growth, flowering, pollination, fruiting, and dormancy.
  • All of its components are essential for high-level wellness, beginning with the soil as a provider and ending with the remains of harvested crops that can be chopped & used in the compost pile.
  • Rejoice in the changes of the season that allow us to deepen our connections to the wisdom of slowing down and noticing, appreciating the power in reflection, sharing, and being a part of regeneration.

Quick Garden Tip: Green your windowsill

If you are still determined to continue ‘growing’, consider planting or transplanting lettuce, basil, or chives.

Process:

  • For lettuce or basil, fill 3” pots with an all-purpose ‘indoor’ potting mix that has been moistened well.  Do not use garden soil. 
  • Plant 2 seeds of lettuce or 3 seeds of a shorter growing basil variety per pot. Use the information on the back of their seed packets to determine planting depth
  • Place in an area that receives sufficient sunlight
  • Check for when to water by inserting a toothpick or sharp pencil into the soil several times a week. If soil adheres to the toothpick or pencil tip, no water is needed. Soil should always feel like a ‘wrung-out’ kitchen sponge. 
  • Garden chives can also be dug & transplanted for indoor growth. Again, when planting indoors, utilize a commercially available potting mix.

Discovering Your ‘Why’ For Gardening

By Faces of DUG

#27: Meet Robbin, gardener, mentor, and community leader

I got into gardening in 2000 when I was suffering from severe clinical depression. In my research, I found information around diet and nutrition but also found a piece around gardening, and I thought that was kind of different. So I got a beautiful little pot with a geranium on my patio in Los Angeles. That was my very first attempt to grow anything. And it’s been a long journey from there!

When I moved to Colorado, I shared my property with my grandmother. There was a little space with some ground in the back. I don’t even remember what I grew. But whatever I put back there grew, and I was like, “Oh wait, I might know how to do this!” That was what piqued my interest. It seemed I had an intuitive ability. 

Images courtesy of Robbin Otey and the sow sistas FB page 

DUG came into the picture as my hobby got out of hand. I found out about DUG’s two coaching programs: the Master Community Gardener Program and the Master Composter Program. My pedagogy is always to start with science. So that’s how I ended up doing both programs.

The work that I do now is garden ministry.

I grow our ministry through A Georgia Green Project. My role in A Georgia Green Project is to manage the garden and teach others – composting, companion planting, you name it. I’m teaching people about resisting food apartheid and how to invite community into the gardens.

My other group, the sow sistas, is a mentorship group of ladies. I’ve had some very micro-aggressive experiences in the community. I consider myself to be resilient, but in Colorado, any environment that I’m in is going to be – if it’s 10 people I’m probably going to be the only black woman (well people think I’m a black woman, and I identify as a black woman, but I’m actually Washitaw).  Not that that doesn’t affect me, but there are other personalities and types of people that don’t feel welcome. So I’m like, “Okay, we need to figure out how we can be in this space.”

That’s kind of how it manifested in the DUG space. Colorado has a very bloody history around the land, so we always honor it. We appreciate the ability to lease the plots with DUG and I appreciate all of the educational opportunities DUG offers. That’s part of what the sow sisters is about — let’s garden together as a group, let’s harness this information.

Our focus is resisting food apartheid, exploring global food sovereignty, and educating ourselves and our community on these issues and our program is centered around black women and girls.

Anyone can garden with us, but that’s our focus. Our intent is to solve for isolation. In a community garden, it takes a team effort to make it work. We manage the plots together. We account for people’s physical limitations — we have some that can pull the wheelbarrows and some that can do the weeding, but everyone can contribute.

It is intergenerational — we also have the little sow sistas, the young girls who help out. We’re actually able to employ the sow sistas, which is part of our mission. So that people can know there’s work, there are jobs, and there are lots of careers in the Ag world, not just growing food. 

We also have The Kaleidoscope Project (TKP). TKP was part of the DUG garden at Shorter AME Community Church, and the pastor reached out to me to ask if I wanted to do something in the garden. They’re social activist trainers, so the whole program at TKP is around claiming our power in the food system. TKP also has music programs with young people in the garden. TKP had done pop-ups in different areas that did not have easy access to fresh food. And so the pastor was like, ‘We can just do our own thing!’ People are able to barter or pay what they can. I’m excited to see the music that they’re going to do around what’s happening in their garden.

Our group is motivated by love. Love for ourselves, love for our families, love for community, and love for humanity. The more that we all vibrate high, whatever love looks like, the better the whole world is going to be.

My love language is resisting food apartheid and growing–people, places, and things. That’s what I do. I support the women that want to garden. One of our guiding principles is that the land and the food is sacred. 

For me, love is a resistance tool. Everyone says ‘support’ global food sovereignty, but we have to understand that we cannot be afraid of the truth that there were very violent actions in this documented history and herstory of the land. People were killed to gain these resources. This information matters not so that people get angry, you move past that.

I appreciate the opportunity to share that gardening can be a love language. For people to open their minds and to be intentional about how they eat and even if they don’t grow, support those that do — that’s the food sovereignty piece, right? Go find a local market that’s better for your health and go eat some food that was grown four blocks from you, rather than something that was driven 12 hours in a truck. 

The pandemic was a huge catalyst in everything that is manifesting in my life around gardening and what I see happening in the garden. Folks were gardening that had never gardened before that always wanted to — it was all over the internet. We couldn’t find stuff in the stores.

I usually grow edible pollinators. The new thing I’m growing right now is my moon bed. The intent is to attract those nighttime pollinators in the dusk. It’s beneficial because the flowers are white. Typically they’re also highly fragrant flowers. Part of the sow sistas is our aesthetic — we care that it looks pretty. I sowed biennial hollyhock last year and it’s blooming beautifully pink this season. 

The very first lesson for a new gardener is to find your ‘Why.’ Your ‘why’ is going to matter when you don’t feel like getting out there to water.

There are many ‘why’s.’ Some of the sow sistas are in the group for the social piece. Some are there to get the education. Some are there to get the physicality. Some just want to be out there in the fresh air. And some want to have control over their food. To know that there should be a ‘why’ is going to support you.

If I were to encourage someone who had never gardened before, I would give them the basic five. The basic five is ‘Planning. Take time to ‘Plot.’ ‘Pay Attention’ to where you’re planting. Include ‘Pampering’ — that’s the fertilizing, the water plan, the pest control. The last piece is the ‘Pulling’ — that’s the harvesting and the preserving.

Take the time to be plant-specific. Do some companion planting. Start with the science. That’s what beginners don’t realize. They’re like, “Oh I thought we were just going to be taking pictures and wearing the uniform shirts.” Like no sister, grab a shovel (laughter).”

More Faces of DUG

Faces of DUG
August 21, 2020

Inspiring lifelong curiosity through gardening

"My favorite part of being in the garden is being able to see the vegetables grow. We’re growing tomatoes, cucumber, and on the back there’s broccoli. And we’re also growing…
Faces of DUG
March 9, 2021

Growing community support in a school garden

“I was one of the founders of the Samuels garden in 2011, and have been a Garden Leader there for the last 10 years. I was never a gardener before;…
Faces of DUG
October 23, 2020

Cultivating love in the garden

“I signed up for a community garden plot at a DUG garden before I ever heard Daniel's name. I was excited to grow things and put down roots, as I…
Faces of DUG
September 4, 2020

Creating a piece of home in the garden

“I am from Central Africa. I couldn’t find seeds from my country to grow. I said, “If I cannot find this vegetable I will have to move back to my…

Embodied Equity: Welcome

By Embodied Equity

Header photo credit to Amy Alaman, @afroblooms on Instagram
Authored by Leanne Alaman of Embodied Contribution

This new limited-series guest blog ‘Embodied Equity’ will focus on deepening our understanding of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) by deepening our listening to the teachings of Mother Nature, our wise and humble teacher.

In a world of misinformation and deception, it can feel difficult to discern the truth. But our dear Earth Mother never lies. By listening to this primordial mother, we deepen our lived experience of the truth of ourselves and each other.

This lived experience is true wisdom. Mother Nature wants to gift us everything we need, including wisdom–all we have to do is listen, deeply. How lucky we are to have this limitless and freely given resource!

In this blog, I’ll share what I’ve heard about JEDI through my own practice of deep listening. I hope this wisdom helps you to move through these times and greater appreciation and care for yourself and others.

I want to thank Denver Urban Gardens for engaging in the liberatory work of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion with me. May the seeds we plant today and tend tomorrow blossom into skillful adjustments at DUG that will benefit us all.

And, of course, thank you to indigenous people across the world for remaining wisdom holders and knowledge bearers despite unspeakable obstacles. Your faithfulness to the truth allowed a deeper and deeper path to be forged to it. As many more of us arrive here, please know we do so only because of your integrity. I trust you already know that one day you will be showered with gifts and gratitude commensurate with your contribution.

Until next time. Deepen and discover!

Hi, I’m Leanne! I provide paradigm-shifting equity support to organizational leaders and well-meaning individuals to move past well-meaning into well-doing.

The Garden in September

By A Year in the Garden, Education

by Senior Education Specialist Judy Elliott

September in Denver is usually a month of glorious sunshine, changing leaf colors, sunny days, and not much in the way of precipitation. If we are lucky enough to experience decreasing smoke and haze from western wildfires, we can anticipate brilliant blue skies, temperatures from the 70s to mid – 80s during the day and nighttime temperatures cooling to the low 50s. With all of these changes, daylight hours have decreased dramatically, giving us less than 10 hours of sunshine and a lower angle of the sun. Our first frost of the season can usually be expected during the last week in September or the first week in October.

All of these different scenarios seem to precipitate a focus around ‘bringing in the harvest,’ planting ideas rather than crops, and slowing down enough to begin to appreciate the true lessons of the garden. As I consider the ‘harvest’, my thoughts turn inward to successes, challenges, and messages of possibility. Here are some ways to think in new ways about the harvest.

H |Harvest and care for crops regularly 

  • To maximize the yield from warm-season crops such as tomatoes, understand their growth habit. In early September, prune several inches off of the top of tomato plants to restrict vegetative (stem) growth and promote the reopening of ‘green’ tomatoes.
  • Continue to remove ‘suckers’ and long, trailing side stems that are interfering with air circulation
  • Remove most newly opened flowers on warm-season crops, since it takes at least a month from time of pollination to gain a fruit that will successfully ripen inside
  • Prune back rampant growth of winter squash and pumpkins to promote ripening of fruit
  • Check and harvest summer squash and cucumbers several times a week to make sure you don’t ‘miss’ any rapidly growing fruit

A| Arm yourself with ideas that expand your knowledge

  • The most productive garden starts with healthy soil
  • Plant cover crops such as winter rye, hairy vetch, winter peas, and oats by mid-late September to prevent soil erosion, provide quantities of organic material to dig into the soil in spring and promote a thriving environment for soil microorganisms

R | Review, reap, and renew

  • Remove unproductive warm season crops
  • Renew the soil with 1 ½” of plant-based compost dug into the top 4 – 6” of soil
  • Plant small quantities of quickly maturing crops such as lettuce, spinach, radish, arugula, or bok choy
  • Cover any bare soil with mulch
  • Plant garlic in late September or early October

V | View your plot and garden with an expanded eye

  • A garden feeds body and soul, providing a respite from the uncertainties of everyday stress
  • Gardens are intergenerational gathering places that celebrate diversity

E | Evaluate your steps to success

  • Success can be achieved when we vow to not repeat the same mistakes each year
  • Take pictures of your plot to plan for crop rotation, different varieties, diverse planting styles, peaceful gathering places

S | Share: knowledge, bounty, and small steps 

  • The beauty of a garden is that everyone has something to share: knowledge, food, recipes, help with plot maintenance, and family stories. Think of creative ways to involve our youngest generation, too

T | Trust the process

  • A garden is a circle, a cycle of integrated seed to seed growth that occurs in spite of the challenges of the seasons

Quick Garden Tip

Over the winter, soil can be eroded with our harsh winds and snow storms. Protect and restore your soil with cover crops!

Cover crops are best planted in mid-late September. As you harvest your summer veggies, consider creating space to plant cover crops like winter rye and hairy vetch.

Finding Mentorship (and more) in Community

By Faces of DUG

#26: Meet Laurel, a first-year gardener at Growasis Community Garden

“Last year, my boyfriend and I lived in the Cole neighborhood and had never gardened before.

We lived in an apartment with no outdoor space and were home all the time due to COVID. It has always been important to me to try and make our lifestyles more sustainable. As most human beings, I used to rely exclusively on grocery stores to provide everything I need to survive, but gardening was a paradigm shift for me and my boyfriend– to really see that we could grow our own food.” 

Last summer was our first season and as beginners, we both went into the experience blind.

DUG’s To-Grow Box was what got us started. It was a great learning experience. Before gardening, my boyfriend wasn’t particularly interested in eating fresh fruits and vegetables much of the time. Surprisingly, he got really into gardening and as a result, eating the food we produced. Our diets were both improved and diversified.

The different pepper and tomato varieties included in the To-Grow Box weren’t things I would’ve typically purchased before. Growing them was an impetus to learn how to cook and incorporate them into foods we wanted to eat.

Gardening was great for our relationship.

It gave us a project to work on, something that we had to do every single day that required our attention. It was exactly what we needed at that time.

The garden made us feel like a part of our community, especially at the height of isolation during the pandemic.

We felt really lucky to be at Growasis. It had a cohesive group of people, even despite the limitations of COVID. It was nice to have that in-person connection around something other than work, which is typically the only way we interact with others as adults. We learned so much during our first season. Our plot neighbors were also first-time gardeners, so we bounced ideas off each other all the time.

There was a woman at our garden, we called her ‘Miss M.’

When we first picked up our To-Grow Box, we were so excited that we immediately drove to the garden to plant our seedlings. The next day, everything was weathered and dying. Miss M swooped in and said, “I know what happened. It’s okay, we can save them!” She got on her hands and knees and helped us dig up and replant everything! I was being cautious, but she said, “No, you need to show the ground who’s boss–get in there!”

From that moment on, Miss M would give us garden tips every time we saw her.

She took us under her wing and helped us maintain our entire garden. She could tell early-on that we were struggling pretty significantly, so she inserted herself in such a welcomed, appreciated way. I can’t express how much it meant to me at the time. I didn’t ask other gardeners for help out of fear of seeming like too much of a rookie. What she did meant so much.

Our garden would’ve failed from day-one if it weren’t for her.

We could have read any number of gardening books, but there’s something different about having an experienced gardener who has lived in the neighborhood for a long time telling you what she does to make her garden healthy and successful.

It’s hard to explain without getting too sentimental. We’ve never connected with someone in that way before.

It really made all the difference for our first gardening experience. I’m so excited to make community gardening a part of my life now! 

More Faces of DUG

Faces of DUG
October 30, 2020

Looking back on a lifetime in the garden

“Although my mother wasn't an active gardener, I think that sometimes interests skip generations. I remember my grandmother saving seeds of her treasured cleome (we called them 'spider flowers') whose…
Faces of DUG
July 27, 2020

Finding connection with food

“We lived in China for 7 years, where we met when Lily was my translator on a work project. We like it here very much. I am originally from the…
Faces of DUG
June 2, 2021

Leaving a Legacy of Wonder

“My daughter Beth introduced me to Denver Urban Gardens around 6 years ago. She’s always been a big DUG fan. She received an impact award at DUG’s annual fundraiser for…
Faces of DUG
September 30, 2021

Discovering Your ‘Why’ For Gardening

“I got into gardening in 2000 when I was suffering from severe clinical depression. In my research, I found information around diet and nutrition but also found a piece around…