Monday, June 30, 2014

Curator vs. Nature

by Erin Doane, Curator

This weekend we officially opened our newest exhibit, Locally Grown: Farming in Chemung County.  This exhibit highlights historic dairying, poultry raising, and tobacco and celery cultivation in the area.  It also features information on modern farming, community gardens, and local farm stands and markets.  We even have our own farm stand within the gallery – Mammoth Acres – where kids can load up their baskets with play vegetables and learn some math at the same time.  Locally Grown will be open through September so come check it out.

Locally Grown: Farming in Chemung County
As part of this exhibit, we decided to install raised garden beds outside the museum.  We are using these small beds to present three different types of gardens: a three sisters garden, a Victorian garden, and a pizza garden.  The idea was that people could see how different combinations of vegetables were grown in different time periods.  I hoped to myself that at the end of it all we would have enough produce to maybe host an event with dishes made from these very local vegetables.  Well, you know the saying about counting your chickens before they hatch.  Mother Nature does not seem to care about what I hope.

Raised garden beds outside the Museum
 A few months ago I started some celery seeds in my office.  Celery was a major product of Horseheads at one time so we all agreed that we needed celery in our Victorian garden.  The seedlings were a bit spindly when it was time to transplant them but they held their own that first week outside.  Then a heavy rainstorm came and crushed them into the ground.  There were no survivors.  Thank goodness for the “insurance” celery plant I had purchased at a local greenhouse (just in case the ones I started didn't make it).
Celery seedlings
"Insurance" celery
 Heavy rains have not been the only thing to damage the plants.  I seem to be in a war with the local squirrels.  At first, everything seemed fine but then one day I pulled into the parking lot at the museum and noticed that the soil in the garden beds was disturbed.  I patted it all back down again and was pleased when the corn and beans in the three sisters garden began sprouting a short time later. 
Three sisters garden before the attack
 Just days later when I came to work, though, all the corn and half the beans had been dug up out of the ground.  I should have known that squirrels like corn so that was my own fault for not taking preemptive steps.  I replanted the corn and beans and sprinkled a good dose of cayenne pepper onto the soil above them.  I’ve heard that squirrels do not like hot pepper.  Well, they didn’t dig up the corn again but they did attack the peas and (horrors!) tore off part of the celery plant.  I can tell you that at this point I was not too happy.  I was even more unhappy when a night of rain washed away the pepper and my second batch of corn sprouts were dug up as well.  So, now we have a third batch of corn started with a formidable barrier of pepper.  Some women carry pepper spray in their purses.  I carry a jar of cayenne pepper!
Have some cayenne pepper, squirrels!
 Call me an optimist, but I’m hoping I have finally won the war.  The next step would be to fence in the garden beds but that just doesn’t fit into my aesthetic vision.  We’ll just have to wait and see what happens as the summer wears on.

1 comment:

  1. It is really neat to learn about local farming and growing here in Chemung County NY .. when I have been in other states and mention New York, most people only know NY City or the Major cities ... well we are here too and I am proud of it !