The Anne Baynes Hall '67 Tree Nursery and Organic Garden
Soon after this magazine lands in your hands, which may have recently gripped a snow shovel, the seed catalogs will start to arrive. They will come if you have ever so much as thought of planting just a few tomato plants, their pages full of the usual and the unusualpurple carrots, anyone? It is possible that, like your alma mater, you occupy a space that is cold and white this time of year. It is possible that, holidays behind you and spring still far ahead, you will soon sit by a fire and allow yourself to open the catalogs and dream of growing green things. Whether your garden last year was a few pea plants in pots or a half acre whose legacy sits canned, frozen and dried not far from where you're reading, cold days are when you begin pondering what to do when the weather warms.
To think about a garden, no matter the time of year, is to think of the future. To plant something is an endeavor of hope and a story of survival, because no one knows for sure when you bury a little seed what will happen. Gardens are gifts that are born in the imagination and grow under the watchful care of benefactors who keep one eye on the weather and the other on invaders of both plant and animal varieties.
If you had visited Colby-Sawyer on a sunny day in early September, you would have seen more than a hundred tiny trees flourishing in the debut of the Anne Baynes Hall '67 Seedling Nursery and Organic Garden. Between the trees basil plants grew large and fragrant, while nearby rows of lettuces marched in place, eggplants hung heavy and ripe; tasty little Sun Gold cherry tomatoes begged to be tasted; and cabbages, wrapped up tight, napped while peppers danced in the sunshine. Visible from Main Street and half-framed by the L-shaped space between the Colby Homestead and the Susan Colgate Cleveland Library/Learning Center, the three plots of tilled land were evidence of a gift that turned tiny seeds of hope into thriving gardens.
For Colby-Sawyer's Students, For Colby-Sawyer's Future
In recent years, faculty members based in the Curtis L. Ivey Science Center have planted trees on campus to celebrate Earth Day and to honor the graduates of the Natural Science and Environmental Studies programs. Professor of Natural Sciences Nick Baer wished to expand the project to include annually planting a tree to honor graduates from each of the college's academic departments. Instead of purchasing trees mature enough to be set out, he envisioned a seedling nursery where students could plant native species in their first year and then as seniors transplant trees to locations on campus. When Advancement Officer Beth Camp '92 read Professor Baer's grant proposal, she knew just who would be interested in donating funds to get such a project off the groundor into the ground, as the case may be.
Anne Baynes Hall '67, of Bow, N.H., grew up on a 200-acre gentleman's farm in southern New Jersey where her mother canned the vegetables of her father's labors. She graduated from Colby Junior College with a liberal arts degree and a deep affection for the school, as is evidenced by her tireless service to the college. A former trustee, former head of the Alumni Association, dedicated member of the President's Alumni Advisory Council, and an active contributor to the Colby-Sawyer Fund, Anne has supported several immediate priorities of the school and even founded the Anne Baynes Hall Environmental Scholarship to help students afford field studies courses in the Environmental Studies Department that have a travel component. When she heard about the seedling nursery, she thought it sounded perfect.
The trees grown in the nursery will be planted around campus, replacing the invasive species that are there now, explains Anne. Students will be learning in the process; from the get-go they've been involved with this project, which I like. From the very moment I learned about the Environmental Studies major I thought, that is the way to go. We've got to sustain our planet, we've got to survive. Supporting this nursery is a way I can help. I figure every little bit helps. Hopefully it will affect a lot of people and the campus.
Anne's hope has already been realized. More and more people on campus heard about the project and got involved, and more plans are in the works. After Anne committed to the seedling nursery, the location was chosen, and it is more perfect than at first realized. On that September day, pointing to the stone wall that borders one side, Professor of Environmental Studies Leon-C. Malan said, If you look at the landscape, with this stone wall here and the set of steps coming from the old [Colby Homestead]the stone wall has lots of little rocks, all the rocks that came out of the old garden. It's a functional space. The garden is now where a garden used to be.
Seedlings of Reality
Perfect location or no, a nursery doesn't grow without a designated caretaker, and the idea of a summer internship supervised by Professor Malan became another facet of the seedling nursery project. Jamie Trombley '11, an Environmental Studies major who lives in New London, heard about the opportunity and signed on. And, like any project, from one good idea grew another and then another.
The college's Facilities Department helped remove turf and rototill the earth, which was as hard as concrete. They opened up one plot for the seedlings and then two more to grow buckwheat and rye, which would be tilled back into the ground as enriching organic matter and to create room for future seedlings. At the state nursery in Boscawen, Jamie and Professor Malan selected native species such as plum, white oak, red pine, northern white cedar, silky dogwood, eastern larch and wild raisin for the nursery. After planting, there was still plenty of room, so Professor Malan's extra squash, cucumber, broccoli and other seeds were planted alongside the tiny trees. Though Jamie, a vegan, had helped out at home with her mother's organic garden and on a nearby farm, she says she didn't have a lot of gardening experience before the summer and came to appreciate vegetablesand the work it takes to grow them a great deal more.
A dry summer made watering the nursery and garden a top priority, but a town water ban meant Jamie had to draw water and drag it to the garden either before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. In between, there was plenty of weeding to do. The gift of drip irrigation equipment from Pamela Sanborn, fitness center coordinator at the Dan and Kathleen Hogan Sports Center, saved water and time. All the effort paid off and by mid-summer a new tradition was forming on campus: Free Veggie Fridays, when Jamie would harvest whatever was ready and offer it in the Thornton Living Room in Colgate Hall to anyone interested. People got into the habit of coming around for fresh veggies, and next year Professor Malan would like to see a recipe exchange accompany the giveaway.
While the vegetables grew fast and tall, the seedlings grew, too. Tiny wisps when planted, by September they were large enough to make Anne gasp in delight when she saw them again. They just grew so well, it's amazing; they've grown tremendously, Professor Malan told her. We were a little worried the deer might be attracted to the white oaks; if they nip the leader we lose the tree, but I put a bit of shade cover over them to protect them.
While honey bees reported for duty, gathering pollen from late blossoms and helping to pollinate, Professor Malan pointed to the dogwoods, some already nearly big enough to transplant. Initially we thought we'd be on a two-year rotation of planting and transplanting, but [Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies] Laura Alexander and I came to have a look and some of them we'll be able to take out sooner, he said. The conifers we'll leave in longer, but the dogwoods we can probably put out in the spring. There are some dogwoods on campus already they do well here, and they have berries, so they provide wildlife benefits, especially for migrating birds. With the two additional plots we've done an interesting experiment to break up the soil and add organic material. The buckwheat will not survive under the snow; it will fall down and we will till it in come spring. The winter rye will survive, and it will grow pretty big, and we'll incorporate it into the soil. The buckwheat added another facet we never planned, but there's a student doing a honey bee project, and at one point, when the buckwheat was flowering, it looked just beautiful from the road and it was full of bees.
Eventually, Professor Malan would like to make the nursery and garden area an official outdoor classroom with logs for seating. We can teach students about seedling lots and veggies, but to bring them out here and show them, it's a great connection, says Professor Malan. It was certainly a huge learning experience for Jamie. She thought she was a country girl but she learned a lot about veggies she had no idea about. I pushed her to try to make links. I'd ask, 'If you say it's hard work to look after the veggies, where do you think your food comes from? And who are the people doing the hard work? Are the veggies grown here, or in Arizona and California, where they suck water out of the Colorado River?' So that's the benefit of students' involvement in a project like this. They start making the links, asking how the system really works. Jamie kept a daily log and also volunteered one day a week at Spring Ledge Farm, where she learned a lot. It's not always nice work; sometimes you're removing boulders from the field on a hot day. This was totally new for her, to do it herself. It isn't so glorious, and you can't forget about it for a week.
In the spring, when the snow is gone and the mud has once again become soil and all of a sudden you realize you can go outside without bundling up, it's then that one or two environmental studies classes will pick up their garden tools and carry on the work begun by a student who, by then, will be preparing to graduate. They'll choose more seedlings, perhaps transplant those first dogwoods, and prepare the earth for another season of giving and growing and sustenance. Thanks to their ecology classes they'll know what they are looking at, and they'll know what to do because of the guidance of their professors. They'll also have a place to put their classroom and lab knowledge to use, thanks to an alumna who has found ways to do what she can to affect her college and the world.
The exciting part of this project is, we're not doing this for us, says Professor Malan. There's no way I'll see these trees fully grown, but future students will. You start planting seeds and who knows what will happen?
For what is a garden but a story of hope and survival?