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By DANELLE LANDIS
Daily News Staff Writer
A small group of children and adults braved the downpour Saturday afternoon to pluck and snip the Ketchikan Public Library garden’s last harvest Saturday afternoon.
“So, what you want to do, is go all the way down to the base of the stalk, and cut it right there,” Library Assistant Rebecca Jackson told the attendees, demonstrating on a lettuce plant.
Participants heaped tiny carrots, brilliant rainbow chard, chives, orange and yellow nasturtiums, spiky kale, and green and red lettuces in large bowls that Jackson provided. A few harvesters snacked on the carrots as they pulled them, after brushing away the clinging soil.
Some of the kids at the event said they’d never grown a garden before, or harvested their own vegetables, and that they attended at their mothers’ urging.
Exclamations rang out as the the children jogged and bounced between the raised beds, jostling for best access to the plants.
“Hey, lookit, I got one!”
“Oooh, look at that one!”
“I got it!”
“Can we get those?”
“Can we eat the yellow ones?”
“What are these?”
“Would deers eat this?”
“Hey, there’s a seashell!” Seven-year-old Maximus Birch exclaimed, plucking the tiny shell out of the rockweed mulch.
When the group moved into the library’s small meeting room, they rinsed the greens and cleaned out the unusable parts, tossing those into a compost bucket. The discarded bits would be added to KRBD’s compost pile across the street, Jackson said.
Jackson said she planned to donate the harvest to Ketchikan High School teacher Cameo Roberts’ new Community Kitchen project. Roberts plans to process and freeze donated produce, then to deliver it to local homeless shelters.
A few of the more adventurous attendees tried snacking on the greens.
Aiden Eldridge, 10, chewed thoughtfully on a kale leaf.
“It was different,” Aiden said, when asked if it tasted like the greens he was used to. “More of a sour, and not tasteful. More bland.”
Russell Wodehouse said he attended because “I’ve been seeing posters, and talking about it on the radio, and I wanted to go harvest carrots.”
He was even less enthusiastic about the kale than was Aiden.
“It’s like barbed wire razor lettuce,” he said.
Once the greens were clean, they were ready to be sorted by type.
Maximus was especially focused on sorting, carefully stacking leaves in matching piles on a long table.
Jackson said she’d been wanting to build a garden at the library for awhile. When she first started working at the library a few years ago, she noticed that the area on the southwest corner of the building would be perfect for a garden.
“It seemed like a natural place for the site,” she said, noting its good air circulation, excellent sun exposure and proximity to the children’s library.
The next challenge was to secure funding for the raised beds. She worked with Children’s Services Librarian Amanda Kiely and previous Library Director Linda Lyshol to secure funding, without success. Finally, the Friends of the Library group was able to secure a grant from the Ketchikan Community Foundation. Jackson, along with other library staff, wrote a grant that also secured garden funding from the Alaska State Library.
When asked what his favorite part of the event was, eight-year-old Chatham Crosby was quick to answer.
“I got the hugest carrot,” he said.