~  poetic reflections

fall drifts, blanketing the earth

lay your hand on what is precious

gently protect, so it may nourish all that needs it


The end of October marks the last week of our volunteer work parties. We’ve been transitioning the garden to hold a cover crop mix, building epic compost towers, saving seeds and sharing teas. Anna’s seasonal work here is coming to an end, as we bid adieu to our lovely Waldorf friends.

We’ve been experimenting with letting the chickens into a new area in the garden underneath the raspberries- as far as we can tell, they are really enjoy being in there.We had a hefty and delicious winter squash harvest, and we’re thrilled to have 9 lbs of baby beets highlighted in the Annual Whidbey Institute Gratitude Gala.


from left, plant dyes are weld and dyer’s chamomile,  pomegranate, japanese indigo, weld

We experimented with some of the plant dyes we’ve been quiet about until now. We used the weld, dyer’s chamomile flowers, madder root, and japanese indigo that we grew this season. We also experimented with red cabbage and powdered pomegranate. It feels so empowering to grow and gather materials that add more color and beauty to our world. Here’s a fun thought: medicinal plant dying. It’s a new idea to us, that suggests that when we dye with plants that have strong medicinal properties, and then wear these items directly on our skin, we can absorb some of the energies of these plants. Here’s to next year’s dreams…

We were privileged to attend a screening of SEED: The Untold Story. This recently released film exposes efforts to save and protect the seeds of our edible plant diversity, and some of the forces that are currently threatening them. The film is beautifully designed and relates true stories of poignancy and passion. Please, check it out:  http://www.seedthemovie.com

We hope that our efforts throughout the year have helped even more people and animals feel at home in the Westgarden. Stay tuned for updates, goals, and actions for 2017. We wish each of you a restful winter!




This is the final in a series of three 2016 Ayurvedic herbal workshops at the Whidbey Institute with master herbalist Kumudini Shoba.

sunny garden

Please join us on Saturday, October 1st from 1-4pm in the Westgarden at the Whidbey Institute for this class centered around the medicinal roots of fall.

In this class, we will harvest, taste, and get to know the powerful healing roots of the Westgarden. Kumudini Shoba will share with us some of her expansive knowledge of Auyerveda and help us use it as a way to understand the season’s change and how we might promote wellness through the darker months ahead.

To register click here, and for more questions please contact Abigail, our Garden Steward at abigail@whidbeyinstitute.org



At the Westgarden, we invest such care in the planning and tending of the plants and their environment. We map plant family rotations, manage predatory habitat, and prepare organic and biodynamic sprays with agroecological farming principles in mind. We’ve got a great team of people that support the garden with advice and physical work. And still, despite our best efforts and intentions, there is so much beyond our control. Diseases and fluctuating temperatures are inherent Earth processes that can significantly affect garden outcomes. It can be a bit of a gamble when we introduce non-native species. This summer, our efforts have paid off – it’s been exciting that our losses have been minimal and our harvests have been abundant.

We’ve been harvesting a beautiful variety of vegetables and had an incredible apple harvest. We’ve nearly restocked our apothecary with medicinal herbs for tea and have enough materials for some plant dye projects this fall. Some developments on the land have offered the garden more sunlight, which bodes well for the upcoming fall season.P1010269P1010283

We’re looking forward to a new class of Waldorf students, who return the first week of September, an autumn herb class led by Kumudini Shoba on October 1st from 1-4pm, and the Community Celebration on October 9 from 10a-1p. We hope you’ll join us.

Hiya there!

It’s Anna, writing my first post, to share updates and excitements about the garden. Despite setbacks from slug damage and irregularities in our seed starting mix, the last of our garden beds was planted out this week… just in time to honor the summer solstice and the energy that the sun bestows.

With the seasonal transition, our weekly time with the Waldorf and homeschool students has been put on pause. Abigail and I have so enjoyed the excitement, contributions, sharing, energy, and youthfulness these students brought.

The loom in the garden is the one thing specially reserved for the Waldorf class to contribute to throughout their time here. It has turned into a beautiful visual of their Spring in the garden, and a sweet reminder of each person’s presence and individuality. Many thanks to the class for helping build our runner bean trellis, and to teacher Ms. Kelly Corson for her commitment to incorporating the Westgarden into the school day.

The homeschool students are such gardening veterans! They are both great help and such fun to work with. We look forward to their return in the fall, and hope that we might get a few surprise visits throughout the summer.

Our largest harvests lately have been of salad greens, with some sweet peas and edible flowers to accompany. We’ve also had our first harvests of medicinal and culinary herbs and dye plants. It’s such a great feeling to know that we can grow more than just food in this space – we can grow medicines and craft materials too. Some of our hidden crops, potatoes, carrots, and beets are maturing nicely and are promising stunning harvests in a few weeks. Cherries and raspberries are finally ripening and are such great snacking treats, with incredible flavor and sweetness. If you haven’t stopped by the garden recently, it might be worth it just for the berries.

Thank you to our volunteers and apprentices who have helped build this into a beautiful summer garden!



Please join us Saturday June 25th from 1-4pm in the Westgarden for a special herbal class taught by Ayurvedic Herbalist Kumudini Shoba. All the medicinal flowers in bloom will be our teachers as we explore the abundant healing energy of summer.

$45 for general admission, $30 for Westgarden volunteers

To reserve a seat visit the link here, and for any questions please contact Abigail Lazarowski, Westgarden Steward at abigail@whidbeyinstitute.org


Everybody, plants and gardeners alike, have been soaking up the sun that’s been shining lately! Our harvests are slowly growing with beautiful radishes and the first of our spring kale and lettuce.

Work party volunteers have been helping us with those harvests, as well as lending a hand planting out our dye and flower beds and sowing roots. We’ve brought our picnic tables outside too and have been enjoying some fabulous garden lunches together!

We’ve been lucky enough to have a group of homeschool students and Waldorf students in the garden each week and they’re been great! In addition to watering, building pea trellises, and making soil blocks, they’ve been enjoying some tasty garden treats!

We’ve also expanded the area for the chickens, nearly doubling their foraging space!  We constructed a temporary enclosure that opens them up to more of the forest floor that surrounds the Westgarden. In addition, we’ve closed off part of their chicken run and seeded it with some quick growing cover crop. Once that is all germinated we plan on opening up the space so the ladies have access to even more fresh scratch.

If you’d like to join us in the garden please contact Abigail, the Westgarden Manger at abigail@whidbeyinstitute.org


We are so pleased to have Anna join us in the Westgarden this year. Along with a big smile, she brings with her a curious mind and rich breadth of agricultural knowledge. Here’s what Anna has to say:

“I’m a recent transplant from the East coast, having spent most of my life in the Carolinas. The gardening community and support it receives attracted me out here, as I explore new ways of working with food production systems in communities. My passion about sustainable food production became clear in the 9th grade when I self-selected the research topic of organic cotton production. It was an exciting, passionate topic that was intertwined with so many people in the world, but was committing serious injustices to the environment and farm workers.


An opportunity in college to lead a new school garden solidified my passion and helped make clear that agriculture would be more than a hobby. Since then, I’ve sought out many farm learning opportunities ranging in scope of both the diversity of crops and animals and scale of production. The list of things that appeal to me about farming has since grown: self-sufficiency, affordable nutrition, efficient production, story-telling, inclusivity, creative outlets, sun worshiping, and observations of and intimacy with biotic life. I’m excited to participate in this opportunity that will showcase how to weave school curriculum into garden activities, and to learn how to steward community garden spaces alongside of model mentors and peers.

A bonus perk of beautiful Whidbey Island for me is that there are so many sheep and fiber artists, whom I hope to befriend in my free time.”


Even though the progression into spring has been slow this year, we can’t help but get the garden season up and going! Our Thursday garden or parties have begun and we’ve got a lot of seedlings in the greenhouse just waiting for the sun.

The new Community Gardening Leadership Training apprentices, some seasoned Westgarden volunteers, and a group of home school students have been helping us amend beds, flip compost, and weed perennial flower beds.

We spent time last Thursday harvesting nettles at the edge of the forest for this year’s batch of nettle tea fertilizer. After we harvested the leaves, we bruised them as shown below, covered them with water and now we’ll let it ferment for a few weeks. Once it’s ready, we’ll give all our baby plants a diluted feeding which will provide them will all sorts of essential macronutrients!

If you want to get involved with any of these fun projects, please come out and join us on Thursday mornings from 9am till noon for our regular work party!

For any questions contact Abigail, the Westgarden Steward: abigail@whidbeyinstitute.org


Spring has sprung and its time to garden! Come on out to our first Westgarden work party of the season on Thursday, March 17th from 9am to noon. In the morning we’ll be sowing veggies, weeding, and flipping compost, then at noon a simple lunch of salad and soup will be served. All are welcome!

Hope to see some of you there!

Even though the forsythia is just beginning to bloom and it still feels like winter out there, we’ve been busy in the Westgarden. For us gardeners, winter is a great time to prune back perennials, do those long awaited carpentry projects or garden ‘hacks’ as we like to call them, and tame those area of the garden you can’t get a handle on during the lush summer season.

One project in particular that we were abel to tackle this month was rebuilding the worm bins. These simple but incredibly helpful bins hold our worm castings that we use throughout the season for making our potting soil and transplanting starts. Camille Green, the Garden Manger over at the Food Bank and all around handy woman helped with these beauties!

It’s always special to have fresh food from the garden but in these low light winter months we’re all the more grateful for the fresh produce. Below are some Asian Greens we planted in the greenhouse last October that are still going strong.

Even though we’re basking in this slower time where the garden is calm and the to-do lists are relatively small, we still can’t wait for the growing season to pick up! Below is an image of starts we have going in the greenhouse. So far we’ve seeded kale, spinach, lettuce, and some perennial flowers to plant out in early March.


Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers who have helped out so far this season!