Hey! My name is Nora, and I'm the summer Bonner intern at Bread and Roses in Olympia, WA. Bread and Roses is a temporary group home for women experiencing homelessness. I'm working in their garden and with the guests to increase their sense of self sufficiency around food security. I'm doing this internship through the Bonner Program at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC where I'm an undergraduate student of sociology and music.
Ask me questions! Get involved!
“I haven’t done my yard walk yet this morning.” Standing, grabbing a cup of lukewarm coffee and a cigarette, Meta and I move off the back porch of The Big House. We meander around the back yard and over the the chickens to bully them into laying eggs. We touch and poke the various plants that are just coming up, about to fruit, or already exploding with produce. We talk about probably ripping out the dying pea plants on the far side of The Guest House as we move around to the front yard. “We should probably re-mulch with straw in this bed.” “Look how huge that pumpkin is getting!!” “The asparagus is blooming!” This is generally how my mornings started this summer: four days a week I biked to Bread and Roses in Olympia, Washington. Bread and Roses is a Catholic Worker associated organization that houses three hosts and up to twelve women at a time that are in transition to more stable and safe housing options. The facility takes up two adjacent houses-one old victorian (The Big House) and a duplex (The Guest House)- and is surrounded by the ever expanding garden, fruiting trees, a colorful chicken coop, and a back shed that has tools in one half, the supplies for a homeless outreach program called EGYHOP in the other, and Phil and Meta’s room upstairs. My position as an intern there was one they haven’t filled like that in some time; right as I was transitioning into the positing there was an intern from The Evergreen State College that had been working there for the Spring quarter, but before that their past experiences with interns had been very mixed. Because of this relative lack of a structured internship program I got to shape what I wanted to do with my time there and have it be largely self-directed and flexible. We made a plan of some projects we wanted to get done and usually added to the list as we walked around the yard each morning. My being there allowed more projects to be completed, supplied an additional point of view and opinion about how to do things, and boosted the productivity and output of the garden for this summer season…The range of activities and flexibility in my work allowed me to work on my initiative and leadership skills, and though I don’t think I did exactly what we had talked about me doing before I came to work there ,I think I filled the spaces that needed to be filled and did the projects that obviously needed to be done. Bread and Roses is in a place of immense transition and I helped to build the foundation that will support their imminent rapid growth. My work felt important and constructive.
Before working at Bread and Roses I had no experience or understanding of the homelessness services available in Olympia. In my time living there for 21 years I’ve experienced the homeless population downtown and volunteered at the Thurston County Food Bank, but my knowledge of the range of agencies and shelters in town, their various reputations and services offered, and the reasons and stories behind the situations many of the people experiencing homelessness have was non-existent. I now feel equipped to direct people with questions about housing and those in need of advocacy to a reliable source and I feel informed and opinionated about this issue in my town. My work at GRuB, also in Olympia, last summer allowed me to engage in my hometown in a way I hadn’t before, and my work at Bread and Roses expanded that engagement and commitment to this community that I have felt continuous support and love from. I had so many conversations with people this summer about how they hope I come back to that community and do good work there; maybe that will feel like a burden later, but I kind of don’t think that’s going to be the case. I’ve been gifted with a place that loves me and is supportive of me leaving to learn so I can come back. That’s pretty special.
Step 1: rake away all the wood chips
Step 2: Dig a trench through clay and decomposed wood chips
Step 3: Fill the trench with smaller sticks and leaf debris.
Step 4: Add larger branches.
Step 5: Load on compost.
Step 6: Put the dirt you took out back on top.
Step 7: Add top soil to the top.
The idea is that as the sticks and debris underneath breaks down it feeds the plants planted in the top layers of soil and compost. The trench we dug will also serve to hold water at the top of the slope for the rest of the garden as well as the plants growing in the hugle kulture.
I’ve been thinking about how to write about this, and I didn’t figure it out so I’m just going to try…
Before I came to Bread and Roses and people asked me what I was doing for my summer I would tell them that I was going to be a garden intern at Bread and Roses. That’s not really true… I’m an intern, yes, and I work in the garden, yes, but I also have found myself cooking, writing, problem solving, inventing, and most unexpectedly, listening. I somehow had managed not to realize that working here meant being here, meant interacting, meant knowing the people in this place. It’s amazing. Much my time here is spent just being a face, an ear, another opinion; every day I feel like I’m opening myself to learn from these amazing people who create a strong and safe community for whatever amount of time they live here. I’m pretty lucky.
It’s a test of my belief in humans and how how things work out in the world. Really, that just means that my bike got stolen, and that I’m working to find beautiful things in today anyway. I walked to work which took half an hour instead of 10 minutes, but I got to look into everyone’s front gardens. People on the Eastside of Olympia are growing all kinds of things! Artichokes, greens, tomatoes, strawberries, amazing flowers and trees, I even ate a raspberry off someone’s sidewalk plant! I also arrived at Bread and Roses to learn that one of the Barred Rock chickens had laid THE FIRST EGG!! and that there are almost more snap peas than we know what to do with.
So I’m pissed off and upset and in awe of how nature works. I’m going to choose to believe that human nature is good and that my bike will wander back to me. So if you see a salmon pink Raleigh Edge mountain bike that looks exactly like this and I’m not riding it… I would really love it back. In the mean time I guess I’ll take the time to look at stuff closely while I walk places. Your raspberries aren’t safe.
This week was special because I MOVED! And now I can bike to work, especially starting next week when I won’t have a car anymore… I’ve been really reflective recently about my internship at GRuB last summer and how much I loved working there but also had this sense the whole summer of how much I wanted to be living closer to work and having all the pieces of my life tie together more. Maybe I’m just honeymooning over here, but I feel like I’m living exactly what it was I was looking for last summer! I have a great internship, I live close by in a house I’m really enjoying with great housemates, I’m planting my own summer garden and making exciting foods in my kitchen, I’m doing work trade for yoga, I have some great visitors coming this summer… whooo I’m a happy lady!
ANYWAY… This week at Bread and Roses was Janette’s last :(, but it was so productive!
Phil and Meta picked up a bunch of starts and trees from Raintree Nursery on Monday so we have to distinct
challenge joy of finding places for all of them! This means blueberries, 125 strawberries, raspberries, a goji berry, apples, peach trees, a currant bushes, an olive tree, a fig tree, 20 asparagus crowns… so much bounty!
So, we cleared a hillside for raspberries and an dwarf apple to go in:
Built a bed for asparagus and planted them:
Covered the apples to protect them from bugs. I took home the thinned out unripe little ones to try and poach in a simple syrup/cinnamon/ginger concoction- don’t know how un-bitter I can get them:
And obviously had quality time with the chickens and Zeke…
There you have it, one month in and totally enamored of my life right now…