What do gardens have to do with oversight?

I love to garden and share that love with others. This is a joy that I share with my son. When he was younger and lived at home he would follow me around the yard and loved to rub his hands on the various herbs and then smell his hands.  He learned what they all were and where they were in the garden.

We currently have a plot in a community pea-patch and one of his favorite activities is sitting in the garden having a snack talking about the various plants we are growing and checking on his flowers.  Tonight we picked some of his huge sunflowers and will save the seeds for bird food in the winter.IMG_1919

Gardening, harvesting, and composting are great activities for people.  Learning skills in these areas can provide not only vocational skills but life skills, recreational skills and exercise to those with intellectual disabilities.

For a few years we had wonderful gardens growing at Fircrest.  Residents were planning meals, harvesting, preparing and sharing.  We were also learning worm composting and one resident even started selling the worms to a local garden store.  This was part of the “Active Treatment” at Fircrest and was set to expand.

With a recent survey that targeted the lack of “active treatment” and the promises of administration stating that the job training program was going to expand brought hope. The new emphasis on active treatment was promising and the news that tomato plants had arrived last April was a step in the right direction.

The hope has been shattered by the reality of the deserted and abandoned garden beds, the empty greenhouses with dead plants and the worm bins that have become garbage cans.  I have even offered several times to continue volunteering to help teach staff how to teach residents or work with residents myself but am ignored and told they are working on expanding.  From the outside it appears that things are getting worse, not better.

This is where oversight comes in.  We are told over and over that there is great oversight at the intermediate care facilities.  But oversight by who and oversight of what?

I believe that oversight should not be left  just to the state agencies but is up to each of us to keep an eye open and ask questions.  For instance, why are these garden beds abandoned and why are the few plants in the greenhouses dead?

I have asked and have offered to volunteer on campus or find a new home for the greenhouses and worm bins so that they can be used by others.  I dream of developing a learning garden in the area for people with intellectual disabilities and these would be prefect.  The answer I got was that they are not for sale and they will not lease the area to others to use.

Please look at the link  Active treatment and gardening at Fircrest.  If you have any suggestions for improvements, please let me know.  This was such a great boost for the residents and it makes me so sad to see it going to waste.

Please share this information and maybe there is some vocational training group or agency that can make something happen so that the time, talents and goods are used to their potential.

 

 

Look at our tomatoes!

Last year we built 4 raised garden beds with the help of The Just Garden Project and City University.  We had a wonderful winter garden (one nice thing about Seattle weather – we can grow and harvest greens all year round) and now we are overflowing with cherry tomatoes!

Bounty of tomatoes 2 bounty of tomatoes 3 Bounty of Tomatoes

 

 

Only hoping they have time to all ripen  –  if not we are going to have to find recipes for green tomatoes!

Sno-Cones at 3:30!

Wow – summer finally started in the Seattle area today.

I was at my son’s supportive community and they decided to pull out the sno-cone maker machine – talk about bees swarming to honey! This treat was much appreciated by all and the campus was buzzing with activity.

This is what true community is about – being able to participate and have fun with your neighbors!

Even with the lure of sno-cones, the residents who garden with me were excited to pick the first of our snap peas – they are like candy to some of us.  The tomatoes and corn were planted, too.  The gardens will be in full swing very soon!

Our blueberry bushes are amazingly abundant with berries – can’t wait until it’s time to pick them.  Look at this photo that was taken last week after a rainfall.  The bush can barely hold itself up due to the weight of the berries!

Blueberries

 

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

 

Therapy Garden at Fircrest

 

 

Today was a wonderful day in the neighborhood.  I have been volunteering frequently in the community gardens at my son’s supported community.  As I spend more and more time on campus I see more and more how strong and supportive the community is.

Today I had 5 residents from 3 different houses helping fill the watering cans from the rain barrels that have been collecting rain water, planting peas, parsley, carrots, and watering the strawberry plants that we planted last week in the new strawberry field.  In addition to this we all sampled several varieties of the tasty greens that we are growing – the favorite is the Ruby Streaks Mustard Greens and the Tatsoi – an Asian green that is crisp and mild.

We then cleaned spruced up some gardens which have a huge dill plant and then weeded around the raspberry plants which are rejuvenating.  Next on the list was to water the blueberry grove which also has lots of onions and garlic growing around the perimeter.  It’s great that some of the residents have really taken on ownership of these gardens and the watering!

While I was there today I know that residents from two households were going to go to movies – different movies at different theaters and some others were going to go out for dinner.  Many were out walking and enjoying the weather and it always amazes me that everyone knows everyone else and they watch out for each other.

I also witnessed a support team call  – in this community there is always the opportunity at any moment for a crisis to erupt given the high intensity and support needs of most of the residents here.  When a support team call goes out there is extra staff that respond from various houses to the house in need to add extra support to manage whatever crisis has or is occurring.   When there is this type of support in a community it alleviates the need to call 911 for police to respond because the staff are familiar with the residents and are trained to manage the types of behaviors which typically cause a crisis.

It is shameful that many people, included those who call themselves advocates for people with developmental disabilities, push to close these supportive communities.  One reason they do this is because they are clueless as to the benefits of a supportive community for those who need this level of care.  They call these communities “institutions” because they have not visited recently and have a pre-conceived ideas in their head that if these residents were dispersed, away from their friends and supports, they would be much better off!  They use incomplete information to say that the supportive communities are too expensive.

It’s such a shame that those who push to close these supportive communities refuse to visit and refuse to look at complete and accurate data regarding the cost, supports and services – comprehensive and cost effective and SAFE!

I do know that I enjoy spending time at my son’s community.  It truly is a “neighborhood” where everyone knows your name!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Garden at Fircrest!

September 21, 2012

Save the Date for our Garden Build

4 beds will be built

Thank you the Just Garden Project and Lowes for the generous grant which is allowing us to proceed

with this program!

Fircrest Family and Friends Newsletter