Saturday, July 02, 2011

Smithsonian Folklife Festival Gardening Highlights

Colombian raised garden
This year's Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall has a few things I think will be of particular interest to local gardeners. The first is in the Colombia exhibit. Pictured here is an Azoteas or elevated garden. The gardens are tended by the village's women and are used to grow herbs, spices, vegetables, and greens both for the home kitchen and for bartering. It is made from an old canoe or from flat mats made of palm and bamboo. Why is it raised? Not to save their backs, which I'm sure is a side-benefit, but because of the free-range chickens who would make quick work of those young plants. It sure reminds mean awful lot of the Salad Table projects from our local extension service friends!

Also in the Colombian section of the festival is a coffee production and processing demonstration showing growing the plants through roasting the beans. I hear Juan Valdez himself is making cameo appearances! Me? I'm not a coffee drinker so I just quickly browsed the area and let the pushy crowds who were angling for free plants, beans, and tastes have at it (even though multiple signs CLEARLY stated all these items were for display purposes only).

In the “Peace Corps: Fifty Years of Promoting World Peace and Friendship” exhibit there are demonstrations of organic gardening techniques with participants from Jamaica.
(Insert doobie jokes here.) The area is small, though I think they have packed a lot of information in.

Guatelaman bottle wall
 Also, a non-profit group called “Trees, Water and People” teaches visitors the value of being green and preserving what is around them. The most fascinating part to me was the Guatelaman "bottle schools" -- classrooms made from  the heaps of trash one Peace Corp volunteer found in the surrounding areas. The structures are plastic water bottles stuffed with trash and then put inside chicken-wire structures. These are proven to be earthquake-proof and the applications are mind-blowing. I mean just think of what could be built and the amount of trash kept out of landfills!

For the non-gardeners (and if you are one, are you really reading this far into this blog pot?), there is also plenty to see and experience. Most popular was the salute to R&B music. I saw some fabulous local DC hand-dancing demonstrations and the Funk Brothers performing live with guest artists. The festival runs through next weekend with a mid-week break. See the schedule and particulars here.

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