Do you enjoy eating fresh fruits and vegetables? Well, if you live in a remote park, you might have to jump some hoops and hurdles to just to get them. Unless, of course, you grow your own fruits and vegetables, which is exactly what the staff at Lava Beds National Monument are doing! At the beginning of my internship park employees came together to build a community garden next to staff housing. The community garden arose from a growing need among staff members for fresh, affordable food. Fresh, affordable food is hard to come by living inside a remote park because the nearest grocery store is almost an hour away and fresh produce there comes at a hefty price. Given some investments in time and seedlings, the garden provides the opportunity to have produce right outside our doorstep. Over time, it also will become a space for connections within the park community, bringing together interns, seasonal employees, and managers across divisions in the struggle for good food. It is, after all, a community garden not just a small-scale farm.
Early in the season, the garden plots were just large boxes of soil and compost. Now, the garden is full of flowers and bustling with butterflies. But recently, we’ve encountered the first enemy to our garden: a very gluttonous squirrel. It has mowed over lettuce, cilantro, and cucumbers, leaving only little nubs in its path. This squirrel even has a palate for spice; it snacked on my cayenne peppers. Frankly, there have been moments when I’ve discovered the entire plant gnawed off and contemplated giving up on my garden plot altogether. But as Rudyard Kipling once said, “gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful!’ and sitting in the shade.” I’ve come to realize that gardens are made of sheer persistence. And so the members of the community garden have teamed up to battle this squirrel by making natural repellants to spray on our vulnerable vegetables. Look out hungry squirrel because we’re up to the challenge of defending our garden!