By: Emily Fraysse
Tucked away on 26th and Harris St. lies a tranquil, self-sustaining garden. A light breeze rustles through the bean plants climbing around the wire tunnels that arch around the street walkway as a cat named Lucy sunbathes in the May heat. The fresh scent of greens and moist soil radiate from the property as the light humming sound of bees lingers in the background. David Stucky, the creator and owner of the garden, quietly and calmly strolls through his garden, carefully picking leaves, admiring them for a second or two, and then instantly gobbling them down.
David Stucky is an amiable man, who gives off a sense of humble pride as he roams through his garden, pointing out a wide range of plants he has scattered throughout that produce around 500 pounds of food per year. His garden is like his own personal collection of baseball cards, all equally important with rarities that he is proud to own and continues to love learning about. Amongst the fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, and a little tea garden, there is also a coop full of six chickens, two thriving beehives, and a cat that roams the property.
Anyone would guess judging by the knowledge he spits out about the types of plants and based on how visually thriving the garden looks, that he has been doing this for years. Yet, the man from the Midwest claims that he is constantly trying new ideas, and failing; failing a lot. But from those mistakes, he learns a little more than he did before.
“I’d say we fail more than we succeed… but even the failures are a lot of fun,” Stucky says.
Although David studied civil engineering for his undergraduate at the University of New Mexico and then studied sociology during graduate school on the East Coast, farming and gardening had always been a part of his life. Now working on his own company as a process consultant, he works mostly with health care. But, the influence of both his parents who came from farm families have molded into David’s lifestyle today.
With what started out as a property blanketed with grass, David, with the help of family members and neighbors, took it apart and converted it to an almost all food and native garden with flowerbeds. With what he called “dumb luck,” the garden continued to grow and David continued to test his gardening skills, especially with enhancing the quality of the soil and experimenting with raised garden boxes. Through trial and error, he raised a portion of the garden by a foot to keep bugs like snails out, as well as make it dryer. This resulted in an interruption to the layers of soil, making it difficult for crucial life forms like bugs, bacteria, and fungi could not move from place to place horizontally. With this realization, he decided to slowly taking down the walls of the raised beds in order for the soil to flow better.
“Soil is a living thing. It’s not just dirt,” Stucky says. “There are probably 3,000-4,000 species of stuff living in an average shovel-full of dirt and they’re all very important.”
The garden also serves a didactic purpose for the community as an outdoor classroom for local residents and University of Oregon students who go to learn about topics ranging from the key ingredients to healthy soil to the trees in the area. The children living across the street from the garden have visited before, mainly to observe and learn about the bees. While they were at first timid around the flying insects, they eventually became comfortable enough to let them land on their arms and hands.
“Have you ever had honeycomb warm from the beehive?” Matthew Jordan, 13, a neighbor to David says. “ Well, I have, and these are some things I never would have tried without David.”
While at times the upkeep of the garden can seem overwhelming to David, he remembers the importance of building a self-sustaining garden and the rewards that come from it. One of the sweetest joys comes in the summer when David can often be found lying in front of the bee hive, inhaling the rich scent of honey while placidly drifting off into an afternoon siesta.
“There’s always something neat happening. It’s like a very, very slow motion video game in a way.”
Interested persons on David Stucky’s bee co-op please visit amazonbeepeople.blogspot.com or are welcome to contact David at email@example.com or 541.543.6458.