Pioneer way of life will soon be blooming at museum gardens
This spring, Jeannie Bushman, volunteer for the Reiman-Simmons House and Quincy Valley Historical Society, faces a daunting task.
Two gardens on the property, the harvest garden and a native garden, were struggling last month to awaken from their winter slumber. Bushman started removing the leaves and debris, donning garden gloves and arming herself with a rake.
“It will all be redone,” she said. “They may have to see what is there so they can replace it.”
In the harvest garden, rhubarb stalks stretch up from the ground. Nearby will be corn, potatoes, wheat, onion, rutabagas, turnips, carrots and dill. These are all used to supply the Reiman-Simmons House with fresh ingredients for its annual harvest festival in the fall.
The vegetable garden at the museum is also called the kid’s garden. It is used to show what pioneers would have planted when they settled here in the Quincy Valley. The garden was started in 2008 by the Quincy Valley Historical Society and Museum’s event coordinator Harriet Weber and other community volunteers.
“The garden has rhubarb and wheat to show in the summer kitchen,” Weber said. “We show how wheat is ground into flour and baked into bread. We also use the garden for our Time Traveler’s field trips to show what early settlers grew in their gardens.”
Bushman is cleaning up the native garden, which includes: Whited’s penstemon, rock buckwheat and blue bunchgrass, serviceberry, showy penstemon, thyme leaf, prairie June grass, blanket flower, hedgehog cactus and pearly everlasting ground cover.
These native plants are beneficial because they are acclimated to the local area. They thrive in dry climates and are drought resistant. The only downside is that some spread like crazy.
Digging up native plants is not encouraged, because it is not environmentally a sound idea. It destroys the habitat for local animals and insects. Most of these native plants were purchased at Derby Canyon Natives nursery in Peshastin.
Bushman enjoys volunteering her time to keep the garden beautiful.
“I can work by myself in the earth and it lasts longer than cleaning a house,” she said. “It is quiet and I can think. Sometimes I think it is more fun to work outside than to clean inside. People drive by. I want it to look nice and be more inviting.”
Bushman is part of a group effort to keep the museum grounds and gardens beautiful. Over the years, Yahoo employees, High Tech High students, the Quincy Garden Club and the museum’s volunteer group, the Manly Men, have all pitched in.
“It has been a real community effort to work on the grounds,” Weber said. “It takes a lot of people to keep the grounds looking good. We’re not finished. There’s more to do.”
— By Tammara Green, QVPR contributor