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Green thumbs Fostering growth is a way of life for Pendleton Master Gardeners By KATE WHITTLE East Oregonian


n a hill overlooking Pendleton, trucks rumbling by on I84 can be seen through the waving stalks of sunflowers bordering the Tower Hill community garden. But behind the wooden fence atop southwest Pendleton hill is a hidden, lush world of bounty. The Tower Hill garden, named for the water tower nearby, is one of three community gardens in Pendleton overseen completely by the volunteer group Master Gardeners. The gardens serve as a teaching tool for the Master Gardeners and way to supply good food to Pendletonians in need. On the sunny, breezy early fall afternoon, a few volunteers are here helping pick tomatoes. They’ll stop occasionally to sample one of the luscious, jewel-like Interested in learning more? tomatoes glinting on the vines. Contact the Umatilla County “Try this yellow lollipop,” says Master Gardeners by calling Tracy Childress, clad in denim the Oregon State University overalls and green clogs. An offi- Extension Office at 541-278cial Master Gardener, she’s 5403. retired from full-time teaching and now cruises Pendleton in a red Prius, going to gardens in the summer and substitute teaching gigs in the winter. You don’t have to ask why she gardens. “The smell of these tomatoes is just intoxicating,” she says, inhaling the spicy, earthy scent of tomato vines. For many people who have to pay the bills by other means, getting their hands dirty in a garden occasionally keeps them sane. Cindy Criswell works at the InterMountain Education Service District nearby. She’s been coming over to help at the garden for about six years now. The garden’s just a few yards from her office, but a million miles away from her job sitting in front of a computer screen in the IT department. Master Gardener Annette Frye designed the Tower Hill garden and picked out the dozens of heirloom seeds. Master Gardeners is a nationwide group, and Frye helped found Pendleton’s chapter in 2004. Its mission, says Frye, is to teach people how to garden sustainably. The Oregon State University agriculture program extension office, based at Blue Mountain Community College, takes questions and directs people to a Master Gardener who can help. Gardeners are expected to put in at least 50 hours of volunteer time each year, but Frye guesses she put in more than 500 during her year as president. During harvest season, Cindy Criswell spends her Wednesday afternoon loading up her trunk with produce and delivering it to people in need around Pendleton. The community gardens produced a combined 5,000 pounds of food last year, and most of it gets divvied between the senior center, Salvation Army, local charities and any family the garden volunteers personally know could use a little help. Cindy Criswell knew some people with empty cupboards. “Last week, I stopped by their house, opened my trunk and said, ‘Take whatever you want,’” she said with satisfaction. Most of the produce ends up at Salvation Army, where head cook Ralph McCall is thrilled to have it. Monday through Saturday, he and a team of volunteers feed lunch to as many as 70 people each day. With food donations, fresh produce can be the hardest to get, so the community gardens help make up the difference. “With the master gardens harvest right now, it’s amazing all I get,” McCall said. Anyone can come to Salvation Army and pick up raw food to take home and cook themselves, and sometimes McCall gets to help people learn what to do with less-common fare such as Chinese eggplants and lemon cucumbers. “Every day we get people excited about unusual vegetables,” he said, “It’s kind of gotten to be almost a joke among my clientele, ‘What is Ralph gonna throw at us today?’” For those in Pendleton who’d like to till their own patch of earth, but doesn’t have the space, Master Gardeners offer a resource for them, too. A few miles away from the Tower Garden in the southeast part of Pendleton, the Hill Garden has plots available for families to garden. Frye said this year’s families signed up in early spring for their space at Washington Elementary. Master Gardeners won’t do the work for anyone, but they’ll share their knowledge. “You know what they say about you give a person a fish?” said Childress. Frye agrees. “We don’t want to be judging anyone, we want to teach,” she said.


Staff photo by Kate Whittle

Staff photo by Kate Whittle

Volunteer Cindy Criswell prepares to deliver a load of fresh produce donations.

Master Gardeners 2011 president Fred Hollibaugh holds out a variety of heirloom tomato called the “orange-fleshed purple smudge.”

Staff photo by Kate Whittle

Fresh-picked tomatoes await distribution to places including the Pendleton Senior Center and Salvation Army.


Genealogy, history combine in story of Oregon’s first governor

“Governor Joseph Gale and His Indian First Lady,” by Lillian Cummings Densley and Aaron G. Densley. © 2010, self-published. Hardcover, 184 pages. Retail: $35. regon history aficionados will find plenty to please them in this book, which documents the early days of the territory and the founding of its first provisional government. A major player at that time was Joseph Gale, a former trapper and explorer who RENEE quietly furthered the setS TRUTHERS tlement of present-day HOGGE Oregon. Books Gale was born in Washington, D.C., in 1807 and early on was enamored of adventure.


Soon he was caught up in the rush to discover new territory out West, and became a fur trapper and explorer with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, working with the likes of Jim Bridger, Kit Carson and others. It was while exploring in Nez Perce territory that he became friends with Chief Joseph (the elder), and fell in love with and married the chief’s daughter, Bear Claws, who also was the niece of Chief Peo Peo Mox Mox; her mother was a member of the Walla Walla tribe. The Gale family moved to the Willamette Valley in 1839, where they became farmers. But the Oregon Country also was home to Britain’s Hudson’s Bay Company, which wanted the area for England. When a provisional government was established July 5, 1843, Gale was selected as one of three governors acting as a team. In that tumultuous first


year, the governors raised a militia to defend the Oregon Territory’s borders in a dispute with HBC, ousting the British from the area. Gale also defended his decision to marry an Indian woman, which was discouraged at the time. Following his stint as governor, and increasingly dissatisfied with life in settled country and government intrusions, Gale and his family returned to their wandering ways. Joseph and Eliza spent time in the gold fields of California before moving to Eliza’s home territory, the Valley of the Eagles in present-day Baker County, Ore., where he died in 1881. This book serves two functions. It is a historical narrative of the settling of the West, including the early days of Oregon’s statehood, from the perspective of one man’s life. It also is an exhaustive record of the life of Joseph Gale, his fam-

ily and descendants. The Densleys (mother and son) compiled a huge amount of information on Gale’s life, and also set the story in the context of 1840s Northwest history, including firsthand accounts from the last battle of young Chief Joseph against the removal of his people to the reservation. Illustrations by Doc Christensen and historical photos add punch to the text. The book is available at Betty’s Books in Baker City, and also may be ordered by local bookstores or online at  Renee Struthers-Hogge is the editorial assistant for the East Oregonian. While she prefers to focus on authors, publishers and subject matter relevant to the Pacific Northwest, she enjoys a wide variety of genres and welcomes suggestions for new review material.


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