Thursday, October 26, 2006

Turning a Town into a Garden

What would you think of turning an entire town into a garden? That is what Holly Mawby and her husband Barry did when the town of Churchs Ferry, ND was bought out by FEMA due to the rising Devils Lake waters.

Today they’ve planted several city blocks of the abandoned town with arbors, herbs, rhubarb, vegetables, flowers, etc. They sell at farmers markets and hold an annual “Produce Party” on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend. During the summer they host tourists and hold classes on such things as Flower Pounding, Cooking with Herbs, Gourds for Birdhouses and others. The name of their farm is Gardendwellers Farm.

I was in Devils Lake, ND (population 7,222) for a workforce training conference at Lake Region State College which Holly runs as her full time job. Barry is pressman. Gardendwellers Farm is their labor-of-love after-hour’s passion.

The Devils Lake flood story was an interesting one. The lake is a “terminal” lake, which has no river outlet, collecting all of the regions surface runoff but without any outlet the water level rises and falls greatly. And, this is very flat country. North Dakota had one tourist billboard which comically touted, “Mountain Removal Project Successfully Completed.”

The water level has ranged from 1402 feet above sea level to 1460’ when the water would naturally flow into the Sheyenne River but run at 20 times the capacity of the river channel and flooding hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland. It is a big issue in this part of the state and one that is not without a great deal of controversy on how to solve.

Devils Lake was ranked as one of the Top 10 Best Walleye Lakes in the USA by Field & Stream Magazine. It also is a favorite fishing spot for perch, northern pike and white bass. With all of the natural lakes and water, it is also a birding paradise and The Lake Region Birding Trail Map is a wonderful regional approach to leveraging another fantastic natural resource.

It was my eleventh presentation in ND in the past two years and each time that I return to the state I fall more in love with its natural beauty and the friendliness of its citizens. I hope to get back soon.

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