A board member and several volunteers at the Dickinson County Historical Society and Museum hope to show visitors how food is grown using the lot on the south side of the facility.
“We worked the ground out there, plowed it up, disked it, fertilized it and decided to go ahead and plant some stuff and see what happens,” said Historical Society Board Member Steve Meuli, who is in charge of equipment and maintenance.
“We’ve got corn knee high. We’ve got sunflowers coming up. We have okra coming up. We’ve got radishes,” Meuli said Monday.
The volunteers have also planted pumpkins and turnips “just for the fun of doing it,” Meuli said. “We thought that would get some interest among people who might want to come see it (the garden).”
Once the garden starts producing, Meuli said visitors can come out and pick things. “If they want to give us a donation — that’s fine,” he said. “If not, that’s fine, too.”
Visitors can see the garden west of the museum, located at 412 S. Campbell, starting Saturday when the museum opens for the season. The facility has been closed since March when it shut down due to COVID-19.
The new hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, according to a news release from the organization.
The Ida Stover Eisenhower quilt show also will run from June 20 to July 15.
Those visiting the museum are asked to follow social distancing guidelines and make sure their hands are clean. The museum will take extra precautions to make it safe for visitors and have hand sanitizer available.
The coronavirus shutdown followed a bumpy 2019 for the historical society that came to a head during a confrontational November annual meeting that ultimately resulted in the election of six new trustees.
Then in January 2020, the administrator and all previous board members resigned, causing the facility to shut down a few days until an emergency board meeting was held to appoint a full 18-member board.
The new board then began rescheduling programs and events for 2020 that had been discontinued by the previous board, only to have the COVID-19 shutdown derail most of those plans.
As the historical society prepares to reopen on Saturday, Meuli is hoping the garden will give people an additional reason to stop by.
“We’re trying to get to the place back to where people know it’s there,” Meuli said. “It’s the history of Dickinson County. We want people to come see it.”
Planting the garden at the historical society has been a labor of love and has not cost the society a dime, Meuli said.
He purchased bulk seed at a local hardware store, spending 75 cents on the okra and radishes, and bought turnips for 35 cents. Meuli’s son-in-law donated corn seed and planted it and the co-op in Hope donated fertilizer.
The water is even donated. Volunteers are hauling water from a well in Abilene, rather than using chlorinated city water.
“And we’re not running up a big water bill for the historical society,” Meuli added.
They have also applied herbicide to keep the weeds down.
“Nothing has been done down there for so long it’s nothing but a weed patch,” Meuli said. “Corn was planted there before, but it was never really fertilized right. They wanted a corn maze, but it was so short and thin you could see right through it.
“But we’ve got enough fertilizer on there if it rains we should have some corn seven or eight feet high,” he said. “If it gets some rain it’ll grow two or three inches overnight. It likes hot, humid weather.”
Although field corn was planted, Meuli said it is edible if picked at the right stage.
“It’s not as sweet as sweet corn, but if you get it in the milk stage, it’s still good,” he said
Once the corn passes the “roasting ear stage,” plans are to bundle it into shocks using an antique binder.
“You can have corn hanging with the husks and decorate your porch,” he said. “We’ll also have some black oil sunflower seeds (from the sunflowers) to put in your yard for the birds to eat.”
Monetary donations to help fund equipment and maintenance is welcome, Meuli said. A few days ago a local realtor donated $250 to the fund so now the fund has $250.
“That means we will have something to operate with,” he said. “We’re used to working without money. If we don’t have it, we find some other way to get things done.”
Contact Kathy Hageman at firstname.lastname@example.org.