By Leah Leach
Peninsula Daily News
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The acre of land at 71 Old Church Road, just off U.S. Highway 101 as it wends through Quilcene, now features a restored church destined to be an art gallery with classes, an organic garden that supplies the Quilcene Food Bank and anyone who drops by, a low-impact development garden, a native garden and an espresso stand.
Soon, it also will sport an orchard, a berry patch, a windmill both functional and artistic and a kinetic sculpture garden.
The complex is a gift to the community that the community sustains through volunteer work and donations.
“This place is for everyone. Everyone is welcome,” said Anne Ricker, 72, who bought a dilapidated church 25 years ago and has watched, and worked with other volunteers, as the area grew into Quilcene Gardens, known by locals as Q Gardens.
“Everything is donated. The labor is all volunteer. Everything in it is donated,” Ricker said.
“Anybody who wants to come and pick something” from the organic community garden run by master gardeners Juanita Thomas and Anita McCue “is welcome to do so,” Ricker added.
“But they have to pull some weeds while they are at it.”
Last Tuesday, Reta Laford, Olympic National Forest supervisor, brought to the gardens about a dozen members of her staff.
They along with members of the Student Conservation Association weeded, dug pathways and “moved mountains of dirt,” Ricker said.
Every year, the forest service regional office performs a work party day. This year, “they chose us,” Ricker said.
“We had about 30 people here,” she added. “They accomplished several weeks’ work for us.
“There’s a spot now for our orchard and a big berry patch.”
Volunteers are thinking of using a form of a walking labyrinth for the orchard, “so it’s a meditative thing but also an orchard and a berry patch,” she said.
On Aug. 10, volunteers plan a fundraiser for a windmill so that it is no longer necessary to use electricity to pull water from the well.
The windmill costs about $4,400. Half has been raised.
The fundraiser will be a potluck contest. Dishes will have had to have been made from ingredients grown or caught locally. People will vote for the best, and it will cost money to vote.
“We’re going to encourage a lot of cheating and ballot box stuffing to raise money,” Ricker said.
Sometime this fall, Quilcene school students will be invited to paint the windmill “to look like whatever they think it ought to look like,” Ricker said.
Students also will create sculptures to be mixed in with the vegetable and low impact development gardens over the next five years.
Each sculpture will be made from recycled and repurposed materials with a vaguely agricultural theme and each must move or make sounds.
“The first one will be in the windmill,” Ricker said, describing it as a sort of Rube Goldberg machine with a bicycle instead of a hand pump and an ooga horn.
“That will set the tone for the other sculptures — kinetic, a little zany and a lot of fun,” Ricker said.
Another student project will be an outdoor marimba, an instrument made of wooden bars that are struck with mallets to produce musical tones.
“Now comes the fun part. It’s been work, work, work until now,” Ricker said.
It all began with Ricker’s purchase 25 years ago of land with an old church, a parsonage and an old movie theater on it.
The building constructed in 1909 for the Quilcene Leland Society of Friends meeting hall had stood vacant since the 1970s.
“The church was falling down. It was like a dump, with car chassis, lots of garbage,” Ricker said.
“My poor husband. I didn’t tell him, I just bought it.”
Her husband, Scott Abbott, a general contractor, did most of the work, Ricker said, adding “he’s a really good egg.”
Abbott and Ricker, an artist, finished the historic restoration project about a month ago and the Quilcene Gallery and Learning Center is expected to open soon.
The first exhibit will be of those who have put the most work into the place: Susan Tingelstad, a raku potter; Madelyn Pitts, a sculptor and goldsmith; Anthony Benning, who works in mixed media and plastics; and Ricker, who paints, draws and makes constructs of paper and wood.
It will serve as home base for the Quilcene Artists Collaborative. Its primary purpose will be as a site for art and gardening classes.
“It will just be a place where people can come and make stuff,” Ricker said.
In the meantime, Pitts donated funds in 2012 to buy John’s Gift, a piece of land next to the old church.
The area has been made into a raised-bed organic garden as a memorial to Pitt’s deceased husband, John Pitts, an avid organic gardener who also served as a Jefferson County commissioner and was a veterinarian.
Thomas and McCue work the garden and in the fall will resume free Monday classes in gardening.
Also in the compound is Ricker’s Quilcene Espresso.
In October 2012, a $14,500 grant was awarded through the Environmental Stewardship Council and Washington State University for the Quilcene Low Impact Development Demonstration Garden.
Eventually, organizers plan to form a trust and give Q Gardens to the community.
In the meantime, people are invited to “just come by and wander around whenever they want,” Ricker said.
For more information, see http://quilcenegardens.com/.
Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or at email@example.com.