Friday, December 23, 2011

Ohio EPA and Community Garden Compost Bins

[Editor's Note: I have learned that the proposed rules (discussed below) were approved and were filed by the OEPA on February 17, 2012 with an effective date of April 2, 2012 -- just in time for gardening season.  You can read more about them on his blog here.]

It came to my attention this afternoon (and pleasant surprise) that the Ohio EPA has proposed to relax composting standards for community gardens and individuals. Many community gardens want to establish relationships with area restaurants, groceries, food wholesalers and individuals to turn their food waste into compost (i.e., black gold) to support the garden's soil and possibly sell as a way of financially sustaining their gardening program (without having to beg for government subsidies). Food waste is a particularly good source of nitrogen because there is generally not enough grass clippings and other "green" items to supplement "brown" fall leaves.

Composting is an EPA-regulated activity because of the potential to create a nuisance and contaminate, among other things, ground water and other waterways. Rumor has it that some private sector entities want to maintain a monopoly and high entrance costs to decrease competition. I did not write the following information, have not yet reviewed the old rule, the proposed rule or considered its impact on the SACG or other community gardens, if any, and cannot vouch for the accuracy of the following discussion, but I know there are a lot of people interested in this issue and thought that I would pass it along as I received it. (It looked on its face to be a reliable source, but you'll have to take my word for it:)

Conspicuous Legal Disclaimer: I am not advocating one way or another for action here. I am just passing it along because I know our faithful readers are interested in such topics and may form their own opinion. I should also note that these are just state rules and do not necessarily have an affect on local ordinances.







During the last year, Ohio EPA released draft revisions to the composting rules and received comments from a diverse group of stakeholders. Ohio EPA believes the comments received helped improve the rules in a manner that is protective of the environment while making easier for all citizens to compost and for new composting businesses to get started. Other changes should provide existing facilities with increased flexibility for achieving compliance and innovate with alternative materials.



A very significant improvement resulting from input from citizens and organizations involved in community gardening is the proposal for a size-based exemption that would allow community gardens, schools, and any organization or person to compost yard wastes, food scraps, animal wastes and bulking agents, regardless of where the waste materials were generated, in an area no larger than 300 square feet. An exempted facility will not be required to have a registration, license, financial assurance, or follow the requirements of that registration including, but not limited to: daily logs, annual reports, inspections, and testing of the finished compost. The compost may be used in any location, allowing community gardens and urban farms to share their compost.



Another significant improvement proposed is for facilities that are larger than 300 square feet and need to register as a Class II composting facility (taking food scraps) to not be required to set a financial assurance fund as long as the closure cost estimate is $3500 or less. This exemption should be beneficial for commercial facilities that are starting at a smaller scale by reducing their startup costs (the amount of the fund plus the cost of setting the fund).



Updated definitions, better explanation of composting methods, updated testing standards are other examples of improvements that should benefit the industry in general.



These changes were officially proposed to the Joint Agency on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) on September 2011 and a public hearing was held on October 25, 2011. Given that the Agency did not receive any objections to the changes, it was expected that JCARR will give consent for final approval at their November 4, 2011 hearing. However, due to some misinformation provided to some JCARR members that could have jeopardized the rules (and sent them into a one year waiting period), Ohio EPA decided to withdraw the rules and file again on November 11, 2011. Ohio EPA believes it has answered the questions and clarified the confusion. The current comment period ends on January 4, 2012 and the next JCARR hearing is on January 23rd.



For those that want to ensure that these changes to the rules are accepted and enforceable as soon as possible, it is encouraged that they take advantage of the stakeholder comment period and send comments supporting these changes to Ohio EPA. It is important that stakeholders explain the impact they will face if these rules are further delayed or not approved.



Written comments should be sent to the attention of Michelle Braun at the Division of Materials and Waste Management P.O. Box 1049, Columbus Ohio 43216-1049 or to michelle.braun@epa.state.oh.us. Also written comments and/or oral testimony may also be submitted to the Hearing Officer at the public hearing to be held on January 4, 2012. Written comments and or testimony may be also be
submitted at the JCARR hearing on January 23, 2012.



To see the rules, response to comments and information on the public hearing, please follow this link. http://www.epa.state.oh.us/Default.aspx?tabid=5005



I then pulled information from that site:





Composting Rules Filed with JCARRThe Division of Materials and Waste Management (DMWM), has withdrawn the previous rule filing and has filed new proposed composting regulations OAC Chapter 3745-560, and associated multi-program chapters 3745-500 (General Administration), 3745-501 (Licensing), and 3745-503 (Financial Assurance), with the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR).
To view a copy of the rules, click here.
To view a copy of the public notice, click here.
To view the response to comments document, click here.
To view the compost rules page, click here.
Please submit your comments by January 4, 2012.
Please send your comments to:
Michelle Braun; Ohio EPA, DSIWM; PO Box 1049; Columbus, OH 43216-1049
Phone: (614) 728-5372; Fax: (614) 728-5315; Email: michelle.braun@epa.ohio.gov

To view the Interested Party Notification from December 2010, click here.



This is a lot to digest. Happy Reading

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Block Watch and Morrison Hill Community Garden



Continuing to describe the community gardening activities from the first week of this month . . . . . .



The Franklin Park Area Neighborhood Block Watch and next-door Morrison Hill Block Watch met on December 3 at the East Main Street Policing Center. In addition to Susan, Barb and Officer Kalous, we were joined by Officer John Marshall, Doug from U/C and members of the Morrison Hill Block Watch.


There was a consensus that loitering had decreased over the past few weeks and that Urban Connections volunteers and AEP had done a lot to improve the appearance of the alleys near Stoddart Avenue. A nearby garage had been cleaned up and there was some discussion about keeping it that way. There was some speculation that loitering had decreased due to the cold temperature and rain, but maybe not . . . Terry asked for input as to the next focus area and there was consensus about focusing on a couple of suspected drug houses and boot joints.


In addition, City Council Member Michelle Mills had scheduled a public hearing to discuss the Loitering in Aid of Drug Offenses Ordinance for Wednesday, December 14 at 5:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers. City Attorney Rick Pfeiffer will be speaking, too. There was some concern that this was merely an effort to sneak the issue by the public. Members were encouraged to attend to show support the issue, which is of particular concern to Near East Side residents. The more people that show up, the more likely that something will be done to address this issue. The Council notice provides that Ms Mills:


will hold a public hearing to discuss and clarify important points regarding Columbus’ existing loitering law and explore additional ways to protect neighborhoods. The meeting will be broadcast live on CTV, Columbus’ channel 3 on local cable outlets. Speaker slips will be accepted until 5 pm per the general rules of Council.

It was announced that the Trolley Barn area Block Watch had been organized (in the area northwest of our area – to Broad Street). Good luck!


In discussing the upcoming grant deadline to support the purchase of additional security cameras, Barb pointed out that we should consider the ease of downloading the video on a disk or other format to provide the police. It can be difficult, depending on the program. Some of the Morrison Hill participants were interested in joining the grant application and the application has been amended accordingly. Officer Kalous also explained that it should be not be much trouble to pull crime statistics from the prior year to measure and compare the success of the new cameras.


The officers explained that their computer system has been highly unreliable. The entire system was changed in June, which makes some data searches virtually impossible. As it is, they have lost all of their saved email addresses and contact information. So, if you haven’t heard from Terry, you need to contact her and give her again your email and phone number so that she can get back in touch with you.


I passed out daffodil and tulip bulbs to the attendees which I had picked up from GCGC two days earlier. In doing so, I learned that the Morrison Hill Block Watch started their own community garden. I had heard about this garden from some neighbors in passing, but had never seen it. It is on an alley called Tiffin Street, near the intersection of Bryden Road and Berkeley Road.


I recently got a tour. It was started in the summer of 2010 and is well designed. They have two very well constructed compost bins and lots and lots of wood chips. They also have a seating/social area underneath a walnut tree and a very professional-looking sign that was constructed from an old pool table. Officer Kalous donated a split-rail fence from her own yard and this keeps people from parking in this formerly abandoned lot (while visiting a nearby boot joint). What they lack is good soil and reliable water. They only have two rain barrels. They had hoped to apply for a Scotts grant, but just missed the new deadline. I told them there would be another local grant opportunity in the Spring and encouraged them to sign up as an Earth Day work site for the chance to pick up some free (and desperately needed) compost. I also encouraged them to stop by the SACG in April to get some free seeds and to start attending the monthly GCGC meetings.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

GCGC Ends 2011 with Hope for Greater County Support in 2012





While the Hub Garden meeting closed out November, GCGC opened December with its monthly meeting at Planks Pizza (on Parson’s) on December 1.


Announcements


Kelly Lindsey is taking over for Noreen as GCGC's new Contacts Manager and will send out email reminders of the meetings if she has your email address.


Thanks to Michael Doody (Kossuth Street CG) for arranging for the place for GCGC's December meeting and the keynote speaker, Franklin County Commissioner, John O’Grady.


The GCGC received its first – or one of its first – contributions tonight. Pictured is Heidi Ballard presenting a check for $100 to Andrew Proud and Peggy Murphy to support GCGC's efforts to unite Central Ohio’s community gardens.


During Mr. O’Grady’s remarks, the owner of Planks came by to circulate a copy of Better Homes & Gardens which featured his residential garden. He also said he would pay GCGC for a GCGC medalian/logo to post on his walls.


Leslie Strader (from the City) mentioned that community gardeners could find information about community gardens at www.getgreencolumbus.org/ Select Key Initiatives on the left. Then select Resource Protection and Conservation. Then scroll down to Community Gardens and select “Garden policy explained.”


Keynote


Franklin County Commissioner John O'Grady shares the Mayor’s passion for community gardening. He introduced Kate Metheny, who is coordinating community gardens for the County and is the counterpart to Leslie Strader (who was also in attendance) for the City. Kate reported that 40 grants had been awarded in 2011 by a coalition of the County, City and Columbus Foundation. The County has identified additional CBDG funds which could support even more community garden grants and intends to apply for those funds.


Mr. O’Grady gardened as a child. Like most of us, he was forced to do so even when he did not appreciate it.


The local Somali community approached him in 2009 for land to start a community garden and he found some. As reported earlier in the Columbus Dispatch, they are in the process of forming a county land bank in the unincorporated areas of the county similar to the City’s land bank of condemned properties. (He gave a shout out to BREAD for advocating this approach, but wanted to emphasize that the County’s interest in taking over properties is to improve the overall tax base and economic develop, not to promote urban farming). The County found property on Gantz Road – where Franklin County Children’s Services used to be near Frank Road – and had it rezoned as a park to get a conservation easement. In 2011, the local Burmese community similarly approached him about setting aside land for their community to be used for community gardening. Mid-Ohio Food Bank and Life Care Alliance may also start raising food there as well to support their programs (if they can find volunteers to assist them). All of the non-profit organizations need grant money to get started. The County plowed 3-4 acres for these groups and this year bought a tractor. The County is also helping with a community garden in Whitehall.


Commissioner O’Grady visited his cousin recently in Cleveland to see its community gardening program. Next week, he planned to visit Detroit and would work in similar fact-finding visits to community gardens and urban farms to see what works up there.


He mentioned other gardens which the County operates, including the raised bed community garden at the former Juvenile Justice facility on West Mound. They are installing a rain catchement system off a nearby parking garage (which generates a lot of water). My heroes, Rain Brothers, also helped them install underground rain cisterns at the Gantz Road gardens. Apparently, the Somali gardening technique involves not only digging deep trenches, but also flooding their gardens. So, they run through a lot of water very quickly.


Commissioner O’Grady then graciously took a lot of questions and comments for suggestions to help out the local community gardening community:
1) It would be helpful that when the County demolishes buildings on its land bank properties that the foundations be dug out before turning them over to gardens. Otherwise, we spend a few years digging out concrete, bricks and other debris by hand (just like our forefathers dug out tree stumps and stones from our farmland). Mr. O’Grady seemed to be completely unaware of the condition in which these demolished properties are left and how much work the Burmese gardeners have faced in cleaning out the FCCS site on Gantz Road.
2) Although the grant program is very helpful, last year some gardens received too little funds to make any meaningful difference. Thus, it is a good idea to provide more funds to fewer gardens in order to make a greater impact. The sole exception would be that $500 grants would go a huge way to solving the water problem facing most gardens. The SACG received a 550 gallon rain tank/cistern in 2010 and it was a game changer. Every garden should have one. Rain barrels are nice, but can be drained in just a day or two with multiple gardeners. Moreover, Rain Brothers gets their tanks from a local manufacturer in Lancaster – which is a boost to our local economy.
3) Anything the County can do to help us with raising our own compost would be greatly appreciated. The Ohio EPA is against us forming partnerships with local businesses (like coffee shops and restaurants) to obtain coffee grounds and fruit/vegetable waste to add to our compost bins. Being able to grow our own compost (and possibly even selling some like Growing Power does to fund our other activities) would go a very long way to making community gardening sustainable. Another discussion ensued about the potential monopoly being given to Eartha Ltd to grow compost from area restaurant waste and then which is then sold and transported out of the county.
4) Encouragement was given to increasing the amount of funds allocated to community gardening by comparing the current local budget to that of the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. Compost is expensive, as is fencing (to keep out critters and poachers), etc.
5) The community gardens with large tracts of land could benefit from use of the County’s new tractor. After all, they will only need it once or twice a year. Couldn’t they lend or lease it to GCGC every now and then each Spring and Fall?
6) Commissioner O’Grady suggested that a one-day conference be held to bring together garden leaders and community leaders to share information needs and resources.
7) Commissioner O’Grady also emphasized that all non-profits, including gardens, need to find other sources of income to sustain themselves because the government will not be able to support them as it has in the past. We need to have financial plans with alternative sources of income. (Again, letting us grow and sell compost would be helpful in this regard). Similarly, funding for hoop houses/high tunnels would help us raise funds by selling financially lucrative winter produce, like lettuce, tomatoes and kale, etc.


Goodies


Strader’s Garden Centers has again blessed us with bounty by generously donating thousands of tulip and daffodil bulbs to beautify our gardens and neighborhoods. As pictured, Peggy Murphy and Dan Downing brought in all these bulbs for us to help ourselves and distribute to our gardeners and neighborhoods. I took dozens of bulb bags, and passed them out to some SACG gardeners and at the Block Watch meeting on Saturday. (In fact, I think I've recruited another garden for the GCGC: Morrison Hill's new CG]. I still had a SACG neighbor contact me yesterday for more bulbs. Guess what? There are still lots of daffodil bulbs available. You can contact Kelly before Friday or after Monday or Peggy this weekend.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Celebration of 2011 Hub Garden Achievements and Challenges




Although I have been absent from this site for a few weeks as I have tried to recuperate from closing the Garden and catching up with my life and housework, there is still much going on with community gardening – particularly in the last week.


On Wednesday, there was a Hub Garden meeting at the Caretaker’s Cottage at Franklin Park Conservatory (pictured). Bill served us Josie’s Pizza (from West Broad Street which his sister made for us).


Bill asked about which groups had received notice of receiving a Scotts Miracle-Gro Fund grant at the Columbus Foundation. Godman Guild and Franklinton Gardens reported that they had received good news.


Bill also reported that Franklin County was applying for a CDBG grant to support community gardening in 2012. The City thinks that they will have $25,000 again to contribute to community garden grants. Last year, the County, City and Foundation coalition awarded almost 200 small grants to support community gardening. However, in practice, small grants do not do much to help get a garden started and they have decided for 2012 to focus on fewer, but more significant grants in order to increase the effectiveness of the grant program. The City is also developing a program to give or loan large cisterns to gardens on City lots (like ours) to collect rain water because the City cannot give away water.


Bill then asked us to give a report about each of our gardens from 2011. He tried to videotape all of them, but you know that I almost never let my picture be taken:). I just took cryptic notes and hope people will let me know when I make a mistake so that I can quickly correct it.

New Harvest/Alma Vera Garden in New Linden. Tressa started off the reports and was a hard act to follow:



• This was their first year to participate in Earth Day. Nonetheless, they had the third largest site with 88 volunteers.
• They’re working with St. Stephens Community House and the Stem Academy to increase the number of youth volunteers.
• Engaged in neighborhood beautification projects with donations from Fishers, Oakland and Scotts.
• Helped with backyard gardens, like Ms. Beulah’s garden which recycles about everything and can be seen on youtube.
• They are working with the Dr. Dirt Garden on Westerville Road and an after-school program.
• They produced two plays and showed movies at their garden so that even non-gardeners in the neighborhood would feel comfortable stopping by. (They were having another production this weekend, which she was co-directing).
• They are starting an EEE program next year to focus on health and gardening education.
• They are working with OSU Extension and a dietician to start a 4-H program. (I am soooo jealous).
• They had four performing art productions
• They are exploring selling prepared foods through Urban Chef and to receive snap benefits.
• Their biggest challenge (as it is for all of our gardens) is improving the consistency of volunteer assistance.
• Nathanial – one of their youth gardeners – won the Youth Leadership Award from FPC this August. His is a senior in high school this year and plans to graduate. Kojo mentors a number of young men through the garden and funds it out of his own pocket.
• Next year, the Garden will focus on increasing the consistence of volunteers and funding.

This makes me tired just summarizing all of this. Tressa is a force of nature all by herself. She was recently accepted into OSU’s Master Garden program for 2012. She quit her job to focus on the garden. And I had to follow her.

Stoddart Avenue Community Garden. I gave a much briefer report. I started by reporting that we had done none of these things. We do not have a performing arts program, but we do have awesome volunteers who for the most part contribute significantly all season long and suffer much nagging from me about weeds.


• We had lots of volunteers to pick up neighborhood litter on Earth Day for about thirty minutes before it started raining cats and dogs.
• We had a gardening seminar in early June.
• Our biggest challenge has been the area crime. Our lawn mower had been stolen from our shed in September 2010. Then, more tools were stolen in May 2011. Two more attempts were made on our tool shed over the summer; neither were successful, but lock was broken and had to be replaced. We had two murders within six feet of the Garden in August 2010 and March 2011 and another a half-block away in September/October 2010. Accordingly, we have tried our best to support the re-establishment of the area block watch and are in the process of applying for a grant to purchase additional security cameras for the neighborhood.
• We raised more food than ever despite all of the rain this year. Unfortunately, all of the kids stopped tending their plots when it got hot in mid-June and one of our elderly gardeners got sick and had to drop out. So, I took over four plots in addition to my own and raised produce for area food pantries. Some guy even stopped by and finally identified colored greens for me (since I don’t eat them myself and had foolishly thought it was some sort of fancy cabbage). While we do not donate anywhere near the amount of produce that communal gardens (like Franklinton or Upper Arlington Lutheran), I’m pleased with our small contribution in relation to everything else we do.
• We created enough of our own compost to spread a very thin layer over the entire garden when we closed a few weeks ago.
• As is typical in the Fall, lots of people have expressed interest in joining next year. If they follow through and contact me in March, we may expand to adjoining lots (if agreeable to our neighbors). The Franklin Park Neighborhood Association has asked me to make a presentation about the garden in February.
• Next year, we will just have one communal plot for all of the neighborhood kids to share instead of giving them each a plot of their own.
• We raised $100 from plot fees, $110 from selling strawberry seedlings and $340 from raffling off the uber-chic garden cart we won as part of the Sustainability Award from the American Community Garden Association and Franklin Park Conservatory in August. Marge Telerski from the St. Vincent De Paul garden at the Bishop Griffin Center won it, which as you will later read, was extremely appropriate. Accordingly, we do not anticipate seeking additional grant funding next year. After all, we are a most ridiculously frugal community garden.
• We again shared our seed bounty with other community gardens (like Bexley and Growing Hearts and Hands) and the GCGC.
• Bill also pointed out that we do a great job of publicizing our work through this website. I shared that we get about 200 hits/day during the summer growing season. Less this time of year. Bill claims that he alone counts for 20 of those daily hits;)

Gantz Road. Sarah Kincaid from Franklin County talked about their extensive program and a companion program for the Mid-Ohio Food Bank:


• They have three separate garden areas at the old Franklin County Children Services site.
• They also experienced the normal community garden problem of some gardeners dropping out during the season and the overgrown/weedy plots that follow.
• The Somali garden was a great success, but they pretty much keep to themselves.
• Getting the Burmese Garden started has been slower because of all of the effort involved in digging out all of the construction debris that has been left behind so that they could till. The community had been extremely enthusiastic and the youth have worked extremely hard carrying away bricks and stones.
• The County installed some water spickets between the gardens which are shared by the various communities.
• MOFB wants to start using high tunnels to grow food year round.
• They are exploring adding a 4-H program next year. (Did I mention that I’m really jealous?)

St. Vincent De Paul/Bishop Griffin. Marge Telerski and Connie Ford reported:


• They were robbed at the beginning of the growing season and lost their lawn mower and garden cart. Good thing they won ours in the raffle!
• They raised a massive amount of melons (courtesy of the massive donation from Strader’s Garden Center).
• They had lots of volunteers from every Catholic High School in Franklin County.
• Watterson students started seedlings, some of which they gave to the food pantry clients so that they could grow food at their own homes and apartments. Dozens of Catholic Churches collected gallon planting containers which they then planted the seedlings to give to food pantry clients. They plan to expand this ministry next year.
• They have a new greenhouse which will let them grow food through three seasons (i.e., Spring, Summer and Fall). They are unhappy with its heat in the winter.
• They have established a program with the Women’s Group at the Cathedral. Although the Cathedral Chef will not let them grow food there, they supply the women’s group with lettuce for their lunches.
• A Girl Scout group came and planted rose bushes and hostas.
• A pre-school group planted Spring crops, but were hardly expert about it She plans to only let the children help adult gardeners next year.
• MOFB sent volunteers from other area food pantries to see how each pantry could also have its own gardening program to supplement the canned food donations.
• Their pantry fed 25,000 clients in 2011.
• Next year, they will focus on growing greater amounts of a fewer variety of crops so that they can consistently have certain produce available.
• They had trouble with consistent volunteer assistance because two of her core volunteers became very ill over the summer. I told her that I would send her Louise from the SACG (who live closer to them and attends church with them):)
• They were successful growing their own compost this year.


Evergreen Gardening Ministry. I hope that you’re sitting for this because the report of Suzanna Evans and Penny Upp exhausted me just hearing about it:


These two women – who each have a regular full-time job that does not involve running a community garden -- manage SIX different community gardens in THREE different counties:

1) Epworth Methodist Church
2) Nursery Garden (for toddlers)
3) Christian Assembly – the largest
4) A City lot on Cleveland Avenue
5) Buckeye Lake – in Licking County
6) A Delaware County potato farm.


• They are exploring getting a 4-H program (jealous again)
• They visit each of their gardens once a week. They visit two gardens every Saturday.
• They could use more volunteer help. NO KIDDING!!!!!
• They stopped blogging in July and now are only on Facebook:(
• A widow in Delaware County offered them several acres, but would only agree to growing potatoes. She supplies all of the seed potatoes for them. They grew 600 pounds of potatoes.

Franklinton. No surprises here; Patrick Kaufman always has lots of interesting things to report:


• They started their fifth and six gardening site. Altogether, they have a full acre now.
• This was their most productive season. They raised 2500 pounds last year and 7,000 pounds this year.
• Most of their produce goes to Gladden House’s pantry and Holy Family’s Soup Kitchin. They also began contributing to the Homeless Family Foundations day care center’s lunch program.
• This was the second year for their produce market. Last year, they had to set up a tent and equipment every day. This year, the Neighborhood Design Center designed a permanent structure (a percola and storage shed with a power and phone line to operate EBT equipment for food stamps) that is located in the parking lot of St. John’s Episcopal Church. This market grew out of the Local Matters Vegee Van program.
• They have branched out and are selling food to restaurants, like tomatoes, squash, greens and herbs. They are also supplying food to the Green Grocer at the North Market (which pays better than wholesale prices paid by restaurants). They made $2,000 from selling produce.
• They have established a relationship with CaJohn’s Fiery Foods (of which my father and hometown are big fans). They sold it 600 pounds of hot peppers and it is making a specialty sauce to highlight local produce. CaJohns will then donate a portion of the proceeds back to the Franklinton Gardens. A Watterson High School student designed the label for the new sauce. CaJohns has already placed an order of specialty peppers for 2012. (I related that none of my jolokia pepper plants produced anything this year)
• They have benefitted from regular work groups.
• They learned from visiting Will Allen’s Growing Power operation in Wisconsin last September 2010. They started their own unpaid internship program. They had four full-time volunteers (one of whom came from Boston) and two part-time interns. However, this meant that Patrick spent more time managing interns and less time growing/gardening.
• They have continued to expand on their relationship with ODJFS. The Work Experience Program pays unemployed clients to learn gardening and other works skills by working at Franklinton Garden. While a few didn’t work out, most were very hard-working and already knew a lot about growing food.
• Their compost program dwarfs the rest of us. I am not going to go into much detail, but they have built a six-foot fence around it. They turn it every three months, and it takes a bobcat or their volunteers from OSU’s Athletes in Action ministry. Jonathan Meier from Rain Brothers recently helped them out by turning it with his bobcat. Yea Jonathan!
• They are coordinating a Fresh Food marketing campaign with OSU, UWCO, and Local Matters. It is funded by Franklin County and the Department of Agriculture. They are focusing on putting fresh produce in three area corner markets. They will design the produce displays and signage for each market. He passed around some of materials, which were very impressive.
• Go Patrick!



Godman Guild. Yolanda was the unofficial photographer for our meeting. Now it was her turn:





• This was her first year as a full-time employee as the Wellness and Garden
Coordinator. She had worked previously at Local Matters.
• She is working with a large grant from HUD (through MORPC) to do an agrarian overlay in the Weinland Park neighborhood. They want to put a community garden within ¼ mile of each home. They are getting a logo for the Garden.
• She is still working with Local Matters to support the Garden. LM sends its Vegee Van, but now they are operating more as a CSA by giving each client a bag of pre-selected available vegetables instead of letting them select produce.
• They produce a Grub N Groove with PB& Jazz and Local Matters


• An industrial fire next door as the gardening season was beginning delayed opening the garden as they had to determine whether their soil had become contaminated. K.B. Jones arranged for freesoil testing by OSU students to allay those concerns.
• They are working on a Roofs and Root program with Campus Partners.
• They donate most of their produce to the Fruit of the Vine Pantry operated by the
Vineyard Church. She has no idea how much because she doesn’t have time to weigh it.
• TANF funds pay teens to work in the garden over the summer for six weeks and then get help developing their work resumes.
• She participated in the Will Allen visit in July (which was freakishly hot) and helped build a hoop house.
• After the GCGC program on the same topic, she worked with OSU Extension to provide GAP training to other area gardens. Thirty people attended. Go Yolanda!
• They had 60 volunteers show up for the UWCO’s Community Care Day. They couldn’t use all of these volunteers so she sent some to other neighborhood gardens. However, all this help enabled her to move their stage to make more room for raised beds (including some for disabled and elderly gardeners).
• The Make a Difference Day sponsored by the Columbus Foundation enabled them to put their garden to bed (with the help of Trish from Local Matters).
• She is also working at West High School developing an after –school gardening program.

Bill and FPC are getting ready to announce and promote the Hub Gardens for the 12 x 2012 program. He wanted help creating a brand/sign/logo for signs to be placed at each of our gardens. They want to hold an event at each of our gardens in 2012, probably starting with Earth Day. We are to consider an Open Garden tour where everyone in Columbus can visit our gardens (which will have to be staffed for the entire time of the tour) at their own pace on that day. Unlike past tours, there will not be a bus bringing tourists en masse. Mayb this could be a joint fundraiser?

He encouraged all of us to apply for the City’s Green Spot program so that we could have that logo on our signs as well.

He hopes to expand the number of Hub Gardens.

We finally left at 8:44 p.m. A long night. There will probably be another Hub Garden meeting scheduled in December so that we can receive reports from the rest of gardens and discuss more about launching the program.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

SACG Volunteers Are Awesome

Yesterday was our annual season-ending work day. As always, we had fabulous weather. It started out nippy at 10 a.m., but we had all shed our jackets well before we left at 2 p.m. As always, we got an amazing amount of work done because we have the hardest-working and dedicated volunteers in the world of community gardening.



Rayna was already there cleaning up her plot and harvesting her lima beans when I arrived. Three visiting young sisters then showed up to help us pick up litter, tear out sun flowers and harvest fall crops. Rayna worked with the sisters to cut down the sun flowers and cosmos from our flower beds. She then spent the rest of the day pruning our raspberry bushes.

Betty cleaned up her plot and Barbara's old plot. Mari and John cleaned out their plot and two pantry plots and then helped me harvest a trunk load of lettuce.


Charlie and Tom flipped the compost in the four bins. This was hard work. We harvested so much compost from our four bins that we had enough to spread some on each of the plots. Charlie also helped Frank take down the signs and pack up the gates and helped me pack up the shed when we were all done. Frank then helped spread the compost. Fred and Deb cleaned up their plot and then harvested mustard greens and spread the compost. Fred was the only person left when I left and he was mowing grass.

We missed Jeff's machete and cart to haul away bags of yard waste (i.e., thorny branches from the roses I pruned and raspberry bushes which Rayna pruned) and to cut down thick sunflower and other stalks which we removed.

Cookout Extraordinare. Tom brought a gigantic charcoal grill and grilled us all very large, juicy and tender chicken breasts and thighs as well as brauts. He also supplied grapes, coleslaw and potato salad. I brought fruit and brownies. We both brought apple cider. This was the best feast we have ever had in the history of the Garden. We were seriously hungry at noon.


Raffle Winner. Just before we began eating, Micayla pulled the winning raffle ticket for the Gardeners Supply Company garden cart we had been awarded from the American Community Garden Association for winning the Growing to Green Sustainability Award. The raffle winner is Marge Telerski (who manages the community garden supporting the St. Vincent DePaul pantry off Livingston Avenue). Congratulations Marge!


Volunteer Awards. When we finished eating, I made announcements. Before that date, we had donated 345 pounds of produce to area food pantries and shelters. I passed around a chart showing the percentages of produce donated, pantries receiving the produce and monthly distribution. We raised $340 from our raffle, $110 from selling strawberry plants and $100 from plot fees. We also discussed potential sites to expand the Garden if we grow next year.


I also recognized Charlie as Volunteer of the Year. Charlie recruited three gardeners this year and tilled the Garden in the Spring. He also provided transportation once or twice each week for another gardener who did not have a car. He also helped fill in by doing not only his chores, but chores of gardeners who dropped out. He attended every working event and was always one of the first to arrive and among the last to leave. I could go on and on.


I also created a new award. The Garden Rules mention the magic garden gnome who recognizes tidy gardeners. However, I didn't purchase a gnome until this Spring and couldn't decide what to do with it. It is now a traveling trophy for the year's tidiest gardener. Charlie also had the tidiest garden plot this year. He was also on top of the weeds and kept his plot almost fully planted all season long. So, Charlie will have the magic garden gnome to decorate his plot in 2012.


Other gardeners also received a collage of pictures from special events from this season.



Fall Harvest. We harvested over 38 pounds of produce from the Garden yesterday. It was mostly lettuce, which was time consuming to harvest. It also included turnips, beets, carrots, leeks, colored greens, mustard greens, kale, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, and bok choy. Virtually all of the lettuce, turnips, carrots, beets, bok choy and kale was planted near the end of August and in September. Ultimately, we harvested more produce in just two weeks in November than we did in for the entire month of either June or July.


We finished an hour later than planned (because, ahem, some people had not cleaned out their plots before we started). As a result, I did not have time to get the produce to Lutheran Social Services (which closes at 3 p.m.), which was Faith Mission's gain (because its kitchen takes produce until 5:30 p.m.)


Some gardeners elected to leave some Fall produce in their plots so that they can continue to stop by and get lettuce, etc. Some crops – like spinach – were left because it will be abundant when we come back in April.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Is It Really Almost Time to Call it a Year?






You are all cordially invited to help us tidy up the Garden this Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., before we all go home and curl up with a good book or our knitting until next April.


We are again anticipating great weather and will be:


  • pulling and chopping dead flowers and plants from the pantry and common plots and flower bed;

● flipping and spreading compost;




  • planting asters in the front flower beds;

  • harvesting and sorting produce for our last pantry donation of the year;

  • emptying most of the rain tank and storing the last barrel;

  • tidying the shed; and

  • pruning roses.

As you can see from the pictures I took last Saturday, our roses are still quite cherry and our Fall crops have grown just swell, especially the turnips and lettuce.


At 11:00 a.m. we will also have our annual members meeting, review officer reports, elect new trustees, discuss upcoming goals and recognize stellar volunteers.


At noon, we will pull the winning raffle ticket for our uber-chic garden cart. Thanks and good luck to everyone who bought a ticket . . . . or two or threeJ


Finally, Tom is planning to BBQ chicken (so RSVP if you plan to attend and eat).


As always, refreshments will be served.


Be there or be square.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

GCGC’s November Meeting

Last Thursday, I attended GCGC’s November meeting at the Broad Street Presbyterian Church on the Near East Side.


Andrew Proud opened the meeting by describing the topics and activities of the past twelve months with GCGC.


Trish Dehnbostal discussed the community gardens which she operates and which Local Matters supports. She explained that Local Matters will again be evaluating which community gardens it will be supporting in 2012 and encouraged interested gardens to contact her if they were interested. She passed around a couple of lists of national grants which support community gardens and are open for local community gardens to apply. She also provides educational opportunities with traveling gardening seminars. For instance, she worked with OSU’s Extension Service to provide GAP training at the Weinland Park/Godman Guild Community Garden on how to market and sell produce. She surveys the gardens she supports and then provides a seminar on extending the season, seed gathering, etc. She can be reached at Trish@Local-Matters.org.


Trish asked what our current needs were and the Kossuth Avenue Community Garden asked about heated greenhouse space for things like perennial tropical plants. Four Seasons City Farm has a greenhouse, but it is too cold to grow food in the winter. He thought hoop houses have the same impediment. Peggy explained that she sets up grow lights in her basement. Trish added that lots of plants, like kale, can survive in the winter in a hoop house or cold frame.


Peggy Murphy then discussed at length the upcoming deadline for the UWCO’s Neighborhood Partnership grant. She has been working with that grant program for over 16 years and used it once upon a time to build a $35,000 neighborhood playground. She discussed the areas available for grant funding and how community gardens could benefit. When she first began working with the program, it had lots of money to distribute, but now has to limit grants to no more than $10,000. In fact, last year, the program received applications for $800,000 in funding, but only had $200,000 to distribute. The UWCO has scheduled additional training/orientation sessions for November 9, 10 and 16, 2011. The deadline to apply is November 21, 2011.


Peggy also passed around a list assembled by Ms. Strader with the City. It described different legal issues -- like fences, signs, water and composting -- which is regulated by the City’s zoning and other ordinances.


The next GCGC meeting will be Thursday, December 1, 2011. However, we still need to have a place. We would like to have it at a restaurant, but Barley’s was already book for the month of December. The Kossuth guy suggested Plank’s in German Village, but we have to confirm its availability. If you can suggest someplace close to downtown (preferably on a bus line) that can give us a semi-private room, let me or Peggy know in case Planks does not work out. This will be a networking, story-telling gathering. It was suggested that everyone provide pictures of their garden that we can put on a powerpoint slide show.


There was no sharing of garden needs (as in past meetings), but we ended early at 7:40 p.m.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Vegetarian Chili with Chard



Tonight at the GCGC meeting, as I was again talking endlessly about myself and what I had for dinner, I mentioned that I had made vegetarian chili on Sunday so that I could have it for lunch or dinner for the rest of the week. When I mentioned that it contained chard (one of a garden’s most prolific and nutritious vegetables), a few heads perked up and glazed-over eyes suddenly focused and asked me to go in more detail. No worries, I said, I’ll just put it on the website when I get home. So here it is:

This is modified from a recipe on the epicurious.com website, which borrowed it from
Bon Appetit.

Makes 8 bowels

Ingredients

2 tablespoons of EVOO
2-1/2 cups chopped onion
3 chopped garlic cloves
2-1/2 cups chopped butternut squash
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin powder
6 cups black beans (pre-soaked or canned)
2 1-/2 cups vegetable (or turkey) stock
2 pints diced tomatoes with juice
3 cups packed coarsely chopped Swiss chard leaves (about 5 large leaves)

Directions

1. Pre-soak the beans the night before.
2. To chop your squash. Cut off the bottom so that it will be flat. Then take a serrated apple peeler/grater to scrape off the tough squash skin like you would peel a potato. Scoop out the seeds and scrape out the stringy seed pod with a grapefruit spoon. Then chop up the orange squash flesh with a knife on the cutting board. The squash should be chopped into ½ inch pieces. I still had a lot left over after I filled 2-1/2 cups and I saved the extra to make some pureed squash soup later.
3. Heat oil in heavy large pot (like a Dutch oven) over medium high heat
4. Add onions and garlic. Sauté until tender and golden.
5. Add squash and stir for 2 minutes.
6. Add chili powder, cumin, beans, vegetable stock and tomatoes (with juice).
7. Bring to a boil.
8. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until squash is tender.
9. Stir in chard and simmer for about five minutes.
10. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
11. Ladle into bowls and serve. You can spruce it up with sour cream, fresh cilantro, chopped red onions and grated cheddar cheese.




The beans make it very filling and satisfying.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

GCGC Meeting This Thursday



Greater Columbus Growing Coalition (GCGC)



Is Meeting Again After Its Summer Break
When: Thursday, November 3, 2011, 6-7:30PM
Where: Broad Street Presbyterian Church
760 E. Broad Street – Columbus, Ohio 43205



Agenda



6:00 - 6:10 Introductions



6:10- 6:20 Successes of GCGC!



6:20 – 7:00 Resources for Growing Food Next Season – grants, soil, etc.



Speakers –



Trish Dehnbostal – Program Manager of Growing Matters, Local Matters – Local Matters Growing Matters program helps individuals and groups produce more food close to home. Through collaborations with schools, neighbors, community gardens, and urban farms Local Matters delivers resources, workshops and support to food production sites in urban communities. Trish coordinates donations for Lowes to food production sites in our area. She will give us information about finding resources for creating productive gardens.



Peggy Murphy – Highland Children's Garden and God's Gardens – Peggy has been on the Neighborhood Partnership Grants committee for 16 years and has successfully resourced material and funds for community gardeners. She will give us valuable information and tips on applying for the upcoming Neighborhood Partnership grants.



7:00 – 7:15 Next steps



7:15-7:30 Socializing and networking

Monday, October 24, 2011

Minestrone: Season-Ending Scraps, Tips and Stems

When not raking leaves, helping Betty feed the world, or doing laundry, I spent the weekend making minestrone soup with the diminishing remainder of my summer crops and other food that I had put up earlier in the season. Other than the cheese, meat and oil, all other ingredients are garden produce. There is a lot of stopping and starting with this recipe. You won’t spend a lot of time standing over the stove (and could probably use a slow cooker for parts of it), but this is a two-day event.


Ingredients
· ½ pound of dried white beans (such as Romano, great northern or cannelli)
· ½ pound pork (i.e., chopped ham, sliced and chopped bacon or panetta)
· 1/3 cup EVOO
· 1 chopped onion
· ¼ cup chopped carrot
· 1 chopped stalk of celery
· 3 cloves chopped garlic
· 3/4 cup shredded zucchini
· ¼ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces
· ½ pound potatoes, chopped into ¾ inch chunks
· 3 cups shredded cabbage
· ¼ pound chopped kale leaves
· 3 pints chopped tomatoes
· 2 pints chicken stock
· 1 cube pesto



Directions
1. Soak the beans in a large bowl overnight with enough water to cover them by at least three inches. The next day, drain the beans and then cover them again by at least two inches of water and simmer them uncovered for 45 to 60 minutes, or until they are tender. Add a bit of salt and turn off the heat.
2. In your dutch oven, cook the meat in the oil over moderate heat. Stir every two minutes.
3. Chop the onion and add to the meat. Stir.
4. Chop up the carrot, garlic and celery and add to the pot. Stir.
5. Shred the zucchini, chop the green beans and potato and add to the mixture. Stir.
6. Chop the cabbage and kale and add to the mixture. Stir.
7. Add the tomatoes and stock. Stir and cover for 45-60 minutes.
8. Spoon half the beans into a food processor with a slotted spoon and puree them. Add the puree to the pot and stir.
9. Spoon the remaining beans with a slotted spoon into the pot. Stir.
10. If the soup is too thick, add some of the bean water. Otherwise, discard the water.
11. Take the cube of pesto and throw it in the pot and stir it slowly until it is completely dissolved.
12. Taste the soup. Add salt and pepper if you think it necessary.



Some people use pasta instead of potatoes. If you are one of those people, omit the potatoes and add ½ cup of pasta with the beans and a cup of the bean water.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Preserving Herbs the Quick and Easy Way



In case you've been wondering what I have been up to lately, I've been very busy harvesting, drying, storing and labeling seeds, pushing raffle tickets and drying herbs. This caused me to think about brushing off an old post and updating it with tricks I have learned in the three years since I posted it.




One of the best things about a garden is the ability to grow and eat your own herbs – sometimes within hours or even minutes of harvesting them. Over the years, I’ve stayed with the basics and easiest to grow: basil, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, dill, parsley, fennel, oregano and sage. I once tried to grow some cumin, but it died within a few days of transplanting it. In days of yore, I harvested my basil as I ate it and then the rest in October, when I would freeze it. In 2008, however, I had way too much to freeze, and so I made and froze pesto from some of it and dried some of it (which I then grind and store in jars like you buy in the store). The pesto was outstanding (and I substituted easier-to-find and less expensive walnuts for pine nuts).



For myself, I store many of the dried and frozen herbs in regular zip-lock storage bags. However, dried herbs also make nice gifts during the holidays, so it’s a good idea to find some nice herb jars. I had trouble finding jars in 2009, but then happened upon some $2 herb jars at Crate & Barrel in June. (While they’re a little bigger and expensive than I’d like, they are very cute). World Market also reliably has inexpensive herb jars. Let’s face it, you can buy dried herbs for $1 at Big Lots, so how you packaged your dried herbs will matter if you want to create a thoughtful gift.



Basil. I used to think that the best way to preserve basil was to freeze the individual leaves and then throw it into the recipe (for pasta sauce or soup) at the end. This is certainly the least time consuming method and I still always store at least one quart freezer bag of basil this way every year. Pluck off the leaves, wash them, and then throw them in a salad spinner to dry them as well as possible. Then, you can put a layer on a cookie sheet and stick it in the freezer for about an hour before putting them in the freezer bag. If you're really rushed, just fill the bag, and then suck out all of ther air (with a straw) before sticking the bag in the freezer.


My new way (or to be precise -- Iced Tea Latee's way) to store basil is to take the washed and salad-spin dried basil, fill my food processor to the brim, and puree it with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) before then freezing cubes of this in an ice cube tray. Pull them out and stick them in a freezer bag to have basil all winter long.


The old, tried and true way is to make pesto. This involves taking 3 cups of washed and dried basil leaves, 2 tablespoons of pine nuts or walnuts, 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese, 5 chopped cloves of garlic and 3/4 cup of EVOO and then pureeing it all through the food processor before freezing them into tiny containers or ice cube trays. Pesto thaws quickly by putting the container in a bowl of warm water or even in the microwave. For a quick meal, I mix it alone with pasta or spread it over white fish (like tilapia) before putting it on the George Foreman grill for a few minutes. You can also use it in a pinch to make bruchetta for an impromptu cocktail party.


One nice thing about basil is that you can stick the stems in a glass or pitcher of water and, if you break the stems off only at the main joints, the stem will sprout new roots and live for weeks in a glass of water placed in direct sunlight. (I've even seen basil flower in the my kitchin and form seeds). Once you have enough roots, you can even repot it and then grow it for most of the winter under grow lights (although it will look rather sticky and unappetizing if you ask me).


When you have a bumper crop (like I have this year) and the food pantry looks at you as though you're insane for bringing them bags and bags of fresh basil, you can dry the rest. One way is to hang the washed branches upside down in a place shielded from direct sunlight where they will get lots of air circulation. I gather the braches into a small group, put a rubber band around the tip of the branches and then run a twist tie (like you find on bread packages) through the rubber band. I hook or twist the tie around the rod.


Another, quicker way to dry the leaves is to 1) pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees, 2) stip the branches, 3) wash the leaves, 4) run the leaves through the salad spinner until dry, 5) place the leaves in a thin layer on parchment or wax paper on a cookie sheet, 6) put the cookie sheet and leaves in the oven, 7) turn off the oven and 8) let them sit overnight or even until you get home from work the next day.


Once the leaves have dried, I run them through my herb mill into a cereal bowl until I have enough to fill a jar or bag.


In the meantime, you should have been prolonging your basil harvest by pinching the aspiring and actual flowers twice a week until mid-September. Then, let most of the plants go to seed and let the unsightly brown seed pods dry on the plant. If you harvest the seed pods, you will find a few (maybe 5-10) tiny black basil seeds inside each pod. I save those tiny in small coin envelopes for next year.


Parsley. Pretty much everything I’ve just written about basil applies equally to Parsley. (I’ve never made pesto from parsley, but I’m told you can). Parsley is best preserved by freezing and I dry the rest for grins & giggles and for gifts. I usually freeze two bags of Parsley by just filling the bags and freezing them. My parley comes back year after year even though it is supposedly an annual. However, the second- and third-year plants always go to seed way too early and so I recommend pulling the entire plant out of the ground in the Fall so that you can start over next Spring.


Cilantro. The only way to preserve it is to freeze it. Unlike basil, I don’t bother with freezing the leaves on a cookie sheet. I just wash it, shake it dry and then pluck the leaves and put them in a freezer bag. I freeze two or three bags in June so that I will have enough to make salsa in July, August and September.


For the seeds, I split them between seeds for next year’s cilantro crop and storing the rest to grind as coriander.


Finally, if you like Thai or Asian food, it is good to wash and freeze some of the roots and stalks to use to make, among other things, curry paste.


Dill. Until this year, I always had too much dill. It generally takes over my back yard and I weed it like crab grass. Before it goes to seed, I harvest a lot of it, wash and shake it and then hang it until it dries out. I then pull the dried leaves into the herb mill and process. To preserve dill seeds, I wait until the seeds turn brown on the plant and then bring them inside and dry them inside a paper bag (which will catch any falling seeds) like I described above.


Dried dill weed is great on white fish. Take the fish, top it with sour cream, dill weed and red onion and then bake. Dill seeds are great in making dill pickles.


Sage. The best time to harvest sage is before it flowers, but you can harvest some without the flowers if you look. (There are not many leaves left on a branch after it flowers). I hang the sage upside down to dry and then process through the herb mill as described. Sage smells so good and has such a fluffy texture, I often think I am doing my recipient a disservice by processing it before putting the leaves in a jar. For myself, I save whole leaves and then crush them when I use them in cooking. I found an interesting recipe for taking fresh sage, spreading anchovy paste, between two leaves, draping it in egg and flower and then frying it in EVOO.


Thyme. I usually process this at the end of the season (like basil). Most of my thyme survives well into the winter and so I am judicious in my harvest. The leaves are freakishly small, but you can hang them to dry like other herbs and process through the herb mill. You can also dry them in the oven (as described above for basil).


Rosemary. Ditto for thyme.


Fennel. If you want leaves or stalks to cook with, you had best harvest them before the plant flowers. Afterwards, the stalks get narrower as the plant flowers. When the plant goes to seed, let the seeds dry on the plant and then bring them in as described above with dill.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

SACG Raffles Beautiful Cart



The SACG is raffling a medium garden cart from Gardner’s Supply Company.

We won it and we love it, but we just don't have room for it in our tiny shed.
Maybe your community garden could put it to good use.
Maybe you could at your own home.
Or your mother's home.
Or your mother-in-law.


$5.00 per ticket.
Contact the Garden Manager at gardenmgr@gmail.com if you'd like to buy a ticket or two or three.

What a Bargain For an Uber-Chic Garden Cart!
The cart’s big pneumatic wheels roll easily over rough terrain. High sides prevent loose loads like mulch and compost from bouncing out. The axle is positioned to distribute the weight and balance the load. The long handle lets you push or pull with equal ease and has a comfortable neoprene grip. The cart retails for $229 before tax and shipping.

Specifications at a Glance:

Rust-proof aluminum frame
Comfortable foam handle grip
Thick panels of 4-ply exterior plywood
Ball-bearing wheels with pneumatic tires
61-1/2" L x 31-1/2" W x 22" H overall
Cargo bed: 23-1/2" W x 40-1/4" L x 11" D
Sliding dump door with deep, welded tracks
Easy assembly
Hauls up to 400 pounds
All terrain wheels
Made in Vermont USA





The winning ticket will be pulled at noon on November 12, 2011 following the annual meeting of the members of the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden. You need not be present to win.

November 12 is also our season-ending work day, so if you come, we'll also put you to work:) Refreshments will be served.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

FPAA and SACG Neighborhoods Uniting Against Crime

On Tuesday, I attended the regular monthly meeting of the Franklin Park Area Association and yesterday I attended the monthly block watch meeting. Both meetings discussed ongoing initiatives to improve the safety in the SACG neighborhood and greater near east side.

As an aside, the FPAA will be having its annual pumpkin sale the weekend of October 22-23, 2011. [Editor's note: This has been moved UP a week to October 15-16] This is one of the major fundraisers of the year. Pumpkins cost about half of what is charged in grocery stores. FPAA will again be buying $500 worth of pumpkins (even though they sold out early last year) because they do not want to risk having extra pumpkins at the end of the sale. It was suggested that they also sell refreshments, but they will need other volunteers to staff that booth if they do so.

The main speaker at Tuesday’s meeting was Jonathan Beard from Columbus Compact Corporation on East Main Street. CCC is actively involved in commercial and residential development on the near East Side (several blocks west of the SACG neighborhood). After the City failed to help to address rampant crime on the near East Side, Beard spearheaded a private sector initiative which placed 80 surveillance cameras in the empowerment zone between Parsons and Wilson Avenues along Main Street. The cameras record a massive amount of drug trafficking and have lead to numerous arrests. With video evidence in hand, he has been very successful in obtaining the attention of local government officials to address this problem. The City’s Safety Director has supported aggressive policing to arrest individuals who are observed by the cameras dealing and possessing drugs. Unfortunately, they almost always immediately post bail and return to the streets within 24 -36 hours. Even when convicted, their sentences are usually only 12-18 months, with time off for good behavior, etc. Meanwhile, their co-conspirators, who act as lookouts and bodyguards, are virtually never arrested or searched for drugs. The situation has reached a crisis because these individuals have taken to shooting each other, as well as innocent bystanders (and their homes and businesses). Several of the individuals recently murdered had been arrested and/or convicted and were out on bail or early release at their time of death. In other words, they had been safer in jail than out on the streets. While their crimes have been serious, none of them warranted a death penalty.

Beard is particularly concerned because the crime has adversely affected his ability to improve the City’s near east side with residential and business development. He has been successful in rehabilitating a number of apartments on Main Street, for instance. However, as we know, like many homes in German Village and the Short North, there is no set back for these residential structures from the public sidewalk. In other words, the homes’ front door immediately leads to the public sidewalk. Many of these drug dealers unfortunately hang out on the sidewalk and in bus stops. The residents cannot do anything to keep these individuals from congregating on their front door step. Who wants to live somewhere when there are drug gangs leaning up against your house or apartment and the police won’t chase them away? These dealers have also become shooting targets for other gangs. So, the bullets start flying and hit these homes, sometimes narrowly missing -- or not -- the law-abiding resident inside. Many people living in these newly-rehabbed apartments have to spend their evenings exclusively on the second floor to avoid getting shot in a drive-by shooting. Is that any way to live?

Beard explained some of his frustrations. The City has a criminal ordinance prohibiting loitering in the aid of drug offenses, but it is not being enforced out of concern it that it is unconstitutionally vague (i.e., criminalizes legal behavior). For instance, it arguably criminalizes standing within 100 yards of a drug trafficker while holding a cell phone (which would include many law abiding citizens). The current Ordinance provides as follows:



2317.50 - Loitering in aid of drug offenses.
(A) No person, with purpose to commit or aid the commission of a drug abuse offense, shall loiter in any public place.
(B) For purposes of this section, the term "drug abuse offense" has the same meaning as found in Section 2925.01(H) of the Revised Code. The term
has the same meaning as "controlled substance" as found in Section 3719.01(D) of the Revised Code.
(C) For purposes of this section the term loiter means to resort to, remain, or wander about in an idle manner essentially in one place and shall include the concepts of spending time idly, or sitting, standing or walking about aimlessly.
(D) For purposes of this section, the term "public place" means an area of property, either publicly owned or to which the public has access, and includes but is not limited to streets, alleys, sidewalks, rights of way, bridges, plazas, parks, driveways, parking lots, transportation facilities, or other place open to the public, the doorways, entrances, porches, passageways, and roofs to any such building which fronts on any of the aforesaid places, or motor vehicles in or upon such places.
(E) In determining the purpose of an offender under this section, the Court shall consider all relevant surrounding circumstances, which may include but are not limited to the following factors:
(1) Repeatedly beckon, stop, attempt to stop, or engage passers-by or pedestrians in conversation; or
(2) Repeatedly stop or attempt to stop motor vehicles; or
(3) Repeatedly interfere with the free passage of other persons.
(4) That the person has been convicted or been found delinquent for a drug abuse offense.
(5) That the person is loitering and directing pedestrians or motorists through words, hailing, waving of arms, pointing, signaling or other bodily gestures to a person or premises where controlled substances are possessed or sold.
(6) That the person is loitering and has cordless telephone, cellular telephone, walkie-talkie, or beeper within 100 yards of a person or premises where controlled substances are possessed or sold.
(7) Any statement by the offender.


(G) No arrest shall be made for a violation of this section until the arresting officer first requests and affords such person an opportunity to explain such conduct. No
person shall be convicted if it appears that the explanation rendered is true and the surrounding circumstances disclosed a lawful purpose.
(H) Whoever violates this section is guilty of loitering in aid of drug offenses, a
misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a violation of this section, loitering in aid of drug offenses is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree.

Faced with the arguably vague ordinance, the police will only arrest the traffickers for unlawful possession and not for assisting the trafficker by acting as a lookout or bodyguard. When presented with video evidence of trafficking, the police have been successful in arresting individuals on East Main Street, taking them back to the police station and then using the video to support a search warrant to find drugs on the trafficker’s person (often stuck in an unsanitary body cavity).

Beard is advocating a several-pronged approach. First, the Loitering Ordinance should be updated to remedy the vagueness issue and make it more expensive for the co-conspirators to support drug trafficking. The General Assembly is currently considering increasing the penalties for drug trafficking. In any event, arresting the co-conspirators and requiring them to post bail and pay fines will at least make it more expensive for them to continue helping their drug trafficker friends. Without an extensive look-out network, the police will be better able to arrest the traffickers.

Last year, after a series of meetings and discussions, almost every City and County Official (including the City Attorney’s office, County Prosecutor’s office, judges and City Council President Ginther) had signed off on improving the Loitering Ordinance so that it could be enforced to benefit law abiding residents. Unfortunately, Councilperson Mills then took over the Safety Committee in January and no progress of any kind has been made since that time. While she has expressed polite concern with the issue, and has said that she and her staff are considering it, she felt that the loitering issue involved mostly “poor choices” and not criminal behavior and saw no urgency to update the Ordinance this year. To be fair, this Ordinance should be carefully drafted to criminalize behavior which is directly related to trafficking and not merely criminalizing being friends, blood relative or social acquaintance with a drug trafficker. Legal concerns and public comments should be invited in upgrading the Ordinance.

[Editor's Note: On October 18, 2011, the Dispatch ran an article about this situation. While the article mentions the unconstitionality of the current ordinance, there is no discussion about steps to amend the ordinance to make it lawful and effective. Council President Ginther is quoted saying that Council has not ignored the problem, and explaining that they simply do "not necessarily agree[] with your approach, recommendations or style." The article does not mention any steps which Council is taking to address the problem, although there was a lot of public fanfare last week about a proposal for the City to pay for graffitti remediation. There was no proposal to stop gangs from spending hours standing and wandering aimlessly in front of businesses and homes and getting themselves and innocent bystanders shot. There was no proposal to publicize a hotline where residents and business owners can call the police about drug traffic loittering with knowledge that the group will be disbanded or arrested by police within minutes of the call.]

Second, Beard advocates a pilot enforcement program that would encompass the area between Parsons Avenue and Alum Creek, Whittier/Frebis and Broad Streets.

Third, Beard would like to see COWIC dedicate at least 20 job training opportunities to individuals in the pilot target area to create economic opportunities for the traffickers other than selling drugs.

Fourth, consideration of aggressive sentencing for chronic and repeat offenders, with extended periods of probation, house arrests with ankle bracelets, no waiving of court costs and fines and stay away orders while on probation. Continuation of aggressive policing in the target enforcement area by better and improved coordination between vice, narcotics and gang units to disrupt open air markets, bootlegs, etc.

Fifth, exploring restorative justice work requirements for the City's Land Bank and civic and business associations affected by the criminal behavior.

Finally, expanding and enhancing the Main Street camera program.

In any event, efforts are underway to unite virtually every social, non-profit, block watch, religious and civic organization in the near east and south sides of Columbus to sign a letter to City Council and other government officials to take urgent and coordinated action to stop the drug trafficking and related violence which has turned a growing number of near-east side and south side neighborhoods into areas as dangerous as any third-world country.

Polite concern does not make it safe for parents to let their children walk down the street to a community garden, which is why I am so invested in this issue.

The FPAA also distributed a video showing the affects of these shootings and the bullet holes in area businesses. Some business operators have simply closed up because they do not feel safe. It is no wonder that there are droves of vacant homes as rational people flea to safer areas, including the suburbs. Unless this is eradicated soon, there will be no taxpayers left living in the near east side.

The FPAA has created a facebook page for all of the FPAA blockwatches (including ours, Morrison Hill and Fairwood). The FPAA also encourages anyway to review updated crime statistics at http://www.crimereports.com/.

To protect the investment in their homes from criminal activity (including illegal dumping in the alley between Stoddart and Morrison), the FPAA block watch has purchased two video cameras for the SACG neighborhood. They are currently operational. In the very near future, four signs will be installed (purchased without the benefit of any grant funds out of the personal finances of a SACG area resident) advising drivers that the Stoddart Avenue neighborhood is under 24 hour video surveillance. It still bothers me that we do not have any suspects for the murders which occurred next to the SACG in August last year and March of this year. With video cameras, we hopefully will be able to help the police identify suspects in any future shootings or other crimes. Anyone living near the SACG should notify the block watch if they experience criminal activity so that the block watch leaders can review the videos to find potential suspects.

We are also planning to seek additional grant funding to purchase three additional cameras for the Morrison, Stoddart and Fairwood neighborhoods. There have been a number of break-ins in the past few months and, again, no suspects or witnesses. Unfortunately, good cameras tend to cost about $1,000/each (not including installation and operational costs) and we do not have $80K, which is what CCC has spent on its effective video surveillance program in the neighborhoods west of the SACG.

Last weekend, someone broke into the "eyesore" buildings next to the SACG and busted a side door (which rendered the building accessible to anyone and everyone). Both Barb and I reported it promptly to the City Land Bank and the door was repaired within two days.

The FPAA will be meeting again on October 25 in the lower level of the Franklin Park Conservatory at 7:00 p.m. Police Liaison Officer Theresa Kalous will be the featured speaker and will discuss the local Healthy Communities Initiative.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Turning Lemons Into Lemonade When You’ve Only Got Green Tomatoes



Let’s face it. This has been one freaky summer in Central Ohio. First, it was unbelievably wet and then it was ungodly hot and now it is unusually chilly. While I love our recent temperate weather for almost every activity, my tomatoes, peppers and okra do not share my enthusiasm. Tomatoes love it when it is 75 degrees. When it is too hot, they will not set fruit and will not turn green. Indeed, if it more than ten degrees warmer or ten degrees cooler, they get a little fussy about turning from green to red. Everyone I know has been disappointed with their tomato crop this year. Even OSU was grimacing about this in their last weekly Buckeye Yard and Garden report:



This "tomato time-out" is mainly due to the plant using most of its resources, like water and nutrients, in addition to its manufactured photosynthetic products, to simply survive temperature extremes. More resources maybe partitioned to produce more roots in an attempt to access more water which causes the plant to suddenly cease to grow. Remember, the plants are attempting sustain all of their physiological processes, like cool its leaf tissues, and continue to grow in order to produce new blooms and new foliage, and also ripen fruit, all at the same time! That requires a huge amount of plant resources and energy when environmental factors are perfect, so imagine what that is like when the plant is trying to cope with an environmental stress of…oh let's say 98F and dry, hot constant winds blowing!

Tomatoes do not like cooler temperatures either. In fact, temperatures lower than 50F will cause a type of chilling injury. It may take 2-3 days for tomatoes to return to their previous levels of photosynthetic activity, even after just a brief chill period. For this reason, the best way to preserve the color and flavor of vine ripened tomatoes is to keep them in a cool place out on the counter instead of inside the refrigerator! As the environmental conditions experienced by tomatoes and bell peppers this growing season were reviewed, everyone suddenly realized that just having green tomatoes...is really a good thing!


I've pinched every flower off every plant I have to force all the energy into ripening the fruit instead of creating new fruit. However, I am still facing an overabundance of green tomatoes and there is no Indian Summer in sight.



Determined to turn these green tomato lemons to lemonade, I have begun experimenting with green tomato recipes so that I can salvage some food from this dilemma. After all, there is more to life than fried green tomatoes.



Roasted Tomatoes



My new favorite thing is roasted tomatoes. I chop up tomatoes into inch chunks (i.e., halves, quarters or eighths), toss them in olive oil, spread them skin down on a cookie sheet and then bake them at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Yesterday, I made a sauce by cooking them at 350 degrees for two hours. This is awesome with red tomatoes and is surprisingly good with green tomatoes, too. With red tomatoes, I mix them with pasta, parley and cottage cheese or just puree them into a sauce (while adding basil, rosemary and/or thyme and roasted garlic). I ate all of the green ones before trying them on crackers with goat cheese.



Green Tomato Salsa



I experimented yesterday with a tomatillo salsa recipe from The Coyote Cafe and, guess what? It worked and looked pretty to boot.



• 2 pounds fresh green tomatoes
• 6 tablespoons of red onion
• 2 red Serrano chiles, finely chopped
• ¼ cup lime juice
• 1 bunch of chopped cilantro (or ¼ cup)


1. Drop the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute. The skins might slip off for tiny tomatoes, but no worries. We’re just looking to blanch them.
2. Puree tomatoes in a food processor. You might need to do this in batches.
3. Mix ingredients together and serve.


Makes 2 pints. I also canned this, which involved bringing the mixture to a boil for one minute before putting them into the jars.



I have just started my green tomato odyssey. I found a website with 25 green tomato recipes to try, so I’ll let you know if any of them work. In the meantime, keep in mind that green tomatoes are not as juicy as red (so you will not need to strain them) and are more acidic (which means that you'll need less vinegar or lemon juice for canning them).



In the meantime, I’m waiting for my first backyard beefstake tomato to turn red before the

squirrels get it . . . . You can see that it is close.


[Editor's Note: The tomato turned red after I brought it inside. However, four days after I posted this, someone decided to steal the four green ones pictured above it (after I spent the summer watering them every other day).]

Monday, September 19, 2011

GHHCG Art in the Garden Festival Was Well Attended and Organized

On Saturday afternoon, I attended the Growing Hearts and Hands Community Garden Art in the Garden Festival. It ran from noon until five, was very well organized and extremely well attended. We posted a sign about the event on our front gate and two families showed up around noon at the SACG to attend, so I re-directed them to the GHHCG on Oak Street between Miller and Kelton after encouraging them to take some broccoli.












Ms. Joyce was there to check everyone in. Wisely, they collected everyone’s contact information (in order to contact them in the future about volunteering, gardening and fundraising) in exchange for two tickets for a free sandwich (i.e., grilled chicken or hamburger) and ice cream (sundae or float).


GHH uses exclusively raised beds to grow their food. They have 8-10 rain barrels, 4-6 are attached to a nearby garage and four are attached to a next-door house.



The Franklin Park Area Association had a table next to Ms. Joyce and four young volunteers to recruit new members. They passed out a number of fliers, including a listing of upcoming meetings (at 6:30 p.m.) on the last Tuesday of the month at the lower level of Franklin Park Conservatory. They are having a pumpkin patch sale on October 22 and 23, 2011. They invited the SACG and GHH to make a presentation at the February meeting in order to recruit volunteers and gardeners. They also passed out information about neighborhood block watches. The Morrison Hill Block Watch (which is the area due east from the Franklin Park Area Block Watch) meets immediately before us at noon on the first Saturday of the month at the East Main Street Police Station. The Fair Avenue Block Watch meets on the second Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Word Church on Wilson Avenue. The FPAA also handed out fliers about what to do about graffiti, carjacking, preparing your home for vacation, vacation security, gun safety, being a witness and ATM safety tips. All very useful and interesting information. One of the FPAA volunteers lives next to the SACG’s Jeff, so I droned on and on about his fabulous tomatoes and unique gardening style.


Ms. Pepper was there to organize the artistic events. She showed me the potato barrels (where they grow potatoes). The children painted them earlier in the event. There was a percussion jam session. Ms. Pepper also arranged for donated t-shirts (which she monogrammed with GHH) and the kids painted them with paint funded by GCAC. So many children attended, that they ran out of paint. The tshirts were left to dry on the compost bins. There was another lady there to help the children make beaded necklaces and bracelets.




Ms. Pepper also tried to talk me into growing more broomstalks to make brooms from. She showed me a raised bed at GHH where she was growing some and a field nearby where she was growing a lot.



Richard, the head honcho, told me about their future plans and how they were expanding onto a second lot nearby. They had lots of fall seedlings ready to be planted for their Fall crops. He assured me that they had more than enough water for their needs and was not interested in pursuing a tank. I told Richard that the crowd was pretty amazing and we didn’t have that level of community support at the SACG. He attributed it all to extensive advertising and free food. I doubt that:)




I had arrived to attend the publicized dehydration demonstration, but that apparently was cancelled. I missed the scheduled poetry slam.


As for crime, they had experienced very little until recently. The City had left a large no-trespassing sign on the property, which seemed to deter most thefts. However, it was unsightly and they recently covered it up. They are reconsidering that move after experiencing some produce thefts, and more distressing, the theft of the brass hardware off of their rain barrels. Luckily, the nearby fire department refilled the barrels for them after they were repaired.


It was a very nice event and reflected the dedication of a large number of volunteers to run each of the stations.




Earlier in the day, I continued my seasonal chore of pulling out cherry tomato plants (which are outgrowing my ability to keep up with them). I also attempted to stain our benches. We don't have the ability to strip them. However, I brushed and very lightly sanded them before staining the north bench. However, it clearly required more sanding to make an impression. Later, one of the new neighborhood girls came by to help me harvest tomatoes and beans for the weekly pantry donation. She insisted on wearing gardening gloves like me. However, I had to send her home (with some produce) when she kept tasting what we were harvesting:) Rayna came by to pick up some more tomatoes while she had some processing on her stove. Finally, some contractors came by to pick up the remaining brush from the eyesore next door.