Monday, July 29, 2013

Beet Red Velvet Cake and Other Adventures

It seems that you cannot have a community garden in Central Ohio without growing lots of beets.  They are a two-season crop and are very pretty.  Trouble is,  I wasn’t raised with beets and I just don’t like them.  I’ve really, really tried, but they don’t work for me.  Last year, I tried the national dish of Russia, borscht, but I couldn’t finish a bowl.  Maybe I don’t have a good recipe.  I tried roasted beets (even mixed with roasted potatoes and turnips).  I’ve made them into bruchetta spreads and taken them to parties topped with feta (to very faint praise). I’m told that they are good pickled, particularly at a restaurant in Mt. Sterling, but I’ve never had the pleasure.  I’ve even tried some Mark Bittman recipes. The best I can say is that I can tolerate them raw and shaved onto salads.  They make my kale slaws very colorful.  While the beets in the food pantry plot have been relatively tiny, the beets in my plot have been as big as my fist. 

Last week, as she was driving away, I asked Cathy Alexander what to do with them (because she loves beets).  Red velvet cake she says.   I’m not much of a baker and I almost never bake from scratch.  However, I did some research and it turns out that back in the day, beets were used to make the cakes red before there was red food dye.   There are additional benefits to baking with beets, too.  They add a natural sweetness (so that you can reduce the amount of processed sugar) and they add moisture to the batter so that they stay moist longer without adding lots of extra cooking oil.    I found a number of recipes for beet red velvet cake on the internet and used an easy recipe on Friday night to make cupcakes for my intrepid volunteers who showed up on Saturday.  (Of course, it rained until almost 3 p.m.).  Sadly, I used dark chocolate, so you cannot see the red color, but I have no doubt it would be there if I had used regular chocolate.  They are still moist on Monday.   I messed with the recipe a little bit.  I added more than ¾ cup roasted/pureed beets (bad idea) and added ¼ cup lemon juice (to beef up the color).   I will be making these again.  And often.

As for our other adventures.  Sabrina worked really hard this week to catch up on weeding the food pantry plots.  It took her a few trips, but the weeds are finally under control in there.  I can even see cantaloupes growing.  Her husband,  Tom, mowed our lawn.    Cassie stopped by on Tuesday, too, to do some light weeding in her plot and the flower beds.  Sadly, she did not make much progress.  She was able to harvest a lot of neglected vegetables.  Her butternut squash had grown out to almost the alley and there was a large fruit forming out there.  There was no way to bring it back inside the Garden and it was gone by Friday.  I had to spend most of my time at the Garden this week doing her chores since she refuses to make time to weed and prune the flower beds.  Grumble.  Grumble.   Because we seem to be having a mild summer, I decided to plant some extra impatiens in our flower beds with the hopes that they will not get fried out and will spruce up our bare spots.  

When I stopped by the Garden on Friday with new books for the kids, I used my time waiting for them to return from Alum Creek Beach by spraying weeds along the street and alley with Round Up.  By the time I returned on Sunday afternoon, however, Sabrina had come and weeded the alley for several hours in the rain on Saturday.  It hasn’t looked that good since we broke ground for the season in April.  I’m always overwhelmed when someone goes over and beyond their chores and surprises me like that.  She came to the Garden in the rain on Saturday hoping to get some red velvet cupcakes.  She told me that I would notice her work and she was right.
Sabrina and Christen are moving on to their second season crops and it is not even August.  Christen doesn't like to keep plants -- like broccoli  -- long after her major harvest.  Secondary minor harvests just don't interest her.  She pulled her cabbage and giant broccoli plant out yesterday and planted more carrots.  This will create more sunlight for her watermelon and cucumbers. Sabrina will be pulling out her lettuce to make room and might pull out her bug-infested squash.  The food pantry plot is near the end of its Spring crops (turnips, beets, lettuce, and carrots), so I need to start making plans for that space as well.

Squash Bugs.  While Sabrina was weeding on Tuesday or Thursday, I found some squash bugs in her plot.  The adults were hiding in Rose’s cilantro and on Sabrina’s cosmos flowers.  This was her first exposure to the critters.   They had already killed a couple of her squash plants.  (I think they have also killed some of Mari’s plants, one of the boys’ plants and are working on Cassie’s).   I told her that this year I wanted to burn them out.  This works well for the eggs, but the adults – believe it or not – do not stand still to be burned alive.  Sabrina used her own lighter on the eggs, but opted to squash them with rocks and bricks.  While I chatted in the alley with Cathy, we could hear periodic screams coming from Sabrina’s plot as she discovered a new nest of squash bugs.  It was hysterical. 

Yesterday, Barb mentioned to me that she and Frank had seen some tell-tale squash bug eggs in the Garden.  They – like Charlie – decided to not grow squash in their plot this year.  I told her that I had noticed them, but I’m pretty philosophical about it this year.  2013 will be the first time in my adult life that I will be harvesting zucchini in August.  I planted my squash among my invasive chocolate mint plants and it seems to have disguised my squash plants from the bugs.  The only place where I seem to find them is where the leaves overhang Charlie’s plot (which is now so clean, there are no mint plants anywhere near the vicinity).   Fact is, I’m having trouble keeping up with my zucchini harvest.  I’ve also already harvested 2 delicatta squashes from my plot and am hoping for a couple of butternut and acorn squashes.  It’s almost surreal.

Ice Cream.  Speaking of my invasive mint, I gave some to Sabrina at the beginning of the season and she made ice cream with it yesterday.  I loaned her my ice cream maker on Thursday and she emailed me last night confirming my warning:  Most ice cream recipes are a lot of work.  My strawberry ice cream is easy to make, but I don’t make a real custard with it.   She’s not ready to try again anytime soon and will be returning my maker.   I can only imagine what she would have thought if I had loaned her a hand crank machine:-)

Dill and Water Guns.  The volunteer dill in the food pantry plot (left over from Rayna’s crop last year) is nearing the end of its useful life.  I doubt pantry clients will want it, so I’m going to pitch it soon.  Like this week.  So, faithful readers, if you want some dill head seeds to make dill pickles or to otherwise store, please stop by the SACG on Tuesday or Thursday evening and I will fill your bag with large seed heads.  We have dozens of plants.  However, be forewarned.  Thursday is also likely to be the Second Annual  Shootout at the CG Corral.  The kids have been waiting all summer for me to bring my super soaker water gun to the Garden.  However, with the exception of two weeks ago, it just hasn’t been hot enough.  They showed up yesterday with their new super soakers to attack me and I convinced them to give me until Thursday to get my old gun and make it a fair fight.  Assuming they remember this that long, the plants will be getting an unusual amount of water and the gardeners and other volunteers are likely to get wet, too.

Food Pantry Donations.   Finally, for what seems to be the third week in a row, I have been rained out again on Saturday.  Only this time, it was a heavy and sustained rain.  I’m not complaining; .75 inch is always welcome.  However, it made it a challenge to harvest and make a food pantry delivery.  Luckily, my neighbors, the Pipinos have an extra refrigerator which is usually empty.  I harvested over 30 pounds of vegetables yesterday and stored about half of them in their extra refrigerator so that I can deliver them to the food pantry when it is open today.   At this point in the season, we are 300% above our donations for this same time in 2012 and 2011.    Craziness.  This is what perfect growing weather will do.  Even Mari is over the moon with her harvest this year.  The only downside is that the weeds are a little more aggressive this year than in the past.

Upcoming Events.  Well, on Wednesday, some of us will be going to the ProMusica concert at the Franklin Park Conservatory. Thursday is our second annual water gun fight.  (BYOG and filled water balloons).  Be there or be dry.   

On Saturday – weather permitting – we will put the Garden into the final touches for the bike tour of near east side community gardens on Saturday, August 10 by Yea Bikes! and Local Matters.   We are thinking about scheduling a neighborhood litter pick up on the morning of Saturday, September 7.  (Kickoff for the  OSU/San Diego football game is not until 3:30 p.m. that afternoon).  The Children’s Parade starts at 11 a.m. and ends at the Hot Times Festival in Olde Towne East that same day. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Half-Price Books Rocks

Faithful readers are aware that the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden has been distributing children’s books to neighborhood kids in July.  There is no library within walking distance and no book mobile makes it to our neighborhood. I realized last summer when we tried to engage in some 4-H gardening activities that a lot of the kids couldn’t read – and certainly not at grade level.   As you know, we ran out of books after just a few weeks – particularly “chapter books.”  I made a plea for more books, and Cathy from Urban Connections found out, and told me last night, how we could obtain free books from Half-Price Books. 

This morning, I submitted an email request, but was told it might take 60 days.  That wouldn’t do because the kids had been pestering me since last week.  So, I called the Upper Arlington store to ask directly.  When I explained why I wanted their fax number, they told me that they already had children’s books packed up for me to pick up as soon as I showed up.  That’s what Cathy and I call God’s will.  I had tears in my eyes.

This afternoon I drove over to the store and Assistant Manager Liz packed up two boxes and two large grocery bags.  She would have given me twice as many, but there are only so many books the kids can read before school starts and there’s the issue of where to store them . . . . .  They took up my entire car trunk.  For those non-profits out there that need children’s books, Liz has more books to donate.

I told Cathy about our success as soon as I got home and she volunteered Urban Connections as a storage place for the extra books.  So, after they returned from a day at Alum Creek beach with the neighborhood kids and their Bible Camp volunteers, they helped me to unload the books.  Cathy then learned that Burt had already picked up three boxes of books from Half-Price Books.  So now we definitely seem to have enough.  I sorted the books (and we have lots and lots of Babysitter Club mysteries).  I picked the best books to keep in my car trunk for when I see the kids at the Garden.
Kenaya and Antoinette are seen here getting new books to read over the weekend.  After all, it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.

I could never work in a book store because I would spend all day reading instead of working.   As it was, I noticed they had a number of British books on Allotment Gardening – that’s the British version of community gardening.  In England, it has been legally required for each community to “allot” land for cultivation by the masses since 1908.  Allotments are critical to people who live in flats (aka apartments) because they would otherwise have no land on which to grow their own food.  Brits take their gardening almost as seriously as football (aka soccer).   The book is very interesting and discusses produce to grow, succession planting, etc.  I took about five copies for our gardeners. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Latest SACG Soil Test

When we received from the City the loan of our second rain tank last August, it also came with a requirement that we submit our soil for free testing by OSU.  However, no one ever contacted me about submitting a soil sample.  New gardener Sabrina then started asking about soil tests in April because of her young son, Zephyr, so I gave her copies of our 2009 results from UMass at Amherst and nudged and pushed until arrangements were made in June for a new test.   After all, I’m sure that some of the dust from the demolition of the eyesore next door probably landed on the Garden (particularly when last year’s June 29 derecho hit us about 30 minutes after the building came down).   While Rebuilding Together and the City attempted to make contact with the right people at OSU to provide the soil test, I discovered from Dr. Darraugh that CLC Labs would tests for lead in our soil (and CLC says their test is better than the UMass test we received in 2009) for $45.  CLC would also test for the EPA Heavy Metals (including arsenic and 9 other heavy metals) for $190.  CLC would not test for organic toxins, like dioxin or petroleum.

Once the City and Rebuilding Together made arrangements with OSU for a free test, however, I dropped off the sample myself at Cottman Hall on June 14.  OSU still hasn't finished our soil testing (for nutrients and pH) and hasn’t give me an ETA on the rest of the test. (In past years, we have tested off the charts for nutrients, slightly alkaline in 2009 and neutral in 2011 when CLC tested our soil). However, wunderkind Kristin Minca did get back to me a few weeks ago with the results of the total soils extraction test (the test used by the Ohio EPA) for contaminants.  I have attached those results for your edification.

Soil Test Results for Stoddart Ave. Community Garden
Total concentration in soil
Ohio background concentration
Ohio EPA
VAP standards
mg kg-1
mg kg-1
mg kg-1


The first column reflects our soil.  The second column is the amount of that element one naturally finds in the soil in rural areas.  You will note that our urban soil has very elevated levels compared to rural soil.    Of course I became concerned by that and this is what I was told:

Your sample had elevated levels for all the metals we tested for, but none of the metals exceed the risk based standards for Ohio. What this tells me is there was activity on the properties that added metals to the soils (possibly from lead paint, or galvanized metal plumbing), which is common for the urban gardens I've tested.

I recommend you continue to use your soil for food production, but be sure to wash all the produce you grow there very thoroughly before consumption to remove any soil residue that could be present.

(emphasis in original).  Still concerned, I pushed for more information and was told:

You should know that the concentrations of your soil are similar to other urban soils. The background concentrations that have been done in Ohio and the US are typically rural agricultural soils and don't reflect the anthropogenic influence of urban cities. But your soil isn't a risk. People should thoroughly wash produce from any place including the grocery because dust can adhere to those products too and pose the same risks.

Still concerned, I pushed again -- as you all know only I can do --  and this morning she gave me the soil contamination standards used by the Ohio EPA.  They are apparently the standards used in the Voluntary Action Program (VAP) to remediate contaminated sites.   Those standards are reflected in the third column above.   Our soil is well below those levels.  So, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Nonetheless, Kristen -- who now also works for the Ohio EPA and knows I'm thinking about the neighborhood kids and Zephyr -- tells me this about the VAP standards reflected in the third column:

Attached are your results with the standards for noncarcinogenic risk for soil ingestion based on a child. Carcinogenic risk is slightly lower for these compounds (mostly As at 6.7 mg/kg but background concentrations suggest this may be unrealistic).

Again, this concerned me a bit.  So, our children are at risk just for walking out the door?  She responds as follows:
Recent soil surveys in Ohio show that the natural background for Arsenic ranges between 5 mg/kg and 30 mg/kg because of the subsurface geology in our state. Most soils I've seen has Arsenic levels around 10 mg/kg. Risk assessment standards are based on the very worst case scenario, a child with hand to mouth tendencies eating soil while fasting. So the exposure for community gardeners wouldn't be the same, especially if they practice good gardening by washing their hands, tools, and especially the produce.
I feel better now, don’t you?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

July Volunteers Have Gone Fishin’

It was too hot to do much of anything the past week at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.   Our volunteers and gardeners seemed to have gone on hiatus for the month.  The grass has only been mowed once and there has only been light weeding in the food pantry plot.  After all the rain earlier in the month, weeds have taken over the flower beds, the benches and the potato and melon rows in the food pantry plot because Cassie hasn’t left her house to weed even once this month and Sabrina only once.  Those pernicious morning glory weeds are actually pulling our giant sunflowers down and suffocating other plants.   It’s like kudzu.   I’m quite anxious about what the Garden will look like for our tour in four weeks.  Since I had to spend an hour yesterday trying to weed and prune just one of the flower beds, once again I wasn’t able to mulch the flower beds. 

Yesterday was one of the only about three times in the past five years that I’ve been rained out of a summer Saturday.  I meant to get an early start, but convinced myself after waking that the local meteorologists were exaggerating how early the rain would start (since it wasn’t raining at daybreak as earlier promised).  I arrived at 9 and worked solidly by myself for two hours before the rain started. First, I tied up some of our leggy tomato plants in the food pantry plot and in Christen and Tyrese’s plots and tried to train Hope’s overgrown birdhouse gourd plant away from Christen’s plot.  Next,  I pruned some of the overgrown raspberry bushes on the southeast side of the Garden, harvested some cucumbers, a cabbage, a few beans and overgrown zucchini from my plot and then moved on to making the food pantry harvest.  I was able to pick beans, tomatoes, peppers, collard greens, cabbage, lettuce, and cucumbers before it started raining.  I decided that a warm rain wasn’t worth fleeing and returned to get some basil for the pantry folks before calling it a morning. The turnips, beets, carrots and kale will have to wait another week.   I know I looked like quite the drowned puppy when I showed up at the pantry an hour before it opened.

By the time I had finished the pantry run at noon, it had stopped raining.  This is actually depressing because it hadn’t rained much in more than a week and we only received about a quarter inch of rain yesterday.  That means I have to return today to water my beans, greens, herbs and flowers.   However, with just a light rain to contend with, I returned to the Garden and spent an hour weeding and pruning the center flower bed.  Two neighborhood girls came by to exchange books, but sadly, they had already read everything in the trunk of my car at their third-grade reading level.  I’m out of chapter books!!!!

Our delicatta squash plants are in danger of taking over a good section of the Garden. (I only planted three or four, but they each take 60 square feet!).  I pruned a few of them back, but am otherwise letting them go until another gardener objects.  I’ve never grown them before and so conducted some research in the afternoon about how to tell when they can be harvested.

I planted a row of Southern cowpea California blackeye or Tiger's eye bush bean in the pantry plot.  They are half-runners. However, the bugs just love them -- while leaving the contender beans in the next row alone.  I'm going to let the rest of them dry because they do not seem very attractive as a fresh bean.   That's one experiment that has not gone well this year.
Two of our giant sunflowers are towering above the shed.  You can't tell how tall they are from this picture.  Sadly, my cell phone camera also failed to capture the several bees that were busily feeding on them, too.  But, you can see the sky temporarily clearing after the morning rain. 

When I visited the Garden on Tuesday, I exchanged books with some neighborhood girls.  DeShaun and his friends came by and insisted on my letting them water their plants and weeding (with trowels).  DeShaun even had to lecture them about the proper way to water (i.e., at the roots instead of on the leaves).   I was overjoyed that they put their tools away before leaving to play basketball with only one reminder from me.  Sadly, everyone reported that Antoinette and her tiny friends had broken into the Garden to steal more of Neal’s corn.  There was even a half-eaten corncob in her bed.  She and her friends denied it. But what am I to do with six different kids telling me otherwise?  Poor Neal has worked so hard on his beautiful corn and I’m becoming skeptical if he will ever get to eat any of it.   If the kids hadn’t told me and shown me the recently eaten corn cob, I would not have known that there had been a break in because there was virtually no other damage to the Garden.  I can’t figure out how anyone got in . . .  The boys tell me that she can still climb the gates because she weighs so little. They tried to demonstrate, but I’m not buying that.  Antoinette was happy to leave with her cabbage, DeShaun with a zucchini, his friend with a tomato and Tyrese with a bag of his collard greens.

On Thursday, I needed some exercise and was skeptical about getting any significant rain, and so I stopped by the Garden to water the neighbor plot and my tomatoes and peppers.  It only took an hour.  Orlando was there and promised to clean out his “man garden” to make a home for my extra tomato and collard green seedlings.   We shall see . . . .   Rose was in the middle of another self-made crisis, and decided to take it out on her radishes.  I was less than sympathetic and am discouraged that she huffed off before weeding and thinning her carrots.   The boys stopped by to water their plot, too, but left when I discovered squash bug eggs in their plot and went into my egg-hunting kill-those-damn things frenzy.   I also had to break it to them that they had inadvertently pulled out two of their sweet potato vines last Friday when they thought they were only pulling weeds.  They promised to return with Tyrese, but did not.   Oh well.

It looks like an excellent week for growing, ripening and harvesting is coming up.  If only we could get one heavy rain . . . . .

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Rain, Rain Go Away – But Only for a Week

We received over three inches of rain this week and our plants (and weeds) doubled in size.  It was awesome.  However, of the 18 straight days of rain that hit Central Ohio, only 11 of them visited the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  Nonetheless, it was enough to relieve us of having to water our plants and to start us down the path for problems with mold and mildew.  So, believe it or not, I’m ready for a week of drying out (although I could live without the predicted 90 degree temperatures for the upcoming week).

Last week, I forgot to harvest our food pantry beans and returned on Sunday to do so.  An army of neighborhood children and their visiting cousins descended upon the Garden for show-and-tell and to get some more books.  RootBarb’s daughter donated a large bag of books for the neighborhood kids.  Sabrina picked up me and my aluminum ladder on Tuesday evening so that we could sneakily unclog the downspout for our primary rain tank.  It was too wet for her to mow the grass (although our lawn was looking pretty shaggy).  We popped into the Garden to rescue some expanding zucchini.
On Thursday, I returned to do a little light weeding and harvesting before heading out for a bike ride.   Another army of kids descended on the Garden and the boys came to harvest some produce (aka zucchini) from their plots.  And to get more books.  But NOT to do any real weeding.

Yesterday was beautiful, but exhausting. Sabrina had mowed the lawn on Friday and it looked great.  Our sunflowers had started to bloom (although we lost a giant sunflower in the center flower bed from the storm).  I got an early start and spent the first two hours weeding and trimming overgrown raspberry bushes.  While I found a handful of black raspberries, the berry season is essentially over.  We still, however, have some blueberries along the alleys.  I also cut the raspberry canes that were covering our blueberry bushes.   I planted some more basil in our herb garden and wherever I could find some empty space.   I staked some of the taller sunflowers that were leaning after Wednesday’s storm.   

My biggest joy for the day was to discover that someone had weeded the boys' overgrown plot.  DeShaun and his friends have not yet grown to love weeding and I've been internally debating the need to demonstrate the consequences of that decision.  However, on Friday, someone apparently did a fantastic job of weeding the plot and pounding in the tomato stakes.  I suspected Charlie, but he denied it.   Neal would admit only to pounding in the tomato stakes.  Charlie thought Antoinette helped them . . . . I will have to investigate this further:-)

Charlie came by with a friend to finish weeding the jungle that had been his plot.  He then planted some melon and sweet potatoes where he used to have lettuce and onions.   Chelsea came to weed her plot.  Neal stopped by to look at his plot and chat with Charlie and Chelsea.  I spent my last two hours harvesting and my glutes are still sore.  I also chatted a bit with Veronica and Orlando Anthony next door.
So far, I've only seen two squash bugs and one group of eggs.  I'm sure that they are still out there, but they don't seem to like the rain, the chocolate mint in my plot and/or our last winter.  I have no complaints about that -- or any delusions that they will not eventually destroy our bountiful squash by Labor Day.
I didn’t get out of the Garden until 2 p.m., which was too late to get it weighed and delivered to the food pantry, so I used the opportunity to visit the new location of Faith Mission downtown.  It is just a block away from the new Hills Market downtown.    There were no signs, or loiterers to point the way.  Faith Mission takes produce donations until 5:30 p.m.

I realized that I had forgotten to cut some zinnias from my cutting garden and so returned to grab a few of those.  I grabbed these pics while there.
Sadly, I am very behind in mulching our flower beds and could use some help.  This is the second weekend in a row I meant to mulch and could not get to it. . . .

As for the upcoming week.  We've received a lot of rain which has caused our tomatoes to swell.  That's a good thing.  However, the upcoming heat wave will cause their skins to thicken.  If it's another week to 10 days before they are watered again, we'll be faced with two problems:  splitting tomatoes and black bottoms.  So, don't forget to water your tomatoes mid-week to keep the moisture level somewhat consistent.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thought for the Day

The smallest good deed is better than the grandest good intention.
 -- Duguet

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Year After the Drought, It’s Captain Underpants and Vandalism at the SACG

It’s almost hard to believe that this time last year we were wilting in extreme heat and a significant drought. We had hardy volunteers from the Franklin County Master Gardener program come to help us get ready for a garden tour last year.  There was not nearly that much activity this week.

After my niece’s driving lesson on Sunday, she and my nephew Robert gave me a stack of children’s books to share with the Stoddart neighborhood kids.  On Tuesday, I visited the Garden to weed, harvest berries and kale and prune flowers.  Fairy Garden RootBarb (who gardened with us last year) came by with her husband with three boxes of children’s books to share with the Stoddart Avenue kids.  Christen then came by and picked up a few books for herself, her brother and little sisters.  When no one else arrived, I started to drive off.  However, I ran into a large group of them near the Urban Connections ministry house.  They each took a stack of books.  Even the very little kids.  I had never heard of Captain Underpants before Sunday, but that series of books was by far the most popular of the books in my car and I had to ration them among the families.  I explained that they should bring them back to me after reading them to exchange for new books.

Sadly, just before I left for the Garden on Tuesday, I received a text from Cathy about how someone had torn down the northwest corner of our fence near her daughter’s bed.  When I arrived, the fence had been torn down, but no one had entered the Garden.  We reinforced the fence and wove in raspberry brambles to make this a painful exercise for anyone who tried it again.  I heard from one of the kids that the same boy who vandalized the Garden repeatedly last year had done this while visiting relatives in the neighborhood.  I hoped that he would not return.

As I mentioned last week, someone had been trying to break off our gate locks. They were unsuccessful, but they did render the locks unusable. So, I had to replace them.  However, my bolt cutter was not large enough to cut off the front gate lock.  So, off to the Tool Library I went on Wednesday for a monster bolt cutter. 
I stopped back at the Garden briefly late on Friday  afternoon to work on the rain tank downspouts and pick some berries. Someone had  again messed with the top of the rain tank (which I actually screw shut to keep the kids out).  I also exchanged some books with some of the girls who had finished their Tuesday books and also provided books to Antoinette and her niece.  Antoinette agreed to come back the next morning to weed her garden.  The fence was still standing.

On Saturday morning, however, the northwest corner of the fence had been completely demolished.  Hope’s garden – with winter squash and cantaloupes --  had been trampled.  Neal’s corn had been stolen, shucked, broken in half and strewn about our back lawn and around the youth gardening area.  An onion had been pulled and discarded near the alley.  Green tomatoes had been pulled and tossed around the Garden. An entire row of Sabrina's carrots were taken (and presumably eaten).  Tomato stakes had been pulled out of the neighbor plot along the alley. When I ran into Cathy (who had a cupcake for me), she told me that that this vandal had also visited the UC ministry house and pulled 6 tomato plants out of the ground and left them there.  And, the rain tank lid had again been removed.  I am very, very angry.
No one was there to help me.  I found some old fence (that had been damaged by this same boy last year doing the same things), cut it down with bolt cutters that I luckily had in my trunk, drove in two new fence posts and strung new fence along the northwest corner. I also wove in a few raspberry canes.  In the meantime, I ended up with a three-inch gash in my leg from this process.  I got a tetnus shot in 2009 when I last injured myself at the Garden and hope it’s still good.   Until raspberries grow up into this area of the fence, I'm not sure that it will be that effective at keeping him out.

Antoinette came to weed her garden and confirmed that this vandal is the same boy who vandalized the Garden last year and used to live across from the Garden.  She denied participating in it and I hope that’s true because she was banned from the Garden for three months last year for similar behavior. She showed me how he vandalized her garden, too.  We tried to replant one of her bean plants that he pulled out of the ground.  I helped her find the onion to take home.  She said that he and his sister got in trouble for this already, got a “whooping” and were sent home.   That’s just the beginning as far as I am concerned.  I sent her home with a large green tomato from my plot for her pregnant sister.

I brought the monster bolt cutter from the Tool Library, but I’m too puny to cut the lock off.  Luckily, Rose found her son-in-law, our former gardener, Isaias, who was able to cut the lock off for me.

Neal came by and was quite distressed at the theft of some of his corn.   However, he now has pole beans popping up and his cucumbers are in danger of taking over the entire middle patch.   He even gave me one to pickle.  I showed him various vegetables growing in mine and the food pantry plots and encouraged him to get a larger plot next year to expand his garden.  He is eagerly waiting for his tomatoes to turn red.  Neal planned to return later in the afternoon with his visiting son to show off his plot.

Our squash plants are particularly enormous this year.  So far – knock on wood – I’ve only seen one squash bug and found only one batch of squash bug eggs.  I’m planning to burn them out with a propane torch this year, but I didn’t need to use it yesterday.  I harvested for the food pantry, but was running so late and was so frustrated that I forgot to harvest the beans from the food pantry plot.  So, I’ll have to try and return today.  As I was, I had to return on Saturday afternoon to add a second screw to the top of the rain tank and the downspout.

Also, I ran into Veronica Anthony for the first time in a long while.  We’re both still waiting for Orlando to clean the gutter because almost no water is draining into our rain tank.  It is supposed to stop raining within the next week.  This always makes me nervous.  She’s trying to line up tenants for her building or she will have to sell it.  She also discussed putting a fence around the back yard.  She seemed very discouraged.  However, she thought that Orlando was finally cleaning out the raised Garden beds behind their building.  I still have a few tomato seedlings, some sweet potato seedlings and lots and lots of basil seedlings.  That seemed to cheer her up.   She's been busy working on establishing two Christian book libraries at area prisons.  We cannot afford to lose access to her gutters or there will be no SACG.

As I was packing up to leave, Block Watch Barb drove by and waved.  Probably on her way to the monthly block watch meeting . . . .
It was not just the Garden which frustrated me this week.  I picked tart cherries at Lynds this week.  What a bonanza at $2/pound.  I only picked 6.5 pounds, but wish I had picked twice that many.  I canned 3-1/2 pints and then made a red, white and blue cobbler for Independence Day with the cherries, black raspberries and whipped cream.  Yummy.  However, my car got stuck in the mud at Lynds.  Really, really stuck.  Luckily, four women (and no men) helped me to push the car out.  However, the undercarriage is caked in mud and the tires threw mud everywhere.  Including inside.  Even two car washes has not entirely removed the mud from the exterior (roof, sides, etc.) of my car.  Groan. Gardening is dirty work.

Well, the rest of the weekend is being spent cooking, pickling, freezing and canning.