Saturday, August 31, 2013

Making Progress, But Whimping Out

It's brutally humid out there.  After filling our new free little library last night, I had planned this morning to hoe, water, start planting fall crops, and then harvest.  I even turned down two offers of OSU football tickets to get this done.  However, it rained a quarter inch last night, which made it too messy to hoe or plant.  When I finally arrived at 9 a.m. this morning, it was already pretty humid.   By noon, I was ready to call it a day.  There was no watering, hoeing or planting this morning.  But, I was responsible enough to harvest.  I was also able to fill two bags of greens for a neighbor family.  None of the other gardeners stopped by.

I've attached some charts of where we are on our food pantry donations.  As you can see from the top chart, this year we are likely to exceed our record level of donations from last year.   We are also doing better this year on squash, but not so much on tomatoes or peppers as in prior years.  We still have some time.  And, the LSS Choice Food Pantry still gets most of our donated produce.

When I arrived this morning, I put some more -- adult-- books in the library.  I had also printed out some book markers from the free little library website and put in a sign telling neighbors to take a book; leave a book.   A neighbor fellow stopped by on his bike and took two books on gardening and landscaping.  He likes DIY books.  Duly noted.

Cathy came by after a volunteer meeting at Urban Connections.  She's getting ready for next week's Children's Parade.   She put some more of our children's books in the library.

I found the praying mantis in my plot (which was MIA last week while I focused on the garden spider).  It was hanging out on the ground near the tomatoes.    It was very, very pregnant.   I almost stepped on it.   I hope it lays its eggs -- or whatever praying mantises do -- near the fence and not my tomato trellises because I will be ripping out the trellises at the end of the season and the fence will be safer.   I had to remind myself to watch where I stepped after that.  It declined the assistance of my hand to boost it higher up.   For her part, the garden spider now has her web about two feet west of where she has been the last month.    She's bigger, too.

One of our gardeners is about to get booted.  She hasn't weeded her plot in ages and the weeds are up to my chest.   She also hasn't harvested any of her food.  What can I say?  She's a college student with two jobs and probably lots of beaus.    I told the large group of new kids who moved into the neighborhood after we broke ground that they could share her plot if they helped to hoe it.    They've been pestering me all summer and I need some place to direct all of their energy.  We had a slew of new kids move in right across the street just this week.  I have no idea what their names are yet, but they watered up a storm on Friday night. 

Well, hopefully I will get to planting our fall crops next weekend.  I've already started some cabbage and bok choy seedlings.  I need to get them in the ground very soon.  Our collard greens are becoming infested with aphids, so I need to start another row of that, too.

Check out how much better the lot at the corner of Cherry and Morrison looks after the guys finished mowing it last week.

Finally, I included another picture of Tyrese's shirt from Friday because I liked it.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The SACG Welcomes the Cutest Free Little Library for the Cutest Kids in Columbus

In addition to spreading the joy of gardening to the next generation, the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden has also attempted this year to educate and entertain the neighborhood kids when the Garden is not open.  Throughout the month of July, the SACG held a book drive among current and former gardeners, the Garden Manager’s niece and nephew, and others.  When we quickly ran out of books we were delighted to receive three boxes of free books from Half Price Books (which also donated books to Urban Connections).   After all, there is not a library within easy walking distance for the kids.

You may have noticed the kids hanging out in the trunk of the Garden Manager’s car from time to time.   That’s where the books are.  Or were.

Bexley accountant and wood worker extraordinaire Jim Zeier was persuaded with very little effort to build the SACG a Free Little Library to benefit the Stoddart Avenue neighborhood.  I was walking from Joe and Betty's to Doug & Suzy's and there was Jim working on building a closet organizer for his daughter.  I decided to grab the opportunity to ask him.  He asked for some dimensions or a picture to work from.  Little did he know that I had already printed plans from the Free Little Library website, printed a copy of our article about our book drive and threw in a copy of the Dispatch editorial for good measure.  Poor guy never stood a chance. 

Kossuth Street CG's Library
You may have seen these cute little homemade neighborhood libraries mentioned on the national news from time to time.  There are similar libraries in German Village and Clintonville.   We’ve included a picture of one from the Kossuth Street Community Garden that they installed last Fall.  (Michael Doody was pushing me to do likewise and you can see he succeeded).   And I've added a picture of the Clintonville library celebrating Switzerland's birthday.

Clintonville' Swiss Model #178
 I knew Jim had a great wood shop, but I had no idea how talented he was.  Since even before we broke ground in 2009, Jim has cut down our donated lumber into tomato and fence stakes.  However, I’ve recently learned that he also turns wood stumps into beautiful bowls and vases.  He has really been slumming it by helping the SACG out over the years.    

St. Jim
Jim donated most of the materials for our little library, but the cedar on the roof was donated by Trudeau Lumber (from wood left over after building raised beds for the kids at the SACG and at the Ohio Avenue Elementary School).  SACG Gardener Frank Carter supplied the post, dug the hole and installed the library today at the corner of Stoddart and Cherry.    I tried to fill it with children’s and gardening books, but I ran out!  We could really use some children’s dictionaries.

Take a book that interests you, then return the book when you’re finished so that someone else can read it, too.   Or leave a book that you’ve already read.  (Please do not add anything too racy that would make the Garden Manager’s grandmother blush in her grave). 

Wouldn’t it be great for Stoddart Avenue to be known for all of the brainy kids who live and play here?    Be a good example, and read a book while you’re sitting on your front porch.  You might enjoy it yourself.

PICK IT UP!  I also picked up the supplies today from Keep Columbus Beautiful for the next week’s litter pick up.  Remember, starting at 9:30 on Saturday, September 7, 2013 and for a little over an hour, we will be picking up litter in the Stoddart Avenue neighborhood.  I will bring some refreshments and hope that you will contribute to keeping the blood sugar up of our hardworking volunteers.

THEFTS.  Remember the picture of this beautiful cabbage from last week?  Well.  Someone broke down the fence down next to our front gate and stole this cabbage.  AND this miscreant also stole five bags of ripe tomatoes from Charlie’s plot.  AND stole a bunch of kale from my plot.  And who knows what else.  The nerve. 

Well, when I went over tonight to finish distributing neighborhood newsletters and to fill the new little library with books, a bunch of neighborhood kids descended upon me.   A few girls helped me distribute newsletters on Wednesday, but we have so many new neighbors that I ran out.  When I returned tonight to finish the street, more girls helped me.  Then about 10 kids helped water various plots and our yellowing peach trees.   Tyrese – who’s in the picture – donated all of his broccoli and many of his tomatoes to LSS’s food pantry.  Good kid.

Well, off to water my own house plants.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Well Done is Better Than Well Said

At least that’s what old Ben Franklin used to say.  Although I almost entitled this, Beware Where You Put Your Hands.  As you can, see, I have a very large garden spider – called an argiope – in my tomato patch.  The female weaves a circular web, which she eats every night and re-spins every morning.  The smaller male lives on the outer edges and weaves the zig-zag pattern you see.     This spider has gotten larger every week and has been there over a month.  I haven’t seen the praying mantis – which used to live nearby -- in a few weeks.  I hope he didn’t fall prey to her.   She apparently eats anything that might nibble on my vegetables (including aphids), so I try to be very accommodating.  These spiders are quite common. They tend to live in the same place all summer.  They lay their eggs and the babies live in the cocoon over the winter.  They are supposed to be harmless to humans, but I do not intend to test that.   I give her a very wide birth.

I haven’t written in a few weeks (and it hasn’t rained in my absence either.  So, every trip to the Garden involves building my biceps as I lug hundreds of pounds of water from the tank to the Garden to water everything).  Last week was my grandfather’s 98th birthday, so I went home for the large family annual birthday celebration.  He has been many things in his life, including a veteran and a farmer.  Since shortly after this last Father’s Day, however, he is being unwillingly confined to an assisted living facility since he sometimes gets confused and forgets where he is or who anyone else is, etc.   It was very depressing dropping him off because he did not want to stay.    We’re trying to figure out a way that his cat can live with him without him having to keep his door shut all the time (to keep her in).  She’s going crazy without him. This annual reunion  is also my chance to touch base with the other gardeners from my younger life.  Last year, while we were suffering from the drought, my Uncle Marshall’s garden was kicking butt.  It’s located right over an underground stream and could not have been more productive.  This year, however, with our overabundance of rain, it’s basically a flooded mess and he’s had to buy produce from the Amish.   He’s so distraught.  It’s so unfair.  Well, now he knows. He’s trying to find a good recipe for seriously spicy mustard pickles.  I cannot imagine.

After my last post, the kids came by on Monday and we settled that since DeShaun had been tending the boys’ plot, he got to decide who got what.  The kids enjoyed the leftover chocolate zucchini cupcakes, but then a brother stole his sister’s cupcake and I had to kick him out and then they pretty much all left.  But not before they all received a cucumber, dill heads and instructions on how to make their own dill pickles when they got home.  And, DeShaun and Shae picked and shucked as many black beans from their plots as they could so that they could go home and make black bean soup.  They looked at me like I was from outer space when I suggested that they dry the beans to use later (like I do).    I thought planting black beans had been a mistake, but they have been more excited about them than anything else (except watermelon).  DeShaun came back this morning, rejected his tomatoes and took home another handful of bean pods and (what I believe to be) an under-ripe cantaloupe from this plot.  He didn’t want it to get any bigger, he said.  His ripe cantaloupe exploded last week from neglect.

Sabrina has been an absolute god-send this summer.  She’s worked very hard to help me keep the Garden looking spiffy and the time she has spent watering and weeding the food pantry plot has freed me up to take care of other maintenance issues.  She is, however, very excited that this will be her last week of chores and she can focus more on her own plot and her senior year in college.  Her husband Tom cleaned out their second plot of their sad corn crop and planted their Fall crops.  This afternoon, they were off to Utica to get peaches, apples and tomatoes (and probably ice cream). When I was gone last week, she gave all of the produce she harvested for herself to a passerby who stopped by and asked for food.   

Last June, I transplanted some thinned cabbage seedlings from my plot to the second food pantry plot.  They have done just beautifully.  They’re so gorgeous, I’ve almost hated to pick them.  I picked a few of them this morning, as well as some melons.  The kids, as usual, have not been very good about harvesting their produce and so this morning I picked a bunch of it for Faith Mission. 
Since DeShaun’s sister, Tamara, has pretty much abandoned her plot and refused to weed or water it, I’ve pretty much given it to one of the new girls who comes to the Garden regularly and volunteers to help.  She and another little boy have been pestering me all summer about getting a plot.  She’s very responsible, so last week, we pulled the spent plants and planted some lettuce, beets, carrots, spinach and turnips.  We’ll add collard greens pretty soon.  She’s already watered it three times. 

Today, I finally sucked it up and harvested the rest of the turnips, beets and carrots from the food pantry plot so that I can plant fall crops over the long weekend next week.  I probably waited too long for the turnips, but their greens are still good.  The beets were very cute. The carrots were a mixed bag.   I pulled out most of the spent squash plants from the second food pantry plot, harvested the onions and weeded it to make room for planting next weekend, too.  I put some extra basil plants in there on Wednesday.  And -- wait for it -- I am still harvesting zucchini.  I pulled a sloppy plant last week, but still have four plants left producing zucchini every week.    It's a miracle.

I’ve been cooking putting up food like a fiend.  Thursday it was taco sauce, last night it was rancheros sauce and tomorrow it will be smoked tomato and jalapeno coyote sauce.  I also made some kimchi and  very spicy asian pickles and have three more cucumbers to motivate me.  

I ran really late again today and so took our 61 pound harvest to Faith Mission around 3:30.  I had forgotten where it moved and had to drive around a bit until I found the downtown Hill’s Market.  Then, I remembered.    As I was packing up from the Garden, a truck pulled over and the driver asked me to sell him tomatoes.  I demurred because they were going to Faith Mission, but then I started to reconsider.  However, he said he didn’t just want to buy a just a few and I didn’t want to divert so many tomatoes to a fundraising activity.  I might have to re-think my idealism if the opportunity presents itself again.
Finally, the abandoned duplex at the corner of Morrison and Cherry has looked awful all summer. Cathy has pestered the City's 311 line repeatedly to no avail.  This is where the murderers hid before the first shooting at the Garden in August 2010.  At that point, the City  came in and cleaned up the lot.  This summer, it has gotten so bad that you could not drive on Cherry without the weeds scratching your car.  You couldn’t walk in the alley at the same time as a car. Cathy had enough and trimmed the alley weeds back for self-preservation (since she travels that way repeatedly every day on her way to Urban Connections and has to look at this overgrown lot as it is pretty much across from her own home).  FINALLY, this morning, a truck and crew stopped by to start cleaning up the lot.  They didn’t finish, but anything is an improvement.  I thanked them and they stopped by for some tomatoes.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

SACG Celebrates Local Foods Week with Local Matters and Yay Bikes!

Bikers turning onto Stoddart Avenue
As faithful readers know, today the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden hosted visitors who participated in a bicycle tour of community gardens on the near south and east side of Columbus organized by Local Matters and Yay Bikes! Local Matters sponsors local foods week every year to promote the idea that we should all be eating as much food as we can from local farmers and our backyards.  Today’s bicycle tour was a kick-off event for Local Foods Week (for those of you who missed Tom’s gardening segment on NBC4 this morning).  

Yay Bikes! is a non-profit that promotes bicycling for alternative transportation in Central Ohio.  (I probably should have mentioned while they were here that I bike quite a bit in Bexley, which is an extremely bike-friendly community.  I’m the old lady with a basket on her bike that rides to the Library and Kroger’s and am a regular fixture on the Alum Creek Trail.  SACG Gardener Charlie is also an avid biker and volunteers at the Bike Co-Op on 5th Avenue). 

Cathy and I were busy baking yesterday.  She was much busier than me because she was baking hundreds of cupcakes for a wedding near Canton today.  She used the strawberries we picked in June at Hann’s Farm and makes her own frosting from scratch.  She also has all the proper tools and the neatest looking cupcake storage containers you’ve ever seen.  You’d think she was a professional baker, or something.  My cupcakes and muffins definitely look homemade.  I made the beet red velvet chocolate cupcakes I’ve blogged about before and Martha Stewart’s chocolate zucchini muffins (which taste better than they sound).  I used less butter than Martha, but I don’t think I baked them long enough because they all fell flat after being removed from the oven.    One of these days . . .

Before coming to the Garden I had to stop by the bank to get change for the bake sale.  When I arrived, Sabrina was already at the SACG weeding her own plot and she helped me to unload my car and get set up.  She harvested quite a few cucumbers, which she plans to pickle.  I then turned to weeding and weeding and weeding and pruning the back rose bushes. By 10:30, the bikers still had not arrived, so Sabrina bid me adieu and I started harvesting green beans.   
While I was picking my pole beans, I came across a praying mantis.  I had seen him in a different part of my plot a few days ago.  Then, I initially focused on his eyes and almost killed him in mistaking him for a grasshopper.  When I realized what he was, I sent him on his way.  Today, he was in my pole beans and he stayed put while I found my camera and took some pictures.   We love mantises because they eat pesky bugs that eat our vegetables before we do.  This is the first mantis I have seen at the SACG and I hope that s/he lays lots and lots of eggs.

The bikers were due around 11:15 and I kept looking down Main Street wondering where they were.  They finally showed up around 11:45.  I thought that the organizers might be offended by our bake sale, but they were thrilled.  The beets and zucchini used in our baked goods had been raised at the SACG.  The strawberries were from a local farm that we visited as a SACG field trip.   
Everyone (who had been biking since 9 am) was hungry and glad to have free water to refill their bottles.   I had been told to expect about 30 riders, but I think there were more than that.  They had been allocated 15 minutes at each garden, so I let them wonder around, answered questions and sold cupcakes.  I could have told stories all morning, but I knew that Richard (at the next garden, Growing Hearts and Hands on Oak Street) had to be wondering where they were.  So, I waved farewell as their peloton biked down Stoddart Avenue’s brick pavement.

Bikers leaving down Stoddart Ave
Neal had arrived during the hubbabaloo.  We discussed a few of his questions about next steps with his plot and then turned to harvesting and pulling dead squash plants out of the Garden. Seeing that no one dropped dead from eating our cupcakes, some neighbors also stopped by to buy some.  I sold them to the kids at half-price (because I have no backbone).   I picked almost 30 pounds of food for the food pantry.  By now, it was getting late and I had to kick the kids out so that I could work.  As it was, I didn’t leave the Garden until after 2 and made it to the food pantry about 20 minutes before it closed for the weekend.  They kept commenting on all the tomatoes – particularly the beefstakes.

Next week, we’ll be focusing on harvesting potatoes and planting our Fall season crops.  Be there or be square.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

These Shoes Were Made for Walking By Bean Freaks

There are four reasons for this mid-week post by the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  First, we are having a little mini-fundraiser this week.  Back by popular demand are our fairy garden baby shoe planters at $8/pair.   These cute baby shoes were worn by real babies, including our own Zephyr, and are filled with hardy perennials that will come back year after year with minimal care (i.e., they will need sun and water from time to time).   I have neglected the plants badly this summer on my patio and you can see that they are still alive.  Grandparent’s Day is still more than a month away, but there’s no time like this Saturday morning to stop by the SACG and pick up a pair for yourself and your grandmothers.

We will also be having a bake sale this Saturday morning of beet red velvet cupcakes and zucchini bread cupcakes at 50 cents each. The beets and zucchini used in the cupcakes were, of course, grown at the SACG.   Cathy has also made a couple dozen strawberry cupcakes from the strawberries we picked at Hann's Farm in June.

To kick off Local Foods Week, Local Matters is co-hosting an Urban Garden bike tour (with Yay Bikes!) on Saturday morning.   They will be starting at 9 a.m. at the new raised bed Community Garden behind the Aetna Building on Parsons Avenue, and will pop by Ganther’s Place CG, Kossuth Street CG, the SACG and Growing Hearts and Hands CG, -- as well as some backyard gardens supported by Growing Matters -- before stopping for lunch at the new Near East Side Cooperative Market.  

This is the second official year for the Local Matters/Yay Bikes! community garden bike tour.  We anticipate them stopping by the SACG between 11 and 11:30.   We will have free water refills for any bikers who stop by the SACG on Saturday morning.   This is a fundraiser for Yay Bikes! and Local Matters, and all of the registration fees are being divided between those organizations, not with the SACG or other community gardens being visited. (They did, after all, organize it and promote it among their members).

(BTW, Trish has recently left Local Matters to focus full time on growing food and otherwise working at the Crest pub in Clintonville.  Good luck Trish!  And good luck to Jesse Hickman, who is trying to fill her large Growing Matters gardening gloves for the rest of the growing season:-)

To get ready for the bike tour, the SACG gardeners have been busily weeding their plots and tidying up the Garden in general.  I’ve even pruned back some of the sunflowers to make it easier to walk through the garden paths unmolested.  Indeed, we would have pulled out some of our diseased squash plants last weekend to make room for planting our Fall crops, but we didn’t want to leave so many empty spaces.  Barb and Frank have also been busying tidying up the Block Watch lot across the street.  On Sunday, Frank showed me a tree wrench.  It looks like a giant wrench (i.e., as tall as me), but you use it to wrench small tree stumps out of the ground.  Because they have been cutting down the weed trees across the street, they have lots of these small tree stumps to wrench out.  Of course, they’d appreciate some help if you have time . . . .

Finally, I’ve been having fun over the past 10 days harvesting my dried bean crop.  I didn’t plant as many rows this year, which I’m now starting to regret.   I always plant two rows of black beans, but this year, I only planted one (and, IMHO, planted way too much kale).  (Each 10-foot row of bush beans will get you about a cup of dried beans).   My half-row of red peanut beans was, as usual, very productive because it is a half-runner plant (i.e., twice as tall and twice as productive as a regular bush bean plant).  This was my first year for the heirloom black-and-white speckled bean called Vasqueros a/k/a orca beans a/k/a black calypso beans.  Aren’t they pretty?  They were a gift from Mary in Louisville.  I’m definitely going to have to plant two rows of these next year.  Otherwise, they are only available by mail order.   I could probably part with a few of these seeds to interested gardeners (who want to plant a row next year) for a generous donation to the SACG . . . . .   My pole beans are also starting to produce, which makes me happy, too.

Unless it rains a lot this afternoon (which is not expected), I’ll be at the SACG tonight to water.  We always appreciate help . . . . .

[Editor's Note:  It's clear that I underestimated the ability of a good summer storm.  At 6:12, it's been raining steadily for almost two hours now.  Another chore checked off the list . . . ]

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Bugs and Other Urchins

This week at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden was notable for our interactions with ants, worms, bugs, mildew and other urchins.  There was also a water fight and music.

To start with, for the first time ever, a couple of plants were eaten almost to oblivion by tomato hornworms.  I had initially attributed the damage to vandalism, but then noticed overnight damage to the tomato plant next to my patio.  Upon closer examination, I found a five-inch caterpillar (that looks remarkably like the hookah-smoking caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland) resting upside down on a stem (where it had been feasting on the one and only tomato on that plant).  I’ve managed to avoid this problem in the past because I typically plant basil plants between tomatoes (and this deters these pests).   Not this year.   I ran to my garage to find a spray that had been there since I bought the house in 1998.  It did nothing.  I generously sprinkled sevin.  That provoked a reaction, but all it did was encourage the caterpillar to leave the plant and start crawling to the fence.   So, I grabbed a couple tablespoons of Neem oil and dishwashing soap, mixed it with 32 ounces of water in a spray bottle and attacked the caterpillar.  It suffered horribly before ultimately imploding and melting. (Notice the frass on the picture above on the leaf just below the caterpillar.  This is often how you can best find them because their coloring allows them to blend into the plant).

I took my spray bottle to the SACG and hunted caterpillar, but only found one (and it was not the giant tomato hornworm).  I killed it anyway because it was feasting on fennel.  I then turned to hunting squash bugs and their eggs.  Sabrina and I had found quite a few on Friday – particularly in the boys’ plot.  There were several mating couples (a sight you cannot un-see no matter how much you try) that we squashed.  Many leaves were torn off because of the number and central location of seeds which were laid.  I’ve attached a picture with five clusters of eggs.  (Can you find them all?)   Most leaves only have one cluster that you can tear off without killing or removing the entire leaf.  We may have to start pulling all of the summer squash plants out, but we’re trying to save the winter squash plants as long as we can.  When Cassie came on Saturday, we found many squash bug eggs in her plot on her spaghetti and other winter squash plants.  I found a few more egg clusters on the zucchini leaves in my plot along with about five adults.  My neem oil concoction came in very handy, then, because it kills adults and nymphs.  Sabrina has even found egg clusters on her corn stalks – those pesky buggers.

On Thursday, I finally began the process of mulching our flower beds.  I picked up one bag of the mulch that had become an ants’ nest.  I didn’t notice the ant attack until there were hundreds all over my legs, into my socks and up into my shorts.   Then, almost in unison, they began biting me all over my legs and feet.  I really began dancing then and had to squash them where they were.  Of course, that’s when Stoddart neighbor and former SACG gardener, Jeannie, decided to stop by.    I’m trying to maintain my dignity while taking off my shoes, shaking my socks, squashing and slapping ants and examining the cuffs on my shorts.  Quite a picture.  She advised me to not wear those clothes back into my house.  I didn’t.   However, after chatting with her about some vandalism on her car and neighborhood kids, I continued mulching until sundown.   There are welts all over my legs (particularly my upper thigh), so I won’t be wearing shorts again for a while.

On Wednesday morning, I walked over to the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry to donate some zucchini and delicatta squash.  While there, I ran into Marge and the Shady Lane Garden leader (near Hamilton and Livingston).  Marge liberated my zucchini to make zucchini bread for their open house on Saturday.  She showed me their new sprinkler system and also gave me children’s books to take back to the SACG.  She gets books donated to her every week by the Christ the King church members.  
Marge also told me about her bane this year: squirrels.  They’ve eaten half of her tomatoes and all of her peaches.  (I share her pain; the neighborhood kids ate all of our peaches before they even ripened.  Squirrels also eat about half of the tomatoes in my backyard).  Of course, we have no squirrels at the SACG, so I suggested that she start trapping them.  That did not seem to appeal to her.   I took the other gardener back to my house for tomato, basil and sweet potato seedlings and then over to the SACG for some vegetable seeds.  He admired our raspberry hedge and I encouraged him to return to dig up some seedlings that are growing around where our fence used to be.  The bane of his garden is deer.

On Wednesday night, a few of us enjoyed a wonderful, free concert by ProMusica at Franklin Park Conservatory.   There had been a threat of rain, but we dodged it.  We sat immediately to the left of the orchestra.   The Conservatory is beautifully lit up at night with different colors.  In this picture, it was blue.   There is another free concert this Wednesday as well.

On Thursday, we held the second annual water shoot-out at the GC Corral.  Last year, former neighbor and gardener, Tevon, had attacked me with his high-powered water gun.  Little did he know that I own such a gun myself.  (I am, after all, the fun aunt).  I then defended myself adequately for the rest of the summer against similar sneak attacks.  So, earlier this week, Micayla challenged me to a water duel; I demurred until Thursday.  All of the kids were told to bring their own guns.  However, kids today apparently do not own water guns, which I think is un-American.   It’s a rite of passage to run around your own neighborhood avoiding water attacks from your friends and enemies.  Luckily, I had three “antique” water guns (with no pumping capacity) that I could loan.  Cathy, Hope and Ben came and inflicted much wet damage with spray bottles.  A new neighbor grandmother came by with a regular water bottle to just pour on the kids.  Everyone got wet, unless you were unarmed and called out “sanctuary.”  After we ran out of water and returned to Garden, a neighbor supplied a few kids with some water balloons, but they didn’t last long.  (I wish there had been more pictures of the battle, but I cannot take pictures while I'm shooting or running. And, I had forgotten to switch my camera exposure from night (when I was at the ProMusica Concert on Wednesday) to day.  The rest of the pictures are streaked with sunlight).

The kids have again almost cleaned me out of books.  I had to start rationing them and reminding them to return the books they already have before taking more.  It’s time for me to restock from the Urban Connections basement library.

The boys’ plot has become an interesting display of politics.  Four boys initially helped plant, but only DeShaun has somewhat regularly tended it.   He’s been sharing his produce with other kids.  Now, a few of the original boys have returned and want to share in the harvest.  DeShaun is not happy about this and I cannot blame him.   I’m sympathetic to DeShaun on this, but for this week, I let the other boys have a few tomatoes and one zucchini.  I’m not sure that this will continue since they still aren’t helping with the work . . .

Sabrina has continued her weed-pulling frenzy.  She came to the Garden almost daily and moved from the alley to the west fence.  She’s been digging out the roots of the pervasive morning glory weeds, while leaving raspberry seedlings.  Zephyr is not quite as excited to spend his time this way.  She keeps him entertained by announcing the discovery of the occasional centipede and letting Zephyr scare them away (to protect his mother) by screaming at them.

Because it was supposed to rain AGAIN on Saturday morning, I conducted our food pantry harvest on Friday, but finished too late to take it to LSS.  So, SVDP got it again.  We had 15 pounds of tomatoes, so that should make up for what the squirrels ate this week at the SVDP.  As they do at the LSS pantry, the clients waiting in line got excited when they saw the bags of collards and kale I brought. Two different Stoddart neighbors stopped by yesterday asking for greens, too.

Answer: 5 Clusters of Squash Bug Eggs Are Highlighted
Yesterday, I focused on harvesting beans and pruning strawberries.  Then, lo and behold, Rayna stopped by.  We haven’t seen her since opening day because she’s been busy getting her masters in special education.  However, she completed her last final exam on Friday and hopes to spend more time at the Garden on weekends. She misses having fresh food and wants her old plot back next year.  Of course, I gave her a work assignment:  planting flowers in our flower beds.  Lowe’s had large containers of black-eyed susans and coreopsis on sale for $3/each.

The rest of my weekend is being spent making and canning pasta sauces and pickles.  I only have 2 dozen of mason jars left and will have to buy more.  I already ran out of lids last week and had to stop at three places before finding them.  Newsflash:  Lowe’s is no longer selling mason jar supplies.  Neither is the Kroger’s on East Main Street.  I found an adequate supply at the Broad Street Kroger’s and imagine that Wal-Mart still has some, too.
Finally, we continue to struggle with our melon harvest.  We found a nice melon in Hope’s plot and I recommended picking it because the nearby tendrils were brown (and it looked brown on the outside).   However, it was not ripe.  Cassie had already picked two of hers before I could stop her yesterday.  I’m still waiting on the verdict.   I don’t even grow them because I never seem to get the timing right.