Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer’s Graceful Entrance

This afternoon's berries waiting to be picked
It’s berry time at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  I’ve personally picked 12 pints of black raspberries in the past week and have the scarred arms and hands to prove it.  I’m not alone. Neal also comes by daily to harvest berries and Rayna is as excited about them as me (especially since she and her mother are the founders of our wonderful annual harvests by donating our first 9 bushes in 2009).  While I freeze mine for pies and cobblers, Rayna makes brandy and Neal eats his as snacks and over ice cream.  We blissfully received well over an inch of rain in the past week, and so most of our activities this week have focused on planting, weeding and harvesting. 
Yet more berries from this afternoon

Both of our WEP volunteers – Chris and Jason – came on Wednesday to help us out.  Jason focused on weeding the area along the alley, while Chris made a huge dent in taming the overgrown lot across the street.  Barb and Frank were so thrilled with his work that they wanted to make it easier and more convenient for him to volunteer by opening up other possible shifts (rather than simply relying on my availability).   Some neighbor girls stopped by to tend their plots and water their melons.  We had planned to harvest berries, too, but it began raining more than an hour earlier than anticipated.   Lea and Zion also got caught at the Garden during the rain, so I dropped them to their home.   I returned the next morning to harvest the berries after the night’s rain storm. 

Sadly, Chris discovered on Wednesday evening that someone has been stealing water from our cisterns again.  Despite all of the rain we’ve received, our tall cistern was empty.  So, the bibb locks are back on.

All of the rain has really caused the weeds to explode, so I returned Friday morning to weed my plot, prune spent daisies, and, again, harvest berries.  Then, on Friday evening, Charlie, Susan and I attended a lovely garden party for local community gardeners at the Community Garden campus at Franklin Park Conservatory.  There had been rain a couple of hours before the party, but then the clouds parted and a beautiful evening was had by all.  I was especially fond of the pesto pizza, but also enjoyed the salad and fruit cobbler.    

Will the City finish this project in 2014?  Stay tuned.
I saw and chatted with Trae from the Bexley Community Garden, Margaret Ann from Four Seasons City Farm, and Derek from Helping Hands Community Garden.  Trae and I joked about how much we had learned.  For instance, it's not necessary to plant every seed in a seed package.   I also saw Lindsay from Vineyard Church’s new pantry garden and Michael from Kossuth Street Community Garden. Of course, I ran into Bill Dawson who related how he is attempting to help Barb and Frank convince the City to finish the sidewalk improvement project by putting down some top soil and grass seed along the sidewalk.  I also was able to chat with Bill from GreenScapes, who as always, asked me what else he could donate to help us.  A picnic table perhaps?  I pointed out Charlie helped me to pick up the landscaping stones the GreenScapes donated to us in 2012 and laid our landscaping edging for our front flower bed.  It was nice strolling around the FPC grounds to see how their vegetables and other edibles are holding up in all of this rain.  I noticed that they also had an abundance of black raspberries.

I started extra early on Saturday because the earlier forecast called for heat.    Sadly, neither of our two WEP volunteers showed up or called off.  Sigh.   So much for getting the lawn mowed and more weeds pulled.     Neighbor Rose stopped by to chat in the morning and neighbor landlord Rick stopped by to chat as well.  There have been sighting of children eating our berries with the tell-tale signs of berry juice on their hands, lips and cheeks.  That’s what the berries are for.
I spread some Epsom salt, tied up my tomatoes and the tomatoes in the food pantry plot, pruned some flowers, created a terrace for the potatoes in the food pantry plot (to keep them from collapsing on a row of collard greens), pulled spent volunteer strawberry plants and replaced them with pole beans and sweet potatoes and pulled (and sometimes bagged) overgrown brambles before harvesting for our weekly food pantry donation.  I also harvested some produce (peas, kale, spinach and berries) from Mari’s plot to make a one-and-only home delivery to welcome her back from the hospital and rehab.  (I got to the food pantry with only 10 minutes to spare and aggressively hawked our berries and lettuce to the remaining clients so that they would not have to go into the refrigerator for the weekend).  

Susan stopped by to get an extra volunteer assignment for tomorrow and donate some romaine lettuce.  Rayna came to weed her plot, mulch her tomatoes, donate pounds and pounds of beautiful curly lettuce and pick berries.  Rayna also helped me to plug a gap in our fence caused by the near-death of two of our rose bushes from the polar vortex.  Neal came by to weed and pick berries.  He reported that someone stopped by and cleaned out the neighbor plot.  Oops.  They took the entire broccoli plant thinking it was  a collard green.  Oh well. 

Celess also came by to weed, transplant kale and, yes, pick berries.    This is Celess’ first garden and she has taken to it like a duck to water, although she got some bad advice at some garden centers about ornamental kale.   She wanted to join us last year, but waited too long to get a plot.  This year, she made a point of contacting me early.   I gave her some kale seedlings to put in her plot for her kale smoothies (with the hope that she'll share some recipes since I'm a newbie to the kale smoothie craze).
Everyone keeps mentioning how good everything looks this year.  That’s because we don’t have any slackers this year and we’ve had a lot of help from our WEP volunteers (when they show up).   We always have a couple of gardeners every year who took on more than they can hoe, but not this year.   (Knock on wood).

The weather was perfect on Saturday and everything is growing very well.  There were even crickets chirping last night. A graceful end to the first day of Summer.  

Editor's Note:  I returned on Sunday afternoon to get more berries (for me and for Faith Mission) and some more lettuce from Susan (who was calling it an afternoon after making some progress in pruning our dying daisies).  As I was pulling away, I noticed that someone sneakily filled our Free Little Library with books when I wasn't looking and I even think I saw a dictionary.  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  Tears in my eyes there were.    This is the third time this year we've been blessed with an anonymous donation.  

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