Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Being Berry Grapeful

Krystle's pie
We are into our third week of this year’s black raspberry season and most of us are berry grateful for their prolific harvest.  Some of the boys, however, asked me when I was going to start growing grapes.  Sigh.  I sent around information to our gardeners about how nutritious the berries were, according to Oregon State
University.  I also reported that they were selling for $6/pint at the Bexley Farmer’s Market.  (When I suggested to a lady there that she could pick them for free at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden just a half mile to the west, she gave me a withering look that suggested I was being wildly inappropriate either in steering her away from a hard-working farmer or in suggesting that she pick her own berries, or both).  Cousin Krystle was so appreciative of the berries that she baked a pie, texted me this picture and personally delivered a piece to me while I was working at the Garden on Friday morning – blowing my diet.   

Even though she personally does not care for our berries, Cathy brought her children over to pick berries on Wednesday, and was caught in the act by a Dispatch photographer.  
Cathy's pic of their harvest
Cathy baked muffins with them and delivered a couple to Frank and Barb (who let her pick berries from their plot), but did NOT provide a muffin to me.  Sniff sniff.   When I left last night (after picking 1.5 pints of berries from my plot in 45 minutes), I directed the neighborhood kids to immediately return with bowls to pick berries from outside our fence so that their grandmothers could bake them pies for the upcoming holiday.  
Shriveled, unpicked berries
It’s important to pick berries every day because they do not live long on the bushes.  After a day or so, they shrivel up  -- almost like raisons (but not so good).  Picking berries is very time consuming because they are spread out on the bushes, which have painful thorns.  All of us can identify with how hard migrant farm workers work to bring us affordable food in area groceries.   We had quite a discussion a couple of weeks ago about the need for some sort of guest worker program so that they are not criminalized for doing hard work that no one else will do for similar wages.  Once our berries have finished their season, I am looking forward to spending slightly less time each week at the Garden.  The berry harvest adds an hour each visit because they are so time consuming to pick.
I’m also grateful in 2014 for the help of our Work Experience Program (WEP) volunteer, Jason.  When he comes, Jason is extremely helpful.  He always spends an hour every day picking berries for our weekly food pantry harvest.  As a result, our annual berry donation has more than tripled this year over last year.  He also helps to weed the paths, weed along the alley, weed the outer fence line, mow our lawn, weed Mari’s plot and clean overgrown brush from the vacant lot across the street.   He was assigned to us by the Franklin County office of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services via the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. 
It is a condition of his SNAP (food stamp) benefits that he work or volunteer at least 24 hours/month.  JFS also provides job readiness training to SNAP recipients.   Because of all of his help, I have been able to spend more time taking care of our flower beds, the food pantry plots, and my own garden plot.     I actually found time this year to harvest bachelor button seeds and prune overgrown brambles. Yoo hoo! 

On top of all of this, I was able to mulch a lot of the plots this week with our donated straw.  The girls have begun harvesting their peas and lettuce.  We have received a freakish amount of rain (well over an inch every week in June) and so the weeds have been out of control.   As neighbor Tim mentioned, it’s a jungle in there.  I’m not complaining; I prefer weeding to lugging water from our cisterns.   I also planted some black-eyed susans and marigold bushes in our flower beds to replace our fading daisies.   Our coneflowers, day lilies and bee balm flowers are in full bloom at present.
On Thursday, I also finally got around to having our pruning shears sharpened.  Sharpening on Site visits the Bexley Farmer's Market the fourth Thursday of every month, so I took my and the SACG tools there this month to get cleaned up and sharpened.  She sharpened five tools for $20 and gave me some tips about how to get our shears repaired (or replaced) for free. 
Distribution of Donations
I’m finally glad that I can return to wearing regular t-shirts at the Garden this week.  My 30th high school reunion was last weekend.  I bought a pretty sleeveless dress at the end of May to wear.  However, I had my usual farmer’s tan – white shoulders and very dark arms.  So, I’ve had to go sleeveless in June (which I think makes me look very butch for an old woman with flabby arms) in order to even out my tan.  Of course, at the last minute, I changed plans and wore a more casual outfit that covered my shoulders.  All my other female classmates dressed up.  Sigh.    I also washed my car on Friday night, which I think caused it to rain over an inch in the next 24 hours. 

Finally, we finished June with our food pantry harvests slightly below last year.  I attribute that to the fact that it’s been cooler this year (causing us to get a latter start) and the fact that collectively, we’ve grown less lettuce this year than last year and I didn't plant turnips this year.  However, I am optimistic that we will not only catch up to last year, but surpass it.

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