Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Gang’s Almost All Here

There was much activity at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden this week and it ain’t all good.  I also experienced some odd disappointment with my canning activities this week that I’ve decided to share.   Finally, I have some shopping tips.

First, we were delighted to unexpectedly receive over an inch of rain over Monday into Tuesday.  It hadn’t been predicted and I spent two hours on Saturday watering, but we’ll take it.    Because it rained so much, I was able to keep my time at the Garden on Wednesday pretty short with just harvesting and visiting with the kids.   The girls pointed out to me that Rayna's giant sunflower was swarmed with squash bugs.  Sooooooo grooooossseeee.   That's where they've been hiding this year.  Sadly, Rose and Ms. D told me that they have both seen raccoons in the area.  Great.
Shortly after the crack of dawn on Thursday, my phone rang as I was eating my breakfast.  That’s never a good sign and was brave of the caller because I’m rarely civil before 10.  Susan was driving by the Garden on her way to work and noticed that the front gate had been damaged.  When she stopped for a closer look, she discovered that the left side of the lattice I had installed about 10 days ago had been ripped from the back gate, too, even though I had secured it with three-inch screws.  Grrrr.  I've made a conscious decision to not show photographs of our produce this year so as not to tempt any n'ere do wells to visit at night.  I drove over at 9 after my jog and replaced the front gate lattice and reattached the lattice with twice as many three-inch screws. Of course, I have nothing else better to do with my time. 
Despite my frustration, I didn't let it stop me from cooking and canning creole sauce that night.  I use the sauce to make shrimp creole over the winter.  However, strangely, one of my cans refused to seal.  Sigh.  To the freezer it went.
On Friday afternoon, I stopped by to pick up some ripening tomatoes for my continuing adventures in canning on Friday afternoon.  (I was cooking and canning puttanesca pasta sauce).  The front gate was fine, but the other side of the back gate lattice had been ripped from the fence posts.  Grrr.  I went home, picked up my electric drill and more three-inch screws and put twice as many three-inch screws in it.  I also emailed the SACG Board.  Frank responded that he would be replacing the lattice with a six foot high gate (instead of our current three-foot high gates).   Yea Frank! Susan and I haven’t noticed any obvious thefts, but our pantry harvests have been smaller than this time last year.  Unlike last year, I’m grateful that our vandal/thief is discrete in his produce thefts.  Last year, the thieves would pull whole plants out of the ground, grab a few peppers and kale leaves and then throw the plant down.  My blood pressure still goes up every time I remember it.
On Saturday, I planted some coneflowers and Russian sage flowers when I arrived before pulling the rest of my edamame and planting three rows of beets, turnips, lettuce, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, spinach and arugula. Despite the rain, the soil was bone dry.   If it all comes up, I will have a very healthy  October and November.  I then watered a little bit (even though the forecast was for a lot of rain tonight into Monday).  Ha.  I should have watered more since the predicted rain is now predicted to stay south of the Ohio River.  Sigh. I then harvested for the food pantry.  Our harvest wasn’t that heavy, considering the time of year.  I’m going to blame it on our vandal/thief.
Usually on Saturdays, I’m alone most or even all of the day.  I'm lucky if Neal stops by after noon to water and harvest.  Occasionally, Sabrina and/or Susan will be working in their plots that morning.  However, this Saturday, I saw a number of gardeners I hadn’t seen in months.  First,  Mari stopped by – by herself – to weed for a while.    That’s a great recovery.  Lea and Zion also stopped by to water.   This gave Mari a chance to thank Lea for helping maintain her plot over the summer.   Then, Curt and a friend stopped by to weed his plot.  He had a ton of volunteer dill and fennel in the front of his plot (along with some very tall weeds).  He finally got rid of them.    Then, Frank and Barb stopped by to check on their plot and examine our vandalism. 
We also had a new neighbor stop by to get a book from our library.  She stopped in to ask about getting a plot and to get some produce from our neighbor plot.  She offered to volunteer (Yea!).   One of our gardeners is overwhelmed with personal problems this summer and has let her plot go to weed and rot.  If our new neighbor comes this weekend and volunteers for enough hours, I’m going to give her the abandoned plot since I don’t have time to tend it. 
Our free little library has proved very popular.  One day last week, a little old man walked by with a very big dog.  Big dogs always get my attention.  However, the little old man noticed that we had some new books.  I was amazed.  We’re running short on children’s books, though.  Sadly, while taking and reading our books is very popular, returning books has not been. 
I spent last night canning tomatoes and peaches.  I had a new experience canning that I thought I would share.  I learned that it is possible to tighten the lids too much before processing.  I always screw the bands on pretty tight.  However, when I pulled the quart jars from the pot, the lids were all bent and warped.  I was shocked and immediately began to research the problem. I had to reprocess those tomatoes.  Sigh.  Live and learn.
Finally, I have some shopping tips.  First, Big Lots on Winchester Pike has mason jars for $8.50/dozen.  Second, Smith Farms has a great deal on canning roma tomatoes:  $7/peck.   Third, the Bexley Farmer’s Market has better prices this year than Lynd’s on eggplant and zucchini.  Fourth, if you get peaches at the Smith Farms Market, get the ones in the white baskets because they are significantly less expensive than buying by the pound.  For what it is worth.

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