Saturday, November 8, 2014

Winding Up for the Year at the SACG

Our hardworking SACG volunteers
As faithful readers know, every year I think that noone will come to help clean out the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden at the end of the season.  I tried recruiting new volunteers through NextDoor (without luck).   I emailed Cathy on Friday that I thought there might just be three or four of us this year.  Every year, I am delighted to be wrong (although I noted the repeated and conspicuous absence of Neal, Curt and Charlie).    We had a great turnout today, accomplished a lot and donated over 50 pounds of produce to Faith Mission AND the Lutheran Social Services food pantry.

I borrowed six loppers and hedge trimmers from the Rebuilding Together Tool Library on Thursday.  Yesterday, I made some chocolate no-bake cookies and picked up some supplies from Lowe’s. Our new neighbor emailed me Friday morning that they would be installing a chain link fence along our western border and it would affect our rose bushes. 
      This morning, I dressed in six layers, made some coffee (which no one drank), loaded the car (with tools, goodies and apple cider) and hit every single traffic light between my house and the Garden.  I was a bit frustrated when I pulled onto Fairwood. But when I arrived on Stoddart, Susan, Sabrina, Tom and Zephyr were already at the Garden working.  Susan even brought a box of Starbucks coffee (with cups and everything).   
I turned Susan loose on pruning the front flower bed, Sabrina on harvesting the remaining produce in the Garden while Tom and I turned to relocating the knockout rose bushes.  While I pruned back the rose bushes, Tom dug their new holes and then dug out the bushes (which is much easier said than done).    I brought an ax to disconnect the deep tap roots (based on prior experience in relocating rose bushes).  I helped to plant one and then watered both of the bushes in.
Lea and Zion arrived.  This was the first time that Zion and Zephyr (who are roughly the same age) had a chance to play together all year.   Lea cleaned out Charlie and Curt’s plot since they apparently will not be returning and didn’t care about leaving rotting produce or a mess for the rest of us to clean up.  Mari came and helped her.    It was great to see Mari working hard in the Garden because there was a time in the Spring when we thought that she might not be able to return.  I helped her to locate more of her Irish potato crop since I knew that it had been more productive than she believed.   She also lopped off and composted our broccoli plants after I harvested the spears that remained.

Barb contemplating a rose bud
Rayna came with Joseph and Audrey.   They brought candy and donut holes.  I turned Rayna loose pruning the raspberry bushes.  Susan joined the task on the south side of the Garden.  Lea and Joseph bagged and bagged and bagged.  Tom trimmed and bagged. Audrey dug out Rayna’s giant carrot crop and bagged kale.   I emptied and disconnected the rain tanks and pruned some brambles and bagged.  Then, I turned to harvesting.  Susan helped me harvest and compost.

Frank and Barb came.  They had taken down and stored the gates yesterday and took down the sign today. They also tidied up the area near the shed with our tomato stakes and cages.  They also loaded their truck with the dozen bags of garden waste to take them to Ohio Mulch on Fairwood.  (That leaves only four or so bags that I’ll have to return and take to the curb in 9 days on the city’s yard waste pick up schedule). 

Cathy came (because class let out early) and brought some plastic bags for our food pantry harvest because I ran out a few weeks ago.  (Luckily, Sabrina had also brought me a lot of bags).  Urban Connections donated a giant turning compost bin to us and delivered it yesterday.  I never realized how big it was, but it is as tall as our shed.  Its door is missing, but her father will be fixing that. 

We have three stationary compost bins and two turning bins.  We put most things in the bins, but we can’t put certain garden waste in the bins because they do not generate enough heat to kill everything bad.  For instance, we don’t put tomatoes in the bins because their seeds would create volunteer tomatoes when we eventually spread compost.  We also don’t put sunflower seeds or cosmos (or other seedy weeds) in the bins.  I also discourage putting sick tomato plants or sick tomato straw in the bins to diminish changes of viruses being transmitted later. So, if a tomato plant died back early from any number of viruses that tomatoes get (like wilt, blights, etc.), we put those plants and the straw that mulched them into bags instead of into our bins.  We also do not compost things that will not decompose within a year – like thick stalks of our sunflowers or corn.  That being said, all of our bins were full.

By lunch time, we were all tired and I had promised them a short day.  We gathered our collection of tools and returned them to their assigned places.   The kids carried the bags of produce to the front curb and they were loaded into my and Rayna’s car around 1:30.  We had kale, collard greens, turnips and greens, beet greens, cabbage,  parsley, sage, chives, oregano, dill, broccoli, bok choy, napa cabbage, carrots, arugula, endive, chard, and lettuce.   Rayna followed me home and we set up an assembly line:  Joseph would hand me a bag to weigh; Audrey (with her superior penmanship) recorded the item in my produce notebook; and Rayna would stack the bags on the other side of my patio.  While I added up the numbers on my ancient calculator, the kids played with my new kitten.

Going in the Out Door at LSS Food Pantry
Then, we caravanned over to the Lutheran Social Services food pantry on Frebis.  My gardeners thought I was exaggerating about how popular our fresh greens are.  I rarely get to this or the St. Vincent de Paul pantry without getting stopped by someone wanting a bag.  Sure enough, they were stopped by departing patrons (since we go in through the out door).  Told you so.  We seem to be one of the few gardens donating kale and collard greens.  I would devote our entire food pantry plots to greens if it weren’t for the fact that aphids wiped out our entire kale and collard crop during 2013.  So, I tend to devote about a third of our space to tomatoes, a third to greens and the rest to peppers, beans, and squash.
LSS's Infamous Gene hard at work
 Gene hadn't seen me in a few weeks because I've been busy with auntie duty at my nephew's JV football games.  He usually pesters me with lawyer jokes (when I'm least in the mood and suffering from low blood sugar).  However, today he was a bit distracted and barely noticed that I brought helpers for the first time in four years.  (Betty Weaver used to make our pantry deliveries before I started growing greens that need to be delivered within an hour or so of their harvest). 

Faith Mission's Kitchen Door
Since it was rather late in the day and we had a lot of herbs, we caravanned over to Faith Mission to deliver the second half of our last harvest of the season.  I explained to the kids that this in the only place in town serving three free meals every day of the year.   The cooks were also very excited to receive fresh greens (kale, turnip, collards and beets) and fresh herbs (i.e., sage, parsley, dill, chives, and oregano).

Of course, I have a yard of my own to rake and laundry to do, so I’m pretty wiped out. (Thank goodness I put my heated mattress pad on my bed last night).   Again, I failed to give my annual report (but I’ll circulate a summary of it among the gardeners and the Board this week).  I gave Susan her awards for being our Volunteer of the Year AND our tidiest gardener (which comes with a travelling gnome trophy).   More on this later.  She’s such a sweetie: she gave me (and my kitten) a gift, too.  Sigh. 
So, the SACG is looking pretty empty right now – just in time for the upcoming frigid winter nights.  We always close on the second weekend in November and we always have great weather.  We considered closing a week early this year, but it didn’t work out.  Good thing; it was a lot colder last weekend and is supposed to be even colder next weekend.   Clearly, we have a Guardian Angel in the weather department.