Saturday, March 28, 2015

SACG Loses a Good Friend to the Garden Angels

Two weeks ago, I was distributing the annual newsletter for the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden to introduce ourselves to new neighbors and let everyone else know when we would be opening up again for the season.   As I often do, I stopped by and chatted with our only long-time near neighbor, Ms. Dee.  We joked about her landlord, Paul's, affection for beets and the new trees in her front yard.  She has her own vegetable garden in her back yard.  A few days later, I received a text that she had suddenly collapsed and she was gone just a few days after that.  Just like that.

Today, instead of opening the SACG for the season, I joined Cathy,  Doug and Burt from Urban Connections at Ms. D's Celebration of Life Service which had been organized at the Wayne T. Lee Funeral Home on East Main Street.  Lovelee Kirk (another neighbor) called me last night and asked me to say a few words.   This is what I jotted down this morning and shared about Ms. Dee with her extensive collection of family and friends.

Ms. Dee gardened with us during our first year in 2009.   It was because of her that Dwayne (and Maxcine) became the first neighbors to sign up.  That year, she rescued the pumpkins from our pumpkin patch because she was concerned that teens might smash them for fun.  She also kept an eye on the neighborhood children who would frequently cross the street coming to and from the Garden without sufficiently looking out for traffic.  Some of the kids who signed up said they wanted to have the plot next to her because she was so popular in the neighborhood.  She even sent her son Ronnie over to mow our grass.
Even after our first year, Ms. Dee continued to refer us new neighbors as gardeners, which we greatly appreciated.   After we bought our shed in 2010, she continued to keep an eye on the Garden when we weren’t there and called me at home one night to let me know that one of her sons had noticed that the shed lock was broken and the door was open.  Someone had broken in to steal our lawn mower and soil cultivator.   That’s how I learned that her real name was Desiree Stewart: it was on my caller id.  However, the look she gave me when I once referred to her as Desiree insured that I would always call her Ms. Dee from then forward.
A couple of years ago, she also came over to help me spread mulch around our new fruit trees. 
When a Dispatch reporter came a few weeks after that to write a story about the Garden, he interviewed Ms. Dee.  I was nervous, but she said beautiful things about me and the Garden.  She was delighted to see the article when it was published.  I also remember at the time how gracious she was to Homeless Dave.  He often sat with her on her porch because she didn't want him to be alone.  He pretended on that day that he could read the Dispatch article and the tv listings.  She laughed like that was hilarious.
Of course, she didn’t just look out for the Garden. She looked out for everyone on Stoddart.   She never judged anyone – or at least never indicated to me that she did.
I remember her as a peacemaker.  There was a family that used to live across the street and they sometimes got into heated and loud arguments in the street.  I remember Ms. Dee– after an argument had been going on for a while – walking out into the street.  She intervened in the argument and cooled their tempers.    Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Children of God.
But mostly, I remember her as generally being the first and last person I see when I come to the Garden.  She was often the only person out and about when I arrived on Saturday mornings.  She always waved to me from her front porch and I waved back.  Then, when I would pack up and leave for the day, she would wave again from her front porch and I would wave back. 
It will not be the same coming to the Garden now without her friendly wave greeting me and sending me home.  And that makes me sad.

Just so you know how special she was, during the final prayer of the service, Homeless Dave (who has a last name, but I don't feel comfortable sharing it here) came in and sat in front of me with all of his stuff.  Somehow, he found out too and even though the service was scheduled at the last minute and he walks virtually everywhere he goes, he came to pay his last respects and join everyone in the parking lot to release balloons into the sun-filled sky.

Neighbor Rose was also there.  Ms. Dee once called 911 for Rose when a man forced himself into her apartment. 

She was so popular in the neighborhood that when I stopped by a bus stop to ask directions (after driving right by the place twice), one of the ladies knew whose service I was planning to attend.

She will be very missed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Best Laid Plans . . . . SACG Opening Day is Postponed Until April 11

You know what they say about best laid plans.  We were supposed to open for the season, this Saturday, March 28.  (We’ve only opened this early once before).  However, the temperature is not supposed to even reach the 40’s in the afternoon, which makes it pretty darn cold to be working in the morning.   It might even snow on Friday (and snowed last night).  So, we’re going to put our shovels and rakes on stand-by for two weeks.   As of today, we have only 3-4 plots remaining, so interested gardeners should sign up promptly to reserve a plot.

In the meantime, we had posted a new lawn sign at the SACG so that passersby could get critical information about contacting and joining us.  Donley Complete Tree Care also dropped off a truckload of wood chips (mostly pine) in a brand new shiny truck yesterday.   Mike Donley is also starting a community flower garden on Latta street on the Near East side (west of the SACG) and has volunteered to similarly provide free wood chips to other community gardens.

On Friday, Barb Seckler notified us that we were receiving a community garden grant from the City  of Columbus and the Institute for Active Living Fund of the Columbus Foundation to purchase three new fruit trees to add to our “orchard” of peach and cherry trees and to replace our make-shift “curb” of construction debris along the alley side of the Garden with landscaping stones which are being generously donated by GreenScapes.  Scotts Miracle grow is also generously donating 60 bags of soil amendments and mulch.  Yea team!  Hopefully, we’ll have received our grant check before the volunteer lawyers from the OSBA come on April 25 so that I can take advantage of their strong backs.  Mike Donley was also telling me about this wonderful tool he has to pulverize dirt, which is perfect for digging large holes in which to plant trees.  (A tree professional would have such a nifty tool, wouldn’t he).   In the past, we’ve just used pick axes and shovels . . . . .

I mentioned last month that the City is planning to treat the rain tanks at Land Bank community gardens (like the SACG) for mosquitoes.  Seth has since shared additional information about this:

A microbial larvicide only affecting mosquito larvae is the single product we use to treat rain barrels/cisterns. The water is still safe to use for gardening, in fact, Columbus Public Health treats residential rain barrels with the same product throughout the City of Columbus. The active ingredients, Bacillus sphaericus and Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, are bacteria and work when they’re ingested and activated by the specific pH inside the mosquitoes gut. Once activated, the bacteria will create a toxin causing the mosquito larvae to stop eating and starve or die from infection. If people ingest the product, the bacteria wouldn’t become activated or make a toxin.

I thought this was fascinating and found a similar product at Dill’s Greenhouse last week which I purchased for my own three rain barrels at home.

While I was at the Garden yesterday to watch the wood chips being delivered, I noticed that another anonymous donor filled our Free Little Library with children’s books.  Thanks mystery donor!   Fairy Garden Barb is moving to Powell and also donated a slew of children’s books and back issues of Mother Jones magazine for our Free Little Library.  That’s a nifty little magazine, so I’ll be putting in an issue each week as I read through them myself . . . .

Finally, our tulips, daisies and daffodils are poking through the soil. Susan and I visited the Garden in December to plant tulips and daffodil bulbs that had been donated by Strader's Nursery.   Postponing our Opening Day means that we'll likely have blooming flowers to welcome us in April.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

2015 Gardening Season Starts on March 28

[Editor's Note:  Because March is not going out like a lamb as we hoped and it is going to be too cold to garden, we are postponing our Opening Day until Saturday, April 11.  Be there or be square.]

Rejoice that March is entering like a lion because we need it to end like a lamb for the Opening Day for our seventh gardening season on March 28 [now April 11].  Gardeners who are interested in reserving their own plot to grow their own vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers should complete, sign and return an Application/Agreement along with $10/plot (preferably by check made payable to the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden). Families in the Stoddart Avenue neighborhood are eligible for a full scholarship if the fee presents a financial hardship.

Gardeners’ participation is subject to the SACG Garden Rules as well as some rules by the City of Columbus (prohibiting, for instance, being in the Garden at night, and bringing alcohol onto Garden property, etc.). Gardeners are also encouraged to donate a portion of their produce to area food pantries and shelters, like Faith Mission, Lutheran Social Services and the Salvation Army.  To date, we have donated over 2380 pounds.

Before SACG Broke Ground in 2009
Joining the SACG is not terribly time consuming, but Gardeners should plan to help set out the Garden on Saturday, March 28, 2015 (with a rain/make-up date on Saturday, April 11, 2015) and to close the Garden (probably on Saturday, November 14, 2015). Gardeners should also volunteer for three chores to perform for one month over the summer (like watering flowers, tending the food pantry plot, pulling weeds in the paths, mowing our lawn, picking up litter, supervising a WEP volunteer, etc.)

We will start working at 9:30 a.m. on March 28, 2015 to spread wood chips on the garden paths and around the fence rows, flip the compost bins, move a raised bed,  till the ground (weather permitting), mow grass, transplant raspberry bushes, and hang gates. The more the merrier because many hands make light work. You need not reserve a plot if you would just like to volunteer to help.

SACG with a coat of March snow

Gardeners may begin planting as soon as the ground is tilled and staked out.  (However, this early in the year, I only recommend planting potatoes, onions, leeks, peas, lettuce, kale, spinach and greens). I have already started sweet potato slips.  I’ll be starting pepper seeds next weekend and will share any extra seedlings with gardeners come May.

So, if you or someone you know likes to get your hands dirty and grow your own food, you are welcome to join us at the SACG. Plots will be assigned on a first-come-first-served basis, with preference being given to gardeners from last year who volunteered at the opening and closing work days.

The weather forecast so far is for March to be colder than usual, but to be sunny and pleasant at the end of the month.  Keep your fingers crossed.