Thursday, June 25, 2015

Who Needs Mud Volley Ball When Tough Buckeye Young Scholars Weed in the Rain

The grumpy Garden Manager is not so grumpy today.  This morning, a slew of teenagers from Columbus, Dayton and other large cities in Ohio who are part of The Ohio State University Young Scholars program descended on the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden and whipped us into shape in just a few hours.  With all of the rain we’ve received in the last two weeks, the weeds are taking over and it was difficult to find dry time to garden and also pick berries.  The YSP contacted me a few weeks ago and offered to volunteer.  I warned them Tuesday that it might start raining around noon (per WTTE Bill Kelly).  Then, when I woke up this morning to see that a massive storm was heading our way, I figured that they would cancel.  It had started raining by nine.  However, Not only did YSP not cancel, they came almost an hour early.  And, OSU gave them special-logo rain ponchos.

I gave them a brief tour and summary of our history before splitting them up into teams and passing out new gardening gloves.  One team of two picked up litter along Stoddart Avenue and in the alley between Stoddart and Morrison.  One team picked 2-1/2 pints of black raspberries. One team transported premium top soil (donated by the City of Columbus from Kurtz Brothers) and compost (donated by Franklin Park Conservatory) to two of our abandoned plots and then transported the weeds we had pulled to the compost bins.   One team weeded around our benches and the kids’ raised beds and our paths.  Another team weeded the space along the alley, re-discovering our d’oro lilies.  Finally, one team helped me to weed the two abandoned plots.    

I had also packed my trunk last night with tomato and pepper seedlings for us to plant.  However, it was too wet to distribute the soil in the plots, cultivate the soil to work in the improvements and plant, so we had an hour to kill.  So, I gave them a long tour and narrative of the Garden, including our rain barrels, our rain tanks, our picnic table, our platform raised beds, our orchard, our curb, our compost bins made from re-claimed pallets, our turning compost bin, our spinning compost bin, our neighbor beds, our free little library and our flower beds.   Then, I took them on a tour of Stoddart Avenue, Bryden Avenue and Fairwood.  We stopped at the basketball court that Urban  Connections built for the neighborhood and stopped to answer questions.

The Ohio State University Office of Diversity and Inclusion Young Scholars Program improves pre-college preparation, retention, and degree completion among high-ability academically gifted first-generation students with financial need from nine of the largest urban school districts in Ohio: Akron Public, Canton City, Cincinnati Public, Cleveland Metropolitan, Columbus City, Dayton Public, Lorain City, Toledo Public, and Youngstown City. The Young Scholars Program has supported more than 3,000 pre-collegiate (grades 8th through 12th) and collegiate (college undergraduates) scholars, providing them with comprehensive academic, career, and personal development programs in partnership with school district administrators and staff; Ohio State faculty, staff, students, and alumni; and community and corporate partners.

We’re extremely grateful that the YSP visited us this year.  We’re also wondering if it’s just a coincidence that many of the vacant lots were mowed within the last week on Stoddart.  The grass was so high in a few vacant lots that they could have passed for the Dothraki Sea.   The grass was so high that dead bodies could easily be hidden in them.  As I took the kids on the neighborhood tour, the grass was only ankle high.  Of course, I wasn’t the only one who noticed that the grass was ridiculously high.  It’s possible that guerilla  gardeners were at work.

Before the teens departed, Bill Dawson and Fiona Doherty from the Franklin Park Conservatory Growing to Green Program stopped by to say hey and drop off some information about upcoming programs at FPC.  We took a group picture and Bill tasted a couple of our berries.   FPC is hosting a community gardening social hour on Friday, July 17 from 6-9 p.m. where we can socialize with each other in clean clothes and eat yummy appetizers.  FPC is also having a free day on August 1.   Finally, the annual Growing to Green awards banquet (which is typically catered by City BBQ) is going to be September 10 (with award nominations due by August 3).
Bill encouraged them to continue to volunteer with ours or other community gardens, who are always short of volunteers.  Barry also encouraged the high school students to complete their mandatory community service hours at the SACG (like our May Bexley high school student volunteer). 

After the teens departed, Tyler from the Ohio Association of Food Banks came by to chat about the Work Experience Program run by the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services.   I gave him a tour and told him about our volunteer needs.  They are going to try a pilot program of having groups of WEP volunteers come to perform special projects, like our plans to improve our alley curb.  They have also hired a  Franklinton Community Gardener, who we may trust to supervise small groups of volunteers to weed, water, etc. at the Garden without me having to take off work to be there.   It stopped raining after Tyler arrived.

The kids were quite the troopers and there was no whining or complaining.  I, on the other hand, was soaked to the bone and covered with dirt from head to toe.  I put my clothes in a pile.   I was so excited to get home and take a hot shower and a nap.    I wondered if the teens would be so lucky.

Of course, we had more going on at the Garden before today.  I’ve continued harvesting berries.  I also finally got to the herb garden, weeded it, mulched it and planted more basil in it.   Franklin Park Conservatory donated some bags of mulch to replace the ones stolen two weeks ago, so I mulched three of our flower beds and the lillies next to the shed.  The neighborhood girls came by to pick berries and then asked if they could put a second coat of stain on our picnic table.  Of course they can.  Ok, there are drips, etc., but it’s one less thing for me to do.

But the piece de resistance, was Stan stopping by last night to aerate our lawn.  Can you imagine?  I can’t even get my own lawn aerated, but the SACG can.  He brought a machine to pull plugs of soil out of the ground to create more room for roots and de-thatch dead grass.  This is not an assigned chore. This is just something he does because he loves lawns.   Since John has dropped out and was assigned the chore of mowing our lawn next month, I wonder if I can convince Stan to keep it up another month . . . . . . ?

I returned to the Garden this evening after the sun came out to get better pictures of what the YSP had accomplished in the rain this morning and to pick up the muddy gloves to wash and return to the shed.  Neal was there on his knees weeding his plot.  Barb and Frank were improving their bean trellis.  (They had already improved our front gate by reinforcing the lattice top).   Rayna was also there busy weeding.
Our bee balm was attracting bees and butterflies and there were a few ripe berries for me to grab as a snack before returning home.

And so it goes.   I'll try to get the tomatoes, peppers and bush beans planted in the vacant plots tomorrow afternoon before it starts raining on Friday night.  If it rains Saturday morning as planned, I'll return early Sunday afternoon to conduct our food pantry harvest.

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