Thursday, July 23, 2015

No One Promised Us a Rose Garden

Where to start . . . . The Stoddart Avenue Community Garden continues to be targeted by thieves.  Several members of the community have offered to help.  We finally have a reliable WEP volunteer.  Neal’s monument rock has gained some more color. The incessant rain has finally subsided and an El Nino is predicted for Fall and Winter.   Rayna’s tomatoes still are being targeted by a possum.  

The Crime.  As faithful readers know, the SACG has been targeted by thieves this year.  Typically, it doesn’t start until the end of August and is limited to our produce.  For years, I’ve asked for anyone to donate wildlife cameras to us so that we could photograph and catch the thieves.  I’ve done more research and they typically cost over $100, but I don’t know enough to select which one would be the best.  This year, the thefts started in April.  

·        They have climbed over our fence in three different places and at least thee different times and stolen the bags of mulch meant for our flower beds. (We had already mulched the orchard and they left behind the bag for our herb garden).   Franklin Park Conservatory ultimately donated some mulch to us to fill the gap.   We reinforced the fence and the berry brambles finally grew into other gaps and those thefts have stopped for now.  Frank also reinforced our front gate with hidden metal supports. 

·        They bashed the latch off our shed and stole all of our seeds, most of our gloves, some trowels and a few larger tools.  We found some of the seeds (and their container) germinated on the sidewalk a block away.  I bought new gloves from Straders and three new trowels from Lowe’s. I also added a much stronger latch.  Replacing the tools, latch and locks is all very expensive, especially when we typically only raise a little over $100/year in plot fees.  Our shed hadn’t been attacked since 2011. The new and improved latch is still there.

·        About eight days ago, the thieves brought heavy, duty tools to cut the lock off the shed and tried to cut the lock off our front gate.  I know from experience that the bolt cutter required to cut that lock must be almost as tall as me.  They stole all of our hand tools – all of our trowels, pruning shears, hedge clippers, and our only warren hoe.  I upgraded the lock and replaced the locks on the shed and front gate.  We need these tools because some of our gardeners and the neighborhood kids have never owned tools and don’t have access to them unless we provide them.  Many of the gardeners and all of the kids rely on the trowels to weed (instead of hoes).    While Amy, Barb and me can always bring our own tools from home, not all of our gardeners have that option.

This is too much for me.  I had been emailing the police without response.  I know the thefts have been at dawn.  I raised it on NextDoor and it was shared on the civic association’s facebook page.  I’ve heard from a former community gardener whose garden in Old Towne East closed last year because they could not continue after similar thefts.   However, we also received offers of support.

·        One of my gardeners solicited donations of used tools from her friends.

·        One of our former gardeners offered to buy us new tools.

·        A lady on Parsons Avenue offered to send us $10 after her social security check arrived.  (I graciously declined her generous offer).

·        An area landlord offered to provide us with used tools and to improve our lock.  He even stopped by to chat and inspect our new lock.

This week the police have suggested that we move our tools or move our shed to somewhere safer.  The officer even spoke with one of our neighbors.   I’m waiting to hear what my Board says about that.

Of course, I know that crime is not isolated to the Near East Side.  I have new neighbors in Bexley and, despite warnings from me and their mother, were robbed within six weeks of moving in.   (They've lived in Central Bexley for a few years and thought crime was just an unfounded rumor).  Their garage was locked up, but the thieves kicked in the locked door just to steal a bike and some change.   What I haven't had the heart to tell them is that the thieves will likely return  . . . . .

Behind every successful man stands a stronger woman . . .
The Calvary.  Aside from crime, my biggest burden is the lack of hands to help with everything that needs to be done each week.  We’ve had very bad luck with WEP volunteers.  However, at the beginning of July, we were assigned three new volunteers.  One came for two hours, was eaten by mosquitos and never returned.  One never showed up.  The third – Ezra – came the second week and has returned every Wednesday and Saturday since then.  We can certainly thank his mother for this since she drops him off and picks him up for every shift.    He mows our lawn, and the Block Watch lots, too.  He has weeded along the alley and trimmed raspberry brambles.  Last Saturday, he painted our shed (to cover the damage caused the thieves, etc.) and stained all of our platform raised beds.  Last night, he watered the plants in our food pantry plots, Stan’s plot, Mari’s plot, our blueberry bushes and our new trees.   I’m no longer exhausted and have had time to begin planting our second season crops.  Of course, one of these days, Ezra will get fed up with our backbreaking hot work and find a paying job and I'll go back to being the grumpy garden lady.

Garden Art.  You can see that LeAndra (Neal’s girlfriend) has been busy decorating the monument stone in his plot.  I’ve suggested that we could use her to paint a small sign for our neighbor plot letting folks know that they should help themselves to produce from that raised bed.

Rain, Rain  . . . . The rain has finally stopped.  But not in time to save our onion crop. Or our usual bumper crop of sunflowers.   Our tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and kale have suffered, but will recover.    The cooler temperatures this summer mean that Lea and Rayna have fresh cilantro in their plots.  (I am so jealous).   The second strongest El Nino in decades is predicted, which means a warmer and dryer than average Fall and Winter (for Ohio) and more rain for California.   Now that we’re finally reaching average summer temperatures, we might actually begin to see red tomatoes.   I’ve forgotten what they look or taste like.

Other Predators.  We don’t just suffer from two-legged predators.  We also get the occasional four legged variety.  With the destruction of the building next door, new neighbors and a repair of the sidewalk across the street, we’ve been saved from groundhogs.  However, possums live everywhere. And one has made itself at home in Rayna’s plot.  There’s little that is as disappointing as finding a half-eaten tomato still hanging from a plant.
Ray of Sunshine.  Last Friday, while I was still fuming from our theft, the Franklin Park Conservatory held its second (hopefully annual) community garden social party on its community garden campus.   The weather was wonderful and all of the rain fell west and south of the event.  We had wonderful pizza and salads and too much dessert.  It's always nice to kibbutz with other gardeners when I'm clean and relaxed.  

It's also always fun to razz Daniel for being a communist because he doesn't want to do anything to deter community garden thefts.  He actually talked about how cameras would create the impression of a police state.   Of course, what can we say about our crime when thieves are stealing stain glass windows right out of area churches.  However, I don't see lots of people with options (i.e., money) moving into high crime neighborhoods because they find it appealing to have items stolen out of their lawns, garages or sheds.  Those folks prefer safe neighborhoods like the one I grew up in.    It's my opinion that everyone deserves to live in a safe neighborhood, not just the rich who can afford it.  But's that's just my opinion.

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