Saturday, October 31, 2015

Indian Summers, Lima Beans and Aphids

Rumor has it that next week will bring an Indian Summer to the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden – i.e., a warm snap following a frost or snow.  We had an early killing frost and next week, we will see temperatures as high as 70 degrees.   I have finally pulled out the summer plants (i.e., tomatoes, peppers, squash, basil, etc.) out of my plot and the food pantry plots.  I planned on doubling our weekly kale/greens donation, but aphids have attacked the greens and weren’t washed off by the torrential rain we received this week from Tropical  Storm Patricia.   On top of this, our fall crops are very, very puny (other than the arugula).  Therefore, I think I am going to be very disappointed in our November harvest.

As faithful readers know, I was disappointed that Rayna abandoned her plot.  Of course, her loss is
Dixie Speckled Butterpea Lima Beans
the food pantry’s gain – especially when it comes to peppers and tomatoes.  Rayna also always grows lots of lima beans.  Last year, she told me to help myself (because she was busy student teaching), but they didn’t seem mature enough.  This year, her beans went to seed and were overgrown with bindweed.  However, I decided to pull a few to save for seeds next year.  They did not look like lima beans to me and I started wondering if they were moldy.  They were not.  So, I had to get on the internet and do some research on  Did you know that there are heirloom lima beans?  I didn’t.  But now I do.  She grew regular lima beans, Christmas lima beans and Dixie Speckled Butterpea Lima Beans.   She knows that I am a bean freak, but she has been keeping this secret from me.  That Rayna.   I showed them to Mari today.

Christmas Lima Beans
I was rained out on Tuesday by TS Patricia.  We needed the rain and I looked forward to our fall crops exploding after a very dry fall.  However, I didn’t see much explosions when I arrived this morning.  I started off this morning by dropping off a mulching mower to the Tool Library.  The Tool Library is giving away free  lawn waste bags courtesy of the City of Columbus (with information about the City’s lawn waste recycling program).   I mulched my leaves at home and returned the mower before heading to the Garden.   It was cold, so I wore four layers and a ski cap.
I emptied our tall rain cistern and lowered the
water level of the big tank (which was surprisingly full even though I turned it off last week).    The Kimball Farm folks have disappeared. I hadn’t seen the tall tank since August and was concerned when I saw that the overflow pipe was aimed at the foundation of J. Jireh.  However, that was because the overflow downspout was supposed to empty into KF’s rain barrels.  Shockingly, their diverter had fallen apart and all of this week’s rain fell onto the building’s foundation (and probably into the basement).  This wouldn’t be a problem for most of the dry Fall, but it would be a disaster this week.  I reconnected our flexible downspout and hooked it up to the diverter pipe after I finished emptying the cistern.  (I also disconnected the cistern).  Then, I emptied two of KF’s rain barrels.  The third KF barrel still needs to be emptied before it freezes and cracks the barrel.  On our closing day, I need to get help in cleaning out the big tank of all of the muck that has collected on the bottom over the last seven years.  While I was busy working this morning, the J. Jireh ladies were busy stocking and assembling a clothing pantry.

I brought buckets, filled them as I emptied the cistern and emptied them into  our turning compost bin (which never gets enough water).  I was shocked to find that someone had put plastic bags in it.  WTF?  I wetted the contents and turned it to mix it up.

While I was working, I saw a little boy obsessing over an animal under a car.  I went over and he told me it was a beaver.  I checked and it was a terrified groundhog.  He went home and got his pit bull puppy and sister.  I sent them away.  Poor wood chuck.   But now I know what is chomping on the lettuce in the neighbor plot along the alley.
I also removed and stacked trellises and stakes and bagged tomato plants, cosmos flowers, zinnias, basil and sunflowers.  I planned to leave early today, but Mari came to clean out her plot.  That would make her and me the only ones who have done so.  While she worked, I tidied up the greens which were covered with aphids.  Aphids are like tribbles; they multiply quickly when you aren't looking.  

I also harvested African marigold seeds to share at the GCGC meeting this Thursday.  These marigold plants can become as big as shrubs and bees just love them.   They are drought tolerant and will grow anywhere. Both African (T. erecta) and French marigolds (T. patula) produce alpha-terthienyl, a substance that suppresses nematodes, those pesky microscopic worms that attack the roots of plants. They also suppress other disease-causing demons and repel cabbage worms.  Cornell University says that they are also deer resistant and frost tolerant.  (While frost tolerant, they are not freeze tolerant).
When I made our food pantry delivery, Gene tried to make a joke about my hat.  I had other things on my mind.  He asked about the cold snap and I explained we were expecting an Indian summer.    No come back from that.

My sister brought me a birthday cake and asked for coneflower seeds from my backyard.  After I ate a third of the cake, I raked leaves and called it a day.
Oh.  I brought candy for volunteers in costume.  I shared some with the Tool Library staff.  No one showed at the SACG in costume, so I shared it with Mari.

By the time of our GCGC meeting, we will know about Issue 3, legalizing recreational pot in Ohio.  We community gardeners have been paying close attention to this issue because most of us do not want to worry about gardeners growing pot in their plots (for their own use, of course).  We already have problems with high folks stopping by with the munchies, etc.  At the end of our first growing season, a high neighbor came by to help us clean out the Garden on our closing day.  She was high a kite, which was kinda funny, I have to admit.  She thought everything was beautiful and wanted all of the mustard greens we were salvaging.  (So much for a final food pantry donation).  She was very enthusiastic, very energetic and quite giggly.   My OSU medical resident was appalled.  Every year, we have gardeners that confirm that we can only grow legal crops because the neighbors worry about us letting folks grow pot.  So, hopefully, people will show some common sense when they vote and I don't have to worry about amending our Garden Rules next year.

We’re still out of books in our Free Little Library.  L  Its sides are starting to warp, so I need to reinforce them next week.   I’ll also work on cleaning out more of the flower beds and hopefully transplanting some more coneflowers into the center bed.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Bag Lady of Gardening

It’s that time of year where I basically spend my time pulling plants (my babies) out of the ground. They either go into a yard waste bag or the compost bin, depending on how thick the stems are (i.e., sunflowers and raspberry brambles), whether they have a lot of seeds which may germinate next year (i.e., tomatoes and weeds)  and whether or not they may harbor viruses and diseases (i.e., tomatoes).   Beans, I cut off just above the ground so that their roots may continue to nourish the soil.   Because the days are getting shorter, I spend less time at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden and skipped today altogether.

On Tuesday, I dropped by the Salvation Army pantry to drop off about 10 pounds of peppers and tomatoes that I had rescued from Rayna’s plot (and tomatoes from the Carter plot) on Sunday afternoon.  I have attached a picture of just some of the beautiful fruit that Rayna grew but abandoned.   She was delighted to hear where I was taking them, though, because she’s a good sport.   However, the Salvation Army staff still hadn’t returned from lunch by 1:30 and I didn’t want to wait around.  So, I was off to the Lutheran Social Services Choice food pantry on the south side.   As you can see, there were a lot of poblano peppers and chilis.  Rayna’s apparently been too busy with her new teaching job to return to the Garden, although she promises me that she will clean out her plot and show up for our final work day on Saturday, November 14 to help cut back the raspberry brambles (which is the biggest chore we will have that day).

On Wednesday, I pulled the remaining bean and tomato plants from my plot, the beans from the food pantry plot and filled another bag with tomato plants from the middle food pantry plots.  I also pulled the remaining pepper plants and salvaged more peppers from  Rayna’s abandoned plot and some beans which had gone to seed.  (It’s to the point that the pods are cracking over and re-seeding for next year).   I also tried to water the food pantry plots because Lea has apparently forgotten that this is her chore this month.  (She cleaned out most of her plot a few weeks ago and hasn’t returned since our killer freeze on Sunday morning to rescue her peppers or sweet potatoes). However, it had gotten dark by the time I finished watering the new seedlings, so I didn’t have time to water any of the existing, larger plants.   I was surprised to find yet another large sweet potato in my plot in my leek row.  Obviously, I didn’t dig around enough last week. 

I should probably admit that I still have peppers and eggplants growing in my back yard because I
covered some plants in my cold frame and threw a bed sheet over another group of plants on Friday and Saturday night to protect them from the frost. (You can see the sheet in the top picture underneath the table).  Although I lost a few leaves, most of the plants were unfazed.  I lost a lot of leaves off of the cherry tomatoes growing up my trellis fence, but they are hardier plants than most tomatoes.  I haven’t decided yet whether to pull those plants this weekend or let them mock my neighbors.  As long as the tomatoes are on the plants, one can still force them to ripen by leaving them on the vine.  Some gardeners/farmers pull an entire tomato plant out of the ground and then hang them upside down in their garages to let the tomatoes continue to ripen.  I’m not saying that the quality of the fruit (i.e., texture and taste) is the same in salads, but you can still cook with them . . . . .  the squirrels seem to still like them . . . .  I’ve also been able to harvest some saffron, although not all of the crocuses have bloomed yet. 

I returned for about 20 minutes on Friday afternoon to harvest kale, collards and broccoli for the St. Vincent de Paul pantry off Livingston Avenue.  We were only about 3 pounds from the 500 pound mark for the year for our food pantry donations, so I wanted to hit that milestone this weekend before filing our final grant report to the Columbus Foundation by the end of next week.   I also borrowed a power mulching mower from the Rebuilding Together Tool Library to shred my falling leaves on Friday in order to speed up the process in my compost bins.   This idea occurred to me too late last year (when I just borrowed a mower in November to spread shredded leaves on my lawn).  I own a reel mower, but it doesn’t do a very good job of mulching leaves . . . .   I love the Tool Library and can’t believe that not every city has one and that it’s only about two miles from my home.

Finally, we are pretty much out of books to refill our Free Little Library.  I’m hoping that someone will donate some so that I don’t have to drive to the west side and beg from Half Price Books again.   They’ve given us boxes and boxes of books in the past . . . .

I will be back at the SACG on Tuesday (around dinner time) and for Halloween morning.   In addition to harvesting lots of greens for our weekly food pantry donation, we have more tomato plants to pull out of the food pantry and neighbor plots and one of the kids’ beds. There will be trellises to put away and stakes to stack.   I'll also empty and disconnect our tall/smaller rain cistern.   If we have time, we’ll also start pruning back (and bagging) the spent flowers in the front and side beds.   Hopefully, we will not have to water because I’m hoping that Tropical Storm Patricia will be dumping a few inches of rain on the Garden next Wednesday (as predicted).  Sadly, we’ve only received two inches of rain since August.  Who would’ve thought that we’d have a cold, wet summer and a warm, dry Fall?  When I was a freshman at OSU, it rained 11 weekends in a row that Fall.   If we do not get a lot of rain this upcoming week, we’ll also have to water a lot of kale, collards, cabbage, lettuce and broccoli plants that are still growing in our food pantry plots.  If the thousands of beggars that usually stop by my home get rained out, I’ll bring leftover Halloween candy (for anyone who shows up in costume J…).

Monday, October 19, 2015

Surprise Attack of the Killer Frost

Proposed Fairwood Commons
Last week, I talked about knowing that I should start pulling out more summer plants while the sun shined before it turned cold and miserable.  Did I take my own advice? Of course not.  Did I pay for it this weekend?  You bet.    We had our first killing freeze a full two weeks earlier than the last two years.  However, we have more news about the proposed Fairwood Commons development planned for a block east of the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.

Last week and this week, I continued to pull items out of the Garden.  At home, last week I pulled down my pole bean teepee because it was located on top of my saffron bulbs, which generally bloom in October instead of the Spring.   Not even beans take precedence over saffron.   I also reconstructed my seasonal cold frame.  With a mild winter predicted (although I’m starting to question the NOAA scientists, considering that our killing frost came two weeks early), I might be able to grow kale into January if it is sufficiently protected.    So, I dug up some kale and bok choy from the SACG and planted them in a raised bed which formerly had tomatoes, basil and peppers and covered them with the cold frame.   Somehow, my cats are still getting into it.

On Wednesday, I went over early and harvested the rest of my sweet potatoes.  They were a bit underwhelming compared to my white sweet potatoes from last week, but better than the skinny ones from last year.   More concerning, one hill of them – including the large one – had mysteriously split in very unappetizing ways.  That’s never happened to me before and I wasn’t sure if I would eat them, let alone store them.  (My sweet potatoes generally store for months in my root cellar/basement).  I conducted some research and learned that I should NOT have been watering them so much during our dry spell over the last six weeks.   Their growing season counts on the last month being dry so that their skins will thicken up.  By heavily watering them every week, my potatoes continued to expand and split their skins.  Oops.  Live and learn.  But never fear.  As with my split tomatoes, I found a way to salvage my giant split sweet potato by skinning and dicing it and using it in a breakfast frittata in the recipe at the end of this post.  That one potato yielded 2-1/2 cups of diced sweet potatoes even though it had been skinned and dirty pieces cut out.

Later that evening, I joined about twelve other people to listen to Joe McCabe from the Woda
Rose helping us pick up letter in 2014 at Fairwood & Main
Group make a presentation about the proposed Fairwood Commons.  His presentation hit all of the right buttons for me and I’m a genuine fan.  At present, there are only two non-vacant lots on the north side of East Main Street between Rhoads and Fairwood: a beer drive-thru and a lovely landscaped home restored by a military veteran.  TWG has options to purchase the lots between his home and Fairwood, most of which have abandoned houses on them. 
Joe lives only two blocks from this site, and so is obviously committed to making it a success.  (It probably doesn’t hurt that a Woda family member is leading the gardening efforts next door at Kimball Farms).   

TWG also manages each of their housing developments, so we need not worry that it will be turned over to sloppy managers.  They will also have a full-time maintenance person for the development as well as a full-time property manager, ensuring proper maintenance.   They intend to repurpose the bricks from the existing houses and incorporate them into the exterior design. They intend to build for a silver LEEDS certification by recycling materials from the lots and making each unit highly energy efficient.  Each of the tenants in the 54 proposed units will have to pass a credit and criminal background check.   The units will lease for approximately $550-750, depending on whether it is one bedroom or two.   He has already received a positive reaction from an earlier presentation to residents south of Main.  In other communities, there is often a long-wait list before construction begins and he does not anticipate that this will be any different.   TWG is also willing to put age restrictions in the deeds to ensure that the residents are all above the age of 55 or 62, depending on the feedback he receives.  It will have plenty of parking on the rear and east side, so we need not worry about off-street parking.

It is hoped that a large property development such as this one will stir additional economic development along this section of the East Main Street corridor, which has been neglected for decades.   For instance, it would be fabulous to see the grain elevators demolished at the rail road tracks at the corner of Nelson and Main (which are also a landmark along I-70).  Joe mentioned that the Cherry Street alley behind the development is a mess.  It obviously has not benefitted from our collective neighborhood activities (with the SACG, Urban Connections, the neighborhood block watch and Columbus Police Liaison Theresa Kalous) in cleaning up our streets and alleys between Fairwood and Morrison.   He mentioned that TWG may purchase additional lots to add a community garden or dog park.  (Of course, I pointed out that there is already a community garden just a block west . . . . ).  When I mentioned our recurring problem with graffiti, he mentioned that he had noticed that Harry at Accurate Auto Center did an excellent job at covering it back up.  Indeed he does.
Comments at the meeting were interesting.  Everyone wanted TWG to ensure that the building’s design fit in with the nearby Franklin Park neighborhood and not be so generic that it could easily be plopped down in the Short North, Franklinton or Gahanna.   The design envisions a commercial space – for a professional office and/or coffee shop, for instance – at the corner of Fairwood and Main.  Everyone wanted a coffee shop in the first floor with tables outside (which the City Development Department apparently opposes).  It was also suggested that office space be located on the second floor.   Art installations would also be welcomed, to reflect the artistic history of the neighborhood.   

Cosmos survived the killer frost
Sadly, Joe indicated that there was probably only a 30% chance of the development moving forward because it would be dependent on tax credits being awarded to defray the construction costs.  This will be a for-profit development and tax credits are highly competitive.    Even if it is successful in winning tax credits, construction would probably not begin until 2017.  Sigh.   So, while I can’t do a full victory dance, a chair dance will have to do at this point.  I’ve included some tentative exterior drawings of the proposed development so that everyone can see what a benefit this would be to the neighborhood.  
On Friday, I confirmed with the City that it was not going to make us weigh and record each type of produce we grow on land bank lots as a condition of having a land bank community garden.  Giant sigh of relief.  However, the City does not know what – if any – assistance it will be able to provide to land bank community gardens next year.    So, everyone should write a killer end-of-the year report about all of their achievements so that Seth, Bill and Barb can try to leverage it into more support from City Council.   I always send out such a report to our donors anyway, so it’s not a problem for us.

Later Friday afternoon, I decided to harvest our remaining beans, tomatoes, and tomatillos before the predicted killing frost.  While I was there, a number of the girls stopped by with other kids in tow (cousins? New neighborhood kids? School chums?) to show off that they have their own raised beds at the SACG.  It’s nice that they are proud of their gardens.   One of the little boys asked whether there were any berries.  Our berries are apparently legendary.  No kid.  We got no berries right now.    Come back at the end of May or in June.  None of them wanted any of the tomatoes that I was harvesting.  Sigh.
Our little library has remained popular and I’m pretty much out of non-Christmas children’s books.  Frankly, I’m at the end of my supply of children’s books, cook books, young-adult and adult fiction.  All I seem to have left are boring (and probably outdated) college text books from esoteric subjects (like supply-chain management).     I re-stocked the library first think upon arriving on Saturday with what books I have left.  
It was cold on Saturday morning.  I wore three or four layers and a ski cap.   However, as I suspected, most of our plants were untouched by the frost.  Only the beans, squash and volunteer melon plant in the kids beds had been killed.  So, I pruned the beans back to the ground (leaving the roots and their nitrogen-fixing nodules in the ground) and composted the plants.  I left the one row of beans that had survived in the hope that it would produce more beans during the upcoming warm week.  I also pulled out half of the tomatoes in the eastern food pantry plot and half of them from my plot.  We bag our tomato plants in order to protect our compost bins from tomato viruses.  I also cleaned off all but one of my bean trellises.  (My asparagus beans survived Saturday morning’s frost).    I spent an hour watering since it is still incredibly dry.  I also transplanted some more kale  (into a former bean row) because we will still be growing cold season crops until we close for the season in four weeks.  One of our long-time gardeners apparently abandoned her plot in September.  We had been gossiping about it for weeks, but I couldn’t believe it since she never emailed me.  But I could no longer ignore all of the produce rotting in her plot and picked several pounds of tomatoes and peppers for our food pantry donation (as well as butternut squash, kale, collards and chard from our food pantry plots).  I tried to harvest sweet potatoes, but the vines were not even a foot long and the potatoes were just a little larger than my thumb.  Sigh.
Amy stopped by for an hour to weed and water her plot and to help me water the center food pantry plots.  She also cleaned off her bean trellis.
Someone had attacked our neighbor plots along the alley.  Sigh.  It may have been unintentional.  In harvesting the broccoli from the western bed, they apparently walked over the new bed to the east and stomped on the new onion, lettuce and pepper seedlings and one collard seedling.   Sigh.   I watered them anyway and hoped that they would resuscitate.
The food pantry was glad to see me (and all of those red and spicy peppers) on Saturday afternoon.  The last few weeks, I had gotten out so late or had to harvest on Friday that I had instead gone to Faith Mission or St. Vincent de Paul pantry (a few blocks from my house).
While I spent the morning gardening, I was also making black bean soup in my slow cooker at home.  So, when I finally returned home, I had hot soup to reward me for dinner.  But first, I wanted to dig up my dahlia corms and save them for next Spring.
Sunday’s frost was a horse of a different color.  I stopped by the SACG after church and found that all of the summer plants had been killed, including the zinnias, and the rest of the beans.  The tomato and pepper plants had nothing but slimy leaves hanging from their branches.   I returned that evening to rescue the remaining peppers and filled two buckets.   Barb was at the Block Watch lot pruning back the flowers following the killer frost.   She told me that I could add their tomatoes to my last-minute food pantry harvest (and so I did).  She was all tomatoed-out.   
I’ve included a picture of what the killer frost did to one of my new neighbor’s new garden.  This contraption surprising grew a lot of food this year, but they never seemed to eat any of it.  Instead, they just parked their giant tomatoes on the ledges.  Mysteriously, neither the neighborhood squirrels nor our raccoons or possums ate them.  (I need to find their secret).   As you can see, the leaves of the tomato and pepper plants are a slimy mess.    I restrained myself from adding these peppers to our food pantry donation. . ..  
I returned home and made a bruchetta pizza by topping an English muffin with olive oil, chopped garlic, tomato slice, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella and sprinkled oregano and toasted in a 350 degree toaster over.  Yumsters.
I forgot to mention last week that H Dave had stopped by.  He’s living near Whittier and Seymour now and had brought his mail to prove that he had an address.  I didn’t have any snacks on me, but I gave him my last bottle of water (which I keep in my car for just such occasions) and he drank it all on the spot.    He’s lost a lot of weight.  I don’t know whether to be jealous or concerned about that.   I wish that he had stopped by an hour later and then I could have gotten him some hot pizza.

I will not be visiting the Garden at all this weekend.   I hope to get the rest of the tomatoes and peppers pulled out of the ground (roots and all) while it’s warm on Wednesday.

As promised, Sweet potato frittata recipe for four:


·        2 tbsp olive oil

·        2.5 -3 cups of peeled and grated sweet potatoes (1 giant or 2 large potatoes)

·        1 cup chopped onion

·        6-16 oz of skinless salmon fillet

·        5-6 eggs

·        ¼ cup milk

·        1 cup diced swiss cheese (6-8 oz)

·        ¼ cup fresh tarragon leaves (or 2 tbsp dried)

·        1 tsp kosher salt

·        Fresh ground pepper


1.       Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. In a deep 8 to 10 inch skillet (i.e., cast iron), heat the oil over medium heat.

2.      Add sweet potatoes and onions to the hot skillet.  Stir until tender, about five minutes.

3.      Add the salmon and cook for another 5 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the heat and break of the salmon and mix with the sweet potatoes.

4.      Whisk together the eggs, cheese, milk, tarragon, salt and pepper.  Add to the skillet on top of the sweet potatoes mixture.

5.      Put the skillet in the upper third of the oven and bake for 20 minutes (or until it’s set).

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

October Growing and Developments

We have had an active week at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden, particularly for a dry
Swiss  Chard
October.  Our unseasonably warm and dry weather has resulted in  an unusual harvest this late in the year and discouraged us from cleaning out more of the Garden. Also, a large property development may be built just one block from the Garden.    Our neighbors have also been busy improving the neighborhood as well.

On Wednesday, I watered as much as I could before sunset.  Stan the Man was also at the SACG harvesting from his plot, but didn’t seem too interested in watering.   He had another bumper crop of green beans and no idea what to do with them.  I emailed him one of my favorite late-season recipes (which I’ve included below) and links to three websites with plenty of other green bean recipes: NYTimes, Real Simple magazine, and Southern Living magazine (which has 31 different green bean recipes).   I told him about all kinds of green beans salads, and of course, just the simple: boil them for a few minutes in salted water.   I also harvested tomatoes and yard-long beans from my plot before calling it a day.
More swiss chard
On Thursday, I visited the Bexley Farmer’s market to buy end-of-the season zucchini and some apples.  There’s only two more weeks to the market season.

Also this week, I chatted with Seth about the status of the City’s new requirement that we weigh and report at the end of 2016 all of the different produce we grow on a Land Bank lot.  He explained that the City’s community garden committee (which includes, among others, him, Bill Dawson and Barb Seckler) would be meeting this Thursday to revisit the issue.  Most of the calls he has received on the issue merely questioned how it could be done because no one is currently doing it or understands the logistics and technicalities involved.  He was leaning towards recommending that it simply be voluntary next year.   He still doesn’t seem to understand how much work is involved in this request.
On Saturday, I got a late start because I tried to catch a cross-country meet in Worthington where my niece was running.  It was a stunningly beautiful day with clear blue skies for as far as the eye could see.  I watered the food pantry, neighbor and my plots.  I weeded the neighbor plot.  I had planned on transplanting more lettuce, kale and collard greens, but didn’t have time.  I pulled out two beefstake tomato plants and one sunflower plant (which had already been picked clean by the neighborhood finches) and had planned to pull out half of the rest of the tomato plants and most of the bush beans, but with our unseasonably warm weather, they were all still producing lots of tomatoes and beans.   However, regardless of the weather, I know that I need to start pulling out these plants in stages because it won’t be fun pulling out all of them in one day when it is 40 degrees, damp and windy.  Amy had already been to the Garden before me and cleaned out one of the raised beds for me.  She also left me a note with some tomatoes to add to our Faith Mission donation.

Mari came by to start cleaning out her plot for the season.  She had neglected it for most of the summer and doesn’t see how she’ll have the energy or time next year to do any better.   She’d rather come and volunteer when she’s able instead of committing to tending a plot and then not doing it.   Regardless of her neglect, her beefstake tomato plant was the most productive tomato plant we had this year.  I noticed that Neal had also started to clean out his plot and stack some of his tomato cages.

I harvested for our weekly donation (which this week was going to Faith Mission since it was so late in the day).  We had lots of beans and tomatoes, as well as collard greens, kale, chard, basil and parsley.  I took a picture of one giant collard plant because I had neglected it this summer.  I thought it was in Amy’s plot, but it was in one of the food pantry plots, next to a row of broccoli.  I have
belatedly figured out why no one was harvesting from it and remedied that today.

The neighborhood girls came by to harvest tomatoes and greens from their beds.  They also watered a bit.   They turned their nose up at their beans because so many of them had already gone to seed.  I rescued almost a pound of green beans from their plot after they left and added it to our Faith Mission donation.   The girls had no interest in cleaning out their beds today and their uncle was yelling at them from across the street to not get dirty. 

Although I think that they could still continue to grow for a few more weeks, I decided to start harvesting my sweet potatoes.  Last Thanksgiving, my childhood friend Susan gave me a few runt white sweet potatoes from which I could start slips over the winter.  I had never heard of such a thing and still have never tasted them. Unlike regular sweet potatoes, only the skin is red; the interior is white.   One of the runts shriveled up, but I was able to get one slip off of the other runt and I planted it in my plot.  The vines from that slip eventually took over the southeast portion of my plot and grew all of the way north to the herb garden and west to my chard.  Craziness.   I dug up the hill where I had planted it and have attached some pictures of what I kept for myself.  One of the potatoes was ridiculously large and I don’t even know how I will bake it.   I gave a small one and a runt to Cathy and kept the rest for myself to eat and start slips off of next year.   I normally wouldn’t include pictures because it tends to encourage thieves at the Garden, but these are the only white sweet potatoes at the SACG this year and I’ve already harvested them all. 
I also harvested more yard-long beans, most of the rest of my pole and bush beans, some kale and
some peppers and only a few tomatoes (since I had already picked most of them on Wednesday).  I’m so glad that I don’t have to weigh and record everything on top of our food pantry harvests.  I was also able to save some more cosmos seeds.  We have had lots of bees enjoying our October cosmos, marigolds and purple aster flowers.   Hopefully, the mums I planted (which were donated by Strader's Garden Centers) will come back next year, too.

I didn’t get out until almost 3:30 p.m. as the OSU game was winding up.  I had tried to listen to the game on my mp3 player, but the battery died.  I think that I might have scared some of the neighbors, as it was, with my screaming when Maryland tied up the game.   When I got hungry, I headed half a block west to Cathy’s house.  She was hosting a high school group from Trinity Family Life Church in Pickerington, who were helping to put siding on a neglected house in the neighborhood.  Urban Connections is remodeling and improving the blighted house in order to later rent it out to a family and improve the neighborhood at the same time.   She had purchased lots of pizza and soda for them and I knew that she’d have leftovers.  In return, I brought her some white sweet potatoes, passilla peppers and tomatillos from my plot.  I must have been really hungry because I don’t remember pizza or soda tasting so good.   I usually don’t eat that well on garden Saturdays.
Someone has also bought the house across the street (at the other north corner of Morrison and
Cherry) and spent a lot of time fixing it up.  The box gutters have been repaired and they are already remodeling inside.  Since that building had for a while been the stock photo of urban blight at the Dispatch, this is also welcome news.

The other big news in the neighborhood is that a large Westerville property developer, The Woda Group, has announced intentions to buy twelve lots (which are mostly vacant) along the north side of East Main Street, starting at the corner of Fairwood and Main, in order to build a 54-unit affordable senior apartment building.   This will not include the vacant, ancient and blighted apartment building at the corner of Fairwood and Cherry (caddy-corner from the Urban Connections ministry house).   Strangely, they have not
included any drawings of what the building will look like, although there are some preliminary architectural and landscaping sketches.   They will be making a community presentation about the project tomorrow night at 7 at Central Community House on East Main Street.  They will need a variance from the City and have filed a request with the Near East Area Commission.  I would have to assume that a brand new building will be a welcome improvement over the vacant lots and buildings which current sit on those lots.  However, we also have to wonder if there is a market for such housing and whether they will be adequately maintained and monitored.   I also wonder if the new residents would want to garden with us in their spare time . . . . 

As promised, here’s one of my favorite bean recipes:

Roasted Green Beans

This recipe was modified from an old Cook’s magazine which my friend Vicki gave me a few years ago.  The first time I made it was great and I inhaled a quart in one sitting.  The second time – which I made for Vicki – I burned them.  That didn’t stop us from eating them.

·        1 pound green beans (fresh or frozen)

·        4 tbsp olive oil

·        ½ tsp salt


·        2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

·        2 chopped garlic cloves

·        1 tsp honey

·        1 tsp thyme

1. Heat oven to 450 degree oven.  Have rack placed in the middle.

2.   Toss beans in ½ tsp salt and 2 tbsp olive oil.

3.  Spread aluminum foil on a cookie or baking sheet.  Spread beans evenly over sheet.

4. Sprinkle with salt.  Put in oven for 10 minutes.

5.  Make the Sauce in a medium bowl.  Take the beans out of oven and scoop up the beans with tongs and shake them in the bowl with the sauce.  Return the beans to the cookie/baking sheet and return to oven for another 10 minutes.  (If using frozen beans, turn on broiler). 

The beans should have black spots on them and shrivel up.

Plan on 1 quart per person per serving.   I inhaled a quart in just two servings and wanted more.  You will want to make these often.

I do not recommend using canned beans because the color is not consistent. With fresh beans or barely blanched frozen beans the difference in color will not be noticeable. 

Be careful not to overcook them.  They should still be green when you remove them with black spots where it is beginning to carmelize.  However, do not panic if you over-cook them because they will still be tasty.  I once left them in for five minutes too long and they all came out black (and some even crunchy).  They were still edible (although they were not inhaled in one sitting like correctly roasted beans) and the blackness disguised the color differences between the frozen and canned beans.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Asters, Mums and Cold Snaps

Activities are slowing down with the falling temperatures at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden, although we are not finished yet.

On Monday, I attended the first Garden-to-Table fundraiser organized by the Columbus Department of Public Health’s Barb Seckler at The Kitchen in German Village on  Livingston Avenue.   It was to benefit the Active Living Fund at the Columbus Foundation.  It was a lovely five-course meal with our produce picked just hours earlier (or, in some cases, a day or two earlier) from area community gardens, such as Highland Youth (eggplants),  Four Seasons City Farm (apples), Franklinton (peppers), etc.  (It’s a good thing that they didn’t have to weigh and record everything first as the City intends to require all of us to do next year or we’d still be waiting for our dinner).  We had a lovely baba ganoush, hummus and grilled asparagus (and other vegetables) for snacks (along with a beet-rum punch as the seasonal cocktail).  The appetizers included charred romaine salad and a butternut squash soup.  Dinner was chicken with some pureed vegetables and a fried green tomato followed by a dessert of dried apple slices with gingered ice cream.  The donors had a chance to mingle with garden leaders from Highland Youth, Franklinton, Four Seasons City Farm, Community Development for All People, and Godman Guild.  There was also a silent auction (where I was outbid by a heart surgeon.  Curses) and a half-and-half raffle.   Dan from Four Seasons won the raffle, but donated the proceeds back to the event (even though Four Seasons could use the cash itself).  The event was attended by folks from the event co-sponsors, such as AEP, the OSU Ross Heart Hospital, Franklin Park Conservatory, etc.  I sat in between Dr. Teresa Long from CDPH and Lindsey Kobelt from MurphyEpson and across from an OSU heart surgeon (who undoubtedly enjoyed her new outdoor fire pit this weekend).   They all got the chance to hear boring stories from me about the SACG.
 I also got the chance to berate Bill Dawson about the City Land Bank adopting his recommendation to require us to weigh and record all of our produce next year.  But it was just a recommendation, he said.   He’s been making this recommendation for years (as I well know).   Are they going to buy you a scale so that you can do this, he asked.  Of course not, I said.   Can’t you just compare the weight to a gallon of milk, he asked.  Glaring at him, I realized that this suggestion reflected that he had never even attempted this task himself before he hoisted it upon all of the overworked community gardeners in Columbus.  It is extremely rare for a plot gardener to ever harvest enough of anything in a particular week that would approximate a gallon of milk.  Occasionally, you’ll have that many tomatoes, beans, cabbage and potatoes.  If you skipped a week, your zucchini could weigh that much during certain periods of the summer.  But typically, we are talking ounces, not pounds of any particular type of produce in a given week.   Only once have I harvested a pound of peas on a particular day (and have never had a pound of peppers) and I have a giant plot.  One typically only harvests enough kale or lettuce for a particular meal.  The incompetence of this reality is really burning me up.  You would think that they would have experimented with this requirement before imposing it on all of the Land Bank community gardens (many of whom don’t have enough help or resources to even fully plant their lots or mow their lawns regularly).  

Can they identify a single city anywhere else in the United  States (or even the United Kingdom) with such a stupid requirement?  Of course not.  Other communities are trying to encourage community gardening by making it easier, not discouraging it by making it harder.  So, then Bill suggested that we just guess the weight.  Really?!  The whole point of this exercise was to convince the City Council with hard numbers that the community gardens are benefitting the community and deserve more funding.  Does anyone really think that they will be convinced with made-up numbers?  Is the public school data rigging schedule really that far from people’s minds?
I also had a chance to chat with GCGC President, Peggy Murphy.  Like last year, she told me that she plans to step back from leading GCGC for personal reasons.  I reminded her that she told me the same thing last year and yet she accepted the nomination again to be president this year.  She assured me that she had even stronger reasons this year for needing to step back.  Without detailing her reasons, she has convinced me that she is serious that we need to find a strong leader to replace her at GCGC who has her knack for networking in the community and communicating with the leaders of various stakeholders.  She knows who I prefer, but who knows if those folks will step forward.

Because I knew that it was going to get cold this week, I washed my houseplants (which had been outdoors most of the summer), applied insecticide and brought them indoors.   They had doubled in size and no longer fit in their former spaces. 

After we received an inch of rain on Tuesday, I did not need to water this week at the SACG.  Instead, I harvested most of the rest of my basil and made pesto on Wednesday night.  I freeze most of it to use during the winter in sauces, over pasta and in soups.  I also air dried some branches so that I would have dried basil ready for recipes and rooted some other branches so that I could pot them and use them as hostess gifts over the Fall.

On Friday morning, I picked up a couple of white mums from East Baptist Church (which hosted the monthly GCGC meeting the night before and received the latest bulk donation from Straders’ Garden Centers).   I then headed over to the SACG, planted the mums in our front flower beds, added books and magazines to our Free Little Library, transplanted kale and collards from new seedlings to bare areas in the Garden and harvested for our weekly food pantry donation (at St. Vincent de Paul – just as it started raining for the weekend).  I noticed that Lea had cleaned out her plot of everything except her pepper plants.   She was not interested in Fall gardening this year, but hoped that we would be opening again next year.  While I was at the SACG, Mike from Four Seasons City Farm stopped by.  He was as shocked as I am about how many of our gardeners are letting food rot in their plot.  (Particularly Rayna).  He showed me a basket full of beautiful bell peppers that he had just picked from his garden.  He asked if he could have some green tomatoes, so I let him have all of them in the food pantry plot since I suspected that I will be pulling out the tomato vines in that plot next weekend anyway.   He also thanked me again for loaning him one of our rain barrels to support his community garden.
Over the weekend, I made stuffed eggplant and re-discovered all of the amazing vegetarian recipes
in my oldest Moosewood Restaurant cookbook.  I saw one for stuffed green tomatoes and wondered if there were any large green tomatoes remaining in my own plot.  (They might turn red this week, so I had better act quickly if I want to get any to fry or try this new recipe).  There are so many recipes in this cookbook that I’ve never tried and I was really in the mood on Sunday evening.   Maybe next week . . . . .

While I was mowing my lawn yesterday, I heard lots and lots of humming.  I have a forest of purple asters in my flower bed (and transplanted quite a few over at the SACG when dividing them).  Although they are prolific in September and October, I’ve grown to hate them because they are so tall and flop so much.  I even tried cutting them back a few times in June and July in the hopes that they would return to their potted plant size when I first bought them.  No luck.  However, they were full of honey bees yesterday.  In fact, there were more honey bees in my yard yesterday than I’ve seen all summer combined.  Maybe I won’t be digging out the asters at the end of the month after all. . . .  (I had already purchased some purple mums from Lowe’s to replace them and have no idea where to put them).