Saturday, April 30, 2016

Rainy Days and Mondays . . . .

After all of the work we performed at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden last week to
celebrate Earth Day, we took it easier this week (unless your name is Stan because he is still working on rebuilding all of our compost bins).  Amy also came over to weed the flower beds and Susan watered our new strawberry plants and new cherry tree.  We also want to give a shout-out to Half Price Books for donating two heavy boxes of books for our Free Little Library.   Sadly, it’s been very cloudy all week, which makes it harder to take good pictures.

On Wednesday, I headed over and found Rayna and Amy gardening and Stan completing the rebuild of our middle compost bin.   I watered everything in my plot and the food pantry and neighbor plots.   The neighborhood girls came over to water their beds and brought a new neighborhood girl.  Her bed wont’ be ready for a while because we’re still waiting on the City’s Lowe’s voucher program to begin.    We need to top off her bed with some potting soil, but she apparently has become impatient because I found a hoe in the bed this morning.

We’ve been running chronically low on books
for our Free Little Library.  The neighborhood kids (and their parents) frequently stop by to peruse and/or pick up something to read.   Pastor Burt from Urban Connections put a bunch of books in it last week.   On Thursday, I drove over to Hilliard to pick up books being donated by Half-Price Books.  The last time we participated in their book drive, Roberts Road was under construction and the line of cars snaked for almost a mile.  I remember waiting for approximately an hour.  So, I brought magazines with me this time to read while I waited.  However, this year, there was no construction and no line at the HPB Warehouse.  They put two heavy books into the trunk of my car and that should last us a month or so.

Also on Thursday, I discovered that OSU has re-vamped its online gardening newsletter.  It is so much easier to access and read now.  And, instead of publishing the entire newsletter at once on Thursdays, they are simply posting new articles as they are prepared throughout the week.  I love the newsletter mostly for talking about things that you never find in books:  weeds and bugs.   They also often focus on a flower each week and a vegetable, but you can find information on them almost anywhere.  I've always had a link to Buckeye Lawn & Garden onLine on our website, but it's easier to follow now on your own schedule.

This morning, I arrived to find Aaron mowing and Stan edging our yard.  They then left to grab some breakfast and then returned to deconstruct and straighten our eastern compost bin.  Stan also wants to extend our front flower bed edging all the way to the alley. I worry that he’ll burn out before he plants much in his plot or finishes all of these projects.  I quickly re-filled our Free Little Library with our new books.
 

Earlier this week, Four Seasons City Farm
advertised that they were selling bare root strawberry plants for $.30/each, so I bought a bunch for the SACG and offered to sell some to the gardeners for $.50/each.  I began my work this morning planting the plants into our strawberry patch.  They aren’t expected to bear fruit this year, but you never know. . … .  I also planted a bunch of perennial flowers into our various flower beds.  Our early daisies are beginning to pop, which is always a happy event.  I even found some baby volunteer sunflowers.   Of course, our bindweed has also shown its ugly head and I probably spent an hour pulling it wherever I found it.  One of the neighborhood landlords was busy tending to a nearby yard and asked me if I was a one-man band.  Not at all, I said.  The guys were here before me this morning to mow and edge the lawn.
I mulched our new cherry tree with mulch donated by Keep Columbus Beautiful.  Also, I transplanted some vegetable seedlings into my plot and the food pantry plot and then it began to rain – four hours earlier than predicted.   I ignored it for the first half hour, but even a light rain begins to add up to wet pavement and mud after a while.   There have been predictions of an inch of rain this weekend, but at sundown, we’ve still only received .2 inch (on top of .3 inches earlier in the week).   However, a nice gentle rain are seeds’ best friends.  This afternoon alone, my peas, spinach and bok choy have doubled in size from yesterday.   My azaleas and clematises are also blooming and the peonies are not far behind.

Well, a rainy days means that I get to catch up
on my housework.  Before I left this morning, I started my eggplant simmering sauce (that I made last Fall) in the slow cooker and slow cooked lamb, couscous and quinoa in it for dinner and then roasted some brussels sprouts.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Branching Out With Earth Day Columbus 2016

After last year, I promised my crew at the  Stoddart Avenue Community Garden that we would not be undertaking any major capital improvement projects this year.  We were exhausted with planting three trees and our curb project last year.  Ha!  On our Opening Day, we literally moved two mountains with just our hands, shovels and wheelbarrows. Today, we doubled the size and accessibility of our strawberry patch (which we created as our Earth Day project in 2010) and deconstructed and mostly reconstructed a compost bin, planted another cherry tree, picked up litter, weeded and planted.  With a little help from our friends.   I took a lot of pictures, so I’m going to have to milk this story for all it's worth to have room to post even half of the pics.

Every productive work day begins with preparation.  Earth Day Columbus and Keep Columbus  Beautiful amassed and organized many supplies.  I picked up most of our supplies on Tuesday afternoon.  We had been told that more volunteer rewards had been requested than they had to distribute.  So, our selfless community garden community returned half of their rewards (i.e., free Jeni’s ice cream, Bubble Tea and Chipotle gift certificates).

On Wednesday, I visited the SACG to plant a little, water a lot and kibbitz.   In the last 12 days, we’ve only received .1 inch of rain.  Bill Kelly said it was the driest nine days since November 2012.  2012 was the driest year ever.  I still have nightmares.   Luckily our tanks were full.     I also made some minor repairs to our front gate sign.

On Thursday, I thinned and repotted my seedlings (i.e., tomatoes, peppers, kale, collards, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, basil, eggplant, and marigolds).  I pot them with compost from my bins and potting soil.  I had to stop when I ran out of potting soil.

On Friday, Cathy picked me up with her SUV and I contributed some items to Urban Connections annual Spring Garage Sale at First Alliance Church, 3750 West Henderson Road next Saturday.  It’s UC’s biggest annual fundraiser.   Cathy then took me to Strader’s to buy a cherry tree and some seedlings (because I could not help myself).  She wanted to give me some potting soil, but I insisted on buying some for myself.  This year, I decided to get a Meteor cherry (instead of another Montmorency cherry).  They are both sour pie cherries, both dwarfs and both self-pollinating.   But the Meteors were in flower and the Montmorency were all leafed out.  I thought it would be more fun for the volunteers to plant a flowering tree.  How’s that for logic?   On an amusing note, a Strader's employee tried to talk us into buying a tree with more lateral branches than straight branches because the lateral branches will make it easier for the kids to pick cherries as the tree grows taller.  Cathy and I laughed; the kids already eat all of the cherries and we're hoping that the adults get some someday as the trees get taller  . . . . .

We returned to the SACG and tried to hang our front gate sign.  Problem is, we’re both pretty short.  The ladder almost fell over with me holding the sign and the drill.   So, Cathy called Doug Hartman (who, although he is in my pictures with her, is her co-worker and boss, not her husband).   Doug is also the Executive Director of UC and much taller than us.  He got the sign up lickety split.   Cathy then baked brownies for today’s volunteers and I made no-bake cookies and repotted the rest of my seedlings. I then returned to KCB to pick up some extra supplies.

This morning, I made coffee and had to leave early because the local Elementary School was having a 5K race fundraiser that landlocked my house if I waited too long.  It was grey and chilly, so I wore three layers.  At least it's not spitting rain or windy like last year.   When I arrived at the Garden, a fellow pulled up and asked if I was by myself working.  Not for long, I told him.  He said he would return, but had to get coffee first.  Our lawn looked magnificent.  Stan had been there Friday afternoon and not only did he mow our lawn, he edged all of the beds and trees.  What a guy.

Stan shows up as I’m unloading my car (which he helped me to finish).  He also tasted my cookies.  The other fellow returns and has coffee for the two of us as well.  I thought that he was going to help us, but it turns out that he was planning to help our neighbor, Kimball Farms for their Opening Day for this growing season.  Drat!  I showed Stan the seed potatoes and onion sets he requested, before he left to find his nephew, Aaron.

We had 10 people sign up to volunteer at the SACG through the
Earth Day Columbus website.  Four of them arrived and I gave them their choice of projects.  Corrie picked the strawberry patch and Marcie, Sean and Lindsay picked the flower beds and vegetable beds.  Susan arrived and I asked her to supervise the vegetable beds, but the Sean and Marcie didn’t need any help in that department.  So, she helped with the strawberry patch and acted as Chief Morale Officer.  These folks weeded the flower beds and removed most of our invasive mint so that I can plant other flowers there.  Never fear, we left enough behind to make mint juleps and mojitos and I know that it will grow back anyway.   They also weeded the front vegetable bed and planted rows of beets, turnips, and lettuce as well as the cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprout seedlings I picked up.   Then, I had them dig up the overgrown garlic that Charlie planted three years ago and that Neal left in place.   I gave some to Cathy and Melinda at Kimball Farms, etc.  I also planted some in my plot.

I thought that the strawberry patch would be the biggest project of the day.  And it was.  But not the way I thought.  I had picked up lots of top soil, most of which we ended up not needing.   Susan and a volunteer raked back the wood chips, dug a new trench for the border and moved the landscaping stones north and west.   We then emptied bags of soil to fill in spaces and spread around some com-till that we had piled there two weeks ago.     While we were doing this, Stan was re-straightening our alley curb and then turned to deconstructing our leaning tower of Piza (otherwise known as the middle compost bin) and digging out the foundation beneath it in order to flatten out the slope.  In doing so, he found lots of landscaping stones from the raised vegetable bed that used to be there.  Susan and Rayna repurposed those stones to the strawberry patch.  We still have a few missing stones, which I will pick up from Lowe’s once our City voucher comes through.   I also picked up some volunteer strawberries that had grown into the Kimball Farm’s path from the strawberries that we gave them last year to start their own patch.  (I also gave them volunteer raspberries that we dug out as we proceeded in our projects).

Then, Rayna had the idea that we should make paths in the patch so that the kids don’t stomp on all the plants while searching for strawberries and then, later, black raspberries (as they do almost every year).  But, I say, it’s so dry and it might not rain again for another week. If we disturb our good plants, they might die or lose berries before they get established again.  I don’t really want to dig out any berries if we can avoid it.  I always lose these debates with Rayna.   She had even brought a bale of straw with her for the strawberries.   So, we grabbed the extra bricks laying around the Garden and installed two paths through the strawberry patch.  I split the back of my 25-year old jeans in the process.  Sigh.

Last December, OSU’s Pay It Forward program called to ask if I could use volunteers in April.  Of course, I say.  The latter in the month the better.  I took them this week because I knew that we would likely have an Earth Day project.  On Monday, they called to confirm and told me that they had a wait list.   They had promised 10 kids, but sure, I could probably keep 15 busy.  Then, I found out final exams are next week, so I worried that no one will come.  But, we got six Spanish exchange students who did not dress for the weather.  I put two of them to work digging a hole for our cherry tree (and they unearthed six bricks in the process).  I assigned the rest to emptying the middle compost bin with garden forks.  (Anything to keep warm).     It was leaning so much that I had to borrow a drill from Cathy's husband, Jason, to remove the latch on the bin’s gate.   Then, Stan returned and took charge of that project and it took on a life of its own. 

Marcel and Zion arrived and were put to work picking up litter on Stoddart Avenue.  The OSU students then joined them.   Then, the volunteers started to tire out and moved on to other projects. Surely, they said, you have a second shift of volunteers coming.  Ha!  Nope.    Just us old ladies.   No worries.   Marcel eventually returned and then weeded the blueberry turrets and the south side of the Garden and Zion helped us to water in the transplanted strawberries.  Then, Mari came back to help us weed and tidy up.  We all took a sugar break.  I made sure that all of the SACG gardeners saw our seed stache.  We have two new gardeners who are really into community gardening (after all of three weeks).  They have colored plant markers and everything.  (Rayna used to do that, too).   Well, apparently, they got bored this week.  They organized the seed stache and even put in labeled divider tabs.  I could not stop laughing.  I took a picture and then walked our seed bins around to everyone to show them.    And then I’d laugh again.  You cannot imagine how far down my priority list this was.  Sweet.   I clearly need to assemble and distribute the chore chart before the thrill goes away.  [Editor's Note:  I was informed on Sunday that it was not our new gardeners who organized our seeds, but veteran  SACG gardener and new mommy Sabrina.  Oops.]

Another surprise that we had was a spontaneous donation of two cartons of soda.  The house at the corner of Morrison and Cherry has a new owner, who has been diligently making repairs and improvements for the past six months or so.  He and his crew were over there working on Saturday, too.  Then, early in the afternoon, when it was just us SACG gardeners left, he stopped by and donated two cartons of soda for us to thank us for all of our hard work.    It's always nice to be appreciated.

As the SACG gardeners faded away, Gio and Micayla came by to plant in their plot.  I had to carry the top soil from the strawberry patch back into the Garden.  My back is really feeling that now.    The girls like emptying bags of soil, so we put three bags in their plot, discussed what they wanted to plant this year and put in a row of carrots and lettuce.    Off they go.  Ten minutes later, a group of four girls came and wanted their own bed.  So, we repeat, put 3 bags of top soil in their raised bed and plant a row of carrots and lettuce.    Off they go.  (Truth is, they wanted to plant strawberries and peaches.  Sigh).   There I am by myself.  Even the Kimball Farms folks and Stan are gone.  I pack up the shed and my car and return home at 4 p.m.

Kimball Farms was busy today, too.  They weeded their raised beds and planted cold season crops and expanded their strawberry patch.  They also removed their baby pool farm and replaced it with more giant raised beds (which had to be filled).  Then, they spreaded mulch between all of the raised beds.  And, they had a mini bulldozer to distribute their half of the com-til pile among the raised beds and to the area where they plan to have a tall hoop house along their north fence.   Melinda commented that she couldn’t believe that we moved our half of that pile with just shovels and wheelbarrows.  Indeed.   It was a long day.  They were not as lucky as we were this year with getting volunteers through EDC’s website, but she recruited even more through her Facebook page.    All morning long, people were coming up to me to volunteer only to find out that they were at the wrong community garden.  Sigh.

When I finally left the Garden, I wondered if I could fix my jeans.  I hate to ruin another pair gardening . . . .    But the sun was out and I had stripped two layers down to my t-shirt.  Time to mow my own lawn  . . .   My coffee was still in my thermos.  I never had time to touch it.  But now, a shower, glass of wine and half-pizza later, I must bring in my seedlings because it will be too cold for them tonight.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Springing Back With a Vengeance


Spring really showed up with a vengeance this week at the Stoddart Avenue Community  Garden with temperatures in the 80’s.  We had a brilliantly sunny and warm day on Saturday and a dry and warm week.  This will really warm up the ground quickly.  No temperatures below 40 are predicted in the near term, so we may start summer planting early.

On Wednesday, Micayla and I planted potatoes in the food pantry plot and in her raised bed.  We also helped Taylor and Alyssa (who, in turn, help me to liberate the benches so that we don’t have to squat to sit).  Micayla was looking forward to a school field trip to the National Underground Railroad Center in Cincinnati.

On Saturday, I got a very late start because I hadn’t had time on Friday to visit DeMonye’s annual perennial sale.  So, I began my Saturday at DeMonye’s picking up a flat of perennial flowers and herbs and a pot of rosemary.

On Saturday, I arrived to tidy the flower beds, plant in my plot (cabbage, Chinese cabbage, broccoli leeks, and brussels sprouts)  and the food pantry plot (onions, greens, kale, broccoli) and water everything in.  Cathy and Ben were there to plant cool crops in their plot as well.  Susan arrived for planting in her plot, too.   Susan and I commiserated about how much slower we move these days… . . I just got my AARP card.

While I mowed our lot, Susan picked up litter in the neighborhood.  Our fruit trees seemed to have survived last week’s late season freezes and had lots of flowers on them.  When I returned briefly on Monday to water (due to out unseasonably warm and dry weather), Micayla showed up with her own watering can to water her potatoes with help from Gio).

This Saturday will be our annual Earth Day Celebration with Earth Day Columbus.  On Tuesday, I
picked up our supplies from Keep Columbus Beautiful, including mulch, top soil, bottled water, luna bars, litter grabbers, gloves, safety vests, trash bags, etc.  EDC CEO Kristen was there to pass out supplies, too.  Apparently, the work sites signed up for 5,700 rewards, but they only had 5,000 rewards (i.e., free Jeni’s and Bubble Tea and 2-for-1 Chipotle) to give out.  So, a lot of the community gardens returned a lot of their rewards so that there would be enough to go around.  Kristen was very impressed.  The work sites also get 2 fashionable t-shirts.

We have big plans at the SACG.  We have a small group of OSU students coming and 8 folks signed up to help us on the EDC site.  OSU's Pay It Forward told me that they actually have a wait list of students wanting to help us this weekend!  And then there are our regular gardeners.  This is the fun that we have planned:

·        Picking up litter in the neighborhood and then taking a group picture behind our stack of trash bags. 

·        Expanding our strawberry patch.   We haven’t gotten our Lowe’s voucher yet from the City and are unlikely to do so before Saturday, so it’s not going to go as planned.  We’ve put some com-til over there and KCB just gave me a lot of top soil.  I also want to add some garden soil once we get our vouchers.  Our neighbor is going to give us some strawberry seedlings (i.e., babies from the strawberry seedlings that we gave them last year).    We’ll be raking aside the wood chips, outlining the new patch with our existing stones, then fill it partially up with our donated top soil and com-til, weeding the existing patch, transplanting new seedlings and watering them in real good.

·        Planting our fourth sour cherry tree.  I’ll pick the tree up on Friday and some tree soil. 

·        Turning the compost in the bins and straightening up the leaning bin and the blocks on the other.

·        Planting beets, turnips, lettuce, etc. in the food pantry plots.

·        Mowing the lawn. 

·        If we finish early, we’ll just sit around singing If I had a hammer . . . . . Just kidding.

 

We’ll be starting at 9:30 and I plan to bring cookies. When everyone leaves, I can tend my own plot for a while before returning home.

We do have one small problem that I hope our dear readers can help alleviate.  We are out of books for our Free Little Library.  Everyone should have such problems.   Every day that I'm at the Garden, children and parents stop by to get books and all we have right now are gardening books.  Please help!
 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Spring’s Been a Long Time Comin’ This Year

The Stoddart Avenue Community Garden opened just in time for an extended cold snap.  I’m basically the only gardener who has planted anything so far.  (Ok, Rayna has put in one row of some onions or leeks and Amy claims to have planted some seeds).   But, warm weather is arriving tomorrow and I think that the snow is finally behind us.  I hope so because my tomato, broccoli, and cabbage seedlings are getting too big for their trays and need to be transplanted into larger containers soon. 

I’ve attached some more pictures from our Opening Day and that Susan took of our snow covered garden in March.

On the Wednesday after our opening day, we got a lot of rain.  However, I beat the rain drops by about ten minutes and got my potatoes and peas into the ground and transplanted a sage plant into our herb garden and a peony bush that I divided from my back yard.   Sadly, I was in such a hurry to beat the rain that I forgot to bring my Epson salt with me.  At March’s GCGC meeting, Marge from the SVDP Garden had recommended putting Epson salt into the trench to help the potatoes.   After an extremely cold Saturday (which made me glad that I declined OSU’s offer of students for April 9), I returned on Sunday afternoon to plant some lettuce, spinach, cilantro and onions.  I also tried to dig out some of our new tulips that got covered with wood chips. 

While I was there, neighbors Kevin, Jaden and Micayla stopped by and offered to help.  Kevin and I installed our front gate.  Then Micayla helped me to plant my lettuce, onions and spinach before we selected a raised bed for her and planted two red potatoes.  It was still pretty chilly, so I decided to call it a day and return to my house to mow, etc.   With all of these plants in the ground, I was delighted with the 24 hours of rain that we received on Monday.

On Thursday, Robert from Keep  Columbus Beautiful called about having some vegetable seeds available.  So, off I went to pick up carrots and other vegetable seeds for our gardeners.  We also talked about heirloom beans and our plans for Earth Day (which is coming up).   He’s also found a large group of volunteers for us in June, which is always very helpful and appreciated.

This weekend is DeMonye’s annual perennial sale – something I never miss.  In fact, I tend to go as soon as it opens.  In addition to great flowers, there are often perennial herbs for sale as well.

Tonight I hope to get potatoes planted in a food pantry plot, as well as kale seeds.  (I’ve already put my Epson salt into my car so that I don’t forget it again).   Then, on Saturday, I’ll start putting my cabbage, broccoli and similar seedlings in the ground.  Tonight is predicted to be the last cold night until next Fall.  We shall see.   We’ve had an unusually windy April and my portable greenhouse has been blown over several times.  I weigh it down with full clay pots (which are now all broken).   Fortunately, unlike past years, I’ve been more careful about putting my seedlings into the greenhouse when it’s windy.  So, I haven’t lost any seedlings yet and haven’t gotten them mixed up (when they fall out of the trays during a windy mishap).  

On Saturday, I hope to also get our sign up over our front gate and to reposition our benches.  The legs are so buried in our wood chips that you’re basically squatting when you sit down.    Speaking of wood chips, I’d like to thank again Tree King for donating our wood chips this year.  This is our second year of lucking into lots of nice-smelling pine chips. 

I’ve got more sage plants to share from my home garden.  They are fairly large (i.e., they are not seedlings).   Just let me know if you’ll put them to good use.  They smell so good, but there’s only so much sage a girl can use and there are other herbs that need that space . . . . . .
 
With the several night-time freezes that we've had this week, I'm anxious to see if we get any cherries, peaches or strawberries this year . . . .  Keep your fingers crossed.
 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Venimus! Vidimus! Vicimus! (Without Getting Blown Away)

We came.  We saw. We conquered.  It’s not as sexy as Veni Vidi Vici, but it’s more accurate because, unlike Julius Caesar at the Battle of Zela, I couldn’t claim to do all of this by myself.  It is difficult to comprehend how much we accomplished on the opening day for the 8th growing season of the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.   We had a different group of gardeners than I anticipated a week ago and a different group of volunteers than had previously contacted me.   But, we got everything done that we had set out to do (except turning our compost bins because I felt our volunteers had worked too hard by that time).  Then, an unexpectedly long and severe wind storm hit the Garden (which makes me wonder how much of our new compost blew away).  My new gardening hat blew off a few times this morning, but after I adjusted it, it stayed on my head for the rest of the day despite 40-50 mph winds.

Last weekend, I stopped by the Garden a few times to kill some pernicious weeds, refill our Free Little Library (which had pretty much been emptied by the neighborhood kids on Spring Break), hook-up the rain smaller/taller cistern and varnish our neighbor plot sign.  The remnants of the fifth anniversary memorial were present to mark the March 2011 drive-by murder at the Garden, which lead to the re-formation of the neighborhood block watch.  Block Watch Barb  (the co-chair of the neighborhood block watch) stopped by.  She returned to pick up the considerable amount of litter in ours and the Block Watch lots.

Tree King dropped off a load of pine wood chips that they donated to us bright and early Tuesday morning, which meant that I had to drive over and shovel some wood chips out of the alley.    These were spread very thickly on our paths, along the north and south sides of our fence, and around our compost bins and raised beds.   Neighbor Brown’s wife stopped by and we chatted a bit while I was there. I also spent some time Wednesday afternoon chatting with an OSU social work student who is trying to organize a resurgence of the Avondale Community Garden in Franklinton.

As mentioned here in February, the City donated Com-Til to Land Bank Community Gardens, like the
SACG.  On Thursday, Yokum Contracting picked up a giant Com-til load for us and Kimball Farms from the City’s facility at Jackson Pike (at a substantially discounted delivery fee).   They delivered it while it rained.    It was a tight fit to get the truck onto Kimball Farm’s lot, but they made it look easy.    I also stopped by Rebuilding Together’s Tool Library to get our new Tool Library cards.  The new staff there were highly efficient and confirmed the tool order I had previously emailed.  They even provided me with a choice of three different sizes of rototillers.  Knowing that Frank would not be helping us on Saturday and not knowing if any big, strong men would show up, I ordered the medium sized rototiller in case Rayna and I had to till the Garden even though it does not till quite as deeply as the largest sized tiller.

On Friday, I made a couple dozen of my chocolate no-bake cookies and Cathy baked 40 hostess ding-dong cupcakes (stuffed and topped with white cream).  I also picked up frozen pizzas and some other refreshments, assembled our supplies, washed and re-paired our gardening gloves, and loaded my car.  Bexley high schoolers spent the night camping out at the Jeffrey Park Meadows to raise money and show solidarity with the area’s homeless population (who live in various camp sites along Alum Creek).

Saturday morning, Cathy and I drove over to Rebuilding  Together’s Tool Library to borrow shovels, rakes, a wheelbarrow, and a rototiller.  They are a little short-staffed because key employee, Michael, had surgery on Friday.   The husband of CEO Julie Smith had volunteered this morning to pitch in and check out the power tools.   Cathy also loaned us 2 wheelbarrows.  (Her husband got home from work last night at 4 a.m. and still pumped up the tires on the wheelbarrows for us to use this morning).   Kimball Farms also loaned us 2 wheelbarrows.  I unloaded our shed.  New gardeners Colonia and Nurmaya pumped up the tires on our wagon and Stan pumped up the tires on one of the Kimball Farms wheelbarrow.  (Colonia is a grown-up former Urban Connections kid.  She still remembers when Doug used to live in the Ministry House.  What a small world).

Charter SACG members, Frank & Barb Carter dropped out three days before Opening Day.  It’s hard to imagine how we will continue without them.  Frank was our resident handyman and jack of all trades – someone that every community garden needs.   This leaves Rayna and me as the only two holdovers from our 2009 groundbreaking.   We had a number of other people contact me about volunteering.  However, I guess the chilly temperatures scared every one of them off.   Luckily a giant and hardworking group from Reynoldsburg Alliance Church showed up at the invitation of our neighbor Urban Connections to pick up litter along East Main Street.  Through a miscommunication, someone else from the neighborhood  (who was organizing the litter pick-up) forgot to pick up the litter grabbers from Keep Columbus Beautiful and so that organization’s loss was the SACG’s gain as I put all of those people of faith to work helping us to prepare for the growing season.  Granted, some of them were desperate to pick up litter, so I loaned them our two litter grabbers and they set to work cleaning up the alley between Morrison and Stoddart and other areas of the neighborhood.

Our primary task was to spread half of the Com-Til pile on the Garden plots.  We were able to do that and then some.  As our first task, I had Sabrina bisect the pile and then secure my tarp over the Kimball Farms’ half so that the volunteers would not take any compost from that side of the pile.   (As the wind picked up, my 10-inch stakes were not enough to keep the tarp on, so we had to weigh it down with bricks.  We put approximately three inches of compost on the plots and then had some to spread in the kids’ raised beds, our neighbor plots, the flower beds and where we will be expanding the strawberry patch in a few weeks.  Cathy’s son, Ben, was one of the compost shovelers and said there seemed to be an endless supply of wheelbarrows.  I pitched in shoveling every now and then and spent some time raking up the compost that had gotten compacted in the ground to make sure that we didn’t leave much behind from our side of the pile.  All said, this took us about three hours.

The kids and some of the volunteers, including Pastor Burt and CEO Doug Hartman from Urban Connections, focused on spreading wood chips.   Every year, the question is who will be king of the hill.  In the past, it has been Zephyr and/or Zion, but this year it was Princess Nurmaya. 
The girls then turned to weeding our strawberry patch.  This was lead by Rayna’s niece, Sarah, whose mother, Alysha, helped start the SACG back in 2009 when Sarah was still crawling and in diapers.   Cathy also helped to weed our south flower bed before returning home to heat up our pizzas.  Some of the church ladies weeded our center and front flower beds and edged the front flower beds.

Susan returned from a medical leave during last year’s growing season and a very pregnant Marcel returned to spread the compost after volunteers dumped wheelbarrow loads.  Amy helped to spread wood chips in all of the nooks and crannies and to weed the neighbor plots.  I filled our now-empty (again) Free Little Library with gardening books donated last December by Strader’s Garden Center to the Greater Columbus Growing Coalition.  I made a point of encouraging our new gardeners to take a book to learn something, but I don’t think that they did.

Eric came late to join his church group.  That’s not a mistake he’ll make again because I put him to work tilling the Garden (something no one ever wants to repeat).  Stan came back to volunteer to help us out even though he didn’t think that he would be around enough this summer to tend a plot.  His nephew was moving in with him and I tried to convince him to share his uncle’s plot so that they could share one this summer.    Stan liked that idea, but I’m not so sure that his nephew understands what this entails.  Hardworking Stan helped to spread wood chips and also fixed our new alley curb (which had been messed up by the City Water Department over the winter).  He also helped Eric with some of the tilling.

I took a group picture and then U/C Doug showed up with a couple of pizzas that he purchased for his volunteers.  Most of the SACG gardeners brought cookies and other treats to keep of the blood sugar of our many volunteers.  I took Zion and Sarah with me to Cathy’s to pick up our pizzas.  They enjoyed meeting Cathy’s cat, Applesause.  Cathy had put together an ingenious way for us to transport the hot pizzas and Sarah insisted on carrying the two boxes all by herself.  We stuffed ourselves (mostly in silence because we were so tired).     I put everyone to work clearing away our supplies from our lawn so that someone could mow it. 
Another one of our critical tasks was to clean out our big rain tank of the six years of sentiment that
had collected in the bottom.  I thought that it was empty, but I was wrong.  I forgot that I had to stop emptying it last November because it was flooding the area where Melinda and her pal were cleaning out the Kimball Farms raised beds and because I like to leave a little water in the bottom to keep it from blowing away during a blizzard while we’re gone for the winter.  It took me about an hour to empty it after lunch.   Coincidentally, Pastor Jessie McDonald (from the Full Gospel Church of Christ) a little east on East Main Street stopped by with one of his fellow pastors while they picked up litter along East Main Street.  I offered them refreshments, but they wanted my contact information instead.  It so happened that I had extra newsletters, etc. in my garden bag – next to the big tank.  So, I took them up there and then, as you can guess, put these two big strong men to work.  We had planned to carry the tank to Cathy’s or to Urban Connections to hose out the inside of the tank (and both Doug and Jason had hooked up their hoses so that I could do that).  First, I asked these guys to turn over the tank and completely empty it.  It took some work to get the lid off.  What we found inside was gross and we found a curtain rod and some other items in there (which might explain why the tank was partially clogged last year).  We then examined the inside of the tank and decided that we didn’t need to hose it out after all.    So, we reconnected it.

 
By now, most of the volunteers and gardeners had crept away.  However, new gardeners Alyssa and Taylor were still working hard shoveling and transporting compost.  I suggested that they turn the compost bins (our last major task), but I found Stan bending their ears.  So, I turned them and Susan to helping me to mark off the plots while Eric continued to till the south side of the Garden.  I showed them how to get into our shed (with our new super-complicated security system).    We also went around to gather any gloves and tools that the kids had dropped in place and returned the picnic table to its regular location.  We sorted the tools, returned wheelbarrows, and re-filled our shed.  By now, my arms, legs and back were like rubber.  I knew that the Tool Library shovel collection didn’t seem right, but I was too tired to care.  Luckily, when Cathy showed up with her truck to transport everything back to my house, she noticed our problem and Susan fixed it.  Eric came over to tell us his arms were now rubber and he had tilled the entire Garden twice (with a little help from Stan).  Well done Eric.

I had picked up two bags of seed potatoes (i.e., Yukon gold, red and russet) and 3 bags of bulb
onions (red, yellow and white) from March’s GCGC meeting.  The potatoes were ready to plant, but only Sabrina seemed interested in planting them.  I brought them with me and ended up bringing a lot of them home with me.   Let me know if you’d like some.   Sabrina was too tired to plant them and was not looking forward to digging a trench for them.  Her husband, Tom, usually does that, but he told her that she had to tend her plot by herself this year.  

The wind was really starting to blow hard by now.  We still need to reconnect the front gate and hang our sign.  Cathy and I finally figured out how to do that without the help of Frank and Barb.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to get that done next weekend.  But, after a long, chilly, windy day where mountains were literally moved, Cathy and I spent the rest of Saturday afternoon chatting over a well-deserved pitcher of strawberry margaritas.  After a long hot shower, I also finally figured out how to use my camera app on my new cell phone so that I can zoom in on people and faces like with my former phone.

So, now I need to assign garden plots and chores, etc.  We still have 3 plots available because one of our new gardeners did not show up yesterday or respond to my email about why, etc.    New gardeners will have to perform some work equity (like turning the compost bins before our raspberry brambles become too dangerous, re-staining our picnic table, and picking up litter in the neighborhood, etc.).   You didn’t think that you could avoid hard work by skipping the Opening Work Day, did you?  :-)