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?  :-)

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