Saturday, August 27, 2016

Fall Fake-Out

We had three days of glorious weather this week, but it was just a Fall fake-out.  The heat and humidity are back and will stay until, of course, Labor Day, and then they are supposed to return.  However, we are finally getting some rain, which is an improvement over May, June and July.    I actually turned off our downspout diverter last week because the large cistern was full and we received almost two inches of rain on  Wednesday night.  August is remarkably up by an inch over its historical rain average, but we started the month four inches behind for the year (and even more than that for the growing season).  Our harvests are fairly paltry compared to what we usually have (between the hot temperatures causing our vegetables’ flowers to drop before being pollinated and the lack of rain putting our tomatoes in fits and in smaller sizes).   I’m feeling particularly blessed that we were able to incorporate a couple of inches of compost into our soil at the beginning of the season because I cannot imagine how our plants would have survived at all without it this summer.   I’m behind in posting updates and will post tomorrow about today’s accomplishments by our fabulous OSU student volunteers. 

This month has been a little frustrating because a reputable organization completely stood us up earlier this month (and cancelled at the last minute last month just a few days after asking me to schedule a last-minute work day for them that same week).  What was particularly aggravating to me was that they scheduled this work day months ago and confirmed  by email that they were coming only to not show up or give me notice of any kind.  Not even to cancel.  And the social worker who scheduled this felt that she wasn’t required to cancel.  I told her never to call us again.  Cathy and I went to a lot of trouble to twice get supplies for them (including checking tools out from the Rebuilding Together Tool Library) and ice water, bagels, cream cheese and jam, etc. and waited for an hour in the heat and humidity for them to show up late.  Sabrina's husband stopped by the night before on his way home from work in this heat to cut down sign posts for us.  Grr.     Who does that?  Of course, to add insult to injury, I forgot to return the tools on time (because I forgot that they were in my trunk) and ended up having to pay a late fee on top of everything else.  Sigh

Our crises du mois involved Ms. D’s cat, Cookie.  As you may recall, Ms. D died quite unexpectedly last year and her sons did not take her sweet black-and-white cat.  Her landlord tried to find it a new home without success, so soft-hearted neighbor Rose ended up taking her in a way by letting her into her house and feeding her when she could.  But Cookie had kittens two months ago and Rose could not afford to feed all of them.  Sabrina adopted a kitten and another neighbor adopted one, but that left an extremely thin Cookie and remaining thin black kitten.  Rose planned to dump them near a shelter, and Sabrina was quite distraught.  I brought Rose a bag of cat food and said I would see what I could do.  My niece volunteers at Colony Cats, which had room for them.  So, I loaned Sabrina one of my cat carriers (and both Cookie and the kitten walked right in without any coaxing or force).  However, Cookie then realized that all was not well and threw a hissing fit.  Sabrina drove them to the no-kill shelter (and Rose went with her), but Cookie refused to leave my cat carrier (which is still there).   She has been spayed and hopefully will find a forever home soon.    My niece is giving me regular updates and hopefully will liberate my cat carrier soon.
Also, when I arrived at the Garden last night to drop off some of the supplies for today's work extravaganza, I discovered to my shock and dismay that our Free Little Library had been vandalized!  Someone had pulled out each and every book and left them scattered all over the ground.  Most of them were wet and I had to throw some away.  Sigh.  Rose helped me to put them back into the Library.

Sabrina continues to try and match the number of hours that I spend at the Garden.  However, the last few weeks, she has spent most of her time next door at Kimball Farms weeding and cleaning out their vegetable beds.  She also harvested 25 pounds of produce last Saturday, which I took to Faith Mission without our weekly donation.  She’s planning to return tomorrow morning to clean out a few more beds.
Our cute groundhog continues to annoy and found my back row of sweet potatoes and all of my beefstake tomatoes.  He likes to eat half of tomato on the vine and then turn 90 degrees to eat half of the next one. Sigh.   However, while I was at St. Vincent de Paul’s pantry garden last week, I noticed that Marge had rows of plastic forks sticking out of some of the vegetable beds.  Why, I asked (as did a number of other community gardeners who were there to help unload yet another generous donation from Strader’s Garden Center to the Greater Columbus Growing Coalition).  Apparently, turned up plastic forks are a cheap and effective way to deter furry varmints, like squirrels and probably groundhogs and possums, from eating your vining crops, like squash and curbits.  I immediately planted some forks near my backyard zucchini, so my squirrels turned to eating half of my brandywine tomatoes.  Sigh.  
Another trick that Marge uses is to use floating row covers over her Fall crops to protect them from the sun and to keep the bugs from eating them.  I could have used that about 10 days ago.  I started kale seedlings to transplant into the neighbor plot, but a moth and worm found them on my patio and ate all of the seed leaves down to the stem before they got very tall.  Sigh.  So, I planted some kale in the Garden (with the thought that I’ll transplant them later when I thin them) and they have sprouted.  In the meantime, the kale neighbor bed has pretty much been picked bare.   All that being said, Marge reported that rain and sprinklers tend to run down the covers instead of though them, so she has to uncover the rows to water them and then cover them back up (which is easier said than done).
Because Kimball Farms obtained its own rain cistern a few weeks ago, they no longer needed our rain barrels.  I’ve loaned them out and returned one of them to its place behind our shed.  However, let’s face it, that blue color is pretty obnoxious, so I painted the barrel a shade of light grey that would complement our light green shed and olive turning compost bin.    I had planned to have our OSU student volunteers do it, but I was worried that I may have overloaded their agenda and couldn’t stop myself.  However, I only painted the front and let them finish the back this afternoon.
Last week, I harvested our truly pathetic potato crop so that I could make space to plant Fall crops (like spinach, lettuce, and bok choy and napa cabbage).    Everything sprouted almost immediately, but my spinach seemed to have wilted in the heat.  I’ll try again next weekend. . . . . 
Good news.  I received on Thursday morning an email from Lowe’s Home Improvement Store on Silver Drive that we had been approved for our voucher and drove over yesterday afternoon to pick up cinder blocks and landscaping stones to finish off our strawberry patch and compost bin projects, as well as some peat moss for our blueberry bushes and ammonia to scare off the groundhog.  (Soaking rags with ammonia and strategically placing them seems to be helping).   And, of course, ammonia is full of nitrogen.    I'm thinking of getting a picket fence for the east side of the Garden (if we find some more money somewhere) because our wire fence seems increasingly out of place now that we have a beautiful trellis for our front gate.  We could also add rose bushes to our front flower bed.  His concluding message was: "Never Stop Improving Your Community!"
I know our faithful readers are curious about my guerrilla gardening story from my last post (where I came upon some of my neighbors weeding other neighbors' yards in the dark for the Bexley Love Your Alley contest).   Well, knock me over with a plastic spoon.  My alley won.  However, the praise from the judges was pretty faint.  Apparently, we were the best of the Bexley alleys at having lids on our trashcans.  High praise indeed.  We had our block party last Sunday night  -- in the alley, of course – with free pizza and ice cream.

And look.  It's getting ready to rain again.  Whoo hoo!

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