Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sorority Girls and Then Some to the Rescue


Girl Power reigned supreme at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden when six sorority girls from Alpha Sigma Alpha and a friend of theirs stopped by to help us during Capital's annual Crusader Day of Service. The weather had looked touch and go there for a while and I hadn’t picked up any special tools or supplies for them in the event that we got washed out with the predicted rain.  However, just as we got tons of rain last weekend when very little had been predicted, this weekend we received only half an inch when three times that had been predicted.


I was concerned that it might start raining around lunch time, so I harvested my own produce, reinforced my trellis stakes,  and re-stocked the Free Little Library on Friday evening and then returned home, packed up my car with supplies, pulled out a purple and white t-shirt and made no-bake cookies for the Capital University volunteers.  I had been told to expect 10 students, so I made a dozen cookies.  Then, I ate three of them and felt very, very guilty.  Luckily, only seven students showed up, so I still ended up with two cookies for myself at the end of the day.


When the ladies arrived, they parked half-way down the block and I asked them to park in front of the Garden instead.  I gave them a tour and a choice of projects.  Two of them volunteered to pick up litter in the neighborhood (which we try to do every time a volunteer group stops by --  to be a neighborhood asset).  They picked up on our lot, the Block Watch lots, Stoddart, Morrison and Fairwood down to Bryden and the alleys in between.  Even though we just had a few OSU students also pick up litter three weeks ago, they still filled almost three bags.  Cathy told me later that a neighbor stopped by and thanked them for improving the neighborhood, which surprised the ladies.   Cathy had stopped by to help me coordinate their work but they were such hard workers that she didn’t think that she was needed and left after harvesting and staking a few tomatoes.   This is not our first sorority girl volunteer group from Capital and they always come ready to work hard.  

One lady helped to weed the paths in the Garden and then, like a volunteer from last year, for the first time in her life, mowed a lawn.  She mowed our lawn (which had been recently mowed, but was about to grow a bunch from the half inch of rain we received near dawn) and the Block Watch lot next to us. (Now, she can help out her father at home because he has recently expressed an interest in having help).    We had to wait a bit for the grass to dry out first.   Like three weeks ago, I could not get our mower started, so I borrowed the Urban Connection's mower.  We ran out of gas, so I had to fill it with Urban Connections Gas (meaning I need to go back and re-fill their gas can before they have mowing of their own to do this week).


Other ladies went to town on weeding.  One of them took a particular shine to our stirrup hoe.  They weeded the paths, along the alley and along the south side of the Garden.     Between the mowing and the weeding, we looked very neat.

Another pair took on our capital improvement project du jour.  It was to weed out the area which we had cleaned out in July and then dig out the raspberry bushes so that we can push the kids’ raised beds up against the fence in 4-6 weeks and make more walking room between the raised beds.  


Around 10:30, we took an extended break drinking water and eating my cookies. They asked lots of questions about the Garden and my personal life.  Extremely inquisitive ladies.   Then we turned to harvesting for our weekly food pantry donation.  Some of them picked beans and some picked tomatoes. I picked peppers, a melon, squash and broccoli and another got to pick the greens.   (After they left, I had to go back and pick the sneaky green beans that had been hiding in plain sight).  Altogether, we harvested 31.50 pounds (which demonstrates what a difference a lot of rain can make in one week).

One pair planted some lettuce and carrots in a raised bed.  Others then turned to watering our food pantry plots and berries because I correctly predicted that the rain we were supposed to receive that afternoon and evening would pass us by.  (It’s supposed to be a warm week, so I want to prepare the plants as much as possible).   As with most volunteers and gardeners, this wore them out in short order (even though they only carried one watering can each).  We took group pictures and they departed back to Bexley.  I left about an hour later and was done for the day by 2 (after weighing, recording and delivering the donation).   I wondered how a different group of Capital students was faring in the afternoon picking up litter along East Main Street on the east side of Bexley with another group (the Eastmoor Special Improvement District initiative) that I have been helping the last few months. They didn't get the rain that had been predicted either.    I returned to the Garden this morning to water my own plot and transplant some napa cabbage). 


Our groundhog is still wrecking havoc in the Garden.  He ate some of Cathy’s tomatoes and most of the sweet potato leaves, etc.  I’ve purchased more plastic forks to protect the sweet potatoes, but it seems to be a losing battle.  We also had an odd fungus  show up in my front yard and on the south side of the Garden.  I had never seen it before and now saw it twice in two days.  It’s called a stinkhorn or devil’s dipstick. Apparently,  it is a fungus that grows when it is wet and cool.    It is spread through insects instead of by the wind.  And, blissfully, it usually dies within one day.  As the Brooklyn Botanical Garden put it.  The nastiest mushroom ever.  And yes, people apparently have eaten it (despite its smell) and it is has a promising medical future.  But not in my yard because I killed them immediately.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Cookie’s OK, but Watermelon is Good too on a Hot Day


As we round into mid-September at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden, we’re slowing it down a gear this year. A couple of gardeners are already cleaning out their plots.  A few of us have planted crops for our third season.  I’m taking a cue from the St. Vincent de Paul pantry garden (after the August heat fried my spinach and lettuce) and invested in some row covers to protect my greens and lettuce from the sun and bugs.  We harvested a nice-sized watermelon from the kids patch and the beans we planted in July are finally starting to produce.  And, Ms. D’s cat, Cookie, has been pampered at her new foster home.


We usually have a melon patch for the kids in the corner of the Garden.  Last year, the pumpkins
took over, so I banned pumpkins this year.   We planted cantaloupe and watermelon, but only the watermelons took off.  One sneaky bugger got really big without our noticing.  However, it’s taken me weeks to get the kids together to share it.   I finally threatened to donate it to the food pantry and that brought a gaggle of kids over to eat it last Wednesday.

My niece also sent me a picture of Cookie, who has put on several pounds since we last saw her.  She has made a new friend at her foster family.  When she lived with Rose, she was friends with her dog, Brandy.  Now, she has a new canine friend to keep her company.
On Saturday, we have almost a dozen Capital University students coming to help us weed, harvest and start cleaning up.  South came by to see if I’ll have any big strong work for him to do, too.    We need to plant our grape vines, but I doubt that I’ll have time to pick them up before then . . . .


In the meantime, I've been putting my new dehydrator to use drying serrano, jalapeno, ghost and cayenne peppers so that I can grind my own chili powder.