Friday, December 16, 2016

Ending the Season Like A B-Flat Cricket and an A-Flat Frog

With all of the snow on the ground and the frigid temperatures keeping most of us inside this week, the last thing anyone is really thinking is how did our season closing fare at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  Not as well as I had hoped, but we are closed for the season.  And we set a new personal record for the amount of fresh produce we have donated to area food pantries and Faith Mission’s Homeless Shelter.  And almost all of the gardeners eventually chipped in to help.

Although (1) we set our closing date in February, (2) it’s our only second mandatory work day of the year, (3) I ask if folks want to close early and (4) I remind everyone weekly for six consecutive weeks, we always seem to have a few people who do not show up.  I’m rarely pleasant about it.    This year, we suffered that in spades even though I offered to feed everyone lunch.  Cathy and Amy made other plans, but came early to chop down and bag most of our brambles.   Neal, who has never come to our final work day (or ever offered an excuse), didn’t even clean out his plot on time or before closing day (as required in the agreements that everyone, including him, signs).  When I nagged him (and a few other people for blowing off their responsibilities) and letting food rot in his plot, he resigned from the Garden and our Board.  Rayna, who was the very first gardener to sign up in 2009, but has been unable to get to the Garden after August for 3 years in a row, decided that perhaps she wouldn’t sign up for another plot and would try to help us out as she could over the summer.  She started to clean out her plot late on Friday as it started to get dark, but then reported on Saturday morning that she was too sick to come that weekend to finish.  (Winter came shortly after we closed, so this is a problem).  Sabrina called off sick on Saturday morning, too.  Stan didn’t show up or offer an excuse or clean out his plot.    This was particularly awkward because he was selected to win the SACG’s Volunteer of the Year award, which I had brought with me to give him.  I’ve never had a Volunteer of the Year NOT show up to our mandatory closing day.  Sigh. 

That left me, Susan, Alyssa, Taylor, Marcel and Zion to do all of the work that is required to close our community garden for the season (and Marcel spent the morning cleaning out only her plot).   Neighbor Rose stopped by (as she had for the last couple of weeks to help me clean out food pantry plots every weekend) and helped to glean peppers, etc. that Rayna had left us from her plot.  Alyssa and Taylor were given the traveling gnome trophy for having the tidiest plot for the year.  Alyssa was so tickled.  She apparently loves gnomes and had wanted to put some in her plot all summer, but didn’t want anyone to think she was claiming to be special.  Now she can decorate next year with all of the gnomes she wants.

I picked up donuts and cider that morning to keep us well sugared.  I had also stopped by earlier that week at the Silver Avenue Lowe’s to pick up garden soil, grass seed, and had emptied the tall rain tank (and disconnected it).   Alyssa and Taylor took on all of the hardest projects on our Closing Day. They finished brambles on the north side of the Garden, dug up our old daffodils along the west side of the fence, moved two of the kids raised beds up against the fence and refilled them and cleaned out the neighbor bed (which had peppers and tomatoes).  They also donated most of what was left in their own plot.  Susan cleaned out some of the food pantry plots (both to harvest for our pre-Thanksgiving donation and for the season) and the south flower beds.  I trimmed brambles along the south side of the Garden and harvested for our food pantry donation and cleaned out some of the food pantry and abandoned plots. 

When I was there on Friday harvesting produce from my own plot (because I had a bumper Fall crop of napa cabbage, kale, leeks, etc.) and cleaning out the rest of my peppers and aphid-infested crops, a utility worker stopped by to ask if he could have some of our yard waste bags to feed his pigs back home.  Sure, I said.  Problem is, his pigs don’t like stalks from tomatoes or peppers, so we had to segregate what went into what bag.  No problem.  We did that when we cleaned out the Garden on Saturday.  And, we put his bags outside the fence next to the shed so that he could easily get them when he next returned.    Keep this in mind.

I took Marcel, Zion and Susan back to my house at 1 to have a late lunch of butternut squash and poblano quesadillas and black bean soup before Susan and I delivered over 55 pounds of produce to the LSS food pantry and Faith Mission.  Taylor and Alyssa had wanted to come, but we were running an hour late by this point and they had to get ready for the very important MSU/OSU game that afternoon.   When Susan and I drove back to Bexley from Faith Mission, we drove by the Garden and Neal had been there, cleaned out his plot, retrieved his fancy tomato cages and left.

By and large, community gardeners are a fairly responsible bunch. Sabrina returned and cleaned out most of everything that we hadn’t gotten done on Saturday.  Rayna eventually returned, pulled the rest of her crops out of the ground and left them in piles around her plot. Marcel learned how annoyed I was that she hadn’t cleaned out her plot in advance or helped us clean up the Garden in general, so she returned and plastic-bagged Rayna’s piles (which are still there because I haven’t been back to throw them in the trash cans).  Sadly, Marcel hadn’t paid any attention to the numerous emails I had sent about the importance of preserving our soil from erosion and the microbes in it.  Susan, Sabrina and I had taken great pains to cut our stalks off just above the ground to hold the soil in place over the winter and to feed the soil.  Sometimes, the kale crops even return from those roots in the Spring.  Marcel had some time on her hands and decided to pull out of the ground all of the stalks left behind in the Garden (except for my  plot).   Sigh.  She meant well. 

Showing why he was our Volunteer of the Year this year, Stan returned, built us a fourth compost bin, turned the materials in all of the other bins, but seemed to have destroyed the western bin.  It’s possible that he’s fixed or rebuilt it since I was last there.  At least I hope so because it was an eyesore when I was last there.   I also found a bunch of giant weed stalks (full of seed heads) in the compost bins (which I did my best to pull out and throw in the alley).   Because he needed our wheelbarrow and shovels, etc. to do all of this, he messed up the shed which Sabrina had tidied.  Men!   Stan also returned before I did the Monday after we closed to pull the yard waste bags to the curb.  He didn’t know about my arrangements with the pig farmer (but all of the other gardeners who came on Saturday knew about this).  For some reason, he thought that instead of pulling the bags to the curb to be picked up by the City on Tuesday, he would load them onto his trailer and personally deliver them to Ohio Mulch  -- including the bags I had put aside for the pig farmer.  Sigh.  He meant well.   I couldn’t contact the pig farmer to apologize.  So, we just look like jerks. 

I returned later in the month (or maybe earlier this month) to plant the daffodil bulbs under our new sign location, open the spicket and drain the barrel next to the shed, and to retrieve the sign to store in my garage for the winter.  I had already transplanted peony divisions from my yard around the sign and I put the daffodils in front of them.  (I'm more confident in the bulbs than I am in the divisions, however).  I used garden soil donated by the City of Columbus through our Lowe's voucher.    I think I also repaired the stand for our small informational sign and removed the front gate lock (which is not particularly weather hardy).   Our neighbor still hadn’t cleaned out much of their garden.  I saw a squirrel checking out our Garden, which is definitely NOT a good sign.  Squirrels get very hungry and really like tomatoes.    I was able to prune some of our front flower bed (and none of the other gardeners felt comfortable pruning it because they are unclear about the difference between perennials and annuals).  However, the north flower bed really needed more work.  Also, the utility crew really messed up AGAIN our stone curb.   However, I had my own yard to tend and haven’t been back to the SACG to fix the unfinished tasks.

I should really go back now that winter has really arrive and rescue our canna lily bulbs.  For the first
time, I also did not plant any more Spring bulbs (which Strader’s Garden Center always generously donates to area community gardens each December).  I’ve been a little busy and a little discouraged.    I don't know why people don't understand the importance of us being there at the same time so that these types of miscommunication mistakes don't happen when everyone wants to work only on their own schedule.

By the end of the season, we had donated well over 650 pounds of fresh produce this year, which is a record for us and brings us to over 3600 pounds since breaking ground in 2009.  I know that this is not a lot in the great scheme of things, but considering that we keep most of the produce for ourselves and are a tiny little plot garden with very few hands, I’m unduly proud of it.

At this point, I need to recruit a new Treasurer and three new Board members before we start our organizational activities next February or March.  Anyone interested should just email me.   I’m likely to be more energetic and optimistic when the Spring returns than I’ve been this Fall.

Readers should also feel free to help us out by buying their holiday gifts through smile.amazon.com and designating the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  Even better, select us as your designated charity with your Kroger's Plus Card (which cuts us a check every quarter based on how many folks designate us as their charity of choice).   Every little bit helps, especially because we only charge $10/plot (and waive that for neighbors who cannot afford it) and still supply almost everything a gardener would need, including seeds, water, seedling and tools.