Saturday, July 22, 2017

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden was like a well-watered garden. Since then, in the past two weeks we’ve received almost 8 inches of rain.  That’s a summer’s worth of rain in two weeks.   Our corn is almost 9 feet tall.  Everything is green and I have lots of free time to cook and garden at home because I do not have to water everything at the SACG.   The rains have not been gentle.  So, the aphids and most bugs have been washed off our kale.   Likewise, the flowers on our tomatoes and pepper have been washed away as well, surprisingly decreasing our yield.    My pansies finally died this week, two months after their normal life span.    Craziness. 

At my last family reunion, my Uncle Marshall (who has been laid up from back surgery) has been rationalizing not having a vegetable garden this year.  They put up so much food each summer that they really only need to garden every three years.  I can relate (except when it comes to tomatoes).

This year, I am determined to eat more of my produce while it is fresh instead of putting it up.   In
This was taken to the food pantry already, so don't try to steal it.
2009, I made our food pantry donations on Monday from what I was unable to cook or put up on the weekends.
  Now, I make donations on early Saturday afternoons and tell myself that I will cook during the week (which I rarely do).  This weekend is so hot and rainy that I plan to do nothing but cook.  This afternoon, I have made Mark Bittman’s kosher dill pickles (with no vinegar),  Moosewood’s Tabouleh, and Martha’s kale salad.  Tomorrow, I will make Bittman’s kale and sausage stew and two Rick Bayless zucchini recipes.  (On Thursday, I made a Bayless swiss chard taco recipe.  Earlier this week, I made two Martha green bean salad recipes – who knew that green beans go extremely well with olives?).   I also pulled my dehyrdrator from the basement to dry some oregano while it is flowering (and supposedly more flavorful).   I still have Napa cabbage to turn into eggrolls (which can be frozen).  I’ll probably shred and freeze some zucchini to turn into zucchini bread this fall.   And I bought some in-season blueberries to freeze for my winter blueberry pancakes.   And then there are the batch of tomatillos to turn into salsa verde while I decide whether my waist can really accommodate nachos.  Whew.  For those of you who are interested, I get my Saturday evening energy from listening to Louis Armstrong and Doris Day (and then, or course, Sinatra).  Really Loud.  Really, really loud.

Ken loaned me his post digger last Saturday and I immediately set to work and dug 6.5 post holes for our new picket fence while the soil was still soft  from the three inches of rain that we received the prior day.  He told me to dig each hole 24 inches deep.  I am an old lady and could not get more than 16-18 inches in the hour that I had to devote to this project on a hot summer day.    I also seemed to have strained some muscles in my hand. I grabbed one of the neighborhood teens, Chris,  to help me when he walked by.  I shamelessly asked if he wanted to learn to dig fence post holes.  He lost interest after about 10 inches.  Ken later took pity on me and dug out a few of the holes to the desired depth (on the hottest day of the week) so that I can start putting in the posts.  Sabrina is loaning me her husband Tom on Wednesday, so we’ll finish the holes then and maybe even set some of the posts (if the weather holds).

I hazed a bunch of our new gardeners about all of the weeds that they were growing in their plots.  They all hate me now.  The rest of the gardeners were wondering what took me so long to throw a fit about it.  Sigh. 

My buddy Praying Mantis is helping me with squash bugs
Sabrina celebrated her birthday this week.  She still came to the Garden to weed the food pantry plot (her chore this month).   Last week, she pulled all of the weeds off of the chain link fence (from both sides).  She even trimmed the weeds growing along the fence on the other side of the fence.  Pretty cheeky.  But they finally mowed their lawn.  She and Amy helped me this morning by harvesting virtually all of our beans this week.  Considering that it did not stop raining until 9 a.m. and I didn’t show up until 10, it is remarkable that I was able to get out from the Garden by 1:30 with 30 pounds of produce.  (Sabrina also filled quite a few bags with kale for me, too).  We were rained on at least twice and had to high-tail it to our cars.  Tom showed up at 12:30 with a towel for her to dry off (and hinted that it was time for her to leave).  He was really too clean at that point to help us out.  Needless to say, the lawn did not get mowed today.

Alyssa has our best sunflower this year
I included photos last time of our growing peach crop.  A mistake.  They were ALL gone within two days of my last article.  One of our Board members – who shall remain nameless – emailed me how good the peaches were.  I rushed over and there was only one tiny peach left.  I took it even though it wasn’t quite ripe yet.  It was still  tasty.  Oh well, Lynds has great yellow peaches.   After my most recent business transaction closes this week, I’ll finally have time to drive to Pataskala to get and can some fresh peaches.   Another Board member told me that he chatted with a visitor from Georgia who stopped at the Garden to pick some of our peaches and told him that they were yummy.  Maybe one year, they will actually be allowed to properly ripen and I will get one.

My plans in the next week will involve pulling out a couple rows of bush beans and planting some root crops (like beets or carrots) for a Thanksgiving-time harvest.  We’ve already lost two zucchini plants to squash borers and I may plant new zucchinis there or cucumbers.  I had transplanted lots and lots of leeks from my plot around the Garden before our three-inch deluge and they are well established.

I should not write anything about our corn.  I haven’t even tried to grow it in a few years because it is a greedy crop and so cheaply obtained.  However, we have lots of unused space and Sabrina really wanted to grow some.  I floated the idea of a co-op plot where those who shared in the work could share the crop.   How very socialistic of me; but desperate times call for desperate measures.  Sabrina bought some manure with her own money to put in the bottom of each row of corn.  I bought the seed in bulk from Dill’s Greenhouse near Canal Winchester.  Our first few rows did not go well.  But we harvested our first ears this morning and they were completely awesome.  Corn is sweet within a few hours of being harvested and then it turns into starch.   You can see the SACG from very far away this year because of the corn.  All kinds of people are stopping by  and asking about joining us next year.  I fully expect folks to climb our fence to help themselves at some point.  We’ve even had offers from neighbors to buy some of it.   This morning, I got two ears; Tom got two ears and the rest went to Lutheran Social Service’s food pantry.  It was really good.  Most of the rest of the corn is white  -- my mother’s favorite.  It’s not even close to being ripe yet.
Our weeds of the week have been pigweed, pokeweed and wood sorrel.

Pokeweed grows along our alley and in the southern fence row (often behind the compost bin).  It also grows between my backyard and my neighbor’s garage and in the alley behind a different neighbor’s fence.  While birds love the berries, the berries, stem and roots are extremely poisonous to children and mammals in general.  Notwithstanding that, it’s a hillbilly food IF you boil the leaves 3 different times in fresh water (to remove the toxins).  Failure to boil it in fresh water each time has resulted in  babies and children getting very sick from the toxins.  While Indians used it as a medicine, there I no medical evidence yet that it actually treats any illness or condition.  On the contrary, it may even be a carcinogen.  When it started poking over my privacy fence, I took matters into my own hands and chopped off the tops of the plants (because the seeds are spread by birds eating the fruit and then pooping the seeds).  My neighbors gratefully took the hint and then cleaned the rest of it out last week.  I’ve been thinking whether I can similarly attack the other outcropping in good conscience when it’s not even touching my yard. . . . . . .  You can read more about it on Wikipedia.

Pigweed is particularly prevalent along the alley (but is also readily found in our plots).  It can be easily controlled if you don’t let it go to seed.  However, not enough of our gardeners stay on top of it (or whack it in the alley like I did last Saturday and this morning).  Believe it or not, it is edible (at least in small portions) and is an ingredient in some Indian food. 

The last weed is Oxalis, also known as wood sorrel.  I know that you’ve always known it as clover, but it is not.  You already know that it is edible in small amounts because you’ve tasted it long before now.   According to Wikipedia:

Wood sorrel (a type of oxalis) is an edible In Dr. James Duke's Handbook of Edible Weeds, he notes that the Kiowa Indian tribe chewed wood sorrel to alleviate thirst on long trips, that the Potawatomi Indians cooked it with sugar to make a dessert, the Algonquin Indians considered it an aphrodisiac, the Cherokee ate wood sorrel to alleviate mouth sores and a sore throat, and the Iroquois ate wood sorrel to help wild plant that has been consumed by humans around the world for millennia. 

Well, my cd player is now on to Benny Goodman.  So, it’s time for me to move on to the Iranian foreign film that I checked out two weeks ago for when I was in a more serious mood.  I have to return it soon, so I guess that I’ll watch it tonight instead of going to see Dunkirk or Planet of the Apes.  . . . .  I saw Wonder Woman last week.  That's a movie that was a little more sincere than I usually am.

So, every growing season is different.  This year, we can look at the weather as Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered.  Or Que Sera Sera.  Or Luck Be a Lady.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Like a Watered Garden

We are having a summer like I remember from my youth.  A day in the low 80’s was considered hot back then and we went to the pool to have fun and were not freaked out by a passing thunderstorm.  The last few weeks, we have had more than an inch of rain at the end of each week, which has shortened my Saturdays at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden by 90-120 minutes each week.    I’m loving it and am starting to enjoy gardening again.  Rain makes our lives much easier at the SACG.   I had accosted weatherman Phil Kelly at the Art Festival last month about always cheering for hot, sunny days because those of us with gardens and lawns need at least an inch of rain each week to enjoy our summer.  So, now, the anchors at his stations are cheering for rain, too, “for our lawns.”  Good job.    I visited a few church gardens in the last few weeks and two of them cited to a passage of Isaiah that I decided to investigate this morning.  In it, the Lord blesses us by making us “like a watered garden.”    More on that later.

Life is good at the SACG.  Everything is growing.  My biggest problem at present is that the frequent, heavy rains are creating leaf mold in many of my tomatoes.  OSU blogged about this a couple of weeks ago and I realized that I had a problem.  It is spread by wind currents and high humidity.   I tend to plant close together to keep down the weeds, but that creates a fungus/mold problem when we get a lot of rain.  The humidity creates a fungus on the tomato leaves, which then get yellow spots and then brown and then fall off.  This creates a problem for the plant in not having enough leaves to generate enough energy to grow and be fruitful.  But it also creates a problem after it has set fruit because then the fruits are unprotected from the scorching sun and can rot on the vine.  Fungicides can help, but nothing I’ve sprayed so far seems to be making much of a difference.  Leaf mold is a particular problem for heirloom varieties because some tomatoes are bred to be more resistant than my treasured Brandywines.  Sigh.   But all things considered, I’ll take the rain.
With the free time created by the rain, I’ve had more time to actually cook and enjoy my garden produce.  That hasn’t always been true.  For my family’s Independence Day reunion, I made an Asian slaw from my napa cabbage, as well as spring rolls.  I still have some cabbage left and don’t know what I am going to do with it.   For last week’s GCCG meeting, I made chocolate beet brownies, which turned out very, very well.  That recipe is a keeper.   For last night’s turn at Shakespeare in the Park (which was really  Austen in the Park because they were performing Pride and Prejudice), I made kale chips and beet hummus.  I still have 1.5 pounds of green beans that I want to convert into a salad before they start turning brown.

We have made no progress towards installing a picket fence in front of the front wire fence at the SACG.  I forgot to pick up a post digger on Thursday from the Tool Library so that I could start digging post holes on Saturday.  I hope to remember this week.  It will be much easier when the ground is soft after a rain and we’ve also been blessed with cool Saturday mornings.   Because I did not have to water this week, I chopped weeds along the alley and mowed the lawn and planted cabbage seedlings donated by Oakland Nursery in one of our food pantry plots.  Sabrina weeded the food pantry plots and around the kids beds.   Her men (i.e., Husband Tom and sons Zephyr and Finn) stopped by at noon to surprise her with a picnic while she took a break.   The flea beetles are going to town on our grape vines, so Marge suggested Neem oil.  I’ll probably go back tonight to water in the cabbage, plant some more beets and go to war with the flea beetles.

Jaden and Cameron stopped by the Garden on Wednesday.  They were very bored.   We thinned some of Jaden’s carrots and transplanted them (and watered them in well to give them a fighting chance).  I sent him home with a giant beet from his bed, but he didn’t really want it and his mother has already told me that she never, ever bakes anything.  Cameron wants her own bed, but she’s not old enough.  As it was, she started eating one of the baby carrots even though I told her to take it home so that her mother could wash it off.  She then went to wash it with tank water (when I wasn’t looking) and I had to freak out over that (considering how extremely germy that water is).  She did not understand the concept of germs.   We ended up practicing how to tie her shoes so that I could take some comfort that she learned something.

The squash bugs are back.  I found one while watering on Wednesday and some eggs on my delicatta squash.  Yikes.  Sabrina promised to check out our food pantry squash plants.  We found a couple mating and a squished them without any problem.  Gross!

GCGC’s meeting this week was at the St. Vincent de Paul pantry garden next to Christ the King Catholic Church on Livingston (about 4 blocks from my house).  The rain stopped in time to have the meeting under the giant oak tree that towers over the garden and food pantry.  Marge and Paula run a marvelous operation there.   They convinced me to use row covers for my kale, although my plants always get too big for plant covers by this time in the season.   They just introduced me to ground cherries.   They also redid their compost bins and encased the wood pallets with wire mesh to preserve the wood.  We talked about running more wire mesh down the front to discourage rats.

While at the GCGC meeting, I chatted with Margaret Ann from the Four Seasons City Farm.  They operate a number of community gardens on the Near East Side.  One of them is attached to her church, Old Presbyterian at Bryden and Ohio.  They spent Friday getting ready for the Old  Towne East Home and Garden tour today.  I stopped by to get some geraniums for the SACG and was delighted by an arched row of tomatoes. The apple trees line the alley.  Then, there was an arc of tall sunflowers, followed by an arc of tomatoes then an arch of basil and then a flower bed.  Next to the brick patio, there was a plaque with a lovely quote from Isaiah that I knew that I would want to re-visit, so I took a photo.

A few weeks ago, I checked out the progress at the new community garden at Life Vineyard church.  All of the raised beds are being tended.  They have installed the gate that we donated to them and even have up a couple of signs.  One of them also referenced a passage from Isaiah.  This morning, I realized that it was the same passage cited at Old Presbyterian.  So, I really needed to pull up that chapter.  Here it is (from the English Standard Version) (Isaiah 58: 1-11):

Cry aloud; do not hold back;

Lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.

“Why have we fasted, and you see it not?

Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no notice of it?”

Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.

Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist.

Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself?

Is it to bow down to his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?

Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed  go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall  be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry and he will say ‘Here I am.’

If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.

And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. . . .

And so, because we have so few gardeners this year (compared with previous years), almost half of the SACG consists of food pantry plots.  Not surprisingly, our donations are significantly ahead of our record pace from last year.   I’ve attached charts of our food pantry donations as of July 1 (which does not include the beans -- planted by Amy and her friend Sarah -- that it took me an hour to pick yesterday or the giant zucchinis).   After an hour being crouched over (as though I was about to assume the yoga crow position), my backside was feeling the burn by 1 p.m.  Watered garden or not.