Sunday, November 13, 2011

SACG Volunteers Are Awesome

Yesterday was our annual season-ending work day. As always, we had fabulous weather. It started out nippy at 10 a.m., but we had all shed our jackets well before we left at 2 p.m. As always, we got an amazing amount of work done because we have the hardest-working and dedicated volunteers in the world of community gardening.

Rayna was already there cleaning up her plot and harvesting her lima beans when I arrived. Three visiting young sisters then showed up to help us pick up litter, tear out sun flowers and harvest fall crops. Rayna worked with the sisters to cut down the sun flowers and cosmos from our flower beds. She then spent the rest of the day pruning our raspberry bushes.

Betty cleaned up her plot and Barbara's old plot. Mari and John cleaned out their plot and two pantry plots and then helped me harvest a trunk load of lettuce.

Charlie and Tom flipped the compost in the four bins. This was hard work. We harvested so much compost from our four bins that we had enough to spread some on each of the plots. Charlie also helped Frank take down the signs and pack up the gates and helped me pack up the shed when we were all done. Frank then helped spread the compost. Fred and Deb cleaned up their plot and then harvested mustard greens and spread the compost. Fred was the only person left when I left and he was mowing grass.

We missed Jeff's machete and cart to haul away bags of yard waste (i.e., thorny branches from the roses I pruned and raspberry bushes which Rayna pruned) and to cut down thick sunflower and other stalks which we removed.

Cookout Extraordinare. Tom brought a gigantic charcoal grill and grilled us all very large, juicy and tender chicken breasts and thighs as well as brauts. He also supplied grapes, coleslaw and potato salad. I brought fruit and brownies. We both brought apple cider. This was the best feast we have ever had in the history of the Garden. We were seriously hungry at noon.

Raffle Winner. Just before we began eating, Micayla pulled the winning raffle ticket for the Gardeners Supply Company garden cart we had been awarded from the American Community Garden Association for winning the Growing to Green Sustainability Award. The raffle winner is Marge Telerski (who manages the community garden supporting the St. Vincent DePaul pantry off Livingston Avenue). Congratulations Marge!

Volunteer Awards. When we finished eating, I made announcements. Before that date, we had donated 345 pounds of produce to area food pantries and shelters. I passed around a chart showing the percentages of produce donated, pantries receiving the produce and monthly distribution. We raised $340 from our raffle, $110 from selling strawberry plants and $100 from plot fees. We also discussed potential sites to expand the Garden if we grow next year.

I also recognized Charlie as Volunteer of the Year. Charlie recruited three gardeners this year and tilled the Garden in the Spring. He also provided transportation once or twice each week for another gardener who did not have a car. He also helped fill in by doing not only his chores, but chores of gardeners who dropped out. He attended every working event and was always one of the first to arrive and among the last to leave. I could go on and on.

I also created a new award. The Garden Rules mention the magic garden gnome who recognizes tidy gardeners. However, I didn't purchase a gnome until this Spring and couldn't decide what to do with it. It is now a traveling trophy for the year's tidiest gardener. Charlie also had the tidiest garden plot this year. He was also on top of the weeds and kept his plot almost fully planted all season long. So, Charlie will have the magic garden gnome to decorate his plot in 2012.

Other gardeners also received a collage of pictures from special events from this season.

Fall Harvest. We harvested over 38 pounds of produce from the Garden yesterday. It was mostly lettuce, which was time consuming to harvest. It also included turnips, beets, carrots, leeks, colored greens, mustard greens, kale, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, and bok choy. Virtually all of the lettuce, turnips, carrots, beets, bok choy and kale was planted near the end of August and in September. Ultimately, we harvested more produce in just two weeks in November than we did in for the entire month of either June or July.

We finished an hour later than planned (because, ahem, some people had not cleaned out their plots before we started). As a result, I did not have time to get the produce to Lutheran Social Services (which closes at 3 p.m.), which was Faith Mission's gain (because its kitchen takes produce until 5:30 p.m.)

Some gardeners elected to leave some Fall produce in their plots so that they can continue to stop by and get lettuce, etc. Some crops – like spinach – were left because it will be abundant when we come back in April.

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