Monday, September 17, 2012

SACG’s Saturday Girl Power

Although I’ve been busy this month marinating peppers, making pepper jelly, trying out bread and butter pickles, and making various pepper and rancheros sauces, we reached two milestones in the last week at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden. On Saturday, we planted our first two peach trees. Earlier in the week, we reached the 1,000 pound mark for food pantry donations.

Our New Peach Trees. On Friday, Cathy from Urban Connections agreed to help me pick up our two new peach trees from Oakland Nursery. (Cathy has a SUV and I drive a jetta). These Redhaven trees – like the four cherry trees we planted in May – were paid for through a grant from the Active Living Fund at the Columbus Foundation through the City of Columbus Health Department. On Saturday, new volunteer Kerry from Christ Lutheran Church, came to help for a few hours. She watered our food pantry and pepper plots and weeded a good part of the bean plot. Neighborhood girls Antoinette and Kenaya came by and volunteered to help in exchange for a granola bar. So, the four of us girls dug two large holes for our new trees. I had picked up some Scott’s tree soil from Lowe’s and neighbor David (who you may remember helped us pick up litter for Earth Day in 2011) helped to unload it from my car when he walked by during our moment of need. Those bags are big and heavy.
Antoinette wanted to have a digging competition and did a nice job. However, we all know that Ms. Puniness here would not win any digging competition. That distinction goes to Ms. Kerry who really knows how to dig a hole. I am delighted to have another true gardener on board. How can you tell a “true gardener”? We compulsively pull weeds whenever we see them. It’s an involuntary reflex and we just cannot help ourselves. Kerry is a true gardener and is welcome back anytime. She plans on coming back in two weeks to stain our new platform raised beds in order to protect them from the winter elements. Also, like me, she is a football fan and left a couple hours before me so that she would not miss kick off.

Digging these holes was much easier than it had been in May.  First, the weather was perfect, unlike the hot and humid May 20 when Kelly and I dug the four holes for our cherry trees. Second, while there were many fist-sized stones in the ground, this was a breeze compared to using a pick-axe to dig through solid aggregate and bricks like we had to do last May. (Kerry found it difficult to believe that the ground across the street could be worse than our newly-vacant lot, but trust me, it is not even comparable).

Pantry Donation Milestone. As you know, we are a small garden. We are also a plot garden, so most of our food goes to the gardeners and their families. However, most of us also donate produce to food pantries. The produce from abandoned plots (and there were quite a few this year with the heat and drought discouraging new and not-so-new gardeners) is dedicated to food pantries. In contrast, pantry gardeners donate 100% of their produce to support food pantries and other food programs.  For instance, the UALC garden donates about 9,000 pounds of food each year.  The community gardens in my rural home town donate thousands of bushels of food each year.

Since 2010, I try to weigh all of the produce which the SACG donates to area food pantries and shelters. Other gardeners estimate for me how much produce they personally deliver to a food pantry so that I can record the information. We do not attempt to weigh the produce which we provide upon request to neighbors who ask for food on a periodic basis or the produce which is harvested from the neighbor plots outside our fence and along the alley. I also make no attempt to weigh how much produce our youth program generates for the participating kids. (That would discourage their enthusiasm if I had to stop them every time they harvested to evaluate and weigh their goody bag -- if I was even there at the time). You can imagine that weighing the produce is a real drag.  It’s time consuming and, frankly, by the time I leave the Garden for the day, all I really want to do is eat and shower. I also need to process and store my own personal harvest before it wilts or rots in the summer heat. But I do it anyway.

Youth Gardens.  All but one of our youth gardeners had great success with their gardens. (The sole exception decided that it was more important to bike than to water her garden – with predictable results). Hope’s flowers are beautiful and she also harvested several melons. You’ve already heard about Tevon. Keyante and Jen harvested lots of food. Christen also harvested a lot of food (but left even more behind last weekend because she could not bear to take off her new inline skates).

Other Volunteers.  As you may recall – and have even noticed – I have become the grouchy Garden Manager over the summer. Gardeners dropped out very early and I had to pick up doing their chores and tending their plots. Even the gardeners who stayed have not been doing their chores. I have had to nag and threaten, and still did most of the work over the summer. I distribute and post a chore chart which apparently none of the gardeners can be motivated to read. You cannot even begin to imagine how much this ticks me off.  The Garden has looked a little worse for wear this year -- partly because of the drought and partly because I just cannot get to everything that needs to be done without living at the Garden and spending more time than I already do.    After all, I really do have a "real" job that does not in any way involve getting dirt under my nails.

Luckily, there are a few people who have stepped up this summer. We have been blessed to have three groups of volunteers come and weed in June, July and August. As you know, Cathy comes by at least once/week to help me water. We would not currently be harvesting beans if Cathy hadn’t helped keep them alive during the drought. Our sizeable pepper plot has benefitted from her attention as well.

The Sunday before last, Frank stepped up to help me mow. He and Barb tend and mow the Block Watch lots. (They also mowed our lots in June, July and August). The gardener assigned to mow in September hadn’t read the chore chart since May and didn’t mow. So, after sending him two reminder emails (to no avail), I started to mow on Sunday with our new mower, but it clogged with the high grass. I had trouble getting it re-started (because I apparently forgot to prime the pump) when Frank drove by. I made a pouty face (hoping he would stop and start the mower for me). Instead, he told me he would return shortly and mow our two lots instead of me. Oh happy day. That meant I could spend the next hour watering, planting Fall crops and weeding.   And so I did.

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