Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Year After the Drought, It’s Captain Underpants and Vandalism at the SACG

It’s almost hard to believe that this time last year we were wilting in extreme heat and a significant drought. We had hardy volunteers from the Franklin County Master Gardener program come to help us get ready for a garden tour last year.  There was not nearly that much activity this week.

After my niece’s driving lesson on Sunday, she and my nephew Robert gave me a stack of children’s books to share with the Stoddart neighborhood kids.  On Tuesday, I visited the Garden to weed, harvest berries and kale and prune flowers.  Fairy Garden RootBarb (who gardened with us last year) came by with her husband with three boxes of children’s books to share with the Stoddart Avenue kids.  Christen then came by and picked up a few books for herself, her brother and little sisters.  When no one else arrived, I started to drive off.  However, I ran into a large group of them near the Urban Connections ministry house.  They each took a stack of books.  Even the very little kids.  I had never heard of Captain Underpants before Sunday, but that series of books was by far the most popular of the books in my car and I had to ration them among the families.  I explained that they should bring them back to me after reading them to exchange for new books.

Sadly, just before I left for the Garden on Tuesday, I received a text from Cathy about how someone had torn down the northwest corner of our fence near her daughter’s bed.  When I arrived, the fence had been torn down, but no one had entered the Garden.  We reinforced the fence and wove in raspberry brambles to make this a painful exercise for anyone who tried it again.  I heard from one of the kids that the same boy who vandalized the Garden repeatedly last year had done this while visiting relatives in the neighborhood.  I hoped that he would not return.

As I mentioned last week, someone had been trying to break off our gate locks. They were unsuccessful, but they did render the locks unusable. So, I had to replace them.  However, my bolt cutter was not large enough to cut off the front gate lock.  So, off to the Tool Library I went on Wednesday for a monster bolt cutter. 
I stopped back at the Garden briefly late on Friday  afternoon to work on the rain tank downspouts and pick some berries. Someone had  again messed with the top of the rain tank (which I actually screw shut to keep the kids out).  I also exchanged some books with some of the girls who had finished their Tuesday books and also provided books to Antoinette and her niece.  Antoinette agreed to come back the next morning to weed her garden.  The fence was still standing.

On Saturday morning, however, the northwest corner of the fence had been completely demolished.  Hope’s garden – with winter squash and cantaloupes --  had been trampled.  Neal’s corn had been stolen, shucked, broken in half and strewn about our back lawn and around the youth gardening area.  An onion had been pulled and discarded near the alley.  Green tomatoes had been pulled and tossed around the Garden. An entire row of Sabrina's carrots were taken (and presumably eaten).  Tomato stakes had been pulled out of the neighbor plot along the alley. When I ran into Cathy (who had a cupcake for me), she told me that that this vandal had also visited the UC ministry house and pulled 6 tomato plants out of the ground and left them there.  And, the rain tank lid had again been removed.  I am very, very angry.
No one was there to help me.  I found some old fence (that had been damaged by this same boy last year doing the same things), cut it down with bolt cutters that I luckily had in my trunk, drove in two new fence posts and strung new fence along the northwest corner. I also wove in a few raspberry canes.  In the meantime, I ended up with a three-inch gash in my leg from this process.  I got a tetnus shot in 2009 when I last injured myself at the Garden and hope it’s still good.   Until raspberries grow up into this area of the fence, I'm not sure that it will be that effective at keeping him out.

Antoinette came to weed her garden and confirmed that this vandal is the same boy who vandalized the Garden last year and used to live across from the Garden.  She denied participating in it and I hope that’s true because she was banned from the Garden for three months last year for similar behavior. She showed me how he vandalized her garden, too.  We tried to replant one of her bean plants that he pulled out of the ground.  I helped her find the onion to take home.  She said that he and his sister got in trouble for this already, got a “whooping” and were sent home.   That’s just the beginning as far as I am concerned.  I sent her home with a large green tomato from my plot for her pregnant sister.

I brought the monster bolt cutter from the Tool Library, but I’m too puny to cut the lock off.  Luckily, Rose found her son-in-law, our former gardener, Isaias, who was able to cut the lock off for me.

Neal came by and was quite distressed at the theft of some of his corn.   However, he now has pole beans popping up and his cucumbers are in danger of taking over the entire middle patch.   He even gave me one to pickle.  I showed him various vegetables growing in mine and the food pantry plots and encouraged him to get a larger plot next year to expand his garden.  He is eagerly waiting for his tomatoes to turn red.  Neal planned to return later in the afternoon with his visiting son to show off his plot.

Our squash plants are particularly enormous this year.  So far – knock on wood – I’ve only seen one squash bug and found only one batch of squash bug eggs.  I’m planning to burn them out with a propane torch this year, but I didn’t need to use it yesterday.  I harvested for the food pantry, but was running so late and was so frustrated that I forgot to harvest the beans from the food pantry plot.  So, I’ll have to try and return today.  As I was, I had to return on Saturday afternoon to add a second screw to the top of the rain tank and the downspout.

Also, I ran into Veronica Anthony for the first time in a long while.  We’re both still waiting for Orlando to clean the gutter because almost no water is draining into our rain tank.  It is supposed to stop raining within the next week.  This always makes me nervous.  She’s trying to line up tenants for her building or she will have to sell it.  She also discussed putting a fence around the back yard.  She seemed very discouraged.  However, she thought that Orlando was finally cleaning out the raised Garden beds behind their building.  I still have a few tomato seedlings, some sweet potato seedlings and lots and lots of basil seedlings.  That seemed to cheer her up.   She's been busy working on establishing two Christian book libraries at area prisons.  We cannot afford to lose access to her gutters or there will be no SACG.

As I was packing up to leave, Block Watch Barb drove by and waved.  Probably on her way to the monthly block watch meeting . . . .
It was not just the Garden which frustrated me this week.  I picked tart cherries at Lynds this week.  What a bonanza at $2/pound.  I only picked 6.5 pounds, but wish I had picked twice that many.  I canned 3-1/2 pints and then made a red, white and blue cobbler for Independence Day with the cherries, black raspberries and whipped cream.  Yummy.  However, my car got stuck in the mud at Lynds.  Really, really stuck.  Luckily, four women (and no men) helped me to push the car out.  However, the undercarriage is caked in mud and the tires threw mud everywhere.  Including inside.  Even two car washes has not entirely removed the mud from the exterior (roof, sides, etc.) of my car.  Groan. Gardening is dirty work.

Well, the rest of the weekend is being spent cooking, pickling, freezing and canning.

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