Saturday, August 24, 2013

Well Done is Better Than Well Said

At least that’s what old Ben Franklin used to say.  Although I almost entitled this, Beware Where You Put Your Hands.  As you can, see, I have a very large garden spider – called an argiope – in my tomato patch.  The female weaves a circular web, which she eats every night and re-spins every morning.  The smaller male lives on the outer edges and weaves the zig-zag pattern you see.     This spider has gotten larger every week and has been there over a month.  I haven’t seen the praying mantis – which used to live nearby -- in a few weeks.  I hope he didn’t fall prey to her.   She apparently eats anything that might nibble on my vegetables (including aphids), so I try to be very accommodating.  These spiders are quite common. They tend to live in the same place all summer.  They lay their eggs and the babies live in the cocoon over the winter.  They are supposed to be harmless to humans, but I do not intend to test that.   I give her a very wide birth.

I haven’t written in a few weeks (and it hasn’t rained in my absence either.  So, every trip to the Garden involves building my biceps as I lug hundreds of pounds of water from the tank to the Garden to water everything).  Last week was my grandfather’s 98th birthday, so I went home for the large family annual birthday celebration.  He has been many things in his life, including a veteran and a farmer.  Since shortly after this last Father’s Day, however, he is being unwillingly confined to an assisted living facility since he sometimes gets confused and forgets where he is or who anyone else is, etc.   It was very depressing dropping him off because he did not want to stay.    We’re trying to figure out a way that his cat can live with him without him having to keep his door shut all the time (to keep her in).  She’s going crazy without him. This annual reunion  is also my chance to touch base with the other gardeners from my younger life.  Last year, while we were suffering from the drought, my Uncle Marshall’s garden was kicking butt.  It’s located right over an underground stream and could not have been more productive.  This year, however, with our overabundance of rain, it’s basically a flooded mess and he’s had to buy produce from the Amish.   He’s so distraught.  It’s so unfair.  Well, now he knows. He’s trying to find a good recipe for seriously spicy mustard pickles.  I cannot imagine.

After my last post, the kids came by on Monday and we settled that since DeShaun had been tending the boys’ plot, he got to decide who got what.  The kids enjoyed the leftover chocolate zucchini cupcakes, but then a brother stole his sister’s cupcake and I had to kick him out and then they pretty much all left.  But not before they all received a cucumber, dill heads and instructions on how to make their own dill pickles when they got home.  And, DeShaun and Shae picked and shucked as many black beans from their plots as they could so that they could go home and make black bean soup.  They looked at me like I was from outer space when I suggested that they dry the beans to use later (like I do).    I thought planting black beans had been a mistake, but they have been more excited about them than anything else (except watermelon).  DeShaun came back this morning, rejected his tomatoes and took home another handful of bean pods and (what I believe to be) an under-ripe cantaloupe from this plot.  He didn’t want it to get any bigger, he said.  His ripe cantaloupe exploded last week from neglect.

Sabrina has been an absolute god-send this summer.  She’s worked very hard to help me keep the Garden looking spiffy and the time she has spent watering and weeding the food pantry plot has freed me up to take care of other maintenance issues.  She is, however, very excited that this will be her last week of chores and she can focus more on her own plot and her senior year in college.  Her husband Tom cleaned out their second plot of their sad corn crop and planted their Fall crops.  This afternoon, they were off to Utica to get peaches, apples and tomatoes (and probably ice cream). When I was gone last week, she gave all of the produce she harvested for herself to a passerby who stopped by and asked for food.   

Last June, I transplanted some thinned cabbage seedlings from my plot to the second food pantry plot.  They have done just beautifully.  They’re so gorgeous, I’ve almost hated to pick them.  I picked a few of them this morning, as well as some melons.  The kids, as usual, have not been very good about harvesting their produce and so this morning I picked a bunch of it for Faith Mission. 
Since DeShaun’s sister, Tamara, has pretty much abandoned her plot and refused to weed or water it, I’ve pretty much given it to one of the new girls who comes to the Garden regularly and volunteers to help.  She and another little boy have been pestering me all summer about getting a plot.  She’s very responsible, so last week, we pulled the spent plants and planted some lettuce, beets, carrots, spinach and turnips.  We’ll add collard greens pretty soon.  She’s already watered it three times. 

Today, I finally sucked it up and harvested the rest of the turnips, beets and carrots from the food pantry plot so that I can plant fall crops over the long weekend next week.  I probably waited too long for the turnips, but their greens are still good.  The beets were very cute. The carrots were a mixed bag.   I pulled out most of the spent squash plants from the second food pantry plot, harvested the onions and weeded it to make room for planting next weekend, too.  I put some extra basil plants in there on Wednesday.  And -- wait for it -- I am still harvesting zucchini.  I pulled a sloppy plant last week, but still have four plants left producing zucchini every week.    It's a miracle.

I’ve been cooking putting up food like a fiend.  Thursday it was taco sauce, last night it was rancheros sauce and tomorrow it will be smoked tomato and jalapeno coyote sauce.  I also made some kimchi and  very spicy asian pickles and have three more cucumbers to motivate me.  

I ran really late again today and so took our 61 pound harvest to Faith Mission around 3:30.  I had forgotten where it moved and had to drive around a bit until I found the downtown Hill’s Market.  Then, I remembered.    As I was packing up from the Garden, a truck pulled over and the driver asked me to sell him tomatoes.  I demurred because they were going to Faith Mission, but then I started to reconsider.  However, he said he didn’t just want to buy a just a few and I didn’t want to divert so many tomatoes to a fundraising activity.  I might have to re-think my idealism if the opportunity presents itself again.
Finally, the abandoned duplex at the corner of Morrison and Cherry has looked awful all summer. Cathy has pestered the City's 311 line repeatedly to no avail.  This is where the murderers hid before the first shooting at the Garden in August 2010.  At that point, the City  came in and cleaned up the lot.  This summer, it has gotten so bad that you could not drive on Cherry without the weeds scratching your car.  You couldn’t walk in the alley at the same time as a car. Cathy had enough and trimmed the alley weeds back for self-preservation (since she travels that way repeatedly every day on her way to Urban Connections and has to look at this overgrown lot as it is pretty much across from her own home).  FINALLY, this morning, a truck and crew stopped by to start cleaning up the lot.  They didn’t finish, but anything is an improvement.  I thanked them and they stopped by for some tomatoes.

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