Monday, September 15, 2014

Curling Up this Fall with a Good Book as the Growing Season Winds Down

Emily stuffed our free little library
As our growing season slowly winds down, the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden has been cleaning out the Garden and stowing books for our free little library.   A few weeks ago, one of our former gardeners, RootBarb aka Fairy Garden Barb – emailed me about donating additional children’s books for our free little library.    We never seem to be able to keep children’s books stocked.  Then, as I was watching the noon broadcast on WCMH, I heard about a twelve-year old New Albany girl who won a grant from Kohl’s department stores for collecting and distributing books to area food pantries.   She had collected so many books that she was looking for additional places to distribute them.  Of course, I tracked her down.

As explained in This Week, Emily Spector started the Read to Succeed Foundation after helping her older sister volunteer at an area food pantry.  She realized that the pantry clients would also benefit from more intellectual pursuits and might not have ready access to a public library and free books.   She and her parents stopped by the SACG at noon on Saturday to fill our free little library with books and leave a few for me to fill in as needed.   She had a lot of beautiful books, including the ever popular Captain Underpants.   
Before Emily stuffed our library
While Emily merely wanted to share her love of reading (as we at the SACG share our love of gardening), her focus on  literacy could save lives every bit as much as fresh and nutritious food.  Studies have shown that children learn to read until the third grade.  After that, they read to learn.  Therefore, if a child can’t read by the third grade, their chance of graduating from high school and getting a job materially decrease.  Their chances for success at life are so diminished by not being able to read that some states plan the number of future prison cells in part based on elementary school literacy proficiency exams.  I was surprised to learn over the summer that one of the largest funders of literacy studies in the world is the U.S. Department of Justice (through its Bureau of Justice Statistics), which discovered decades ago that a person’s chance of ending up and returning to prison is materially affected by the level of education that person obtained and his or her ability to read.    It’s not just a saying: Teach One, Save One.

Emily gave me her card and if any food pantries or community garden free little libraries are in need of more books (both for adults and children), just let me know and I will put you in touch with Emily and her basement full of books.   Her project has been so successful that people keep stopping by her house and dropping off more books.    We’re very grateful for her efforts and generosity.  If this is what she can accomplish at only twelve years of age, just imagine what else she will achieve as she gets older.

Pick It Up Update.   As we have in past years, SACG gardeners picked up litter in our neighborhood last week.   I reported last week that four of us picked up seven bags of litter in 90 minutes along East Main Street, even though we had focused only on the two blocks (north and south) between Fairwood and Morrison.   After I published that post, Keep Columbus Beautiful provided us with additional statistics.  For the area of East Main Street between South Ohio and James Road, 30 bags of litter were picked up by 17 volunteers (including our four).  

We’re in the middle of another middle drought at the SACG.  In the past two weeks, we’ve received only about a half inch of rain.   This is a little hard on the Fall crops we’re trying to grow.  On top of that, snows have come a month early to the Rockies and upper Midwest.  Last winter came a little early and I think this year will too (La Nina or not).   With this in mind, I’ve spent more time than anticipated on watering.  With nighttime temperatures in the 40’s, I’ve decided to let my remaining tomato plants “go.”  I’ve pulled and composted my determinate plants and pinched the flowers on the remaining plants so that they can focus their energy on ripening the remaining fruit.  I’m not really watering my SACG tomatoes anymore.  (As a practical matter, there aren’t that many tomatoes left anyway because of our regular produce thefts).  I thinned our food pantry turnip crop with the hope that they will form bulbs despite the lack of rain and thinned my own Chinese cabbage.  I weeded, heavily pruned our many sunflowers and saved scores of cosmos seeds so that we can have pretty flowers next year.  Next week, I’ll have to start pulling and composting spent plants out of the food pantry plots.

In light of our cool nights (which I love), I pulled the rest of our basil on Saturday.  I've made and frozen a year's worth of basil from my plot and took the rest to the food pantry.  I had doubts whether it would be taken, but I need not have worried.  Half of it was gone before I had time to leave the building.  On Wednesday, I was speaking with the leader from Faith Mission's Community Garden (which received Outstanding Community Garden of the Year at the annual Growing to Green dinner).  Like us, she also grows herbs to improve the taste of the food served at the homeless shelter.  So few gardens donate it that she has dedicated a significant amount of space for them.  I always wondered if they would cook with the herbs I've donated and she assured me that they do. 

Before I started pruning
Even as our sunflowers are slowly dying back, many of our cosmos are still in flower and our asters are coming into bloom.  Rayna even suggested that I cut back some of the cosmos to give a fuller view of the asters.  Hmmmm…….  I’m going to have to divide those asters this fall (in case anyone wants some) and I’m thinking about transplanting a peony bush from my back yard to the SACG.  But you know what they say about best laid plans. . . .

When I made our weekly food pantry donation on Saturday at the LSS food pantry, I learned that Gene is feeling rather poorly, has been in the hospital for pneumonia and is scheduled for gall bladder surgery on Friday.   Everyone should say a prayer for his speedy recovery and maybe drop him a cheerful card.  He loves a good joke.

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