Sunday, October 26, 2014

Winding Down, But Not Out

It’s unusual that we have not yet had any frost or snow at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden so far this year.  I’m not complaining, but it’s remarkable to still have basil and green beans in the last week of October.  As a result, I’m quite a bit behind in clearing out my plot (and the food pantry plots), although I am enjoying our bean harvest.  On top of that, I’ve had auntie and daughter duty the last three Saturdays, so I haven’t much done at the Garden the last three weeks.   That being said, when I am at the Garden, I feel like the Grinch that stole Christmas because I always spend a little time pruning the dying sunflowers, to the great disappointment of the neighborhood finches that flock to them all summer and fall.  Sorry birdies.

The Great Saffron Bust of 2013-14.  Prepare to mock me.  Last year, I experimented with a new financial project to improve the Garden’s finances.  In February, I purchased about 50 saffron crocus bulbs.  I planted half at the Garden and half in my own backyard (under chicken wire to keep my squirrels from feasting on them).   We kept the gates on the Garden all winter to keep the neighborhood kids from wondering in and picking the pretty flowers that we hoped to have.  
I thought that they would be as easy to grow as my Spring crocuses (and had been lead to believe that by the flower bulb company).  In fairness, all of the bulbs spouted in October, but we didn’t get a single flower.   The foliage remained until late Spring and, sadly I had to transplant the Garden set in April because of how the plots were reconfigured.  None of them survived the trauma. Our poor bloom rate was probably because our soil is not the correct pH, too fertile and/or too wet.  I haven’t spent any time researching their special growing requirements, but plan to be more expert about it by this time next year.
Saffron is freakishly expensive.  CNN reported a few years ago that it sells for $1500+/pound.  It can take an acre of land to grow that much, though.    Iran pretty much controls the saffron market and the U.S. military has spent considerable efforts to convince Afghan farmers to grow it instead of opium poppies because it is every bit as financially lucrative.  The BBC published pretty pictures of the Kashmir saffron harvest.  The American saffron bulb is supposed to have a slightly mellower taste than its asian cousin and the Amish have been growing it for ages.  They even have special jars to store it (in case anyone wonders what to get me for Xmas).   However, I now understand that it is probably not as reliable a crop. 
This year, I had three bulbs bloom.  One harvests the red stigma for saffron (which must be done by hand and explains why the spice is so expensive).  I hope to have more of these next year and maybe I’ll try again some day to raise money for the Garden by growing a cash crop.

Other News.  I am very sad to report that Stephanie Blessing from Rebuilding Together of Central Ohio’s Tool Library has moved onto to greener pastures (literally).  If you’ve ever borrowed anything from the Tool Library in the last few years, you’ve undoubtedly been served by Stephanie, who is extremely helpful, friendly and supportive of community gardening.  Seth (from the City) broke the news to me and Julie confirmed it.  I then tracked Stephanie down.  She’s starting a small organic farm up state.  “[W]e hope to host workshops on how to do chemical-free holistic gardening, as well as how to build low-energy homes and greenhouses.  We hope to keep animals and grow veggies, herbs, etc. “  Good luck Steph!

Food pantry.   As I mentioned many weeks ago, our produce thieves have really made a dent on our annual food pantry donations.   While they haven’t visited in a few weeks, they did their damage in August and September.   Nonetheless, this year’s donations to date have topped our annual donations from 2009-11 and we’ve got two more weeks to go.  (For those of you keeping track, IT is still there).

Closing Day Plans.  Our annual closing day will be Saturday, November 8 beginning at 9:00 a.m.  We will be pruning our perennial flowers in the front flower beds, cutting down the remaining sunflowers, emptying and disconnecting the rain tanks, pruning the raspberry brambles to the fence and bagging the cuttings, harvesting the remaining greens, etc. for either the LSS Food Pantry or Faith Mission (depending on when we end for the day), cleaning out the beds, mowing our lawn for the last time of the year, cleaning up our tools and packing the shed, etc.  We will need much help to finish by lunchtime (which will be plenty of time before the 8p.m Spartan/Buckeye kickoff that night).  Of course, there will be refreshments.  We will also be bestowing our annual awards for tidiest plot and volunteer of the year. 

Volunteers will get free seeds, free raspberry bush roots (to plant in your own garden), gardening tips and a higher preference in plot assignments in 2015. Be there or be square!   

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