Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day and 2015 Celebration Preparations

Although we are not really celebrating Earth Day until Saturday, the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden (as were virtually all Central Ohio community gardens) was exceedingly busy today despite the frigid temperatures, biting wind and rain drops.

My cats woke me far too early this morning.  Even so, it was RAINING!  This was not a good omen (although I typically LOVE the rain).    Luckily, it stopped by 10 and did not appear that any more rain would be coming our way.

10:45 a.m.:  I rented a pick-up truck from the U-Haul on East Main Street (courtesy of a grant from the City of Columbus Health Department’s Active Living Fund at the Columbus Foundation -- aka the "grant").  When we started the Garden in 2009, this U-Haul location loaned me the truck for free.  Not today, though.  That’s ok.  The owner and I chatted about his garden in Reynoldsburg and his two-legged zucchini thieves.

11:30:  Courtesy of the same grant, I bought a Montmorency cherry tree, Black Tartarian cherry tree and Red Haven peach tree from Strader’s on East Broad Street.  Tom was very helpful in helping me pick out the trees, loading my truck and pruning the trees.  Strader’s donates lots of seedlings and spring flowering  bulbs to the Greater Columbus Growing Coalition every year.  Susan and I planted a bunch of these donated bulbs around the SACG in early December last year and everyone is enjoying their beauty this month.  Thank you Straders!  Tom tells me that these trees (which I confirmed in subsequent research) will be helpful in cross-pollinating our existing Eastern Bing cherry, Montmorency cherry and Contender peach trees that we purchased (courtesy of an earlier City grant) a few years ago.  The neighborhood kids basically eat all of our fruit before it is ripe, so we are hoping that planting more trees will improve the odds of us actually getting to eat ripe fruit some day.

11:55: I pulled into GreenScapes Landscaping Service.  I had emailed Bill, its owner, the day before about picking up some bricks so that we could raise the height of our rain tank (purchased with an earlier City grant) another six inches to make it easier to fill our watering cans. Bill is one of the moving forces behind Franklin Park Conservatory’s Growing to Green Program and is a huge fan and supporter of local community gardens.   I met with him later yesterday afternoon to pick out a partial pallet of remnant landscaping stones (from prior jobs he had performed).   When I arrived today, his office staff mentioned the collage of pictures I had sent them a few years ago to thank them for a prior donation of landscaping edging stones and then other staff loaded the pick-up truck with the pallet.

12:25:  I arrived at the Garden and hoped to jettison the stones over the side of the truck onto our lawn, but they were too heavy.    New gardener Amy was to have met me at 12:15, but she went to Franklin Park Conservatory, checked us in and stood in line (her little body) with the many trucks from other community gardens waiting to pick up thousands of bags of soil and mulch being donated to virtually every community garden in Central Ohio by the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company.  Neighbor Frank Eubanks was wondering by and offered to help me.  He was still in exercise clothes.  I welcomed his assistance, but told him that I hoped to be finished by the time he went home to change.  However, he was back in an instant and, despite his age advantage on me, was able to carry two stones at a time.  He told me he still can bench press 115 pounds, but could bench 185 when he was younger.  What an inspiration.  I tried to sign him up for a plot, but accepted that he would stop by and volunteer when he had time.

12:45:  I arrived at Franklin Park Conservatory for the main event of the day.  In the past, we have been blessed that Clean Turn (owned by City Council candidate John Rush) delivered the annual Scotts soil donation to the Garden.  I think once or twice I may have driven over on a weekend to pick it up in my Jetta.  Other gardens take a many more bags of soil than us.  It’s first come first served and trucks start queuing up as early as 9:30 a.m.  I’ve heard stories of four hour waits.  This year, Clean Turn was going to load the vehicles since no other company offered to help load.  Because of this, FPC would not have enough manpower to make deliveries.  I was not looking forward to this.   I had requested only 45 bags of soil and mulch, but was given 60.   (We are NOT complaining and will put the extra bags to very good use).   When I pulled in the drive way, I saw Amy waiving while standing between two vehicles.  I pulled into where she was standing.  Coincidentally, right behind her was Pastor Brown (who is building a community garden this weekend in the lot right next to the SACG).  He had invited her to wait in his van, but she declined (since I wouldn’t see her there).

Sadly, Amy reported that our milkweed plants had been given away to another garden.  Curses! Green Columbus had been soliciting gardens to plant milkweed plants to feed monarch butterfly caterpillars.  I asked the SACG gardeners to vote on whether we wanted to do this. They did.  I signed us up and was told to pick them up before 1 p.m. at FPC.   Amy got there in plenty of time, but they had already given away our seedlings!  I’ll remember you Julie Smiley . . . .

While I was sitting there in line, I received an email from the long-suffering, but newly hired, Katelyn, at Rebuilding Together of Central Ohio.  Oh joy!  What bliss!  The City and RTCO had very generously and thoughtfully arranged for all of the City Land Bank Community Gardens (like the SACG) to receive $250 in materials for permanent improvements to our lots from the Home Depot in Grove City.  Katelyn had placed the orders last week and I explained my fondest wish that I could pick them up while I was still in possession of the truck we were renting today.    (I really didn’t have to turn it in until tomorrow, but I need to get my car back and tires replaced).   We had ordered a picnic table that would definitely not fit in the back of my Jetta (even with the fold-down seats).   We had to give Home Depot at least 2 hours advance notice that we were coming to pick up our items.  I IMMEDIATELY called Trish (at Home Depot), gave her my purchase order number and told her I would be there in 2.5 hours.

Amy became impatient waiting in the truck listening to me prattle on.  I just love her.  She wanted to DO something.  So, she drove back to the SACG and cleaned out the neighbor plot so that we could empty our newly donated soil directly into it.     In the meantime, the truck line was making very good progress and I was out of there by 1:30.  There was an ever growing line of trucks behind me.  Pastor Brown filled a trailer and a truck and still had to make a second trip.

1:45: Amy and I unload the truck.  These bags are HEAVY from sitting in the rain.  I’m like – “just dump the stuff right inside our gate.
We’ll worry about it Saturday.”  This is the only the second year I’ve gone to the trouble of locking up our donation.  In past years, the bags have a way of walking off in the three days between their delivery and the following Saturday.  Sad, but true.  Amy, though, wanted to do MORE.  She started distributing bags among the plots.  And, she started spreading mulch around the fruit trees.  (I like to wait until the soil warms up more before mulching, but as faithful readers know, sometimes, the ants take over the mulch bags and I get literally eaten alive by the time I start spreading mulch in the flower beds and herb garden).  Barb shows up and asks that we not mulch any more trees because she and Frank are going to build us wooden enclosures for the trees.  Then, Amy had to return to work.  That slacker.

2:30.  I get home for a quick and very overdue lunch and hair-brushing.  I cannot eat enough.  I send an email updating my other volunteers about the status of my evening plans.

3:00:  I arrive at Keep Columbus Beautiful to pick up our supplies for our “celebration” of Earth Day on Saturday.  These include five litter grabbers, 15 pairs of gloves, safety vests,  energy bars, lettuce seeds and a sign to put in our lawn designating us as an official Green Columbus Earth Day worksite.  There are also supposed to be a few trash bags, but I didn’t look too closely.  We also get two t-shirts (one for me, of course, as team leader) and one that I will give away to an especially passionate volunteer.  We also get volunteer incentives, including gift certificates to Chipotle’s, bus passes, and a certificate for a free Gateway movie, and free Jeni’s ice cream, etc.  I was extremely disappointed to not see Robert Seed again or get to meet the ever efficient Danielle, Green Columbus’ most efficient volunteer ever.  However, the two folks there were very effective and helped me get on my way in a very short time.

3:45:  I arrive at the Grove City Home Depot.  Before getting Katelyn’s email, I had
initially planned to pick up 2 cubic yards of premium top soil from Kurtz Brothers that had been donated to us by the City of Columbus.  Love you Seth!  I had also arranged for wheelbarrows and volunteers to help empty and hose down the truck.   But, with the morning rain, I wasn’t looking forward to shoveling mud out of the truck.  And, I REALLY wanted to get our picnic table. 

An employee in the parking lot directed me to the Will-Call/Service desk.  This was rush hour.  There was a long line.  I couldn’t find Trish.  I tried calling her again and got a frustrated person who was standing three feet from me and said she’d get to me eventually.  Sigh.  When I was finally waited on, they couldn’t make heads or tails of my P.O. number.   Luckily, Trish happened to call them just then.   Of course, she knew exactly who I was and what I wanted.  Thing was, she was at the opposite end of the store. So, I got back in the truck and drove to the Commercial side of the store.  All of our order was there on a cart – except the picnic table.  They couldn’t find it.  I explained that the website said they had them in stock. That was met with derision.  Oops.    Colin was dispatched to find it.  I mentioned that the customer service desk knew where the tables were.  I was not wrong.  They were outside the store on display.  I had to explain to them how to load the truck (being a lawyer, and all, that doesn’t want to kill anyone while driving back north on I-71 during rush hour) and insisted that the table go in with the top on the truck bed. 

4:45: I get home and make myself a quick pesto pasta dinner (from frozen pesto I made from my SACG garden last Fall).

5:30.  I get back to the SACG and start unloading bags of soil (for the raised beds and Moo-nure) from the back of the truck.  I also start emptying the tank (with a hose I brought).   Barb arrives to help me unload the truck.  Her ankle still hurts and she cannot carry things over a distance, but she pulls bags from the truck for me to unload.  A neighbor stopped by with her cute dog, took a picture of our work and said she would post something on her Facebook page about our needing help.  Then, Rayna arrives.  She also helps to unload the truck and we carry the stones back to the front gate.  Rayna and I also carry our new picnic table over the platform raised bed that we relocated two week ago.   I take our new  chain and an old lock and tie the bed to the table (so that the table won’t walk off by itself in the middle of the night).    Barb sweeps out the truck and Rayna and I temporarily store a plastic pallet.

Pastor Brown stopped by.  I imagine someone told him about the shady characters walking in between his tall stacks of soil.  I explain that we are emptying the tank so that we can raise its height.  We briefly chat (although I’m so tired and incoherent) and then he goes inside where it’s warm.

6:30:  I go to put gas back in the truck (to avoid a $4/gallon re-fill fee while Rayna finishes putting the stones near the back gate.  

6:45.  I return the truck, but seem to have misplaced the keys.  They were in the trunk of my car (where I put the KCB supplies).  Oops.   I drove 62 miles today.  This is not especially "green" of me, but the plants we grow this summer will put plenty of oxygen into the atmosphere and absorb lots of carbon dioxide.

7:00 p.m. Back home.  Sadly, get to read the obituary and nice local newspaper article about my Uncle Jim, -- one of two gardeners on that side of my family – who died Monday night.  It mentions his gardening, his case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Coif, time managing the OSU baseball team and belonging to Varisity O in college, and his time in the Ohio House and as a judge, etc.  I didn’t know before today that he used to practice for the U.S. Treasury and the old, old law firm of Dargusch, Saxbe and Dargusch.  He outlived many of his peers.   He could grow virtually anything, which made my father endlessly jealous.   Needless to say, my father and cousins are very, very sad right now.   My father and uncle had practiced law together (in a building my grandfather built during the Great Depression) in my home town since 1958.

So, I hope that we have help this Saturday.  Unless it is pouring down rain, this is what we have planned:

·        planting fruit trees,

·        spreading garden soil and compost in the plots,

·        preparing food pantry plots for planting,

·        planting Spring crops in the neighborhood bed (where anyone passing by can help themselves),

·        planting turnips, beets, lettuce, kale, collard greens, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, potatoes and peas,

·        spreading wood chips around our new picnic table,

·        relocating four blueberry bushes from the north side to the south side of the SACG,

·        turning material in the compost bins,

·        thinning a strawberry patch (which means that you might be able to take some free strawberry seedlings home with you),

·        picking up litter along Stoddart Avenue,  and

·        mowing grass.

 Be there or be square!  Many hands make light work.

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