Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rainy June Brings Both Rainbows and Mud

Girls looking for berries in all the right places
It’s been too rainy to do much gardening this past week at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  However, our extremely nutritious and yummy black raspberries are in season and so I’ve managed to stop by almost every day to pick a couple of pints (which, as anyone who does it knows, is very time consuming).  I’m rarely alone in my berry picking since the neighborhood children almost always use my visit as an excuse to pick berries as well (both inside and outside the fence).  While Lynd's charges $3.50/pint to pick berries in Licking County, we have them for free at the SACG.

On Monday, I gave a presentation at Wings’ restaurant to the Bexley Lions Club about the Garden.  As faithful readers know, I have collected a lot of pictures over the years of our activities.  I showed them pictures  on Wings’ large digital television (via my laptop) from before we broke ground in 2009, while we broke ground in 2009, during the demolition of the building next door, of our litter pick-ups and our various capital improvements.  Some of the members had grown up in the area and attended the old Rosary high school across the street.  Rock of Faith Baptist Church used to be Holy Rosary Catholic church.   I explained how we really need volunteers to help us keep up with all of the work involved in maintaining and improving a community garden.

Tuesday, it briefly stopped raining long enough to let me stop by and pick berries.  While I was there, one of the neighbor girls reported that she had discovered some of the items which had been stolen out of our shed the prior week.  The thief had dumped the container which held all of our seeds a block from the Garden, at 450 Fairwood Avenue (which is an abandoned and dilapidated apartment building surrounded by waist-high grass).   The lid had been run over by cars.  Some of the seeds had also been dumped on the sidewalk: mostly beans, peas and winter squashes.  However, because it had been raining for days since the theft, the seeds had germinated and bean and pea sprouts littered the sidewalk in front of that building.  I retrieved the container and returned it to the shed. 

On Wednesday, it rained most of the afternoon and later briefly stopped so that I could pick berries before it started raining again.  However, it did not stop soon enough for a new gardener to get in her work equity so that she could join.   Weeds are taking over the south fence and I spent way too much time pulling those weeds off and grumbling about why the gardeners with those plots aren’t doing this themselves (since I have not found it particularly difficult to pull weeds off the brambles in my plot).  Of course, I found numerous berries under the vining weeds.   I sadly also discovered squash bugs had found my plot and begun laying eggs.  I warned the rest of the gardeners to be on the lookout.

On Thursday, it stopped raining long enough for me to mow my lawn and visit the SACG to pick more berries.    While there, I discovered that our thieves had returned, and had stomped on the flowers in front of the Garden to climb over the front gate.  Grrrr.  I couldn’t discover if they stole anything. Maybe they came for berries.  Happily, they did not stomp on any of the vegetables growing in the food pantry plot and I couldn’t tell that they had stolen any food.  No one has reported any vandalism or thefts to me, so I don’t know what was accomplished.  After picking berries for myself and our weekly food pantry donation, I reinforced all of the front fence with additional stakes.   This served to remind me why we do not leave spaces between our flowers like most well-tended flower beds. Spaces merely create opportunities for thieves to climb over our fence.   I also had to commend Stan for doing a good job reinforcing the fence in his plot so well that it deterred the thieves from using that space again.

On Friday, I stopped by early to get in our food pantry harvest (which, of course, included more black raspberries).  I delivered it to the St. Vincent de Paul pantry off Livingston Avenue and picked up some more petunias for the SACG which had been generously donated by Strader’s Garden Centers.  Hundreds of flats of petunias had been delivered by Strader’s on Wednesday and two-thirds of them had been taken by the time I arrived.  While I was at the SACG, neighbor Greg stopped by and mowed the block watch lot next door.  The grass was so high and wet that the mower was constantly choking and dropping large clumps of grass (which I hastily gathered up and put in our compost bin).   I also took the opportunity to start pulling weeds out of Jon’s former plot and discovered that the roma tomatoes he planted from seed had survived and that the sweet bell peppers that he planted using Scott’s peat pods (which Scotts Miracle Gro had donated to us in April) had similarly thrived and survived. He also had a row of broccoli and peas that were still alive.   The weeds  -- which were taller than my knees and some as high as my waist -- proved exceedingly easy to pull out of the damp soil.   Also, Melinda – who runs the Kimball Farms community garden next to us – had dropped off some large and lovely basil plants for our gardeners, especially Barb and Frank.  I put one container in their plot and one on the bench for the rest of the gardeners.
That evening, there was a block party in my neighborhood.  Folks like me on the west side of the street were supposed to bring a dessert.  So, I made a raspberry bread pudding.  I chopped up two hamburger buns, mixed the bread chunks in the baking dish with 1-1/2 pints of black raspberries and then stirred in a mixture of 2 tablespoons of melted butter, two eggs and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.  I baked this for 30-40 minutes in my toaster oven at 400 degrees.  I pulled it out and topped it with a mixture of red and white raspberries (which grow in my back yard and most of my neighbors had never seen before).  It was a big hit.  When I make a similar pineapple bread pudding, I usually need to add some pineapple juice to the bread to keep it from drying out during baking, but that is not necessary with juicy black raspberries.

I had planned to get an early start to gardening and arrived at the SACG at 8 a.m.  As everyone knows, we received about 2.5 inches of rain on Saturday from Tropical  Storm Bill and so gardening was impossible.  My niece had her high school graduation party that afternoon.  It was supposed to be at Scioto Park in Dublin, but it had been flooded.  So, she moved it to Emerald Fields and we huddled in the shelter while eating lovely Indian food and sushi (provided by her two co-hosts’ families) and our family mocked her for simply supplying hot dogs and chips.  

On my way home, I stopped by the Moravian Church community garden where I used to garden in 2008 (which was the rainiest June in Central Ohio history with over 10 inches of rain).   It is right next to the Emerald Fields park where the party was held.  It is still there and is surrounded by new apartment buildings.   I remembered that it flooded a lot during heavy rains, like the one we were experiencing.  I wondered if anyone was losing their crops this month and was very grateful that we have a slight incline to our lot at the SACG to prevent water from pooling in any of our plots.  I then went shopping for contender green bean seeds and finally found some at Strader’s Garden Center on Riverside Drive.  While there, I founds some very reasonably priced gardening gloves and took the opportunity to purchase more than a dozen pairs to replace the gloves which were stolen last week.   Even though it finally stopped raining about an hour after her party ended, I focused on cleaning house and gardening in my own yard instead of going to the SACG.  
On Sunday, I headed over to the SACG to pick more berries and prune back the dying daisies.   However, Amy had beat me to it, which saved me some time and let me focus on other things, like weeding the herb garden and transplanting some more basil.  Thanks to Amy completing one of my tasks, I also tidied up our shed, which was still in a shambles after the theft last week.  I discovered that the thieves had taken some gardening tools (like a rake, hoe and shovel) and organic fertilizer.  Stan stopped by and mowed our lawn before weeding his plot.

Finally, last night, I again stopped by and picked another pint of raspberries, and weeded the food pantry and my plots.  The bee balm and day lilies are blooming.    Frank mentioned that he had been trying to improve the front gate -- which seems fine to me -- on Sunday and will be back to do some more work.   Despite all of the rain, some of the gardeners (like Amy, Lea and Stan) have managed to continue visiting the Garden to weed and tend their plots.  Others have thrown up their hands and their plots show it.  There is a lot of grass growing that will become difficult to pull once the ground dries out and hardens. 
This week, I’m hoping to finally have the time to plant the rest of my basil and sweet potatoes, transplant  some kale to where lettuce used to be in the food pantry plot, plant some bush contender green beans where my bok choy used to be, weed out the abandoned plots, transplant the remaining peppers and tomatoes in them and hopefully transplant some extra swash and cucumbers from my plot into them.   We’ll see . . . . . .  It would be good to get this all accomplished before the rain that is predicted for Thursday (and which had better hold off until the afternoon since I have  a group of volunteers coming in the morning).

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