Saturday, August 29, 2015

With a Little Help from My (Buckeye and Neighbor) Friends

This was a long and productive weekend at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  We finally tackled the alley curb project and we got lots of help from our neighbors and OSU students (from the Pay It Forward Program’s Community Commitment Day), who made us old gardeners feel very old with all of their enthusiasm, physical strength and energy. 

When we broke ground in 2009, we discovered that our lot was filled with concrete and other debris which made it impossible to plow or till; we had to dig the debris out by hand with shovels.  Chianti – an eight year old girl who lived across the street – started lining up the debris in a long line along the alley and our debris curb was born.  It was almost a point of pride to look at the larger pieces and the large number of pieces to see all of the hard work that went into carrying the debris out of the Garden and down the alley. 

Amy and Isaias unload donated stones
However, as our neighbors know, the debris curb harbored many weeds, made more difficult to  control because of the irregular shape of the debris.  So, at the beginning of this growing season, I contacted Bill at GreenScapes about donating remnant landscaping stones so that we could replace the irregular debris curb with an easier-to-weed uniform stone curb.  Of course, he said.  Then, I applied to the Columbus Foundation (through the City’s Community Garden grant program) for funds to rent a truck to cart away the debris and pay a dump to legally accept it.    However, with my father’s illness and the rainy weather, we never got around to it.  When I notified the gardeners that I might not finish this project, Amy started to solicit volunteers from the Bexley High School.  In the meantime, I asked the guys who hang across the street if they would help.  Of course, they said.  So, the gauntlet was set.

Yesterday, I dropped by Keep Columbus Beautiful and Robert loaned me some litter grabbers, gloves, seeds, and traffic cones for our OSU students.  I then went home and baked brownies for our volunteers and Cathy baked gluten-free oatmeal monster cookies for them, too.

That afternoon, I picked up a pickup truck from U-Haul, so that we needed to complete the major parts of the curb project within 24 hour hours.  I drove down to GreenScapes and Mark Moore helped to assemble three partial pallets of remnant limestone landscaping stones.  However, it was going to take more than one trip to get them back to the Garden because they were so heavy.  I hadn’t counted on that.  So, I drove up to the Garden and began unloading the stones. 

Some of these stones weighed more than I could carry and I thought it would take me the rest of the day.    Micayla’s father, Kevin, saw me and came by to help.  And Amy came on her bike to help, too.    While I drove back to GreenScapes to get another load, Amy went to get her car.   

When I returned and struggled with more stones, Isaias from next door came out to help, along with Kevin (and his son, small Jaden) and then Amy.   We unloaded two partial pallets of stones and then started to load the truck with debris.  While we were unloading, Amy was surprised when a frog jumped out of one of the pallets and it was quickly captured by Isaias and released in our compost bin.  I saw it hopping away, but doubt that it will find water close by.  I thought that this loading  would take forever, but we finished within an hour because I had grossly underestimated how much debris we had and overestimated how much debris the truck could safely carry.  Karen  from next door brought us soda to keep us refreshed.    I ended up removing a couple hundred pounds of debris from the truck the next morning to avoid hurting the truck.  Amy drove me back to U-Haul to get my car and I was delighted to have a free evening.

I arrived at the Garden shortly after 8:30 this morning and was able to empty the shed and prepare the supplies for our OSU volunteers, as well as water my plot.  Frank, Barb and our WEP volunteer Ezra came and headed off to Scotts Wrecking on the south side to dump our first load of debris.  The OSU students arrived just before 10:30 and there were 26 of them.  I told them a wee, wee bit about the Garden and the projects they had to choose from.    Last year, no one wanted to pick up litter; this year virtually all of the guys did.

One crew of young men selected the project of moving our western/cement block compost bin.  Our new sign for the neighbor plot has made the plot so popular, that it was quickly picked over.  So, clearly, we need another one asap.   To accomplish this, we will move a compost bin to make room for a new neighbor plot.   Ezra and I had marked out its boundaries with leftover landscaping stones (from earlier projects).  The OSU students pulled the weeds out of and around the bin, moved the cement blocks, lined them up, shoveled over the compost stored there and moved some landscaping stones to mark the border of the new neighbor plot.  They then hung out around our picnic table drinking water and eating cookies.    One of them brought a portable radio. 

A couple of young, but extremely hard working, ladies took on the project of sanding our two benches and applying new stain.  I thought that they might finish one bench.  But they finished both.  I was stunned.  So, they were rewarded by being assigned the glamorous task of harvesting produce for our weekly food pantry harvest.  They harvested over 20 pounds of tomatoes and a few pounds of peppers and green beans.

Another couple of energetic young women volunteered for the task of watering our food pantry plots, our neighbor bed, our strawberry patch and our flower pots.  Then, I paired them with the only experienced gardener in the group (who was weeding) to plant some beets and peas in the kids' former melon plot (which was emptied by the neighborhood girls last weekend as they enjoyed their cantelopes and expressed interest in snow peas).

Six gentlemen were assigned the task of picking up litter along Stoddart and in the alleys between Morrison and Fairwood.  I think that they explored more than their assignment.  However, they filled 9 bags.
A large crew was assigned the task of weeding our paths and pulling the pernicious bind weed off of the raspberry bushes.  Some of them took this seriously (almost too much so), but some of them spent time “surveying” the work being done by others.  No matter.  When the dusty debris crew returned from Scott’s dump, I pulled the “surveyors” – who were all big strapping guys – to load the truck with the remaining debris.  We were all very impressed with how much they carried in a short period of time.  We had to dig some of the debris out of where it had been placed and covered with years of wood chips. By now, Neal had arrived and he helped a little with this as well.   Then, Frank, Barb and Ezra returned to Scotts dump.

Finally, a quartet of diligent young women took on the complicated project of starting to assemble a new curb.  Isaias had expressed interest in doing this for us because it requires a lot of precision and experience working with stone (which he has).    I didn’t expect to complete this project this weekend and we didn’t.  These young women – without any prior experience – figured out that they needed to create a flat surface for the stone and did a pretty good job of keeping it in a straight line. (without the benefit of stakes or twine).   They also had to dig out some large pieces of debris in the process.  They got about two-thirds of the curb line set and started to lay the second layer before the clock ran out.

We stopped for group pictures, but I apparently mistakenly deleted the O-H-I-O photo I take every year.  (Sorry guys).  We had a bit of a burp when the bus driver ran down the bus battery during our two-hour gardening sprint.   Of course, the former girl scout that I am, I had jumper cables in the trunk of my car and we gave him a jump.   Away the students drove at 12:30, relieved to be getting out of the direct sun and increasing heat.

Neal then helped me (by doing most of the  work) of putting everything back in the shed.  Barb, Frank and Ezra returned covered with dust.  I washed out the truck and we returned it to U-Haul.  Barb and Frank then went to their real jobs and I harvested my own tomatoes and took pictures of the completed projects before heading to weigh our food pantry donation and delivering it to Faith Mission’s Homeless  Shelter.    I finally got home around 4.  I’m pretty whipped, despite a little help from my friends. . . .

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