Monday, October 5, 2015

Asters, Mums and Cold Snaps

Activities are slowing down with the falling temperatures at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden, although we are not finished yet.

On Monday, I attended the first Garden-to-Table fundraiser organized by the Columbus Department of Public Health’s Barb Seckler at The Kitchen in German Village on  Livingston Avenue.   It was to benefit the Active Living Fund at the Columbus Foundation.  It was a lovely five-course meal with our produce picked just hours earlier (or, in some cases, a day or two earlier) from area community gardens, such as Highland Youth (eggplants),  Four Seasons City Farm (apples), Franklinton (peppers), etc.  (It’s a good thing that they didn’t have to weigh and record everything first as the City intends to require all of us to do next year or we’d still be waiting for our dinner).  We had a lovely baba ganoush, hummus and grilled asparagus (and other vegetables) for snacks (along with a beet-rum punch as the seasonal cocktail).  The appetizers included charred romaine salad and a butternut squash soup.  Dinner was chicken with some pureed vegetables and a fried green tomato followed by a dessert of dried apple slices with gingered ice cream.  The donors had a chance to mingle with garden leaders from Highland Youth, Franklinton, Four Seasons City Farm, Community Development for All People, and Godman Guild.  There was also a silent auction (where I was outbid by a heart surgeon.  Curses) and a half-and-half raffle.   Dan from Four Seasons won the raffle, but donated the proceeds back to the event (even though Four Seasons could use the cash itself).  The event was attended by folks from the event co-sponsors, such as AEP, the OSU Ross Heart Hospital, Franklin Park Conservatory, etc.  I sat in between Dr. Teresa Long from CDPH and Lindsey Kobelt from MurphyEpson and across from an OSU heart surgeon (who undoubtedly enjoyed her new outdoor fire pit this weekend).   They all got the chance to hear boring stories from me about the SACG.
 I also got the chance to berate Bill Dawson about the City Land Bank adopting his recommendation to require us to weigh and record all of our produce next year.  But it was just a recommendation, he said.   He’s been making this recommendation for years (as I well know).   Are they going to buy you a scale so that you can do this, he asked.  Of course not, I said.   Can’t you just compare the weight to a gallon of milk, he asked.  Glaring at him, I realized that this suggestion reflected that he had never even attempted this task himself before he hoisted it upon all of the overworked community gardeners in Columbus.  It is extremely rare for a plot gardener to ever harvest enough of anything in a particular week that would approximate a gallon of milk.  Occasionally, you’ll have that many tomatoes, beans, cabbage and potatoes.  If you skipped a week, your zucchini could weigh that much during certain periods of the summer.  But typically, we are talking ounces, not pounds of any particular type of produce in a given week.   Only once have I harvested a pound of peas on a particular day (and have never had a pound of peppers) and I have a giant plot.  One typically only harvests enough kale or lettuce for a particular meal.  The incompetence of this reality is really burning me up.  You would think that they would have experimented with this requirement before imposing it on all of the Land Bank community gardens (many of whom don’t have enough help or resources to even fully plant their lots or mow their lawns regularly).  

Can they identify a single city anywhere else in the United  States (or even the United Kingdom) with such a stupid requirement?  Of course not.  Other communities are trying to encourage community gardening by making it easier, not discouraging it by making it harder.  So, then Bill suggested that we just guess the weight.  Really?!  The whole point of this exercise was to convince the City Council with hard numbers that the community gardens are benefitting the community and deserve more funding.  Does anyone really think that they will be convinced with made-up numbers?  Is the public school data rigging schedule really that far from people’s minds?
I also had a chance to chat with GCGC President, Peggy Murphy.  Like last year, she told me that she plans to step back from leading GCGC for personal reasons.  I reminded her that she told me the same thing last year and yet she accepted the nomination again to be president this year.  She assured me that she had even stronger reasons this year for needing to step back.  Without detailing her reasons, she has convinced me that she is serious that we need to find a strong leader to replace her at GCGC who has her knack for networking in the community and communicating with the leaders of various stakeholders.  She knows who I prefer, but who knows if those folks will step forward.

Because I knew that it was going to get cold this week, I washed my houseplants (which had been outdoors most of the summer), applied insecticide and brought them indoors.   They had doubled in size and no longer fit in their former spaces. 

After we received an inch of rain on Tuesday, I did not need to water this week at the SACG.  Instead, I harvested most of the rest of my basil and made pesto on Wednesday night.  I freeze most of it to use during the winter in sauces, over pasta and in soups.  I also air dried some branches so that I would have dried basil ready for recipes and rooted some other branches so that I could pot them and use them as hostess gifts over the Fall.

On Friday morning, I picked up a couple of white mums from East Baptist Church (which hosted the monthly GCGC meeting the night before and received the latest bulk donation from Straders’ Garden Centers).   I then headed over to the SACG, planted the mums in our front flower beds, added books and magazines to our Free Little Library, transplanted kale and collards from new seedlings to bare areas in the Garden and harvested for our weekly food pantry donation (at St. Vincent de Paul – just as it started raining for the weekend).  I noticed that Lea had cleaned out her plot of everything except her pepper plants.   She was not interested in Fall gardening this year, but hoped that we would be opening again next year.  While I was at the SACG, Mike from Four Seasons City Farm stopped by.  He was as shocked as I am about how many of our gardeners are letting food rot in their plot.  (Particularly Rayna).  He showed me a basket full of beautiful bell peppers that he had just picked from his garden.  He asked if he could have some green tomatoes, so I let him have all of them in the food pantry plot since I suspected that I will be pulling out the tomato vines in that plot next weekend anyway.   He also thanked me again for loaning him one of our rain barrels to support his community garden.
Over the weekend, I made stuffed eggplant and re-discovered all of the amazing vegetarian recipes
in my oldest Moosewood Restaurant cookbook.  I saw one for stuffed green tomatoes and wondered if there were any large green tomatoes remaining in my own plot.  (They might turn red this week, so I had better act quickly if I want to get any to fry or try this new recipe).  There are so many recipes in this cookbook that I’ve never tried and I was really in the mood on Sunday evening.   Maybe next week . . . . .

While I was mowing my lawn yesterday, I heard lots and lots of humming.  I have a forest of purple asters in my flower bed (and transplanted quite a few over at the SACG when dividing them).  Although they are prolific in September and October, I’ve grown to hate them because they are so tall and flop so much.  I even tried cutting them back a few times in June and July in the hopes that they would return to their potted plant size when I first bought them.  No luck.  However, they were full of honey bees yesterday.  In fact, there were more honey bees in my yard yesterday than I’ve seen all summer combined.  Maybe I won’t be digging out the asters at the end of the month after all. . . .  (I had already purchased some purple mums from Lowe’s to replace them and have no idea where to put them). 

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