Monday, August 8, 2016

Waiting for it to Rain on the SACG Parade

This week’s food pantry donation was so paltry that it probably didn’t even cover the cost of my gas driving to the pantry.  It was really, really pathetic.  How pathetic was it?  A couple of tomatoes and peppers, a few beans and only two bags of greens.  Like I said, pathetic.   It’s been so long since it rained that nothing is growing. Jym Ganahl is even referring it to a drought because we are more than 4 inches in rain deficit (i.e., below normal) just for the summer.   We spend hours and hours watering and that is just to keep the plants alive.  Ms. Julialynne from the Bethany Bronzeville Presbyterian Community Garden stopped by and we commiserated over how the rain clouds just pass the Near East Side by.  Our sunflowers, which are usually 10 feet high, are barely as tall as we are.  Sigh.  I can’t justify watering flowers in such situations, so I am glad that our canna lilies (that were donated by the Kossuth Community Garden) are blooming.   And, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we get at least a little bit of rain tomorrow (even if it makes most of our tomatoes burst their thick skins).  Jym’s predicting as much as two inches this week.  Maybe the Near East Side will get half of that .  . . .

The dry weather isn’t our only calamity, though.  Cathy emailed me Friday that the groundhog had
returned and wrecked havoc in her plot.  It chomped on some tomatoes, dug up some peanuts and ate much of her sweet potato vines.   Until this year, we had a gardener who owned a trap and could check it daily until we apprehended the four-legged thief, but we no longer have that luxury.  So, I conducted some internet research for possible solutions (because I had loaned all of my books on the subject to my brother-in-law, who has yet to return them).  When I arrived on Saturday, I discovered that it had also ate most of the leaves on the food pantry sweet potatoes and the leaves on my edamame.  Grrrr.  I brought some ammonia-soaked rags to strategically place around the Garden (with the thought that it might smell like predator urine) and sprinkled some Epsom salt (with the thought that it would taste bad).  We shall see.

With the promise of a cooler Saturday, I started at my normal time of 9 a.m., missed Amy, but found Sabrina already hard at work.  But she wasn’t weeding at the SACG, she was weeding the cabbage patch and squash bed at Kimball Farms next door.  She just couldn’t take walking by them anymore.  That’s a true gardener for you.  They can’t pass a weed without pulling it.  After she tended her plot, I directed her towards the overgrown brambles in one of the food pantry plots (in the hope that she might find where the gopher is entering the Garden) and she cut them back very aggressively to the fence.  No sign of the gopher gate.   Sadly, she also mistakenly cut back the beautiful clematis that Betty had planted back there a few years ago.  I’m hoping that its extensive root system helps it to recover.  But, Sabrina found enough room back there for us to possibly plant another row of something and to give Neal more room to water the tomatoes that Amy planted in June.
Stan came by to mow our lawn and then spent a lot of time digging up the weeds in the alley (between the pavement and the Garden).  What a guy.  However, I wish that he had used the broom I put in the shed a few weeks ago to sweep off the curb, etc.  Men!  His squash plant was crawling with squash bug nymphs, so I pulled it and carried it to the dumpster.  Bad. Bad. Boy.  He then pruned his tomatoes and straightened up his tomato trellises. 
I spent most of the morning watering my plot and then some extra beds.  Earlier this week, Kimball Farms received a large cistern from the City to store water and no longer needs our rain barrels.  So, I put one barrel back behind our shed and painted it a less conspicuous color on Saturday afternoon.  At Thursday’s GCGC meeting, I offered to loan a barrel to another community garden.  So, it’s going to Bethany-Bronzeville Presbyterian Church Community Garden on Garfield (behind the MLK Center).   I offered one of my extra barrels to my neighbor, but she doesn’t want it so I’m tracking down New Beginnings Community Garden on William Road, but if I can’t find her (or if she doesn’t want it), Andrew Proud has a garden which needs some help. 
Marcel and the men in her life stopped by to water.   Zion and she carried water while her husband held the baby.  We pruned her wild melon plants in order to force them to focus on the fruit.  Her beans all died and we talked about possibly starting Fall crops soon.  (Rayna planted lettuce last week). 

Speaking of beans, I am having the absolutely worse bean crop of my life.  I didn’t think it was possible.  But all of my plants are stunted and have produced virtually no beans.    I can’t blame it all on the grasshoppers either.  The only exception has been my peas and edamame.  I harvested three pounds of edamame on Saturday and froze two pounds of them to eat later. I may try some bloom buster this week to spur some flowering in my bean crop.  My asparagus beans have been stunted and many of them have been blanched (i.e., white instead of green).  It’s been sooooo weird.
Taylor was batching it this weekend and came by to water at the hottest time of the day.  I started pointing out some tall weeds in his plot (because that’s what I’m best at) and I disregarded his good advice to crop a weed and instead tried to pull it out by its roots. Sadly, I also pulled his pablano pepper plant out with it.  I tried to replant it, but it didn’t look as though it would make it.  I’ll have to dig up one of mine the next time I’m at the Garden and secretly transplant it in his plot when he’s not looking.  Sigh.  We also talked about his cauliflower, but I know virtually nothing about them because I never grow them. 
While I was painting the rain barrel to blend in with the shed, Micayla came by to water her bed and harvest more carrots.  I wish all of my neighborhood kids were that dedicated and responsible.
I have a funny guerrilla gardening story.  We usually think of guerrilla gardening as something we do in urban neighborhoods to brighten up abandoned and blighted lots.   However, as I was leaving my backyard on Friday night to catch The Force Awakens at the Great Event on Capital’s lawn, I found a couple of neighbors secretly pulling weeds in the dark from the yards of other neighbors along the alley.  You see, Saturday was Bexley’s Love Your Alley contest and the best looking alley gets a free block party from the City.  These neighbors had entered our alley, but not all of the neighbors bothered to trim their unruly bushes or pull their weeds.  I thought that this was hysterical.  It’s something that I would do.  I didn’t want to miss too much of the movie, but I went back into my garage and gave them a lawn waste bag to help them keep their activities tidy.    I don’t think it helped much.  I haven’t heard who won, but I doubt that it was us.  Sigh. 
In addition to freezing some edamame, I roasted and canned some tomatoes, whipped up some roasted tomatilla and chipotle salsa, and otherwise cooked up a storm to deal with my bumper zucchini and kale crop.  I did not, however, get around to making bread and butter pickles this weekend.  Taylor told me that Neal has been drying his hot peppers in order to turn them into a powder.  You could have knocked me over with a spoon.   So, I finally broke down and ordered a dehydrator of my own.   Now, I'll have to get cooking tips from Neal.  Stranger things have happened.

Finally, my body odor seems to attract preying mantises.  Last night, while I was chatting with a neighbor in the alley, something kept scratching the bottom of my  right leg.  I kept scratching it with my other foot.  Finally, I bent over to swat it and found a large, bright green preying mantis trying to get my attention.  I happened to have a coffee cup in my hand (don't ask) and so I swooped it in and dropped it off on my pole bean teepee to fend off my surplus Japanese beetle population.   I hope that I didn't hurt it too much when I was kicking at it.  What a sturdy insect.

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