Sunday, July 9, 2017

Like a Watered Garden

We are having a summer like I remember from my youth.  A day in the low 80’s was considered hot back then and we went to the pool to have fun and were not freaked out by a passing thunderstorm.  The last few weeks, we have had more than an inch of rain at the end of each week, which has shortened my Saturdays at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden by 90-120 minutes each week.    I’m loving it and am starting to enjoy gardening again.  Rain makes our lives much easier at the SACG.   I had accosted weatherman Phil Kelly at the Art Festival last month about always cheering for hot, sunny days because those of us with gardens and lawns need at least an inch of rain each week to enjoy our summer.  So, now, the anchors at his stations are cheering for rain, too, “for our lawns.”  Good job.    I visited a few church gardens in the last few weeks and two of them cited to a passage of Isaiah that I decided to investigate this morning.  In it, the Lord blesses us by making us “like a watered garden.”    More on that later.

Life is good at the SACG.  Everything is growing.  My biggest problem at present is that the frequent, heavy rains are creating leaf mold in many of my tomatoes.  OSU blogged about this a couple of weeks ago and I realized that I had a problem.  It is spread by wind currents and high humidity.   I tend to plant close together to keep down the weeds, but that creates a fungus/mold problem when we get a lot of rain.  The humidity creates a fungus on the tomato leaves, which then get yellow spots and then brown and then fall off.  This creates a problem for the plant in not having enough leaves to generate enough energy to grow and be fruitful.  But it also creates a problem after it has set fruit because then the fruits are unprotected from the scorching sun and can rot on the vine.  Fungicides can help, but nothing I’ve sprayed so far seems to be making much of a difference.  Leaf mold is a particular problem for heirloom varieties because some tomatoes are bred to be more resistant than my treasured Brandywines.  Sigh.   But all things considered, I’ll take the rain.
With the free time created by the rain, I’ve had more time to actually cook and enjoy my garden produce.  That hasn’t always been true.  For my family’s Independence Day reunion, I made an Asian slaw from my napa cabbage, as well as spring rolls.  I still have some cabbage left and don’t know what I am going to do with it.   For last week’s GCCG meeting, I made chocolate beet brownies, which turned out very, very well.  That recipe is a keeper.   For last night’s turn at Shakespeare in the Park (which was really  Austen in the Park because they were performing Pride and Prejudice), I made kale chips and beet hummus.  I still have 1.5 pounds of green beans that I want to convert into a salad before they start turning brown.

We have made no progress towards installing a picket fence in front of the front wire fence at the SACG.  I forgot to pick up a post digger on Thursday from the Tool Library so that I could start digging post holes on Saturday.  I hope to remember this week.  It will be much easier when the ground is soft after a rain and we’ve also been blessed with cool Saturday mornings.   Because I did not have to water this week, I chopped weeds along the alley and mowed the lawn and planted cabbage seedlings donated by Oakland Nursery in one of our food pantry plots.  Sabrina weeded the food pantry plots and around the kids beds.   Her men (i.e., Husband Tom and sons Zephyr and Finn) stopped by at noon to surprise her with a picnic while she took a break.   The flea beetles are going to town on our grape vines, so Marge suggested Neem oil.  I’ll probably go back tonight to water in the cabbage, plant some more beets and go to war with the flea beetles.

Jaden and Cameron stopped by the Garden on Wednesday.  They were very bored.   We thinned some of Jaden’s carrots and transplanted them (and watered them in well to give them a fighting chance).  I sent him home with a giant beet from his bed, but he didn’t really want it and his mother has already told me that she never, ever bakes anything.  Cameron wants her own bed, but she’s not old enough.  As it was, she started eating one of the baby carrots even though I told her to take it home so that her mother could wash it off.  She then went to wash it with tank water (when I wasn’t looking) and I had to freak out over that (considering how extremely germy that water is).  She did not understand the concept of germs.   We ended up practicing how to tie her shoes so that I could take some comfort that she learned something.

The squash bugs are back.  I found one while watering on Wednesday and some eggs on my delicatta squash.  Yikes.  Sabrina promised to check out our food pantry squash plants.  We found a couple mating and a squished them without any problem.  Gross!

GCGC’s meeting this week was at the St. Vincent de Paul pantry garden next to Christ the King Catholic Church on Livingston (about 4 blocks from my house).  The rain stopped in time to have the meeting under the giant oak tree that towers over the garden and food pantry.  Marge and Paula run a marvelous operation there.   They convinced me to use row covers for my kale, although my plants always get too big for plant covers by this time in the season.   They just introduced me to ground cherries.   They also redid their compost bins and encased the wood pallets with wire mesh to preserve the wood.  We talked about running more wire mesh down the front to discourage rats.

While at the GCGC meeting, I chatted with Margaret Ann from the Four Seasons City Farm.  They operate a number of community gardens on the Near East Side.  One of them is attached to her church, Old Presbyterian at Bryden and Ohio.  They spent Friday getting ready for the Old  Towne East Home and Garden tour today.  I stopped by to get some geraniums for the SACG and was delighted by an arched row of tomatoes. The apple trees line the alley.  Then, there was an arc of tall sunflowers, followed by an arc of tomatoes then an arch of basil and then a flower bed.  Next to the brick patio, there was a plaque with a lovely quote from Isaiah that I knew that I would want to re-visit, so I took a photo.

A few weeks ago, I checked out the progress at the new community garden at Life Vineyard church.  All of the raised beds are being tended.  They have installed the gate that we donated to them and even have up a couple of signs.  One of them also referenced a passage from Isaiah.  This morning, I realized that it was the same passage cited at Old Presbyterian.  So, I really needed to pull up that chapter.  Here it is (from the English Standard Version) (Isaiah 58: 1-11):

Cry aloud; do not hold back;

Lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.

“Why have we fasted, and you see it not?

Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no notice of it?”

Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.

Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist.

Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself?

Is it to bow down to his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?

Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed  go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall  be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry and he will say ‘Here I am.’

If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.

And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. . . .

And so, because we have so few gardeners this year (compared with previous years), almost half of the SACG consists of food pantry plots.  Not surprisingly, our donations are significantly ahead of our record pace from last year.   I’ve attached charts of our food pantry donations as of July 1 (which does not include the beans -- planted by Amy and her friend Sarah -- that it took me an hour to pick yesterday or the giant zucchinis).   After an hour being crouched over (as though I was about to assume the yoga crow position), my backside was feeling the burn by 1 p.m.  Watered garden or not.

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