Tuesday, September 29, 2009

JoJo and the hawk.

September 29th 2009

At 11:00 a.m
when I walk to my garden
this morning
I see a big gray hawk
so beautiful
I whisper to myself :
" welcome to the garden !"
the gray hawk lands on the branch of tree ,
turns the head ,looks at me
with a very very sharp and very bright eyes
seems to understand me
I feel very bad for myself
because I forget to bring camera
to take picture at that moment
to share with you,
because it's a very rare to see
in the garden
I really hope that the gray hawk
will find a source of foods
in the garden.

JoJo Tran
Cascade P-Patch Garden

Monday, September 14, 2009

3 seeds.

My friend Chris came into my office in late July with a bag of "Sarzana" squash seeds from Italy. She asked if I wanted a few, since they produced lovely, delicately flavored courgettes and were compact, plant-wise--meaning they didn't vine and trail off over everything in a 15-foot radius.

I loved the package: so very not "American seed packet" in format, with planting instructions in Italian.

I held out my hand and she tipped 1,2,3,4,5,6 seeds into it, which I placed in an envelope labeled "Sarzana" and put in my purse. A few days later, three of those seeds were in a mound of dirt in the front of my plot, and a few days ago, I harvested my first squash.

I sliced them thinly, lengthwise, dredged them in flour, and fried them up in hot olive oil until they were golden brown with some darker brown spots on each side.

QUICKLY onto a paper towel; QUICKLY a sprinkle of sea salt and a few turns of the peppermill; QUICKLY a squeeze of lemon--just a few drops--and ooooooh, a race to the table to sit down while they were still blistering hot.

That's late summer on a plate, right there.

Lois and Melissa

Lois surveys her newly-assigned plot!

Amanda, Alex, and Margot (4 legged) visit the garden.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

signs of life

Between my apartment door and my plot in the p-patch--about a block's worth of walk--is the gazebo of the Cascade People's Center. During the day, the benches are empty, and underneath them are plastic grocery bags of stuff, a sleeping bag here, a piece of cardboard there. As soon as dusk approaches, the people who belong to those things return one by one and prepare to stretch out for the night. This is where they live, but they know to be scarce during the light.

The rats, more plentiful, aren't bound by the fear of being ushered away, and they are brazen even in the bright sunshine.

Across from the gazebo is a small grove of flowering trees, under which is ground cover with small, glossy leaves (cool in the heat of the day) and a few rocks and concrete sculptures with mosaic. During our hot spell a couple of weeks ago, the people who are normally gone by day stayed. They didn't sit in the gazebo, but they sat in the cool ground cover under the trees.

Today I walked past that spot and this is what I saw. A Ben and Jerry's container, filled with dried up roses, blueberries, and other flora. Left behind.

I wonder if it was a shrine. Or a memorial.

Or the kind of sign of civilization that causes people to adorn their dinner tables with vases of flowers.

I hope there was once ice cream in that container, and that the people who ate it had good company and together took some comfort from that cold deliciousness.

I thought about picking it up and throwing it away, but on second thought, I determined that it was not trash.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Water, water everywhere.

Let the record show: on August 13, 2009, at 5:30 PM, your blogmistress heard thunder. At 5:35 PM, she was sitting in her car with the rain coming down in torrents. At 5:40 PM, she drove past the garden, and could swear she saw the hollyhocks straining upward, the fruit trees smiling from canopy to roots.

And now, at home, the window is open and the rain is still coming down. Not an isolated shower, this. Not a tease of droplets, after a parched summer. No, this is the rain that is rhythmic, that creates puddles, that rolls in waves down Fairview toward Lake Union, that causes cars to rev and scream their way up Denny Hill.

One might curse it, if it were December and the veil of wet darkness had grown heavy and with months of winter yet to come.

But it's not. It's August, after dry, after hot, and with more dry forecast.

So for this evening, it is simply relief and grace. I'm tempted to go to the garden and remember what it feels like to pull a weed out of sodden ground, but instead, I will sit by the open window--TV off--with a cup of tea.

Eyes closed.

Just the sound of the rain.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Golden orbs. In the sky, on stalks.

On those quick trips to the garden, just to water, in between other errands, I rarely take my camera. But I always have my iPhone! If you have one and use its camera, you know that it tends to produce haze and halos around objects in bright light. In the case of these two images, it's fitting. It was blazing hot in the garden, and heat really seemed palpable and visible!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Musing on the heat...

From the middle of a record heat wave, from the 86 degree interior of my apartment at 7 AM, I have to say I'm tired of it.

I grew up in Arkansas, so I'm no stranger to heat like this. It's unrelenting there in the summer, and the humidity is always wrapped around you like a shawl of thick soup. And even though almost everyone has air conditioning these days, it was not so when I was a child.

And because I was a child, the standard tricks for cooling off were always linked to being cared for: my mom urging me to drink ice water, my dad placing a bowl of ice on the kitchen table and positioning an oscillating fan behind it and making sure that my brother and I were in its path as we ate our supper. My great-grandmother turning on the attic fan at night to pull the slightly cooler air in from outside and taking me to the bathroom to run cold water over my wrists, just at the pulse points: "it will cool your blood so you can sleep!" My other grandmother making all the children sit on the edges of the beds before retiring, as she moved from room to room in the dark with a basin of cold water and a washcloth, bathing our feet before we put them onto the white sheets.

I couldn't help thinking about these things the last few nights as I walked past the gazebo into the garden at dusk to water my second crop of mustard greens and my beet seedlings for fall.

There were the men and women who frequent the benches and line the mulched beds beneath trees. Their plastic bags were with them, their pants legs rolled up, their shirts open, their hair plastered with sweat to their faces. They had water...I looked for that. But it was miserable. And though a couple smiled and greeted me and remarked on the misery of such temperatures, there were others who lowered their eyes as I passed.

I got to the shed and retrieved the water key and the watering can and set about my business. I wondered what would happen if I gathered up all those people and sat them down on one of the benches, one-by-one, and poured this cool water over their feet. If I would be refreshing them or just washing away my own sense of conflictedness about the social and cultural realities that structured my life and theirs.

I finished watering and walked back through the lushness (why, oh, why, didn't I plant tomatoes, this of all years? I could have even managed okra, I'm certain, with this weather!), and though I wanted to escape out the front entrance, I retraced my steps.

I walked back through the makeshift encampment, and I met the eyes of everyone who met mine.

There is no message to this musing, no end.

It's still very hot.

I miss my grandmothers.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Corrie reports on the 7/26 work party.

Thank you everyone for a super productive work party today.

It was blasting hot, we had a great suggestion from Julia to schedule peak of summer work parties for early morning or cooler evenings next year. 10AM-2PM can be simply too toasty for our safety. Next month I suggest everyone bring themselves a gallon if it is hot as today. Perhaps someone has access to provide a large cooler for potable water to keep us stay hydrated in the sun.

Here are most of the tasks we completed:
Mulched many plots in Edible Garden, squash beds in upper garden on north side of Center, to protect plants from upcoming heatwave
Move broken stone away from suspected rat burrow and laid a border path around the back side of the gazebo
Light Weeding of paths
Picked up fruit under plum trees and composted
Pruned berries and obstructive plants along sidewalk
Weeded patch edges and sidewalks on perimeter of Patch
Stacked burlap bags to sit on top of concrete
Cleared area around compost and debris
Shake away (mint oil/ fox & bobcat urea) “sachet-bombs” placed strategically to deter rats
Brand new reclaimed barrel worm bin constructed
Many pounds of red, purple and fingerling potatoes harvested and shared as work party favors.

If anyone has anything to add that I may have forgot in my residual hyperthermic stupor, please feel free to chime in.

Thanks again Cascade P-Patchers!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Time Travel, via the Plum

First of all, I must apologize if the Asian plums by the north fence (see an earlier picture of them, too, flowering back in April) belong to a particular gardener.

Because I ate one.

I seem to think I remember that they were community plums, but it could be that I just had a selective memory lapse. Brought on by the sight of plums. And the smell of plums. And the proximity of plums. And the half-eaten plum (brought by some passing biped or bird or rodent and cast off) in my patch, which made me look about for its source, see the embarrassment of riches on the north fence, go to investigate, and then either commit a crime or simply enjoy a burst of sweet juiciness on a summer Saturday.

Which sent me plunging around in my mind's archive of memories back to the South and the plums that grew by the storm shelter out by the farm. They were tinier than these plums, no larger than a plump cherry--I have no idea who planted them or when, but they featured heavily in my visits home until my early 20s, when the trees just finally gave out.

We would gather them in large plastic pickle buckets from Atkins Pickles in Russellville, AR (why did we have those buckets and why do I remember them?) and take them in and make jar after jar of the most delicious plum jelly.

The harvest was not so pleasant: I was sure there were copperheads waiting to bite me, or at the very least, chiggers and ticks (the last part was always true). But making the jelly with my aunts and uncles, the laughter and storytelling and foam on the top of the simmering juice and heat rising in waves into the already hot and humid kitchen and the clinking of Mason jars and the golden gleam of lids and rings on the white tea towels and my dad always washing dishes, humming--ever humming...

All these things and more were in the pop of that skin and the sweet-tart juice this afternoon by the north fence.

Thank you, fellow gardener, if that was your plum.

It was surely sustaining, in any number of ways.

Look OUT!!! It's A-L-I-V-E!!!!

OK, I confess this tendril in Harvey's patch wasn't REALLY trying to eat the light pole.

Rat Report from a Sleepy Sean

A little background: this morning at 6 AM, Susan brought her Rat Terriers over for a little sleuthing in the garden. Here's Sean's report from the expedition:

"Good morning all, Thanks for joining us, Dick. Well those were happy little hunters! The hot spots in the Patch itself were the compost area and the shed. The area between the eastern set of compost bins and rain barrels had a nest under the stored burlap. Susan said burlap must be dry--moist they heat up and draw rodents. Ours is moist and warm. We moved to other side of bins on concrete for now. They also should be elevated for storage. The bins opposite were active too. Dogs found activity in two bins closest to sidewalk and there is a burrow under the tomato growing up the back on center bin. Under shed is still an issue and Susan said flooding it only wastes water. Worm bins also had rodent activity-it was hard to get dogs out of them! Areas with broken concrete in Patch also were hot spots. The most activity was along back of gazebo in Garden of Happiness. By base of grape-broken concrete again, the clematis nearest the Center, and the base of the climbing hydrangea near entrance to Center have HUGE burrows. Easily seen. Go look. There are cultural things we can do-including being better at harvesting. BUT-especially with shed, if we are going to solve the problem-we are looking at traps or poison. Or we lose crops and live with multiple species of disease vector rodents. Susan will be back with dogs for a visit closer to sunset another day. Thoughts? Sean, sleepily"

Sunday, July 12, 2009

“Rain is grace; rain is the sky condescending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.”

John Updike said it.

I concur.

It's Sunday and it's raining, miracle of miracles in this so-far-dry summer...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday morning, pre-holiday...

Oh, the joy of having a day off! Of feeling like it is Saturday, and then remembering NO! It's only Friday! Of feeling the sun on the back of my neck; of tasting my first-ever blueberry from a bush instead of a carton; of chatting with fellow gardeners; of handing the water key around by its cold, wet string; of plotting about fall plantings; of scheming about summer happy hour visits across the street.

Of receiving a gift of red romaine.

Of hearing Dick say, utterly guilelessly, that we could have no idea how happy he is to have found this garden and to have his little square of earthen bliss.

But we think we heard it in his voice and saw it in his smile.

We have an idea.

Mmmmm, garlic.

Greens 'R' Us. Really, how on earth will I dispatch all this?

Thursdays. Farmer's Market. On Pontius by our little P-Patch of Heaven!

Is there anything better than the first cherries of the season? This is the "Summit" variety. I brazenly walked up to the Tiny's Organics stand and asked for 2 pounds of the "Bing" variety (preferring them to "Rainier"--I know, I know, I'm Old School), and she gave me the patient look and wry and wistful half-smile of someone who would like, just once, to have a Cherry Connaisseur (Connaisseuse?) standing in front of her. They're lovely. Slightly thinner-skinned and sweeter than Bing, but not as delicate and ├╝ber-sweet (to my taste) as Rainier. I plan to eat them all, wantonly, in very few sittings.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July 1, 2009. You are loved. Flower and feather, flora and fauna bear witness: you are loved.

What's your story?

This sign was attached to the entrance posts to the garden. I wonder what people think when they read it as they pass through. Do they feel addressed? Do they rehearse the narratives that occupy them at the moment? Do they lament or rejoice or smile or sneer or dismiss or feel marginalized or embraced by the question?

They're so forgiving.

In spite of my traveling, in spite of the warm temperatures, in spite of the lack of rain. Did I mention travel and warmth and no rain and no Jenifer to tend, water, and pamper these greens? And still they grow. This weekend, my pretties. I'll spend some time with you. Promise.

Yeah, those ones in the lower center. It's time.

Garden Guardians Get Their Independence Day On!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Raven and Chelsea stop by for a look.

One of my favorite things about community gardens is the chance meetings. Chelsea and Raven were wandering through the P-Patch on their way home and stopped to chat. Chelsea and I covered how to get a plot in the garden and what to plant. Raven was a veritable waterfall of conversation about the taste of sorrel, whether there was rhubarb in the garden, how much she liked rhubarb, that she even ate it raw, and that she was at least intrigued by the notion of my rhubarb compote shortcake. She claimed to be a stranger to its more familiar cousin, strawberry shortcake, but her mom suggested that it was not so. I know what was going on, though. When you're caught up in the greenness, and the breeze, and the imaginings, it's understandable to forget the "tried it already" stuff.

p.s. Chelsea, if you want a copy of this photo, e-mail me. And here's a link to the P-Patch info:


Fellow gardeners! What is this--besides lovely?

Cascade Children. They seem skeptical of my documentation request.

Ladybugs need homes, too.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday evening. Early summer harvest.

I harvested some garlic scapes tonight, in order to allow my garlic bulbs to develop more robustly and juicily. Really? No. I harvested some garlic scapes tonight, in order to bring something back from the garden. To have a need for the little knife Zoe helped me find in the shed. To claim something besides a weed. To walk triumphantly back to my apartment, with dirty fingers and green bounty curling around them. To see something new and just picked in my sink. To make something that promises to be delicious and to put it in my refrigerator and know that when I get home after a stressful day at work tomorrow, there will be sunshine and greenness and dirt and community and sweat and pungent, garlicky hope in there to greet me and adorn a plate of pasta.

Monday, June 1, 2009

"The calla lilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower--suitable to any occasion." --Katharine Hepburn in Stage Door (1937)

Bobby is clever and uses the sidewalk instead of the chip-covered paths.

Dick mucks about in the, um, muck. Harvey is pleased. Jeff is still trying to recover from my address of him as "hey, grey shirt guy." Sorry, Jeff!

Check out that shed, scrubbed and ratless!

Olivia is smiling the smile of someone who is trying desperately not to scream (at all those stubborn little weeds).

Source of the blisters on my left hand. Ouch.

Harvey and Meir organize the troops.

Nate and JoJo confer on an important matter at the work party. Or maybe they were just jawing and sawing. *groan*

Remember those peony shoots from a couple of months ago?

Harvey's recap of the 5/31/09 work party.

Hi All,

I want to thank everyone that participated in another incredibly productive work party. Thanks to Meir for leading, and for all the hard work of the attendees.

Here's a recap of what was accomplished:

Shed: As noted by Alex's message, the shed has never looked better. First, the Orion kids painted the exterior in the past few weeks. Then in last month's work party, the beds were cleared and replanted. Yesterday's work continued the massive improvements. Ten year's of accumulated stuff has now been removed and rearranged, and some disposal remains. The spaciousness of the shed is shocking, so let's keep it that way. And let me give a further reminder to remove soil from all tools and drain all hoses before putting them back in shed. As for tomato cages, please keep the ones you use in your plot over the winter instead of putting them back in the shed. Just stack them and weight them down with a board. At the end of the work party, Linda filled an old wheelbarrow with compost and planted strawberries. Community gardeners waste nothing, right? Great thanks to Alex, Jen, Meir and Linda for all their work on this big project.

The Sandbox: You have seen the ideas sent around about the sandbox plantings, but the first job was to dig it out and replace the sand with good tilth. What an effort! There was far more sand in there than every imagined, and Dick and Jeff probably thought they were going to need a mine shaft. With help from JoJo and Julia, they got the sand to other places in the Patch where they spread it to create smoother pathways. Then they filled the hole with leaves, manure, fresh greens, old browns, and built some tilth. In the process, Jeff discovered the terminus of the cement pipeway that led away from the old pump. Archeology at Minor and Thomas!

The Path: JoJo and Julie did a masterful job of building more structure into the Patch by digging in a log as barrier along the branching path that leads from the sidewalk to the Park. They not only reinforced the position of the log at the top of this path but then firmly secured this bottom log so that good soil will stop sluffing off our Edible Garden bed into the path.

Minor Avenue: Sean and Julia worked very hard to clear a lot of invasive weeds from this bed, then Sean mulched it with leaf mold. This mainly shade bed contains some healthy native species that feed our native birds and insects (pollinators). These include Oregon grape, Serviceberry and Snowberry. Sean has taken responsibility for this bed, and we can all help him beautify it in future work parties.

Garden of Happiness: Jenifer and Olivia (undocumented worker), pulled a lot of weeds from the broken stone patio in front of the gazebo, then swept a couple loads of sand from the sandbox into the margins. It looks much better. Then Olivia and Nate (another undocumented press gang laborer), dug and pulled loads of invasives and bindweed from the Happiness beds. While they did this, Bobby cleared the bed behind the gazebo of all the accumulated weeds and detritus. It will now be planted in squash for the Food Bank. Again, a lot of hard work was accomplished there with long-term preventative rewards.

Garden of Love: Nate and Olivia dumped approximately ten loads of compost on the slope below the peach tree, then planted six mounds of squash interspersed with some of Dick's spare Dutch Iris. The soil was very poor, but we expect that the mulching will change that. This summer, vining squash should cover the slope, and we should have a show of flowers next Spring.

The Weeders: Margo weeded numerous paths around individual plots, the Alley and in the Giving Garden, helping everyone. Then Janne came to help for the later shift. They were on their hands and knees getting all these grasses and annual weeds pulled. Thank you so much! For those of you that should be weeding the pathways around your own plots, please don't leave this job to a work party.

Compost: We owe a major debt to Jeff and Cristi, who prepared so much compost for us to use. We needed all of it, and those needs will continue as we further improve all the Patch and Upper Garden beds. I know that this compost was not as finished as you had hoped, but it was a giant help in getting new areas of the Patch covered before the hot season begins.

Rats: As Alex mentioned, we found a rat's nest in the shed. We also found a rat's nest in the boards behind the upper compost bins. If there is no food, there are no rats. So please pick up any food containers and other trash you see around the Patch and get them into a garbage can ASAP. Keep lids on fertilizer bins. I'm going to ask Parks to haul away everything in the Alley, including some good lumber. So if you need some of these boards for your plots, please take them immediately! Kim, can you use some of this to build higher boxes in the GOL??? And thanks so much for bringing the manure. It all went into the sandbox.

Removal: Please take as much of the stuff back to your own garbage can as possible from the plastic barrel that sits out side the shed. We need to empty this. We will also remove all the prunings from the alley that have been tucked back into the roses. If you have any rose prunings of your own, please put them here immediately instead of in the compost. They do not decompose easily.

I'm hearing lots of comments from visitors about how beautiful the Patch looks. There was even a wedding in the Park close to the Patch during our work party! All the work that you're doing is paying off handsomely, as Cascade has never looked better. Again, thanks to all.


More shots by Jeff Moore, 5/16/09--thanks!

Some shots by Jeff Moore on 4/21/09--thanks, Jeff!