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!