*Huge shout out to my buddy Ian for being amazing and creating the above magic. Amazing magic!
What a fantastic weekend. On Friday, we got word from the city that they have approved our proposal to build the Keystone-Monon Community Garden at Arsenal Park.
We had our first fundraiser for the garden yesterday at a community event at a local school. We had such a super fun morning talking to people about vegetables and gardens and community, and we raised just over $100 from the extra seedlings I planted this spring. We talked to a couple of kids about becoming scientists in Antarctica; another two told us their favorite fruits or vegetables were oranges and food. :) One child picked out a lettuce plant and wouldn’t put it down or let anyone else hold it.
Now it’s today, aka the best day ever: we just got back from an awesome afternoon hanging at old Bloomington friends’ place for a barbecue (Willem’s first!). I put Willem to nap when we got home, then checked my email. One of my friend’s moms here in Indy made an extremely generous donation to the community garden! Like, we should name a garden bed after her. I am just overwhelmed to know such a wonderful human being who is so incredibly supportive of local food, community projects, and general good stuff (oh… and ME!). This is just… it’s so overwhelmingly wonderful, it’s hard to even put it into words.
I’m over the moon right now. We need to raise a lot more in the way of funds or even in-kind donations, of course, but I’m feeling absolutely humbled and thrilled.
I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy today about the place I live. In the last two months, I think I have met more neighbors than I have in the entire four years I’ve lived here. And you know what? I’ve got some really cool neighbors!
Deciding to go forward with the community garden was a bit of a leap of faith and definitely an exercise in putting myself out there in a way I never really have before. But honestly? The worst thing that could happen – it not working out for some reason – would still be an improvement over where I was in January, simply because I’ve gotten to meet and get to know so many people I probably never would have otherwise. Not only that, but I feel like my neighborhood is a friendlier place, just because of my own shift in perspective. We hang out in our front yard. We laugh with people on the street and say hello to everyone who walks past. We actually recognize people when we’re out and about, people from the neighborhood. And I’m constantly amazed at the projects and ideas that so many other groups and businesses and people are doing.
I’m proud of where I live, and I want it to thrive because its people are thriving. I’m proud of it even though people’s houses get broken into when they are at home, even though a motorcycle gang is trying to move in, even though a young man was shot and killed in the middle of the day 12 blocks south of us yesterday. The more we all care about this shared place and each other, the more we can push these bad things away.
This family? We are big fans of asparagus. All of us, Willem and Birdie and Boombox included. Heck, one of my favorite photos in recent years is a joyous me among the asparagus fronds at the Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center two summers ago:
So it’s a little odd that we haven’t taken the plunge and decided to try growing them. Honestly? I’ve been intimidated. Asparagus: intimidating little spears of deliciousness, let me tell you.
I think it’s something about perennial growing. Pretty much all of my growing experience are with annual vegetables. Oh, we have perennial herbs here and there and some blackberries and a couple of apple trees. But other than that, if something doesn’t grow well one summer, you just plant it again next year. No big.
This morning, though, I decided to take the plunge. At around 9 am, I decided we do, indeed, need asparagus. By 9:30 am, Willem and I were cruising around outside, (finally) taking soil samples for lead testing, something I really should have done years ago.
By 10 am, 25 asparagus crowns were ordered from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and I was showing Chris where my dream asparagus bed will live. By 12:30 pm, Willem and I were hard at work, digging up a 3’x12′ chunk of turf in our front yard and shoveling compost.
Less grass, more food! We also hosted our first seed swap and third organizing meeting for the Keystone-Monon Community Garden last night. Here’s my bounty (as if I needed more seeds):
Our first fundraiser will be a seedling sale later this month (which pretty much means me selling off all the extra seedlings I have in my basement that won’t fit in my garden). There is so much to say about that project and too much to do/not enough time to say it. We’re working on land, funds, mission development, making friends, and garden design. All at once.
I wonder where the birdies is!*
*This was my late Grandma Farm’s favorite springtime poem, my mom told me recently. She would recite it every time my mom saw her in the spring – spring has sprung, the grass is ‘ris, I wonder where the birdies is! – then cackle with delight. I just love that.
Today was a simply fantastic day. It’s also that wonderful time of year where, even though still stark and brown, the air holds promise of greener days, of growing things, of time spent rolling in the grass and picking dinner from the backyard:
- I spent a wonderful morning visiting just a few of the many churches in our neighborhood, inviting them to the upcoming Keystone-Monon Community Garden organizing meeting. So many friendly, smiling, welcoming faces and well wishes – it was a great way to start a busy Sunday! I’m reminded yet again of how many awesome people there are, right in our neighborhood, I have yet to meet. Also, if my church growing up had been like any of these? Well, maybe I’d still be a church goer. They made me feel embraced and welcomed.
- I got some work done – a grant application for our after-school and summer camp programs, the Eat Well Club, and editing a monthly online newsletter – then got some food into the boy post-nap. Then….
- We headed back out and wandered around Arsenal Park, where we’re hoping the community garden will take root (literally), putting flyers on every house around the perimeter. I feel so strongly that we need our community to drive this effort, thus my flyering and helloing efforts this morning. Facebook and email only go so far.
- THEN we had a very special surprise for our fearless leaders, who are expecting their first baby any day now. We headed to the farm at the Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center, which is a fantastic place to enjoy the spring weather. I was feeling a little lazy while volunteers moved wheelbarrows full of mulch all over, readying the beds, but Willem and I had the important task of hanging out with 4-year-old Berlin. She loved Willem and really wanted to teach him to not eat the mulch. Sorry, Berlin, we’re not quite there yet, but we appreciate your steadfast efforts and sweetness.
- Fearless leaders arrived, and we handed over their gift – well wishes for them and the newest little one from the entire Indianapolis food, health, and yoga community. We couldn’t think of a single “thing” to give them; but then we thought of the amazing work they have done to build this community right here in Indianapolis and realized the most meaningful thing we could give them were that community’s words, hopes, and dreams for their new family.
- Willem and I finished our flyering, then headed home. On the way back, I noticed a bunch of folks a few doors down, doing some lawn work and hanging. Willem and I sauntered over, invited them to the next community garden meeting, then chatted all things gardening and neighborhood block partying. This community organizing stuff is making me bold!
Spring, friends. It’s here, in all its still-slightly-brown glory!
This weekend and today: broke up the soil in the garden beds and shoveled the most beautiful compost I’ve ever seen come out of our bins into the beds most in need of a little pick-me-up.
Also today: direct seeded a whole lotta beets, radishes, and carrots. Because beets, radishes, and carrots need to be in our bellies.
Oh yeah, and this guy has been helping me. Baby garden initiation 2015 begins!
Next up? Onions and greens!
As the snow slowly melts away in our corner of the world, tiny seedlings grow strong in our basement, and the promise of many, many new faces leaps up in my near future, I’m reminded of how dynamic life really is. All winter, we hole up, cozy and warm in our house-cocoons in a sort of stasis, with vague recollections of buds on trees and crocuses popping up through thawed dirt.
As Kurt Cobain would say, though, spring is here again, friends, and this spring in particular promises to be the beginning of something amazing, something much bigger than me (or any one person, for that matter), something dynamic and shifting and growing and changing.
Drum roll, please: Thanks to the nudging of a new friend and neighbor, Sara Croft, and the powers of Facebook, this spring we will be organizing our neighbors to create a community garden in the Keystone-Monon neighborhood of Indianapolis. Just writing those words makes me feel giddy, excited, and a little terrified, but mostly all warm and fuzzy.
Sara is an energetic, get-it-done kind of woman, and with just one simple Facebook post describing her vision of this project, she had me, hook, line, and sinker. See, what we’ve already discovered is that there is tremendous power in numbers. What feels like an incredibly daunting undertaking for just one person – finding and securing land, building the community involvement needed for success, seeking out water and supplies, building beds, managing volunteers, and countless other things we haven’t even begun to imagine – seems not only manageable, but fun and fulfilling with many hands, many faces, many ideas driving us forward.
Why a community garden? As followers of this blog know, we have a very healthy backyard (and, increasingly, front yard) garden, as well as chickens, bees, and compost. What I’ve longed for, though, is the shared wisdom, commiseration, fun, and all-out neighborliness that comes from sharing such a garden space. The summer of the drought and triple degree temperatures a few years ago, when our garden became a study in suspended animation, all our plants simply shutting down? How nice would it have been to have a group of friendly faces to commiserate with, to work side by side in the sweltering heat to keep those plants hanging on?
I want to be a part of creating something bigger than me, something that not only feeds our bellies but also nourishes our minds, our need for social connection and community, our ability to care for ourselves and the motivation and drive to look out for one another. There is nothing more basic, more human than cultivating our own food.
I’m also so looking forward to the “community” part of community garden. When I was a kid, we buzzed all around the neighborhood, a pack of wild dogs on Big Wheels and bicycles, until the streetlights came on and it was time to go home. I want my son to have that sense of togetherness, of community, of learning and growing and struggling and succeeding together. Though this process is only just beginning, I’m already reminded of how there are still so many amazing people I have yet to meet in this world.
In other “new leaf” news, my amazing husband starts what will hopefully be an amazing new job on Monday…
And my little family recently started our second year around the sun together with Willem’s first birthday. Happy birthday, you wonderful little babe! Like I said, life? Dynamic.
I don’t think I will ever feel as strongly, strangely nostalgic for “a year ago today” as I do right now. See, in a few days, my first baby turns one. A year ago, he was still part of me. And after his first birthday? Well, a year ago from then, every day moving forward for the rest of his life, he will have been his own little awesome person. You follow me on that one? Good.
Why do I feel so strongly about this? I mean, there are anniversaries, of course. This past September 7, I certainly reminisced fondly about a year prior, when I got to marry my love, my best friend, and one all-around awesome, standup dude.
But, just as all the Bradley classes and relaxation techniques in the world could not possibly prepare me for how painful labor was, I also couldn’t begin to fathom how completely life would change once Willem joined us. I read up on every possible thing I could before Willem was born: labor, caring for a newborn, baby sleep, cloth diapering, hospital packing lists, stroller reviews, etc. etc. etc. I read until I could read no more… and then I rallied and read some more.
None of those things could ever prepare me for life as it is today. It sounds so cliche, and I can’t even quite describe it. The closest I can come, though, is thinking about where I was a year ago. I remember how excited I was, how ready I felt, how impatient… and I laugh at myself for how completely unprepared I really was.
So where was I a year ago? A year ago yesterday, 2/15, was my due date. Chris and I celebrated by getting splurge yarn at Mass Ave. Knit Shop and eating delicious Mexican food at La Margarita in Fountain Square.
A year ago today, 2/16, Chris, Birdie, and I tromped through over a foot of snow at Holliday Park, determined to walk this baby out of me.
A year ago tomorrow, 2/17, was my first day of maternity leave. I visited the midwife in the morning, bought some photo frames, and made it home in front of an ice storm. I framed a bunch of our wedding photos, got the diaper changing area ready… and as I walked out of the nursery, my water broke.
I remember that feeling like it was yesterday. Up to that point, it was all theoretical, the whole “having a baby” thing. Once your water breaks, you realize, OH HOLY CRAP, child birth is imminent. Like, it is ON, people. You also quickly realize that you are both the train conductor and passenger on this ride and at a level of intensity you might never experience again. This is actually happening to you – you’re the only one who can actually do this whole child birth thing – and, at the same time, you are totally just along for the ride. Oh holy shitsnacks.
And then a year ago the day after all that? Well, on 2/18, Willem was here.
Disclaimer: While in my brain I know it may still be a tad early to start seeds, in my green-growing-things-loving-heart, I just don’t care.
This year, we have a seed starting Renaissance of sorts going on in the basement.
BEHOLD! We have shop lights! With adjustable chains! And a heat mat! I even have a table to work on (so what if the “table” is two saw horses with a piece of wall paneling for the table top?). As the seedlings grow, I’ll move them up to the upper shelf to make way for more babies in the seed nursery on the lower shelf.
What did it look like before, you ask? (That’s the polite way of saying, “How in the world is THIS an improvement?!”).
Last year: Note the boxes used to bring the seeds up to the lights, which were zip tied to the bottoms of our shelves. Also note that wimpy-ass lights, which required constant rotation of the seedling flats lest we have plants growing sideways. Oh, and let’s not forget the wood paneling used to steady the seed flats.
2013: I think it was also this year that I used every cookie sheet in our house to try to provide some way to manage the seedlings as they grew and grew and grew. Yeah. Cookie sheets have no place in your seed starting setup, FYI.
What seeds have we started at this point? So far, we have a small army of greens, lettuces, and onions going. I also couldn’t resist the siren call of the pepper and planted a load of those.
We had horrible luck last year with seedlings in general and peppers specifically, so I think from here until planting day, I’m just going to start a new round of seeds each week. That may be a bit of an exaggeration… but only just.
I started reading to Willem when he was around two weeks old. He would get his little legs kicking and really seemed to enjoy it, so we just kept on reading.
Fast forward to today: in one week, he will be one, and reading is very much a part of our everyday life. We read book after book before naptimes and bedtime. Willem can spend a good 10 minutes simply turning the pages of one of his favorite books or, like today, pulling each book, one by one, out of our “library stash” in the living room.
We also have kind of an awesome collection of garden, farm, chicken, and homestead-y type books. I thought I’d share Willem’s top five!
- Ten Seeds, Ruth Brown: I love, love, love this book. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous, it’s a wonderful CIRCLE OF LIFE tale, and we count the seeds on each page, so I’m pretty sure it will be solely responsible for Willem being able to count to ten.
- Chicky Chicky Chook Chook, Cathy MacLennan: This book is just fun. At first, I felt a little awkward reading it, but once you get into the flow, man, it just rolls right off the tongue. Percussive would be the right word for this book. This is in Willem’s limited right-before-bed rotation, and it’s one of his faves.
- Mama, Is It Summer Yet?, Nikki McClure: Nikki McClure can do no wrong in my mind. I’ve gotten her calendars for the last four years. Her art is just beautiful, and it really speaks to the baby brain (high contrast). This is the first of her books we’ve gotten; I look forward to more.
- On the Farm, David Elliott and Holly Meade: The inner wanna-be block printing artist in me sings with joy at the artwork in this book, and the melodic, entertaining poetry is just grand. They have a book called In the Sea, too, which is now on Willem’s wish list.
- Chicken Cheeks, Michael Ian Black and Kevin Hawkes: Hey, it’s written by Michael Ian Black! What’s not to love? We haven’t read this a ton yet, but I’m guessing once Willem reaches that magical age where anything related to butts is hilarious, this will be in constant rotation.
Happy reading, all!