Heart = Warmed

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.

20150425. Seedling sale at IPS School 91's Our Community Day.

20150425. Seedling Sale at IPS School 91's Our Community Day.

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.

20150425. Seedling Sale at IPS School 91's Our Community Day.

20150425. Seedling Sale at IPS School 91's Our Community Day.

20150425. Seedling Sale at IPS School 91's Our Community Day.

Waxing Poetic on This Whole New Neighborhood Pride Thing

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!

Backyard panorama.

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.

ABM_1428716005

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.

Willem stamp of approval: fingers crossed we can make this community garden a go at Arsenal Park.

Asparagus Pee for You and Me!

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:

20130613. Asparagus dreams at the Near Eastside Legacy Center.

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.

20150411. Asparagus patch in development.

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):

20150411. More seeds! Keystone-Monon seed swap.

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. 

20150405. Seeding growing setup.

Spring Has Sprung, the Grass Is ‘Ris…

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.
20150322. First days of spring.

Although you can’t tell, so much has happened already this spring: fresh compost in all the beds, soil turned, hay removed, things cut back, sweet potato bin readied, and the first seeds planted.

  • 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….
20150322. First days of spring.

Gardening doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive: we’ve used this same chicken wire and canvas drop cloths to grow sweet potatoes three years now.

  • 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.
20150322. First days of spring.

The middle bin was full of amazing compost just last week. Now? It’s mixed into all of our garden beds for some hopefully amazing plants this year.

  • 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.
20150322. First days of spring.

Garlic, always our first green things!

  • 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.
20150322. First days of spring.

Some fresh chicken bedding for the run and a set of Chris’ still-empty bee hives (I think he plans to use that for a swarm if he’s lucky enough to find one this year).

  • 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!

Chigger, Please!

Last weekend marked our final one as urban farm apprentices with Growing Places Indy, and in celebration we took a very special trip to Hobbit Gardens Erth Gathering Center to get a tour of extensive herb gardens, participate in a Native American sweat ceremony, and share possibly the most amazing potluck dinner I have ever had. Constance is an herb farmer, which makes for a beautiful, colorful, and delicious smelling place, full of the buzzing of bees, flutter of butterflies, and flowers in every direction.

20130804. Hobbit Gardens.

I would love to sit down with Constance and pick her brain about every plant and its uses and benefits. Her whole demeanor (a ball of energy, quick to laugh, rattling off scientific names like breakfast cereals) and outlook (“gardening is not a benign act”) was a breath of fresh air.

20130804. Hobbit Gardens.

The only downside: by Monday, the chigger bites started showing up. By Tuesday, nearly every single one of us had extensive, itchy bites popping up in all the wrong places. And I mean ALL THE WRONG PLACES. A sampling:

20130807. Chigger, please!

Tomorrow marks our last day as apprentices. I’m a jumble of emotions: sad, nostalgic, missing my new friends already, excited to move forward onto the next adventures, and a whole lot I can’t even put into words.

At one point today, we had about 12 itty bitty kiddos walking through the garden, reminding me of one of the many ways this summer has been so incredibly special. We had a bucket of husk cherries out, and I showed them how to remove the husk and eat the berry inside (they even got to throw their “litter” – the husk – right on the ground). Every kid tried one, some came back for seconds, and only one spit it back out. I call that success!

20130807. I got every kid to try a husk cherry, and only one spit it out. Success!

Wendell Berry Is the Man

I first learned about Wendell Berry in college, working towards my degree in Natural Resources Planning and Interpretation at Humboldt State University in far northern California.

the ferns are as big as me! redwood national park.

Last month, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected Mr. Berry for this year’s Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, the most prestigious honor bestowed by the federal government for “distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.”

An excerpt from his speech hit close to home: “So I am nominating economy for an equal standing among the arts and humanities. I mean, not economics, but economy, the making of the human household upon the earth: the arts of adapting kindly the many human households to the earth’s many ecosystems and human neighborhoods. This is the economy that the most public and influential economists never talk about, the economy that is the primary vocation and responsibility of every one of us.”

And just because now I’m thinking about the man, the myth, the legend Mr. Berry, here is just a small part of one of my favorite Wendell Berry poems:

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.