Dogs chase the rabbits and smell the squirrels – who are conveniently not around when they are. Kids catch the grasshoppers, their parents plant another row of carrots. Someone eats lunch at the shaded folding tables under the trees. Two nature photographers meet. Tires screech after another near miss at the intersection of St. Anthony and Water – I hope it’s because they were so busy looking at the murals the children painted they forgot to look both ways. People eat the tomatoes as they tell me they are unripened, they aren’t though – just a variety that’s colored that way. I give 2 women a dried sunflower and they can’t see if it has seeds, but they do love how the red petals remind them of sunflowers they used to have. I bring a bag full of zucchini and squash to Mennonite women baking bread for a hot meal at the First Presbyterian church. This is what the community gets from the garden.
Okra, eggplant, cauliflower, horseradish, garlic, zucchini, beets, snap peas, cucumbers, black beans, corn, rattlesnake beans, onions, kale, leeks, green onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, too many varieties of tomatoes, tomatillos, potatoes, salad greens, raspberries, cabbage, swiss chard, carrots, radishes, and peppers. This is the produce we get from the garden.
I wore gloves after being pricked by okra, work shoes after having to hand wash a pair of white sneakers – they are still stained brown, and even a white sun hat once on a hot summer day. I wish I could say that I am done suffering from my stubbornness in the garden, but I think it would be a lie. You start 12 inches from the first row then dig a trench 8 – 10 inches wide the length of the plot, throw away the bad ones, store the good ones in lairs of newspaper – this is how you harvest potatoes. Zucchinis tend to go bad if they are stored too close to the cooling element in a fridge. Tomatoes should never be frozen, ruins their flavor. This is the learning I get from the garden.
I work with volunteers all the time, in fact I will be this evening. The question I get the most – “How?” All of the volunteers can define the verbs weed, prune, sow, thin, and harvest, but that doesn’t mean they know how to do it. When they ask, and they always do. That’s when I bring them to the tomato plant take the hand clippers and show them, what a sucker is, what isn’t, which parts are diseased, how to work your way up the plant. Then we do it together for awhile and they ask me questions, after five minutes a new volunteer arrives and I tell them to ask the first volunteer how to prune tomatoes. This is the learning they get from the garden.
Kevin Zuidervliet – AmeriCorps VISTA