Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Community Gardens - or, a Reprieve from the Patio

One of the first things I did after moving was apply to local community gardens.  After I filled out a dozen applications and made a handful of phone calls, I ended up with 2 spots: one in the Assurance Church Community Garden (where the low-land muckishness of it invites crayfish to play amongst the veggies) and the Cook Community Garden (where I'm learning about Piedmont clay in all its dry red glory).

Assurance CG is by far my favorite.  This is it's second year, and it's just about everything you imagine a church garden would be.  There are a handful of plots for folks in the area (most of whom attend the church), but those are really just there to sucker you into working in the much larger community garden part.  You know - the one where you grow bushels of tomatoes, squash, corn, watermelons, etc., and send it all off to the food pantry.  

I really love it.  I run into all sorts of interesting people who have all been snared into doing one thing or another (like set up the sprinkler system or pound in stakes or run the tiller).  I love knowing that the work I'm doing is very directly helping a serious local need.  I haven't yet met a single snob, and I've gone home more than once with handfuls of produce just by virtue of being around to help.  Did I mention I love it there?

Cook CG is aesthetically more pleasing, but I don't really care for the spirit of the place.  They're all about the rules.  I had to sign about 10 waivers and assorted contractual weirdness, one for me and each family member who  *might* come by to help.  There are rules about everything:
  • Chemical use: they want to stay organic, but you can use "organic" chemicals.
  • Weed control: no landscaping fabric allowed - no, seriously!  But you can use hay... not that I would because of all the hay seeds in hay...
  • The number of pots you can have at your spot: no more than two!!!
  • What type of plants you can have: evil spreading oregano is outlawed unless in a pot, but mint in the ground is OK.  No, seriously.
  • Even composting: you're not allowed to throw weeds in the compost bin.  I understand not wanting dandelion heads in the compost bin, but no weeds allowed at all?!  How do they keep their green content up?  Again, yeah... seriously.
It was thoroughly explained to me that this was a "community" space and so I was expected to interact with others, keep my kids under control, keep my weeds under control, spend 10 supervised hours a year in the donation garden, not touch the sprinkler system, and be friendly.  Even as the whole interaction itself was rather unfriendly and businesslike.

The whole thing reeks of the bourgeoisie "look at me, look at me, I'm growing things" mentality that seems to frame a lot of the recent green movement.  Most of the people, with two exceptions, are older (boomer age) 9-5ers with no kids.   My first "community" day there, I felt like a dark cloud over their sunny spot because I had two young boys who like the mud and were loud and chased butterflies.

Even though a big part of the plan was to start establishing friendships - at which I've failed miserably - the bigger plan (playing in the mud, growing things, and keep Quinn and I outside and active every morning) is clipping along nicely.  And I've got photos to prove it.  But not until tomorrow.  I have to go hunt out that darn cable...

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