Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Grocery Bags of Green Love,

Forgive me, I wrote this last blog and have continuously delayed the finishing touch. I began meeting most of these individuals in October, and I have started to really feel like many of the usually neighbors remember me at this point. A great accomplishment after 4 months. But here's the  short blog, and then I'll cover my Christmas vacation home, progress in the garden, Irrigation Goliath, and so on. Happy New Year; to all, lets make this a good one!

Well it's the middle of winter and around here it's starting to get a little chilly, then sunny and heated, then chilly... thus a great description of winter in NOLA. But with a bit more consistency, the garden plots have all been planted out and there are quite of a few different things I've been harvesting. We're getting Salad greens, radishes, carrots, herbs, tat soi, pak choi, turnips, and just coming around are some collards, kale, swiss chard, kohlrabi, and mustard greens. I have recently come up with the idea of putting up a Johnson Garden Cork board near the entrance, where community projects and some general info can be posted and everyone can have access to it. I have managed to give out several bags full of the diverse veggies to  several members of the community, and the spectrum of paths and walks of life are as diverse as the produce.

1.Miss Ora was a teacher here at J.W. Johnson school many years ago and grew up in the neighborhood. What started as a question about left over Crepe Myrtle trees that could be planted in her front yard, quickly grew into a great conversation all about her family history in the neighborhood, especially about her father's garden. The home she lives in current was built by her father, who was a dedicated gardener on a plot of land next to the house. She holds very fond memories of all the food her father would produce, whether it was from the garden, or fishing, or hunting... even referencing the bizarre response she'd get from neighbors who saw her eating "Barbecue Goat for breakfast". But, the cherished memories of her father's great provisions seem to bring out  the great sense of pride. She insisted that she did not adopt the green thumb genes but loved growing flowers and happened to have a potted sweet potato plant that was getting know due attention. Her offer was to plant it in the garden with the idea that I would be able to give it the proper attention it needed. This led her to giving me a ride to her place, where she than showed me the now empty grass lot which once served as her father's personal garden of eden. Walking through the space her excitement rose at each great memory of the collard green patch, tomatoes, potatoes, and okra. I am aware personal of the lasting impression homegrown food can make on one's life, but here was that impression after decades of time had passed. Our conversation concluded with a very enthusiastic embrace towards some of the harvest. Of which the next day or so I dropped off a bag full of some herbs and mustard greens.

2. " Hey man, listen, just get the bag together and I'll pick it up when I get back. ",  Marcus shouted over the fence as I frantically began cutting some greens into a grocery, remembering that he doesn't usually stick around for long. When he didn't show up for the bag, I dropped it off with a friend of his on my ride back to home. A couple days past and as Marcus in his usual way, starts to thank me while still in full motion. "Man, you were looking out that time, that bag had everything in it! Yeah my grandma's gonna cook up all that stuff. And those peppers,  she puts those peppers in everything, a jumbo or brown gravy, makes it taste real good." He usually has nothing to complain about with veggies I've given him thus far, he's very kind and respectful and has been trying to get me to go fishing for more than a month now. I asked the other day what what something he was passionate about and  he threw out his response in a fashion that made me think it's been on his mind for quite some time, "Culinary Arts bro! I love to cook, I want to find a culinary program that can teach me more. My grandma showed some of the basics." I mentioned to him that there's a program that just started working out of a non-profit's community kitchen not to far from the neighborhood. He sounded interested, so I'll try to bring some more material on it.

3. "Man, this here look like somebody knows what they doin' " -  Mike aka "M". Mike is an enthusiastic character that stops by the garden periodically, and is always loaded with compliments. He's conveyed his genuine goal of contributing some banana trees to the space. "Man, cause you know, I just love bananas. Could you believe that I eat a  dozen bananas a week!" We took a walk  through  the garden filling a grocery bag with all sorts of new inspiring herbs and greens that he had never seen or heard of before, but seemed confident that his experimental cooking style would come up something delicious. He's by far been the most adventurous of individuals

4. " Hey man, I got this umbrella for sale. "A gentlemen approaches me with an intent to get some change for a couple very random items he was selling. With the reality that I didn't have a dime on me, I offered him a bag of some scallions and a bunch of pak choi  leaves. He said there's somebody that does the cooking at the place where he was staying. This gentlemen comes around now just to a get a fresh carrot plucked straight out the bed. He later voiced that he's actually homeless, so really the carrots are just about all he can work with for the time being, but I can definitely tell that he enjoys them.

5. Jayla is one of the main garden members at this point, and though her school schedule and band practice keeps her occupied the majority of the time, she has managed to come out several times for to  plant some seeds or paint her bed. She's a great artist so she's doing this beautiful mural with hearts and wings. I'll try to get a picture on hear in the near future. She's a very quiet personality, but her enthusiasm to be present in the garden has been a huge inspiration for me. My dream is that this space can serve a real purpose in this neighborhood, and I feel Jayla's consistent presence is making this hope a reality. Of course, as for most people I talk to, she really can't wait to grow peppers, cucumbers and watermelon. But we've been able to explore what it means to wait on mother nature, by focusing back on carrots, beets and collard greens.

So these are only a few of the wonderful people I've been able to meet thus far. This neighborhood is rich in history and authentic community. The process of being right smack in the middle of this neighborhood has been so rewarding, and though I don't consider myself a full member of the community, which presents it's own subtle difficulties, I am appreciating the consistent interactions I am getting with the same people. Now, most people know if they see something they like, all they have to do is ask. With as many problems and challenges that I hear people facing in this neighborhood my hope is that these simple tokens of love and kindness; whether in a bag of greens and carrots or simply a colorful, fresh space to relax in, may contribute something small but meaningful

Here's a wide collective of  plants, volunteers, garden members, and my full time employed red wigglers! This is all the stuff  that makes a community garden flourish, so keep em' coming!

 These are two members of the garden with their own plots; Miss Helen, and Jayla.

                        A group of volunteers from Kentucky spent a morning weeding and painting

                                                       This was Marcus' first harvest ever! Great Moment!

                                           Sister Princess and her daughter, harvesting a basket full of bounty.

                                                          Black Gold, ladies and gentlemen.... Black Gold!

                                                            This is Marcus second round of planting carrots.

                                                        Our garden artist at work.


                    This is a typical bag; carrots, lettuce, cooking greens, scallions, a little broccoli.

                                         The whole neighorhood seems to be out for this bed!

    They may look intimidating, but these little guy/girls have the kindest hearts!... stomachs.. brains?

                                                           Marcus' first carrots he planted.

Thanks  for all your support ya'll, many blessings! 


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