May 20, 2012

On Destruction and Renewal: A garden story

The weekend after Easter we headed to the community garden eager to work. The farm had planned a post Easter egg hunt as well as planting and building for the day. The cool drizzle made us think that we would have low turn out for the morning, but we were hopeful the sun would break out as the afternoon wore on.

We arrived to the garden to see it destroyed. Beds had been taken down, the sign at the entrance had been removed, kale plants and herbs were strewn about the site. It took me a moment to digest what I was looking at. At first I just assumed that maybe some gardeners had decided to move there beds, but then I realized how much was missing. The painted tires that marked the front of the lot (at least 100) were no where to be seen. There was also a tire built wall containing herbs that was missing. Beds had been destroyed and the cinder blocks that lined them were all over the lot. Precious dirt had been moved from the beds, and seemed to be arranged in new (poorly planned) beds.

Some of our fellow gardeners were there and filled us in on what had happened over night. The short of it is that some former gardeners had a problem with the lady who did a great deal of the organizing for the garden the year before, and decided to take it out on the garden. They spent the night removing all the tires and dumping them on another vacant lot (they are abundant in detroit – both the tires and the vacant lots) and moving garden beds. When our fellows arrived on Saturday morning the destructors declared “This is not the fourth street farm, this is a vacant lot. We have decided to make a garden here.”

The destructors have spent the remainder of the time between now and then refusing to tell us why they destroyed the garden. Work that they themselves had contributed to the year before, but had had no involvement with this season.

The way vacant lots work in Detroit, the city will allow you to build a graden there or otherwise “beautify” the property, within certain limits – no building, no livestock, no selling what you grow. So long as you abide by that, you are free to use the land. However you do not have any legal right to the land, Detroit still owns it,and should someone buy the land or the city decide to develop the land, you are out of luck. As such, there was no real recourse we could take with the destruction of our garden.  The cops were called; they reprimanded the destructors and told them they were lucky we had called the cops and not just taken matters into our own hands. The cops offered there condolences, saying they had appreciated the work of the community gardeners in the neighborhood and were sad to see what had been done to ours. Beyond that there was nothing they could do.

We were, to say the least, heartbroken. We were confused about the anger that had motivated this attack. We wondered how we had gotten ourselves involved in something that ended so destructively. This was not what community gardening was about. Why hadn’t these destructors just come to talk to us about whatever problem they had? If you ask me, the worst part about it was that they had never even met the majority of the farmers who had spent hours over the past months cleaning up the garden, building new beds, and preparing the space for the upcoming season. To me, it seemed like aimless destruction. Unfortunately, there were no answers offered.

We tried to stay positive.  Husby and I spearheaded a lot cleanup, rebuilding of beds, and planting of the cold crop seedlings we had waiting.

Sunday morning, on the way to a 5k put on by husby’s classmates, we drove by the garden that we had repaired to find it once again destroyed. And all of the building material had been removed from the lot.  All that remained was a composting site, dirt, and the seedlings that we had planed the evening before.

At that point we decided to remove ourselves from the situation. We talked to some fellow gardeners and decided to give ourselves the week, and to regroup the following weekend to discuss where to go from here.

The following Saturday a handful of us met. We decided that we did not want to put ourselves in the same position again.  The destructors lived in the apartment building next to the destroyed garden.  They had unlimited access, and clearly were willing to watch and wait until we had left to undo all the work that we were putting into the garden. They had turned down multiple attempts to talk through the situation, and we were out of energy.

We talked of finding a new space to garden. As I said before, vacant lots are easy to come by in Detroit. There is some leg work involved: making sure the lot is city owned, checking with neighbors to see if they had a problem with a community garden in there neighborhood, finding a reliable water source. We were hesitant to commit, but decided to drive through some of the nearby neighborhoods to see if anything caught our eye.

Surprisingly, we stumbled upon a couple folks on a lot, digging in some new trees.  We pulled into the alley to talk with them, and they said they were starting a new community garden. We told them we were displaced gardeners, and would we be welcome to join them.

This new lot had recently had a building demolished. The ground is compacted clay. That first weekend we found it it contained one raised bed, a sign marking the community garden, and some dwarf apple trees waiting to be planted. We’ve been there every weekend since, building beds, tracking down and moving dirt, building a new compost bin.

Good things are happening. Two of our fellow gardeners went back to the old site and rescued as many of our seedlings as they could. They have been remarkably resilient, and we have beautiful, young kale, cabbage, and broccoli. They fire department came by last week and told us they would fill up our rain barrel whenever we needed it, so we have a reliable water supply when the spring rains make way for the summer heat. Every weekend we are there neighbors come by and comment on how much work is being done and how beautiful the space is looking. They want to know if they can help.

We are cautiously optimistic. We are healing. We are regrowing.

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May 8, 2012

Seven Things: that already drive me cray-cray about husby* six months in

*All in good humor of course.

Last month, as the 7th approached, after having spent the past half hour rolling my eyes at him and sighing in exasperation, husby suggested that I write my monthly seven things post about things that he does that annoy me.  I already had last month’s topic picked out.  But realizing that come May 7th we would be married for just over 6 months, he suggested I do it this month.

Of course this is all in good fun and just meant to be silly.

7. His extremities are always freezing cold.  Seriously, he can be warm and toasty under the covers, get up for 3 seconds, and when he comes back his feet and hands will be frozen.  And he finds it amusing to touch me with said frozen hands.

6. On a related note, he likes to wedge his toes under me to warm up, and then wiggle them.  There is no good reason why this drives me crazy, but it does.  Even when they aren’t cold it gives me the willies.

5. Our cross-walk styles don’t match. I am perfectly fine crossing so long as the light is green, even if the hand has started blinking at me, but husby doesn’t want to start crossing if it’s blinking.  Meanwhile he has no problem crossing when the light is red.  He also will cross to the middle of the street if one side is clear, and wait in the middle turn lane for the other side to clear.  I feel like this is walking a bit too close to danger. Drivers in the D follow their own set of rules, which is to say, none.

4. Husby loves to argue semantics.  He will spend an hour arguing with you about word choice, and loves to take it extremely literally.  For example, the other day we argued about the use of dog-years, because as he said, dog years aren’t any faster than human years.  So. Not. The. Point. of whatever conversation we are having.

3. Husby loves Akon. And I find Akon to be a sexist pig, at least in terms of the lyrics of the songs he sings. The end.

2. Med School.  Dear all the girls (or guys) who want to marry doctors, Wait to find them until they are done with med school. Seriously. It is le suck. Love, a med school wife. Not only is it a huge time suck, but all the other med school students won’t do anything even remotely spontaneous because it might interfere with their studying. Come on, you have to eat right? Just come out to dinner with us and procrastinate on facebook a little less to make up for it.

1. Husby cannot make a choice if there are more than 2 options.  Questions about what we should have for dinner are met with, “Well, what were you thinking?” And then just agreeing with whatever I say. Please help me out here dude.

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May 2, 2012

Triathlon Update

I finally registered for that triathlon I’ve been training for. It takes place in 3 1/2 weeks.

I’m feeling pretty good about my training.  I chose a 20 week program over a more typical 16 week. And even though I started it arbitrarily, without having chosen a particular tri, it lines up perfectly with the one we chose. My training plan has had me swim, bike, and run farther than I will during the tri.  It has included brick training so I get used to doing one right after the other.

Not going to lie, last month I was a bit lax with my training.  I found myself skipping 1-2 workouts a week as the school semester wrapped up and class projects reached a head. I made sure I was doing key distance workouts, but skipped more than I should have.

Surprisingly, even though I consider myself a runner first, then a swimmer, and then a biker, I’m most nervous about the run. I think this is because it’s the one sport I don’t feel like I’ve over trained for.  I’ve swam more than double the swim distance on multiple occasions.  Same for the bike, but the run training has had me doing just 4 miles at the max – not terribly farther than the 3.1 I’ll do at the race.

So for my last month of training I’ve dedicated myself to really following the training schedule, but punching up the running days a bit to get the distance in. The last two weeks of training are tapering, which is super important, but I’ll probably keep the running distance up a bit still. I’m also working on eating really clean for this last month, and learning how to fuel for the race.

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April 8, 2012

Seven Things: Hosting Easter brunch for the inlaws

This Easter husby and I will be hosting Easter brunch for his family. It’ll be the first hostessing I’ve done for his family. In fact it’ll also be the first time that my MIL has been to see our apartment, so it’s kind of a big event. Luckily I chose my favorite meal to host. Needless to say, a lot of work has gone into making tomorrows brunch both possible and successful. So, here’s my list of the seven things I did to prepare.

1. Tell guests it’s BYOC (bring your own chair): Our apartment has plenty of room for the two of us, and room to have friends and family over, but we only have 4 dining room chairs. So we asked our fam to bring a couple so we can all squeeze around the table.

2. Use the event to motivate you to finally make curtains for the living room, dining room, and bedroom. That’s eight curtains for those of you counting along at home. Spend a great deal of money on curtain hardware and material.  Convince husby to help install curtains. Stand back with pride when all your work is complete.

3. Plan an ambitious menu. Wonder if it’s too ambitious. Attempt it anyway. Fruit salad, cinnamon rolls, asparagus and feta quiche, mint lemonade, bloody marys. Did I mention I’ve never made a quiche before? Depend on smittenkitchen to get you through.

4. Go shopping for bloody mary ingredients. End up buying enough for 20. Realize there will likely only be three people indulging. Look forward to all the bloody marys that you will be able to consume in a week and a half when your school semester wraps up.

5. Wake up really early the day before in order to clean and cook all the things.

6. Buy yourself tulips in colors that match your new curtains.

7. Realize that the majority of  food stuff you have is reserved for tomorrow. Eat sweet potatoes for two different meals because it’s one of the few things you have not reserved for brunch. Spread many things on the matzo you bought to celebrate Passover.

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March 30, 2012

A brief garden tour

Husby and I made a point to get home a little bit early on Tuesday to spend some extra time together since our Monday night had been completely shot.  We’re both giddy about the garden, so we decided to take a stroll, talk about our garden dreams, drop off our compost, and snap some pictures of the space.

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