Tyler has a heart (aka “hey deafie”) - July 25, 2009

Neither rain, snow, sleet, road closures, nor hearing impairments can keep us from our Saturday gatherings at the Dunbar Garden. Actually, we didn’t have any sleet or snow but I did wake at 7:30am to a downpour of rain: potential impediment number one.

After some lengthy discussions with Jesse’s dad we decided to just pack our essentials and not the usual excessive amounts of food and garden tools and just wing it in the hopes the weather would turn. Scouting Intellicast.com I read that from 10am to noon there would be a 10% chance of rain and the skies would be mostly sunny.

As usual, I headed out early to Dunbar and there encountered potential impediment number two: the main road leading to the garden around the athletics fields was “CLOSED.” I sat and stewed, debating moving the barrier and taking my chances but as luck would have it someone who had been walking the track told me there were patches of new asphalt along the road. I parked my car just knowing there would be folks coming in from the “access road” off Man O’ War who might be deterred from joining us because of the sign. Jerome said “No one comes that way, meet us at the front of the school” and of course I said “No.”

Within five minutes, up drives Natalia, then Jaz, then Sarah and finally Tyler – ALL using the access road. HA!

We pooled together, called Jerome and decided to drive back out Man O’ War and meet at the end of the road past the baseball field. We trekked up the hill to the garden with enough hands to pack all the supplies.

Our “core group” intact, we were wonderfully surprised to see Jackie and two n00bies Arlene and Maria who had walked to the garden, ignoring all potential impediments. These three young ladies were joined by Jaz and Katelyn (whose dad also loaded my truck with computer donations for Mindtriggerz) and with paint brushes in hand were soon transforming the picnic table into a work of art and love.

Then here comes Grace who we now call “Gracie” because she calls James “Jamie” and those two hauled some major buckets of sand (and played in the creek) as the rest of us pulled weeds from between pavers and re-sanded.

Impediment number three: I have some major hearing loss that has been the butt of many harmless and loving jokes at the garden but it has never stopped me from working, enjoying and appreciating these beautiful and precious young people who give up Saturday mornings to maintain and increase the incredibleness of the Dunbar Memorial Garden. Tyler came up to hug me and at that point said “I want to apologize for calling you ‘deafie” last week” to which I responded “Tyler, not only did I not even hear you say that but it would take a lot more than that for me to be upset with you,” and then I told him how it reminded me of Hannah. Jerome would often send her to fetch me to get my opinion or approval or whatever and in my minds eye I can see her gorgeous freckled face and hear her voice increasing in volume as she said “Hey Bekki, HEY Bekki, HEY DEAF LADY” and so I thanked Tyler for giving Hannah back to me for a few minutes.

We were excessively happy to see Richard Weber of Springhouse Gardens arrive with his expertise and horticultural bag of magic tools and he set to work pruning, advising, marveling and even snapping some pictures of the garden. As we began to disband around 1ish, we were all pleased with what we had accomplished and what we will continue to do in the name of love. And we all really loved the view from the bottom of the hill of the garden up high

And yes, Tyler has a heart – a really big one (and not just a keychain facsimile thereof!!!).

Love you all madly and without end.


Jesse’s mom

A series of unfortunate chigger bites

At the beginning of Summer Break our divine Miss Sarah advised us all that bugs rarely bite her beauty. Unfathomable to me because I have always been the bait for any and every insect and recall ever summer counting the dozens of mosquito, flea, chigger, and black fly bites I was eternally blessed with since I was "knee high to a grasshopper" and since my parents moved us from the city to the country.

Two chigger bites to the belly button later and Sarah now knows that "sweet" is a term determined by many elements - and surely within a berry patch. Sorry, Sarah - it's the price we must pay for strawberry raspberries, n'est ce pas? When Sarah lifted her shirt at the Dunbar Garden today I don't think I was the only one shocked by the demonstration of the proverbial meanness of the chiggers. But we managed to sympathize then go back to work. No actually, she gave us this showing late in the day which was grand because I'd hate to scare folks from work at the garden because we DO NOT HAVE CHIGGERS AT THE DUNBAR GARDEN!!! (mosquito's - yeah we have those).

Rewind, back to this morning. I arrived a few minutes early under the auspices of watering our n00bies. Sarah sauntered up as did Jaz, Katelyn and Natalia ready to get some work in before Jesse's dad showed up to boss us around. Sarah is drawn to weeds like a homing device and the other gardeners wondered around bundling up sunflowers with gardening tape. We pruned back some sad beebalm then did the same with a few oxeye sunflowers. Jackie arrived to start painting the picnic table and had good creative help by Katelyn and Jaz.

Our freshly "moved" Tyler moved some mulch as did our farm girl Grace and her sidekick Natalia (with some help from JR) and the side bed of Fringetrees and Josh's red maple were transfor
med in record time. Among our "snacks" Natalia (with assistance from her pal Maggie) created a rice-krispies-treat that included essence of Andes mints - consumed happily and heartily by us all. Raspberries from Berries on Bryan Station were also in the mix (sans chiggers) and the cool temps made working conditons pretty darned optimal.

At the end of our work-day, Jesse's dad discovered our Northern Bayberries have leaves that are like the bay leaves used in cooking so smashed a few to stick up our noses. I'm not sure everyone appreciated the olfactory overload but I kinda did.
When we planted those guys I picked them out because they are among the few "almost evergreens" the native plants offer. Cool stuff that we always learn something new when we are at Dunbar.

Oh and btw, the gold finches were all over the place when we got there this morning (and Jerome and I witnessed one at my house this afternoon). But we wondered at the seeming lack of butterflies this year? Plenty of bees and bugs and caterpillars. It reminded me somehow of how Jesse and I would stand at the kichen sink hand washing dishes (yeah, I know so 19th century) and how I told him about a girl in highschool on the speech team who performed an excerpt from a holocaust play about how "butterflies don't live in the ghetto."

We'll have to keep looking, maybe they are there when we aren't. I have seen one Monarch and a random cabbage
white but it's strange the lack of them when last year was so resplendent? Fayette County Public Schools doesn't seem to be doing anything out of normal in their herbicide sprayings but what if they are using a new brand of chemical? We are MULCH MADNESS this summer so maybe that will help? One day soon there will be no reason for them to spray at all - we are working on that.

Love. love. love. to Sarah, N
atalia, Katelyn and Grace. Jaz and James. Tyler and Jackie. Jesse's dad and our mulchification. The garden speaks for itself because it is continues to be awesomeness and floribunda. Yeah, and pretty darned pretty. :)

Love to all. <3>

The Farmification of Grace Li

Today we undertook the task of reclaiming the garden from the herbicide horror wrought last week by the grounds maintenance staff (and yeah, we know they are only following orders). "Roundup" or some derivative thereof had been sprayed along the edges of the patio, the old horse fence behind the garden, the long wall against the school, and a variety of other places and spaces that made no sense but certainly spraying around our butterfly puddling area guaranteed no lepidoptera action there.

Jaz returned from her trip to Costa Rica with a wonderful bag of sand for the butterflies so she and Katelyn (yeah for returning students!) set to work to remove all the dead grass and expand the ar
ea with mulch in the hopes that we can reclaim the ground for its intent and purpose and maybe keep FCPS from additional sprayings. They did an incredible job and worked their butts off.

Grace, who is learning to be a farm girl because at Amherst she is supposed to be one (since she's from Kentucky) invited her friend Katie to join us so while I took pictures of herbicide damage Jesse's dad set them to work cutting cardboard and hauling woodchips to place around the shining sumacs that Hannah's family had planted earlier this spring. I got really paranoid this week that FCPS might decide to inch closer with their spraying so we got
to work blocking off more area in the garden to eliminate turf and expand our area.

While James sat on mah bukkit, I filled the ooze tubes and helped with hauling wood chips and in between discussed with Grace how she might become more knowledgeable in weed eating and tractor repair. It reminded me a lot of how when my parents moved us to Kentucky from Pittsbugh we barely understood the "slang" of rural Kentucky. Yes we wear shoes and yes we produce children without blue skin and who know the difference between physics and metaphysics.

As we sauntered down the hill to nab a few pavers from the pile to hold down the cardboard, three "military choppers" passed above. We laughed that we were being watched since
we are all a bunch of militant "greenies." Randomly off in the distance were three helipcopters and a buzzard as though Tevis Shwa were chasing them away.

James relieved the mulch gals and hauled his share of wood chips while Sarah and I took a few minutes to pull grass from between pavers. We missed Tyler and Natalia and several of our regulars but got a lot of work done and enjoyed meandering through the garden in all it's endless glory. The constant wind and cloud cover helped make it all possible and I'd like to think it was Jesse, approving of our "methodology." We learn so much together

Before we ceased work today we also hauled a nice pile of the LFUCG compost to p
lace around the 1/2 barrel and around an old pin oak and a school spotlight. Our plans and ideas continue to grow with each great mind that joins our own. I sent James off with the camera at one point and said "please get some pics of everyone working" and found extreme lulz in the pic he caught of Sarah with her rake. It's as if she is daring any one to mess with our turf. Formidable I say. Perfect, i think, Jesse was all about the lulz and we had that today.

It is always hard to walk away from the garden becase we are always coming up with new ideas and weeds to pull. Now that we have less mucho mulcho and beutiful hands to move it, we stand a beautiful chance to continue to alter the landscape, and repair the ignorance of others.

Volumes of love to our workers. To those who do good work - to those who remember why we do what we do. Our love is planted here.
<3 <3 <3 <3

Mulch Monday Two-fer Tuesday and how NOT to attract butterflies

Most of the "sad moms" I've met can attest to how completely obsessed we now become over the most minor things. Sometimes I think it's a synaptic package in our ever-altered brains that manages to enable us to live in this surreality.

At the expense of the garden, I've spent my early summer eliminating the material goods I've collected and then painting the back porch. On both of these, I relentlessly obsessed. So when Jesse's dad announced that we were doing no new projects at the Dunbar Garden until we got the weeds under control well - OCD, here I am.

Twice yesterday, twice today I took mah bukket and my sad back and logged I dare say 15 hours. The mulch pile has dwindled substantially and the weeds are back at manageable. In the process, I visited with the ground hogs (they run, I chatter), I cried at the beau
tiful gold finches (who literally perched inches from my face) and I hovered under the cover of false blue indigo, sawtooth sunflowers and the gorgeous cranberry viburnum (pic embedded) to sneak a smoke and talk to Hannah (I buried a butt under a rock and wished I could hear her laughing at me). Both days I've seen great blue herons, gold finches, swallows and yesterday saw a bird I can't identify but it had a gorgeous red head and lighted in the bur oak. It was the size of a gold finch.

Today I noticed the yellowing grass which meant of course that ground maintenance is spraying their herbicide again and every time I see the signs I just cross my fingers they won't get too near the garden. The little "buttefly puddling area" is toast - they went around it in a wide path of spray so I doubt we'll be seeing any action there for awhile. I wish our school system would invest in some good mulch and a little common sense and courtesy to the environment in which our children study and play and quit using crap that keeps butterflies away. I'm going to write a petition and ask the students of Dunbar to sign it then send it to our board of education and at least ask that in our native garden habitat, in the sacred space that is our remembrance of Josh, Jesse and Hannah, that they just gtfo and let it be a chemical-free-zone.

Jesse's dad and I have no vested interest in the future of this environment EXCEPT that we have found a beautiful family in those who have gathered and will gather to work at the garden. We want the young men and women who collect around the brightly painted picnic tables to eat lunch, who saunter through the garden, who sit on Richard's benches, even who stand on top of the straw bale benches to do so without breathing toxins. Maybe we can. We will try.

Sarah HATES mushrooms so when we find the random fungus among us, a point is made to display it to her. It's because she has such a great scream.

As usual, we had a beautiful crowd at the garden which was kind of unexpected considering it being a holiday for most "normal" people. Jesse's dad and I pretty much figured we'd be on our own today which was fine by us so it was all the better that not only our "regulars" arrived but also that Jim Embry brought his new summer intern Miranda to join in the fun.

I think about the greatest part of the day was seeing the look on Jim's face - having not been to the garden in awhile - his eyes got really wide as he took in the "mature Dunbar Memorial Garden" and I said "Remember back in
October of 2007 when we were planting and the kids kept asking 'why are we digging in dead sticks' when we were placing the natives?" We both laughed hard. Miranda got to meet and pull oxeye sunflowers with the "crew" and I think she enjoyed herself (even stretching landscaping tape around the hugemongous cup plant to keep it from disseminating the yellowwood tree). Jim dug the heck out of some johnson grass while Jerome and Tyler hauled mulch. Sarah cleaned the angel bench as her mom pulled weeds from our planters filled with annuals while James filled the two ooze tubes as Beth, Grace and Natalia carved a beautiful clean edge around the beds.

Beautiful work - beautiful.

Near the end of the work session I plucked a huge mushroom growing in our mulch pile which of course made Sarah scream. Tyler grabbed it from my hand to go "propose" to Sarah with it since there was some random rumor started that they are "dating" simply because they were hanging together this week. Simply because they are such good friends. Simply because they both love the garden as much as Jerome and I do (as I dare say do so many others).

While we were sad not to march in the 4th of July parade this year well, it rained most of the day after we left so none of us got soggy at the garden. We left before the sprinkles started and there are plans to try our own faction in the parade next year (yes, please!). Perhaps a float filled with native plants and Mindtriggerz computers? Sounds like an awesome plan.

Big love to all the workers - big love to all the BIG plants (and yes, even the fungal in the jungle). Sorry Sarah! :)

Jesse's Mom

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