The New Edible Garden Plot at Mt. Tabor Community Garden

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I signed up for a plot at this Portland Community Garden site back when it was created in 2012. At that time I was placed on a waiting list and there I sat waiting year after year. Much to my surprise, just months ago, I was granted a spot and it was an exciting day when I heard the good news!

Since I’d had a plot at a different community garden location in the past I knew that it would be a lot of work. I was worried. Fresh produce is a wonderful thing to have on hand, and yet, here’s where I openly admit that the other plot ended up being abandoned by me.

I was worried I’d fail again.

Let me explain…

This blog began in December 2007,  not long after I’d started to recover from a fall I’d had down the basement stairs at my house. It’s kind of incredible for me to think that it’s 2017 and I’m still struggling with the effects from that accident, but it’s true.

For the last decade I’ve been dealing with nerve damage and chronic pain. I originally created this blog as a kind of pain relief and pain management therapy. The fact that I even attempt to garden is sort of goofy since I’ve sustained damage to both the cervical and lumbar regions of my spine. (If you don’t already know I had back surgery 3 years ago to correct damage done during a second fall.)

Yet, the trouble caused by my first fall has taken longer to correct. For the last two months I’ve been in physical therapy and soon I will be getting the first MRI to look more deeply into my lower back. Things have not improved. I’ve walked the long and painful plank to this point. In the coming weeks I will be told if additional surgical intervention will be necessary and I already know that I will be in physical therapy for a long time. (I’m also dealing with damage done to my hip from the impact sustained when I hit the wooden steps.)

So why oh why did I want to get another community garden plot!?! Shouldn’t I be taking it easy?

I said “yes” to the plot because I don’t believe in a magical future when everything will feel better. Deep down I believe in trying again, and again. I believe in living my life no matter what comes my way.

Nowadays I’m remarried and my husband lives and works here (and not in another state) so I have more help. I also have more friends and they’ve become an important and necessary network of support as I live with my chronic health issues. (Many of them I met through writing a blog and because I’m a garden blogger.) They’re my community now, my people, my group, and I’m devoted to helping them in any way that I’m able to do so. They aren’t out there actually toiling with me, but they support my efforts, and that helps me feel embraced and lifted up. We all need that in our lives. Just as we build supports for our vines, our veggies, and our blooms, we can do this with (and for) other people.

During my time working as a caregiver—before I “retired” recently—I often worked with hospice clients. I also said “yes” because of them. It will be messy, imperfect, crops will fail, and it might even get ugly at some point. I promise to share those failures with you—along with the successes! My Sicilian family took great pride in their perfect produce and I will try to do my best, but it will take work, experience, and time. I’m living my life though, making memories, taking chances, and I hope to reach out to even more folks.

Even if I need surgical intervention, this garden is going to grow.

 

 

Community Gardening—In the Beginning…

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Our long wait for the 200sf community garden plot is over! Late last week the letter finally arrived and with my number in hand, I called the volunteer Garden Manager. On Saturday, two foster girls and I dashed over to check the place out. We were excited to see we’d been given a plot near the street.
Two of my most frequent foster visitors were thrilled to be given the chance to make something of this space. They spent hours working on the walkway from the front gate to the other plots and they weeded too. I was completely shocked to be honest. This kind of freedom and space and ownership was something they leapt at in a way I’d never imagined.
Many of the kids we care for are often very isolated in almost every area of their lives. Often they are in special classes and are separated from other kids and family members, sometimes they are even in special separate schools, but most of all, they are isolated by an extreme lack of financial resources and family support. They often feel so left out of everything they develop fantasies about what their life should be like, and sometimes they just lie about it. Why shouldn’t they? When you’re an innocent child who is a victim of the circumstances typically brought about as a result of the choices made by the adults who should love you the most, being punished for lying is not even a blip on your radar.
Over time, I’ve noticed that many of them get anxious about all of this isolation and they turn to keeping their hands busy in order to keep the sad thoughts at bay. Sometimes busy hands can do good or beautiful things, but if you are isolated and have limited resources, busy hands can lead to trouble. I cannot tell you how often I have to pick up tiny random scraps of paper from kids who just rip things up because of their anxiousness.
Punishing these kids for lying or stealing just doesn’t work. Reversing the effects of their isolated feelings, teaching them coping skills, and helping them to understand that they are not alone DOES.
Saturday I had no idea what would happen, and overall, I was completely shocked. I have never seen the kids so calm and focused. They politely asked dog walkers who walked past the fence if they could pet their dogs, they bickered less and worked together more, but most of all, they worked really hard, asking tons of questions, and they were so positive about the rewards to come later in the summer.
In addition, the fact that the garden was not on our property, but instead, is part of a network in the community, made a difference that I’d never thought about before. When they discovered there are other troubled and at-risk youth all over the country in big cities participating in similar activities in similar environments, I think for the first time I witnessed both kids reflecting that they belonged to something bigger and better than their problems. That day what calmed them was a sense of pride that they so rarely are able to feel and that so many of us take for granted. They also realized that they now belonged to a great group, a group that can feed people, and that made them feel good—really good.

This success led them to the huge reward of dining out. Negotiating that often problematic situation led to another reward, so we drove up to a viewpoint and watched the city and identified mountains. Since I was so happy, and they continued to behave so well, they reached what I now call the ultimate level. Before returning home, we visited a Gelateria and they interacted with the strange setting with far more confidence than I’d ever seen before and they were so much more content and calm. I was so proud of them and I let them know that—repeatedly.

If you have any access to a community garden, I encourage you to participate in any program that helps troubled kids learn a skill that they can take with them for the rest of their lives. After only one day, I can tell you, you might just be blown away by the results. I know I was. It was a day I will never forget.